Tag Archives: salvation

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.

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Philippians 3:19-21; Brief Thoughts

19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Paul exhorts the believer to keep watch on the way they walk so that they will not become like those who are characterized in verse 19. In order to maintain this holy lifestyle, a believer must be disciplined to examine him/herself and to work hard to pursue holiness. There are a few disciplines and activities that can aid a believer in strengthening themselves from the temptation to ever act like a wolf.

Fasting is a powerful tool for self-examination. The denial of self and surrender of satisfaction of desires is a necessary exercise to prove to oneself that the belly is not the master of the soul. In modern Christianity, most people do not know how to fast and few make a regular or even occasional practice of it. Yet, fasting is often assumed in Scripture as a discipline that Christians voluntarily submit to for purposes of guidance and purity (Acts 13:2-3, 14:23, 27:9, 1 Cor. 7:5). This lack of discipline could be an indication that many people claiming the name of Christ, do not actually know Him and the joy of His presence. Christians fast so that this can be proven incorrect and Christians can be assured that they belong to Christ.

Self-examination is an excellent means of grace. However, self-examination alone leaves blind-spots. This is why Christian community is critical. Believers must be plugged-in to an honest community of other believers who will call them to account for their miss-deeds and sinful behaviors. Further, a community of love and faith is necessary for a believer to be able to gain honest and unbiased insight into his or her own character. In short, if you don’t want to accidently fall into the trap of finding “glory in… shame,” then join a Bible-teaching, gospel-living church.

In an effort to surrender earthly treasure and man-centered focus one must be willing to focus their efforts on the world that lay beyond this one. Christians are in desperate need of an eternal focus in order to overcome the trappings of this world. That focus is gained through the consistent study of the Word of God, constant surrender of material goods to the work of the Kingdom of God, and faithful efforts to seek heavenly approval and scorn human accolade.

One of the greatest strengths of a believer is that mysterious confidence in eternity. Believers can recognize the great truth that there is a full life beyond this half-hearted momentary struggle that all humanity shares. There is a great everlasting existence beyond the grave that a believer can cling to with certainty and hope. A Kingdom set apart for God’s own set-apart people. This home that Christians trust in is currently invisible to the eye of man and yet it exists. Heaven has a real, physical, and full existence. It is not some ethereal realm that houses the disembodied spirits but is a real place with real streets and a real throne room, and a real King. A King who is going to return to this earth and claim His own people to Himself.

When the King returns, all His people will be transformed and given resurrected glorified bodies. Consider this for a moment: the King of all things is going to return and restore broken, incomplete bodies to a new state. He will give glorified bodies to His people. This means the bodies of believers will be re-created in the image they were originally intended for. The glorified condition of the believer’s body will, at last, match the redeemed condition of the heart. Jesus will accomplish this great transformation by the same power that allows Him to subject all things to Himself. He is King, there is nothing that is outside of His rule.

Oh Christian, cling to this truth: that Jesus is King. There is no trouble or turmoil that is too great for Him to overcome. No swell of waves that He cannot calm. No failing of man that He cannot change. There is no circumstance He cannot answer, He is God. He has the power of creation in Himself and He can handle all trials and circumstances. Trust Him.

Philippians 3:17-19; Wolves, Brief Thought

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 

Wolves are horrible. They eat the sheep. They’re incredibly smart and maniacal. They work in teams and are just extremely dangerous and deadly when they are hungry. The Bible warns believers to watch out for wolves (c.f. Mt. 7:15, 10:16, and Acts 20:29). These are men and women who insert themselves into the community, claim the authority of God, and eventually bring destruction to the flock of God. Paul’s exhortation in verses 17-19 gives some insight on the identification of such wolves.

It is common in the western church to encounter wicked men who lead poorly and harm the flock of God. These men often appear to be incredibly godly men. Yet, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing knowing nothing about the Holy Spirit or the sincere love of Christ. Early in my ministry I was scarred by someone I thought to be a brother in the ministry. This man leveled me with accusations of failure and angry reproof without any righteous motivation. He did not scar me for my benefit or instruction. He attacked me and wounded me for his own gain and reputation among other wolves. Forsaking the glory, humility, and love of Christ, he reacted to me in anger and hatred. This man has been a source of tears and pain. I have wept over his sinful rejection of Christ’s love and subsequent display of self-righteousness. Paul was no stranger to such men. In his work he suffered rejection from Jewish leaders he once called brothers (Acts 18), materialistic Christians (2 Timothy 4:10), and even other so-called Christian leaders (Galatians 1-2). His warning to believers are born from experience. He admonishes the Philippians to remain faithful in following after his own example because there are many who will reject the cross of Christ and will lead others to do the same.

Identifying such people can be a difficult task. Verse 19 gives some instruction on the identification of those who would become enemies of the cross of Christ. Paul identifies wolves among us with three unique characteristics. Before he cites their characteristics, Paul proclaims their end. Wolves will be destroyed. There will not be rescue from the judgement for such as these. Their end is wrath and justice, not mercy and grace. Those who serve as enemies of Christ will find their end is destruction. There is no hope for those who reject the salvation of Jesus in favor of this world… there is only wrath.

