12/9/18

Colossians 3:5-7

In Colossians 3:5-7, we read "5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them."

The Apostle Paul gives believers another directive in order to help us in our pursuit of the Lord. The directive is to reject our old way of living. He gives examples in the arena of sexuality.

One of the greatest lies of our culture is what we do in private, as long as there is consent, doesn’t affect anyone else. But Paul says walking in Christ means thinking Gd's way regarding our sexuality.

Almost all of Paul’s letters include teaching on how to think about sexuality. He does so because our view on this subject has the greatest affect on the community as a whole.

In the Colossian culture, religion had incorporated sexuality into its practices. This was nothing new for we see this ungodly practice in the Bible as early as Leviticus 18.

God gave man the gift of sex to be experienced in the context of a commitment that instills the kind of trust that creates a creative form of vulnerability and subsequent oneness.

In the context of this trust, creativity was meant to run wild with joy and the greatest of loving expression. And, when experienced according to God's definition, sex adds life to any community, both physically and emotionally.

Well, after giving us five sins to reject, Paul gives two rational reasons for our rejection of such.

The first is the wrath that is incurred in such choices. The second is that it is not congruent with our newly given nature.

The wrath that Paul is speaking of here is simply the absence of the holiness of God. When we give in to these sins, we are demonstrating a lack of completeness that the holiness of God brings to the human soul.

When we are not defined by the completeness that God wants to bring to our souls, we will be defined by our incompleteness and insecurities. As a result, the flesh will render death and destruction.

This incompleteness and these insecurities reject God's definition and the benefits of life that He brings. The lack of God and all that He renders to and in our souls, yields this wrath or the lack of God in our lives.

You will remember in our study of Romans 1 that the wrath of God is expressed in God letting us go our own way to experience a life void of His life. This is the life of the Prodigal the Lord Jesus told us about in Luke 15.

As the Prodigal did when he returned from his life of waste, we discover that we are miserable because there is a presence in our lives who has brought with Him a certain measure of guilt.

This guilt is that gnawing in the back of our souls that reminds us that it is simply dumb for us to reject the life that God wants to offer us. It is incongruent for us to live our old lives of sin, especially due to the fact that we have been introduced to the liberating freedom the Lord Jesus has brought to our souls.

12/8/18

Colossians 3:1-4

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Since we’ve been raised with Christ, we must be wise enough to be defined by Him. We are defined by Him when we set our minds on Him and His definition (His word) of all things. Being a Christian means we operate according to a hidden resource, an invisible reality, which the world does not have and cannot see. Our hidden and invisible resource is Christ Himself.

Paul refers to Christ "up in heaven" and "Christ in you, the hope of glory." This extra dimension is not far removed in the reaches of heaven; this dimension is in our hearts. This is an untouchable, invisible dimension within us. And, this is the secret of our power, joy and courage.

"Set your minds" on this hidden resource is not something we do to the exclusion of our regular lives. It is rather that Christ is involved with us every day and in each of our choices. Christ's wisdom, power and knowledge are all available to us, as we seek Him. We primarily seek Him with our minds, however more than just our minds must be involved. Our hearts must be molded and moved by the Lord. This is why a personal relationship is a must. It is the pursuit of our hearts that determines our truest identity.

Paul is talking about bending our wills to what He wants for and of us. Our life, our daily activities, our thoughts include the involvement of Christ. When we separate ourselves from Him, our old faithless and godless selves are found to be sitting on the thrones of our hearts. This is not good.

In Colossians 3:4, we see that when Christ returns, then it will be obvious that we allowed Him to use our trials and hurts to teach us intimacy with Him. As a result, we will share in His glory so that all others will see.

Mike Yaconelli once said it well when he said, "Looking back over the years, I realize the Bible isn't magic, but it is corrective; it isn't an answer book, it is a living book; it isn't a fix-it book, it is relationship book. When I confront God's word, I am confronted; when I read God's word, it reads me; when I seek God's presence, He seeks me."



12/7/18

Colossians 2:20-23

20 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— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 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. (Colossians 2:20-23)

Today we consider the third distraction to our faith pursuit of Jesus Christ: Isolating Asceticism.


