Friday, August 29, 2008

Colossians 3:22-25

Sorry I haven’t posted for a few days! I was subbing in fourth grade for a dear friend the first three days of school. It was fun to be back in the classroom for a few days, but I am quite happy to be sitting back in front of my computer once again this morning! I promised to get us through Colossians by the end of the summer. It looks like we will spill a bit into September due to the days I was forced to miss posting. But Monday begins the last chapter-- so hang in there!

Day 20

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.


Paul continues to apply his instruction to the specific living situations his readers may have found themselves in. Yesterday we looked at family relationships. This morning we examine the relationship between slaves and their masters. While none of us are technically slaves, if you receive a paycheck, you are answerable to someone as you labor. So all of us can benefit from Paul’s instruction here.

Paul gives several instructions in how slaves are to obey their masters.

1. Not with external service, but with sincerity of heart.

This verse reminds me of whenever my small children had a fight. After hearing both sides of the story, I would bring the children together and require an apology from all sides, since the innocent party was rare. Sometimes the apologies would be almost comical if they weren’t so full of anger. “SORR---YYY,” a child would intone, their voice and facial expression both very clearly conveying that the required apology was less than genuine.

Slaves would be tempted to give a minimum effort, with a bad attitude just below the compliant surface, since the benefit for any effort would go to the master alone. We also might be tempted to give just such a half-hearted effort ourselves, especially if our supervisor appears less than competent or demonstrates other “unforgivable” flaws. Yet Paul warns against this kind of justification.

Key to Paul’s argument is what he stated back at the beginning of the chapter: 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. We no longer walk as though our life is centered on earthly things. We serve a higher power and live for a bigger purpose than pleasing men.

2. Work as for the Lord, rather than for men, knowing you will receive the reward of the inheritance from the Lord.

Paul observes that the people who rule over slaves are their masters, but clarifies they are masters on earth. Slaves are to obey them, but do so for the Lord. For in the end, their reward will be from the Lord and not from men.

Paul’s main point is this: It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Our salvation touches every part of us. We are wrong if in our thoughts we try to compartmentalize our Christianity into neat little boxes. In reality, who we are in Christ spreads itself through every part of our being. Once saved, every part of our lives belongs to Him. How we act in our jobs and in relationships will all be affected. It is like spaghetti, not waffles!

Should we refuse to please God in this way, it should not surprise us when we suffer ill effects from our less than stellar service. I have seen Christians assume they are being persecuted at work for their beliefs when in reality they suffer because they are incompetent or behave in an obnoxious manner. The consequences Paul is speaking of here are earthly consequences, handed out by an earthly master. Being a Christian does not protect us from the consequences of our own sins against men.

How am I serving in my earthly responsibilities? Am I giving lip service or trying to slide by, excusing my lack of integrity by pointing the finger at my circumstances? Or am I serving the Lord wholeheartedly in whatever situation He has allowed me to be in? Make a set of goals for yourself that will live out the action Paul is commanding in this passage.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Colossians 3:18-21

Day 19

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.

Paul continues in his exhortation to “put on the new self . . . according to the image of the One who created him.” Our new identity in Christ should be manifest in our relationships. Earlier Paul made general statements about how all Christians should treat each other-- with forgiveness, humility, and compassion. Unity should mark the church.

Now Paul gets relationally specific. Walking worthy of the Lord means reflecting the character of Christ in all of our relationships. Perhaps the most challenging of these relationships are within our own families. A true test of the extent of someone’s godliness is in how they act at home. There we relax and let our guard down, not worrying about appearances. Yet our new self should affect every aspect and relationship in our lives-- even those at home.

1. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
It is interesting that Paul begins with the wives. The husband is the head of the home, Paul writes elsewhere (1 Cor 11:3). Why wouldn’t he begin with him? I wonder if it is because the wife largely sets the tone in her home. (Remember this one: “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy”?)

A wife, by her submission, sets the tone in her home. A wise older woman once told me that it was my responsibility to teach my children to respect their father. I took that advice very seriously. I never spoke disparagingly about my husband to my children. The larger part of that instruction, however, occurred as I lived out my commitment to my husband in front of the kids.

