Category: Colossians (page 1 of 7)

Faith is Our “Yes” to God

“No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” ~2 Corinthians 1:20

amenblackWhen we say “Amen” (this is true, I believe this, may it be so, etc.,) when we believe the promises of God, God is praised because, as the passage continues, he is the One who makes you stand firm in Christ. God has established you securely in his Son. You’re not going anywhere and neither is God. God is given glory because he has anointed you, he has called you out and set you apart to work in you and through you for his salvation purposes. And God is the One who has taken you as his own. He has put his stamp on you, he’s placed his Spirit in your heart to prove that what he has said, he will do. And he’s going to fulfill his promises.

The Bible is not fundamentally about us. Scripture is about God. The Bible is not about me and my present and my future — it’s about what God has done and what he’s doing right now and what he’s going to do tomorrow. When I say “Amen” or “I believe,” I say I trust God and I’m banking my whole life on his holy Word.

“My purpose is that you may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that you may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that you may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” ~Colossians 2:2-3

As you reflect on the promises of God and his faithfulness, as you fix your eyes on Jesus and see and experience how God is fulfilling those promises through Christ for you, the more you read it and talk about it and pray it and share it — an “Amen” will start to develop in your heart. An “Amen” will form and grow in your soul. “I believe.” “So be it.”

Think about God’s “Yes,” his “Amen” to us. Spend time with that. And his Spirit will stir up in your heart a responding “Yes,” your own resounding “Amen” to our Lord’s eternal glory and praise.

Peace,

Allan

Where is Jesus? Part Three

BandAidRedPlease keep my darling wife Carrie-Anne in your thoughts and prayers for the next few days. She’s having surgery this afternoon to repair a fairly significant hole in a sinus passage. The surgery is only supposed to take about an hour and a half, but everybody’s telling us the eight days after are going to be horrible. As you’re probably aware, Carrie-Anne has the best looking nose in our family, and we don’t want anything to happen to it.

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RightHandSaints2

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” ~Colossians 3:1

“God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms.” ~Ephesians 2:6

It’s a well known and well rehearsed spiritual reality that by our baptisms we all participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. We are united with Christ, we are one with him and share in his death and resurrection. But the Scriptures are clear that we also share in his ascension. We reign over the world with Christ both now and, ultimately, when he returns, in the future forever. We’re co-regents, co-rulers with Jesus.

Now, let’s be clear about what this means and what it doesn’t mean. Reigning with Christ does not mean that Christians are supposed to take over the world and start passing laws and trying to push the way we live on others by power or threat or force. Reigning with Christ does not mean telling everybody what to do. Christians have tried that. Christians are still trying that. And it’s always led to disaster.

Reigning and ruling with Christ means the Church — empowered by the presence of Christ by the grace of the Holy Spirit — enters the world vulnerable and suffering, praising and praying, sacrificing and serving. The Church lives in the world as misunderstood and misjudged by humanity, saved and vindicated and raised by God. Like Jesus. Why would we ever believe we can reign with Christ if we’re not going to reign like Christ?

Man, that’s a good sentence right there. I’m going to write it again. Maybe you should tweet it right now: Why would we ever believe we can reign with Christ if we’re not going to reign like Christ?

RightHandWeReignWe like the idea of Jesus being with us everywhere, even inside us. Jesus is present with us because of his Holy Spirit. He dwells in and with his Church. But the One who is present with us and living inside us by his Spirit is also the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who rules with all power and authority from a position over us, directing us, rebuking us, encouraging us, teaching us. So, yes, in a very real sense we do reign with Christ today in the heavenly realms, but only in the ways he directs — with Jesus, in the name and manner of Jesus.

We are a kingdom of priests, or kings and priests, it depends on how it’s translated. Either way, it means we participate in the reign of God like Jesus. We have important roles to play, we have Christ-ordained jobs to perform with our Lord as he brings his Kingdom rule to earth just as it is in heaven. But we don’t fight what’s wrong in the world with the power of the sword, we use the power of love. We don’t threaten or condemn anyone; like our Lord, we suffer and we serve everyone. We’re priests, so we intercede, we pray, we bring the world to God, we lift up people to God. We cannot bring in the Kingdom of God, but we can witness to it. We can’t create the Kingdom of God, but we can set up signs and tell stories. We can’t build the Kingdom of God, but we can live it with humility and faith — turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, forgiving others, giving up our freedoms and rights, loving our enemies, and praying for the people who want to do us harm.

