Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Colossians 4

I figured I should probably finish this out, even if most of Colossians 4 is greetings, salutations, etc.

4:1 Treatment of slaves
4:2-6 Final instructions to the church as a whole
4:7-18 Final greetings and instructions to individuals

Paul’s last instruction to the master’s of slaves is simple. You have a master in heaven who is going to hold you accountable for how you treat this fellow human being (and perhaps fellow brother in Christ). Also, I would think, there is a call to remember how merciful God has been to the slave master, even when he sins, and how God disciplines with mercy and love. This should give the slave master a good template for mercy and discipline of his own slaves.
Paul begins his final instructions in verse 2 with a call to prayer. I recently finished a book by Packer called Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, in which he makes the observation that Paul continually exhorts people to prayer, and asks repeatedly for prayer for himself (v.3-4). Paul knows and believes in the power of prayer, telling the Phillipians to make ALL their requests known to God, who cares for them. Paul is also one of the biggest sources of what I’ll call reformed doctrines in the Bible. Election and predestination are often his themes, yet his passion for prayer was not hindered in the least. Let this be one of the thousands of examples I could bring up of how the legitimacy of God’s total sovereignty has no effect on our need to pray without ceasing, as if our prayers do not affect what God has already ordained will come to pass. If anything, our prayers should be spurred on by the knowledge that our God is sovereign enough to answer them more completely than we could imagine.

Paul also instructs them to make the most of every opportunity to interact with nonbelievers, to be wise in their conduct. Jesus’ instructions to be as shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves echo here (Matthew 10:16).

In Paul’s final instructions and greetings, I feel like I should just talk about the overall message I get from the passage. This is the importance and joy of fellowship, of having Christian brothers and sisters, and of the church. Paul speaks with great love and edifies specifically Tychicus, Onesimus (of Philemon fame), Justus, Epaphras, and Luke. He even mentions Demas who would later abandon him. If you haven’t read this passage yet, take the time to go do it. How often do you just read through the end (or beginning) of Paul’s letters just because they have little theological content? I can feel the love Paul has for his brothers as I read this. Constantly using terms like “dear ____” (v.7,9,14) or calling them “faithful”, “one of you”, “fellow workers”, etc., and sending greetings and asking for more greetings to be sent in his name to others. His brothers have provided him encouragement and comfort, and he is sending Tychicus to Colossae specifically to encourage the church there.

I suppose you can read this passage as Paul just spreading news around about his fellows, and telling them what is going on, I know I used to. But I don’t buy that anymore as I read this. Having begun to understand myself the joys of Christian fellowship, I can tell Paul loves the people he is speaking of and speaking to. The language is so affectionate and uplifting. Paul’s heart was encouraged by his brothers, as he also mentions elsewhere, such as when Titus’ absence brought Paul stress (2 Corinthians 2:13), but his appearance brought him such joy and comfort in the midst of hardship (2 Corinthians 7:5-7). If that isn’t enough, consider the tenderness with which Paul speaks to Timothy in his second letter to him. Paul showed what great love we can have for our fellow believers in how he talked to them and about them more so than we he just instructed them to encourage one another, which he also does often. The absoluteness of his love for the men and women working around him is unquestionable. Can’t we all reap this kind of fellowship with each other? It requires great humility, but the reward is priceless.

Lastly, verse 18. Let us acknowledge the fact that Paul’s love and care for this church led him to be thinking about them instead of himself, despite the fact that he was in prison (see Philippians 2:4). He got a scribe and made sure that they church would have the instruction and edification it needed. That is the depth of Paul’s love for the people. Let’s not think of this just as an example just for the head pastors of churches to follow, but for all of us in our encouragement of one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Cool huh? It is, after all, the God’s written word…
Don’t know what I will do next on here, but I have some ideas. I enjoy typing more than writing, so I think I will use this space for journaling about different topics. Hope this edifies all of you!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Watchdog blogs

I offer up this insightful post by Tim Challies: Evil as Entertainment

Last summer, I had some friends who, unfortunately, fell hook, line, and sinker over the "revival" happening down in Lakeland. I'm not here to debate that topic, although if you're curious I would by more than happy to show you where, scripturally, we need not lend it any credence. My thoughts here are based around my reaction and search for help with discernment. There were many websites online, some Biblical, some not, that were more than willing to offer their opinion on the matter. Most were critical, and most sites were more than happy to drag Todd Bentley through the mud as much as possible, as well as anyone else who, in their view, they saw stepping out of line.

In Challies book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, he makes the point about how we shouldn't trust others for our discernment, but must look to the Bible ourselves. A good point. The main problem with these "watchdog blogs" is their tendency to be incredible critical in their efforts to point out error and expose it. This desire, in of itself, is a good thing. Discernment is, in my opinion, at far too low a level in the churches I have been too, in an age where Biblical confidence is looked upon as arrogance, and acceptance of alternate viewpoints (even if they are wrong) is looked upon as humility as opposed to naivete.

Allowing these sites viewpoints to become my own was a terrible mistake, as my own attitude grew more and more critical by the day without me realizing what was happening. Take the article's points with my own testimony in mind, and trust God, and take your problems and disagreements to Him and His Word.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Colossians 3

Been too long since I could focus my mind and energies to be able to properly reflect upon what the Bible has to teach and write it down. It is a joyful thing to return to it once again!

