Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Living in God's Grace

 “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

(Colossians 2:6–7 ESV)


We tend to believe that receiving Jesus is a one time event. We tend to think that we come to faith in Jesus at one point in life. And, after we receive him, after we come to faith in him, we seem to think that nothing else matters.


Some of us may have heard the gospel and responded to an altar call. We may have encountered the gospel and prayed the sinner’s prayer. And we remember this day, we mark this day, as the day we came to faith.


In the Lutheran tradition, we may have been baptized as a baby or a small child. And we think of this day in the same way. We consider this as the day we came to faith. We consider this day as the point in which we entered into the blessing of God.


However, after this day has come and gone, we do as we please. We live as we please. And we don’t believe that it matters in the least.


We don’t think it matters because, on that one day in the past, we came to faith. We don’t think it matters because, on that one day in the past, we received the gospel. We don’t think it matters because, on that one day in the past, we were saved.


But, in the above passage, we see that receiving Jesus is not just a one time event. We find that it’s ongoing. Paul tells us that, as we received Jesus the Lord, we’re to walk in him.


This phrase indicates that our faith is to be an everyday part of our life. It indicates that it’s a continuing state. It indicates that it’s something to which we hold each moment of every day.


Paul tells us that we’re to be rooted in Jesus. He tells us that we’re to be built up in him. He tells us that we’re to be established in the faith. And this, again, indicates something more than a one time event.


We not only come to faith in Jesus, but we’re established in that faith. We grow in that faith. And we become firm in that faith. 


Even though these events in the past are important, and although they shouldn’t be disregarded, there is something more involved. We must not only ask when we came to faith in Jesus, but if we trust in him now. We must ask not only when we first received the promise of God, but if we’re now living in that promise.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Gullible?

 “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.”

(Colossians 2:4–5 ESV)


If there is one weakness of the American Church today, it’s that we’re easily deceived. We’re gullible. We’re quick to accept every convincing argument that is made by those both outside of the church and within. 


We are convinced that the gospel is not true. We’re deluded into thinking that our faith is merely a system of rules, regulations, and morality. We’re led to believe that the message of Scripture is simply one of acceptance.


We’re led into these warped beliefs by the false teachers who surround us. We’re led to do so by the false teachers we’ve allowed to infiltrate the church. We’re quick to trust those with the nicest smile, with the best stories, and with the greatest speaking skills.


This was the very concern that Paul possessed for the Colossian Church. This was the concern he had for the Laodiceans and others who had not seen him face to face. He had been struggling for them, that they might be encouraged and built up in the faith. He agonized over them, desiring that they would come to a full assurance of faith. And, as we see above, he did so that they might not be deluded.


This word, deluded, can also mean deceived. So, he did not want them to be easily led astray by those who came to them with persuasive language. He did not want them to be easily led astray by those who spoke with enticing words.


Like the Colossians, and like the Laodiceans, this is the reason that we need to be encouraged and built up in the faith. This is the reason we need to come to the full assurance of faith. It prevents us from being captivated by fine sounding arguments.


This makes it clear that our faith, as well as that of the church as a whole, is a valid concern. In fact, it’s the greatest concern. It’s the greatest concern because it determines not only our life here in this world. It determines our eternal destiny.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Unseen Brother

 “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

(‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬)


We are naturally concerned for the welfare of those who are close to us. We are concerned for the welfare of those who are near and dear to our heart. We want the best for them. And we don’t want to see anything bad happen to them.


When it comes to our fellow believers in Christ, we’re concerned for their welfare here in this world. But, more than that, we’re concerned for their spiritual welfare. We want to see them grow in faith, escape from temptation, and overcome the struggles and doubts they may face.


While we know there are believers all around the world, and while we hate to hear of the persecution they sometimes face, we’re not as concerned for their welfare. The thought of them rarely crosses our mind. And, for this reason, our prayers for them are infrequent at best.


In the above passage, we see Paul’s concern not for the churches with which he was acquainted. We see his concern not for those among whom he’d ministered. We see his concern for those who had not seen him in person.


Paul says that he is struggling for the believers in the Colossian Church, for those at Laodicea, and for others who had not seen him face to face. The Word “struggle” means that he was in agony because of them. It means that he was worried about their welfare.


