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Weekly Word

Tuesday
Jun192018

Being a Righteous Man

Psalm 139:1-12; 19-24.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Father’s Day June 17, 2018.

Our passage today is not so much about fathers as it is about something that every father has to face.  It is necessary for a man to recognize the greatness of God and choose to walk in righteousness before Him.  This is not just for his sake, but also for the sake of his family, and the people around him.  When you step back and look objectively at our culture, there is not a lot of encouragement for a man to be righteous.  In fact, the word has become despised and is projected out of the mouth as if something vile was being expectorated.

Yet, Scripture calls men and women to reject self-righteousness, and embrace the righteousness of God.  This is not an excuse to sidestep the responsibility for decisions we make.  Rather, God’s plan is to set us in a place of safety because of the righteousness of Christ.  From that place of safety we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to hear God and obey Him, thus living out the righteousness of Christ.

In our psalm today we will follow David as he meditates on the truth about God and hopefully we will recognize how it should impact our souls and our lives.  Dads, may you choose to be a righteous man in the eyes of God, rather than in the eyes of this world.

Recognize the omniscience of God

Though David does not use the term omniscience, the word was created in order to name what David is talking about in this psalm.  He defines the truth that God knows all things in a multitude of ways.  In fact, the Bible is filled with a constant barrage of the teaching that God knows all things.

In verses 1-4 David speaks of God’s knowledge regarding the outward and the inward parts of our lives.  In regard to the outward, he mentions the fact that God knows when we are sitting down or rising up.  He knows what path we take and when we lie down.  In regards to the inner life, David mentions that God knows our thoughts even from afar off, and that He already knows the word that is just on the tip of my tongue before I say it.

In a day and age where governments and businesses at all levels seek to have more and more information regarding everything that we do, we can understand how this could be a scary thought.  With man all knowledge is used to restrict and control, and thus an omniscient government would exercise maximum restriction and control upon the people.  However, God is not a tyrant who wants control, despite the propaganda campaign that has been waged against Him.  If He was, we would not be having this conversation right now.  No matter how many years man spends trying to become as omniscient as God, we cannot escape the fact that He is already there, and knows us all completely, inside and out.

In fact in verse 5 David recognizes that he is completely surrounded by God.  He is hedged or enclosed by God, behind, in front, and even has His hand upon him.  Thus God is not only beholding everything, but everything is also within His purview.  Nothing is outside of God’s knowledge and ability to do something about it.  This sets up the next point that God is omnipresent.  But before we go that, let us take a moment to be amazed with David.

When you truly realize the absolute omniscience of God and spend time thinking about its ramifications, you should be filled with amazement, awe, and even a healthy sense of fear.  In verse 6, David recognizes this, but also that God knows us better than we know ourselves.  His level of knowledge is so great that we cannot even come close to attaining it.  All truth brings us to a decision place, where we must choose how we are going to respond to it.  So let’s read on and see how David responds.

Recognize the omnipresence of God

The omniscience of God is wrapped up in a similar idea that God is present everywhere at once.  That is, there is no place that God is not present.  Now notice in verse 7 that David couches this in the language of fleeing.  This should remind us of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  After they had sinned and heard God coming to visit with them, all they could think to do was run and hide from Him.  Of course their attempts to hide were futile, not because they lacked hiding skills, but because nothing can hide from the God who is omnipresent in all places.  Now David expresses that this futility is not just physical but also spiritual by mentioning heaven and hell first.  Of course if we went to heaven God would be there because it is His throne.  But God is in hell?  First, the term translated hell here is technically a word that refers to the spiritual aspect of the grave.  It is the holding place where all spirits, wicked and righteous, go to await Judgment Day.  Thus for the wicked it is a dry, dusty, thirsty, hot place.  But, for the righteous it is a place of peace and rest.  This holding place, or “the grave,” was created by God and is always before Him.  Thus even in death one cannot escape God.  Some live this life believing that there is nothing after death.  They assuage their conscience with the frail hope that there will be no accounting for this life.  But David recognized that God is not just everywhere in the universe, but also in the place our spirits go to when we die.

