Who Are You?

Grace For The Journey

14July  Who is Ariana Grande?  You might say she is one of the most popular singers today.  Who is Christiano Ronaldo?  Perhaps you would answer that he is the one of most gifted footballers (or soccer players) in all the world.  Who is Mohammed Ali?  Many would say Ali was the greatest boxer of all time (he certainly thought so!)

If you identified Ariana as a singer, Ronaldo as a footballer, and Ali as a boxer, you would be totally wrong.

You would be wrong because . . .

You would be telling me

Not who they are,

But what they do.

So who are you?

The Apostle Paul reminds Christians who they are in Colossians 3:3-4.  Before we geet into our study, remember in our previous post, we studied Colossians 3:1-2 where Paul encourages Christians to look upward to “those things which are above” and to “set our affections on things above, not things on the earth” (verse 2).

Now note the very reason Paul gives for this upward gaze: “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Verse 3).  See the connection between verses 2 and 3?  Verse 2, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth,” because – verse 3 – “you died.”  That is, you died to this life down here.

So, if you died to this life down here, then the things of this life are no longer as appealing as they once were.  The things you once valued no longer carry the same weight or value.

But have you really died?  Have you really died to the things down here in this fallen world?

If we have truly died to the old way of life,

Then we will value the old things differently.

The all-satisfying gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ

Changes everything, including our outlook

Regarding the priorities and pleasures of our former lives.

For example . . .

  • The gospel changes the way we value our time.

Do you believe that the way you choose to spend your time each day really matters?  It will if you regularly think about eternity and live for eternity.  What will hours of sitting in front of a screen matter for eternity?  Endless hours of game playing, movie watching, internet surfing; all this matters very little in the context of eternity.

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

  • The gospel changes the way we view our jobs or careers.

Do you regard your job as merely a means to make money in this world, or do you think of your job in a much grander way?  Do you think of your job – whether you are a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker – do you think of your job as one of the primary ways you can point people to Jesus?

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

  • The gospel changes the way we view our money.

Do you have a tendency to hoard your money, saving it up for earthly, temporal, fleeting self-centered pleasures?  Or do you freely give away your money to eternal gospel causes?

It is not wrong to enjoy the things money can buy, but how much “enjoyment” do we really need?  Remember that our Lord Jesus said, “It is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).  There is joy in giving!  And remember: the only investments that last forever are those invested in the kingdom.

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

You died to the old pleasures so you are no longer attracted to them as you once were.  But you might respond, “But wait!  Is this really true?”  Let’s be honest: “Are we never attracted to the old pleasures or the old way of life?”  I suspect many of us would admit: “You know, I’m a follower of Jesus, but I do struggle at times with the pull of the old things and the old ways.” Okay, but here is another honest truth . . .

We are only attracted to

The old things and the old ways

When we allow ourselves to be.

If you are a Christian, then you really have – actually have – died to the old pleasures.  They have no hold on you . . . Unless! . . . Unless you allow yourself to get around the old things again, in which case you will find that they still appeal to the old you.  This is why we must continually die to them by continually setting our minds on things above.

We must be looking to and longing for the things above.  We must keep on thinking about the things of heaven as a motivator to personal holiness.

If we will both “seek those things which are above” and “set our minds on things which are above,” then we will discover no fewer than three joyous blessings.

1) Rejoice In Your Security In Christ.

Paul says in verse 3, “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  Here again is a reference to the Christian’s union with Christ.  If we have turned in repentance from our sin, if we have broken with the world, and if have turned to Jesus, trusting Him as Lord and Savior, then our lives are “hidden with Christ in God.”

This is a great statement that emphasizes that the Christian’s eternal security is based solely on God’s justifying the Christian, declaring the Christian “not guilty” of sin.

It is much the same truth as Paul teaches in Romans 6 or in Galatians 2:20 where Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

The security of our soul’s salvation

Is not based upon our performance,

But based solely upon Christ’s

Performance on our behalf.

We find acceptance with God the Father,

Not based upon our own righteousness,

But based upon the righteousness of Christ.

Our lives are “hidden with Christ in God.”

2) Rejoice In Your Identity In Christ.

Verse 4 declares, When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  To be a Christian means that “Christ is our life.”  There is no better way to define Christianity in practical terms!  Jesus Christ is our life and we find our identity in Him – or at least we should!

Our identity is bound up in Christ.

Never define yourself by what you do.

Don’t locate your identity in your job or in your performance; nor your success, nor your failures.  Remember who you are in Christ.  You are “hidden with Christ in God” and “Christ is your life!” 

Many of us can be liberated today

By remembering to locate our identity

Not in what we do nor what we have done,

But in Christ Jesus, in our glorious union with Him!

You are a Christian, you are in Christ.  Locate your sense of purpose, meaning, value, worth, and significance in Him!!  Don’t let Satan tell you that you are a failure, or an embarrassment, or a nobody, or a “superior somebody,” for that matter.  You are in Christ.

3) Rejoice in Your Eternity in Christ.

Verse 4 goes on to say, “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  “When Christ appears” is a reference to His second coming.  He came the first time as a babe born in a manger.  He took on flesh to live for us and to die for us.

He came once

And

He is coming again.

One day He will appear suddenly in the skies.  He is coming again.  He may well come today.  No one knows the day or hour of His coming.  But He IS coming!

When Christ who is our life appears, Paul says, “then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  When Christ returns, Christians will be caught up in the air to meet Him and welcome Him to His rightful place upon the throne, ruling over all creation.  And Christians will share in His reign forever and ever.

