Colossians 3:16-17 - Living Together with Christ
Declared un-inhabitable by City Council! These words were attached to the wall of a row of houses in Utrecht, the Netherlands. These houses were in a state of disrepair and almost ready to collapse. These houses were empty and waiting to be torn down. They needed a complete renewal. A number of students from the city, who were homeless, ignored the sign. They were looking for a roof over their heads and decided to use these run-down buildings. They took up residence in these condemned homes. One of them came up with a brilliant idea. He made a similar sign with the words: Declared inhabitable by squatters.
Un-inhabitable!! You could say that about sinful Christians as well. We are not concerned here about people living in a rundown house, but about our Lord Jesus Christ, who wants to live in ordinary people. Is that possible? That Christ can live in people? Is there room for that? Most certainly there is! What a lot of good and evil things can be found to “live” in us. That is Biblical language. A person’s life is portrayed as a house that is inhabitable. Our body is called a “temple of the Holy Spirit”. However, that is not only descriptive language, but it also is a reality for those who believe.
We are actually all declared to be “un-inhabitable” by God. That is because our sinful nature does not want to give him any room. By nature we would rather be the boss in our own house. Sin has filled our house with much garbage, and demands still more room. God has declared our house “un-inhabitable” and still the Holy Spirit wishes to live in us. And if he lives in us, that is by grace and only through Christ’s merit. His love for us is indescribable.
How do I know if the Lord’s Holy Spirit is living in me? Do I have to stand back and search in myself to try to find him? That is how things are sometimes presented. Everyone is perceived to have a “spiritual center” to which one needs to find the opening. The Holy Spirit is then expected to grant access to this spiritual part of you, thus enabling you to meet Christ. If this were so then we need to wait for an opening from the inside out. Is that true? Do I really have such a spiritual room inside me, which I need to locate? But how do I find it?
The Apostle Paul speaks a different language. He says: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). That is no whispering voice that secretly or magically arises in you. It is a audible voice that comes at you from the outside and wants to come into your heart. It is not a voice that comes from within yourself, but the Word comes from the outside and seeks entry into your life. Christ works by the preaching of his Word. He knocks to get entry into your heart by the Word. Then he also creates entry through his Word. He comes in and demands living space for himself. He exercises influence by his Word. He wants to influence you, so that your life is penetrated by him. That can only happen if his Word and words are given an important place in your life. He desires that his Word finds a home in you and that you become at home in his Word.
This does not just happen automatically. The Lord Jesus Christ makes you responsible. He calls you to responsibility. If his Word lives in you, then he has room to address you. If his Word is alive in you, then you allow him to speak to you in a highly personal manner. Then you have in him, a Lord who rules over all aspects of your life. Then you allow him to guide and lead you. The Lord Jesus is allowed to do that because he is the Lord of your house.
Nothing is Just Normal
When the Lord Jesus takes up residence in your house, he does not move in to just a part of the house, the spiritual part or some other inner area. He wants to live completely in you. That is apparent from what is said in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Everything you do, every word, every deed!! That is quite something. It is not about almost everything, or approximately everything. It really concerns everything you do or say. Wherever you go or stay. Whatever you accomplish or help to accomplish. Nothing is left out. No second of your life, no word, no glance, no footsteps, no actions or expressions. We need to do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus. It involves your whole life. It truly involves every aspect of your life. The demands and requirements of the Lord Jesus are all-encompassing, and it is necessary that he be involved in all aspects of our lives. That is wonderful. He is not just interested in the spiritual part of your life, a spiritual upper story so to speak. The latter is just the misleading doctrine which the Apostle Paul was fighting against; people who say: do not touch, do not taste, do not stir the pot... No, the Lord Jesus wants to be fully entrusted with all of your life, just as if he were living inside you. No, even stronger, not just as if, but he really and actually wants to live in you! He wants to live with you. He wants to completely and fully be one with you. His godly nature gives him the ability to live in you. He has insight into everything. In him is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
You can share with him everything you do and say. He wants to be involved. He is honoured if you involve him in all aspects of your life, when you give him room in every part of your life. He chooses as his living quarters your everyday involvements and happenings. He has bought you and fully paid for you, in every respect. He has purchased not just a small part of your life, but your whole life, body and soul. That is why he also has unrestricted authority over you, that reaches to include everything you say or do. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
But is it really desirable and wonderful to have someone living in you? There are bound to be areas in our lives, where, normally speaking, you would rather not allow anyone entry. There are those areas of life, where you prefer nobody had access. To continue with the example of the house: the attic with its dark corners, where your anxieties are hidden; the closet in the hallway, with your particular idiosyncracies; the bedroom, with your sexual life; the kitchen, where all your plans are worked out: your dreams, your wishes, and secret desires; the basement of your subconscious life, where deep personal memories and youthful experiences are hidden. Those areas are saved for, at most, your husband and/or your wife, or your best friend, but otherwise only for yourself. Information that is too intimate to share. Am I not allowed to keep anything for myself? Do I lose all my independence?
Understand who you are dealing with! He is more than an ordinary person whom you can trust. He is the Lord. He was before everything, everything was created by him, everything has its existence in him. He is above everything, and “in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:15-17). Everything I own, even my whole being belongs to him. He has bought everything with his blood, even my most intimate things and all that is mine. He is the homeowner of my whole life. He has a right to it. But let it be clear: he does not compel me. He does not exercise force over me. He simply requests room to live in the house that he has bought. That is glorious! You can count on that. His presence does not force you to lose your independence. He is the Son of God and he knows his creatures. He leaves you enough room to exercise your independence and to feel that freedom in living independently. But he makes you responsible. He lets the believer be himself. His presence does not choke the life out of you. In this way he is unique. No one can do that as he does it. That is because he is the Son of God. We are dependent on him and still remain independent, going together with him. To put it even stronger: The more you are dependent on him, the more independent and self-assured you become. Inexplicably lived in. Christ’s love cherishes and keeps this mystery.
