Keys To Discernment: Reminder Of Where Hope Lies (Reboot)

Most of you know that this Bible Study series on Colossians got interrupted when I suffered a spinal compression fracture February. In order to resume the study, I’ve been posting the installments I’d already written with the idea that doing so would bring continuity. But lest you assume that you can skip over these reboots, bear in mind that I sometimes add thoughts and/or Scripture references.

Drawing of gold key

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. These pressures caused them to vacillate between indulging their lusts on one hand and trying to maintain legalistic behavior on the other hand. Either extreme eclipsed the hope guaranteed through Christ’s resurrection.

As we shall see in subsequent installments of this study, Paul addresses the necessity of avoiding these errors. For instance, 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. Having a Scriptural understanding of our hope will enable us to discern the false teachings that surround 21st Century evangelicals. Next Monday we’ll see where we can find this glorious hope.

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Add This To Your Wish List

Do you have an Amazon Wish List? Or perhaps a wish list at some other online store? Shortly after Thanksgiving each year, my sister and I email Christmas wish lists to one another, carrying on a tradition our mom started when we were young teenagers.

I have a spiritual wish list too. Actually, it consists of several variations of only one item. I want to please and honor the Lord.

Of course, I fail miserably at mortifying my sin nature. Just when I think I’ve made significant progress in overcoming a persistent sin (usually anger), I explode again. This past week has been especially bad in that respect, I’m grieved to tell you.

Like all Christians, I long for a heart that praises my God both in what I say and how I live. It disturbs me that non-Christians see me behave in ways that bring dishonor to Him. It disturbs me even more that I dishonor Him in the first place.

Do you also struggle with sin that pops up over and over? I’m pretty sure you do. We can praise God that Jesus Christ took the sins of all who believe in Him on Himself and gave us His righteousness in their place. Indeed, that great exchange motivates me to desire a heart that reflects His character. Is such a heart on your wish list?

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Saturday Sampler: June 21 — June 27

Discussing The Surprising Transformation of the Disciples of Jesus for Knowable Word, Ryan Higginbottom takes us through the final chapter of Luke’s gospel. He concludes with an encouraging practical application.

Are you “just” a wife and mother? I know society pressures you to want more for yourself. Elizabeth Prata understands that pressure, and she also understands how that pressure can lead us into the sin of discontentment. She writes Womanly contentment vs. discontentment, advice from 1896 in The End Time to draw us back to a Biblical perspective.

I still consider myself a discernment blogger, but I agree with Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised on her Lessons Learned: On Speech and Tone. I’ve been praying about my own tone in blogging when I call out false teachers, so this article gives me some guidance on how to accomplish that attitude. My only concern is that we must allow for people who have more passionate temperaments — Martin Luther, for example. All the same, Erin makes some important points that we shouldn’t easily dismiss.

Interestingly, Jordan Standridge writes Why You Should Never Take the Mass in a post for The Cripplegate that he himself describes as strongly worded. In this instance, strong words are most appropriate; taking the Roman Catholic mass has serious implications that Biblical Christians need to understand.

I always come to Growing 4 Life with confidence that Leslie A will dispense sound, Biblical wisdom. For one of the finest examples of this wisdom, check out If I Shout Louder Than You, Does That Mean I’m Right? Her thoughts are greatly needed as we face the chaos of 2020.

On January 11, 2019 I was laid up with hairline fractures in my lower vertebrae, so I missed 6 Ways Your Credibility is Crushed When You Defend a False Teacher by Michelle Lesley. I’m glad a loss of power in her area kept her from writing a new article and forced her to share this one again! Please make it a priority — it’s really that important!

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More Thoughts About Thinking: It’s Deeper Than Raindrops On Roses And Whiskers On Kittens

Raindrops on a pink rose

Paul gave wonderful guidelines for how the Christians in Philippi should direct their thoughts:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~~Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

As I considered writing this article, I couldn’t help picturing that scene from The Sound of Music when Julie Andrews comforts the children by singing about her favorite things. She teaches them that simply remembering her favorite things keeps her from being overwhelmed by negative circumstances. And, to an extent, her philosophy actually does resemble the principle in Philippians 4:8, doesn’t it?

If we look carefully at Paul’s list of what we need to think about, however, raindrops on roses seem pretty trivial. Should we distill this beautiful verse of Scripture down to a mere slogan for positive thinking that Oprah Winfrey would embrace?

