How glibly in the past did I read the Bible. How quickly and with a total lack of observation did I skip across passages which, had I stopped to think about them, would have been unintelligible to me – or at least held a mystery I could not fathom or understand.
And now that I do take time – I find myself pausing more than reading as I struggle to take in the full impact of the things I see!
In the stupidity, pride and presumption of my earlier years I thought the time would come when I had cracked the code – understood it all and been able to quantify every aspect of its teaching. Now I see how foolish I was – how deep and often mysterious are the things of God.
Even the great thinker and theologian Paul could say –
‘How great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!’
The truth is the treasures and wisdom of God are like a bottomless well – unfathomable, yet refreshingly sweet, always bubbling up from the depth with fresh revelation – revelation which I suspect will last an eternity.
This train of thought was prompted this past week when some words of scripture came unbidden to my mind. They were these –
‘Your life is now hidden with Christ in God.’
Colossians 3:3 (NIV)
What on earth does that really mean? The context of this statement is of course in relation to the objective truth that the believer has, in some mysterious way, died with Christ on the cross as well as subsequently being raised with him to new life.
As a result of this truth, Paul exhorts us to –
‘Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.’
To summarise this teaching I think what is being driven at here is the fact at this moment in our time the resurrected Jesus (The Christ) is, in actuality, ‘sitting at the right hand of God’ and that we, having died with him, are in a spiritual/ metaphysical sense living there as well.
But the words ‘hidden with Christ in God’ hints at a deeper truth – that we are hidden in Christ and Christ is hidden in God. How do you really begin to understand this (at any level) far less grasp the implications of it?
I personally cannot being to contemplate the deeper truths that may or may not be hidden here without a feeling that the whole atmosphere of this mystery speaks of a deep union and communion.
I think JB Phillips catches a little of this in his translation of these verses –
‘Give your heart to the heavenly things, not to the passing things of earth. For, as far as this world is concerned, you are already dead, and your true life is a hidden one in Christ. One day, Christ, the secret centre of our lives, will show himself openly, and you will all share in that magnificent denouement.’
He is ‘the secret centre of our lives’ indeed – with all that this implies.
Of course it is not only to the Colossians that Paul speaks of this. Speaking to the early church in Ephesus he uses similar terminology –
‘For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.’
The picture here is of us ‘seated’ with Christ in contrast, or perhaps more correctly as complementary to our being ‘hidden’ in him. But both of these verses are, I think, driving at the same truth – union and intimacy. Notice also that Paul (in Phillips translation) speaks of this as our ‘true life’. And I believe it is our ‘true life’ because it is our permanent life – not the transient life in the material world we now inhabit. And this ‘true life’ , as we have seen, is also spoken of as a ‘hidden’ one. It is not seen by passers by! That is not to say that passers by do not or should not feel the effect of our true life!
But this ‘true life’ – the life seated with Christ in ‘heavenly realms’ is not only one of union and communion with Jesus and The Father – but also a communion with the others who inhabit the ‘heavenly realms’. If the verses from Ephesians and Colossians blow our minds – try and get you head round what the writer to the Hebrews is driving at –
‘You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people … ‘
Hebrews 12: 22-24 (NLT)
The whole sense of these scripture taken together is that in some mysterious but nonetheless real way we are, if we can only comprehend it, living in the heavenly realms in the here and now. We are already, in a very tangible way, citizens of the New Jerusalem (another mysterious and metaphorical concept). The challenge, I suspect, for those of us in the here and now of our earth bound lives, is to cultivate a life that is ordered and shaped by the Christ of glory in whom we are hidden and by The Father who is the source, life and sustainer of all things.
As we cultivate a life that is drawing its inspiration, its direction, its pattern from the reality of our heavenly country our lives will take on a different dimension. The heavenly life must, of necessity, affect our earthly lives. To use another biblical metaphor – ‘We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.’ (Philippians 3:20).
But is there another key truth in all of this? If the pictures we have been looking at reveal us as living in a heavenly realm of union and intimacy with Christ and The Father – the bond that binds all this all this together must be one of love.
In the same same letter, the letter to the Colossians, from which we started, we find the Apostle Paul rooting all he will go on to say in this –
‘I am contending for you that your hearts will be wrapped in the comfort of heaven and woven together into love’s fabric. This will give you access to all the riches of God as you experience the revelation of God’s great mystery—Christ. For our spiritual wealth is in him, like hidden treasure waiting to be discovered—heaven’s wisdom and endless riches of revelation knowledge.’
Colossians 2:2&3 (TPT)
Please meditate deeply on this text. Love, as it always is, is the key here. And from Love and Love alone will flow a revelation and wisdom which has the potential to unleash heaven on earth.
And so my prayer today chimes with that of David so many generations ago –
‘I know that you delight to set your truth deep in my spirit.
So come into the hidden places of my heart
and teach me wisdom.’
Psalm 51:6 (TPT)