What Should I Wear?

Today’s Reading: Colossians 3:12-24

“What should I wear today?” This is the most frequently asked question at our house between the hours of 6 and 8am. Not only will I ask myself that question this morning, I will most likely hear that question coming from others in my family.

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR TODAY?

To find the answer for myself, I have to ask what the purpose is in the question. Is the motivation comfort or based on the weather forecast or to accomplish a purpose or to simply “look cute”? What am I doing today and how does this speak into the way I should dress? No, I am not going to walk down a red carpet with cameras flashing and journalists asking me “Sherry, who are you wearing today?” In fact, most likely no one else will really notice what I am wearing but this is still an important question for me because how I am dressed will affect the way I feel the rest of the day.

So what is my purpose today? How does God want to use me and what does He want to accomplish through me? God has chosen me…today…for a reason…for a purpose…

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. – Colossians 3:12-14 (The Message)

It’s a good thing I like to accessorize because the decision of what to wear today has already been made for me – LOVE. All the other qualities are simply accessories to the primary outfit, which makes all the other details of the ensemble work, or as Paul put it, “binds them all together in perfect unity” (3:14 NIV).

If I purposely wear love today, it will affect the way I feel the entire day. If I start my day out clothed in the love of God, then everything else with be a natural outflow of my relationship with Him – compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness (3:12-13 NIV). It will affect the way I feel and it will affect what I do. What I do – now this is really where the importance of my day lies.

WHAT SHOULD I DO TODAY?

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word of deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:15-17, NIV

If what I am going to do today is going to bear the name of the Lord Jesus, it is going to require love – not love produced by my own human effort, but the love of Jesus which He promises to fill me with as I spend time with him…drinking my morning coffee.

Paul goes on to talk about our appearance on the inside. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone (Colossians 4:6). To be gracious in what we say requires an attitude of submission. We give up our right to say what we feel like saying in order to submit to the voice of the Holy Spirit prompting us to say what God would have us say.

Submission to our Heavenly Master is what makes it possible to do what he has asked us to do:
Submit to your husband as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord (3:18)
Love your wife and never treat her harshly (3:19)
Obey your parents for this pleases the Lord (3:20)
Do not aggravate your children or they will become discouraged (3:21)
Obey and serve your earthly masters out of reverent fear for the Lord rather than for people (3:22-23)
When in authority, be just and fair with those who answer to you for you have a Master in heaven (4:1)

As our Master, God is calling all of us to submission. When we submit to those in authority over us, we are submitting to the authority of God, who is our real Master.

Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. – Colossians 3:24

So, as servants of our Lord Jesus Christ, let’s do as Paul commands in Colossians 3:17: Represent Christ well today in everything that we do or say or “wear” with a thankful heart for all God has done for us through Christ.

We represent Jesus. It is not only about what we are wearing (love accessorized by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness) but WHO we are wearing. So tell us as you walk down the red carpet God has designed for you,…

WHO ARE YOU WEARING TODAY?

Life’s Necessary Endings

Today’s Reading: Colossians 2:16-3:11

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you ALIVE WITH CHRIST, for he forgave all our sins. He cancelled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. – Colossians 2:13-14

You have DIED WITH CHRIST, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. – Colossians 2:20a

WE WHO WERE DEAD IN OUR SINS DIED WITH CHRIST SO THAT WE COULD BE SET FREE.

Because we died with Christ, we are alive with Christ! This language sounds familiar to some of us but, to the unbeliever or the one seeking to understand, it can be difficult to translate. God’s word tell us that we DIED WITH CHRIST and that, by his death, He has set us free! The old you is gone. That person who was a slave to sin is no longer who you are. You are a new creation who can now live in the freedom Christ purchased on the cross.

Paul warns God’s holy people that there will be many “empty philosophies and high sounding nonsense that comes from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (2:8). Wow, no argument there! We are surrounded by a way of thinking that is slowly slipping its way into the Church. It is easy to avoid the crazier theories floating around but what about the deceptive ways of thinking that resemble what we have been taught but twist the truth? We need to be alert to the influence of the world when we begin to soften our stance on the things the Bible defines as sin.

