Thursday, December 22, 2005

Completely Forgiven

The fifth truth we are to believe according to Colossians 2, is that all of our trespasses have been forgiven (verse 13). Psalm 103:3 tells us that God is the one who forgives all our iniquities and then goes on in verse 12 to say, “AS far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Micah 7:19 says, “He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Many times we as Christians carry our sins as though they were not forgiven. Look at the post 3 posts back where I bring up Hebrews 10. We are told in that passage that if the O.T. sacrifices had made the comers perfect, they would have ceased to be offered and the worshipers would have had no more conscience (consciousness) of sins. Christ’s sacrifice did exactly that. The O.T. sacrifices were a constant reminder of sin. But Christ has made us perfect in Him and the sacrifices have ended and to me that means the constant consciousness of sins should be gone. I don’t think that means we shouldn’t have a tender conscience or that we shouldn’t confess our sins, but we need to remember that our sins have been removed from us, the penalty has been paid and they will not be remembered against us any more.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Already there?

The third and fourth truths in this series from the book of Colossians are found in 2:12. We were buried with Christ and raised with Him. One of the great truths of the gospel is that when we come to Christ in faith, we are united with Him and identified with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. God looks on it as though it were our death, burial and resurrection. There is great power for victory in this truth as we shall see. Romans 6:1 asks the question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” The response is that we won’t because we died to sin. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized in His death?” Water pictures this great truth of identification with Christ. When we trust Christ, the Holy Spirit places us (baptizes us) into the body of Christ and we become identified with Him. Water baptism pictures our identification with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Ephesians 2:5ff tells us that “even when we were dead in trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” So God sees us as having been raised and seated with Christ where He is. Ephesians 1:20 tells us that he is seated at the father’s right hand far above all principality and power. That’s where we are! We need to believe it by faith just like we believed Christ died for us by faith.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Victory over sin?

The second truth we are to believe is that in Him (Christ), the body of sins has been put off. (Colossians 2:11) Romans 6:6 tells us that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed (done away with, rendered inoperative), that we should no longer be slaves to sin. Verse 7 goes on to tell us that “he who has died has been freed from sin.” We died with Christ. Therefore we are to consider ourselves dead to sin also. I Peter 2:24 says, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” The truth here is that even though it often doesn’t feel like it, the body of sin has been dealt with. We died with Christ and therefore sin has no authority over us. If we give in to it, we do so not because it has power or authority over us, but because we choose to give in to it. No matter how powerful it seems, we are able to resist. The Bible says that no temptation has taken us but such as is common to man. But God is faithful. He will not allow us to be tempted above what we are able. With every temptation He will make a way to escape that we might be able to bear it. (Paraphrase of I Corinthians 10:13) Do you believe this truth? If you are a Christian, you are complete in Christ and the body of sins has been put off. Trust God’s Word on this.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Complete in Him

If you haven’t read the previous two posts, it would be good to go back and read them for they provide the foundation and introduction of what we are talking about in this post. Today we are discussing the first truth (in this series) that must be believed in order to give us a firm foundation in our walk with Christ. That truth comes from Colossians 2:10 “you are complete in Him.” In the previous verse Paul wrote that in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Jesus Christ is God. All of God dwells in Him. But in verse 10, we are told that we are filled full in Him. In Christ we have everything we need for the life we are to live as Christians. No other revelation, experiences, visions or plans are needed to be what God wants us to be. We are complete in Him. He is the fullness of God and we are full in Him. Paul will argue that legalism, asceticism, or false spirituality do not provide what we need. Look at Hebrews 10, for example. Verse 1 tells us the sacrifices could never make people perfect. If they would have, they would have ceased to be offered and there would be no more consciousness of sins. In comparing what we have in Christ to the Old Testament sacrifices, he writes in verse 12 that after one sacrifice, Christ sat down. There’s the first condition. The sacrifice ceased after just one. In verse 14 he tells us that by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. There’s the second condition. Christ sacrifice took care of the sin problem for all time. We are to be rooted and grounded in this. Just as we receive Christ Jesus by faith to become a Christian, we are to believe this truth by faith. We are complete in Him. Thank God for that today as you go about living your life for Him.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

7 Facts for Christians to Believe

Paul tells us in Colossians 2:6 that we are to walk in Christ in the same way we received Him. I take that to mean “by faith”. Faith is believing God, taking Him at His word. As Paul continues His development of how we are to be grounded in Christ rather than being cheated by those who would burden us with false religion, He gives us 7 truths that we need to accept by faith. These truths provide the grounding or foundation we need in our walk with God and are found in Colossians 2: 10-15. These truths are: 1) We are complete in Christ; 2) In Him the body of sins has been put off; 3) We were buried with Him; 4) We were raised with Him; 5) All our trespasses have been forgiven; 6) He removed the law that was against us; 7) He disarmed the principalities and powers. We will look at each one of these in greater detail in the days ahead. In the mean time, it is encouraging to realize all that has been done for us by God. It is in believing the truth that we are set free to be all God would have us to be.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Don't be cheated

