Colossians 4b

Have you taken time to talk to your Heavenly Father today? Have you taken time to listen to His words to you? Communication is always important and failure to connect with God is a good way to ruin what could have been a good day. Take time to read your Bible and pray… today!

Colossians 4b

Paul always closes his letters with greetings from those with him and to other Christians known to the recipient. It is easy for us to neglect these endings as unimportant personal notes. To do so is to miss much of the richness of Christian fellowship with God’s family, our family! One preacher friend of mine many years ago highly recommended a diligent study of just these closing remarks as a sermon series and important lesson for us all.

Colossians 4:10 Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also  Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him); [11] and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.

Aristarchus is no stranger to the Christians of this region having been (apparently) one of the converts in Ephesus and working with Paul ever since (cf. Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Philemon 1:24), even to accompanying him to Roman imprisonment. While there is no record to suggest he is a literal prisoner with Paul, his faithfulness to stay with and work with Paul even in prison is acknowledged.

The next faithful co-worker is John Mark. The last we’d heard of him (Acts 15:39) was when he caused the split between Barnabas and Paul at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey. While Scripture is silent over their contact during the intervening years, the lesson is plain: Do NOT allow disagreements, even harsh ones, to keep coming between faithful members of God’s family! Forgiveness and reconnection may take time, but if both parties are really faithful, it’s always worth the effort.

Jesus who is called or also named Justus is sometimes a shock to people. It is worth remembering that the name Jesus is another form of the Hebrew name Joshua also often transliterated as Yeshua. It was then, as it is today, a popular name among god-fearing people. The uniqueness of our Savior’s name is often (as Paul has done frequently in this letter) spelled out as the Jesus who is the Anointed (as King) one of God (Christ). This Jesus or Joshua is also a fellow preacher and brother known sometimes by the name, Justus.

Notice, too, something that Paul tells us here. Aristarchus, Mark and Jesus/Justus are the only ones currently with Paul that are Jews (from the circumcision). That becomes important when you continue reading and learn that Epaphras, Luke and Demas (verses 12 and 14) are in the other (Gentile) category. People often ask why we would think Luke was a Gentile and the answer is: Because Paul said he was.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. [13] For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. [14] Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.

The New American Standard calls Epaphras a bondslave while the King James uses  servant (as does the NIV) and the New King James uses bondservant. What is interesting is that Paul uses the exact same word (doulos) that he’s used in Colossians 3:11, 22; 4:1 where the word is nearly always translated as slave (KJV and NKJV use servants and bondservants). Since this word most often refers to slaves the reminder is again given that we all choose a master to serve, either God or Satan. Which one do people see you serving? Epaphras has already been introduced (Colossians 1:7) as apparently the preacher that started the work in Colossae and perhaps Laodicea and Hierapolis as well.

It sometimes surprises Christians in today’s world that preachers feel such a strong spiritual connection to congregations that they’ve worked with. After all, we hire and fire preachers today without much thought that they might have actually been something much different than simple employees for our whims. And we certainly don’t imagine that after all the problems we’ve caused for them that they might actually be laboring earnestly for us in their prayers, do we? After all, we know that New Testament preachers were greatly concerned about congregations, even those that had done wrong (cf. 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians). Perhaps it is high time we as preachers and congregations both get back to the Bible in ALL our attitudes and actions.

Next, Paul mentions his close friend Luke. It is certainly possible that Luke’s Gospel has already been circulating among these congregations and they are either eagerly awaiting his follow up book of Acts, or have already received it.

Finally, Paul includes the (then) faithful preacher Demas. What a sad footnote he becomes in the history of the Lord’s church. A once faithful preacher, fellow worker with the Apostle Paul and brother in Christ that would go on to become forever after known as a deserter (2 Timothy 4:10). Above all else, we need to remember NOT to be a Demas!

Colossians 4:15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church  that is her house.

When we have joint singings and fellowships with neighboring sister congregations do we realize that such actions are actually scriptural? Colossae and Laodicea (about 12 miles apart) seem to know and interact with each other in a similar way.

Nympha, a feminine name, is changed to the masculine name Nymphas in many later manuscripts (especially those used for the King James translation) and there are also some early manuscripts that use their house rather than her or his house. Also difficult to know is the location of this person/group of Christians. Are they at Laodicea or perhaps just part way between Colossae and Laodicea? In the end, we are left wondering about details that everyone in the these two congregations understood perfectly.

Worthy of note, too, is the designation of the church being IN the house or the equally probable idea that a Christian home with a Christian family actually constitutes a group of the Called Out People of God (the New Testament meaning of church). We may well be adding something to Scripture to make all the unfounded claims about the New Testament House Church Pattern as advocated by many twentieth century writers when all God is really trying to point out that a family of Christians is a special thing without reference to the place of worship. We certainly KNOW that this is true of the church at Corinth as Paul specifically  mentions  their  coming  together  for  worship  and  the  Lord’s  Supper  (cf.    1 Corinthians 11:17-22 where Paul makes this clear) is something other than someone’s home or House Church.

Colossians 4:16 When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. [17] Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

Since the earliest copies of Ephesians lack the destination city, it is carried by Tychicus who is also coming to Colossae, and the letter lacks the usual personal greetings to a destination congregation, most conservative scholars have concluded that the letter was intended to be shared among the congregations in the area of Ephesus. That makes it  likely that the letter coming to Colossae for their attention is what we call the Ephesian letter. Also, Paul makes it clear that Colossians is intended for other congregations. After all, God’s word and His dealing with both problems and concerns is really for us all!

Archippus is also mentioned in Paul’s accompanying personal letter to Philemon (Philemon 2) where Paul says that letter is to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that is your house. That has led many to conclude that Archippus is the son of Philemon and known to the congregation as a faithful Christian, perhaps a deacon or preacher in the congregation.

It is easy for us to become comfortable with the denominational idea of a single preacher / leader / pastor for a congregation that does all the work. Such is NOT the case in the New Testament church. Those with elders (the actual Biblical “pastors” of the church), were equipped with preachers by definition (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9) and oftentimes one or more of them filled the full-time role of “preacher” (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17). Nearly every New Testament “missionary” was a team effort so it should be no surprise to us that preaching and teaching in a congregation is also a team effort.

