Mere Shadows

16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ (Colossians 2).

All religious rituals and traditions are but “mere shadows of what is to come” in eternity. They are all mere symbols pointing to the real “substance” of what is important, which is Christ. It is His figure that casts the greatest shadows in this life.

Indeed, the best things in life are but “mere shadows of what is to come” in eternity. Whatever we hold most dear in this life is nothing compared to its counterpart in heaven. Those mere shadows are overshadowed by things far greater. Pearly gates and streets of gold replace our accumulated wealth, unspeakable bliss replaces our greatest joys, the righteousness of Christ replaces any human goodness.

Lord, thank You for this great hope of better things to come. Give us new perspective This Day to what is really important and what is not. Amen.

Paid in Full

14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him (Colossians 2).

The words “canceled out” come from one word literally meaning “to wipe away” and is the same word used to describe the Lord “wiping away every tear from [our] eyes” in Revelation 7:17 and 21:4. He took that “certificate of debt” we had and wiped it clean, erasing it completely. 

If you ever listen to The Dave Ramsey Show on radio, you will always hear the “debt–free scream” shouted out by an individual or couple who has used his financial planning to get out of debt. Well, the greatest debt–free scream ever was shouted out 2000 years ago when Jesus took our certificate of debt and “nailed it to the cross,” crying out cried: “It is finished!” which literally meant: “Paid in full!” At that moment our certificate of debt was completely paid for, wiped clean, totally erased. 

This “disarms the rulers and authorities” from being able to bring any charge of which to judge us, for he has no evidence against us to bring into the courtroom. Thus, every time the devil accuses us before God he is “made a public display” or a laughing stock.

Lord, thank You for making full payment for our spiritual debt to You. Help us This Day to live like it. Amen.

With Him

12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions … (Colossians 2).

In 1899 the Negro Spiritual Were You There was published in Old Plantation Hymns, by William Ebenezer Barton. In 1940 it was included in the official Episcopal Church Hymnal, making it the first of its kind to be included in any major American hymnal. The refrain overflows with emotion: “Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.”

“Buried … raised up … made alive”—and all “with Him”—with Christ. Were You There during the Passion of the Lord Jesus? If you are “in Him” … well, you were! This is the marvelous, mysterious truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: we were included with Him when He was baptized, when He was crucified, when He was buried, and when He was risen from the grave! Ephesians 2:6 even includes us when He was taken up to heaven and seated at the right hand of God the Father!

Lord, this is too marvelous for our finite minds to grasp! But help us This Day to believe it and to remain with our Lord—close to Him the entire day. Amen.

In Him

9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ … (Colossians 2).

Paul already stated in 1:19 that “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all [His]  fullness to dwell in” Christ, and now he repeats that thought. He also adds that “in Him [we] have been made complete” and “in Him” our sinful flesh has been removed through a spiritual kind of “circumcision.” It is all about being in Christ.

All the fullness of God dwells in Christ, and all our fullness is found in Him because in Him all our sins have been removed. He has made this so because “He is the head over all rule and authority,” and thus has the power to make it so.

Lord, we thank You for making us to be in Christ. Help us This Day to faithfully live in Him. Amen.

Marauders

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2).

The phrase “takes you captive” comes form one word meaning “to carry off as booty”—what marauders do. Their weapons include “philosophy and empty deception”—words which sound good but fraught with empty meanings. These words have been accepted long ago and locked into “the tradition of men”—thus giving them legitimacy. Yet, at their very core they are “elementary principles of the world, rather than … Christ.”

The other day I heard a man representing a religious order say some words at the end of a burial service. He spoke on and on with words memorized from a script of words that have been repeated for hundreds of years in such a rite. And yet, in his ten minutes of eloquence I noticed one glaring omission—not once did he ever mention the name of Jesus Christ.

Lord, protect us This Day from spiritual marauders who would steal our hearts and minds from devotion to Jesus Christ. Amen.

Roots, Buildings, and Fountains

6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2).

