“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” – Colossians 3:3,4
Verses one and two of Colossians chapter three are often quoted, and they should be since they’re great verses, but in my experience the next two verses don’t get nearly as much air-time. So, let’s take a look, because I find them incredibly encouraging:
You might be familiar with the imagery in Romans 6, which comes to mind when I read “for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Paul, in Romans, explains that when we are immersed during our baptism, we are united in Christ’s own death; when we are raised, the raising of Christ from the dead. And now we have newness of life. Christ describes that newness, that following of him, to be a death to ourselves: we have crucified what was sinful within us.
So, now being Christ-followers, we walk by faith, by something unseen:”We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
When we read in Colossians about our lives being hidden in Christ, we recognize that 1) we are not living for self but for Christ, 2) we govern our lives by things which are physically hidden at this time and also that 3) many of our works, much of our fruit, our energy for Christ is done without recognition or acknowledgement. That’s what Christ repeated in his sermon on the mount: that many of our good works, much of our time in prayer will be and ought to be done in secret, but our “Father who sees in secret will reward” us. So, that is yet another sense in which our lives are hidden while we are on this earth.
However, there will come a day “when Christ who is your life appears…you also will appear with him in glory.”
I’m reminded of 1 John 3:2, which says: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
When Christ comes, all of those things we talked about being hidden, will be revealed. All of our endurance against sin will result in the realization of the promise, the product both of our work and God’s work in us. Sin will no longer stand in the way of our holiness, faith will become sight, hope will be reality, and amazingly, we will have perfect union with God. There will be no more veil between us, no more fluctuation of sanctification, no more warring within. Who we truly are as his children, we will finally see.
This. This is what we are waiting for.
NT Wright has a wonderful way of referring to a common spiritual truth as “already, not yet.” You can really feel that tension in this discussion: we are both already saved, like Christ, holy, set apart yet we are also none of these things. Our “old man” has both been crucified and put to death, and is also alive and well, fighting for control in our lives. We are walking in newness of life, yet will never fully experience newness of life until Christ appears again.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” – Colossians 3:1,2
So many times when my faith was young, I would skim over the “obvious” verse about the gospel and head straight for the to-do’s and not-to-do’s. I just wanted to know what was allowed and what wasn’t. I didn’t see the value in reading and re-reading what God, Christ, the Spirit has done, is doing and will do for us.
Like I said, I was young in the faith.
But imagine for a moment, if we spent time each day dwelling on the gospel. On its implications. On our hope. On what God is doing in this world, in his children, in his kingdom. What if we spent time reading about the character of God, of his promises, of his faithfulness, of his holiness, his works. What if every day our mind operated from that sort of foundation?
So many of us, myself included at times, struggle to eagerly anticipate Christ’s return, so many of us struggle to successfully fight temptation, to really even fulfill those to-do’s and not-to-do’s of scripture. So many of us feel that God is abstract or far away, he’s not a real presence in our lives. Honestly, so many of us seem bored with these passages and only interested in direct application.
How much more real, how much more appealing, more praise-worthy, more exciting, more empowering do you think God and Christ and the scriptures and that new life would be if we took the time to dwell on and pray through the fundamentals each day? How do you think our faith would evolve? How close would God seem? How desirable?
Maybe then there wouldn’t be such a disconnect when we read passages like:
“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple…”
“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!”
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” – Philippians 1:21-23