Tag Archives: Gospel

Colossians 1:6-8; Brief Thoughts

5… Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8and has made known o us your love in the Spirit.   

Salvation comes by hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17). The gospel is the truth: that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world and was resurrected to bring life into dead souls. By His death, Jesus takes the just wrath of God upon Himself and by His resurrection, He extends eternal life to those who believe in Him (c.f. 2 Cor. 5:21). In one glorious moment, the believer is brought from death to life in the simple act of belief. From the dust of humanity, the individual’s desperate soul is pulled from the grave into the spiritual life of God. This life is granted by faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection (Eph. 2:1-8).

The Colossian believers heard the news of the gospel and believed. At some point, Epaphras (v.7) preached the truth to them, and they believed. As Paul elucidates the gospel’s story in the heart of the Colossians, he describes the gospel in active terms. Notice, the words “come… bearing fruit and growing” (v.6). These terms are actions that are accomplished by the gospel. The gospel “has come” upon the Colossians as if the message itself is alive and makes the effort to come and seek out the sheep of God. Indeed, so great is the power of God’s message of salvation that it is alive. It invades the soul, aggressively calling the dead to life. The message of God’s love for His people is so deep and profound that it takes on a personification that boggles the mind of man and can only be understood in active terms.

So great is the power of the gospel message that it bears fruit across the world. The gospel is not only viable where the individual who believes is, but is so great that it extends to the entirety of the earth. It is so powerful that it changes the world in which we live. The Colossians are reminded that the gospel is moving beyond what they can see. It is “bearing fruit and growing” across the earth (v.6). Take heart, dear Christian! God is moving through the gospel even where you cannot see Him.

The Colossian believers “heard and understood the grace of God in truth” (v.6). With the eyes of their heart enlightened to the truth, they have been able to grasp the grace that God grants to believers. They have been transformed in their reception from dead beings who were enslaved to sin into saints who delight in obedience. This gospel comes as truth! It is not speculation or desire that Paul expounds upon in this letter. It is the truth! Each dash of his pen draws forth greater understanding of the transforming power of the gospel.

The Colossian believers heard the news of Jesus from Epaphras, here identified as “fellow servant” (v.7). Epaphras has served as a sounding board for the Colossians and has heralded their love for the Spirit. Further, he has served the apostle as a minister on behalf of the Colossians. So great was the service of Epaphras to Paul that he is recorded as being Paul’s fellow prisoner in Philemon 23 and is cited as struggling in prayer alongside Paul in Colossians 4:12. He has been a faithful brother in the cause of the gospel and clearly speaks with great love for those whom he has taught the gospel. It is a great truth of the Christian faith that brothers and sisters hold each other in high regard and speak of genuine faith with great affection.

Epaphras’ love for his brothers and sisters at Colossae is indicative of the love that a teacher of the gospel has for those they teach. The teaching and receipt of the gospel of Jesus Christ are so transformative that a bond unlike any other is forged in the examination of the subject. When the gospel is taught, the student and the teacher are engaged in a spiritual exercise by which transformation or utter rejection must occur. When the hearer believes in the gospel, a life change occurs and the believer is grafted into a spiritual family that is united in the truth. The tender affection with which Epaphras speaks of his beloved family in the faith is not unique to him. It is the common affection of all believers toward each other. This is the foundational love that unites the church. It is this unique marker that should define Christian community.

O, Christian, seek out teachers who will unite their souls with yours in the gospel ministry. Teachers who will labor over you with the love and affection of Jesus Christ. Seek out community that will intertwine their lives to yours in the filial affection of faith. In this way, you will experience many teachers like Epaphras, and you will delight in the community of faith.

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Colossians 1:3-4; Brief Thoughts

3We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,

There is little that can bring greater joy than the comfort and affection of brothers and sisters who have joined in the gospel ministry of love. The gratitude that springs from the soul when someone shares in the labor is tremendous. Paul is grateful for the Colossian believers. He is thankful for their faith and he is grateful for their expressed love to all the saints. Yet, Paul’s gratitude is not directed at the Colossians. Rather, his thanks-giving is directed to God. He is grateful to God for what God had done in the Colossians. The object of gratitude is “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Indeed, God is the only appropriate recipient of gratitude for faith and love, for they only exist within the context of His mercy and grace. Christians are capable of faith because God has changed their nature in redemption (Col. 3:9-10). Christians are capable of love because God has first loved them (1 John 4:19). It is fitting to lavish gratitude upon the source of faith and love.

