“Full-Filled” In Christ Alone

Grace For The Journey

3JulyIn our yesterday’s post we considered a number of teachings that are “not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) teachings such as Judaism, Islam, secular humanism, Darwinian evolution, and many “spiritual” books or philosophies.  The Apostle Paul issues a clear warning regarding teachings contrary to the gospel: “Beware lest anyone cheat you (or rob you) through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according  to Christ.”  In the verses we will look at today, God gives us some very good instructions on how we respond to this issue   . . .

1) Be Watchful For What Captures You.

Christians must beware of any teaching or any human reasoning that suggests one needs something more than that which Christ provides.  The word “capture” means “to pull you away,” from the life and freedom you enjoy, enslaving you to a form of reasoning or religion that is not according to Christ.

What other teachings are “not according to Christ?”

  • “There are many paths to salvation.” 

his is a teaching that is not according to Christ.  Jesus Himself says in John 14:6, “I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life.  No one comes to the Father except by Me.”

  • “Become a Christian and you will never have any problems.” 

This too is a teaching that is not according to Christ.  Jesus says in John 16:33, “In this world you will have tribulation.”

There are many other teachings that are not according to Christ, teachings that go against the full biblical message of Christianity.

  • “You have a right to kill a baby inside your womb.”
  • “You can define marriage any way you choose.” 
  • “God does not mind if you act-out your sexual desires outside of the confines of biblical marriage – He made you that way, whether you are a heterosexual adulterer or a sexually active homosexual.”  

These are all teachings that are according to the tradition of man, and not according to Christ.

This cautionary statement of verse 8 leads to the second principle found in verses 9 and 10:

2) Be Grateful for what Completes You.

Again, the stress in this letter to the Colossians is the Christian’s completeness in Christ.  In Christ Jesus, the Christian has everything he or she needs for forgiveness, for salvation, for satisfaction, for purpose, for meaning, for real identity.  Completeness.

Verse 9 declares, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” The very essence of the One True God is that which dwells in Christ.  Put another way . . .

“Whatever it is that makes God

‘God’ is found in Christ.”

It’s not just that Jesus has supernatural powers and is a wonder-working prophet.  He is God in the flesh.

Jesus is not just a good example for us;

Jesus is not just a great dispenser of heavenly wisdom;

Jesus Christ is not just a good moral teacher.

Christianity is not just the teachings of Christ.

Christianity is God in the flesh for us.

Verse 10 states, “And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  In describing Jesus as “the head of all principality and power,” Paul is countering false understandings of Jesus as one who is merely equal to other heavenly beings, namely angels.

In essence Paul says . . .

“No, Jesus is the head of

All principality and power.”

Jesus is the preeminent one,

First and foremost,

The one who is

“Large and in-Charge!”

He is Lord.

Here is the point . . .

Don’t allow yourselves

To be captured by

A teaching that causes you

To become enslaved again to sin.

You are complete in Him.

The word “complete” actually means “to be filled to completion.”  Like a 5-page essay that is complete only when the writer “fills” the 5 pages with content.  You are filled fully in Christ.  You lack nothing.  You are complete in Him.

You are filled full, or even better, you are “full-filled” in Him.  You are fulfilled in – and only in – the all-satisfying Christ!

Nothing else and no one else

Can or will complete you as Christ.

You are filled to the full in Him.

The false teachers were trying to capture weak, uninformed Christians, trying to seize upon them and kidnap them away by telling them that they were lacking something.   These false teachers were saying that Christians needed more than just Christ to be filled to the full.  But Paul says we are “full-filled” in Christ alone.

In Christ alone our hope is found;
He is our light, our strength, our song;

In Him we have everything we need for forgiveness, for salvation, for purpose, for meaning, for life.  Peter teaches a similar truth in 2 Peter 1:3, “[Christ’s] divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,”

We are completely SAVED

And

Completely SATISFIED in Him

In Him, we find our sense of identity.  We do not find our identity in anything else.   How would you respond if someone asked you . . .

  • “I’m a teacher.” No, that’s what you do; who are you?
  • “I’m a dentist.” No, that’s what you do; who are you?
  • “I’m a plumber.” No, that’s what you do; who are you?
  • “I’m an electrician.”  No, that’s what you do; who are you?
  • “I’m a minister.” No, that’s what you do; who are you?
  • “I’m a laborer, a student, a mother, a father.” No, that’s what you do.  Who are you?
  • “I’m an adulterer, I’m a sinner.”  No, that’s what you did, who are you?

(Are you seeing a pattern here?!)

Christian identity is not based upon

What one has done, but who one is:

I am a Christian.

I am “in Christ”

And He is “in me.”

We should find our identity not in our job, our vocation, our successes, our failures!  Those are things we have done, but they do not define who we are.  We are “in Him,” complete in Him.

Be watchful for what captures you.

Be grateful for what completes you.

I will never get over the fact that in Christ I am completely forgiven of all sin.  Our complete forgiveness in Christ is not only something for which we thank God in our praising Him, but it something for which we thank God in our sharing of Him – in our sharing the gospel with others.

There are a lot of people in our communities who are searching, people who are looking for completeness.  There are many people in our neighborhoods, at school, at our workplaces, and in the marketplace this week who may be captured by some other teaching, people who are searching for meaning; people yearning for completeness.

Let’s share this good news about being “full-filled” in Christ!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Not Incomplete!

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

2JulySome years ago I heard about a beautiful castle in Europe, a castle that one could see if sailing towards it from the North Sea.  And the way I remember hearing about this particular castle was that it was such an impressive sight when you saw it from a distance.  Approaching by ship and sailing towards the castle, the structure took one’s breath away – towering majestically over the coastline, tall and magnificent in appearance.  It seemed to have a sort of spellbinding affect on those who saw it and it drew onlookers closer to it for a greater appreciation of its beauty.

But then, as one sailed closer to the castle—close enough to see it for what it truly was—the castle disappointed because it turned out to be nothing more an empty shell of an edifice; just a facade, impressive on the outside at first glance from a distance, but upon closer scrutiny, offering little more than emptiness.

In Colossians 2:8-10, the Apostle Paul warns against a kind of teaching that may well be attractive and impressive when we first look at it; a teaching that seems to promise so much but, upon closer inspection, is revealed to be nothing more than an empty shell of a philosophy, a teaching empty of any real meaning or power.

Let’s learn as we study these verses together:

Be Watchful for what Captures You

Verse 8 says, “Beware (or, watchful) lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” The word “Beware” or “Be watchful” means: “to look at; direct one’s attention to something, watch, beware, be on guard; The idea is “look out – guard yourself from this.”  It is a command for a constant watchfulness, because of the dangers lurking at every corner.    The word “cheat” means to “capture” or “take away” as in “taking away the spoils of war,” or “taking an enemy captive.”  That no one takes you captive—seizing upon you and carrying you away by false teaching, teaching he describes as

Paul is concerned that the Christians in Colossae may be captured and carried away by the unbiblical teachings of false teachers.  In the original language there is an article preceding the word “philosophy” so that literally the text reads, “the philosophy.”  When Paul says, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through the philosophy,” he is referring to what the false teachers called their special brand of teaching.

That is important because Paul certainly is not saying that there is no value whatsoever in philosophy, in general.  He is not saying you cannot go to school and major or minor in philosophy.  Philosophy in general has much to commend.  Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle have taught us much and continue to teach us much.  Paul’s own use of philosophically sound thinking, reasoning, and logic permeate his New Testament letters.

At the same time, however . . .

Philosophy cannot

By itself

Lead one

To love God,

Live for God,

Or worship God.

The philosophers of the Enlightenment period of history tried to understand God by pure reason alone – and this is the ultimate failing of the Enlightenment thinkers.

Apart from the gifting of God’s Spirit,

Man cannot fully understand

Or love the One True God of the Bible.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:9, , “No eye has seen, nor has any ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

The understanding of spiritual truth

Is a gift of God’s grace,

The impartation of heavenly wisdom

That human wisdom alone cannot attain.

Human philosophy, while good and helpful . . .

Is insufficient to bring us

To a full understanding of God,

Nor does human philosophy

Equip us with the ability

To know God in a deep,

Personal, and intimate way.

Human philosophy in and of itself

Cannot save souls; cannot forgive sinners.

That is what Paul has in mind in the word “the philosophy” in verse 8 – The principles taught by false teachers in Colossae, a teaching that maintained it was not enough for a person merely to have Christ.  The false teaching suggested that one could attain to an even higher experience, a higher wisdom, that was found only in their mysterious teachings, including the false teaching that eventually came to be known as Gnosticism.  Paul describes this particular brand of teaching as that which is “empty” and “deceitful.”  It is empty, rather than full.  It is empty of the true riches of Christ (Colossians 1:27) and empty of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).

