Grace For The Journey
Everyone 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!
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.”