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Weekly Word

Entries in Mystery (2)

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

Tuesday
Dec082015

Lessons of Christmas- The Mystery of It All

1 Peter 1:10-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 5, 2015.

As we enter the Christmas season, we have been looking at lessons that it teaches us.  Last week we talked about the Goodness of God displayed at the birth of Jesus.  Today we are going to look at the Mystery of God.  It has been said that God works in mysterious ways.  Although this is true, there is much more to it than that.  Whether you are a person who likes mysteries or not, there is something about mystery that engages our mind.  Our natural curiosity wants to try and solve it.  One thing about a good mystery is that it usually has a surprise twist that provides the hidden information to solve the mystery.  We see these same elements in the plan of God, which has some parts that are very clear and others that are not.  At the birth of Jesus there was the mystery of who the messiah would be and how salvation would be accomplished.  A big part of the mystery was the timing.  When would all this happen?  Lastly, I would point out the mystery of God’s dealings with Israel and the nations of the world.  All of these mysterious things come together at Christmas in an even greater mystery: the incarnation.  In Jesus was united God and man in one being.  He is the one who is both fully God and yet fully man.  This is a mystery. 

In 1 Peter 1:10-13, Peter points out these things to the believers of his day.

Salvation Was A Mystery

Through the years prophets in Israel had spoke on behalf of God.  They explained past, present, and sometimes future things.  Of course God himself gives the first prophecy in the Garden of Eden when he explains that the “seed of the woman” would crush the serpents head.  This first word of hope to mankind let us have a glimpse that God was doing something about our situation.  Over the centuries a large body of prophecies had been accumulated.  These words were not a complete picture, and in fact they left many questions in the hearts and minds of those who pondered them.

The prophets themselves were in the same boat as those to whom they spoke.  They did not understand everything they were being told.  Yes, Adam and Eve knew that God would help one of their seed to give them victory over the serpent, but they didn’t know how and when.  Peter reminds us that there has always been mystery in what God is doing.

Yet, this drove the prophets to search and inquire into it carefully.  Up to Moses, the Words of God were handed down orally.  Thus to search and inquire into the matter could only be done by finding an elder who was faithful to the old ways and would explain what God had done and said in the past.  Such wise men like Noah had held onto the promises and prophecies of God despite the fact that the rest of mankind had cast them aside.  With Moses God began directing the prophets and others to write these things down.  Once that was done the writings themselves could be searched and compared.  Ultimately we see the prophets exemplified in Daniel who was searching the scroll of Jeremiah and came to understand that the exile into Babylon would only last 70 years.  Thus he knew that God was going to help his people return to Israel.  He also received many visions and prophecies regarding the future.  Yet, Daniel had many questions.  In chapter 12 of the book of Daniel, we see him asking God for more understanding and yet the Lord tells him, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”  Even though he was the holy prophet of God, he had to trust God in the midst of many mysterious, unknowns regarding the plan of God.  We live in days where it is easy to connect with faithful, godly elders.  We can also search the Scriptures with the help of powerful computers.  Along with this, God is as close as He has ever been when we pray.  So have we grown weary of the mystery?  Have we come to the place where we quit hoping for the resolution of God’s plan?  There are even some in the Church today that teach that prophecy and searching it out for understanding is a problem.  The problem is not trying to understand prophecies.  This has been the impulse of godly people from the beginning.

Peter points out that these prophets wanted to know who the messiah would be and when he would come.  Over time God gave further clarification.  First we find that the messiah would come from Abraham, then Isaac, and then Jacob.  Later we are told that he would be of the lineage of David.  In regards to time, they are eventually given some inkling in Daniel.  In fact chapter 9 of Daniel is a prophecy that lays out how much time was left.  He also reveals that it would happen during the reign of the 4th Beast Empire.  Notice how similar their questions are to ours today.  Our waiting for Jesus to come back is very similar to what they waited for.