Jesus is bringing his eternal rule to this world in ways this world does not understand. 1 Timothy 6 says it’ll happen in God’s own time. He is with us, yes. We reign with him, oh yeah. But he is our Lord. And for us to use methods that are contrary to Jesus’ methods is to reject him as Lord and to try to establish a rival kingdom.

Peace,

Allan

Where is Jesus?

RightHandControl

“In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” ~Colossians 2:9-10

He is Lord over all the nations. He is Lord over all the schools. He is Lord over all the churches. He is Lord over every economic system and every form of government. He is Lord over all. There is nothing that is above him, there is nothing that is not under his authority. Name anything. Name everything! It’s all subject to our ascended King. All rule, all authority, all power, all dominion. The kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever! Amen! Hallelujah!

And then I turn on the news. Violence. Death. War. Abused women and children. Racism. Hundreds of thousands of refugees being driven from their homes and nobody wants to take them in. Corrupt governments and politicians. Hunger. Disease.

Where is Jesus?

Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Drought. Wildfire. Tornados. Cancer. Divorce. Crime. Riots. Terrorists.

Where is Jesus?

It doesn’t feel like he’s running anything. It doesn’t look like he’s in charge. The grand spectacle of the ascension — Jesus lifted up to heaven right before the disciples’ eyes to become the sovereign ruler of the universe — seems to mean very little in our real lives today. It doesn’t look like Jesus is in control. If he is, he’s making a huge mess of it.

So, where is Jesus? What does it really mean that he is raised up to heaven and seated at the right hand of God?

“He was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” ~Mark 16:19

Luke says Jesus was taken up into the sky, into the clouds. What does that really mean? Well, when a student moves “up” from tenth grade to eleventh grade, that doesn’t mean the eleventh grade classroom is on the floor above the tenth grade classroom; it might just be down the hall. If a salesman makes the move “up” to manager, he might get a new office on the top floor, but that’s not what that means. When George Jefferson was “movin’ on up,” it was to the East side, not the North. George and Weezy did move into a deluxe apartment in the sky-hi-hi — but that’s not what it means to move “up,” to physically be a few feet farther away from the ground.

When the Bible talks about heaven and earth, it’s not talking about two different locations in the same time and space dimension like Amarillo and Israel or even Houston and Mars. And it’s not talking about a non-physical world versus a physical world. It’s more like two different types of time and space and matter altogether. It’s a parallel world: very, very real and existing in another dimension.

You know, we’ve got a lot of movie makers and writers who are very good at taking us into these parallel worlds and places. But we don’t think that way when we think about Jesus. C. S. Lewis did a great job with the Narnia stories of illustrating how two totally different worlds can relate and interlock. And that’s still the best way, I think, for us to understand it.

Some of the oldest and best church buildings try to illustrate this with the architecture. We’ve kinda got something like that working in our worship center here at Central. We’ve got a soaring ceiling, reaching and stretching far above us. Down on the floor we get a sense of belonging in the room, but we’re not actually physically occupying any of the great space of light and beauty high above us. Our songs and our prayers go up there and occupy this great space above us, but we ourselves cannot physically go there yet.

What that’s supposed to help us understand is that because our Lord is in heaven and seated at the right hand of God, God’s space and ours are not very far away from each other. They’re very different, yes, but they’re close. There’s a relationship, a connection. God’s very real time and space and matter intersects and interlocks with our very real time and space and matter all the time.

The right hand of God is the Bible name for the control center for the universe. Whoever sits there is in charge. It’s like my chair in the living room is the control center for the TV. Sitting down at God’s right hand means Jesus really is totally in charge of everything.

“That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything.” ~Ephesians 1:19-22

I don’t know exactly how it works — nobody does, it’s a mystery. But Jesus right now is totally in charge. He’s the one making all the decisions, turning all the dials: “I will allow this to happen. I will not allow that to happen. I will cause this. I will put a stop to that. I will speak into that. I will be silent about that. I will help Tom Landry, but Jerry Jones is on his own.”

