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Weekly Word

Tuesday
Aug282018

Your Personal End Times

Multiple Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 26, 2018.

There is much talk from both the secular and the religious world about the end of the world, or at least the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI).  In such discussions we have come to use words and phrases like: Armageddon, Extinction Event, Antichrist, One-World Government, Seed Banks, and… the list goes on.  As we look forward and contemplate the idea that the world as we know it could come to an end (whether we cause it to happen or it comes upon us), we should keep in mind that the majority of mankind will not experience these events.

This is not an attempt to minimize those foreseen or unforeseen forces that could alter the systems of the world and mankind’s destiny.  It is instead to make us think about the reality that for most of mankind the end times have to do with the end of our life on this earth.  It is our own personal world coming to a close as we leave our bodies in death.

My life will one day come to an end.  If I use the numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics, I could determine approximately how much life I have left, at least on average.  In 2017 it was listed in rounded numbers as 76 for men and 81 for women.  However, both of my grandfathers lived to be 86 and 97 respectively.  They were +10 and +21 above the average.  Though that may make me confident in what I have left, my father passed away at 61 years of age, -15.  I have a cousin who died in his 40’s a niece who died in her early teens.  Ultimately, none of us can really know how much time we have left, short of a doctor giving us the terminal news.  When you consider disease, tragic accidents, or purposeful attacks/wars, you recognize that our personal future is not as firm as we tend to think it is.  In fact, I cannot guarantee that I will have any advance warning.

Many, who either fear the future or are prudently prepping in various fashions for what may come, have given less time to prepare for the event that all of us will have to face, and that is death.  I am not talking about getting a will in place and having burial insurance.  Those things are to deal with the stuff that is left behind.  What about that part of you that is not physical, the soul or spirit?  I am not trying to make us afraid of the end of our life, but it is important to make sure that you are prepared for it.  Few of us are ready to die in the sense that we want it to happen right now.  But we can all be ready in the sense that if it were to happen today, I would be ready for what’s next.

I am going to physically die.

Let’s bring a couple of passages to mind.  Genesis 2:16-17 is the command that God gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If they did then, “you shall surely die.”  The phrase translated here does emphasize that the death will be sure.  However it also does so in a construction that allows for it to be a process- translated more literally it is “Dying you shall die.”  It is clear that at this time Adam was not a dying being.  But I will come back to that.

Of course we must think about Genesis 3:17-19.  After Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God places a curse upon them.  As he speaks to Adam he mentions that “in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”  Though humanity was originally formed from the dry ground, our original state or condition was not one of a dying species.  It isn’t exactly clear from the Scriptures whether this was an inherent immortality or if it was dependent upon something else like remaining sinless or eating from the tree of life.  Regardless, it is clear from Scripture that something happened at the beginning of humanity, and this event set in motion our current state of existence.  We are born, grow old, and then die.  The statistics so far are impressive.  100 out of 100 people do not survive life on earth.  They all physically die.  This was not God’s plan in making humans.  However, He did allow it to happen and has worked it into His overall plan.

Another verse to keep in mind, from the perspective of God’s Word, is that of Hebrews 9:27.  Here we are told that God has appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment.  Thus the idea that we keep coming back, reincarnate, until we “get it right,” is never supported by the Bible.

So when we die, we are told that the body decays, returns to the ground, but Scripture is clear that a part of us remains and is not destroyed.  We can call this the soul or the spirit depending on your theory of the metaphysical part of humans.  We are more than just brains, heart, and blood.  Otherwise we would have to recognize that all human “thinking” is a mere firing of synapses that none can take credit for.  They are just operating along the lines of physics much like a penny dropped on the ground can end up in any number of places, but physics will define them all.  No.  Humans are able to make true choice, though at times we surrender to the external stimuli around us.  There is more to us than just the physical processes that make us up.

