Colossians 4

Colossians 4 has Paul ending his letter to this church. He emphasizes just how important prayer is.  “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving”.  Paul doesn’t just tell them to pray, but rather to ‘continue steadfastly’. The ancient Greek word translated continue is built on a root meaning ‘to be strong,’ it implies persistence and fervor.  Prayer isn’t something that should happen when we think about it or it fits our schedule or needs.  Prayer should be a priority – not focused on what we want or need – but on the goodness of God and His blessings.  It is an act of praise and needs to be focused on God, not us.  Prayer is about getting on His page, not trying to get Him on ours.  It is us lining up with His agenda, not trying to force Him to make our agenda His own.

Paul goes on to say “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time”. Life as a Christ Follower isn’t only lived in the prayer closet. There also must be practical, daily, well lived life with those who are not necessarily believers.  There is one fact that is equal for all of us no matter our faith – the reality of the limits of time.  Every person on the planet gets the same 168 hours each week.  If we are going to walk in wisdom, we have to be intentional in how we use that time, making sure we are ‘making the best use’ of each precious hour.

Paul tells us how we should engage with every person we meet.  “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person”.  Scripture often talks about our role as Christ Followers to be salt and light.  He tells us to speak with grace – where we speak and cultivate the gift of pleasant and wise conversation – but at the same time speaking with words of salt that challenge the status quo and draw those we talk with to a desire to learn more about Jesus Christ because of our words and how we live our life.

Paul wraps this letter talking about his team.  It’s a list of faithful fellow Christ Followers who have or are helping Paul with the ministry of the Gospel.  While Paul was an Apostle and has to be toward the top of the list of great men in all of the Bible, he certainly doesn’t tackle the work of the ministry on his own.  He not only involved others to work beside him, he also gave praise and honored them as not only part of the team but as key partners in doing what God had entrusted him to do.

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Colossians 3

Colossians 3 is filled with Paul’s direction for how we should live as Christ Followers.  “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God”.  We need to keep our eyes looking up, not at the world around us.  He goes on.  “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”.  We let the world drag us down – we have to stay focused on the things of God and that starts with how we think.  Why?  “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”.  Jesus is our life if we are a Christ Follower.  We need to keep our eyes on Him.

What’s that mean?  “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry….you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth”.  How we live matters – we need to push aside the things of the world – the sin that we are so prone to falling to.  But in order to put something off, we need to replace it with something good.  “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of  its creator”.  We must put aside sin and put on Christ.  We can’t just leave a void – we must fill it with God’s ways.

So how do we do that?  “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony….let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts….be thankful”.  We need to put off the things listed above and replace them with these Godly traits.  He goes on to tell us “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God”.

Paul wraps up this chapter with four simple verses that pretty well give the ground rules for all our relationships:

  • Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord
  • Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them
  • Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord
  • Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged
  • Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters

Five simple statements that if lived, would completely change relationships for most all of mankind.  Paul simplifies it down to the one key thing we need to do.  Pray about those that fit your situation.  Are you truly living the way Paul directs?

Colossians 2

Colossians 2 has Paul encouraging the church at Colossae to focus on their walk with Christ.  “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”.  We need to do a much better job in helping Christ Followers understand what it means to truly walk in Him.  Becoming a Christ Follower is not a point in time event – sure it happens at a point in time – but it is the beginning of a lifetime relationship where He not only has become Savior, but also Lord of our life.  We receive Jesus and need to root down in Him, but also then work to build up our faith which we do for the rest of our life.

Growing as a Christ Follower is critical to keeping us on the right path.  The world is filled with tools the enemy uses to try and drive us into the ditch.  “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ”.  There are many false teachings and deceitful traditions that will lead us astray if we aren’t rooted in the Truth.  But Jesus alone is the answer.  “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority”.  There is no other book, no other source of truth, than Him alone.