The futility of fleeing applies to geography too.  Like Jonah, one cannot even flee to the farthest places of the earth, but that God would be there trying to lead you back to the righteous path. And therein lies a twist.  David recognizes the goodness of God in that though he is clearly thinking of ways to flee from God, he recognizes that no matter where he goes, God uses His omniscience and omnipresence not to crush us, but rather to lead us and to hold us (vs. 10).  It is a scary thing for man through his technology to become omniscient and omnipresent, but God who already has these things can be trusted.  He is actually trying to help you, not control you.  Men’s hearts cannot be trusted with ultimate power.  But God has proven Himself time and time again through the millennia.  How great is the grace and patience of our Creator.

David even contemplates being in a place of complete darkness, and yet recognizes that God would see us there.  Sure, science tells us that there are all manner of wavelengths outside of the visible spectrum.  So our military can brag about “owning the night” because they use night vision goggles to pick up the infrared spectrum.  Thus the one who designed our eyes to pick up only a portion of this spectrum must be able to recognize every spectrum.  Yet, this is not what David means.  God is spirit and as such does not have “eyes” that pick up a larger spectrum of the electromagnetic radiation all around us.  Even if a human cooled themselves down to absolute zero and was encased in a shield designed to block out all radiation (Gamma, x-ray, etc.), yet God would still “see” you there and ask you, “What are you doing here?”  This had great encouragement for David because there were times when he was driven far away from the dwelling place of God, the tabernacle.  Yet, God is not held to a particular geographical place on earth.  Thus what could be seen as scary has a comforting side to it.

In fact this is what David goes on to recognize in verses 13-18.  We looked at these verses during Mother’s Day.  So if you want to check out the commentary on those verses go to the entry for May 13, 2018.  Suffice it to say that David recognizes that God was there when he was being formed in the womb.  God created us, knows us intimately, and thinks a great number of thoughts about us.  He is the ultimate loving Father who agonizes over the plight of a child who is far, far away from where they need to be.  God created you, intimately knows you, and thinks about you all the time.  Why would you run from Him?

Respond properly to these truths

In verses 19-24 David moves to his response to this contemplation.  Instead of running from God, David chooses to go towards God.  If Adam and Eve would have truly known the heart of God, they would have fled the serpent at first sight, and ran towards God.  Even after their sin, they should have run towards God, not away.  Only God has salvation and healing for us.  This is the proper response.

Now verses 19-22 can make some people squeamish, at least here in western civilization.  It seems to contradict Jesus who tells us to love our enemies.  It is important to recognize that David is speaking as a man under the law, and not as the Messiah who had come to lead Israel out from under the Law of Moses.  Still, it is better to recognize that the teaching of Jesus is a bit more nuanced than just that we love our enemies.  If you have ever tried to love someone who was bent on wickedness and rejecting the ways of God, then you know the agony of seeking God’s will in this matter.  What does it mean to love someone?  Jesus in no way suggests that the righteous should jump on the same side as the wicked and help them on their way.  Even Jesus warns us that we must make a choice that leaves the world behind in order to follow Him.  “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”  Luke 14: 26.  Ultimately all people must decide for themselves what side they are on, the side of the wicked or of those who follow God’s righteousness.  David has made his choice.  He hates the wicked with a “perfect hatred.”  Of course, being a man of war, it is no shock that he gives such a full-throated declaration of being on God’s side.

We should also notice that David is talking about people who actually hate God and His way.  It is one thing to care about people’s souls and love them enough to share the truth of Christ with them.  But when they spit it back in your face and say all manner of evil against God and Christ, then we cannot say, “O, isn’t that nice.  Blessings, brother.”  C.H. Spurgeon, a British, Baptist preacher of the 1800’s said about this, “To love all men with benevolence is our duty, but to love any man with complacency would be a crime.”  Thus through the years the adage, “love the sinner, but hate the sin,” was created.  The sad truth is that some people will not be separated from their sins and will cling to them in rage against God, no matter how much you love them.  Thus love is not complacent about the lost condition of the wicked, but instead lays down its life in order to open their eyes to Christ.

The last two verses of this psalm focuses on our response towards God.  We should open ourselves up to God and embrace His omniscience.  David has come full-circle.  A righteous man is not righteous because he is so wonderful.  He is righteous because even though his flesh wants to run from God, he has run towards God.  He has opened himself up to God in trust and in faith saying, “O God, search me and show me where I need to change!”  “Teach me the way to live that gives life everlasting!”

