As the Christmas season is winding down, it would be appropriate for us to look at the greatest gift we have ever received from the greatest Person we have ever known— our Lord, and to give Him praise for that wondrous gift. And for me, I find that gift revealed to me in Colossians.
Let’s look at this gift together.
No Longer Alienated and Enemies of the Lord
The Scriptures say that I, and all who are called by His name, are no longer “alienated and enemies” of the Lord. Look at this marvelous gift found in Colossians 1:21-22:
And you (your name), who once were (past tense) alienated (apallotrióō – to estrange, alienate entirely) and enemies (echthrós – hatred, hostility, enmity) in your mind by (what) wicked works, yet now (present tense) He (Christ’s actions) has reconciled (apokatallássō – the restoration of a relationship of peace which has been disturbed) in the body of His flesh (how) through death, (why) to present (paristánō – to cause to stand near or before) you (your name) holy (hágios – set apart, sanctified, consecrated, a saint), and blameless (ámōmos – unblameable, without spot or blemish) and above reproach (anégklētos –unreproveable, not merely unaccusable but unaccused, free from any legal charge) in His sight (presence, before His face).
But there is more. He keeps us from stumbling and presents us faultless before His glory. Amazing. Read it yourself in Jude 1:24.
Now to Him (Christ) who is able to keep you (your name) from stumbling (áptaistos – falling), and to present you (your name) faultless (where) before the presence of His glory (how) with exceeding joy (agallíasis – extreme exultation, exuberant joy),
And how do we respond to this incredible gift? Read the next verse.
To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
I pray you will begin the next year with the same praise and passion for your Lord that you ended the last one. And you can do that by realizing what a great God we serve and what a great gift He has given us in His Son. Will you join with me in exalting His Name? Then keep listening.
The following is a study on realizing our great blessings found in Colossians 1:21-22 and Jude 1:24-25.
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One of the pressing questions today, as we take an honest look at the church, is what does worship look like? Is it what we see manifested on Sunday mornings? Is it music, a light show, an engaging speaker telling interesting and affirming stories? Or is it something more?
The greatest verse regarding the mechanics of true worship is found in the book of Romans. Consider the following:
Romans 12:1-2 – I beseech (parakaléō – to beg, exhort, desire, call for, encourage) you (personal) therefore (based on what was previously written), brethren (to believers), by the mercies (compassion and pity one shows for the suffering of others) of God, that you (personal) present (to place, offer) your (personal) bodies (whole person) a living (constant, enduring) sacrifice (offering, something slaughtered on the altar of God), holy (hágios – set apart, sanctified, consecrated, devoted, sharing in God’s purity and abstaining from earth’s defilement), acceptable (good, well-pleasing, that which God wills and recognizes) to (whom) God, which is your (personal) reasonable (implies intelligent meditation and reflection as pertaining to the soul) service (voluntary worship or service which conforms to human reason). And (you) do not be conformed (syschēmatizō – to fashion alike, to conform to the same pattern outwardly) to this world (generation, culture, referring to an age or time in contrast to kósmos), but (you) be transformed (metamorphóō – to transfigure, to change one’s form) by the renewing (a qualitative renewal, a restoration or renovation which makes a person different than in the past) of your mind (intelligent understanding, perception), that you (personal) may prove (try, test, discern, distinguish, to determine whether a thing is worthy or not) what is that good (excellent, best, distinguished) and acceptable (good, well-pleasing, that which God wills and recognizes), and perfect (complete, having achieved its goal and purpose, full, wanting for nothing) will (desire, God’s gracious disposition done out of His own good pleasure) of God.
Take a few minutes and reflect on these two verses. Have you done this? Do you worship Him this way? Is it even close? If not, then keep listening.
The following is a study on Romans 12:1-2.
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In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus equates anger with murder (Matt. 5:21-22), in much the same way He equates lust with adultery (Matt. 5:27-28). Later, John adds the following:
1 John 3:11-15 – For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love (agapaō) one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his (Cain) works were evil and his brother’s (Able) righteous. Do not marvel (wonder, be surprised, astonished), my brethren (fellow believers), if the world (kósmos) hates (to detest, an active ill will in words and conduct, a persecution spirit) you. We know (eidō) that we have passed from death to life, (how) because we love (agapaō) the brethren. He who does not love (agapaō) his (personal) brother (fellow believers) abides (rest, make their home) in death. Whoever hates (to detest, an active ill will in words and conduct, a persecution spirit) his (personal) brother (fellow believer) is a murderer, and you know (eidō) that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
Anger + Hatred = Murder
John also equates anger and hatred with murder. And he states that “no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” This is a profoundly important point. Which raises a couple of questions:
Have you been angry with a fellow Christian?
