I so wish I could accurately express to people how we are getting Christianity wrong. The basic problem is that we continue to live as if it is something that goes outward in whereas the reality of it is that it goes inward out.
Jesus explained to us that it is not what goes into people that make them unclean but what comes out. Think about it.
Most people want a set of rules or instructions to follow. I have even heard preachers describe the Bible as a "How To" book on life. Others refer to it as an instruction book. But it isn't. The purpose of the Bible is to reveal what God has done for us and is doing in us. It's an explanation.
So many people try to "live by the Word" but forget that we are miserable failures at it. So we come up with excuses, "I'm only human", "I'm not perfect, only forgiven" and so on. But in truth the greatest failure is not understanding that these things that God is doing is done by the Spirit in us.
Again let me say, God's place is to do and ours is to submit to the Doer.
It is God who changes us, not us changing ourselves.
However, in Colossians 3 we do find a few things we can do to better facilitate God's work in us:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)
There is number one and two right there. Let, allow, permit, make way for, submit to, invite in the peace of Jesus so it may rule in your hearts. When Jesus told us he was giving us peace he emphasized it was his peace and he did not give as the world gives. It is ours, never to be taken away. But he is the one who gives it. We receive it from him as a gift, not something we earn because we have removed all the stresses from our life and we know how to do yoga or have mastered meditation. His peace exists in us in the worst of times because of Jesus and we "let" it rule our heart. That's our part, letting it.
The second thing is being thankful. He does so much for us that he creates this natural condition of thanksgiving but we have to choose to be thankful. A complaining spirit is not thankful. Neither is a heart filled with rage, anger, hurt, pride and all the other junk we pollute ourselves with. A thankful heart should be natural in the light of God's grace but it is still our choice. We have to "let" it.
There are a few other things that we can do as well. These are all things that allow God to have the freedom to work in us and in the Church:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (v.16)
God can't force us to study his Word, that is our choice. But it is more than study, it is allowing the Spirit to put that Word into effect in our living: "dwell in you richly". It is seeing the Word come alive in all its depth when it says to love one another, to respect the elders, to love your enemies. God will write it upon our heart and the Spirit will enrich our lives with it as the Word takes life through our living. It is amazing stuff that works from the inside out but we have to let it, allow it, permit it, make way for it, submit to it, invite it in.
Part of the riches of the "Word alive in us" is the vibrancy it brings to the Body of Christ, the Church, our family. It is not a community, it is family, and it is vibrant when each member allows the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly. It turns us into teachers and ones who are able to admonish with all wisdom and not with anger and hatred. It overwhelms us with love for each other and the desire to see the best in people. It fills us with praise so that we are known as a people of singing and dancing as the praises of our God flow out of us. And, it brings us back to this point again, it provokes gratitude in our hearts to God.
Interesting how it always seems to bring us to thanksgiving, gratitude, thankfulness, appreciation. When we are busy being thankful we don't have time to complain or criticize.
So what is the end game? What results from these few things that we are able to do since it is up to God to transform us? The bottom line of our life is this:
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (v. 17)
There you go, a life worth living!
These few things that we can do amount to nothing more than facilitating the inward transformation that God is working in us, but it lets, allows, permits, makes way for, submits and invites in our ability to live our life in the name of Jesus. And don't forget the giving thanks bit. It provokes us to be a people of constant thanksgiving.
I don't know what other kind of life we are living but this is the only life that is actually worth living. This is life in abundance. This is freedom. This is joy. This is love. This is Christianity as it is meant to be.