Biblical submission is not a synonym for obedience. Otherwise, why would Paul have used a different word when he addresses the children two verses later? Submission is voluntarily putting the needs of the other above our own, with the purpose of enabling them to fulfill their responsibilities. (I did a word study on submission several months ago, which is located in this blog’s archives on February 25, 2008.) Implicit in submission is a respect for God’s purpose for that individual.

2. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.
Biblical leadership is not a position of power. Peter makes this clear in his first letter, when he exhorts the elders to exercise oversight, “not lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). Nowhere in scripture are husbands ever commanded to make anyone submit. Submission is a voluntary act. Biblical leaders lead by example.

Paul urges husbands to love their wives, a command repeated in Ephesians 5:25. That love needs to be sacrificial in nature, as Christ’s love was for the church. This kind of love does not come naturally to anyone. Yet it is possible for us because we have been made new creatures in Christ.

3. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things.
Again, obedience is not a natural instinct!! No one had to teach my children to roll their eyes or shirk responsibility. I had a friend that decided she would never say “no” to her children, so that her children would not shout the word at her like many other toddlers she had observed. She soon discovered no instruction was needed for her son in this little skill-- he shouted no with the best of them.

Yet as believers, our relationship with Christ needs to be displayed in every area of our lives, even as children. No compartmentalizing of this life-changing encounter.

4. Fathers, do not exasperate your children so that they will not lose heart.
This is a great command of which all parents should sit up and take notice. We need to notice every time our children try to do the right thing. They may not do something thoroughly enough by our standards, but we need to see the heart behind the effort. I knew a mother of a little first grader that worked an hour on a take-home paper for school. She carefully chose each color and worked hard to stay in the lines. When she proudly turned the paper in the next morning, the teacher glanced at it and wrote: Messy. Try to be neater. The child was discouraged that her effort had meant nothing to the teacher. The next time she hardly tried at all.

Children want to please. Before we begin to throw around accusations, we need to listen and find out where their heart is in each situation. We need to give them the benefit of the doubt. We don’t want to discourage them from future effort.


All of these relationships are affected by the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. Just before today’s passage, Paul commanded the Colossians: Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Our contribution to a relationship is not based on what the other person does. It is based solely on the fact that we are living for Christ alone. The kind of wife, husband, child, or father you are should be a reflection of this fact.

Think of three ways you can fulfill Paul’s command to you in your own situation. Pray and ask God to help you do these things in obedience to Him.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Colossians 3:17

Day 18

Whatever you do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.


This one verse is so power-packed, it needed its own special slot in our daily Bible study!

Whatever you do, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. . . Paul is implying a life-style level of commitment with this single statement. To do or say something “in the name of” someone else is to assume their approval of that action. Peter used this very phrase in Acts 3 when he commanded a lame man: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene-- walk!” By invoking the name of Jesus, Peter made two things perfectly clear. First, he demonstrated on whose behalf he was performing the miracle. Second, he leaves no doubt as to the power source behind the miracle. Peter was acting as an ambassador for Christ. Paul also calls himself an ambassador two times in other New Testament letters: 2 Corinthians 5:20, and Ephesians 6:20. To operate in the name of Christ is to operate as an ambassador of Christ.

What does an ambassador do? He first is a representative of his government to the foreign country in which he resides. He delivers or fulfills the messages and wishes of his own head of state and acts purely on his command. An ambassador is not there to expound on his own viewpoint or opinions. He is there to make the desires of his chief known.

When we operate in the name of Jesus, our own feelings and prejudices are to be put aside as we strive to represent the King of Kings. Paul already hinted at this idea when stressing the need for unity within the body.

Whatever we do, whatever we say, we are to be doing all in the name of Jesus Christ. How we treat strangers at the grocery store, the manner with which we speak to our spouses, how diligently we carry out our responsibilities at work, should all be a reflection of our commitment to Christ Jesus. We live for Him, we act because of Him, and any good we accomplish is through His power.

Today as you go about your routine, remember you are an ambassador for the King! May all of your actions and words reflect that fact-- do all in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Colossians 3:12-16

Day 17

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 a 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.