When we receive Christ and follow in believer’s baptism, we are “buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead”.  Baptism is the symbolic public expression of our faith in Christ, where we put off our sin as we go into the water and are set free through His cleansing grace as we come up from the water.  Jesus has already won the victory over sin.  But as humans, we certainly have not, and need the saving grace God offers us through Christ’s death on the cross to set us free from the penalty of our own sinful nature.

Sin is a big deal.  In our modern world, sin is downplayed as a ‘poor choice’ or ‘no big deal’.  Not so in God’s eyes.  “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross”.  Truth is we are dead to God because of our sin.  He can’t just look the other way.  His holiness and righteousness demand that He deal with sin in our life.  That’s why Jesus went to the Cross.  There has to be a payment for the sin we commit, and Jesus paid that price once and for all at Calvary.  All we have to do is receive that free gift of grace and mercy and make it our own.  We can go from dead to eternally alive by choosing to make Jesus our Savior and Lord.  Have you done that?

Colossians 1

Colossians 1 has Paul writing to the church at Colossae.  As with other churches, Paul is connected with the leaders on the ground and in this church, it was Epaphras.  Paul got the report on the church and says “we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven”.  These Christ Followers are focused on loving each other and living in the light of the future – eternal life that will be lived out in heaven.  Forever is a very long time, and while we live it may seem like a long way out, in reality our day before God’s judgment seat to determine where we will spend forever will be upon us sooner than later.

Paul shows us how to pray for each other and sets the example of the power we have through prayer.  “We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 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. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light”.  Paul specifically asked without ceasing for these things for the church:

  • may be filled with the knowledge of his will
  • spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
  • fully pleasing to him
  • bearing fruit in every good work
  • increasing in the knowledge of God
  • strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might
  • for all endurance and patience with joy
  • giving thanks to the Father
  • share in the inheritance of the saints in light

That is quite a list of things Paul wants Christ Followers to live and obey.  We need to pray this for others in our patch, and focus on being this kind of follower of the Master.

Why should we put so much focus on Jesus?  Paul reminds us of God’s plan for the world through Christ.  “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross”.  Jesus is God’s answer to the sorry state of mankind and our sin.  Jesus was there in the beginning and has been part of history since the beginning of time.  And Jesus is the only answer to our need for reconciliation to the Father because of our sin – which happened when He carried those sins and bore them on the Cross.

What’s the outcome of us putting our faith in Christ?  “He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed”.  Our faith in Christ will allow us to stand before a Holy and Righteous God at judgment as someone who is holy, blameless and above reproach – not because we are on our own merits because not one of us will be – but because of what Christ did for us.  Faith is the solution to our sin problem.  We need to find faith, and then continue in it being stable and steadfast as Christ Followers who walk daily in obedience to the gospel Scripture gives us.  God’s given us an amazing opportunity to be free for eternity from our sin, but it requires us to make Jesus Savior and Lord in our life! 

Philippians 4

Philippians 4 has Paul finishing his letter to the church at Philippi.  He exhorts them to “stand firm thus in the Lord” and to continue on their walk with Christ.  He also addresses an issue in the church as he wraps things up – “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord….I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel”.  People were people back in Paul’s time too.  It seems these two women weren’t getting along so Paul calls them out and asks others to help get them on the same page.  The Body of Christ needs to be unified and working together on God’s agenda, not individuals focused on their own motivations and desires.

Paul goes on to challenge us with a simple statement.  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice”.  His words begin and end with the same exhortation – REJOICE.  Paul’s message to the Philippians is really focused on joy.  It is all over this letter to the church.  It wasn’t based on circumstances or how wonderful life was.  His joy is about attitude and recognizing who we are and what we have through our relationship with Christ and the confidence that God is truly in control of all things.  Spurgeon wrote “What a gracious God we serve, who makes delight to be a duty, and who commands us to rejoice! Should we not at once be obedient to such a command as this? It is intended that we should be happy”.

