Every year our culture gives a gentle nod to Jesus through old TV specials, nativity scenes and Christmas carols. However, is there a reason to move beyond a seasonal sentimentality to take Jesus seriously throughout the year?
After all, Jesus’ story is just one narrative among many. From the conflicting voices of the world’s religions to the nay saying meta-narrative of evolution, many believe they have reason to dismiss the Christ.
However, this is not the end of the matter. Paul describes sufficient motivations for both considering whether it is worthwhile to explore if Christ might be significant for our lives, as well as resolving whether we ought to exalt Christ in our lives above the chorus of confusion. Paul accomplishes most of this within his Colossian letter.
For starters, what reasons exist for spending time considering whether Christ is relevant for our lives? Reflect upon what it would mean for us if Paul’s claims in Colossians are true. He asserted that God has qualified Jesus’ disciples to share in a glory and in an inheritance which are laid up for them in heaven (Col. 1:5,12; 3:4,24).
If these statements reflect what will happen, then we have good reason to learn more. We will come back to whether these claims are reliable, but first is there any reason for regarding Jesus as being more important than any other purported path to heaven?
Rather than Jesus being one voice among equals, Paul asserted God desires to exalt Christ above all competing authorities, to work through Christ as the means for granting us heaven, and to have his divine fullness reside in Christ (Col. 1:12-20). If these statements are true, then certainly it would be of paramount importance for us to be connected to Christ. For if this is what God is doing, there can be no competitors.
Furthermore, Paul revealed it is possible to know whether someone can claim a connection with Christ. Writing to the ancient church at Colossae, he pointed to a moment when they had been granted a connection with Christ, that is they had “received Christ Jesus as Lord” and had been “given fulness in Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority” (Col. 2:6,10). This moment occurred when Christ performed a surgery upon them at their baptism by cutting off their old sinful fleshly guilt, in order that God might grant them new life with Christ (Col. 2:11-13).
Paul understood that in baptism people die with Christ to sin and are then raised up to a new spiritual life to serve the Lord. For that apostle, the moment when we connect with Christ involves baptism’s burial and being raised up.
For this reason, he argues that those who have died with Christ and been raised with him ought to live in new ways and disregard the rules and ideas of competing narratives (Col. 2:16,20; 3:1,2). Being connected with Christ should impact how someone lives (Col. 2:16-4:6).
At least three strong realizations regarding being connected to Christ should ring out for us from Colossians. To have a relationship with Christ is important because God works through Christ to grant people entrance into heaven, plus God has exalted Christ above all other competitors. Second, those who have been baptized can know they are connected to Christ. Finally, if someone has been baptized, the significance of entering into a relationship with Christ should impact his or her daily living.
However, the question remains. Is Paul’s message reliable?
Although Paul initially fought against Christ (Acts 22:4-5), upon encountering the risen Lord he pivoted one hundred and eighty degrees. He began to proclaim the very gospel he had fought. Furthermore, he even accepted persecution on account of following Jesus. After all, knowing for certain that Christ had risen from the dead, what are a few years of suffering as a disciple in comparison with an eternity in heaven?