Paul has now spent quite a few verses refuting the false teaching present in the church at Colossae. Part of that false teaching involved an idea of elitism, where only a select few would receive the special knowledge necessary for salvation. This invoked disunity among the people. Paul, in reaction, stressed the unity that we have in Christ. The fighting and verbal abuse must end. Harmony should be what marks the people of God.

The Colossians needed to replace their prideful interactions with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. They should bear with one another and forgive what had gone on before. Why? Because Christ had forgiven them of much worse. If we are following Him, we will imitate Him. And forgiveness is a part of that package.

The Colossians were to function as one body. There were two things Paul names that make that kind of unity possible. The first is love. The second is peace.

1. Love
To find a good biblical definition of love, go to 1 Corinthians 13. Love, according to biblical standards, is not an emotion. Rather, it is an action. The actions of love place the other person’s needs above our own agenda. Words Paul uses, like patient, kind, does not seek its own, does not hold an account of wrongs, etc. all paint a picture of selfless devotion to another. Here in Colossians, Paul echoes this idea. Loving actions are described with the additional: compassion, humility, gentleness, and forgiveness.

Imagine what an awesome body of believers we would be if we followed Jesus’ example of love. Philippians 2 gives a thumbnail account of this. Christ emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the most shameful kind of death: crucified on the cross like the worst kind of criminal. He didn’t hold back-- He gave until our needs were satisfied.

2. Peace
How can we love like that? It is not possible unless we are satisfied ourselves. That’s where the peace of God is essential. When we know our every need is met in Christ, we can give with others in mind. We can rest in His promises. We can rest in the fulfillment only He can bring. We can rest in His sovereignty and intimate involvement in our lives.

Knowing that we are filled to abundance, the need to promote ourselves and our agenda becomes a rather meaningless effort. The peace of Christ allows us to love like we should.

What other selfless actions do you associate with love? Make your own list. Check out Ephesians 4 for some ideas.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Colossians 3:9-11

Day 16

Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 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.

Paul has just finished reminding the Colossians that they have died to earthly things. The false teachers were teaching that the Law must still be followed. Paul told the Colossians that this was an earthly solution, which was inadequate at best. Christ gave us a heavenly one. Our salvation came to us through Christ.

Another part of the false teaching was an idea which drove a wedge between God’s people. The false teachers taught that the special knowledge required for salvation was granted to a select few. It would be an elite group that found acceptance with God. Paul blows this idea right out of the water in today’s verses. There is NO distinction between Jew and Greek, slave and free, circumcised and uncircumcised. All we need to know is Christ. All we need to be is in Christ. We all had the same exact problem-- we were sinners in need of a Savior. Christ wiped the slate clean for each believer. This puts us all on an equal playing field: saved by grace. There is no place for disunity within the body of Christ.

Unity of the believers is a strong theme throughout the New Testament. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he was addressing a plethora of major problems within that body of believers. Things like incest, adultery, abuse of the Lord’s supper, etc. horrified Paul and got a strong reaction from him. Yet what is the most important problem Paul addresses at the onset of his correspondence? Disunity in the body. Jesus prayed for His disciples the night He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew they faced a tumultuous few decades ahead as God established His church. So what did Jesus pray for? “That they might all be one. . . that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21)

Any group of people can have unity when they are united around a common cause. But it takes supernatural power to have unity in the midst of conflict. Undoubtedly, the church through the ages has been a body with diverse opinions on doctrine and theology. Yet in the face of these, we are still commanded to have unity with each other. The basis for this is simple: we are all saved by grace. We are all in Christ Jesus. When we fuss, argue, and judge each other, we have taken our eyes off of the reason for our faith.

Paul is addressing the symptoms of this very problem. Apparently, the Colossians lied to each other, struggled with anger, and abused each other with words. We as Christians can easily succumb to this behavior, and astonishingly enough, often claim we are doing these very things in the name of the Lord! I was once a part of a church split that was ugly and hurtful. Each person held a strong opinion as to the doctrine in dispute. Unfortunately, they allowed their opinions to become more important than their fellow believers. Several people who had been attending the church as seekers turned away in disgust when they saw the behavior of those who had been claiming to live for Christ. I’m pretty sure the Lord was turning away in disgust as well. Pride was the main motivator-- and everyone involved lost. The church eventually dissolved as a result of the cancer which ate away the body from within. Satan had found a foothold in the anger and abuse of believers toward one another.

