Saturday, March 25, 2017

SERVING WITH JOY AND NOT COMPULSION

   
  Why is the Western church in such disarray?  Spiritually speaking, one of the most deadly practices we find in the church is compulsory service and observances.  Compulsory service has an appearance of godliness, but in reality is worthless and hollow. How many come to church begrudgingly, slogging through the worship songs with no thought given to words sung nor to the One sung to?  How many paltry dollars are dropped in the offering plate out of a sense of obligation or coercion?  How many zoned out heart and minds sit through  a carefully prepared message from the Word?  How many think they have done their duty for God by suffering through yet another church service or performing some religious task?  This is why the church is dying in America, too many people are pretending and not enough are truly committed to what they claim to believe.

     In 2 Chronicles 30-31, we find the Hebrews celebrating Passover, properly, for what may be the first time in 250 years.  Though they celebrated it a month late and not all the people were ceremonially clean, the hearts of the people were wholly dedicated to God and His glory.  So joyful an event was the 7 day festival, the people decided to celebrate for another 7 days.  After they celebrated, they willfully and joyfully went through the land and destroyed all that brought dishonor to God.  The Hebrews did not begrudgingly quit doing things they enjoyed for fear of retribution or punishment, they genuinely desired to honor and please God with their daily lives. God's wrath on the nation was temporarily averted because the people served Him with their heart, rather than out of obligation.

     Coming to that place, where we are desiring to please God, not just trying to avoid punishment, is part of maturing in Christ.  When we repent from bad habits and attitudes because our hearts are truly convicted by our love for God, this is real Christianity.  When we simply attempt to live by a set of rules because the rules seem to be what Christians are supposed to do, we are deceiving ourselves and opening the door for self righteousness.  True obedience and discipleship start with a change within.  Inward change does not begin with outward subjugation to a given set of dos and don'ts. There is no joy found in compulsion, only a sense of duty and obligation that can bring stress or pride, both destructive.  

     Authentic change can only come by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ.  Attempting to live a holy life without the supernatural empowerment of the Holy Spirit is frustrating at best and self destructive at worst.  It simply cannot be done.  Religion is a system of order and compulsory behaviors designed to bring us closer to God.  Religion is empty and without power.  Relationship draws us closer to God through knowledge and understanding of His word and desire to please Him.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

LOVING THE DEAD - BECAUSE CHRIST LOVED US WHEN WE WERE STILL DEAD

  
  What can the dead do?  If a person died in front of you, would you attempt CPR or take some other action in order to help revive them, would you shout at them to wake up before it is too late, or would you just ignore them and walk on by?  Spiritually speaking, Christians come in contact with the dead every day.  What is our response? I hope we remember that we were once spiritually dead and now have the responsibility to share life.  

Ephesians 2:1&4-5  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins... But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

In the Christian community, we know we are to love one another, and how we do that varies more or less.  Sadly, it is often more less, but we know better.  How the Christian community relates to those outside the church is a different matter.  Perception is king and pop culture portrays the church as narrow minded and bigoted, perceiving the average Christian as a hatemonger.  One of the biggest obstacles we face is our own rhetoric and behavior.  Legalistic congregations and even some parachurch organizations have been known for some outrageous behavior.  So called Pastor, Fred Phelps, and the antics of the his Westboro Baptist Church comes to mind, when we speak of "hate filled" Christians. 

     While clowns like Phelps (oh, was that less than loving? Jesus called the religious hypocrites worse) give a black eye to the Christian community, there are myriads of believers quietly working in outreach ministries demonstrating the love of Jesus.  This is who we need to be.  This is how we overcome the stereotype of bigot and hater.  This is the Great Commission.  


     Pastor Bob Beeman is an example of a guy who gets it right: 




     
    Loving one another is behavior oriented, not words or platitudes.  The guy who tells his wife "I love you" and then smacks her around does not love his wife, he loves himself.  True love may never say the words "I love you" but is demonstrated in actions of good. Those who are lost in sin need to know God loves them. We must endeavor to love by considering others better than ourselves. Our behavior toward those dead in sin may be the difference between them finding salvation or remaining alienated from God. Find someone to bless today and tell them you love them by your actions not your words! 
      

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

POWER TO OVERCOME- WE ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS!

 
  Struggling through life is not what God intends for His children.  No, this is not a "God makes everything great" post, this is a God makes everything bearable post.  Just like everyone who breaths air, you and I will go through tough times.  Walking with Jesus gives us the power to overcome in adversity.  Notice we do not overcome adversity, we overcome in adversity.  Overcoming does not necessarily mean our problems go away, it means we are not destroyed and it means we can flourish while in the midst of adversity.

     The Bible tells us: 1 Corinthians 10:13  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. God gives us the ability to endure.  Jesus withstood the face to face temptation of Satan in the wilderness.  Jesus endured because He focused on the Word of God. Though Jesus is God, He chose to limit Himself to manhood in order to save man.  As a man, Jesus learned scripture the same way we do, He studied it and memorized it.  Jesus is an example to us, in His humanity.

     The same power Jesus had to endure hardship is available to us, as believers in Christ.  1 John 4:17  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 
 Some wallow in self pity rather than seeing adversity as an opportunity for God to manifest His power.  God has imprinted us with His very image.  This sets us apart from the rest of creation. Even the angels are charged with serving mankind:  Hebrews 1:13-14  And to which of the angels has he ever said, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"?  Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? 

     Know God loves you and know He promises to never leave you nor forsake you.  All the power of God and is available for sustaining us when life gets difficult.  When tough times come, pray and seek His comfort and strength.  God my not change your circumstances but He will change your perspective.  God uses adversity in our lives to empower us for His service and to prepare us for His blessings. God also promises us peace and joy regardless of circumstances.  Romans 8:37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  God's design is for us to flourish and grow, even in the midst of hardship and difficulty.  Give Him the opportunity to demonstrate, not only His power, but His great love for you.  


