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 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 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

 

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

1/19/20 ~ The Choice of Spiritual Blindness

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Have you ever closed your eyes and tried to walk around without seeing? If you do it for very long it becomes a great way to stub a toe, bash a shin or ever trip and fall over something.

Apparently, there’s a good reason that God gave us the ability to see. Jesus commented about a blind man leading another blind man in Luke 6:39. His conclusion was that they would both fall into a pit. And the lesson is even more important when it comes to spiritual matters!

Matthew 15:12-14 tells of another occasion when Jesus made this same point: Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

False teachers and unbelievers have become “offended” at something that God said. Jesus does NOT apologize or take back the truth! Instead He bluntly condemns the sinner for choosing to sin and plainly states that God will make certain that such people will be destroyed.

False teachers today still try to claim that the fact that “God is love” means He will ignorantly accept anything from us as acceptable. In believing such nonsense they show themselves to be heirs of those Jesus condemned.

Zephaniah the Prophet of God warned about the coming great day of the Lord (1:14) and warned that those who have sinned against the Lord would be made to walk like the blind and would have their blood be poured out like dust.

Peter echoes that lesson in 2 Peter 3 when he says: Above all you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come with scoffing, following their own lusts. And Jude shares the same point in Jude 17-19: But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

Did you catch Jude’s last sentence there? Those that choose spiritual blindness (ignorance that mocks the truth of God’s word) are the ones who cause divisions, they are the worldly-minded ones and they are lacking God’s Holy Spirit! NEVER let Satan and his followers try to shift the blame! Those that disobey the Lord are entirely at fault, are entirely to blame for their error!

There is one more passage that we need to see before we finish this lesson. In 2 Corinthians chapter 3 Paul is speaking of the Jews who have closed their minds and eyes to Jesus and compares it to the veil that hid the face of Moses after he had been in the presence of God (verse 14). For those that close their minds to Christ the ONLY hope is still Christ!

Only in Christ is the blindness, the veil taken away (2 Corinthians 3:14). And, just to make the point even more plain, Paul says in verse 16: yet whenever one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Spiritual blindness is a choice. When we make the choice to deny God, to not obey His will, we make a foolish choice. But the choice to see is still open to us! When we listen to and obey the Lord, sight is restored.

Choose wisely, choose well. What choice will you make?

— Lester P. Bagley

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Sunday 11/3/19 ~ Psalm 51

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From the Preacher’s Pen… David was a warrior. That fact would eventually make him unfit to build the Temple that he longed to build for the Lord. But that same fact also led to peace and allowed his son, Solomon, to build it.

It would be a grave error to conclude that David was wrong to be a warrior; for, much like the Judges before him, that was the very reason he was called by God to be King. It is also wrong to imagine that God slighted David or failed to support him in that warfare.

All this being true and verified by God’s word, that is not to suggest that David’s life of warfare was easy. As with all warriors, there would be many close friends lost in battle and many, many dark days. And those dark days would lead to many songs to the Lord such as…

Psalm 61

The story begins with Psalm 60; a heartbreaking song as David laments in the very first verse, O God, You have rejected us. You have broken us; You have been angry; O, restore us. Unlike many Psalms that begin with despair, this one seems to almost end with a plea for God to please be there. The final two verses read: O give us help against the adversary, For deliverance by man is in vain. Through God, we shall do valiantly, And it is He who will tread down our adversaries.

Reading Psalm 60 you get a sense that the issue is not fully resolved as David writes again. The balances have not yet settled to see the final end. And yet the positive tone, the faith of a man of God still shines through.

We do both God and all the previous heroes of faith a major disservice when we imagine they always had it easy and faith never really took any effort, even in their darkest days. And, in many ways, we also do ourselves harm when we think that faith is so unrealistically easy. Faith is hard! It is a challenge, perhaps the greatest challenge we will ever face, to keep the faith in those dark days.

God doesn’t give anyone all the answers nor does He ever suggest that it is easy to face temptation, difficulties, and challenges, even when they are not our fault! Often, like David in Psalm 60, the concept of hanging onto our faith in dark days is a serious challenge that must be met… day after day and many times year after year!

That lesson leads us to the next Psalm by David, Psalm 61. Listen to the plea to God and the challenge to self to listen and remember God has always been faithful and we must trust Him even, or especially when we are weak:

  • 1 Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer.
  • 2 From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
  • 3 For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy.

And that lesson should make us realize that God IS there. He HAS heard, even when we’ve struggled to keep our promises; He and His promises are faithful!

