Colossians: Holding Tightly to the Gospel Message


Growing up in a church setting, I thought the gospel message was something people needed to hear just so they could believe in Jesus and be saved.  This was the depth of my understanding, "Jesus died so that sinners could live forever with God in heaven."  My assumption was, after you heard and mentally acknowledged that statement to be true (and even prayed a prayer) you were saved and could never 'fall away'.  I thought your job at that point was to be as good as possible, following all the rules and teachings laid out in scripture.  I judged someone's spiritual progress by how 'good' and put together their lives looked on the outside, and how little they appeared to sin.

Of course, this became a problem, because I also thought that I had acknowledged the truth of the gospel message, and was thus 'saved' (despite all of my heart attitudes and actions that showed otherwise).  I tried to act like a Christian, and found that I was utterly incapable of meeting God's standards.  In fact, not only did I miss the mark, but I noticed that my heart was filled with wickedness and sin that I wasn't sure how to handle.  I wondered, "Why do I still have so much sin in my heart if I am a Christian?"

Even in my early years as a true follower of Christ, I still thought the gospel message was one I only needed at conversion.  As if I only needed God's overwhelming grace that one time, and then I could get on the path to reforming my behavior.  With the holy spirit in me, I did see some progress in the battle against sin, but was continually shocked at the wickedness I still possessed.  I wondered, "Why is so hard to grow and put to my sin to death?"

Today, after nearly a decade of trusting in Christ, I'm finally understanding that the gospel is something I need to believe, trust in and embrace DAILY.  God's incredible mercy shown to me in Jesus isn't something I needed 'one time' because I used to be bad and now I'm good.  It's something I still rely on constantly.  Those deep-rooted idols that used to manifest themselves in more flamboyant behaviors, now exist, but come out more subtlety.  I am still a sinner, and the more I know who Jesus is and fall in love with Him, the greater my need for the gospel.  Today, I'm more aware of how badly I need the grace of God to be in His presence eternally than I was when I seemed like more of a 'sinner' on the outside.  

So why is it this is such a common misconception?  Why do so many Christians think that the gospel is only for conversion, and then can be left behind in the process of growth?  In the previous post, we explored Paul's major exhortation to the church of Colossae, who were facing the dangerous temptation to embrace false teaching and stray from their faith.  In summary, it was this: know and behold the person and work of Christ, understanding His supreme authority and worthiness.  But as Paul builds upon that argument, the 'work of Christ' quickly lends way to his second major point: the believers in Colossae must not stray from the gospel message they first received.

What is the Gospel Message?

Here is a summary of the way Paul presents it in his letter to the Colossians:

Jesus, who was fully God, circumcised our hearts; allowing us to die to our sin and be raised to eternal life with Him.  Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we can be forgiven of our trespasses, having our debts cancelled, so we are reconciled to a holy God forever, sharing in the inheritance of Jesus.  Through the blood of Jesus, we are presented as holy and blameless before God, able to walk in accordance to our new heart and do good works by faith.

And if that was a little wordy, here is a simplified presentation of what Paul presents:
  • God came to earth as man (Jesus).
  • Jesus lived a perfect life without sin.
  • Jesus unjustly died on the cross, and took our punishment for sinning against God.
  • Jesus was raised from the dead, and lives forever.
  • When we put our faith in Jesus, we can be washed clean from our sin, have a new heart and live forever with God too.
It's helpful to summarize and rewrite the gospel message for full comprehension of its message, so I'm thankful that the bible has many different ways of presenting this truth to us.  

Why do we need to hold tightly to the gospel?
What's wrong with just hearing and accepting it one time at conversion, and then leaving it behind as 'old news' as we seek to be more life Christ?  Paul gives several reasons that the Colossians should continue believing and trusting in the gospel:
  • Because the gospel causes us bear fruit (1:6)
    • Paul says that ever since the Colossians heard and understood the gospel, they have been bearing fruit and increasing in their faith.  And this is why we have been raised from the dead through the body of Christ, so that we may bear fruit for God's glory (Romans 7:4).
  • Because the gospel keeps us stable and steadfast (1:23)
    • Someone who is stable and steadfast is unlikely to fail, and sticks to a predictable course, not being wavered by every external factor.  The gospel helps us walk in Christ, established firmly in our faith, abounding in thanksgiving (Col 2:6-7).
  • Because the gospel helps us mature (1:28)
    • Paul stresses that his goal as a steward of the gospel is to present all believers as mature in Christ.  He believes this can happen as he continually preaches the gospel, warning and giving wisdom in the strength of the spirit.
  • Because the gospel protects us from false teaching (2:2-8)
    • The gospel message contains the wisdom and knowledge a believer needs to resist the misleading words and seemingly credible arguments of false teachers.  It redirects the believer to right thinking, exposing lies and deception.
Without the anchor of the gospel message, we can start to stray from the truth, even unknowingly.