Having noted these facts, whatever the exact details of Archippus’ status, as a preacher and thus leader within the congregation, he is (like all such) deserving of utmost encouragement in the job! Just like elders, we have the responsibility to make their job easier by the service we give to them and the Lord (cf. Hebrews 13:17).

Colossians 4:18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.

Since Paul often used a “secretary” to write (called an amanuensis, cf. Romans 16:22), he adds his own personal greeting and concludes with the Christian blessing of God’s grace. Never forget who you are and what you have to share that is so precious in God’s eyes!

—Lester P. Bagley

Colossians 4a

Several have mentioned that they are learning new things and seeing fresh lessons in their reading of God’s word. One the powerful things about the word of God is its ability to be fresh, relevant and applicable to us each time we read it. Don’t miss out!

Colossians 4a

Colossians 4:1 Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.

Just as Paul pointed out the responsibility of slaves and servants to do right in their service, so he also points out that masters have a similar duty. Just as servants working here on earth do their work for earthly people just like they would do it for the Lord, so, too, should masters or bosses should remember that they have (and work for) a greater boss in heaven.

Note the word Paul uses here is kurios, the exact word also translated as Lord. The reference is literally to any kind of a boss or higher-ranking person and is used as a term of respect and acknowledgment of that higher position rather than a term for God. Our God is certainly our (and everyone else’s!) ultimate Lord. But we mustn’t imagine that every time we see the word “Lord” that it means God.

The real lesson here is that we ALL have the responsibility to act like Jesus. It doesn’t matter whether you are the boss or the lowliest employee. The same holds true even for elders as they are counseled to not “lord it over the flock.” Do remember that this certainly does NOT imply that Christians do not have to actually obey their bosses or their elders!

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; [3] praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; [4] that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.

Here’s in interesting thought: As we are talking about responsibility to do our best in  every job that we have, Paul links that to our life in Christ! Christian life is a part of every day, every hour, every task we do. It is who we are, and prayer and thanksgiving to God needs to be a part of us always.

It is also important to keep in mind, as Paul requests here, that our prayers need to include others and their faithfulness. Also, once again, Paul reminds us of the importance of the message we carry to the world. This is the mystery of Christ that Paul calls foolishness to the world in 1 Corinthians chapter 1. Because we know the truth, we have a responsibility to share the Good News.

Colossians 4:5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. [6] Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

Dealing with people that are not a part of God’s family is always a challenge! We are constantly struggling to balance the pigs (cf. Matthew 7:6) and the possibles (cf. Jude 22- 23). Being wise in our dealings with the world is going to bring us to opportunities. They need to be our focus rather than the swine.

Verse 6 includes an interesting analogy that has passed into common speech. Never forget that, just as well-seasoned food is tasty, we may also season our words to make them a better tool in outreach.

Colossians 4:7 As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. [8] For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts; [9] and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number. They will inform you about the whole situation here.

Tychicus had worked with Paul for some years (cf. Acts 20:4) and evidently is personally delivering this letter and the letter we title Ephesians to the congregations in the region of Ephesus and Colossae (cf. Ephesians 6:21). He would continue to be a coworker (Titus 3:12) even to the end of Paul’s life (cf. 2 Timothy 4:12).

Also travelling with Tychicus is Onesimus, a slave owned by Philemon of the Colossian church. Many, if not everyone, in the congregation would have known Onesimus and certainly by now would have known much of the story of the runaway slave. What has changed drastically is that Onesimus is now a Christian returning home to be a faithful coworker with his master and the church.

Such has always been the story of God and His dealings with people. Prodigal sons come home. Lost sheep are found. And even runaway slaves become fellow slaves of Christ with their old masters.

Never forget the changes that God can bring to any life. No one is unworthy. No one is too far gone. No one so sinful that Jesus cannot forgive and change their life from slave to a child of the King!

—Lester P. Bagley

Colossians 3b

Have you read your Bible today? Have you spent time in prayer? Have you been a help or a hinderance to your Savior? It’s a choice we all have to make each and every day. What’s your choice today?

Colossians 3b

Paul has gone to great lengths to deeply impress Christians that ALL Christians are as united in Christ as He is in us. Nothing of this earth’s criteria matters in the least to God. To Him we are either IN Christ and Christ is IN us, or we are nothing.

So what does God expect of us that He regards so highly?

Colossians 3:12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; [13] bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. [14] Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. [15] Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

We need to realize how precious God’s children are to Him. If you want to get a mother or dad really mad at you, bully their children. If that angers us, imagine the anger of an all- powerful God against those that would harm His children. Check out 2 Thessalonians 1:5- 10 for Paul’s discussion of this very matter.

Now take that a step further. How does that oh-so-protective Heavenly Father expect His precious children to behave toward each other? That is Paul’s lesson here. Chosen of God, holy and beloved is how God sees each and every one of His saints. So we are called to act like it.

Actually, it’s much more than just any acting. We are admonished to put on the right attitudes. Two important lessons are being taught here. First, it is a choice for us whether or not to actually look like our Savior. Children often play dress-up and proudly display the fact that they look like mommy or daddy. We have to make a choice to look like Jesus every day. Otherwise, we choose to look like someone else.

Second is that we, having made the choice will dress right. You cannot imagine a soldier putting armor on the wrong way or putting on a suit and tie imagining that it’s just as good as armor! You can’t pretend to be the Light of the World while acting like the dregs of the world.

Note, too, that we can choose to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient. When we are anything other than Christ-like, that is a choice, too!

The ultimate reason for making the right choice is because that’s the choice God has made for us. In Matthew 6:12 Jesus taught us to seek forgiveness from God as we have already extended forgiveness to others. If we fail to treat others right in God’s eyes, then prevent Him from treating us right!

Ultimately, it all comes down to love, that commitment form of God’s love that allowed Him to love us while we were still in sin (cf. Romans 5:8). When we clothe ourselves with God’s own love then we truly look like Jesus to the world and to God.

Having done this, we find the real peace and the reason we are called and finally, the real reason for thankfulness. So many look for the shortcuts to peace and joy, but there are none. The only way is through loving like and being loved by Jesus!