Paul also says to beware of the tendency to serve a set of rules rather than walk into the relationship God plans for us, out of which holiness develops (2:16-19). When Christ is in us and we are walking in relationship with Him, the change in our life is a result of HIS righteousness, rather than a claim to our own self-righteousness. How easy it is to fall into this pride trap!

Legalism requires a strong devotion to a set of rules and provides no help in conquering our evil desires (2:23, NLT) – it produces false humility and lacks value in restraining sensual indulgence (NIV). Or as The Message rewords it, it’s “just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important.” That reminds me of verses we recently read in Galatians.

I NO LONGER LIVE BUT CHRIST LIVES IN ME.

Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right by obeying the law…

My old self has been CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. – Galatians 2:16, 20-21

WE ARE ALIVE WITH CHRIST BECAUSE WE DIED WITH CHRIST, SO LET’S LIVE IN CHRIST.

The law could not make us right with God so there was a need for Christ to die. We are ALIVE WITH CHRIST today because we DIED WITH CHRIST. He has set us free from sin, free from all the world wants to enslave us with. The world would like to steal the riches we have found in Christ and rob us of our hope of glory, which is Christ in you (Col. 1:27). Let’s continue to LIVE IN CHRIST, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith and overflowing with thankfulness (2:6-7).

A few of years ago, I read the book Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. The concepts in the book are based on the foundational idea that endings are a normal and necessary part of life. Jobs, friendships, people, places, projects, programs, interests – all serve a purpose for a season in our life and it is natural for something that was once “the new” to eventually become “the old.”

Paul refers to necessary endings in Colossians 3 – we are ALIVE IN CHRIST because we DIED WITH CHRIST and then we are RAISED WITH CHRIST to a new life. It is necessary for us to die to the old life in order for us to find our real life, which is hidden with Christ in God (3:3). Letting go of our old life could mean putting to death some old sinful habits (Paul has a whole list of examples in 3:5-9) or releasing control of our lives and the plans we had made in order to follow God’s plan.

WE ARE RAISED WITH CHRIST TO A NEW LIFE WHERE CHRIST LIVES IN US.

This real life takes form as we get to know our Creator and become like him. We are renewed and given a new nature, but we must also let go of the old in order to fully experience the new. In this new life, Christ is all that matters – we must focus on him and his plan for our lives, putting aside our own plans and desires. It is when we allow Christ to live in us and change us that we truly experience His sanctifying work in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin but servants of God.

This is consistent with what we have been studying all week in Colossians.
And now, just as you have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, you must continue to follow HIM. Let your roots grow down into HIM, and let your lives be built on HIM. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:6-7

As Paul said in Colossians 3:11b: “Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” And there is no necessary ending to this fact. God will never change. Even when we are surrounded by changes in life or experiencing changes in our own hearts, He is consistent and He is faithful. We can trust Him through life’s necessary endings.

My Experience is My Evidence

Today’s Reading: Colossians 2:6-15

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT)

So how do we know our salvation experience is real? How do we know that something significant happened when we gave our life to Christ? Paul is very clear about the growth that comes after our salvation decision – we are to continue to follow Him, growing into Him and building our lives on Him. When we remain in Him, rooted and established, daily spending time in God’s presence, we will grow. There will always be a next step and more understanding to be gained as we continue to follow Him, growing stronger each day. This growth is the evidence that God is real but cannot take place apart from the source, which takes me back to three of my favorite passages of Scripture: John 15, Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17.

THE EVIDENCE IS IN THE ABUNDANCE OF THE HARVEST

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who He is – when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples. – John 15:4-8 (The Message)

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. – Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT)

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. – Psalm 1:2-3 (NIV)

When your roots are planted in Christ, your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness. This morning my coffee cups overflows with thankfulness – I choose to be thankful for God’s provision, thankful for God’s faithfulness, thankful for opportunities, thankful for friends, thankful for His Church, and thankful for the close relationship I share with Him. God is so good and we have so much to be thankful for.

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. – Colossians 2:8-10

I love how the Message rewords these verses: You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him.

