Devotional # 165. Isaiah 11:1–10 (Special Christmas Devotional)

Devotional # 165. 11/30/15. Christmas, Part 1: The Stem of Jesse and Promise of the King.

This week’s Reading: Isaiah 11:1–10.

Introduction: I know, I know, we just got done with Thanksgiving and, like the stores, I’m already moving into Christmas. But I think most of us look forward to Christmas for a variety of right and wrong reasons so let’s focus on some of the right reasons. I’ll keep the tradition of years past where I send out 4 Christmas themed emails each Monday leading up to Christmas. Today we’re going to read about Jesus being the Stem of Jesse but that He will also rule a future Kingdom. What does that mean and how does it impact us today?

Prayer. Dear Lord, as we approach Christmas help us be in tune with You and what You desire for us to learn and share with others during this time. Help us look at prophecies and promises with a fresh and innocent heart. Help us to be receptive to Your word in each of our lives.

v. 1. As we start in on verse 1 we must look back at chapter 10 to know what we’re getting into. Isaiah chapter 10 talks about what was going on in the time of Isaiah, it is prophecy about being saved from Sennacherib. But here in verse 1 of chapter 11 we move to the prophecy of the Messiah.

What does it mean when it says that the Messiah would come out as a Branch out of the roots of Jesse? The major difference between Israel and every other nation is that God is with them. One commentator notes that at the time of Isaiah the line of David (implied here as a “tree”) looked like it was killed off just as other nations and lineages had fallen but because God was with them the “stump” and “roots” were still intact (Source 2). And from those roots would come the Messiah who would save the world.

I found it interesting that Isaiah says that the Messiah will come from Jesse. Who is Jesse and why did Isaiah talk about him as opposed to someone else? Jesse was David’s father and David was made king (1 Samuel 16) and given the promise that one day the Messiah would come from his lineage (2 Samuel 7:14-16). So why mention David’s dad and not David himself? Well, Isaiah couldn’t have known but by the time Jesus came to earth as the Messiah the line of David had ceased being kings and they were just peasants. But God knew. So the royal line started with Jesse who was a farmer and shepherd from Bethlehem and culminated back in Bethlehem with a peasant kid who was raised in a carpenter shop (Source 1, p. 107).

v. 2. This verse is important for at least two reasons: 1. It points out that the “Spirit of the LORD” will rest on the Messiah and 2. What the characteristics of the “Spirit of the LORD” look like.

Regarding the first, God is showing that these 7 characteristics of the Holy Spirit will be on the Messiah and we will be able to see that He is the Messiah because of these things. They are: 1. The LORD, 2. Of wisdom, 3. Understanding, 4. counsel, 5. might, 6. knowledge and 7. Fear of the Lord. So Jesus embodied all of these things when He came to earth.

Regarding the second, this verse (Isaiah 11:2) helps us to understand other verses in the Bible such as Revelation 1:4 which talks about the “seven Sprits” of God. We’ve talked about how the number 7 represents completion and perfection in the Bible so it is no surprise that the Holy Spirit shows Himself in seven facets.

vv. 3-5. These verses mark the transition from talking about when the Messiah would come to earth for the first time and the Second Coming. So in verse 3 we see that the Messiah will “judge” but that it won’t be by what He sees or hears. The implication is that the Messiah will judge as no one else can – by looking at a person’s heart and having seen all time and every situation. Then verse 4 shows that the Messiah is the only one also fit to be Executioner: “He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth.” This is comparable (Source 2) with Revelation 19:15 which says, “He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.” Interestingly, just as in Revelation 2:27, the “rod of iron” are actually believers who are ruled by Jesus. One commentator puts it well, Jesus won’t be “Christianizing” (re-formatting existing governments into Christians) but will totally annihilate existing regimes and implement His own (“the taking of all dominion and authority out of their hands and putting it in the hands of Christ, as the true and only King of the world”) (Source 3).

But the good news is that Jesus will judge and rule with “righteousness” and “faithfulness.” The earth isn’t trading a group of dictators for another. One commentator says that here “the wicked” should be translated “the wicked one” noting that Satan will be at his peak during the Great Tribulation but then Jesus will come down from heaven and establish His kingdom” (Source 1, p. 110). That’s good news and something for us to look forward to!

vv. 6-9. Every commentator I could find said that although many people today have heard this is something that will literally take place in heaven, it is not. Although there will be peace in heaven the scene described here is about something more than lions laying down with lambs (as this is often quoted). I think Andrew Corbett, President of ICI Theological College Australia, explains it best: “This is not a picture of a Utopian Golden Era, referred to as The Millennium, rather it was a prophetic picture of the resultant peace from the spread of the New Covenant.” Finally he says, “In the meantime, the wolf lays down the lamb every time an Arab and a Jew find a common bond in knowing Christ as the Promised Prophet, Messiah and Saviour” (Source 4).

v. 10. Isaiah returns to the idea of Jesus being the “Root of Jesse” but this time we find that He will be a “banner to the people” and not just the chosen Hebrew people but the Gentile people also! A banner was an important thing, it was like a flag often used to put a type of coat of arms on, it distinguished what family you belonged to and where you would go. In the same way, when Jesus is our banner we belong to His family and we will go to heaven to be with Him in eternity.

Conclusion. I love that in just these 11 verses we’ve come from a promise of earthly salvation (for the Hebrews of 730 BC, when this was written), then to a promise that a Savior, Jesus, would come to earth in the earthly Hebrew bloodline of Jesse (why we celebrate Christmas) and finally a promise that the same Savior would save all mankind and rule His kingdom (which we haven’t seen yet). We are given great hope, living in 2015, seeing two of these three things come about we are given hope that God’s prophesies will come true because He is faithful and true to His word. With that in mind, knowing that we were sent Jesus as a Conqueror over death 2,000 years ago we are filled with hope that He will also come again as Conqueror over Satan and sin and pain!

 

References:

Source 1: J. Vernon McGee, Isaiah, Vol. I .

Source 2: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 972.

Source 3: Guzik, quoting Seiss, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Rev/Rev_19.cfm?a=1186001

Source 4: http://www.andrewcorbett.net/articles/lion-lamb .

Advertisements

Thanksgiving 2015

Today, in America we are celebrating a national holiday called “Thanksgiving” in commemoration of the Pilgrim’s thankfulness towards the indigenous Americans. But as we approach the 400 year anniversary of this event (2021) what actually drove it to be a national holiday? In 1789 our first President, George Washington declared a Day of Thanksgiving to God. To read it go here: http://www.heritage.org/initiatives/first-principles/primary-sources/washingtons-thanksgiving-proclamation . Then in the midst of our nation’s most heartbreaking conflict, the Civil War, our nation’s most comforting peacemaker, President Abraham Lincoln made a speech truly laying the foundation for the Thanksgiving holiday. Here is the speech, given shortly after Lincoln dedicated his life to Jesus Christ:

Proclamation of Thanksgiving by the President of the United States of America

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the field of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than theretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony wherof I have herunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

[Signed]
A. Lincoln

(http://christiananswers.net/q-wall/wal-alincoln-tgiving.html)

So I was reading 2 Corinthians 9:10-15 and felt like it fit today perfectly. No, I didn’t just do a word search for “thanksgiving” and throw something together. This came from my morning devotions where I felt I could truly learn a lesson from this section of Scripture. The context here is the “cheerful giver” where God, through Paul, reminds us that He doesn’t need our money and He’s not twisting our arms. We aren’t to give to God because we think we’ll get a blessing and not because the Bank of Heaven is bankrupt but because God has given us so much, and in humble gratitude we give back to Him what is already His!

Thank you Lord, for providing every aspect of our life, not only do you produce the food that will pile on our table today but you provided and fashioned the seed that it originated from. We pray that we aren’t relying on our righteousness because, in comparison to your right-ness, it is but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We pray that you would provide the seed of Your righteousness because that will produce the fruit of others giving thanksgiving through us to You. And to You and You alone belongs all honor, glory and thanksgiving.