Paul’s aim is to encourage Christians.  Don’t live for temporary things and don’t be distracted by earthly notions of success or failure.  Live with a view towards eternity.  Look up!  He is coming!  And when He appears, you will appear with Him.

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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Look Up!

Grace For The Journey

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13July  Ever since my high school days I have had to correct my vision for nearsightedness.  To be nearsighted means you have difficulty focusing on things far away.  I have had to wear corrective lenses in order to help me focus and see clearly things that are in the distance.

I have always found physical nearsightedness to be a helpful parable for spiritual nearsightedness.  Jesus certainly believed so.  Remember John 9?  After Jesus heals the blind man, the Pharisees get all worked up about His having healed on the Sabbath so Jesus tells them in verses 39-41, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”  Then some of the Pharisees…said to Him, ‘Are we blind also?’  And Jesus responds, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.’”

In essence, Jesus was telling them, “You may be able to see physically, but you don’t see so well spiritually.  Your physical eyesight is good enough, but your spiritual eyesight is poor.”

The gospel corrects our spiritual vision.

Sometimes we can see only

What is up close and miss the reality

Of the things in the distance;

Things in the future, the eternal.

The gospel restores our focus,

Ensuring that our spiritual eyesight

Is sharp and clear.

Recall that false teachers in Colossae had clouded the believers’ vision.

The false teachers were trying to get

The Colossian Christians to look beyond Christ.

They had tried to get their eyes off Jesus and tried to get them looking in other places for the “deeper,” more spiritual life.

Paul writes this letter to get

The Christians looking at Christ.

In some sense, Paul is writing this letter to correct the vision of the Colossians, to restore their focus, to help them, as the writer says in Hebrews 12:2, “fix their eyes on Jesus.”

Before we jump into Colossians chapter 3, let’s recall the structure of the letter:  the first half of the letter (Chapters 1-2) is doctrinal information and the second half (Chapters 3-4) is practical application.  This is Paul’s style in much of his writing.

Doctrine comes before duty.

Right theology informs right living.

Proper learning precedes proper living.

In Romans, for example, Paul writes eleven chapters about new life in Christ.  The first eleven chapters contain so much great doctrinal information about the believer’s new life as a follower of Jesus.  And it’s only after those eleven chapters of doctrine that Paul writes in the first part of chapter 12: “Therefore,” offer your bodies as a living sacrifices …”  See the pattern?

Doctrine first,

Duty second.

That same pattern is found in Ephesians.  The first half of the letter (Chapters 1-3) contains doctrinal information and the second half (Chapters 4-6) contains practical application.  Paul uses the same pattern here in Colossians.  Before he tells the Colossians to “Seek those things which are above (Duty!),” he writes two chapters of correct doctrine.  Doctrine precedes duty.

Here’s the point . . .

You can’t live a life that pleases God

Apart from receiving a new life in Christ.

New lifestyle requires new life.  Anything else is pure legalism; just trying to keep a bunch of rules and regulations apart from the grace of God.

But remember . . .

Rule-keeping does not save a person.

 Believers do not keep biblical rules

In order to become Christians.

Believers keep biblical rules

Because they are Christians.

Believers live their lives as a “Thank You Note” to God for His grace.

Now, let’s begin our study of Chapter 3.

Verse 1 says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.”

The word “if” there is better translated “since.”  The grammar is such that what is stated is assumed to be true.  Because the Colossian Christians had, in fact, died with Christ (recall Colossians 2:20), they have also been raised with Christ (verse 1).

When Paul writes, “Since then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above.”  The idea is to fix one’s gaze upward.  Look up!

1) Seek Those Things which are Above.

If you have a dog or cat, you can understand what the phrase “seeks those things which are above” means.  When you get them a treat out of the cupboard you have never seen the dog or cat so fixed upon those things which are above!   Their focus is unbroken.  They will not take their eyes off of the prize until you give it to them.  This is the idea.  Paul is like, “Look upward. Fix your eyes upon those things which are above.  Keep your focus steadily upon your reward.”

Why does Paul say this here?  Why does he seem suddenly to say, “Seek those things which are above?”  Well, the context shows us that Paul is teaching us how to live a life that honors God.  We cannot walk in holiness by sheer determination.  The false teachers offered only legalism and self-determination.

They gave those rules at the end of chapter 2, verse 21: “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.”  And Paul concludes chapter 2 by saying in verse 23, “These (religious rules) indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body,” – and this is key here – “but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”

In other words, legalism, moralistic rules, and self-determination are powerless to keep one from sin.

Religious rules have no power

To change a person’s heart.

Sheer force of discipline

Is not enough to live

A life that pleases God.

Godly living requires

A new life in Christ.

Godly living requires

That a person

Be buried with Christ

And raised with Christ.

Have you ever tried to conquer sin by sheer determination?  You don’t get very far.  And this fact applies not just to our trying to conquer sin before becoming a Christian, but it also applies to our trying to conquer sin the same way after becoming a Christian.  A lot of Christians are going around trying to conquer sin by sheer force of determination and discipline.

Discipline alone

Does not

Make one holy.

What we must do is remember that Christ is in us and we are in Him.  We must remember this regularly and we must keep on seeking the things above.  When we do this, we are able to live the lives God has called us to live.

So . . .

The key motivator to living out

This new life in Christ,

The key to walking in holiness

And growing in holiness is to

“Seek those things which are above.”