So how on earth do we accomplish all this? Paul has an answer for that:

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

God’s indwelling Holy Spirit is found in God’s word. That is the first ingredient that we have to instill in ourselves. Paul said, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21). Peter preached to those who’d been listening to God’s word, Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). And Paul would also write, So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Only by hearing the word of God that is taught or preached to us (either by reading the New Testament writers directly or by preaching/teaching from an individual) can we come to the faith to obey the word. And only in repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins can we not only BE forgiven but also receive the present, the gift of God’s own Spirit, His word living within us.

One of the confusing arguments some have is whether the Holy Spirit IS the word of God or is IN the word of God. Reality, like many things about God is a bit more complex. No one HAS the Spirit of God and contradicts or goes against God’s word. Peter assures us     (2 Peter 1:19-20) that God’s word is given by the Holy Spirit to be written down and given to us.

Since God doesn’t contradict or fight against Himself (cf. context of Matthew 12:25), His word IS our source of all knowledge of God’s will for us. That being said, the only way for us to have God’s word installed/instilled in us is by reading and study.

Doesn’t that seriously amplify our urgency for reading and studying God’s word? In doing so we are adding to the Holy Spirit that lives in us. Who would want more of God’s help and presence in their life?

Have you ever been told that “if you are smart” you will do something? If a driver is smart they won’t drive down the wrong side of the road. That’s the way to stay alive. If a Christian is smart, they will be continually in God’s word. That’s the way to eternal life!

So, if the word of Christ is richly living in us and we are being wise in God’s definition of wise, then we will teach and encourage each other with thankful singing. How can a Christian ever say, “I love God” and not “love singing?”

Before you answer, check Paul’s answer. If you are thankful and that’s what fills your heart, then you will! Apparently, just listening to others sing doesn’t fulfil God’s requirements. We need to participate just as we need to participate in all the other good deeds of serving our Savior. DO all the good things and be thankful, that’s where we find the real peace of God!

Next, Paul reminds us that there’s something to work on for every single one of us: Colossians 3:18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. [19] Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. [20] Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. [21] Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.

Before we complain that God has never heard of “equal rights” we must remember that as Lord God He gives us all a position of responsibility. Wives have a responsibility, just as husbands do. Notice that each of the responsibilities are reciprocal as they represent commands give to all of us as Christians. Are any of us supposed to do things that are unfitting or unbefitting to the Lord? Can any of us do the right things and feel bitter about them? Even our giving to the Lord has to be without grudging (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:7)!

Colossians 3:22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. [23] Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, [24] knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. [25] For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.

Slavery has a long history. Virtually every human society has practiced slavery and within each it has varied from the most degrading humanly possible to extremely well valued and treated. Just like in everyday life, the hateful bullies have always been there as well as the extremely compassionate.

But there is one serious thought for Christians to consider before we judge too harshly either way. Those that serve God faithfully are often described (many times by themselves) as slaves. Perhaps even more pointedly, the wicked and disobedient are also slaves (cf. Romans 6:19). So in reality we have to make a choice as to who is our master!

Having said that, Paul’s instructions to slaves and servants (Paul’s word here is the common word for slave that included a lot more than we typically think of) is extremely pointed. No matter who or what those you serve are like, your responsibility is to be Christ like!

Since our own Savior set aside His Godhood to become one of us and die for us (cf. Philippians 2:5-8), we are called to do the same. Not just in service to God, but in service to sinful men that we might redeem some of them. In all this we are really serving the Lord our Savior!

Paul also sneaks in a negative reminder. All who do wrong will be caught and punishment will never be spared to those that imagine they are somehow special. God knows how to punish fairly all those that deserve it.

Our mission is to live in such a way that when God and everyone else looks at us they see Christ instead of us. Now there’s a challenge!

—Lester P. Bagley

Colossians 3a

  • CHILDREN AND PARENTS, JOIN IN AS WE SING TOGETHER BELOW
  • “I WASHED MY HANDS THIS MORNING…AND LENT THEM BOTH TO JESUS”

Have you read your Bible today? Have you spent time in prayer? Have you been a help or a hinderance to your Savior? It’s a choice we all have to make each and every day. What’s your choice today?

Colossians 3a

There’s an old song that asks the question: Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Other songs remind us that we were not among those who actually saw or walked with Christ when He was here on this earth.

But Paul has a different lesson for us as Christians. He reminds us that we actually are participants in the resurrection of our Savior.

Colossians 3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your mind on the things  above, not on the things that are on earth. [3] For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Just like Romans 6 talks about baptism as a participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, so, too, does Paul remind us and the Colossian Christians that this is very much the reality of being IN Christ. As much as baptism is a dying to our old self of sin, so, too, it is a resurrection. And we are not ever alone in that resurrection. Paul reminds us that we in Christ have been raised up with Christ!

Yes, Scriptures warn us not to think too highly of ourselves and to be humble. But God also reminds us just exactly who we are in His sight! If Jesus was raised from the dead to be restored to His position of authority beside God, then what are we raised for with Him? One of the hardest lessons in life is getting our priorities straight. It’s easy to spend all day on some insignificant task only to realize at the end of the day that we failed to accomplish the really important thing we needed to do.

In the exact same way, we so often spend our day, our week, our entire lives as Christians focused and worrying about tiny, insignificant things. Jesus would comment about the worry of food and clothing when we know that God takes care of all that for even the birds. How much more does He care for us? (Cf. Matthew 6:25-28)

If we are IN Christ we must be, just as He had to be, doing our Father’s business (cf. Luke 2:49). If we are IN Christ our priority must be on the things of God, not on the things of this world. Now there’s a hard lesson for us to learn!

Lord, how can I possibly have time to worry about you and your will? Don’t you know, God, how important all these myriads of other things in this world are? The hardest part  is, He knows. Jesus knows just how unimportant all this busy work is when there is the work of God to be done.

The real question is: Do we know who we are? We died! We need to visit the cemetery and have a look at all the dead people there and see what they are doing! Have you ever noticed? How busy are they? How many conversations are they having? What are they doing?

The answer is, nothing! They are dead! And the answer for me and my life and my priorities and my ideas is exactly the same.