Men and women, how can we be righteous?  Not by pretense and image-tending on the outside.  Only by choosing to be vulnerable to The One whom you cannot fool and to whom you cannot defend yourself.  He is The One who loves you better than you can love yourself.  The well known ABC’s of salvation say it well.  We must admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior, believe on the Lord Jesus with full faith, and we must confess this faith in Jesus publicly that all men may know that we have chosen the path of God’s righteousness.  Amen!

Righteous Man audio

Monday
Jun112018

Threats of Deception II

Colossians 2:11-19.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 10, 2018.

Today we will continue talking about deception, to which we are all vulnerable.  Christians are not supposed to be gullible, easily tricked people, at least in the area of doctrinal truth.  We of all people have been given a sure record of truth and warned to be on guard against the devil’s schemes.  It is sad that so many people get caught up in many different kinds of deception.  Let’s look at the next verses in Colossians 2.

Remember what you have in Jesus Christ

In verses 11-15, Paul reminds of what they had in Jesus.  Some of the deceptions that the Colossians were facing had to do with ritual observance of things in the Law of Moses.  We know that the Acts 15 council had settled the issue regarding ritual observance of the Law.  No Jew or Gentile could be saved by ritual observations.  Still, it was common for certain teachers to travel around attempting to draw Gentiles into the belief that they had to obey certain things in the Law of Moses.  It is possible that the deception was not about what was needed for salvation, but instead what would make you more spiritual.  Regardless, Paul point Christians back to Jesus and reminds us of the great spiritual advantages that we have in Him.

First of all, he brings up the issue of circumcision.  This was a powerful symbol of rejecting the world and our own sinful flesh.  It represented complete obedience to God and a change in identification.  It marked people as belonging to Him.  The people of Israel took great pride in this difference.  However, Paul reminds these mostly Gentile believers that they have a circumcision that was not made with hands (human hands).  In other words, it parallels the idea in the Bible that believers have a work that is done internally and with the help of the Holy Spirit.  This is much greater than a work done on the external by another human being. 

This is similar to how we are born into God’s Family, which is not by the will of man, but by the will of God.  Those who were born into God’s people of Israel because their parents decided to have a kid had a lesser status than those who were born into God’s people by the Holy Spirit.  Gentile believers (even Jewish believers) had a greater or higher circumcision in Christ.  They didn’t need to add a lesser circumcision.

Also notice that it is called a circumcision of Christ.  In Joshua 5 we find that the children of Israel who were being led into the Promised Land by Joshua had not been circumcising their children for 40 years.  Thus after they had crossed the Jericho river in miraculous style and were several miles from the walls of a formidable walled city-state, they stopped and Joshua had all the uncircumcised males circumcised.  This was a crazy move militarily.  But it was important for them to deal with their disobedience before moving forward.  Joshua is a type of Christ who is our great leader.  Jesus is leading us into the Promised inheritance that God has for us.  But first we must wait and be circumcised in our hearts with a spiritual circumcision.  Jesus teaches us the greater circumcision, that of the heart done by the help of the Holy Spirit.  Paul refers to it as a putting off of the body of the sins of our flesh.  Interestingly enough Paul even connects this to water baptism.

It is clear that water baptism symbolizes a spiritual death and a spiritual resurrection.  But notice that we are “dying” to our flesh and its desires.  We join Christ in putting aside the hopes of this flesh and its desires.  Instead our hopes and desires are in God alone.  Thus we are spiritually raised up to a new life by the Spirit of God.  This is a partnership of us and God.  In verse 13 Paul points out that though they used to be spiritually dead in an uncircumcised state, now through Christ they are spiritually alive and forgiven of every trespass.  Therefore those in Christ have received the higher spiritual reality that was symbolized by those lower, physical commands in the Law of Moses.  As a young Jewish boy would join the people of Israel by circumcision, so a young Christian joins the people of God by a spiritual circumcision which is symbolized by the act of water baptism.  In this ritual there is no distinction made between male or female.

