Monday, July 27, 2020

Colossians Pt 6 (Chosen & Predestined)

Why are you a Christian? Not why as in what do you hope to gain from it. Not how did it happen that you became a Christian. The real question being asked in – Why are you a Christian? – is: for what purpose? What did God have in mind for those who would respond to His invitation?

Eph 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 

You hear a lot of catch phrases thrown around in churches today. Separated from their context, certain words can mislead us to make assumptions the Bible doesn’t leave room for. Words like chosen and predestined. The word chosen is a word that cannot stand alone. It needs a modifier, a clarifier. Chosen from. Chosen how. Chosen for what purpose. 

In the Bible, unless we know the modifier, by taking the word out of its context, we can force it to say what it isn’t saying. Like some are chosen and others rejected.

As a kid, I hated when we’d line up and get picked for teams. There was usually one team you wanted on and kept waiting for that leader to call your name. And then there was only one person left – you – and it was the other team’s choice. You were rejected by the one team you wanted to be on which put you on the other.

That’s often our idea of chosen. Picked, selected. And if not, rejected. Chosen to be included or chosen to be excluded. But when it comes to salvation, you’ll have a hard time finding support for that idea in Scripture.

1Tim 2:4 Our God, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 

God does not predetermine who are going to be saved and who are not going to be. Remember what He has promised? He loved the world to such a degree that He gave His only Son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. He would never make that promise with the intentions of excluding some. Otherwise to those not selected this would be a false promise. God doesn’t make false promises. In Jesus, all the promises of God are yes. Jesus died once for all. He wouldn’t come back later and say, Oh, you didn’t read the fine print. All doesn’t mean all. Whoever is limited to a select few. 

That’s why, we must find the modifier, so the word can explain itself. Chosen for, or chosen because, or chosen to become, or chosen so that.

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

Paul says we are chosen with this purpose in mind. Before the world was formed, when God formulated His plans for how He might provide a relationship with man after the fall, He knew He would make a way for His people to be holy and blameless before Him. That would be the condition He would place on them.

Eklekt√≥s, the Greek word for chosen, is made up of two words: Ek – means out of or out from, and kletos means called. In English it may mean selected but not in the original language. It describes people who have been called out from one group so they can now become part of another group, from one life so they can receive another. Called out of darkness so they can live in the Light. Called out of the flesh so they can live in the Spirit. Called out of unbelief so they can now belong to Him. Called out of a people who aren’t the people of God so they can become the People of God.

Israel is known as God’s chosen people because it was through the Jews God intended to bring the Savior into the world. He called them out for a mission, a purpose. They were to be the people through whom God made Himself known. And out of their family, He would produce the Messiah, the Savior of the world. They were and are the chosen ones because of that purpose.

When you come to the word chosen, keep reading. You’ll find its modifier to tell you what the purpose is behind what God intended when He called us out. 

The other word, predestined, also needs a modifier. If you stop with just the word, you lose free will. The word becomes Predetermined as though there is no response for us to make. The decision has already been made. It will be this way no matter what. Now, it is true that the purposes of God cannot be thwarted and His will will be done, however, throughout Scripture, God gives mankind choices. People can agree or they can reject. But God will not make their choices for them. He will motivate them toward the right decision but leave that decision to them.

So, as with chosen, the word predestined needs a modifier to see what God had or has in mind.
The word means foreordain – set intentions on, determine in the past how something will operate in the future – as in planned in advance, or marked out beforehand. When we find its modifier, predestination always has a target. Predestined toward some predetermined goal. When speaking of salvation, it shows us what God set up and what were His intentions for us when we were saved.

Predestined is made from two words: before and establish boundaries or define limits. It means God determined His intentions for what He would accomplish in believers before anyone ever became a believer. This is what I want all believers to look like.

Paul said: He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself

The boundaries defined by the word adoption explain the relationship we would have with Him. He predetermined how or in what terms we would belong to Him – as His children by adoption. Predestined always needs a modifier.

Rom 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son 

Eph 1:11 having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, 

So, He called us out to be holy and blameless and decided in advance how we would relate to Him - as His children by adoption. In other words, Paul answers our question: why are you a Christian? For what purpose are you saved? To be holy and blameless and live as Children of God.

