COLOSSIANS 2-1 [3/22/20]

THE SUBMISSION TO CHRIST IN THE CHURCH <3:1 – 4:18>

  1. THE POSITION OF THE BELIEVER <3:1-4>

The position (standing or status) of the believer in Christ is a result of God’s grace, because of Christ’s death and resurrection, God has now accepted us in Christ as His children and has blessed us in the heavenly realms, and Paul expresses this in his statement “you have been raised with Christ” <3:1; cf Eph.1:3>. In His letter to the Ephesian Church he states; “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” <Eph.2:6 (NIV)>. So, as he has already stated that we have “died with Christ” <2:20>, he now continues to say that “we have been raised with Christ” <3:1>; and although this is not yet the reality, for we are still confined to this earth, God sees us in the heavenly realms with Christ. This thought should be humbling to us as we consider our position in Christ, and cause us to recognize Christ’s Headship <2:10> and to live a life well pleasing to Him <cf 2:12; 3:3; Gal.2:20; Rom.6:4-6>.

With this in mind Paul encourages us to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” <3:2 (NIV)>, we should now give ourselves to Godly things and not be too concerned with earthly things, for as far as this worldly system is concerned we are already dead, but our true life is hidden in Christ. This should be our earnest aim for “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” <3:4 (NIV); cf Rev.22:7>, and we do look forward in anticipation to this event.

 

COLOSSIANS 1-3 (c,d,e) [3/18/20]

(c).  Freedom from the Judgment of Men  <2:11-17>

Paul continues to describe our freedom; not only because of what Christ is, but also that He gives us freedom from condemnation of self-righteous individuals. Here he addresses the subject of circumcision which was a contention between Judaizers (Jews who were converts and formed the early Church in Jerusalem) who taught that Gentiles could not become Christians unless they first became a Jew which included circumcision; and Paul emphatically opposed this teaching in his ministry.

The direction for circumcision was originally given to Abraham when God said “I am God Almighty…..I will confirm my covenant between me and you…” <Gen.17:1-2 (NIV)>; God continued to indicate that this covenant was to include all of Abraham’s descendants <Gen.17:10>. Circumcision signified that the infant was being accepted into the covenant community, and that an uncircumcised person was considered to be heathen and would be “cut-off” from the covenant community by divine judgment <Gen. 17:1-14>; and this practice has been faithfully observed by the Jewish community to the present day. God further expressed through Moses the real meaning of circumcision; “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways” <Deut.10:12 (NIV)> observing all His Laws and Decrees, and clarifying what circumcision really implied: “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.” <Deut 10:16 (NIV)>. The physical act of circumcision was to be followed by the spiritual act of observing God’s divine Laws, and the physical act was annulled by Christ’ death and resurrection, as far as our salvation is concerned.

“In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ” <2:11 (NIV)>. Paul teaches here that the Christian believer has been circumcised in Christ through our salvation “having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” <2:12 (NIV)>; making our need of physical circumcision for our salvation null and void. Our salvation and subsequent confession of Christ in our baptism is the evidence that our hearts have been circumcised as we seek to follow Christ and be obedient to His commands. “You, who were spiritually dead because of your sins and your uncircumcision (i.e. the fact that you were outside the Law), God has now made to share in the very life of Christ” <2:13 (J.B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English)>; we who were condemned by the Law because we were not circumcised <cf Gen.17:14> have been fully pardoned from that Law by Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross. He forgave all our sins by cancelling the written Law which condemned us by “nailing it to the cross”; “Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross” <2:14 (J.B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English)>

Paul now concludes this section stating what Christ has done for us; that as a result of His death Satan and his demons were “disarmed” and do not have the power to force believers to follow false teaching about Christ, but we should be cautious and trust the Holy Spirit to help us <2:14-15; see Eph.6:12>. Paul further states, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” <2:16 (NIV)>, indicating our total freedom from the judgment of those who would cause confusion and concern to our faith in Christ: reminding us that “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” <2:17 (NIV); cf Heb.8:5; 10:1>.

(d).  Freedom from Improper Worship      <2:18-19>

Therefore, we should not allow anyone that delights in false humility and the worship of angels to exclude us from our fellowship with Christ by denying the reality of our salvation. Such teachers are inflated by worldly imagination and are approaching issues that they do not, or cannot understand, since through their worldly minds they are not honouring “The Head”, who is Christ. The whole body, or Church, is supported and held together and grows as God causes it to grow.

The apparent error in the Colossian Church was a faulty understanding of Christ in that He was less than Deity <cf 2:9; 1:19>, and Paul has to correct them by showing that Christ is God, and that they should not allow false teachers to influence them. True worship can only be centred on the fact that Christ is God <cf Jn.1:1; 4:23-24; 14:6-10; 8:14-16>.