And it is not just a looking for, but a longing for.

2) Set Your Mind on Things Above.

Verse 2 says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”  This phrase carries the idea of “being totally wrapped up in” the things of the Lord.

I love how John MacArthur describes this mindset: “As a compass points north, the believer’s entire disposition should point itself toward the things of heaven.”  This looking upward, requires continual action.  The imperative “Set your mind on things above,” is a verbal phrase in the present tense and active voice.  It may be better to translate it as “Keep on thinking about.”

It is so easy for “the things of earth” to steal our gaze.  It is so easy for the temporal things that will not last to rob us of the joy of being in Christ.  Sometimes when we suffer it’s hard to see beyond our suffering.  If we are suddenly diagnosed with a health condition, it is easy to lose focus.  When our family goes through a trial of some kind or other, our spiritual compass may suddenly point south.

We have a tendency

Not to focus

“On things above,”

But rather

“On things on the earth.”

So, Paul gives us this imperative to help our spiritual focus.  It is the same intent as he writes to the church in Corinth where he encourages the Christians not to lose heart as they suffer: “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.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

So set your mind on things above . . . and you will see clearly.

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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New Liberty, New Life

Grace For The Journey

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10July  Today’s blog concludes our study of the last passage in Colossians 2, a section describing the Christian’s freedom in Christ.  How appropriate these studies are in light of our celebrating freedom this past weekend!  I have noted in yesterday’s post Paul’s stress on the Christian’s freedom from rules and regulations.  As we studied that passage we saw that Paul is saying, in essence, “Enjoy Your New Liberty In Christ.”  Today we will take up second action that we are to take:

Embrace Your New Life in Christ. 

In a prior study, we learned that Christ has “cut away the old us,” our former lives before faith in Christ (Colossians 2:11).  Paul uses a physical rite of circumcision metaphorically, teaching that Christians have been “spiritually circumcised.”  God has cut away the old “body of flesh” that was enslaved to sin.

The Christian’s death to the old self is pictured in baptism: “buried with Him in baptism” (Colossians 2:12).  Christians have died to the old (symbolized in the Christian’s immersion into water).  But Christian’s have also been raised to walk in a new way of life (pictured in the Christian’s rising up from the water).

Paul comes back to that imagery of dying to the “old us” in verses 20-21, where he says, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations – ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.’”  Paul’s point is that . . .

Believers have gained

Approval from God

And

Acceptance with God

Through faith in Jesus Christ.

God regards Christians as complete in Him – Jesus Christ, the only One who successfully kept all the rules and regulations and fulfilled the Old Testament law in every respect.  The sense is this: “If as a believer you have found acceptance in Christ and not in shadowy and empty rules and regulations, why then are you now going back to all those rules and regulations in an effort to gain approval from God?”  The false teachers were peddling some kind of ascetic denial of things to the body.  Paul references some sort of taboos in verse 21: “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.”   

We don’t know all there is to know about this false teaching, but it seems clear that it is a teaching suggesting one could find approval from God and acceptance with God by adhering to legalistic requirements.  These are requirements, Paul says in verse 22, “Which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men.”

These rules of “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle” concern things that “perish with the using.”  In other words, they are things that go away once they are used – things like food which is gone once it is eaten.

Paul’s point is that there is nothing inherently wrong with eating certain kinds of foods.  It is not as though foods are everlasting, holding some strange mystic power. They are eaten and are gone.  As Jesus taught in Mark 7:18-19, “Whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated.”  In saying this, “Jesus purified all foods” (Mark 7:19).

Similarly, Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 6:13, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food; but God will do away with food and stomach alike.”  The rules and regulations brought by the false teachers were of “the commandments and doctrines of men.”  That is, they did not originate with God, but with man; man-made teachings added to the New Testament doctrine of the gospel.

These old legalistic teachings belonged to a temporal kingdom whereas Christians belong to an eternal kingdom.  Verses 23 declares, “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”  Legalistic rules and requirements – rules added to the gospel – “have an appearance of wisdom.”  They sound wise: “Don’t do this, do that,” and so on.  Those who strictly follow the rules have “an appearance of wisdom.”

Strict rule-keeping makes one

Appear to be religious and humble.

Perhaps of you were raised in a religious setting that taught rule-keeping as a means by which to earn favor with God.  You were impressed with a number of “Dos” and Don’ts.”  

Moral commands are helpful to us,

 But

Moral commands are not the gospel.

Strict adherence to legalistic requirements as a means to holiness is not the gospel.  Strict rule-keeping is not part of the new life in Christ.  The slavish keeping of rules and regulations is nothing more than a showy demonstration of human pride.

Paul warns that rules themselves “are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”  The only way to conquer our evil desires is to abide in Christ.  We must abide in Him, regularly “preaching the gospel to ourselves,” remembering that in Christ alone we find completion – complete forgiveness, complete acceptance, and complete power to walk in a new way of life.

We must remind ourselves regularly that we have died to the old way of life and that the power of Christ now lives within us.  We must remember that it is through Christ’s living in us that we can live a life pleasing to God.

And don’t forget: When you err and sin, God still loves you just the same!  God always sees the righteousness of Christ applied to believers.  The power of Christ remains in Christians to equip them to live the way they genuinely wish to live.

Christians are free from sin’s enslavement.  We can actually choose not to sin by allowing the power and presence of Christ to have His way.  Rules and regulations “are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”  Rules and regulations provide no help in conquering our evil desires, but the gospel does.  And only the Gospel does.