THE EVIDENCE IS IN THE EXPERIENCE

Several times in my life I have been asked how I know Christ is alive or what evidence I have that He is real and the answer is found in the EXPERIENCE OF CHRIST. Once you have experienced Jesus, and as you remember what your life was like before you committed to Him, there’s no doubt of who He is and the difference He has made in your life. It is another hidden treasure as we get to know the mystery of Christ living within us (Col. 1:27, 2:3). In this personal relationship with Jesus, we experience fullness because we are made complete through our union with Christ (2:10). That is enough evidence for me!

When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision – the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you ALIVE WITH CHRIST, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. – Colossians 2:11-14

THE EVIDENCE IS IN THE TRANSFORMATION

Praise God! More evidence that Christ is real – the change of who we are. We are no longer the person we were before we were raised to new life in Him. We are forgiven, we have been buried with Christ through baptism, and we know what it is to trust God and be filled to overflowing with peace and thankfulness.

Jesus is real. How do I know? THE EVIDENCE IS IN MY LIFE and in the lives of God’s people all around me – lives changed and made complete through their union with Christ made possible by the cross. Verse 15 speaks of the victory that took place when Jesus was crucified. Forgiveness is possible and transformation takes place because Jesus was willing to suffer and die so that we could be made ALIVE with Him!

Thank you, Jesus, for the confidence we can have in our salvation because of the obvious difference you have made in our life! I am so thankful this morning that I know what it means to be alive with Christ. My heart is full and overflowing with the peace that comes from You. Lord, I give you my day. Make Your presence in my life the evidence that others need in order to trust in You. Amen.

The Mystery Unlocked & Revealed

Today’s Reading: Colossians 2:1-5

IT IS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THAT UNLOCKS THE MYSTERY.

Let’s go back to where we ended yesterday in Colossians, chapter 1 to give us context for what Paul writes in chapter 2. It is in God’s presence that He makes known the glorious riches of this mystery, that Christ lives in YOU! It is our union with Christ, our intimate walk that gives us hope – hope for us and for those watching us. So the secret of the mystery is to allow God to bring us into His presence and then remain there, allowing God to fill us so that He can work through us. It is in the “remaining” that we continue in our faith and produce a life that is worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him in every way. Colossians 2 continues with this same thought.

“I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we’ve been shown that mystery!” – 2:2-3 (The Message)

The New Living Translation says it a different way: I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. – Colossians 2:2-3

Paul wanted his readers to understand God’s ways, His plan. In order for this to happen, he knew they needed to understand Christ Himself because all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge exist in Christ. By getting to know Jesus Christ, the mysteries of God are unlocked and revealed. It is through Christ that we have a relationship with God Himself.

There are going to be times in our lives where we struggle to wrap our minds around the “whys” of life. There are going to be times when understanding God’s plan in the midst of our circumstances is a struggle. It is in those moments that we need to draw closer to Christ instead of pulling away in reaction to our hurt or confusion. It is at those times we need the wisdom and knowledge that are found in Christ. We may not understand God’s plan but, when we have a relationship with God, we can trust His supremacy in any and every situation.

IT IS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THAT PREPARES US FOR THE STRUGGLE AHEAD.

Pastor Ed Heck wrote about this in his blog while dealing with the pain of his cancer:

“The faith [Job] had at the time he first encountered suffering determined how his faith would be able to grow during the suffering. What we see in his story is a faith equal to the test it faced. I admire this in Job.

“In my own journey I’m discovering that faith does not necessarily grow in a smooth path or along a straight line. Elliot Wright traces the biographies of 80 people whom history has identified as ‘saints’ in his book The Holy Company. In his study he discovered that this diverse company of peculiar people had only one thing in common: an insatiable thirst for God which kept them ‘hobbling’ toward holiness.

“That’s me! I can’t deny it. I am living the ‘yo-yo’ of highs and lows that can be spiritually confusing, emotionally exhausting, and exhilarating all at the same time. Faith not only grows on faith; it grows in the struggle for a deeper, maturing, more abiding faith!

“Where do we find hope in the midst of a struggle like this? For me, it’s a simply profound determination to trust God! Today, I choose to trust in God’s justice, His mercy, His grace, the promises found in His Word, His people, and His redeeming love! These are the landmarks that rise like mountain peaks, projecting through the dense fog of the valley below where suffering keeps me. For me, the sinking ceases as I take on the new strength which allows me to focus on the faithfulness of God!

