Colossians: The Supreme Treasure of Christ

Hello!  Today I'm starting a new series of posts to appear in the coming weeks, that draw from my recent study of Colossians.  While I enjoy writing topical articles and personal reflections that are culturally and biblically relevant (especially for wives and moms), my biggest passion is sharing truth directly gleaned from studying the bible.  A large part of becoming a 'biblical woman' is learning sound doctrine, maturing in faith through bible literacy as we enjoy God more.  I'm excited to dive into this with you, and hope this deviation from my typical writing style isn't too hard of an adjustment!  Also, I hope that as you read this, you will be encouraged to study the bible more intently, seeing that normal people (like me) are able to uncover important truth without a seminary degree!  For information on the method of study I used, pick up a copy of "Women of the Word" by Jen Wilkin.  She makes bible study so accessible for every woman! 

“Make a trade” is a common phrase used in our home to help our oldest child play more peacefully with his younger siblings.  With many little boys running around, it’s typical for everyone to want the same ball, train or dump truck at exactly the same time.  We've tried to encourage our oldest son to find another toy that his younger brothers will like even more, so they'll grab onto that instead.  It’s amazing how fast the younger children will give up the toy they were clinging to, in exchange for something they consider to be better.  “Making a trade” works almost every time.

This is a relatively simple concept, one that a child under the age of two is able to grasp.  
“If I’m holding onto something I want, but something better comes along, I’m going to drop what I have and get that instead.”  But as adults, we don’t always live this way.  Instead, we often hold onto the lesser thing and ignore the long-term joys of the better thing.

So who and what is the better thing?  Paul uses his letter to the church in Colossae to exalt the supremacy of Christ, who is the person they must cling to in exchange for everything else.  Paul knows that the Colossians must be in love with Christ and have a right view of Him in order to grow in maturity, bear fruit, and resist the dangerous false teaching threatening the church.

According to the ESV Study Bible, Colossians is “one of the most thoroughly Christ-centered books of the bible”.  You can hardly go a few verses before you run into an attribute about Christ himself, or truth about the work He did on our behalf.  Just as Romans does a very thorough job of explaining the gospel message, Colossians seems to paint one of the clearest pictures of the person and work of Christ found in scripture. In order for us to leave behind our lesser things and cling to Christ, the first thing we need to do is KNOW Christ.  Who is He?  What has He done?  Why is He worth it?  My objective is to concisely communicate the answers to these three questions.

The Person of Christ
So who is Christ?
  • He is the image of the invisible God. (Col 1:15) He is the literal, physical embodiment of God.  A person that other people could touch and see during His time on Earth, that we will be able to touch and see when He returns.
  • He is the firstborn of creation.  (Col 1:15) He existed eternally, and has rights over all creation as the firstborn son has rights over inheritance.  Everything belongs to Him.
  • He is the reason for all created things. (Col 1:16) All creation exists to magnify His great name.
  • He is before all things. (Col 1:17) He is superior, and has authority over all.
  • He is the head of the church (Col 1:18) He is the supreme authority over the church as a body, giving it instruction, direction, and causing all other parts to work together.
  • He is the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18) He lives and sits at the right hand of the father in a resurrected glorified body, giving us assurance of our own resurrection.
  • In Him, the fullness of God is pleased to dwell. (Col 1:19, 2:9) He is fully part of the triune God, and this pleases the Father.
Although not extensive, this is a fairly clear revelation of his authority and supreme reign and control over all things by nature of who He is.