Only the Gospel

Provides

Liberty and life

In Christ.

So, in our enjoying new liberty in Christ and in our joyful embrace of new life in Christ, we must guard against any crippling notion of legalism and moralism.

Simply being “raised right” does not mean one is saved.  Moralism does not put a person in right standing with God – nor any greater standing with God.  Hell will be highly populated with those who were “raised right.”

Simply being “raised right” does not mean one is saved.  Moralism does not put a person in right standing with God – nor any greater standing with God.

Moralism is a slap in the face of the Gospel itself.

In some sense moralism is more dangerous to Christianity than some of the big “red letter sins” believers often rail against.

What is moralism?

  • Moralism is the keeping of principles in order to achieve a status as those who are considered “good people,” good people who (as it is wrongly believed) surely must be accepted by God when He sees their improving behavior.
  • Moralists are those who “do all the right stuff” or are “raised right” or raise their kids “right” and do everything else “right.”
  • Moralism says: “I am not perfect, but I am good.  I am a good, respectable citizen.  I am a good neighbor and God helps those who help themselves.”  
  • Moralism is nothing more than a prideful embrace of self-sufficiency rather than our finding sufficiency in Christ alone.

John Piper, in addressing the dangers of alcohol, for example, explains why legalistic moralism is actually a greater danger to the church.  He explains how Satan works to deceive Christians into thinking that alcoholism is worse.  Here’s what he writes: “Legalism is a more dangerous disease than alcoholism because it doesn’t look like one (legalism doesn’t look like a disease).  Alcoholism makes men fail; legalism helps them succeed in the world.  Alcoholism makes men depend on the bottle; legalism makes them self-sufficient, depending on no one.  Alcoholism destroys moral resolve; legalism gives it strength.  Alcoholics don’t feel welcome in church; legalists love to hear their morality extolled in church.”  We may even add that legalistic moralism is a more dangerous disease than drug addiction, sexual infidelity, homosexuality, or criminal activity.  We must not allow legalistic moralism to gain a foothold in the church!  We must find our sufficiency in Christ alone.  We are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10).  That is the only way we will . . . Enjoy your new Liberty in Christ!  And . . . Embrace your new Life in Christ!

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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No Legalism!

Grace For The Journey

9July  When the Bible says that Christians are “complete in Christ” (Colossians 2:10), God is stressing a fact that makes Christianity unique when placed alongside other religions.

Every other major religion is about

A person’s strict adherence to regulations:

Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, these are all religious systems

Based largely upon a person’s keeping rules and regulations

And so earning some kind of favorable standing before God.

Have you ever wondered how false religious systems come into being?  Religious systems exist because man is prone to worship something or someone.  Created in God’s image, man cannot help but worship something or someone.  It is our nature to do so.  In a famous quote often attributed to G. K. Chesterton:

“When men choose NOT to believe in God,

They do not thereafter believe in NOTHING.

They then become capable of believing in ANYTHING.”

What we need is someone to get us to believing in and worshiping the right thing!  This is precisely what the Gospel does.  The Gospel frees us from what once enslaved us so that we find liberty and completion in Christ alone and we worship Him.

Christianity is not about regulations.

Christianity is about Jesus.

Christianity is about our finding true identity, true acceptance, true meaning, and true purpose in Jesus Christ.  We have everything in Him and we find completion in Him.

Paul expands upon the Christian’s freedom in Colossians 2:16-23, a passage that calls for two main responses. In today’s post we will address the first:

1) Enjoy Your New Liberty in Christ!

If you are a Christian, you are free in Christ!  You have a liberty that frees you up from being enslaved to rules and regulations.  Verse 16 says, “So (or “therefore,” in light of the preceding truth about Christian freedom) let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.”  Remember when reading Colossians that Paul is addressing false teachers in and around the city of Colossae.  They were teaching a strange doctrine that mixed Greek philosophy with Old Testament Judaism.

Verse 16 suggests that these false teachers were promising the Colossian Christians a new kind of religious experience.  According the false teachers, the Colossians needed only to follow certain rules and regulations and they could have a deeper knowledge of God.  In essence these teachers were saying: “If you really want to have a heightened sense of spirituality, follow these rules.  Just look in the Old Testament at all these regulations and religious observations. There is stuff there about certain foods to eat and certain festivals and special sabbath days, and so on.  Keep all this stuff and you will have real life.”

Paul responds that all of those legalistic requirements and rituals were simply a shadow of the real thing, indeed most important thing.  He is led to write in verse 17, “Which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

We must remember that

The Old Testament points to Christ!

Christ is the fulfillment

Of the Old Testament teachings.

Christ lived a perfect life and fulfilled all the requirements of the Old Testament so that Paul can say that Christians are likewise those who have fulfilled the requirements. Christ’s life and death is applied to the Christian by virtue of his or her union with Christ, connection to Christ.

What Christ has done

Is applied to the Christian.

So, when you read in the Old Testament about all those dietary laws and special days of religious observance, you are reading about things that point to Jesus.

Those holy days

And holy requirements

Point to the Holy One!

Don’t miss what Paul is saying in verse 17 . . .

The Old Testament rules and regulations

Are a shadow of things to come,

But the substance is of Christ.