So . . .

Christians need to beware of

Any teaching or any human reasoning

That suggests that we need something more

Than that which Christ provides.

To embrace such teaching would be to be captured or carried away by these teachers, carried away from one’s freedom in Christ only to be enslaved by empty false teachings.

The phrase, “the tradition of men” in verse 8 suggests a man-made teaching that does not cohere with “God-made” teaching.  The phrase suggests teaching that is outside the realm of Scripture; unbiblical teachings.  The tradition of men suggests teachings man added to the Christian faith as though Christ Himself were insufficient for the Christian experience.

If you’ll allow for a rather rough and simple analogy, it’s a bit like the additives one uses in cooking that ruins the nutritional value of the natural product.  Green vegetables, for example, are good for us.  But when you cover up those green vegetables with a batter of cornmeal and fry them up in a pan full of oil they’re no longer as good for you as they once were (though admittedly tasty!).

Fruit is the same.  Fruit by itself is a good thing and good for you, but when you pour mounds of milk chocolate over that fruit, it is no longer as healthy for you as it once was.  An apple by itself is nutritious.  Dip in a tempting batch of caramel and you have now added something to it and mixed something with it so that it is no longer as good for you as it once was.

So, taking that which is good for you and adding the ingredients of oil, chocolate, caramel, or sugar is to dilute that which is good of its nutrients, thereby destroying its benefits.

See the connection?

You are complete in Christ.  To add something else to Christ or to say that something else is needed, is to take that which is good for you – indeed that which is absolutely essential to your spiritual health – and suggest more is needed in order to be really healthy.  Mixing in the ingredients of false teachings is to take that which is absolutely indispensable to sound, spiritual health – The gospel of Jesus Christ – and dilute it of its nutrients, destroying it of its benefits.

Remember from yesterday’s post that Paul said Christians are to be “rooted and built up in Him and established [or strengthened] in the faith,” rooted in the true teachings of Christianity, strengthened by the Word of God, able to stand firm and unmovable when faced with the winds of false doctrine, rooted not like a flimsy flower, a pansy, but rooted like a box holly, a strong evergreen that remains vibrant through all seasons of life.

Such strength comes only by

Knowing Christ and being

Rooted in His teachings,

Knowing the Bible

And living the Bible.

Notice another important principle in verse 8, the phrase, “according to the basic principles of the world.”  Some of the translations think the word “principles” should be translated “spirits.”  We really do not know for sure which Paul has in mind.  The original word could go either way.  It could be translated as basic (or elementary) “principles” or elementary “spirits.”  The word describes a number of items lined “in a row,” like letters or numbers: ABC or 1234, or the ordering things like planets and stars.

It may be that Paul has in mind, then, the kind of thing that is so popular today: looking to forces aligning the stars; the ordering of the stars, looking to them the way astrology buffs look, placing one’s faith in the reading of a daily horoscope; placing faith in powers and forces that are in opposition to Christ, demonic forces and powers.

One of the reasons we do not know precisely which false teaching Paul has in mind is because he never really names it.  So. it’s probably wise that we not spend much time trying to figure it out here.  If the apostle does not find it necessary to call it out by name, we will not try either.  His method, of course, suggests that . . .

The best way to counter

That which is false

Is not so much

By knowing exhaustively

That which is false

But by knowing exhaustively

That which is true.

What is most significant for us to understand is what Paul says lastly in verse 8.  He says that these teachings are “not according to Christ.” 

Christians must beware of any

Teaching or any human reasoning

That suggests one needs something

More than that which Christ provides.

Beware lest anyone capture you, pull you away, from the freedom you enjoy, enslaving you to a form of reasoning or religion that is not according to Christ.  Judaism, for example, does not embrace Jesus as a person in whom dwells all the fullness of God in bodily form.  Judaism is largely a religion that is “not according to Christ.”

The false teaching of Islam is another.  Islam is a religion which was not in existence in Paul’s day, coming over 500 years later.  Islam believes in a Jesus called the Christ, but not a Jesus in whom the fulness of the godhead dwells bodily.  Jesus is believed by adherents of Islam to be a prophet, but merely a prophet, and a man insufficient to save one from your sin.  Do not be captivated by the false and empty teaching of Islam.  It is a teaching that is “not according to Christ.”

The naturalistic teachings of humanism and the anti-supernatural teachings of Darwinian evolution – these are teachings that are “not according to Christ,” not according to the One by whom (recall Colossians 1:16-17) “all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth…all things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”  Beware lest anyone capture you away through false teachings.

Be watchful for what captures you, teachings that are “not according to Christ,” things you may read in books whose teachings are at odds with the Scriptures, be watchful so as not to be captured by the false teachings packaged in a secular documentary you view on the History Channel.  There is nothing wrong with watching such a documentary – much can be learned by doing so – but remember that many documentaries are predicated upon an anti-supernatural worldview.  So be watchful for what captures you.

Are there other teachings that are “not according to Christ?”  Yes!  We will discuss those in tomorrow’s post.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Treasures In Christ

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

2July One memorable movie of the 1980s is film “St. Elmo’s Fire” with Andrew McCarthy as Kevin Dolenz.  McCarthy’s character is an obituary writer obsessed with discovering the meaning of life.  Throughout the movie he is forever asking others, “What is the meaning of life?” As I recall, his perpetual sullenness while pursuing the answer was at times annoying to the other characters.  Fortunately for Dolenz, he apparently learns something of the answer as he publishes an article on the topic, proudly displaying his name in the byline.

The search for “the meaning of life” is a common pursuit of reflective people.  We want to know whether life has any real meaning – and what the “next life” holds, if there is such a thing.  We want to experience the fullness of our existence.

In Colossians 2:1-7, Paul, as he writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, teaches that the meaning of life is bound up in Jesus Christ.  He suggests that if one were to go searching for the riches of ultimate meaning and significance, he would find in Christ “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Verse 3).

As we study the passage in today’s blog, let’s remember that Paul is writing this letter mainly to address false teachings that were going on in the church at Colossae.  There were teachers there who had been influenced by a brand of Greek philosophy that was becoming popular in that day.  Much of this Greek thinking centered upon the notion of mystery and secret, hidden knowledge or meaning.

These false teachers suggested to the Christians in Colossae that . .

It was one thing to have Christ, But

If one really wanted to grow in Christ

And really wanted to experience

Profound spiritual blessings,

Then there was something that needed

To be added to Christ;

Something to supplement their faith.

Their teaching was, in essence:

“You have Christ and that’s good,

But listen now to our secret teachings

And you will have so much more.”

Paul counters that false teaching with the truth that . . .

Every Christian has all

That he or she needs

In Christ Jesus.

And in writing this letter, Paul uses some of the false teacher’s same words in refuting their teachings.  That’s why he writes of Christ as the “mystery.”

Remember that word from yesterday’s blog?  The mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27).  And the point is, “There is no secret knowledge a Christian needs or some hidden mystery the Christian must solve.  Christ is the preeminent One, the source and substance of all knowledge.”

In essence, Paul says . .

1) Know What You Have In Christ.

What do you have in Christ?  What does every Christian possess?  All the glorious riches of Christ!  Paul says in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  In a word: “everything.”  You have everything in Christ.

In fact, in Paul’s sister letter, the letter to the Ephesians, he describes this same “mystery” as the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).  Unsearchable riches!  In other words . . .

There is no end to the storehouse

Of blessings and treasures in Christ.

They are endless; boundless.

As chapter 2 begins, you can really see the heart of the apostle as he is at pains to teach this completeness of the believer in Christ:

In verse 1 he says, “For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh (met me personally).”  Note the word “conflict.”  It is the same word translated “striving” in the previous verse, verse 29 of chapter 1.  It is the word from which we get our English, “agony,” to agonize.  In essence, Paul says, “I am in agony for you all as I write to you!  I’m really wanting you to know that you have everything you need in Christ.”  

Someone has suggested that Paul may just as likely have said something like, “You know, when Epaphras shared with me about the church there, about what was going on, and about how some of these teachers got into the congregation there at Colossae and began teaching that you needed to add things to your belief in Christ, may heart just broke for you.” Paul is agonizing over the Christians.  He’s saying, “I just want to encourage you to know what you have in Christ.”  He’s wanting to encourage all the believers in Colossae:

Verse 2 goes on to say, “That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ.”  That last phrase is best translated as “to the knowledge of the mystery of God, which is Christ Himself.”  That’s how most of the modern translations have it and we know already from verse 27 that Christ Himself is the mystery.

