A couple of weeks ago, I took a vacation from blogging. At the time, it seemed like a reasonable decision — I work hard at blogging, and wanted some time for myself.
Looking back, I question whether such a self-indulgent course of action genuinely honored Christ. That point could probably be debated at some other time, and I tend to doubt that Scripture would exonerate me. Nevertheless, I took a the break, and I can’t undo the past.
But now I have another reason for wishing I hadn’t taken the break. For the next week and a half, my time will (hopefully) be taken up with Read More »
Although we’re getting into the meat of Paul’s letter to the Colossians today, our text will demand that we look at some background information on the false teachings that he addresses. I aim to demonstrate how he uses sound doctrine, rather than direct discussion of the errors at hand, to steer the Colossians away from faulty theology and practices.
We’ll most likely only get through two verses in this installment of our study, but (as usual) I’ll quote the whole passage for the sake of context.
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ~~Colossians 1:9-14 (ESV)
If you take verses 9 and 10 at face value, you could get a fairly accurate interpretation of them. Definitely, Christians should pray for each other along these lines, getting beyond the superficial prayers for health, finances, marriages and other temporal matters. But how much better would it be if we prayed for each other’s spiritual development?
At the risk of sounding like a late night info-mercial, I’m going to say, “But wait — there’s more!” Paul’s not only modeling an important way we should pray for each other. He’s also attacking the pre-gnostic mysticism that threatened the First Century churches in that region.
That mysticism had too many facets to explain in this article; I’ll talk about specific aspects as they come up in the course of our study. Today, therefore, we’ll look at verses 9 and 10 in light of Paul’s introductory reference to the pre-gnostic ideologies that floated around Colossae.
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; (ESV)
You can’t help but notice the emphasis on knowledge, wisdom and understanding, can you? Paul beats that drum quite forcefully. As we’ve seen earlier, this apostle has a habit of choosing his words with great deliberation, and these two verses are calculated to counter the claims of secret knowledge that the pre-gnostics purported to possess.
Those false teachers insisted that they offered insights into spiritual mysteries that required initiation into their group (sort of like our present-day Freemasons). Paul counterbalances this error by emphasizing that the Lord is the true source of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Furthermore, rather than seeking the knowledge that would enhance their pride, Paul prays that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. He prays that they would be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding.
The knowledge of God’s will, as well as spiritual wisdom and understanding, comes through the teaching of the apostles — which the Holy Spirit preserved for succeeding generations in the Bible. Thus Paul prays for the Colossians to be filled with sound teaching, not with the mysticism of the pre-gnostics.
Verse 10 elaborates on the knowledge that Paul prays for the Colossians to possess by mentioning its purpose. Whereas the knowledge of the pre-gnostics served only to inflate egos, the knowledge of God’s will enables Christians to walk “in a manner worthy of the Lord.” This phrase targets the pre-gnostic separation of the material and the spiritual that allowed people to claim spirituality while indulging fleshy appetites. Paul prays that his readers will be given a knowledge and wisdom that has implications on their behavior.
The spiritual wisdom Paul desires for his readers will cause them to please the Lord instead of pleasing themselves. Clearly, the apostle makes a distinction between the imitation knowledge of the false teachers in Colossae and the true wisdom that comes exclusively through the knowledge of God.
Interestingly, as Christians please the Lord and bear fruit for Him, we actually increase in our knowledge of Him. The pre-gnostics would never have thought that obedience could lead to even more knowledge. Paul cleverly strikes at their false teaching by simply informing the Colossians as to the nature of his prayers for them.
As I suspected, I can’t go past verse 10 today. Next Monday, Lord willing, we’ll continue with this passage, which is packed with some of the most glorious teaching I’ve ever read! Be sure to join me then.
Beth Moore is a false teacher. If you need evidence for that claim, Elizabeth Prata has an excellent archive of resources substantiating the various ways Moore rebels against the Scripture she professes to love. In Elizabeth’s essays alone, you’ll see that Moore both teaches and practices a false imitation of Christianity.
Christians absolutely must avoid Beth Moore!
Over the years, I’ve written my share of articles exposing Moore (both in this blog and the now extinct blog I had in previous years). I’ve seen the dangers in following her, and I haven’t been afraid to expose those dangers. And as I’ve watched her Read More »
We’ve all had those days. We grudgingly open our Bibles because we know we should, but we’d really rather finish that crafts project or read another chapter in that novel.
If I can publicly admit to having days that I simply don’t want to spend time with the Lord, the least you could do is privately confess it to Him. After all, He already knows your secret thoughts.
Of course we feel guilty about approaching our devotions as if they were a chore like cleaning the oven. And I have no intention of alleviating our guilt. We need to come to terms with the fact that we fail to Read More »
Each morning, John and I listen to John MacArthur’s Grace To You broadcast. Currently, Grace To You is featuring MacArthur’s most popular Christmas messages that he’s preached over the course of his fifty years of pastoring Grace Community Church. Today’s message focusing on the deity of Christ captured my attention, but not in the way you might expect.
As MacArthur preached on Jesus being the Son of the Most High, and therefore being God Incarnate, I thought about God as the Most High Being. I don’t meditate on the fact that He is the Most High often enough, which usually leads me to regard Him a little more casually than I should.
That casual attitude particularly shows up in my prayer life, I’m sorry to say. Yes, I know the stereotype of Read More »
It’s Thanksgiving Day and I definitely feel thankful! When I posted my need for Personal Care Attendant help during Christmas week on Facebook, I hoped it might help. Usually it generates prayers, but seldom practical offers. Still, I always appreciate prayer.