A shadow is not the real thing.  A shadow is simply a pointer to the real thing.  Right?  If on a sunny day I see the shadow of a man, I am not looking at the real thing, but merely a pointer, or a symbol of the thing itself.  So the Old Testament rules and regulations are shadowy pointers  to the Lord and Savior.  What they “foreshadowed” has been “fulfilled” in Christ.

What they foreshadowed has been fulfilled in Christ.

So . . . If you have the real thing, you don’t need the shadow.  If you have the holy One, you are free from the regulations.

In Christ you have everything,

Complete salvation,

Complete forgiveness,

Complete acceptance.

This is why we don’t observe the Old Testament ceremonial law or Old Testament regulations about certain feast days.  Of course, Christians continue to observe the moral law, laws like the 10 Commandments for example.

These laws are followed

Out of gratitude to God

For His goodness.

They are not followed

As a means of earning

Salvation with God.

That is impossible!

But while Christians follow the moral law as a “Thank You Note” to God for His grace, Christians are not bound by the ceremonial law.  Those Old Testament rules and regulations were given to God’s people largely to help them understand the nature of holiness and what it means to be “set apart” from the world.  So, Paul reasons in verse 18, “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.”  Paul argues, “Don’t let anyone rob you of your liberty in Christ! Guard your freedom!”  The false teachers “took delight in false humility,” or self-denial such as the embrace of asceticism, a legalistic denial of things for the body.  They did this in a misguided effort to gain some sense of holiness.  They rescued the body from the enjoyments of certain foods and drink believing this somehow put them in greater favor with God.

These false teachers also suggested that one’s worship of angels led to a higher spiritual awareness.  Paul argues that these false teachers were those who “intruded into things they had not seen,” going on about alleged visions they said they had had, “vainly puffed up” in their “fleshly” or unspiritual mind.

Verse 19 states, “And not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.”  Paul is teaching that the Christian is to be connected to Christ: “holding fast to the Head,” which is Christ.

It is from Christ that the Christian

Receives all he or she needs.

The Christian is spiritually nourished not by the worship of angels or by keeping rules and so on, but the Christian is spiritually nourished by Jesus Christ!

Christians must “hold fast to the Head” – to Christ – “from whom all the body” grows.  We grow when we are connected to Christ and nourished by Him.

If you want to grow spiritually and enjoy the deeper things of God, you will find all of that is found in Jesus Christ.  Be sure to stay connected to the Head of the body, to Christ Himself!  Abide in Him.  Read of Him in the Word.  Pray to Him.  Participate in worship of Him.

Remember Christian . . .

In Christ,

God accepts

You completely.

The Gospel alone is what makes us acceptable to God, acceptable in God’s sight.  If we are Christians it is so liberating to know that we can do nothing to become unacceptable to Him!

This is not to say that Christians cannot break God’s heart when they sin, but it is to say that God always sees us in Christ; our completion is found in His complete atoning work on the cross, a work that God applies to us.  God always sees the righteousness of Christ applied to those who are Christians, those who are “in Him.”  Christians can do nothing to lose this acceptance with God.

Here is the important corollary that protects Christians from legalism:

Just as Christians can do nothing

To lose this acceptance,

So Christians can do nothing

To make themselves more acceptable.

Our acceptance is found solely in Christ

And we are COMPLETE in Him!

Always remember: “I am accepted by God not on the basis of my personal performance, but on the basis of the infinitely prefect righteousness of Christ.”  Christians have not embraced a shadow; they have embraced the real thing.  They enjoy the reality of being “in Him,” in Christ.  Therefore, they can truly say . . .

“When I sin,

God does not

Love me any less

Because His love

Is a perfect love

That pours through

His Son Jesus Christ.”

But remember the corollary . . . !

When I sin

God won’t love

Me any less

– And –

When I don’t sin,

Or when I do well,

God won’t love

Me any more.

Don’t allow legalism to creep into your faith and “rob you of your reward” (Colossians 2:18).  Our performance does not increase God’s acceptance of us.  God’s love is perfectly constant because it is a love bound up in His Son Jesus Christ, the One with whom we are connected through faith.

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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Enjoying Freedom In Christ

Grace For The Journey

8July What does it really mean to have freedom in Christ?  In what way is the Christian actually free?  And does this mean he or she will never sin again?  Working our way through Colossians 2:11-15, we have studied the Christian’s Eternal Fellowship with Christ and Eternal Forgiveness through Christ.  Today we will look at third and final blessing in this text:

We have Eternal Freedom in Christ. 

Here’s what the Bible says in Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Understanding Christian freedom

Requires our remembering

Where we were before we believed.

We once were enslaved to sin,

Trapped under the power of sin.

Charles Wesley wrote of sin’s enslavement in the great hymn “And Can It Be?”  Here’s the way he described his own life before Christ:

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night.”

This hymn text accurately describes every believer before his or her coming to faith in Christ.  All Christians were once held captive to the forces of darkness.  The Bible describes the forces of darkness in verse 15 as “principalities and powers.”  These are the demonic rulers and authorities that are continually at war with men and women, powers that work in opposition to Christ.

These principalities and powers are the demonic rulers and authorities who reign in that realm to which the Christian once belonged, the realm of Adam, the realm of sin; that old neighborhood where the “old you” used to live before the old you was “cut away” (Colossians 2:11), before the old you died and was buried with Christ (Colossians 2:12).

Back when the Christian was previously

United with Adam instead of with Christ

(Back in the old life),

These principalities and powers

Held sway over him.