The Work of Christ
So what did Christ do?
  • He is our hope, laid up in heaven. (Col 1:5) We can look forward to being with Him in the flesh someday, and look forward to an eternal life of joy.
  • He has qualified us to share in His inheritance. (Col 1:12) He completed all the requirements we had to meet in order to be adopted as children of God.
  • He has delivered us from being ruled by sin and darkness, and instead gained us entry into the Kingdom. (Col 1:13) He literally transferred us from the authority of one kingdom’s reign into another.
  • He gave us redemption and forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:14) We are bought with a price and freed from the penalty of our transgressions.
  • He created all things, in heaven and on earth. (Col 1:16) We owe all of creation to His mighty power, which is able to make the expanse of the universe.
  • He provides us reconciliation with God, making peace by the blood of the cross. (Col 1:20-22) We are no longer under the wrath of God, because He took it on our behalf.
  • He presents us holy and blameless and above reproach. (Col 1:22) We can now be in right relationship with God, because we are seen in the garment of Christ’s righteousness.

Our View of Christ
All of these things about Christ are made evident in scripture.  God willingly chose to reveal these mysteries, so we could have saving faith.  So why do we sometimes find this truth so boring?  Why do we read through passages of scripture, completely missing the beauty of God’s son and even brushing it off as old news?

There is one instance where “making a trade” doesn’t work for our oldest son, and it’s when his younger brothers aren’t paying attention to what he’s offering them.  If they won’t look up from their toy, they can’t even assess the opportunity to have something better, let alone grab hold of it for themselves.  We do this too.  We go about our lives, looking at created and earthly things, rarely stopping to gaze long and hard at Christ himself.  

In Luke 14:26, Jesus says something striking that should jar our attention,
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."

Jesus knows that our tendency is to put other people and things before Him, worshiping false idols. He isn't literally saying we should hate those closest to us, but that in comparison to our great love for Him, our love and devotion to others should run a far second place. How does this most often play out in our lives as women? Here are a few things that I've grappled with - maybe you can relate!
  • We make ourselves supreme. We place our hope for joy and rest in having more time to ourselves and controlling our own agenda. We think that if we just get really healthy and workout enough, making our body perfect - or if we just get some time to pursue a ministry or hobby we really like, then we'll be less stressed - or if everyone in our own little world would start recognizing us more and stop making things so hard, then our kingdoms would run more smoothly. Life can subtly start to become a big drama where we are the main character and everyone else needs to do our bidding or we become bitter and full of self-pity.
  • We make our husbands and children supreme. Our hopes and expectations for our family are so high, that we find ourselves regularly despairing over the way they fail us. Everything we do is an effort to have our version of a perfect home; eating the right foods, doing the right behaviors, keeping the right level of clean, having the right type of communication, and doing the right types of activities. Obtaining our perfect idea of ourselves as a mom, or our perfect idea of a family can become our primary objective in life.
  • We make our work supreme. Whether primarily inside or outside of the home, we refuse to submit our work to the Lord and instead, we create our own agenda. If it's a career, it might be the thing we sacrifice too much for, or can't give up because it's become so ingrained in our identity. If it's life as a stay-at-home-mom, we might become queens of our own domestic kingdom, frustrated when things don't reflect our decrees on a daily basis. Working hard, even in an effort to become more 'righteous' can be elevated above our primary treasure - Christ himself.
Because our hearts are idol factories, we can pretty much find anything to love and put our hope in instead of Christ himself. But how do we change? What if we want to put our hope in Christ, but we don't know how?

1. We repent of our idols and our refusal to treasure Christ as supreme. Specifically laying those adulterous loves at the cross and turning back to Christ himself. Is it family? Is it your body image? Is it your career or your friends? Whatever it is, God already knows and sees that it's too important. We need to confess these things to Him, acknowledging that we have sought joy apart from Him.
2. We make time to abide in Christ, investing in our relationship and learning about Him. Of course, this means sacrifice - something that many of us feel we just can't do because we're too busy. But if a relationship or a thing is important to us, and its' something we love / treasure - it's not a burden to give time to it. Making space in our lives to enjoy and get to know Christ is a wise eternal investment, AND it will bring us great joy.
3. We rely on Christ and run to Him first in every situation. Instead of going to our husbands, friends, and our trusty Google bar first. When we are distressed - we pray. We seek Jesus. We know that we can gain His wisdom and help in any situation. We go to Him automatically, as our biggest treasure and source of hope. After all, he is the supreme ruler and upholder of the universe. Don't we think He is able to help us and meet our needs?