Lucy: Can science be “Lucy Goosey”?

I’m not saying I’d wait in line for it, like I might for tickets to the new Star Wars, but whenever Google changes their homepage logo (called “Google Doodles”) I’m interested. Today I woke up to see Google spelled out with light grey, rock-like letters and a mini version of the familiar monkey becoming man line up (known as the “March of Progress”). When you hover over the Doodle it tells you that it’s been 41 years since “Lucy” was discovered and when you click on it the first link that comes up is “Who is Lucy Australopithecus and why was Obama allowed to touch that fossil?” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/google-doodle/12013826/Who-is-Lucy-the-Australopithecus.html). Lucy was supposedly our missing link to millions of years of evolution. But it’s been years since I’ve heard of Lucy, if she was the nail in the coffin of Creationism, why are there creationists still around today? Are we a bunch of ostriches with our heads in the sand? Are people like Ken Hamm lying to us?

I’ve been studying over Genesis 1 lately and I love how God has given us answers if we’ll just trust Him. In Genesis 1:24 it says, “Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so.” So all of the beasts of the earth were created and God wrote their DNA to produce after their own kind. Just like a cat doesn’t produce dogs and a monkey doesn’t produce…well, you know. I love the final words in this verse “and it was so.” What God has set in motion will be faithful to succeed and be accomplished exactly as He has set it. Then in Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let Us make man in Our image…” There is so much here but suffice it to say God (in the singular) says “Us” and “Our” (plural). No, God isn’t having an identity crisis but He is hinting at the fact that He is a Trinity and just as there are Three Persons existing in perfect unity, He will make humans as a trichotomy (body, soul and spirit). We have no indication that apes were given the special commendation of being made in “Our image” instead men and woman are to rule over the rest of creation (1:26).

Lucy. Two Theories, 1 Picture
Lucy: Two Theories in One Picture

Check out this article by John D. Morris, Ph.D. titled, “Was Lucy an Ape-man?”: http://www.icr.org/article/was-lucy-ape-man . I think it’s interesting that Australopithecus (Lucy’s species) was completely unique, which doesn’t mean there is a tie back to apes and forward to humans, it means that species may have just been a now extinct ape. I also found it interesting that the knee bone (the lynch-pin of the evolutionary argument) was actually found 1.5 miles away from the rest of the skeleton.

Think on these things. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) not sporadically and erratically materialized.

Devotional # 164. Colossians 4:12-18

Devotional # 164. 11/23/15. Colossians 4:12-18.

Intro.   Today we finish out the book of Colossians: we’ll be learning about more men of faith. As it seems with the world we know today, there were people in the early church that stuck with Jesus and the faith as well as some who fell away. What can we learn from Paul’s final words and goodbye?

vv. 12-13. Just like Onesimus (4:9), Epaphras was from Colossae (“one of you“). And as such Epaphras’ heart was with his hometown. Notice that Paul says he was “laboring fervently for you in prayers” (v. 12) and “great zeal for you” (v. 13). So even if we have moved out of our hometown it’s a good thing to keep the ministry there in prayer. If God has called you to another place other than where you grew up be faithful in that place, praying for it and acting in His will but don’t forget your roots. It will be such an encouragement for your brothers and sisters in your hometown to hear how you battle for them in prayer! And another thing we see about Epaphras, aside from the great compliment by Paul about him being a “bondservant of Christ“, is that he also kept Laodicea and Hierapolis in mind. 

Sadly, what we know from Scripture about Laodicea, things didn’t go so well. According to Revelation 3:14-22 the Church of  Laodicea was one of the “very bad” Churches. The city of  Laodicea lay on one of the great Asian trade routes, was a leading banking center and manufactured black wool. There are references to the emetic qualities of the soda-laden warm water from nearby Hierapolis, whose thermal springs ran into the Maeander. So we see that Hieropolis was close to Laodicea. It is believed that Hierapolis is where Phillip (the Apostle) was stoned to death.

v. 14. “Luke” and “Demas” are mentioned here. This is the Luke that wrote the Gospel of Luke, which was named for him. He was not an eye-witness of Jesus but he went around as a reporter and talked to eye-witnesses and as moved by the Holy Spirit wrote down the story of Jesus. He then worked with Paul, as more than an eye-witness, laboring with Paul and Timothy and Demas and the others who are mentioned here and in other epistles and gospels. He makes me think of our present day Lee Strobel who was a journalist for the Chicago Tribune and strong atheist who started investigating claims about Jesus and then became a Christian. He has written books like The Case for Christ (documenting his attempt to prove Christianity false, multiple interviews with evangelical Christian scholars and ultimately his conversion) as well as The Case for Faith, The Case for Christianity and The Case for the Real Jesus, among others. I would encourage you to read any and all of these. What we can learn from men like Luke who are educated (Paul was a doctor) is that Christians can be educated and still serve the Lord greatly. Obviously there are still men like Lee Strobel (and J.P. Moreland and Ravi Zacharias and R.C. Sproul and on and on) who carry on the tradition of telling others about Jesus with scholarship. Go ahead and look at this link of 20 apologists (and other cultural commentators): http://crossexamined.org/top-20-apologists . I suggest you look into how these people share their biblical worldview.

Notice Paul doesn’t give any positive mention of “Demas” and it seems like maybe that is for good reason. Although he is mentioned in Philemon 1:24 as a “fellow laborer” with Paul, the last mention of him in 2 Timothy 4:10 shows that Demas actually forsook Paul “having loved this present world” and that he went to Thessalonica (Source 1). It seems like Demas degenerated in his walk over time. We can learn a lot from this. It seems that the writers of the Bible are wise in reminding us that we can fall away from the Lord and our walk with Him. We may not plan it, or even think it would ever happen and yet it does. The longer we spend time in churches and fellowship with Christians the more chances we have to see this happen. Be warned do not lose your love for the Lord, do not allow your walk to become boring and uninspired. As soon as you settle in to monotony you will drift away from the Lord instead of sailing alongside Him.

v. 15. Here we’re told of “Laodicea” and “Nymphas.” We just talked about the area of “Laodicea” but now we’re introduced to “Nymphas.” Paul tells us that Nymphas’ had a church in his house and Paul greets Nymphas and all who are in that house church. Not much else is known about Nymphas himself but the house-church is an important part of church history. It wasn’t until some time in the third century that Christian churches were in there own large buildings. But knowing that Nymphas was a faithful man is encouraging especially in light of what we just learned about with Demas.

vv. 16-17. When a church got a letter from an apostle such as Paul or Peter they would read it in their church usually multiple times. They would often have people copy it and then pass it around to other churches. Paul gives specific instructions that the Colossians are to read the letter among themselves but then they are also supposed to pass it on to the Laodiceans and make sure that it’s read to them also. Paul is doing more than just reminding them, he’s making sure to call out the importance of the church in Laodicea. In just the seven verses Paul has mentioned the Laodiceans four times. He’s actually killing two birds with one stone: he’s making sure that the Colossians recognize the importance of the Laodiceans and other churches and that the Laodiceans both feel that they are important and recognize the importance of other churches like the one in Colossae.

Paul then says something interesting. He specifically tells the Colossians what to say to a man named “Archippus“. Archippus may have been Philemon’s son “since he is mentioned in the context of the wife of Philemon” (Philemon 1:1) (Source 1). We see Paul’s appreciated view of Archippus when he calls him “our fellow soldier.”

