Colossians 2:6-7; Brief Thoughts

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

“Walk,” meaning to conform one’s life in a certain direction or to follow a particular pattern. It is such as simple exhortation… walk. Throughout Scripture, God’s people are instructed to “walk.” Abraham is told to walk to a land God would show him. Moses and the Hebrews are forced to walk around in the desert. Joshua is told to walk around a city. The Kings are told to walk in the statutes that God has given them. The prophets call the people to return to walking in the way God has given them. Jesus calls his disciple to walk after him. And the Apostles call Christians to “walk in [Christ]” (v.6). The term “walk” is used 96 times in the New Testament and is commonly used to refer to a general pattern of life.

Paul exhorts Christians to live a lifestyle that is consistent with Christianity. Exhortations are instructions that are based on previously established facts or commonly held beliefs. Paul’s exhortations to “walk” are based on the reality of the indwelling Spirit of Christ in the heart of all who believe. Because Christians have trusted Christ and are subsequently changed by that faith, Paul says, “walk in Him.” In other words: live a lifestyle consistent with that claim of faith.

The life of a believer is one that is “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith…” and is marked by an abundant and prolific “thanksgiving” (v.7). First, the believer’s faith is “rooted” in Christ. Consider for a moment what it means to be “rooted.” This means that the source of nourishment and strength are drawn from a foundational relationship with Jesus Christ. For Christians the source of life in Christ. As it is with roots, so it is with Christians. The deeper the roots go into the foundation, the stronger the life of the plant. Further, any progress in growth as a Christian also results from Christ. Alongside being “rooted,” Christians are also “built up in [Christ].” Christians derive their strength and encouragement from Christ and knowing Him. He is the source of encouragement and strength.

Another defining Characteristic of those who “walk in Him” is that they are “established in the faith.” Christians have a strong faith. It is strong because it is not dependent on the work of the person, it is dependent on Christ and what He has already accomplished. Paul uses the term “faith” here to describe the collected system of beliefs and doctrines common to Christians. These doctrinal truths that Paul asserts the Colossians are established in are basic to all Christianity. The collected truths that Jesus Christ die for sins, has risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is returning one day to reclaim all creation for Himself, is made strong in the heart of a believer precisely because Christ’s Spirit has indwelt those who believe in Him (see further 1 John 2:27). Those who “walk in Him” are marked by a faith that is strong and growing.

Notice that this exhortation to “walk in Him” is followed by descriptors that are past tense. The characteristics of “rooted,” “built up,” and “established” are all traits that already exist in the life of one who is called to “walk.” The faith of a believer is the foundation and strength that one depends on in order to walk in the way of Jesus. It is because of the firm relationship and growing knowledge of Him that believers are able to “walk.”

Believers are marked by gratitude. Gratitude stems from an accurate understanding of God’s work with the heart. True believers recognize the worth they bring to the table of salvation. They know all too well what wretched beings they were before Christ. They are aware of the depth of their sin and disgrace and as a result. They are aware of the death that once claimed their souls. Christians know that they have been redeemed by mercy and not personal or corporate merit. It is not the merit of the Christian or the community that redeems the believer. It is the life and sacrifice and of merit of Jesus Christ. That is the motive for thanksgiving. Thanksgiving marks the heart of a believer. Imagine what this world would look like if every person who claimed the name of Christ were identified as incredibly grateful people who look and live like Jesus. Would it not be a sight to behold!?

 

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Colossians 2:1-5 pt. 2; Brief Thoughts

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. [1]

As believers come together, becoming fully dressed through their mutual progress in knowledge and understanding of Christ, the character of Christ becomes manifest among them. The character of Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. As the community of faith grows together, Christ is manifest among them. What a joyous thought! The keeper of all wisdom and knowledge is the means by which Christians attain “full assurance.”

Our ability to attain wisdom and knowledge is dependant on our pursuit of Jesus. As we grow closer to Christ, we become more and more like him and we avail ourselves of the wisdom and knowledge that is in Him. There is no toil to which He has not an answer. There is no quandary that He cannot bring reconciliation to. He is the Lord and He has ALL wisdom and knowledge. It is not merely some… it is all. Oh Christian, if you would simply sit and delight yourself in the nature and work of Jesus, you would find an infinite treasure of wisdom and knowledge. You would find a peace that passes all understanding precisely because it contains all wisdom and knowledge.

