Monday, September 28, 2015

Encouragement - Colossians 4:7-8, 10-14, 16-18

"As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. Aristarchus... Barnabas's cousin Mark... and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me. Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis... When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. Say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it."... Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you." (Colossians 4:7-8, 10-14, 16-18)
Paul was not just and Apostle and teacher of the Body, he was also a member of the Body of Christ and, as such, stood in common need with other believes; the need to be encouraged, the need to love others, and the need to have relationships with others who shared the common life they had in Christ Jesus. When Paul writes to the Colossians, he is not writing scripture nor is he sending them a doctrinal teaching. Rather, he is writing a letter from one who believes in Christ to others who similarly believe in Christ. Granted, he is an apostle, but that does not separate him from other believers but merely defines his function within the household of God. In the end, he remains simply the brother to all who believe.

There was a time, and still may be, when some seminaries taught pastors to remain aloof and disconnected from their congregation; to always appear strong and confident and to never let anyone close enough to see your stumblings and weaknesses. However, this was not how Paul lived his life. He was not a super-man or even a super-christian, he was just a man like any other; a man who had received a gift from God to function as an apostle, but a man none the less. As a man he was not afraid to recognize his need for encourage nor his ability to encourage others.

The Greek words here translated as encourage and encouragement mean to draw near and to speak near to. Encouragement rarely happens outside of the context of relationships. When we stand in need of encouragement it is those close to us, those who call us close to themselves, who are able to speak words and can strengthen and lift us up.

Christianity was never meant to be lived in isolation and ministry was never meant to be engaged upon apart for relationships. It is only in the uniting of the body together in relationships that the life of God flows in service from one member to the other and back again.

In the end, Paul leaves with this final prayer, "Remember my imprisonment." It was a prayer to no be forgotten. Surely he knew God would never forget him, but there was the need in his heart that his friends and brothers and sisters in Christ would not forget him. Paul needed the body and so do we today. Let us come out of the shadows and from our own self-imposed isolation and return to the family of God that we too might find live-giving and life-affirming relationships with other members of Christ's body.

David Robison

Friday, September 25, 2015

Salty speech - Colossians 4:5-6

"Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." (Colossians 4:5-6)
Most of us go through life with little thought as to what and how we are living. We are on autopilot; living and responding as we always have; living by habits and patterns developed over years of life experiences. However, Paul is asking us to be more purposeful in our lives; to take a greater interest and care in how we live and act, especially as it relates to those around us.

The goal of the Gospel is the reconciliation of men and women back to God. However, not only are we reconciled to God but we are also reconciled towards one another and made members of God's family; members of His household. We live in a world where there are two spiritual families. Those who are the children of God and those who are called, "children of wrath," (Ephesians 2:3) "children of the devil," (1 John 3:10) and "sons of disobedience." (Colossians 3:6) Each day we live and commingle with those who have yet to know God and have yet to be reconciled to God through His Son. Each day we are given an opportunity to leave an impression on other people regarding the Gospel and the God we serve. However, when we live our lives on autopilot, that message gets lost and confused though the business and distractions of life.

If we are to allow our lives to testify of God and His Gospel, there are three things we must do. First we need to live our lives according to wisdom. Wisdom, like prudence, is knowing what not to do; it's knowing how to avoid sin. However, wisdom, unlike prudence, is also knowing what to do; it's knowing how to do righteousness. We need to think about how we should live. We need to consider the message our lives are sending to people around us. If we go through life always complaining, then how can we convince a lost world of the joy that comes from knowing Christ? If we always surrender to the will of the majority and never stand up for righteousness and justice, how will the world see that there is another way of living? We must learn to direct our lives and our behavior according to wisdom, the wisdom of God.

Secondly, we need a since of urgency. Paul says in another place that we should be "making the most of your time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:16) In both cases the Greek term for "making the most" means to "redeem" or "buy back." Life is very short and sometimes opportunities do not come twice. We never know what lies ahead for anyone and we may never get another opportunity to communicate to them the good news of the Gospel of God. We need to redeem the time, to buy it back, before it is too late. We cannot afford to withhold our testimony from those who need it just because it might inconvenience us or disrupt our plans. Life is precious and time is short.