Even if you are not a Christian who believes the Bible, you are facing the same issue.  Christians see a biblical answer to this predicament and prepare in a biblical way.  For others the answer is to use their wealth to create technology that will overcome the defects of our body and the limits of our life.  Whether mankind comes up with a technical solution to physical death or not, most of us will not be alive when it does.  So where are you putting your hope?  Brady Hartman reported in the Financial Times that Ray Kurzweil, the famous futurist who also works at Google, used to eat 250 pills a day, but now he is down to 100.  In an interview a few years back, Kurzweil told Caroline Daniel of the Financial Times that he spends a few thousand dollars per year on vitamins and supplements.  He also spends one day a week in a doctor’s office receiving intravenous longevity treatments in a bid to stay alive longer.  His hope is to be alive when the technology is perfected for downloading our brain to a new, designer, human body, whether cloned or not.  Of course even if one was to be able to transfer the data of the old brain and then successfully write it onto the new brain (a big if), the question would remain, would that really be me?  God’s Word makes it clear that there is a different way to prepare ourselves for our own death.  So let’s look at His plan.

As we have stated, God did not create humans initially to die.  However, Scripture tells us that He has a plan to bring mankind out of this dying state, or mortal state, which is our current status.  Let’s look at Daniel 12:2-3.  “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.  Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.”  Though the Old Testament is somewhat cryptic about the fate of the souls of men, here we have a passage that gives an astounding prophecy detailing some of what it will be.  1 Corinthians 15:51-52 gives us a similar idea from the New Testament.  “Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”  Thus the Bible speaks of an incredible event, in which wise and foolish, righteous and wicked, will be made to come back to life in what is called resurrection.  It may sound unbelievable to hear that God’s plan involves a time in which He will resurrect those who have died.  It is easy to scoff at the idea, but we cannot escape the reality that this is God’s plan according to His own word.

In fact, God’s plan has one aspect that is far better than a human technological solution.  Even if we can get to a point where we can essentially keep ourselves alive forever through genetic therapies, etc., we will still have the problem of the sin nature.  God’s plan leaves behind the mortal flesh and the sin that goes along with it and takes on an incorruptible body.  No matter what man designs as an answer, it will be tainted by our own sin nature.  We cannot heal ourselves.  Only the untainted Creator can heal us.

There is a special case that is spoken of in Scripture and it is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.  Here it says, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  Paul makes it clear that the dead will rise first and then those who are still alive will be instantly changed.  1 Corinthians 15 says, “in the twinkling of an eye.”  Whether that is in a Planck second or not, it will be extremely fast.  So there will be a group of people who will still be alive when the resurrection of the righteous occurs.  However, that moment will catch them much like death catches us now.  They will need to have already made the necessary preparations for their body to be transformed (not unlike death as the mortal dissolves and immortal takes its place) and made immortal.

Thus for all the body of this world will come to an end at some time.  Then we will wait for the day of resurrection in a state in which we have no body.  For some that has been thousands of years.  For others it may only be 5.39 × 10 −44 s. 

Regardless, we are left with the question.  What will be my condition during that waiting period?  We can call it the intermediate state between physical death and immortal resurrection.  In the following weeks we will look at what the Bible says about this intermediate state.  However, today I ask you this.  Have you prepared for your physical death in the way that God’s Word tells us to do?  God is offering all mankind forgiveness of our sins and eternal life beyond this world.  How can I accept that offer?  We must simply confess that we are sinners and fallen in our nature.  We must then put our trust and faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of our soul and the Lord of our life.  Lastly, we must publically stand with Him before the world.  If you have and are doing that, then you are prepared for your physical death.  But, if you have not, then I beg of you to rethink this question of what will happen when I die.  Don’t put it off.  Make the choice to trust the Creator today.

Personal End Time Audio

Tuesday
Aug212018

Help in the Ministry

Colossians 4:7-18.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 19, 2018.

Throughout history it is clear that God uses specific individuals to open doors of ministry and accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God.  However, today I hope you will see that even in such cases, no one ministers alone.  God expects us to work together so that the work He intends will be accomplished in our area and beyond.  Each Christian needs to seek the Lord regarding how we can help in ministering the Gospel to this world, whether that involves leading a new work, or coming alongside someone whom God has filled with a vision for reaching the lost.  No matter how small and lacking in talent you may be, God has a place for you in His plan.

Those who delivered his letter

Starting in verse 7, Paul gives a series of explanations to the Colossians regarding different individuals who were helping him.  The first two are those who had delivered this very letter from Paul, who is in Rome under house-arrest, to the Colossians.  Such a journey required a lot more help than it would in today’s world.  The first individual is Tychicus.  He is described as a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord.  Paul saw Tychicus as more than a worker who would help him get things done.  He had a familial relationship with him that was like a brother.  We must never lose sight of this in the work of the Lord.  If we treat it as a business and abuse one another in order to get things done, then we have lost sight of what God has called us to.

