Colossians 1b

It is ALWAYS a great day to read and study God’s word! Have you got anything better or more important to do than to spend time with God today? Don’t leave out the essential things and end up focused on the least significant ones.

Colossians 1b

Last time we were about ready to go into Colossians 1:15 but noted a bit of just who it is that Paul is about to describe. So let’s pick up with that thought…

Paul is about to go into a discussion of Jesus Christ (sometimes noted as Jesus the Christ for reasons soon to be evident). Jesus is from the Latin form of the name his parents called him (cf. Luke 2:21). In Hebrew the name is Yeshua or in English, Joshua, and it means: Yahweh (God’s formal name, sometimes rendered Jehovah) is Salvation. Christ is a title rather than a name (and thus sometimes spelled out as Jesus THE Christ) meaning anointed or chosen one. Such anointing and choosing was typically done of kings, emperors and similar rulers over great kingdoms. You may recall the events leading to David’s anointing as king in place of Saul. The Hebrew word is usually translated in English as Messiah and typically refers to those anointed or chosen by God.

It is important to take a moment to appreciate this term and you may wish to do a bit more study of Biblical usage of this idea. Specifically, how does it relates to us?  First, there are many Messiahs. David was selected by God and thus was, like many others of God’s Old Testament leaders, a Messiah.

Peter, in Acts 3:20, specifically designates Jesus as the Messiah appointed for you! In context Peter is speaking of Jesus and His new covenant now in effect. While Jesus lived on this earth, He was the Light of the world (read John 9:5). But that job was always to be passed on. In Matthew 5:14 Jesus calls His followers, disciples, the light of the world.

As Christians, we are those called and chosen by God for this holy position. Peter expressed it like this:  Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble     (2 Peter 1:10).

What’s that word for the called, chosen, anointed by God for His service? Messiah! The ultimate Messiah of God has called us to be His representatives here on earth. Those baptized into Christ have put on Christ (cf. Romans 6:3-7). As such,  I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).

Jesus was called by God to bring salvation to the world. His family, Christians, are called to carry on that work here on earth until Jesus comes again. And all that brings us right back to the last half of Colossians chapter 1.

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Just who is this savior of ours, really?  Here’s Paul:

Colossians 1:15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. [16] For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him.

[17] He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [18] He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. [19] For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, [20] and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Did you catch all that? One of the dumbest things people have ever dreamed up is trying to separate Jesus from God. Yes, I know that the labels for Jesus, the Son, etc. point out Him here on earth even as the label, the Father, is in heaven. The prophet Isaiah says of the Son that was given, And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) and Matthew (1:23) cites this very prophecy as referring to Jesus.

Even while here on earth Jesus pointed out their unique oneness (cf. John 10:30). And Paul now doubles down on what God has always been telling us. This is what God looks like if we could see Him as a human being!

The term firstborn of all creation trips many into imagining that Jesus was created by God. In legal terms, both Greek and Hebrew refer to the firstborn as the one deserving of extra honor, inheritance and authority. Psalm 89:27 uses this very concept in prophecy of Jesus as the one made or appointed as having the highest honor. None of this is to imply that Jesus is either created or less in authority than God, but rather He is creator of ALL things, just as John also said in John 1:3.

If ALL the fullness of God is IN Him then He, Jesus our Christ is both our God and our Savior. Note that this term is actually used by Paul in Titus 2:13 and by Peter in 2 Peter 1:1. Even greater than who Jesus is, is the fact that He Himself makes peace between us and God by His own bloodshed on that cross. Is it any wonder that Paul pours all this out in wonder and amazement?

We possess in Jesus both the greatest gift ever given, and the greatest job ever assigned! This is the one that calls and chooses US to take His Good News of Salvation to this world that is dying in sin! How are we realizing that great Commission?

Now that Paul has set the unimaginable parameters of our unlimitedly great God and Savior, he then returns to what He has done for us with all that greatness:

Colossians 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, [22] yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach — [23] if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

Remember that budding Gnosticism problem? The idea that God has called us to either extreme of sin without measure or avoid everything in life here on earth as sin, is dangerous. We are called, chosen by God for the very purpose of holiness! Yes, it is a constant struggle to keep holy but that NEVER is an excuse to settle for anything less.