In Colossians 2:23 the Apostle Paul highlights "neglect of the body." In so doing, he is getting us to see the third distraction for the believer having intimate and personal fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Asceticism is the practice of self-denial and separation from sin as a means of attaining spiritual maturity. Note Paul's questioning in v.21: "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle." When we cease understanding that Christianity is about knowing the Lord for ourselves, we begin to make it about the non-essentials, like what we touch, taste and give ourselves to.

Notice that this section is predicated upon the fact that the believer in Christ has "died with Christ." Viewing oneself accordingly prevents us from thinking that God is pleased by our negative approach to life, even though these pursuits are good.

Biblical Christianity views everything as sacred! We live in a fallen world wherein that which is sacred has been subjected to sin and death, thus making it less than it truly is.

Due to the above mentioned approach to life, many Christians believe that separation from sin is the means to spiritual maturity. Many say, "if I can get far enough away from sin, then I will be more of a christian and more acceptable to God." This is immature thinking. In fact, Jesus said, "be in the world but not of it." Exposure to sinfulness is not the issue, especially if we are evaluating all things through the lens of scripture.

Many believe that which enters a man is that which defiles him. Jesus said, "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man."

Asceticism is not biblical, because we can not get away from sin. In fact, sin still resides within, and the most diabolical danger in our lives is the sinful desires that are still within us. There are times that we, thinking we are doing the right thing, are doing the wrong thing. The attitude of arrogance has been known to nullify many supposed expressions of righteousness.

The danger is trying to elude sin, and in so doing, we miss the Lord Himself. We all know Christians who are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use to the Lord in other people's lives. What we need to do is to return to Jesus. As we walk with Him, He equips us to confront sin and not be defined by it.

12/6/18

Colossians 2:18-19

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, 19 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. (Colossians 2:18-19)

As we saw yesterday, there are three distractions the believer in Christ faces in our pursuit of personal fellowship and intimacy with Jesus Christ.

The first distraction is Empty Religion.

The second is Aimless Mysticism which cornerstones "false humility" and the "worship of angels."

The believers in Colossae were wrongly directed by "Mysticism", which teaches salvation is gained by acquiring divine knowledge freeing one from the illusions of darkness of this world. This mysticism had its basis in the teachings of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle who taught truth is not a person, it is an experience.

The problem with Mysticism is that it leads us to focus not on God's definition of things as given in His word, but on ourselves as the captains of our lives. Mysticism teaches the idea that all we need is already inside of us, and all we need to do is bring it out and develop our full potential. Self-value, self-worth and self-realization are the doctrines which flow forth from this distraction.

This is not the message of the Bible, which asserts that Christianity is a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the reward that Paul is writing about here in v.18. In order to assist us in knowing Him, God has given us His Word and His Spirit to frame up our definitions of life and our pursuit of Him.

On the other hand, Mysticism doesn't help the believer. But, there is Christian Mysticism. D.D. Martin once wrote, "Christian mysticism seeks to describe an experienced, direct, non-abstract, unmediated, loving knowledge of God, a knowing or seeing so direct as to be called union with God."

God has chronicled His thoughts about life and reality in His word, the Holy Bible. There is no personal relationship with God apart from His definition of things, apart from the Bible. And yet, we do not go further with God apart from the "seeming erratic" nature of our faith in Him. This pursuit seems erratic because we do do not know the other means by which God will reveal Himself to us. His Spirit who has made our spirit alive to Him uses all types of object lessons to accentuate the person and character of our God, the God of the Bible.

When our hearts are informed and motivated to seek Him by His word and Spirit, the possibilities are limitless.  On the heels of this informed and motivated pursuit, we experience life with the touch of eternity upon it. Our goal is intimacy with God, an intimacy that is feeling without touching. And, it must be defined and fueled by His word and His Spirit.

So, even though Mysticism was a threat to the faith of the Colossians, as with everything, Mysticism can be a means to our fellowship with God. The marriage of our hearts' pursuit and His word renders a journey worth being defined and worth pursuing.

Tomorrow, we will consider the third distraction to the real pursuit that awaits us.