As the Colossians read the words of Paul, the surrounding world was urging them to seek philosophical means to achieve their peace and happiness. The world around them purposed that the gods could be manipulated and bent to achieve the result of wisdom. The pagan culture was developing into a civilized, man-centered society that combined a kind of pagan mysticism with a humanistic approach to knowledge. What Paul espouses is entirely contrary to pagan mysticism and Greek humanistic philosophy. Mysticism says that one must do the work to get the gods to do what you want to be done. Christianity says Christ has already done the work and you have only to delight in knowing Him. Humanistic philosophy says that this life is all about amassing for self and that you will find life within yourself. Christ says that life is found in surrendering to Him and you will only find life in Him. This is what Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 1, contrasting the world’s wisdom with that of Christ.

Paul is concerned that the people of God may be deluded by the words of men (v.4). He is concerned that someone may be able to speak eloquently, yet deceitful words that would lead the people to error. The effects of erroneous philosophy and theologies are innumerable. The very fabric of life is laid waste when the foundational understanding of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is discarded. When Jesus is dismissed as a mere rabbi and Christianity is labeled as a non-transformative moralism, then all truth is dismissed. But Christ is not some mere rabbi! He is God incarnate and knowing Him transforms our nature! This is why it is so critical that Christians pursue knowing Christ. He is the truth. He is the storehouse of wisdom and knowledge. He is God made flesh so that you would be transformed from death to life. Seek Him!

Paul’s concerns are common among faithful ministers the world over. When we are absent from our people we worry that no one else will remind them of the word. When we are distant, our faith in God’s provision for the wisdom of others is tested. So it is with Paul. As he is absent from the Colossians, he wants to be assured that they are not taken in by various deceptive philosophies. Paul wants Christians to be steeped in truth and founded in Christ. It is this very firmness of faith that will bring gladness to the heart of true pastors.

Notice, it is the firmness of their faith. Not the prolific expansion of their numbers or the monetary success of their body. The firmness of their faith is what delights the heart of pastors. If a so-called pastor delights in numeric success over firmness of faith, then that person is not a pastor of Jesus Christ. The men who are called by God to shepherd God’s people are concerned with the people, not the size or monetary gain of the organization. Look for pastors to shepherd you who have the same heart as Paul. Look for men who are concerned for the firmness of faith. Look for churches that will teach sound doctrine and push you to know Jesus more deeply.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 2:1–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Colossians 2:1-5, pt. 1; Brief Thoughts

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. [1]

Often Paul’s expression of struggle is born from a deep concern for the hearts of those whom he writes. Paul’s concern is that the believers would be encouraged in their walk of faith and that they would be unified through love for one another.

Christians need encouragement. Indeed, all humanity was created to live in community together. It is natural to gather together with like-minded people for the purpose of encouragement and progress. When a person submits to Christ for the first time, they separate themselves from the world around them and become something new. Particularly in Colossae, when someone became a believer, they were separating from a vastly different religious background and community. As a person transitioned from pagan worship to Christianity, they would find themselves alienated and separate from the community that once surrounded them. Thus, Paul wants to encourage them. Christians do not journey alone and meeting and fellowshipping with other believers is a great source of encouragement.

The encouragement of believers stems from the common love that binds all Christians together. When Christ has invaded a heart, love begins to reign as the chief motivation for Christian action: that is, love for Jesus. The motivation prior to the life transforming work of the Spirit was love for self. Though it may have manifested itself in many variants, all actions committed prior to Christ, no mater how altruistic they may seem, were motivated by a love for self (c.f. Isa. 64:6). Once Christ rescues a man, love for self is replaced by a growing love for Christ. It is this common love that serves as the bond between Christians. It is this love that allows the Gospel to transcend all other divides. The love of Christ, birthed in the heart of Christians, unites believers the world over in a common filial relationship that overcomes every cultural barrier, racial distinction, economic disparity, and ideological difference. True Christians are not bound together because they share the same ideological principles. True believers are bound together because they share the same love!