When have you experienced disunity in the body of Christ? What could you have done to obey Scripture’s command to be unified in Christ?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Colossians 3:5-8

Day 15

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.

Here is the “therefore” word again—telling us Paul is drawing a conclusion based on what he has just said. In the passage preceding this one, Paul encouraged the Colossians to keep their focus on the things above, because they have died to earthly things. Now Paul gets specific on what the “earthly things” are to which they have died -- immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed. These are all marks of a person who lives for himself. As believers, we no longer live for ourselves, but to God.

These sins were the reason we needed a Savior in the first place—we were living in rebellion against our Creator, as what Paul calls “sons of disobedience”. Now that we have been rescued, to go back and try to live in that former way of life is to make a mockery of what was accomplished on the cross.

In the nineteenth century, girls wore shorter dresses until they came of an age when they were considered a woman. Once that age was reached, the shorter dresses were put aside and floor-length skirts and dresses were then worn, marking them as mature women. For a 21 year old to resort back to wearing the shorter dress of a younger girl would have been silly and inappropriate. Yet that is what we do when we put on the very sins from which we were rescued! We take on the characteristics of the ones who are still living in rebellion. We are to consider ourselves dead to these sins—because we are alive as new creatures in Christ.

Paul tells us to “put them aside”—which is an expectation that we be proactive in avoiding sin. The key strategy to doing this is in the previous passage. We are to keep our eyes trained on Christ, and our mind focused on things above. The battleground for spiritual things is in the mind. Peter tells us to “prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)

This is why keeping ourselves immersed in Scripture is so important. We are filling our minds with truth, which is preparation for spiritual warfare with the father of lies. Jesus Himself used Scripture as His weapon when confronted with Satan. He had plenty of power at His disposal, but Scripture was the weapon of choice.

What steps am I taking to prepare my mind? Do I have a strategy to avoid the sins of my old nature?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Colossians 3:1-4

Dear Friends:
I apologize for not posting until Wednesday this week. I am up in CT painting and rearranging rooms in my sister's home, getting ready for my grand-niece that is on her way in October. My computer time is limited! I write with paint-stained hands, but am delighted at this chance to get online and share this vibrant passage with you. Thanks for coming by!

Day 14

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. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Paul continues to address the false teaching that is present in the church at Colossae. Those promoting the heresy taught that keeping the Law, with its dietary restrictions and observances, along with self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, was necessary for salvation. In the previous chapter, Paul addressed the Colossians sternly against this idea. Salvation is through Christ alone. We cannot add to the victory of the cross—it was complete.

But Paul does not leave the Colossians just with what NOT to do—in chapter 3 he now addresses the positive side. Rather than putting our hope in earthly things like what the false teachers were promoting, Paul directs our attention to above the earth, on to the things above. Why? Because we have already died to the earthly means of attempting to win approval from God. We have already found the answer. It is in Jesus alone.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he shared the same heavenly vision: “Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13, 14) Do you notice the two directions Paul is directing his gaze? Onward and upward. No looking back at the past and the sins we have committed. It was all covered by the blood of the Lamb. No looking downward at our own two feet and what we can do on our own. Our gaze is to be trained on the Savior who has done it all for us. It is to be forward, ready to go where Jesus sends us.

When Peter walked on the water, he remained on the surface as long as his gaze was trained on the Savior. It was when he began to look at the wind, waves, and his own two feet that he began to falter.

And so it is with us. Our gaze must remain on what has been done for us. We are complete in Christ. No amount of religiosity will make us more acceptable to God. The atoning sacrifice was made for once and for all.

How am I continuing to try to win God’s approval? How does pride have a part in my efforts? Give over your efforts to God and rest once again in the Savior. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Colossians 2:20-23

Day 13

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

How did we die with Christ? Paul answers this question in Romans 6: “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death. . . We have been buried with Him through baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. . . our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”

Our “old self”, the self that was born under the bondage and condemnation of sin, died when we received Jesus as Savior. With that declaration of faith, we were “born from above” (John 3:6), which was a second birth, this time a spiritual one. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

With that information in mind, Paul is wondering why the Colossians would think of abiding by the rules and regulations of the former life they had. They had put that life in the grave! They had been reborn. Yet they were being tempted to go back to the same “old things” that they had previously left behind.