Friday, March 3, 2017

REDISCOVERING WORTH - A TALE OF 3 MOTORCYCLES


    I remember a time when I was given 3 motorcycles that had been left in an abandoned storage facility.  None of them ran, nor were they titled.  At one time, these bikes came off an assembly line with hope and promise.  Each bike was crafted with a specific purpose in mind.  All three bikes were good for transportation and fun.  Each bike went from the factory to a person entrusted with it's care, maintenance and proper use, ensuring each bike fulfilled it's destiny.  Somewhere along the line, these bikes each became neglected and mistreated by the person entrusted with their care.  Each bike apparently malfunctioned because of improper care.  These bikes had no power of their own to maintain themselves properly, yet when they no longer worked as designed, they were declared worthless by their caretakers.  Mishandled, these bikes became erratic in their behavior.  The owners were either abusive, negligent, or simply not equipped to own and maintain a motorcycle.  As each motorcycle began to "misbehave", none of the owners seemed willing to take responsibility, all three owners told these bikes, once their pride and joy, they were worthless.  All three owners cast these bikes out and abandoned them because they did not meet expectations.  Possibly having a bike was not exactly as they had envisioned.  


     As outcasts, these bikes sat in an abandoned storage pod with other cast offs and broken items deemed worthless by those entrusted with their care.  As so often is the case, these broken cast offs found their way to each other. Now, obviously, these bikes are inanimate objects without thought of feeling, but for the sake of analogy, imagine these were sentient creatures with the power of thought and emotion.  Imagine what the neglect, misuse and dissatisfaction of the owners would do to these bikes.  Imagine what "life" was like for these three as they are declared worthless by those who should have loved and cared for them. Imagine the hurt and bewilderment as they are abandoned and left as if they never existed.  Imagine how that would sit together, yet alone, year after year believing they somehow failed or stewing in anger and feeding off of each other's misery.  

    Sadly, and devastatingly so, there are many people who have this same story.  Babies born with God given purpose and design, often  to parents who are excited and hopeful, yet ill equipped and selfish.  Some are born into hostile environments where they are unwanted from the beginning.  After a life of neglect, abuse and improper parenting, many of these babies grow up resentful, rebellious and worst of all, hurt... deeply hurt.  Broken by the ones entrusted with care and nurturing, these broken children grow into broken adults.  Because of behavioral issues or attitudes born of bad parenting, these broken children are declared worthless or "troubled".  Cast aside by society, many of these naturally gravitate to others who have been similarly treated and worse behaviors and attitudes manifest. When a person believes he is worthless, he is without hope and behaves worthlessly.  

      Mainstream society and church shuns those with tattoos, piercings and multicolored hair.  It becomes easier for people to ignore those who are different and pretend no problem exists. The broken and distrustful often gravitate to the fringes of society and the mainstream church seems content to leave them there.  What mainstream society and churches do not realize is that those with the hardest shells often built those shells in response to deep harm caused by those who were entrusted with love and care.  A hard shell ensures no one else gets in to cause harm.  Jesus came to seek that which was lost, is that not what the church is to be doing also?  We cannot just build a building and start preaching and expect people to show up, we have to go to where the people are.  What we have is a message of hope, the message is worthless if it is not shared.  

     Thankfully, the story of the motorcycles does not end with abandonment in a warehouse.  Two of those bikes were actually able to fulfill their original purpose and intent.  One was worked on and able to run and given to a family member, another was given to an immigrant who needed transportation.  These bikes were not able to rebuild themselves or suddenly start up and ride off into the sunset, they needed help and care.  Once they received the help and care necessary, they were able to fulfill the role for which they were designed.  So many people are just like these bikes, not ever realizing that they have potential or that anyone even cares about them.
  
     If the church is not willing to go to the fringes of society to rescue the lost, there will be no rescue of the lost.  And  by the church, I am not talking about the First Baptist Church of Whatever, I am talking about you and me, the Body of Christ, fulfilling our calling and purpose.  No one is worthless, no one is forsaken of God, so why is the church content with allowing whole segments of society believe they are worthless and forsaken?  Part of the reason is this kind of ministry is messy.  Our cookie cutter ideas of what faith and sanctification should look like does not match this kind of ministry.  We too often think salvation should come with a suit, tie and a haircut when sometimes salvation means new tattoos and different t-shirt.  

       Like many people, these bikes were made with care and specific purpose, but, due to the negligence and mistreatment of others, sat in obscurity.  There are many people who, though fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving creator, were mistreated and neglected, cast aside and forgotten, or simply ignored. This mistreatment often leads to poor choices which only serve to magnify feelings of alienation.  The church cannot... must not, ignore those who are hurting or deemed worthless by holier than thou hypocrites. The church, which is you and me, must step up and step out and seek what was lost and what was cast aside and what was deemed worthless by corrupt and sin addled society.  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

PRETENDING TO BE PERFECT HELPS NO ONE!


Matthew 5:48  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

One of the biggest pitfalls in the life of a believer is the perceived need to appear perfect all the time. Another big danger comes when we begin to think we have attained some level of spirituality that makes us, somehow, better than most. I am flawed, I sin, and I will always have the propensity to sin BIG. Pretending that I am not helps no one and being real opens the door to relational discipleship.
This does not excuse my sin, nor does it negate my pursuit of holiness, it merely recognizes my need to avoid self righteousness.  Clearly, Scripture calls me to pursue perfection.
Pretending to be perfect not only harms my witness, it also harms others around me.  The ultimate goal for myself and any believer is consistency in what I say and do.  If I claim to love God and others, my actions must indicate the same.  Blatant hypocrisy and double mindedness are one of the greatest hindrances to the Great Commission. 
   The Scriptural call to perfection is not a call to a destination but a call to a lifetime pursuit.  Romans 8:29  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Part of the Holy Spirit's ministry in the life of the believer is transformation. 
     Perfection comes when Christ calls us home, whether that should be at life's end or the rapture of the church.  Until perfection comes, we are called to be real.  Real with others and ourselves.  Pretending to be holier or more perfected than I actually am is dangerous as it gives the enemy an opportunity to expose me as a fraud and ruins whatever testimony I may have had.
     We certainly need to strive for holiness while being honest about our walk with God.  Being honest about our struggles does not mean accepting our sin and excusing it by simply saying, "that's who I am."  Being honest means admitting a problem and submitting to the will and transforming power of God.  Being honest also means trusting someone to whom we can be accountable.  We are not meant to walk this life alone, God made us for community and gave us each a unique role in the Body of Christ.  Someone is relying on me to do my part as I am relying on others to do theirs. 
     The call to perfection does not require, nor expect us, to attain in this life.  The call to perfection is a call to a life fully submitted to the will of God. Do not pretend to be better than you are and, at the same time, do not settle for a life of sin and struggle.  Remember, though a righteous man falls seven times, he gets back up!  

