For as the grace of God transformed the Colossian Christians it transforms us as well. The Gospel of Jesus Christ saves us, but that is not all it does. The Gospel is not a truth that we believe one time in our salvation decision and then put on a shelf to move on to other things. It is something that we need to keep continually before us because it is something that radically transforms us daily. The great church reformer, Martin Luther realizing the importance of the Gospel said, “we need to beat the Gospel into our heads daily.” Colossians is the most Christ-centered book in the New Testament because Paul wanted those believers to live Gospel centered lives and be reminded of the love and holiness of God each day. Love and holiness that we see beautifully displayed through the cross of Jesus, through the Gospel.
The truth of the matter is that the love and grace of God is what transforms us. The Bible says, “it is the love of God constrains us.” It is His love and grace that keeps us away from sin. One of the great problems of American Christianity is the do-it-yourself mentality. When we see sin in our lives we think we can fix it ourselves, so we resolve to try harder and “to do better”. We make resolutions about it, we rededicate ourselves to the task at hand, and we say “next week I’m going to do better.”
However this pull up your bootstraps mentality falls woefully short if we aren’t keeping our eyes on Jesus. If we say I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that, it becomes all about us, when in reality it isn’t. Many times we fall into a vicious cycle that looks something like this:
Sin – I’m going to do better – temptation – I’m not giving in – temptation – sin……
Eventually what happens is that we give up hope and we resign our thinking to, “that is just who I am, I will never change” or “at least I’m not like the person next door” or “well at least my sin really isn’t all that bad.” We try to modify our behavior without any real lasting change or transformation and we end up frustrated and eventually we just give up.
The truth of the Gospel however is that it is the grace of God that changes us and that as we keep our eyes on the cross and on Jesus, His love will transform us. Matt Chandler correctly points out that the true way of sanctification is found in Colossians 3:2, “set your life on things that are above,” and then kill the desires of your flesh. Many times we get that backwards, instead of saying I’m going to keep my eyes on Jesus and what He did for me on the cross and letting that motivate us to put our sins to death, we say I’ve got to modify my behavior and then I can come to the cross of Jesus. Once I clean myself up then I can come into His presence. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. If we wait for our behavior to be perfect we will never enter into true worship and true prayer. Because again we are sinners saved by grace, and even though we have been declared righteous through the blood of Jesus we still struggle daily with sin.
If we keep our eyes on Jesus and enter into His presence through worship and prayer, and if we are continually reminded of His sacrifice and what He did for us on the cross, then we will find true joy in our lives. Psalm 16:11 says, “In His presence there is fullness of joy”. When we get into His presence (which we can only do through the blood of Jesus) we will find a joy that we have never known before. It will be a joy in Jesus, not a happiness in our circumstances. It will be real, lasting and full. And it will make us realize that any joy we find in worldliness and sin is radically inferior to the joy that we find in Jesus. That motivates us and that truly transforms us. It is all about His grace, and once we keep our eyes on that grace our behavior will be changed.
We will want to stay away from sin because “the pleasures in sin for a season” pale in comparison to the true joy that we have in Christ. We will want to hold fast to the truth of the Gospel and learn more truth because we will want to know more about the one who died for us and the one that we love. Bible reading will become a passion not because we feel we need to do it to “measure up” but because the Bible is all about Jesus and it helps us to know Him more. Finally we will not walk around hopeless but we will live lives filled with hope. After all Romans 8:28 says “He is working all things together for good for those who love the Lord.” In other words even in the chaos of this life God is working to make good happen, that gives us reason to hope. We see that again beautifully displayed at the cross as God took the worst event that ever happened, the Son of God being crucified for our sins, and made something unbelievably good come out of it, our salvation. We must keep our eyes on Him for when we do we really will be transformed. Transformed by His grace and for His glory.