Finally, we need to make sure that the conversation of our lives is seasoned with salt. There is a saying that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Standing on a street corner preaching hell-fire and brimstone may work for some people but many find such a message unpalatable. We meed to learn how to communicate the Gospel in a way that is easily to receive and digest by those who hear it. This does not mean that we compromise the message but sometimes a "spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down." Being tough, bold, and blunt may inflate our immature pride, but it does not win many friends. Think about how the other person is hearing what you are saying. Remember how you felt when you first heard the Gospel. Remember that the Gospel is of little value if it is not, or cannot, be received by the hearer. Learn to speak in a way others can receive it.

David Robison

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Watch and pray - Colossians 4:2-4

"Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak." (Colossians 4:2-4)
This is something, I must confess, that I find very hard to realize in my life. It's not that I don't desire devotion in prayer, but it's very hard to establish as a habit in my life. What does encourage me is the hope of the continual pursuit of devotion in prayer. The Greek term for "devote" (others translate it as "continue") means to be "strong towards" or "intense towards." It speaks of a pursuit as much as a continuance. While we may not have reached continued devotion in prayer, we may still journey down that path as we remain strong towards the goal of prayer in our lives. Continuing in prayer does not mean perfection in prayer but a continued growth in our relationship with God especially as it is demonstrated in our prayers.

The purpose of prayer is not discipline. Many religions teach prayer as a discipline or an obligation; a standard of piety to be measured against. However, God enjoins prayer upon us for its beneficial aspects in our lives. One of them Paul lists here. The Greek term for "keeping alert" is often translated as "watch" and also means to "keep awake." The opposite of sleeping is not being awake but watching. "Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober." (1 Thessalonians 5:6 NKJV) It is through prayer that our spiritual eyes are open, that we are able to see into the spiritual realm, to see the things that are around us and the things that are approaching us, For example, it is through prayer that we see the plans of the Devil and the temptations that are coming our way. "Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mark 14:38) It is also through prayer that we see trials and the snares of the Devil before they arrive. "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into." (Matthew 24:42-43) Prayer is more than asking. This type of prayer that Paul is calling us to is a prayer that is watchful. It is a prayer that is alert, seeing, and circumspect. As someone once said, "It is a jungle out there!" and prayer allows us to see the "lions and tigers and bears oh my!"

Finally, Paul asks for prayer for himself, but not for his ease, comfort, or needs but that he would find success in his purposes in life; that he would fully fulfill the call and will of God on his life. Life is short, and what prize will we take with us into the next life? Paul asked the Thessalonians, "For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy." (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20) In the end, the material blessings we have found will account for little as we proceed into eternity. However, the eternal victories we have won, the knowledge that we fulfilled the purpose of God in our lives, and the relationships we have forged along the way; these will be the things that give us joy and are the prize of our life on this earth. Let us learn to extend our prayers beyond temporal blessings to include those things that have eternal value and reward. Life is short. May this revelation teach us how to pray.

David Robison

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ruling over slaves - Colossians 4:1

"Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven." (Colossians 4:1)
It is interesting that Paul did not command masters to free their slaves. Truth be told, when living in a slave culture like that of the first century Roman Empire, emancipation is not always a beneficial option. Where would the slave go? Where would he find work? How would he survive in a culture that considers him property even if his own master sets him free? It can be hard for us to understand this since we are so far removed from our own slave culture and have little to no context from which to understand Paul's words. Paul's command to the masters was to extend charity to those they ruled over; to treat them fairly, justly and with equity.

We tend to be people who desire honor, mercy, forgiveness, and grace from those above us yet extend judgment and exacting expectations towards those beneath us. We pray for God's forgiveness while we hold grudges and unforgiveness towards others in our hearts. We expect the world around us to accommodate itself to us and our desires while turning a blind eye to the needs and interests of others. We demand others to accept us as we are while all the time holding others in bondage to our exacting exceptions of them. We are like a master who desires peace from his heavenly master but only extends servitude to those over whom they rule.