The profound revelation of God

To the believer is “Christ in you,”

A personal knowledge of God,

And a personal relationship with God,

That comes by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ.

Paul writes to encourage the Colossians, desiring also that their hearts are “knit together in love.”  Imagine yourself an individual strand of fabric.  Your fellow Christian believers are also strands of fabric; a bunch of individual strands.  Paul seeks to weave all believers together in unity.  He seeks to weave all these strands together into a beautiful quilt with fantastic color, order, and symmetry.  What can knit all Christians together as one beautiful quilt?  Love – “being knit together in love.”

Love is what keeps a congregation together.  As Neil Sedaka wrote in the 70s, “Love will keep us together!”  Paul doesn’t like the fact that some false teachers have worked to not keep the congregation together.  Their false teachings had fractioned the church and divided the church.  Paul is teaching that there is not one “select” group of folks in the church who have some sort of “hidden knowledge.”  He says . . .

Every person

Who has Christ,

Has everything.

Verses says, “In whom (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  One scholar describes it this way: “Hidden not in the sense of being utterly beyond our reach, but rather as treasures in a mine which has already been opened, and from which by diligent search a constant supply of precious stones may be extracted.”  Paul wants his readers to know what they have in Christ!  Every believer has in Christ “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  And it is this knowing what you have that propels you forward in joy and thanksgiving.

Paul describes the ultimate consequence of our knowing what we have at the end of verse 7 where he says it causes the Christian to “abound in thanksgiving.”

When we know what we have in Christ

It just causes our hearts to overflow

In gratitude and thanksgiving,

Causing us to bless others

With the love we ourselves have received.

2) Know What You Believe About Christ.

Paul reminds the Christians what they have in Christ so that they are not deceived by false teachers telling them they don’t have everything they need. Verse 4 says, “Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.”  To be deceived is “to be led to believe something as true that is not true.”  And . . .

How can we keep ourselves

From believing something

That is not true?

By knowing what is true!

Knowing what we believe.

Knowing the Bible.

Verse 5 says, “For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”  Paul is saying, “Though I can’t be with you physically, I am with you spiritually.”  And he adds, “I rejoice to see your good order and,” – and this is a great phrase at the end of verse 5 – “and the steadfastness of your faith.”  The word “steadfastness” is better translated, “firmness”  It is the same word used by Luke as a verb where he describes the strengthening of the paralytic’s leg outside the temple gate (Acts 3:7).

Paul celebrates . . .

The strengthening of their faith,

The “firmness” of their faith.

How does our faith become firm?

By knowing what we believe.

By the teaching of sound doctrine, correct theology.

 Remember that right theology is absolutely critical to our lives.

Right thinking leads to right living.

3) Know How You Live For Christ.

Verse 6 declares, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”  The majority of the translations have verse 6 as, “Live in Him,” or, “Go on living in Him.”  That’s because the word “walk” in the Bible is often used metaphorically for “living.”

Your Christian “walk”

Is

The way you live your faith.

This is at least as old as Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”

Know how you live for Christ.  You have “received Christ Jesus the Lord (verse 6).”

Remember that “Lord” means “Ruler, The One in charge.”  He is more important to the Christian than spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, job, sport, money, and stuff.  He is Lord.  So, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”  So live in Him.

Verse 7 tells us how we are to live in him, “Rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”  We must be “rooted and built up” in the faith so that we are not easily uprooted or broken down.  When I was in college I worked for a landscaping company in the growing Atlanta area.  There’s no telling how many begonias I planted or how many mums or pansies.  Those pansies, in particular, were so feeble and frail.  You could plant those little annuals in a flower bed and all it took was one rain, or one strong gust of wind, or one clumsy foot to knock those little things over on their side.  You’d pick them back up and try to plant them again, but there’s hardly any root system to those things; just like a few tiny strings.

Contrast the root system of those pansies with the root system of box hollies, like the ones someone planted in a customer’s yard.  They had been there for over 40 years ago.  The owner tried killing one of those hollies.  He took a pickax to it and struck it over and over again, chopping up its hard roots into small pieces and covering it all up with dirt.  But by the following spring he began to see little tiny holly leaves growing up out of the soil.  A box holly is not easily uprooted!

What Paul is says is . . .

Don’t be a fragile,

Tiny pansy of a Christian.

Don’t be someone

With no “root system”

Of biblical knowledge.

Never be satisfied

With a small, infantile grasp

Of the first teachings

of the Christian faith.

Grow Deep And Grow Strong!

Get in the Word.  Know what you have, and what you believe, and then you will know how to live.  You will be a hardy, sturdy, unmovable, box holly that cannot be easily uprooted.  When someone tries to sell you on some sort of false teaching, you’ll recognize it right away as error.  And you will remain firm in the faith.

And when the winds blow and the storms of life come your way, and the difficulties and dangers of living in a fallen world strike at you like a pickax to the wood of a hardy shrub, you will not be defeated.  You will remain firm in Christ.  You will be living in the fulness of “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” that are ours in Christ.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Key To Life

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

30JuneThe preeminence of Jesus Christ is both a fact and the key to experiencing true life.   Lasting peace, joy, purpose, fulfillment, satisfaction, and meaning are found exclusively in Him.  This is a truth stressed over and over in Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  And it is a truth especially highlighted in Colossians 1:24-29.  God makes His home in the Christian.  He “takes up residence” in the Christian’s body and soul.  He dwells within believers.  Are you a believer?  Then Christ is in you.  And “Christ in you” is the key to everything.

It is . . .

1) The Key to Suffering in Life.

Like other Christians, Paul was persecuted for his faith and had suffered hardships.  He suffered economic hardships and relational hardships.  He was ostracized, beaten, and ridiculed.  He suffered physically and emotionally as a Christian and yet, he says in verse 24, “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.” 

Before we talk about how Paul can rejoice in his sufferings, let’s consider the often misunderstood phrase “and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.”   Some have taken this phrase to mean that Paul is talking about something lacking in Christ’s suffering on our behalf.  Others have used this verse to teach the unbiblical idea of penance or even punishing oneself for sin because Christ’s suffering on the cross was seen as somehow lacking.

The notion of Christ’s suffering on the cross as somehow insufficient is totally contrary to the entire teaching of the New Testament.  We have previously noted that Paul’s main point in this letter is . . .

That the Christian is complete in Christ.

Christ in you is the key to everything.

This verse is not teaching that Christ’s sufferings on our behalf lacked something; that we needed something else to atone for our sin.  In fact, the Greek word for suffering in verse 24 is never once used in the entire New Testament to describe Christ’s sufferings in His atonement for us.  Rather, Paul is teaching that . . .

Christians – The church – will suffer.

If you are a believer, then you will suffer

Similar hardships to that of the apostle.

It is what our Lord Jesus promised in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation,” you will suffer.

So this phrase, “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” is Paul’s teaching that . . .

The suffering endured by the church

– The body of Christ – continues.

Christ suffered once for all time

In His physical body and He is now

At the right hand of the Father.

The church here on earth

Is the meaning of the word

“Body” in this context.

The church continues to suffer

And endure hardships here.

Paul adds in verse 25 that it is this church, “Of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God.”  Paul was divinely commissioned to serve as a minister.  God called him to preach the gospel and to plant churches.

He suffered as a Christian minister, enduring hardships and difficulties as he went about the ministry of proclaiming the Word of God.  And yet, he says in verse 24, “I now rejoice in my sufferings.”  How can he rejoice?  Because Christ lives in Him: “Christ in you, the hope of glory (verse 27).”

That Christ was in him was a fact

He was experiencing presently

And a fact that

He would enjoy forever.

And this is a fact that

He is proclaiming to others.

Consider that Paul’s sufferings were the means God was using to bless other people with the gospel.  That is clear given what Paul is saying in verse 25.  So, make the connection:

If Paul’s sufferings were the means God used

To bless others and bring glory to Himself

– How does God intend to work through

Your sufferings to bless others and glorify Himself?

When you go through hardships and difficulties for Christ, would you not be encouraged knowing that your sufferings served a greater purpose?  Would it not be encouraging to you if you knew that your sufferings for Christ would be the very means God was using to bring a loved one to faith in Christ?  Would you be encouraged to know that your sufferings may well lead to somebody else’s being blessed by the ministry of Jesus?

There is no suffering

Of yours that is wasted.

No suffering is meaningless

One of the keys to getting through suffering or enduring suffering is to know that God is at work through our suffering.  He works to make us more holy through our suffering.

James taught a similar truth in James 1;2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, the ability to stand, and let endurance have its complete work so that you may be complete, lacking nothing.”  Paul teaches here in Colossians 1 that . . .