Paul also reminds us in verse 14 that our record of debt has been cancelled.  He clearly envisions some kind of list of our sins or trespasses against God.  This list or record of our offenses would condemn us if it is allowed to stand.  We would be dead men.  Yet, Paul points out that Christ has moved this list from standing against us through two methods.  First he wipes out the charges (some versions say blot out).  Regardless, if Paul had written this in the 21st century, he would have probably said deleted.  Secondly, he takes this list of now blotted out or wiped out charges and nails them to the cross.  To Paul, Christ was not just dying for our sins on the cross.  In Him our sins are being nailed to the cross, where they will be left forever.  The charges themselves are dead and cannot stand against us.

This leads to a powerful statement in verse 15.  At the cross Jesus disarmed our spiritual enemy and triumphed over them.  Though Satan is still dangerous, he can no longer use our sin as a guaranteed way of slaying us.  Through Christ, the work of Satan and his minions is nullified and abolished.  The only way that Satan can destroy us now is by convincing us to not take Christ at His Word.  If he can con us into remaining in our rebellious, disobedient path then he wins by convincing us to do for him what he cannot do to us.

Reject the threats of legalism

In verses 16-19, Paul walks forward the threat of those who rely upon the observance of the Law.  Up to now he has only mentioned circumcision.  But verse 16 brings up the areas of what food and drink you consume, and what days you observe as holy.  Notice that it is introduced with the word “so.”  This point of rejecting legalism is strongly linked to the triumph that Jesus has obtained over our spiritual enemies.  The practical implication of His victory is that we cannot be judged on these ritual matters of the Law of Moses.  Neither can your past be held against you.

Now food and drink is mentioned because the Mosaic Law had much to say about foods.  There was a long list of prohibited foods that no Israelite was supposed to eat.  However, foods cannot make one more spiritual or more sinful.  In fact that was not the point of those Old Testament laws.  Similarly celebrating particular days as holy cannot make you more holy or the lack thereof make you unholy.  Just as our circumcision in Christ is spiritual, so the food that we eat is spiritual as well.  Jesus and His teachings are our spiritual food.  Instead of going back to the lesser symbol, Christians are called to press in to the thing that the lesser commands pointed towards.  Also, through Christ we have entered into the Sabbath of God (Sabbath means rest).  For the believer everyday is a day of rest because we are in Christ every day.  This does not mean that we have no decisions to make in these matters, but that the dietary and ritual commands of the Law are not binding on Christians.

Though Paul says “let no one judge you,” the point is not trying to stop their mental reasoning.  Rather, it is about not being influenced and deceived by the judgments that they do make.  In other words, let them think what they want, but don’t let it influence how you think and act.

In verse 17 Paul gives the spiritual truth that we are to use as our guide in these matters.  Christ is the substance and the Law of Moses is the shadow.  Clearly Paul is talking about the non-moral laws (dietary, ceremonial, and holy observances).  These things are not the substance of what God was concerned about, when He gave those laws.  They were a shadow that gave evidence to or pointed towards something of greater substance, which is Jesus himself.  Circumcision, feast days, Sabbaths, and food are not what are important.  It is what they are trying to tell us about Jesus that is important.  This is what we should follow.  The reality of Christ’s first and second coming is a substantial thing that caused a shadow to be cast back in time.  Because he was coming, God gave Israel commands that would prepare them and the world to receive Jesus.  Many of the laws were not moral laws inherently.  Of course once God commanded them, disobedience would be a moral issue.  But that is not my point.  My point is that the purpose for these laws that involved things that weren’t inherently sinful, was to help Israel see the shape and form of The One who was to come, Messiah.  Now it would be said to remain enamored with the shadow of a person when they have actually come into the room.

Legalism is really a form of stubbornness that refuses to enter into all that the Law was pointing towards.  Legalism honors Moses while dishonoring the God whom Moses obeyed.  Moses himself will stand up in judgment against those who use the Law as a means of righteousness because the Lord whom he followed was greater than all those laws.  However, all of this said, I must emphasize that these arguments cannot be used for the moral laws that are found in the Law of Moses.  Thus, no apostle of Jesus ever said, “Let no one judge you in sexual immorality, or in theft, or in murder…”  These actions are inherently sinful and will never be acceptable in God’s sight no matter how spiritual a person thinks they are.