How do we keep holy, blameless and beyond reproach? Well certainly NOT by failing to be faithful nor by moving away from the Gospel. God’s word and God’s way are the same. If we go searching anywhere else, then we are moving away from God.

As Paul challenges others to keep holy, he admits to both working in that direction with them and facing the same challenges:

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.

  • Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,
  • that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, [27] to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. [28] We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. [29] For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within

Just like grazing animals seem to always think that the grass on the other side of the fence is better, so do we often imagine how easy it is for others to be Christians while we have to struggle. God gives us all a burden and the help and strength to bear it. The hardest part for us to see, as God sees, is how much we really can bear.

When it comes to Christian burdens and Christian living, it’s really all about the Gospel. God has entrusted to us His precious promises. We are, in so very many ways, the world Bible. An old poem (and song from it) reminds us well of this:

  • Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today;
  • He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way;
  • He has no tongues but our tongues to tell men how He died;
  • He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.
  • We are the only Bible the careless world will read;
  • We are the sinner’s Gospel, We are the scoffer’s creed;
  • We are the Lord’s last message, Given in deed and word.
  • What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?
  • What if our hands are busy with work other than His?
  • What if our feet are walking where sin’s allurement is?
  • What if our tongues are speaking of things His lips would spurn?
  • How can we hope to help Him And hasten His return?

The message of salvation contains a great mystery that God’s people have longed to understand in ages past. God’s great mystery, however, is not a mystery any longer and it is certainly not some vague, unidentified, unknown thing that only crazy people can know. God’s great mystery is that salvation is in Christ for all.

Our job is to share that Good News, that Mystery of Old that is clearly seen and fulfilled in Christ’s church.

That takes us back a bit to Paul’s concept of his own work and that of all Christians in verses 24-25 and tied to verses 28-29. As strange as it may seem, our job of taking the Gospel into all the world is NOT about the lost!

Yes, we are calling the lost to Jesus but that is ever only the beginning of the job! The Great Commission (also echoed by Peter in 1 Peter 2:9) is all about bringing the lost into Christ’s church and keeping them there. Jesus did NOT make the Great Commission just going and baptizing, there’s more!

After Matthew 28:19 your Bible continues to verse 20: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).

We make a huge error in trying to separate our preaching, teaching and Christian living. They are NOT three things but, in God’s eyes, ONE.

Paul, the “preacher” to the Gentiles was really a servant, minister, deacon of the church and the Gospel (Colossians 1:23-25), as we all are. Our job is to fully preach the word to the church, the called-of-God, the being saved ones.

Where do we get the absurd idea that getting people baptized is a job we are called to do? Our job is to finish the job! It does no one any good to get wet or hear the Gospel if we don’t keep on teaching and encouraging them until the end. Christians are often good at starting the job but not finishing the job.

We are called to proclaim Him, admonishing every human being and teaching every human being with all wisdom, so that we may present every human being complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28). The job is not done until we cross the finish line.

And the best way to cross the finish line is in working together with fellow saints and with Jesus. Let’s do it His way!

—Lester P. Bagley

 

When you don’t read your Bible…

 

From the Preacher’s Pen… Many have commented how much they missed the blessing of being together for worship. We need to pray that God will teach us the same lesson about reading our Bibles! Can you imagine NOT having access to God’s word for two months. Would you miss it? If you really care about God, then take time to read His word today!

When You Don’t Read Your Bible

Ignorance is really NOT bliss. When we are ignorant of something, we can easily be deceived into believing what is totally, perhaps even dangerously untrue. A few weeks back the President made a comment about wishing we could just take a disinfectant to combat the virus from inside our bodies. In their fervor to mock anything he says, the press reported that the President advised drinking liquid disinfectant. They then proceeded to have “experts” talk about how that could never work and was totally absurd. So there, Mr. Stupid President!

What many failed to notice (and a few of the real experts in the field comment on but were mostly ignored) is that what he proposed is actually a basic layman’s explanation of how many medicines work. For example, all chemotherapy essentially works that way and so do numerous other “medicines” for various illnesses. The point is, when ignorant people savagely criticize someone, they really want to justify what they believe or do and are NOT the least interested in the truth.