Another way God works

Through our suffering

Is to spread the Good News,

To spread the gospel.

If you’re a Christian, one day you will be in heaven and imagine Jesus taking you around and showing you people who came to faith in Christ largely as a result of your suffering.

2) The Key to Meaning in Life.

“Christ in you” is the key to the very meaning of your existence.  Paul describes this notion of Christ in us as a mystery in verse 26, “The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.”  The word “mystery” is not “mystery” like we usually think of it.  It does not mean something like a detective show where you have to figure out who committed the crime (the more clues you are given the easier it is to identify the person).  The word “mystery” as used in verse 26 is a word that describes a thing that was once concealed but now revealed.  It was there all along; you just could not see it fully figure it out with your own reasoning and deductive ability.

I usually think of my experience in looking for something in the refrigerator.  I’m making nachos so I’ve got the chips and the cheese and I open the fridge door and I’m looking for the jalapeño peppers and I know we’ve got some, but I don’t see them.  And I look and look and look, but I can’t see them.  My wife comes over and immediately points them out.  They were there all along, I just couldn’t see them.

In a way, that’s a bit like Paul’s use of the term mystery here.

He is describing something God has done,

But it is something that could not

Be fully seen until God revealed it later,

Revealing it “to His saints,” to believers.

Paul adds in verse 27, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is – (and now here it is; the thing nobody could see until God revealed it) – Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

The mystery, the thing nobody could have anticipated or discover on their own, was that . . .

GOD WOULD LIVE IN US WHO BELIEVE!

This is the key to real meaning in life.  Christ lives in the believer and guarantees the believer’s future in heaven.  Christ in you – the hope of glory.  Remember that New Testament hope is . . .

A fact, an assurance, a guarantee.

You could just as well say,

“Christ in you; the fact of

Your future existence;

The hope, the guarantee

Of your future forever in heaven.

Why are you living?  You live physically for maybe 80 or 90 years.  If that’s all you’ve got, what good is that?  Your life is a vapor, here today, and gone in a moment (James 4:14).  If all you are living for is this life, you’re wasting your life.  If you are crossing your fingers and hoping there’s some kind of life after death and you are just kind of taking your chances, you are wasting your life.  The glorious good news of the Gospel is “Christ in you, the hope of glory!”

There is no news greater when a Christian loved one dies than to know that Christian is now in heaven.  We can say, “Praise God for Jesus, the hope of glory!”  Our loved one is in heaven.  Are you headed there?

But the gospel is not just about the hereafter,

But about the here now.

Living in the here now is shaped

By the truth of the hereafter.

Christ died for you that

He might live in you.

Christians live their lives

In the truth that God lives within them

And empowers them for every work

He calls us to do.

Have you ever sensed that God was working in you and through you as you shared the gospel with someone?  As you talked to someone about Jesus?  As you prayed, as you read the Bible?  You sense the presence of God!

Christ DIED FOR you

That He might

LIVE IN you

As Jesus said in Matthew 10:20, “It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”  Christ in you, the key to everything.  The key to suffering in life and the key to meaning in life.  One more:

3) The Key to Growing in Life.

Every true Christian is growing.

Paul writes in verses 28-29, “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect (or complete) in Christ Jesus.  To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.”  For Paul  . .  .

It was not enough that

The Colossians had accepted Jesus Christ

As their personal Lord and Savior.

That was not enough.

That was just the

Beginning of their experience.

He reminds Christians that there

Is so much more to learn.

The ultimate goal of ministry is “to present every man perfect (complete) in Christ Jesus.”  That includes “warning” and “teaching,” and doing this “in all wisdom.”

Coming to faith in Christ is just the beginning.  We go on growing in all wisdom.  God intends to grow us all, and to make us look more and more like Jesus with each passing day.

One reason you attend worship services and small group Bible Studies is to consider the “warning” and the “teaching” of the Word “in all wisdom” that you may grow into completion.

In verse 29, Paul describes Christian growth as hard work, “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.”  The word “striving” is the word from which we get “to agonize.”  It is the picture of an athlete running, or competing, and everything in him tells him to quit.  But he digs down deeper and says, “I’m not going to stop!  I’m gonna push through.”  

It’s much like Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  Just like Paul we must strive forward as we grow.  Don’t stop.  Push through.  Don’t get comfortable in your Christianity and just rejoice in the victories.  Keep pushing.  Keep sharing the Gospel, keep growing, keep running.  And don’t stop in the face of your failures.  Push through past failures.

Feel like you have failed the Lord recently?  Who doesn’t?!  Battling sin and temptation?   Who doesn’t?!  Push through.  Dig down deep and keep moving.  Remember the key: Christ in you, the hope of glory!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Reconciled Through Christ!

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

29Jun  We are continuing our verse-by-verse study of Colossians.  We come to a delightful and succinct statement on reconciliation in Colossians 1:19-23.  The dictionary defines “rec·on·cile” (ˈrekənˌsīl / verb past tense: reconciled; past participle: reconciled) as restore friendly relations between. “she wanted to be reconciled with her father.”  What does it mean that God “reconciles” Christians to Himself?  And how exactly does this all work?  The verses we are going to look at today tell us.  Reconciliation comes . . .

1) By The Cross.

Verse 19 says, “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell.”  This verse is very similar to a verse Paul pens later in Chapter 2 verse 9, For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”  This truth is absolutely wonderful to consider!   Everything that is God dwells within Jesus Christ.  Everything.

The word “fullness” indicates that God literally “fills up” Jesus with everything that is essentially God.  The essence of God is in Christ Jesus.  Jesus is not only fully man, He is fully God.  This is why Paul can later say that every Christian is “complete” in Him (Colossians 2:10).  We need nothing else added to Christ in order to be reconciled to God and to be accepted by Him.

Verse 20 states, “And by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross”  Here is why sinful humanity is able to be reconciled to God, because Jesus Christ the “God-Man” is the means by which man approaches through faith.

As God “enfleshed,” Jesus Christ is perfectly righteous and that righteousness is credited to those who believe in Him.  And Jesus Christ is also the perfect substitutionary sacrifice, dying on the cross not for His sins – He had none – but for ours, “having made peace through the blood of His cross.”

Verse 21 continues by saying, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled.”  Yes, we once were “alienated and enemies” of God.  Because of sin, our mind was infused with thoughts of natural rebellion against our Creator – even if we were unaware of this.

The consequence of this reconciliation is that we are . . .

2) In The Clear.

As rightful Judge of all His creation, God rightly considers us guilty in His presence.    Yet, in His grace – HIS grace (!), He has made a way for us to be considered “not guilty;” reconciled to Him; able to stand in His presence.

Verse 22 shows us how this is done, “In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”

There it is . . .

Through the work of the cross . . .

Jesus has made a way for us

To be in the clean, changed,

And in the clear.

Paul writes that it is through Christ’s death that God has worked “to present you holy, blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”  Simply put, God is declaring that now He has reconciled us to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body.  As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault.

Isn’t that fantastic?!

Even though we are sinners,

If we believe in Jesus Christ,

God actually regards us as NOT sinners.

God thinks of our sins as completely forgiven that we may be “blameless” before Him and “above reproach in His sight.”  I love that, don’t you?

God can not look at me

Without seeing Jesus Christ first.

Because I have accepted Jesus

As my Savior and Lord,

God sees me “in Christ.”

God sees my sins

As imputed to

(Or charged to)

Christ.

And God sees

Christ’s righteousness

As covering

Me completely.

Do I need anything else other than my faith in Christ?  No!  We are COMPLETE in Him (Colossians 2:9).

We sing of this often in the traditional hymn:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

And:

When He shall come with trumpet sound
Oh may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne

Faultless to stand before the throne – not on account of my own righteousness, but His – dressed in His righteousness alone.

But wait!  Reconciliation means so much more.  Because of what Jesus Christ has done, reconciliation is . . .

3) To Be Continued.

The blessing of knowing our sins are forgiven and that we stand “faultless” before the throne of God comes only to those who “continue in the faith.”

Verse 23 states, “If indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”  The way Paul writes this verse does not mean that there is any doubt that true believers will, indeed, continue believing.  They will!    But not all who say they are Christians are really Christians.  Some may only be affiliated with Christianity, or are church members who have never been saved.

Those who “continue in the faith” are those who are “grounded and steadfast.”  This verse is reminiscent of our Lord Jesus’ teaching at the conclusion of His “Sermon on the Mount.”  Recall His contrast between the man who built his house upon the sand and the man who built his house upon the rock in Matthew 7:24-27, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.  But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell.  And great was its fall.”