The second individual is named Onesimus and he is described as a faithful and beloved brother as well.  Here we are told that Onesimus is “one of you,” which means he is from Colosse.  This is the very same run-away slave of the letter to Philemon.  Apparently Onesimus had run away from his Christian master, Philemon, and ran into Paul.  Onesimus became a Christian through Paul.  But, note that Paul does not describe Onesimus as a “run-away slave” here in this letter.  He is called a brother in the work of the Lord.  In fact, it may be possible that Onesimus had delivered the letter to Philemon at the same time as the letter to the Colossians.

Paul points out that the Colossians will be able to hear what was happening with Paul in Rome in order to comfort their hearts.  When we are unaware of what is happening to others we love, it is very disconcerting.  Thus they would receive comfort by the testimony of Tychicus and Onesimus.  These two help Paul in some very practical ways.  They helped him stay in contact with the churches by carrying letters on ships and over land.  In our modern world of technological wonders we can forget that even our system of communication requires people helping and serving in very practical ways.  Not all service to the kingdom looks super spiritual, but it is needed nonetheless.

Those of the “circumcision”

Starting in verse 10 we have three individuals who are described as being part of “the circumcision.”  Basically it means that they are Jews.  However, the New Testament also describes a group of Jewish Christians who attempted to make Gentile converts to Christ follow the commands of the Law of Moses.  Circumcision became a flag for this view.  It doesn’t seem likely that these three held this view previously, so it is probably simply a way of referring to their Jewish ancestry and not their theological views.

By the way, it has been pointed out in the past that it is curious that there is no mention of Peter being in Rome at all.  Those who teach that Peter was the first bishop of Rome have a time explaining this issue.

The first of this group is Aristarchus, who is also under house-arrest with Paul.  Most of these individuals have come to Paul and are freely helping him.  However, Aristarchus is stuck.  Though he is Jewish, he was a Macedonian from Thessalonica, who had been helping Paul throughout his missionary journeys.  In fact, he was with Paul in Ephesus, when they were arrested for creating a mob.  “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:28).  Thus Aristarchus is a helper who has been with him through thick and thin. 

Next we have Mark the cousin of Barnabas.  If you are not aware, Paul and Mark had some difficult history.  Mark, also called John, had abandoned Paul and Barnabas on one of their missionary journeys.  Later, when they went out again, Paul refused to let John Mark accompany them.  Barnabas disagreed.  This led to them going separate ways.  (See Acts 13-15, esp. Acts 15:36-40).  Several times in his letters, Paul goes out of his way to encourage churches to receive John Mark and not hold his previous failings against him.  So here we see that John Mark had traveled to Rome in order to help Paul, and Paul is very appreciative.  Christians are always going to have their times of strife.  But, we must work in order to make things right and forgive one another.  This is a classic picture of such in the early Church.  By the way, Mark is the one who wrote the Gospel called by his name.

The third Jewish person was a guy named Jesus, or also called Justus.  We know nothing about this Justus, other than that he was Jewish and had gone to Rome to help Paul.  Perhaps he is a friend of John Mark and came with him.  Paul seems to imply that others of “the circumcision” should have been there to help him.  I don’t want to read more into this than is appropriate.  However, Paul may be thinking of at least two things.  First Paul is a Jew and so Jewish Christians naturally should go out of their ways to encourage him.  Second of all, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem under false charges.  Thus the Christians of Jerusalem should also feel an obligation to encourage him.

In all this, Paul praises these three for being a comfort to him.  We all need comforted as we work for the Lord.  No one is so spiritual as not to need comfort, not even our Lord Jesus.  We must allow others to come alongside of us and comfort us.  However, God’s supply of helpers in our life is not a steady stream.  In the letter of 2 Timothy, Paul notes a time of having no one with him.  Ultimately, we must always draw our comfort from the Lord first.