Many unbelievers live under the sway of principalities and powers without even realizing it.  They may even boast of their freedom, but the irony is that they are not free, at all:

An unbeliever is not free to not sin.

Just think that through.  No unbeliever is free to not sin.  It doesn’t matter who you are if you are an unbeliever. You are not as free as you may wish to believe.  Just try not sinning.  No unbeliever is free to not sin.  Every unbeliever is enslaved by sin.  Sin is his or her master and lord.  Sin reigns.

What did Christ do on the cross?

He defeated all the demonic rulers

Who reigned over those connected to Adam.

Christ defeated the work of the enemy!

This is precisely what the Bible describes in verse 15, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He (Christ) made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Christ conquered all the principalities and powers,

All the forces of darkness that held people captive to sin.

Christ disarmed them and defeated them.

Paul says in the second part of verse 15 that Christ “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”  The picture is that of a conquering king like a Roman emperor who travels to a distant land and defeats the enemy.  The way the emperor proved that he had defeated the enemy was by bringing him back in chains.  A Roman general would march off to war, conquer the enemy, and then return to Rome, parading all the defeated rulers throughout the streets so that everyone could see the enemy in chains.  It was like saying, “See these enemies in chains?!  They can’t harm you!  We have triumphed over them!!” 

In a time before 24-hour news and the internet, people could not turn on a screen and follow a war.  Evidence of a war’s being won was the conquering king’s bringing back the defeated foe in chains.  Often there would be like a train of these enemies all chained to one another, ultimately chained to chariots and paraded through the streets as a public spectacle for all to see and for all to rejoice.

Christ’s work on the cross has “disarmed principalities and powers,” defeated the rulers and forces of darkness. Jesus has “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them.”  In essence Jesus says, “If you are united with Me, these principalities and powers no longer enslave you. I have triumphed over them that you may have eternal freedom!”

If you are a Christian . . .

Remember that the “old you” required

A spiritual operation

Because the old you

Was dominated by the flesh,

Dominated by the old sinful desires

That held you captive.

Through your faith in Christ,

God “cut away” the old you and

Gave you a “new you,”

A new nature,

A nature empowered

To live in a way

That pleases God.

You are now dead to the old you

And you have life in the new you.

One of the great challenges for the Christian, however, is the struggle with the sin that remains in this world.  Never forget that . . .

“While sin no longer reigns, it remains.”

Sin’s power has been broken for the Christian,

But it is still there and we can still fall into sin.

Thankfully, when we sin as a Christian we are not jeopardizing our salvation.  We have eternal fellowship and eternal forgiveness in Christ.  We are connected to Him forever.  We cannot be un-united to Christ.  God keeps us connected in Him.  Praise God for that!

But in this fallen world, we occasionally fall into sin.  And when the Christian sins, his or her relationship with Christ is not as sweet as it once was.

Like a husband who speaks an unkind word to his wife, the relationship is hurt. The two are still married, of course, but the relationship has soured until the one confesses to the other and asks for forgiveness.  Similarly, the Christian has eternal forgiveness in Christ.  Thankfully, all sin is forgiven.  The Christian is free and no longer enslaved to sin.

However, the Christian can still fall into momentary sin.  And when the Christian does sin, thankfully it is not his marriage to Christ that is at stake.  The Christian is still part of the bride married to Christ, but the relationship has soured.  The relationship will continue to be unsettled until the Christian confesses and says, “I’m sorry, Lord.  Please forgive me” (1 John 1:9).  Only then is the sweet fellowship with Christ felt and known again.

You are free in Christ, so don’t go back over to that old prison and – as the Bible  puts it in Romans 6:13 – don’t, “present your body parts as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead.”  Rather, as the Bible teaches in Romans 6:11, “Consider yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Remember to tell yourself that you are dead to the old you.

When tempted to “cross the tracks” and go back over to the “old you,” over there in that prison cell where you were once connected to Adam and enslaved to sin, remind yourself that you are dead to sin.  When tempted by lust, pride, anger, or bitterness, don’t cross the tracks and live in that sin even for a moment.  Rather, remember that God has “cut away” the old you.  You are dead to that old way of life and you now have freedom in Christ to not sin.

So . . . You say to yourself, “I’m dead to that.  I died to that old way of life.  That’s been cut away and I now am free to enjoy fellowship with Christ.”  

  • When someone says something that hurts you, rather than returning evil for evil, choose to live in the power of your new life and say to yourself, “I’m dead to that” and walk away.
  • When the conversation at the work turns to filth and lewdness, choose to live in the power of your new life and say to yourself, “I’m dead to that” and walk away. 
  • When tempted to pick up that old habit – smoking, overeating, drinking – say, choose to live in the power of your new life and “I’m dead to that” and walk away.
  • When the old feelings of yesterday’s hurts resurface, rather than re-feeling the hurt and pain, and rather than becoming bitter and resentful, choose to live in the power of your new life and say, “I’m dead to that.”
  • When an image on a screen, whether on TV or a computer or a phone, catches your eye and lures you to cross the line and spend a little time indulging your flesh say, choose to live in the power of your new life and say, “I’m dead to that.”

Always Remember . . .

Sin will take you farther than you want to go,

Keep you longer than you want to stay,

And cost you more than you want to pay.“

You are dead to the old you.  You are free in Christ.  Live in the joy of that freedom this week!

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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Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

9JulyIn yesterday’s blog we looked at the first blessing of the Christian’s eternal fellowship with Christ.  What is the next blessing for us to consider?

