When Paul wrote to the Turkish Christians in Colossae, he was writing as a redeemed man to redeemed people. This is what Jesus does. He redeems. He takes broken lives and heals them. He takes lost lives and directs them. He takes loveless lives and adopts them. He takes enemies and makes them His friends. Jesus redeems. Paul reminded the Colossians about their redemption by Christ and it's good for us to be reminded of ours too.
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins
Everyday you pass by hundreds, if not thousands, of broken, lost, lonely, angry, people. These people are torn. They intuitively know that they are not at peace with God - and yet they are very wary of the Church. Who can blame them? Some people in some churches have been very poor ambassadors for Christ and have even been, at times, misrepresentations of Christ. Some. Not all. Not most. Not even the majority. Some. For the most part, most Christians in most churches were once-fallen once-broken once-lost once-unloved once-angry people, who have now been redeemed. These redeemed followers of Christ still struggle, still stumble, still fail - yet they are being transformed. They are no longer who they once were.
¶ We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,
When Jesus redeems someone they feel different about others. Where they once felt indifferent they begin to feel a growing interest and love for others - especially their brothers and sisters. It's too easy in a Me-Centred World to be fooled into thinking that we only give our love to those who love us. This is conditional love. Too many people are loveless, not because they are not loved, but because they are difficult to love when they themselves do not give love. Jesus didn't become incarnate to be loved. He came to earth to love. He loves unconditionally. He loves limitlessly. Yet, we now love Him because He first loved us (1John 4:19). Christ's work of redemption transforms a human heart. It dramtically affects how and when we show love. This love from Jesus is different to earthly/natural love. It is a God-love called agapé. Agapé love is selfless love. Agapé love gives expecting nothing in return. It is described in First Corinthians 13. It doesn't have an ulterior motive. It gives and gives and gives. When I prepare a couple for marriage I try and try and try to give them a vision of this kind of love. I rarely succeed. I remind them that they are about to vow "to love...for better or for worse". I ask them if they still want to proceed with the wedding despite the eternal enormity of this vow. Only occasionally have I seen one of them hesitate in answering which gives me some glimmer of hope that they may have caught just a brief glimpse of what they are about to vow. I try to explain that this is agapé love that never gives up (1Cor. 13:1-4). It is the kind of love that is demonstrated before and sometimes even despite of the feelings of love. It is how God has loved us and demonstrated it by redeeming us. Our love from God is first an action then a feeling. It causes us to roll our sleeves up to help another person.
But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?
First John 3:17
Paul reminds the Colossians that the means of their redemption was the Gospel. It was upon hearing the Gospel that their hearts were transformed.
because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,
The Gospel calls people to accept the truth. It requires of us that we accept the truth about ourselves. This takes unnatural humility to admit that we are rebellious, wayward sinners. It requires that we accept the truth about God being the holy, just, and loving Creator. It confronts us with our need for a Saviour and that this Saviour is Jesus the Christ. The Gospel declares that our salvation is provided unconditionally by God as an act of His grace. The Gospel then summons us to respond to this offer of grace. And the Gospel of a loving, giving, sacrificial Saviour motivates us to bear fruit that glorifies God.
...the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,
ONCE PROUD NOW HUMBLE
Jesus wants His followers to be blessed and effective at whatever they are called to do. He has ensured every possible means for this to happen: His Word, His Ministers and His Church.
just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf
For these means of success to be realised, it requires the follower of Christ to adopt a posture of humility. This too is a major component of our newly redeemed life. Once we were proud, angry, envious and unforgiving. But Jesus has redeemed us. His Spirit within us enables us to humbly walk after Christ by applying the Word of God prayerfully to our souls (who can read Romans 12:1-3 and not be humbled?). His Spirit enables us to humbly receive direction, correction and instruction from God's appointed ministers who steward His Word to His people. And the Holy Spirit places the believer into a local church where the graces of God are ministered to, through, and by the fellow members of this local assembly of believers. Paul told the Colossians that their redemption was being made effective as they learned about the grace of God they had received and loved one another with the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
KNOWLEDGE, WISDOM, UNDERSTANDING
God's primary concern for you is not your happiness - it's your fruitfulness. You can only begin to reach your potential as a human being by being redeemed by Christ. Once redeemed, God is able to redeem your past - your past failures, your past mistakes, your past regrets - He redeems all of you! It was the Apostle's prayer for the Colossians that they grew in their understanding of what it meant to be redeemed.
¶ And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
Paul had already told the redeemed Colossians how God brought about this - by being taught the Word of Grace from God's appointed ministers of Grace. He now prays that it will happen in a blessed way. Added to this he prays that they might also be given wisdom (knowing how to apply this knowledge for the benefit of themselves and others) and understanding (a deepening sense of trust in God amidst the times of intense confusion of what God is doing and why He might be doing it). Knowledge, wisdom and understanding are the graces to Christian maturity for the redeemed.
so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
I pray this prayer for my own life. And like any prayer we pray to God for our hearts to be conformed to His, the opportunities for God to positively answer it come when I find it most difficult to do so. The virtues of godliness listed in Second Peter chapter 1 can only be experienced where there is opposition to them. I can only truly develop the virtue of steadfastness when I am feeling like quitting (2Pet. 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 2Pet. 1:6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 2Pet. 1:7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love). I can only acquire the maturing virtue of love when I am sorely tried by hard-to-love people. I wonder how different our city would look if all the redeemed of God walked in a manner worthy of the Lord being fully pleasing to Him who also were bearing fruit in every good work? My hunch is: different.
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,Colossians 1:11-13
Those Christ has redeemed are no longer who they once were. They have received a supernatural strength from God and even though their circumstances are adverse they are enabled to endure and be patient with joy. And Paul has said all this so that he could remind the Colossians of this -
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
In other words, we are not who we once were. And as we continue to follow Christ, we will not be who we currently are. We are redeemed by the Redeeming God. This the God who hears our cries, sees our tears, and knows our thoughts. He knows what's been done to us. He knows what we've done. He knows where we hurt and why we do so. And despite our brokenness, lostness, ugliness, He has redeemed us and loved us. And now He works by His Spirit to strengthen us, bless us, and make us into highly fruitful vessels of His love. We are no longer what we once were. We are redeemed.