(e).  Freedom from the Doctrine of Men     <2:20-23>

It is clear that false teachers were underlining the observance of holy days, the worship of angels and demanding self-denial <see 2:16, 18, 21>; so Paul has to show that they are erroneous, ineffective, and inappropriate, as a means for our salvation by questioning their reasoning; “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules” <2:20 (NIV); Gal.2:20; Rom.6:4-6; cf Gal.4:8-10>. He states that these are all destined to perish <2:21> because they are all based on human reasoning and directions; “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” <2:23 (NIV)>. Such are the teachings of these people which will always be useless since they are based on human efforts. They will fail, for it is a fact that with such there is no restraining physical indulgences.

So then Paul emphasizes that we should not be enslaved by doctrines taught by false teachers, we should check and compare all doctrine with what the scriptures teach.

 

COLOSSIANS 1-3 (a) [3/5/20]

  1. THE FREEDOM IN CHRIST <2:4-23>

(a).  Freedom from Enticing Words    <2:4-7>

Paul’s emphasis on teaching the pre-eminence of Christ is specific, in that they may understand that in Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and that they may mature in this knowledge of Christ, “so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” <2:4 (NIV)>. Throughout the history of the Church many false teachers have emerged and Paul warns the Church in his day, as well as the Church in the present age, of these false teachings; encouraging believers to live by what the Scriptures teach and to disregard the false teaching that arise. We learn what the Scriptures teach by our individual study of the Word of God as we compare Scripture with Scripture and not what some teach by their “fine-sounding arguments”. Paul desires in all believers that they have a firm faith in Christ which can only be realized through constant and intense study of Scripture <2:5b>.

Additionally, he instructs us, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught” <2:6-7 (NIV)>. Since we have received Christ as Lord of our life we must continue live by His rule, we are deep-rooted in Him and should mature in Him, so that our faith will become stronger and stronger, in accordance with what we are taught through Scripture. In so doing we will be “overflowing with thankfulness” to Christ.

(b).  Freedom from Vain Philosophy   <2:8-10>

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” <2:8 (NIV); cf Gal.1:6-7; 3:2-5>. Paul further teaches that we should be very careful of those that teach meaningless and misleading beliefs based upon tradition and worldly opinions rather than what is taught by Scripture; this is very evident in the present day as God is removed from all teaching and thoughts of the society in which we live, and unfortunately several such beliefs being embraced by the Church. Some of this has resulted in captivity to false teaching brought about by fired up teachers seeking their own individual interests and welfare rather than the glory of Christ in His Church <cf Mk.7:6-12>.

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” <2:9-10 (NIV)>. Christ is our absolute Saviour because of what He is; He is God – Deity! <cf Isa.7:14; 9:6; Matt.1:23; Jn.17:5; 20:28; Col.1:19>. The very essence of deity was totally present in His human body, a fact that is rejected by false teaching especially those who profess to have a deeper understanding or wisdom (Gnosticism) which is based on human reasoning, prevalent in Paul’s day and in our current age. Every believer in Christ participates in this “fullness in Christ” as we recognize His Headship, Power and Authority.

 

COLOSSIANS 1-2 [2/27/20]

2.   THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST <1:15—2:3>

(a).  Christ Is Preeminent in Creation      <1:15-18>

In this section we observe three important facts: Christ’s relationship to God The Father; to the creation; and to the Church.

  1. “He is the image of the invisible God” <1:15 (NIV)> “he represents to mankind the perfections of God, as an image, figure, or drawing does to the object which it is made to resemble. The meaning here is, that the being and perfections of God are accurately and fully represented by Christ. “(from Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997-2014 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.) Our Lord Jesus Christ is an exact representation of God, and in Him the unseen God is revealed, the unknown God is identified <cf Jn.14:8-11>.
  2. Christ is “the firstborn over all creation.” <1:15 (NIV)> “Among all the creatures of God, or over all his creation, occupying the rank and pro-eminence of the first-born. The first-born, or the oldest son, among the Hebrews as elsewhere, had special privileges” (from Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997-2014 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.) He has the priority, pre-eminence and sovereignty over all creation. “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” <1:16-17 (NIV)> Not only is He the firstborn, He is also the creator of all things, for scripture declares that “The Word” or Christ was with God in the beginning of creation, and furthermore “The Word   was God” and through Him all things were made <see Jn. 1:1-3>.
  3. “And he is the head of the body, the church” <1:18 (NIV)> “What the apostle has said in the two preceding verses refers to the divine nature of Jesus Christ; he now proceeds to speak of his human nature, and to show how highly that is exalted beyond all created things, and how, in that, he is head of the church-the author and dispenser of light, life, and salvation, to the Christian world; or, in other words, that from him, as the man in whom the fullness of the Godhead bodily dwelt, all the mercy and salvation of the Gospel system is to be received.” (from Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright© 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.) <cf Eph.1:22-23; 5:23>.

“so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” <1:18 (NIV)>. Paul’s teaching here emphasizes that in all things Christ is absolute, and that all believers, Colossians and current, must acknowledge this fact.