In verse 18 Paul warns that to give in to this legalism would cause one to be cheated of their reward.  Deception has a cost and is a real threat to our stake in Christ.  Paul lists some of the things that the deceivers took delight in.  First, they love false humility.  The outward shows of devotion can be a cover for pride.  We should follow Christ and His leading and not the false humility of those who glory in their outward ritual observances.  Second, they loved to worship angels.  Though Paul does not go into detail, no being in heaven or on earth should be worshipped but the triune God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Thus those who develop great systems of heavenly or earthly beings to which they pray for help, may seem spiritual.  But they are not, because they resist the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Christ and His apostles.  Third, they glory in great visions of things they may or may not have seen that puff up their fleshly minds.  This is an area where charismatic Christians are very vulnerable.  We are sometimes so desperate to prove that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still in operation that we will put up with people who claim to have had visions of heaven, but are motivated by their sinful desires and puffed up pride.  We must be hungrier for Jesus and our relationship with Him, then for a spiritual gift that someone else claims to have.  The gifts of the Spirit are walked out in relationship with Jesus, who sent the Holy Spirit.  So how does this jeopardize our reward?

It does so by separating us from Christ and towards a person or system of fleshly works who cannot save us.  Thus what Paul says in the negative about these fleshly teachers, we should embrace in the positive.  We must hold fast to Jesus through whom we have true spiritual growth.  No matter what manner of persuasion or deceit comes our way, we must let nothing separate us from Jesus.  Of course deceivers often do not present themselves as a means of being separated from Christ.  However, they always promote teachings in such a way that Christ is never quite enough.  You also need this: (insert the current false teacher’s list here).  When we hold fast to Jesus and Him alone then we have the One who is the source of any true spiritual growth and any real spiritual inheritance that we may have.  He is the one who baptizes us in the Holy Spirit ad leads us forth in victory.  Let us reject all threats of deception and walk with Christ, who is the substance of all that the Law of Moses and the Prophets of the Old Testament pointed towards!

Threats of Deception II audio

Tuesday
Jun052018

Threats of Deception

Colossians 2:1-10.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 3, 2018.

The internet is filled with fascinating illusions and brain benders that demonstrate the ability of our mind to be tricked.  Of course this is one thing when you are looking at a picture and swear that two lines cannot be the same length, when they actually are the same length.  However, in life there are far greater odds at stake, and the deceptions that we face are just as easy to be accepted as truth.

God warns us about deception because truth is an essential part of His nature.  He is truth.  Thus as followers of The Truth and being aware that we can be deceived by those who have honed the art of deception, believers should be leery of those who come along offering something other than what God’s Word says. 

This is the heart of what the devil did with Eve in the Garden of Eden, and what he does with the world every day.  We live in a world drowning in deceptions that have been created and spun over the millennia.  In our passage today the Apostle Paul shows his concern for believers and churches that may perchance listen to those who would try and sway people from the truth that we have received in Jesus Christ.

Paul’s concern for the churches

In verse 1 Paul expresses his concern for the Christians in Colosse and the neighboring city of Laodicea.  Here is a link to a map that will help you see where these two cities are in what we call Turkey today.  It is believed that Paul did not travel through these cities, but that churches were started there by locals who had heard Paul’s preaching and were saved in neighboring cities like Ephesus. 

Chapter two picks up right where chapter one left off.  Paul tells them that he has been laboring and striving for them by the mighty working of Christ within him.  In verse 1 he calls it a “great conflict.”  Though this word could be used for contests of sports and gladiators, it is clear that Paul means it metaphorically (not to diminish the physical exertion he gave in ministry).   His concern for them internally causes him to fight for their faith and spiritual well-being.  In fact this letter is part of that fight.

It is important to have people in your life who are concerned for your faith enough to wrestle over how to help you.  It is also important, as we grow in Christ, to have that kind of concern for others.  Historically it has been called “carrying a burden” for someone else.  It can be from those who are responsible, like church leaders or even parents for their children.  But it can also be from those who are our friends and fellow believers in the Lord who are not directly responsible for us.

In verse 2 Paul lists concerns that he has for things they need to have.  First he wants their hearts to be encouraged.  The word translated “encourage” in this passage is more than emotional strengthening.  It includes exhortation and ultimately means to enable someone to face a challenging situation.  It is important for our hearts to be encouraged, comforted, and instructed, so that we may continue following Christ.

