Wednesday, November 11, 2015

*Mid-Week Message: Week 2

How is your study going?  How has God's Word been speaking to you this week?  Today I will share what I saw as I walked through this passage....

For some strange reason I was a mixture of nervous AND excited as I recorded this one.  I'm certain it shows!  It is like I tell my kids though: The only way to get better at something is to keep doing it!

Here is the script:

Scripture this week is from Colossians 1:24-2:23

If you missed Sunday's introductory post, you can visit it here.  I touched on the second element to challenge the early believers: Hellenistic culture.  A multitude of ideals, religions and practices flooded through the bustling metropolis of Colosse in the first century.  They had more than their share of challenges... as we do today.  I posed the question:

How do you walk out gratitude and thanksgiving in a culture so desperately lost and confusing?

We have to remember, this was a question they asked then and we can completely relate to now.  Last week we discussed how Salvation is the root of all thanksgiving: without it, we can't be truly and eternally walking in thankfulness.  Not that salvation isn't enough... but then what?  Well, if Salvation is the root then the next step,  naturally, is growth.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Colossians 2:6-7

Paul reminds the believers of Colosse, in this section of scripture, that Jesus is the center of spiritual growth.  Trying to add anything to Christ only equals subtraction from the power only he gives to walk out faith.

Jesus + anything else = subtraction from His power

This is the one time where something added to something equals less then what you started with!

This was tangible information for a society who was being told, from every direction, that walking out faith meant DOING stuff and adding extra.  I know this can be confusing in light verses like 1:10

so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Work right?  Well, not exactly...

First of all, ALL our spiritual need is filled by Jesus.  No one and nothing else is needed for true fulfillment.  Again, consider the culture then (much like the culture now).  There is always some sort of influence or assault on Christian ideals.  In order to fit in or get along in society often requires participation in activities littered with elements which lead people astray.  Drinking, leading to drunkenness which impedes the ability to be a good witness and ready to give account at any time for the faith (1 Peter 3:15)... attending entertainment events where people are dressed inappropriately and speak or act undesirably draws the mind to dwell on things and be tempted by behavior which does not bring God glory... which should be the main mission of any Christian. (1 Corinthians 10:31, Romans 12:2)  I could go on.  The believers in Colosse faced all these things and more.... and so do we today.

Yet, it still isn't about rules of how and what to do.  As you read on from chapter 2 verse 16***** you might get the impression Paul is saying you can do whatever you want.... but that isn't exactly right either.  Verse 20 gives you a glimpse of what Paul was really getting at here:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations...

It isn't that the believer can't do what they want and must submit to rules.  Rather, it is that the believer is meant to die to the fleshly desires when they accept Christ.  I know addictions and unavoidable influences make this a greater battle, and I am not trying to marginalize the challenges some people faced then and now.  However, there is more choice than many realize.  It may mean leaving certain circles of friends to be better influenced by and focused on Christ.  It may mean cancelling subscriptions or finding new routines.  Paul knows this.  Boy does he know this... he was the same once... subscribed to the routine and religiousness and all the less-than-desirable opportunities that came with his position pre-conversion.  He knows intimately the battles those first century believers faced.... the same types of battles we face today.  So he offers this encouragement:


These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping indulgence of the flesh.
Colossionas 2:23

Setting up rules (or allowances) will not stop the temptations.  By a show of hands, how many of us want to do a thing more simply because we are told we can't?  Yeah, that's what I thought.  It is why I don't use the word "diet"... but that is another story!

Paul is trying to tell the believers, and us, to let the Good News mold our thinking and behavior... not  rituals or teachings.  Diving into God's Word ourselves, digging out what it says (not someone's idea of what it says... but what it actually says), praying constantly and focus on the character of Christ as our model (not our favorite person or idea of something)... this is what will transform and renew.  Being absorbed by truth in thought (in constant prayerfulness), ideas (through God's word), external influences (like listening to KLove or other Christian music instead of secular... or watching less or more appropriate t.v.... even hanging out with more encouraging to the faith friends)... these are the ways we live a more Christ centered life.  These are the ways we are renewed... not with rules... but with new thinking and focus.  Paul clearly articulates this to the Romans a few years earlier:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
- Romans 12:2

Looking back in Colossians, verse 1:24, we saw how Paul rejoiced in his suffering because he knew it could help the church (Christians) perhaps by example of perseverance.