As we fill our minds and hearts with truth, meditate on Christ, and spend time in relationship with Him, He will become the supreme treasure in our lives.

Looking further into the book of Colossians, one thing becomes evident:  Paul is imploring the believers to behold and love Jesus Christ.  He feels this is the trade they need to make, and the primary argument needed against the harmful forms of temptation and false teaching they were facing.  And the same thing is true for us.  Fixing our eyes upon Christ, learning about who He is and what He has done, and then replaying that over and over is the ONLY hope we have.

Evangelism & Engaging Women Online

Ever since I read "Women's discipleship and the Mommy Blogosphere" by Hannah Anderson, I've considered the importance of Christ-following women engaging in conversation online.  The norm of a news feed for an 18 to 35 year-old woman (and maybe other age groups as well) includes blog post after blog post.  The City Moms Blog Network has exploded over the last few years, as have the followings of major 'mom' communities that are pumping out heartfelt content at an amazing rate.  I can't go 24 hours on social media without reading or seeing a post about the daily issues that women face.

Women are talking online
Like it or not, the women in our culture are talking...on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  The women of our culture are looking for answers to life's disappointments, and many search for guidance through their online community before having a heart to heart with a close friend in person.  I've experienced this first hand and have enjoyed this form of community too!
  • When I became a 'twin mom', I joined a Facebook group of other women who'd had twins in the same year.  It was an incredible resource and forum for discussion about how to handle the unique challenges of two babies at one time.  There were several instances where I posted a question and I had some incredibly helpful responses!  While I don't engage it as much now that twins are older, I'm thankful that I could get instant help from other twin moms without the time commitment of an in-person support group.
  • I can't even count the number of times I've received helpful information from blog posts about everything from breastfeeding to home decorating.  Thanks to bloggers, I figured out that I like having a capsule wardrobe, found new strategies for organization and discovered helpful parenting strategies.

Here's the good news:
The conversation is relatively easy to engage in!  If you have a smartphone, tablet or computer; you can join in everyday.  Evangelism that used to only exist among the people you ran into face-to-face can now take place with people across the globe at any time of day.  We have access to the world through the internet, and many women who are flocking to blogs and online communities for answers are desperate to hear some meaningful truth.  They want validation, and they want meaning that they are missing in 'real life'.

Here's the bad news:
Relationships online are hard, and can't ever replace a face-to-face relationship.  We can only go so deep with someone through a computer screen, and it's easy for people to misunderstand us.  So while I think it's wonderful to engage this way, it can't be the only means of evangelism in our lives.  Women will always need to sit across from other women and talk in person!