Those who build their lives upon the Word of God will “continue in the faith,” persevering until that final day when they stand “faultless” and “blameless” before the One and Only Supreme Judge of the universe.

To quote again the hymn lyric:

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Jesus: First and Foremost

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

26June Ever had baklava?  If you have you know that baklava is a Greek pastry divinely rich and sweet in flavor.  And one of the reasons it is so good is that it is made of numerous layers of Filo dough.  It is layer after layer of almost paper-thin Filo, separated with melted butter and finely chopped nuts.  It is baked and then a syrup with includes honey and other spices is poured over the baklava and allowed to soak in.  It is finally garnished with cloves.  Sounds good, right?!

I thought of Baklava as I read this section in Colossians 1, because again, this passage – which really goes from verse 15 through verse 23 – is arguably the most concise and tightly compacted teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ – layer after layer of rich teaching of Christ’s glories; highly concentrated teachings, about the deity of Christ. His Person and His work, who He is and what He has done.

Today we will study it together in Colossians 1:15-18 and learn about the Bible truth about the preeminence of Jesus Christ, His superiority over all things.

Jesus Is Lord Of Creation.

This is an unmistakable primary teaching of Paul’s here in the opening verses.  Verse 15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”  The word “image” there is the Greek word “eikon” from which we get our computer term, “icon.”  It means “copy” or “likeness.”  You click on a computer icon and it takes you to the file you want to see.  The icon is a representation of the fulness of the file you desire to see. And in a way, Jesus is like that computer icon.  To “click on” Jesus is to “click on” God Himself.  He is the One who makes God visible.

The Bible says in John 1:18, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (or made Him known).”  Jesus says that to look on Him is to see God Himself.  As He said in John14:9, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”

As someone said . . .

“Jesus is the human face of God.”

The term “firstborn” in this context does not refer to physical birth, while the term can take that meaning it other contexts.  But that meaning here is an impossibility given what Paul goes on to say about Jesus’ being the very One through whom all things were created.  If you are the one creating all things, then you yourself are not among the “all things” created!

This is the error of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They believe wrongly that Jesus was created by God.  But again, if you are the one creating all things, you yourself cannot be among the all things created.

No, the term “firstborn” here takes on a different meaning.  “Firstborn” in this context refers . . .

To rank – The highest rank

– Or preeminence,

The preeminence of one’s position;

The rights and privileges

That belong to a person,

Like the son of a king for example.

The king’s son who will succeed the king may well be the firstborn son, first born chronologically – or he may not.  A ruling monarch passes on certain rights and privileges to whichever son he chooses.

And note again in verse 15 the tiny word, “over.”  Jesus is the firstborn not “of” all creation, but “over” all creation.  He is Lord over all creation.

Verse 16 declares, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”  Many people don’t realize that everything was created through the eternal Son of God.  John opens his gospel this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

Recall the eternal nature of the Son of God:

There never was a time

That the Son was not.

He has always been.

Now there was a time when Jesus was not, but there has never been a time the Son of God was not.  He has always existed.  What happened 2,000 years ago was that the eternal Son of God took on humanity, took on flesh in Jesus Christ. God “incarnated” Himself.

That’s what we sing at Christmastime:

Clothed in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity!

God the Son has always existed.  He is the second Person of the Holy Trinity.

God is One in three Persons.

One in essence, three in personhood –

Each person different in role or function,

Yet with no separation of essence.

“Essence” describes “what” someone is, while “person” describes “who” someone is.  When it comes to God there is one “what” and three “whos.”

Jesus IS God.  Don’t believe for a moment secular university or liberal professors who tell you that the deity of Christ is something the early church really didn’t believe and that it came about much later. Colossians was written in AD 60-62, just 30 years after Christ rose from the dead.  How can we be so sure?  Remember our introductory post about the earthquake that destroyed Colossae?  That earthquake occurred around AD 60-62 and destroyed everything.

Think this through: Paul is not writing a letter to a church that isn’t there.  It stands to reason that he is writing this letter sometime before the earthquake, which means he is writing just 30 years after Christ rose from the dead.  Many people who witnessed the resurrection were still living as he wrote these words just 30 years after the resurrection: “He is the image of the invisible God…and by Him all things were created.”  Jesus is the agent of creation.  He created all things including all the various categories of angels.   That’s the meaning of the phrase in verse 16, “thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.”  Jesus created everything in heaven, including the heavenly angels.

The false teachers in Colossae were teaching the worship of angels.  You will note that heresy is mentioned specifically by Paul in the next chapter, Chapter 2, verse 18, “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels,” and so on.

Some teachers apparently even suggested that Jesus was among the angels.  So Paul is like, “Look, Jesus is not on equal footing with the heavenly angels, He CREATED the heavenly angels!  He is preeminent, first & foremost in everything; vastly superior OVER His creation, including the angels!”

Jesus is both the agent of all creation

And the goal of all creation.

Paul says at the end of verse 16, “All things were created through Him and for Him.”

When it comes to creation,

Jesus Christ is the primary cause

(He planned it),

The instrumental cause

(He produced it),

And the final cause

(He did it for His own pleasure).

Verse 17 states, “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”  He is “before” all things, again a reminder to us of the eternal nature of the Son of God.  He has always been.  There never was a time when the Son of God was not.  He is before all things and “in Him all things consist.”  That word “consist” literally means “to hold together.”  Jesus holds all things together.  We sing that truth when we sing “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

Despite the fear of many political ideologues, you can’t destroy the planet!  He’s got it.  In Him all things consist.  He keeps everything going; He holds everything together; maintains the order of all things.  In the words of one scholar: “He keeps the COSMOS from becoming a CHAOS.”

Jesus Is Lord Of The Church.

Verse 18 says, “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”  Jesus is “the head of the body, the church.”  He is the leader of the church.  Not the pastor.  Not the deacons.  Not this committee or that committee.  He is the head of the body.

Every local church is HIS church.  He is the leader.  A pastor is not even shepherd of the flock as much as he is the under-shepherd.  He is under the shepherding and direction of the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible also says that Jesus is, “The firstborn from the dead.”  Firstborn here indicates chronology.  Jesus is the first chronologically – first in time – first of many more to come.  The point?  Simply this:

Jesus was raised from the dead.

And those who believe in Him

Will also rise from the dead.

Paul is here writing primarily about spiritual resurrection.  If you turn from your sin and turn to Christ, you will rise from the dead.  This truth is guaranteed by Christ’s resurrection.  Apart from Christ we are dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1).  The Holy Spirit works upon us through the power of the Gospel and we are granted the ability to say, “Yes” to Jesus, and when we say, “Yes” to Jesus we rise from the dead.

Like Jesus who was raised from the grave never to die again, so by faith we rise never to die again.  Christ’s physical resurrection is the source of our spiritual resurrection, and one day He will be the source of our physical resurrection too!

So What Does It All Mean?

Since this is true: “in all things He may have the preeminence,” we need to ask the question: Is Jesus Christ first and foremost in the “all things” of my life?

1) First in my Marriage or Singleness.

Do you love Him more than even your spouse – or your desire for a spouse?  If you love Christ more than anyone or anything, He will give you a greater love for those closest to you.  The closer a husband and wife get to Jesus, the closer they get to each other.

2) First in my Job.

Paul will go on to say in Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for mere human men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  He is first in your job – Work for Him and watch the way it changes your job.

3) First in my Possessions.

Do your purchases go through Christ first?  Do you “run it by” Him?  Do you hold on to your possessions lightly, willing to let them go if He directs you?

4) First in my Decisions.

who you are hanging with; what you are putting in your mind; what you are watching; what you are listening to; what you are doing with your body.

Why is this so important?  Because Colossians 3:4 tells us that it is “Christ Who Is Our Life.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Delivered From Darkness, Walking In Light

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

25JuneEveryone understands what it is like to walk in the dark.  You get up in the middle of the night, for example, and try to walk across the bedroom, but you can’t see anything.  You bump around in the darkness and try to feel your way along the wall or furniture.  You might even stub your toe!  But if someone turns a switch on and light floods the room, then you can see and you walk easily to where you want to go.  Then – and only then – is everything clear.

Spiritually, apart from Christ we “bump around in the night.”  We are trying to feel our way around, trying to make sense of what we think we can see.  We are just in the dark, but then God turns the switch on through the power of the Gospel.  He floods the room of our lives with the light of truth.  Now we can see.  Things are clearer now and we can sing, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” 

Paul talks about this very truth in Colossians 1:9-14.  But . . .

He begins first by writing about

How Christians may grow

In their sanctification.

It is important that we know and understand what Paul is talking about when he uses this big word.  It is a word that talks about a two-fold process of growing in our faith.

