Filled With Things Above
May 09, 2021 | John Nix
How can someone be Filled With Things Above when the things below can be so difficult? Life is filled with trouble and challenges. Most of the time it is easier to see our failures than it is God's grace. Motherhood is usually filled with daily, ordinary, unappreciated tasks that often go unnoticed. Mothers regularly impose unrealistic expectations on themselves, seeing only their shortcomings and wishing they did more. There is never enough time, and the laundry is never done. Cultivating a home for children is challenging to say the least, and sometimes moms work in the dirt so much, they don't see the flowers. Social media posts can leave some moms convinced that their significance is somehow diminished because their life doesn't look like the curated photos they see on Facebook and Instagram. Mother's Day also reminds us that gathering on Sundays is complex. Scripture tells us it's good to honor our mothers, but the range of emotion and experience within the body of Christ varies widely. This morning some women are sad, some are suffering, some are seething, some are sobbing, some are struggling, some are singing, some are sighing, most are smiling, and all of them are sleepy. Women, you are not defined by motherhood. You are not defined by failure. When it seems that you can barely see through the sweat, tears, and dirt of cultivating your soul, don't forget where your hope lies and who you are. Don't fall for the comparison trap. Don't give into identity politics or look to your job, education, social status, or economic position for your identity. Paul begins this letter to the Colossians by greeting people who have been formed in Christ and then speaks of their location and circumstances. Colossians 3 begins the section that tells us who we are, what Christ has done, and how it makes a difference in our lives. Like the saints at Colossae, we need the reminder to find our identity in Christ and be Filled With Things Above.
Here are some questions that we hope you'll take a few minutes to think through and answer.
- "Seek the things that are above." What do you think this looks like in practice?
- What obstacles are there to practicing this "heavenly mindfulness" in your daily life?
- If your life is hidden with Christ in God, how does God see you? How do you think he sees you?
- Write down all the "identities" you possess (nationality, job, relationships, etc.). Where does your identity in Christ sit in the list? Why is that, and what are practical things we can do to change the way we see Jesus and ourselves?
- According to Paul in these verses, what has already happened to believers, and what will happen in the future?
Colossae sat on the main East-West road about one hundred miles east of Ephesus. If you were to visit Colossae today, there is not much to see. At one time, it was a thriving city in a region that included Laodicea, the capital of the municipal district (twelve miles to the west), and Hierapolis, a spa town renowned for its multitude of temples and healing waters that were dedicated to heathen gods (fifteen miles northwest). Still, now all that remains is a large hill with the odd block of masonry jutting out on one side. The city was destroyed by a devastating earthquake that struck the valley in around AD 60.
Colossae was a place where many different religious and philosophical viewpoints thrived and probably mixed together. This diversity helps explain the syncretistic religious movement that affected the Colossian Christians.
The Church at Colossae most likely began during Paul's third missionary journey while he taught in the school of Tyrannus in Ephesus. Luke recorded that all of Asia heard the Word during that time (Acts 19:9–10). Epaphras met Paul in Ephesus, became a disciple, evangelist, and minister, taking the Word to his own people (1:7) and still carrying a burden for them (4:12).
The letter to the Colossians is shockingly, dangerously politically incorrect. To the best of our knowledge, Paul never actually went to Colossae. However, despite having never met the Colossians and languishing in prison, Paul warns of how subversive and dangerous false teaching is to the Church.
Paul sees the world in black and white (with everyone split between the dominion of darkness and the kingdom of light), and towering over all stands Jesus Christ. Whatever Christ has said or achieved is automatically true for every person at every time in every place. There are no exceptions. He is the universal king.
Similar issues may exist in the relationships between Christianity and philosophy, psychology, natural science, and the behavioral sciences. Many want to get on the right side of history and reformulate Christian truth in their image. The worldly temptation confuses beliefs with emotions, suggesting that all that matters is feelings and fulfillment. Still, the Church must be vigilant because many give priority to feelings or reason over revelation. We cannot accept a view of Jesus Christ that is in opposition to the Scriptures, nor can we accept that there is another Christ who is different from the one that the New Testament describes.