Keys To Discernment: Reminder Of Where Hope Lies

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Usually I teach verse-by-verse, as my long-time readers will testify. I generally think that’s the best way to teach the Bible, but in this study we’ll sometimes take whole sentences that span two or more verses. Today we’ll work through Colossians 1:3-5a to study the introduction of hope into this letter. I want to approach Colossians this way so that we can better see how Paul teaches discernment to his readers.

Last week we saw that, even in the salutation to his letter to the Colossians, Paul’s choice of words looks forward to the main points of his message.  You may recall that I believe he purposefully chooses his words to advance his teaching. I believe he continues this practice in his opening statements here.

In the next section, the apostle appears to merely express his affection for this church. Well, that is part of what he’s doing. But let’s see if there isn’t a bit more going on.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. ~~Colossians 1:3-8 (ESV)

I quoted Colossians 1:3-8 for the sake of context, but I only have time to discuss verse 3 and going through the first part of verse 5.

Paul and those with him in his imprisonment in Rome pray for the Colossians with and attitude of thanksgiving. Later in the epistle,we’ll see several instances in which he exhorts them towards thankfulness, and it seems possible that he wants to set the example right away.

But context doesn’t linger over the topic of thanksgiving, does it? Paul specifies that he thanks God the Father for the faith they have in Christ Jesus and the love that they have for all the saints. Furthermore, he attributes their faith and love to the hope laid up for them in heaven.

Why is the idea of hope important in Paul’s introductory remarks? Let’s answer that question by first looking at what that hope entails. According to Acts 23:6 and Acts 24:15, that hope is in the promise that we will share in the benefits of Christ’s resurrection. Those of you who studied 1 Corinthians 15 with me may remember that this hope governs how Christians live (see 1 Corinthians 15:12-19).

The Colossians faced pressure from the early Gnostics to find spirituality through mysticism, which frequently allows for sensuality. Additionally, they faced pressure from the Judaizers, who insisted that Gentle Christians adopt Jewish customs. As we shall see in subsequent installments of this study, Paul addresses the necessity of avoiding these errors. Then in Chapter 3 he writes:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  ~~Colossians 3:1-3 (ESV)

Paul begins his letter by commending the Colossians for already acting on the hope of the Gospel by thanking God the Father for their faith in Christ Jesus and for the love they show to the saints. He fixes that hope in their minds early in the epistle, preparing them for the later application of how that hope draws them away from false teachings.

As we contend with false teaching in our own day, perhaps we might join those First Century Colossians in remembering where our hope lies. Next Monday we’ll see where we can find this glorious hope.

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Are We Telling The World?

Jesus has delivered us from sin and death! So why aren’t we proclaiming the Gospel from the rooftops?

For decades, Western culture has told us that religion is a private matter, not to be discussed in polite conversation. It warns us that people might get offended if we evangelize them. And in recent years, various entities have taken measures to silence Christians altogether.

The intimidation has a much greater effect on us than it should, I’m sorry to say. I regret that, though I’m bold when I write,  I struggle with face-to-face evangelism. And I suspect a lot of you share my struggle. We shrink from telling people the good news because culture demands that we do so!

But think about the power of the Gospel in your life. Think about how Jesus rescued you from an eternity in hell and liberated you from slavery to sin. Don’t you want everyone to know that same joy and freedom? Don’t you want everyone to glorify Him by singing His praises?

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Saturday Sampler: January 19 — January 25

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Again we start this week’s Sampler with Biblical counsel from Michelle Lesley. In The Mailbag: Husbands, pastors, and mentors — Which roles do they play in a Christian woman’s life?, she walks us through Scripture in its context to show us proper application.

Did you prepare yourself for the upcoming sermon at your church? Writing for Gentle Reformation, Barry York asks How Do You Listen to a Sermon? He then teaches us how to prepare ourselves for the preaching of God’s Word each Sunday. Challenging stuff, admittedly, but well worth our attention.

Leslie A of Growing 4 Life wonders Should I Expect to Understand Everything?  See what her three-year-old grandson taught her about humility towards God.

You may face the dilemma that Elizabeth Prata describes in The End Time this week. My friend listens to false teachers and goes to events where there are false teachers explains how we can express our concerns, but also why people might not receive our warnings. If you have a friend who has opened herself up to deception, this essay may encourage you.

Who doesn’t need a second dose of Michelle Lesley? Throwback Thursday ~ Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue carefully explains why we mustn’t compromise on Scripture’s prohibition against letting women take the pulpit. This post is essential reading!

For a fascinating perspective on so-called gay Christianity, see On favorite sounds, poisoned Kool-Aid, and comments from pew 11 by Pastor Tedd Mathis of teddmathisdotcom. I’d never made the connection he makes, but he’s absolutely right.

Job is challenging to read. Peter Krol, who maintains the Knowable Word blog, discusses The Complexity of Applying the Speeches of Job’s Friends to ourselves. I’ve struggled with those speeches for years, never quite sure what to do with them. So this article offers helpful guidance. Maybe you’ll also benefit from it.

R. Scott Clark writes Should Christians Expect to Hear a “Still Small Voice” from God? in a devotional for Beautiful Christian Life. He answers this question by walking us through the passage of Scripture that gives us that infamous phrase.

Responding to the escalating vitriol that has encompassed social media lately, Jason Carter issues A Plea for Meekness in his article for Reformation 21. Even if we weren’t in an election year, his words would be woefully necessary.