Col 3:12  So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, - you are what He called you out to be.

Paul has used another troubling word: Holy. What does it mean to be holy? What would holiness look like in my life? Is it an attitude or action? If we go into the language behind the English word it makes more sense. The word means: different, unlike, other than everything else; for the believer it means we are different from the godless world. 

We get the word Sanctified from the word Holy.

Sanctified means set apart, different. Reserved or designed for special use. The Temple in Jerusalem was holy because it was different from other buildings. It is set apart. A candle used in the Temple is holy because it is set apart from all other candles the candle-maker made. It had been sanctified. Set apart for Temple use. Others made at the same time, not for the Temple, are common, not sanctified. The difference is in how it lives out its purpose.

We have been called out from the world to be different from the world, set apart for His special use and predestined to live as His Children. What does all that mean? It means we live by a different standard. We think a different way. We operate by different motivation. We live a different lifestyle. We demonstrate the goodness of God in our lives. And our main objective now is pleasing Him.

Paul says, God’s intentions for us are to live separated and different from the world of the unbeliever. To help us know what that looks like, he gets specific with patterns of behavior we are to get rid of and patterns of behavior we are to add to our lives. Paul has already given us the motivational doctrine behind living differently, which is: because Jesus is Lord. Now he gives us the application.

Col 3:8-9 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 

put them all aside: Put off or put aside means these are things that we give up, renounce, or take out of our lives. Remove them from use. They may have been common for us in the life we were called out from, but not in the life as a Child of God.

1Cor 13:11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 

These things are attitudes and actions that contradict the Spirit of God living within us.

James 1:20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 

Paul is saying the same thing. Let’s remove the anger because it doesn’t reflect how God has told us to live. Neither does wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech.

These attitudes or actions compete with the intentions of God. They don’t reflect well on who we are as Children of God.

There is a rule in giving up a bad habit. You need to replace it with a good habit. Otherwise, you’ll slip back into the old. It’s not just cleaning out the clutter in the garage so the car will fit, it’s putting the car into the garage, so there’s no room for the clutter to come back.

Matt 12:43-45 Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.
Paul says, not only do we take these bad habits out, we replace them with good habits.

Col 3:10-17 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 

Paul isn’t trying to fix society. You cannot make a godless society live like a godly society. He’s showing believers how they can live in that godless society without becoming like it. To live differently. How? By encouraging each believer to consider why they are saved. To understand the purpose God had in mind for them and to live according to that purpose.

Phil 4:8-9 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

We let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts by dwelling on these things.

To dwell on them, we must remove anything from our lives that gives the wrong message of who we are and replace them with what reflects the truth about God in our lives. When we do, we will honor God and sense His blessings in return. What blessings?

2Pet 1:3 His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 

That’s our blessing. By belonging to Him, all we need is provided. All we need to do is decide to live like who we are: Children of God. All we need to do is live in such a way that: Whatever you do in word or deed, [you can] do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 

There is nothing more satisfying than realizing why we are saved and living according to that purpose.

  1. When our salvation is simply an add-on to our lives and not a definition of who we are, our appreciation for how to live it is lessened.
  2. Unless we discover the purpose for which we are saved, we will become satisfied to live beneath the privilege of being a Child of God.
  3. A good place to begin is with prayer: God, show me what it means to belong to You.
  4. Then, what He shows us becomes our guide in adjusting our lives to what He has chosen and predestined us to be.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Colossians Pt 5

In the news this past week, from an interview on CNN, Don Lemon said Jesus was not perfect. He made the comment while discussing events with Chris Cuomo surrounding the destruction of statues and monuments of the Founding Fathers. You may remember that Chris Cuomo is infamous for responding to a call for prayer with: “We don’t need help from above. All our help is within us.”

Lemon said, “Jesus Christ, admittedly, was not perfect when He was here on this earth, so why are we deifying the Founders of this country?”

Deifying the Founders was his opinion of people wanting to protect the symbols and statues of our history. But while at it, he chose to take a dig at Christians by implying it was commonly understood that Jesus wasn’t perfect.