12/5/18

Colossians 2:16-17

16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Col 2:16-17)

In this passage, we discover the distractions we face in our pursuit of personal fellowship with Jesus Christ. 

The first distraction is Empty Religion.

God gave Israel practices in the Old Testament to be pictures of His goal with humanity: a personal relationship with all who would believe in His Son. What hinders us in this pursuit is our reluctance to be vulnerable with God. Our plastic approach to life limits the vitality of a personal relationship with Him. 

These religious practices including the "New Moon" and the "Sabbath Day" came every month and every week. These practices and celebrations were meant to be a means to fellowship with God, yet we tend to make them a means to knowing about Him.

In v.17 we learn that these rituals were billboards along the highway of life pointing us to Jesus Christ Himself. Once Christ came, these shadows lost their value. The Jews continued to place primary value on the shadow after the reality had come. As a result, they missed experiencing a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. 

Believers in Christ must not let anyone other than the Lord define us. Being free servants of God, living out of His world, obeying His call, joyfully interacting with all that He has made, going where He sends us, and afraid of nothing, we live out of the freedom Christ earned for us at the cross

The Christian life now is learning to trust Him, walk with Him, and know Him personally. We learn this life by being defined by Him through His word and through practicing His presence every day.

12/4/18

Colossians 2:8-15

8 Beware 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. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. 11 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, 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. 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, 14 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. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it." (Colossians 2:8-15)

We have considered two of the three characteristics of false teaching, today, we consider the third: It is "not according to Christ."

False teaching will always have these three characteristics. Notice how the apostle Paul focuses on Jesus Christ.

"9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." (2:9-10)

When we are preoccupied with Him we are protected from false teaching. All too often Christians are known more for what we do not believe rather than for what we believe. This is to our detriment.

In v.11 Paul elaborates on what the believer has in Christ.

First, we were circumcised with Him.

"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."

Here, the Apostle Paul uses a common every day medical procedure to illustrate a profound truth. In the same way that a surgeon removes the extra skin, the Lord removes the callousness that sin has formed around the human heart. Apart from His intervention, our hearts are indifferent to Him.

When Jesus was crucified, He removed the consequences of our sin before God. The result is what the Scriptures call the "circumcision of the heart."  Through Christ’s performance, believers in Christ have been made alive to God. And, the more we act on our aliveness to God, the more sensitive we become to Him.

Then Paul moves to the next step ...

"... 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."  (Colossians 2:12)

Second, we are baptized into Christ.

Baptism stands for our new life with the Lord. Being immersed in the waters of baptism we were not left there, we were brought into eternal life. That is what baptism reflects: the work of the Spirit in imparting the very life of Christ to us.

The third step in this process is seen in v.14. We are no longer condemned.

"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." (Colossians 2:14)

Our condemnation before God is removed by the death of Christ. He paid for all our sins, our past sins, our present sins and our future sins. Sin no longer separates us from God, even though we still do it. We are free to experience God because of who He is, not because of what we do.

Now, we are free to experience life in the full assurance that God is with us and He is experiencing every high and low with us. This means everything, both good and bad, has meaningful purpose. We are no longer to be dominated by sin, the flesh or any diabolical being. We are truly free!

12/3/18

Colossians 2:8 (b)

"Beware 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." (Colossians 2:8)

In order to grow toward spiritual maturity, we must recognize the false. In order to help us do this, in Colossians 2, the Apostle Paul gives us three characteristics of false teaching.

Having considered the first yesterday, today we will take up the second.

False teaching is based upon "the basic principles of this world." 

The word for "principles" here literally means "things in a row" or "a series of things." This means that this way seems right to most in the culture, making it more difficult for us to think differently. This explains why we have such difficulty thinking the Lord's thoughts.

This philosophy is man's drive to be successful. Success isn't wrong or bad. The key is by what definition do I define success. If we are defined by anything or anyone other than the Lord, we will be rendered lacking in one way or another. False teaching will always lead us to self, our most prominent god.