But it’s really interesting Paul doesn’t just say ‘hey, just remind him about this thing.’ Instead Paul specifically tells them the words that he wants used. God had a very specific message specifically directed at Archippus. I love that our Lord knows us by name, and that he has specific messages for us throughout our lives. Sure this message may speak to many other people who feel convicted that the Lord is speaking to them that’s one of the reasons God uses the Bible. But sometimes we can be so interested in applying it to our own lives that we forget about the person that it was initially intended for. Archippus was a real guy and really needed to be reminded by God to, “‘take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it’“. So it would seem that Archippus was not doing all he should with the ministry he had been given. I love the wording here, it was not “his ministry” it was a ministry that he had “received.” Every ministry that we have has been given by God to us it is owned by Him and He has hired us to do His work.

v. 18. Paul signs off on his letter to his friends in Colossae. He signs it by his “own hand” so that they will know that it is a credible letter and that they can believe it. As we’ve seen this was common for Paul and others of his age, to sign off on the letter whether they dictated it to someone else or wrote it with their own hand. Paul remind them of his “chains” – not to get sympathy out of them but because he wanted to remind them of his commitment level and what theirs should be. Not just was he able to give them encouraging words but he lived out his convictions. It also served to remind them to pray for him since it was a difficult place to be in. Paul then says, “grace be with you.” This is an appropriate reminder that God has extended kindness to us even though we didn’t deserve it. I think it’s really cool that even though Paul was in prison he still recognized God’s grace to him. Paul’s proper mindset on grace is then passed on to his friends there in Colossae. We can learn from this when we’re going through difficulties it is the mature Christian that can still encourage other Christians with words like “grace be with you” instead of “poor me”. Paul concludes with “amen” which means “may it be” or “so be it.” The use of “amen” is always the perfect bookend to a spiritual thought, prayer or letter. God is speaking through Paul saying, ‘everything that I’ve said here is righteous and true and will come to pass.’

Conclusion. As we close up the book of Colossians we should look back over some of the things we’ve learned. We talked about praying for others (1:9, 4:12) to be fruitful (1: 10) so that we can share Jesus’ salvation with others (1:14). We learned about Jesus’ nature and authority (1:15-18). We talked about how philosophy and legalism weren’t worth anything when compared with knowing Jesus (chapter 2). We spent some good time on the character of the believer and what our family relationships should look like (chapter 3). And here in chapter 4 we talked about walking in wisdom and redeeming the time (4:5). We then heard about some great men of the faith and how they can impact our lives nowadays (4:7-17). Again, all of these awesome and comforting thoughts were sealed with “amen” by God Himself, so we can take courage in knowing they are true and will come to pass.

I hope that as we transition into the blog format you will continue to receive these Devotionals and tell your friends, families and enemies (haha) about them. Again, it’s at: https://godsheartblog.wordpress.com , which is the main page where all devotionals will be posted.

 

References.

Source 1: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Col/Col_4.cfm?a=1111001

Devotional # 163. Colossians 4:1-11

Devotional # 163. 11/16/15. Colossians 4:1-11.

Intro. As we begin Colossians chapter 4 I want to tell you that I’ll be changing the format of this devotional in the coming weeks. I’m going to transfer over to a blog and I hope that you’ll continue reading on there. The plan is that I can do mini devotionals more often. Stay tuned for more info in the coming weeks.

Regarding Colossians 4: Paul finishes off talking to bosses and then he helps us understand the importance of prayer, witnessing to others about Jesus, how vital working with trusted brothers and sisters is and what it means to forgive someone for the betterment of the kingdom of God.

v. 1. Paul is finishing his thought from the last part of chapter 3. As I mentioned last week we hear about “masters“, nowadays we would call them managers or supervisors or bosses. So for those of us who are not bosses this tells us what Christian bosses should be like. For those of you who are bosses God is pretty clear that you are to be “just and fair.” But to what standard are you to be “just and fair“? As always, to the Bible’s standard. I’ve been a team leader before and I’ve been told to do things that are not ethical. Standing up for what is biblically right is much more important than doing what your boss tells you is “right.” Why is that? Doesn’t obeying your boss mean that you get further in the company? Maybe. It could also mean that if you’re doing something illegal you could be fined or imprisoned. But even if that doesn’t happen as a Christian you have an obligation to the Lord. Why is that? Because God has put you in a position to be a “master” on earth but ultimately He is the “Master in heaven.” In other words be “just and fair” to everyone because you have to answer to God for how you’ve acted. But beyond that God is always interested in the heart. You shouldn’t be fair to your employees out of fear of what God will do to you, you should be fair to them because it’s right because your heart has been changed to desire justice and the love of Christ that all people would be saved. One last thought before we move on, make sure you note that this is for Christian bosses – this doesn’t apply to people who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It would be nice if they acted this way but we cannot expect them to if they have not had Christ transform their life.

vv. 2-6. Paul transitions here having talked about what mothers and fathers and children and workers and bosses should live like to Christian prayer and sharing Jesus with others. By context, of course this ties to how we should live as families and workers and bosses: in prayer. But Paul isn’t just talking about our roles in those things but also in general as Christians. He tells us to “continue earnestly in prayer.” This tells us at least two things: 1. the Colossians had been praying (in order to “continue“) and 2, it was to be “earnest” prayer. This means to be serious and recognize the importance of prayer. You are talking to the God of the universe and He has the power to answer your prayers, do not be flippant or condescending or disrespectful when you pray. And, as is often the case with Paul, he reminds us that we are to pray with “thanksgiving.” When I read this I can’t help but think of the American holiday of Thanksgiving coming up next week. The whole point of the holiday, and what Paul is saying here, is that we recognize it is God who provides for us and takes care of us and blesses us. Regardless of what we are praying for we must recognize and give thanks for what He has already done and given us. Paul reminds the Colossians, and us also, that we are to be praying for other Christians that God would give them the boldness and the power to preach Jesus to those who don’t know Him. But how can we do this if we haven’t recognized our “thankfulness” for the abundant life that God has given us and the sinful life that He pulled us out of? When we talk about Jesus to others it is “as [we] ought to speak.” It’s not something that we should dread it’s not something that were forced into it just goes with the Christian life.

In verse 5 Paul gives us a short but very helpful set of instructions on how to witness to people about Jesus. In Ephesians 5:1-14 (Devotional # 106–107) we talked about three “walk” commands. They were “walk in love” (5:2), “walk as children of light” (5:8) and “walk circumspectly” or carefully (5:15). Now we’re told by Paul to “walk in wisdom” but what does that mean? Matthew Henry says this basically means to be smart in the way you approach non-Christians, don’t allow their customs to influence you and don’t do them any wrong (Source 3) so that they will not curse you but instead bless the Lord. This is to those “who are outside” which means not Christians. Personally I think of it as meaning outside the gates of heaven, because that puts it in perspective for me. If you’re not going to heaven then you’re going to hell. And every Christian is called to share Jesus with those who are going to hell, just as we who were going to hell were shared with. And how are we supposed to share Jesus with others? 1. Having our “speech always be with grace” which means “To speak what is spiritually, wholesome, fitting, kind, sensitive, purposeful, complementary, gentle, truthful, loving, and thoughtful” (Source 1, p. 1839). 2. Our speech is supposed to be “seasoned with salt“, we’re reminded that “just as salt not only flavors, but prevents corruption, the Christians speech should act not only as a blessing to others, but as a purifying influence within the decaying society of the world” (Source 1, p. 1839). And when these two things are done then we will know how we ought to answer each person who doesn’t know Jesus.

vv. 7-9. Now we come to a point which is fairly typical for Paul’s writings where he mentions specific people and their role within the church as a whole. A lot of times when we’re reading we discount people’s names because we don’t really know them and we think what can an old dead person really teach me about the Lord? But a lot can be learned! For example listen to my sermon on Romans 16 here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=83115034446 .

The first person mentioned here is Tychicus and what he does and that he’s traveling to Colossae is talked about in verse 7 which you can read and meditate on, on your own. But I found it interesting that along with him being “a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord” he was one of the Gentiles who was saved through Paul’s preaching and then Paul took him to Jerusalem as a representative of what God had done in Acts 20:4 (Devotional # 60). We also spent a good amount of time talking about him when we were studying Ephesians 6:21-22, Devotional # 120, if you care to re-read that. He’s also talked about in 2 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12.