One day, Jesus told this story of the man who owed his master a large sum of money. The amount today would be in the millions of dollars. Unable to pay, he pleads for more time to repay his debt. Move by compassion, his master forgave him the entire debt and sent him forth free and forgiven. "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' " (Matthew 18:28) The man pleaded for mercy and more time to repay but the other would hear none of it and threw him into jail until he should repay the last cent of his debt. When the master of this man heard what had happened he was furious and called the man to account. "'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?" (Matthew 18:32-33) So the master "handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him." (Matthew 18:34

The moral of the story is that we need to extend the same mercy, forgiveness, and grace that we have received from God to others around us. We may have servants but we too have a master in heaven and He is watching to see if we treat our slaves the same way He treats us. We must remember the words of Jesus when He said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." (Luke 12:48) We have been given so much from our heavenly master. It is time we give some of that to people around us. Even to those we consider as insignificant as slaves. We must learn to give what you have been given and treat others the way God has treated us.

David Robison

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Serving masters - Colossians 3:22-25

"Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality." (Colossians 3:22-25)
As a twenty first century westerner, it's hard sometimes to read and relate to what Paul has to say to and about slaves. Few of us have ever seen slaves and fewer of us have ever experienced slavery in our own lives. However, slavery was very much the norm in the first century Roman Empire. With each conquest of a foreign nation, Rome made slaves of its inheritance. Often relocating them to serve others within the Roman Empire. In many cities, there were more slaves than freeman and much of the early church was made up of the destitute poor and slaves. It was only as the church continued to grow and expand that people of the upper classes would come together with the poor and the slaves to worship their common creator and Father in heaven.

Paul's words to slaves were written in the reality of their situation. They were slaves and slaves they would be. There was very little opportunity to change their social status and less to abolish the institutionalization and acceptance of slavery. Paul's words to the slaves were to help them understand how to honor and obey God even as they lives as slaves to another man.

Today, while we may not have masters, most of us do have bosses, managers, and people in authority over us and some under us. We all serve masters. Even if we are a self-made man or woman, we still have God as our master over us. The question is not so much what we do in life, but how we do it. This questions extends over every area of "work" in our life. There is no aspect of our life that is hidden from the question: How shall we life our life?

First of all, we must live our lives nor for the sake of appearances but from some deeper reality within us. The Greek term for "external service" literally means "eye-service" So many people live their lives for the purpose of being seen by others. They live their lives to project some imaginary image of themselves but they never live from the reality of who they are inside. They pretend to be someone else rather than expressing who they really are. Especially as believers, it is important that we live lives that are consistent with the new life of Christ that had been born within us; that we live as the new creation we are. Living not to be seen by men but by God.

Secondly, regardless of how we live, we must live from within ourselves. The Greek term "heartily" means "from one's self" or "from the soul." The truth of the matter, as Christians, is that we are no longer slaves of men but slaves of God. We no longer have to do anything out of obligation but we can choose to do all we do out of choice. As God's freemen we no longer have to obey our masters out of duty but we can choose to obey them out of heart. We are now free to choose. There is a great difference between doing your job and choosing to do your job. One is automatic, done out of what is expected, the other is a choice, done out of will; driven by will rather than dragged by compulsion.

God does not want people who are drifting though life, only doing what the think is expected of them, only living by what is required of them. God wants people who are engaged in life; who live life "from their soul", who live life by choice and purpose and, who in their choosing, recognize that it is God who is their master and the master over all. From Him comes their ultimate reward and it is unto Him that they choose and live life. Let us learn to live life as free men and women and let us choose to live life to the honor and glory of God.

David Robison

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Peace, Harmony, and order - Colossians 3:18-21

"Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart." (Colossians 3:18-21)
There are several things of interest in these verses, but we will address them in order. Wives are to submit to their husbands. In the Greek this caries the idea of an orderly arrangement; of placing oneself under another for the sake of order. This in no way means that women are second to men or of less value or worth than a man. Nor does it mean that men should make all the decisions that affect the family. Rather, it is saying that, in a family, order is important to peace and harmony. Therefore, God has ordained that women should be willing to come under their husband; to place themselves second in order but not importance or value. The scriptures are replete with examples of strong women and even women who rebuffed their husbands when they were wrong. Even in my own marriage I do not make all the decisions or always get my way. However, in every marriage, there comes a time when a decision must be made and there is no consensus between the husband and the wife. In these cases, God asks the wife to yield to their husband. After all, what's the worst that can happen? He could be wrong and then it would entirely be his fault.