Monday, February 20, 2017

OF SPECKS AND BEAMS - SEEING SIN IN OTHERS

 
 One of the most mishandled aspects of church life is dealing with sin in the camp.  Sin is either ignored and allowed to fester or it is hastily and harshly confronted. Sin ignored can lead to spiritual irrelevancy as seen in many mainstream denominations which have chosen the liberal path of "tolerance".  Sin dealt with harshly or hastily often leads to legalistic self righteousness which can strangle the message of love, grace and redemption found at the cross. Ignoring sin and legalistic campaigns against sin are two sides of the same coin, a coin that renders the Gospel powerless.  Scripture gives very clear guidelines when it comes to dealing with sin in the church, and, as in every case when believers stray from the clear dictates of God's word, ignoring God's instruction leads to destruction. 


   Mat 7:1-5  "Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
  
Most everyone is familiar with Jesus' teaching on specks and beams when it comes to addressing sin.  Jesus gave this example for a very specific reason, not everything perceived as sin in a person's life is sin.  Sin in one person's life can often lead to perceiving sin in others.  If a man is a liar, he may assume everyone else is a liar as well.  If am woman is a thief, she may assume everyone around her is a thief also.  Perceiving sin in others will affect interaction.  Distrust will always hinder intimacy and healthy relationship building.  

     Jesus was a carpenter, by trade, therefore, the concept of specks of sawdust and wooden beams or logs would have been very familiar to Him.  Jesus knew sin in a person's life could skew perception of others, for this reason, Jesus made it clear, sin must be dealt with personally before it could be dealt with corporately.  This is a very important lesson for the modern church, as we often excuse sin in our own lives while holding others to a higher standard than which we hold ourselves.  If I am torn up with sin, how can I accurately discern sin in the life of another?

  

Monday, January 16, 2017

WILL 70 NATIONS BOW TO SATAN AGAINST ISRAEL?

GENESIS 10:32  These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood. 

DEUTERONOMY 32:8 - When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.


     After the flood of Noah, God divide the earth into nations. In Genesis 10, we are given a list of 70 nations.  When God divided the nations, He divided them according to the number of the Ben Elohim, or sons of God.  These sons of God are generally referred to as angels. 

 We see these angels first in Genesis 6 when a number of them transgressed God's design and mated with human women creating giants and ultimately causing the great flood. 
Gen 6:4-5  There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.   And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 

 2Peter 2:4-5  For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;   if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;  

Jude 1:6  And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—

We also see the sons of God mentioned in Job 1 as they present themselves before God: Job 1:6  Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 

Another term we can use to describe these beings is powers and principalities: Ephesians 6:12  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 

  We can deduce many of these sons of God have thrown their lot in with Satan and rebelled against the God who created them. These sons of God, we are told from scripture, are rulers, authorities and cosmic powers of darkness.  Like their counterparts in Genesis 6, their end will be the lake of fire: Matthew 25:41  "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Satan's plan has been, throughout recorded history, to destroy God's plan for man:

1. In the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden tree - God declared His plan of redemption in Genesis 3:15

2. The sons of God endeavored to corrupt man's bloodline by mingling angelic and human DNA Genesis 6:9  These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. - God repopulated the earth with a genetically pure bloodline

3. After entering the land, Israel was corrupted by foreign gods and almost lost it's national identity - God continued to discipline the nation back to spiritual purity

4. King Herod tried to kill the Messiah  - God sent Jesus to Egypt to protect Him

5. The early church was persecuted unto death by Rome - God protected and strengthened and underground movement

6. Rome attempted to absorb Christianity by blending it with paganism - God brought forth the Reformation and gave the Bible in the language of the people

7. Hitler tried to kill all the Jews - God stopped Hitler and gave Israel back their homeland in 1948 and Jerusalem in 1967

8. Now, 70 nations are attempting to give Jerusalem to a people who are not a people, a people who have no claim to the Holy City.

   These are just a small sampling of Satan's campaign against God.  Each and every time Satan and his minions have attempted to derail God's plan, God defeats his evil plans.  God's will shall always be accomplished: Isaiah 14:24  The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: 

These 70 nations aligned together against Israel are directed by the powers, principalities and authorities of darkness all under the influence of Satan himself.  This, in a long line of failed attempts to destroy God's people and plan, will be one more opportunity for God to display His power and glory.  

The end game in this agenda seems to be taking Jerusalem, and with it the Temple Mount, away from any control of the Jews.  Taking the Temple Mount will prevent a rebuilding of the Temple, which must take place before Christ can return.  

Even the Jesuit Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis seems to be on the side of Satan in this campaign.  The Vatican has recently recognized the Palestinian state and Palestine will not negotiate on Jerusalem, so by default Francis is on the side of Satan in this conflict. for more on the Pope's evil click HERE

The first attempt to prevent a third Temple was the building of the Satanic Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.  Muslims believed they had built their evil structure over the very site of the Jewish Temple, however, modern surveying techniques have discovered the Temple was on the south side of the Temple Mount.  True to prophetic scripture, there is room enough to build the Jewish Temple without disturbing the Dome of the Rock.  The Dome of the Rock actually stands in what would have been the outer court. Revelation 11:1-2  And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.  But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. 