What was the cause of your anger? Was it the holiness of God? Or some personal preference about which you felt slighted?
Are you still angry with that person? And if so, why?
Did you know that, according to the Scriptures, you are guilty of murder? Why? Because the one you hate and murmur about was created in the image of God. And to hate someone created by God, who is also made in the image of your God, is to hate God. You cannot love the Creator and hate His creation.
The Scriptures call this murder. Are you confused? Do you think hatred and murder are two different things with two different penalties? Do you want to know what the Scriptures say about anger and murder? Then keep listening.
The following is a study on Matthew 5:21-22.
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Today, I’ve been thinking about getting older.
Sometimes, when we get older, we think it’s our time to slow down. “After all,” we reason, “I’ve done my part. I’ve worked hard and paid my bills and raised my kids. I’ve done more than my fair share. Now it’s time for someone else to carry the torch and lead. I’m just going to kick back, relax, retire, and die.”
But that’s not the example we see from Scripture.
In AD 60, Paul was imprisoned in Rome. He was treated well and allowed to stay in his own house at his own expense, for two full years “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts 28:31). It was during this time he wrote his prison epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
Paul was in his mid-sixties. About retirement age.
Paul was imprisoned a second and final time during the summer of AD 66. The cause of his arrest may be found in a statement Paul made in his final letter to Timothy: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words” (2 Tim. 4:14-15).
This time, Paul was not allowed to remain under house arrest, but was thrown among the most vile of prisoners in the Mamertine prison or another such dark and horrid place. This prison was more like a dungeon, or a pit that could only be reached by a ladder or rope let through a hole in the floor above. There was little ventilation and sanitation was non-existent. If the idea was to reduce men to mere animals before they faced trial and execution, then the Romans did their job quite well.
It was in this desperate condition, accompanied only by Luke (2 Tim. 4:11), that Paul penned his last letter to Timothy. Paul was now in his late sixties, well past retirement age.
Paul’s Final Words
Paul begins what would be his farewell address to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy. In these final words, Paul urges Timothy to be bold in the face of opposition, knowing his own time was short.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 – I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (why) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Paul then turns to more personal matters. He reflects on his present situation, his past ministry, and the future glory he will share with Christ.
2 Timothy 4:6-8 – For I am (present) already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have (past) fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is (future) laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
And then amazingly, in the midst of his deplorable conditions, Paul encourages Timothy to come to him, to the Mamertine prison, to help him continue in ministry.
2 Timothy 4:9 – Be diligent to come to me quickly.
Why would Paul ask that of Timothy? What possible ministry could Paul be undertaking? The Scriptures don’t say. But we can see that Paul clearly understands his time is not over and there’s still more work to be done. He knows there’s no retirement plan in the Kingdom of God. Paul’s not ready, like many of us, to kick back, relax, retire and spend the rest of his days cruising the Caribbean or watching reruns of the Andy Griffith Show. Even in the midst of unspeakable filth, in the throes of pain and suffering, Paul realized there was still ministry to perform for his Lord.
2 Timothy 4:10 – For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica— Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.
The sad news is that Demas has forsaken Paul and abandoned him and the faith. In doing so, Demas will forever be remembered as one who did not finish well and inevitably suffered the certain fate that awaits all who reject the One who came to save them. The good news is that Paul, even in prison, seems to be directing missionary endeavors to support and encourage the churches in Asia minor. Paul is saying that “Creschen has departed (or, has been sent or dispatched) to Galatia and Titus (has been sent or dispatched) to Dalmatia” (2 Tim. 4:10). Paul later says he sent, or dispatched, Tychicus to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:12).
Think about it. In the middle of Paul’s prison cell he is still ministering to others. Paul’s physical circumstances may have changed for the worse, but not his calling nor his faithfulness to that calling. Paul, in prison and approaching seventy, facing trial and death, in unspeakable filth, continues ministering to others. He remains faithful even when he has every reason not to.
We then have the verse that communicates more to me about the heart of Paul than any other in this passage. Here Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him when he comes. That’s the same Mark, by the way, that deserted Paul early in their first missionary journey (Acts 13:13). And it was the same Mark that caused Paul and Barnabas to exchange such sharp words with each other that they split as a team and headed in different directions (Acts 15:36-39).
2 Timothy 4:11 – Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful (profitable, to furnish what is needed), to me for ministry (serving others, showing benevolence).
Note, Paul did not say Mark would be useful to him to meet his own personal needs, which must have been great. Nor did he say Mark would be useful to take care of Paul, or lessen his burdens, or comfort him while he suffered and languished in the Mamertine prison. No, Paul said Mark would be useful, or would furnish what was needed or lacking, in the lives of those Paul himself was ministering to— his fellow cell mates and possibly a guard or two. It was always for Paul, even in this late hour, about his love for Christ manifested by his ministry to others.