(b).  Christ Is Preeminent in Redemption    <1:19-23>

Here in this section Paul explains the pre-eminence of Christ in the salvation of sinners from sin and eternal separation from God, and speaks first to the qualification of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” <1:19 (NIV)> In Christ resided all God’s comprehensiveness, and Paul in his expression “fullness” means that in Christ resided the totality of God with all His powers and attributes <see NIV Notes; cf 2:9>.

“and through him to reconcile to himself all things” <1:20 (NIV)>; “through him” meaning through Christ, all people are reunited with God. This, however, does not teach that all people are saved from sin by the death of Christ, for sin entered God’s creation because of Adam’s sin <see Rom.5:12, 18; 8:19-22> and all mankind is under the curse of sin <see Rom.3:23; 6:23>. Christ’s death restored “in principle” the peace between God and mankind, but such peace is only enjoyed by those who have believed in Christ for salvation; and will be enjoyed by all creation only at the second return of Christ to establish His kingdom <Rom.8:21>.

Having shown that Christ was fully qualified to be our Redeemer, Paul now continues to show the process and results of our redemption: “by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” <1:20 (NIV)>; the peace that believers enjoy was made possible by Christ’s blood shed on the cross. Just as in the O.T. era, the blood of the animal sacrifice was poured out on the altar, so Christ’s blood was poured out on the cross <cf Heb.9:12-14, 22>, and the scriptures go on to teach that we have peace with God through our faith in Christ <cf Rom.5:1, 9-11>.

As unrepentant sinners we were alienated from God because of our evil behaviour <1:21; cf Eph.2:11-14>. “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—” <1:22 (NIV); cf Rom.8:1; Eph.1:4>.

Paul now concludes that “This is the gospel” <1:23b>, and the condition of our continued peace with God depends on whether we continue in our faith or not, “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” <1:23 (NIV)>; for those that depart from their faith no longer enjoy complete peace with God <cf Heb.9:4-6>. Here again Paul is not teaching that our salvation can be lost, for Scripture teaches that God’s sheep (followers), although they stray can never be lost forever <cf Jn.10:27-30>, but they will suffer turmoil until they return to Him in repentance <see Jn.6:66; 2 Cor.6:1; Gal.4:9; 6:1; 1 Tim.1:18-20; Heb.2:1; 3:12-14; 10:39; Rev.2:4-5>.

(c).  Christ Is Preeminent in the Church    <1:24 – 2:3>

“But part of my work is to suffer for you; and I am glad, for I am helping to finish up the remainder of Christ’s sufferings for his body, the Church.” <1:24 (TLB)> Paul rejoices in the fact that “it gives me a chance to complete in my own sufferings something of the untold pains which Christ suffers on behalf of His body, The church.” (J.B. Phillips New Testament in modern English), as Christ suffered in the reconciliation between God and mankind brought about by His death for sin; so Paul experienced many adversities in preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, but Paul’s suffering did not atone for mankind’s sin.

“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness” <1:25 (NIV)> Paul considers himself a servant to the Church, having been commissioned by Christ to preach the gospel to the Gentiles; fully declaring God’s Word, which as a sacred mystery was kept hidden in previous ages and generations, but now has been made clear to all who trust in Christ for their salvation: “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” <1:27 (NIV); cf Eph.3:2-12>. He declares Christ, reprimanding and teaching in good judgment, “so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” <1:28 <NIV)>.

“To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” <1:29 (NIV)>, to this end he is constantly working with all the strength given to him by Christ <cf Matt.28:20>. Paul confesses that he is unrelenting for them and for the Church in Laodicea, that they may be encouraged in the relationship of Christian love, “in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ” <2:2 (NIV)> so that their spiritual experience may be enriched as God’s great secret is revealed more and more to them “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” <2:3 (NIV)>. To this end is the pre-eminence of Christ in His Church.

 

COLOSSIANS 1-1 (2/14/20)

Part 1: THE SUPREMACY OF CHRIST IN THE CHURCH <1:1 – 2:23>

  1. INTRODUCTION <1:1-14>

(a). Paul’s Greeting to the Colossians         <1:1-2>

“To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ” <1:2 NIV> the word brothers used here is inclusive of all believers, male and female.

  • “holy”: not because of what we are, for we are all unworthy sinners in God’s sight; but because of who we are; we are “children of God” <Jn.1:12-13>, born into His family of believers because of our faith in Christ, and God sees us as holy in Christ <Eph.1:4>. This thought of our being holy should be humbling to us when we consider that we still sin because of our human nature, but we should be conscious of the fact that we are called to be holy <see 1 Pet.1:14-16>, and this should be the characteristic of our life <see Psa.15:1-4>, it is the true measure of our spirituality <see Rom.14:17-18>, and should be the attitude of our minds and our life-style <see Phil.4:8-9>.
  • “faithful”: all servants of Christ must exhibit the characteristic of faithfulness. This is evident in an undivided heart, one that serves God only <see Psa.86:11>, and should be our primary duty <see 1 Cor. 4:1-2>. Our faithfulness should be unmovable <see Josh.24:14-15; Isa.7:9b>.
  • Our holiness and faithfulness is the result of Christ’s substitutionary death, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