Encouragement and unity serve to propel the Christian community towards maturity. As Christians live in love with one another and display the love of God on the earth to all those around them, they grow in their assurance. The Greek word used for “assurance” is a compound word from the word for “fullness” and the word “wear.” Christians who love each other will become fully dressed in the understanding and knowledge of Christ. A community that pursues the love of Christ will inevitably look more and more like the focus of their love. It is this “full-dressing” that Paul longs to see the Colossians exemplify.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are attending a fancy event. Everyone is dressed appropriately in formal attire. As you wait to enter the gala, you notice to the left a young man whose tie is untied and he has no jacket or shoes on. The young man comes to the entrance of the gala and nervousness begins to overwhelm him. You watch as he begins to realize that he is underdressed for the occasion. His eyes drift to those around him in comparative agony as he recognizes his inadequacy. Then you begin to see a group of fully dressed people gather around the young man. One man shows the young brother how to tie his tie, the next hands him a pair of shoes, and the one places a jacket on him. The young man’s inadequacies are overcome by engaging in the community of mutual love. So the young man is fully dressed for the gala. This is the way Christian community works. Through mutual encouragement, believers lift one another up in the understanding and knowledge of Christ.

This is why it is so important for you to find a healthy church that can encourage you in love. Seek out a church where the community will walk with you, bearing your burdens, teaching you how to live, and working with you that you may be fully dressed in the understanding and knowledge of Christ.

If you do not have a church that does this, you are welcome to join us at Sovereign Grace Fellowship. We strive together as a community to live out the love of Christ in our everyday lives. Come join us for worship on Sunday mornings at 10:30 or for Bible study Thursday nights at 6pm. More information about us can be found on our website at www.sgfbrazoria.org

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 2:1–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Impossible Prayers

Recently I was challenged by a message by Eric Ludy. He spoke in the message about praying “impossible prayers.” His challenge to the congregation was to pray in accordance with God’s character. God is immense! God created and sustains all things. He is powerful beyond what we could ever think or imagine. So, if we believe this, our prayers must exist in accordance with this truth.

At Sovereign Grace Fellowship, We’ve asked all the members to join in by making a list of a few impossible prayers that they can pray. What is so powerful about prayer is that God uses it to change the pray-er. Not only does prayer affect the circumstances that one prays about, it also affects the one who is doing the praying. I thought I’d share some of my impossible prayers below as well as some of the effects that have resulted within me from praying this way.

  1. I pray that everyone who lives on my street would become believers in Christ Jesus. As I have prayed this, I find myself speaking more openly to my neighbors. I will see them outside and, instead of a simple wave and walk inside, I approach with the intent of spiritual conversation. This has extended beyond just my neighbors. I find myself talking about deep things with more and more people as I pray this prayer. The cashier at the store, the guy walking along the road, the city worker… every person I see and talk to becomes a valuable deep conversation. I’ve become “that guy.” My evangelistic zeal has increased as I beg the Lord to save my street.
  2. I pray that starvation and poverty would be eradicated in the United States and then that our country would use it’s resources to do the same in the rest of the world. As I have begun to pray for this on a regular basis, my own sense of gratitude has been developed. Sitting down to a meal, in a house is a pretty big deal now. The sorrow I feel for those who don’t have a place is only eclipsed by the gratitude that grows in me. I also have been more attentive to the needs of those who do not have food or a home. I know that I am more sensitive to the hunger of others now. I know that, though I have little, I have some and can help others who have none.
  3. I pray that every church in the west would teach the gospel with clarity and that the church would look completely different from the world. This prayer has made me less concerned with my own church’s numeric success. It has made me much more concerned with the salvation of souls and the discipleship of Christians. This prayer is really not a new one. It has kind of been a cornerstone of my life since the age of 22… So when we started SGF, we incorporated prayer for another church every Sunday. We receive no material benefit from these churches and we have no special connection to them other than Kingdom work. With our limited resources and size, we strive to partner with others in the gospel ministry in this way. As I have prayed for every church to teach and live out the gospel in a way that changes the perception of the church in the west, I find myself evaluating other churches based on their Kingdom efforts. Buildings, membership, and programs no longer impress. But, Kingdom work – that selfless effort of Christians to proclaim the gospel with no material benefit to ourselves, is all that matters.

So what are some impossible prayers you pray!? Post them in the comments.

