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Hidden in Christ: Living as God's Beloved
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Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:1-3 NIV)
Memorizing and studying a passage in depth can offer a deeper sense of the meaning of each word. In this unique introduction to the hidden life in Christ, James Bryan Smith walks readers through a thirty-day immersion in Colossians 3:1-17. Each of the thirty short chapters of this book bring out the main truth of just one word or phrase of this rich passage. You'll also find a very simple daily practice to take up, reflection questions and a guide for five weeks of group discussion.
A Deeper Sort of Devotional
Each chapter in this book is short in length, making it ideal to use as a daily devotional. Since there are thirty chapters, it could be used for a one-month introduction to the hidden life in Christ. Though brief in terms of length, each chapter tries to unearth some very deep truths. For this reason, the book could also be beneficial to more mature Christians who need to be reminded of the basic truths that guide our life with God.
Each chapter contains an exercise or practice ("Living into the Truth"), as well as an affirmation that summarizes the main point of the chapter and a written prayer designed to move you deeper into the truths of the Word. In addition, each chapter concludes with a few reflection questions that can be used either by individuals or in a group discussion. Thus, this book can be used privately, or as a part of a small group.
What Others Are Saying
"The third chapter of Colossians is one of the supreme passages in Scripture, brimming as it does with life-giving realities. Hidden in Christ can serve as a kind of midwife to help bring these realities to birth within us." —Richard J. Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and Sanctuary of the Soul
"Jim Smith probes the great mystery of where our true life lies. He walks us through one of the great passages in all of Scripture so we may discover the life that is hidden only to be found." —John Ortberg, senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and author of Who Is This Man?
"Highly recommended for a transformational 30 days. Repeat often." —Andrea Hunter, Worship Leader Magazine
- 30 chapters focusing on Colossians 3:1-17
- Takes you through this portion of Scripture offering a devotion on the text, phrase-by-phrase.
- Includes questions for personal reflection
- Includes a simple spiritual practice with each reading
- Use as a 30-day devotional or five-week group study
- Includes a five-session group discussion guide
- 3 -
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Col 3:1 (NRSV)
For years I have recited the Apostles' Creed, the ancient declaration and formulation of the Christian faith, sometimes in church, sometimes in my private devotions. However, there is one phrase that, for a long time, I never understood:
[Jesus] was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
What does it mean that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God? Why is this important? I have probably heard a hundred sermons on the life and death of Jesus, but not even one sermon directly on this subject.
I would later learn that in the Bible, "to be seated" is a metaphor for having finished one's work: one is seated when the work is completed. So clearly Jesus must have completed some work before he sat down. Heb 1:3 explains: When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (NRSV)
What Jesus had finished was the work of reconciling the world to God. What he had accomplished was the forgiveness of sins for all people, for all time, past, present and future. Jesus' work on the cross was so perfect, so complete, that he will not have to do it over again. Jesus also rose from the dead, defeating death and imparting his life to us: we have been raised with Christ.
The work Jesus did--from the incarnation, to living a perfect life we could not live, to freely offering himself on the cross, to the resurrection--was the perfect completion of the triune effort to bring the world into a life of intimacy with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In other words--he finished the job! He can now sit down. He does not need to do it again. As he himself said on the cross, "It is finished." This is very good news for us. But there is also another reason he is seated.
A Priest Who Prays
Jesus completely finished the work of reconciliation, but that does not mean he is up in heaven taking a long nap. One of the most beautiful parts of the theology of the ascension is that Jesus is now praying for us. Jesus is our great High Priest who intercedes for us. Having been reconciled with us through his death, Jesus is now laboring for our healing through his prayer: "Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us" (Ro 8:34 NRSV).
What does this mean for you and for me? It means that not only do we stand forever forgiven, but Jesus is also forever praying for us. And what is he praying for? He is praying that you and I would be completely new people, people in whom he can make his home.
When Paul asks the Colossians to "seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God," he is urging them to reflect on the wonder of Jesus, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29), and the splendor of Jesus, the High Priest who now prays for us. This is how God is "making all things new." The glorious Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit) is on a mission to transform every one of us. That does not happen by anything we do of ourselves. Jesus did it all. And Jesus does it all—by continuing to pray for each of us. But we do participate in this transformation. We set our minds on these truths: we are forgiven, and Jesus is praying for us. And when Jesus prays, things happen. He will not stop until he has made us all new people.
Living into the Truth
Today, or this week, spend time reflecting on the two truths explained in this chapter: Jesus paid it all, and Jesus is now praying for you. You may find, as I did, that this will influence the way you pray. Reflecting on the first truth changed my time of confession from me trying to remember all of my sins and list them before God in the hopes of having them erased. They are erased. Confession now involves discussing my sins with God. I reflect on my recent actions, asking God to help me see where I have sinned. Often a thought, word or deed comes to mind, and God and I then dialogue about it. We talk about why I felt drawn to sin in that way and about how I can, in light of his grace, truth and power, behave differently next time. This shift has been very freeing, and healing, in my life with God.
Setting my mind on the second truth (Jesus praying for me) has also changed the way I pray. I now pray with Jesus, not simply to Jesus. Jesus is interceding for me (and you) so I offer my prayers for my family, friends and myself with Jesus, to our heavenly Father. This changes the content and the dynamic of prayer. Knowing Jesus is praying with me allows me to ask him what we should be praying for. Like his first disciples, we say to Jesus, "Teach us to pray." And simply knowing I am praying with Jesus gives me great courage. Together, we are making all things new.
Jesus paid it all, and now he is praying for all. This is another reason that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Precious Jesus, thank you for taking away all of my sins, even mine, for now and for all time. Your work in that regard is done, and I now live in the peace of the finality of the cross. Thank you. And thank you for praying for me. Help me to know that when I pray, I am not praying alone. Amen.
What difference does it make knowing that Jesus is praying for you? How does that make you feel?
About the Author(s)
James Bryan Smith (M.Div., Yale University Divinity School, D.Min., Fuller Seminary) is a theology professor at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and a writer and speaker in the area of Christian spiritual formation. He also serves as the director of the Apprentice Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation at Friends University.
A founding member of Richard J. Foster's spiritual renewal ministry, Renovaré, Smith is an ordained United Methodist Church minister and has served in various capacities in local churches. Smith is also the editor of A Spiritual Formation Workbook, Devotional Classics (with Richard Foster), Embracing the Love of God, Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven and Room of Marvels.
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