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he presents a strong case for avoiding the trap of worldly religion and spirituality. He tells us in chapter 2 verse 8 he warns us to “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” In verse 16 he tells us not to let anyone judge us and in verse 18 not to let anyone cheat us. This cheating takes place when we buy into the world’s concept of religion and spirituality. This false view usually involves one or a combination of three ideas: legalism, asceticism and new age spirituality.
The legalism that Paul was confronting was primarily the legalism that the Jews had settled into. Legalism is the idea that we can earn merit with God by keeping a set of rules and regulations. Sometimes Christians, who believe that a person is saved by faith and not by legal works, take on legalism as a means of spiritual maintenance or growth. Paul refutes this notion here in Colossians as well as in Galatians and Romans.
Asceticism is the idea that by depriving our body and living an austere life we can somehow improve our spiritual condition and gain favor with God.
New age mysticism involves recognizing the god in ourselves. It focuses on spiritual beings such as angels and depends heavily on inner knowledge, visions or mystic experiences to make spiritual gains.
Paul refutes all of this in Colossians 2. His point is that we need to be rooted and grounded in Christ. In Him we have everything needed for a life that pleases God and that is growing and producing the results God desires. These truths will be the focus of the next several posts here on this blog. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 07, 2005

God's Mystery, our Salvation

In Colossians 1:26 Paul speaks of a “mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations.” What kind of mystery would God have that he would keep it hidden for ages? According to Scripture, this mystery has now been revealed to His saints. “Now” means at the time Paul wrote this. That means that for ages past there has been some truth that God purposely waited to reveal until the time was right. In Romans 16:25, Paul tells us that the mystery was kept secret since the world began, but is now made manifest by the Scriptures and made known to all nations. Whatever this mystery is, God already had it in mind when He created the world! We get glimpses of what this mystery is in several passages. Romans 11:25, for example, says that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. In Ephesians 1:9ff Paul writes, “having made known to us the mystery of His will… that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him.” We see further in Ephesians 3:3-6 that this mystery was not made known to men in other ages, but now has been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel. There we have it. In the Old Testament it appeared that God had chosen one people, one nation to be His special people. But now we learn that since the beginning, God intended to bring the gentiles into the blessings of Christ offered in the gospel. In verse nine he continues, “and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s amazing to me to think that God wanted to show His wisdom to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. From Ephesians 6:12 we know that our battle is with the principalities and powers in heavenly places. So, it seems to me that God is using this mystery of the inclusion of the gentiles in his eternal plan to demonstrate his wisdom to his enemies – the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This is the plan of salvation that began with the people of Israel in the Old Testament era, but once Christ had come and completed the work of redemption, the mystery was unveiled in all of its splendor as the gospel was announced to all peoples everywhere. I wonder what the principalities and powers thought when once they only had to focus on one small people, but now their doom is sure as they see the manifold wisdom of God spreading like wild-fire throughout the world.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What kind of leader are we?

A passage I was reading in Isaiah stuck out to me because of the implications it has for us as men, especially in our leadership role. Isaiah 9:16 says, "For the leaders of this people cause them to err, and those who are led by them are destroyed." The next verse speaks of God's judgment on young men, orphans and widows alike because of the failure of the leadership.

It doesn't seem to matter that perhaps the leaders were sincere -- they were wrong and caused the people to err. Perhaps they were weak or uncertain in their leadership. Even so, they caused the people to err. The result was that not only did judgment come to the leader, it came upon those who followed as well. Leadership is a powerful thing as I'm sure you have seen in the events of the Old Testament kings. The fate of the whole nation depended upon the quality and direction of the leadership.
How does that relate to us? We're not kings, presidents or corporate managers. We are just simple men -- husbands, fathers, church workers. Isn't it true, however, that in our positions we are leaders, even if there are only a few who look to us? Doesn't that mean it is crucial for us to be careful not to cause other to err because in so doing we bring judgment not only on ourselves, but on them as well? Let's be faithful men in our leadership roles no matter how many or how few it impacts.

Monday, October 10, 2005

God, the Initiator

I was reading Psalm 65 this morning. I had been trying to keep up with a “through the Bible in a year schedule” and found that even though I didn’t want to do so, I was covering way too much ground for me to really take it in. I’ve decided to continue the plan, but at a much slower pace. I want to gain as much spiritual insight as I can.

I see in this passage an amazing demonstration and illustration of who God is and what He has done. “Praise is awaiting You, O God…” Why? What has God done? You are the one who hears all prayer. You are the one to whom all people will ultimately come. Surely every knee shall bow! But right now, “Iniquities prevail against me.” There is a war going on and life is difficult, but “You will provide atonement.” There is a sin problem. Iniquities abound, but God provides the atonement. He is the initiator of the solution. Heb 10:17 says that our sins and iniquities will be remembered against us no more.
David then goes on to say that the man is blessed whom the Lord chooses and causes to approach Him. As vile and full of iniquity as every man is, God calls some of these filthy ones to approach Him, the living God in whose presence sin shall not come. Furthermore, the man will not only approach God, but will dwell in His courts and be satisfied with the goodness of His house.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Learning our lessons

