A book written hundreds of years ago that has inspired many people’s closer devotion to God is the Brother Lawrence classic, The Practice of the Presence of God. Being in conversation with God and deliberately filling our minds with godly thoughts should be encouraged, but this happens naturally as we feed ourselves spiritually on a diet of Scripture. Sermons, worship music, Christian books and conversations with friends, all provide a context for growth, but it is the Bible that inspires us to very naturally practise the presence of God. Without the Bible transforming us, we will remain spiritually empty and dissatisfied. Colossians 1:9-11 give us three important ways in which we can activate a revitalised spiritual life fuelled by the Word of God.
- Be filled with knowledge. This is actually the knowledge of His will (Colossians 1:9) so that we are then better able to act on it. It is not just about learning the Bible stories or facts. In the original language it implies having a precise and correct knowledge. This helps us to live well, but it is predicated on knowing well. There is enormous value, therefore, in studying Scripture, but some take theology degrees without then applying the Bible. What is the point? Ministry, impact, works; these are outcomes expected and ensuing from meditation on the Word of God. Colossians 1 links such fruitfulness in verse 10 to the infilling of knowledge of verse 9 which promotes wisdom and understanding.
- Be filled with faith. This flows from knowledge of Scripture but leads us to application so that we are demonstrably fruitful (Colossians 1:10). Stephen and Barnabas were filled with faith (Acts 6:5; 11:24). Faith is inspired by the Word of God (Romans 10:17) and all who live for God actually enact faith (Romans 1:17) without which it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is like a muscle that needs to be exercised and when it is strong, we have more substance to our hope (Hebrews 11:1). By reading Scripture, meditating on it daily, and then obeying what it says, we become successful and prosper (on God’s terms) in all that we do (Joshua 1:8). This practice has not been tried and found wanting as much as it has largely been left untried. A daily devotional program that merely reads and reflects is insufficient. Discipleship necessitates obedience to what Jesus says (Matthew 28:20); the Spirit illuminates the Word which then lives in us leads us to conform to Christ who is the living Word and who is therefore alive in us.
- Be filled with the Spirit. When God strengthens us with His power, this is linked to embracing His word in faith (Colossians 1:11). Stephen and Barnabas were filled with the Spirit as well as faith. Faith in Christ and His Word is inseparable from the Spirit who leads us to Christ and illuminates the Word to activate fruitfulness. John the Baptist’s “fruits of repentance” were linked to his desire for people to be baptised with the Spirit (Matthew 3:8,11). Galatians 5 affirms this link between fruitfulness and the Spirit. His presence naturally results in optimising the presence of the often-under-developed fruit of love, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The idea of being ‘filled with fruit’ is also seen in Philippians 1:11 and Romans 15:13.
To activate a renewed spiritual life that is vital and dynamic, the Word of God must be central. It embodies the character and presence of the risen Christ (John 1:14). The Holy Spirit who leads us to confess Christ (1 Corinthians 12:3) and who inspires the Word of Christ in us (2 Peter 1:21) also leads us to then conform to Christ (John 14:26, 15:26). Ultimately, our path to spontaneous activation of our spiritual life to fruitfulness is enabled as the Spirit and the Word work together powerfully within those who Colossians 1:12-14 concludes are rescued from spiritual darkness by redemption in Christ.