Sanctification is simply a process of growth.

That’s what that word means.

To speak of our growth in Christ

Is to speak of our sanctification,

The process of becoming

More sanctified, More like Christ.

Sanctification is related to another word, the word “justification.” 

Justification is not a process;

Justification is a point in time,

A one-time event.

It occurs just once.

To be justified

Is to be declared

“Not guilty” by the Judge

Of the Universe, by God.

We were once guilty but, because of Christ and our belief in Him, God justifies us; He declares us righteous, regarding us as no longer guilty of our sin.  We are justified–completely.

Unlike justification, sanctification is never complete in this life.  While sin no longer reigns in our lives, sin remains and we battle that sin throughout our lifetime – but we battle from a position of strength.

We have all the resources we need to defeat sin and to grow in our Christian living and become more and more like our Lord.

Sanctification Involves Learning.

Verse 9 says, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”  The word “knowledge” there is a derivative of the Greek word “Gnosis,” from which comes “Gnosticism.”  I mentioned “Gnosticism” very briefly in an earlier post.  I know that word sounds strange.  We don’t hear it talked about much today.  But it is important for our study because it is a false teaching that was beginning to take shape in Paul’s day.

Think of Gnosticism as . . .

A belief in Christ, with other beliefs added to it.

This is a false teaching that said that

To have Jesus was not everything.

False teachers were

Peddling the idea that,

“Jesus is good, yes, but

You need more than Jesus.”

The idea was that you needed

Additional knowledge, deeper truth.

Paul will go on to address this false teaching more fully in chapter 2 verses 8 to 10 where he writes, “Beware lest anyone spoil you (or cheat you so as to plunder you of your riches) through philosophy and vain deceit, for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (all, there is no “Jesus plus other stuff”) and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”

Paul is already addressing this false teaching in chapter 1 verse 9 where he writes, “We are asking God that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”  In other words, “You’ve already got the true gospel.  We’re simply praying that you would be filled with the truth you already have.”  The Bible teaches that you receive the saving truth of the Gospel as a complete gift.  It is like a gift-wrapped present and everything is included.

But . . .

You have got to go on learning

About the gift you possess.

It is like opening up that gift

And looking it over and studying it,

And learning more and more

About this precious gift you have received.

Think of the Bible as the “Instruction Manual” that tells you all about the gift you have gotten.  It tells you what it is and how it all works.  So you read through the Instruction Manual of God’s Word and you learn all about the God’s will for you and how to grow in wisdom and spiritual understanding.

Paul is saying, “You already have the truth.  Don’t let false teachers tell you that you need something else.  You have the truth so I am praying that you will be filled with the truth,” that is . . .

That you will grow in your learning

And understanding of the truth

You already possess,

Allowing the truth

To completely fill you

As you grow.

In fact, verse 10 indicates that it is the very truth the Colossians already possess which leads to their growth, much in the way rain brings a harvest or sunlight grows a tree.  The truth which they possess must “get in them” and fill them so that they may grow.

Picture a football player’s toddler son playing with his dad’s football uniform.  Here’s a 4-year-old boy and he’s trying to put on his dad’s football jersey and shoulder pads and helmet.  He would be completely buried in all of the clothing and gear!  He’s not grown to the point that he could wear of all that.  He has got to grow quite a bit to “fill it out.”

So . . . we come into the Christian faith and we’re like a little kid trying to wear professional football clothing and gear.  We are young in the faith and we have got a lot of spiritual growing to do.  We have got a lot of “filling out” and “growing up” to do as we grow in the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.

Sanctification Involves Living.

The “filling” of knowledge in verse 9 leads to action.  In verse 10, Paul says, “That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in (or by) the knowledge of God.”

This “walking” is a metaphor we still use today.  We say, for example, if you’re going to “talk the talk,” then you’d better what? – “walk the walk.”  If you say you are going to do thus and such, then live it out.  Walking worthy of the Lord just means that Christians should live in a way that pleases and bring honor to Jesus.

Note the connection between verses 9 and 10 . . .

Right learning leads to right living.

Information you take in through learning

Should lead to transformation through living.

Right content leads to right character.

We study the Word of God

And we learn about Who He is

And what He has done

And it leads to a way of living

That causes obedience and honor.

Verse 11 says, “Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and long-suffering with joy.”  Christians are to grow and become stronger in the faith.  God’s glorious power empowers us to grow.  And there are a couple of evidences of such growth brought out at the end of verse 11: “patience and long-suffering.”

Someone has said “patience is to endure difficult situations while long-suffering is to endure difficult people.”  God empowers us to be a patient people and a loving and merciful people.  It is a supernatural work that God does in and through the Christian.

The two words here at the end of verse 11 “with joy” can go either with what precedes it or what follows it.  It could be either “Having joy as you endure difficult circumstances and difficult people” or, “Having joy as you give thanks to the Father,” (Verse 12).  In either case, the Christian is empowered to live his or her life “with joy.”

Sanctification Involves A Legacy.

God has saved us through the power of the Gospel and we ought to always thank Him for this precious gift.  Verse 12 states, “Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”  The Father qualifies us or authorizes us – those who are Christians – to have a share in the kingdom of heaven.   We are partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.

God qualifies those who are unqualified.  I think that is important to remember here! Apart from Christ, there is not a single person in all the world who qualifies to go to heaven.  Because of sin, we are all un-qualified to be partakers of the inheritance, or shareholders of heaven.

It is like qualifying for a loan when you have bad credit.  You’ve got bills stacked up six inches high on your kitchen counter.  You’re not gainfully employed and your credit history is disastrous.  What is more, you have absolutely nothing to offer the lending institution.  You are an absolute zero.  So, imagine you appear before the banker and you know it is bad news, but then the banker says, “We’re going to bless you anyway.  You are qualified.  In fact, not only have we qualified you for this loan, but we’re also going to pay it off for you.  You don’t deserve it and all you need to do is receive it.”  That is what God has done for us in the Gospel!  He qualified us to be saved!

Verse 13 says, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”  Paul did not write, “You delivered yourselves from the power of darkness.”  No, we were in darkness.  We were spiritually blind.  To be in darkness is not only to be without God, but to be against God, to be a rebel in the night.  We could not find a light switch, because we weren’t even looking.  We were just bumping around in the night and then God turned on the lights: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness.”

God must do the work of getting hold of our hearts and awakening faith.  He is the one who qualifies us and delivers us from the power of darkness.  Oliver B. Green was an evangelist who founded “The Gospel Hour,” a radio program of an earlier generation.  He said this on one of his episodes, “If unregenerate man (this is, a lost person) should enter heaven, heaven would be hell to him.”  Wow.  So true.  The natural man – apart from regeneration – is against the things of God.  If a lost person; an unregenerate man, were somehow to enter heaven then “heaven would be hell to him” because his heart hasn’t been changed.

I think that is important to remember in our sharing the Gospel.  Everybody seems to think he or she is going to heaven, but why would we ever think heaven would be a wonderful place if it is occupied by the One against whom we have committed treason and rebel against every day in this world?  We need a new heart.

Oliver B. Green goes on to say, “The natural man must be changed because the natural man is not subject to the will of God.”  Heaven is, “a prepared place for a prepared people.”  God delivers us from darkness.  God changes our hearts that we will believe in Christ and receive Him as Lord.

Paul rounds out this passage then, in verse 14, by speaking of Christ as the one, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”  If we believe Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we may be redeemed, released from the debt we owe God.  Without Christ we owe a debt we cannot pay.  Jesus pays the entire debt for us.  And it is on that basis that God the Father qualifies us.  The Father qualifies us to be blessed because Christ has taken care of the debt.

Many people today have a false understanding of the gospel.  Many think that the way a person gets to heaven is by being good: doing good deeds, being nice, giving things away, and so on.  You start talking about Jesus and how one is saved and somebody says, “Well, you know you’ve just got to believe Jesus and be a good person, do good stuff, and hopefully in the end you will been good enough and done enough good stuff.”  Well, we may be very sincere and try our very hardest and give it our best shot, but that doesn’t get us to heaven.

One evening a pastor and his wife and boarded a plane to fly them to Detroit where they would make a connection flight to take them to their destination.  But the flight to Detroit was on a half-hour delay.  When they got to Detroit they had just minutes to make it to the gate and board the connecting flight.  An airline worker called ahead to the gate and told them they could make the flight if they got there within 12 minutes.  They ran as fast as they could and finally made it to the Gate where their flight would depart.   When they got there they saw that the gate was shut and the plane was backing away.  They missed their connection.  That was their only chance to get out of Detroit that evening.

