Tag Archives: Revelation

Colossians 1:5-6; Brief Thoughts

4… since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. 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,

The greatest evidence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is love. It is not miraculous works, gifts, or charisma. Love is the distinguishing mark of Christianity. The Spirit of Christ indwells the soul of every Christian and manifests His love in unfathomable measure, amidst the world that rejects such love (c.f. Eph. 1:13-14). So great is this identifying characteristic that Jesus says that the world will know His disciples by their love for one another (John 13:35). The first-century church models this kind of love by sharing all their material goods in common and giving to any that had need (Acts 2:43). In history, true Christians have been at the forefront of social programs to aid the poor and downcast. True Christianity is marked by love for others.

This distinctive character trait seems conspicuously absent from many church congregations in the modern western church. Perhaps this missing trait indicates that the Spirit of God does not dwell in the heart of many self-professed Christians in the west. If the reality is that there is a lack of Spirit-indwelled believers in the west, then the impotence of the church is not surprising. It is not surprising because it is not true Christianity. Yet, there is hope! There is hope for salvation. Christ has died and been resurrected and His Spirit is present and active. Belief in this truth transforms the soul of the believer, leading to love. This belief recognizes Jesus as Lord and thereby demands repentance from sin and obedience to His precepts. Surrender to Christ, trusting that what He accomplished through the cross and resurrection is sufficient to atone for sin.

If we want to see love abound in the hearts of the people in the western church, the western church must begin to preach the gospel truth. True belief in Jesus is the same as surrender to Him. He is Savior and Lord: the basic confession of Christianity. If He is Savior and Lord, then He must be obeyed. If He is obeyed, then love will abound.

Such great love for saints is motivated by the “hope laid up for [Christians] in heaven” (v.5a). There is a tremendous truth to which Christians cling. The reality that life does not end at death for believers. Indeed, for believers in Jesus Christ, life begins when this world ends. Life is “birthed” when the earth is done. In Revelation 21, Jesus proclaims, “I am making all things new” and “it is born” (Revelation 21:5 and 6).[i] Life begins in eternity! What tremendous hope: that believers await eternal life, the true and everlasting life!

It is this hope that gives Christians the ability to love deeply. Knowing that their actions here on this earth are preparation for the life to come, Christians labor to love well. Indeed, the concerns and troubles that hinder love are removed from one who pursues heavenly dwellings. If one’s actions on this earth influence one’s life in the next, then one’s work will be dedicated to doing what is good for the next life. Further, if a person recognizes that their treasure is being held for them in the next life, then they will not war over treasure in this life. If they do, then they do not know.

The Colossians heard of the hope of eternity from Epaphras when he preached the gospel to them (v.7). They heard the truth, assimilated it, and it affected every aspect of their life. Their lives have been changed by the message of The One True God who brings salvation to all who trust in Him. In verse six, Paul explains that the gospel bears fruit when it is understood. The gospel changes the soul. One who has been confronted by the gospel of Jesus Christ and has understood it cannot stay in the same condition that they were in before faith. Christians change. They do not remain willfully disobedient to God, for He works in their hearts and is faithful to complete the work He began (Philippians 1:6).

O Christian, your soul is changed when you believe. Love deeply. Surrender your obsession with the things of this world and labor to love well.

[i] Verse six is commonly translated “it is done.” The Greek word used is the word for “born,” indicating that a birth has occurred. In a sense, “done” is a good translation. Indeed, the work has been completed on earth and the uniting of heaven and earth is now a reality. However, in the context of this glorious scene of Revelation 21, Jesus is proclaiming that He “IS making all things new.” Heaven meets earth at the end of the Bible and ushers in eternity. Christians would do well to recognize that the end of Revelation marks the beginning of life, not the end.

 

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When Someone Claims Divine Authority

moses_with_tabletsThe conversation began with the typical spiritual overtones I’d come to expect from this particular friend: “I have a word from the Lord for you.” I was in my first years of college, and this was a common refrain among many of my friends. Over the years, I have heard people make statements like this many times. Occasionally, the “word” they offered was productive and clearly from God. However, more often than not, what followed the opening claim to divine inspiration fell into two categories.

Let us call the first category: “Vague allusion.”

This is when the word that follows the claim is vague and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The “word” they deliver is guised as having highly specific undertones, but the specifics don’t match any particular interpretation. I can remember when a well-meaning brother told me he had a vision for me! I excitedly sat to hear the vision as I had respect for this particular brother. He told me that I was standing before a blue background… that was it. The whole “vision.” On another occasion I was told that the “word” the Lord had for me was “peace.” No explanation… no attempt to understand the circumstances surrounding the supposed prophecy. Just, “peace.” Ok. So extrapolation and interpretation fall squarely on my shoulders. In Scripture this is the opposite of prophecy. Think about the prophet Daniel. He received the interpretation of the dreams, and that is what made him a prophet. Unexplained vague allusions are not prophecy.

