Hey pastors. My name is Jay Kim and I serve as the lead pastor at WestGate Church. I’ve written several books and am the creator of the 40 days Through the Book study on the book of Colossians. Paul's letter to the Colossians has been increasingly compelling for me as we find ourselves today in the midst of such strange and uniquely challenging times.
The Yale historian, Jaroslav Pelikan once said that regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the most dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost 20 centuries. And it's pretty difficult to argue that point. You know our calendars, the, the very way and means by which we set and mark our days hinges on Jesus, his birth and his life.
So in many ways, quite literally, Jesus is the centerpiece of human history as we know it today, and understandably so. At the same time, though, especially in the modern West, Jesus and the movement he began that we call Christianity is increasingly being pushed out to the margins and removed from the center of public discourse—sort of ostracized at the edges of society. Christians and Christianity are often thought to be a problem in the world, not a solution.
Coupled with that, we live in a time of what I would call reckless autonomy and dangerous individualism. There's a lot of data and research that shows that the modern Western world is the most autonomous individualistic society in human history.
We are a culture of, “I'm gonna do me and you do you,” a culture that believes in the mantra, “My truth is my truth and your truth is your truth.” And so it's an interesting juxtaposition. We have Jesus who is the most dominant figure in history and the autonomy and individualism of our day, as well as the pluralism that is born of that autonomy and individualism. It’s a sort of self-embrace.
The theologian Scott McKnight says that humans cannot be satisfied with self-embrace. Humans are made for God and others and the good of the world. This is why I think Paul's letter to the Colossians is so important. This ancient letter has so much incredible life and vitality to speak into the sort of autonomous individualistic malaise in which we find ourselves.
There's incredible hope in Paul's words to the Colossians. When you study the ancient city of Colossae and what the early Christians in that city were going through, you realize that there are so many parallels between some of the tensions we feel and our autonomous individualistic pluralistic age today, and what the early Christians in Colossae were experiencing at the time and into that reality.
Paul says things like in chapter two, that his goal is “you may be encouraged in heart and united in love so that you may have the full riches of complete understanding.” He reminds them in chapter three, you yourselves, plural, all of you collectively, not as individuals, but you collectively are God's temple and God's spirit dwells in your midst or within you.
In chapter three, early on verse one, “Since you've 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.” And finally, later on in chapter three Paul says, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body, not individuals separated autonomous doing your own thing, but as one body you were called to peace.
These are just a handful of the encouragements we find in Paul's letter to the Colossians. But beyond that, these encouragements come, not because Paul wants them to be united for unity's sake, but because the undeniable truth for followers of Jesus is that we don't have a choice in the matter when we say yes to Jesus. We are united with him.
Paul explains the reason for this in his opening lines, a part of chapter one that many called the Christ poem, this incredibly beautiful, profound truth about Jesus's identity. Paul writes, “the Son is the image of the invisible God and the first-born overall creation...for, in him, all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers.” We might say today, politics and politicians, the white house in DC, or whether rulers or authorities, all things have been created through him and for him. He, Jesus, is before all things and in him, all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he's the beginning and the first born from among the dead.
Colossians is this profound, beautiful, prophetic and necessary reminder, especially in our day and age, that there is only one who truly rules and reigns supreme, and it's Jesus. I think we need this word today in our lives and in our churches and in culture at large.
C.S. Lewis in his fantastic book, The Silver Chair, which is a part of his Chronicles of Narnia, depicts this beautiful scene where the young girl, Jill happens upon a stream, and she sees in the stream Aslan the lion. And Aslan in the story represents Jesus.
Jill is really thirsty but doesn't know what to make of this giant fearsome lion in the river. She wants to draw close and take a drink because she's dying of thirst, but she's afraid of the lion. They have this interaction:
“Jill was so thirsty now that without noticing it, she had come a step nearer, nearer to the stream and she asks Aslan, the lion. ‘Do you eat girls?’ she said. Aslan replies, ‘I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men Kings and emperors, cities, and realms,’ said the lion. It didn't say it as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry.
‘I dare’t come. I dare not come and drink,’ said Jill. ‘Then you will die of thirst,’ said the lion. ‘O dear,’ said Jill, coming another step nearer. ‘I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.’ ‘There is no other stream,’ said the lion.”
This is the message of Paul's letter to Colossians. There is no other stream to satisfy the thirst in our souls and in our collective soul as a church and as a society. These ancient words from Paul have the answer to the problem that we are all asking, which is where is this story headed?
Is anybody really watching over us? Is anyone truly in control?
The emphatic answer in the letter of Colossians is yes! Jesus. Our one true king who rules and reigns supreme hand as since the beginning still rules and reign supreme today and will do so on into eternity. It's a word of encouragement for me and for you and for all of us.
My hope, my hope and encouragement to you is that you might consider diving deep into this beautiful profound letter called Colossians.
In this study on the book of Colossians, author and pastor Jay Y. Kim guides you through this letter to the Colossians, revealing what Paul’s words meant to his original readers and how they apply to you today. You will be encouraged to learn both the content and the context of the letter and then apply the message to your daily life. Join Jay on a journey through Paul’s letter to the Colossians to explore the claim that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—and that Christian living revolves around Jesus.