Peter points out that that, by the Spirit, they saw the sufferings and subsequent glory of the messiah.  These two incongruous ideas created a lot of questions and mystery concerning the plan of God.  The suffering and victory of the messiah may seem to be a contradiction, but it is more a contradiction of implausibility rather than impossibility.  God had promised a savior.  But when he came he would suffer.  Why?  He would be glorious on one hand and yet there would be nothing about him physically that would draw men to him.  They mystery was in how all these puzzle pieces fit together.  At Christmas God solved part of this puzzle for us.  Christ came first to save us from our own sin (the true enemy).  To do this he had to make himself vulnerable and let himself be tortured, even put to death, for our sake.  But how could he do all that and yet remain the King who would raise up the righteous and put down the wicked?

Why All The Mystery

There is a part of us, whether as an atheist or a frustrated believer, that wished God would make things clearer.  Yet, he has a penchant for mystery and long waits in between times of revelation.  Peter points out in verse 12 that it has to do with the fact that prophecy is not just for us.  We are serving others.  Either God has to make a clear explanation to every single person who ever existed within their time, or we have to put up with a bit of mystery.  There is no way around this.  Prophecy was never given to elite men for their benefit alone.  It was given to them in order to serve others.  First they served the people of their time by sharing the prophecies.  However, Peter points out that they also served the generation that would be alive when the messiah finally came.  Those who would see the resolution of prophecy needed served in this way.  Because of the words that were shared and written down, they would be able to see the connections between what was happening and what God promised.  It would help them to navigate especially difficult times with the understanding that God desired them to have.  Thus early Jews who were heard the good news of Jesus could either ignore the Scriptures and reinterpret the events, or they could embrace them and rejoice in Jesus.  Of course, Peter is talking about the mystery of salvation.  Through Jesus it became far less mysterious.  Of course we also recognize that Jesus and his Apostles prophesied about a future 2nd coming.  Thus, as I said before, we are in the same boat.  We have been served by Jesus and the Apostles in order to understand what God desires of us in these last days.  God was not interested in giving each generation full understanding.  No, that would come after the events occurred.  Rather, was giving each generation enough information that they would be encouraged and pass down the prophecies until that generation in which they would occur.  We are not just waiting for Jesus to come back.  We are also serving the next generation for him.

We are not just passing on information about God’s plans for the future.  We are also passing on an inner response of faith toward God himself and toward His promises regardless of how much we understand.  Some reject the prophecies because they are not clear.  However, the mystery also ensures that someone somewhere will still be interested in these things.  The intellectual puzzle laid alongside of the spiritual battle helps to keep faith alive until the event itself is revealed.  We think we need full disclosure.  But what we really need is trust and faith in God.  Peter points out that the prophecies were explained to the believers of his day by the Holy Spirit.  If we do not hand down the Word of God to the next generation in the power of the Holy Spirit, then our stream of influence is doomed.  Faith is kept alive by the help of the Holy Spirit.  Prophecy must never be a matter of intellectual curiosity and fleshly pride.  It must be a matter of a soul who has placed its hope in the hands of God.  There is one last aspect here that Peter doesn’t point out, but is shown in Ephesians 3:4-10.

In the first century things were revealed by God that had been kept a mystery from the beginning of creation.  The people of God as His Church are a message from God to both mankind and the Spiritual rulers that have abused their positions.  Those angels who were put in charge of the nations and were leading mankind away from God through the teachings of demons, are just as important in this as we are.  The wisdom of God is being displayed and explained in the mere existence of the Church, much more what it has to say.  There are still mysterious things that are yet to be revealed.  But to those who put their faith in God and trust Him, there is a joy of bearing the revelation of God’s wisdom as it has been revealed.  Part of God’s plan is to raise mankind to a position greater than those angels that ruled.  All authority is being stripped from them and given to Christ and His Church.  We are being raised up to reign with Christ in their place.  The elites of the world may scoff at such thoughts and the powers of darkness may bristle at such thoughts.  However, God has pledged himself to destroy the wisdom of the wise men of this world and the power of the powerful of this world.  Thus we see the present mystery of God’s choice of the lowly over the top of the great and proud.

The first Christmas reminds us that there is ahead of us a great day of rejoicing.  No matter what it may look like in the now, a great day of revelation is coming in which the wicked and powerful of this world will have no say in the matter.  God will do what He is going to do.  Blessed are those who put their faith in Him!  Maranatha!

Lessons from Christmas