A woman went to the doctor’s office, where she was seen by one of the new doctors, but after about 4 minutes in the examination room, she burst out, screaming as she ran down the hall. An older doctor stopped her and asked what the problem was, and she told him her story. After listening, he had her sit down and told her to go relax in another room. The older doctor went to where the first doctor was and demanded, "What’s the matter with you? Mrs. Terry is 63 years old. She has four grown children and seven grandchildren, and you told her she was pregnant?" The new doctor continued to write on his clipboard. Without looking up, he said, "Does she still have the hiccups?"
How do we convince someone to change their behavior? Without the right motivation, any change will be temporary. If we can find the key that unlocks the highest purpose for change, change will happen.
Paul consistently uses contrasts throughout his writings: light/dark, dead/alive, new/old, flesh/spirit, lost/saved. It helps people know on which side of the equation they live.
Knowing those divisions in life and that we all have a before, he reminds us we are no longer defined by who we were. As he said to the Ephesians: Eph 5:8-10 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Things are different – new life, new pattern for how to live that new life, and a new result: we can now please God.
When Paul speaks of our before, he uses expressions like: formerly walked, formerly lived, formerly you were, formerly was, even of himself said: I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.
Of the Colossians, he said: Col 1:21 you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,
Knowing who we were helps us remember from where we came, what God did to change our lives, how purposeful He is in redeeming us from the sin of our contrary ways and that He sets us on a new path to follow Him.
But we cannot stop there. After each expression of what someone was formerly, Paul always adds but now…this is who you are. You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord, you were formerly far off [but now] have been brought near by the blood of Christ. You were dead in your transgressions… [but] He made you alive together with Him,
His word to the Colossians: Col 1:21-22 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—
We are now the reconciled to God ones. We’ve been made to be, and declared to be, right with Him. We were wrong with Him, now we’re right with Him.
Knowing our past reminds us who we were. Knowing our present tells us who we are. Knowing who we are gives us the direction for how we are to live.
- We were darkness; we are now light, so walk as children of Light.
- We were dead; we are now alive, so we might no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf.
- We were of the flesh; we are now of the Spirit, so let us also walk by the Spirit.
Whenever Satan reminds us of who we were, he does so to make us think that’s still who we are. Whenever Paul mentions what we were, he always does so to remind us we aren’t that any longer. This is who you are and this is why. Knowing that, gives Paul permission to ask: having crossed from death into life, out of darkness into light, from flesh into spirit, with love motivating our obedience, how does that compel you to live as who you are? To answer, he starts with Jesus and not them.
Col 1:9-10 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Worthy of the Lord is the end all for any question of why we should walk or live in a way that reflects back to who He is. It’s like the parent’s, “Because I said so. I am your mother, expressing my authority. You adjust yourself to me.”
By knowing who He is, we understand how worthy He is. So, to walk or live worthy of the Lord is to demonstrate His worth or value through our lives. To do so, we need to understand what makes Him worthy in the first place. Paul carries them through a theology lesson on who Jesus really is.
Col 1:15-18 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
We have an old expression: he’s the spittin’ image of his dad. Generally, the son’s looks or actions remind everyone of his father. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not. But, that’s usually more of a resemblance. But in this case, a unique word is used. He is the image of the invisible God means a pressed image. As of a stamp pressed into wax or clay that leaves the exact mark of the stamp.
Heb 1:3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
Exact representation was what Jesus said to Phillip: When you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. Jesus was the visible presence of God. The Father has never been seen – only His glory – and the Spirit cannot be seen but by the evidence of His presence – like the effect the wind has on the trees. Jesus is the God we’ve seen. The visible expression of what cannot be seen.
John said: John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
1Jn 1:1-2 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—
Jesus was more than the spittin’ image of God, He was God in the flesh. To walk worthy of that means we place Him above everything else in life, seeing Him in the same position as when God said: let there be no other god’s but me.
To establish Jesus as God and worthy of the honor of that name, Paul takes them all the way back to creation.
Col 1:16-17 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
1Cor 8:5-6 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
This is where His worthiness comes in. The reason we exist is for His purpose and benefit. It is His intentions and plans to express those purposes and benefits Himself in our lives. They come through Him. The reason we are on the earth is because of Him. That alone should cause us to honor Him. Most don’t. And many go to the extreme of denying God having any right to honor or even to exist because they want no accountability to Him.
In creation, Paul doesn’t break up responsibilities. He simply says God is responsible for creation. When the voice of God spoke creation into existence, there was no reason to say, this was the Son or this was the Father. That distinction wasn’t understood in Genesis. Paul is simply connecting both the Father and Son into the Person of God. Those who believe Jesus is less, misunderstand who God is.
C.S. Lewis: “You must make your choice: either Jesus was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Paul said Jesus was responsible for all that was created. That includes what we can see and the invisible realm we can’t see.
Paul said in Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Did He create the evil within that darkness? No, He created the one who brought evil to the world in the Garden of Eden. He gave room in His plan for evil to exist and allowed Satan the right to rule within his evil dominion, to bring contrast between good and bad, life and death, light and darkness.
Without darkness, we’d never know the beauty of the stars at night. Without darkness we’d not even know the stars were there. Without darkness we’d never fully appreciate the light when it separates us from the darkness. But even as dark as this darkness is, Paul doesn’t leave us without hope:
Eph 1:21-22 Jesus is seated far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet…
Paul wanted them to know Jesus was Lord over all of creation: the earth and the heavens all they contain as well as the invisible realm of spiritual forces. The realm of angels and demons, Satan and his minions. Jesus is Lord over all.
Why is that important?
- So that in our struggles with flesh and blood, we can surrender to Jesus’ authority to resolve those problems.
- In our struggles with rulers and powers in government or society, we can surrender to Jesus’ authority to resolve those problems.
- In our struggle with spiritual forces of wickedness in the unseen realm, we can surrender to Jesus’ authority to resolve those problems.
He is Lord of all and overall. Phil 2:10-11 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He has the power to rebuke. He has the ability to remove. He has the voice that calms the seas and stills our hearts. He is Lord overall and worthy of our worship, praise and how we walk.
For many, they believe Jesus suddenly came into existence at the birth in Bethlehem. John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
Why is that important? Jesus is and always has been God the Son – eternal God. By being before everything was created, He has precedence over all. And everything created serves His purpose – existing for Him and through Him.
So, whether that’s in the visible realm of what we see or in the invisible realm where we can’t see, Jesus is Lord over all. Paul says: Live worthy of that knowledge.
After attending church one Sunday morning, a little boy knelt at his bedside that night and prayed, "Dear God, we had a good time at church today—you should have been there!" I’ve been to that church where everything was done perfectly and in order, yet no room was made for the Lord to attend. A church without the presence of God is a dead church with no life, purpose or message to damaged hearts. So is a dead life.
Whether it’s a church or a life, we weren’t created to live without Him. Whenever who we are and what we do is more important to us that who the Lord is and what He has done, we will never discover how precious and powerful is our God and how amazing is the life He has given us.
- Nothing or no one is to hold a higher position in our lives than the Lord.
- He is worthy of that position because of who He is.
- The moment we recognize that worth, and begin to live in a way that demonstrates our surrender to it, our lives will change.
- That moment will not happen until we realize Jesus, who is Lord, is our Lord, and begin to shape our walk to reflect that.