I want you to know they was very sincere in their efforts to get on that plane.  They tried their hardest.  They gave it their best shot.  They got pretty close; but they still missed the flight.  Once the gate shuts, it’s all over.

We may be very sincere in our efforts to be good and to “qualify ourselves for heaven.”  We may try our very hardest and give it our best shot.  We may even be so bold as to think we’re closer than others – but none of that matters when the gate is shut and we miss the only way of departure.

The only way to make it to heaven is for God to qualify us for the trip.  He takes care of everything: booking, ticketing, and baggage.  He will make sure you get to the gate on time.  He will even carry you there!  He delivers us from the power of darkness and bring us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love.

God does all of that for us because of Christ, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Life-Changing Gospel

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

24June  Can people really change?  What effect does the biblical gospel actually have?  One place we can go to study these questions is found in Colossians 1:3-8.  These verses show us how blessed Paul was for how the Lord’s grace at work in their lives.

1) The Blessing of Gratitude.

After Paul’s general introduction in the opening verses we examined in the two previous post, we look now at what he is led by the Holy Spirit to write specifically in verse 3: “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.” 

Paul is expressing his gratitude to God for what he hears about the Colossians.  We note that truth in the following verse: “since we hear of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all the saints…”  Paul is thanking God for what he hears about the church at Colossae.  He is expressing his gratefulness to God for what is happening in and through the Colossians.   He hears about these Christians and it causes him to say, “Thank you, God!”  What he learns about them leads to his gratitude to God.  And that gratitude to God leads to his praying for them: “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.” 

What happens when you think of your brothers and sisters in Christ?  Are you grateful for your church?  Do you thank God for your church family?  More personally, how do you suppose others think of you?  Does your name evoke a sense of gratitude to God?  Someone hears of you and it causes them to say, “Thank God” – and it’s for a good reason!  It is not, “Thank God he’s gone!” but, “Thank You God, for ______.”

2) The Blessing of the Gospel.

Paul writes in verses 4 and 5, “We’ve heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel …”

Careful observers will have picked up on that beautiful triad he mentions here: “faith in Christ Jesus” … “love for the saints” … “hope which is laid up for you in heaven.”  Faith, hope, and love.  Paul likes these three terms a lot!  Many are familiar with his mentioning them in 1 Corinthians 13, the so-called “love chapter” of the Bible.  Paul concludes that chapter with: “And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three…”  And there are other places in the New Testament where Paul strings together these three virtues.

Here, in Colossians 1, Paul is using “faith, hope, and love” in their relation to the gospel.

Faith is a popular word, but there is a faith that is empty.  That’s how many people use the word today.  There’s no object of their faith.  It’s just “faith” as in, “I have faith; I am optimistic that everything will be okay.”  Well . . .

That is not Christian faith.

Christian faith has an object

And the object is Jesus Christ:

“I have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus.

  • Simply acknowledging there is a higher power does not save a person.
  • Scoring a touchdown and pointing to the sky does not make one a Christian.
  • Saying at a major awards ceremony that you wish to thank God does not in and of itself mean that one is a true believer.

We are saved only by grace, through faith in Christ Jesus.

Then Paul writes of love.  He says, “We thank God and we pray for you” … since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints.”  The gospel makes possible a love for all believers.  By the way, remember that all Christians are called “saints” in the Bible.  You do not have to wait a hundred years after you have died and some committee forms and reviews your life and votes on whether you can be called a saint!

Paul says that the Gospel makes possible our love for all the saints, all the saints, including the ones easy to love and not-so-easy to love, people just like you and me.  Christians are to love all the saints in their own church and all the saints in every other church; all the saints in Croatia, Iran, Korea, the Sudan, and in Syria.  All the saints.  We have a Christian family all over the world, a family that comprises every tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 7:9).

Faith, love, and also hope.  Paul says he thanks God “… because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven…”  In the Bible, hope is not so much an action as it is an object.  It is not like the popular English word we use today in our conversation.  When we use the word “hope” in everyday conversation, it nearly always contains an element of uncertainty: “I hope the weather is nice” or, “I hope the car starts” or, “I hope the teacher forgets about the assignment.”  There is an element of uncertainty involved in that kind of hope.

But . . .

When the Bible speaks of hope,

It is not an action, it is an object.

And the hope of the Christian

Is not an uncertainty, but

An absolute, guaranteed fact.

For example, in 1 Peter 1:3-4 Peter writes of the Christian’s, “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” he says a hope defined as, “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…”

Paul goes on to say in verse 5 that this hope is a hope you heard about when you heard the gospel.  If you want to grow in your understanding of the truth of heaven and your inheritance and all that awaits you, read the God’s Word.  The Colossians had heard the Word.  They listened to the Word; they studied the word; and they lived by the word.

3) The Blessing of Growth.

Writing of the gospel, Paul says in verse 6, the gospel “which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit.” 

The gospel causes growth.

  • It is not church marketing that causes growth.
  • It is the gospel that causes growth.
  • It is not a special kind of worship service that causes growth.
  • It is the gospel that causes growth – true growth.

A growth of the church Paul describes in verse 6 as, “bringing forth fruit.”  And that growth is seen not just in an individual person, but in an among various people of the world.  Paul says in verse 6 that this gospel, “has come to you, as it has also in all the world.”  He’s talking about all kinds of people wherever the gospel is preached, wherever the gospel is shared.  He’s talking about the work of evangelism and missions.  He’s talking about our obedience to the Lord’s commission to share the gospel across the street and around the world; from our neighborhood to all the nations.

Paul goes on to say in verse 7 that these Colossian believers had heard and learned the word from a missionary named, “Epaphras.”  Epaphras is the short form of the name, “Epaphroditus.”  Epaphras is mentioned again in the closing of Paul’s letter in chapter 4, verse 12, where Paul describes him as, “one of you.”  Epaphras was from Colossae.  So Epaphras had heard and learned the gospel – probably from Paul in Ephesus – and then went back to Colossae and shared the gospel with others; a true missionary!

From This Study We Need To Remember Two Truths:

The Gospel Changes Your Future Destination – What happens in death.

This is a truth most people acknowledge but few actually embrace.  Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” The gospel has the power to change your future destination.  The gospel has the power to grant you the joy and privilege and blessing of heaven.

Paul describes that future reality in verse 5 as, “the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.”  The Christian’s eternal inheritance in heaven is a fact, an assurance, a certainty.  Remember:

Christian hope is not an action;

Christian hope is an object.

If you have turned from your sin in repentance,

And have turned to Christ in faith,

You may be assured of that wonderful hope.

The Gospel Changes Your Present Situation – What happens in life.

The truth of the gospel has . . .

The power not only to change your future destination,

But also the power to change your present situation.

The gospel is not only about what happens at death;

The gospel is about what happens in life.

The gospel has the power to change our perspective.  It changes the way we think about things, how we spend our time, what we value, and so on.  Paul will show us this application more pointedly in the second half of the letter but, as a foreshadow of what’s to come, consider again what he says at the beginning of chapter 3, verses 1-4, “If then (or since then) you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

What happens when you “set your mind on things above” and “not on things on the earth?”

It changes the way you look at things.

It changes the way you live in the present.

A heavenly perspective changes your present situation:

  • You become more loving, more caring, more generous, more at peace.
  • You become less irritable, less worldly, less prideful, less jerky.
  • You become more forgiving, more outward-focused.  You become less selfish, less self-centered.

Why?  Because you are setting your mind on things above.

The writer of Hebrews also writes about this in Hebrews 10.

He says when you consider

What you have in heaven,

It makes you a more

Thoughtful person here.

The Bible says in Hebrews 10:34, “For you had compassion on the prisoners in chains [you visited those who were imprisoned], and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods [you didn’t mind if people stole your possessions], knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.

If you set your mind on things above and not on the things of earth, you can accept the plundering of your goods – why – because you know the all-satisfying Christ and you know you have a better and enduring possession in heaven!

And if you set your mind on things above and not on the things of earth and you can also endure suffering.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

The Gospel changes everything!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Christ Is Our Life – He Is To Be Preeminent

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

  Colossians has just four chapters.  95 verses.  What is this short letter all about?  In a word: Jesus.  This letter is all about the preeminence of Jesus Christ.  In yesterday’s post we considered the place of Colossae and the people of Colossae, and the person who wrote the letter.  Today we will look at the purpose of Colossians.  Why exactly did Paul write this letter?

If you’ve ever found a letter in a box in your attic, maybe a letter written years earlier by a great grandmother or grandfather (remember handwritten letters?!), you can read the letter and usually figure out what was going on in that person’s life at the time they wrote the letter; what the situation was or the occasion for writing.