Featured Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Colossians 1:26-29; Brief Thoughts

26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

It has always seemed peculiar to me that the gospel would be “hidden.” This glorious salvation in Jesus was hidden for ages past. As God sought-after man and the prophets proclaimed His glorious redemption, mankind persisted in seeking to justify himself by doing what was right in his own eyes. Every individual rejected the message of salvation that seems so plainly declared to those who believe. A willful blindness kept the mystery hidden. Willful in that no one sought to know God and thereby find righteousness (Romans 3). Blind in that they could not see (Isaiah 6).

Now, no longer are we blind! The Saints have seen the glory of God and His proclamation of love. The mystery that so plagued the desperate soul of mankind – the answer to that deep separation from God’s mercy and love – has now resolved in Jesus. This mystery is revealed, in Jesus, to the saints. The mystery remains hidden from the eyes of those who do not believe in Jesus. But to the saints, God has chosen to reveal His Glory. It is God’s prerogative to reveal Himself. So it is that God has determined that He would reveal Himself, not only to the Jews but to the Gentiles.

Consider for a moment the answer to the mystery – “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Jesus makes His residence in you. In His death, your sin and it’s nature is utterly obliterated (Romans 6:6). You have been rescued and a new nature has been placed within you (Colossians 3:10). Along with your new nature, the Holy Spirit lives within those who believe. Further, not only is Christ’s Spirit taking up residence within you, He has also covered you with His own righteousness. This covering is not merely a blanket that covers you but is a full replacement. He has taken your unrighteousness and put within you His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). In doing so, you have been enabled to stand before the Holy King! Finally, His presence within you is the “hope of glory.” His spirit is the guarantee of heaven and life for you (Ephesians 1:13-14). Isn’t it wonderful to know that the guarantee is based on His actions and not on our own?

This is the gospel – Christ died on the cross, taking the sins of those who trust in Him upon Himself; then, through the resurrection, He granted life to those who trust Him; He has taken up residence in those who trust Him, and works within them to conform them to who they have been designed to be. Paul states that this is a warning. Death exists as the first state of every soul on earth. There is the warning. You are dead and need life! The life that can only be found through faith in Jesus. Salvation is the message that Christians proclaim. Not health. Not financial gain. Not peace of mind. Not balance. But life! Life with Christ versus death without Him.  So, we teach the Bible. Faithfully and consistently. We teach carefully, with “all wisdom.”

Too often in modern churches, we have forgotten this responsibility. We have traded the sound and faithful teaching of the gospel for the entertaining engagement of a crowd. Yet, Paul reminds us of our goal: “to present everyone as mature in Christ.” Woe to the pastors who lose sight of this commission. Our goal as Christians is not to gather crowds. It is not even to work to gather converts. It is to present to God mature Christians. How glorious would the community of faith be if our focus was on maturing as obedient Christ followers!?  Keep this ever before your eyes! You are given the mission to make disciples and present them as mature to God.

It is not gathering crowds that Paul strives towards, It is so much greater! It is training and teaching the Gospel in a way that changes the soul and challenges the norm. It is developing disciples for His name and His glory!

Colossians 1:23-26; Brief Thoughts

23 the gospel… of which I, Paul, became a minister.

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 

There is much encouragement to be drawn from Paul’s own testimony of gospel ministry. The Lord has allowed Paul to partake in suffering, given him a unique ministry to the Gentiles, revealed deep truths to him, and empowered him to overcome trial and persecution.

It seems counter-intuitive to consider suffering a blessing. Yet, throughout the New Testament, Christians are given tremendous encouragement through suffering. Consider Acts 5, when Peter and John are beaten and expelled from the temple. They were beaten and yet it says that they were “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41). Further, the epistles are rich with encouragement to consider suffering a joy and to think of trials as something that is good and God-ordained (c.f. James 1:2, 1 Peter 1:6-9). For Paul, suffering is a validation, joy, and commission given by Christ.

To be clear, Paul is not speaking of suffering a disease or calamity in one’s life. He is here addressing suffering that comes through persecution. Gospel ministry is validated for Paul when it is so strong and aggressive that it causes utter rejection. The fierce opposition of the gospel proves the strength of the message. Indeed, if the message were weak, it wouldn’t be opposed. When suffering comes as a result of calamity, we pray that God would be with us through it. When suffering comes as a result of our evangelistic zeal in the gospel ministry, we rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer.