How can the gospel message help us in everyday life?
  • We want to be moms with patience, joy, love and compassion for our children.  Knowing and believing the gospel helps us view ourselves rightly, giving us the power to love our children with God's love.  It also helps us share truth, because we see our children as sinners in need of grace instead of just misbehaved kids in need of discipline or basically good kids who keep making minor mistakes.  The gospel helps us have joy when things don't go our way, and puts our hope in Christ, not in our ability to be perfect mothers.
  • We want to be effective women of God who evangelize, pray, grow and serve in our neighborhoods and churches.  The power and ability to do this with joy and transform lives for eternity, does not come from our own strength, but from the power of the gospel overflowing from us.  As we understand and love what Christ did for us, we will desire to lay down our lives for others around us, embracing service as a gift to give glory to God.
  • We want to have discernment to recognize false messages that continually pop up in social media and entertainment.  Without knowing and standing firm in gospel truth, we can become a reflection of our culture instead of Christ himself.  Continually reviewing the gospel in our hearts keeps our eyes fixated on who and what we want to become a reflection of.
  • We want to endure suffering well, without complaining and self-pity.  This is impossible to achieve without rooting our hearts in a hope greater than this life, given in the gospel.  The hurts and disappointments in this life can only be weathered as we abide in Christ and look forward to the joy set before us.
  • We want to be wives who support our husbands instead of nagging, pressing impossible expectations on them.  Only as we are fully satisfied and confident in what Jesus has done on our behalf, knowing how short we fall of God's standards,  can we love our husbands rightly.  Rooting our identity in the gospel actually frees us to encourage, serve and come alongside our imperfect spouse with patience.
  • We want to be workers who know our purpose, which is ultimately not in achieving great things for our glory, but to give glory to God alone.  Through the gospel, we can stop putting our hope in our ability to do good things for God, and let our good works be an overflow of our love for Jesus.
These are just a few applications!  Ultimately, the gospel message is what propels us to live the way God called us to live.  No other willpower or self-help will give us the strength to live according to our identity in Christ.

How can we hold tightly to the gospel message?
1.  Know the gospel message.  It has literally taken me years of hearing and reading the gospel message over and over again to get to a point where I'm starting to be able to regurgitate it without much babbling and confusion.  Don't underestimate the need to start with the basics, and rehearse it different contexts.
2.  Spend time filling your heart with the gospel.  This is going to include reading scripture and thinking deeply about what it says.  It might even mean better training and equipping yourself to recognize the gospel in parts of scripture that you previously found boring or irrelevant.  The Old Testament points forward to Christ, and the New Testament looks back to what He did, and then ahead to His second coming.  It takes an investment of time to read the bible in light of this meta-narrative, not just taking other people's word for it.
3.  Pray the gospel.  By far, one of the most helpful ways I've personally found to 'preach the gospel to myself daily' is to pray it.  Each morning as I write my prayers, I try to follow this pattern:
  • Acknowledge God as holy and perfect. (using whatever attributes I've read about that day in scripture that make Him God - wholly different than me!)
  • Acknowledge my sin.  (using confession and repentance of whatever might be on my heart - known and unknown)
  • Give thanks for Jesus.  (speaking praises, hymns and bible verses that magnify what He did on my behalf)
  • Ask God to help me walk in new life.  (lifting up specific areas of need and struggle for that day, where I want to live according to my new identity)
I don't pray this way all day - but it certainly helps me start my day with a mindset of who God is and who I am.


This is what Paul says he toils for - what he exhaustively labors for - what he works incessantly for - that through Christ's energy at work within him, that every believer would be presented mature in Christ as they grow in the gospel.

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