Meditations in Colossians: 26. Rescued
Col 1:13,14 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption (through his blood) the forgiveness of sins.
If you have followed this series of studies thus far, you will have gathered that as I have gone through this first chapter of Colossians I have found myself anchored or pulled up by words or phrases. Many of them have been very familiar but, as they say, familiarity breeds contempt, and so I have paused over even the familiar and pondered afresh on what they mean. The same is true of two words in our two verses above – rescued and redeemed. Rescue is something we might think we are very familiar within ordinary life but redeemed or redemption rarely comes up. In this mediation we’ll deal with ‘rescue’ and then ‘redemption’ in the next.
When we rescue something or someone we free them from danger, restriction or imprisonment. It may be that we rescue a cat stuck up a tree, a boat capsized at sea, or a person burdened by debt. We take them from one place or situation (of danger or threat or anxiety) and transfer them into a place of safety and security and peace. Now Paul says that God in Jesus has rescued us from that dominion of darkness we recently considered. Earlier on we also came across the phrase, “joyfully giving thanks to the Father,” and I said we do that when we fully appreciate the wonder of what has happened to us. When we’ve known the Lord some time, it is so easy to forget what has happened to us and become blasé or complacent about who we are, so let’s do a little remembering.
It’s always good to let Scripture shine its light on us so let’s remind ourselves again of how Paul described how we had been in this ‘dominion of darkness’: “you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when 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. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” (Eph 2:1-3). Look at all the things it says about our old life.
First, we “were dead” – spiritually dead. A dead person cannot make themselves alive, in fact it is impossible without God, so God came and changed us so that we were no longer spiritually dead to Him.
Second, it was in our “transgressions and sins” in which we used to live. Transgressions are (accidental) wandering off the path, while sins are willful acts of wrong. We used to be a law unto ourselves and disregarded God’s design for us. We knew no better and wandered, lost and confused and making a mess of our lives. We needed God to come and save us and give us a new way, focused upon Him and His design for our good.
Third, we “followed the ways of this world.” The ways of this world are pride, arrogance and self-centredness – “don’t you tell me what to do!” We were not open to God’s teaching or direction; it needed a crisis to bring us to our senses so He could bring us into a better way.
Fourth, we “followed the ways of…the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” We didn’t realise it but Satan led us by the nose and we followed his suggestions as to disobeying God and getting deeper and deeper into the mire. We were part of his dominion and it needed a rescuer to come into that dominion and get us out. That was Jesus.
Fifth, our lifestyle was based upon gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts which meant we were driven by wanting things or experiences, to create a sense of fulfilment and achievement, and when we fell short we were frustrated. Indeed much of our life was based upon covetousness, wanting what others had. Possibly it was also based upon wanting more and more, i.e. greed. Indeed this desiring things or experiences which came from a lack of contentment, was entirely self-centred and godless. We gave little thought to others because life revolved around ‘me’.
Now it is possible that some of us may have come to Christ when we were young and so we are unable to identify so clearly with these things – but they are nevertheless true. Let it be said that those of us who came to Christ later in life, were probably so wrapped up with ourselves that we didn’t realise any of this at the time, only as the Holy Spirit started convicting us, or as later on in our Christian lives we came to this revelation. Yet nevertheless, regardless of our awareness of it, this is how all life is outside Christ. This is not being unkind to my non-Christians friends or family members. It is just stating the truth of how it actually is, as God sees it.
Let’s reiterate some of these things: whether it was being spiritually dead, or transgressing God’s laws, or actively ignoring them, or motivated by pride, arrogance and self-centredness, or being under Satan’s sway, or being controlled by our base, self-centred desires, we were prisoners to them, shackled to them if you like, and could not get free from them. As we said, a dead person cannot make themselves alive. A law-breaker may try hard to reform but without additional motivation or power they will constantly fail. Laying down pride on your own is virtually impossible for humility does not come easy to the person striving for purpose, meaning and self-fulfilment without God. As for breaking free from Satan’s domination, forget it! Breaking free from the must-get, must-have mentality that is also seeking to prop up self-esteem and fulfilment-seeking is also a no-go. Whether we like it or not, simply telling people to ‘try harder’ is a pointless exercise.
It is only when God comes and, because of the work of Jesus on the Cross, is able to adopt us, forgive us, cleanse us and empower us, and thus bring about a new life within us, can we possibly be set free from all those aspects of the ‘old life’. Jesus came on a rescue mission, to establish legal grounds that satisfy justice, to enable all these other things to happen to release us and set us free to live entirely new lives. Jesus earned it, Father decreed it, and the Holy Spirit administers it. We have been rescued! Hallelujah!