That was a more loaded statement than casual reading shows. If Jesus wasn’t perfect, Christianity has no foundation and thereby has no legitimacy in the world’s social or political concerns. If Jesus wasn’t perfect the church has no right to stand against the movement to destroy America. If Jesus wasn’t perfect, we have no position from which to declare holiness to a fallen world.

What did Jesus say about being perfect? To his disciples He said: Matt 5:48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. 

He was challenging them that in light of the fact that because their heavenly Father is perfect, they were to live their lives in a way that demonstrated they had been changed to live on God’s terms – What are God’s terms? Perfection, and God’s terms create that perfection.

But then, later, He makes a claim that adds a whole new dimension to who He was: John 10:30 I and the Father are one. So, if the Father is perfect and Jesus and the Father are one, Jesus is perfect.
The writer of Hebrews got in on the discussion:

Heb 7:28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made [shown to be] perfect forever. 

Heb 5:9 And having been made [shown to be] perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 

Heb 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

The world doesn’t want Jesus to be perfect. Perfection places Him in a unique category of one – Only God is perfect. To accept His perfection forces them to acknowledge who He is and why He came, which brings in what He’s done and how that affects them. Because if Jesus is who the Bible claims Him to be, and establishes He is without fault and thereby perfect, all He said and all He has done has to be true. As must all the Bible says about Him. There can be nothing false. Like when Paul wrote to the Corinthians: 

2Cor 1:20 For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. 

Jesus is the validation of everything God promises. Because of who He was, everything promised is guaranteed. Which means, some reporter’s opinion doesn’t change the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done. Neither do our doubts or misunderstandings or weaknesses or failures affect the promises God has made.

Col 1:12-14 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

Do you hear the assurances in those verses? These are promises, therefore guaranteed.

Col 2:13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 

What is the promise behind all our sins are forgiven? And having been dead, how is it we are dead no longer? And if we were dead, at what point did we come alive? 

Go back to the beginning: having received. Our previous spiritual condition before salvation was dead. We realize a dead man has no power to produce life. As spiritually dead, we had no power to produce salvation on our own or accomplish establishing a personal relationship with the Father. All we could do was receive the work Jesus did on our behalf. So, God’s invitation was for us to trust that Jesus’ death was the payment for what caused the deadness in the first place, giving us the privilege to receive the salvation that His death provided. The very instant we acknowledged His death paid that debt, we were made alive. But to get us alive, He had to deal with the sin that made us spiritually dead.

To lay this out in practical terms, Paul uses the common practice of becoming indebted to someone for an amount we could never repay. And then, someone comes along and pays off our debt. The books are then cleared of any future obligation to what we originally owed.

Col 2:14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 

Canceled: Wipe off, rub out, erase, smear out, obliterate 

The language of cancelled means: the permanent removal of the debt which has been paid and cannot be presented against us again. You want a verse that promises you eternal life and secures you to God forever? Here it is. You can never be charged again with the debt that Jesus paid in full and cancelled out. Your sin is forever removed from the ledger. The separation caused by that sin is forever bridged. We can never be unsaved again.

Having been nailed to the cross isn’t speaking of Jesus but the accusation of our debt. Nailed means: Fastened securely so that it will not come off. Losing God’s salvation isn’t possible.

Stop for a moment and think about what salvation is based on. A promise. There’s no written document we sign with some notary’s stamp that guarantees we are saved, to be carried with us when we die and shown at the gates of Heaven to get us in. God made a promise and by faith we believe that promise is true. That’s what we’re counting on. That’s what we’ve bet our lives on. That at the instant of our salvation, God wrote our names down in the reservation section of His book.

2Cor 1:22 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. By the way: did you hear the work of the Trinity?
The guarantee of that promise is granted when we receive the Lord. At that moment we are sealed. The seal says: this person belongs to God, verified by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, given as a pledge of the faithfulness of God to prove we belong to Him. It is the evidence of that seal stamped on our hearts that says God has made us His and will receive us home.

The guarantee of our salvation doesn’t come from our side of the equation. Remember, all we did was receive the opportunity for salvation by faith in response to God’s invitation. Our yes acknowledged the work Jesus did on our behalf. That’s it. Everything else is based on His yes to guarantee the promise of John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. 