Further, Paul understands that the faith and love that has manifested itself in the Colossians is the work of God alone. In Philippians 1:6 Paul credits God with the work of salvation in the lives of the Philippians. In Ephesians 2 he explains that God has redeemed them from death and brought them to life. In Galatians 2:20 Paul states that he has been “crucified with Christ” and he no longer lives, but Christ lives in him. It is the Lord who changes the souls of men and it is He who works out faith and love in Christians.

Is there a greater motivation for gratitude than the actions of a God who births faith and love in the hearts of obstinate people? The actions of a King who calls friends from out of the midst of enemies and rescues those who hate Him (C.f. Romans 5:1-11). Could there be a more perfect target for thankfulness? Not only has God born faith in Paul, He has also done the same mighty work across the world! Two deep truths are present in this reality. First, God moves apart from any one individual. God moved in the hearts of the Colossians with such great power that Paul “heard of” their faith and love. He did not see it first-hand. The transforming power of Christ’s spirit in their hearts was so profound that Paul “heard of” it and was drawn to gratitude towards God for the work God accomplished. Paul did not have to be there for the gospel to transform the Colossians. Second, God is faithful to redeem even when we are not present to see it. Just because you do not see the movement of God does not mean He is absent or still. He is moving to redeem His people and one day you may be fortunate to hear of it.

The faith and love of the Colossians have been “heard of.” Consider that for a moment. What a great accolade for the Colossians. Their faith and love have reached the ears of other believers in far off lands! So great is their witness that they have garnered a reputation as faithful and loving. How tremendous! O that every Christian would have such a reputation among the masses. Imagine what it would be like if Christians were actually known for their love as Christ said they would be (c.f. John 13:31-35). To be as the Colossians were would be a beautiful sight to behold.

Philippians 3:12-16; Brief Thoughts

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Christians have a faith that rests in the confidence of an action that has been completed on their behalf. As such, there is no need to earn or merit salvation. However, consistently throughout the Philippian letter believers are exhorted to work to make their faith their own. After admonishing the people of God to focus their pursuits on the eternal reward and resurrection, Paul urges Christians to work hard to claim ownership over their faith. Of all faiths, Christianity ought to lead its adherents to a fierce and devout pursuit of its principles. Christians ought to seek to understand their own faith precisely because it is a gift that they have not earned. As such, Christians should seek to ensure their ownership over it.

Consider the motivation for such efforts in the Christian’s pursuit of God: “because Christ Jesus has made [the Christian] His own” (v.12). Paul’s motive for radical pursuit of Jesus is based on Jesus’ claim upon Paul’s soul. Think about that for a moment. The motivation for pursuit of Christ is not merely some reward that will be received as a result or some sort of position that could be achieved through obedience to Him. The motivation for a Christian to obey Christ stems from their own identity in Christ. Christians pursue holiness within the context of an eternal perspective because they are Christ followers. The identity of Christians, that is: belonging to Jesus, is what propels them toward obedience. It is a marvelous recognition of identity that strengthens the walk of a believer. When a person knows their condition and understands that they are no longer enslaved but have been set free to follow Christ, then there is abiding joy and discipleship.

Ponder for a moment what it means to be owned by Christ. He has come and rescued you in your pitiful state and has granted you a position as His brother/sister in the Kingdom of God. He has claimed you as His own and you belong to Him.

There are Christians who seems so deeply connected to Jesus that they seem to have the ability to see into the soul of anyone they speak with. They are the people who are awkward to have small talk with because they continually bring up deep truths that trouble the soul and challenge the mind. These old saints who exude wisdom and grace and manifest the Spirit of God do not become old saints overnight. This sort of maturity comes with time and practice. While every Christian has been changed in a moment, all believers must learn to live in that changed nature. So Paul testifies that he presses to make the resurrected life his own and that he has not achieved the completion of this goal. Recognizing his efforts to make himself righteous were a loss (c.f. 3:2-7), Paul admits that he is not perfect.

A particular key to growth is the dismissal of one’s past. If a believer insists on clinging to their own earthly righteousness, then they will stifle their own spiritual growth. Likewise, if a believer carries the burdens of their past failures, refusing to recognize that Jesus has forgiven and transformed them, then they will find discipleship and growth to be difficult and even rare. For many people, their past successes become the glory of their present reality. But for Paul, his past successes were a hindrance to future glory. It is necessary for believers to throw off what they used to be in order to become who God has made them. A Christian’s identity cannot be discovered without removing the former identity of the sinful man. The believer must accept the truth of their changed reality, only then will a believer find satisfaction.

Paul presses forward in pursuit of “the call of God in Jesus Christ” (v. 14). There is no greater call than that of the creator of all things calling for His creation to follow in the design He has laid out. A truly converted person cannot help but desire to press forward in obedience to Christ. God has granted the believer life, and the believer pursues that life abundant in knowing Christ.