2 Timothy 4:13 – Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come— and the books, especially the parchments.
The cloak I understand. After all, it was probably quite cold in the prison, especially for a man of Paul’s age. But why the parchments? What did Paul need with them? They were for teaching, for his trial preparation, for the opportunity he saw to present Christ to those who would render judgment against him and decide his fate. He remembered what Jesus said about him, spoken to Ananias so many years ago, “he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). And even in the midst of prison, at his final curtain call, Paul saw one more opportunity to fulfill his calling and faithfully serve his Lord.
At the age when most of us are tired and want to quit, satisfied and content with the memories of yesteryear, Paul urges forward. As long as there’s breath in his lungs, he will continue to proclaim the glories of Christ to anyone, anywhere, in any situation, no matter the costs. For Paul, his best days are from this day forward, no matter how dire this day seems. Even if this day begins chained to a wall, standing in human excrement, facing certain death, in the bowels of a Roman prison.
Convicting, isn’t it? Especially when you realize how we view aging and retirement today.
It’s my prayer that I will be more like Paul as the day of my departure approaches (2 Tim. 4:6). And I also pray I will not mimic most Christians I’ve seen in church, who have worked tirelessly for their retirement and, when it comes, when they now have all the time in the world to serve the Lord they claim to love, instead choose to spend that precious time for themselves, and not for Him or for others.
That’s not the New Testament model. Pray it doesn’t become the norm for each of us.
We have previously talked about the importance of understanding our responsibility regarding the if / then passages in Scripture. In these, the promise of God (then) is contingent upon some completed action on our part (if). One always precedes the other. One is always contingent upon the other. When the if is satisfied, the promised then is realized. But the opposite is also true. If there is no if, there will be no then. If no condition is met, there will be no fulfillment of the promise. It’s Contract Law, 101.
For example, when Peter preached his powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost that ushered in the birth of the church, he closed his message with an if / then promise. Let’s look at this in context. First, Peter concludes his message with a statement about Jesus and their guilt in rejecting and crucifying Him.
Acts 2:36 – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified (now it’s personal), both Lord and Christ.”
Then, under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the people cry out for an answer. They long and seek for salvation, some deliverance from the guilt of their sin.
Acts 2:37 – Now when they heard this (the words Peter just spoke), they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Peter answers their question with an if / then promise regarding repentance and salvation. They must do something (if) to receive salvation and the forgiveness of their sins (then). If they fail to do what is required of them (if – repentance), then salvation does not follow (then). Watch how this plays out.
Acts 2:38 – Then Peter said to them, “Repent (if – the condition they must meet), and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (as an outward sign of their repentance and submission to Christ); and (then – the promise of salvation, the result of meeting the condition of repentance) you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Remember, the Holy Spirit is our proof of salvation. Ephesians 1 says we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” in Him (Eph. 1:13-14). Again, no Holy Spirit, no regeneration, no changed nature— no salvation. But you already know this.
Turn at My Rebuke
Yet even after salvation, we find the same if / then conditions and promises still apply in our lives today. This is especially true regarding the sins we commit as a believer and our refusal to repent of them and give them up in exchange for a deeper relationship with the Lord. Look at your own life. You and I have areas right now that we struggle with and refuse to submit to Him. But you also already know this. The end result of this inaction on our part is a grieving of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30) and a noticeable break in our fellowship with the Lord. Can you relate? Ever been there?
We even see this scenario played out for us in the first chapter of Proverbs. In this chapter, the young man (representing you and me) is warned by his father and mother not to forsake what he has been taught and to not consent when sinners entice him to sin (Prov. 1:10). The Lord then spends the next nine verses detailing the types of pressure each of us will face when we are tempted to sin. There’s peer pressure, greed, anger, violence, acceptance, excitement— it’s all there. Read it for yourself.
By the time we get to Proverbs 1:20, things change a bit in the text. Now we have wisdom, the personified wisdom of God, calling out to this young man with the message of repentance. In fact, we see wisdom calling out to anyone who will listen. Wisdom calls out in the “open squares,” in the “chief concourses” and “at the opening of the gates in the city” (Prov. 1:20-21). Wisdom is calling to everyone. To those who are lost, it’s a message of repentance unto salvation. To those, like the young man and you and me, it’s a message of repentance unto fellowship and a restoration of our intimate relationship with our Lord.
Wisdom’s message begins with a rebuke. It’s like incredulously asking, “Just how stupid are you?”
Proverbs 1:22 – “How long, you simple ones (foolish ones, naive ones, stupid ones, moronic ones), will you love simplicity (what is foolish, stupid, moronic)? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.”