“If Job’s example tells us anything, it tells us that out of the greatest struggles within the contradictions of human existence, faith makes its greatest gains.” – Rev. Ed Heck, https://shardsofgraceblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/focus-on-the-faithfulness-of-god/

Sometimes life takes a turn we are not anticipating and it is difficult to get our head to stop spinning. We are forced to explain something that simply cannot be put into words. We rest in the fact that we gave our lives to God a long time ago, surrendering to His sovereignty and committing that we are willing to go anywhere He wants us to go and do anything He wants us to do.

IT IS IN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THAT TREASURES ARE REVEALED.

Understanding God’s plan is sometimes a mystery but it is encouraging to be reminded this morning that in seeking to understand the mystery there is treasure to be found – treasures of wisdom and knowledge, confidence and rest.

Perhaps where you are at this morning requires the kind of faith that Pastor Heck wrote about. My prayer for you this morning is that you will be encouraged and knit together by the strong ties of the love of Jesus. I pray God gives you complete confidence that He has a plan, even if that plan is just out of reach of your understanding this morning. I pray that you will draw closer to God today, trusting He will provide and protect you through your current circumstances.

Lord, we enter your presence with confidence that you will lavish gifts of wisdom and understanding on all of us as we seek YOUR will for our lives and as we surrender to YOUR sovereignty and trust in YOUR provision. Help us grow in our knowledge of Christ and grow in our relationship with you. May our love for you and our understanding of your love for us give us the strength to rest in you today – to simply enter into your presence and remain there. Amen.

No Power Without Presence

Today’s Reading: Colossians 1:24-29

Colossians chapter one is a powerful portion of scripture. When we soak in the truths found in this passage, our lives are changed. Let’s consider Paul’s words one more time and see how Paul wraps up this chapter and ties it up with a bow!

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

THIS INCLUDES YOU who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. – Colossians 1:19-22 (NLT)

Just as it was the fullness of the presence of God living in Christ as He surrendered Himself on the cross, so God brings us into His presence and strengthens us as we surrender our sovereignty and let Jesus be King. He sanctifies us and gives us the strength to do what He has asked us to do – what kind of King does that?!!

God does not expect us to make it through life on our own strength. He equips us with all His glorious power so that we will have the endurance and patience we need:

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy… – Colossians 1:11

God also equips us with wisdom so that we can live the kind of holy life that produces every kind of good fruit:

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. – Colossians 1:9-10

This brings us to the next point:

THERE IS NO POWER WITHOUT PRESENCE.

And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. – Colossians 1:27b-29 (NLT)

It is in God’s presence that He makes things known to us – he solves the mystery. It is because Christ lives in us through the Holy Spirit that we can share in His glory. It is our union with Christ, our intimate walk that gives us hope – hope for us and for those watching us.

“The world is not moved by love or actions that are of human creation. And the church is not empowered to live differently from any other gathering of people without the Holy Spirit. But when believers live in the power of the Spirit, the evidence in their lives is supernatural. The church cannot help but be different, and the world cannot help but notice.” ― Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

So the secret of the mystery is to allow God to bring us into His presence and then remain there, allowing God to fill us so that He can work through us. It is in the “remaining” that we continue in our faith and produce a life that is worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him in every way – fruit that comes from faith and holiness He produces in our lives. He rescued us from darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. Let’s surrender and rest in His presence, positioning ourselves to receive the fulfillment of all of His promises.

Thank you, God, for the truths we find in Colossians chapter 1. Thank you for your presence – for the ability to spend time with you each day. Thank you for the truth that we are never alone, that you are always with us. We recognize your power in our lives today and we surrender to your Lordship. Amen.

No Redemption Without Reconciliation

Today’s reading: Colossians 1:19-23

We must remember that we cannot earn our way into Heaven – the fruit of our lives needs to be a natural outflow of God’s presence so that He gets the glory. In the same way, holiness doesn’t have to be something we strive for or try harder to obtain, but instead a result of God’s work in our hearts. Every good and wonderful thing in our lives comes from God. It goes back to the source of our salvation, as we talked about yesterday.