(b). Paul’s Thanksgiving for the Colossians           <1:3-8>

“We” (Paul and Timothy) constantly give thanks to God in prayer for the Colossian believers; “because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth” <1:4-5 (NIV)>. He expresses thanks for their faith, love and hope; and it should be understood that God is the source of these three virtues. Paul describes this as he gives gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ:  “..our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” <Rom.5:1-2 (NIV)>; and we are encouraged to demonstrate these virtues in our lives as we follow and serve our Lord Jesus < cf 1 Cor.13:13; Gal.5:5-6; 1 Thess.1:3; 5:8; Heb.10:22-24>. The hope that we have is not blind or wishful thinking but a firm assurance given to us by God through His Word <see Titus 1:2>.

Paul speaks to the universality of the Gospel as it had spread to every part of the Roman Empire since Pentecost <cf 1:23; Rom.1:8; 10:17-18>, and the fact that the Church in Colosse began through the preaching of Epaphras: “this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras…who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” <1:6-8 (NIV)>.

(c).  Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians          <1:9-14>

Because of the report regarding the Church at Colosse that Paul heard from Epaphras, he prays for the Church “asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” <1:9 (NIV); cf Psa.32:8-9; Prov.16:9>. Paul’s requests six things in his prayer:

  1. “that you may live a life worthy of the Lord” <1:10 (NIV)> A believer in Christ should never forget that he/she is a child of God, and our lifestyle should reflect the fact that God is our heavenly father, and as such our conduct must display this relationship so as to be pleasing to God in every way.
  2. “bearing fruit in every good work” <1:10 (NIV)> Every aspect of our service to God must display the fruits of The Spirit <see Gal.5:16-18, 22-23>
  3. “growing in the knowledge of God” <1:10 (NIV)> Just as in humanity, a person grows and matures into adulthood, the child of God must also display growth and maturity. Our spiritual maturity results from feeding on the Word of God; the necessity for every Christian. Otherwise there could be a “falling away” as we are warned of in the Scriptures <see Heb.5:1 – 6:1>
  4. “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might” <1:11 (NIV)> Here again we observe that as physical growth improves our physical strength, in similarity, spiritual growth results in spiritual strength. Paul referred to this growth previously <1:6> and we should understand that such strength is derived from a firm knowledge of the Scriptures <cf Phil.4:13; Jn.15:5>.
  5. “so that you may have great endurance and patience” <1:11 (NIV)> To live the Christian life to the fullest requires endurance and patience; so often we forget to include God in our daily living and forget to rely on the help of The Holy Spirit <cf Eph.4:2>. The knowledge of God that Paul refers to produces this endurance and patience as we are faced with opposition from within the Church and outside the Church.
  6. “giving thanks to the Father” <1:12 (NIV)> We do so “joyfully” as we consider what we were and what we have become <cf Eph.2:11-13>, and that we now inherit all things in Christ as God’s children <cf Eph.1:3, 13-14>.

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” <1:13-14 (NIV)>

To what extent are these blessings experienced by you? <cf Acts 26:18; Eph.1:7>. Have you, like the Colossians, experienced this freedom in Christ?

SLAVE OR FREE? (1/20)

Slave; a slave is considered as a property of another as the one controlling them purchases them or owns them [Source: Google search]. Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is “free” if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state…it is associated with having free will and being without undue or unjust constraints, or enslavement, and is an idea closely related to the concept of liberty. [Source: Wikipedia.org]

The populace today strives, or claims freedom from many things including speech and actions, and there is a constant struggle for freedom. The question is “What is freedom”? Is there such a thing as real freedom? The difficulty that arises from this debate is that freedom for one party brings about slavery for the other.

Slave3
Source: Google Search

Conversely, we are all slaves to something or someone. We are slaves to what we do on a regular basis, some of this may be good, but the majority of people become slaves to things that are harmful – physically and spiritually; slaves to our professions allowing no time for family and even more tragic is the slavery to substance abuse, gambling and sex.

The Scriptures teach us that all slavery is related to the sin that each individual inherited when born into this world; that sin controls us and causes us to do all that is contrary to what God expects of us; therefore, there must be some way out of our predicament.

THE PRODIGAL SON <Lk.15:11-24>

 “There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” <Lk.15:11-13 (NIV)>

He went off to a foreign land and squandered his money in the wildest extravagance. He was attracted to a life where there are no standards; the easy life; freedom from rules. A terrible famine arose…. he began to be desperate; he went to work for one of the citizens of that country; an occupation that was totally uncharacteristic to his nature. He got to the point of having to eat of the pigs’ food, no one cared or gave him anything; he became a slave to his circumstances.

