For the past few months I have been working on memorizing the book of Colossians, a welcome diversion during morning runs, something to take my mind off of the miles. I'm trying not to just do rote memorization, but rather I am also seeking to use my time to pray through the verses, to pray the good news of the gospel into my heart and life. There are some pretty amazing truths in Colossians 1 and 2 (I am almost to chapter three, but not quite). Things like: in Christ all things hold together (all things, even me, even my church, and even the parts of my life that feel like they are about to break apart); that Christ is the fullness of God and because I am in Christ, I have been brought to fullness; that God has reconciled to Himself all things (ALL!) through Christ. It's been wonderful asking God to help me believe these amazing truths.
In recent days I have been ruminating especially on Colossians 1:21-22. Verse 22 says we have been reconciled to God by Christ's physical body, through death, in order that we might be presented holy in God's sight, without blemish and free from accusation. That is some amazing stuff right there! Despite my sin and struggles, in God's sight I am holy and I am free from accusation, even accusations that are justified. But then verse 23 throws in a qualifier, saying that all this is ours "if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out to you in the gospel."
I think that we could read verse 23 with a sense of dread, like, "If I don't maintain a certain level of faith, then all that holiness and freedom is taken away from me." It could motivate us to work really hard to not mess up, to believe correctly.
But I have begun to read it a different way. Paul tells us that the key is that we not move from the hope held out in the gospel. The hope of the gospel says that Jesus Christ is Lord, that Jesus Christ is sufficient. The hope of the gospel says that my lack of sufficiency is swallowed up on the life of Christ, that He is all that I need for life and godliness. The hope of the gospel says that I do not have to perform, do not have to measure up. In fact it says that I cannot perform well enough to earn God's love, and so Christ has performed on my behalf and made me a child of the King if I will simply trust Him. When I really lean into this truth, there is tremendous peace and hope and rest.
Conversely, I am realizing that anxiety and fear and sin in my life are always a result of me moving from the hope held out to me in the gospel. When I begin to hope in myself, to hope in success, to hope in getting things in right, to hope in being liked, to hope in not disappointing others, to hope in comfort - when I hope in anything but the gospel, the result is fear, worry, anger, and a lack of peace and rest.
And when I move away from the hope of the gospel, putting my hope in anything else, I am opening myself up to accusation. As long as I am trusting in the finished work of Christ, I am free from accusation of not being good enough. As long as I am trusting in Christ's loving and empowering reign, I am free from accusation of not being powerful enough. But when I move from the hope of the gospel, I am opened up to accusations that are truly justified. It is simply true that apart from Jesus I am not very strong or kind or good or loving or patient or faithful. I have sin in my life. The accusations stick, because they are true.
So I am learning that when I feel accused or ashamed, when I am feeling afraid or defensive, that is a signal to me that I have moved away from the hope of the gospel and am beginning to put my hope in something or someone other than Christ. The voice of accusation or shame is not the voice of God; the Bible is clear that Satan is the accuser of God's people (Revelation 12:10). And so I am learning to let that accusing voice point me to the gospel rather than push me away from Lord. I am learning to ask, "Where am I not believing the gospel here?" and then let the Holy Spirit lead me to see places of unbelief in my heart and to turn those to the Lord.
When Paul tells us, tells me, not to move from the hope held out in the gospel, there is so much wisdom and life and freedom there. This is why I need to be unmoved from hoping in the gospel. And the amazing thing is that when Paul tells me not to move away from hope, he is actually telling me not to move from away from Christ. Biblically, hope is not merely a concept, an idea, a feelng, or a good vibe. Hope is a person - hope is Christ. 1 Timothy 1:1 says that Jesus is our hope, and 1 Peter 1:3 says we have been given new birth into a living hope. We are called to not be moved from Christ, and Colossians 1:29 tells us that Christ in us is the hope of glory.
I invite you to join me in not being moved from the hope of Christ. Allow God to show you ways that you have moved from that hope, and rather than cowering in shame or guilt, simply tell God you are sorry and ask Him to show you what the good news says to you right where you are. How does Christ's life, death, resurrection, intercession, and future return speak into your anxiety, fear, and sin? Don't move from the hope of the gospel.