What are some practical ways we can engage women online and share the gospel?
  • Make people jealous for the faith.  Not by showing a fake 'perfect' life, but by authentically revealing the joy God has given to you in various life circumstances.  When other people are complaining, you can chose to rejoice.  When other people are oversharing, you can choose to protect your loved ones and be discreet.  When other people are making much glorification of sin, you can focus on giving glory to God.  Not out of a heart of self-righteousness or pride, but out of a desire to live out authentic faith before others.  As people see this over time, it might make some people annoyed - but others might begin to recognize that as a follower of Christ, you live with a different kind of peace, joy and contentment that makes them jealous for Jesus.
  • Share gospel-centered content.  There are lots of posts for women that come across your daily newsfeed, but when you read something that touches the heart of a woman's struggles and shares the gospel, you should hit share!  In a moment of weariness, an unbelieving wife might be willing to read a 'Christian' blog post on marriage, that speaks to her need to trust in Jesus.  In a heap of frustration, a mother might click on a post that encourages her to train her children up in the Lord, a concept she'd never considered before.  The word of God and the message of the gospel are powerful, so pass it along and get it in front of other women - not obnoxiously, but joyfully!
  • Be gracious with your comments.  It's likely that you are reading a lot of advice to women and moms that is just completely contrary to scripture.  Not long ago, I read (on a mainstream, highly popular mom blog) a mom recommending erotic novels as a great way to spice up the bedroom.  She was in essence saying, "if you fantasize about other men, you will be more excited to be with your husband at the end of a long day with kids."  When you read things like that, your first instinct might be to rain down the wrath of God, but have discernment and be gracious as you share truth.  Some of the meanest blog comments I read are from Christians who are extremely unloving and self-righteous as they present 'the truth'.  Out-do others, not in showing tolerance, but in showing genuine love.
  • Create relationships and make investments.  If you are going to hang around in an online community, take the time to actively engage other women.  Respond to comments, be personable and friendly and be ready to give an answer for your faith.  Be ready to engage in ongoing conversation and bear with people who don't trust in Christ.  Although it's not the same as a face-to-face relationship, the women I've seen really have the most success with online evangelism have taken those relationships from the screen to the coffee shop - making surface relationships REAL relationships.
  • Add your voice.  It can seem like there is already too much noise out there, so the world doesn't need more bloggers, tweeters, and women sharing their thoughts.  Naturally, the feeling that our voice wouldn't matter makes it seem like we should just be silent.  But resist the temptation, especially if you think that God might have gifted you with the ability to write or engage others personably online.  There are still vastly more blogs and articles filling the listening ears of women with lies instead of gospel hope.  The more women that can step up and offer a loving word of truth for the cause of Christ, the better!  You can reach your own sphere of influence, which is likely different than mine or another blogger's.
You never know...
Here is a little story from almost a decade ago:
When, by God's grace, I put my faith in Christ for salvation, I was totally stumped about what to do next.  At the time, I didn't really have any immediate friends or connections I could turn to.  I didn't know how to connect to a new community or a flesh and blood believer, because I was so far down a path of rebellion.  The only thing I could think of, was to search through my social media connections and find a person - anyone - who could help.  I'm not saying that was the perfect way to go about it, but it's all I knew to do at the time!

That has stuck with me through the years, because that person would have never thought our social media connection would eventually lead to me asking them to bring me to church and help me pray through my salvation.  Similarly, you don't know who is watching you or who God will prompt to come your way when the time is right!  It might seem like there are no seeds being planted and no gospel work being done through your online presence, but you just don't know how God might be using it powerfully!  I've had multiple instances (especially since having this blog) where people who I didn't know were reading, watching or listening have approached me with a desire for help and prayer in a time of spiritual crisis.  I can't say I've been some huge part of their lives, but I'm honored to be a small part of their journey.  You never know who will come to you as they watch you live out a life of faith!

Are you feeling discontent as a SAHM?

This post is primarily written to stay-at-home-moms (SAHM).  Not that "work from home" or "work outside of the home moms" won't relate at all, but I just don't have as much perspective in those areas (side note: aren't all of these terms kind of silly, putting moms into categories and boxes? we all work!).  But I haven't held a paid position for almost three years now, and I want to share some encouragement God has given me on the days when it feels like being a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) isn't "enough".

Are you feeling discontent as a SAHM? [from the jensens blog] - courtney reissig quote

While I haven't had a chance to read a copy of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring our delight in God's design (source of above quote), I have had a chance to listen to 2 excellent summary sessions Courtney gave at Midtown Baptist Church.  I thought this quote really captured the heart of the matter when it comes to that discontent, 'blah' feeling we sometimes have in our mundane lives.  Because when my house continually falls apart into a mess despite constant cleaning, when my kids exhibit the same heart issues day in and day out, and when I make it to lunch without having a chance to shower (let alone wash my face or comb my hair) I wonder, "What is the point of all this?!  Is this VALID work to be doing or should I be doing something better with my time?"  Eventually, these feelings can lead to discontentment as I question whether or not I'm doing 'enough' for God and my family.  The answer is simple: we can't do enough - we must rest our hope in the gospel.  But it can seem complicated, because real physical and purpose-driven factors also impact our feelings.  Below, I lay out some of the things I've wrestled through as God's challenged me to seek Him in my current role as a SAHM.

