Mystery of Christ in Colossians: Caught in the Web

LOOK carefully!  Can you see it?  A perfectly formed circular spider web hanging across a path...suspended by a "thread"!  This is the amazing sight my friend Penny and I happened upon early one morning as we were walking down some little-traveled paths in a wooded area in my neighborhood. Here was one spider who was serious!   She was ready to get a "good catch" that day!

There was a period of my life when I was a "good catch" in a craftily constructed web -- not made by earthly designs but that of the father of lies (John 8:44).

It started out with a series of real, and perhaps imagined, rejections...which then developed into a LIE.  It wouldn't have been so bad if I had recognized it for what it was...but I didn't.  And so I embraced it as truth and struggled for many years.

It caused me much pain, along with fear and confusion!  It influenced my behavior!  And it even started to poison other areas and relationships.

Finally, by the time I recognized it as a LIE, I was so bound up in it, that I couldn't get free.  I prayed!  I cried!  I tried to act against it!  I attempted the mental mind games!  I asked my praying friends to pray!  I asked my husband to pray!  All in vain!  UNTIL last summer...

I was reading & meditating in the little book of Colossians...preparing to teach it for the third time.  (I told you I was a slow learner!) I read,

Since you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God... For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God... Colossians 3:1-3

All of a sudden in that moment, the Spirit of God brought the LIE to my mind, and with it came the realization: "Wait a minute!  I DIED to that LIE!"

That very moment, the power of that LIE was broken in my experience!  Here I had been begging and pleading for the Lord to do something that He had already done through the Cross of Christ.  But I had not recognized it by faith in my particular situation.  Once I did, everything changed :)  I was set free from the fear, confusion, the agonizing emotions that the LIE produced in me.

You may ask me how I know that this is true?  The key is found in the little Scriptural word with.  This little particular word in the Greek has the idea of intimate union--a union that nothing can break. Devotional writers of previous generations called this "the believer's mystical union with Christ" of which marriage is a picture (Ephesians 5:25-32).

One of my favorite Bible teachers Wayne Barber (of Precept Bible Studies fame) illustrates this life union by what he calls "Biscuits for Jesus."  [I'm going to expand his illustration a bit to include all three words Greek words translated "with".]

There are certain ingredients that go into making biscuits:  flour, salt, baking powder, milk, sugar (if you're Polish like me), and shortening (namely butter, if you're Polish like me).  Anyway, as you gather the ingredients and place them next to each other on the kitchen counter, you could say that they are with each other (para, in the Greek), meaning alongside.

Then if you take them and place them in a bowl one by one, you might say that the ingredients are with each other (meta, in the Greek), meaning closely associated with.  At this point, each of the ingredients is separate from each other.  Even in the bowl, you could skillfully separate the ingredients from each other to some extent.

BUT once you mix those ingredients together, roll them out and cut them, place them on the cookie sheet and bake them, there is no way you can separate those ingredients from each other.  There is a mysterious union of ingredients called "biscuits"  :)  That's the Greek word sun, meaning united together with.  And this little word is our word found in Colossians 3 (above) as well as these significant Scriptures (and many more):

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.... So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:3-11 ESV

So what does this mean?  It means that...

when Christ died, I died! when Christ was buried, I was buried! when Christ was raised, I was raised to newness of life!

And what did I die to?

I died to the world! (Col 2:8; Gal 6:14) I died to the flesh!  (Col 2:11-12; Rom 8:1-10) I died to self (old man)!  (Col 2:12; Gal 2:20; 2Cor 5:17; Rom 6:6-7) I died to sin!   (Col 2:13; Romans 6:1-14; Eph 2:1-7; 2Cor 5:21) I died to the Law ("to do list" religion)!  (Col 2:14; Rom 7:4,6; Gal 3:10,13,24-25) AND I died to the power of Satan, whose main tactics are lies and accusation!  (Col 2:15; Heb 2:14-15; Eph 1:19-21;6:10ff)

So now when that nasty LIE and related accusations and condemnations rear their ugly heads, I just say "Wait a minute!  I died to that!  And I'm alive united with my Lord...adequate in and through Him to be what He has made me to be in this situation." (2Cor 2:15-16; 3:5-6)

What lies, accusations, expectations, condemnations are you struggling with today, O child of God?  You died to those!  And now you live to walk in newness of life because of the One you are united with in His fulness!

