Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Where Would We Be Without The Cross?

Where would we be without the cross? Perhaps those of us raised in the Church do not fully appreciate the message of the cross and the cost of it. Perhaps we forget because the affect of it cannot be seen in us daily. Perhaps we never fully grew in awe of it because we never fully let go of the affects of a fallen world. It is amazing how a few verses can cause us to catch our breath and cause us to stand still.

Once you were alienated from God and you were enemies with him in your minds, which was shown by your evil actions. (Colossians 1:21)

This is who we were and yet are never far from returning to it. What Adam and Eve opened the door to has wrecked havoc on all of Yahweh's creation, and especially upon our minds. As a result of our fallen state, we tend to make ourselves the center of everything and refuse to give glory to anyone else. Even if we are forced to do it, it is usually because there is some benefit for us to do it. This selfishness sets us up to be a creature directly contrary to the nature of our Creator, setting ourselves up us the enemy instead of the worshiper of the one who gave us life.

Our rebellion is conceived in our minds, plagues our hearts and is revealed in our actions. We set ourselves up as our own gods, and still do. Other people only have worth as long as they have something to add to us and the moment we perceive they have nothing to offer, we cut them off. Lying, cheating, stealing, killing, along with self-determination are all rationalized when we consider our needs to be the most important. What a contrast to our Lord:

Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

And we can now because Jesus changed everything for us. No longer are we trapped, under the control of sin which had misshaped every aspect of what we were created to be:

But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death, to present you before God as a people who are holy, faultless, and without blame. (1:22)

Jesus did that. While we were still enemies of Yahweh, Jesus sacrificed himself so that we could be transferred from darkness into the Kingdom, as children of Yahweh. Get it through your head, there was no good in us, we had nothing to offer, no value, and yet he made a decision to love us. In that love he sent his Son to rescue us but we still have to decide to accept it, love him back and obey. Although often times we still see no value in ourselves compared to his holiness, the fact is Father now sees us as holy, faultless and without blame, because of Jesus' death on the cross. Live the biggest good life you can muster, it has no value; only Jesus can save. But there is something we have to do:

But you need to remain well established and rooted in faith and not shift away from the hope given in the good news that you heard. (1:23)

We have to work out our salvation every day. It takes effort to remain faithful to Jesus. It requires a conscience effort to deny the desires of our flesh and to choose Jesus' righteousness daily. If we know who he is and who we are in him, and remind ourselves every day, then our effort enables the Spirit to empower us to overcome the draw of sin. We don't even have to think about that very much, we just have to desire Jesus, and a growing intimacy with him. Love really does take care of the rest, because the action of love is obedience.

We are not perfect but we are being perfected. In Father's eyes we are perfect. When we mess up and sin, we confess it and by his grace it is gone. We can grow in confidence, learning to love him more deeply, knowing he is not looking to destroy us but to increase us.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Don't Play Around With Your Belief In Jesus

"Jesus was a good man."
"Jesus was a prophet."
"Jesus was a great teacher."

Many things are said about Jesus but few people on this earth come to the same conclusion as Peter:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

If we are disciples of Jesus we have to have a clear vision of who he is. Paul gives us this in Colossians:

1. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the one who is first over all creation (v. 15)

Jesus told us that if we know him we also know Father. He also stated after his resurrection that all authority in heaven and on earth was given to him. To be his disciple we must accept his supremacy over all things.

2. Because all things were created by him: both in the heavens and on the earth, the things that are visible and the things that are invisible. Whether they are thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities, all things were created through him and for him. (v. 16)

If we can accept this as truth concerning Jesus, we can begin to walk in the boldness that is ours, having been transferred from the darkness to the Kingdom. Jesus is over all but it is the citizens of the Kingdom who obey Jesus as King. See him, see yourself, in this simple yet all encompassing statement: "all things were created through him and for him."

3. He existed before all things, and all things are held together in him. (v. 17)

As we read this we must make a decision: do we believe the Bible is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit or not? If not, then go away and get on with your life. But if you do then understand you are not communicating with some genie who grants wishes but the Son of God, who lives in you, and who has told you to obey him in love. He is the one who holds all of creation together. He holds you.

4. He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the one who is firstborn from among the dead so that he might occupy the first place in everything. (v. 18)

Your pastor is not the head of the church, Jesus is. He is also the firstborn of us all. Because of Jesus we have been transformed into a new creation, fashioned after him. What he is is what we are becoming. He is above all of Creation, the holder of Creation and the first born of the new creation. As his disciple, he must be first in our life, over all in our life.

5. Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him, and he reconciled all things to himself through him—whether things on earth or in the heavens. He brought peace through the blood of his cross. (v. 19-20)

Jesus is not only the agent of Creation, he is also the agent of reconciliation, reconciling Yahweh with his rebellious Creation. Jesus is the giver of peace to any who will receive it from him. He puts an end to sin's control over us, becoming our strength as we take dominance over our flesh and in turn he gives us peace.

No one who understands the scriptures could ever call Jesus a mere good teacher, a good man, or a simple prophet. This is what Scriptures reveal and it is up to you to believe or not. However, if you do believe you must act on that belief. As our Lord, Saviour, King and friend we obey him because we love him. We trust him. We worship him.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Freedom Is An Illusion

Freedom is an illusion. You are not free to do whatever you want to do, especially if what you want to do is outside of the law. When we are young we all look forward to the freedom of adulthood, but all adults know the many things that destroy any thought of being free. It is no different for those who avoid the "control" of Yahweh.

I have spoken to countless people who believe that religion is intended to control and enslave us. They really believe that they are free without Jesus. Many are so blind that they can't see that they aren't even in control of their emotions or their tongue, let alone their actions and their environment.

Yesterday I couldn't get past this verse from Colossians :

He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. He set us free through the Son and forgave our sins. (1:13-14)

We can't mistake the language here, "control of darkness", "transferred", "set us free". Do we trust and and believe the Word? Do we accept the language here that conveys the truth of what Father has done for us through the Son? Then consider what Jesus taught:

“I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. A slave isn’t a permanent member of the household, but a son is. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you really will be free." (John 8:34-36)

This is the condition of everyone before the blood of Jesus is applied; we are slaves to sin, with an illusion of control but possessing no control. We can't stop ourselves from doing the things that offend the holiness of Yahweh. Father loves us too much to want us to be under the control of darkness so he set us free through the Son. But that freedom is freedom from the control of sin, not free to do whatever we want. Paul explains it:

Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, that you are slaves of the one whom you obey? That’s true whether you serve as slaves of sin, which leads to death, or as slaves of the kind of obedience that leads to righteousness. But thank God that although you used to be slaves of sin, you gave wholehearted obedience to the teaching that was handed down to you, which provides a pattern. Now that you have been set free from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18)

Wow! These verses speak life into us as we realize the extent of what Father has done for us through the Son. Indeed, we are set free from the control of darkness and are made alive in Jesus. Sin no longer controls us! So now we lay down our lives in gratitude and love, and are controlled by his righteousness. Look what Paul concludes:

But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God, you have the consequence of a holy life, and the outcome is eternal life. The wages that sin pays are death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (v. 22-23)

There is a cost to being a disciple of Jesus, obedience in love. Paul used the metaphor of slavery to paint the picture of what attitude we need to adopt here. Now consider again the verse from Colossians:

He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. He set us free through the Son and forgave our sins.

We have been adopted and have been placed in the Kingdom. We have been taken from the enemy's camp and brought into the camp of Light. We are Kingdom dwellers, citizens, followers, believers. So let's start behaving like citizens, throwing off the old slave master and submitting ourselves to the law of righteousness that comes from love. If we love him, we will obey.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Are We Avoiding Growing Up?

We are meant for maturity, yet day after day we either stay the same or grow worse. We have to actively acknowledge that our Lord intends for us to grow, to become more than we were yesterday. It is not simply for our selfish purpose but for the maturing of the Body and the salvation of the world. We must mature.

Maturity comes at a cost, it requires us to face and walk through situations we would rather avoid. It is hard but Paul's letter to the church of Colossae makes it clear that it is part of our purpose. Paul prays:

Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. (1:9)

Notice what Paul stated was needed for spiritual maturity:
     1. knowledge of God's will
     2. wisdom
     3. spiritual understanding

Paul stated that the purpose of his prayer was:

We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way. (v. 10)

So, worthy of the Lord's sacrifice on the cross (a fruitful life instead of a wasted one) and one that would please him in the living. Paul names three ways that this will be done in our living:

     1. by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God (v. 10)
     2. by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience (v. 11)
     3. and by giving thanks with joy to the Father. (v. 12)

Good works, growing in knowledge of God, endurance, patience, and joyful thanksgiving; these are themes throughout the epistles and are the foundations to our growth. We need to pay attention and ask for these to increase so that we may mature and increase in Jesus.

We have fallen for the enemy's trick of getting us to focus on ourselves, seeking short cuts and comfort in life. Do you recognize any of these? Perhaps something that had been said to Jesus? Take a quick look at our society and then look in the mirror. Instead of running away from the discomfort, the hardships, trials, and storms, we need to trust the Lord for the strength to stand and to learn, growing into the fullness of Jesus.

There is much to learn and put into practice from this letter. I hope to spend some time in it with you over the next while.