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Back in 2004 Robert Letham in The Holy Trinity commented on the impact of postmodernism on society: ‘In terms of instability and diversity, he said, ‘the postmodern world of constant flux is seeing insecurity, breakdown, and the rise of various forms of terrorism… As diversity rules, subgroups are divided against each other… A cult of the victim develops, and responsibility declines. This is a recipe for social breakdown, instability, and the unravelling of any cohesion that once existed’, he said (p.453).
In our troubled world, how important it is that we bring back into our own lives and into our conversations, the reality of the God who is not only there, but who is a God of love.
Let me touch on some key words in Paul the Apostle’s prayer of thanksgiving for the church in Colossae. In Colossians 1:3 we read: In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,…
These days the idea of God has been largely dismissed from the public arena. This is why on the rare occasions of conversation about Jesus of Nazareth, the focus is more on his teaching and exemplary life.
Now it is true to say that if the world practised what Jesus taught – in his parable of the Good Samaritan, for example – the world would be a far happier place. But as humanity has never followed the moral advice of philosophers such as Plato or Aristotle, why would it follow the advice of Jesus of Nazareth?
However, when we look past the view that Jesus was just another great teacher, we find there is something very different about him.
And that is what Paul the Apostle says when, in thanking God for the Colossian church, he directs his thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The sentence construction tells us that Jesus Christ is just as much God as God the Father.
Let’s think about this: The essential nature of a perfect father is to love and give life. Paul’s understanding is that God the Father delights to love and give life. From eternity God the Father has given life to a Son.
Think for a moment of a water fountain. Its essential nature is to pour out water.
Paul’s words are consistent with what we read in the opening line of John’s Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And in Jeremiah 2:13, the Lord says of himself that he is the ‘spring of living water’. From eternity, before the creation of the universe, God the Father was loving and begetting his Son. God did not become a father at some point.
In the same way that a fountain is not a fountain if it does not pour out water, so God the Father would not be who he is, unless he was giving life to his Son. God the Father and God the Son are distinct persons, but they are inseparable from one another. They always love one another, and they always work together in perfect harmony.
This is so important, for it tells us that Paul is giving thanks to the God whose existence is not simply as a powerful intelligence behind the observable universe. Paul’s prayer is personal – to God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul also tells us the faith of the Colossians in Christ Jesus was personal. Furthermore, their faith expressed itself in their love and care for one another. The Colossian church was a place where there was genuine community. People accepted one another, treated one another as equals across the social divide. Their love for one another led to compassion and practical care for those in need.
Significantly, Paul goes on to tell us that the faith and love the Colossians enjoyed, was inspired by a third Person of the Godhead – the Holy Spirit. In verse 8 he writes that Epaphras had told him of the Colossians’ love in the Spirit.
In John 14 we learn that Jesus had promised his disciples on the eve of his arrest that he would send the Holy Spirit – to comfort and equip them. And in John 16:8 we learn that the Holy Spirit would also convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment:…
An important part of the Spirit’s work is to convict our consciences of our failure to honor and love Jesus as Lord. One day God will ask us all: ‘What did you do with my Son?’
How is it that someone who has lived a life of indifference or even hostility towards God can suddenly be aware of their sin and their need for personal salvation? It is the Spirit of God at work.
In his prayer of thanksgiving to God for the Colossian Church, Paul alerts us to the reality of the One God who exists in Three Persons.
Our broken world needs to hear afresh the good news of this Triune God, whose very nature is to love and to give new life. If we grieve for our world, we need to pray that God will act with compassion and send his Spirit to open blind eyes, turning hearts back to Jesus Christ as Lord.
Let me conclude with the last verse of the Getty Hymn, ‘Holy Spirit Living Breath of God’:
‘Holy Spirit, from creation’s birth, giving life to all that God has made.
Show your power once again on earth, cause your church to hunger for your ways.
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise, Lead us on the road of sacrifice,
That in unity the face of Christ, May be clear for all the world to see.’