Husbands are to love their wives. It is interesting that God never tells wives to love their husbands. I believe this is because, on generalities, women tend to be natural lovers. It's men that have a hard time remembering to love. Men can become so task oriented that the often loose sight of those around them. All they see are tasks and problems needing to be solved. They march forward with their plans and their solutions but forget the people upon whom those plans and solutions are executed. A man can get the job done, but sometimes he can forget to get it done with kindness. Love also takes an interests in the needs and desires of others. Men can often roar through life, making all the decisions, never stopping to ask anyone else their thoughts, ideas, or wishes. Love takes the time to understand others and to incorporate in its plans the needs and hopes of others. Husbands are also told not to be embittered towards their wives. Embitterment is more than a feeling, it is acting in a way that is sharp like a knife or pungent like an acid. Men need to think about how their actions affect others. Women tend to be more sensitive and it is incumbent upon men to understand this and to modify their behavior accordingly.

Children are to obey their parents. Obedience is one of the life skills that will help anyone become successful in life. Also, learning to obey your parents will help you later when you are called to obey the Lord. Obedience is essential to order and harmony. Without obedience there will be disorder and strife without end. However, obedience does not come naturally to anyone. It is something that must be taught and it's up to the parents to teach it to their children. Fret not! No one ever died from learning obedience. Teaching them obedience will set them up to become successful and moral men and women of God.

Finally, men are to not exasperate their children. It is again interesting that the same thing is not said of the woman. I believe this is because, in generalities, most women are natural nurturers. The Greek word is a prolonged form of the word that meas to quarrel or to engage in strife. Just as men are to love their wives they are to love their children and to judge their actions and behavior by how it is affecting those in their home. If you are causing quarrels and strife with your children, then its up to you to change. You are the agent of change, not your children! The Greek word for "loose heart" means to loose you passion or to loose the life-fire inside of you. So many children give up; they give up on their families, they give up on the Lord, and they give up on life. When children face a father who can never be please and who is always angry then it is easy for them to give up and the result if never good. You can either fuel your children's love for life or you can squelch it as with a splash of cold water. The choice is yours.

Finally, the emotional makeup of men and woman are basic generalities. There are some women who are naturally driven and born leaders. There are also men who are more nurturing them some women. The point of what Paul is saying is that order, harmony, and peace in the home is precious and we should each look to ourselves as to how we can best provide and secure this for our homes. If we need to change then we need to change. Do not place that on someone else. Learn to live a life that produces and supports these important qualities in our families. If we do so then everyone in the family will be blessed.

David Robison

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Richly dwell - Colossians 3:16-17

"Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." (Colossians 3:16-17)
There used to be a saying, "GIGO" or "Garbage in, garbage out!" Those things we sow into our lives will eventually come out as the inevitable fruit of the seeds we have sown. Some, having sown the garbage of the world will spew forth a harvest of garbage in their lives. Others, having sown the good seed of the word of God will bring forth the fruit of the Kingdom by which many, including themselves, will be feed.

Paul admonishes us to partake deeply of the word of God and to let it dwell deep within. The word of God is not mere words, but the very thoughts, councils, ideas, plans, and purposes of God. Jesus Himself, being the very word of God, is reflected and acknowledged in His words. God cares for His words, watching over them to perform them.

God desires that His word would dwell within us in great measure. Here, "richly" referring more to quantity than value. Paul's words could have been translated, "Let the word of Christ dwell copiously within you." So how does one let the world of God dwell copiously within them? By letting it produce its fruit within them. God's word is powerful and it has a job to do. When we yield to it and let it do its task, then it will dwell richly within us. Specifically, Paul makes mention of three things.

First is to let the word of God be expressed through us in all wisdom as we teach and admonish one another. Such an action takes community and relationships where we can encourage each other and share the word of truth that is inside of us. From time-to-time we all need instruction, wisdom, and warning. As we learn to release the word of God rather than our own words, then the word of God will grow in richness in ourselves and in those we share it with.

Secondly we can sing! With songs, hymns, and spiritual songs. Let the word of God bubble up in your lives and be released as songs to the Lord. We don't have to wait for a song service to sing, we can sing with our voices and with our hearts any time we are moved to thankfulness. I have been in other cultures where singing, especially corporate singing, is an accepted form of expression and fellowship with each other. The same is true with the Kingdom of God. There is something powerful that happens when you hear the praises of God coming out of your own mouth, or at least your neighbors mouth!