It as interesting to see in the book of Ezra the different tactics the enemies used to get the work to stop and the way the Jews learned from their experience. In chapter 4, the opposition wrote to the king and told the king to look in his history books and he would see that Jerusalem was a rebellious city and these people would make trouble for the king. The king did the research and found their charges to be true from the perspective of the pagan nations and so the construction was stopped. When the Jews started to build again later on, the opposition arose again and when the Jews were asked what they were doing, they told the officials to check the history books and see that Cyrus gave the orders to build. In sending this information to the king, the facts were checked and it was found that Cyrus had in fact given such an order and so construction was allowed to continue. They had learned the lesson about appealing to historical precedent.
I learn from this that it is not wrong to use logic as well as the legal system and governmental agencies to accomplish the goals of God’s people, knowing all along that it is God who is at work in the hearts and lives of all involved, even the pagan leaders. When Paul was struck, he asked if it was legal to strike a Roman citizen. On another occasion, those who had been jailed publicly were released secretly, but the authorities were challenged that if the arrest was public, the release ought to be public. God’s people used the legal system to make just requests of the authorities. We should not be afraid to do the same thing in the issues that face us as Christians – issues such as abortion, parental rights, etc.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

God's Sovereignty

As I am reading through Ezra, I’m amazed at the level of sovereignty or control the Lord has in the lives of people. We know that each of us is responsible for our individual decisions, but it’s also interesting to see how the Lord is at work in those decisions, moving history along according to His will and good pleasure. In Ezra 1:1 it says that the “Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom…” to have the temple rebuilt. After Cyrus’ challenge to the people, “all those whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” (1:5) All of those God moved went up. It isn’t as though God commanded and then forced compliance. It is the moving of God’s Spirit in their hearts that generated the motivation to follow through. Opposition arose “but the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, so that [the opposition] could not make them cease till a report could go to Darius.” (5:5) When the temple was completed and the celebration commenced, “they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the Lord made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them.” (6:22)

We like to think we are in charge of everything that takes place, but it is obvious that God is in charge and He moves in the affairs of men to do as He pleases.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Our Steps are of the Lord

I was reading in Proverbs this morning and came upon 20:24 which says, “A man’s steps are of the Lord; How then can a man understand his own way?” Isn’t that an interesting thought? Sometimes we struggle so hard in life trying to determine what is God’s will for each decision for each step we take. We end up fretting over something which God already has well under control. The goal of our lives ought to be to please God and live in obedience to Him, but we need to trust Him with our steps because they are of Him. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down’ for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” These are very encouraging thoughts right now as I learn to trust God with all the circumstances of my life and learn to trust Him with each step, because each step is ordered by Him.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Am I Loyal

I was reading this morning about Asa, king of Judah. Under severe threat of an enemy force that outnumbered his, Asa prayed, “Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us,, O Lord our god, for we rest on You.” 2 Chron 14:11. Asa won a great victory after that. A prophet of the Lord came to Asa and told him that “The Lord is with you while you are with Him.” 2 Chron 15:2 Asa took courage from these comments and cleaned up the country and removed some of the false worship from the land. However, later in his reign he feared Israel and sought help from Syria. Here is what God said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly.” The question I ask myself this morning is, “Is my heart loyal to God?”

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Who are we trusting

1 Chron 5:20 The sons of God went to war against the Hagrites and were victorious. They, along with the tribe of Reuben and half tribe of Manasseh had 44,760 valient men who were able to bear shield and sword, shoot the bow and who were skillful in war. But verse 20 tells us that they were victorious because they prayed! God answered because they put their trust in Him. Ps 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” Isaiah 31:1 tells us, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, Who trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, Nor seek the Lord!” It is important for us not to trust our own strength and our own wisdom, but to rely on God. He is the one who gives the victory in spite of our strength or our weakness.

Friday, July 22, 2005


Psalm 4:8 “I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Where does our security and safety come from? It comes from the Lord alone. We trust in any number of things to keep us safe, but ultimately only God provides safety. As a result we are able to rest in sleep. Ps 127:2 says that he gives His beloved sleep. It is vain to stay up late and get up early eating the bread of sorrows. Each day has enough trouble of its own and so at the day’s end we should sleep trustfully because His promise is to care for tomorrow’s needs tomorrow.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Finding Hope in His Mercy

Ps 33:18 His eye is on those who hope in His mercy. In Psalm 147:11 it says, “The Lord takes pleasure in those who … hope in His mercy.” Both of these verses first refer to those who fear Him and then as if to define who those are, the Psalmist says, “on those who hope in His mercy.” What does it mean to hope in His mercy? Ps 130:7 tells Israel to hope in the Lord for with the Lord there is mercy. Because of our sinful rebellious nature, we need mercy. Without it we are without hope and without God in the world. Think of those words, “without hope”. It means we are doomed. It means there is no solution to our situation when we are without hope. But thank God, Christ took our place. He bore the wrath of God and therefore shows us mercy without doing damage to His own justice. There is hope after all. Scripture tells us that Christ in us is the hope of glory. There is hope!!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Prayer Motivation

Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, came against Jerusalem with threats of destruction. He explained the futility of resisting because he had already overcome the gods of the other nations. Not a one of them was able to stand up against him. Hezekiah has an interesting comment in his prayer to God about this situation. He says, “Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire.” He admits that this part of what the king said is true. But then he recognizes the underlying falsehood of Assyria’s claim. “…for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands – wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them.” Hezekiah then goes on to make his request of God, but I was especially impressed with the motivation Hezekiah brought for God to answer the prayer. “Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone.” The fame and glory of God was his motivation. May that be our motivation also in our prayers. This incident was found in 2 Kings 19.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Syncretism (Look it up)

In 2 Kings 17 we have the story of how Israel was taken captive to Assyria. The Assyrians then put some other people in Israel’s cities. When some lions attacked the people, they decided they had better decide how the God of Israel wanted them to worship. The problem was that they maintained many of their own religious practices as well. Speaking of these people, verse 32 tells us they feared the Lord along with establishing an illegitimate priesthood. In verse 33 it tells us that they feared the Lord – yet served their own gods. Verse 34 struck me when it says that to this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do NOT fear the Lord. We need to be very careful of this in our own culture. The culture has a way of serving the Lord. God Himself has another way. Sometimes we try to do both at the same time and the result will always have negative consequences. It will always lead away from service of the true and living God and we will end up NOT fearing the Lord.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

God's Testimony

2 Kings 17:15 tells us that Israel rejected His statutes and covenant and His testimonies. Many places in Scripture God speaks of His testimonies. I’ve never really thought about it much, but in this verse the people of God rejected “His testimonies which He had testified against them.” Throughout the Bible, God testifies against us, telling us about our human nature, the wickedness of our hearts and so forth. Many times our response is to reject what God says about us. We have a difficult time believing that we are like God’s description of us. To reject God’s testimonies in this way is a disastrous mistake because we then are not in a position to accept God’s remedy. As long as we think we are fine, we won’t be looking for or accepting the cure. This is what happened to the children of Israel. They rejected God’s testimonies and ended up following the example of the nations that were around them resulting ultimately in their destruction.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Ephesians 2:11-18

Paul called on the Ephesians to remember that there was a time when they were outside of the covenant people of God. During the Old Testament period, God worked with the nation of Israel. He wanted His praise and testimony to be known in all the world through Israel, but the covenants were given to this particular people. Paul says in Eph 2:12 “You were aliens from Israel and strangers to the covenants and without hope and without God.” (my paraphrase) That was not a minor technicality! Being without hope and without God were serious problems making it impossible to know God or have eternal life.

Paul goes on to say that now, in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. The wall of separation between Jew and non-Jew has been broken down. The enmity which is the law of commandments in the ordinances has been abolished. The commandments and ordinances were the documents that defined Israel and separated them from the rest of the world. Christ has abolished that separation and is creating in himself one new man from the two.

God’s purpose is that both Jews and Gentiles will be reconciled to God as part of one body, not two. Both have access by one Spirit (not two) to the Father.

It is interesting to me that this reconciling work (both to God and to each other) was accomplished on the cross. I think an interesting study some time would be to study through all that was accomplished by Christ on the cross.
Since most of us reading and sharing about these things are Gentiles, it should cause great rejoicing to think that God has made it possible for us to be part of His people to. We are not strangers and aliens any longer!

Excellent Prayer Example

As part of Solomon’s dedication of the temple, he reminds the people of the faithfulness of God and then asks God to incline our hearts toward Him. 1 Kings 8:56 ff “There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses. May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us nor forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statuettes and His judgments which He commanded our fathers.”

I’m thinking that when we ask the Lord to be with us, it is usually so He can give us something tangible or solve one of our problems so life will be easier. But here Solomon asks the Lord to be with them so that He would help them to a life of obedience. Shouldn’t we be praying this way?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

An Example of Effective Prayer

I was impressed the other day reading Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple. Some of the key points of his prayer were as follows: 1) He said that there is no God like you – a God who keeps covenant and mercy. I think we need to sometimes tell God that there is no one like Him. He knows it of course, but I think He likes to hear that we know it. 2) You have kept your promises. Solomon reviews promises that God has given that He has kept. This leads to 3) Now, keep your promise when you said…. Much is made about the fact that we need to pray in the will of God. We then proceed to ask for things that we have no idea whether they are God’s will or not. What’s wrong with praying something God has promised? People in the Bible did it all the time. 4) You are great and I am small, but in spite of that, please hear my prayer.
These thoughts were taken from 1 Kings 8:22ff

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Ephesians 2:1-10

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Paul personalizes the exceeding greatness of God’s power that he just talked about. He told us that the power toward us is the same as the power that raised Christ from the dead. Now he explains that we also have been raised from the dead. The phrase “He made alive” in verse 1 is not in the original. That’s why it is in italics in your Bible. So first, he describes the lostness from which we were raised but he doesn’t explain the resurrection until verse 5. Our condition is described as one of death in trespasses and sins. We used to walk in this condition following the pattern of the world and in the plan of the prince of this world, Satan. We also lived according to the lusts of our flesh and were in our natural state children of wrath just like everybody else. We were naturally the objects of God’s wrath, anger and condemnation.