Our culture defines success by the amount of money, education, or status we have attained. Again, there is nothing wrong with money, education, or status, but, if we define our success by the world's definition, we lack the definition of God.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18-24, we read, "18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, "I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE." 20 ‘Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."

Here is the contrast between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of this world. God’s wisdom is Jesus Christ crucified. God's wisdom is seen most profoundly through the death and resurrection of His Son, as He remedied our greatest enemy, death.

The Greeks were well known for their philosophers; with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle being the most notable. Jesus and His crucifixion was like foolishness to them.

In 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, we read, "30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD."

Jesus Christ is the antidote to empty human philosophy. He is the solution for the lack rendered by the wrong pursuits in the human heart! We do well to pursue a real, meaningful and intimate relationship with Him. Our goal is to discover His definition of all things, which are discovered in His word.

The reason so many Christians struggle with spiritual maturity is that we pursue formulas rather than a Person. When we have a passion for a person, we won’t have a problem with the requirements that are involved in that relationship. We will not read the Bible because we have to, we will read it because we want to.

When we increasingly pursue Christ as a Person, we will increasingly find Him. In so doing, we will be defined by Him and not the basic principles of this world.

Finally, think of the Bible as a pane of glass. The glass is designed for us to look through and enjoy the scenery beyond. When the Bible is a means to seeing God, our study of it will render a heart for Him. When we study Him, we will be guarded against becoming etched and scratched by this cruel world's way of thinking. This is how we fight off the negative influences of this lost and dying world.





12/2/18

Colossians 2:8

Colossians 2 is all about the ability to recognize the real from the false. One of several results is spiritual maturity, because we are realizing the economy of God in our lives.

Notice the word captive here in v.8. It means to "kidnap" or "to be taken hostage! The Apostle Paul instructs us not to be “taken captive.” The Greek word used for captive is "sulagogon" which was used when slave traders would capture people to be sold into slavery. When we are taken captive by false teaching, we are deprived from fellowship with Christ. And, as a result, we do not experience His freedom.

One  weapon that is used to do this is philosophy, man's love for wisdom. Not all philosophy is bad, but if it doesn't match up with the teaching of the Bible, it is. These philosophies have no real content, they have no actual basis in reality. And, they conflict with God’s definition of things.

In Colossians 2:8, we discover three characteristics of wrong philosophy. Today we will take up the first of these three.

"Beware 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." (Colossians 2:8)

1. Worldly Philosophy based on “human tradition.”

This first characteristic is an intellectual challenge to our faith. Paul does not identify the philosophy, however, there are some clues.

He mentions the observance of special days, including the Sabbath (2:16); the worship of angels (2:18); submission to the “elemental spirits of the world” (2:20); and abstinence (2:21,23).

The Greek word philosophia had a variety of meanings in this period, and, depending on the context, might be translated “religion,” “speculation,” or “investigation.” There are those that have taken this verse and used it to support the idea that all philosophy is bad. Paul’s primary target is “philosophical” speculation whose foundation is merely human wisdom.

Much of the false teachings in Colossae hindered the believers from entering into an intimate and personal fellowship with the Lord. You will remember that our justification (rightness with the Lord) is based upon the work that Jesus accomplished on His cross on our behalf. However, our sanctification is based upon the Spirit's work in our lives as we allow Him to change our souls (mind, will and emotions).

These worldly philosophies always appeal to our flesh (evil desires within us). The flesh is expressed in an unforgiving spirit, a critical spirit, complaining, lusts, suspicion, and many others.

The odd part of all of this is it is plain dumb to allow others to captivate us into motivating us to feed the flesh.

Tomorrow, we will consider the next characteristic of false teaching.

12/1/18

Colossians 2:4-7

4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:4-7)

The Apostle informs us that his goal in teaching is that we will not be deceived. To "deceive," means "to reason beside something." We are deceived when we believe the counterfeit that was put alongside the truth that looks very much like it.

There is a counterfeit for every truth. Often, what we think is worship is nothing more than preoccupation with the god of self. This is what Paul is addressing in the book of Colossians.

Poor theology infects our hearts with unbelief! Many are paralyzed through embracing bad theology, resulting in preoccupation with knowing about the truth rather than the truth Himself.