He desires that they might be encouraged. He longed to see them being knit together in love. And he desired that they would come to the full assurance provided by the gospel.


Personally, I spend a great deal of time in prayer for my family. I also do so for the members of my congregation. However, that being said, I confess a lack of concern for my brothers and sisters who are unseen and unknown to me. I certainly don’t want anything bad to happen to them. But I certainly haven’t struggled for them.


As we’re called to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation, as we’re called to make disciples of all nations, and as we’re called to bear witness of Christ’s death and resurrection to the entire world, I pray that God would make this true of me. I pray that I would share his concern for each and every one of his people. I pray that he would cause me to agonize over them. And I pray that he would cause me to continually long for their growth in faith.



Saturday, September 12, 2020

Gladly Suffering

 “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

(Colossians 1:24-29 ESV)


We are not fond of suffering. In fact, we avoid it at all costs. We like to remain at ease. We like to enjoy a peaceful life.


For this reason, we do all that we can to avoid it. We do so even if it means compromising our faith. We do so even if it means ignoring the needs of those who surround us.


We’re not generally willing to endure suffering for the sake of others. We’re not willing to endure hardship that someone else might be blessed. If helping someone, if blessing someone, is going to bring discomfort upon us in any way, we typically refuse.


Being perfectly honest about it, it’s not even suffering that we refuse. We shy away from any discomfort whatsoever. If it means giving up some of our recreation to help another, if it means doing something that we don’t typically enjoy, if it means sacrificing some of our expendable income, or if it simply means work for us, we tend to decline.


However, looking at the above passage, we see that the apostle Paul endured suffering for the sake of the Colossians. And he did so not for them only. He did so for the sake of the Gentiles.  He did so for the sake of the lost.


This is what we see in the above passage. He states clearly that he suffered for the sake of the Colossians. He states clearly that he suffered on behalf of the church.


And not that our suffering can ever compare to that of Christ, he does draw a parallel between his own suffering for the church and that of Jesus. He says that he is filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body. He says that he completes the things lacking of the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body.


As Jesus suffered for his church, so too did Paul. As Jesus laid down his life for the church, so too did Paul. He endured them because of the stewardship of God that had been entrusted to him. He did so that the Word of God might be made fully known. He did so that the gospel might be known among the Gentiles.


And not only did he suffer. He rejoiced in his sufferings. It brought him joy to do so.


As believers in Jesus, this ought to be our attitude as well. We should not only be willing to suffer for our fellow believers. We should not only be willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel. We should rejoice in it.


We should do so because of the stewardship of God that's been entrusted to us. We should do so that the gospel might be fully known. We should do so that we might make disciples of all nations.


My hope and prayer is that this will be true of me and also of you. I pray that, as the body of Christ, we would be more than happy to suffer for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ. And I pray that we’d be more than happy to suffer for the sake of the lost.


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Our Source of Assurance

 “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 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, 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.”

(Colossians 1:21–23 ESV)


The assurance of salvation is something that we desperately need. It’s needed because, quite frankly, we don’t always feel saved. Circumstances arise that cause us to question or even to doubt it. 


It could be our outward circumstances. Our life situation may not be everything we want or hope it to be. And it causes us to feel that we’re outside of God’s blessing.


A struggle with sin can have this effect as well. As we face an ongoing battle with a certain temptation or sinful tendency, we begin to wonder if we are, in fact, saved. We begin to wonder if our hope has been misplaced.


We know that we’re saved by the grace of God. And we know that we receive this grace through faith in Jesus. But, as we face these struggles, where is the assurance of our salvation found?


Our tendency, when we face these struggles, is to look at our behavior. We think that, if we’re truly saved, it will be seen in our life. We think that an internal change should be evident.


While it’s true that the grace of God indeed produces fruit in our life, and while it’s true that it produces changes within us, the ongoing presence of sin can lead us to lose our sense of assurance. When change seems slow or even nonexistent, we begin to question our faith. When it seems that, perhaps, we’re less sanctified today than we were last week, we begin to question or to doubt our salvation.


It does so because, internally, our hope has shifted from Christ to ourselves. It’s shifted from a dependence upon Christ and the salvation he accomplished for us upon the cross, to a dependence upon ourselves and the works that we perform. It has shifted from a reliance upon the grace of God to a reliance upon our own inherent goodness. And this contradicts the very gospel we confess.