  • 5 For You have heard my vows, O God; You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name.
  • 6 You will prolong the king’s life; His years will be as many generations.
  • 7 He will abide before God forever; Appoint lovingkindness and truth that they may preserve him.

Yes, those great promises are made to us, to you as God’s child. Oh, I’m not a king you might say. And yet you are the child of the King of Kings!  Your future home is with God forever and He has appointed lovingkindness and truth to preserve, to help you, to keep you safe in Him.

So how do we respond to these twin opposing certainties: God SEEMS to have deserted us; yet God has PROMISED to be with us and help us through everything?

Real winners, real heroes are not those that do the right thing when it is easy, when there are no challeges, no difficulties. Real winners, real heroes are those that keep on fighting through the dark days, through the deepest despair. Real winners, real heroes are those that keep the faith and face the challenges to sing the song of victory even in seeming defeat!

David concludes Psalm 61 by saying:

8 So I will sing praise to Your name forever, That I may pay my vows day by day.

So, when the road of life is hard, when the challenges abound, when darkness clouds your way, what will YOU do? Quit? Or Sing praises to God?

Do you remember what James said? Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. (James 5:13) Do you see how David and James complement and amplify each other? Pray and sing to be a victor in Christ! And never give up! That is faith, real faith.

— 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

 

 

Sunday 8/18 ~ High Maintenance Christians

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From the Preacher’s Pen… There’s an old saying that you are either part of the solution or part of the problem. Jesus put it a bit more bluntly, He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters (Matthew 12:30).

The spiritual side of that simple fact requires us as Christians to be constantly examining ourselves. Consider if we are…

High Maintenance Christians

I would guess that most of us have heard the term High Maintenance applied to people. It refers to those people that require a huge amount of attention and effort in order to keep moving and be at all useful.

Yes, there are frequent commands from Jesus for us to care for each other. However, just like the frequently used false teaching of you can’t judge me, the concept that other Christians must cater to my every whim, beck and call is a lie.

Let me say this plainly, no Christian has the responsibility to baby you and give in to you! YOU have the responsibility to care more about other Christians than they do you!

Paul discusses this very same lesson in Galatians 6. When we deal with a brother or sister struggling in sin we have (not the elders, preachers or someone else in the congregation) the responsibility as Christians to help, to bear (share in) their burdens (Galatians 6:1-2). But the moment we imagine that this means everyone owes us, Paul reverses the responsibility to each one must bear their own load (Galatians 6:3-5).

So, is this REALLY a problem? Obviously, the fact that Paul took time in the New Testament to deal with the problem suggests that it IS a problem.

Having said that, I doubt anyone would be surprised to learn that this same problem is frequently written about, preached about from pulpits and discussed by elders and preachers everywhere. (A quick search on line results in dozens of articles, sermons, lessons, and discussions!)

Since it is a common problem, how do we deal with it? How much time do we give to the chronic complainers? One preacher explained the problem like this:

A little investigation will show that this “high maintenance” individual has never done any of these things for anyone else. Usually these folks are not particularly friendly, almost never show hospitality, don’t visit the sick, never see about the needs of others, and generally ignore any situation that doesn’t involve their own interests or desires. They are self-centered and full of self-pity.

What each and every Christian MUST learn is that there are NO Scriptures that set ME up to be glorified. The Lord’s church not only BELONGS to the Lord, but it exists for the sole purpose of DOING HIS WILL.

Too often we find ourselves, our egos in competition with that of James and John or the rest of the Apostles for who’s the greatest. Jesus destroyed that idea in Mark 9:35 when He said, If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.

Paul continues that same lesson as God demands that we look outside of our own self and realize that we are called to serve and not to be served. To the Philippians Paul says it like this: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each person should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Your attitude toward one another should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)

Are you a “high maintenance” member? Or are you the faithful one that just keeps on serving the Lord, putting Him first, worshipping Him regularly, reliably serving wherever you can?

Nothing is more time consuming and disheartening than a car that is unreliable, that constantly requires repairs. Nothing is more discouraging to fellow saints or the Lord Himself than a Christian that acts the same way.

Certainly, there are times that we all need uplifting, repairs and encouragement. But always remember that our job, our responsibility to God is to BE the ACTIVE servant. Be the one who volunteers to teach without being sent a gilt-edged invitation. Be the one who reaches out to the lost to share the Good News. Never be a High Maintenance Christian!

Lester Bagley

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