Paul also desires that Christians be “knit together in love.”  What is it that should hold believers together in a local body?  Paul does not lean upon coercion and domineering leadership.  Specifically it is the love of Christ within us that teaches us how to love each other, which results in a bond of Christ’s love between us.  This is what should hold us together.  Anything else will fall short.

Lastly, Paul desires that Christians attain to the understanding of the mystery revealed in the Gospel.  Back in chapter one he has already explained that the mystery he is talking about is no longer a mystery.  He continues to use such words because it was common in those days for traveling teachers to promise to reveal secret mysteries to those who would listen and pay them.  Paul is saying that there is no mystery to be found anymore.  We just need to understand the mystery that Christ and His apostles have revealed once and for all.  In fact, Paul wants Christians to have a full assurance or confidence that the Gospel we have received is itself the “riches” and “hidden treasure” (vs. 3) of wisdom and knowledge.

People do not need to search for or listen to groups or individuals that have a system of attaining hidden or occulted truth.  If you have ever been in a group like this then you know this is much more than learning as you grow, which is a natural form.   God has not called the Church to be a system of working your way to the top so that you can learn the secret.  It is important for believers to know and be confident in the fact that though we are bound together in the love of Christ, our walk is affected by our understanding of what we have in Christ, just as much.  In fact, without a true understanding of Christ we will fail at loving each other as we should.

His concern about deception

Having written about the things that he wants them to embrace, at verse 4 he speaks to things that he wants them to reject, mainly deception.  He is concerned that they resist deception and persuasive words.  Here the concerns are put forth in general terms. 

The problem with deception is that it always comes pretending to be the truth.  In 2 Corinthians 11:14 it says that, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”  Also, in verse 13, right before that, we are told that some people “disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.”  Not everyone who claims to be an apostle of Christ truly is, and not every angel that comes with a message of truth is actually from God and actually giving truth.  Paul recognizes that deception relies upon persuading people.  That is why he emphasized that they already had the understanding of the mystery that had been hidden in ages past, but now in Christ has been revealed. 

When Christians are persuaded that they have received the truth of the ages, then they aren’t open to the salesmen who come plying their wares.  A skilled deceiver has learned how to use people’s eyes and hearts against them.  The closer our relationship is with Christ the less likely we will fall to deception.

In verses 6-7, Paul gives us the key to not being deceived.  Ultimately he tells them to walk or live in the ways that they had been taught and received when they were first saved.  Of course, Paul knew that these specific believers had initially received the truth.  But what about the person who has grown up under deception or has fallen in with a person or group who has deceived them?  We can know the truth because it has been written down as the New Testament.  In spite of the conspiracy theories, the text of the Bible is the most accurate ancient book, which has been substantiated by thousands of manuscripts and millions of researchers.  Put your roots down into God’s Word and take time to search it out prayerfully, rather than looking all over creation for an answer. 

Yet, even the Bible can be used to deceive a person who is unskilled in its contents.  Thus it is important who we are receiving our understanding from.  In this regard you may feel that you are hopeless, but you are not.  If you truly believe in Jesus Christ then His Holy Spirit resides within you.  That same Holy Spirit will work to bring you to a proper understanding of the truth and to the right people to help you in that walk.  So trust Him and seek His leading.

In verses 8-10 Paul gets even more specific.  There were many “Philosophies” that were floating around in those days.  Asceticism focused on denying physical pleasures in order to become more spiritual.  Gnosticism focused on discovering hidden truths that were revealed only to the special initiates.  Dualism saw all physical material as evil and spirit things as good.  As the truth of Christ came into the Gentiles lands, it encountered strongholds of philosophies that would try and bring Christianity under their systems of thinking.  Even today we are in jeopardy of allowing the teachings of Christ to be subsumed into the philosophies of our age, whether that be a material-humanism, or a New Age “all roads lead to God” philosophy.  We even have a modern form of the ancient skepticism, which believes that truth is unobtainable.

Christians are to be watching and on guard.  Otherwise, we run the risk of being cheated out of the truth that we already have.  Deceit is always empty-handed in the end.  It promises the moon, but delivers gravel in your mouth (btw, if you check for your wallet it will be missing too).  Paul lists some of the tools that deceivers use in order to manipulate others.

