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The Ultimate Status Update Featured

“Aw, gee, I’m not good enough!” It seems like that little phrase comes up in every “you can do it!” TV show out there. You’ve seen the cliché plot countless times: little Johnny wants to join the baseball team but his dad is harsh and overbearing and tells him he can’t do it (dad also has male-pattern baldness, bags under his eyes, wears greasy undershirts and hasn’t showered in a week; and we’ll learn by the end of the show that he was a victim of his bad dad too). As the show moves along, you watch as Little Johnny’s insecurity blinds him from seeing his own, latent super-baseball skills within him. Yet, along comes a mysterious, wise, non-parent who is into eastern mysticism. With a little coaxing from this wise guide, Johnny discovers the major league player within. At the end of the movie, even dad comes around and is seen proudly smiling in the stands as his son hits a grand slam in slow motion. Thanks to that wise, mystical guide, little johnny will do just fine. His status update has gone from insecure loser to victorius champion.

I suppose that this plot is encouraging and inspiring, and I do want any little Johnny out there to know that he can do pretty much anything he sets his mind to. But we tend to extrapolate this premise to God and apply a “You can do it” attitude towards our relationship with Him. Yet in reality, the reality that such TV shows usually ignore or deny, is that we have real spiritual problems that can’t be resolved by “you can do it!” platitudes. It’s not that eastern mystical guide had solutions that Christianity doesn’t. I’ve explored all kinds of new age mysticism in my days before Christ—budhism, spiritism, upsidedown meditation-ism—they all failed completely to bring the “inner peace” they promised or to bring me to a close, truly peaceful relationship with our holy creator. And I’m not alone in giving up on other religions. Many other people in my church have tried similar avenues—we have former yoga instructors, natural food shop workers, acid-droppers etc. who would likewise say that those pursuits are truly unsatisfying and insufficient to restore us to God.

But Colossians 1:12 speaks to what is sufficient to bring us into communion with the Lord. Colossians 1:12 says, “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” I want to focus on one little word that has major, major, major implications for our spiritual lives: “qualified.” Paul says in this verse, that God has qualified us to share with God’s people. Now, this is the ultimate status update! Something major has happened; we are in fellowship with God! We’ve made the team, we’re going to the big-leagues! And what’s more, this verse teaches HOW we have been qualified, “giving thanks to the Father WHO has qualified us…” It’s not us who has done it, but God who has done it for us. It’s not that we meditated and found the one-hand-clapping-monk within, it is God Himself who has done something which “qualifies” us to be with Him.

The word “qualified” comes from the Greek word “ikanos.” It was often used of “enough” like having enough oil, or enough time for some situation. When used of people, it speaks of being adequate for something. The teaching of this verse is that we ought to give thanks to God because formerly we were NOT qualified, and therefore NOT bound for heaven. Ephesians 2:1-3 says we were dead in our trespasses and sins and children of wrath. This is the state of all people without Christ. But now we are qualified, and since it was God who has qualified us, we ought to give Him praise, thanks and honor. The idea behind this word is the heart of the entire Bible. It speaks to our relationship with God, our separation from Him, and how without His work in our lives, we are unqualified to stand before Him.

I found it interesting as I studied the Greek in this passage that when this word qualified/ikanos is used in other places in the New Testament, it speaks of people and their standing before God. What struck me was that often, it highlights the person’s LACK of qualification. For example, in Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist says he is unworthy (same word “qualified”) to tie the Messiah’s sandals. He was not worthy even to be a servant in the kingdom of Christ. Likewise, Paul says he is not qualified to be an apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:9 –most translations render this “not worthy”. In Matthew 8:8, there is an account of the Gentile centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant with just a word from a distance, without actually coming to the leader’s house. The centurion reasoned that Jesus should not come to his house because “I am not worthy” (again, the same word “qualified”). Even this gentile leader understood that in comparison to Christ’s glory and holiness, he was unqualified to have Christ enter his home. In his gut, he knew that he, like us all, was unworthy of the presence of Christ in His domain. He was unqualified. This is the state of all people before God and you can tell when God is working on a person’s heart because they begin to sense this fact, and begin to seek a solution to it.