In the Name of Jesus
And yet, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. Is that an attainable goal? He makes me accountable for everything. He exerts control over my whole life. He wants to have authority over all that I do. Can I handle that responsibility? Am I really able to attach his Name to everything I do or say? Is that not a threatening thought? There will be lots of things to which his Name should not be attached, to which he also will not subscribe. And think about it, that for everything you do or say, you will be addressed. You will actually be held accountable for all your actions. Nothing misses his attention. Nothing goes by unnoticed. You have to give accountability for everything.
Read that sentence once again, but now with a different accent and focus: Do everything, whatever you do in word or deed, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, your Saviour, your Keeper. As you begin to live with him, you become more aware of why he gave himself for you. How far and how deep he had to go for your sake. How great was his love for you. If you let him into our life, you slowly become more and more aware of your sins. You become more and more aware and impressed by how much he loves you.
Giving Thanks is Encountering Grace
Must I then think about the Lord the whole day, in everything I do? That will be difficult to do! But the Lord is thinking about you. That is grace, that he pays so much attention to you. That he is so deeply involved with you. When I speak about such grace, that is literally the meaning of the word “being thankful” in the New Testament. Giving thanks is unthinkable without grace. And that word grace always brings me to the Lord Jesus Christ. Living with Christ leads to living a thankful life. He is given to us by the Father. A greater gift cannot be imagined. Then I am thankful that I may call him “my Lord” because he is willing to attach his Name to me. Being thankful is thinking about him. His Holy Word, the Bible, makes me think about him in thankfulness. Thankfulness begins with recognizing what a great privilege it is that I may address the Lord Jesus as “my Lord” and be attached to his Name
This Does Not Come Naturally
By nature we take many things for granted since we get used to things very quickly. Giving thanks goes contrary to our human nature. Being thankful does not come naturally. That is why the Lord needs to continually open our eyes. Thanksgiving exists since Christ speaks. The Holy Spirit is our teacher. He makes sure that we do not forget him, so that we are able to give thanks and be thankful. We give thanks for the light in our eyes, that we have two hands with which we can work, everything we need for our daily life. Thank you for Your Word, for the possibility to get to know You better, for good literature, for health, for freedom, for... Giving thanks is truly meaning it. Giving thanks is fighting against our human nature. It is practising your awareness, and seeking strength in your new found knowledge. Is it beyond understanding what I have received from the Lord! Everything, it all comes from him alone.
Thankfulness Produces Happiness
We are easily dissatisfied, not realizing what we really have. Each one of us, at one time or other, faces dissatisfaction. In many of his letters Paul reminds his readers to live lives of thankfulness. Give thanks always in all circumstances. How is that possible? The secret is that we always start with Christ. Thank You that I may know You and that I may come to You at any time. Especially when I face difficulties, I acknowledge, and realize how thankful I am that I have You. Christ tells us this in his Word: you must see that I am here for you...! It is proof of your thankfulness, if you call on him in your difficulties (Ps. 50:14-15).
Thankfulness gets you into action and gives much relief. Unthankfulness leaves you despondent or unhappy. Thankfulness gives joy. It gives you energy to handle life’s struggles. Sometimes we must struggle for a whole week with our mountain of problems, but yet we must do so with thanksgiving. It drives us in the direction of Christ. By giving thanks we focus our attention on whom God has given us, and not on what we think we still need. We may have a lot we desire. That is fine, you may still have needs. But please, not without thanksgiving. Let all your requests be made known unto God, with pleading and with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6-7). Thankfulness is a strong motor for your prayer life. Your prayers will be strengthened on account of it. Even at times when you are not feeling thankful, you can still give thanks, or even sing!
Thankfulness teaches you to be satisfied with who you are and content with what you have. That is a learning process. Also here the Holy Spirit has much work to do. His purpose is to keep us humble. He struggles with our discontent. He struggles with our haughtiness; that we want to be more than we are; that we want to do more than we actually can. He knows our human nature. He knows what kind of creatures we are, and what are the necessary boundaries. To acknowledge that requires a complete change in thinking. Then you again need to come to God’s Holy Word, which influences you and changes you into the image of Christ. He so works in you, that you seek honour not for yourself but give all honour to God the Father. Thanks go to our Father I heaven for all my good works which I accomplish and achieve.
Everything is Connected to Christ
Who can live thankfully in such a way? Who is capable to doing that? God is aware, as no one else can be, of all the moments when I forget to give thanks for ordinary and extraordinary blessings. How far do I not fall short? Who can live like that? Do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, thanking God the Father for and through him. That is the work of Jesus Christ. He fills in where I fall short. He brings thanks with words such as I am not able to speak. Through him, access to the Father. He brings everything under his majestic authority. The more you think about these words, the more you arrive at the need for Christ. Even giving thanks is his work. He completes everything, he fulfills all our needs.
What incredible grace when Jesus lives in you through his Holy Spirit. What a great and wonderful goodness when his Word influences you. He builds up even in his criticism (discipline). He works holiness and healing. He changes your life from a derelict house, to a palace in which he lives. He does repairs until his goal is achieved. Until God is all in all. Until the whole world is completely restored and made new, declared inhabitable for God’s people (Rev. 21:3). Inexplicably lived in by Christ, out of love. Thanks be to Jesus Christ our Saviour.