“The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” <Prov.5:22-23 (NIV)>

You may say “I am not wicked; I have lived a good life; I am not a slave to anyone or anything”; but here is Jesus’ response: “They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” <Jn.8:33-34 (NIV)> We are a slave by choice to our sinfulness and all that it brings upon us, but as we are taught in the Scriptures, we can make a change – slave or free <see Deut.30:15-16>. “Don’t you realize that you can choose your own master? You can choose sin…. or else obedience……The one to whom you offer yourself, he will take you and be your master and you will be his slave.” <Rom.6:16 (L.L.); 2 Pet.2:19b>.

Then the Prodigal came to his senses, he got up and returned to his father: “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.” <Lk.15:18-20 (NIV)> This is the

Slave1
Source: Google Search

choice that each individual person needs to make; we need to turn to God in repentance and seek His forgiveness and pardon from our sins and our sinful ways; and God’s response will be similar to the response of the father in the parable.

The father’s response: “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” <Lk.15:24 (NIV)>. The same response is applicable to any, and all who turn to God and confess their sins, God makes us His child. “You my brother, are not a servant/slave any longer; you are a son. And if you are a son, then you are certainly an heir of God through Christ” <Gal.4:7 (J.B.P.); cf Jn.1:12-13>Slave2

DARKNESS COVERS THE LAND (1/20)

darkness
Google download

DARKNESS, (even a picture cannot depict what this is like) the absence of light such as existed before the light of creation <Gen 1:2>, is associated with the chaos that existed before the creation; also came to be associated with evil, bad luck, or affliction, and death <Job 17:12; Job 21:17>. In the land of the dead, there is only darkness <Job 10:21-22; Job 38:17>; symbolizes man’s ignorance of God’s will and is associated with sin <Job 24:13-17>.

As the prophet Isaiah began his ministry he is given a mental picture by God concerning the northern kingdom of Israel: “…Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.” <Isa.1:3-4 (NIV)>. The country had turned against God by worshiping idols in direct disobedience to God’s command <see Deut.8:11; Deut.12:1-5; Deut.13:4>; consequently God’s judgment is about to fall on them because of their sinful ways. Isaiah chapter 5 is a long poem telling the story of Israel’s rebellion; God had summoned the Assyrian’s to invade and conquer the kingdom of Israel, take them away as captives, and destroy Samaria their capitol city. There was nothing that the citizens could do to escape this judgment.

“And if one looks at the land, he will see darkness and distress; even the light will be darkened by the clouds.” <Isa.5:30 (NIV)>; “Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.” <Isa.8:22 (NIV)>

Those who have not yet seen the light concerning The Lord Jesus Christ, and those who deliberately turn away from the light are considered as being in darkness <see John 1:4-5; John 12:35; Eph 5:14; John 3:19-20>; and those that detest being in the light of Christ will be in condemnation <Col 1:13; 2 Peter 2:17>.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” <Jn.3:19-20 (NIV)>

Those that continue to live in extreme darkness describe those who at the end of time have not repented; “The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.” <Rev.16:10-11 (NIV); 18:23>

There is no doubt that the times in which we are now living is described by the condition of the kingdom of Israel in Isaiah’s time. Mankind is in complete rebellion against God and refuses to listen to the truths of Scripture; all the lies of Satan will be explored rather than truths that Christ taught us to live by. The New Testament describes some of these rebellious activities <see Rom.3:10-18; Acts 19:9; 17:30; 2 Pet.2:10-12; 3:3-4>; and mankind will continue in rebellion and darkness until God’s judgment falls upon all who have rejected Him.

Where will you stand – in the Darkness, or in the Light of Christ? <Jn.3:21>

THE BIRTH OF A KING

As we enter another Christmas season let us contemplate what Christmas is all about; let us reflect on the fact that it speaks to us of God’s great gift to mankind. We were without hope <Eph.2:12> and unable to help ourselves because we were enemies of God. God saw that we were powerless in our attempt to escape the bondage of sin and did for us what we were unable to do; He gave His Son to free mankind from the slavery of sin <Rom.5:6-8>.

THE PROPHESY HIS BIRTH

Scroll“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” <Isa.9:6-7 (NIV)>

To us a Child of hope is born, To us a Son is given;

Him shall the tribes of earth obey, Him all the hosts of heaven.

 

His name shall be the Prince of Peace, For evermore adored,

The Wonderful, the Counsellor, The great and mighty Lord.

 

His power increasing still shall spread, His reign no end shall know;

Justice shall guard His throne above, And peace abound below.

                         [John Morison (1750-1798)]

THE PROCLAMATION OF HIS BIRTH

Birth of Jesus [Source-Google search]

 

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” <Lk.2:10-12 (NIV)>

 

THE INTENT OF HIS BIRTH

Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” <Phil.2:5-8 (NIV)>

Cross [Source-Google search]

Christ came into this world for the express purpose of offering Himself “the eternal” sacrifice for sins; and through His death on the cross we can be saved from the penalty of sin that we have inherited.

 

HIS ETERNAL REIGN

“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns……The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever…. KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” <Rev.19:6; 11:15; 19:16 (NIV)>

Hallelujah; the intent of His birth has been achieved and salvation from sin has been accomplished, on a future day God will hand over the rule of government to His Son our Lord Jesus Christ; all the nations shall be brought under His righteous rule and He will reign for ever and evermore <Isa.9:7>. Then the redeemed ones, those that have accepted God’s gift, will stand around His Throne in glory and sing His praise forever.