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If I Can’t Go To Barbados, I’ll Vacation At Home

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Health issues have made travel unwise for me. I last traveled in 2005, when I visited my home state of California. My mom died nine years later, seeing me only in photos and one Skype conversation. Needless to say, I’m not taking a vacation to Barbados anytime soon.

But I want a break from blogging for a week or so. Not a full break, but a lighter schedule allowing me to do some things just for fun. I’ll still do Saturday Sampler, Sunday hymns and the Monday studies on Colossians, if only to keep your attention. I doubt Continue reading

To Call Out False Teachers Or Not Call Out False Teachers — Does It Have To Be One Or The Other?

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Six months ago, I lost a friend as a result of my participation in the Open Letter To Beth Moore. The lady agreed with many of the concerns about Moore, but she believes it’s more productive to teach sound doctrine.

She has a point. As I’ve been saying for a few years now, most of Paul’s epistles confront false teaching by offering the corrective of sound theology. In fact, my primary reason for taking you through Colossians each Monday is to show you how Paul taught discernment without ever naming a false teacher. In studying Scripture, I’ve learned that the apostles very rarely called out false teachers directly.

Furthermore, I’ve seen several self-proclaimed discernment blogs Continue reading

Keys To Discernment: Paul’s Salutation To The Colossians

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“Oh DebbieLynne, no!” you’re saying. “Paul’s opening verses in Colossians don’t really talk about discernment. Can’t you just skip them?”

To be truthful, sisters, I seriously considered skipping these introductory remarks Paul made. Like you, I’m eager to get into the meat of the epistle! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that even these verses possess nuggets of doctrine that can help us discern sound teaching. Remember — true discernment comes through Continue reading

To Save A Wretch Like Me

Our Christian life is victorious. Certainly we should celebrate our victory over sin and death, as well as the temporal blessings and answered prayers God gives us. Truly, we live lives that overflow with a quality of joy that non-Christians can’t begin to imagine!

But the real victory is our salvation. In and of ourselves, we’re miserable wretches, totally incapable of any godliness. Yet Jesus took our sin on Himself, giving us His righteousness in exchange! He made us His own possession, though we did nothing to merit His favor. What a stunning victory!

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Saturday Sampler: January 12 — January 18

For  a variety of interesting topics, see  The Mailbag: Potpourri (Home churches, Non-Calvinist authors, Memes from false teachers, Contrarian commenter?)by Michelle Lesley. I don’t know if I entirely agree with her view on home churches, but I don’t entirely disagree either. Her answer about contrarian commenters indirectly helps me with a situation on Facebook, though. In total, this post is well worth reading.

In an article for Caffeinated Theology, we learn How to Read Authors and Theologians with Whom You Disagree from David Norman. Don’t ignore his postscript — it’s particularly convicting and therefore helpful.

Reading Leslie A’s Growing 4 Life blog frequently forces me to ask myself hard questions, which makes me appreciate her. There Are Only Two Roads asks another hard question that those of us who claim to know Christ must answer. Praise the Lord for Leslie’s courage to help us examine ourselves!

Don’t make 2020  the year of Me, Myself and My Selfie, advises SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God. I’m so delighted to see her speak out against the popular idea that we ought to love ourselves first. Her post brings back some basic Christian concepts that have fallen out of fashion in recent decades.

Elizabeth Prata observes that Many mercies go unnoticed in the course of providence in an essay for The End Time. During my years as a Charismatic, I scoffed at the idea of providence, preferring to focus on miracles, but now I appreciate the way God providentially works in His creation. Elizabeth’s post explains the wonder of providence in ordering everything according to His purposes.

Teaching God’s Word is a tremendous responsibility, as Melissa Edginton of Your Mom Has a Blog testifies. She writes James 3:1 and the Trembling Teacher with wonderful balance to encourage us to look to the Lord rather than to ourselves.

The Reformation gave us men who returned us to truth, but it also gave us women who applied that truth in their personal lives. Writing for A Place For Truth, Simonetta Carr presents Mary Honywood and Her Flickering, Unquenchable Faith as an encouragement to those of us who struggle with doubt. Don’t overlook this piece.

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Flashback Friday: Forgetful Evangelicals And The Entitlement Mentality

Originally posted April 4, 2018

Glory Of The CrossI believe evangelicals of the 21st Century have by and large lost the sense that God has saved us for His honor and glory. As we’ve incorporated Charismatic teaching and psychological principles into our weakened version of Christianity, we’ve accepted the mistaken idea that God exists to heal our bodies, expand our bank accounts, make our marriages satisfying and remove all temptation from us. We conveniently forget why He calls us to Him in the first place.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~~1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

Anyone can distort the Bible into false promises of health, prosperity and your best life now, insisting that God wants us to be happy. But, even though the Lord is a good Father Who gives good gifts to His children, He doesn’t give those gifts to Continue reading

When Innocence Is Taken From Children

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Do you remember the days when children thought God looked down from heaven, saw who the married ladies were, and put babies in their tummies? Except for Mary, of course — Jesus was special because His real Daddy was God, not Joseph.

Until I was 12, I quite contentedly believed that scenario. When my dad died, I understood that God wouldn’t  give Mom any more babies because she was a widow. And, despite having two gay relatives, I knew nothing about homosexuality until I was 18.

Looking back, I’m thankful to have been a child in such an innocent era. It breaks my heart that children today can’t have the innocence that guarded my childhood.

As early as the mid-1970s, things changed. I remember sitting in the neighborhood park during my college years, waiting for my sister to retrieve me. A boy no older than nine approached me, obviously curious about my Continue reading