It’s all Jesus. He decides what happens and when. From heaven. “All authority has been given to me,” he says, “in heaven and on earth.”

Peace,

Allan

Resurrection Initiates Transformation

EmptyTombArtWhen you read the New Testament, when you hear the apostles’ sermons and read the apostles’ writings, the cornerstone of what they wrote and taught was not our own resurrections, but the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What’s in the Bible about resurrection certainly includes the hope of heaven, but it doesn’t start there. The center of gravity in the New Testament is in the actual event of the resurrection of Christ as the dawning of a new age. It’s not a conclusion. It’s not “Jesus is alive so he really is the Son of God, so we win, end of story.” It’s a new beginning. It’s not a pretty bow tied on to the end of a story back then; the empty tomb is a doorway into a brand new adventure right now today.

When the first Christians proclaimed the Good News of Christ’s resurrection, it wasn’t, “Hey, guess what happened last Sunday! Our good friend Jesus of Nazareth who got a raw deal at his trial came back to life after his horrible crucifixion. He’s alive! Isn’t God nice?”

No! The resurrection means a new age has begun. And we participate in it right now. There’s no waiting!

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” ~Ephesians 2:4-6

We are already raised right now today! We are already new creation right now today! The resurrection of Jesus means everything for our future with God beyond the grave. But it doesn’t mean any less for our present with God right now today.

For starters, the resurrection initiates our transformation. Our Lord’s resurrection and our participation in that resurrection with him changes us. We’re changed right now today by the resurrection.

“You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live… but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead.” ~Ephesians 2:1-5

We are made alive in the resurrection of Jesus. We are no longer slaves to sin. You don’t have to sin anymore! The resurrection fuels your transformation. The resurrection starts your becoming like Christ.

Think about Jesus’ disciples. The resurrection empowered them, it changed them from frightened, scared, confused, selfish, power-grabbers into bold, courageous, imposing, sacrificial, servant-minded, self-denying witnesses who turned the whole world upside down! To be raised with Christ today is to be changed into the image of Christ today. It’s to live in the name and manner of Jesus for his salvation purposes.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things… Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry… You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self… As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” ~Colossians 3:1-14

The resurrection compels us toward thinking and acting and speaking and looking more and more like Jesus, less and less like the world. Becoming like Christ, living the resurrected life in Christ, is right now today.

Peace,

Allan

The Creed & Theological Balance

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the FULL riches of COMPLETE understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” ~Colossians 2:2-3

LegDayMaybe you’ve seen the guy at the gym who looks like an upside down pear. His upper body is strong. He’s concentrating on his arms and his biceps and triceps and lats and pecs — this guy is stacked! He’s good up top. Really good. But he’s got these tiny little shriveled up pencil legs. Little toothpicks. And it makes all of him seem ridiculous. It’s a joke. If he got into a fight with you, all you’d have to do is give him a little shove and he’d topple right over. He’s got no legs. He’s got no core. No symmetry. He’s way out of balance. He’s paying attention to building up part of his body and ignoring other equally important parts.

Theologically, we need balance. We need symmetry in our faith. And I believe that memorizing and reciting the Apostles’ Creed can be a big help with that.

You may have a robust understanding of Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. He has paid for your sins. He is your Savior. There are some demands that come with following him. He is your Lord. That’s good. You need to believe that and own that. But you also need to know that you belong to the holy, universal Church. You are in a responsible and accountable community of faith. You belong to a communion of saints that’s bigger than just you and God.

Maybe you’re a great admirer of Jesus. You love everything about God’s Son. You memorize his words, you imitate his actions. You love the way he gently reached out to the poor, the way he mercifully healed the sick, the way he boldly ripped the Pharisees. You love all that. And that’s good. But you need to be reminded that Jesus is alive today and reigning at the right hand of God. He’s not on the cross anymore. He’s not alive only in the pages of the Gospels. He is for real reigning on his throne in all power and glory right now today.

Memorizing the creed, saying the creed in your church assemblies and in your small groups and Bible classes and with your family will help keep you balanced.

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I’m heading to OKC this afternoon to watch my two super stud nephews dominate the basketball court in a key non-district game for Oklahoma Christian Academy tonight. And then tomorrow I’m speaking at chapel at Oklahoma Christian University. I will not be wearing my old Delta football jersey; but I’ll be thinking about it.