The second person mentioned here is Onesimus who is also talked about in Philemon 1:10. I really like Onesimus. He was “the runaway slave who’s return to his master was the basis for Paul’s letter to Philemon” (Source 1, p. 1839). In his introduction to the book of Philemon, MacArthur does a great job of explaining some more key information. The thing that I want you to know is that when the slave Onesimus became a Christian he recognized that he needed to go back to his master but it wasn’t safe for him to return because of slave traders. So Paul had Tychicus (who we just talked about) accompany Onesimus and they were the ones who took this letter that we’re reading to the Colossians! (Source 1, p. 1890).

vv. 10-11. We continue on, hearing about Aristarchus, Mark and Justus. These guys were Jewish, we know this because they were “of the circumcision” (v. 11).

Aristarchus was Paul’s “fellow prisoner.” It is possible that this is referring to when Aristarchus was imprisoned along with Paul in Acts 19:29 (Devotional # 59) or how he accompanied Paul when Paul was a prisoner in Acts 27:2 (Devotional # 71). It could also be that at the time Paul was writing this very letter, Aristarchus was in prison with him. Isn’t it interesting that Aristarchus had a habit of being alongside Paul, getting imprisoned whenever Paul did (Source 2)? You can tell that Paul appreciates it and calls them his “fellow workers for the kingdom of God.” I challenge you, if you’re not called to lead a group of people working for the “kingdom of God”, that you find someone who is and become a “fellow worker” with them. You can’t believe what it means to someone who is sharing Jesus with others and praying (as Paul’s been telling us here) to have others come alongside and help with the burden. You can see Aristarchus again in Philemon 1:24.

This is the Mark who wrote the gospel of Mark. Remember that the story was re-counted by Peter and transcribed by young John Mark (as he is also called). I love that the Bible tells us the difficulties that have always existed between imperfect people doing the Lord’s work, and yet this is a section that shows us what reconciliation looks like. Do you remember when we went through Acts 13:13-38 (Devotionals # 53) we saw that Mark didn’t finish out the trip he was supposed to take and Paul didn’t accept it? In fact Barnabas forgave Mark and continued to work with him although Paul split off and went with Silas in Acts 15:36-40 (Devotional # 55)? But here in Colossians this shows us that Paul and Mark did patch up their differences (as well as 2 Timothy 4:11) and that they worked together. A couple weeks ago when we were going through “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another” in Colossians 3:13 (Devotional # 161) I mentioned that I’ve thought about leaving churches before because people hurt my feelings or made me angry but that too many times I’ve read in my Bible how much Jesus wants the church to have unity and not division. Now to be honest, I see where Paul is coming from in not feeling like he can trust Mark for ditching them, but I also have to understand that Mark was young and may not have had the perseverance to commit to doing what he was supposed to do. And I think the reasons I just mentioned were understood by the separate parties of Paul and Mark and that’s what helped them come to an understanding. And that’s what we need. Understanding to come to an understanding. If it’s up to you don’t allow yourself to never reconcile with another Christian, they might be able to be become a close, “fellow worker” with you. Notice that Paul had given the Colossians an open-ended “command” to accept Mark if he ever came through Colossae. A personal recommendation from Paul was no small thing.

And lastly is Jesus, which is the English translation of the Hebrew name Yeshua (which in English is Joshua). Obviously this isn’t Jesus Christ but another man who was born with the name Jesus. But now he went by the name Justus, which Matthew Henry thinks might have been out of respect for our Lord Jesus (Source 3). We don’t know anything more about him but that he was one of the three men in Rome at this time, who were of Hebrew decent that were of great comfort to Paul. It’s no small thing to be a comfort to a great man of God!

Conclusion. I think this is a great section of Scripture. There is so much here. We’re taught about general praying and praying for other Christians. We’re taught about “walking in wisdom” when it comes to sharing Jesus with others. We’re also given insight into what some of the guys who helped out Paul were like. I love the real people that we hear about in the Bible! What great stories so many Christians have, and how they are used by God. Next week we’ll go over some more people who were instrumental in the growth of the early church.

 

References.

Source 1: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible.

Source 2: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Col/Col_4.cfm?a=1111001 .

Source 3: Matthew Henry, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Col/Col_004.cfm?a=1111001 .

Devotional # 162. Colossians 3:18-25

Devotional # 162. 11/9/15. Colossians 3:18-25.

Intro.  When we started this chapter we saw that our minds were to be set on the things of heaven even though we’re still on the earth. This chapter has been great because we’ve seen what the Christians character is supposed to be like. Now we see the first place that it is evidenced: in the home. How we really are and who we really are is most obvious when we’re at home dealing with our family.

vv. 18-20. Most of this you’ll recognize as being very similar to what we read in Ephesians 5:22-6:3 and specifically verses 22-24 and 6:1 (Devotionals # 110-111). Some of the things we talked about were how the foundation was set in Eph. 5:21 where it told us that EVERY (man and women believer) submit to EACH OTHER in the fear of God. From that we respect God when we respect each other and our different roles. The wife isn’t actually submitting to her husband she is submitting “to the Lord”, by obeying His command and as if she’s doing it directly to Him. In the same way the husband submits to the Lord Jesus also by loving his wife in the way Jesus loves us.

Noted differences between the passage in Ephesians and here are:

-In Ephesians 5:25 & 28 husbands are told to love their wives “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” and that husbands should love their wives as their “own bodies” but here in Colossians 3:19 husbands are told to love their wives and “not be bitter towards them.” What would cause a husband to be bitter towards his wife? If we keep our rule of looking at context then the assumption would be that Paul had heard about the husbands in Colossae being bitter towards their wives, or that when other Christian men acted or spoke bitterly of their wives they did not discourage those men from acting that way. Maybe the ladies displayed a better Christian life than their husbands or maybe they were always nagging their husbands. The more you read the Bible the more you see that not a lot has changed over thousands of years. But regardless of why you feel bitter towards your wife – it is wrong. Give it over to God and stop leaching poison into your marriage and your family. As a husband you are responsible to God to lead well, not to be bitter towards your wife even if she deserves it!

-In Ephesians 6:1 children are told to “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” but in Colossians 3:20 children are told to “obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” It’s cool because the authority that we’re supposed to teach our kids is still there (“the Lord” Jesus) but now we also see that kids are supposed to obey “in all things.” As we’ll see towards the end of this devotional God doesn’t let us escape out of doing things with loop-holes and omissions. Instead children are to obey their parents in “all things.” Why is that? Because parents are the representation of God and we’re teaching them to obey God in all things!

v. 21. Again, fathers are reminded not to provoke their children just as they were in Ephesians 6:4. I was talking with my kids about this yesterday and because context is always crucial I read just prior in Colossians 3:17 (“whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus”) to them. And when we got to this verse it hit me that we were really talking about verbal and physical abuse also. So if my daughter failed a math test and I tell her how stupid she is and that she needs to study harder then my “words” are provoking her. And if my son is playing a hockey game and another kid checks him and he cries, if I’m walking out to the car and I shove him into another car to toughen him up, then my “deeds” are provoking him. Either way, verbal and physical abuse are not OK.

One noticeable difference between Ephesians and here is that Ephesians just gives us instruction on not provoking our children and that we should be “bringing them up in the training in admonition of the Lord” but here in Colossians we see why we shouldn’t provoke them. It’s because they will “become discouraged.” Any normal parent knows that they should not discourage their children from good things. In fact I find that I spend a significant amount of time encouraging my children because they can get discouraged fairly easily. What does it say about us as Christians if we’ve “put to death” our sins and “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering” and bore with each other and forgiven each other (3:12-13) but here we sit provoking our children to anger and depression? A very good case could be made that you haven’t “put off” those sins or “put on” all those good Christian qualities in the first place. It doesn’t matter how loving you are towards those antagonistic, nonbelieving family members or how ethical you are at work or how charitable you are to the bum panhandling in the parking lot; if you don’t show love to your children, teach ethics to your children and give to your children. In fact since God is all about your heart, I would venture to say that all of those other ministries that you think you’re doing so well are actually failing because everything that we do affects our witness and those around us. You may disagree with me, you may think that what you do when no one is watching doesn’t affect anyone, but you’re wrong.

v. 22. Speaking of work – we’re told how workers (“bondservants“) should work for their bosses (“masters“). Just like in Ephesians 6:5 we’re told to obey our bosses “in the flesh…in sincerity of heart, as to Christ.” So it’s recognized that these are our bosses in the flesh not our eternal “Boss”, we only have to obey these bosses as long as it doesn’t conflict with what God has told us. And we’re not to fake it but we’re supposed to be “sincere in our heart” as if we are working for Jesus. Because ultimately we are working for Jesus.