Lord, give us more dead people to serve you! Too often we are dead Christians instead of dead non-Christians! When we put on Christ the old me dies and the ONLY priority is Christ living in me! How much could we accomplish if we actually remembered that? Lord, please hide the me and reveal the you!

One of the world’s favorite sayings is, I need to take time for me. God says the right time for me time is when Christ comes again. How much of you and your time and your life does Jesus really want?

Colossians 3:5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. [6] For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, [7] and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. [8] But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. [9] Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, [10] and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him — [11] a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

To be blunt, the real reason so many so-called Christians continue to indulge in sin is because they don’t really belong to Jesus! Paul’s next lesson is, if you are IN Christ then start living like it!

Paul begins with a list of sexual sins and broadens it in a couple of pointed ways. Jesus extended adultery to include the desire for adultery even without the actual action (Matthew 5:28). Paul also adds greed and equates the whole realm of sexual sins with idolatry.

In our world of casual sex and sex as a normal part of any degree of relationship, how does a Christian feel about all this? Far too many have simply caved in to the Devil and gone along with the practices of the world. New Testament Christians faced exactly the same compromises! If the pagan temples could sell sex and everybody in the Greco-Roman world was accepting any kind of sexual perversion as “normal” then why not Christians?

God’s answer to that question is simple. You might just as well worship an idol! Many Christians today are happy to pervert God’s standard for morality and yet still be proud that they don’t worship some little false god statue. God sees no difference and  the eternity for one sin is the same as for the other.

As Christians we are called to be new, to have a do-over that avoids all the mistakes we once made. Further, Paul says that renewal is for ALL of us as Christians. Don’t pretend that you are somehow better than others, we are all sinners that have fallen short of God’s glory. And we ALL need to be renewed that we might together live for Jesus.

God doesn’t care what you’ve done, what your ancestry is, or where in society you fit in. None of that matters to God! The thing, the ONLY thing that matters is Christ! Are you IN Christ? Is Christ IN you? If so, then all of us as family, God’s family, have to work together to accomplish God’s work and will on this earth.

Do you really know Jesus? Or are you just some impostor trying to look like a Christian?

If you feel that any of this is harsh, that’s because it is. Paul and God want the false and  the fake out of us and out of Christ’s church. Look back at verses 10 and 11 one more time. God wants His people to be the ones that have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him — a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

Those words are important, they are imperative, not optional. There is no room in Christ’s church, His body, for those that allow outward, humanistic appearances to count for anything.

Our world imagines that prejudice is something we’ve invented in the last few hundred years. It’s not. People of one background or appearance or culture or whatever have always imagined that they are somehow better because they are different.

The reality is, they are nearly right! Those that belong to God and are faithful to Him and His will ARE MORE than just better. We are sanctified, set apart as special, made holy by Jesus. The Hebrew writer says it like this: By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10).

It’s certainly ridiculous to imagine a Christian meeting Jesus in person and complaining about His skin color, His heritage, His eye color, or any other feature. It is equally ridiculous for a Christian to look down on a brother or sister in Christ for such things.

When we see a brother or sister in Christ, we see Christ for it is Christ who lives in them as He does in each of us. When we see anyone outside of Christ, we see either someone who is in need of Christ or someone who has rejected Christ. But NEVER will we see anyone any greater on this earth than a brother or sister in Christ!

If any of this sounds a bit like many of the earthly problems of our world today, that’s because that is exactly what Paul, what the Holy Spirit of God speaking through Paul, is trying to get through our thick heads. Being one with Christ, being in Christ and Him being in you, is where it’s at, it’s what’s most important.

The churches of the first century struggled with getting over their prejudices, and they, just like us, had many to get over. But get over it we MUST if we would see Jesus, either here on this earth or in eternity.

Finally, notice again that all this is written by Paul, by God in imperatives. Getting rid of immorality, getting rid of prejudice, getting rid of all kinds of sin is NOT optional!

DO the right things because they are right before God. Nothing else in this world matters. Nothing!

—Lester P. Bagley

Colossians 2a

 

Have you read your Bible today? Hopefully we are all spending some time in Paul’s letter to the Colossian church. And as we do so, remember that it is just as much a letter to our congregation as it is to any other church of God’s people.

JOIN THE SING-ALONG AT THE END.

Colossians 2a……………………

Have you ever wished you could have seen and heard Jesus in person? How about the Apostle Paul? Would our faith have been stronger? Would we have been less likely to ever fail?

Let’s explore that from the other side. If you had a grandchild that you’d not seen in person, would that be hard? Paul challenges us to see both of these lessons as he begins the second chapter.

Colossians 2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, [2] that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, [3] in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. [4] I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.

[5] For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

Just as Jesus really cared about all of us who would come to believe in Him and follow  Him without ever seeing Him in person (read John 17 and especially verses 20-23), so Paul struggled with the knowledge that countless of his readers would need extra encouragement in the faith for not having seen. Verses 1 and 2 of this chapter ought to always remind us of Jesus’ prayer in John 17, for that concern is the very exhibit of God’s care for us.

In the concern of both Jesus and Paul, never forget the vital lesson for us: Love like Jesus did! Jesus worded it like this: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34). And all the blessings, all the real understanding and knowledge of Christ is bound up in real love. If you would be really wise, smart and knowledgeable, love like Jesus did!

Colossians 2:6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,

[7] having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

All the good and positive things are found in Jesus. All the good that we can ever be, is found in letting Him live in us. And those that really are in Christ will show it by their lives!

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. [9] For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, [10] and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; [11] and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; [12] having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. [13] When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, [14] having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Verses 8 through 14 we need to examine very carefully, for in them are essential lessons. Never let a hollow, half-truth (or, more often a no-truth-at-all), teaching of human beings supplant the reality of all truth in Christ! There are NO latter-day prophets, no hidden truths that no one but you has ever understood, no other way of salvation than that in Jesus. Peter preached that same message in Acts 4:12. We must keep preaching it today!

Verse 9 tells us where to find God. Indeed, EVERYTHING of any value is IN Christ Jesus! Nearly 100 times the words are used in the New Testament. In Him is God. In Him are all good things and blessings. In Him are His people and their salvation.

Is it any wonder then, that IN Jesus we are made complete? He is ruler and authority over all. No man has the right to overrule Him. The only people that speak for Him are His saved ones as they speak His words.