Then comes a promise that we need to cling tightly to and allow to rule our lives.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.  Let’s be honest – we all worry.  And we worry about things we have absolutely no control over.  God’s plan is that we recognize that He alone is in control, and that He has it for us.  He knows what we need before we pray, but He still wants us to pray and connect with Him.  But we need to let Him drive and do what He does as God.  He is, we are not, and we’ll never experience peace until we let Him be God of all things in our lives.  We don’t live life alone.  He’s there, He’s got it, and we need to trust Him.

How do we do that?  By focusing our mind on the right things.  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you”.  What we think about matters.  We’ll never experience peace if we don’t focus our mind on the things of God.  Paul gives us a great list of things we need to ponder and meditate on daily.  Much of the Christian life comes down to the mind.  Paul set the example and exhorts us to live as he did – filled with God’s peace.  And that means victory in every area.  Paul tells us “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”.  We can too.  We follow the same Jesus with the same power and the same ability to transform our life.  We simply have to follow and obey!

Philippians 3

Philippians 3 has Paul exhorting the church to “rejoice in the Lord”.  This is a fitting theme for the whole letter. Paul shared with the Philippians the principle of being able to rejoice in the Lord – not in circumstances or in situations, but in the Lord who works all things together for good. And then, in almost the same breath, Paul warns the church to watch out for three groups:

  1. “Look out for the dogs – a harsh reference to the troublemaking legalists who attempted to deceive the Philippians
  2. look out for the evildoers – a word against their emphasis on righteousness with God by works
  3. look out for those who mutilate the flesh”  – a harsh reference to the insistence of the Jewish legalists to require circumcision for Gentiles who wanted to become Christians

Paul sets the record straight.  He gives his pedigree of where he came from.  “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless”.  Paul has every reason in the world to be proud of his heritage and past, but he discounts all that.  “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ”.  He knew Christ was the only thing that really mattered.  All his personal information carries no weight in God’s economy.

Paul gives us a long sentence about how His relationship with Christ is all that matters. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of  knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and  the power of his resurrection, and  may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may  attain the resurrection from the dead”.  That’s a lot of words, but Paul basically says the only thing that matters is Jesus!

So given Paul’s understanding of his place through Christ, he can sit back and just wait for eternity.  Right?  Nope.  Paul says “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”.  Paul is on mission.  He knows exactly what he is living to do.  “Brothers,  join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us”.  How we live matters.  Paul encourages the Christ Followers of his day to follow him.  We need to live in a way that people can follow us and get to Jesus.  What would happen to someone who imitates you?  Would they get to the Savior?

Philippians 2

Philippians 2 has Paul exhorting us on a number of different areas around how we should live.  He just completed telling them how to address external conflicts in the prior chapter, and now turns his attention to how they should deal with internal conflicts in the Body.  “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind”.  He focuses them on deep, abiding, internal unity, based on the reality of their walk with Christ and the fullness of the Spirit.

The problems we have in the Body are often about power and selfish focus.  Paul addresses it head on.  “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in  humility count others more significant than yourselves”.  Here’s the solution to being self absorbed – we put our focus on placing others first.  It’s how we love each other.  “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”.  Life is not merely about us.  We need to realize that the world does not resolve around us.

So how should we think?  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”.  Jesus is our example.  He didn’t lay claim to His position, but freely gave up His seat at the right hand of God to take our sin on Himself as He went to the Cross.  That’s the way we need to live with and treat each other – realizing that we need to give up our rights to serve those around us.

So how did it work out for the Son who gave up position to be a servant?  “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.  Jesus didn’t hold on to what He had.  He gave freely to love us.  And God has lifted Him up and He will be the King of Kings and Lord of all.  Everyone will bow to Him someday.

So how does Paul exhort Christ Followers to live given the example Jesus set?  “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain”. We are to live a life that doesn’t just fit in, but to shine brightly as a Christ Follower.  We should stand out.  We should be different.  We should live in the power of Christ.

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