Sunday, June 21, 2020

Colossians Pt 3

A little girl was working hard drawing a picture. Her mom asked her what she was drawing. “A picture of God.” “Well, no one has ever seen God, so nobody knows what He looks like.” The little girl looked up from her drawing and said, “They will when I’m done.”

Paul was doing the same thing in Colossians. He drew a very clear picture for us of Jesus as God the Son, Lord of All, with full authority over all realms – visible and invisible. 

Col 1:16-17 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 
From that broad scope of all things, nothing is excluded. So, Paul brings the focus down to point out two specific places in which Jesus is to be Lord over all. Our lives and the church. Let’s talk about the church.

Col 1:18-20 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 

God’s purpose is not just salvation but incorporation. He saves us then collects us into the body of believers where that salvation can be nourished and grown into a life-changing force in our lives. Paul makes it clear that we can’t survive as Christians in isolation. We need fellowship. We need encouragement. We need life-transforming information. So, he places our salvation within the context of the church. The church is another way of saying the Family of God.

Heb 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. 

Assembling means collecting ourselves together. As a collection of fellow believers, we help each other live faithfully. We support each other in crisis. We pray for each other in need. We love each other through difficulty and sorrow. We become a support network to refine each other’s faith. When we come together, we discover the essential value of the church.

Secular man cannot understand the essential value the church has in the lives of believers or in the community or society at large. Even some Christians don’t see it. From our personal relationship with the Father we have power for life. Church is the power of collected lives.

We have the life. God has already invested the Grace to save us and declare us His children, but it is in the connection to the Body we gain our understanding of how to live that life in relationship with others. It is the family-life of the Christian.

A baby has to learn to walk, talk, feed himself, learn appropriate social skills. How does that happen? In the context of a family. A Believer has to learn how to walk with God, please Him, be filled with Him, to adjust his life to God’s best. That happens in the context of the Family of God, the church.

But, to make sure everyone knows the church is not just a pooling of ignorance, speculation or opinions, Paul tells us: Eph 4:11-13 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 

God gifts the church with instructors. But even with great instructors, Paul reminds them who the Head of the church really is. Don’t ever think the Pastor is the head of the church or the Elders, or some leader within however the church is structured to operate. No person or group of people is the head.

If anyone ever stands to tell you how the church must be run, that he is right and everyone else is wrong, that person has usurped Jesus as being the head of the church. You’ll find that throughout church history. From Popes to TV Evangelists to Megachurch Pastors. Jesus never delegated His authority to run the church to anyone.

Jesus is the Head. The Head is to have first place in everything. The Father gave Jesus this authority, the position of being in charge of His people. He is the one who performed the necessary work to produce the church and only He has the right to manage it. Our job is to find out the direction He wants us to go as His church and follow Him there.

Col 1:24-27 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. Of which I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 

There is a heaviness to the job of preaching the Word of God. Mainly, in making sure you have the Message for today. But Paul carried a much heavier burden, a deeper responsibility. It was his job to explain the great mystery.

that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 

Glory – that which represents the presence of God. Who God was and what He does.

God’s objective: To place His glory into us: individually and collectively, defined as Christ in you. The mystery no one expected. The indwelling presence of God within our lives is the completing element missed and hidden from previous generations.

·       In the beginning God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden.

·       Enoch walked with God.

·       Noah walked with God.

·       The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. 

·       Then God instructed Moses: Ex 25:8 Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it. 

·       When the Tabernacle was completed: Ex 40:34 The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 

Glory – that which represents the presence of God. Who God was and what He does filled the place. The evidence of the presence of God changed a tent into a tabernacle.

·       Of that Tabernacle, God said: this is Ex 29:42-46 where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God. 

·       That distinction of the presence of God among them made Israel uniquely the People of God.
·       David wanted to build God a Sanctuary, a permanent home in Jerusalem, and no longer use the tent called the Tabernacle.

·       But God permitted Solomon, David’s son, to build the first Temple. Remember the distinctive God provided to show them He was among them? Well, at the dedication of that Temple: 2Chron 7:1-3 Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD'S house. All the sons of Israel, seeing the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave praise to the LORD, saying, "Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting." 

·       The confirmation that God was with His people was His glory, the presence of who He was and what He does.

·       But later, when the people had no regard for God, God withdrew His glory. Ezek 10:3-18  Now the cherubim were standing on the right side of the temple when the man entered, and the cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple, and the temple was filled with the cloud and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD. Then the cherubim rose up. Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. 

Then, for approximately 600 years, even throughout the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, there was no evidence of the presence of the God returning to be among His people within that Sanctuary. They continued the motions of worship with no God there to receive that worship.

So, when Jesus told His disciples of the coming of the Holy Spirit, no one knew what that meant. John 14:16-17 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you

That was a radical and unexpected result of following Jesus. Other than certain Kings, Judges and the Prophets, no one knew of the Holy Spirit being in someone. Nobody saw that coming or knew what to expect.

