‘Stop carping – start harping’

Colossians 1:1-14 (NIV): ‘Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people – the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

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.’

I liked a lot of what Selwyn had to say in today’s study: “No greater joy can fill the human heart than the joy that comes from knowing we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. Jesus’ sacrifice sanctifies us and His Spirit empowers us to patiently endure everything that happens to us.

Gratitude is like a river that flows through and refreshes every relationship. When we are grateful not only to God but are thankful, too, for each other then peace more than anything else will govern our lives and create harmony.

Thanksgiving helps to dissolve self-pity and enables us to be joyful always, not because we learn to play deceitful mental tricks on ourselves and praise God for everything but because, with the audacity of faith, we dare to praise God in everything.”

Let’s remind ourselves of that great verse from Romans 8:28; ‘And, we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ In all things, the good and the bad – God works for our good; I just can’t comprehend the awesomeness of God working – for us; now, this truth must make you jump with joy!

One final thought, it’s only those who are following Jesus and who have also been through difficult times – who can shout ‘Amen’, from the bottom of their hearts – when they meditate on this great verse (Romans 8:28).

Views?

Total reliance on the Spirit

Philippians 3:1-11 (NIV): ‘Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

Selwyn writes: ” … We are able to worship God because we are the true members of God’s covenant family. Paul’s shorthand for this idea is ‘circumcision’ because from the time of Abraham onwards, circumcision had been the sign of belonging to God’s covenant people. … In the new covenant we know the joy of sins forgiven, and because we have been forgiven much, we love much.

When we worship we are totally reliant on the Holy Spirit to prompt our minds and quicken our emotions to praise and glorify ‘God’.”

In some churches – worship is associated with a type of musical entertainment, which appeals to human feelings – this worship style is designed to make people ‘feel’ good. In other churches; community worship is presented in a form of a duty to be undertaken – to demonstrate an united appreciation of what Jesus has done for us.

At this point, it’s good to remind ourselves of what Jesus said to the woman at Jacob’s well (John 4:24): ‘God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.‘ As the title of today’s study, says; our worship flows from our total reliance on the Spirit.

Word and Spirit

Ephesians 5:1-20 (NIV):Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a person is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

One of the issues that we face today; is to recognise the role of God’s Spirit, in a balanced and Scriptural manner.

Selwyn writes: “The deeper we go into the subject of what constitutes Christian worship the more we realise how dependent we are on the work of the Holy Spirit. … Paul is clear (in the verses, above): the Spirit’s presence is again the needed ingredient for worship and praise. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones [a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor], suggested that; ‘as the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit upon us, worshipping God is no longer a matter of duty, it is a desire’. …

How much richer and more varied might our worship be when we open ourselves to the Word and the Spirit through ‘psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs’.”

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we find the clear and unambiguous instruction, ‘be filled with God’s Spirit’; he does not qualify this advice with any clarification along the lines, ‘while you still can, because the activity of the Spirit will soon cease’. In fact, I don’t think there is any such qualification in any part of the New Testament, but there are some people today who hold such an erroneous view.

We need God’s Spirit to fill our hearts with an overwhelming desire to worship God, in truth.

Any comments?

 

‘Life at full stretch’

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV): ‘For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’

l thought it was a nice title for this study, Selwyn explains it, like this: ‘To worship is to cast ourselves adoringly into the arms of a God ‘who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine’. This is why  worship has been described  as ‘life at full stretch before God’.

He goes on to say; ‘Once we realise how much God loves us and completely secure we are in Him then we are set free to concentrate on God in thanks and praise. … As we praise God, we are lifted out of ourselves to the place where we enjoy God’s presence and we are caught up with His desires for our world.’

I sometimes wonder if in this modern age that we spend more time focused on our love for others and hardly anytime at all – totally focused on Jesus – in praise and worship. If, we fail to put God first, and fail to give the highest priority and time in loving Him, then it will be very difficult to love others, as we should.

