Colossians 3:5-11 — St. Paul and Grammar
You all never see the raw starting point of each blog entry. Can I just tell you I have a great editor? She has two large tasks: help me not commit heresy, and sort out my grammar.
It is easy to slip into heresy, but that is for another day. Today I want to tell you about my spiritual gift of creating new uses for commas, mixing past-present-future tenses, confusing masculine-feminine… the list goes on.
My so-called excuse is that I am a math/science person. That is a poor excuse. Bad grammar at best confounds, and at worse confuses. If the goal is communication—compelling and clear communication—then correct composition is key.
Why am I bringing this up?
Yesterday we read that you and I had died. Today, us dead people are told to put to death certain things in our lives. Is there a grammatical issue with past and present tense?
Does St. Paul need Jen, my super-fabulous editor?
Or is there more afoot to this life of following Jesus?
In all seriousness, for me, the situation being described is one of the most challenging aspects of following Jesus. I believe God loves me—that only takes one look at the Cross. However, when I look at my behavior, I struggle with wondering whether I am really loving and following Him. Is God really living in me?
The Bible teaches that we are saved, made right with God, not because of anything we do, but because of what Jesus has done on the Cross. We say Jesus has paid the penalty of death for our sin. But then we keep sinning. What’s that all about?
The Bible teaches that we are new creations, that the Holy Spirit lives in us. But then we keep on sinning.
People who know about Jesus’ life, look at Christians, and guess what they see: that we keep on sinning. Often, we don’t look very much like the man we claim we are following.
I could keep adding to the list.
The point is, people—both Christians and non-Christians—have an expectation that if we profess to be followers of Jesus, then we are to be different; but the reality is, often we are not.
So, how do we process that we have died, and yet still need to put to death the old self?
Here is how I think about our situation.
When we become followers of Jesus, it is not as if God’s sovereignty in our life explodes, blowing away our wills. God’s sovereignty works through and throughout our lives, shaping us, disciplining us, inviting us to use our liberty in Christ for life—not lust.
Beginning to follow Jesus, and spending our life following him, is not about God waving His hand over us, somehow magically changing us.
Consider an analogy. Have you ever joined a group? Maybe it was team, a choir, or a school. On your first day, the leader stands up and says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, today you become ________ (you fill in the blank). For me I will fill in, Kings Pointer. On that day, my first day, I was told exactly what I was—and yet I was not. Words like honor, integrity, effort, and others, were used to describe me. Now, I did not think I was dishonorable, or lazy. I just did not use those words to order my life.
Can you relate? Another example that comes to mind is Scouting. I was a Boy Scout, and a Boy Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. Those are the 12 Scout Laws. I can look at that list and think back to myself at age 11.
I pray you get the idea. And here is the deal—what I have been talking about is all in the human realm.
In the next post, I want to deal with the spiritual reality of what God’s Word is talking about. For now, how do you make sense of the fact that you’ve declared yourself a follower of Jesus (someone who has died to sin), and yet are still in process?