Monday, July 19, 2010

Complete in Christ

I recently began reading How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp, and it has been simultaneously refreshing, eye-opening, and convicting. Three chapters in, the focus has been on Colossians 2:6-15 and how we drift from the gospel itself as our means of growth and are allured by other plausible philosophies which replace faith in Christ as our means of salvation.

The authors point out that one way to test our grasp of the gospel is how we understand Colossians 2:9-10: "For in Christ the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." The gospel also includes the reality that "Christ . . . is your life" (3:4). This word really speaks to me, challenges me right now.

Our lives in Richmond aren't all that we dreamed of: no secure job yet for Olivia, a stressful job for me last year, few meaningful friendships, feeling a little unsettled at church, odd neighbors. I'm also aware of how growth in holiness (read: devoted love to God and to others) is often slow, arduous, and humbling. I am most aware of this in my marriage. And yet, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, God wants us to live fulfilled lives in spite of many unfulfilled desires (Brevier). How is this possible? It's only when I acknowledge I am complete in Christ.

If we lose something valuable to us or lack what we desire, even need, we still have Christ. He is our life. He encompasses all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). All he is, he is for us; and all he owns and reigns over is ours as well (Luke 12:32). Christ didn't just earn forgiveness for our past sins. He also, and he alone, holds and secures our good, both today and in the future. Being children of God and heirs of his kingdom (Romans 8:17), beloved, indwelled by the Holy Spirit and completely forgiven of all our sins--nothing can change this (Romans 8:37-39).

When "Christ . . . is my life," this also clarifies my purpose and prevents me from despairing that I may be in a situation where I'm achieving or accomplishing little worthwhile. It also cuts out the fallacy that at some point in the future I might be able to more effectively live out my God-intended purpose. God's real purpose for us, our destiny, is to live as disciples of Jesus Christ and take on his image, renewed in true holiness and righteousness (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). We are meant to share the Son's glory as the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; 3:3-4; Hebrews 1:3). Joyfully obeying Jesus the Lord, loving and worshiping God, putting off our old ways and putting on the new, and loving our neighbors as ourselves is our life, our meaning and purpose and goal, our telos. Being able to do this does not depend on our circumstances or our means (Philippians 4:4-7, 12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We can love God and follow Jesus anywhere, at any time. All we really "need for life and godliness" is the "knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3-4).

So whether or not the Detroit Tigers win the A.L. Pennant, or if the Glen Allen HS cross country team is a flop, or if I get irritable with my wife for the seventy-eighth time, or if I have to go a month without a paycheck, or if I never go to seminary--none of this matters. I've lost nothing. I don't need to do any more to become more forgiven or more loved by God or more secure in my salvation. I don't need to worry that empty cupboards will threaten our livelihood. I don't need to fear that my sins will overtake me or that I lose if I'm exposed. I've lost nothing. And I don't gain anything else either if all I ever dreamed of happens. I am full in Christ, who is my life.

1 comment:

Halfmom said...

"It also cuts out the fallacy that at some point in the future I might be able to more effectively live out my God-intended purpose."

Very encouraging - thanks for taking the time to voice you thoughts. I especially loved the above sentence!