Other helps and greetings

In verse 12 Paul quickly mentions some other helpers who want to greet the Colossians.  Epaphras is a Colossian and a fellow slave of Christ.  Though it is not mentioned here, in the letter to Philemon it is clear that Epaphras was also imprisoned with Paul.  Note that Epaphras is praised for his many prayers for the believers in Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis.  He prayed “fervently” (the word denotes that pain is involved) for them.  Thus just as some help is very practical, so some help is very spiritual, but both are needed and should be commended.

Next Luke the doctor is mentioned.  He is the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  He was with Paul throughout many of his journeys.  In fact, if you read through the book of Acts, you will notice a change at times in the pronouns that are used.  Sometimes he writes “we” did this and “we” did that.  Then it switches to “he” did this and “he” did that.  Paul calls Luke beloved.  Perhaps Luke had to use his skills as a doctor time and time again to assist Paul in keeping healthy.

Little is said of the last individual Demas, other than that he greets them.  It is believed that this is the same Demas of 2 Timothy 4:10 of whom Paul wrote, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica.”  The ministry of the Gospel is not always easy and there are always those who will start out strong and then fall away from Christ.  We must always keep an eye out and minister to one another so that no one is discouraged.  However, the problem with Demas is rooted in his desire for the things of the world.  He had been trying to plow with Paul while looking back at what he had left behind.  No one can serve two masters for long.

Paul asks the Colossian believers to greet the Laodicean believers.  He also asks them to greet the individual named Nymphas, and the church that met at his house.  House churches were the norm.  Thus there is something particular about Nymphas that causes Paul to mention them, as a means of encouragement.  In fact, any church leader is always in need of encouragement.  Some translations refer to Nymphas as a man and some as a woman.  This is because some older manuscripts use a female construction of this sentence.  Regardless, the point is not the gender, but the need for encouragement.

Final Instructions

Beginning in verse 16, Paul gives some final instructions while closing the letter.  He tells them to share his letters with the churches around them and to read the letter that he wrote to them.  The early church did not have a New Testament.  The letters of the different apostles were being written at the time and typically were only known in the areas where they were sent.  Yet, over time they would be shared beyond their areas and eventually with all the Church.  Here we see the apostle instructing and approving of such.  Even though the letters were to a particular people at a particular time, they have value to any believer who would read them.  In fact it is here that we read that there had been a letter to the Laodiceans that did not survive this process.  It has been lost to the sands of time.

In verse 17 Paul gives a particular person a reminder of the duty of ministry.  The man is Archippus, who is mentioned in the Philemon letter.  There is clearly more to the back story that we are not aware of.  Perhaps Archippus had a calling to ministry upon him and he was either not doing it, or being apprehensive in doing it.  Regardless Paul encourages him in his duty to minister.  Three things about ministry are told to us here.  First, we must take heed or pay attention to the ministry that God has given us.  Ministry doesn’t just happen.  People must pay attention in prayer, in word, and indeed.  We must watch out for others and allow God to speak through us in order to share the Gospel, and mature those who receive it.  Second, ministry is received from the Lord.  It is never “our” ministry except as that which has been delegated to us by the Lord.  It is His ministry that we partner with Him in order to do it.  Christ opens the doors and supplies the work of the Holy Spirit to make it effective.  In ministry we must never get our eyes off of the fact that we do what we do for Christ, not for another person, or for ourselves.  Third, Christ expects us to fulfill it.  We must be diligent and obey the Lord in order to “fulfill” the ministry that He has given us.  We don’t always understand why God sends us to some people and certain places.  However, it is our job to be faithful and fulfill the purpose for which He has sent us, and not the purpose we imagine that He has sent us.

Lastly, Paul tells them to remember his chains.  The chains are real, but are also symbolic of this world’s hatred for Christ and His people.  They should never forget that even though they may not be in chains, there are others who are currently imprisoned for the cause of Christ.  They should never forget that even when people are no longer in chains in their part of the world, the Gospel was brought forth by those who endured such hostility, and it will indeed come round again.

Ministry does not happen without the Lord, but neither does it happen without people saying “yes!” to Him.  If we were to write a letter about the people who are helping with the ministry of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Everett, WA, or who have ever helped, that would be a long list, and we are a small church.  What would be said of you or me?  May God help us to be faithful to come alongside the ministry that He is calling us to do.  We may not be the leader like Paul was, but we all need each other in order to help the ministry of the Gospel to go to fellow believers and to the lost.