The Facebook post, to my surprise, bore a little fruit right away. A friend immediately offered Monday and Friday if needed. Someone else might also be available that Friday, which would be great. Okay, two days down. Thank You Lord!
Yesterday afternoon we received a call from Read More »
Originally published September 8, 2016:
Many people, in all innocence, assure their friends that they will send “good,” “positive,” or “healing” thoughts to suffering people. Occasionally, they combine these thoughts with prayers, although typically they serve as substitutes for prayer. Recently I’ve been in some online conversations with fellow evangelicals about the meaning and appropriateness of this sentiment, and those interactions have caused me to think about whether or not Christians ought to use this phraseology.
In fairness, let me begin by acknowledging that many Christians (and indeed many non-Christians) use this type of phrase simply to express the idea that they’re sympathizing with the hurting person. I get that point. Perhaps they’ve heard these phrases and figure they’re nothing more than an updated way of saying “thinking of you.” What’s wrong with keeping up with the current vernacular?
When I hear this type of phrase, however, I generally connect it with either New Age philosophy or Charismatic theology, both of which tend to promote ideas that humans possess “creative” power. New Agers would say that all people have this power, whereas Charismatics would restrict this power to those who are “baptized in the Holy Spirit.”
Back in my Charismatic days, for example, someone in leadership over me said that she considered a good thought to be equal to a prayer. At the time, I struggled with her comment, finding it both attractive and disturbing. Attractive, because praying doesn’t come easily for me. Disturbing because Scripture nowhere supports such an idea.
Thirty-one years later, I no longer feel attracted to the idea that thoughts have any sort of metaphysical power. As I see it, the basic concept attributes abilities to man that belong exclusively to the sovereign Lord. In doing a preliminary Google search, I discovered that these types of phrases have their origin in a New Age practice known as Distance Healing.
Consider the following excerpt from a New Age blog post (which, please note, I do not endorse) entitled Sending Your Love From Afar: The Power of Distance Healing.
Visualize the person you want to heal. Feel the divine energy moving outward from you to that person. Do this from a state of mind of total relaxation and acceptance, meaning you do not doubt the effectiveness. You simply allow divine energy to do its work.
Icky-poo! Clearly, this method of “sending good thoughts” relies on the same lie that Satan told Eve in the garden:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. ~~Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV)
Even as Spirit-filled Christians, we must take great care to remember that we are not “little christs” in the sense that we have power to heal or alleviate the suffering of others, especially by sending positive thoughts. Only the Almighty God has that kind of power. When we claim that our thoughts can have a healing effect, we essentially commit blasphemy.
Again, I realize that many people don’t understand that phrases about sending healing, positive or even good thoughts carry connotations of New Age ideology. I’ve written this essay, not to shame anyone who has uttered these phrases without knowing their connection to Distance Healing, but to avoid them from this point forward, lest anyone mistakenly associate us with this worldly and demonic philosophy.
Arguably the biggest problem with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is the insulation from face-to-face communication. It always has been easier to say things in writing rather than speaking to someone in person; I get that. Twice, I received romantic rejections from men who wrote letters because they lacked the courage to face me. Writing puts us in control by shielding us from the reactions of others.
As a complication, social media provides a layer of anonymity. We may not have ever met that person we fight with on Twitter, and we may never meet her. So we don’t feel all that bothered if we end up Read More »
Why do we ask God to deliver us from our besetting sins? Do we envision freedom from those bondages as a means of being happier or more successful? Will deliverance advance our positions in church or allow us to enjoy happier marriages? Will we be more comfortable if the Lord takes away a sin problem that seems to dominate us?
I began seriously praying about my anger issues during my first engagement. I reasoned, quite correctly, that I would damage a marriage if I didn’t learn to control my temper. That engagement ended, but the Lord soon brought John into my life. Again I begged Him to take away my anger so that I could be a good wife. So that I wouldn’t cause John to have a stroke. So that God would bless me. So that I would be happy.
So that I would be happy.
Isn’t that usually our motivation for asking our Father to deal with our sin? (I’m writing to myself now.) If we’re honest, we’ll admit that nine times out of ten, we indeed pray for our own repentance because we know we’ll feel better without that sin.
But what does Scripture say?
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. ~~James 4:3 (ESV)
Golly, we say, we didn’t think that asking our Father to take away a sinful pattern had anything to do with selflessness! After all, doesn’t God want us to repent? Doesn’t He call us to holiness?
As a matter of fact, the Lord indeed calls His people to be holy. He cannot tolerate sin, so He wants those who call themselves His children to renounce their sins and live in holiness. Our personal holiness does, as a by-product, benefit us, often bring us tremendous joy. Certainly, we can praise God for the blessings that frequently accompany our repentance and obedience.
Those blessings mustn’t distract us from the ultimate purpose of personal holiness, however. God liberates us from sin for His sake, not ours.
9 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. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. ~~1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV)
The Lord frees us from our besetting sins so that we might bring honor and glory to Him. As profoundly as we might benefit from His grace and mercy, He extends His grace and mercy to bring glory to Himself. He gives us the privilege of bringing Him honor and glory through our deliverance from sin.
I’m not sure that most of us think about His honor and glory when we pray to overcome whatever sin hampers us. And I wonder if our neglect of His honor and glory could be a reason (maybe even a big reason) that He allows us to have such prolonged battles with sin. I could be wrong on this point, but I believe I am correct in asserting that His glory is the only real reason for us to seek freedom from sin.