As, I’ve said many times before – in loving God, our hearts come to understand His mercy and forgiveness so that we can truly love and forgive our ‘neighbours’. Total forgiveness is a difficult issue for many people in our churches – the only way to address this problem is to carefully focus our eyes upon Jesus.

Do you agree?

God’s earthly address

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV): ‘Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
In Jesus, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.’

This is another excellent study, Selwyn writes these words (with my minor edits), which provide great food for thought: ‘ … Jesus replaced the Temple and He did this in two ways: First, Jesus displaced the Temple by the offering of Himself as the ground of our acceptance by God. … The pure sacrifice He offers to God is the only basis on which we find acceptance and draw near to God.

Second, the Temple was the location of the focused presence of God, Jesus displaced the Temple by His resurrection body. By the life which He imparts to those who are in Him, they are formed into a living temple of God in the Spirit. … Be staggered at it, if you will, but the worshipping Christian Church is really God’s earthly address.’

This truth is seen throughout the New Testament; and, it’s startling to see the person who so strongly defended the Jewish teaching and tradition, present a very different view, after his conversion. I’m referring to Paul, and these few verses illustrate what I mean (1 Corinthians 3:16-17): ‘Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.’

If you agree that we are God’s temple – the place where His Spirit lives – then, you can understand how important it is for us to live according to His teaching (commands) – to strive to be holy through the power of His Spirit. I think, many people struggle to follow Jesus because they try to live His way, by the application of their own skills and strength. But, we can never be transformed into His likeness through our own efforts; we must persistently call upon the Holy Spirit’s Power to enable us to spiritually grow.

Any comments?

Abba, Father

Ephesians 2:11-18 (NIV): ‘Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Jesus we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.’

I found these words to be very thought provoking: ‘ … at that time, you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.’ The idea that non-Jews (most of us) were once, separated from Jesus; perhaps, puts in place for me – just how important the history of Israel is to all God’s children.

In addition, these verses bring into clearer focus that both Jew and non-Jew were both reconciled to God through the cross; and again, both have access to the Father through one Spirit. For far too long, many Christians have not loved and respected their ‘older’ Jewish brothers and sisters, and I think it has been to our loss.

I liked this bit in today’s study: ‘Our sense of security in worship comes from three things: first, knowing God as our Father; second coming to Him in the assurance that He receives us because of His work accomplished by His Son on our behalf, at the cross; third, from Christ’s continuing intercession for us at God’s right hand.

[In addition], the Spirit testifies to us inwardly that we are God’s children, and this witness in our hearts causes us to cry ‘Abba, Father’.’

I worry that sometimes we expand the concept of the Trinity too far, in the direction of defining three separate Gods with three different roles; we must always keep central, the truth that there is only, one God. True, there are three divine persons, as seen in Scripture – and being equal, we can give praise and worship to each person of the Trinity as the one true God. It’s a mystery and will always be a mystery to us while we are on our earthly journey. It’s my view that too many theologians try to describe a rational explanation of this mystery – as if they know the mind of God!

Your view?

Relishing the blessings

Ephesians 1:7-14 (NIV): ‘In Jesus we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.

When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possessionto the praise of his glory.’

Fantastic words – they’re are worth a lot of our time in meditation – to think we are God’s possession and that our inheritance is guaranteed! For each one of us – the moment we first believed in Jesus was a life-changing event; when the full ramifications of our total redemption are finally understood and embraced by our hearts – it becomes impossible not to praise God for His endless, faithful and persistent love.

Selwyn writes: ‘ … It is not surprising to find Paul, having given praise to the Father for His loving and eternal plan, now celebrating the fact that all God’s saving initiatives centre on Jesus. God’s sovereign will and grace are worked out in Jesus.’

Today’s prayer is excellent: ‘O God of wisdom and love, I bring to You my heartfelt appreciation and praise . Help me (through the power of Your Holy Spirit) be a witness to Your wisdom and love as I go about my tasks this day, and all the days of my ‘new’ life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.’