In verse 1:29 Paul struggles and toils but his strength is in Christ

And in verses 2:2-3 he reminds believers that wisdom and knowledge is found in Christ (and the Bible).  This is a blaring reminder of how going to people or religious rituals for answers often produces a misguided faith and less peace and gratitude in what God is trying to do in us.  The Christians in Colosse were doing this and essentially trying to find peace in the World:
via rituals
via other gods
via fleshly advice

.... leaving them dead inside and less able to see God working... unable to show thanksgiving to God because because their guidance wasn't coming from Him.  Don't we do this same thing in our own lives?  We rely on a set-routine because we can't fathom anything else.  We give into indulgences (our gods) to make us feel better rather than going to God for the deepest healing.  We go to others for help before first pouring out our heart and need to God and seeking His Word for the most grounded and unchanging advice.

Verses 2:6-10 are steeped in advice and cautions against this.  Believers are told, instead:

walk in him [not own thoughts and desires]
[be] rooted and built up in him [not own ideas or other people]
[be] established in the faith [not religious activity]
abound in Thanksgiving [to God vs. obligation to world]

Remind me to tell you the story about the day I decided to quit taking my troubles to people and start taking them to God... it was revolutionary and transforming in my life!  I'm not saying NEVER talk to others, NEVER get involved in church goings-ons and NEVER give thanks to the world.  What I am saying... what Paul is essentially saying... is that we ought to be rooted and established  (his words, not mine) in the ways of God first or everything else we do is merely superficial and self driven... ultimately draining.

Christians are essentially told to NOT focus on anything (or anyone) else as their guide except Christ and the Bible... everything needed to be Christ-centered is right there.

 When our entire infrastructure is remade, as Paul discusses in chapter 2, we become rooted in Christ... from Salvation deep within to all we do at the tips of our fingers.  See, it isn't the effort we put out to show who we are in Christ..... it is Christ in us which puts out the energy and desire to do all we can to show Him to others.... a desire to see others renewed by faith and salvation.

Remember that confusing works verse back in 1:10?  This is where it comes full circle.  Should we DO?  Yes!  We simply must be mindful if what we DO is driven as a balm to ease self or desire to please God or man - verses - doing things out of an overflow of joy in our hearts and a desire to make God known to others.  A joy which stems from our salvation AND growing in our knowledge and understanding of God through His Word.

Now that's Thanksgiving!
 



Consider this in closing:


When Times are good, blessings are easy to see and we praise God and give Him all credit and glory…

When times are rough, we can respond in a Christ-like attitude, enduring suffering and not saying or doing things we will later regret, instead trusting God has a plan to work it ALL out and waiting on His timing and ways rather than manufacturing our own.  This can accomplish other great Kingdom goals as well:
-          Problems can produce or prime someone for salvation in Christ
-          WE can be taught to lean more on God through our troubles which can then also produce a testimony that speaks to someone else who may need it later on
-      Some trying times actually grow us and refine us.  If we are honest with ourselves and honest with God... we may realize attributes we need to work on!

With those goals in mind, we can be grateful God is our God!


We begin to abound in Thanksgiving as a result.  Not only do we not have to earn our salvation... but we GET TO share it with others and be renewed daily in Christ.  We GET TO study God's Word, finding peace and hope and the strength to resist temptations and false teachings.... to be reassured in Him.  Life may still be hard... even a challenge.... after salvation, but, it doesn't have to be impossible and it doesn't have to be dreary when our hope and outlook is renewed and resting in Christ.  For that, we can be thankful.

........................................
For more study on how to walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith refer to this week's study outline and the additional Bible passages we can use as our guide.  
 
Also, take time today and for the remainder of this week to reflect on how you have grown in Christ since your salvation step and how you get to continue learning more through the free ability to buy, read and study scripture (something many Christians in the world today die for).  We are truly privileged and blessed, this is cause to be thankful.  What are some things God has personally taught you through the Bible which have helped you become more rooted?  If you want, you can print the leaf document below and fill them out with gratitude reflections.

http://faithandhome.com/images/Documents/leaves.pdf

I pray you will shine your light and hope to others by sharing some of these deep-heart gratitude reflections on Facebook or your blog and be sure to link back here in the comments below or on my Facebook page so we can celebrate together!
 
Blessings,







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