'Staying at home' won't be enough, so I shouldn't feel surprised when I'm found wanting more.
God designed our hearts to be truly fulfilled only in a relationship with Him.  We are designed to worship Him with our whole heart, and only when we live for his glory and enjoy Him can we truly experience peace and contentment.  This truth has been helpful to me, because in the moments when I feel like wiping bottoms, finding pacifiers, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches is not enough, I don't have to fear there is something wrong with me.  I shouldn't be satisfied in those things alone (even though I do actually enjoy the role of motherhood day in and day out).  Instead I should let that discontent feeling remind me to find my worth in Jesus.  I can only build my self-worth and identity in gospel truth - anything else will fall short of meeting my needs and desires.

'Staying at home' is not an excuse to let my gifts, talents, and intelligence waste away.
I used to think that having kids meant I got to stop working.  WOAH, was that wrong!  I use my gifts, talents, and intelligence more as a mom and homemaker than I ever have in any other paid position I've had.  If you view your job as a SAHM as being limited to entertaining your kids, picking up food off the floor, and meeting basic needs, you might be missing out on what God has available for you.  Each one of my unique gifts, passions, and abilities can be used and played out in the context of my home.  Sometimes I view myself as a mini CEO during the day, managing lots of systems, people, and important operations.  I try to challenge myself to use my time better and be more efficient.  There are depths of things un-explored that I can tap into to help and serve my husband and children.  This is not a wimpy role.  Many people can pick up a messy floor and keep the children entertained, but it takes a focused, self-disciplined, industrious, and godly woman to do train up children in the Lord, leaving a legacy that will hopefully last for eternity.

'Staying at home' gives me options for serving, working hard, and contributing to the world that I didn't have before.
Some might wonder how they can change the world from inside their four walls, and I'll admit wondered this too for a long time.  I thought, "How am I supposed to evangelize and impact people if I only leave the house for appointments and grocery shopping?"  This is somewhat closed-minded.  I've seen multitudes of ways that I can engage in service for the kingdom from my own home, inside the confines of my current responsibilities.  I love to write, and have a passion for sharing what I'm learning with others, so I decided to invest time into this blog.  I love relating to other women and want to invest in the next generation, so I got into a low-key discipling relationship.  I want to study the bible and learn more about God, so I attend a weekly study where I can serve too.  I want to help others in the church, so I make meals and try to serve others with my time and flexibility where  I can.  I enjoy business, so I regularly discuss my husband's work with him, and help him solve problems, giving ideas about overcoming obstacles.  I'm barely tapping the surface of the opportunities available to me if I choose to take them.  Sure, I'm limited by naps and meals, but overall I do have incredible flexibility to use as God directs.  Not to mention, I'm hopefully raising boys that will become men who have a tremendous impact on the world for God's glory.  What a privilege!

'Staying at home' challenges me to put my hope in Jesus, and believe God's promises to sustain me.
I believe one of the biggest things that drives discontentment among SAHM's, is the lack of recognition and clear rewards.  When you are in a paid position, goals and objectives seem to be more clearly laid out.  When you achieve them, you get rewarded, people recognize your hard work, and you feel like you have accomplished something.  There is nothing wrong with those things, and they are important components of enjoying your work.  However, the SAHM rarely knows when her objectives have been met and the rewards of her labor may take decades to show themselves.  Not only that, but only the Lord is watching all of the little things you do well.  Your spouse and children are not constantly doting on what a good job you are doing, "Honey, you cleaned the dishes for the 4th time today, wow, thanks!"  This is admittedly VERY difficult.  A woman in this role has to be completely convinced that the Lord sees her work and that she is working unto him alone.  She has to believe God's promises and find her identity completely in Jesus to be able to sustain this type thankless, sanctifying service.  This in itself doesn't make her a saint, but it does offer a beautiful context for the Lord to shape her into the image of Christ.

