After a break (brought on by my kids’ summer vacation), I’ve returned to memorizing Colossians 1. Verse 9 through 12 is one loooong sentence, and I’ve broken it down, phrase by phrase. In the process, I’ve realized it sheds grace-filled light on the guilt struggles I wrote about in my last blog post.
Verse 9 begins with the words, “For this reason,” so I looked at the verses above. Verses 3 through 8 are about the salvation of the Colossians: “You truly understood God’s grace,” Paul wrote. “(Your faith and love) “spring from the hope stored up for (you) in heaven.”
When our initial faith/salvation is described that way, it seems clear to me that the Christian life that follows faith/salvation should NOT be characterized by guilt and a sense of anxiety about “doing it right.”
Paul’s description of Christian living in verses 9-12 characterize it, too, as being full of grace and springing from hope. Paul starts by telling the Colossians that he and Barnabus “continually ask God to fill (them) with the knowledge of his will through the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (Col. 1:9b).
In other words, WE don’t try to figure out God’s will on our own; perhaps we don’t have to “find” it at all. We ask to be filled with the knowledge of His will. This involves an opening of our eyes to see spiritual reality, to see God at work. We ask to see the Big Picture and to get glimpses—through the Spirit’s guidance—of how our “small” lives fit into it.
What does that insight lead to? Verse 10 says it enables us to “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” There’s not even a hint of guilt and anxiety here. There is instead a deepening knowledge of the God who loves to work good–who loves to work His good through us!
The next verse (11) seems to acknowledge that all this—though beautiful—is not easy for us limited humans. We so easily forget and get sidetracked from God’s goodness and His will to work good. Paul says we must be “strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that (we) may have great endurance and patience.”
And what is the final result of all this work of filling, knowing, living, pleasing? “(G)iving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified (us) to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” (verse 12)
A lack of joy in my spirit should be a clue that I am off track in my pursuit of God’s will, that I have begun to think of pleasing God in terms of lists and places rather than in knowing and being led by Him. A sense of guilt is a clear indicator that I have forgotten that it is all HIS work and that He loves to work in and through me. Paul reminds us of this in verses 13 and 14: “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”