“When Christ, who is our life, appears…”

chrsit our life.jpg
Some really important writer whose name I’ve forgotten, said that we are either driven by fear or hope.
I guess it’s true enough: You might slave away out of the fear of punishment or out of the hope of profit…
And the Bible does seem to include both aspects, doesn’t it? We are told to “Flee from the wrath to come.” (Col 3:6) and to “Lay hold on eternal life.” (Col 3:1-2) Maybe God allows both sides of the coin to rouse our consciences and provoke us to response. 
But the verse before me now seems written in bold font, and in red letters a mile high. It seems to sweep away both the fear of punishment and the hope of profit in the blaze of a new, and a totally amazing reality. It is v4 of Colossians 3, standing midway between the fear trigger of v6 and the hope trigger of v1,2. Here it is:

“When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. “(Colossians 3:4)


Jesus has many titles in the New Testament, but this one is particularly wonderful. “Christ our life.”  It contains within it the polarity of paradox: He delivers from death! He  defines life! He is our life.He destroys death.

This means much more than saying, “From now on, I’m going to live for Jesus” (though there is nothing wrong with both the intention and the desire to do so). The  letter to the Colossians has a much bigger perspective  on who Jesus is, and how all things cohere in Him. Here’s Eugene Peterson’s masterly paraphrase of Colossians 1:15-18, to which I return again and again (as if I can’t really take it all in):

“We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen.

We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created.

For everything, absolutely everything, above and below,

visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels

everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.

He was there before any of it came into existence

and holds it all together right up to this moment.

And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together,

like a head does a body.”

He is our life!

We discover our first glimpse of that reality when we first recognise our own sinfulness, the darkness and  deadness of living without God. Biblically -and biologically- there’s no life without light, and so when God said “Let there be light!” then life began.

And in just the same way, Jesus came to us. In John 1 it says:  “in Him was light, and the light was the life of men.” We cannot believe Christ till we know Him; when we know Him we believe, and by faith comes life. “This is life eternal!

What is? Knowing you, Jesus. This is life itself.

This morning I’ve woken up singing that old Kendrick song, Knowing you:

“All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You’re my all, you’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

Now my heart’s desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die.”

How does He live with us and in us? It’s an old question: “How can God dwell in me and yet I live in God?”

The answer is another question: “How can fire be in iron and iron in fire?” And the answer is: When the bar is in the furnace.

And so Paul says both,almost interchangeably: “In Christ.” “Christ in you.”

And when Christ who is our life appears...” we stretch like plants towards the light, instinctively knowing that we will find blessing, favour, life, love and all goodness. 

The word “appears” has a special meaning here. It literally means “shines” which is appropriate whilst we think of light, life and blessing. 

But Paul intended more by it: it refers to the return of Christ. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. ” 

That means that the prospect is set fair! The redeemed will appear with Him! They will emerge from their obscurity forever and be made glorious.

Presently, in the rather silly and trivial round of human life,  we may well grumble and fuss over positions of honour, but there will be no distinction so grand as walking with Christ


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