Now don’t get me wrong. These are well meaning brothers and sisters who genuinely feel as though they are acting in obedience to the Lord. The trouble is in claiming the divine authority in connection with vague, easily misinterpreted statements. God is not vague. When we read prophecies in Scripture, they are not vague. And though Jesus speaks in parables, he frequently expected them to be understood by His disciples and if they were not, He often labored to explain them. Though the prophecies in Scripture may be complex and we may have difficulty understanding them, they are not vague. In fact they are often extremely specific!

The second common category is “Passively addressing offense.”

weneedtotalkIt was late and I was tired. I had been working long hours and had exhausted my mental reserves studying for various exams. My friend contacted me and told me that he had a “word” for me. He had been laboring over this for weeks and simply could not hold onto it any longer. “Brother, when you said that two weeks ago, the Lord was angered.” I can remember being mortified! I was literally trembling at the idea that I had displeased my Lord, so I asked for clarification. What was wrong with what I had said, specifically!? Can you point me to Scripture so I can know what not to do again? This was important! I asked what Scriptures I had particularly violated so that I might have some sense of clarity. None was offered. So I apologized for any offense and spent the next months in nervous fits. That is, until I realized what had actually happened. I had offended a brother and he felt the need to claim some divine authority in order to address his offense.

I spent months dealing with this particular offense. I wrestled and labored to discover my failing before God. The most difficult thing for me to understand was why God had not spoken to me, but had determined that I needed someone else’s voice.

Now consider for a moment: I’m a brash personality and I am naturally insensitive to the feelings of others. Couple that with the position of teaching the Bible, and I am a model example of how to offend people without really trying. So, it is not uncommon for me to have to explain myself to others. I don’t intend to offend, but sometimes I do. The trouble with the above example was where my friend had placed the offense. It is one thing to offend a brother. You can explain yourself and apologize and deal with the issue, but when you have offended the Lord, that is a different issue altogether. Offending the Lord requires repentance and knowledge of your own sin. In contrast to the above confrontation, The Lord is quite clear about the specifics of our sin against Him. There is no ambiguity with The Lord when He deals with sin. Consider when Nathan confronts David in 2 Samuel 12. After drawing David’s attention to the heinousness of sin, Nathan speaks directly and clearly to David. Likewise, God speaks plainly and His word cuts to the heart.

To be fair, there are times when people offer a “word” and it is actually consistent with Scripture and is legitimate. Apply those times appropriately. However, for those other times here are three things to look for.

Look for Scripture.

I’ve become inoculated to the claim to divine authority that is not accompanied by Scripture. You see, the Bible is the Word of God and He speaks to us through it. He is quite clear. So, if someone comes to me with a “word from the Lord,” I will strive to listen for Scripture or Scriptural validation of their claim. In the absence of that, I have learned to thank them for their voice, apply what is useful and dismiss what is not. It is important to remember that people who deliver “a word” to you are well-meaning, if sometimes misguided. The Lord speaks through Scripture. Test everything by the word of God (1 Thess. 5:21).

Look for specifics and clarity.

God is not vague. He is extremely direct. He does not muddy understanding of His intentions but clarifies it. When God speaks, He always brings clarity to confusion. When Nathan confronted David in 2 Sam. 12, there is no confusion. When Moses delivers the Word of God in Exodus 32-34, God’s voice is clear. When Isaiah speaks to Hezekiah, there is no confusion in His prophecy (Isaiah 37-38). Take a look at all the notable times when God’s prophets confront various kings in the Old Testament. Every time God’s prophets bring a prophecy, they bring clarity into a situation that is confusing. The voice of the Lord is no different in the New Testament. Consider when Philip was told to approach the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40), or when Ananias receives a vision about Saul and argues with God about it (Acts 9:10-19), or when God tells Paul no after he asks for the thorn to be removed (2 Cor. 12:7-10). So, if someone claims to speak from the Lord, then clarity should follow. Further, when God addresses sin, He deals with specifics. The address of sin is always clear and the guilt is always obvious. He gave an entire law to His people and frequently names the specific sins and the manner in which they are committing them. So, when someone claims a word from God, look for specifics.

Look for opportunity to be holy.

The prophecies that are given to the people of God always have one thing in common: an urging to righteousness. God calls His people to repent from sin and obey Him. More than that, He equips them through His word to do so. The call of God on His people has not changed. If you believe in Jesus, He calls you to live righteously. (1 Peter 1:15)

Finally, be gracious to those who claim to speak from the authority of God. They seldom know the danger they bring upon their souls if they are found to misrepresent God. Be loving, honest, and extremely careful.