Standing Firm 4: Continue in your faith
Because being a Christian isn't easy
If you're a Christian, you know that following Jesus isn't easy. It's not easy to be made fun of or persecuted for following Jesus. It's not easy to say no to temptation. It's not easy or convenient to go to youth group and church every week.
So why keep going? Why should we continue to be Christians if it's not easy?
I imagine that these questions were going through the minds of the Christians in Colosse as they faced their opposition. Paul's response to those questions in chapter 1 has been to lift their eyes to see Jesus again. He wants them to remember that Jesus is God, that Jesus has died for us, that Jesus rose from the dead, and that Jesus is worth living for. And now in 1:21-23, Paul wants the Colossians to look at what Jesus has achieved for them, so that they will continue in their faith.
REMEMBER WHO YOU WERE: ENEMIES (verse 21)
Paul starts this short, meaty paragraph by reminding the Colossians - and us - of who we were before we were Christians. We were God's enemies. We had made ourselves God's enemies in our 'minds because of our evil behaviour'.
Paul writes about thoughts and actions. All of our lives - everything that we think and do - was turned against God, and had alienated us from God. The footnote in the NIV says that this sentence could also say 'enemies in your minds as shown by your evil behaviour'. Thoughts and actions usually go together, and despite the good things we may have done in the past, the simple fact that we ignored God meant that we had made ourselves his enemies.
This means that we are not acceptable to God. We are guilty, and only worthy to be rejected by him.
REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE: RECONCILED (verse 22)
But God is not happy for us to remain his enemies. God hates sin and hates sinners, but in the middle of that hate is still a deep love for us. So God did something about it. Remember 1:15-20? God became a man - Jesus, and he died for us. By his death in his 'physical body' (that means, he wasn't a ghost or a spirit that looked like a man ... he was a real man), Jesus has reconciled his followers to God.
Reconciled isn't a word we use much. It means 'joined back together'. Jesus in his death has joined us back to God. When God sees us, he no longer sees someone who is unacceptable, guilty and worthy of rejection. God only sees you as 'holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation...' How does this happen? Paul will explain that in 2:13-15.
But for now: CONTINUE IN YOUR FAITH (verse 23)
Being reconciled to God only happens if we have faith in Jesus. So Paul urges the Colossian Christians to keep going in their faith. They will be accepted by God if they continue in their faith, established and firm (like a tree: 1:10), not moved from their hope in Jesus.
I see a lot of teenagers who are following Jesus. It's great. But sadly, I also see a lot of teenagers giving up on Jesus once they get to the 'business end' of High School or start going to Uni. Following Jesus is not a phase that you go through. It's not something you grow out of. Following Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God. If you give up on following Jesus, you become God's enemy again, and that's not a safe place to be.
So how do we continue in our faith? Paul says to remember who Jesus is. Remember that we were God's enemies, but now we are his friends through faith in Jesus. That's a message that Paul was so committed to, that he made himself its servant, he gave his whole life to talking about it.*
Good habits help you to remember these things. Read your Bible every day. Talk to God every day. Keep going to Church, Youth Group and Bible Study, no matter how busy you get. In fact, if you know you've got a lot of homework to do on the weekend, get it done early so that you don't get to Sunday and feel tempted to stay at home and work. Because if we want to be seen by God as 'holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation', then we need to continue in our faith for the rest of our lives.
*when Paul writes that the gospel has been 'proclaimed to every creature under heaven', he is using a phrase that echoes the Old Testament, and means two things: God has made the truth about Jesus simple and plain so that everyone can understand it, and that we who follow Jesus have a big mission: to take the message to everyone everywhere. He doesn't literally mean that every single creature has been preached to about Jesus. My dog Jessie probably has no idea who Jesus is.