March 10 – Positive Actions

Colossians 3: 12 – 4:1 New Living Translation NLT

“12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Instructions for Christian Households
18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
20 Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not aggravate your

children, or they will become discouraged.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the
Lord. 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. 25 But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites.”

4: 1
Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master – in heaven.”

(NASB – New American Standard Bible – the translation of 3: 25

“For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.”

I didn’t like the New Living Bible translation of verse 25 so decided to include another translation that is considered accurate. The NLT tends to suggest that God punishes us for everything we do wrong. Being punished and taking consequences are different.)

The person described in these verses is completely different from the one described in the earlier verses of this chapter that we looked at yesterday. These are the characteristics of God!

Tender-hearted Merciful
Kind
Humble

• • • •

Gentle Patient Forgiving Loving Peaceful Thankful

Can you imagine what kind of world we would live in if all people acted with those characteristics? That is how God treats us. As his children, that is how we share our faith in a marvelous God, by behaving the way he does. We want people to come to know our wonderful God because they see those God-like qualities in us.

How in the world can I develop all those amazing qualities? Galatians tells us about the work of the Holy Spirit in each of us.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.” … “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (5: 16, 22 – 23)

These godly qualities make a huge difference in the way we treat other people. Paul gives us examples in household situations. Wives are asked to submit to their husbands. That sounds absolutely awful in the 21st Century! This is not talking about a relationship where a man treats his wife badly, orders her around, checks her every move, etc. In fact, the husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Paul expands on this idea in Ephesians 5: 25 – 29:

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.”

• • • • • •

If every husband loved his wife as much as Christ loved the church, no wife would hesitate to follow his leadership.

This loving relationship should also characterize parent/child relationships. Take another look at those characteristics the Holy Spirit develops in us – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If that defined the relationships in every home, it would be a peaceful place.

Our culture doesn’t have the slave and master situation, but Paul’s advice could apply to our work situations. Employees who are Christ followers should “try to please them (their bosses) all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (v. 22 – 23) Is that your attitude toward your job, toward the person you work for?

If you are “the boss”, someone who is over other employees, you have a responsibility too. You are to be fair in the way you treat those under you. In fact, God is the example you need to follow. Oh … that means as a boss I need to be tender-hearted, merciful, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, loving, peaceful, and thankful. Now that brings the level of being the boss to a whole new level.

Paul tells us in these verses what we are to hope and strive for. “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (v. 16 – 17)

There is a very old hymn that became my favourite hymn back in my late teens, and it is still one of my favourites. The words of this hymn echo these verses in Colossians. You can hear it on YouTube.

May The Mind of Christ My Saviour

By Kate B. Wilkinson, 1925

May the mind of Christ my Saviour Live in me from day to day
By His love and power controlling All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly In my heart from hour to hour
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father Rule my life in everything
That I may be calm to comfort Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me As the waters fill the sea Him exalting, self abasing This is victory.

May I run the race before me Strong and brave to face the foe Looking only unto Jesus

As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me As I seek the lost to win
And may they forget the channel Seeing only Him..

March 9 – Some Unpleasant Advice

Colossians 3: 1 – 11 New Living Translation (NLT)

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in
God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.”

Paul begins his very practical guidelines for the way Christ followers should live with that statement. Does he mean that we should live some ‘other worldly’ lifestyle? Should we spend all our time praying and living a ‘reclusive monastery-like’ existence? No!

What does he mean when he says, “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” Let’s look at a couple of things Paul said in the first two chapters. “ … you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (1: 21 – 23) “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (2:6)

There are two worlds out there – one world that is influenced primarily by Satan. Paul tells us that before we accepted Christ by faith, we were in that world. “You were his enemies”. Our thoughts and behaviour centered around ourselves and what we wanted; not what God wanted. We saw that in the Garden of Eden when Satan urged Eve to eat the fruit of the one forbidden tree. His argument was that the fruit was forbidden because God didn’t want Adam and Eve to be as smart as God was. Adam and Eve fell for that line; the idea of being as important as God and controlling their own lives introduced sin into this world.

Paul asks us to set our sights on the “realities of heaven”, a very different world. This is a world where God was willing to die and take on all the sin of each one of us, so we could have a close relationship with him. God is a God of love, wisdom and creativity. And that is what Paul tells us to set our sights on – “think about the things of heaven”. It doesn’t mean we pull ourselves away from our families, friends, jobs, hobbies, etc.. It means as a child of God, we put God’s priorities first in our minds and actions.

Now Paul is going to tell us what we need to avoid. Tomorrow, we’ll look at what God wants us to concentrate on.

“5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.”

That is quite a list! If you stop and look at that list, you will see that all the behaviour mentioned has at its root, selfishness – the desire to get what we want regardless how much it might hurt or diminish someone else. Paul first mentions sexual issues. Sexuality is not evil; God created it for us to enjoy within marriage. Paul’s list of sexual sin is all about sex outside of marriage and for making sex something that controls our conduct and thoughts.

