Praise the Lord, What a Savior! – An Umpire Named Peace

January 19, 2021

Colossians 3:15  Have you ever watched people interacting and thought, “They need a referee?” Maybe you have been in a situation where you needed some principle to help you respond constructively, intentionally, and instead of foolishly, haphazardly, and destructively? Here, we find the umpire for our hearts as we deal with life and others.

Peace of Christ as Umpire in our Hearts – We need to connect with the Jewish concept of peace, which dealt with wholeness and well-being, not just lack of conflict. Also, we might think of the peace of Christ between us and God, the peace of Christ as well-being in our spirit, the peace of Christ between believers, and the peace of Christ with the expansion of His Kingdom, although I suspect the main peace referred to here might be the peace within us and between us. Bringing in the role of an umpire, we might say, let the peace of Christ oversee things; call fair and foul; arbitrate, govern words, actions, attitudes, intentions, and interactions; and enforce for you the “rules of the game.” And, note, this is at the core level – our heart.

Bringing This Into Everyday – The truth is, we have many “umpires” in our hearts, and it helps to know what they are, since they sometimes are at odds with the Bible and Christ’s purposes. Occasions to practice letting the peace of Christ umpire include deciding what to feed our mind on, disagreements about politics, when we are frustrated or in a bad mood, when we have a misunderstanding, and many other times and circumstances. Note here the “one body” connection among Christians and the instruction to be thankful, which I think makes it easier to let the peace of Christ umpire. Who’s your umpire?

 



Praise the Lord, What a Savior! – The Call to a God-Honoring Life B

January 19, 2021

Colossians 3:12-14  Last time, we looked at things to eliminate from our lives because of being in Christ, and now we look at virtues to add. The born-again are chosen in Christ and belong to God; set apart for the worship and service of God unto holiness; and dearly loved by God. Take a look at the virtues listed here and reflect on their presence or absence in your own life.

  • The Challenges we Face – Challenges to this way of life include challenges from outside us, including, in part, that this is not the world we live in – its values or way of doing things often times. There are challenges from inside us – our own tendencies, thinking graciousness equals weakness, or acting the opposite of some of these gets us what we want. What if you could be strong and gracious at the same time? Which of these come more naturally, and which do not? Which ones do you push back against and why?
  • A Deep Importance – Have you ever thought of these as qualities of how God relates to us? It is in God’s restraining Himself from us and His patience and repeated forgiveness that we find the motivation and demand for forbearance and forgiveness toward others. It is in God’s love that we see how to love each other, and it is the love and Spirit of God in us that stirs these characteristics and helps us show them in truth and unity. Scripture says God’s kindness leads us to repentance and that God is patient, not wanting any to perish.  Jesus says He is gentle and humble, and He demonstrates compassion born of love. Also, these virtues demonstrate grace and goodness to others, which furthers God’s purposes among His people and in the world.

 



Praise the Lord, What a Savior! – The Call to a God-Honoring Life A

January 19, 2021

Colossians 3:5-11  Picking up from last time, setting our heart and mind on things above infuses life with and filters life by God’s nature and purpose. This is not how we get right with God but a call to bring life in line with salvation in Christ. This list of things we must eliminate from our lives is not exhaustive, but it represents many of the ways the world operates and the fallen, sinful life.  Notice the reference to how we used to live and the “but now” shift. These things disregard,  disobey, or oppose God and His glory and purpose. They are sinful and separated-from-God ways of being, living, thinking, acting, and speaking. Take some time looking at the list in our passage, and reflect on how any of these might be showing up in your life. Some of these may be a more natural part of our personality or a learned way of life. Some of these we might think we have a right to indulge or a need for. However, the break with them must be intentional and decisive.

True personal holiness comes from Jesus and is a response of the loving heart of the saved person who wants to honor that relationship in a way that reflects the heart and character of God. The elimination of these things from our lives, homes, and church flows out of all that has been said about the person and work of Jesus and the nature of Christian life in Ch. 1-2.  They do not stand as some way to come into God’s favor or stand apart from all that has been said in Ch. 1-2. Two connections between vv. 1-4 and this passage may be that setting our hearts and minds on things above leads to un-Godly things becoming more distasteful and us becoming more committed to Godliness.

 



Praise the Lord, What a Savior! – The Call to God-Ward Pursuit and Focus

January 19, 2021

Colossians 3:1-4  One picture of a life-directing pursuit and mind-set is an athlete training for the Olympics. With that picture in mind, let’s hear the call to a God-ward pursuit and focus.