But God, because He is rich in mercy and because of the great love He has for us, made us alive with Christ. He did this even when we were dead in our trespasses. Nothing is said here of our faith or our responsiveness to the gospel. It takes a living person to be able to respond. We were dead. Resurrection comes before response. Just as in the case of Lazarus. Jesus called him out of the tomb and he came out. Did Jesus give him life because he obediently came out of the tomb or did Lazarus respond because of the life God had given him? The same is true of us. The calling of God and the Word of God grant life and then there is response.

We have been more than raised. There are several other actions that God has (past tense) performed. He has raised us up together and made us sit together with Christ in heavenly places. These have already occurred. As far as God is concerned, we are already there.

So many times we focus on us as the reason for everything God does, but in this passage we get a different point of view. God’s purpose in all of this is that in the ages to come he might show how rich His grace is as it was demonstrated by His kindness. He wants all of creation to realize how great His grace is. It has everything to do with the glory of God and His greatness. Because, after all, it is by grace we have been saved through faith. All of this is a gift of God, not through any of our own works because then we might boast. We are the workmanship of God. We are His creation – both the original and the new creation in Christ.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

It’s amazing to me how Paul says that he does not cease to pray for the Ephesian Christians. I find it so difficult to be consistent in my prayer life and then within that to be consistent praying for particular people or situations. Notice then the content of Paul’s prayer. How different this is from the way most of us pray.

First he prays for the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God. Perhaps the following line is an expansion of this idea, but we see that the giver of what he prays for is God, the Father of glory. This is the same God who the Lord Jesus Christ sought in His prayers. He is the source of the wisdom and revelation that Paul is praying for. He is asking that God the Father will give these Christian brothers and sisters such a knowledge of God that wisdom and an understanding of His revelation will come from within them.

To explain that, he goes on to say that what he is asking for is that the eyes of their understanding should be enlightened to know certain things. Only God can turn the light on for us so that our understanding is more clear. The two on their way to Emmaus had talked with the Lord and they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” Jesus was able to open the Scriptures to them so that they begin to understand.
What then does Paul pray for them to know? He wants them to know the hope of God’s calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.

It’s an important thing to know the hope that God’s calling gives us. When God calls us, He gives us a hope. Before we know Christ we were without hope and without God. But the fact that God calls us provides that hope both now and for eternity. Scripture says that Christ in you is the hope of glory.

Second, Paul wants us to know the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. It is not our inheritance he speaks about here, it is God’s inheritance. God’s work in us is so glorious and so transforming that God can speak of us as his inheritance. And it is not just any ordinary inheritance. He speaks of it as the riches of the glory of His inheritance. Is that the way you see yourself in Christ?

Third, Paul describes the greatness of His power operating on us who believe. It is the same power that raised Christ from the dead. But it is greater power than that. It is the power that seated Him at the right hand of God. According to the book of Hebrews, the fact that Christ is seated means that His job was finished, the penalty of sin was forever paid unlike the priests who continually stood day by day to offer sacrifices. And finally it was enough power to make Him head of the church, His body.

This section finishes with an interesting thought. The church is described as the fullness of Him who fills all in all. It’s hard to put into words what this means, but there is some sense in which the church is the fullness of God. It’s not the completeness of God because God is complete in and of himself. But we as His church make up His fullness. I don’t know what that means, but it must mean something amazing if you think about it.

Considering this prayer makes my prayers look extremely trivial. Paul goes beyond the praying for the sick and salvation and spiritual growth. He prays for a deep understanding of the truth of God’s work on behalf of His people.

Eph 1:11-14

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

It’s an interesting study to go through this chapter and see the number of times Paul speaks of being in him or in Christ. Here we see that in Him we have received an inheritance. Later on Paul will describe God’s inheritance, but here we receive an inheritance because of our union with Christ. To describe this idea, Paul says that we were predestined. Predestination is not the same thing as election. Predestined means to determine the destiny or outcome ahead of time. In this passage, that destiny is that we should be to the praise of His glory. In other words, God has determined and planned that we will be to the praise of His glory. He works all things out according to the counsel of His will and if He determines and wills to accomplish it, it will be accomplished. We will be to the praise of His glory, because God knows what it will take in our lives to accomplish that task.

The Ephesians also trusted in Christ after they heard the word of truth, the gospel. That is the way we all come to salvation. It is always and only by trusting in Christ that a person is saved. It is always faith in the Word of God. Salvation never comes except through the Word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. People cannot be saved without the Word, that is why missionary activity and preaching are so important.

Having believed, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Paul describes Him as the guarantee, earnest or down payment of our inheritance. Someone provides a down payment as a pledge that the rest will be forth coming. If the rest does not follow, the down payment belongs to the recipient. In this context, that would mean that if God does not follow through on the rest of His promise, we get to keep the Holy Spirit. It is foolishness to think that God would lose the Holy Spirit because of failure to fulfill the remainder of His promise and that is the point. God’s promise of our inheritance is that secure. The Holy Spirit is the down payment until the redemption of the purchased possession. What is that purchased possession? Us!