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Frustrations Of A Christian Female Blogger (Probably Not The Frustrations You’d Expect)

Pink flowers

Normally, professing Christian women chafe at the idea of limiting their teaching ministry to other women and small children. They follow the world in insisting that we have a contribution to make to the whole church, and that our female perspective must be heard. As they see it, the Word of God cannot be fully represented without the female voice.

Huh?

Where does Scripture ever say such a bizarre thing? If the Word of God is breathed out by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), why would a female perspective be necessary? Shouldn’t we scratch our heads in bewilderment at the suggestion that men need to hear female voices before they can fully understand what the Bible says?

I can’t help wondering if some men — even Reformed men — have started buying into the idea that female voices need to join the conversation. Logging on to my Twitter Notifications today, I found two tweets by Reformed men, proudly proclaiming that they read The Outspoken TULIP.

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Thoughts About Thinking: Thinking With Renewed Minds

Open Bible

During an argument over politics several years ago, someone dismissed my convictions with the remark, “Well, your faith informs your thinking.” The implication was that I let my pastor dictate how I vote. Never mind that no pastor I’ve ever had would do such a thing. Apparently my Christian convictions rendered me incapable of thinking for myself.

In reality, the person arguing with me was heavily influenced by academia and liberal media. Her world told her what thoughts were acceptable and what thoughts should be rejected. I could have easily countered that her social circles informed her thinking.

Does anyone really think for herself? Maybe to a point, but outside influences always shape our thinking. We just need to decide whether we want those influences to come from a worldview that rebels against God’s values and purposes or whether we want those influences to come from the Word of God.

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Keys To Discernment: Paul’s Salutation To The Colossians (Reboot)

As I explained two weeks ago, this Bible Study series on Colossians got interrupted in February when I had a compound fracture in my back. In order to bring everyone up to speed, I’ve decided to repeat the installments I’d written before continuing on. I may add a few comments that I overlooked when I first wrote them.

Gold Key

“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 right doctrine.

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John Newton Explains Why Grace Is Amazing

When we think of John Newton, our minds immediately go to his beautiful hymn, “Amazing Grace.” But did you know that he wrote other hymns?

Yesterday I poked around YouTube a bit, not sure what hymn to feature today, and I came across one performer by Indelible Grace. I’m certain they updated the tune, but they apparently preserved Newton’s original lyrics.

Right away, I knew I needed to post it!

In this hymn, Newton walks us through the various benefits of Christ’s atonement, continually returning to the glorious truth that He has washed us with His blood. Newton gives lots of good doctrine throughout the verses, introducing each one as yet another reason to worship our wonderful Lord.

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Saturday Sampler: June 14 — June 20

People have a lot of misconceptions about Calvinists. Tim Challies demonstrates why some of us reinforce The One About Calvinism and Evangelism through our disobedient behavior. He encourages us to practice what we preach.

Elizabeth Prata reminds readers of The End Time You’re not wonderful in an effort to correct popular evangelical teachings. Oh how we need more people to stand up for the truth as boldly as she does!

Some of you may object to God Doesn’t Listen to Them by Jordan Standridge, which he contributes to The Cripplegate this week. Please read it anyway. And test it against Scripture. You might find that Standridge has a Biblical foundation for what he says.

Leslie A asks Christian, Why Are You Joining the World? Her Growing 4 Life blog often challenges worldliness in believers, and this latest piece is a timely addition to her body of work.

The Grace to You blog reprises One Race, One Remedy by Darrell B. Harrison and Cameron Buettel, which first appeared on the blog on May 9, 2019. Their remarks take us back to God’s Word, which is always the best place to find answers.

Over on Into the Foolishness of God, SharaC reminds us that The Gospel Isn’t Patronizing as she analyzes the evangelical response to the current political climate. I applaud her courage to stand against efforts to modify Christianity.

For a refresher on Discerning false teachers, visit Femina Sola Gratia Theology for excellent guidelines from Anna Wood. You might want to bookmark it as a reference tool.

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Flashback Friday: This Little Window

Originally posted May 17, 2017

As global unrest gathers momentum, I see a greater urgency to proclaim the Gospel. I don’t know how soon Jesus will return to bring final judgement on the world, but world events lead me to suspect that Western Christians have little time left  to speak (and write) freely about the Lord.

Perhaps I discern this situation wrongly. But even if I do, people die every day and enter a Christless eternity while professing evangelicals focus on receiving blessings and filling pews with warm bodies who happen to have deep pockets.

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