Peace,

Allan

Forgiveness is the Only Way

SinfulWomanForgiven3There are more than 50 words in the Bible for sin: debt, evil, wickedness, trespass, unrighteousness, guilt, transgression, disobedience, rebellion, etc., But exposing the sin and naming the sin is not what matters. Keeping score is not the Gospel. Witch-hunting is not the Gospel. Shaming people is not the Gospel. Forgiving sin — that’s the Gospel. Because it’s the only thing that works.

Our Lord teaches us to pray: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

We are faced with lots of sin, sin everywhere — personal sin, family sin, institutional sin. But Jesus doesn’t tell us to get a mop and a bucket and a brush so he can show us how to scrub the sin from our lives and the lives of our children and spouses and neighbors. He doesn’t tell us how to hook up a power hose so we can blast away all the corruption in government, all the sacrilege in our churches, and all the unbelief in our schools. Jesus tells us to pray: “Forgive us as we forgive.”

Our God deals with sin. He deals with sin decisively. Head-on. Effectively. It’s not like getting rid of a germ: “Here’s a shot, take these two pills, and call me in the morning.” It’s not like getting rid of mice in the attic: “Set out these traps, put out this poison, then Whack! Whack! Whack! All the sin is gone!” And God doesn’t deal with sin by amputation, like it’s gangrene on a diseased leg: “We’re going to chop it off. It’s really going to hurt. You’re going to have a severe limp the rest of your life. But, hey, there’s no sin!”

God deals with sin by forgiving us.

If something’s going to be done about sin, it’s not going to be with laws and commands and rules. Do we think what’s wrong with this world is something we can fix on our own? We can’t. Do we think there are judicial or governmental or educational or psychological ways to deal with sin? There aren’t.

Forgiveness is the only way.

“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” ~Colossians 3:12-13

Forgiveness is the only way to deal with sin. It does not settle all the questions of blame and fairness. In fact, it purposefully avoids those questions. What forgiveness does is allow a relationship to start over. Forgiveness brings people back together. It begins a good thing anew.

But a lot of us live in a logjam between forgiveness and justice. When somebody does me wrong, I can think of a million reasons not to forgive. He needs to learn a lesson. I don’t want to encourage her irresponsible behavior. She needs to learn that actions have consequences. I was the one wronged – he needs to make the first move. How can I forgive if she’s not even sorry?

Remember the woman in John 8 who was caught in the act of adultery? They bring her to Jesus and throw her down at his feet. The Law says she should be stoned. But Jesus says, “Hey, whoever has never sinned can throw the first rock at her.” The young look to the old. The old look to their hearts. And they drop their rocks and walk away.

Jesus and the woman are left alone. The Lord stands up and looks around.

“Where is everybody? Has no one judged you guilty?”

“No one, sir,” she answers.

“I also don’t judge you guilty.”

If you ever wonder how God reacts when you fail, take those words and frame them. Hang them on your wall. Read those words of the Christ. Drink from them. Take them into your soul. “I don’t judge you guilty.”

When we sin against God, that creates a barrier. But forgives us and removes that barrier. God gives up his holy right to get even. Instead, he bears the cost of our sin in his own body. The sin is gone, the price is paid, and the relationship is restored. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us. You can’t get any more plain than that.

Justice is not the best or last word. In all matters of wrongdoing, in all matters of sin, in all that is wrong with the world and with us, in all that is wrong with our enemies and our friends, forgiveness is the best and last word. And forgiveness must be our first response to every person who hurts us or sins against us. We’ve got plenty of police officers and judges and juries and prosecuting attorneys to say, “You’re guilty!” Who’s going to say, “Father, forgive them?” If it’s not Christians, who’s going to say, “I don’t judge you guilty?” If not us, who’s going to say, “Your sins are forgiven?”

However important justice is — and it is very important — forgiveness is more important. Not soft sentimentality, but hard-edged Gospel. Not an apathetic shrug of the shoulders, but the white-hot flame of resurrection love forged in the furnace of the cross. Assuming that the criminal crucified next to Jesus was receiving a just sentence — he admitted it himself — forgiveness trumped justice that day. It always does.

Peace,

Allan

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