This is a struggle between two gods: the great god, Self, and the true God, Jesus Christ. In this world, and even in the church, we are taught self-realization, self-actualization, self-development, self-discovery, self-esteem, and self-love.

As a result, most believe freedom is the ability to do what we want to do when we want to do it. When we give up this illusion, we are freed to discover true freedom in Jesus Christ. This is the secret to real life.

In Colossians 2:5, the Apostle provides two things which provide the antidote for bad theology.

The first is a disciplined life. 

Jesus told us if we want real life, we will deny ourselves. Yet, the world and the flesh (the evil desires within) say, do whatever you like doing, deny yourself nothing. On the other hand, when we live a disciplined life, a life defined by God's truth,  we will quickly detect and resist error.

The second is faith in Christ. 

Every human on the face of the earth has faith. What makes the Christian's faith unique is our faith's object ... Jesus Christ Himself. Faith in the active presence of Jesus Christ will act like a metal detector. Instead of detecting metal, faith in Christ detects that which is false.

Now, according to Colossians 2:6-7, there are three things that happens to the believer which dovetails with the above two qualities of the believer in Christ. All three are passive participles, meaning these things have been done to us by God.

First, we are "rooted" in Christ. Like a deeply-rooted tree, we have been planted in Christ and our roots hold tight. He is the Gardener who is responsible for our spiritual maturity (see John 15).

Second, we are "built up" in Christ. Not only are the roots going deep, but we are growing up as well. We are increasing in faith and experience in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As this happens, we begin to see life through His eyes.

Third, we are "strengthened" in the faith. We are tested through trials, and our faith is strengthened through being forced to cry out to and run to Him for the answers for life.

When we experience these three, we discover God's life which results in "overflowing with thankfulness." This is when we learn how to be thankful in all things. And, we short circuit this  false alternative of grumbling, complaining and criticizing through life.

11/30/18

Colossians 2:1-3

I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:1-3)

Colossians addresses the problem of lack, a lack of meaning and life within. The true secret to real life is a mystery. In order to bring real life to our souls, we must truly experience fellowship with Jesus Christ who has chosen to live within His followers. 

When Jesus is this real to us, even difficulties and trials are meaningful to us. So meaningful we discover they are a means to adventure in life with our friend Jesus Christ. Out of such a life, we discover that which is real. And, a sense of risk, perhaps even danger, is embraced by us in time. 

Paul wrote Colossians while in prison. In it, he highlights his efforts to help believers experience the life Jesus died to give us, a life full of adventure.  

In Colossians 1, the Apostle wrote about praying for them. Prayer is one very important element involved in our fellowship with the Lord and with one another.  Think about it, we practice God’s presence in the midst of our most difficult moments in life. And, as a result, prayer is an important element to experiencing a changed heart. 

Paul literally “agonized" in prayer. Agonize (ἀγωνιζόμενος/agonizomenos) is the word that Paul uses here. The Apostle wrestled deeply in prayer which was the product of dealing with deep troubles in his own life. Through his own agony God not only provided answers for Paul, He provided many, many answers to many, many people. 

Such is the nature of our trials. In 1 Peter 4:12-13 we read, "12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." 

When we go through the deepest of waters, we are poised to discover God. And, in discovering Him, we discover a lot of truths about life. And, when God blesses us like this, He always has others in mind.

Paul's goal, according to Colossians 2:2 is to encourage the Colossians in order to unite them in love. In doing so, Paul is illustrating a very important principle in leading others to spiritual maturity: building a relationship with people is the way to help them to what is really real.  

When we grasp what the word of God is saying on how to handle life it becomes exciting. It gives us the sense that we are not alone, that we don't have to handle our problems alone, or that we don't have to lean heavily on human advice, though God often provides help in that way. We gain a different attitude toward the irritations that come at us. And, we naturally want to help others find the truth that we have discovered.

We were wired with two GREAT needs: to be loved and to love. This is why we clamor so much to find significance in this world through our relationships, jobs, and accomplishments. And, there is no greater satisfaction than to know that we have impacted an everlasting soul with that which is eternal.