Yet because of the common, well-meaning “you can do it” milieu of our day, the average guy on the street talks about God as his copilot and that he “communes” with God in nature. Having been one who has made these exact statements before coming to Christ, I can attest from personal experience that these are the words of a person driven by wishful thinking and not a true relationship with the God of the universe. They are like a person who eats McDonalds every day and convinces themselves that they are eating steak dinners at the Ritz Carlton; there may be a degree of satisfaction, but it’s based on self-deception and error.

Now what we’re talking about here might seem like a distinctly Christian perspective and perhaps a bit harsh. But the early Christians prophets were Jews who has converted to Christ and God was showing them how this principle of our unworthiness to have a relationship with God was on nearly every page between Genesis to Malachi; especially in God’s teaching about the temple/tabernacle system. The Temple and Tabernacle structures were built so that people might worship and walk with God. Yet the worshipper had to go through rooms within rooms before he would get to God’s presence. Certain rooms were only available to the highest, most holy, most purified priests—and only on one day a year.

The whole Jewish tabernacle/temple structure stood as an object lesson to teach each generation of Jews that there were major divisions between them and God. God wasn’t their “buddy” nor was He their “copilot”. Instead, God was their holy creator that had perfect standards for those who would seek Him; those standards were purity and perfection. He declared that people had to match His righteousness in order to have fellowship with Him (“Be holy as I am holy” Leviticus 11:44). Thus, each sacrifice was a bloody object lesson proving to each Jew that he was impure before God; that his sins were a rotten stench that needed to be covered by the pure innocent life of the animal who had not sinned. Without such covering, the person was “unqualified” to have a relationship with God.

But here in Colossians 1:12, we see the clear declaration that something has changed in our standing before God. There is a fantastic status update! Like the centurion in Matthew 8:8, we were unqualified to have a relationship with God. Our sins rose up like a stench before God. We were the full expression of Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God and your sins have hidden His face so that He does not hear.” Like in Ephesians 2:2-3 we were “dead in our trespasses and sins…and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” But now, according to Colossians 1:12, something has happened in our relationship with God. Something has happened that we have been transferred from the realm of being under God’s judgment to the realm of being in fellowship with Him. We have become qualified. Somehow we have become sufficient before God. Somehow in Colossians 1:12, we can now call Him “Father”.

The crucial point to understand here is that this change in our standing has not come from anything we have done. Like Isaiah 64:6 says, “all of our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” Our personal acts of “righteousness” are like filthy rags before God and don’t have anything to do with this change of status. The answer comes from Colossians 1:12, it is God the Father “who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.” Our adequacy can only come from God. The same sentiment is taught in 2nd Corinthians 3:5 which says, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God…” The point that needs to be made here is that without God working in/through Christ in our lives, we are simply inadequate to have any fellowship/relationship with Him.

So how did this transformation take place? The next verses in Colossians tell us how this whole thing comes about. Colossians 1:13-14 says, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Our salvation is a rescue mission for our souls where Christ has redeemed us and provided forgivness of sins. This is the ultimate change, the ultimate status update! Let me try to explain this further.

Several years ago, I had a lengthy and productive conversation with an open-minded Jewish gentleman. During our conversation, I pointed out that the sacrificial system of his own chosen people, the ancient Jews, underscored the need for holiness and perfection. Like most people, when this man heard that God calls us to perfection, his natural response was that no one is perfect, therefore God must look past our sins and let us into heaven. Over the next hour, I had the privilege of explaining to him from his own scriptures, that just because we cannot attain perfection, this does not give us the freedom to lower God’s standards, especially when the Lord is so clear that HE hasn’t lowered them at all! In fact, the sacrifices he learned about as a child were intended to teach this very point—God requires perfection and we have sinned over and over. On his own, this man came to the conclusion that if God does require perfection (he admitted his own scriptures taught this) and if we are not perfect, how can anyone have hope to be with Him in heaven!?