Confession time! When I first heard this point, I immediately thought, “Oh yes, in order to experience salvation I have to surrender my life to God.” And there’s nothing wrong with that thought except that once again the focus is on me. I have to remind myself once again that IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT ME. The surrender Paul is talking about here begins with Christ’s surrender. Let’s look further at Colossians 1 but this time in The Message:

We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels – everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment…

You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. – Colossians 1:15-17,21-23a

Christ gave himself COMPLETELY at the cross – He surrendered so that we could be reconciled to God, so that we could be made right with God. This brings us to the fourth point. There is no faith without fruit, no inheritance without holiness, no salvation without surrender, and…

THERE IS NO REDEMPTION WITHOUT RECONCILIATION.

God rescued us from the dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating. – Colossians 1:13-14 (The Message)

Without Christ’s surrender, there would be no salvation, no forgiveness of sins. Sin separates us from God because He is holy. We were alienated from Him. Stop. Read that again and again until you fully understand what that means: We were alienated from God. Alienated. Jesus’ selfless act of sacrifice on the cross PULLED US OUT OF THE PIT we were in! He gave us the opportunity to be reconciled to our Creator – to the place where we now find our purpose. By dying on the cross, Jesus pulled us out and brought us over to God’s side. He put our lives together, making us whole and holy in his presence. What a gift!

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Has the reality of what Christ did for us become so commonplace that it no longer reaches the core of our being? Have we lost the WONDER of this news or the AWE of the sacrifice God made for us when He sent His Son? Have we heard the message over and over again but we still don’t completely get it?

Am I still in awe of what Jesus did for me so that I could be reconciled to God? Does the recognition of the sacrifice He made bring me to my knees in complete surrender to the One I owe my all to?

There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless / Where my heart has peace with God and forgiveness / Where all the love I’ve ever found comes like a flood / Comes flowing down. / At the cross, at the cross, I surrender my life / I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You. / Where love ran red and my sin washed white. / I owe all to You, I owe all to You.” – At The Cross (Love Ran Red) sung by Chris Tomlin [Written by Benji Cowart, William R. Newell, Jenna Cowart, Matt Armstrong • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group]

Once we fully recognize the price that was paid, we have a decision to make. Are we going to accept that gift? Are we going to surrender to our own plans and purpose, or accept the gift of redemption and allow God sovereignty in our lives? That means GOD GETS TO BE IN CHARGE and we submit to His purpose for our lives – for our day.

Dear Jesus, thank you for loving me enough to surrender your life on the cross so that I could have an intimate walk with God – so that I could be reconciled to the One who created me and to His purposes. Thank you for bringing me from darkness into the light. I choose to start my day by submitting to your will, to your plan for my life. Please continue to do a work in my heart today. Help me to stay grounded and steady by trusting in you. Amen.

No Salvation Without Surrender

Today’s Reading: Colossians 1:15-18

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see –
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body.
He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So he is first in everything.
– Colossians 1:13-18

So Jesus is my Savior in whom I have redemption, He is my creator in whom I have purpose and He is the one thing in my life that holds everything together, that makes sense of all the pieces of my life. The question for me today as I drink my morning coffee is whether or not He is my King. There is no faith without fruit, no inheritance without holiness and…

THERE IS NO SALVATION WITHOUT SURRENDER.

It is no secret to those who know me well that I like to be in charge. You would have to ask my parents if I was born that way but I remember this strong desire to be the one making the decisions even as a child.

One of my most humbling experiences was when I was in the fifth or sixth grade. I must have been offering too many “suggestions” in the children’s choir at church because the Director turned to me and asked me if I wanted to run practice for her. Unaware of her frustrations, I accepted her invitation, which sent her running out of the room in tears. That’s when I understood what she really meant – poor Miss Lucy.

That desire for control that runs deep within me is something God can and does use in my life, but first I have to surrender to His control. Daily I have to submit to the supremacy of Christ and surrender Lordship to Him. I don’t get to be in charge of my life – He does.

When God asked me to go back to work 2 ½ years before Brooke started Kindergarten, I had to surrender my plans to be a stay at home mom. When he asked us to move to Texas, I had to surrender my career plans and my future to Him. When he asked us to move back to Illinois, I had to trust that He knew what was best for my daughters, even though it hurt to watch them say goodbye to their friends again.