Paul next mentions greed. Our culture is obsessed with getting more. It’s not wrong to want better or nicer things. God created this amazing world. He loves beauty and variety, and he made us in his image. There is nothing wrong with wanting a better job, a nice home, lovely clothes, a new car, fun gadgets, etc. But when those things become our major focus, that is greed. And it’s so easy to do in our culture. Just stop and think about all the things you were focusing on today.

How much had to do with the things you own or hope to own; the success you have and hope to have?

Then Paul talks about our relationships with others – anger, rage, malicious behaviour, slander, dirty language, and lying. All of those things happen when we’re upset that we didn’t get our own way. They involve putting people down and getting some kind of revenge; treating someone with disrespect or just plain being dishonest.

Paul pleads with us to “put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him”. (v. 10) We belong to Christ; he has given us a new life and forgiven us all the self-centered things we’ve done. We want to be like him. And that is what Paul will talk about tomorrow. Just what should we be like in practical terms?

March 6 – Freedom

Colossians 2: 11- 23 (New \living Translation NLT)

“When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

16 So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. 18 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, 19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.

20 You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”

Paul begins this section with a reference to circumcision. Jewish readers (and I imagine even Gentiles would be aware of this practice) definitely knew that circumcision was the mark of a “true” Jew. Genesis 17: 10 – 11 talks about this covenant between God and his nation of Israel:

“This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you.” But new believers in Christ, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, don’t need to follow this procedure anymore. Jesus’ death and resurrection has changed everything. Our faith in what Jesus has done for us is what makes us God’s children – not circumcision.

Paul mentions that baptism is now the sign of a believer’s faith. Baptism is a symbol of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. As we are baptized, we go under the water, a symbol of death, and then we are lifted out of the water, a symbol of resurrection and new life. Being baptized doesn’t make us a child of God; it is just a public declaration that we have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for us personally. This Easter there is an opportunity to be baptized at LSA. If you are a believer in Jesus, and have never taken that step, I encourage you to contact the church office and arrange to be part of that special occasion.

Again, Paul can’t emphasize enough that we have freedom when we believe that Jesus died for us personally. “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” (v. 13 – 15)

Paul goes on to say that we should stay away from people who try to tack on things we must do to get God’s approval. Some of the new Jewish Christians wanted the Gentile believers to follow the Old Testament laws. If you remember from our study of Acts, some thought the Gentile believers needed to be circumcised, and there were many more laws they tried to enforce. At that time in history, there were also people who said the human body was evil, and therefore it should be punished in various ways – very limited diet, whipping yourself, lack of sleep, etc. By doing that, you would free your spiritual side. This was the Greco-Roman Empire with its myriad of gods and mystic beings. (You may remember taking mythology in high school English class.) Paul warns the new believers not to get sucked in with these mystical theories.

We can get side-tracked with legalists today – people who forbid dancing, drinking alcohol, dressing in certain ways, etc. Or people say a person must give a certain amount of money to the church, or attend a certain number of services. There are people who say Christianity is OK, but too limited; there is a spirit world that we should immerse ourselves in. We need to concentrate on what Paul said.

“Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” (v. 8 – 10)

There is a new song that we’ve sung recently at LSA that helps us remember that we are loved by God without needing to do things to please him. You can find it on You Tube.

The God Who Stays -By Matthew West

If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now I would’ve labeled me a lost cause
Cause I feel just like a lost cause

If I were You I would’ve turned around and walked away I would’ve labeled me beyond repair
Cause I feel like I’m beyond repair

But somehow You don’t see me like I do Somehow You’re still here

Chorus:

You’re the God who stays
You’re the God who stays
You’re the one who runs in my direction
When the whole world walks away
You’re the God who stands
With wide open arms
And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart From the God who stays

I used to hide
Every time I thought I let You down

I always thought I had to earn my way But I’m learning You don’t work that way

Somehow You don’t see me like I do Somehow You’re still here

Chorus:
You’re the God…

My shame can’t separate My guilt can’t separate My past can’t separate I’m Yours forever

My sin can’t separate
My scars can’t separate My failures can’t separate I’m Yours forever

No enemy can separate
No power of hell can take away Your love for me will never change I’m Yours forever

Chorus:
You’re the God who stays …

March 5 – Strong Ties of Love

Colossians 2: 1 – 10 (New Living Translation NLT)

“I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. 2 I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. 3 In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

4 I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments. 5 For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong.”