All to the praise of His glory. These things are not for our glory but for His. Modern Christianity has made man the center. God does what He does for His glory including our salvation. Let’s give Him the glory He deserves.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Ephesians 1:7-10

Several things come to my mind as I read these 4 verses. I think of the key word “redemption” mentioned in verse 7. Here we have visualized the process whereby a slave is bought back. Someone has been sold as a slave and a kind person pays the price to buy him out of slavery and sets him free. I see that as a picture of how Christ has bought us back and set us free from guilt and sin. In fact that is what the next part of the verse talks about – the forgiveness of sins. There are some people who have no concept of how sinful they really are and therefore may not fully appreciate what forgiveness is. To be completely set free from the guilt and penalty of sin is an amazing thing. As we grow older and study the Word more, we realize how depraved we actually are and as a result we realize all the more the wonder of forgiveness. All of this of course comes from His grace. It is all undeserved by us. Sometimes I think we come to believe that God owes us something. But the Bible teaches us that it’s all because of His amazing grace.

Paul seems to delight in superlatives because he doesn’t just stop with the word grace at the end of verse 7. He tells us that this grace abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence. His grace doesn’t come in a trickle. It is abundant and it doesn’t come out of God’s ignorance but through his great wisdom and insight. It’s a result of His character.
Probably the next two verses take a deeper study, but what I see here is an expression of ultimate purpose. It flows down through verse 12. But in this section I see that when time is complete and all of the ages roll together toward their ultimate conclusion, God is and will gather together all things in Christ and make Him the ultimate focus of everything there is. This not only includes the things in heaven but also the things on the earth. I imagine that this is why he tells us elsewhere that every knee will bow. Thinking about this certainly makes a lot of other things pale in comparison and much we focus on in life seems rather insignificant, doesn’t it.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Eph 1:1-6 Commentary(1)

Ephesians 1:1-6

1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.

There are many things to think about just in these 6 short verses. My goal is to choose a few topics which speak to my heart and may also speak to yours. In the process, I’ll pose a couple of questions also which might be able to stimulate some discussion and thought.

Much could be made out of the fact that Paul addresses these people as saints even though they were undoubtedly normal, failure-prone people. When God declares us righteous, we are righteous. The really amazing thing to me though is that in verse three, Paul tells us that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. God is not stingy. I don’t know how many spiritual blessings there are, but it seems like there must be close to an infinite number. God has blessed us with every one. And then I think about the fact that it is not others who have been blessed in this way, it is “us”. I’m included in that.

Then, unlike us, Paul is not afraid to tackle a big issue without batting an eye. He tells us that we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. I have thought about these things a lot and am convinced that even though we don’t understand how this all fits together with our responsibility for what we do, God is the one who chose us for himself long before we were born. What an amazing thing!

Some Questions:
What are some of the “benefits” we receive because of our adoption as sons?
What are some of the spiritual blessings we have been blessed with?What can we do to become outwardly more of what we are positionally, that is holy and blameless?

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Vanishing Word by Arthur W. Hunt

I have just finished reading a most fascinating book called The Vanishing Word by Arthur W. Hunt III. At the risk of oversimplification, let me summarize my understanding of Hunt’s thesis. Basically he ties classic Judaism/Christianity with word-based thinking and communication. On the other side, paganism throughout history has been associated with the image and image-based communication. Hunt compares paganism in the ancient history of Egypt and Babylon with the text-based culture of the Hebrews. He then explains how the “Dark Ages” were a return to the ancient paganism at the same time that the literary culture was falling by the wayside. With the invention of the printing press and the spread of the Reformation, textual based thinking and communication became dominate and true religion was able to flourish. His concern now is that with the advent of television, movies and the Internet, we are becoming an image based culture and as such the danger of a return to paganism is very real. In using the image, paganism both ancient and modern involves a heavy emphasis on sex, violence and celebrity worship.

I have been a public school teacher for over 30 years and I have been able to see the decline in verbal skills during that entire time. More recently with the advent of the Internet, students’ ability to communicate their ideas and thoughts verbally is very low. My son, who teaches engineering in college, is frustrated by the fact that students are not able to communicate to him their understanding of the concepts they are supposed to be learning. If they could accurately communicate their ideas, he would know whether they understood the concepts or not and if not he could help them to correct their misunderstandings, but as it is, it is very difficult even to know what they understand.

This problem should be especially alarming to us as Christians because God has chosen to reveal Himself and the truth about Himself in words! If we cannot understand the words, we will not know who God is or what our condition is or how that condition can be rectified. The two components of the Great Commission involve proclamation of the gospel and teaching the Word of God. Although good teaching and even the proclamation of the gospel can be aided by illustrations and stories or can even be presented in dramatic form, it ultimately comes down to understanding the declarative propositions God has made of Himself.

Many of the recent innovations in worship style that have taken place in Evangelical churches in recent years have involved the reduction in word and the increase in image. Many churches have replaced the sermon with dramatic productions. Sermon outlines are now projected on lovely backgrounds using computer technology. Rather than encourage people to have a copy of the Word of God in their hands, many churches are providing key passages on the screen using that same display. While it is the same word of God, it is my opinion that it reduces the church member’s appreciation for and respect for the Word of God. Reading the key passage in context used to be encouraged, but now with the display of a short passage, the context is missing. When the display changes, the reader can’t go back and re-read the text to allow it to settle into his mind. All of this tends to minimize the importance of the Word and to reinforce the cultural view that image is everything.