If you consider yourself a worker and you were concerned that “masters” didn’t get talked to by Paul that will happen next week in chapter 4. If you consider yourself a “master” (a supervisor or manager or President or CEO) then the same applies – next week we’ll talk about your role.

vv. 23-25. Just in case you think you can come up with something that isn’t included in what Paul has just said, he makes sure to tell us that “whatever you do“, you are to: 1. “Do it heartily” and 2. “As to the Lord and not to men” (v. 23).  So we’re not allowed to do it halfway, we can’t do “good enough.” We’re held to a standard of doing everything that we do to the best of our ability because it will glorify our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a tough thing to hear, it means that even the things that I don’t consider important I need to be able to do my best. And if we get into this mentality then even the things that we don’t consider work will begin to pop into our head as important and to do them to the best of our ability.

Paul doesn’t just tell us to do something and not explain that we will be rewarded for it. But it’s a different kind of reward than what we’re used to. We “will receive the reward of the inheritance” and we’ve talked about our “inheritance” before. This inheritance was understood by the Colossians because in Rome the law said if you adopted a child then legally they had the same rights as your children by birth. So God will reward us with the same inheritance that His Son has: eternal life in heaven, hanging out with the Father and humbling ourselves in ways that glorify God for eternity! This sounds foreign to us and maybe unrewarding because all too often we leave it up to our imagination to try and make this seem worth it. But if we just read through the Bible we will see the descriptions and gain a fuller understanding of the true riches that await us after death. But these things are given to us because we “serve the Lord Christ.” If you don’t serve Him how can you expect to gain the inheritance, if you don’t take Him at His word how can you believe His promises? And so we come full circle. We’ve just been told how to be a “bondservant” and then we’re told to “serve” our “Lord Christ” or “Master Savior.”

Finally, we are told that there is “no partiality” when it comes to this with God. If we accept the “inheritance” and all of the blessings that go along with it but we don’t do what we know we’re supposed to do and we don’t “serve” then why would we expect not to be repaid for the wrong that we have done? But instead of focusing on what we haven’t done let’s concentrate on doing the right thing. Make a deal with yourself today, right now, that you will serve the Lord and do everything “in sincerity of heart, fearing God” and then, pray for Him to help you. Step out in that faith and “do it heartily“! I know that it seems impossible but the only way to run a marathon is to take the first step.

Devotional # 161. Colossians 3:12-17

Devotional # 161. 11/2/15. Colossians 3:12-17.

Intro.  I love that Paul, having given us two lists of the “dont’s”, now gives us a list of the “do’s.” Why did he start off with the bad stuff? Because we always need to be cognizant of the bad stuff, the “sin” first in order to see the good, the “fruit.” I was reading a devotional by John Piper on “hating what is evil and embracing what is good” (read it here: http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/abhor-what-is-evil-hold-fast-to-what-is-good-11600930.html ) and it stood out to me that “good” and “evil” are objective. God is above everyone so regardless of what a psychologist or comedian or dictator or Bible teacher says, if it doesn’t match up to the Bible and God’s definition of “good” and “evil” then it’s not true. The mere fact that I can say “true” in that last sentence shows that I believe in absolute truth, as taught in the Bible. So why did I just say that I loved Paul’s list of “do’s” here? Because it’s the perfect contrast. Having gone through the sexual “don’ts” (Col. 3:5-6) and what we may view as the “smaller sins” last week (3:8-9) Paul’s juxtaposition of the “do’s” makes it clear what side we’re on.

vv. 12-13. The things Paul is about to tell us is because we are “the elect of God” which means we’re not converted solely by our own choice but in answer to “God’s effectual, free, uninfluenced, and sovereign grace” (Source 1). So because God predestined us as “holy and beloved“* we are to have the following character traits. But first Paul tells us to “put on”. Last week we really looked into what it meant to “put off” – it means to “renounce” and remember I said it was like taking off a coat and throwing it off a cliff, on fire? It can’t be put back on. Now we’re told to “put on“. In the same way we were told to “put on” the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18, Devotional #119) we’re told to “put on” these qualities or fruits. But do we “put them on” like a coat which is very easily taken off? No. When these are “put on” it’s like stepping out in a new body. We are “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and in the same way that we can’t step out of our skin, when God has made us a new creation we have “put on” these things that Paul is talking about and they can’t come off. Now that we understand how we get these and aren’t able to take them off, let’s look at the “character traits” or “fruit” or “qualities” that every Christian has:

Tender mercies. In the past we’ve talked about how “mercy” is not getting the punishment that we deserve. In other words we deserve hell so God showed us “mercy” by not sending us there if we accept Jesus. Since we’re very well acquainted with this concept as freely given to us by God we need to extend that same “mercy” to the others that we deal with on a daily basis. But we don’t extend this “mercy” coldly or angrily. We also aren’t egotistical about it (we will talk about “humility” in a minute). Instead we are to do this “tenderly” and from my experience this is easier for ladies to do than men. Ladies, generally have the ability to show love and compassion especially when they’re being merciful. But guys act differently around “the boys” and although they may show a little bit more tenderness around ladies it’s not something that comes naturally to them. And that’s why I love that Paul tells us to show “tender mercies“. The whole point is that you can’t do this on your own, it doesn’t come naturally to you. So when you’ve prayed for this and you “put on” Jesus you start to be able to do this. I guarantee you that both men and women will look at you differently when you display “tender mercies” to them – they will see that it’s not of you but that it’s of Jesus.
Kindness. This isn’t a “kindness” that you can manufacture on your own, just like the “tender mercies”. Yes, you can show kindness to someone on your own but what differentiates this from your own kindness is a Spirit filled “kindness.” For example I can be kind and help an old lady cross the street and when that’s done in 5 minutes I walk away and feel good about myself. When we have a Spirit-filled “kindness” it costs us. We may be called to love the un-lovable. We may have to be kind to someone for years before they will even listen to the message of Jesus. Human kindness rarely acts out of self-deprecation and pure good-will but that’s exactly what the “kindness” we “put on” looks like: we could care less about ourselves and seek for the person to only see Jesus.

Humility. This is something in my personal life I’ve been realizing I really need to work on. Everybody has pride, some people are just better at hiding it than others. When we think of ourselves as having done great things we’re really stealing from how great God is. My son is running for Vice President at his school and he has to write a speech. I was telling him to mention some of the things that he’s done were good qualities about himself. As he was thinking about it he didn’t want to say any because he told me he would be afraid that it would sound like bragging. I had to explain that there are qualities that God has worked in to us and it’s OK to tell people about those as long as we give God the glory. So humility is recognizing our place on God’s earth, in God’s will.

Meekness. We’ve talked about “meekness” before, it means “strength under control.” So we may know everything a person is talking about but instead of interrupting them we let them finish. Or maybe we are able to easily “overpower” them but we choose not to for the glory of the kingdom. An example is when my son wants to arm wrestle me and I let him win. This is “meekness.” What would it accomplish if I ripped his arm out of its socket slamming it through the table? Would I prove that I’m better than him? Maybe, but can you imagine all of the negative things that would happen because of that? So instead I put up a good fight but have self-control. So obviously this isn’t the same as “weakness” and we don’t always have to let a person “win.” But in the same way as arm wrestling a kid, when we have the opportunity to build friendships with non-believers or to encourage other Christians sometimes we need to deal with them with “kid gloves” we need to have the patience and discernment to control the spiritual strength we have. Yes, we may be bored or frustrated but ultimately a person will see Jesus better because of our “strength under control.”

