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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Imperatives and Indicatives

In Paul's letter to the church at Colossae he starts the third chapter with "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above ..." (Col 3:1). "Seek the things that are above" is what is known as an imperative. "Do this." Interestingly, prior to Paul's telling the Colossian Christians to do, he gives them an "if". Indeed, he gives them half the letter full of "ifs"--two whole chapters.

Paul gives us an all-sufficient Savior in Christ. Faith in Christ provides faith, hope, and love because Christ is preeminent--preeminent in creation, in redemption, in the Church. Christ gives us redemption and forgiveness (Col 1:14). He is the method and purpose of creation (Col 1:16). Get this ... all things hold together in Him (Col 1:17). He is the ruler (Col 1:16), the reconciler (Col 1:20-22), the restorer (Col 1:21). He is our hope of glory because He is in us (Col 1:27). Christ offers right thinking and right living (Col 2:6,8) being fully God (Col 2:9). We have been buried with Him and raised with Him (Col 2:11-12). God makes us alive together with Him and cancels our debt (Col 2:13-15).

Perhaps ... just maybe ... you begin to see how big this really is. Perhaps you start to grasp how huge Christ is and how massive are His gifts toward us. Perhaps you start to see His amazing grace and astounding power, the King of all and reason for everything who died for you so you could live with Him. Indeed, an outline doesn't do it justice. It is really, really big, full of grandiose and lofty language about the wonders of Christ and the grace of God.

Now ... if all of that is true--if Christ is all that Paul says He is and has done all that he says He has and gives all that he says He gives--"seek the things that are above." You see, it changes the face of the imperative. It changes it from "Go do" to "How could you not?" It shifts from "work" to "respond". It moves from law to gratitude. "Well, if that is who Christ is and what He has done, how could I not seek the things that are above? Where else would I look?"

There is a lot of debate between "too much law" and "no law at all". We want to avoid legalism and license. One side will tell you, "You need to knuckle under and do all these things!" and the other will tell you, "You can't use Scripture as a rule book; we've been set free!" Paul, in Colossians, says, "Look who Christ is. Look at what He has done. Look at all these benefits. Now ... what is the proper response?" It is neither "knuckle under" nor "nothing at all". It is freedom from the law and joyful obedience. The indicatives of who Christ is, what Christ has done, and all that means to you drives the imperatives of what we should do, because all that He is and does deserves it.

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