Colossians 3:18-4:1, Matthew 6:33, Ephesians 5:22-6:9
If I received a letter in the mail containing only the instructions in this text, I would feel lost and discouraged because I know I don’t have it in me to follow through. It’s not the instructions that necessarily bother me—I’m as good as the Pharisees at following rules. It’s my heart that trips me up.
In this passage from Colossians, Paul calls his readers not only to submit, love, and obey; but to do so with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord (Colossians 3:22). He urges them not only to work heartily, but to do so for the Lord and not for man, and not by way of eye service or as people-pleasers (3:22-23). He reminds them that, in everything they do and in all their earthly relationships, they are serving Jesus, their master in Heaven (3:23-4:1).
This list from Paul is tough for me because it completely kicks against the way my flesh approaches work and relationships. Left to myself, I’m a good and hard worker—so long as someone will notice and pat me on the back. Left to myself, I can put on a good face and fulfill my relational duties—but not with a sincere heart and not with a posture that serves the Lord.
But the beauty of this text is that it doesn’t stand alone. This isn’t a list of instructions Christians are expected to follow without the context of the gospel. These instructions are found in a letter that details the authority and goodness of Jesus and the redemption of God’s people (Colossians 1:13-17). Left to ourselves, we couldn’t submit to these instructions with sincere hearts; but, because God has raised us with Christ, we can follow Christ’s example through Christ’s strength. We are a new creation with hearts made new (Colossians 3:10). We’ve already been given both the grace to follow through as well as the forgiveness when we fail.
And so, may we receive these instructions and fulfill God’s design for our relationships with an awareness that we’ve been given new hearts. May we work unto the Lord—for Him and not for man. And may we do what Christ has asked of us—submit, love, obey, and work heartily—not by any earthly power and not for any earthly prize, but through the power of Christ in us and for the glory of God our Father.
written by Billy Jack Brawner