Long-suffering. As with many of these we’ve talked about “long-suffering” before. I love the verses in the Bible where God stretches out His hand (like Psalm 18:16: “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters”). The picture is painted that God “suffers long” waiting for us, helping us. In the same way, we should “suffer long” for those who don’t know God. I believe this comes with the “humility” that we just talked about. Many times we can power through a tough situation because we’re convinced that if we just suffer, God will reward us. But we’re not called to suffer alone. So we “suffer long” for a soul not because we’re so great but because the soul of a person matters to God and we realize the worth.

Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another. The importance of unity within the church cannot be overstated. I will be the first to admit I’ve thought about leaving churches before because people hurt my feelings or made me angry, thinking “this isn’t worth it…I’m done.” But I’ve read my Bible enough to know that Jesus’ main desire for the church is to stay united in Him through all adversity. If we had done this than there wouldn’t be so many denominations, but we’re humans and we get our feelings hurt or don’t have patience for others. So when we “bear with” each other and “forgive” each other we exemplify Jesus and He is glorified. If you noticed above what I wanted to do and what the Bible told me to do were two very different things.

Paul finishes his character traits, specifically about “forgiveness”, stating “if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” As always our model is Christ. I can’t explain any better than that!

 

*”Holy and beloved” – This “holiness” is something that is given to us by God. We can never be holy in the way that God is holy, but He makes us “set apart for his service” so the underlying meaning of “holiness” here is like “sanctification” (Source 2). And regarding “beloved”, MacArthur says, “election means believers are the objects of God’s incomprehensible special love” (Source 1). The understanding of “holy” and “beloved” is tied to the “elect of God” that we just saw.

vv. 14-15. Paul tells us again to “put on” but this time we’re told what the most important thing is: “love.” Is this “love” like “I love hotdogs”, or is it deeper? Does it mean commitment and showing favor to someone regardless of what they have done to you? I think it’s that one. And we’re told that, that kind of “love” is the “bond of perfection.” Another way to understand this is “perfect bond of unity” (Source 1). This makes total sense having just talked about unity in verse 13!

After we’re told about that “love” we’re reminded that the “peace of God” should rule our hearts. We can’t allow something to “rule our hearts” if we’ve never experienced it. This peace is a contentment with whatever happens to us. Knowing that God will take care of us no matter what is very reassuring. It allows us to keep the unity (“one body”) and the right mindset of being “thankful.” When we take a step back this section clearly states exactly what we need and what every human is looking for. We just don’t like what we have to do to get there. Let me break it down: we have to put off our old life (vv. 5-9) we put on the new character traits (vv. 12-13), we put on love (v. 14) and we let the peace of God rule our hearts (v. 15). At that point we’re too content to have disagreements so we recognize what God has done and we are thankful. When we’re kept busy with the things of the Lord we’re too busy to complain about what we don’t have (and really don’t need) instead we focus on how blessed we are.

v. 16. As I was reading through this verse I thought about Paul writing these words. And I thought about how I write words and a year later I’ll read back over them and I think “wow, I don’t remember writing that.” But these aren’t just Paul’s words, it was inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). So although I’m not sure if Paul’s memory of everything he wrote was always written on his heart we know that the forty something writers of the Bible had a very unique ministry for the Lord. They were writing the words of God – something that we are told to write on our hearts.

We notice that when it is the “word of Christ” that dwells inside of us we are able to “teach and admonish one another.” We don’t need an apostle or angel or specially certified administrator to teach us. The dark ages were a very dark time because the church would only allow their teachers to read the Bible and since they were the primary ones teaching people how to read they controlled how much people heard the Bible. Sadly that meant that their doctrines were pushed on people more than the “word of Christ.” And so it finally took people standing up, learning how to read and securing Bibles for the masses to take the power back. To be honest, I understand why the church leaders at that time were concerned and Paul actually warns us about it here by using the word “wisdom.” If people are left up to their own devices and do not have wise biblical counseling and teaching they can come up with many false doctrines and spread much confusion. But the fear of what might happen cannot dissuade us from people being able to read the Bible. We must have faith that Jesus will keep His word intact and follow His directions to let it dwell in us “in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with Grace in our hearts to the Lord.”

Back in Ephesians 5:19 (Devotional #109) we were told to exhort each other with spiritual songs. There we were commanded to “speak psalms” to “one another” because it is the word of God. Isn’t it interesting that’s the same thing we just heard here?! Also we were told to sing “hymns and spiritual songs” to each other because the Lord’s truth is found in correct worship music. And here, as we sing that music “to the Lord” we keep “grace in our hearts.” Another way to translate this is to have “gratitude in our hearts.”

v. 17. We’re reminded that no matter what we do (whether “word or deed”) we do everything in the name of our Master Jesus. “Word or deed” encompasses everything that we’ve talked about in this devotional, and floods into every area in our lives. When it says we do this in the “name” of Jesus what does that mean? Well, the name “Jesus” is Yehowshuwa in Hebrew (Source 3) and Iesous in Greek but either way it means “Yahweh is salvation” (Source 4). And so we are supposed to act and speak consistently with “God who is salvation.” We aren’t messengers who preach our own wishes or gospel instead we preach the only One who can save – Jesus alone. And it is “through” Jesus that we and anyone else will have access to “God the Father.”

 

References.

Source 1: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1838

Source 2: N.T. Wright, Colossians and Philemon, p. 141.

Source 3: Yehowshuwa, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3091&t=KJV

Source 4: Iesous, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2424&t=KJV

Devotional # 160. Colossians 3:8-11

Devotional # 160. 10/26/15. Colossians 3:8-11.

Intro.  The last time we were in Colossians we talked about sexual sins like “fornication” and “passion” but we said we no longer live in those sins so we shouldn’t be walking in the same way non-Christians are. This week we have another list of sins but I encourage you not to look at it as just a list. A lot of times the sexual sins we just saw in vv. 5-7 are looked at as “big sins” whereas the ones in verse 8 are maybe looked at as “lesser”. But Paul’s desire is that we are changed in every area of our lives, not just the “big” stuff.

v. 8. Paul starts off with “but now you yourselves are to put off all these:” I’m interested in what the original Greek for “put off“. It’s one word, apotithemi(G659), which means “to put away (literally or figuratively)” or “renounce” (Source 1). We’ve talked about this idea before and it’s not like taking off a coat (which can easily put back on) but it’s like throwing the coat off a cliff…on fire! It’s completely wanting nothing to do with it any more. Let’s see what a few of the sins are that we should have heaved off the side of a cliff…on fire, long ago.
Anger” – Since Jesus is our representation of God we see the proper way God handles things by looking at what Jesus did and said. Jesus was “angry” at points in the New Testament. For example in Mark 1:43 he “sternly charged” the leper not to tell anyone about Him, in Mark 10:13-16 Jesus was angry with the disciples when they tried to send away the mothers and children and of course the most famous story when Jesus was angry with the moneychangers in the temple (Matthew 21:12). But this “anger” was perfect because Jesus was perfect. It was not sin because it had no ill will towards the person or people but instead at those people’s sins. When Paul talks about this “anger” that is sin for us he means when we are upset with an unrighteous anger. It’s not good enough to say ‘someone sinned against me, so I have a right to be angry with them.’ For all the many things Jesus has done to be our brother and friend, He is also separate from us being God. And in being such you’ll notice it was never about Jesus’ “right” or “pride” being wounded, it was never because he was embarrassed that He was angry.

