“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” – Colossians 3:1
This verse is like a magnet that draws us to a different place from where we might feel we are standing. Paul starts this chapter, which is often subtitled something like ‘a call to holy living’ with a stunning truth, namely that we have been raised with Christ.
The Christian life is not a list of things that we should not do – though many see it that way, rather it is a stunning statement of who we are, and a call to take that seriously. It starts here – we have been raised with Christ.
This is a truth for every single Christian, it is not true of some and not for others. What identifies us as Christians is not first and foremost our behaviour, but this truth – we have been raised with Christ. We are alive to Jesus, we have access to Jesus, we have within us the life towards God that he did.
The tendancy is to thinking ourselves as impoverished, down-trodden, and frankly not very good. God cries out through Paul – that is not true – we are alive with Jesus, his is with us now, and we are with him.
Take a moment to let this truth sink in – take Paul’s words and repeat them to yourself slowly – “I am raised with Christ”. Keep saying these words, and let Jesus be with you as you find yourself lifted from the dirt of life around you to the the place of his presence.
“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love” – Psalm 90:14
There are a few things about this prayer that make it a beautiful prayer to pray. First it suggests that there is a certainty about this prayer being answered. The love of God is unfailing, if that is true how could be there be any doubt of that love being revealed to us. This prayer is magnified by the prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17:26, in which he uses these words to his Father: “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26).
The desire of Jesus is that we would experience that wonderful unfailing love that the Father shared with the Son.
The other wonderful part of this verse from Psalm 90 is the cry that this love would satisfy us. At first this might seem quite selfish, actually it might well not be. If we are not satisfied with the love of God, a number of things might happen. One consequence is that we will approach him in an attitude other than love, maybe of fear, or with a sense or being unloved or uncared for. Another consequence is that we will look for our satisfaction elsewhere, often at the expense of other people.
The delight of God is to pour out his love upon us, and that we would know his love to such an extent that we would find such an inner peace that our lives and the lives of those around us would be changed.
“. . . overflowing with thanksgiving” – Colossians 2:7
Among the qualities that Paul would love to see displayed in the lives of Christians is an overflow of thanksgiving. This word overflow has the meaning of abundance, the sense of having more than enough of something, lavishness.
It can sometime be mildly irritating to be in the company of people who are always muttering the phrase ‘Praise the Lord’ at every opportunity – but at least they are beginning to respond to this desire that Paul expresses. But it is more than that – it is having genuine thanksgiving in our hearts. How can we foster such an attitude?
Perhaps the first thing we can do is to be more thankful in the everyday life that we lead. It is not just about being thankful to God for all his blessings, but also being thankful to the people with whom we interact every day. To appreciate and thank people for what they do for us is a great way to start. Another suggestion is to begin every prayer with thanksgiving. Many times in our days, we are drawn to pray for people and situations that we come across, or that we hear about. Preface every intercession with a prayer of thanksgiving – we might need to be imaginative, but at least we are beginning to open the fountain of thanksgiving, which can soon overflow from our hearts.
“Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” – Hebrews 10:19
This is such a powerful verse as we begin to pray. It assures us that the beginning of pray is actually nothing to do with us. It begins with what has been done for us. Jesus died for us – something he did without asking us what we thought of it, something that happened before we were born. We now live after that event – nothing can change the fact that it happened.
The effect of that action was to open the door for us to enter the presence of God in a way that could not happen any other way. Before all of stands an open door, through which we have every right to enter, a door through which we are beckoned and welcomed. This door leads to a place of amazing power. Beyond the door is the Most Holy Place – the throne room of God, the place of his presence. All that is needed now is for us to enter that room – to have the confidence to go in and know that we are accepted in that place.
This is what makes such a difference to our prayers. It is not us speaking words to a brick wall, but actually voicing our needs and concerns in the very throne room of God. When we grasp that, prayer can change.
“I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever” – Psalm 89:1
What is truth? It is the question that Pilate asked Jesus. We would probably glibly say that Jesus is truth – but what do we mean by that? Do we actually believe it?
So many people have a tendency to value experience as truth especially in regards to their faith. This can take quite a negative turn. If I feel that God didn’t come to my aid yesterday – why should he help me today? God hasn’t healed me so far, what hope do I have of him healing me today?
It takes a real act of choice to honestly hold what we may perceive as disappointments, and to focus again on the reality of the wonder of the person of Jesus. But when we make that choice, and in the midst of our negative experiences turn and rejoice in that wonder – then we have really begun to worship.
Psalm 89 begins with a real affirmation of the wonder and the promises of God, but after a while the author reveals the desperation of the nation’s situation. They felt abandoned and rejected by God. The wonder of the psalm is that the author never takes his eyes off the wonder of God.
Whatever state we may feel we are in, let’s turn our focus back to Jesus, even if we may be desperate. At that point we are truly worshipping, and that honours God.
“Rejoice in the Lord” – Philippians 4:4
It may be that your circumstances are pretty dire – what have you got to rejoice about? If you had said this to Paul he would probably have laughed! In this same chapter, he speaks about his frequent times of hardship, of going without. This very letter was written when he was in prison. What did he have to rejoice about?
Paul was consumed with the wonder of God. He had that remarkable ability to look beyond his own personal circumstances and see the wonder of the love who he knew loved him through and through.
How can we catch that? As we begin to pray, take your eyes off your own circumstances for a while, seek to catch the eternal truths that the Bible reveals to us. Father God calls us his children, he has a love for us that is so great that he gave Jesus for us. Jesus revealed to us what God is really like. Jesus was so passionate about us that he died for us, that he might carry the punishment for all we have done wrong. The Holy Spirit loves us enough to want to be so close to us that he lives in us. Ponder these truths – there must be something here that causes the wonder of God to rise.
“We who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:3
These words from Paul bring us right back to the heart of our Christian faith. It is not about doing things the right way, or saying certain prayers at certain times. Our faith is all about relationship. We all know this, but from time to time it is so easy to unwittingly wander away from relationship into ritual. It is not that prayer ritual is itself wrong, but it is easy to use the ritual to cover up for lack of relationship. Sometimes we even deliberately retreat into payer rituals because we know that the intimate relationship seems to be evaporating.
Whatever we are doing at the moment, pause to ask yourself “Where is Jesus for you right now?” Let him show himself to you. You may sense him standing beside you, or sitting close to you. He may be all around you, or within you. There is no right answer, let him be wherever he wants to be.
Speak to him, share your heart with him, enjoy intimate relationship with him. Be responsive to the thoughts and pictures that drop into your mind, this is his communication with you. Enjoy the relationship.