In verse 11 Paul extends the comparison of this priority by comparing it to circumcision. Under the Law of Moses, males could physically show that they belonged to God. But in Christ, ALL (male, female, slave, free, this earthly nationality or that) are to exhibit by their lives that they belong to God.

In case you were wondering what we come to be IN Christ, this passage makes it clear. The old us dies and is buried. But in this case, we are buried with Jesus in baptism. And we are, just like Jesus, raised up through faith. People often mistake getting wet with being baptized. Unless it is for the right reason, done looking to our God and Savior, it doesn’t mean a thing.

The picture of our baptism is underscored several times (like here and in Romans 6) but always to those already IN Christ. The point is NEVER to go back and try being baptized again and again to fully appreciate and understand what’s happening. No, the point is always to point us back to that incredible moment when we submitted ourselves to something of incredible power and meaning with simple faith in God.

Baptism is never portrayed in the New Testament as something we know all about and appreciate when it happens. Otherwise, there would be far more explanation of baptism to those before they were baptized in Acts. Instead, all the incredible meaning of all the change is reserved for those who have now passed out of the death in the water into life in Christ.

Just like an infant failed to see the meaning and import of his circumcision until he matured, so we only begin to appreciate all the wonder of meaning of baptism as we mature in Christ. And the ultimate gift of life comes with the removal of our sins.

In verse 14 Paul turns to some unique legal technicalities to make his point. The crushing debt and burden of sin requires some great power to remove on God’s part and some extra effort on our part to appreciate.

The certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, may well suggest that, just as the Lamb’s Book of Life (Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27) keeps record of those that belong to God, so, too, does another book record the sins that are charged against us. So how to rid that “book” of those charges?

David appreciated this lesson, too, in Psalm 51:1-2 as he describes sin with three “dirty” words: transgression = crossing the boundary or getting on the wrong side; iniquity = distortion of the soul; and sin = missing the mark. Each required a unique method to cleanse or correct: blot out = as on clay tablets; wash = scrub, high detergent for deep dirt removal; and cleanse = ceremonial purification.

Paul joins in this extra work of forgiveness by combining terms of physical destruction (tearing up) of the legal document and nailing it to the cross. You may recall that the charges against Jesus were “nailed” on the cross with Him (John 19:19-22). In a sense, the very reason for Jesus’ death on that cross was our sins. He really did die for us!

Now that Paul has gone to such lengths to show the amazing forgiveness of our sins by Jesus, so He now uses a unique analogy to display both our Christ and His triumph.

Colossians 2:15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

To appreciate what Paul is picturing here requires us to travel back in time and see what the people of Paul’s day and time saw in these words. For this illustration, Paul shifts gears from the destructive power of the cross (to sin) and now portrays the great triumph.

In times past the tradition had been for a victorious Roman general to be awarded a triumphal procession. By the time of Paul, only the emperor could celebrate a triumph. So Paul’s first point is equating Jesus with the ultimate emperor.

To be honored with a triumph required an impressive victory against a major threatening enemy of Rome. Typically, the highest leaders of the enemy were defeated, disarmed and placed in cages like circus animals to be paraded through the streets of Rome itself. During the parade, Roman citizens both cheered their conquering, victorious, Caesar and booed, derided (and even threw things at, poked and prodded) and otherwise humiliated the defeated enemy as they followed the heroes in the parade. Finally, the procession ended at the Temple where the defeated enemy would be slaughtered as an offering to the gods.

This is the picture that Paul now paints for Christians. When Jesus won the victory over sin and death, He parades in triumph publicly. He makes a public display of them; literally a bold showing of disgrace of them as His triumph!

To the Christians reading this, they understand fully how it all ends. Satan and all his powers of sin and death are the ultimate losers. They deserve nothing more than for sport to be made of them as they are led to the presence of Almighty God, there to be sacrificed, put to death before Him!

It is important that we see what Paul is saying. Jesus the Christ, through His cross and sacrificial death has set everything in motion for victory!

NEVER let anyone or anything try to steal the reality of that victory from you! Don’t become the prize for some false doctrine loser. Our God holds the real power. His redemption of us and His choosing of us as His has placed us far above any one or anything that man or devil could ever offer.

Victory is in Jesus. Victory is Jesus. And we are called to be a part of His family and His eternal Kingdom. Don’t ever settle for anything less!

—Lester P. Bagley

 

The Lord’s Supper

 

The more we struggle to have fellowship together the more with either grow stronger or die. It all works just like bodily exercise and that’s exactly what Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:8. If challenges make you work harder at prayer, reading and studying your Bible, and appreciating your dependence on God, then you will grow stronger. Are you working out and growing?

The Lord’s Supper

As designated by Jesus, the Lord’s Supper is made up of two parts or components. Let’s take a moment to think about those parts and how they relate to God’s word.

The first part of the Lord’s Supper

The bread that reminds us of Jesus’ own body given for us on that cross. In John 6:48ff Jesus taught even before His death about the association of His body and blood with salvation. In a discussion about the Manna as the original Bread-of-Life Jesus extends the comparison to His own body being the new Bread-of-Life for those who would live forever.

The picture that Jesus puts forth causes many of His disciples to reject Him (cf. John 6:60- 66). Certainly without the rest of the picture of Jesus’ atoning death it was a difficult concept.

Jesus’ final night before His death is spent with His disciples celebrating the Passover feast. Passover was instituted as a memorial feast to remind the Jews of God’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage (cf. Exodus 12 and especially note verse 15). Jesus uses this occasion to fulfil and renew the Old Testament picture by instituting a new “feast” for us to remember God’s deliverance of His people from the bondage of sin.

Luke 22 sets the stage for that night as it tells usNow the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching (verse 1). Following the events in Luke 22 we come to that night of the actual celebration of Passover and Jesus showing the New Covenant fulfilled meaning.

So, what kind of bread does Jesus use for that institution of and demonstration of the New Covenant fulfilled Lord’s Supper? Go back and check Exodus 12:15 again. There was NO leavened bread in ANY Jewish house in all of Jerusalem the night Jesus instituted this Supper! The ONLY possible conclusion is that Jesus used and demonstrated for us the use of unleavened bread for that commemorative supper.