The false teachers were advocating a return to earthly pursuits. They were urging the Colossians to keep their focus on themselves and on what they could do to achieve “holiness.” This might produce a product that might look religious on the outside, but in reality was pulling the focus back down to earthly matters rather than being heaven-bound, tearing it away from Christ.

Anything that pulls a focus away from Christ is a journey down the wrong path. It becomes all about us and our accomplishments. Soon we get so wrapped up in doing and saying the right things that our love for Christ takes a back seat to the life we are trying to live for Christ.

What God wants from us is complete dependence on Him. He doesn’t want us to strut around in our self-sufficiency. He wants us at His feet, aware of our need for Him, aware of our shortcomings. Because the truth of the matter is, any sense of sufficiency beyond what Christ has given us is not reality at all, but purely delusional.

What part of your old self do you continue to try to resurrect? Ask God for the wisdom to see those things, as well as the strength to move beyond them.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Colossians 2: 16-19

Day 12

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

Paul is once again teaching against the heresy which was making its mark in the church at Colossae. As was said earlier in our study, this heresy eventually evolved into what is known as Gnosticism. False teachers promoted the requirement that the church continue to be under the Law and observe all of its rites, ceremonies, and holidays. Paul is very clear in many of his letters that the Law and its requirements no longer have us under condemnation. Yesterday’s verses said that Jesus took that Law and nailed it to the cross. He fulfilled every requirement on our behalf. The Law was paid in full.

Notice the things Paul points out as no longer a requirement.
1. food and drink restrictions
2. festival, new moon, or Sabbath day observances
3. self-abasement (or self-mutilation)
4. worship of angels
All of these were a part of the pre-Gnostic teaching that was spreading throughout the fledgling churches of the New Testament.

One night when Sasha the Dog was new to our family, I took her out for a brief walk before bedtime. She was still extremely skittish around anyone unfamiliar to her, but other dogs really set her off. As we walked by the neighborhood pool building, headlights from an approaching car shone on us. Our shadows were displayed against the brick of the pool house. Sasha went wild. I tried waving my arms and showing her it was just us, but she didn’t get it. The shadows were just as real to her as the flesh and bones that we were. It was really rather silly.

Paul is demonstrating to the Colossians that all of the requirements of the Law, with its dietary restrictions and observances, were only ever a mere shadow of the real thing. The Law was meant to make a point, sent in our preparation to demonstrate to us our need for a Savior. But the Savior had already come! Why would you dedicate your focus onto the precursor when you have already seen the main attraction?

Paul also speaks to the motivation of the group doing the false teaching. They were defrauding the people by distorting the truth. Why? They were judging people by their own standard. They had become “inflated without cause.” In other words, their finger pointed outward, judging everyone around them and finding them lacking (except, apparently, themselves). They were missing the point of Christianity.

We cannot judge each other because we are all equally guilty. We all stood condemned, we all needed a Savior. We were all saved by grace. Christianity should be the great equalizer. The playing field is level. No one can claim one act as more worthy than another. We all exist because of the grace of God. Legalism cheapens the grace of God and places the responsibility of our salvation back on our shoulders.

What is the remedy for this destructive attitude of legalism? Paul points it out at the end of this passage. Hold fast to the head, Jesus Christ. When Christ is in His proper place, as the head, controlling the whole rest of the body, our perspective is right once again. Legalism takes the focus off of Christ and zooms it in on us.

Becoming legalistic is too easy for us. We delight in judging others because it makes us feel better about our own inadequacies. What false standards do you hold others accountable to in your mind? How does that attitude take the focus off of Christ?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Colossians 2:13-15

Day 11

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, 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. When He disarmed the rulers and authorities, he made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. In a quick thumbnail sketch, Paul gives us a wonderful picture of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. It was a victory unparalleled in the history of the world. Let’s take a look at what He did.

1. He made us alive.
We were dead. Maybe not physically, but spiritually, we were without hope or light. Because of the sin of Adam, the entire human race was condemned. Nothing we could have done could have wiped the slate clean. But Jesus could and did. His perfect atoning sacrifice paid for the sin of Adam and the subsequent sin of his offspring. “So then, as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men” (Romans 5:18).