Wisdom asks each of us the same question: “How long, you foolish, moronic, stupid ones, will you love your stupidity? How long, you fools, will you be enamored in your folly?”
Just like those who heard Peter’s charge in Acts 2:36, we also ask the same question: “What must we do?” The answer is simple. But it’s an if / then answer. It requires something of us in order to receive something from the Lord.
Proverbs 1:23 – “Turn (if – the condition that must be met) at my rebuke; Surely (then – the results of meeting the condition) I will pour out my spirit (Holy Spirit) on you; (then) I will make my words known (yada) to you.”
The promise is that God would pour (to gush forth, to flow) out the Holy Spirit on those who turned (turn back, returned) and repented at the rebuke (correction, reproof, chastisement) of wisdom. And, as if it couldn’t get any better, He also promised to make His words known (yada) to those who repented and turned back to Him. The word “known” is yada in the Hebrew and means to know, or be known, in a loving, intimate, experiential way. The promise offered by the Lord is for Him to pour Himself out on us in the Person of the Holy Spirit and make His words become something we love because we have experienced them ourselves, first-hand, and have an intimate, loving relationship with Him. Does it get any better than this? Not for me.
But don’t get too excited. This wonderful promise is conditional. It’s the then side of the if / then equation. There is something that is required in order to receive the promise from God. Something each of us must do.
We must repent. We must turn at the rebuke or correction and chastisement of the Lord.
It means to go back to where we were with Him before we jumped ship to blindly go after the trinkets and toys this world offers. It means to embrace the eternal and reject the temporal, no matter how good the temporal may make us feel in the short run. It means placing ourselves back under the Lordship of Christ as the Sovereign One. We must repent of the selfishness of demanding our Christian life being about us, and not about Him. And we must vow to never view Christ as a genie in a bottle, always at our beck and call, whose sole purpose, according to us, is to make all our dreams come true.
Turn. Return. Go back. Repent.
But What If I Don’t?
I mean, what if I refuse to return to Him? What if I’m ok where I’m at and don’t want to go through the pain and hard times that come with repentance? What if I say, no?
I’ll close by letting you read what the Lord says about people who stubbornly refuse His rebuke. These are sobering words. Take them to heart. Because they are a warning from Him. Another if / then promise.
Proverbs 1:24-27 – “Because (if – the condition we have met) I have called and you refused, (if – the condition) I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because (if) you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke, (then – the result of our actions) I also will laugh at your calamity; (then) I will mock when your terror comes, (to what extent) when your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.”
But it gets worse. What happens when we reject the wisdom of the Lord and inevitably begin to experience all the “terror” and “destruction” that “comes like a whirlwind” (Prov. 1:26-27)? What happens when the Lord gives us what we want and allows us to experience the consequences of our own sin (Rom.1:24-28)? What happens when we’ve had enough of God’s chastisement, throw up our hands in defeat, and begrudgingly come to Him on His terms? What happens then? How will He receive us?
Read this carefully. These are sobering words.
Proverbs 1:28-30 – “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. (why) Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke.”
These are some of the most frightening words in all of Scripture. They indicate there may come a time when our constant rejection of the Lord will dry up His grace. A time when heaven is quiet and, no matter how hard we try, we can’t find the grace from Him we took for granted for so long. The time may come, according to this if / then promise, when God allows us to experience the consequence of our sins and may give us exactly what we have asked for, what we have demanded— deliverance from Him.
Pray that day never comes.
And while you still can, turn at His rebuke and allow Him to “pour out my spirit on you” and “make my words known to you” (Prov. 1:23). Because when He does what He has promised in the verse, you will begin to experience heaven on earth.
Return to Him today.
The following are a few passages that specifically spoke to me this morning. Two great truths and a prayer.
First, the prayer:
Lord, help me listen to only Your voice and not blindly forge ahead in my own so-called wisdom.
Proverbs 19:21 – There are many plans (or, thoughts, intentions) in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel (or, advice, plan, purpose)— that will stand (or, rise up, to be established, to remain).
Then, a wonderful promise from Scripture (if we meet the conditions):
Proverbs 19:23 – The fear (or, awe, reverence, profound respect) of the LORD leads to life, and (condition) he who has it (life and the fear of the Lord) will abide (or, rest, remain, stay, to make one’s home) in satisfaction (or, to be satisfied, full, abounding); He (promise) will not be visited with evil.
Finally, something God is slowly creating in my life.
Proverbs 19:11 – The discretion (or, intelligence, good sense, insight, understanding) of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook (or, pass over, to cover) a transgression.
I wonder what I will learn about Him tomorrow?