A mystery is something that is veiled and not easily understood. The word mystery is used over twenty times in the New Testament. One example is in the last part of Ephesians chapter five. This passage is expounding on the relationship between husbands and wives, but at the end it takes a surprising turn and finishes with an astounding revelation.
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:32 ESV)
Paul reveals an amazing truth, referring to it as a mystery. But this doesn’t mean that God is trying to keep something from us. It’s a mystery because it’s something so wonderful and so profound that it’s difficult for us to grasp. It’s so beyond our ability to comprehend that God must reveal it to us by his Spirit.
God’s greatest mystery is revealed in the following passage.
I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:25-27 ESV)
This mystery was hidden for ages and generations. Since the fall of man, God has desired a people that would be his own, a people that would love him with all their heart, all their soul, and all their mind 1. A people that would bring honor and glory to him, and would represent him to a lost and dying world. God knows, that within ourselves, no one is capable of living this way, and that knowledge and instruction alone will never enable us to fulfill his plan. God’s plan of having a people to represent him can only be accomplished if they are changed and transformed from within by Christ himself; Christ living in them by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. This glorious mystery changes everything. Our relationship with God, our purpose in this life, our eternal destiny, even our very nature is transformed 2 by the profound reality of Christ living in us. Christ in us is the ultimate hope to accomplish all that God desires.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)
The epitome of the Christian life is wonderfully communicated in this verse. Not I, but Christ who lives in me. Not me trying to be like Jesus, but Jesus in me making me like himself. Me dying to myself, so that Christ can live through me. And dying to myself is possible, because Christ loves me and gave himself for me.
Paul continues from the previous passage in Colossians.
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:25-27 ESV)
Paul didn’t toil to boost church attendance, he didn’t toil to raise money for a new building, he didn’t toil to come up with dazzling new stage designs, he didn’t toil to build a state-of-the-art kid’s wing with a Disneyland theme. Paul toiled and struggled toward a singular goal. This goal was to present everyone mature (complete, perfect) in Christ. In another place Paul expressed it this way: “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” 3. Spiritual growth and maturity are the goal, and Christ is the means. The ultimate purpose of Christ living in us, is for Christ to be formed in us. Christ was proclaimed, so that people would be brought to maturity in Christ. To describe how he agonized over this, Paul used the example of a woman giving birth. That’s really intense! With divine energy he struggled to warn everyone and teach everyone so that everyone could be brought to spiritual maturity. This is the language throughout the New Testament; Christ is the goal and Christ is the means to reach the goal.
The thought of being deceived is rather scary to most believers. However, many people don’t understand how subtle deception can be and how normal it can look. Look at the warning given in the following verse.
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3 NASB)
Paul feared that believers would be deceived and led astray from a simple and pure devotion to Christ; that they would live a “Christian life” that was focused on something other than Jesus Christ himself. My concern is that a large portion of the church is currently living in this deception. Devotion is a strong word. It means intense dedication and commitment. Being busy building your church and socializing with your favorite Christian friends does not constitute devotion to Christ. And the busy Christian life is the favorite substitute for the devotion needed to cultivate a genuine connection with the Lord.
Paul said there is a simplicity to devotion to Christ. While it is deeply profound, it isn’t complex. Devotion to Christ is motivated by a sincere desire to know the Lord, to connect with him and serve him in real and genuine ways. Time in prayer and in the word of God are a delight, rather than boring Christian duties. Jesus’ commands are an invitation to walk with him, rather than something intrusive to be rationalized away. But this personal focus on relationship with the Lord is absent in many who profess to be Christians. They can be quite engaged in social and church activities but not actually attracted to Jesus himself. This is deception in its most subtle form.
Woven through the book of Colossians is an ongoing theme about God’s mystery and things that are hidden.
…the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3 ESV)
Christ is God’s greatest mystery, and wonderful treasure is hidden in him. When scripture tells us something is hidden, it means that it’s something so contrary to our natural way of thinking, that it’s very challenging to grasp and comprehend. Like any hidden treasure, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are hidden in Christ take a high level of dedication to be found.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3 ESV)
The Bible uses the words glory, riches, and treasure to describe the life in Christ that God calls us to. But it also says this life is hidden; it is concealed, not easy to see, to understand, or to lay hold of. It requires diligent seeking. We seek the hidden life God has for us by seeking the person, Jesus Christ.
This passage encourages us to seek the things that are above, and to set our mind on things that are above. It cautions us not to set our mind on things that are on earth. The scary thing is that we can adopt a Christian lifestyle that still allows our mind to be set on things that are on earth. We can seek a social connection where we belong and are accepted. We can seek activities that give us a sense of significance and accomplishment. These are not bad things, but they are common things, things that pretty much everyone in the world desires. If we reduce our Christian experience to seeking common things, we will miss the treasures that are hidden in Christ.
Lord, I pray we would not settle for what is common. Please give us the vision and the tenacity to pursue Jesus Christ himself and the eternal riches that are hidden in him.
You will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV)
- “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:36-37 ESV)
- “by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV)
- Galatians 4:19