2. He forgave us all our transgressions.
I wish I could blame it all on Adam. But unfortunately, my sin put Jesus on the cross as well. My voice was among the mockers as He carried his cross down the road to Calvary. When He died for the sin of the world, He was dying for all of the times I rebelled and put myself above the mighty, perfect God.

3. He cancelled the Law, nailing it to the cross.
The Law was given to demonstrate to the Israelites how to live when following a perfect God. Its careful instruction reflected the holiness that was His alone. Our need to be saved from our own evil nature became perfectly clear when we matched our standards against that of a holy God. Paul told the Galatians: “The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.”

As instructive as the Law was, it was “hostile” to us as well. We couldn’t meet its standards. No matter how hard we tried, failure waited around the corner. It stood in silent condemnation of not only what we had done but of who we were.

When Jesus paid for our sin, He took that Law and metaphorically nailed it to the cross along with our sin. The Law’s terrible, impossible requirements had finally been fulfilled. Our debt was paid in full. The heavenly Judge banged his gavel and set us free.

4. He disarmed and made a public display of the rulers and authorities.
Paul uses this same phrase, “rulers and authorities” to describe Satan and his army of fallen angels in Ephesians 6. Satan’s goal is to bring as much destruction to God’s creation as possible. He pulls out the heavy armory when it comes to people who seek after God. In Ephesians 6:16, Paul tells us to take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all of the flaming arrows of the evil one. What arrows does he aim in our direction? He reminds us that we are unworthy to be in the presence of God Almighty. He tempts us to move away from God in our own selfish pursuits. His intent is to make us feel we are without hope. Revelation tells us that Satan stands at the throne of God and accuses those who have committed their way to God. I can hear him now: What? You are letting her into heaven? Have you seen the way her heart turns so easily away from you? Watched how she makes a mess of her life? Looked into the dark, ugly parts of her heart?

If I run into Satan at the Throne of God, I will agree with him. Yes, Satan, you are correct. I don’t deserve to be here. I failed God even when I started with the best of intentions. But then I will point to Christ, and with all of the gratitude that is in my heart, look Satan right in the eye. I am here, not because of me. It is because of Him.

Satan lost the war that day that Jesus died for the sin of mankind. Not that there was ever any doubt of the outcome, of course. He still tries to engage us in skirmishes even though the war is already won. He has even had success, on a limited scale. But the outcome has already been determined.

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The cross was an ironic victory on so many levels. It was a victory over the impossible standards of the Law. It was a victory over sin. It was a victory over Satan and his army; his weapons are now powerless against us. We who believe are truly alive, and that life is eternal.

The victory over so much has been handed to us as a free gift. By the grace and mercy of God, we can claim Christ’s victory as our own. Are you living as one who has already claimed victory? Think about the areas in your life that do not reflect the victory that is already yours. Commit them to the Lord and ask for help to live out those things in a way that demonstrates you have already won.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Colossians 2:8-12

Day 10

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Paul makes a stark contrast in how we must walk by comparing captivity to freedom in Christ. The mind is the battleground where the world and its tainted influence face off against the new creation we are in Christ. What does the world have to offer? According to Paul, it offers philosophy and empty deception, according to its elementary principles and the tradition of men.

Unfortunately, the elementary principles of the world, the assumptions the world has and works from, are faulty at best. A living God is explained away and denied. Or even if God is somehow recognized, He is portrayed as either an inept fool or indifferent to people. Any idea that starts with one of these premises will not end well.

So Paul urges his readers to live according to the freedom Christ has given us instead. Look at the first three words of today’s passage. See to it. This is a command and acknowledges that it will take effort on our part to keep from becoming captive. We are not helpless-- Paul is asking that we be proactive!

What freedoms can we walk by-- in contrast to the captivity the world offers?

1. We have freedom from inadequacy. You have been made complete in Him. The world tells you that you are not smart enough, good looking enough, or talented enough. God says we are complete in Him. He has put resurrection power at our disposal. We have everything we need to walk worthy of the Lord: “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

2. We have freedom from the flesh. Romans 6 delves into this idea. We were once slaves to sin. We walked around in the darkness and had no power over the sin which ruled us. “Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6). Circumcision was an outward sign in the Old Testament to identify oneself with the God of Israel. Yet God wanted more from His people. He wanted them to circumcise their hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16). It wasn’t about outward standards. It was about a heart change.

