We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus… Colossians 1:3-4

The city of Colossae was located in ancient Phrygia, an area marked for centuries by a history of faith.

That faith, however, was placed in almost anything they could think of — Roman deities, angels, magic and the occult. The latest truth-sellers and storytellers would rattle through town and people would run after them, buying another fad or fantasy on which to set their hope.

Our modern-day hearts are exposed by this glimpse at the Colossians. We, too, run toward the self-help pedestals on which we’re continuously invited to place our faith — entertainment, exercise, gaming, green living, sports teams, nice houses, religious activity, parenthood, partying, education, marriage, sex, clean eating, gluttonous eating, social media, shopping, family, political parties.

We can tell when good things morph from gifts into idols when they move beyond something we do into a way we think — a system or ideal without which we could not feel fully alive. Instead of remaining as desires inside of hearts that are living sacrifices to God, these idols move outside of ourselves, becoming altars we will sacrifice anything upon.

The truth that Christ is enough for us becomes no longer enough for us, and we try to piece out the garment of the gospel with our rags.

Jesus and this. Jesus and that.

But Paul thanks God for the Colossians’ faith in Christ Jesus alone, a radical choice in the midst of a thousand false hopes.

Christians like me who grew up in the Church have lost the idea that what we believe is radical. We believe that God came to earth as a man. We believe His death paid the price for sins that would have separated us from God forever. We believe He rose from the dead to defeat death and sin and hell and offer us eternal life with Him in glory. And we believe that nothing we are able to do could add to any of it.

The Christian faith is not a “whatever works for you” kind of belief. God beaten and nailed and left in agony to die is not “feel good” religion. It is not comfortable to believe there is no way to save yourself — to watch God perish on your behalf knowing you can do nothing.

True Christian faith is transformational. It alters mind, body and spirit. The belief that God came down to smash your idols and place Himself on all your pedestals demands a response from your thoughts, your time, your passion, your heart.

And it’s faith itself that does the transforming. The Bible’s claims of faith alone that saves you and faith that must come with works are not mutually exclusive because true faith alone will produce the works. It is alive, a gift from God itself, working in you to produce what God desires for your life.

Some, like my husband, are largely transformed all at once. Some thick-skulled people, like myself, require much greater patience from the Father.

But He has patience and lovingkindness in great supply. He is slow to anger and abounding in love. If long to see change in your heart that you have yet to realize, run back to your faith in Christ Jesus alone, not Jesus plus something else. If you truly believe, have no doubt that He is at work in you, cutting and trimming and polishing your life to reflect His glory in His time.