The first of the three character traits that lead to this horrific end is a subservience to apatite. These are people who are enslaved to their cravings. They find it difficult to deny themselves their desires, even if those desires will harm them. Indeed, they worship their own satisfaction and everything they pursue is to that end. It is their apatite and self-satisfaction that drives their decisions and activities.

The second identifying mark is that they “glory in their shame” (v.19). Glory is an accurate representation of something. For example: the glory of a frog is that it jumps and is slimy. Glory is that which your identity is founded on. The glory of those who reject Christ is in their shame. They revel in shameful activities and give approval to them as though they were righteous.

The third character trait is an infatuation with earthly things and success in this world. Their focus is on this life and not the next. They want the approval of men and the wealth and prestige of the rulers on earth. An obsession with success according to the people of this world is the final mark of a wolf.

The difficulty in identifying wolves in the modern church is that so much of what they are calling success looks spiritual. It is common to find men and women who will seek the praise of other men and women through the auspice of leading in a church. They are governed by their apatite to be approved of and heralded as a great spiritual leader and they consider their divisive and deceptive actions to be wisdom and good business practice. Yet, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, seeking their own advancement and not the Kingdom of God. Avoid these leaders, they will meet their end in destruction.

Be faithful, oh Christian, to maintain an eternal perspective. The admonition to keep your eyes on holy examples is imperative for the identification of other wolves to be sure. It is also critical that you do so for your own sake. You are just as wicked as the one who believes himself to be spiritual while feeding his apatite and hoping in this life. So stay faithful and consistent in your walk. In maintaining a persistent and faithful walk with Jesus, you will find yourself drawing closer and closer to the glory of Christ and thereby assuring yourself of salvation and keeping yourself from becoming or behaving like a wolf.

 

Philippians 3:7-11 pt. 1; Brief Thoughts

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. [1]

Comparative analysis is necessary when determining the course of action that best serves to benefit the individual making the decision. On the one hand, there is option A with its benefits and on the other, option B with its own rewards. A wise person will weigh the cost of each option and select the one that reaps the greatest reward. So, Paul has considered the cost of following Christ and weighed the benefits on each side and has arrived at the conclusion of these verses. The apostle determines that his former victories and life are not worthy of comparison with the reward and benefit derived from knowing Christ.

Paul explains that he has surrendered all things to Christ. Take note the language he uses to describe this surrender, “I have suffered the loss of all things…” (v. 8). Paul does not diminish the feeling of loss or the pain of suffering. He admits that it is difficult to follow the way of Christ. Paul has suffered loss and pain in his efforts to know Christ. Indeed, a brief read through the book of Acts will illuminate Paul’s difficulty quite clearly. He has lost prestige, friends, community, wealth, and even physical well-being. Along with the suffering of loss, Paul’s opinions have been transformed and he now sees worldly gain as “rubbish,” meaning something that is revolting and worthy only to be tossed out (v. 8).[2] These accolades that so thrill the soul of men are now viewed through the lens of Christ. They are no longer appealing but now pale in comparison to the glory of Christ. The pain of suffering loss is not diminished by the mental ascent toward the value of rubbish. Rather, the perspective of Paul is transformed to accept the truth of God’s proclamation. God’s proclamation is always greater than man’s perceptions. So, when the truth of Christ is proclaimed, the hearts of believers rejoice. This rejoicing does not negate the reality of loss. Indeed, it heightens the depth of loss and the present desperation that only can be filled with Christ.

Paul explains two purposes for his surrender and suffering. First, so that he may be covered in Christ Righteousness. Second, so that he may overcome death and be resurrected from the dead.

Paul’s hope for redemption is found in Christ’s righteousness and not in his own works. He knows that in surrendering all things, he will be found in Christ Jesus. To “be found in Him” is a rather profound and intriguing statement. He states not that he wishes to be covered by Christ or that he wishes to be standing by Christ. He says he wishes to be “in” Christ. Paul wants to know Christ to such a degree that the character of Paul and the character of Christ are indistinguishable. That he would be found in Christ, dependent on a righteousness that he could not earn. His longing to be so associated with Christ is coupled with the reality that he will be covered in the righteousness of Christ.

It is necessary to pause here for your sake, oh reader. Sin has separated humanity from God. Every individual has been found guilty (Rom 3:23). No one has been righteous on their own and will not be (Rom. 3:10-20). The consequence of this sinfulness is death and hell (Rom. 6:23a). God, in His kindness and mercy, has provided a way of salvation for anyone who will believe (Rom. 6:23b, 5:8-10). The believer must confess with their mouth and believe in their heart, then they will be spared the punishment and judgment against them (Rom. 10:9,13) Once a person has believed in Christ, then there is no condemnation against them any longer and they are free to follow Him (Romans 8).

To attain this righteousness, it must be given by God. The righteousness that Paul seeks comes from God, not works of the law or merit earned in some sort of service. This righteousness is granted through faith in Christ. All other righteousness is “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6).