It is in these moments of surrender that I find peace. I know I am in good hands when it is God making the decisions. If I truly want to save my life, I must lose it – I must surrender.

Then [Jesus] said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to HANG ON to your life, you will LOSE it. But if you GIVE UP your life for my sake, you will SAVE it. – Luke 9:23-24

Once again, I look to see what James would say about this concept of surrender. I am not disappointed but again reminded what it looks like to draw near to God:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you … Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up. – James 4:7-8a, 10

It is only in those moments of complete surrender that I truly experience salvation. God saves me from my sins and He saves me from myself. Ever felt that way?

No Inheritance Without Holiness

Today’s Reading: Colossians 1:12-14

Yesterday we reviewed the first point of Scott’s sermon on Colossians chapter one – There is no faith without fruit. Today we move on to the more controversial statement yet in many ways a repetition of the first statement:

There is no INHERITANCE without HOLINESS

Let’s look at the same Scripture from Colossians but read on a little farther:

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then THE WAY YOU LIVE will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. – Colossians 1:9-14

I am so thankful that God did not save me and then leave me in the state that I was in. I’m so thankful His plan was for me to grow in Him. I remember when I went from being a little girl who loved Jesus enough to ask Him into her heart to a teenager who fully surrendered her heart to the Lordship of the Savior. I was so sick of myself by then – of my selfish tendencies, of my inconsistencies, and of my prideful strategies. I was ready to give up control and let God change me into the person He created me to be. His grace did not love me and then leave me the way He found me. God had a plan for my life and I have been a work in progress since that day.

I have to be careful here though. I cannot earn my way into Heaven, nor can I demand that God owes me Heaven regardless of how I live out my faith. It is the Father alone who “qualifies” or enables me to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

But the next statement gives me great hope – For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. – Colossians 1:13-14

He has rescued me from the darkness in which He found me and His plan is not to leave me there. His plan is for me to truly experience redemption in which the forgiveness of my sins changes my life, taking me out of the darkness and bringing me into the light. He then begins a work in my life, filling me with wisdom and understanding. I begin to grow in my knowledge of Him, being strengthened by HIS power and HIS might. I go from a sinner to a child of God in whom He has developed great endurance and patience; a life that goes beyond a faith that only believes to a faith that bears fruit.

My mind goes back to the book of James again this morning. James’ letter is a call to HOLY LIVING. I am going to close with a few of his words:

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. – James 1:22

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? …In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead … You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. – James 2:14, 17, 24

Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:18

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. – James 5:20

Dear Jesus, thank you for the hope we find in your Word. You have saved us so that we may serve you and so today we surrender Lordship to you. Jesus, today I allow you to be King – you are in charge. Please make me into the child of God you want me to be. Amen.

No Faith Without Fruit

Today’s Reading: Colossians 1:1-11

While in prison, Paul spent time writing to some of the churches he had visited, as well as the church at Colosse. This congregation is believed to be a church plant from the believers in Ephesus – FRUIT from Paul’s time in that city. Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon and Philippians are known as the “prison letters.”

When Colossians was written, Epaphras was visiting Paul. He told him all about how the church in Colosse was doing. Paul wrote three letters and sent them back with Tychicus to deliver to the church in Colosse, the church in Ephesus, and to a man named Philemon who lived in Colosse. Yesterday we looked at Paul’s letter to Philemon. Now let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

My husband, Scott, preached a sermon on Colossians years ago making five points that still stick out to me. I would like to take the next five days to look at those 5 statements Scott made regarding this letter to the Church.

There is no FAITH without FRUIT

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he explained to them that they are made right in God’s sight not by their own righteousness, but by God’s righteousness. He warned his readers of the danger of seeing all of the good things we are doing and making our salvation about what WE have done right in light of how wrong others are, forgetting that it is by HIS righteousness that we are saved and not our own.

In James’ letter, he teaches how God wants our faith to be evident in the way we live out our lives – the way we persevere through hard times, the way we treat those around us, the way we study God’s word, the way we speak to others, and the way we submit to God – in our FRUIT.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well” – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless…So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. – James 2:14-17,24 (NLT)

Made right with God – that sounds a lot like Paul’s letter to the Romans. But is James agreeing or disagreeing with Paul? Let’s look at how these verses in James agree with Paul’s letter to the Christians at Colosse and then how they agree with Christ’s own words.