Then, fifty days after the resurrection: Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. 

The Church was born. This was the mysterious moment God had planned for His people from the beginning. It could only be accomplished through Jesus’ death and resurrection. From what Jesus did, the door was now open to an indwelt relationship with God. The mystery was now revealed.

Col 1:26-27 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 

Rom 8:10-11 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 

Instead of a building, He built a Body. Instead of another Temple, He created a Church. That Church is His body of which we are all a part. As God indwelt the Tabernacle and the Temple, He now indwells His Church by living in the lives of His children.

That’s why, technically we don’t go to Church, we are the Church. For most people a church is a building designated for religious use. You can close the building but you cannot stop the body from being the dwelling place of God on earth. Satan can destroy a local church but not the Body of Christ.

Matt 16:15-18 Jesus said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter [Petros – little stone], and upon this rock [Petra – the boulder] I will build My church; and the gates of Hell will not overpower it. 

In every attack from Satan to destroy the Church, he will fail. He might get churches shut down, or limit their effectiveness outside of their buildings, or get restrictions placed on their ministry, but he cannot and never will overpower it.

Why? The Church is built on the reputation of Jesus not man. Don’t every think Jesus was saying He built His church on Peter or any other man. It is His body. He’s the Head. It is filled with the glory of God, not the ability of men. It is the reflection of who God is and what He can do. Not man and what man can come up with.

Paul then gives the mission of the Church: Col 1:28-29 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. 
What completes our lives? Having received Jesus as our Savior, submitted to Him as our Lord, and now live by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God Who mightily works within us.

God’s interest wasn’t in just getting us into Heaven, but getting Heaven into us.

  1. In no religion does the god of that religion come to the people wanting a relationship with them.
  2. Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost.
  3. In no religion does the god of that religion desire intimacy with the people.
  4. Jesus prayed that we might be one with the Father as He was one with Him.
  5. In no religion does the god of that religion empower his people to live faithfully.
  6. Jesus has granted us everything we need to live good and godly lives.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Colossians Pt 2

A woman went to the doctor’s office, where she was seen by one of the new doctors, but after about 4 minutes in the examination room, she burst out, screaming as she ran down the hall. An older doctor stopped her and asked what the problem was, and she told him her story. After listening, he had her sit down and told her to go relax in another room. The older doctor went to where the first doctor was and demanded, "What’s the matter with you? Mrs. Terry is 63 years old. She has four grown children and seven grandchildren, and you told her she was pregnant?" The new doctor continued to write on his clipboard. Without looking up, he said, "Does she still have the hiccups?"

How do we convince someone to change their behavior? Without the right motivation, any change will be temporary. If we can find the key that unlocks the highest purpose for change, change will happen. 

Paul consistently uses contrasts throughout his writings: light/dark, dead/alive, new/old, flesh/spirit, lost/saved. It helps people know on which side of the equation they live.

Knowing those divisions in life and that we all have a before, he reminds us we are no longer defined by who we were. As he said to the Ephesians: Eph 5:8-10 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 

Things are different – new life, new pattern for how to live that new life, and a new result: we can now please God.

When Paul speaks of our before, he uses expressions like: formerly walked, formerly lived, formerly you were, formerly was, even of himself said: I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. 

Of the Colossians, he said: Col 1:21 you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 

Knowing who we were helps us remember from where we came, what God did to change our lives, how purposeful He is in redeeming us from the sin of our contrary ways and that He sets us on a new path to follow Him. 

But we cannot stop there. After each expression of what someone was formerly, Paul always adds but now…this is who you are. You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord, you were formerly far off [but now] have been brought near by the blood of Christ. You were dead in your transgressions[but] He made you alive together with Him, 

His word to the Colossians: Col 1:21-22 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 

We are now the reconciled to God ones. We’ve been made to be, and declared to be, right with Him. We were wrong with Him, now we’re right with Him.

Knowing our past reminds us who we were. Knowing our present tells us who we are. Knowing who we are gives us the direction for how we are to live. 

  • We were darkness; we are now light, so walk as children of Light.
  • We were dead; we are now alive, so we might no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf.
  • We were of the flesh; we are now of the Spirit, so let us also walk by the Spirit. 
Whenever Satan reminds us of who we were, he does so to make us think that’s still who we are. Whenever Paul mentions what we were, he always does so to remind us we aren’t that any longer. This is who you are and this is why. Knowing that, gives Paul permission to ask: having crossed from death into life, out of darkness into light, from flesh into spirit, with love motivating our obedience, how does that compel you to live as who you are? To answer, he starts with Jesus and not them.