“The strife is o’er the battle done,

The victory of life is won;

The song of triumph has begun – Hallelujah!

God's Throne [Source-Google search]

 

The powers of death have done their worst,

But Christ their legions hath dispersed;

Let shouts of holy joy outburst – Hallelujah!

 

Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee,

From death’s dread sting Thy servants free,

That we may live, and sing to Thee – Hallelujah!

                 [Francis Pott; from the Presbyterian Book of Praise]

And He shall reign forever and ever, King of kings! and Lord of lords: And He shall reign forever and ever, King of kings! and Lord of lords! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”  [from Handel’s Messiah]

Contemplate the joy it will be to join all the redeemed ones around God’s Throne.

 

[Source for all images – Google search]

 

IS THIS ALL THERE IS TO LIFE? [Oct.29th]

A great deal of attention today is directed toward youth. Our society recognizes that the future of our communities depends upon our youth, and so the major programs and interests are designed for the young people. However, the energy and vision of youthful minds fade away as the years progress, and the adults that emerge are disillusioned and earnestly seek some kind of personal satisfaction or reward for the efforts of their all their labours. Solomon, Israel’s greatest king, had to deal with all of this in his lifetime, and as he approached the end of his days he writes of his experiences in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” ……..”Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What does man gain from all his labor?” <Eccl.1:2-3 (NIV)>. He continues to write on the meaningless of life.

LIFE IS MEANINGLESS

He says that “there is nothing new under the sun.” <Eccl.1:9 (NIV)>; from generation to generation, he says, nothing changes, and if one lives long enough all things are repeated. Mark Twain expressed similar thoughts about the meaningless of life in view of man’s inevitable death. Shortly before his death, he wrote, “A myriad of men are born; they labour and sweat and struggle; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. Death comes at last, the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them; and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence, a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever.”   (Source unknown)

WISDOM IS MEANINGLESS

“For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”   <Eccl.1:18 (NIV)>. The wisdom that God gives must be used for His glory; otherwise all our efforts and work become meaningless. Wisdom gained from human experiences is even more meaningless when not given over to God.

PLEASURES ARE MEANINGLESS

“Come now, I will test you with pleasure………But that also proved to be meaningless. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless” <Eccl.2:1, 10-11 (NIV)> Kelita Haverland (Country Music Artist) (*) writes: “At 18, I was accepted into one of the top theater programs at a Toronto university. I married at 21 after my two-year stint in professional theater. We set out to follow our dream of fame and fortune in the music world. We soon took the Canadian country music scene by storm, gathering numerous awards and nominations. Amongst the success and struggle, not a glimpse of my former spiritual life could be found. I quietly swept my faith in God under the carpet. I didn’t think I needed Him any longer. Feeling stunted, trapped and unloved in the marriage, I began seeking fulfillment outside of it. Drugs, booze and sex played a big part in numbing the insanity of leading a desperately unhappy double life. However, this new lifestyle went against the values I once held dear, and I started to hate myself. I felt lost, empty and unloved. I pleaded with God to show me a way out of this horrid mess.”

TOIL IS MEANINGLESS

We work hard and long hours to earn money to purchase the things we desire. In doing so we have no time for God, consequently our work is in vain and all we acquire in life is meaningless. “So I hated life……….. All of it is meaningless ……So my heart began to despair” <Eccl.2:17, 20 (NIV)>

 TIME AND PLACE FOR EVERYTHING

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” <Eccl.3:11 (NIV)> We must live orderly lives, putting everything in its place. God and the things of God must have first place in our lives, or everything is meaningless.

 OPPRESSION AND FRIENDLESSNESS

“Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed– and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors– and they have no comforter. And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” <Eccl.4:1, 4 (NIV)> Envy leads to fights, fights lead to oppression, and we all become unfriendly to each other.

SUCCESS IS MEANINGLESS

“Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning.” <Eccl.4:13 (NIV)> Billy Diamond (Chief of the Cree Indians – Northern Quebec) (*) states: “I became chief of our Cree community when I was 21. Four years later I became the first Grand Chief of the Cree Grand Council. I used this position to help my people develop. We modernized the villages, built housing and schools and encouraged health and economic development. I was very successful in this position. But like all successes, it had it’s drawbacks, especially in my personal life. I became very prideful. Alcohol and drugs took their toll. I lost contact with my family, with my young wife and children. I knew I had to do something. Even with all the success there was a void in my life. There wasn’t a sense of accomplishment, there was an emptiness, there was no peace.” [Despite growing up in an impoverished Cree community in Northern Quebec and being torn away from his family and placed in a residential school, Billy Diamond has gone on to become a successful businessman and political leader.] In all the success we may have in life, if we forget God and leave Him out of our lives, life becomes meaningless, so we are encouraged: “Therefore stand in awe of God.” <Eccl.5:7 (NIV)>

