I recently completed an online survey which claims to find the perfect city to match your lifestyle. I was somewhat surprised by the results (which I won't share here), but I understand how the website calculated the results. Based on a series of questions about your personality and preferences, the program is able to generate a response with some degree of accuracy. For example, people who enjoy mountain climbing are less likely to be a perfect fit for a beachfront condo. Likewise, those who love watersports probably wouldn't pick the Great Plains as their ideal dwelling place. So what does any of this have to do with theology you ask?
I mentioned in my last blog that we're studying the book of Colossians. I thought it would be proper to pick up where we left off last week. The Colossians were given a nice theology lesson about the supremacy of Christ (and consequently the futility of angelic worship and asceticism). Now, as is often the case, Paul shifts from the doctrinal to the ethical. That's not to say there is a huge dichotomy between the two- really there isn't. What you believe will determine how you behave. Now that the Colossians are fully versed in Christology, they will also be introduced into the ethical demands of that theology. Again, doctrine and praxis are closely linked in the bible. Paul will go on to use a clothing metaphor to describe the contrast between the old man and the new man. Hence, he says there are things we must "put off", and subsequently things we must "put on".
But today, I want to draw your attention to a phrase found in the 7th verse of the 3rd chapter:
Col 3:7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
Paul has just described some things which are incompatible with new life in Christ ; sexual immorality, lust, covetousness (which is linked with idolatry). And lest we think God winks at those things, Paul reminds us that they bring about the wrath of God (Col 3:6). Now before we start pointing fingers and constructing soapboxes, let's not forget that Paul says that's the way we used to be. The major difference is that we no longer "live" there anymore. One of the reasons people find it so difficult to live the ethical demands of the bible is because they don't "live" there. And we are going to "walk" where we "live". Let me further illustrate:
Gal 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
In Galatians chapter 5, Paul contrasts the "works of the flesh" with the "fruit of the Spirit". Admittedly, the fruit of the Spirit listed there, sets the bar pretty high. And the only way we can "walk in the Spirit" is if we "live" in the Spirit. It's about having a new nature-not one that is incapable of sinning or falling short of the mark- but one that has been radically transformed from above. I'm convinced we have many people who come to our churches week after week, and seemingly never are able to "walk" straight. Instead, their walk is a continual reflection of the works of the flesh. It could be (and I'm speculating here) that they are simply walking where they live.
It would be natural to see a man or woman with a surfboard at the beach. But a man with ice skates on at the beach would likely be laughed to scorn. Romans 7 is a depiction of what life is like without the Spirit. And sadly, this is the place so many are at; trying desperately to live a life of victory, but feeling hopeless. But the clouds part in chapter 8, and Paul describes life in the Spirit. He begins with these words:
Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
So how then, do these individuals walk after the Spirit? It is precisely because they "live" in the Spirit.
Rom 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Rom 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (ESV)
So I want to ask you this question today: where do you live? Because where you live, will determine where (and how) you walk. Maybe next time we'll get more into the clothing metaphor of Colossians 3. But this is enough for me to chew on for now. In case you haven't figured this out yet- this blog is less about me pontificating from a soapbox, and more about allowing you to read over my shoulder as I ponder the truths of scripture. I hope that you're blessed along the way.
Until next time....