The second purpose for Paul’s surrender is resurrection. We will look more at this tomorrow.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Php 3:3–11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] O’Brien, P. T. (1991). The Epistle to the Philippians: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 382). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Philippians 2:12-13; Brief Thoughts

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Having exemplified the character and nature of Christ, Paul admonishes his hearer to obedience. As Christ is humble, so Christians should be humble. As Christ is obedient to death, so Christians should obey. If a believer bears the name of Christ, then they should behave accordingly.

Take note of the nature of this admonition. Paul’s appeal for obedience does not hinge on an obligation, law, or even assumed merit. Paul’s exhortation is based entirely on the character of Christ. Verses 1-11 serve as the premise for the exhortation of verse 12. Rightfully so, because: the character of Christ establishes the motivation for the Christian life. It is the work of Jesus that calls us to obedience, not the work of our hands or the desire of our will. Consider what Christ has done. Think about the work He accomplished. Now, consider what lay ahead of you. Is there any trial or turmoil you cannot withstand given the work that Christ has done in you?

The Philippians are marked by obedience to the Lord. Paul encourages them to continue in obedience and by doing so, “work out their own salvation” (v 12). Their working out of salvation is connected to their own obedience. When Christians pursue holiness and righteousness, they are working out their salvation. It has been common amidst pulpits in the western church to debate the meaning of “work out your own salvation.” However, there is little merit for the debate. After all, this passage is incredibly simple and self-evident. Believers are called to obey and in that obedience, their salvation is proven as genuine.

Challenge yourself! How strong is your faith? Will you be able to obey in the midst of difficult circumstance? Test yourself in this. Strengthen your faith by walking in obedience to Him with deep respect and fear. You will discern the power and effect of your salvation by your obedience to Christ.

Paul follows his exhortation with the reminder that it is God who does the work (v. 13). In the heart of a believer, God is the active agent for transformation and the subsequent evidence of obedience. The power to obey does not emanate from the human will or spirit. The ability to conquer sin does not come from a desire born within and from the heart of a man. Rather, it comes from God. God calls to Himself a people and in doing so, begins to transform and sanctify their hearts to be more like Himself.

Ponder, for a moment, the power that is given to a believer to accomplish the mission of God. Jesus has accomplished the works of humiliation and obedience on behalf of believers. He sacrificed His own majesty and kingship, became a servant, and died on a cross. He lived a life of perfect obedience on behalf of those who believe, so that they would be able to claim His righteousness. Following His death, God the Father resurrected Jesus in power and made Him King over everything, effectively establishing Jesus’ dominion over every being.

God, who resurrected Jesus, now works in those who believe to accomplish His purposes. His divine power is evident in the obedience and righteous lives of those who believe. A Christian has the power to obey, not because of their own ability or self-righteousness, but because of what God has, is, and will be doing in their hearts. He works in the believer to the ultimate end of supreme value. That is to say, God works within the hearts of believers so that His pleasure would be fully realized in them. It is the great joy of Christians to delight in God. It is God’s delight for believers delight in Him.

So then, get to work! If you are empowered by Christ to obey and God is the one who accomplishes the work, then what do you have to lose? It is not in your power that you are able to overcome, it is by His strength and His power. So… get to work! Pursue holiness and knowledge of God. Get to know the creator of all things and delight yourself in Him.

Clean Hands

handwashing

The water poured over the palm of my hand as I blindly and routinely followed the process. You start at the heal of the palm massaging the soap into the hand, then between the fingers, and then down to the fingertips. Once you have rinsed thoroughly you repeat the process once more and then dry promptly with a towel. (This is the instruction in my Dad’s old medical textbook. I looked it up once because I was shocked that people had to be told how to do something so simple.) The water felt cool and refreshing. Eyes locked on my hands, I thanked the Lord for clean hands.

You might not know, but most diseases in our world can be prevented by washing your hands and basic sanitation. In many countries people die of bacterial infections because they don’t wash their hands properly. I remember as a child watching my Dad’s slide shows from his missionary trips to Africa. (Dad was a medical doctor, so those slides were gross, and awesome to a 12 year old.) Dad would say, “Educating mothers on basic sanitation can save entire generations of children! It’s as simple as teaching them to wash their hands and boil the water.”

So, I stand at the porcelain sink and ponder the great gift of clean hands. Free from disease, infection, and parasites all because of clean hands. I stand unafraid of some of the most common killers in our world today all because of clean hands. I stand with clean hands and I am able to wash them freely.

I repeat the process one last time and thank God again for clean hands.

It’s Friday, April 18th, 2014… Good Friday. The thought catches me unaware and I hold back tears. He washed me and I have clean hands.

This is the day that my hands are cleaned. Not because I washed them at some sink with soap, but because He is gracious and washed me clean by His death on a cross. This is the day that my God washed my sins away. My hands are clean because His love is great.

I wash my hands again and whisper thanks that He has made me clean. His blood covered over my sin soaked hands and washed away death. The refreshing water of life redeemed my soul from death. My hands are clean. I whisper thanks as I remember His great Love. I wipe away a tear, a gesture He will one day do for me as well. My hands are clean.