The imagery here is of stability: a tree with deep roots, a building with a firm foundation, and a fountain bubbling over itself. This is the picture of a stable believer “overflowing with gratitude” to God. Gratitude is always present when anyone first “receives Christ Jesus the Lord” into their lives, and that gratitude should never diminish in their walk with Him. Indeed, it should be “overflowing” and spilling out of our lives.

Show me a thankless believer and I will show you someone who has forgotten his salvation. And the reason he has forgotten it is because he has not been “instructed” in the Word of God enough so as to send down deep spiritual roots to “establish [him] in [his] faith.”

Lord, may we be instructed This Day in Your Word so that our gratitude to You may bubble over. Amen.

More Than a Slogan

6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him …(Colossians 2).

Thirty six years ago I launched a ministry to college students at what was then Mesa College. Our first meetings were held under a tree in front of the Student Union building. I chose this verse as our theme and placed it on every letterhead and business card. I cannot read it without a flood of memories. But I love this verse, not just for those memories, but of course for its innate value as Scripture and truth. It is far more than just an organizational slogan.

We “received Christ Jesus the Lord” through repentance and faith—and we “walk in Him” in the same way, doing the same thing. The Christian life is a life of repentance and faith, for the way we walk in the Kingdom of God is the same way we got into it in the first place—repentance and faith. This side of heaven we will never need to stop repenting of sins and believing in our Savior who died for them.

Lord, help us This Day to repent quickly of any sins we might commit, and to believe with all our hearts that the finished work on Calvary paid for them in full. Amen.

A General’s Eyes

5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ (Colossians 2).

It’s a wonderful thing to know someone’s on your side, who’s got your back. It doesn’t even matter whether they are physically present or not. Just being there “with you in spirit” is enough—you can still sense their presence as they are rooting you on even from afar. You know they are “rejoicing” over you.

The words “good discipline” come from one military word meaning “orderly arrangement” as in trained soldiers falling in line. The word “stability” (which is found nowhere else in the New Testament) is also a military term meaning “a solid front” as in soldiers positioned and ready for any onslaught by the enemy. 

Thus, Paul is like a general looking on his array of soldiers, with no one in particular in view—yet each soldier feeling as if his general’s eyes are directly on him.

Lord, thank You for having Your eyes directly on all of us even at the same time. Help us This Day to serve You as faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rare Words

4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument (Colossians 2).

The word “delude” is found in only one other place in the Bible, where we are warned against self-delusion through being only “hearers of the word, and not doers” (James 1:22). The words “persuasive argument” come from one word, which appears no where else in the Bible at all. Thus, the gist of this sentence comes from rare words indeed.

Paul’s purpose in this letter is simple: to keep the Colossians from delusion due to specious discourse from others. Perhaps as he was using such rare words, he was hoping that the experience those rare words describe would also be rare in the lives of these Colossians—and indeed, every Christian. Deception and delusion are at the very core of everything Satan throws at us, and he will use anyone and everyone available for these purposes.

Lord, help us This Day to keep these rare words rare in our lives. Amen.

God’s Mystery

2 … God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2).

In Paul’s day there were a lot of “mystery religions” floating around, of which many, if not all of the Colossians before their salvation in Christ, had been devoted practitioners. These religions held secret ceremonies led by a “revealer of holy things” who initiated members through rituals which were closed to all outsiders. Thus, Paul is building a bridge of understanding here to bring the Colossians to the greatest of mysteries: “God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.”

Christ is the great mystery that only the Godhead truly understands. Only the Godhead can comprehend His Incarnation—how He became fully man, yet without losing even an ounce of deity. Only the Godhead can fathom His Passion on the cross—how He “became sin” on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21), yet without losing even an ounce of righteousness. This is truly “wisdom and knowledge” of the highest order—“treasurers” beyond measure.

And yet, even though we cannot fully comprehend the mystery of Christ, still we can know Him personally, and have a deep relationship with Him.

Lord, thank You for making the mystery of Christ known to us. Help us This Day to know Him better and to make Him known to those around us. Amen.