Consistent with Paul’s character and wisdom, he encourages his reader to share his attitude and perspective. He pleads with them to understand these truths with remarkable confidence that God will certainly develop in them the same mindset that He has been faithful to develop in Paul. What tremendous confidence believers have! Because of the truth that God sanctifies His own, Christians can rest in the confidence that God will bring to completion the work He has begun. (1:6)

Believer, rest in this deep truth: The Lord, Creator of all things, is working in your heart now and will bring you to maturity. It is a long race we run. Be faithful, He will bring you to where you need to be. Hold tight to these truths!

John 21 Pt. 1

Jesus eating fish

You ever have the unsettled feeling in the pit of your stomach. As if you have done something wrong but can’t quite figure out what it is? Maybe you know exactly what it is, but you don’t know how to fix it? You worry that everyone is watching and everyone knows whatever it is you don’t. You become snippy with people who pass by and you think that there must be some sort of action that you can take that will heal this issue. The person you are certain you have offended suddenly becomes the single greatest judge in your life and the object of all your efforts of approval. That feeling in the pit of your stomach can be paralyzing. I think that’s the feeling Peter was wrestling with in John 21.

Peter failed Jesus. He failed Jesus in the most grievous way! Peter denied Jesus as Jesus walked to the cross carrying Peter’s sins. When Jesus rose, he didn’t show himself to Peter first. Peter could have let his mind wonder why? He saw Jesus with the other disciples, but Jesus didn’t really recognize him. Peter wouldn’t dare to say something in front of others until acknowledged. His offense is too great. So… it’s been several days since the disciples have seen the risen Lord and I imagine Peter is waiting for Jesus to say something like, “hey buddy, I love you. We’re good, don’t sweat it.” He hopes for a nod, he longs for a fist bump, anything to tell him it’s ok. But, he gets nothing. Jesus has returned, He has shown Himself, and Peter has yet to be affirmed. Imagine the depression.

So… what do we do when we have this feeling of complete and utter failure in our stomach and no resolution? We fall back to what we have done in the past. So, Peter goes fishing! I think his friends must have felt the uncomfortable tension in their most braggadocios leader. They all acquiesce to his desires and go fishing.

Well, Jesus is not done dealing with Peter. Jesus has purpose for our struggles for approval. There is a great deal we can learn. He shows up on the shore where they are fishing and repeats a miracle they had seen before.

While they are in the boat he calls to them and says cast your nets on the other side! They do and they get fish. How comforting to know that Jesus will continue to show himself to us in ways that work for our own needs. The disciple whom Jesus loved says, “it’s the LORD!!” Without hesitation, Peter puts on his cloths and dives into the water to swim back. Now at this point, the other disciples must be a little annoyed at Peter’s attempt to reconcile himself. It’s always like that when you know someone is irrationally trying to reconcile himself to an authority. From the outside, it looks like they are simply being annoying. They neglect chores and duty for the sake of proving themselves in some drastic way! The conversation probably went like this:
Disciple Jesus Loved: Check it out it’s Jesus (turns to get the net), help me dra..(hears a splash), Wha!? Hey! Get back in the boat and help with the fish! Ahhh.. it’s no use.

James: Dude, what did you say to Peter?

DJL: Nothing, I just said it’s the Lord and he jumps out of the boat!

Andrew: would you guys stop yapping about captain mopey and get over here and help!

So they drag in the fish and row back to the shore. At which point Peter stands up and runs over to the boat to grab all the fish hastily and drags it to Jesus as if to say, “look! I have caught all these for you!” What’s funny, is

Jesus already had fish. He has a fire set and is already cooking fish and bread, but he asks for their fish anyway. You see, Jesus values our efforts, even when He does not need them. He still wants them, He still loves our work, He values you. The first lesson Jesus is showing Peter, is “I’m still here.” No matter what you have done, you cannot drive the LORD of heaven away from you and you cannot drive away His love. The second lesson is that Jesus values our work, even when it is inadequate.

So Peter struggles to earn the grace that Christ has given him and He sits down to eat with the King of all Glory, the King that Peter failed. Peter has been confronted with a reality, he cannot fix what he has done. He cannot change it. He cannot earn the grace that Jesus keeps on handing him. So, what is Peter to do? He sits, eating fish, awaiting his head nod. He waits for an, “it’s ok buddy.” He waits for some acknowledgement of his approval and forgiveness. Jesus will give him the most powerful antidote for his affliction and indeed the most powerful antidote for our own struggles with depression, in the next passage. But more on that later.