Wrath” – Interestingly we were just talking about “wrath” two weeks ago. But notice that difference “because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience” (3:6) and “put off…wrath.” Why is it OK for God to have “wrath” but not us? The quick answer is: “because He is God and He says so.” But as humans we don’t like that, we want an explanation. So the longer version would be that God knows everything and His wrath is holy and just. Since He is the only one who can righteously bring “wrath” He is the only one who can bring salvation. We can do neither. Our judgment is clouded and our wrath is in the heat of the moment. When God judges it is outside of time and space and therefore not with a biased mind or other outside influences. But we have all of those things and that’s why we should not be “wrathful.”

Malice” – The word “malice” is kakia (G2549) in the Greek and means “ill-will” or “a desire to injure” or “wickedness that is not ashamed to break laws” (Source 2). This above the others mentioned here seems like the most outwardly evil sin. It really makes me question how a person could call themselves a Christian and desire “ill-will” of other believers. Granted, it may be hidden down deep in our heart and it doesn’t come to the surface of our mind until we’ve prayed that God would reveal to us our heart.

Blasphemy” – The word here is blasphemia (G#988) and can be defined as “slander” or “reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty” (Source 3). What that means is when people reject the Holy Spirit’s calling they are actually insulting Him and saying He is a liar and they will not be forgiven for that sin (Matthew 12:31). Another example is when we say that Jesus is not God (John 10:33) or when we say He cannot forgive sins (Luke 5:21). Now most Christians would not say it in the clear and concise way that I just did. But often we think blasphemous things, making ourselves better than our Lord, trying to be our own savior or the savior of someone else.

filthy language out of your mouth” – We’ve talked about “filthy language” before, for example almost exactly a year ago when we were in Ephesians 5:3-4 (Devotional 106). In fact the week before that we read Ephesians 4:30-32 (Devotional 105) and we tied the idea of saying ‘I can’t help cussing’ being just like saying, ‘Jesus doesn’t have the power to change my life’, which is a composition of “blasphemy” and “filthy language.”

vv. 9-10. Why does Paul separate the “lying” that the Colossians were doing? Why didn’t he just add it in with the list of bad stuff he just gave? He separates it because they were “lying” to each other. It’s bad if they were “lying” to non-Christians but it’s even worse that they were lying to each other. What were they lying about? We can’t be completely sure but I can hypothesize having been in enough churches made up of broken people. He could have been talking about when we’re at church and someone asks how we are and we say “fine” but really we’re hurting or angry or frustrated. Instead of confiding in that person we just tell them we’re OK. Maybe they don’t seem to have the time, maybe we’re afraid, maybe we’ve shared with someone before and they stabbed us in the back but whatever the reason – we’re lying to our sisters and brothers. Or maybe we embellish a conversation making ourselves sound more spiritual than we were but – we’re lying to our sisters and brothers. Or maybe other Christians are needy or annoying and ask us to hang out or go to lunch or take a trip with them and we say we’re busy but – we’re lying to our sisters and brothers.

The reason given is that we’ve put off the old person we once were. So we come upon the “put off” idea again but now we’re told what we’ve “put on.” Let’s look at the next verse.

v. 11. I love how so many biblical teachings are connected here! As we’re told in Genesis 1:27 we were created in the image of God. But when we sinned it distorted our image and our ability to automatically live eternally with Him. But when Jesus died on the cross for our sins He restored our ability to live eternally with God. Now we must choose but the work has been done for us. Now we can be a “new creation” which is essentially what we would have been prior to sin. And when humans were created in the image of God was He a Caucasian God? Was He Chinese? No, the races were split up because of sin at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) so it doesn’t matter who you are (Hebrew, Greek, Scythian, Hungarian, American, etc.) when we become a “new creation” we are back in the image of God. We are able to take part in the “nature of God” (according to 2 Peter 1:4). All of this points to a line drawn in the sand, a difference from how we were before we accepted Christ and how we are after. If we act the same way as the rest of the world what was the change? A “new creation” agrees that the “old us” has been “put off” (of a cliff…on fire!) and there is something “new” that wasn’t there before. So only then does it makes sense that “Christ is all” (as in ‘everything we can ever need’) and “in all” (as in ‘dwelling in anyone willing to accept Him, regardless of race or gender or other prejudice)!

Conclusion. The two things that I took away from this study is: 1. the need for me to be constantly conscious of my heart toward other believers, and 2. How cool it is that God created us in His image and has taken steps to put us back to that place, regardless of our race or family or religious practices. Will you pray over these things in your own life?

 

References.

Source 1: apotithemi (G659), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G659&t=KJV .

Source 2: kakia (G2549), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2549&t=KJV .

Source 3: blasphemia (G#988), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G988&t=KJV .

Devotional # 159. John 20:1-31

Devotional # 159. 10/19/15. John 20:1-31, focusing on vv. 14-31.

Intro.  This week we’re hitting “pause” on Colossians for several reasons. A couple weeks ago I gave a sermon titled “The Trinity” (if you want to listen to it go to: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=927151426321 ). I prayed that mature and immature believers would get a lot out of it as well as non-believers. But I also prayed that Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons would somehow hear it. Well, God answers prayers because a guy in Arizona, who is a Mormon, not only listened to the message but responded with a four page email. He pointed out things he agreed with and things he didn’t agree with and asked questions. I was researching one of the questions last night and what I saw astounded me! In fact it was so cool that I wanted to share it with all of you.

The guy’s question was: “I know of at least 11 times in the NT where Jesus or the apostles taught that the Father is Jesus’ God, that both we and Jesus have the same God and Father, that is, God the Father (“I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God” etc.)  What does that mean?  And does this principle fit your view of the Trinity that Jesus is fully God, equal to God the Father?”

Since he referenced John 20:17 (“I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to my God and your God“) I decided to look at that section of Scripture and hence why we’re looking at it now. As I read through it I saw John 20:17-31 divided into three parts so let’s look at those now:

vv. 14-17. Jesus’ command. First, we look at the context: Jesus has just appeared to Mary after rising from the dead, she holds Him (interestingly similar to the women in Matt. 28:9 who worship and hold His feet) and He says “do not cling to Me.” He then tells her this quote with the command to tell the disciples (“brethren“) what He says. You see sometimes people can get so hung up on a word (in this case “God”) that they miss the reason it was said, and therefore they misunderstand the word itself. If we didn’t read the context around what Jesus said here we might miss the fact that Jesus tells Mary to go tell the disciples that He is “ascending to My Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.So this is the first point: that Jesus was giving a command to His disciples. With that in mind, what did He mean?

I agree with Augustine that Jesus is pointing out the difference in His relationship with the Father from the relationship the disciples have with the Father. Augustine explains: Jesus doesn’t say ‘our Father’, instead in one sense “He is mine and in another He is yours; by nature mine, by grace yours…my God, under whom I also am as a man; your God, between whom” I am a mediator (I modernized it a bit) (Source 1).

vv. 18-25. Thomas’ rejection. Here we see the other disciples believing in Jesus but not Thomas. We all know he is called “doubting Thomas” but now we see it’s so much more than that. Not only did Thomas not have faith that Jesus rose form the dead but he also was denying Jesus’ Lordship and Godship. Thomas’ rejection of the nature of Jesus and disobedience to the command of Jesus was a mistake. This is the second point: that one of the disciples did not obey Jesus’ command to recognize the relationship between the Son and the Father, and the Son and the disciples.

vv. 26-31. Thomas’ acceptance. Now Thomas finally sees Jesus and says, “my Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Be aware there are a lot of theories that Thomas didn’t really mean what he said, that Jesus wasn’t really God. But I’d like to mention a few things: 1. In English format of Greek this is: “mou kyrios kai mou theos“* and I would draw your attention to the word “kai” (Source 2). My Jehovah Witness friends say that this phrase should be read “My Lord” (Thomas looking at Jesus), “my God” (Thomas looking to heaven where the Father is) and yet we have that problematic word “and” noting that the second title applies to the same Person as the first; 2. Jesus’ response indicates that Thomas was not wrong; 3. If Jesus’ words “my God” in 20:17 referred to Jesus becoming a Man, than the same exact words must mean no less when they come from Thomas. So, what the Father is to Jesus in His humanity, Jesus is to Thomas (and therefore to us as well) (Source 3). What a beautiful thing for us to acknowledge: “my Lord” (Adonai i.e. “my Master and foundation”) and “my God” (Elohim i.e. my prince and Judge) (Source 4)! And this is the third point: Thomas disobeyed Jesus but was forgiven and restored, acknowledging that Jesus is God and we need to trust Him with everything. Everything means: what He says, what He does, that He is our Master and our God and that if He promised that He would rise from the dead then we also cling to His promise that we will rise from the dead!

