Colossians 1:24-26 ESV
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.”
Suffering for Righteousness
We all suffer in different ways – some of us physically, and some of us emotionally, and some of us both. Some of our suffering may be of our own doing, and others may be due to circumstances beyond our own control. Some of it, too, may be circumstantial, while others may be the result of enemies coming against us and doing evil to us.
Paul suffered much for the sake of the gospel and for the spiritual growth and maturity of those believing in Jesus Christ for their salvation. For, he was attacked both physically and verbally on numerous occasions. He was also falsely accused and falsely imprisoned for righteousness’ sake.
And if we are following the Lord Jesus with our lives, and if we are sharing the whole counsel of God, as he did, we will also suffer in like manner as he suffered and as Christ Jesus suffered and died for us. For, when we share the Good News and suffer for it, we are suffering to see others go free.
For, you see, not many Christians today are preaching or teaching the fullness of God. They are not sharing the “whole counsel of God” with others. The majority, it would appear, are teaching a diluted half-truth gospel which promises people freedom while it keeps them still bound in slavery to sin.
And then there are many Christians who aren’t sharing Christ or his gospel with others in any shape or form, but they have become one with the world and they speak and act just like the world does. They watch the same movies, play the same games, crack the same jokes, and so there is not that distinction between them and the world that should be there.
The church of today has largely gone the way of the world, and they are thus blending in with and are immersing themselves in the culture of today, and not many of them are talking about Jesus and his gospel, or else they are sharing a false gospel which appeals to the flesh of humans.
Persecuted for The Gospel
Thus, those who are sharing the gospel as Jesus taught it, and as Paul and the other apostles taught it, are being persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
They are being excluded, rejected, ignored, mocked, ridiculed, falsely accused, called names, and thought crazy or as hyper-religious or as self-righteous. And some, at least in other countries (outside the USA), are being physically persecuted and even put to death for their faith in Jesus Christ.
I am certainly not saying that everyone who is preaching the whole counsel of God is doing so in love, and for the right purposes, but that those who are doing it for the reasons Paul stated are often being accused of being self-righteous, legalistic, hyper-religious, crazy, or even hateful.
Thus, it can be a lonely existence, as Paul and the other apostles learned, to stand for truth and righteousness and to love people enough to be willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness, and for the sake of their salvation and their spiritual well-being.
And it isn’t the non-religious of the world who are their greatest persecutors, either, but their opponents are often the same ones as persecuted Jesus. They are those who participate in the gatherings of the church, and who are even pastors and elders in these gatherings.
And they are members of the body of Christ, or they are professers of faith in Jesus Christ, or they are members of their own physical families or the people of their communities, or the people with whom they work. So, they get persecuted or abandoned and ignored by those closest to them.
But if this is where we are, being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, then we are to rejoice, because that means that we are making a difference and that Satan is fighting against us to stop us so that we don’t continue to make a difference in other people’s lives by telling them the truth.
So, we must persevere at all costs in sharing the truth of the gospel so that many will hear, and so that they will be saved from their bondage to sin, and so that they will have new lives in Christ Jesus, and so they can now live holy lives, pleasing to God, in freedom from what once enslaved them.
Colossians 1:27-29 ESV
“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Christ in You
So, what does it mean to have Christ within us? How does that work exactly?
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him” (Jn 14:23).
“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” (Gal 2:20).
“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom 8:7-10).
Jesus Christ comes to live within us in the person of his Holy Spirit when we, by faith, trust in Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior. By faith in Jesus, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Rom 6:1-23; Eph 4:17-24).
The old life of living for sin and self is put to death with Christ, and we are delivered from our slavery to sin so that we can now, by God’s Spirit, become slaves of God and of his righteousness. Then daily we die with Christ to sin and to self, and daily we walk in obedience to his commands (Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Lu 9:23-26; Eph 4:17-24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 2:3-6).
But we must continue in this walk of faith until we die or until Christ returns, and we must continue to walk by the Spirit and not according to the flesh, for if we sow to please the flesh, we will reap destruction. But if we sow to please the Spirit, then we will reap eternal life with God. And this is why Paul said that he warned and that he taught everyone, that he might present everyone mature in Christ.
[Gal 5:16-21; Col 1:21-23; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; 1 Co 6:9-10; 2 Co 5:10]
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
Hymn lyrics by William Williams, pub.1745
tr. by Peter Williams, pub.1771
Music by John Hughes, 1907
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.
Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield;
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.
Lord, I trust Thy mighty power,
Wondrous are Thy works of old;
Thou deliver’st thine from thralldom,
Who for naught themselves had sold.
Thou didst conquer, Thou didst conquer
Sin and Satan and the grave,
Sin and Satan and the grave.
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee;
I will ever give to Thee. Amen.