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Colossians 2


A few years ago I was chatting with a neighbor girl about something that happened at school that day. She was in elementary school and got in trouble for talking. When I asked her why she was talking when she was supposed to be quiet she simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “Myself made me do it.” We giggled and moved on but I thought then (and many times since) how right she was. Her self made her do it.

You don’t have to look far to find someone trying to be better—to live more ethically, to operate with more integrity, to get ahold of their mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. We will withhold and forego and refrain. We will push and stay late and do more. We will attempt to stomp out our desires hoping to conquer our proclivities, and if we could only figure out how to escape our darned selves then we could pull it all off. 

We live in a world of brokenness and we are all just trying to perfect what is inevitably falling apart. We don’t need a regimen, or religiosity, or program after program. We need new selves. And Paul spends a good chunk of chapter two reminding the Colossians that that is exactly what they have been given. They live in a culture that is telling them to try all the self-help tricks and he says, “These have an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:23)

In other words, the world has a lot of ideas of how to overcome our brokenness, but at the end of the day, our selves make us do stuff we hate. For the church in Colossae, it was moralistic tradition and philosophical asceticism. Today we can tack on some ethical dilemmas and health guru-ism and we are all just stressed out of our minds trying to get it all right. Paul is saying that if you happen to be a broken person, all that effort is going to lead to very little progress. Our selves will screw it up every time. Not great news for those of us who feel broken!

The good news though, is that there is someone who walked this earth with complete authority over flesh. In Him “all the fullness of deity dwells.” In Jesus we are made complete, we are redeemed from the crippling power of the flesh, given the right to live in newness, and we no longer answer to accusations of shame and guilt (Colossians 2:9-15). 

These are some pretty big claims. Paul is saying that there is a real sense in which we are no longer the victims of our every whim. You and I both know that this doesn’t mean instant perfection, it just means we can look outside ourselves for the answer. We can be hidden in, and liberated with the one Self that isn’t broken. And then we can live in what Paul describes as “overflowing gratitude.” As Henry Drummond said, “The change we have been striving after is not to be produced by more striving after. It is to be wrought upon us by the molding of hands beyond our own. Will power does not change men. Time does not change men. Christ does.”

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weekly reflection by

Sarah Lewis