This latest attempt to derail God's plan will also fail, but at what cost to humanity. Satan's attempts to stop God often cause great bloodshed and loss of human life.  World War II being a great example.  

Rest assured, these 70 nations and the evil forces provoking them shall not prevail, the passage from Revelation above proves this.  Now is a time for prayer. Prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, prayer for the hearts of the men and women being used as tools of evil and prayer that God's people remain faithful and resolute. 

God's plan for man shall stand and Christ shall rule from Jerusalem, our role is to go and make disciples while we pray against the powers of evil and their influence over mankind.





Wednesday, January 11, 2017

COLOSSIANS - BEREAN BIBLE CHURCH MIDWEEK STUDY

What follows is the study for Berean Bible Church midweek study.  This study shall be updated weekly as we progress through the book of Colossians.  If you are in the Knoxville area, please come visit us and participate in our interactive study.  

Please feel free to leave comments and ask questions in the comment section. Hope this study will be a blessing!

                                         COLSSIANS



Colossae was a city in ancient Phyrgia, which is moder Turkey today

Phygia was a thriving region and you might be familiar with King Midas who was from Phyrgia

The population of Colossae was Jewish, Gnostic and pagan

The city was destroyed in the 12th century by the Turks and continues to lie in ruins

Paul identifies himself and Timothy as the writers of the letter.

The city was destroyed by an earthquake circa 60 AD so this letter would have been written as early as the 50's or as late as early 60.

Colossians is a prison epistle and was written about the same time as Ephesians and Philemon

Paul had most likely not visited Colossae, as we will see and the church there was most likely founded by Epaphras, who may have been converted by Paul's teaching in Ephesus

Paul learns of heresy and false teachings taking place in the church and thus writes this letter in order to protect the sanctity of the Gospel

One of the heresies Paul deals with is Gnosticism or the belief that the flesh cannot be saved, but the spirit can be saved by secret knowledge – a theme we find prevalent in John's first epistle

Paul also deals with the concept of false teachers as does Peter in his 2nd epistle and Jude in his brief letter




Chapter 1:1-10

  1. V. 1-2 – Paul identifies himself and Timothy as the senders of this letter, the recipients being Saints and faithful adelphoi which is literally siblings – brothers and sisters
  1. V. 3-4 – By virtue of the fact that Paul is thankful for the faith he has heard about, we can discern that he was not the one to have established this church.
  1. V.5-8 – We see here that Epaphras is credited with being the minister to Colossae, while Paul has heard about the church. In matters of heresy, it may well be that Paul was sought out to correct error that had crept into the church and may very well have been sought out by Epaphras as he was not as astute with scripture as Paul. Remember, scripture at the time was primarily the Old Testament. Paul being a Pharisee would have a very powerful working knowledge of scripture where a Gentile convert teaching the church would not have necessarily had the tools to combat heresy.
This is important for us to remember when we are faced with something we may not understand or comprehend, there is no shame in calling on a more seasoned brother or sister for guidance.

Paul is also indicating that the spread of the Gospel is making it's way way around the world. There has to be a supernatural component to this as most pagans would have no reason to consider the Gospel. God reveals in every man a sense of need or emptiness. Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

People try any number of methods to fill this need, yet only in Christ can a person be fully satisfied


  1. V. 9-10 – Notice a progression here – knowledge of His will is first on His list, then wisdom and understanding to walk properly, in order to please God through bearing fruit and then increasing in the knowledge of God. Before we can please and understand God, we have to discern His will. The revelation of God's will is progressive:
1. God's will for sinners is to be saved: 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

And 1Timothy 2:3 -4 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
God is not cruel to leave us without evidence of His existence either: Romans 1:19-20 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

  1. We know His revealed will is that we read, pray, fellowship, worship and serve
  2. only after we follow God's revealed will, do we get specific instructions

Then we learn what it means to live worthily of the Gospel – attitudes and hidden sin is dealt with as holiness becomes a priority.

Notice we clean up our lives after salvation... It is the power of God's Spirit in us that gives us the ability to overcome sin

Then, as we walk in holiness, we bear fruit and in the midst of bearing fruit, we increase in the knowledge of God in order to continue the cycle of sanctification, spiritual growth and service.


WEEK 2
JANUARY 18


Chapter 1:11-14

Last week, we looked at the process of salvation, sanctification and ongoing spiritual maturity. As unbelievers, we discover God's will for us in salvation, we respond, He imparts unto us wisdom and knowledge so we know what He requires of us, we put those things into practice and begin go bear fruit, which in turn leads us to increased knowledge of God which in turn helps us to know how to walk, which allows us to bear more fruit which.... you get the idea, it should be an never ending cycle of learning, doing, bearing fruit. We never arrive and we never attain perfection, only awareness of the depths of our need for more!

  1. V.11-12 – Paul's prayer for this group is that they have access to all the power available to them from God to accomplish all of His will for them. 1 John 4:17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. Once we recognize we have all the power Jesus had access to as a man, we will be free to step out into more and more opportunity.
And we are not only empowered to works of service but notice the end of V. 11 – we have access to patience and joy. If we find ourselves joyless or impatient, we are not fully receiving from God what He makes available to us.

DISCUSSION: what ways do you think we can better access God's provision of patience and joy?

Also, check our verse 12 – we are qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints! Now, to preach a benefits oriented Gospel is to offer false hope in this world, but to buffer the harshness of the true Gospel with the hope and promise of benefits in the coming world is wise.

The inheritance we have to look forward to is the inheritance Christ receives as First Born of all creation. In the following verses, we will explore what it means for Jesus to be First Born of all creation and what inheritance means to God as revealed to us in scripture. Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.