What’s the big deal? Strangely enough, one of the early changes to New Testament practice seems to come as some churches began using leavened bread. By the sixth and seventh centuries it appears to be common practice in most churches.

Why? Apparently (from early Christian commentators) they wanted it to symbolize the risen Christ, so they used raised bread. Their reasoning also extended to the expressed desire to differentiate the Lord’s Supper from the Jewish Passover. Remember those “Judaizing” teachers Paul dealt with (cf. Galatians 5)?

Let’s back up a minute and ask a different question: Was there a purpose or meaning for Jesus using unleavened bread that might be important to God?

(6) Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? (7) Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. (8) Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

Paul seems to give us a few good reasons to do it God’s way. First, Christ IS our Passover. He’s the fulfilment of the Old Testament example. It was, as so many other things there, pointing us to Jesus.

Second, while the primary focus of the bread we share is the body of Christ sacrificed for us, it is also a reminder of purity.  As God’s children we are called out of this world to BE God’s light, God’s family, God’s example in this world. If we are contaminated by even just a little of the world does it matter? The Holy Spirit seems to think it does!

Finally, the impurities themselves of malice and wickedness that Paul cites, we are purified and made sinless by Jesus. We cannot be half and half. We must have the right ingredients of sincerity and truth. The right ingredients matter!

So the bread we partake of is a picture of Jesus, the ultimate Bread of Life (better than Manna!). It is a reminder of our salvation from sin by Jesus’ sacrifice. It is a foreshadowing of the ultimate Passover when those purified by Jesus will be eternally passed over by eternal death. And it is a reminder of our call to holiness in being pure as we live for Him who died for us.

Do we appreciate how all this is tied into the Bible? Without time spent in reading and study of Scripture, we would never possess the information to see the big picture of what God is showing us in that little piece of bread.

So what about the cup?

Let’s begin with a few minor details. Again, does it matter if we use fruit of the GRAPE vine or could we use watermelon juice or something else. Should we just casually call it wine, if grape juice is the right thing, as many people do?

You may recall that words matter. They always have and they always will. No one bakes a chocolate cake by claiming that onions mean the same thing as chocolate. So what is the Bible telling us?

A little digging into the Jewish world of the New Testament shows us two things to answer these questions about Jesus’ words. First, “fruit of the vine” is a term that always, only means “grape vines.” While it is true that other things grow on vines, that’s never what this term used in the New Testament refers to. So we have to go with God’s definition.

The second problem is also simple. There is NEVER a single reference in the New Testament to the liquid used as “wine.” No Greek copy ever uses the specific word for wine, always and only the generic term “fruit of the vine.” In Jewish references to the Passover, comments are made regarding use of fermented or unfermented as being up to individual families’ taste or desire. The only specific set forth in Scripture for the Lord’s Supper is that it is juice of the grape. That’s what God says so it must be important.

Yes, but what does it MEAN? Certainly, like the bread, there are some lessons of importance that God is trying to get across to us!

Paul gives us a starting point: (23) For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; (24) and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (25) In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (26) For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

The cup (to be more specific, the fruit of the vine contents as the vessel itself has no significance) is the representation of Jesus’ blood of the new covenant. But what does THAT really mean?

To understand and appreciate where God is coming from we must go back to what He told His people beginning with Noah after the flood. Genesis chapter 9 begins with God’s blessings to Noah and his family as they begin their lives again on a renewed earth. He tells them that both plants and animals are for their use and food. But, in verse 4 God begins a short lecture about the blood of those animals.

Blood is life! There are many body parts and organs that you can live without. But without blood you are dead. In Genesis 9:5-6 God tells them that human lifeblood is so precious that He requires it as the ultimate payment for taking a life.Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man (Genesis 9:6).

Many years later God would give what we now know as the Old Covenant or the Law of Moses. In Exodus 24 Moses shared with the people of Israel all the law and words of the Lord and then offered the first sacrifices of that law. The blood of those first offerings was saved and half of it sprinkled on the altar with the sacrifices. But the other half of the blood was sprinkled on the people as Moses spoke: Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words (Exodus 24:8).

God actually went into some further detail with the priests and all of Israel about the importance of this picture:  For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement (Leviticus 17:11).  For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off. (Leviticus 17:14)

That was the blood of life, the blood of the old covenant. Centuries later Jeremiah the Prophet would proclaim that a new day and a new covenant were coming (read Jeremiah 31:31-34). That New Covenant would be better, greater, stronger and more powerful as in it the Lord would forgive sin and remember it no more!

Jesus’s words (cf. Matthew 26:27-29) as He institutes the Lord’s Supper harken back to all that history. This cup is the picture, the new reminder of that new Covenant as Jesus had been teaching. Remember John 6?  So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:53-54)

Here it is, the blood of life, of Jesus’ own life and not just some animal. And he gave it, not on a human altar but on that cross as He died in our place for our sins.

Is it any wonder that Paul would continue in 1 Corinthians by saying: Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27)? How on earth could we ever be worthy of such a gift, such a covenant?

The honest answer is that we cannot! But it was God’s gift to us to make us worthy. Paul continues: A person must examine themselves, and in so doing they are to eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1 Corinthians 11:28).

Paul’s exact words are important. We must examine ourselves! And we MUST eat and drink! It’s not an option but a God given requirement to partake and do so correctly each time!

After all, Jesus did it and did it right for you, to make you a child of His family, bound by His covenant to be with Him forever. And that’s why John would later tell us: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

It’s not about us, for none of us could ever be worthy. It is ALL about Jesus our Savior who has given His own body and blood to purchase us and redeem us from sin and death.

May we all join in partaking, in sharing this gift, with each other and with our Lord and God. May we remember the price He paid for our sins. And may we remember that in Him we all together walk for eternity in light.

Let’s celebrate this greatest of all announcements!

—Lester P. Bagley

There’s a stirring deep within me.
Could it be my time has come
When I’ll see my gracious Savior
Face to face when all is done?

Is that His voice I am hearing?
“Come away, My precious one.”
Is He calling me? Is He calling me?

I will rise up, rise up,
Then bow down
And lay my crown
At His wounded feet.