The call is connected to being born-again. Those of us who are born-again have died to sin and self and been raised in the new life of Jesus, so He is now our Lord and we have a new identity, and thus the call. But notice, answering that call must be intentional. That is indicated by the tone of the instructions here, but it is also easy enough to see that, unless we attend to it, we will not naturally be people seeking and thinking on things above. There is plenty of good and bad “here below” stuff to keep our attention off of things above – things like the person of Christ and glory of God, worship of and obedience to God, the empowering of the Spirit for Christ-likeness and effectiveness, the truths of Scripture, and the Kingdom of God, etc. This does not mean we neglect everything here and now, but that things above set the tone and are the filter for how we live here and relate to things below. Notice also that the weight of this call to a God-ward pursuit and focus is grounded in death to sin and self and a spiritual relocation, if you will. Paul speaks of the life of a born-again person being hidden in God with Christ. This is a change of identity, purpose, and Lordship that needs to change our heart’s   desire and the fundamental focus of our minds. We are to set our heart and mind on things above so life lines up with who we are and where we are heading.

 



Praise the Lord, What a Savior! – Walking in Jesus’ Fullness

January 05, 2021

Colossians 2:16-23  In next section, we find more admonitions about avoiding traps that would poison our walk with Christ. To set the tone, recall the previous verses, which reminded us to continue in the Lordship of Jesus and the true faith, to refuse hollow and deceptive ideas, and to live in the victory Jesus gives us.

 

  • The Three Traps – The trap of legalism is my effort to earn God’s favor, pay God back, or demonstrate my religious excellence. The trap of mysticism is when we make faith about subjective spiritual experience – ours or someone else’s – and that experience or person who claims a special experience becomes normative for Christian life, takes the place of God’s Word, etc. (There are false spirits). The trap of asceticism is when faith becomes about harsh treatment of my body and self-deprivation, beating myself into shape. (Note there is a difference between valid spiritual disciplines and asceticism.)

 

  • The Appeal and the Problem – The appeal of these traps includes: they offer us illegitimate routes (not Jesus) for a legitimate desire (a right walk with God); they appeal to pride and our desire to brag to God and think highly of ourselves; and they give us some religious effort, as we often have a hard time receiving grace. Problems include the following. They diminish, add to, supplement, or replace Jesus and disconnect us from close connection to Jesus. They let us judge others based on rule-keeping, discipline, and subjective experience. Pride, divisions, and powerlessness come into our lives and churches as we become distanced from the person of Christ and His fullness,  His purposes, and His people.

 

The world offers philosophies, superstition, false spirits, legalism, asceticism, and mysticism – Christ Jesus is where fullness is found…How we get saved is also how we live saved.

 



Praise the Lord, What a Savior! – Walking in Jesus’ Fullness

January 05, 2021

Colossians 2:8-15  In these verses, we find more of the answer to two questions in the Christian life. How do we live in and live out God’s purpose for us in a right relationship to God? How do we live in this hope of glory, new creation,    God-pleasing, life as faith, hope, and love people knowing God’s grace and peace? In addition to the counsel of vv. 6-7, we now discover a warning and admonition to continue in the freedom and fullness found in Jesus.

 

  • Staying Free in Jesus’ Fullness (vv. 8-10) – Keying off of the “rooted” and “growing” of the previous verses and the idea of a plant this suggests, we realize the Christian can have our roots poisoned by false ideas that stunt our growth and make us unproductive in God’s purposes. In Paul’s warning not to be taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies, I think about hollow and deceptive philosophies about salvation, about Christian life, and about doing church. Any idea must be subjected to the test of what it does with Jesus and how it leads us to relate to Jesus. Ideas that can take us captive include additions to, subtractions from, and substitutes for Jesus; un-Biblical ideas and pursuits aimed either at pleasing God or satisfying the flesh; and legitimate pursuits that become wrong, such as causes, practices, teachings that get distorted or misused.

 

  • Jesus’ Victory for Us to Live In (vv. 11-15) – The born again person has been given new freedom from bondage, new life in place of spiritual death, and new pardon in place of the old record of our sin and its condemnation. The fullness of Jesus offered to us is found in the person of Jesus, the work of the cross, and the shared resurrection life given to us.

 



Praise the Lord, What a Savior! Christ in You, the Hope of Glory

November 03, 2020

Colossians 1:23b-2:7  Since we started The Kickoff and 2 Peter before we resumed morning worship, I have shared those notes first. Now, instead of going back and starting at the first of  Colossians (something I may go back and pick up), I want to get right up to speed and share the key thoughts from Sunday so you can reflect on them closer to the time I presented them.

  • 1:23b-26 – Christ in you, the hope of glory, is the subject of the Gospel message and ministry.
  • 1:27 – Christ in you, the hope of glory, is the purpose and mystery of God for God’s glory.
  • 1:28-29 – Christ in you, the hope of glory, is a call on you to continue maturing as a Christian – a process that requires intentionality.
  • 2:1-3 – Christ in you, the hope of glory, is an invitation to a deeper and more complete experience of Christ and the wisdom and knowledge found in Him that comes in the company of other Christians as we are encouraged in heart and united in mind.
  • 2:4-5 – Christ in you, the hope of glory, is where we find the foundation of our faith in the face of falsehood we may encounter and have to resist.
  • 2:6-7 – Christ in you the hope of glory calls you, from a position of rootedness in Jesus, to be growing in Him, walking under His Lordship, and established in the faith.