II. V. 13-14 – Until we realize that the world we are living in is Satan's we cannot fully grasp this passage and the ramifications it has for us when we begin to consider EVERYTHING in this world that is not in favor of Christ is working against Him. This sounds extreme and can lead to legalism if we are not careful, but let me build my case from scripture: 2Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Jesus speaking of Satan said, John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.

And remember, when Satan tempted Jesus, he offered Him all the kingdoms of the world for one act of worship. Satan could not offer what was not his to give if it was a true temptation. Obviously Jesus was not deceived into thinking Satan had dominion when in deed he did not.

We often struggle with what of this world we can participate or indulge without getting in trouble with God. This starts with a faulty premise for a couple of reasons:

  1. We should not be basing our actions on whether or not we will get in trouble, but whether or not what we are doing brings glory to God 1Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
  2. Every vestige of this world is corrupted by it's god and the world we live in is truly the kingdom of darkness 1Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
    Properly exegeted, this passage is referring to the Jewish believers who fled persecution in Israel to Gentile lands. But, we can also apply this to us as believers living in a corrupted world because we are told we are citizens of heaven, Jesus told us He went to prepare a place for us.
Before we become like the Amish, and wall ourselves off from society, we have to temper this truth with something else Peter wrote: 1Peter 2:16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

And I think, ultimately, the question of, “is this ok?” can be answered Romans 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
If you think it might be wrong, then for you, it is, until you work it out with God. I cannot answer for you, nor can your pastor or accountability partner, only God.

Now, back to the idea of our being delivered from the kingdom of darkness:

we have established this is the kingdom of Satan. Being the kingdom of Satan, this world is designed to reward sin and keep people from finding salvation. Matthew 12:30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters

this means all of our entertainment, all of our science, all of our public education system, everything that is not done specifically to promote faith is actively working to destroy the testimony of God in the public forum. Everything is literally against us...

So, by default, unless Trump is truly a born again Christian and his motive is to promote the Gospel, he will ultimately be used as a tool of Satan to thwart the Gospel


The point of this passage is, we are now freed from the kingdom of darkness and to participate and support it's work against the Kingdom of light is counterproductive and possibly dangerous.  


WEEK 3
JANUARY 25


COLOSSIANS 1:15-20



Last week, we looked at the kingdom of darkness. We currently live in the kingdom of darkness, yet we have been delivered from this kingdom of Satan by the blood of Christ.


Tonight we will look at Christology 101, the person, nature and work of Christ and even His relationship to the denizens of the kingdom of darkness


  1. V. 15 – Image of the invisible God
    A. – throughout history, there have been what is called THEOPHANIES. A theophany is an appearance of God. Here we are told that Jesus is the IMAGE of the invisible God, therefore we can call these theophanies more accurately a Christophany. When God appeared to man in the Old Testament, these men were interacting with the pre-incarnate Christ.

1. Genesis 3:8-9 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?"
Here is the first recorded appearance of God with man, after man fell.

2. Genesis 18:1&22 And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.
Abraham spoke face to face with God and even bargained for the people of Sodom – 3 men showed up, two angels and one God – Jesus, the image of the invisible God

3. Joshua 5:13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" And he said, "No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, "What does my lord say to his servant?" And the commander of the LORD's army said to Joshua, "Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.
Joshua meets Jesus in the role of the commander of Yehova's army

4. Judges 13:18-22 And the angel of the LORD said to him, "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?" So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. And Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, for we have seen God."
Manoah and his wife are visited by the Malach Yehova, the Angel of the LORD, who tells them of the upcoming birth of Samson. When Manoah saw the offering burned up and the “man” they were speaking to rise up to heaven, he realized he was actually speaking to God.

5. Finally, the strangest of all Christophanies, we find in Ezekiel: Ezekiel 1:25-28 And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings. And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
Ezekiel 10:20 These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the Chebar canal; and I knew that they were cherubim.
Ezekiel saw a sight so foreign to even our frame of reference that I have yet to see an artistic rendition that captures what Ezekiel attempts to describe. The best I can deduce is that Ezekiel sees some sort of craft powered by cherubim and sitting on top of the cherubim we see a being who speaks to Ezekiel and it is not until chapter 10 that the being sitting atop the cherubim is identified as God

So we know, according to this verse in Colossians, when God appeared unto man, it was Jesus, who was and is the image of the invisible God


B. Firstborn of all creation: this is positional, meaning Jesus is preeminent over all of us who are adopted as sons and daughters of God, through the Gospel.

Jewish firstborn sons had birthright – They received a double portion of the inheritance but also took on the responsibility for caring for his mother and any unwed sisters, basically replacing the father and having ultimate say over family matters. Positionally, Jesus has rule over us, His spiritual brothers and sisters because of His designation of Firstborn over all creation


  1. V.16 – All things were created by Christ: John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

We do not dispute this idea, but the ramifications of the second part of this verse, few of us ponder. Jesus not only created ALL of the visible and invisible, thrones, dominions, and authorities but all these things were made for Him to serve Him. This is not just referring to human government, but spiritual powers as well: Deuteronomy 32:8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.
Now, remember, when Ezekiel pronounced against the king of Tyre, in Ezekiel 28, we quickly realize that the king of Tyre is not a man, but an “anointed guardian cherub”, which most scholars believe is Satan himself.

So, even though many of these invisible powers and authorities are actively working against God's plan, God will used their efforts to bring about His desired purpose, the same way God used the evil intent of the sons of Jacob, concerning their brother Joseph: Genesis 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
We see in this the true omnipotence and sovereignty of Christ in that the forces of the kingdom of darkness are arrayed against Him and yet these forces will only serve to bring about His desired results.


  1. V.17 – Christ being before all things brings us back to John 1:1-3, but the second part of this verse is science on the quantum level.

Within the nucleus of an atom, there are positively charged particles. These particles should repel one another in the same way two positively charged magnets repel, yet, they atom is held together by, what scientists call, “strong force”. The Apostle Paul has identified for us what this strong force is – it is Jesus Christ.

2Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
The word elements stoicheion can be translated as base or order, the very building blocks... the word melt is luo literally meaning unloosed, so when Jesus no longer holds all things together, the very building blocks of our world will be unloosed and we see this very thing happening in Revelation:
Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.
The entire creation will literally vaporize into nothing once Jesus ceases to hold the atomic structure in place!

  1. V.18-20 – Once again, Paul brings us back to the headship of Christ as it pertains to the church now and one day over all those called the children of God in the 1000 year reign and in the world to come.
So from these passages, we see that Christ is head over all creation, even the parts of creation that are actively working against Him, whether they be men, or spiritual beings of darkness or even the very atomic structure of all things.


Jesus is the image of God in whom all the fullness of God dwells. We serve an awesome creator who has not only given us of His righteousness, but will also share with us His glory. 


WEEK 4
FEBRUARY 1


Colossians 1:21-23 -

Last week, we looked at Jesus being the image of the invisible God and how He showed up in different places throughout the Old Testament in what we call Christophanies. This week will look at the work of Jesus in the life of the believer and the mystery of the church revealed to the world.


  1. V.21-23 – As we look at this passage, the first thing we notice is our transition from being alienated from God to being reconciled to God. Jesus, in His flesh, acquired for us that which we could not acquire for ourselves. Paul is very specific in his declaration of Jesus accomplishing in the flesh because a heresy had cropped up within the early church called Gnosticism. Gnosticism is teaches the flesh is completely corrupt and therefore cannot be saved. The spirit of man is whole but corrupted by the flesh and can only be set free by secret spiritual knowledge. 1 John deals extensively with this topic. Paul briefly touches on it here in order to show that Jesus came in the flesh, died in the flesh and AROSE in the flesh. Gnosticism taught Jesus did not physically rise, but rose spiritually to free our spirits from the corruption of the material world.

This false teaching raises doubts about God's inherent goodness and the goodness of creation.

The work of Christ gives us not only reconciliation with God, but transfers righteousness to us presenting us holy and blameless before God

At salvation, we are declared righteous, in the forthcoming process of sanctification, we are made holy, by the power of the Spirit.

This leads us to verse 23 – a verse used by those who believe we can lose our salvation. We can establish our salvation is secure in the hands of God. We can show clearly a believer cannot be lost.

Jude 1:24-5 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

John 6:37 -39 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.


So, if God Himself is responsible for maintaining the security of the believer, nothing we do can cause us to lose our salvation, so, this verse must mean something different.

I, and many others, believe this passage deals with those who claim faith but are not truly regenerated. The test of true salvation is abiding in Christ. When someone claims to have had a conversion experience and then falls away, this is evidence that they were not truly saved.

John makes this very point in his first epistle: John 2:18-19 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us

Jesus also addresses this in the parable of the sower: Luke 8:10-15 he said, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.' Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience

Back to verse 23, notice that Paul is tackling a third issue in this one sentence. The Gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven. Rom 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

The evidence of a creator is revealed in creation. Only a depraved mind that refuses to acknowledge the authority of God can accept the intricacy of the universe is a cosmic accident. Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

The constellations of the night sky tell the story of the Gospel: Job 38:31-33 "Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?

Mazzaroth only appears in this passage of Job but is associated with what we call the Zodiak. In fact, this work morphed into Mazalot, meaning astrology and the Hebrew expression Mazel Tov is derived from this, meaning, loosely, good luck.

The bottom line in all this is, if one is truly saved, he will abide in Christ and not turn away from the hope of the Gospel and all men will be without excuse because God revealed the Gospel to all men through the revelation of creation and by the proclamation of the Gospel in the very stars.



WEEK 5
FEBRUARY 8 

Colossians 1:24-26

Last week, we spent a good deal of time discussing eternal security in light of verse 23, which seems too indicate one could lose salvation if one does not continue in the faith.  The truth of that passage, in light of many other passages listed in last week's lesson, is leaving the faith is an indication that one was never saved and one falls into the first three categories of the 4 types of soil Jesus spoke of in His parable of the sower.

This week, we will look at three verses and discuss the fact that we all have a specific purpose in Christ.  We are all called to some type of ministry and we are all equipped by God to function as an integral part of the body of Christ.  There is none who is expendable and none who is non-essential

Just think of what part of your body you would gladly live without, and you will quickly realize that no part of our body is expendable and there is no part we would gladly amputate or excise. 

  1. V. 24 – Paul is not saying that Christ's work was insufficient or that somehow he is making up for what Christ could not do. What he is referring to is Christ could not continue on earth and provide salvation. Jesus went to the cross, rose and then arose to heaven. So, in that sense, Jesus could not continue His earthly preaching ministry, so we are left to pick up where He left off. We are to fill the role of testifying to the truth of God, just as Jesus did while He walked the earth.

  1. V.25 – Paul establishes here that he was called and commissioned by God to carry the message of the Gospel. All of us are called by God to fulfill a specific role and purpose in the body of Christ. Paul recognized his calling was from God and was designed to serve others with the truth of the Gospel.

Likewise, we are called by God for a specific task and service designed to meet the needs of others. Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

  1. V. 26 – the mystery that was not revealed prior to the resurrection of Christ is the church. No where in the Old Testament do we find the church and Jesus did not even reveal His plan of establishing the church until Peter proclaimed Him Messiah in the upper room, and even then, it was not emphatic until the day of Pentecost when the Spirit empowered the disciples and 3000 were saved.

WEEK 6 - 
FEBRUARY 15


  1. V. 27 – Because the Jews rejected their Messiah, and then drove His followers out of Israel, the Gospel came to the Gentile world. This was always God's plan from the beginning: Gen 12:1-3 Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."