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. Colossians 3:1-4 MESSAGE

In Pain...Two Things I Know

Tears
Tears

Surely goodness and steadfast love shall follow me all the days of my life... Psalm 23:8 PAIN!

Bloody! Cutting! Unrelenting! and Soul-numbing...or is it? 

For me, pain has a way of sifting through the non-essentials of life!

And I find my soul awakened abruptly from its numbing slumber to longing, loss, grief, confusion, perspective...

...but most importantly, the presence of GOD.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.   C.S. Lewis

In pain as in joy, I'm learning to hold onto two truths that are my "Unchangeables," my non-negotiables:

GOD IS GOODThe LORD is good...

I AM LOVED...and His steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

And it seems the enemy of our souls always assails at those two points with hislies.  It happened in the Garden, and it happens every day in my life and in yours.  We are just dull to recognize it.

But I'm hear to affirm by faith...

God is GOOD!

God's character is often bought into question when we face the "hard things" in life, like sickness, death, broken relationships, financial reversals, and so on.

When our son and daughter went through serious health problems (cancer and what turned out to be benign tumors) within months of each other, it threw me into incredible pain and confusion: "How could this be happening to my children!?" "What kind of toxic waste dump have we been living in!?" And I struggled on...for a long time!

reflections on Christ - crucifixion
reflections on Christ - crucifixion

Finally, it was Jesus' words to His disciples, the night before He died, that stabilized me:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

But why all the suffering?  God's Word tells us that because of the Fall, everything and everyone has been suffering:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:21-23

God's plan hasn't been stymied because of man's fall into rebellion.  God is weaving all things in our lives into His eternal plan in Christ.

tapestry, front & back
tapestry, front & back

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29

As Bible teacher Kay Arthur says,

Everything in our lives is filtered through fingers of Love!

And that brings me to my second "Unchangeable"...

I am LOVED and you are too!

We all are seeking perfect love...loving and being loved in a real and deep way.  This is God-given.  But I get myself into trouble when I expect perfect love from another person, or I try to live up to others' expectations simply so that they will love and accept me.

The realization that I am loved with an everlasting love by the Lover of my Soul, the Lord Jesus Christ, enables me to let others off the hook.  It also frees me to admit and repent of my failures to love...and then forgive myself.

house
house

Maybe this is part of what we each must go through in adulthood in coming to grips with our "parent issues."  In a perfect world, all of us would have been parented by perfect parents who met all our needs.  But in reality, none of us has...though some of us have had some pretty darn good ones!

But in finally coming to grips with our grief and loss, we can forgive others for not loving us as only God can.

It's at that moment that you and I can fully embrace God's incredible, perfect love for us...and embrace our life, choosing to love with the love with which we have beenloved by God.

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Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing,... None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing— nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable —absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:35-39 MSG

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Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1 ESV

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Kaden the student
Kaden the student

Bible Students:

Click on the highlighted links for further study.  There are several Bible-based articles by Biblical scholars, Scripture references, and links to other posts that have further explanation and Scriptural background.

Recommended Reading:

book -- One Thousand Gifts
book -- One Thousand Gifts

When I was in the midst of writing this blog post, I came to chapter 5 of Ann Voskamp's beautifully written book One Thousand Gifts:  Dare to live Fully Right Where You Are. Ann shares the raw pain and suffering in her life that led her to the same conclusion-- God is always good and I am always loved. I was delighted, surprised (but why should I be!?), and encouraged that God is speaking this same liberating message to His children everywhere.  I highly recommend this beautiful book!