I will rise up, rise up,
Then bow down
And lay my crown
At His wounded feet.

There’s a stirring deep within me….

Useless Prayers

The last few months have really brought home to us just how blessed we were. We see the lesson repeatedly in life that we don’t really appreciate what we have until we lose it. Our times together in fellowship were nice before the virus but were sorely missed and even more appreciated when we lost them for a time. Hopefully the same has held true for our time spent in Bible reading, Bible study and in prayer.

Useless Prayers

What a title! Is there really any such thing? Doesn’t God always hear our prayer? Can it really be true that God would not listen to and help us?

Have you ever heard or used the phrase, In one ear and out the other? Often it is said by a parent to a child and we have probably all both heard it at one time and repeated it ourselves.

Yes, God, being God, hears all prayers even as He knows all things that happen and, more importantly, knows all hearts and intents. So in a sense, if God ignores our prayers it is as though the request has gone through Him without catching His attention or intention to answer.

The obvious next question is really, Does or can that happen? So let’s begin with a few Scriptures:

  • He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination. (Proverbs 28:9)
  • If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear; (Psalm 66:18)
  • When he is judged, let him come forth guilty, And let his prayer become sin (Psalm 109:7).
  • The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight (Proverbs 15:8).
  • The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, How much more when he brings it with evil intent (Proverbs 21:27)!
  • They cried for help, but there was none to save, Even to the LORD, but He did not answer them (Psalm 18:41).

The prophets also frequently warned God’s own chosen people of the danger. If you do not love and obey the Lord then He will not even listen to you. Check out just a few examples:

  • So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. (Isaiah 1:15)
  • Therefore thus says the LORD, “Behold I am bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them (Jeremiah 11:11).
  • Therefore, I indeed will deal in wrath. My eye will have no pity nor will I spare; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not listen to them (Ezekiel 8:18).
  • Then they will cry out to the LORD, But He will not answer them. Instead, He will hide His face from them at that time Because they have practiced evil deeds (Micah 3:4).
  • They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. (13) And just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and I would not listen,” says the LORD of hosts. (Zechariah 7:12-13)

We often hear how willing God is to heed and save those that call on Him. But that  NEVER means, in God’s terms, that you can call on Him without obedience. God makes no bargains to save us any way other than that He has set forth in His word!

God puts this bluntly in Proverbs 1:28 when He says,Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me. If we are not willing to obey God’s will it is useless to seek His help!

Oh, but that’s all Old Testament teachings. Now, in the New Testament God has changed and we can fool Him. Isn’t that true?

Of course not! Listen to Paul: (6) For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (7) and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, (8) dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (9) These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9)

Did you catch verse 8? Yes, those that spurn God and do not know Him will pay the penalty of eternal destruction. But so will all those that do not OBEY Him.

Without obedience and faithful service to the Lord, He will not heed or answer our prayers. God actually hates those prayers and they become sin. Remember Psalm 109:7 (above)?

If our allegiance is not to the Lord then we are presumptuous in even making a request to God. If we desire God’s blessing then we need to get out hearts and lives right with Him.

The vital thing for us is to know and obey the word of God. Never stop listening to Him. Never stop doing His will. Peter puts it like this: For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Peter 3:12).

—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

 

 

God that IS peace

 

How’s that Bible reading going? Do you like nagging? Apparently, we DO when it’s important enough. How many times are you willing to “nag” someone you really love to be careful? Oh, that’s not really nagging when it’s important! So, how’s that Bible reading going? It IS that important!

Peace

Some words just belong to God. Without God’s definition and understanding of them they are meaningless. Amen is a good example that we’ve studied before. God’s meaning and use of the word gives us, as God’s people, a totally different sense than any replacement from the world.

If anything, this is even more true with the word peace. It is certainly a word that the world tries to use, but clearly God thinks that the world’s use is incompetent and downright wrong.

In a very unique way, God actually defines peace. In Judges 6:24 as Gideon is called by God and builds an altar to worship the Lord, he names it The LORD is Peace, Yahweh- shalom. As Jesus spends that final night before His death with the Apostles, He tells them Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)

Following His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to the 10 (Thomas is missing) and then, later, to the 11 (read John 20:19, 21 & 26). His greeting to them (most likely actually spoken in Hebrew as they all were familiar with the greeting) is peace upon you (plural) or šālôm ‘ălêkem.

The words form the still common greeting in Israel. We might translate it as good day, but it means much, much more. The idea expressed is may you be well, whole, complete as in having the physical and spiritual resources sufficient to your needs.

Think about the importance and urgency of what Jesus is saying. The Lord God is the very definition, the epitome of peace. Only in Him can we really be well, whole and complete. Only the God that IS peace has the physical and spiritual power to supply what we really need.

Before His death, Jesus extended this true peace of God to them (indeed, to us all, through them!) as a blessing. Blessings don’t come any greater or more complete than everything you need! Then the resurrected Jesus, having physically displayed His power as God by raising Himself from death (cf. John 10:18), extends yet again His powerful blessing of peace to His friends. (Be sure to read John 15:13-15 where Jesus makes the point that His disciples are no longer to be called slaves or servants but friends!)

Over 200 times the Old Testament illustrates this word, peace, and most of the time with that special link to God’s definition of real peace. In addition, the Old Testament uses a form of the word for God’s peace to refer to a special peace offering nearly 100 times. And these illustrations add to our understanding of what God’s peace really means.

These offerings are sometimes called fellowship offerings or wholeness offerings as they involved a sacrificial meal shared by the one making the offering, the people and the priests. You will recall how similar this is to the Passover, but, in this case, it could take place at any time of the year.

The peace or fellowship offering was for thanksgiving, at the fulfillment of a vow and/or for a freewill offering. The reasons or excuses for making this offering were broad enough to allow it at any time. Consider that thought for a moment. When is an appropriate time to simply thank God because you love and appreciate Him?

There were regulations for the offering. Cf. Exodus 20:24 (required); Leviticus 7:11-18 (purpose); Leviticus 3:1, 6-12 (the animal used); Leviticus 3:2, 8-13; 17:5-6 (how to prepare); Leviticus 19:5; 22:21 (requirements to be acceptable); Amos 5:22-24 (including a right attitude). After all, people have tried to fool God with fake offerings many times (Malachi discusses this problem, if you recall). So if you really want to thank God and do something to honor Him, you still have to do it the right way.