  1. V. 28-29 – This is the goal we all should be working toward in one way or another, presenting everyone mature in Christ. Each of us has a role to play, some directly to the unbelievers, some directly to believers, some to both. Some have a wide swath of influence and same are called to a smaller area of influence. None is more important or necessary than another and all are vital members of the Body of Christ. We work in unison, we work in harmony, we compliment one another and we each support the whole. Christ is our head and if we follow His lead, we will not step on each other, we will, not be jealous or resentful of one another and we will view each member as vital. This is the goal of the servant of Christ and this must be the goal we strive toward on a daily basis!

WEEK 7
FEBRUARY 22


Chapter 2

  1. V. 1-2 – Paul shows that even though he has never been to these churches, nor has he met these people, he is connected and concerned about them. We also, are connected to every believer.

This means we should be concerned about our brothers and sisters – especially the one we see all the time. We should be praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters in other countries.

Also worth noting, we do not know who we may be influencing. The Colossian church and the Laodiciean churches sprang up as a result of the work Paul was doing in Ephesus.

  1. V. 3-4 – As believers, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, giving us access to wisdom and understanding to know the truth. 1 John 2:27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

When someone teaches you something, even though what they say man sound plausible, if it does not match up with scripture, they are a fraud. Johnathan Cahn has written 2 bestselling books and is hawking a third. You may remember the book the Harbinger. This book compared modern day America to ancient Israel and compared 9-11 to God's judgment on Israel. Cahn presented a very convincing argument, he spoke at the president's inaugural prayer breakfast and presented a very plausible explanation for 9-11 being a harbinger of further judgment to come. In his second book, The Mystery of the Shemitah, Cahn predicted an economic collapse on Wall Street for September 2015. Oddly enough, the market skyrocketed in September 2015. Everything Cahn wrote pointed to the stock marked collapsing, the market never fell.

As plausible and scripture filled as his writing was, Cahn was wrong. Cahn made millions of dollars selling his books and will probably continue writing garbage as long as people are willing to pay for it.

  1. V. 5 – Again, this is a reference to the connectedness of all believers.

  1. V. 6-7 – Walk in Christ – be rooted, be built up

Paul is referring to sanctification, first we receive Christ, then we have to walk in Him. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? (DISCUSSION)

Walking in Christ means we must learn what pleases Him. Where do we go to learn what pleases God? The Law.
Psalm 1:1-2 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 119:69-72 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Ok, so this is Old Testament, what does the New Testament have to say on this subject?

Romans 7:22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
Paul prefaces this with how the Law brought death and condemnation, yet he delights in the Law. What are we missing as a church when it comes to the Law?

As we learn what pleases God, we walk in Him, becoming fully rooted in the Word, and being rooted we are able to be built up into the image of God.

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Part of the work of sanctification is that we are transformed into the image of Christ. - This means we are to be in a constant state of change and growth. We are to diminish and Christ must become more evident in our lives. John the Baptist understood this at the height of his ministry: John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease."
Growth must be on going, there is never a time when we “arrive”

  1. V. 8 – The world has a way of reasoning that is contrary to spiritual truth. In verse 4 we are warned against plausible arguments from false teachers, here we are warned to not be drawn in by worldly philosophies or world order(stoichion). Human reasoning draws us to think with out heart and to be motivated by emotion or erroneous arguments: “Is God really going to send 1 billion Muslims and 1 billion Chinese to hell because they believe differently than you?” See how this question not only draws you into an emotional response, but reduces the truth of scripture to personal belief.
    There is a natural order to how the world operates and facts will not be allowed to get in the way. Science touts an unsupportable theory of evolution, meteorology knowingly presents false information to support a man made climate change. In 2006, Al Gore said we only had 10 years left before the world became a frying pan. Gore could not have been more wrong, yet he is still flying around the world lying about man made global warming.

One of the biggest lies we are told is to “go with your heart”. Think with your emotions, ignore facts, especially if they are Biblical truth. The world system elevates what we feel over what we know. This is the way that seems right to a man but leads to destruction.


WEEK 8 
MARCH 1


Colossians 2:9-17

Last week, we talked about being rooted in our faith and being built up in the Spirit. We discussed sanctification and how we are being transformed into the image of Christ. Also we talked about the need to know truth so we do not get tricked by false teachers and philosophies that sound reasonable and persuasive.

Tonight, we will look at the person of Christ and our relationship to Him

I. V. 9-10 – The deity of Christ is a non-negotiable when it comes to the Christian faith. To deny this is to deny salvation itself. If Jesus is anything less than God, then the prophecies of scripture are false and God is a liar and therefore not good. Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
So, the messiah has been prophesied to be God, he has to be God, or else God is a liar.

As the fullness of deity dwells in Christ, His Spirit is in us as well. By our indwelling, we have access to knowing God's direction and leading. We need to do more than simply acknowledge His headship, we must follow it as well. James 1:23-24 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

A good gauge of our spiritual life is our willingness to submit to the Lordship of Christ.

  1. V. 11-12 – circumcision has to do with removing of the flesh. In the sense of our hearts, we must allow God to cut away our fleshly desires and attitudes. Our negative traits and annoying or abrasive mannerisms also fall into this category. Anything that hinders our growth or ability to reach others.

Where, in the old covenant, the cutting of the flesh was an event, today, we use baptism as an outward sign of our relationship with Christ. In baptism we identify with Christ's death burial and resurrection. Death signified by relinquishing our control to the baptizer, burial signified by our being placed under the water and resurrection signified by our being raised up out of the water.

When we identify with someone, we tend to want to be like them. By identifying with Christ, He becomes more to us than some abstract idea or far away God. It is imperative to our spiritual lives that we see Jesus as real and not mythological.

Many families spend as much or even more effort convincing children that Santa is real. Countless Christmas specials deal with believing in Santa. A central theme of the movie Elf is Santa loses his power because people do not believe in him.

Eventually, children find out the truth about Santa and no longer believe. Sadly, 10 to 15 years later, these same kids see Jesus the same way they see Santa. Christ becomes an abstract idea that is intangible. That is why it is so important that we understand that baptism is so much more than symbolically washing our sins, it is identifying with a real historical person and savior.