Jesus provided this with His crucifixion. Paul told the Galatians: “I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” (Galatians 2:20) Jesus “circumcised” or marked us as His.

3. We have freedom from condemnation. You were also raised up with Him. Once damned to the consequences of our human condition and our own deadly choices, we now live in the light, the land of the living. Rather than face punishment, we have been made heirs with Christ and look forward to a share of His inheritance.

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So how do we avoid the captivity the world is pushing on us with its empty philosophies and faulty assumptions? We identify with Christ, who has already saved us. We may have to live in the world, as lights reflecting the presence of God within us, but we should never identify with what it has to offer. Our identity is in Christ alone.

The world is insidious in its philosophies and assumptions. Where has it influenced you most? What steps can you take to change its influence?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Colossians 2: 6-7

Day 9

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.

When you see the word therefore, always look to the Scripture preceding it to find out the why of what the writer tells you next. Paul has just finished telling the Colossians how he struggles on their behalf, in order that their hearts might be encouraged. He may be absent in body, but he is with them in spirit. Therefore. . .

As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him. How did the Colossians, or any believer, for that matter, receive the Lord? Through the grace of God. “For by grace you have been saved. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any many should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9) So we need to walk in grace. When we received the Lord, we were transferred from the darkness to the Kingdom of Light (Colossians 1:13). So we need to walk in the light. We were given total and unconditional forgiveness for our sin (v. 14). The blood of Christ paid for it all. So we need to walk in forgiveness. We were reconciled to God-- we started as enemies of God, but when we received Christ, God now calls us sons and daughters in His kingdom (v. 21). So we need to walk as reconcilers. Since receiving Christ, we have been presented as holy, blameless, and beyond reproach(v. 21-2). So our walk should reflect our holiness. Our actions should be beyond reproach. As we received Him, so should we walk.

Having been rooted and now being established in your faith . . . Have you ever watched the development of a plant from a seed? The first thing to spring from the seed is a root. Why is it so important to have a root first? The seed does have a supply of food for its fledgling plant as a part of its composition, but that supply won’t last for long. As the plant develops, the root must grow first. It will then become the source of life for the plant. Its tiny root hairs will soak in the water and nutrients from the soil. As the new plant peeks its tender head above ground, the root will serve to anchor the plant when winds buffet or rains pound down from overhead. The root is vital to the life of the plant. So it must grow first.

Paul writes that our root is in Jesus Christ. Our salvation is through Him alone. Our life exists because of Him. This is our foundation. Back in 1:23, Paul warned the Colossians not to move away from the hope of the gospel. Without that root, that provider of life, the plant will wither and die. We cannot hope to function as a Christian without full understanding and assurance that we could do nothing to save ourselves. Christ did it all.

Once the root has grown, the plant can be established. The verb tense here is present: being established. It is happening right now. Our “establishment” is an ongoing process. It comes from good teaching, as Paul writes: Just as you were instructed. A plant is never stagnant. Its life mission is to grow and produce fruit. While it is alive, a plant will continue to grow. New leaves will sprout. Fruit will grow, mature, and fall to the ground.

Our quest must be the same. Never stagnant. Always growing.

One of my favorite Connecticut memories is of an afternoon when I joined a group of young adults to go inner tubing down the Farmington River. We had a wonderful time, riding the occasional rapids with hands linked, screaming our delight as we splashed over the rocks. In other places the river was quieter, and only gently moved us along. The beauty of the sport was even if one did absolutely nothing, their tube continued to move downstream. The current was enough to carry us. We live in a world which is moving downstream, away from God toward self-destruction. If we do nothing, expend no energy toward keeping ourselves from drifting away from the Lord, we will naturally and unconsciously move in the wrong direction. Instead, we must fight the current, pursuing actively the things which He desires for us. Only then can we avoid the slow drift that will eventually lead us away from Him.

What does your walk reflect about your salvation and the God who saved you? How purposeful are you about your growth?