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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It Depends On What You Mean By “The Gospel”

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It jarred me a bit to see Beth Moore described as a minister of the Gospel. It probably shouldn’t have, given the powerful deception that engulfs her followers. As far as they can tell, Moore indeed represents a type of gospel that sounds pretty Biblical.

As I reflect on the idea of Beth Moore being a minister of the Gospel, my initial laughter gives way to sadness and concern. I begin wondering how well evangelicals at large really understand the Gospel. Interestingly, her newly refurbished website offers no actual Gospel presentation beyond a surface level Peace With God page that waters things down considerably. It reminds me of the impotent gospel that Continue reading

What Constitutes A Glorious Day?

This past Thursday John and I went into Boston — for no other reason than to enjoy the perfect weather. After spending an hour at the Museum of Fine Arts, we went to Downtown Crossing, and wandered up Washington Street. We stopped at B.Good for lunch, where we shared the absolute best chocolate shake I’ve ever tasted. We then wheeled to Quincy Market to buy our annual bag of Ghriradelli chocolates and a 2020 Boston calendar before going down the Greenway to catch the early train home.

It was a glorious day!

Yet maybe calling it glorious trivializes the word “glorious.” As much as Thursday delighted us, it pales in comparison to the truly glorious day when Jesus will return for  His beloved Church. I don’t think I’m alone in failing to comprehend the thrill that day will bring. But I definitely know that when I see Him coming in the clouds, I’ll wonder why I ever thought a Thursday in Boston was glorious.

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Saturday Sampler: April 21 — April 27

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The Easter attacks in Sri Lanka prompted Stephen McAlpine to write When The Silence Is As Deafening As the Explosions. I’ve been saying since the inception of my blog that Christians must expect persecution — McAlpine underscores this reality in his post as well as discussing the world’s reluctance to report on it.

I’ve also been saying for quite some time that Biblical discernment entails so much more than calling out false prophets. In The Mailbag: Vaxxers, Anti-Vaxxers, and the Health of the Body, Michelle Lesley uses practical application of Scripture to address heated debates about vaccinations.

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A Chosen Race, A Royal Priesthood, A Holy Nation by Hohn Cho of Pyromaniacs addresses several crucial issues from a Biblical perspective. It’s a sterling example of how discernment operates.

I like SharaC’s thought that Easter isn’t the end, but the beginning. Her devotional post, Jesus On The Beach, appears in Into the Foolishness of God.

Once again,  Possessing the Treasure includes Mike Ratliff’s insightful exegesis with Worldly Wisdom vs. God’s Absolute Truth. If you want to learn ways of handling Scripture properly, look no further. More importantly, Mike builds a solid case for God’s sovereignty in electing people to salvation.

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Although John and I couldn’t have children, we support our friends who have big families. It pains me to hear people (especially Christians) make judgmental remarks about them. So James Faris’ Do You Know What Causes This?! in Gentle Reformation encourages and refreshes me. Whether you’re a mom to several children or a critic of large families, please read this one.

Elizabeth Prata of The End Time observes The fallout from a hyper-casual generation (of pastors). She takes a hard line without resorting to legalism, an attitude which only strengthens her case. And it’s a case well worth presenting. While you’re on her website,  check out The days of Christian persecution in America are coming.

In Context Matters: I Never Knew You; Depart From Me, Peter Krol sharpens our understanding of arguably one of the most frightening statements Jesus ever uttered. Besides demonstrating how to interpret the meaning of a Bible verse by its context, Krol augments our ability to discern whether or not someone is a false teacher. Krol blogs for Knowable Word.

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As Christ Burst From The Tomb, So Joy Bursts From Our Hearts

Generally speaking, people associate joy with Christmas, not Easter. But then, most people don’t really understand why they celebrate either holiday, do they?

Those of us who love the Lord, however, know that Christ’s resurrection brings ultimate joy! Without His resurrection, His death would have never atoned for our sins, condemning us to a dark and grim eternity.

But praise the Lord, Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, conquering death itself and securing life everlasting for everyone who believes in Him! Death couldn’t hold any more than the hearts of His followers can contain the joy of knowing He has risen. Christmas has its own wonderful joys to celebrate, but Resurrection Sunday has a greater joy.

 

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If You Think You’re Past Needing To Hear The Gospel, You Probably Need To Hear The Gospel

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It’s Holy Week, and professing Christians are dutifully reminding themselves that people who normally sleep in on Sundays will be visiting their churches. These visitors will also feel dutiful, of course. And neither group particularly looks forward to another presentation of the Gospel, though they all expect it.

True Christians will be more enthusiastic about hearing their pastors preach the Gospel, but even then they most likely will welcome it primarily in reference to the unsaved friends and/or family members they brought with them. Often, seasoned Christians feel confident in their understanding of the Gospel, and want to progress to “deeper” subject matter. I say this from personal experience.

The truth is, all of us, no matter how mature we Continue reading

Flashback Friday: A Right Proclamation Of The Gospel

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Originally posted on February 17, 2017.

Yesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days. I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.

Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.

They never mentioned Christ’s death on the cross.

Not once.

Hopefully they’ve given more complete Gospel presentations at other times. Certainly, I must guard against judging the entirety of their ministry based on one isolated video. But it made me think that perhaps I should periodically present the Gospel in this blog, making sure that any new readers (particularly those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior) really understand it Biblically.

Paul proclaimed the Gospel in its most basic form in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (ESV)

To Paul, nothing was more important to preach than Christ’s death as a substitute for our sin, His burial and His bodily resurrection. The Gospel revolves around His atoning work to pay for our sin, and His resurrection that proves the Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice. Paul elaborates in Ephesians 2:1-10.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

Our sins violated God’s holy standards, making us deserving only of His wrath. But in His mercy, Christ expressed His love by dying for our sin (Romans 5:6-9 and 1 John 2:1-2). Then He raised us from our spiritual death, graciously allowing us to believe in Him and providing us with opportunities to serve Him.

The Gospel focuses on Christ’s glory first. Indeed, He gives us tremendous joy in serving Him, as well as in knowing that we will spend eternity with Him. In those ways, the Gospel most definitely offers fulfillment. But we must never proclaim a gospel that focuses on self and neglects Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

I do not question the salvation of my friends in that video. But it broke my heart to watch them mishandle an opportunity to present the Gospel in a Biblical manner. Rather than criticize their techniques, however, let me learn to faithfully declare it when God gives me opportunities to do so. The Gospel is too precious, and too important to handle in any other way.

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