Another recent innovation that has been brought to us by our technological society is the commodification of faith and especially music. By commodification I mean the fact that aspects of Christian worship, especially music has become a big business commodity. Most of the major Christian record labels are not owned by Christians any more. CD’s and being produced and mass marketed and they hyped over Christian radio in the same way that secular music is marketed. The result is that the consumer brings these newly developed tastes into the church and expects to be served the same faire. In many instances, there does not seem to be much thought given to the effect this market driven approach will have on the worship of God’s people. Who is asking the questions about what God has required in His word for His worship? Who is asking the questions as to what is being taught by the music (or the VBS materials, or the Sunday School youth magazines, etc.) that is being adopted for use in our churches? Do these increase our understanding of the word or do they cater to the image saturation of our culture?

In concluding his book, Dr. Hunt gives several suggestions for reducing the impact of the image in our lives. To his thoughts I add my own. Most of these involve time and attitude adjustments. With respect to time, we need to give less time to the image and more time to reading. This means spending less time in front of the television and computer screens and more time reading and conversing. Churches can help by re-elevating the importance of the word in worship and in teaching. We are going to have to do some re-educating of the people in our churches who have been raised in an image based society. They do not know how to think in the thought patterns that the printed word requires. We are going to have to help them learn how to do this. I think of how Wycliffe Bible Translators and other groups have worked tirelessly not only to translate the scriptures, but to bring literacy to the people. We are going to have to have our own version of this in our churches as we seek to raise the literacy level of our members.
May God help us not to just jump into the cultural river and “go with the flow”. God calls us to be a distinct people. We must use the technological innovations whether printing press, TV or computer for God’s glory, but we must set the agenda based on God’s Word and not let the appeal of the pagan image lead the way.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Whose Morality

A man I correspond with asked me a question about our responsibility as Christians with respect to voting, especially as it relates to issues that seem to be forcing our opinions on others. God has given us as Christians certain commandments and principles to guide our lives, but should we impose these on others through our vote? This morning, in a message on respecting life, our pastor mentioned a couple of passages that caught my attention. The first is in Romans 13 and speaks about the reason for respect and obedience to the government: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” The second passage is from I Peter 2:13, 14 “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.”

Even though the pastor wasn’t making this particular point, I began to think about the fact that in both passages, the job of the government is to oppose evil. The problem we have in our culture is that no one agrees as to whose definition of evil should be followed. Is murder evil? Certainly virtually all people would say it is. When we ask the same question about homosexuality or abortion or gambling, the number of people who say these are evil varies widely. But we as Christians are obligated to accept God’s definition of evil, are we not? It is God who told us the purpose of government in these verses and it is “evil” as God defines it that must be opposed and “good” as God defines it that must be established.

In our day, the concept of absolutes has virtually disappeared. If the legislature or Supreme Court makes something right, then we assume it is right. We must remember that the absolutes are given by God and not by us or our institutions.

Therefore I believe the answer to the young man’s question is that in our voting we should vote in favor of those candidates and those resolutions that stand for the right and against the evil as God defines it. In many cases this will impose a morality on our society that not everyone agrees with. But if it is right in God’s eyes then we will have served Him well by providing ourselves with a government that accomplishes the purposes for which He designed it.

Monday, January 03, 2005

CNN Program

I saw a program the other day on CNN about Evangelicals in America. Did any of the rest of you see it? I think they are trying to find out about this voting block that re-elected the President. They focused on one representative family and talked mostly to the daughter and the mother. I can’t remember if there was a father in the home. There was a brother, but he didn’t have much to say. I was thinking about what the young girl said and how she said it. I don’t think there was much wrong with the actual things she said, but I think the focus was wrong and I think that many of us make the same mistake. I am going to try to put my thoughts into words. In response to the reporters questions, many of the things she said were statements such as, “Yes, Jesus is the only way. If you don’t accept Him as your personal Savior, you will spend eternity in hell.” “I’m a Christian. I asked Jesus into my heart when I was four.”

The reporter treated all of this as rather narrow and even some other “clergy” that they had on said that we are sending out the message that we are right and all others are wrong – that it is our way or no way.

Now I’m not disagreeing with what the girl said and I am not questioning her salvation. Nor am I questioning the fact that there is only one way. But the message that came through is that we think we are right and the way we interpret the Bible is the only way, etc. Even though there was some gospel presented in all of this, what was missing it seemed to me is that the gospel is the good news from God. It is not ours. We didn’t make it up. Everybody in the world thinks that their religion is right and their philosophy is the right way to look at things. No where in all of this presentation was there anything about our great offense against God and that He in mercy is reaching out to save people that would otherwise be lost. It is coming across as if you don’t agree with us you’re lost. It is almost coming across as though it is their rejection of our way that makes them lost. Whereas is should be coming across that we are all lost except that God has provided a way of escape. The wrath of God abides on those who haven’t trusted Christ. God is angry with the wicked every day. I think we can do a better job of wording the gospel message and our testimonies without watering it down in any way. Of course there is only one way! Of course if someone tries to come to God another way he will be lost. We can’t word it in a way that will avoid offense because the Gospel will cause offense – so I’m not trying to do that. But I’d like it to be clearer as to what people are accepting or rejecting. They are not accepting my interpretation or my belief. They are accepting or rejecting the offer of an offended God who in His mercy and kindness asks people to trust Him for their salvation.
Any thoughts or comments?