This concludes our time in the letter to the Colossians.

Help in the Ministry Audio

Tuesday
Aug212018

Our Prayer Life and Personal Witness

Colossians 4:2-6.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 12, 2018.

Our world today has convinced itself that there is no eternity for us to face.  And so, people live lives that are focused on the fleeting thoughts and wants of this life, going here and there.  Today we need to hear Christ calling us to lift our eyes and see that there is a harvest all around us.  It is a harvest of people who have been made hungry for the Gospel because they haven’t found something that can satisfy their soul.

In our passage today, Paul is drawing near to the end of his letter to the Colossians, and encourages believers to be active in two different areas of life.  The first part is centered on our internal life and the second is focused on our external life.  When believers recognize the value that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has for us and the people around us, we give prayer and witnessing the proper vigilance that eternal matters deserve.

In our passage today, Paul turns from the relationship between slaves and their masters, and speaks to the group of believers as a whole.

Continue earnestly in prayer

If I were to summarize the book of Colossians I would say this.  Paul is concerned that believers understand the mystery of the Gospel of Christ enough in order to avoid deceptions and to be transformed into the image of Jesus.  It takes prayer to withstand spiritual deception, and it takes prayer to put off the old man and to put on the new man.  Thus in verse 2 Paul uses a verb that has the idea of continuing with strength.  Prayer is not just a passionless duty.  It is not enough to pray when you first get saved and then quit.  It is not enough to pray only in times of disaster and great need.  Believers must also continue strongly in prayer during all the times in between.

Paul emphasizes being “watchful” in prayer.  What are we watching?  We are being watchful of our lives, both external deceptions and our own internal deceptions.  We are watchful for those temptations that would seek to take us by surprise and by storm.  We are also to be watchful over one another, as spiritual brothers and sisters.  Jesus himself used the world “watch” in his last hours with his disciples.  He asked Peter, James, and John to watch with Him as He prayed.  Later, when He found them sleeping, He warned them to “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Matthew 26:41 (NKJV).  They were going through a time of severe testing and strong temptation.  It was Jesus who not only made them aware of it, but also told them that they would only overcome those temptations through prayer.  Satan is often successful because we are not paying attention to spiritual matters.  When our flesh is strong then we are prone to take the bait that he is using for us.

Of course it is easy to let ourselves fall into a dire, and even hopeless, attitude.  Yet, Paul tells them to pray with thanksgiving.  If we only treat prayer as a Christmas list that we take to God, then we can get discouraged pretty quick.  God is not in the business of spoiling His children and turning us into entitled brats.  We would be no good to anybody, even ourselves, at that point.  However, when we learn to pray with other kinds of prayer, we become stronger spiritually.  In Scripture we not only see prayers of petition, in which we ask for things for ourselves, but also prayers of Adoration.  This is where we praise God for who He is.  We should also give up prayers of thanksgiving in which we thank God for what He has done and how He has blessed us.  There are also prayers of confession in which we repent before God concerning any areas of sin in our life.

Prayer may have a novelty feel to it at first.  In fact, we can do different things to try and maintain a feeling of novelty (turn down lights, play instrumental music, light candles, etc.).    However, none of these things will ever be able to overcome the reality that our flesh will quickly grow tired of prayer.  When our flesh realizes that God is not going to satisfy our every whim and desire, it either falls asleep or walks away.  So take time to be thankful in your prayers, but not just for the things He has given you.  Also be thankful for who He is and His character, His faithfulness and grace.  We are on the winning side.  So we need not be dire and glum, though the world around us is given over to darkness.  Rather we can pray with joy and thanksgiving in our heart.

Paul also asks that they would pray for him and his companions, especially that they would have an open door to share the Gospel.  Just as they needed doors, so we too need the Lord to open doors for us to share the Gospel.  We should not take it for granted, but labor for it in prayer.  Paul also asks that they would pray that he would have clarity in explaining the Gospel to others.  Many people have a superficial understanding of Jesus, if anything at all.  They need a clear presentation of the Gospel.  So wouldn’t God just open doors for us, why should we pray?  It is true that if you do not pray, God will still be busy working.  And, God will use others.  However, those others cannot take the place that God has given to me and you.  Without prayer, I will miss those opportunities and those opportunities will be missing in the lives of those I was supposed to impact.  Prayer puts us in the harness with the Holy Spirit to do the work that needs done to prepare people’s hearts, plant the seed of truth, water it, and harvest at the appropriate time.  Even though he was in chains, under house arrest, Paul knew that prayer could open up opportunities to share the Gospel.