Questions for discontentment
In moments of discontentment, I've noticed one big problem: I'm letting my feelings and thoughts revolve around ME and my view of justice rather than basing my feelings on the truth that everything exists for God's glory.  My life is to serve Him, not the other way around.  But in addition to that, there are just practical and physical things that can contribute to a feeling of 'blah' over time.  It's important that we don't disconnect the physical from the spiritual, because often when we aren't being good stewards of our bodies, minds and hearts, this can skew our view of God's purpose for our lives.

Here are some questions for further examination:
1.  Are you having regular times with God?  Are you meditating on his promises, enjoying relationship with him, and reading God's word?
2.  Are you taking time to rest?  Not just to check your Facebook or spending time in the shower, but REALLY resting?
3.  Are you taking care of yourself physically?  Are you eating in a way that fuels your body correctly and exercising enough to have energy for your tasks?
4.  Are you making your hygiene a priority?  Are you taking a shower, doing your hair, putting on whatever level of makeup you enjoy, and wearing clothes that appropriate for the public?
5.  Are you engaged in community with other Christian women?  Are you having regular conversations with other adults and taking time to foster your relationships?
6.  Are you trying to make your kids happy?  Are you spending the majority of your day feeling pressure to entertain little ones and trying to fulfill their desires?
7.  Are you primarily identifying yourself as a mom?  Are you actively remembering that you are first a child of God in Christ, then a wife, and then a mom?  Are you making motherhood an idol?
8.  Are you looking for ways to serve and help your husband during the day?  Are you seeing your time at home as a valuable commitment to him as well as your children?
9.  Are you using your gifts, talents, and passions?  Are you spending time cultivating and creatively using those gifts (baking, crafting, gardening, writing, teaching, writing, reading, etc.) along with your other roles and responsibilities?
10.  Are you putting too much emphasis on your to-do list?  Are you feeling defeated daily by the ongoing tasks instead of keeping them in the right perspective?
11.  Are you comparing yourself to other moms?  Are you feeling down about what God has called you to specifically?  Are you convinced that he has something unique for you, or do you aspire to be someone else?
12.  Are you being poured into by an older, godly woman?  Are you getting practical help in the areas that discourage you?
13.  Are you pouring into other women?  Are you teaching and encouraging other women in the body where you have gifts and strengths?
14.  Are you having quality time with your husband?  Are you making it a priority to go on dates and have a healthy marriage?
15.  Are you deepening your knowledge of the bible?  Are you studying scripture in a way that brings you joy and wisdom?  Are you challenging yourself mentally?

Once again, this isn't meant to prescribe what you should do, nor is it meant to convince anyone that they should be a SAHM.  My intent isn't to enter the mommy wars, but to encourage women who have already chosen to be primarily at home with children, that you don't have to settle for discontentment.  I have not arrived, I don't have it all together, and I wish I lived more in light of the truths I shared.  This is a journey that is constantly changing and I'm thankful for God's continual mercy on my life.  Being a SAHM mom, more than many other things, has caused me to really root my identity deep in Jesus, and for that, I'm thankful.  And if you get nothing else from this, I hope that next time you (or I) are in a moment of discontentment, it's a red flag that we must run to the cross to rightly understand who we are and how we can live out our purpose.


Also - the winner of The Gospel-Centered Mom giveaway is Rachel Pereira!  Congrats Rachel!  I've sent you a FB message to claim your prizes.  

If you didn't win, I would still highly encourage ordering a copy of this study for yourself - especially if you are still feeling really confused about the gospel, and how it applies to motherhood.  

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