I recall a preacher who once pointed out that there are two dates that appear on our tombstones: our date of birth and our date of death. In between these two dates is a dash, which, in a sense, represents our entire life. The question that he posed was “What will that dash say about how you lived your life?”
Our readings for today tell us that we should live a life worthy of God. A life worthy of God is a life that brings glory to God by the witness that we provide as others see the difference that Jesus has made to the way we live.
Jesus said that our lives should be characterised by a fervent love for God - loving God with all of our heart, soul and strength - and also a selfless, caring love for those less fortunate than ourselves. If others were to see this fervent love for God and our neighbour lived out in the things that we do in our lives, then we would certainly bring glory to God.
In the Epistle to the Colossian church, the Christians of Colossae were commended for the way that they were living. In them we see the evidence of their great love and faith in God. Their’s was a life characterised by being good witnesses to God, bearing fruit in good works, growth in their knowledge of God, patience, and joyful thanksgiving.
The assumption of these passages is that you and I today can also live such lives – lives that are worthy of God - and I suggest that there are two reasons for this:
I. We may live a life worthy of God through the knowledge of God’s will (v.9)
A necessary thing to living a life that will bring glory to God is to know what it is that God wants us to do in our lives. This means knowing God’s will for us. And having discovered his will, then we need to be obedient to his will.
You see, loving God and our neighbour is not just a spiritual exercise, or an act of maintaining an emotion. There needs to be an out-working of this love. It must have a practical application; otherwise it is of no value.
The Bible Scholars generally agree that the writer of the letter to the Christians of Colossae was primarily motivated to write to this church to try to head off a heresy that was beginning to develop. There were false teachers among the Colossians who were suggesting that those willing to accept a further initiation could obtain a deeper insight or knowledge of the things of God.
This wrong teaching did in fact develop in the second century church and led to a movement called Gnosticism. Gnostics believed that devotees had gained a special kind of spiritual enlightenment, through which they had attained a secret or higher level of knowledge not accessible to the uninitiated. They also tended to emphasise the spiritual realm over the material, often claiming that the material realm is evil and hence to be escaped.
But the writer of the Epistle is saying that whilst we must seek to know God more and more, this knowledge should lead to an outcome that brings glory to God - not to ourselves!
There should be some practical application in the material world of knowing and obeying God’s will for our lives – an observable outcome of: being good witnesses to God, bearing fruit in good works, patience, and joyful thanksgiving.
Now, living a life that would bring glory to God by the witness that we provide is not something that we can do in our own strength. I can tell you this through bitter experience. During the early years of my marriage, before I became a Christian, I tried very hard to be a very good husband and father - and I can tell you that I failed miserably.
But God’s glorious power is available to us to help us to, firstly, know God’s will, and secondly, to carry out his will in our lives. This power of God is the Holy Spirit whom we receive when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. The Holy Spirit reveals God’s will to us and gives us the strength and gifting to carry it out. And as we live out God’s will in our lives, we will live a life worthy of God.
Now behind our ability to know God’s will is an enabling event and a response. The enabling event is signified in baptism – God has done something for us that enables us to live worthy of him. We couldn’t even begin to know God’s will if God had not acted first and if we had not responded in a way to receive the benefits of God’s action. So, here is my second point:
II. We may live a life worthy of God because we have been rescued by God (v.13)
I think that I can best explain this by using an analogy.
You might remember the film called Free Willy. It was about obtaining freedom for a captive whale. This movie was based upon a true story about the plight of an orca whale called Keiko. In the early nineties the media discovered that, like the whale in the movie, Keiko lived in an unhealthy environment.
Life Magazine reported that his tank at Mexico City’s Reino Adventura theme park was full of chlorinated and artificially salted water, and was barely large enough for the whale to turn around. His muscles had become flabby, and constant swimming in the one direction had curled his dorsal fin. His water was too warm and an inadequate filtration system had him swimming in his own wastes. And he was breathing the world’s smoggiest air. These conditions, along with an improper diet, had weakened his immune system. He was considerably underweight and had eruptions on his skin.
Various activists tried to improve the whale’s conditions. After some years, the Free Willy Foundation was formed and money was raised to build a new tank for Keiko at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. This tank was four times as big as the other, had reversible currents, 40 degree sea water piped from the bay, water jets to play among, and submerged rocks for navigation practice.
On 7th January, 1996, Keiko was flown to his new home. Within a year he had regained weight, his skin was healed and his fallen dorsal fin was on the rise.
The Free Willy Foundation rescued Keiko from a harmful destructive situation that he had no power to escape from and brought him to a healthy environment.
In the same way, God rescues us from the destructive power of sin, (which would otherwise destroy us) and brings us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, i.e. into a healthy new life in Jesus Christ. (v.13)
But the difference between us and Keiko is that we have a choice whether we will accept the benefit of what God has done for us. It is like the sea rescues that we in the Navy conduct for those who have ended up in the water. A helicopter comes over and lowers down the life line to the sailor drowning in what we might call the ‘sea of sin’. But the sailor has to do something in response. He has to make a choice to reach up and place the rescue harness around his body before he can be rescued.
So, we too must respond to God’s offer of rescue – we have to reach out and receive it. How do we do that? We do that by recognising that we are otherwise lost through sin, repenting of our sin, asking God to forgive us and asking Jesus to come into our life as our Saviour and Lord.
So we may conclude from our reading of Colossians 1:1-14 that those who have responded to Jesus Christ have been rescued, which means that: we are no longer dragged down by sin; we can know the will of God through the Holy Spirit; and in grateful thanksgiving for our rescue, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, you and I can live a life that is worthy of God. Amen.