Col 1:9-10 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 

Worthy of the Lord is the end all for any question of why we should walk or live in a way that reflects back to who He is. It’s like the parent’s, “Because I said so. I am your mother, expressing my authority. You adjust yourself to me.”

By knowing who He is, we understand how worthy He is. So, to walk or live worthy of the Lord is to demonstrate His worth or value through our lives. To do so, we need to understand what makes Him worthy in the first place. Paul carries them through a theology lesson on who Jesus really is.

Col 1:15-18 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 

We have an old expression: he’s the spittin’ image of his dad. Generally, the son’s looks or actions remind everyone of his father. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not. But, that’s usually more of a resemblance. But in this case, a unique word is used. He is the image of the invisible God means a pressed image. As of a stamp pressed into wax or clay that leaves the exact mark of the stamp.

Heb 1:3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. 

Exact representation was what Jesus said to Phillip: When you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. Jesus was the visible presence of God. The Father has never been seen – only His glory – and the Spirit cannot be seen but by the evidence of His presence – like the effect the wind has on the trees. Jesus is the God we’ve seen. The visible expression of what cannot be seen.

John said: John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

1Jn 1:1-2 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 

Jesus was more than the spittin’ image of God, He was God in the flesh. To walk worthy of that means we place Him above everything else in life, seeing Him in the same position as when God said: let there be no other god’s but me.

To establish Jesus as God and worthy of the honor of that name, Paul takes them all the way back to creation.

Col 1:16-17 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 

1Cor 8:5-6 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. 

This is where His worthiness comes in. The reason we exist is for His purpose and benefit. It is His intentions and plans to express those purposes and benefits Himself in our lives. They come through Him. The reason we are on the earth is because of Him. That alone should cause us to honor Him. Most don’t. And many go to the extreme of denying God having any right to honor or even to exist because they want no accountability to Him.

In creation, Paul doesn’t break up responsibilities. He simply says God is responsible for creation. When the voice of God spoke creation into existence, there was no reason to say, this was the Son or this was the Father. That distinction wasn’t understood in Genesis. Paul is simply connecting both the Father and Son into the Person of God. Those who believe Jesus is less, misunderstand who God is.

C.S. Lewis: “You must make your choice: either Jesus was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Paul said Jesus was responsible for all that was created. That includes what we can see and the invisible realm we can’t see. 

Paul said in Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

Did He create the evil within that darkness? No, He created the one who brought evil to the world in the Garden of Eden. He gave room in His plan for evil to exist and allowed Satan the right to rule within his evil dominion, to bring contrast between good and bad, life and death, light and darkness. 

Without darkness, we’d never know the beauty of the stars at night. Without darkness we’d not even know the stars were there. Without darkness we’d never fully appreciate the light when it separates us from the darkness. But even as dark as this darkness is, Paul doesn’t leave us without hope: 

Eph 1:21-22 Jesus is seated far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet

Paul wanted them to know Jesus was Lord over all of creation: the earth and the heavens all they contain as well as the invisible realm of spiritual forces. The realm of angels and demons, Satan and his minions. Jesus is Lord over all.

Why is that important?
  • So that in our struggles with flesh and blood, we can surrender to Jesus’ authority to resolve those problems.
  • In our struggles with rulers and powers in government or society, we can surrender to Jesus’ authority to resolve those problems.
  • In our struggle with spiritual forces of wickedness in the unseen realm, we can surrender to Jesus’ authority to resolve those problems.
He is Lord of all and overall. Phil 2:10-11 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

He has the power to rebuke. He has the ability to remove. He has the voice that calms the seas and stills our hearts. He is Lord overall and worthy of our worship, praise and how we walk.

For many, they believe Jesus suddenly came into existence at the birth in Bethlehem. John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 

Why is that important? Jesus is and always has been God the Son – eternal God. By being before everything was created, He has precedence over all. And everything created serves His purpose – existing for Him and through Him

So, whether that’s in the visible realm of what we see or in the invisible realm where we can’t see, Jesus is Lord over all. Paul says: Live worthy of that knowledge.

After attending church one Sunday morning, a little boy knelt at his bedside that night and prayed, "Dear God, we had a good time at church today—you should have been there!" I’ve been to that church where everything was done perfectly and in order, yet no room was made for the Lord to attend. A church without the presence of God is a dead church with no life, purpose or message to damaged hearts. So is a dead life.

Whether it’s a church or a life, we weren’t created to live without Him. Whenever who we are and what we do is more important to us that who the Lord is and what He has done, we will never discover how precious and powerful is our God and how amazing is the life He has given us.

  1. Nothing or no one is to hold a higher position in our lives than the Lord.
  2. He is worthy of that position because of who He is.
  3. The moment we recognize that worth, and begin to live in a way that demonstrates our surrender to it, our lives will change.
  4. That moment will not happen until we realize Jesus, who is Lord, is our Lord, and begin to shape our walk to reflect that.