I once attended a meeting of pastors who were planning a city-wide revival. The pastor of a respected and growing church opened the meeting with these words:
“God is only going to ask each of us two questions when we get to heaven: ’Do you know my Son?’ and ‘How many others did you bring with you?’”
It was a memorable opening because it was short, dramatic, and wrong. The record of the first century church reveals a profound concern for a spiritual transformation that flows from a decision to follow Jesus.
The Apostle Paul prayed for the spiritual transformation of people who already knew Jesus. Perhaps we can discover God’s transformational heart, as revealed in Paul’s prayer:
“Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14
First, we need to be filled.
Paul asked God to pour “the knowledge of his will” into the believers in Colossae. Apparently the next step after coming to Jesus as Lord is to be filled with the knowledge of His will. It requires something more than mere human intellect—it requires spiritual wisdom and understanding.
We have a tendency to apply the old way of living life to our new life in Christ, but the problem is we were born again into a new kingdom. If we take the image of the new birth seriously we should realize there’s a new kind of life ahead, and we are mere babes. This new life ahead requires something beyond our old-life resources.
Second, we can live a life worthy of God.
Each of us has heard the message of forgiveness so often we are tempted to think forgiveness is all there is to the gospel. Some live in a continuing cycle of sin-forgiveness-sin, and consider it normative for God’s children.
Paul knew better. He understood there is a proper response to God’s initial grace. That response is a changed life—a life “worthy of the Lord.” A life in which it is possible to please God, bear fruit, and grow in new life. These first two aspects of Paul’s inspired prayer are beyond the grasp of many believers.
Finally the kingdom of God is at hand—especially for those who know Him.
Paul prays that we would each receive our inheritance: ”the kingdom of light.” Jesus died to pay the price for our sin, and like everyone who dies, he left an inheritance to his family: a new kind of life. This new life looks dramatically different from the old kind of life. He described this life as “righteousness, peace, and joy in he Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)
Here’s a bell-weather question for each follower of Jesus — does my life differ dramatically from my old kind of life? The inbreaking of God’s kingdom floods our lives with light, and light is necessary if we are going to move through this new kind of Kingdom-life.
Paul envisioned a church filled with individuals able to receive the Kingdom-life God offers to everyone born from above. His prayer was not for the Colossians alone: can you hear him praying over you now?