The same thing happens when people fail to read their Bible and yet profess to want to serve God. Without KNOWING God’s will, we are most likely going to invent some fanciful nonsense that has absolutely zero basis in fact.

The first example to consider is the “Sinners Prayer.” The idea that salvation comes by saying the words invented by a false teacher without regard to anything God says in the Bible, really doesn’t deserve any serious consideration.  Still, let’s check out God’s word and see what He says about the “Sinners Prayer.” Go ahead and check your Bible. I’ll wait….

….Have you found anything yet? Of course NOT! The “Sinners Prayer” is NEVER mentioned anywhere in the Bible.

Of course, if we recall how the Bible is designed, we know that the New Testament is the place to look for God’s plan of salvation for people today. We should also recall that the only book specifically dealing with the spread of the Gospel to non-Christians is the book of Acts. So that is the best place to go to learn how to be saved.

Those that are outside of Christ, so we learn from the book of Acts, are told to do several things that lead to salvation. The next to last step involves actually becoming a part of Christ and His church, also known as baptism or reenacting the death, burial and resurrection into a new, reborn state. The final step is that of remaining faithful to Jesus and His will for us as long as we live.

Yes, we many times oversimplify it to say (as Peter did in 1 Peter 3:21) that baptism saves us. But that’s just saying “take an internal disinfectant” as a super-simplified way of referring to an antibiotic, for example.

Every single saved person this side of the cross of Christ and establishment of His church on the first Pentecost after His death (cf. Acts 2) has done those things to be saved. NOTHING else works and nothing else is ever taught by God.

Let’s consider a second example of not really reading the Bible but nevertheless forming an opinion based entirely on ignorance. This one comes from a person posting on the internet their “proof” that the Bible is full of hate and error and that you won’t hear about the real Bible “nonsense” in church.

The verse that “proves” all this is Joshua 23:15 and it reads, It shall come about that just as all the good words which the Lord your God spoke to you have come upon you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the threats until He has destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you.

There it is! The proof that God is hateful and that preachers lie to you by not telling you what God is really like! A single sentence ripped from the context and forced to say exactly the opposite of what God was saying is somehow “proof” that God is wrong.

Well, truthfully, we see the news media and internet doing just that on a daily basis. Are you impressed?

Hopefully, you went back and read Joshua 23 and saw what was actually going on. As Joshua has now brought peace to the Land and rest for God’s people, they are warned about becoming complacent and forgetting God.

Yes, God will bless them (and us) richly if we are faithful and do His will. But just as certain as God’s blessings are God’s curses for those that turn their backs on Him.

Joshua’s very next verse (Joshua 23:16 is actually the completion of his original statement) says: When you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and you will perish quickly from off the good land which He has given you.

When we don’t let God speak, when we don’t read our Bibles and get the whole picture when doing it, we are just as foolish as those that hate God. In reality, unless we are daily spending time in God’s word and in prayer, we are instead daily giving our allegiance to Satan and sin.

Yes, it IS that important!

~~ Lester P. Bagley

 

 

Persistence

Are you tired of being confined? Are you ready to get out and be with people? Are you missing seeing and being with someone? Do you remember that the Lord has been right there with you every moment? Are you still reading His word and listening to His direction? Never give up on the one who loves you most!

Persistence

Speaking of giving up, are you a stubborn person? Or are you persistent? Or perhaps, are you faithful? We sometimes associate the exact same traits with either a negative attitude or with a good and positive one. It’s important for us to realize that God does the same thing.

The New Testament talks a good deal about persistence and illustrates for us how it can be either a wrong attitude or a right one. The word epimenō means to continue, to stay, to persevere, to adhere to, continue to embrace, to persist in something. If you want to check all of its usages it is used in: John 8:7; Acts 10:48; 12:16; 15:34; 21:4, 10; 28:12, 14; Romans 6:1; 11:22–23;  1 Corinthians  16:7–8;  Galatians  1:18;  Philippians  1:24;  Colossians  1:23  and 1 Timothy 4:16.

Paul uses it in the negative sense when he asks, What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1) For a Christian to persist in sinning can never be a good thing. Paul goes on in that chapter to point out that in Christ we are to live or persist in Christ rather than in being like we were in the world.

