God gives us a confident hope through our new life in Christ. That hope is confirmed and supported by the presence of the fruit of a changed life.
1 Kings, chapter 16; 2 Chronicles, chapters 15-16; Colossians, chapter 1
Colossians 1:3-6 (NLT):
We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.
This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.
Some Bible scholars believe that the Apostle Paul did not actually write Colossians. I only mention that to clarify that I don’t think that’s particularly important. The fact is that Colossians is an accepted part of our canon. We believe it is “Scripture,” regardless of who wrote it. It is “inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true…” (2 Timothy 3:16a). However, for ease of reference, I’ll refer to the writer of Colossians as Paul.
Your Confident Hope
With that in mind, the first phrase that stands out in today’s passage is “your confident hope” (verse 5). This confident hope produces “your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people” (verse 4). This echoes Paul’s statement at the end of 1 Corinthians 13. “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
But it is not simply “hope,” but a confident hope. This confident hope relates to what God has reserved for you in heaven. Paul goes on to describe some of this. He shares God reconciled us to himself through Christ and his death (1:21-22). That’s how God makes us holy and blameless as we stand before him (1:22).
The Fruit of a Changed Life
The second phrase that stands out is in verse 6: [This same Good News] is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives. I think this is one of the clearest statements in Scripture about the sort of fruit that Christ expects us to produce. Too often, we think of “fruit” simply in terms of new converts. This is clearly important, but that conversion necessarily involves changing lives. As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
But what does that really mean? It means that we are being formed in the image of Christ. That process continues throughout our lives, because none of us is fully like Jesus. Someday, we will be made fully like him (1 John 3:2), but this life is a process of growing and maturing – and demonstrating the fruit of a changed life.
We measure that change in two ways: how much are we becoming like Jesus, and how much have we changed from how we were before we came to faith? I’m not what I will be, but thank God I’m not what I was!
The Fruit of a Changed Life
I’m part of a “tribe” of Christianity that believes that the Holy Spirit works in us continuously to empower this transformation process. We open the door to that work by our constant surrender to God’s sovereignty. As we proceed through life, God shows us “what’s next” – he reveals areas where we need to continue to grow, and the Spirit empowers us to respond to God’s direction. The reason this is important is because we need to continue to produce the fruit of a changed life throughout our lives. As I’ve progressed on my journey, God has repeatedly led me to different areas to address.
For example, people in the congregation I serve have heard me speak repeatedly in recent years about the ways God leads me to turn my focus away from myself and toward others. I’ve shared with them my frustrations with the way people deal with shopping carts at our local supermarket – putting them in the wrong places, leaving them everywhere, etc. God’s work with me has been to ask me, “Who do you think you are that they should care what you think about that?”
God continually brings me back to Philippians 2:5 – “You should have the same attitude as Jesus.” The degree to which our attitudes are consistent with Jesus’ attitude is the fruit of our changed lives!
Father, thank you for the confident hope that we have of what you have reserved for us in heaven. Help us to see, and celebrate, the fruit that is being produced in us, and in each other, as you continue to change our lives through the work of your Holy Spirit. Lead us to continually submit to your sovereignty, that your Spirit may always have freedom to bring forth your fruit in us. Amen.