Walk wisely around unbelievers

In verse 5 Paul reminds them to walk wisely among “the outsiders.”  This phrase is a reference to people who are outside the Church because they are not believers in Jesus.  Have you ever thought about how your actions can affect unbelievers?  We can be unwise and act foolishly around unbelievers and negatively impact how they view Christ.

Paul also connects to this the phrase “redeeming the time.”  This was a phrase that was used of a person who purchases an item at the perfect time, whether to get a deal in the marketplace, or to take possession of a desired item.  If we walk foolishly then we will lose time in drawing others to Christ.  That can be done by neglecting to look like Christ enough to be attractive to them or even neglecting to share when they are open.  But even worse, we can be offensive to them and drive them away from Christ.  Now, it is true that Christ is offensive to our flesh because He is spiritual.  However, we cannot walk foolishly, AKA unspiritually, and then say they weren’t ready.  We should always have our eyes open and be praying for opportune moments in the lives of people.  Wisdom understands what is important in life and takes care of eternal matters at the expense of the temporal ones.  However, folly takes care of temporal matters at the expense of the eternal.  We redeem the time when we walk in harmony with what God is trying to do in the lives of people around us.

Paul also instructs believers to always speak with grace.  In that sense grace means to speak in a way that is favorable to those who listen to us.  How easy it is to let our speech rush on leaving grace behind.  Even worse, we may pick up unfavorable companions such as: anger, pride, greed, etc.  Part of wisdom is to temper our speech, so as not to offend unnecessarily.  We must remove the obstacles of our flesh as much as we can.  Yes, none of us are perfect, and people can always find some reason to reject us.  But that is between them and God.  My focus needs to be on me.  Lord, help me to walk wisely before those who do not know you.  This connects to the last chapter’s focus on putting off the old man and putting on the new.

Paul also uses a phrase, “seasoned with salt.”  It is a reference to the fact that food is made tastier when it is salted.  Our speech can be plain food without any spice, or we can speak with creative flavor of a life lived in relationship with God.  In fact, Christ uses salt as a reference to believers.  He says that we are the salt of the earth.  Thus our speech should be such that it causes people to want to hear it, at least until they make a decision to either embrace Christ or not.

The combination of prayer, walking wisely, and speaking with grace, will put us in the proper place that we will learn how to answer each person we come in contact with (vs. 6)k  We must truly have a relationship with Jesus before we will learn how to answer those who ask us why we believe in Him.

May God help us to take time this week to pray.  May we pray for the wisdom to redeem the time in the lives of unbelievers.  The “New Man” takes time to pray and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the lost around them.  May God help us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, by the help of His Holy Spirit.

Prayer Life Audio

Tuesday
Aug072018

Putting on the "New Man" at Home  II

Colossians 3:22-4:1.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 5, 2018 and is the 2nd part of a sermon that was preached on July 22, 2018.  If you haven’t read or listened to it first then please do so.

Today we pick up where we left off several weeks ago.  In summary this section is about believers in Christ taking off the “old man” and putting on the “new man.”  Of course the old man that we put off is our own nature with its thoughts, feelings, and desires.  The New Man that we are putting on is Christ.

When we stopped in part I, we had begun talking about what it means for a slave to “put on the new man.”  This relationship between masters and slaves was very common in those days and could not be overlooked.  Though western societies may be able to say that they don’t have slaves anymore, we must be careful of discounting these words as no longer relevant, or as morally corrupt.  As I said in part I, the western world has simply taken the slave class and added them to the poor class.  Though they are no longer owned as property by another, they still are at the mercy of those around them who have money and jobs in order to make a living.  Thus these words should be seen as speaking to the relationship of the fortunate and the less fortunate, the haves and the have-nots.

Slaves obey your masters

In verse 22, slaves are told to obey their masters.  In fact, they are challenged and commanded to please God by working hard even when the earthly master isn’t looking.  This is to be done out of a sincere heart that fears God.