Later in Romans Paul calls us to observe both the good and bad, the positive and negative of “continuing” or persisting in God: Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. (Romans 11:22-23)

If we persist, are stubborn about staying with God and following His word then God’s blessings will be on us. If we persist in being stubborn about disobeying God, then there is no hope for us. The choice is ours to have holy faithfulness or to have the unholy persistence that is sin.

The New Testament frequently uses this same word for an extended stay with someone. When Peter baptized Cornelius and the other first Gentiles of the church, they asked Peter to stay with them. On several occasions Paul stayed an extended time in one place to preach or with those he’d recently converted to Christ. If someone staying and living in your home with you and your family is persistence, then do we see God’s picture of Him staying and living with us in our lives?

In Colossians 1:21-23 Paul tells Christians that, although once unholy apart from Christ, we are now holy and blameless and beyond reproach if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel  that you have heard. That kind of persistence is what we also call faithfulness, the kind that lasts and is truly stubborn in the right way.

One last passage to note is 1 Timothy 4:16. As Paul encourages his younger co- worker to stick to the job of serving Christ he says, Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.

Being faithful to God is not an easy task for us here on this earth. The history of humanity is strewn with those who gave up, the quitters that failed God. We need the positive stubbornness that persists, keeps on following Jesus no matter how hard, no matter what happens. We are called to be faithful until death (Revelation 2:10) in order to receive that Crown of Life.

Paul sums up this persistent, stubborn, faithful way of life like this: Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)

—Lester P. Bagley

Focus on God

How’s your Bible reading going? Many people have said they are eating too much while basically confined to home. But has anyone ever read and studied too much of God’s word? Ever heard of anyone spending too much time with God? Now’s a perfect time to catch up with the one who loves you most!

Focus on God

Focus is something that is important to all of us. Recently the young man working on our air conditioner commented that he had to stop and put his glasses on so he could focus on and read the tiny print on the unit. Many of us appreciate the problem! The tiny print that I once could easily read is an illegible blur now. And if it’s something important to see, then we are willing to do whatever is necessary to actually be able to see and read it!

Hebrews 12:2 challenges us to fix our eyes on Jesus, that’s focus! Peter would echo the challenge (1 Peter 1:13) as he tells us, Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without being focused completely on God here and now, we will never be ready to focus on Him when He comes again.

Jesus commented on the negative side, the failure to focus on God, by reminding us of Isaiah’s prophecy, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. (Matthew 15:8-9 quoting Isaiah 29:13) If we fail to focus on God and honor Him with our all, then we are nothing more than bad actors (cf. Matthew 15:7).

Have you ever noticed that when you are focused on one thing you cannot really focus on something else? The same is true of God. When we focus on Him, we cannot be focused on things that don’t matter!

The Psalmist (Psalm 46:10) tells us that God says, Cease striving [be still] and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10). The word we translate as cease striving or be still is the word for surrender, to give up and Jewish commentary (Targum) renders it as cease from war [with God]. Do you see the Psalmist’s picture? God wants us to stop fighting Him, arguing with Him and just focus on Him, put our trust in Him.

And when we do it God’s way, here’s the result: Because he has focused [KJV, set] his love on me, I will deliver him. I will protect him because he knows my name. When he calls out to me, I will answer him. I will be with him in his distress. I will deliver him, and I will honor him. (Psalm 91:14-15)

When we are focused on God, They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD (Psalm 112:7). And we can say, My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises! (Psalm 57:7)

Paul offers this challenge for us as Christians, Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking [set your heart on, keep focusing on] the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on [focus on] the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4) Our focus has to be kept on Christ, on things above or we miss being who we are called to be.

Focus is something we repeatedly have to do. Every time we get distracted, look somewhere else, we must refocus to return to the important task at hand. Paul also understood that. We have not arrived! We must consciously, consistently return to the job. Paul says it like this: Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do [focus on]: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to [focusing on] what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

When we are not focused on God, we make mistakes. Peter warns, Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Satan is always focused on us. If we take our focus off of Jesus then we can no longer resist, our faith is in danger! That’s why the Hebrew writer keeps pointing us to Jesus as superior in every way, including faithfulness (focus!): Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, partners in a heavenly calling, keep your focus on Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession (Hebrews 3:1).

