Read Colossians 2.6-15
Our ideas about God matter. They make a difference. Who we believe God to be; the image of Christ that we carry within us, shapes how we live our lives in faith. To be a Christian, a follower of Christ, it is important to develop a clear image of who Christ was in the Bible to know who Christ is in our lives today. Fortunately, we have the witness of Scripture, God’s word to us, and the witness of the lives of believers who have taught us how Christ continues to work in the world.
The Colossian believers didn’t have this luxury. There was no written record of the life of Jesus. All they knew and came to believe in was based on the witness of the apostles and their own encounters with the risen Christ. Without much written down to provide a standard for their beliefs, they relied heavily on people like the Apostle Paul who had taught them the truth about God. The truth had made a difference in their lives.
In the letter to Colossians, the Apostle Paul calls the believers to bear the fruit of the gospel in their lives. Lead lives worthy of the Lord, he writes, “bear fruit in every good work.” Do the right thing. Allow the good news of the gospel to spread through your life to others, to the world around you. You can bear this fruit in your lives because you have been rooted in Christ and for this you can give thanks.
Paul is concerned that believers might get the wrong idea about God. He is concerned that these believers might latch onto ideas about Christ that are floating around that have no basis in the gospel. Paul calls them “empty deceit.”
One of these ideas came from a group known as the “Gnostics.” Gnostic belief held that there were two very separate worlds, the world of the spirit, where God is, which is pure and holy; and the world of matter, where we are, which is evil and corrupted. In other words, God has nothing to do with the world. For Gnostics, Christ only appeared to be human. God could never be fully human.
You might wonder, what difference would this thinking make? In practical terms, it leads believers to two extremes. Some seek to deny the physical world and develop a strict discipline that deny them such pleasures as good food and human contact. These become hermits or desert wanderers, convinced that nothing in the physical world, no one or nothing, could lead them to God.
Others go to the other extreme, believing that since the physical world was meaningless, they can do anything they wanted and it didn’t matter. These persons seek to disrupt standards of morality and practice all sorts of wanton behavior, unconcerned how their actions affect others.
Our ideas about God make a difference. If we believe God has nothing to do with our world, our actions can be either an escape from reality, or an escape from responsibility.
Paul says this is the wrong idea about God. God enters into the world in Christ and redeems it. Salvation comes not as we escape from our world, but as God enters into it and makes new life possible. In Christ, God has blessed this world, has made this world holy. We are given the responsibility not to deny the physical world, but care for it.
Those who have received Christ Jesus as Lord are rooted and built up in this faith. Still, there are many voices in the world that want to provide different explanations of God, different images of Christ. Though our faith has been grounded in Christ, who is our servant Lord, we can turn away from these truths and turn toward empty deceits that confuse us. Ideas that God is separated from us, that God is unconcerned about the world, about people. Ideas that God doesn’t need us or that we don’t need God.
God cares about us. Though the world has turned away from God, though we continue to lose faith in ourselves, God sent Christ into the world that our lives might be built up in faith, that we might be rooted in faith, that we may be raised to new life.
Rooted in Christ, we gain a clear perspective on God, on ourselves, and on each other. We can avoid the trap of thinking too highly of ourselves, of thinking that we are dependent upon only ourselves to solve the problems of the world. Christ came as our salvation so that we no longer have to become frustrated trying to save ourselves. We don’t have to look for miracle cures to the world’s problems, but instead look around and see what God has done, see what God is doing in the world through Christ.