 

*Technically the Greek format is: “kyrios mou kai o theos mou.”

 

Conclusion. Doesn’t it makes sense that the author (John) would record a message that Jesus wanted the disciples to know, then tell us indirectly that Thomas didn’t obey and a few verses later give us Thomas’ confirmation that He now did in fact agree with and desire to obey Jesus’ words? I love how God tells a few stories (Jesus appearing to Mary, Thomas not believing, Jesus talking about blessing the people who don’t get to physically see His hands and feet, etc.) and we get to know them. But then even after reading this chapter at least 10 times, I see a more intricate less direct story. But we wouldn’t have seen it if we didn’t look at the context.

It is great to see how God ties things together, answers prayers and most importantly teaches us how we’re supposed to act towards Him, but it’s also important to pray for the guy in Arizona. Will you pray with me for him? His name is Jonathan and we pray that he has a softened heart and that he would be saved by the Word of God!

 

References.

Source 1: David Guzik quoting Augustine: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Jhn/Jhn_20.cfm?a=1017001

Source 2: Greek for John 20:28: https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/jhn/20/1/t_conc_1017028

Source 3: Robert Bowman, Jr., https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/bowman_robert/trinity/trinity.cfm?a=1017028

Source 4: Matthew Henry, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jhn/Jhn_020.cfm?a=1017028

Devotional # 158. Colossians 3:5-7.

Devotional # 158. 10/12/15. Colossians 3:5-7.

Intro.  I seriously considered putting verse 5 into last week’s devotional because it fit so clearly in with what we studied. But then I decided that verses 1-4 should be their own thing and verses 5-7 would be really good to study as their own part. This week we see certain sins mentioned since: 1. we all deal with them, 2. it puts real, applicable meaning to God’s commands and 3. they illustrate the huge difference between living for Christ and living for sin.

v. 5. We start off with “therefore“, which shows what I was just saying, that this point is built off of what was said in verses 1-4. By way of reminder, if we died to our selves and our sins and have been resurrected in Jesus then why would we have anything to do with sin? That’s what Paul is building off of when he says “therefore”. Then he gives us a list of the things that are considered “earthly” or “sinful.” As we go through this list I challenge you to read it as it applies to you. Don’t worry about your friend or family member that you think exhibits these sins. Worry about yourself, let this be your litmus test.

fornication” according to Merriam-Webster’s is “consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other” (Source 1). It’s basically sex outside of marriage whether both people aren’t married at all or whether they are married and cheating on their spouse. Most people agree it’s wrong to cheat on your spouse (although popular culture has been eroding that for quite a while) but most people outside the church (and sadly many inside) think it’s a great idea for people to have sex before they get married. But I don’t care what anyone else says or how they try to change the meaning of the words – it’s wrong.

uncleanness” is akatharsia (G#167) in the Greek and can mean physical or moral uncleanness. In this case I think Paul means it “in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living” (Source 2). It’s worth quoting John Stott about the “fornication” coupled with “uncleanness”: in Greek the words for fornication and uncleanness combined, cover every kind of sexual sin (Source 3).

 Passion” isn’t evil in the sense of having passion for your work or a hobby but it is when it consumes your heart negatively. It’s worth looking at the word in the original Greek which is pathos (G#3806) and could be used in a positive or negative way. However, in the New Testament when it’s used it’s always with a bad connotation. To the Greeks when it was used negatively it could mean “a calamity, mishap, evil or affliction” (Source 4). Another way this can be translated is “lust.”

For “evil desire” I think the obvious question is what’s the difference between this and something like “passion”, “lust” or the “covetousness” which is coming next. One commentator says that where “passion” deals with physical lust, “evil desire” deals more with mental lust (Source 6).

Lastly, we have “covetousness, which is idolatry.” Let’s look at Romans 7:7 because not only does Paul use “covetousness” as an example showing how the law points out sin but he actually shares with us that “covetousness” was something that he struggled with personally. Paul says, “For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’” So Paul, using this in a sweeping sense, is saying ‘I would not have known fleshly desires but as soon as I knew I couldn’t have them I wanted them’. Stifler says that when other commentators say Paul is referring to “irregular and illicit” desires they are absolutely wrong! He goes on to ask how Paul, who had “blameless legal righteousness (Phil. 3:6)” and a “good conscience (Acts 23:1)” could die to irregular desires? He had already done this as had many of the moral Pharisees, but “it was only when [Paul] came to see that it was desire itself that was forbidden, that the sin lay in the wish itself, not in the thing wished for…that he died under its power” (Source 5). I think of the love of money being the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10) or not being drunk with wine (Eph. 5:18) and how it is not the thing wished for that is necessarily the sin but the desire to have something that you selfishly want, too much of a good thing or even more importantly that God has not given you.

We saw a list similar to this in Ephesians 5:6-7, Devotional 107 (“fornication”, “all uncleanness”, “foolish talking” and “course jesting”, etc.). Remember, here in Colossians Paul just told us to put our mind on things above “not on things on the earth” (3:2). This isn’t just because we’re Christians but it also has to do with the coming judgment concerning all who practice these things and have no remorse for them.

vv. 6-7. The “wrath” that Paul is talking about here is noted throughout all of the Bible. Sometimes we think that the God of the Old Testament is a lot different than the God of the New Testament. As if He’s changed but God cannot change (Malachi 3:6). If you actually sit down and read the Bible cover to cover and you will see that the God of the Old Testament is merciful and loving and gives chance after chance to people and by the same token when you read the New Testament you’ll see that Jesus brings judgment and wrath and absolutely despises sin. God’s attributes all exist in perfect harmony with each other: His love, compassion, grace and mercy and at the same time wrath, judgment and justice. Let’s look at Revelation 11:14 as an example. The context here is that John has been explaining the “three woes” which are the last three trumpets (of seven). John notes that the third “woe” doesn’t happen immediately after the second, although it is “coming quickly”, there is a pause. This happens several times in Revelation and I believe that these pauses signify God’s patience and desire to see people come to Him. He gives a break from the judgment and wrath being poured out as if to say, ‘Will you now come to me?’ God is slow to anger (Psalm 103:8) and wishes that all would be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and yet He is just (2 Thessalonians 1:6) and has an “awesome” and “strange work” of judgment (Isaiah 28:21).

We once walked in that sin when we lived with “the sons of disobedience.” We no longer live in those sins so we shouldn’t be walking in the same way non-Christians are. The word “lived” is important. If sin was your roommate and when you became a Christian you had to move out then why are you inviting it back in? Run away from that sin and never look back. Of course we have friends and family that are non-Christians and practice sin. But that doesn’t mean that you give them access to your life in such a way that they bring sin back in as a roommate. I like what Matthew Henry says, “it is necessary to [crush] sins…if we do not kill them, they will kill us” (Source 7).

Conclusion. I love that Paul can remind us that we’re saved and going to heaven (3:1-4) and just as easily remind us what we were saved from and why we shouldn’t be doing it any longer (3:5-7). Paul’s love for his “children” here in Colossae and for the generations to follow, including us, shows the truth of his words. He’s right – if I was raised with Christ then I shouldn’t be living the same way I used to.

 

References.

Source 1: Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fornication .

Source 2:  akatharsia (G#167), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G167&t=KJV .

Source 3: John Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 1979, p. 192.

Source 4: pathos (G#3806), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3806&t=KJV .

Source 5: Stifler, Romans, p. 124

Source 6: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1837.

Source 7: Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, NT, p. 671.