Focus is vital to us all and spiritual focus is eternally important. When we keep our focus on our God and Savior we do more than just survive. With the correct focus, we are completely victorious super-conquerors (cf. Romans 8:37). Indeed, we can do all things through him [Christ Jesus] who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

Never take your eyes, your faith, your hope, your focus off Jesus!

—Lester P. Bagley

11/24/19 ~ The Unused Cup

Blog-Unused Cup

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Hopefully, we’ve all noticed that frequently our visiting preachers remind us of the importance of God’s “Great Commission” to His church, His family. All the things we do as God’s family to encourage each other, to honor and praise God, to help those with physical needs must be focused on saving souls!

If we feed the hungry but fail to point them to salvation in Christ, we’ve wasted our time. If we praise God with our lips in “worship” but fail to bring the lost to Him, we’ve wasted God’s time. If we make each other “feel” better without drawing closer to God in obedience then we are merely serving Satan, not the Lord.

If we would actually accomplish God’s will we must do God’s will! One of my favorite stories is a great lesson in keeping our priorities right. Let’s remember…

The Unused Cup

James A. Garfield, twentieth President of the United States, resigned as an elder of the church of Christ in 1881 to take office. His statement to the congregation was, I resign the highest office in the land to become President of the United States.

Thirty years earlier at age 19, he was planning to take a riverboat trip with friends but injured his foot while chopping wood. While his friends were on their trip a preacher came to town and James Garfield, as he put it, surrendered my heart to the Lord and was baptized into his kingdom at the age of 19.

Eight years later in 1853, he began preaching and continued to faithfully serve the Lord. He was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1862 and, in 1880, became the first sitting member of Congress to be elected to the presidency. He remains the only sitting House member to gain the White House.

The first week after his inauguration as President of the United States, a member of his cabinet insisted on an urgent meeting at 10:00 Sunday morning to handle a threatened national crisis. Garfield refused to attend because he had a more important appointment. The cabinet member demanded to know what it was. The president replied, I will be as frank as you are. My engagement is with the Lord to meet Him in His house at His table at 10:00, and I shall be there. He then left with Mrs. Garfield and went to Sunday morning worship.

President Garfield’s appointment at the Lord’s table was a reference to the Lord’s Supper, the memorial of the sufferings of Christ observed by Christians every first day of the week (Acts 20:7). The Apostle Paul gave the following instructions to Christians concerning their appointment at the Lord’s table:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner, He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

An invitation has been extended to each one of us as humans to come in obedient faith (Acts 16:30-31), confessing Jesus as Lord before men (Romans 10:9-10), turning away from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31) and being immersed for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38) so that we, too, may take our reserved seat at the Lord’s table with those who will inherit eternal life. 

Consider the declarations of your “Unused Cup”…

“I am an unused cup for communion… left last Sunday from the worship service, giving testimony of an appointment unkept, a trust broken….”

“I was filled in anticipation… that some Christian would drink of my contents and be reminded of the price of their redemption.”

“Here I sit— unused… Yet I bear witness of a love extended, a fellowship desired, and a grace made available. This is the NEW covenant in my blood, Jesus said.”

“Here I remain… reminding one and ALL that God’s gift MUST be claimed. He forces neither Himself nor his blessing on anyone — but He eagerly awaits acceptance.”

“There is a cup for YOU each Lord’s dayand no one else can ever use it! It is a sacred appointment that each of us has with the Lord to do this in remembrance of Him (cf. Hebrews 10:24-29).”

Yes, there IS an appointment to be kept for the child of God at the Lord’s Table AND there is ALSO a seat reserved for YOU! The Lord’s Table is set… Will you keep YOUR appointment?  (Or will you betray him?)

— Lester P. Bagley

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10/20/19 ~ Repent

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From the Preacher’s Pen… One of the things that we tend to do with words is to adapt a word to use for our own meanings. As a result, that particular word may mean something different to us than to others in our culture. For example, carbonated beverages may be called coke, pop or soda depending on what part of the USA you are from. You will probably defend your term as being the only correct one and be able to explain how the others don’t mean the same thing.