First, there are the traditions of men.  Cultures and traditions are masterful ways of manipulating the feelings and desires of a person.  Secondly there are the elementary principles of this world.  It is possible that Paul means the elementary spirits of this world.  Regardless, you do not need those things.  What you really need is Jesus.  In Him is everything you could ever need.  If he is in you, then you have all you need.  What are you looking for?  If you are feeling dissatisfied with Christ, it has nothing to do with Him, and everything to do with your own heart.  Look deep within and ask God to help you see your heart and whether you are being played into deception.  It is only by His help and His Word that we are able to see and avoid the threats of deception in this life.

Threats of Deception audio

Monday
May282018

The Mystery of Christ in Us

Colossians 1:21-29.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 27, 2018.

Today we are going to pick up where we left off several weeks ago in Colossians chapter 1.  The Apostle Paul had written about how great Jesus was and just exactly who he was.  In our verses today we see that this amazing Jesus that Paul has described is within us.  The idea that Christ would dwell within us is wonderful and is the reason why we have any hope of glory.  Let’s look at the passage.

We are reconciled to God by Jesus

In verses 21-23 we are reminded that we have been reconciled to God by Jesus.  Now, reconciliation can be seen in two different ways, both of which are found in Scripture.  The first can be seen in a legal way.  God is the judge and our life is filled with breaking His law.  Jesus covers our sin so that it is not put on the moral ledger of our life.  Instead, His righteousness is credited to our ledger.  Thus we can stand before the judge and be blameless and above reproach.  Jesus is the one who makes us right with God our judge.

The second way to view reconciliation is to see it in a relational way.  God created us to be His children.  We have left Him like the prodigal son and have become destitute.  Yet, Jesus has brought us back to the Father and made peace between us and the Father.  We are brought into God’s family and are right with the Father because of Jesus, the faithful older brother.

Both of these pictures are biblical.  However, there is a tendency among some Christians today to only use the Fatherly image and to reject the Judge image.  We should be careful of over-emphasizing either one.  God in His wisdom has given us both, and we should not make ourselves wiser than Him.  There are times when one or the other is more appropriate for what we are facing.

We are told that before Christ reconciled us to God we were alienated and separated from God.  In fact he states that this was “in our minds.”  Our thoughts and understandings were so far removed from God’s that we were practically enemies, whether we were trying to be or not.  Thus our life was filled with “wicked works.”  These works, whether internally or externally, have been rejected by God as acceptable behavior and will be judged by His Anointed One, Jesus.

However, now we are reconciled to God (vs. 22).  We are no longer alienated and separated from God by our sins.  We are now close to God, both legally and relationally.  To be reconciled to God is to be “blameless and above reproach” in God’s sight.  This idea is found throughout the Old Testament.  Adam and Eve began in such a condition and fell.  Noah, Abraham, Job, etc. all were described as blameless before God.  This can only be done by living in faith towards God.  This is the goal of our reconciliation.

It is interesting that Paul emphasizes that this is through the death of “the body of his flesh.”  His point is that Jesus was a real man who died a real death, at a particular point in time.  This is important.  The apostles were not pointing back into the mists of pre-history towards a mythical being.  Rather, they pointed to a man that anyone in Israel would have been very familiar with, both his life and death.  It was the death of Christ's earthly body that brought about this grand reconciliation.  It would be impossible had he not died.

Yet, in verse 23 he raises a clear caveat.  We are reconciled to God if we continue in the faith.  No one should think that they can walk away from faith in Christ and still remain reconciled to God.  Reconciliation is not a magic wand that is waved over our life, but a position we have been put in by Jesus.  To walk away from Him is to walk away from reconciliation with God.  This is why Paul uses the phrase “grounded and steadfast” in the “hope of the Gospel.”  Are you convinced that Jesus is the answer for everyone in the world?  That is the crux of the Gospel.  Only in Christ can every man, woman, boy, and girl experience reconciliation with God.

Yet, in order to remain, we must resist those things that would “move us away” from it.  Whether people or societies and the philosophies and teachings that they promote, we must persevere in faith.  He does not say persevere in godly conduct, but in faith.  Our state of being reconciled to God is based upon our faith in Christ, not our godly conduct.  However, our conduct will grow in godliness as we keep our faith in Jesus.