RICHES ARE MEANINGLESS

“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” <Eccl.5:10 (NIV)> Tennis star Boris Becker (*) was at the very top of the tennis world ─ yet he was on the brink of suicide. He said, “I had won Wimbledon twice before, once as the youngest player. I was rich. I had all the material possessions I needed. It’s the old song of movie stars and pop stars who commit suicide. They have everything, and yet they are so unhappy. I had no inner peace. I was a puppet on a string.” When riches and material possessions become our only goal in life, life becomes meaningless. Riches, however, can be used to the glory of God, if we understand that it is a gift of God, and we use it for the furtherance of His kingdom. “Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work– this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” <Eccl.5:19-20 (NIV)>

AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

“Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?  …..no one has power over the day of his death. ……..so wickedness will not release those who practice it.” <Eccl. 8:7-8 (NIV)> Roger Neilson (National Hockey League Coach) (*) The Only Way To Go“Suddenly finding out that you have cancer is tough. However, as a Christian, I know that no matter what I go through God is always with me. I know that if I trust in God then I don’t have to worry about the future — it’s in His hands. I’ve known the Lord since I was a young kid, and I’ve always felt that death is not something to be afraid of. Knowing Jesus means that when I die I’m going to heaven. I’ve got a place to go when it’s all over. And that’s the only way to go.”

Mike “Pinball” Clemons (Toronto Argonauts Football Team) (*) Real Hope – “Everyone has trials. No one is exempt from that. The difference is that I have a hope in Jesus Christ. One thing that makes me sad is when I see people with no hope. That really bothers me. But I understand it perfectly, because apart from God, there is no hope. If we don’t put our hope in God, then we are putting it in things that perish and fade away. Belief in God is really the only thing that lasts. Everyone has trials. No one is exempt from that. The difference is that I have a hope in Jesus Christ.”

A COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL

“the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, ……Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. ……no man knows when his hour will come….so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” < Eccl. 9:1,10, 12 (NIV)>

REMEMBER YOUR CREATOR

“However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” <Eccl.11:8-9 (NIV)>

 God allows us to use our free will to make decisions in life. We may decide to live life to its fullest enjoying all its pleasures, without any thought of God, but we must remember the dark days and years to come!

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”– before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself  along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets. Remember him– before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” < Eccl.12:1-8 (NIV)>

“Remember your Creator” <12:1> Before the ‘sunset of time’ – the difficult days that lack all pleasure and enjoyment: “the clouds return after the rain” <12:2> in our youth one easily rebounds from life’s difficulties – but as one grows older the skies never seem to clear, going from struggle to struggle with little or no relief: “the keepers of the house” – arms and hands  are no longer as active: “the strong men” – legs and thighs are no longer straight and strong: “the grinders” – partial or complete loss of teeth: “Those looking through windows” – partial or complete loss of sight: “the doors to the streets”– partial or complete loss of hearing: “when men rise up….” – loss of sleep, one is aware of every sound in the night <12:3-4>: “afraid of heights” <12:5>: no longer able to scale the heights like eagles – there is fear of being alone: “the grasshopper”– a young grasshopper is able to fly long distances and jump vigorously, as the years advance one slows down and looses vigour: “desire no longer is stirred” – old age brings loss of desire for most activities (mental and physical): “man goes to his eternal home” – death finally comes. IS THIS ALL THERE IS TO LIFE?

THE CONCLUSION

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” <Eccl. 12:13-14 (NIV)>

We can live our lives as we please without God, but it is far better to “Fear God” and keep His commands, for this is the whole purpose of life, and the only way that we can be “whole” “for this is the whole [duty] of man.” Whatever our choice, we must understand that we will give an account to God for the way we live our life.  “Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” <11:9>

 “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” <Rom.14:10-12 (NIV)>

God has given us the choice: eternal life or eternal death.

“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, ……Nor is it beyond the sea, …….No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life” <Deut.30:11-15, 19 (NIV)>

“But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” ………That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile– the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  <Rom.10:6-10, 12-13 (NIV)>

“Righteousness that is by faith” does not require bringing Christ down from heaven or up from the grave. This has already been accomplished and cannot be repeated. “The word is near you” refers to the accessibility of the gospel. Christ “the Word” is readily available to any and all who call on Him for salvation.

THE FOUR CALLS

The Spirit once came to an innocent child With pleading and tender tone;

“Dear little one, let me come into your heart, And make it forever my own.”

“Oh, Spirit,” he cried, “please go away; For childhood is only for fun and play;

Some other day, some other day, When I am older I’ll bid Thee stay.”

 

The Spirit came back to the fair, stalwart youth, With loving and tender plea;

“The harvest is ready, there’s work to be done, Arise, God is calling for thee.”

“Oh, Spirit,” he cried, “leave me I pray, The pleasures of earth hold me in their

sway; Some other day, some other day; Then, Holy Spirit, I’ll bid Thee stay.”