 



Looking to Jesus & Looking Forward to His Return How Then Shall we Live? (Reprint from June 2013)

November 03, 2020

2 Peter 3:1-18  As I think about the in-between time from Jesus’ earthly life to His return, I think of when, as children, we had times between when mom and dad left and returned, and we had to decide whether or not we were going to do what we were supposed to. In these verses, Peter gives us three strategies for living well until Jesus comes or we go home to Him.

First, don’t get thrown by the apparent delay. You see, in the face of Jesus’ seeming  delay, we can get disappointed and discouraged, embarrassed and doubtful, and distracted and detoured in our Christian lives. Therefore, we need reminders like Peter gives here, and the perspective of knowing God has a plan and that God does not see time the way we do. Second, don’t get wrapped up in what we see here – it is temporal and temporary. If all of this is going to be burned up and melted away, we ought to have eternal things as our chief concern. Third, keep growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. That means partnering with God in His purposes, guarding against falsehood and the detours it leads to, and deepening our daily, lived experience of Jesus in a relational way. Don’t assume that “getting saved” is all there is and that Christian life doesn’t consist of a personal relationship with Jesus. And, don’t trade off Jesus for head knowledge and simply doing church.

Those of us who are in Christ are called to live our lives, day by day and in every area of life, looking to Jesus and looking forward to His return – not getting thrown by His delayed    coming, not getting all wrapped up in temporal things and certainly not in sin, and growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

 



Looking to Jesus & Looking Forward to His Return When it Comes to Needing Truth

October 13, 2020 

2 Peter 1:12-21 (Reprint from May 2013)  What do you believe about Jesus and His place in your life and our church? Are there things that challenge that faith or lead you to live in ways that don’t fit what we say we believe? Sometimes, in the face of those things, we need the truth of Jesus in a clear way, and that is where Peter goes.

 

Sometimes, we need to be reminded (vv. 12-15) of things like the basic truths of our faith, the implications of our faith, the call and means of living out that faith, and the right way of seeing things. We need reminding because of false teachings, biases, tiredness, distraction, discouragement, etc. that can get our thinking off track. One thing Peter reminds us of is the faithfulness of the   account of Jesus, specifically in this instance, of what we call the Transfiguration (vv. 16-18). Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain. There, His glory was revealed, God spoke, and Moses and Elijah (the representatives of the Old Testament Law and Prophets) showed up. If this is who Jesus is, surrender and obedience are the only acceptable options. But, as great as personal experience might be, it is not the final authority…Peter goes back to the truthfulness of the Scriptures (vv. 19-21). Of the possible sources of authority in our lives and the possible sources of knowledge about God, faith, and life, the Word of God is a light shining so that, as you receive it, the fullness of Jesus might shine more brightly in you.

 

Jesus deserves to be Lord of everything in your life and our church. There are so many ideas that might detour us from the truth and from living in it, but we need to stay grounded in the truth and closely walking with Jesus.

 



Looking to Jesus & Looking Forward to His Return Everything Needed for Life and Godliness C

October 06, 2020

2 Peter 1:8-11 (Reprint from May, 2013)  What is Christian faith supposed to do in our lives? God wants us to partake in His likeness and escape corruption, and these verses tell us what happens as we avail ourselves of His power to grow in Christ.

 

In vv. 8-9, Peter explains that we either will have a productive walk with Christ or be on a spiritual detour. Kenneth Wuest explains that the possession of the virtues mentioned earlier is expected in the Christian’s life and suggests that the person who does not have these virtues may be a Christian who has lost sight of his or her new position in Jesus and wandered from a close walk with Him. In John 15, Jesus said that it is to the Father’s glory that you and I bear much fruit, showing ourselves to be Jesus’ disciples. So, do we really desire to be fruitful and productive in our knowledge of Jesus? Continuing in vv. 10-11,  we are reminded that our desire is supposed to match God’s heart so that we grow in Jesus. Further, this kind of growth builds into our lives a guarding of our well-being and helps us participate in God’s Kingdom reign in our lives and beyond.

 

So, let’s pull it all together. If you want to see changed people and effective churches, these last two verses say that you can have God’s reign,    be kept from stumbling, and be made effective and fruitful. Going back into the first 11 verses of 2 Peter farther, we find that this happens if we are full of the Christian virtues that enable us to not be corrupt and to partake in His nature. Finally, this happens through experientially knowing Jesus so that God’s power gets to operate in us. Avail yourself of the resources God’s power has provided you in Jesus to become what God has saved you to be.