It is the blessing of cancelled debt.

Nearly everyone understands what it means to be in debt.  We owe money to a lender; maybe a financial institution granting a home mortgage, or we are making monthly car payments, paying off a personal loan, or paying off credit card debt.  Debt can be overwhelming.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone came

Along and just “deleted” all that debt?

You’d better believe it would!

Applied spiritually, every person without Jesus is in debt, spiritual debt.  And through the power of the gospel our debt may be cancelled – removed, erased, forgiven, deleted!

We read about that very truth as we continue our study of the second chapter of Colossians in verse 13, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”  We once were “dead in trespasses.” This is similar to what Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians: “You were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

Before salvation, every Christian was spiritually dead; dead in trespasses “and the uncircumcision of our flesh…”  There’s that phrase again.  If you’re a Christian, remember from yesterday’s study that Paul is using a metaphor here to illustrate the “cutting away” of the “old you.”  We all needed God to perform spiritual surgery upon us.   Through the gospel, He has cut away the old us, making us into a new creation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17).

So if you have, in fact, placed your faith in Christ, placing your “faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12), then God has made you “alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13).  Note the tiny little adjective there just before the word “trespasses.”  What is it?  It is the word “all.”  How many trespasses does God forgive?  All.  Not some, not a few, not even a bunch, but all.

2) We have Eternal Forgiveness through Christ.

All of your sin is forgiven, all sin reaching back and all sin reaching forward into eternity.  From the standpoint of the cross, all sin is forgiven through Christ.  Now . . .

You have to be connected to Christ

I order to experience eternal forgiveness of sin.

You have to be “together with Him” (verse 13).

It does not come any other way.

Does forgiveness come by virtue of your performance.  No. ❌

Does forgiveness come by your trying to live a good life.  No.  ❌

Forgiveness comes only by your “faith in the working of God, who raised Christ from the dead (verse 12).”  Yes! ✅

But … There is more here!  Look at how Paul describes the comprehensive nature of God’s forgiveness in verse 14.  What else does God do through the power of the gospel?  Verse 14 says, “Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”  Before we came to faith in Christ, it is very likely that many of us were trying to live a life we believed would please God and bring peace between ourselves and God, thus earning entrance into heaven.

  • Maybe someone taught us to obey the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do not you” (Matthew 7:12). Maybe they told us that this was the way we gained eternal favor with God.
  • Maybe we believed that if we tried to live a “good life” that we would please God and no longer feel guilty.
  • Maybe someone suggested we keep the 10 Commandments, or follow Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. So we reasoned:

“Well, I’ll give it my best shot.  I’m not as bad as others.  Surely God will know that I am trying.”

The problem with this kind of thinking

Is that our trying to be good

Does not save our soul

From the penalty and power of sin.

We are not saved by what we do.

If we could be saved by what we do,

Or by trying our very best,

There would be no need

For God to come to us,

No need for Christ to have lived a perfect life

And die a substitutionary death for us.

Peace with God requires the perfect keeping of His law.  Because heaven is a place of perfection – a place where there is no more sin – the only way to gain entrance into heaven is to keep all of God’s requirements perfectly.  We can’t do that.  We may try, but we will fail.  We are sinners.

Apart from faith in Christ, God looks at all of our best efforts and, in essence says: “You have failed there, and you have failed there, and you did this, and you did that.”  It is as if there is a record of debt, the “writing out” of all the requirements of God that we tried to keep, but failed.  And these requirements are against us.

The phrase used in verse 14, “the handwriting of requirements” is the record of our debt and thus the record of our guilt.  We owe God a perfect life, but we have failed because we are imperfect.  So . . . we have this record of debt, a written record of everything against us.  This record of debt hangs above our heads much like the record of guilt that was hung above the head of a criminal who was being crucified in Roman times.

When the Romans crucified a man, they placed above his head a record of the crimes he had committed, the offenses that were “against him,” offenses for which he had been found guilty.  When Jesus was crucified, for example, you will remember that they hung a sign over His head that read about His having said He was King of the Jews (John 19:19).  This was the crime that was against Him, the crime for which He had been condemned to die.

Of course, we know from a grander perspective, Jesus died not so much for His being King of the Jews, but for His willingness to take our penalty upon Himself.  Jesus died willingly as a sacrifice for our sins.  He died so that we could live.  His death was a substitutionary death, a death for us, a death we should have died as punishment for our sin.  He took our punishment upon Himself.

What this means is that, in a very real sense . . .

Jesus takes the accusation that

Rightly hangs over our heads

And He places it over His head

On the cross.  And Jesus dies there,

Not for His sin, but for ours.

Dying as our substitute, Christ took upon Himself that which was ours – sin – and gave to us that which was His – righteousness.  Jesus lived a perfect life of righteousness, perfectly keeping the Golden Rule, perfectly keeping the 10 Commandments, perfectly keeping the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus did all of this for you.  By trusting Him as Lord and Savior, you receive credit for what He did and He cancels out the debt that you owed.

Deleted.

What a

Wonderful gift

From God!

There’s one more blessing of our union with Christ, but we will look at it for in tomorrow’s blog!

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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Union With Christ

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

6July  Ever been to a Union Station terminal?  Maybe you have had the privilege of visiting a Union Station railroad terminal in a major city like Washington DC or Chicago, or maybe you have shopped at the restored historic Union Station in Nashville, Tennessee.  A Union Station is a railway station used by two or more railroad companies.  The companies share the tracks as well as the facilities of the station.  So, a union station is the place of connectivity where two or more parties join together in friendly, amicable union which results in a number of positive benefits.