WEEK 9
MARCH 8
    1. Colossians 2:13-17

    Last week, we looked at the deity of Christ and why it is so fundamentally important to our faith that we have this truth settled and understand it from scripture.

    We also talked about identifying with Christ in baptism and how important it is that we identify with Christ that He does not become sOme abstract idea or mythical creature.


      I. V. 13-14 – It is so important that we remember our spiritual state prior to our salvation. If we forget what we were saved from, our spiritual life can become stale and we can take our relationship with God for granted. If I forget my sense of lostness before Christ, I will not appreciate what He has given me. This opens us up to the danger of thinking God somehow owes us something for our obedience or faithfulness.
      Who among us has not at one time or another gotten frustrated with God or at least with life and thought, “hey I deserve better than this...”? When we begin to forget what we owe, we begin to think we are owed something.
      This is all a matter of keeping things in perspective and not giving into emotion or bad philosophy, as we discussed before
      II. V. 15 – Prior to Christ, the gentile world was owned wholly by Satan and his evil forces. In the resurrection, Jesus not only conquered death, but stripped Satan of his claim to humanity. For the first time in since Mt. Sinai, God is accessible to man outside the Law.

    All of Gentile culture was designed to acknowledge authority other than God's. Religion was polytheistic and elemental, meaning man worshiped creation rather than the creator. Now, the Gentile world is brought into fellowship with God through the cross.
    Moreover, our faith is not one of rules but of faith.

      III. V. 16-17 – The law was designed to reveal our need for Christ. In our faith, we have acknowledged our need for Christ and are no longer bound to observe dietary laws or observe feast days. These were all things that foreshadowed the reality of Christ. Even this world we live in is but a shadow of the true reality we will discover in our glorified state.

    What we consider reality is no more reality than a stick man drawn on a piece of paper. There are dimensions of time and space that we can only imagine, there are beings and creatures that we catch tiny glimpses of in scripture but cannot comprehend. This will all fade away and one day we will stand in the presence of God, in His fullness, also something about which we can only speculate and imagine.


WEEK 10
MARCH 22

    Colossians 2:18-23


    Last meeting, we talked about the importance of recognizing our current reality is not reality at all, but a mere shadow of what is to come when we pass over to the other side
    I. V. 18-19 – Within the faith community, we find those who would like to set the “rules” for what a believer looks like. It gets very easy pursuing the “rules” to lose sight of what is important, devotion to God. We are to bring glory to God, not live by a set of self imposed rules or put on an air of super spiritualiy by focusing on things that make us seem enlightened.

Cookie cutter Christianity is very dangerous, as it creates a facade that can mimick faith but really masks the death within with a false piety.

Ascetcism is the avoidance of all indulgences for religious purposes. Yes, we are absolutely commanded to deny the flesh when it interferes with our spiritual growth and service. There are many who have wasted their lives by shutting out the world in order to pursue God. Hermetic monks live life in silent obscurity thinking they are somehow honoring God. Denying all pleasure for the sake of piety is at best deceptive and at worse self deceptive. Imagine a life completely wasted denying all enjoyment for the sake of being acepted by God only to find out it was all for naught.

Worship of angels – we do not see this very much today, but back a couple of decades ago, angelism booming. As the New Age movement came into it's own, spirit guides and contacting angels was very popular. Equally dangerous is the veneration of saints practiced by the Roman church. Praying before icons or to the dead for help and guidance is a direct violation of God's law.

Revelation 19:10
And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, See you do it not: I am your fellow servant, and of your brothers that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy

1:13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
Angels are sent out for the sake of believers, not to be worshipped. Even more, we will judge angels, how could we judge someone worthy of worship? 1 Corinthisns 6:3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

Going on about visions – I believe God gives visions. I believe God is currently using dreams and visions in the Muslim community in order to bring many of them to Christ. Acts 2:17 - “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;

Where the danger comes in is when we begin to chase after visions in lieu of scripture or when someone creates a following for themselves by claiming visions. Many have been deceived by claims of visions. The Koran was written according to the so called visions of Mohammed. Mormonism was begun due to the so called visions of Joseph Smith.

If a vision conflicts with scripture it must be discarded. When a vision supercedes scripture by speaking where scripture is silent, great care must be taken in giving credence. A vision should be verified by scripture in some way. Jeremiah preached against those who would speak of visions that did not come from God: Jeremiah 23:16 - Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD.

The key is balance – we need to tame the flesh and deny indulgences when they interfere with our faith. To not eat a food because it tastes good or to deny the use of shoes or the comfort of a pillow for spirtual reasons is foolishness. We must acknowledge the existence and ministry of angels, we cannot worhsip or even invoke them. Hebrews
And balance when it comes to visions. We should not discard visions out of hand, but we have to at least be very skeptical.

  1. V. 20-23 – Rules do not save, rules do not change hearts, rules lead to deception and self righteousness. We cannot reduce our faith to a set of rules. Faith is relationship not guidelines or lists of dos and don'ts. Submission to the Spirit of God leads to changed hearts. We cannot legislate morality.

Simply stating a rule is never enough, we have to know something is wrong because God says it is wrong. An authority greater than ourselves must come into play when we deal with behavior. Scripture gives us some pretty clear commands about what is and what is not acceptable behavior. The danger comes in when we expound on and add to the scripture. The Bible tells us not to be drunk, we cannot make that a prohibition against alcohol. The Bible commands the priest to abstain from sexual contact before ministering before the Lord, we cannot make that a call to celebacy for ministers.

God wants our devotion to be born of love and gratitude, not fear of punishment.

The pharisees were perfect examples of what happens when we live by rules rather than faith and Jesus had no good words for them.

Mar 7:6-13 And he said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men." And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die. But you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, "Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban"' (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do."

Mat 23:1-4 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

We are prohibited from adding to scripture and should not declare things that scripture is silent on. If we do all things from a motive of honoring God and loving others, we will discover that we have a good deal of liberty as followers of Christ.