It was at this point that I was able to explain to him the beauty and necessity of the cross, especially in light of what the Old Testament teaches about sacrifices. The Old Testament sacrificial system was a gigantic object lesson instituted by God to teach each generation of Jews about their sin, their separation from a holy God, and the need for perfect purity to be with Him. The sacrificial system taught each person that he/she personally had sinned and needed forgiveness, cleansing and covering. Sin and separation touched them all. All those sacrifices were God’s way of showing individual people that if they were to have fellowship with Him, their sins needed to be fully covered by perfect purity of the life (blood) of one who had not sinned. I clearly remember seeing the light go on in this man’s mind, and him saying with a pondering nod, “I’m beginning to see the math of what you’re saying…”

Now, within the Jewish system of sacrifices, there is the nagging question of ‘Why lambs and goats?’ Sure, a lamb might be perfectly pure, but how does it cover a man’s sins? To any of us, a sacrificed animal seems inadequate to take the place of a man. This ultimately pointed to the cross where a true, pure substitutionary sacrifice was performed. A man had to die to offer his life as a substitute and covering, man who had not taken any part in our rebellion against God. 2nd Corinthians 5:21 says, “He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin (Jesus was innocent), to be sin on our behalf, that we might receive the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus, who was innocent, took our punishment and gives us His rightouness.

In the powerful biographical movie, To End All Wars, this notion is demonstrated in the contexts of a group of POWs in a Japanese concentration/labor camp during World War II. The movie is based on a true story. In the movie, one main character leads an insurrection and attempted escape. They kill a guard or two. When the leader is caught, he is sentenced to death. At the moment of execution, another main character steps in, the chaplain of the camp, and offers his own life as a substitution. Imagine if the chaplain had offered a goat—“I know he killed a couple of guards and led an uprising, but here’s a goat, kill it instead!” That wouldn’t do. Imagine if the chaplain had taken part in the rebellion; he would have been worthy of death too. But this chaplain was the most beloved prisoner in the camp; he actually led a movement of prisoners to improve their labor and service to their captors. In a sense, he was more than worthy to take the place of the insurrectionist. So the innocent-life-for-a-guilty-life exchange was made. Now this was a true story, and the Japanese literally crucified the chaplain on a cross and let the rebel leader live. The Japanese would not accept a goat or any other animal on behalf of the insurrectionist. The substitute had to be a man, one who was innocent of the insurrection and who was wonderful and beloved enough to satisfy the requirement of full punishment.

Now God is not an evil prison guard, in fact, God is the chaplain satisfying the righteous requirements of His perfect justice which classifies all of us as rebels deserving death. Christ, who was God in the flesh, gave Himself for us. This sacrifice had to be given by God. If someone was going to sacrifice Himself in place of the whole world, he had to be more than a man, indeed he had to be infinite to satisfy an eternal justice that extends forever and lasts forever. Likewise, if God were to send sinners and rebels to Hell, it is exceedingly righteous of Him to have undergone such wrath Himself, to experience the judgment He places upon others while also providing a shield for those who come to Him for covering. Only this would satisfy the eternal courts of justice and righteousness. Only this would make it possible to make us perfectly pure before God. Only this would qualify us to stand with God.