I wonder if the church at Colosse thought Paul was overdoing it when he said “I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally.” Our culture tends to emphasize independence – to stand strong on your own. Paul is talking about a bond between believers that is strong even though we have never met. The church is the body of Christ. Remember “Christ is also the head of the church which is his body”. (1: 18) We are joined together no matter where we live with the Holy Spirit living in us. I think we get a glimpse of that when we travel and meet Christians for the first time. There is a bond between us that doesn’t happen with just anyone. Sure, we may meet someone on a vacation who we discover, after talking for a while, shares an interest with us in some hobby or career. When we meet another believer, there is a stronger bond because we know that we share the most central and meaningful part of our lives – Jesus.

Paul emphasizes this when he says, “I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love.” This is a prayer for the Colossians and for us. We are not solitary in our faith. That is why it is so important that we put down some roots in our local congregation. It’s a place

where we can encourage and love one another. If we just walk in the door at 11 am on Sunday and then head out to our car the moment the service ends, we miss so much. Just like one part of our physical body can’t get along on its own, so as part of Christ’s body, we don’t survive well independently.

Paul is concerned that there are people with ‘well-crafted arguments” who are deceiving the people at the Colossian church. They need to stand together in love and they need to concentrate on Christ alone. It is in knowing Jesus that they will have “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. And that is what we get in a local church. Our children hear Bible stories and talk about Jesus. Our young people get a chance to question their faith with their friends and youth leader to figure out what they believe. We hear sermons on Sunday, and we have the opportunity to attend small groups and/or classes during the week (God Questions/Alpha right now at LSA) to strengthen our faith. We have friends at church who will pray for us. At the end of services people at the front of the auditorium are there to pray with us. When we have those strong ties of love, we can grow in our faith in Jesus.

“6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow
him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

8 Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. 9 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. 10 So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.”

Paul uses the picture of a plant with roots. When we bought our house many years ago, there was a red maple in the front yard. It was fairly big – big enough that our young girls loved to climb up and sit in the branches – but it didn’t have a huge trunk and root system. After a few years, we noticed that it appeared to be dying. We got advice and tried several things to revive it, but nothing worked. So we decided to take it down and replant the area with something else. When we began digging the roots up, we discovered that the roots were bound in very tough cloth and

wire in a huge ball. Some roots managed to get out and grow a little, but not enough to keep the tree healthy. It appeared that whoever planted it, didn’t cut away the binding to let the root system develop. Without a strong root system, a tree can’t grow. Paul encourages us to let our roots grow down into Christ so our life can be built on him.

How do we do that? We can get involved in various church activities as mentioned before. We can read our Bibles on a regular basis so we get to know what God says. We can pray – set aside time to pray, and also consciously decide to pray about small things throughout our day or thank God for those good things we experience during our day. We can encourage others by talking to them, writing a note, sending an email, texting, etc. Being aware of our connections to other believers encourages us as well. Remind ourselves frequently that we belong to Jesus and have been set free from all our sin, thanking God that we absolutely belong to him. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” (v. 9 – 10)

March 4 – Jesus is First in Everything!

Colossians 1: 18 – 29 (NLT)

“18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body.

He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.

19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,

20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”

Yesterday we looked at Jesus the creator, the one who created everything and holds it all together. Today, we see Jesus at work in our world. Christ is the head of the church!

We definitely belong to Jesus; we are his body. The second part of verse 18 is sometimes misinterpreted. The Bible tells accounts of people being raised from the dead, even in the Old Testament. So how is Christ supreme over all who rise from the dead? He is the first to rise from the dead and stay alive. Others were brought back to life, only to die again later. So Christ is the first to rise and stay alive, just as all believers will when someday we experience eternal life with him.

These verses also talk about Christ being fully human and fully God at the same time – something that is very difficult for us to comprehend. But it is the truth – “God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ.” That is why Christ’s death completely reconciles us to God – only God’s perfection was good enough to take the punishment for our sin.

Let’s look at all those verses again. This is who Jesus is. This is what Jesus has done. Isn’t it amazing that Creator God would do all that for us?

“15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,

16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.

He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.

17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.”

“18 Christ is also the head of the church,

which is his body. He is the beginning,

supreme over all who rise from the dead.

So he is first in everything. 19 For God in all his fullness

was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled

everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth

by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” Now we’ll finish chapter 1:

“21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.

Paul’s Work for the Church

24 I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to
Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”

Paul repeats what he said in those hymn-like verses. We can be in God’s presence “holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault”. Isn’t that incredible? When I think about all the pathetic things I’ve done and said, it seems impossible that I can stand before God without feeling totally ashamed. Yet, this is truth. Paul says – “you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.”

This is so important for us to believe. It’s easy to get side-tracked and think we need to do something, give something, etc. to be accepted by God. Some churches even preach that. We need to be so careful not to get pulled into believing that we must do something. Jesus did it all. If you find that hard to believe, post verses 15 to 20 someplace where you can see it. Read it over and over, and ask God to help you to trust him completely.

Hebrews 1:3 (NLT)
“The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honour at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

It’s truth!