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then THE WAY YOU LIVE will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good FRUIT. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. – Colossians 1:9-11a

So how can we live a life worthy of our Savior and please Him in every way?
Produce every kind of good fruit in our lives
Grow as we learn to know God better and better
Be strengthened by Him so that we may have great endurance and patience

As we spend time in God’s presence, growing and learning and getting to know God more and more, we are strengthened by Him. He gives us gifts of wisdom and endurance and patience. He begins to mold and shape us into who He created us to be. This change in our hearts is evidenced by a change in our lives. We begin to live out our faith, the faith by which we are saved, and the evidence of this faith is seen in our FRUIT.

Well we are off to a good start then because we are spending time today in His word, studying Scriptures and asking for wisdom and understanding so that we may know His will for our lives – so we may grow in the knowledge of God. And what happens when we ask God to fill us with wisdom? Let’s go back to James’ letter to answer this question.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. – James 1:5

And what is the product of the life of those given wisdom?

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by DEEDS done in the humility that comes from wisdom…But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good FRUIT, impartial and sincere.” – James 3:13,17

When we spend time in God’s presence and in the study of His Word, we begin to grow in wisdom and we are strengthened in our faith. It is this wisdom from God that produces the deeds. The result of this relationship – this intimacy with God – is evidenced in our FRUIT as we remain in Him all day.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much FRUIT. For apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

The lyrics of this song sung by Bethel Live speak to my desire to REMAIN in God’s presence. “Closer” is my prayer this morning:

“Your love has ravished my heart and taken me over, taken my over
And all I want is to be with you forever, with you forever
Pull me a little closer, Take me a little deeper
I want to know Your heart, I want to know Your heart
‘Cause Your love is so much sweeter than anything I’ve tasted
I want to know Your heart, I want to know Your heart…
How great your love is for me, How great is Your love!..”

A Letter of Recommendation

Today’s Reading: Philemon

I really enjoy studying Paul’s letters. I have so much to learn and Paul explains the gospel in a way I can understand and apply to my life. Paul’s letter to Philemon is the shortest of his letters. He was writing to Philemon and his church to let them know that Philemon’s runaway slave, Onesimus, was returning home. Paul was in prison while writing this letter and perhaps that is where he met Onesimus. There are two strong messages in Paul’s letter to Philemon – FORGIVENESS and GENUINE LOVE.

EXTENDING FORGIVENESS

Have you ever written a letter of recommendation for someone? I love the opportunity we have to speak highly of someone and their ability to do something. Paul is sort of writing a letter of recommendation here. He is sending Onesimus back to his master to ask for forgiveness and to devote himself to him. Paul wants Philemon to see his slave as his brother in Christ and extend forgiveness to him. Paul speaks of Philemon’s faith in the Lord Jesus and his love for all of God’s people. He is trying to help Philemon identify his slave as one of God’s people to be loved in this same way, despite the way in which he has wronged his master.

And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you…I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus…Onesimus hasn’t been much help to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my heart. – Philemon 6-12

How often do we hold on to hard feelings or grudges out of a sense of justice? We have every right to be angry and the other person has no right to be forgiven, yet God makes it clear that we are to forgive others if we want Him to forgive us.

AS THE LORD FORGAVE YOU

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. – Colossians 3:13

My mind goes to Christ’s example of forgiveness He displayed while on the cross. Jesus was between two criminals – one shouting out condemnation and insults to him, one begging for forgiveness and grace. Jesus set the bar high for us. Even while dying for this criminal’s sins, as well as for my sins and your sins, Jesus was willing to forgive this man and offer him eternal life.

Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified – one on his right and one on his left.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:32-34a

One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself – and us, too, while you’re at it!”

But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43

Jesus, thank you for giving your life for me. Thank you for your willingness to die for all of our sins in order that we might experience eternal life. Lord, may your Spirit reveal in me any unforgiveness or unresolved hurt or anger toward anyone. Thank you for forgiving me. Give me the strength to always extend that same forgiveness to others, even if they are not apologetic. May my focus always be on You and not on me or on others. I love you, Jesus! Amen.