In the Bible, there are several words that are unique to God and His people. Other people may use the word and fail to appreciate its spiritual meaning. If we would understand God then we must learn the language. Let’s look at an example that’s important both to the New Testament world and to our world today:

Repent

The Greek verb metanoeō (usually translated repent) means changing one’s mind and reflects how you understand something afterward. The word is rarely found in Classical Greek because the Greeks never pictured a radical change in life as a conversion or turning around. In fact, the concept of conversion is pretty much foreign to Greek thought.

God, however, uses this word, repent, to mean a whole lot more and we cannot afford to miss His meaning. Instead of a passive simple change of mind, God redefines this word to mean a radical, moral turn of the whole person from sin and to God.

John the Baptist preached Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 3:2). His message clearly points out a change from sin to living a new life. Jesus explains this message as repentance to believe in the Good News (Mark 1:15). And Peter further explains (Acts 2:38) that this change of life direction precedes baptism into Christ.

Think about that for a moment. Baptism for the forgiveness of sins is a pledge, a determination to change our lives and follow Jesus would result in a new person, free of sin.  Baptism WITHOUT  CHANGING, but immediately going back into sin, is not really baptism! Note that this is exactly the situation described by Peter in 2 Peter 2:20-22 and is, of course, completely contrary to the whole purpose of conversion to Christ.

Peter also illustrated this failure to radically turn from sin to a new way of life in Christ to Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:22 when he told this new Christian to repent of your wickedness. Being freed from sin only to sin again is foolish, counterproductive and, worst of all, a failure to really be saved at all.

Without repentance, without change and a plan to keep to the right path in Christ, there is no purpose to forgiveness. Thus Peter’s instructions of Acts 2:38 combine both repentance and baptism as necessary to salvation.

Recall that many people today preach a message of accepting Jesus into your heart as the ultimate method of salvation without any need for repentance or baptism. Equally popular is the fake admonition to pray the sinner’s prayer that somehow magically saves you.

One of the beauties of the truth of God’s word is that sincere people can study and learn the truth in spite of human corruption and false teaching. Today a surprising number of denominational and former denominational preachers and teachers are admitting publicly to the false doctrine of salvation without repentance and baptism. Any so-called gospel that does not preach repentance is not from God! God still commands that all people everywhere must repent (Acts 17:30).

Remember that sin is the issue, and repentance is therefore at the core of salvation. Repentance is God’s language for the only correct response to sin. Jesus came for the purpose of saving us from sin. God’s patience in holding back judgment is for the express purpose of more people having the opportunity to repent and have their sins washed away (cf. Romans 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9).

While baptism is a one-time cleansing of sin that puts us into a new relationship in Christ as children of God, repentance is an ongoing part of that new life. Whenever we make mistakes, whenever we get it wrong, whenever we stray from the right path, we are called to repent that we might restart that right life in Christ. Jesus warned the churches in Revelation to repent that, as Christians, they might return to the right way (Revelation 2:5, 16; 3:3, 19).

No, the world of the New Testament and the world of today do not understand or appreciate repentance. But God still demands it! Our lives must undergo a radical transformation from the old earthly sinful being into the loving, faithful, holy child of God.

Are you truly a child of God? If not, it’s time for the right change that comes through repentance.

— Lester P. Bagley

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10/6/19 ~ The Glory of God

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

There are so very many things about God that we fail to understand! Even when God does reveal a portion to us as human beings it is difficult to fully appreciate it. Still, it is important that we keep looking and learning. After all, can you imagine what medicine would be like today if doctors quit learning and researching a few hundred years ago?

Let’s look a bit deeper at God and especially from the standpoint of a word the Apostle John emphasizes:

The Glory of God

Let’s begin with a Hebrew word used to describe the divine presence of God, Shekhinah. Now this word is never used in the Bible, rather it is a term used to describe the presence or dwelling of God with His people.

The root word comes from the concept of settling, inhabiting or dwelling. Other words derived from this root include the concept of neighbor and, especially, a holy place such as the Tabernacle or Temple.

You probably recall that those holy places were described as the evidence of God dwelling among His people. Since the Jews frequently associated this word with the Holy Spirit and Jesus tells us, For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst (Matthew 18:20), we should also get the idea that this concept is an important lesson for us as Christians.

With this understanding in mind, it should become more readily apparent what John said: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). The New Testament writers wrote of actually seeing and experiencing the presence of, the Glory of God here on this earth. They wrote as eyewitnesses for us to learn the reality, the truth of what God has done for us.