Finally, we must recognize God as our all in all. Not only must we do all we do in His name, but we must also recognize that it is through Him that we do what we do. Any good gift, any measure of goodness and righteousness, and form of blessing that might emanate from our lives is because of Him. We do all in His name because He has become all-in-all to us. We do all in His name because His word has supplanted all that remained of ourselves. We do all in His name because our old self has died and we live our new life in Him. What better reason to give thanks.

David Robison

Monday, September 14, 2015

The things above - Colossians 3:12-15

"So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful." (Colossians 3:12-15)
Paul previously wrote that, "if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:1-2) Here he begins to describe the things that are above. What is most interesting about this list is the things that are not on it, such as, prayer, meditation, giving, studying the word, fasting, and soul winning. Here, Paul is more concerned with how we treat each other than how faithful we are in certain religious disciplines. The truth is that, at the end of our life, the quality of our life will be judged not by our religious disciplines but by how we related to and treated each other. Jesus gives us a glimpse of the end of the age and the praise that will be rewarded the righteous. "'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me." (Matthew 25:34-36) And when they asked when they did any of these things, He replies, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40) Their entrance into the eternal kingdom was granted them because of how they treated even the least of those around them. Prayer, reading, giving, etc. are all important, but Christianity must transcend our personal lives to reach those around us. Our love for God must find its way to be reflected outward as our love for each other.

No where more so should this love for one another be found than in our gathering together. The Greek term used here for "bond" can also be translated as a joint tie or a ligament. Paul is saying that love is the perfect binding of the various parts within the Body of Christ. We try many things to hold the body together: loyalty to the leadership, fear of leaving, adherence to doctrine and dogma, and even shallow kindness meant only to show others that we are really good people too. However, it is love as Paul just expressed that is the perfect bound of unity.

Not only does love draw us together in the joining of many members into relationships, but love also holds those parts together when times get difficult. Peace is the consequence of love. When we love others then we will seek peace with them and harmony with the body. The Greek word used here for "rule" can also mean to arbitrate or to govern as an umpire. When faced with relational difficulties, Christ's peace can help us to arbitrate, or decide, how to respond and deal with the problem. Paul puts the governing of peace within our hearts in the context of the body to which we are called. We need Christ's peace to govern us because, sometimes, relationships are not always peaceful. While the Body is Christ's Body, it is still made up of individual members that can, at times, rub us the wrong way. When our hearts are full of competition, hurts, suspicions, resentment and the like, such conflict will drive us apart. However, when love rules in our hearts then the peace of Christ is able to mediate any occasional differences and difficulties we may have with other members in the body.

We are the ones who get to choose what fills our heart. We may choose the things of the Earth or the things from above. However, what we choose will greatly determine the relationships we have and our participation within Christ Body.

David Robison

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The new man - Colossians 3:10-11

"and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him —  a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all." (Colossians 3:10-11)
The scriptures, at times, seems to be a odd mixture of things done for us and things we must do for ourselves. In one place Paul tells us that, if we are in Christ, then we are "a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:17) In another place he tells us that "our old self was crucified with Him" (Romans 6:6) that we might "walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4) Yet, here, Paul tells us to put on the new man. If we are now already a new creature, crucified to our old life, and given a new life in Christ then what does there yet remain of a new man for us to put on? Furthermore, why does this new man, seeing he was created new, still need to be renewed? Was there something deficient in his creation that needs our attention and refinement? Why didn't God create our new man already renewed from its beginning?

To understated this, we must first realize that the Greek term for "new" does not mean "new" in the since of some new clothes or a new car but rather "young" as in a young man or a baby. Paul writes to Titus, "Likewise urge the young men to be sensible." (Titus 2:6) Here translating the word "new" as "young men." When we are created anew in Christ we are not created as mature men and women of God, rather we are born again as children who need to grow up to become the people we are called to be. When a child is born, his whole life lays before him. He is full of potential and promise. However, who and what he will become depends largely on what he will do, how he will choose, and how he will respond to the world around him. The same is in the spiritual. We are born again with purpose, destiny, and promise. However, realizing that purpose, destiny, and promise is not automatic, it is dependent on what we choose, how we live, and how we respond.