The glorious ministry of suffering did not conclude with Christ. The Church continues the work of revealing God’s character on this earth. That is – the character of surrendering majesty and taking on humility for the sake of love. Christians are commissioned to surrender their own life for the sake of gaining God and, thereby, gaining real life (c.f. John 12:25). The joy of suffering for the gospel is found in the communion with God! When we share in suffering for His name, we share in His name!

Paul was given a special commission to be the apostle to the Gentiles. His mission was broad and yet reached specifically to the Colossians by God’s special providence. His mission? To make the gospel “fully known” to the Colossians. His work was to teach the complete gospel. He did not simply accept that easy message so common among the evangelical world in modern times. Paul’s message demanded complete surrender to Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus must be your master; He must be your righteousness. The gospel of Jesus Christ was hidden for ages past, though the prophets proclaimed it. The prophets of the Old Testament made prophecies through a veil that obscured some of the glory of God. With Jesus’ crucifixion, that veil was torn and the holiness of God was revealed in majestic forgiveness.

 

Colossians 1:21-23; Brief Thoughts

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

There is no merit within a man that does not derive its value from Jesus. As established in verses 15-20, Jesus is the agent and sustainer of all creation. Further, He is the one who brings reconciliation through His work. In order to understand what change has been wrought in the souls of those who believe, we must first begin by understanding that it is Jesus’ work that brings redemption.

Some people would dare to assert that they have achieved some state of reconciliation based on their own merit or decisive action. However, Paul’s words here describe the state of all of humanity before Christ. Every person is distant from God – the Author and Sustainer of life. Not only is all mankind held at a distance from God by sin, each individual person has waged a war on God’s righteousness and holiness. From the beginning, humanity has shaken its fist in the face of a perfect, holy, and just God. Rebelling both in mind and in deed. The rebellion of sin is not merely one of intellect, it progresses to action in “evil deeds.” The hostility that is conceived in the mind of a man against God becomes manifested in the actions of sinful rebellious deeds.

This description of man shows a complete deprivation of all semblance of righteousness. There is first distance/separation in the word alienation. The term for “alienated” means excluded, or estranged. It indicates a foreign nature in the one described. The one who is alienated is one who does not belong and has no place. Before Christ’s work, people have no place of belonging and no home with God. Further, every individual is at enmity with God, exercising hostility of mind in, and through evil deeds.

Christ does not allow such deprivation of spirit to remain in His created ones. Instead, He brings peace in His death. Taking upon Himself the sins of man, He bares those sins before God and dies in order to defeat the effects of sin. In His body, Christ dies that you might believe and thereby have life. Christ comes to those who reject Him and reconciles to Himself those who have waged war against Him.

Consider the lengths to which Christ has gone to reconcile you to God. He lived a perfect life, surrendering strength in favor of weakness while simultaneously holding all things together. He experienced trial, turmoil, and temptation on a level we cannot fathom and yet remained faithful and righteous. He commanded the waves to be still and materialized fish and bread at will and yet, He submitted to death at the hands of the very people in whom He breathed the very breath of life. Then He willingly died, surrendering to death that you might live. In His sacrifice, He carries upon Himself the death you deserve and frees you from the grip of sin. In His death, sin dies.

So, in this way, Christ takes the punishment for sin upon Himself and frees the souls of those who believe so that the faithful can stand, blameless before God. Jesus presents the believer to God as spotless and blemish free. Not only are those who believe presented as cleaned of sin before God, they are also proven to be free from sin as “above reproach!” Let that sink in for a moment: if you believe in Jesus, you can stand before God without even the possibility of question. You are “above reproach.” The adversary can say nothing about you. Accusers cannot speak against you. You stand before God, unable to be questioned. You are beyond the reach of accusation. In Christ, you have been granted a status that is beyond the reach of questioning. Note: this state is not due to your actions. It is because of Christ’s great sacrifice. In His work, you’ve been made “above reproach.” Because your condition is based on His actions, even your past sins cannot be raised in objection to you. You have been reconciled through Christ, completely.

That is if you remain. Many who claim Christ do not remain faithful. According to Paul, these people do not fall into the category of “reconciled.” Those who do not remain faithful to the gospel have not been reconciled to be presented to Christ. Hold fast to Christ as evidence that you have been reconciled.

I John 4:7-12