With Jesus’ first miracle John reminds us: Jesus did this, the first of his signs, at Cana in Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him (John 2:11). In Jesus’ presence here on earth and in the works (miracles) that He did, the Glory of God is actually seen by humans.

Later, as John concludes the New Testament, he reveals this statement from Jesus to His people (His church): Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20).

Acts 2:38 reminds us that with baptism comes both forgiveness of sins AND the gift of God’s own Spirit to live in us. Paul affirms this repeatedly as he reminds us that we are the temple of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit and that Christ lives in us.

We have not only seen the Glory, the divine presence of our God but He actually lives in us to help us serve Him!

It is only when we begin to appreciate all this that God’s horrendous declaration of those who spurn Him chills us with its great meaning. John tells us: for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God (John 12:43).

Look at that statement again. The word approval in the NASB or praise (KJV) is really the word glory in Greek. Now, do you see how great a curse this statement truly is? Those that fail to faithfully believe in and obey Jesus love the glory of men rather than the glory of God!

 Could we possibly become so proud of the presence, the glory of other people that we spurn the glory of God? How incredibly sad!

One day the glorious presence of God will be revealed and seen by all the world. That day is not about God’s glory being seen by us so much as it is about His being seen and acknowledged by the rest of the world.

Christians, as those who belong to Christ, already have seen the glory of the Lord for He lives in them and directs their lives. When we remember that, we will live like it and truly let our light, the light of God Himself, shine out in our lives to enlighten the world.

— Lester P. Bagley

 

 

9/22/19 ~ What We Share in Christ II

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From the Preacher’s Pen… Relationships are always a challenge. Being friends with someone takes effort and so, too, does being family. Many times we take those relationships for granted and end up estranged, no longer close as we once were. For those family and friends that we really consider important to us, we make the effort to keep close, to not only maintain, but grow that relationship. The same lesson applies to our relationship with our God and Savior.

What We Share in Christ – 2

As Christians we enjoy a very special relationship with each other and, especially, with Christ. Like any especially close and important connection it is important that we not only maintain but grow that rapport. Let’s look at a few more of the snapshots that God gives us of just how special that connection is.

To begin, we must first remember the constant New Testament lesson that all God’s promises and spiritual blessings are only available to those that are IN Christ. Last week we noticed some of the many lessons of Romans 6 so let’s begin with another important passage on this subject, this time in Ephesians:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus FOR good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

As Romans 6 pointed out, our transition from death to life begins with baptism. So now in Ephesians we again see that, once in Christ, we are made alive (verse 5). In Christ we are raised together with Him (verse 6, again the echo of Romans). The point of all this is to be seated with Christ in Heaven as part of God’s eternal family (verse 6).

It is worth noticing when comparing Romans 6 and Ephesians 2 that God’s marvelous grace is the key to making this transaction complete. Often we hear the nonsense that “if grace saves us, then baptism is not important.” The words of the Holy Spirit in both of these passages makes that a lie. Our baptism is NOT an ACTION we take in saving ourselves by our own power. Our baptism into Christ is entirely a submissive action to God and His will.

We do not baptize ourselves as the Jews did under the Law. Baptism into Christ is ALWAYS in the subjective, we submit to, we allow ourselves to BE baptized. And, in so doing, we die and are buried, and are raised anew, just as our Savior was.

Because we submit to His grace, we are made alive, raised and seated together with Him. This changes everything!

Colossians 3:3 says that our life is now hidden, literally concealed by the life of Christ. Romans 8:17 tells us that this change makes us heirs, co-heirs with Him. As such, we have, again only IN Christ, ALL things, ALL blessings, ALL hope given to us (Romans 8:32).

When we realize all the greatness of God, when we see all the treasures that He possesses, only then do we see how much He freely gives us in Christ.

The real question for us is, Are you IN Christ so that all these promises might be yours?

— Lester P. Bagley

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Sunday 9/4 ~ What We Share in Christ

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From the Preacher’s Pen… Relationships are always a challenge. Being friends with someone takes effort and so, too, does being family. Many times we take those relationships for granted and end up estranged, no longer close as we once were. For those family and friends that we really consider important to us, we make the effort to keep close, to not only maintain but grow that relationship. The same lesson applies to our relationship with our God and Savior.