That’s why Paul could tell Timothy: 2Tim 1:12 I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 

People are always looking for exceptions. Not for themselves but it’s as though they believe some don’t deserve Heaven. That somehow sin has or will again separate them from God. Well, they don’t deserve it. No one deserves it. That’s why it’s a gift given by a promise based on Jesus not them. Held so that even they cannot destroy it.

Isa 49:13-16 Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people And will have compassion on His afflicted. But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, And the Lord has forgotten me. "Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands. 

John 10:27-29 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 
The hands represent strength. Our power to grip and hold. But notice, we’re not holding Him in our hands. He is holding us.

David’s prayer: 1Chron 29:11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. 

These images remind us who Jesus is: 1) the One who sits at the right hand of God with full authority in Heaven and on earth, 2) the One whose hand holds us securely for all time, 3) the One who has ultimate power to keep that which we have committed to Him. 

Listen to the flow of responsibility: We didn’t give ourselves the right to become Children of God. God did that. We didn’t inscribe our name into the palms of His hands. God did that. We didn’t seal ourselves. God did that. We didn’t cancel out our own sin debt of accusations against us. God did that. We didn’t make ourselves alive. God did that. We didn’t promise ourselves eternal life. God did that.

And Jesus is the guarantee of all this being true. Our life now as Believers and the Hope of Heaven all rest on Him.

What is the reason we have salvation in the first place? John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 

Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 

1Jn 4:9-10 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

Do you hear the common word ringing in each of these? Salvation is the ultimate expression of God’s love. God brought about Salvation because He loved us. By His love He keeps us. How strong is that love?

Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Keep looking for a loophole. You won’t find it. The promise of Salvation and the promise of Heaven are guaranteed by Jesus, evidenced by the Holy Spirit, written on and held securely by the very hands of God, based on His love for us, how do we think we could lose what He’s promised never to let go of?

In ignorance someone will always say: So that means once I have received Christ Jesus the Lord, I can live any way I choose because I’ll never lose my salvation? No! 

Col 2:6-7 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. 

If I have no desire to walk in a way that pleases God, I’d better check to see if I ever received Jesus in the first place. Because Paul says: Col 3:1-3 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

If I have, I will. If I haven’t, I won’t. If I have and the desire has grown cold, I need to confess that and get right with the Lord again.

Where is Jesus seated? In Heaven. Why is He seated? Seating was evidence the work He had done to secure our salvation was completed. He did everything required. 

  • We no longer need to carry guilt for our past failures and mistakes. They have been nailed to the cross and we bear them no more.
  • We no longer need to carry the fear of what’s coming next in our lives or the lives of our family. Jesus has assumed responsibility for our lives both spiritually and physically.
  • We no longer need to carry the burden of the conflict with our spirit struggling with our flesh for control. Jesus broke the power of our flesh to control us.
  • We no longer need to carry any confusion of what’s best because God causes all things to work together for good because we love Him.
  • We no longer need to carry doubt that competes against our desire to trust, but we can live in faith.
  • We no longer need to carry regrets but rely on the cleansing work Jesus accomplished when He forgave us all our sins.
One of the greatest pictures of the security of salvation is the caterpillar. An earth-bound wormy creature living beneath the burden of gravity. Then one day, he feels the urge to spin a cocoon. Inside the cocoon change happens. It is the end of the caterpillar. But what the caterpillar calls the end, God calls a butterfly. Soon the cocoon opens, a butterfly emerges and he flies away. One life gone, a new life has begun.

Here’s the tie-in. The butterfly can never be a caterpillar again. The change was complete and permanent.

2Cor 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 

On the other side of receiving is our new life. As the new creature, having been transformed into a Child of God, we can never go back to become the old creature again. That change is complete and permanent. 

  1. To a world that deserves judgment, God so loved that world that He made a way for people to escape that judgment by receiving a personal relationship with Him.
  2. He did so in the form of salvation being a gift offered by invitation.
  3. Because salvation is a gift, it isn’t based on the worthiness of the receiver but the generosity of the giver.
  4. Salvation demonstrates God’s willingness to do whatever it takes to provide life for those who believe.
  5. To go through all that work to save us, why would anyone ever think He would let us slip away.