Colossians 3:
3:1-25 Christian mindsets and attitudes

This is not a lazy cop-out! Let's see you try and divide up a chapter when Paul just continually talks about different mindsets and attitudes that Christians should reject or hold onto.

After spending 2 chapters talking about Christ compared to the heresy the Colossians were facing, Paul now gives instruction for why Christians should think differently and how they should think. He starts with the "why" right away.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (v.1-4)

This passage echos of Matthew 6:20-21:
"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

After spending the time that Paul has explaining the glory and benefits of Christ, it is not hard to realize that if we really understand these things, our minds will be focused on that which is greater (Christ), brings us the most pleasure (Christ), and that which our hearts are set on (Christ) as our treasure. This is indeed the logical response to such glorious knowledge about Christ (Christ). It is also the natural and normal thing to have happen if indeed our sinful natures are crucified with Christ and we have in fact been raised with Christ. Our old vices should be traded for new virtue.

Therefore, we "put to death" those vices listed in v.5: "sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry". Because of these, the wrath of God is coming (v.6). More vices appear in v.8-9- "anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language"- and we are instructed to put on the "new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator." (v.10) Again, since we are in Christ, there is renewal and regeneration taking place, and the tangible result of that will be a renewed lifestyle where the vices continue to die and the virtues continue to grow and become blessedly and joyfully evident in our lives.

There are these things we Christians like view as big sins, and things we tend to hold onto as pet sins. These listed seem to fall into the pet sin category. Let's really reflect on it for a sec, because I know how easily these things get into my heart; especially the malice part. Even getting enraged over things is not a mark of new birth, you don't have to literally kill someone to commit murder in your heart. Countless times I have been driven to frustration and bitterness by other Christians, mainly because of the spreading of false teaching. But my job is always to maintain my relationship with Christ and be as Godly as I can be. This brings the most benefit to the church, whereas malice and anger hurt the people I am around, and focusing on what Christ has done for me will keep me repentant and humble as I reflect on the example of forgiveness that He has shown me that I MUST take as my own standard. This is the standard given in v.13b.

In verse 12, Paul begins listing the virtues he hopes to see as fruit of the Colossians having been born again.

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (v.12-14)

There is not much I can say about these, except that these qualities in increasing measure is a pursuit that will take the rest of my life, and I will always be able to come back to these verses to check myself.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (v.15)

I'll take that verse and run with it. I don't really have to do much exposition on this stuff do I? It really speaks for itself. The peace of Christ, peace for living in, stemming from the fact that we have the most important peace of all; peace with God, that comes from Christ's death. You see the appropriateness of Paul saying the "peace of Christ"!

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (v.16-17)

Instruction for behavior as a community; as the body of Christ. I want to point out that he mentions admonition, followed by thankfulness (he has now mentioned thankfulness twice in three verses; make a note). We should be thankful for those who can admonish us in wisdom, especially those that patiently bear with us as they see us mess up and don't give up on us, but gently guide us. We should humbly receive rebuke from such men and enjoy the fruit that it will produce!

"Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." (v.18-21)

Guidance for Christian households. I know my parents used the verse about embittering children to make the point that not only did we as children have a responsibility to respect them, but they had responsibilities to us as well in regards to their handling of us. I could go on into the husband/wife relationship dynamic, but that's not really somewhere I want to go in this exposition. Suffice to say that there is plenty more Paul says elsewhere, and it is a broad topic, but this shows the overarching theme that the husband should be the head of the household, but hold his wife in the highest esteem. Let us not forget that leadership in any form, beyond the marital, is action, not a position. He has the position of leadership, yes, but that is a responsibility and all call to action on his behalf, not just a call to obidience for the wife.

"Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism." (v. 22-25)

I also don't want to stop and defend the point that Paul is not, in fact endorsing slavery; he is merely explaining to slaves a righteous way to behave in their present lot in life. But verse 23 provides us all with advice. Work as if for the Lord, "whatever you do." Employees for bosses, anyone serving anyone else, spouse for spouse, etc. Work as if you are working for the Lord, and not for men, because we are. In every situation, we still represent Christ by our actions. Do we represent Christ well as a listless worker, who is "as vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes"? (Proverbs 10:26) Or when we show apathy to our assignments? Yes, we are to be heavenly minded, but let us remember that we are Christ's ambassadors, and our actions speak volumes to those who never pick up the Bible. A slave's master may have only the slave to bring him the message of salvation, and a slave who keeps that attitude in the forefront of his mind is surely a blessed man and an example for many. The exhortation Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 7 to husbands and wives with unbelieving spouses could apply here. Who knows if you will save your master?

Alright, done with that one, finally. Chapter 4 is the thrilling conclusion, with a twist you will never see coming!!! Not really, someone leaked the ending into a book about 1900-2000 years ago and the surprise has been spoiled ever since. Lame.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Sufficiency of the Gospel in Colossians

Beloved, as I get into the second half of my study in Colossians, it is clear, at least it should be by now, that Paul is giving Christ all the glory he possibly can. Colossians 1:15-20 shines the light on Christ as being in all things, heaven and earth, things above and below, and that He is worth of everything and sufficient for everything. I send you to a dear brother of mine's sermon where he highlights Christ as sufficient in everything from our over the top culture to his own painful experiences.

Be blessed by his (and I hope mine as well) showing Christ as elevated as He deserves to be. Praise His name.

The Real Cost of Pornography

Read it here. I want to read his book on the subject as well, the excerpts I have read are excellent.