When we are born again we are born without distinctions of race, position, gender, and all such worldly limitations. We are all free to grow and to become whomever God has called us to be. Some, applying greater industry in their growth, will proceed further in their calling in God others, however, will remain children forever. Who we become depends chiefly on how we choose and how we live. Our participation in our growth in God requires two things: renewal and putting on.

Renewing takes place in our mind. Paul says that we are to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2) When we are born again, we are still accustomed to think like we always did. We need a renewal in our thinking and our understanding. We need to change the way we look at things and value things. Mostly, we need to begin to see and understand ourselves and the world around us as God does. We need to learn the mind of Christ.

The Greek word for "put on" means to cloth ourselves. It is one thing to learn the mind of Christ but it is another to put it into action. We need to take what we learn and put it into action. We need to not only think like Christ but also act like Christ. Only when we combine the two, learning and acting, will we grow up into the fullness of all that God has for us. Only then will we fulfill the will of Christ as we, "attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13)

David Robison

Friday, September 11, 2015

The things on the Earth - Colossians 3:5-9

"Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth." (Colossians 3:5-9)
Paul has just exhorted us to "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2) and to help us, he enumerates some of those things that are "on the Earth." First on the list is sexual immorality. The Greek word used here, and which is most often translated as "fornication", shares the same Greek root as our word for Pornography and encompass all things sexual that occur outside of the bonds of marriage. Second is impurity which is anything that would leave a stain on our conscience; anything rendering us guilty and our conscience aware of its guilt. Third is passion. We often think of passion as a good thing, something that compels us towards a goal or desire, but this word carries with it the notion of pain; pain when we do not obtain what we desperately desire. This is the passion for something we cannot, or should not have. A passion that troubles our soul and drives us further into desire for what is not ours. Forth is evil desires. This is a desire for what is forbidden, especially sexually. This is closest to the older English word of Concupiscence. Finally there is greed or, more precisely, avarice. Intense greed, desire, and longing for things of this world is in fact idolatry for it distracts what should be our affections towards God towards a desire for created things; putting things before God.

All these things, and many others, draw the wrath and ire of God. However, before we look outward in judgment on the world, we must first realize that Paul is talking to us. We too, along with the world, have trafficked in these things. We too were at one time children of disobedience; children of wrath. However, now God has give us, and the world, the opportunity to strip these things from our lives. Our identity with Christ in our own death, burial, and resurrection has set us free to rid our lives of such pursuits and, instead, to pursue the things that are above. However, such a transformation takes our partnership with God. Darby translates this verse as, "Put to death therefore your members which [are] upon the earth." (Colossians 3:5 Darby) God has given us new birth and a new life in Christ. However, it remains for us to conquer our flesh and to bring it into conformity with our new life in Christ. No amount of prayer can accomplish those things which we have been commanded to do ourselves. This is something we must do by the power and grace which God has already amply supplied. We are the ones who must mortify the flesh.

Paul continues with a second list. However, while the first list relates to our desire for worldly things, this second list pertains to how we relate to those around us. All these things that Paul has listed are sins, not because they hurt God, but because they hurt others who are made in the image of God. All these things are sins because they flow not out of love but out of something dark and malevolent inside. Love wold never do these things but evil would. God is calling us to love His creation the way He does and to treat them the way He does. When we do, when we live in conformance to the ways of God, then we live life as it was meant to be lived. However, when we live contrary to the love of God for His creation, then we live lives of sin and evil is the outcome of our life.

In the Gospel we have been given back our free-will and, with our free-will, we have free-choice. How will we use this new power to chose in our lives today? Will we choose to continue living as we always have or will we choose a new way of living? Will we choose to put aside our old way of living that we might live like Christ or will we choose to continue to live as the world, knowing the outcome that awaits them? The choice is ours.

David Robison

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Not so free will - Colossians 3:1-4

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." (Colossians 3:1-4)
Our lives are full of choices. When God created us, He created us with free will that we might be, of all His creation, those creatures free to choose what we might; that our love for God may not be out of compulsion but out of choice through the free exercise of our free will. Unfortunately, our free will, of late, has not been all that free. We have conditioned our will, through sins we have committed and sins committed towards us, to constantly choose for the wrong things. By choosing wrong we have become the slaves of wrong. Paul says that we have become "slaves of sin" (Romans 6:17) and some have gone so far as to be completely "seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron." (1 Timothy 4:2) Free will is great, but only insofar as you are free to command it.