The peace or fellowship offering was shared. God received the best (Leviticus 3:3, 5, 9, 11, 14-16). The priests received a share as food (Leviticus 7:29-34). The people ate the rest (Leviticus 10:14).

These actions came together to affirm their relationship to God and were a part of their covenant  with  God  at  Sinai  (cf.  Exodus  20:24;  24:4-6)  and  later  with  their  Kings  (cf.  1 Samuel 10:8; 11:15 & 1 Kings 9:25). And they were also part of the seasonal festivals of Weeks (Leviticus 23:19) and Tabernacles (Numbers 29:39).

This was a regular part of many other times for both individual life (Nazirite vows, Numbers 6:14, 17-18; 10:10) and the community of God’s people (New Moon and other festivals, on entering the Promised Land, bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, dedication of the Temple, etc.).

When you think about it, any time was and is a good time to celebrate peace with God and fellowship with Him and His people. Is it any wonder that the Lord’s Supper is called a celebration  by  Paul  (1 Corinthians  5:8)  as  well  as  a  proclamation  or  announcement   (1 Corinthians 11:26)? For that matter, is it a surprise to any of us that one of the great joys of congregational life is a potluck, a feasting together with brothers and sisters in Christ?

Finally, consider that perhaps the most recognized Christian greeting in the New Testament is the reminder of God’s grace and peace as our blessing. Read….

  • Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2;
  • Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1;
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2;
  • Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3; 1 Peter 1:2;
  • 2 Peter 1:2; 2 John 3; Revelation 1:4.

May God’s rich grace and peace be multiplied to you!

—Lester P. Bagley

Philippians 4 ~ I can do all things…

Oh how we look forward to one week from this Sunday! Do we have a greater appreciation for David’s words of Psalm 122:1? I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” May we continue to show our joy as we read, study and live the words of God!

Philippians 4

Chapter 3 concluded with the reminder that our citizenship is in heaven and we are awaiting our Savior’s return to take us home. Chapter 4 begins with because this is true, be faithful!

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my dear friends (Philippians 4:1). It is sad how often we take our brothers and sisters for granted. It’s true in our earthly families at times and even more so in our eternal family. Don’t ever neglect them!

Because that is true it is heartbreaking to see two faithful Christians at odds with one another. Paul continues with a plea for help from all the congregation: I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, my true comrade, help these women who have labored side by side with me in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2-3) The responsibility to DO what is right before God is NEVER someone else’s job. Paul could have easily said this to the elders or the preacher or the deacons. But the simple fact is, that job belongs to ALL Christians. You do you is a cute ad for gambling, but YOU do CHRIST is what God expects of us all.

Joy is never far away from God’s people if they truly understand who they are. As Paul writes to those working hard at living the Christian life, he’s called them his joy and crown (verse 1 above) and now calls them (and us all) to rejoice. Show your joy in everything you do as a son or daughter of Almighty God!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to every person. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

It’s easy for us to feel alone, but the fact that the Lord is near is a reminder given several times. David said it like this: The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18). He is in control, all we have to do is let Him know that we trust Him to do what is best. When we let go and let God take control is when we can enjoy His marvelous peace… no matter what happens to us here on earth!

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — put these things into practice, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Recall Paul’s “finally” of chapter 3. He’s not done yet, but he is calling us to do something from now on! We are all aware of the countless things we have to think about and worry about. Think on or let your mind dwell on these things is actually even more forceful that you count your many blessings. To begin with it’s said as an imperative and secondly, it’s a call for an accounting. The soldiers in Philippi would have heard many times the order to give an accounting for their actions. Paul is, as God is, calling on us to be responsible for much more than just thanksgiving. We are responsible to God for doing all the things true, honorable, righteous, beautiful and worthy of praise and commendation. That’s a LOT of goodness. That’s a call to be holy, like our God is holy in all things. And this needs to be our focus as we give account of our holiness before God.

When we do these things, when this is our lifestyle as saints, then God promises His peace to be with us. It’s ridiculous for us to complain about a lack of God’s peace when we are not giving our all to Him! There’s an old saying (I’ve seen it attributed to at least a couple of different people) that goes like this: Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. If we lack God’s peace, it is because we have failed to live in holiness.

Paul now turns to some very personal comments to his brothers and sisters in Philippi. They worry about him and he worries about them. But because they share the same Lord, they need to remember that God is taking care of them all. And that calls, no matter how hard it may seem sometimes, for even more joy and thanksgiving!

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned before, but you had no opportunity. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself. I know what it is to be in want, and I know what it is to have an abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret, whether I am well-fed or hungry, have plenty or am in need. I can do all things through the one who strengthens me. However, you have acted nobly, sharing with me in my distress. (Philippians 4:10-14)

Missionaries learn pretty quickly which congregations truly love the Lord and are faithful in supporting the Lord’s work. Nearly every missionary has been assured of love and support from a congregation only to receive nothing. Some congregations even become well known for their promises that are never kept.

And you Philippians know that in the beginning of my gospel ministry, when I left Macedonia, no church joined with me in giving and receiving but you only, for even in Thessalonica you sent something more than once for my need. Not that I seek the gift; rather, I seek the interest that accrues to your account. I have received all I need and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gift you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for all time. Amen. (Philippians 4:15-20)

Philippi is not one of those churches that fail in their promises! Recall that it was actually the Macedonian churches (of which Philippi is the crown jewel) that gave even in their poverty that Paul would hold up as an example and a challenge to the Corinthian church (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:1-6). Philippi is the congregation that ought to hold their heads high for all they’ve done for the Gospel. We ought to always strive to be like Philippi!

When a congregation acts so as to bring praise to God, you know they are doing what is right. And a congregation that honors God in their deeds is a congregation that is truly a part of God’s family!

Paul concludes with greetings from saints and holy ones to saints and holy ones: Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send their greetings to you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philippians 4:21-23) But above all else, Paul extends the blessing of God’s grace to be with the family of Christ.

May we lead our lives in such a way that Jesus will always be with us!

—Lester P. Bagley