 

The Spirit plead thus with the toil weary man, “Make haste while God’s grace shall last; 

The years are adorning with silver thy brow, Thy days are now slipping by fast.” 

“Oh, Spirit,” he cried, “I should obey, But I am too busy and tired to pray;

Some other day, some other day; When I have time I will bid Thee stay.”

 

The aged man leans on his frail, trembling staff, With quivering, bitter sigh:

“I’ve wasted a life-time in sin,” he cried, “And now I am going to die:

The Spirit, long slighted, has flown away; No hope and no God, now I cannot pray;

No other day, no other day; The Holy Spirit has gone to stay.”

 (Gertrude Manly Jones)

 

Life will always be meaningless for those who rebel against God, and refuse to honour Him and serve Him. Only those who trust Christ as Saviour and own Him as Lord of their life, will experience the true meaning of life.

 

 ((*) Testimonies extracted from the “Power to Change” website [Aug.2001]:  http://www.powertochange.com)

 

PHILIPPIANS – SECTION 4.

Paul’s Appeal to Have the Peace of Christ   <4:1-23>

(a) Peace with the Brethren     <4:1-3>

Peace with each other as family in Christ is fundamental, in consideration of the fact that as citizens of heaven and the eager anticipation of our final redemption, this should be the encouragement that is needed for such peace; “Therefore…that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” <4:1 (NIV)>. Having our minds set on heavenly things will cause us to stand firm in our faith and not fight and argue over the minor details that Satan will surely bring to the forefront in our daily lives and within the Church <cf 1:27-30; 1 Cor.15:58>. So he appeals to “Euodia and …. Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” <4:2 (NIV)>, while encouraging those that are closer to the situation, Clement and the rest, to help in settling the conflict <cf 2:2>. The importance of such peace is emphasized by Paul’s statement “whose names are in the book of life.” <4:3 (NIV); cf Rev.3:5; 20:15> God’s heavenly register of all His children; and it is His expectation that all His children live in peace with each other.

(b) Peace with the Lord    <4:4-9>

Paul here gives us the recipe for peace with the Lord, since it is very likely for any of His children to be defeated by circumstance and suffering in life, he encourages us to “rejoice always” <4:4; cf Hab.3:17-18; Jas.1:2; 1 Pet.4:13>, and to exhibit Christ-like consideration to all our brethren <cf 2 Cor.10:1; 1 Tim.3:3; Tit.3:2>, because the Lord is nearby <see Rom.13:11; Jas.5:8-9; Rev.22:7, 12, 20> so we should not be anxious (self-centred, exhibiting counterproductive worry and non legitimate cares and concerns for the spread of the gospel (NIV Study Bible))  for anything <cf 2:28; 2 Cor.11:28; Matt.6:25-31; 1 Pet.5:7>. He encourages them that in every circumstance they should “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” <4:6 (NIV)>, for in doing so “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” <4:7 (NIV)>, and “such peace is not based on a psychological state of mind but an inner tranquility based on peace with God” (NIV Study Bible) <cf Jn.14:27; Rom.5:1>. Such peace is beyond all human intellectual capacity and acts as a guard or protection to the child of God <cf Eph.3:18-20; 1 Pet 1:5>.

Peace with God can also be shattered by what influences our thought life, and when such thoughts are negative it will soon influence our speech and actions. Not only does Paul encourage us to think on the positive things of the Scriptures, he also encourages us to act on them: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” <4:8-9 (NIV); cf Isa.30:1-18>. Not only will this produce a healthy thought pattern, it will produce moral spiritual excellence keeping us at peace with God.

(c) Peace in All Circumstances   <4:10-19>

Paul now expresses that he rejoices “greatly in the Lord” because they have renewed sending their gifts for him, a renewal that was not necessarily a fault of theirs since his arrival in Rome had been delayed for various reasons, and they had no opportunity to send their gift <4:10>; he affirms that his rejoicing is not because he was in need for he had learned “to be content whatever the circumstances.” <4:11 (NIV); cf 2 Cor.4:18>; stating that he knew what is was to be in need and what it was for him to have an abundance <4:12; cf 2 Cor.11:9; 1 Tim.6:6-8; Psa.106:14-15>; but he appreciated their gifts <4:14,18>.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” <4:13 (NIV)>, everything specifically that is pleasing to God, for it is He that supplies such strength <cf 1 Cor.10:12; 2 Cor.12:9-10; Jn.15:5; Eph.3:16-17; Col.1:11>.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” <4:19 (NIV); cf Matt.6:33-34>; God, who is personal to each of His children, knows our needs and will make sure that they are all supplied, maybe not in our time but in His time; such needs are met according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus which are the true quantity of His blessings to each individual believer <cf Eph.1:7b-8, 18; 3:16-21>.

(d) Conclusion     <4:20-23>

In consideration of he truth he has just expressed, his worshipful expression is “To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” <4:20 (NIV); cf Rom.11:36>; and in a closing remark he sends greetings from the saints in Rome and concludes “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” <4:23 (NIV)>