What makes the Gospel "good news" is that we are now free in our free will. Free to say "Yes" and free to say "No". More than that, we are free to train our free will so that, once again, it will be conditioned and, in a real sense, automatic. However, this time, not towards sin but towards righteousness. Where we used to be slaves of sin now we can become slaves of righteousness. "But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:17-18)

It is our union with Christ in His death and resurrection that has given us new life and new liberty to our free will. In His death we have died to the world and its allurements and, in His resurrection, we have been given new life and a new apatite for heavenly things. Sometimes it is easy to forget this and easy to dismiss our new life and new liberty in Christ for, after all, we still look like we used to, we still talk like we used to, and, in many ways, we still think like we used to. Our new life in Christ is shrouded in mystery. It is a life that is hidden from view; hidden in Christ. Nevertheless, our new life is real and, one day, when Jesus returns, it will be made plane for all to see, even ourselves. Let us not dismiss what we have been given just because it has been hidden from natural eyes.

Having been given this new life and having been made free once again in our free will, Paul counsels us to to choose wisely; to choose for the things that are above. For now, we needn't worry as to what those things are, Paul will describe them later on in this chapter. For now, the issue is our affections. The King James Version of the Bible translates this verse as, "Set your affection on things above." (Colossians 3:2 KJV) However, the Greek word used here has more to do with the exercise of our mind than the longing of our emotions. It has less to do with desiring the things above than directing our mind, thought, interests, and consideration towards the things about. It requires the active participation of our minds as enlighten and directed by the will and purpose of God. Christianity is not a religion of feelings; it is not something that is felt. Rather it is a religion of thought, understanding, and behavior that is done in concurrence with those things that have been taught and revealed to us by God. It is a religion of internal action that produces external obedience. Let us therefore exercise our minds towards the things that are above and let those things be reflected through our lives in everything we do.

David Robison

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Man made religions - Colossians 2:20-23

"If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) — in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." (Colossians 2:20-23)
Our new life in Christ is predicated upon the fact that we have died to the world and to its orderly forms of religion. Mankind has always had an innate understanding of the existence of a creator God. However, in his inability to comprehend God, he has developed religions to serve and appease God. These religions, patterned after the orderly principals of the world, take their shape in a form of natural wisdom, willful participation in piety and ceremonial worship, lowliness of mind and modesty, and spartan treatment of the body. However, such religions are more concerned with what goes into the body then what comes out of the heart. "Taste not, touch not, and use not" all deal with things external but fail to address the real issues of our life that lay within our hearts. Jesus Himself taught us that, "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man." (Matthew 15:11) for "the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man." (Matthew 15:18)

The religions of men, while they may appear sanctimonious, offer no real power against the immorality that rages on within us. No  amount of depriving and abusing the flesh will ever serve to eliminate the sin that stains our heart. The only thing that can kill sin in our lives is death and the only thing that can bring forth righteousness in our life is resurrection. Having died with Christ, we have not only died to the world but also to sin and its power over us. Now, living a new life, we have the Hope of Righteousness abiding within us; that being the person of the Holy Spirit. If we have died to the world and to its sin and if we have the Hope of Righteousness living inside of us then what more use do we have for the religions of the world?

Paul taught us, "But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also." (Galatians 4:29) Those who remain as children of the world will always seek to restore again to their religions those who have left religion behind. Those who remain in bondage to earthly religions will never be at rest until they secure the re-enslavement of those who have been set free from the world and its ways. But what does Paul say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman." (Galatians 4:30) We must not only refuse to yield to those who seek to restore us to their religions but we must also be vigilant to divest ourselves (and our churches) of any remaining vestiges of religion. The write of Hebrews says, "the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing." (Hebrews 9:8) Religion not only enslaves us but it hides and blurs the message of Christ. Let us cast off all religion from our lives that the message of Christ may become apparent to all and the path back to God plainly seen.

David Robison

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Corporate Christianity - Colossians 2:19

"and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God." (Colossians 2:19)
What separates the church from other social, corporate, and communal organizations is not its loyalty, fidelity to the cause or group, or interest in a group or cause but rather the source of the life that flows through the church. The church is nothing apart from its connection to the head. Without Jesus assuming His rightful place as having preeminence in everything we do their would be no reason for the church. Without Jesus as our head, we might as well join the PTA or some other social organization for we would have lost what makes us distinct. It is Christ in His church that give it her identity, purpose, and meaning.