In case you haven’t spent time thinking about why even the New Testament emphasizes a positive aspect to a fear of the Lord, I will take a few moments to stir your thinking on this.  It is easy to say something that goes like this.  Fear was proper when people were under the Law of Moses.  But now that we are free in Christ we should no longer fear God.  Besides, doesn’t the Bible say that “Perfect love casts out all fear?”  The problem is that this one verse is not all that is spoken in the New Testament about fear.  We cannot ignore all the other verses, like this one here, and others like Philippians 2:12.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” (NKJV)

The perfect love of God casts out all the fear in regards to His heart towards us.  When you recognize Jesus is on the cross for your sins, you no longer fear that He doesn’t love you.  You know that He has laid down His life for you.  However, this is not what the phrase “fearing God” means in verse 22.  There it is talking about the restraint we should have when tempted to sin.  Like Joseph when he was being seduced by Potiphar’s wife, we must shudder at the thought of sinning against The One who was willing to die for us.  When we are walking in harmony with God we are secure in His love and need not fear that He will change His mind.  However, when we are tempted by sin, we should shrink back from the hideous thought of betraying our Lord’s sacrifice, not because He will quit loving us, but because I might quit loving Him and become an adulterer at heart.  To summarize, the fear that is cast out is in regard to God’s love.  The fear that should remain is in regard to sin’s ability to pull our heart away from the Lord and destroy us.

In verse 23, Paul adds that they should do everything as if unto the Lord.  This verse is not only about slaves.  First of all, all Christians are slaves of God and thus this applies.  However, even contextually, Paul is just stating for slaves what he already stated for all Christians in verse 17.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (NKJV)

Now in verse 23 Paul has added the word “heartily.”  It means that we don’t just outwardly perform the duty.  Instead we put our whole heart into doing it. 

It is worth noting that the effect of what Paul is doing here is not a means of keeping slaves quiet and away from revolt.  Paul is not working for the master-class to keep the slaves in subjection.  Rather, he has just helped the lowest people of society, whose lives and duties give them no obvious sense of purpose and meaning, to see that there is a holy aspect to the thankless and abject station that they have in life.  Regardless of how the world views you and your place in it, God sees you as His servant and that is a high position indeed.  Such an idea lifts our hearts out of the muck and the mire, washes it off, and says, “You serve the King of the Universe!”  It is only our myopic and snobbish elitism that cannot see how many slaves came to find hope in the Gospel that they never found in revolts.  In Christ the Christian slave could lift up his head and know that His true Master loved him greatly.  This in no way supports slavery, but rather supports the slave who had no hope of getting out of their situation.

Paul goes on to explain why a slave, or employee for that matter, should obey this command.  First, they will receive the reward of the inheritance.  The inheritance that Paul is talking about is the one that all believers will inherit from God the Father.  Though they have no inheritance in this world, Christian slaves know that they stand to inherit from God alongside of every other station and class in this world.  This life is simply a testing ground.  The life to come is our inheritance.  No one can touch it or separate you from it.  Thus the slave could be faithful to God because God is always faithful and will reward our service to Him in temporal things with eternal things.

The second reason a slave should obey in this matter is because God will repay those who do wrong without partiality.  Now, this sword cuts both ways.  On one hand the slave, who remains in anger and hatred, and refuses in this matter will also be repaid with judgment from God.  On the other hand, the main purpose is to encourage the slave who tries to obey their master and yet is wronged by the master.  Many harsh, unrealistic, oppressive masters have existed in this world.  But here a play on the word reward is made.  Those who wrong slaves will be repaid by God Himself.  How does a person keep doing the right thing when others treat them wrongly?  Typically we become frustrated, angry, and vengeful.  We throw off the altruistic purpose and take the path of our flesh.  We reject Christ and embrace Satan.  These destructive works of the flesh then pull us down into the slavery of sin.  However, when I recognize that even those who abuse me will have their day of reckoning before God, then I can focus on my part of the situation and let go of theirs.  God is an impartial judge.  He does not say, “It’s okay that you were overly harsh with your slave even though he tried his best to be faithful to your commands.”  No.  The Lord of Heaven that sends Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom and the rich man into the fire will also pay back those who never seem to have to pay for their sins in this life.  With God, no one is ever “too big” to fail and that should be a shot across the bow for all those in this life who have position over others.  By the way, even if society says it is okay to abuse slaves because they are your property, God will then treat you as you treated your slaves.