The same is true when you read through a letter like this letter to the church at Colossae.  As we read the letter it becomes clear that Paul’s stress on the superiority of Christ is his correction for at least two false teachings surfacing in the first century:

  • One of those heretical teachings was rooted in unorthodox views of Judaism.
  • The other false teaching eventually became known as Gnosticism.

We won’t go into detail on these heresies at present, but just know that Paul has these two ruinous teachings in his mind as he writes the first two chapters of the letter.

As to overall structure, there are two verses in chapter 1 that really give a nice summary of the contents of Paul’s letter.  They are verses 9 and 10, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it (heard of their faith and love), do not cease to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, full pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Here is a simple two-part outline of the letter as provided in J. Sidlow Baxter’s helpful resource: Explore the Book:

Chapters 1-2: DOCTRINAL – “That You May Be Filled” (verse 9)

Chapters 3-4: PRACTICAL – “That You May Walk Worthily” (verse10)

Note this . . .

Theology precedes living!

Paul gives theology before telling us how to live out that theology.  In Christianity, doctrine precedes duty.  If we reverse the order, we end up with nothing more than rigid legalism or religious moralism.

Christianity is truth

That is lived out.

So . . .

Paul gives two chapters of doctrinal truth

Before giving the imperative commands.

When we understand that

Our “duty” is based upon “doctrine,”

We will live out our Christian lives

As a “Thank You Note”

To God for His grace!

The same structure is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: six chapters; the first three are doctrine, the following three chapters are duty.

The practical teaching makes sense

Only when it is built upon the doctrinal truth.

Christianity is not true because it works;

Christianity works because it is true.

So, in chapters 1 and 2, the DOCTRINAL section, we will be studying the fullness of Christ and what that means – all of this rich teaching on the preeminence of Christ – the greatness of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Then, in chapters 3 and 4, the PRACTICAL section, we will be studying how we are to live out our lives.

How one lives is based

Upon what one believes.

Stated another way:

What we believe

Determines

How we live.

Theology matters!

For example: notice the past, present, and future tenses in the opening verses of chapter 3 (beginning of the PRACTICAL section), where Paul reminds the Christians of their union with Christ: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Chris in God.  When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Then Paul writes about living out our faith in Christ.  He uses this great imagery in chapter 3 of “putting off” and “putting on,” like old clothing, Christians put off the old dirty clothes of the way we used to live – putting off the old behavior of things in verse 8 like anger, wrath, and malice – and then putting on new behavior like the things of verse 12, tender mercies, kindness, humility and so on.

Paul talks about the Christian home in verses 18 and following, how husbands and wives relate to one another biblically, and children relate to their parents, and employees relate to their employers.

And he writes about Christian graces in chapter 4 and how we are to behave around lost people.

This is all the practical living

That flows from doctrinal teaching.

Theology matters.

So . . .

Who Jesus Christ is,

And what He has done,

Affects who we are

And what we do.

I love the statement in verse 4 of chapter 3 where Paul describes Jesus Christ as, our life.”  He says, “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

When we understand

That real life, true life,

Is a life found in Christ,

The all-satisfying Lord of everything,

Then we will know true living.

And we’ll be ready to meet Him either at death or when He returns.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Complete In Christ

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

22JuneTo have Jesus Christ is to have everything.  The preeminence of Christ is both a fact and a key to experiencing true life.  Lasting peace, joy, purpose, and meaning are found exclusively in Him.  In a word, Christians are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10).

I am going to use the next few weeks to consider the richness of this truth as we go verse-by-verse through the short New Testament Letter of Colossians. Today we will look at some introductory truths about this fabulous Book.

1) Consider The Place Of Colossae. 

Colossae is located in an area that was once called Phrygia, the greater area having been called Asia Minor.  Today we refer to that same area as west central Turkey.  Colossae is located on the Lycus River, very close to Laodicea.  As such, we’re not surprised that in the concluding words of Colossians, the Apostle Paul encourages that the letter also be read in Laodicea (Colossians 4:16).

So, what does Colossae look like today?  If we took a tour today of Colossae how much of the great city would we see?  Is there a great acropolis like in Athens, or a Colossaeum like in Rome?  All that is left today is a sign.  Unlike other biblical sites, Colossae has yet to be excavated.  The city of Colossae was destroyed by an earthquake in the years shortly after Paul wrote this letter.  He wrote the letter around AD 60 and there was an earthquake that occurred closely after that time.

But when Paul wrote the letter, Colossae was already becoming rather insignificant in influence, and here is why:  Do you know about Route 66?  There was a song written about it, “I get my kicks on Route 66?”  It was made popular by Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry, and others.  Written in the 1940s, the song talks about the highway Route 66, going through 8 states from Chicago to Los Angeles.   Route 66 was completed in the 1920s and it was the way to travel west and thousands of people drove along Route 66 making their way anywhere from Chicago to LA.  By the way, did you know that the working title of the animated movie “Cars” (2006) was “Route 66.”

Anyway, there were all these great stops on Route 66, lots of popular motels, diners, and other business.  But with the coming of the Interstate in the 70s and 80s, Route 66 was eventually removed from the US Highway System in 1985.  A lot of the businesses along Route 66 closed down or dwindled to insignificance.

What happened to those businesses when the roadway was redirected is essentially what happened to the city of Colossae.  Colossae had once been a great city of commerce on the trade route from Ephesus to the Euphrates River. But when the Romans changed the road system, Colossae became less and less visited. Over time, cities like Laodicea and Hierapolis became more important.

2) Consider The Person Who Wrote Colossians. 

The person who wrote to this letter is the Apostle Paul.  We learn that in the first word of the entire letter in chapter 1, verse 1: “Paul.”  I have always liked the way people wrote their letters 2,000 years ago.  They identified the writer of the letter at the very beginning.

Who is the Apostle Paul?  You probably know that Paul was originally a very antagonistic unbelieving Jewish Pharisee known as Saul of Tarsus.  God got ahold of Saul’s heart – the same way he got ahold of many of our hearts – and changed Saul through the power of the Gospel.  Someone said after that, “Saul became something of a “church planting machine,” planting over a dozen churches in his lifetime.

The Bible doesn’t say who planted the church in Colossae, but Paul is writing to the church from prison in Rome.  He had been imprisoned for his faith, a fact especially clear in the way Paul concludes the letter.  Among the last words of Chapter 4, he writes, “Remember my chains” (Colossians 4:18).

Colossians is one of four epistles known as the “Prison Epistles,” because they were written when Paul was in prison (the others are Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon).

People always want to know what Paul looked like and the Bible nowhere describes him so we really don’t know for sure.  There is, however, an interesting physical description of the Apostle Paul that dates to the latter part of the second century.  It’s found in a book called, Acts of Paul and Thecla.  This is book is not in the Bible, so it’s not to be considered totally trustworthy and it’s certainly not inspired in the sense of God-breathed.  But in this book, there’s this brief description of Paul: “A man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged (or bowlegged), well-built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace. For sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel. (Acts of Paul and Thecla, vol.8, p.487.  Nobody really knows what Paul looked like– but that’s one popular description.

We also have no record in the Scriptures that Paul ever visited Colossae.  So how did the Gospel get to Colossae?  Colossae is close to Ephesus; only about 120 miles east of Ephesus.  And Paul had been to Ephesus.  In fact, Paul was in Ephesus for a total of 3 years (Acts 20:31), perhaps the longest time spent in any one city.

Acts 19 says that Paul spent 3 months teaching in the synagogue and then spent 2 years teaching in the lecture hall of Tyrannus; teaching every day for 2 years in this Ephesian school.  Acts 19:19 concludes the section by saying, “And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.”

The point is that the Gospel was taught with such consistency that those who sat under Paul’s teaching would go to the surrounding areas and share what they learned – so that the Gospel reached out to every geographical location in what is now west central Turkey.

There were people there in that school in Ephesus, people like Epaphras who we will read about later in verse 7. Epaphras seems to be the evangelist who heard the good news in Ephesus and then took it to Colossae and neighboring Laodicea.

3) Consider The People Of Colossae.

I like the way they are described in Colossians 1:1-2, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Note that phrase in verse 2, “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colossae.”   The Colossian believers are described as, “in Christ,” and then “in Colossae.”  Paul describes their identity before he writes of their geography.  They are “in Christ,” that’s their identity; and they are living “in Colossae,” that’s their geography.

Our position in Christ –

Who we are –

Is far more important

Than the place we live –

Where we are.

Position is more

Important

Than place.

In the weeks ahead we’ll be reading more about the Christian’s position in Christ, his or her blessed union with Jesus.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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