The believer’s union with Christ

Is the greatest and most glorious reality

Of the Christian experience.

Christ’s atoning work was completed on a cross at Mount Calvary, which was the location of the “union station” that made possible the Christian’s uniting together with Him in a friendly, amicable union that results in many wonderful benefits or blessings.  We are going to look at those blessings in today’s blog:

1) We Have Eternal Fellowship With Christ.

Jesus used a helpful metaphor to describe the Christian’s being united with Him in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”  If you are a believer, then you are united with Christ as a branch is united to a vine.  You are connected to Him and have fellowship with Him.  Jesus says this is how you bear fruit.  You are connected to the life-source.

So . . . If you are not connected to the vine, you can’t produce fruit, just as an apple branch broken off an apple tree can no longer bear apples.  It has to be connected in order to have a “fruitful” fellowship.

What Jesus teaches about fellowship with Him is the same thing the Apostle Paul stresses in Colossians 2:11-12.  Like Jesus, Paul teaches by way of metaphor, using the metaphors of circumcision and baptism to illustrate the Christian’s connection to Christ.  Verse 11 tells us, “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ.”  You can read more about the Old Testament rite of circumcision in the opening books of the Bible.  Circumcision was a physical way of illustrating a spiritual reality.  The removal of physical flesh, the cutting away of flesh, identified God’s people as His specially chosen people who had entered into fellowship with Him.

So what Paul does in verse 11 is to use something that was very familiar to his initial audience – a largely Jewish audience who knew the Old Testament – and he uses the rite of circumcision to illustrate their new life in Christ.  Paul describes their new life in Christ as a spiritual circumcision – not a physical, but spiritual kind of circumcision.  He says that when a believer comes to faith in Christ, it’s not as though merely one piece of flesh is removed, but rather the whole body of flesh is removed in a kind of “circumcision.”  See it again in verse 11: “In Him (Christ) you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands (so it is not physical, but spiritual), by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.”

Paul is teaching that

When we place

Our faith in Christ,

God “brands us as His own,”

Spiritually circumcising us,

Removing the body of flesh from us.

He cuts away that which

Identified us before as a sinner

Who was previously united

Together with Adam,

Our first father.

Romans 5 teaches that every person is connected either to Adam or to Christ.  We are born connected to Adam and when we come to faith in Christ, God “disconnects us” from Adam and “connects us” to Jesus Christ.

Put another way . . .

The Christian is transferred

From the rule and

Reign of sin under Adam

And transferred To

A new rule and reign;

A new kingdom.

The believer “changes residence,”

No longer living in the old

Neighborhood of life in Adam,

But moving across the tracks

Into the good side of town,

Now living in Christ’s neighborhood;

Living under the rule

And reign of Jesus Christ.

When the believer comes to faith in Christ, God conducts a spiritual kind of “cutting away” of the old way of life, providing new life in Christ.

This is what Paul is teaching in verse 11.  When you come to faith in Christ, God circumcises, or cuts away, the “old you” – a life dominated by sin and fleshly desires – and connects you to Christ to enjoy fellowship with Him as the “new you,” a new creation with a new nature, a nature empowered to live in a way that pleases God.

That’s the first picture, or metaphor, of the spiritual work God does in the believer; the metaphor of circumcision.

The second metaphor is the picture of baptism in verse 12, “Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”  Paul now uses baptism as a metaphor for fellowship with Christ.   The believer identifies with Christ through the ordinance of baptism.  Baptism, which is taught by Jesus in Matthew 28 as well as by Paul in Romans 6, is . . .

The means by which a Christian demonstrates

That he or she now identifies with Christ as Lord.

Paul uses baptism as a metaphor because the Christians at Colossae had been baptized.  So, they were in a position to rightly understand what Paul is doing.  The New Testament era was unlike our modern era where people say they are followers of Christ, but have never been baptized.  In the Bible, however, baptism occurred very quickly once a person came to know Christ.  Baptism was the principal confession of one’s faith in Christ and the way one showed he or she had a new identity.

Baptism pictures the Christian’s union with Christ.

The Christian is connected to Christ

Through His death, burial, and resurrection.

To be clear, salvation does not come through baptism.  Salvation comes only through faith in Christ, believing in Jesus Christ.  One is saved by believing Christ lived for us and died for us and rose for us.  That’s why Paul says verse 12, “You were raised with Him through faith in the working of God.”  That’s how one is saved, “through faith in the working of God,” the God “who raised Christ from the dead.”  Baptism does not save, but baptism is what the Christian does once he or see has been saved.

Baptism is an outward expression

Of an inward transformation.

If you are a believer your baptism pictures death to the old you and life in the new you.  That’s why ministers speak the way they do when they baptize new believers.  As the believer goes down into the water, the minister often says, “Buried with Christ in baptism (Dying to the old way of life)” and as the believer comes up out of the water, the minister says, “Raised to walk in a new way of life.”  Baptism reflects the wonderful union of the Christian with Christ.  The Christian shares in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

Paul goes on in the next couple verses to provide the second blessing Christian’s enjoy because of their union with Christ.  Not only do we have Eternal Fellowship With Christ, but:

2) We Have Eternal Forgiveness Through Christ.

What a joy to know that all of our sins are forgiven in Christ.  We will talk more about that 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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“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

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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

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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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