Masters treat your slaves justly and fairly

Though chapter three ends at verse 25, verse one of chapter four clearly goes with chapter three.  For those who aren’t aware, no part of the Bible was written with chapter and verse divisions.  These were added later for convenience.  In the 13th century AD several chapter schemes were created and then later in the 16th century verse divisions were added.  The point being that we should be aware that the chapter divisions are not always in the proper spot.  Chapter four verse one is the counterpoint to chapter three’s instructions to slaves.

Notice that if Paul was just trying to prop up a hierarchical system, he wouldn’t say what he does to masters.  He would most likely tell them to obey the magistrates and the king.  But instead, Paul tells masters that if they have put on Christ it will affect how they treat their slaves.  This is critical because it is the tendency to treat slaves as subhuman, property, and undeserving of basic human treatment that makes it so odious and loathsome.  It is too easy for those of the higher class of society to look upon those of a lower station as being something less than human.  This dynamic did not cease with the Emancipation Proclamation.  It continues to this day.  The leaders of our governments have come to see certain parts of our citizenry as less of a human as they are.  This is always used to justify tyranny.  In the 1800’s it was common to hear slaves described as less evolved and thus on par with animals.  Throughout all of history slaves had no redress for any “wrongs” against them.  They were simply property.

Yet here masters are warned that God will take note of how they treat their slaves.  Both the slave and the master are equally human and therefore imagers of God.  Psalm 62:9 says, “Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.”  The point is that those of high estate are not of greater substance before God.  If you buy into the idea that they do, or that they will somehow be treated differently then you are deluded.  Many a king, magistrate, judge, lawyer, politician, business owner, etc. will have their eyes opened on that day that they stand before God and give account for treating others as somehow less than human.  All humans should be respected as human beings created by God for His purposes, and created higher than the animals, yet lower than the angels.

The treatment is qualified by the word “justly.”  James 5:4 gives a picture of the lack of justice in those days when it says, “The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts!”  It is easy for masters, business owners, and their management to have unreasonable expectations for slaves or workers.  When Israel was enslaved in Egypt, Pharaoh gave the unreasonable demand that the Israelites continue to meet their quotas while additionally having to get their own straw (see Exodus 5).  The key here is that historically masters have done what is in accordance with the commands and laws of their country.  Such laws cared little for slaves.  But God does care for them.  Thus the justness of a Christian’s actions toward their fellow man is not determined by what is acceptable in their country.  It is determined by God.  Many people today are spouting and perpetrating injustices in the name of justice.  They believe that the end justifies the means.  All such self-justification will melt when you stand before God.  The question is what does God think is just and righteous?  His word makes it very clear.

The word “fairly” is also used.  This could be seen in relation to other servants, i.e. treat all the slaves equally without partiality.  However, it is more likely meant in relation to how the slave serves the master.  It is only equitable or fair that the master treats the slave kindly when the slave’s life consists of the lowly duty of serving you.  The slave’s task is not easy.  It is only fair that the master not oppressively add to that task out of selfish concerns.  In fact it begs the question, “How harsh of a task master is God to the master?”  It is intended to make the master realize that he will be held accountable for how he treats his slaves.

Verse one ends with the reminder to masters that they have a Master in Heaven.  We are all in subjection to God.  Clearly, He is not like we are.  But He will hold all men responsible for their actions in this life.  The ultimate principle here is to focus on your side of the relationship, and do it in a way that pleases God despite what others do or don’t do.  We are serving Him in this life not self or society.  If we can righteously work for a change in society then that is good.  But the end does not justify the means.  The goal does not justify the path that we take to get there.

This is the new man: a person who is not trapped in the constructs of today, whether hopelessly furthering them or vengefully rebelling against them.  Even if your flesh and heart wants to identify as homosexual, transgender, white nationalist, black power, ad infinitum, we are called to identify as simply a follower of Jesus.  Instead of seeing ourselves as a 99%’er we are called to see ourselves as a follower of Jesus.  Whatever the distinctions that this world tries to put on you, or you want to take upon yourself, today Christ calls you to drop those things and come follow Him.

New Man II audio

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