It is impossible to separate who we are in Christ from who we are in the church. Our individual walk with God is inextricably connected to our corporate walk with the church. In Paul's mind, there was no difference between someone being a believer and someone being a member of the church. It is in the church that we find our connection to the body and to the head, How can anyone live as a Christian while being separated from the body and without Jesus as their head?

The Gospel, as lived out in the lives of the early believers, has always been a social, or corporate, gospel. The early believers lived their new lives in Christ in corporate communion with one another. They shared their lives, they shared their possessions, and they shared their love for their common savior. Paul taught us that we "have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20) and it is this common life that we share with every other believer that forms the basis of our common life together as the Church of Jesus Christ.

Jesus came not only to save us but also to form us into a corporate body that He might purify her and, one day, present her unto Himself. "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:25-27) This formation of the church is an active formation. The Greek term used for "held together" could also be translated as to "drive together". Jesus is actively working to form and mature His body which is His church.

However, we must understand what actually holds the body together and give it her strength. Some have tried to hold the body together with traditions, doctrine, and even loyalty to a pastor or leader. However, Paul tells us that it is the joints and ligaments that supplies the body, hold it together, and gives it its strength. Similarly, Paul said, "we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:15-16) Joints and ligaments are for the holding together of two parts in proper order and alignment. They minister in regards to the relationship between two individual parts of the body. What strengthens and holds the body together is relationships. When the members of the body find their God given place in the body, when they perform their God given function in the body, and when they relate in love to the members of the body that they have been brought into relationship with then the body is nourished and grows till it attains to the image and stature of Christ.

A christian cannot be a christian apart from relationships with other Christians. We were never meant to be alone. We were meant to find meaning, life, and strength in vital relationships with other believers that share the common life we have in Christ. Let us come out of isolation and find our rightful place in the Body of Christ.

David Robison

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Vision vs. Gospel - Colossians 2:18-19

"delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God." (Colossians 2:18-19)
Paul is talking of those who would seek to judge us as disqualified for the prize we seek. Most often, their judgment is based on the fact that we don't follow them or do religion like they do. They have an inflated sense of themselves and believe that their way is the right way, the only right way. Everyone who follows them is right and everyone else is disqualified.

One of the marks of such men and women is their stand on things spiritual. They have a disproportionate interest in angels, dreams, visions, and visitations. To be sure, God at times, will use such means and methods but always in an attempt to draw us closer to Himself. Many years ago there was a television show called "Touched by an angel." While there was some questionable theology in the show, when the actual message was delivered by the "angels" it was always in God's name and it served to turn the attention of the hearer to God not to the angles. However, these men and women use the spiritual to turn our attention towards them. They see themselves as being spiritual and all who are spiritual ought to acknowledge their (superior) spirituality as well.

The problem with such people, besides their attempt to judge and control us, is that they substitute vision for revelation. They become more infatuated with visions, dreams, and the like then they are with the Gospel message delivered to us by Christ through His apostles. To them, everything that glitters is gold, or everything that is spiritual is divine. However, Peter reminds us that, "we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:19) They are like those who feed on chaff while tossing away the grain.

Sometimes I think myself not too clever for, after all, all I do is teach and expound upon the words of other men; no new revelation, no new thoughts, just (hopefully) an explanation of the teachings of Christ that is easy to understand and apply to our lives. Vision, dreams, and angel messages are great but they must always server to return us to the message of God and to the one who came to deliver that message to us. These men and women have let go of the head. They have traded Jesus for things supernatural. They have substituted visions for Gospel.

Our growth, and the growth of the body, is predicated upon our connection to the head. As long as we are connected to the head, we receive life from the body and are joined together with other members in a common will and purpose, but if we let go of the head, then the life in the body dries up and we lose our reason for our association with the body. The body becomes dismembered and dies.

This question we must ask ourselves, "Is Jesus enough for us?" Is His message enough instruction, encouragement, and enlightenment for us? Is there something lacking in what we have received from Christ or have we found that, in our relationship with the head, we have received all things, even the very Kingdom of God? If we have God living inside of us, what more do we have need of?

David Robison