What We Share in Christ

As Christians, we enjoy a very special relationship with each other and, especially, with Christ. Like any especially close and important connection, it is important that we not only maintain but grow that rapport. Let’s look at a few of the snapshots that God gives us of just how special that connection is.

To begin, we must first remember the constant New Testament lesson that all God’s promises and spiritual blessings are only available to those that are IN Christ.

In Christ, we are crucified together with Him. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20). Crucifixion was the ultimate capital punishment of the New Testament world. On the rare occasion that someone survived they were forever horribly disfigured, mutilated for life. It is no wonder that Peter (2 Peter 2:17-22) describes how much worse it is in God’s judgment for those that once were in Christ!

In Christ, we die with Him. In Christ, we are buried with Him. In Christ, we are raised with Him to a new life. Romans 6 is a great lesson about how and why we are united with Christ. And it all begins with/in baptism! How could anyone ever believe that baptism is not a vital ingredient in our salvation?

Romans 6:1-14: 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;for he who has died is freed from sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Our real accomplishment is in losing ourselves, our will, our lives in a total change of priorities. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).

It is never a partial thing with God. Either we are fully IN Him or we are outsiders. So, are you truly IN Christ?

— Lester P. Bagley

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September 8 ~ The Place of Mankind: Psalm 8

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From the Preacher’s Pen… 

When we think of David we tend to first think of him as the King and source of the lineage that would lead to Jesus. But we also need to see him as a prophet and a teacher of God. Notice an important psalm that shows us both of these attributes:

The Place of Mankind – Psalm 8

One of the lessons that we must learn about God and prophecy is that He often teaches more than just one lesson to His people with a seemingly single prophecy. Isaiah (7:10-17) offers one of the great examples of this as a prophecy is made to king Ahaz. We tend to only see the second lesson of Mary giving birth to Jesus in the New Testament, but the lesson promised to Ahaz was an equally powerful lesson in God’s power to control human events.

Recognizing God’s ability to teach more than one lesson through prophecy, let’s take a look at David’s Psalm 8: 

O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?

Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,

All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field,The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

First, we notice the powerful lesson of praise of God. His greatness is beyond human understanding. His power is mightier than our utmost imagination. His majesty compels us to bow before Him in awe.

Second, it begins to dawn on us that as great as our God is, and as tiny and insignificant as we are in comparison, that is NOT His view of us, His creation! He sees His people as only a little lower than God, Himself! He crowns His human creation with glory and majesty. What an amazing idea!

Notice something here. The Hebrew behind all English translations (whether King James, American Standard, New American Standard or any other English translation) actually says (verse 5) that God has made mankind a little lower than God! The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament from before the time of Jesus) introduces the word “angels” and it is this translation that is used by the writer of Hebrews (2:7) in application to Jesus.

So, David the prophet has declared mankind to be made a little lower than God. Recall that we are made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27 and 9:6), yet evidently, we are not equal to God (a lesson also taught throughout the Bible). And, apparently, by the book of Hebrews’ comment, we are actually a little lower than the angels in current status. But that is not the end of the story.

As we begin to compare the extension of the lesson by the Hebrew writer (read Hebrews chapter 1), we begin to see God’s purpose in placing us (for a time) as lower than Him, lower even than the angels. God is showing us His real power, His greatness. All of creation is for the purpose of elevating His people, qualifying them to be with Him as His family. Just as God displayed His greatness by elevating Jesus, so He makes His creation, us, His people to be that chosen family, that royal priesthood, that holy people, that are called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light (cf. 1 Peter 2:9-10).

God, as great, powerful and majestic as He is has always planned to make us, His creation, a part of His own family. Just as Jesus was “made” for a little while to be lower than God or the angels, so we too are now. But, just as God planned and did restore Jesus to His glory as God, so too one day we will be elevated to be with our God, our Father.

This raises an interesting question. If God has made all the plans and provisions for us to enjoy this greatness, this honor, then how will we respond? Will we accept the honor, do His will and faithfully serve Him? Or will we reject it all? The choice is ours to make. What will you choose?

— Lester P. Bagley

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