Willing to be willing

Scripture tells us that it is God that is at work in us both to will and to do of this good pleasure. Sometimes, when I’m battling with some sinful attitude or practice, it is more a problem with the desire to change than the power to actually make the change. When we pray for God’s help in such times, it seems to me we could start with asking for a change of the will. We need to be willing to be made willing.

My Dad's Bible

I was reading my dad’s Bible the other day and came upon some notes that he wrote related to II Cor 13:4 which says, “For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.”

His notes are as follows:

Because of II Cor 13:4 I need to pray daily:

1. By faith I apprehend and trust in a perfect Christ and His perfect work – but I do so with an imperfect faith. I pray that God will help my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)

2. Pray in trust that God will work in you (me) both to will and to do of His good pleasure – Phil 2:13

3. As I wait in prayer before God, I need to confess the love of whatever sin I may have succumbed to as well as the fact that I have fallen.

4. Daily I need to reaffirm my comprehensive choice, solemnly made before God to live in the NEW nature and refuse to live in the OLD.

5. Daily in prayer, I need to ask God to make real in experience the fact of Rom 6:14 “Sin shall not have dominion over you.”

6. Daily in prayer, I need to ask God to “Gospelize” and spiritualize my obedience.

7. Daily I need to plead: “Lord strengthen me mightily by thy spirit in the inner man against temptations that daily come my way.

8. Daily I should review important matters for prayer – especially those for whom I have promised to pray.

He closes with the words from the hymn Not What These Hands Have Done

Not what these hands have done can save a guilty soul
Not what this toiling flesh has borne can make the spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God.
Not all my prayers and sighs or tears can bear my awful load.

Thy work alone, oh Christ can ease the weight of sin.
Thy blood alone, O lamb of God can give me peace within.
I bless the Christ of God I rest on love divine.
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.

Notes by Rev. Gerald J. Tuinstra


I’ve been reading a book by Eusebius. He lived in the 300’s and wrote the first history of the Christian Church. What makes it very interesting is that he lived very close in time to the time of the apostles and those who heard them directly.

He tells of Ignatius of Antioch who was ultimately martyred by being devoured by wild animals in Rome. Ignatius wrote a letter to the church in Rome requesting that they not deprive him of his longed-for hope by asking that he be released from martyrdom. He wrote:

From Syria to Rome, I am fighting with wild animals on land and sea night and day, chained to ten leopards—a troop of soldiers—whom kindness makes even worse. Their shameful deeds increase my discipleship, but this does not justify me. May I benefit from those wild beasts that are ready for me, and I pray that they are prompt. I will coax them to devour me quickly, not as with some whom they have been afraid to touch. If they are unwilling, I will force them to do it. Pardon me, but I know what is best for me; now I am starting to be a disciple. May I envy nothing seen or unseen in gaining Jesus Christ. Let fire and cross, struggles with beasts, tearing bones apart, mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body, and tortures of the Devil come upon me, if only I may attain to Jesus Christ!


And I thought I new what discipleship was! May this short excerpt encourage all of us to be all that we can be for Christ our savior.


In our Sunday School class we have been discussing Peter’s experience in walking on the water. Yesterday it all of a sudden dawned on me that when life seems tumultuous in many areas at the same time, I sometimes become panicky about the fact that tings seem out of control. I realized that when I have this response it is because I am looking at the waves rather than at Christ. I need to purposefully change my focus. Rather than looking at the circumstances I need to look at Christ. When I see Him walking serenely along, not upset or bothered by the storms of life, it gives me the right perspective. God says that all the nations as are as a drop in the bucket. All the furor going on in the world is all contained in that little drop and is of no serious concern to God in the sense that it does not frustrate Him or make Him think that all of His plans are about to be thwarted. We serve a great God and I am thankful for His peace.

Passion of Jesus Christ

I’ve been reading a book by John Piper called “The Passion of Jesus Christ”. An excerpt from chapter 22 is worth noting:

But what is the ultimate good in the good news? It all ends in one thing: God himself. All the words of the gospel lead to him, or they are not gospel. For example, salvation is not good news if it only saves from hell and not for God. Forgiveness is not good news if it only gives relief from guilt and doesn’t open the way to God. Justification is not good news if it only makes us legally acceptable to God but doesn’t bring fellowship with God. Redemption is not good news if it only liberates us from bondage but doesn’t bring us to God. Adoption is not good news if it only puts us in the Father’s family but not in his arms.

This is crucial. Many people seem to embrace the good news without embracing God. There is no sure evidence that we have a new heart juswt because we want to escape hell. That’s a perfectly natural desire, not a supernatural one. It doesn’t take a new heart to want the psychological relief of forgiveness, or the removal of God’s wrath, or the inheritance of God’s world. All these things are understandable without any spiritual change. You don’t need to be born again to want these things.

The evidence that we have been changed is that we want these things because they bring us to the enjoyment of God. This is the greatest thing Christ died for. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. I Peter 3:18