Understanding Wrong Worship Through the Wisdom of Colossians: Part 1

Understanding Wrong Worship Through the Wisdom of Colossians: Part 1
Written by: Pete McClanathan

If you’ve been studying along with us in this series, you’re seeing the development of a theme. One that involves basic issues found throughout the Bible. Idolatry, wrong worship, putting off the old self, embracing our new creation in Christ, the pursuit of sanctification, and more.

The topic has been and could be called many things. A phrase that resonates with me comes  from author Paul Tripp, expressed in the question “What Am I Worshipping?”

I’ve used that phrase often in various teaching venues over the past 20 years. During one interim pastor season the church chairman, who had become a good friend, commented in jest that I wouldn’t need to devote much time to sermon preparation, I could just land on “what am I worshipping” and apply it to various parts of life week after week. The humor was cute but the comment contained a lot of truth. Once we get ahold of the principle, we find our minds opening up to countless ways that we wrestle with that question every minute of our lives.

In the previous article we addressed that question through a look at the biblical warnings on “friendship with the world." (If you haven’t read that article, or even if you have, you might want to do so now. All of these articles are a continuation of a theme and they are best studied that way).

Here we will turn to a treasury of biblical instruction in Col. 3:1-17.  I consider this passage to be one of the finest discussions of these matters to be found in a single place in the Bible. Over the coming weeks we’ll examine it in several  parts. We begin with Col. 3:1-4:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and  your life is hidden in Christ with God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Let’s be clear. These verses embody deep, remarkable biblical truths that we can use profitably here. But our purpose is not a thorough exegetical examination. We’ll use them as foundations for our discussion but leave it to the Park Hills pastoral staff and the commentators to mine the depths of these verses.

But we can set them before us and ponder their significance. We can face them seriously and embrace what they tell us. And we can consider how that should impact our views of God, ourselves, and others. Let’s walk together into some challenging thoughts.
We begin here:

How easily we undervalue the nature of salvation.

Step back one chapter in Colossians and we read:

“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised through faith in the powerful working of God,who raised him from the dead.”  Col. 2:9-12.

Try and embrace what is being told us. Christ brings into us all of the riches,  power, and authority of God. And we have been “filled” with all of those things through His abiding in us. Upon faith in Christ a transformation occurs that changes everything.

We are “delivered from the domain of darkness” (Col. 1:13). We become a “new creation”. “The old has  passed away” and “the new has come”. (2 Cor. 5:17).

These thoughts can be terrifying. So significant yet so mysterious. I want to allow them to settle in our minds and hearts. Something in us wants to look away when confronted in these deep ways. We recoil to the safe places in our hearts where we believe we have found a measure of peace and confidence. And we fear looking beyond lest the questions expose some uncertainty or unwillingness within us.

I wonder how often or how well I stop to comprehend these matters. What does the stark fact that I was born into and dwelled for many years in the domain of darkness tell me about my perilous condition and that of all manKind? How does that speak to any sense of pride or entitlement that I’ve developed as part of trying to deal with a hostile pagan world and its fears? Where then does wisdom direct me for security, acceptance, affection, purpose?  

If I am a “new creation” what does that say about my attachments and desires, my goals, my sources of comfort, my priorities and decisions?

Am I even able to understand the enormity of the meaning of new creation? Can I reach to embrace it? Do I even want to? Do I dare part with the former affections that have been the landmarks for my life from its beginning?

What would become of me if I sought to follow the elusive command to love Christ above all things? What does that idea even look like in moment to moment living? Can I trust to do it “well enough” to make up for whatever it might cost me? What exactly would it cost me? What is there about losing my life in order to find it in Christ (Mt. 10:39) that can seem so unrealistic and unattainable?  

I find it comforting to admit questions such as these. Too often we push them into a corner of our minds where we can imagine they don’t exist. But that only serves to give them more power to confuse and discourage.

We are offered a better promise. The same author of Colossians describes it as the “mystery” of “Christ in you”, the “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). We are being told that there are things beyond our knowledge and understanding that have yet to be revealed. We need not fear that our limited understanding or faith disqualifies us from the love and protection of the Savior.

For we are assured that Christ and His power live in us now. Not once we attain a level of understanding, or an elusive goal of greater faith and obedience. The author of Ephesians is emphatic in this regard:

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…” (Eph. 1:16-19).

This is far more than a “ticket to heaven” or a “blueprint for successful living”, terms that have been used often to describe salvation. Correct but incomplete.

As we circle back to Col. 3:1, the call to “seek the things that are above” can take on a fresh message. One of opportunity, not burden. Of provision, not qualification. Of the promise for rest and understanding.  And the power to accomplish those in us.

Thank you for walking this road with us. We will pick it up right here in the next article. Please consider adding comments below, helping us learn together.

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