So our status has changed thanks to Christ’s sacrifice for us, if we are in Christ. But there is another aspect of our status that needs to be updated—our spirit/soul. Before Christ, we were dead in our spirit. We may not have known it, but it is evident in the things we chased after—that we found pleasure in the dead things of this world. Several years ago, I was in the morgue of General Hospital in Los Angeles (the one the TV show was based on). This room was narrow with a giant refrigerator along one whole wall. Inside of it, were dozens of people stacked back and forth, foot to head, wrapped in thick yellow, semi-translucent plastic. It was as creepy as it sounds. Aside from the gunshot wounds and the morgue-guy confirming they were all dead, there was the undeniable fact of the plastic. They were all wrapped up in plastic, like potroasts in the freezer. And what was immediately apparent was that they didn’t mind being in the plastic. If they were alive, they would have been frantically thrashing about, crying to be free. But these people just sat there, dead, unmoving, content to be as they were. In the same way, spiritually dead people don’t thrash about in their own sin or the sin of the world. They are not suffocated by it. They are not clamoring to get out of it. They are content to lay there in it. They are content because they are spiritually dead.

And this points to the other status update in the believer’s life. God Himself enters our own soul and infuses His life into our dead spirits. He fundamentally transforms our dead, corrupt spirits into new life in Him. Without Christ, we are dead in our trespasses and sins, forever to wallow in this miserable, impure, suffocating existence. For me, this is a huge point—it is an awful thought for me to spend eternity as I am now—full of petty self-interest, bitterness, envy, irritability. I would hate to spend eternity as ME! Yet without Christ, we are doomed to be in this state for all eternity. But Christ offers us His Spirit in our souls, to give us new life now and will one day transform our sinful souls to be like Him, without the presence of sin.

Going back to Colossians 1:12, this is why we can give God such resounding praise. We have received this inheritance and we are sanctified, qualified. We come to give God thanks because it is not something we do ourselves to make us fit and able to enter heaven. There is nothing we can do on our own, as Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “this is not of works so that no one can boast.” This sanctification, as explained in Philippians 3:3-9, only comes by faith in Christ. God has done everything for us to receive Christ’s perfection, and the vehicle by which we know it has happened is through faith.

When the Bible speaks of faith, it speaks of repentance of sin and falling before God. It speaks of one who has looked to God, His holiness as well as His mercy, and who looks to Christ, His perfection and His sacrifice, and that person sees their need for salvation—not just from the punishment of sin in Hell, but also the presence of sin in this life, and that person calls out to God for forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s a complete surrender to God and His will with a heart to no longer walk in the world or the old ways, but to walk with Him. And when this person comes to God with true faith (faith that is given to them by God in the first place—Ephesians 2:9), God, who is rich in mercy and forgiveness because of what Christ did on the cross, God transfers that person from the kingdom of darkness to His own kingdom of light, He forgives them, and He places His Spirit within them and He guides them through this life into His presence in eternity.

Why faith and not works? Because it is impossible to have perfectly pure works. Even our most righteous deeds are still so tainted with sin that they in themselves are worthy of sending us to Hell (Isaiah 64:6). Thus, because of mixed motives, we are utterly incapable to saving ourselves. If God were to leave all this up to us, we’d all be in Hell forever under His wrath. Yet, thankfully, God loves us and wants us to be with Him. He truly wants us in heaven and has truly made a way for us to be with Him. Thus, when we enter heaven, we will see that our qualification was all of God and nothing of ourselves. In heaven, there will be no boasting about our own righteousness, for we cannot boast (Ephesians 2:9). It will be perfectly clear that our redemption and salvation was all of God and none of us. There will be no posturing about exalting ourselves, but rather the grateful and thankful exaltation of Christ and Him alone!

Now that is the ultimate status update: Russ Brewer is qualified to spend eternity with God because of Christ’s love and sacrificial death in his place. May God’s grace do likewise in your life as well and He will if you call out to Him for mercy and forgiveness and to work this status update in your life as well.

Final note: Alright, now I know that was long writeup, thanks for reading to the end. I sort-of promise (I’ll at least try) not to write these this long in the future. Feel free to link to this and “share” it with your Facebook friends. Thanks and have a great day!
Russ Brewer

Russ Brewer

Rescued from the domain of darkness, transferred to the kingdom of the Son. Undershepherd of Grace. Husband of Corinne. Father of three. Chew-toy to Zeke...