We are sacrificially served by others

In verses 24-29 Paul explains what he was personally doing.  He was sacrificially serving them for Christ’s sake.  It is good to recognize that this is how God works.  He does this through having parents sacrificially serve children for the sake of their good.  He does this through instituting government for the good of nations.  He does this through church leaders for the good of all believers.

In serving them for Christ, Paul had suffered many afflictions.  He was able to keep faithful because it was Christ who had reconciled him to God.  He also did so in order to “fill up what is lacking in the afflictions [sometimes translated “tribulations”] of Christ.”  Paul does not mean that Jesus had failed to suffer enough to completely save us, and therefore we have to suffer to make up the difference.  There are some misguided individuals who think that they can become more special to God by inflicting suffering upon themselves.  However, Paul is speaking of suffering and afflictions that came from others as he did what Christ wanted him to do.  He suffered for the sake of others, not for his own sake.  Those who serve others bear the sufferings of such for the sake of those they serve.

What Paul means is something quite different, when he writes about what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ.  The afflictions that Christ faced, while he was in ministry and while he was being crucified, represent the hatred the world has for God.  Thus the man Jesus who was limited in time and space could only suffer a small part of humanity’s hatred towards God.  Thus the Church is called the body of Christ.  By their actions towards the body of Christ in every age, the world has demonstrated over and over again its hostility towards God.  Paul rejoiced to be a part of that glorious calling of standing with Jesus before a world that wants to crucify us both.  Why would he rejoice in this?  He would rejoice because he knows that it pleases God.  And, if God is pleased it doesn’t matter what the world may think.

Paul had been called to minister to them and us.  The word for minister here is the same word for “deacon.”  It was a very general word for someone who served on behalf of another.  It could be a very low position or a very high position (like an aid to the president).  The emphasis is on the service you do on behalf of another entity.  Thus Paul served people out of a duty to Christ.  All that he did, he did to serve God’s people for God’s purposes.

A major part of God’s purpose was to reveal something in Christ that had been a mystery in the times before his coming.  The Old Testament was God’s Word and yet much of God’s ultimate plan was somewhat hidden in it.  Little by little from Genesis to Malachi we see God giving glimpses of what He was going to do.  It has been said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.  The Old Testament prophets had made many prophecies promising God’s help.  Yet, even those prophets did not understand perfectly all that God would do.  Thus it was a mystery that was being revealed through Jesus and His apostles.  It is the preaching of the apostles that reveals the great mystery of the ages past.  It is a mystery that is no longer a mystery.  There is no hidden code in the New Testament for us to uncover.  What was concealed has already been revealed.  The distinction of Israel being the people of God and the gentiles being rejected was to be overcome in Christ.  He would make the two One, holy body of people who belong to God.  On top of this, God would dwell, not in a temple made by human hands, but within the heart and soul of every believer.

Paul calls these things glorious riches.  Many people look to many things for glory and riches.  Kids are taken to basketball or football camps at early ages, and they are put in educational programs much earlier than normal, all in the hopes of getting ahead of the competition, glorious riches.  But our hope of glory is Christ dwelling within us.  This is the foundation of our hope for glory. It does not lie in us, but in Jesus.

As we close we should note that in verses 28-29 Paul describes his motto in ministry: “Him we preach.”  He mentions this same concept several times throughout his letters.  In 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 it says, “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;  but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness…”  We preach Christ, and Him crucified!  Many teachers claim to know a great number of things, but Paul focused on only knowing Christ, and a crucified Christ at that.  This is a stumbling block to many people, because our flesh looks for a source of glory that is nobler than that. 

This is why Paul spent so much time writing letters, which warned, counseled, and taught believers what it means to belong to Christ and put your faith in Him.  Paul recognized that to follow Jesus was only possible if Jesus was the one working it in you (vs. 29).  Only He has the power to help us change.  So what is Christ working in you?  I pray that today you will embrace the Lord Jesus Christ in a fresh way.  I pray that you will rejoice in the glory that is ours because we are reconciled to God through our faith in Jesus Christ.  Let the Holy Spirit work through you as He worked through Paul in order to further God’s purposes in the lives of the people whom He has put in your life.  Amen!

Mystery of Christ audio