However, as we see in the above passage, we can have an assurance of salvation. We can, in fact, know that we are saved. And this assurance is provided by our faith.


Just as we are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus, so too are we assured of our salvation. Paul tells us that our salvation is certain as long as we have faith. It is certain as long as we remain stable and steadfast in our faith. It is certain as long as we do not shift from the hope of the gospel we have heard.


This makes perfect sense. It aligns perfectly with the message of the gospel. Because we are saved through faith, we are assured of our salvation by that same faith.


Saturday, August 22, 2020

More Than a Man

 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

Colossians 1:15-20


The beliefs that we have about Jesus are many. Many of us believe that although Jesus was a great man, he was a man. We think that he was a great teacher. We think that he was a great moral example for us to follow. We think that he was a great religious leader. And some of us would say even that he was a prophet.


Jesus is a man, to be sure. He is fully man. He is a man in every way as you and me.


However, by believing this way about him, we bring Jesus down to our level. We do so because, although he is a man, we make him into a mere man. Instead of seeing him for who he is, we make him weak and sinful, just like us.


However, according to Scripture, Jesus is so much more. And this is something we see in the above passage. Paul tells us, in several different ways, that Jesus is God.


He describes Jesus as the image of God, meaning that he shares God’s likeness. It expresses the fact that he is the embodiment of God. He is the manifestation of God.


He’s described as the firstborn of creation. And this does not imply that Jesus was created. It implies his authority. As the firstborn son, in Biblical times, received the largest share of the inheritance and leadership of the larger family, this is Jesus’ role. He possesses authority over all creation.


He is the creator. By him, all things were made. And this includes things both visible and invisible. They were made by him and for him, which tells us that all things belong to him.


He’s before all things, indicating that he preexisted all things. In other words, he is eternal. In him all things hold together, meaning that everything continues to exist only by his power and authority. He is the head of the church. And he is the firstborn from the dead, once again indicating his authority and the fact that he was the first to rise from the grave.


All of this is true of him that he might be preeminent in everything. This is true of him that he might be prominent, the greatest, and the foremost of all. Again, he is more than we could ever aspire to be.


The fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Jesus. This tells us that Jesus is God in every way. He isn’t partially God, nor does he simply possess some of the characteristics of God. He is fully God.


In Jesus, God was also pleased to reconcile to himself all things. And this was accomplished, peace was made, through the blood of the cross. It was by his sacrifice, it was by his death upon the cross, that our relationship with God was restored.


Jesus, then, is God and man. He is our maker and redeemer. He is the one to whom we look that we might be reconciled to God.


Sunday, August 16, 2020

Qualified?

 “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered 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.”

(Colossians 1:11-14 ESV)


I recently saw a study, conducted among Christians. It revealed that more than half of professing Christians, even in denominations that have a high view of Scripture, believe that they are saved by their own efforts. They believe that, by performing good works, they are enabled to receive the blessings of God. And, among Catholics, the number reached seventy percent.


While I’m not endorsing this study in any way, it does match my experience as a pastor. Over the course of my ministry, I’ve found that a majority of those who consider themselves Christian trust not in Christ for salvation, but in themselves. They find comfort not in Christ and what he has done, but in themselves and in what they have done.


This is not Christianity. It is not the Christian faith. In fact, it is another gospel. It is a gospel that cannot save.


It leads to one of two results. It can lead us to continually question our salvation as we’re regularly confronted with our shortcomings. This ultimately leads us to despair, as we realize that we do not and cannot live a life good enough to merit salvation. Or, it leads us to pride, as we sincerely begin to believe that we are good enough and that we’ve one enough to merit salvation.


According to Scripture, we are lost and can do nothing to save ourselves. As we see in the above passage, we are part of the domain of darkness. We are a part of the domain of sin, and the enemy of our souls.


Everything necessary to attain our salvation has been performed by Christ, and by Christ alone. We are not qualified for salvation because of anything in ourselves or anything we’ve done. We’re qualified by God himself.


It is he who has delivered us from the domain of darkness. It is he who has transferred us into the kingdom of his Son. And it is in Christ that we have redemption, and the forgiveness of our sins.


For this reason, we must not trust in ourselves. We must trust in the Lord, who alone can save. And when he enables us to do good works, praise be to God.