Meditations in Colossians: 18. A Worthy Life
Col 1:10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way:
The phrase before us now scares me. I can be worthy of the Lord? John the Baptist declared, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” (Mk 1:7) He was saying, I’m not even in the same category as Jesus, I’m not good enough even to be his humble servant or slave. Wow! That puts Jesus in perspective. But then in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son we find the son, after he comes to himself and decides to return to his father, determining to declare, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” (Lk 15:19) When he is met by his father, again he declares, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Lk 15:21) That is what he felt but his father took him back and honoured him.
We find Paul bringing this same teaching elsewhere: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received,” (Eph 4:1) and “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ,” (Phil 1:27) and “we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory,” (1 Thess 2:11,12) so it is not an uncommon teaching. Basically it says live up to who you are!
When we look at members of the Royal family in the UK we expect them to live up to their role. Indeed there has been some dispute whether it was right for Prince Charles to write to various government departments making comment and suggestions about things that others consider the area of politics. We do not expect the Royal Family to get involved in politics; they are to be above that. But then we come across Members of Parliament who have either purportedly sworn at policemen, or taken bribes or lied under oath. This is not acceptable behaviour of people in such positions, this behaviour is not worthy of such people. We might say the same things about members of the police, or any other public servants. There are levels of expectation of people in their position and they have to live or work with lives that are worthy of the position, and when they fail to do that they are held to account.
Remember Paul has just said that his apostolic team (“we”) prayed for the Colossians, “asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will….. in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord.” (v.9,10) Do you see the one thing leads on to the other. Thus a life being lived that is “worthy of the Lord” is one that knows and lives out the will of God.
When we came to Christ we were born again and we left our old life behind. Paul summarized that old life when he said to the Ephesians, “you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts,” (Ph 2:2,3) and we know from other parts of his teaching that we are to die to such things. That description shows a self-centred and godless life. Our new lives are Christ-centred and godly (God-focused).
So a change in outlook and behaviour is expected but there is a significant reason for that: “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (Jn 1:12,13) We are now children of God. Remember the royalty comparison. Even young princes and princesses have expectations laid upon them to live lives worthy of who they are. John reiterated this in his first letter: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 Jn 3:1)
This matter of expectation is important. So often you find the people of the world commenting about a fallen Christian, “Well I wouldn’t have expected that of them!” There have been lamentable failures of Christians in public roles whether it be American evangelists caught committing adultery, or priests abusing children. Both were an abuse of position and role. We do not expect such behaviour of such people. We, as Christians, have expectations on us. People will have feelings about God that are partly, at least, formed by the way they see we, the believing community, living. Tragically the history of the church after the first two centuries revealed a Church that some have characterized as a split church, the Pious Church and the Power Church, the latter being much greater than the former, as the roles of church leadership we so often filled by aristocracy with little or no spiritual concerns.
When Paul instructed Titus how to raise up the young church on Crete he said, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7,8). When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane about the future church he asked, “May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Jn 17:21) Again, behaviour brings revelation to the world. Again he prayed, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (Jn 17:23) This is just one reason we need to lead lives worthy of Him. The primary reason, which is so simple, is that children should honour their father and we, now as children of God, have a Father in heaven. May He be honoured and glorified by us, by the way we live, by the way we reveal Him, may we be found to be living lives worthy of Him. Amen? Amen!