Month: April 2018
Consider this for a moment. Apart from a mother in the throws of child-birth or the patient receiving some excruciatingly painful physiotherapy – people do not normally need to be encouraged to keep breathing.
That’s because Breathing is essential to life. Any kid who has tried to hold out on their parents request or instruction by holding their breath – goes red fairly promptly and then gasps again for as they resume breathing again. We breathe continually because it is essential for physical life.
And yet our connection with God our Father in prayer, or with the Holy Spirit for His enabling power in some situation is really as essential as breathing. So;
- We pray because we know we can call out to our Father & because we know He loves to answer (see Psalm 18)
- We pray because we know that we have the Holy Spirit as our Helper, who is ever-present & ready to respond.
- We pray because we know Jesus ever lives to pray with us and on our behalf, making intercession to the Father for us
- We pray because we know that we don’t have the resources, wisdom or capacity we need in any given scenario and we know that God does
- We pray because, when we pray, we are humbled & helped and God is exalted as the all-sufficient, loving God.
“Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence.” W. S. Bowd
Colossians 4:2-5 urges us strongly to be consistently diligent in prayer. We are urged to saturate our prayers with thankfulness, to be watchful in prayer, to be alert and to keep awake, to be vigilant in our prayers and vigilant enough to pray. So, be vigilant (to pray) remembering that you have an enemy who wants to stop you from praying wants to disconnect you from God. Be also vigilant in your prayers, be consistent, don’t be caught off your guard having been prayer less, and lastly be alert regarding HOW you pray or even WHAT you pray for.
I urge you to take this opportunity to reflect on your life rhythms and patterns and ask yourself whether your prayer life can be described in this sort of way. If so, then the encouragement of Scripture is to keep being consistent in this diligence. And if not, then I urge you to make some changes in order to make constant communication with God your life-pattern.
Consider: what does ‘being watchful’ in prayer mean?
Lastly, note how prayer unlocks mission! Prayer unlocks Gospel advance and kingdom breakthrough. That is where this appeal from the apostle Paul comes from. Make it a life-habit to not only pray about personal needs or those of close loved ones, but pray in ways that release mission and cause Gospel and Kingdom advance. Your prayers unlock situations for churches and ministries, open doors and release things. So pray, and keep being diligent in prayer.
In Reconciliation Road Church we have the following prayer meetings you could commit yourself to (apart from your own personal prayers times):
- Men’s Prayer Meeting (Tues 5:45am-6:30am)
- RRC Prayer Meeting (Thurs 10am-11am)
- RRC Prayer Meeting (Thurs 5:30pm-6:30pm)
- RRC Prayer Meeting (Sun 8:20am-8:40am)
- RRC Prayer Meeting (Sun 4:45pm-17h10pm)
Although there is no time here to extensively address the issue of why it might on a superficial reading of Colossians 3:18-4:1 appear as if Scripture were condoning the slavery (as we understand it in the 21st century) let me make some brief comment before we get to applying this passage to our lives.
Yesterday’s devotion made it clear that the foundation for these imperatives for godly living was that Jesus is now our Lord, our King and this is what His kingdom ought to be like. Does that mean then that slavery is endorsed as part of Jesus’ kingdom?
No. As the ESV translators have said in the preface to their translation; “A particular difficulty is presented when words in biblical Hebrew and Greek refer to ancient practices and institutions that do not correspond directly to those in the modern world.”
Translators seek to translate the original words into the modern equivalent in English and yet sometimes that English word can contain (as does the word ‘slave’) modern meaning that is distracting from what the original meaning was to the original hearers.
Here in Colossians ‘bondservants’ (in the ESV translation) is the word used to translate the Greek word, ‘doulos’ (which can mean either slave, bondservant or servant). In the Roman Empire, a bondservant was someone who was officially bound under contract to serve his/her master for seven years, when the contract expired the person was freed.
Scripture instructs ‘bondservants’ (ESV) or ‘slaves’ (NIV) to ‘obey’ their earthly masters and to work hard, to work as if they are working not just for their earthly masters but for the Lord ultimately (see 3:22-25).
The question is how does this apply to the present day since employment practices have changed so dramatically? The most obvious ‘hermeneutic bridge’ to the present is surely the issue of employment and being an employee or an employer.
Employees have ‘masters’ or ‘bosses’ whom they are contracted to work for. And as Christ followers we are to be the most incredible employees (Colossians 3:22-25)! We are to work respectfully, to work harder than anyone else because in fact we are working for our ultimate Master – Jesus. We are therefore those who are looking not just for the reward of a salary but looking for His reward in eternity for how we worked.
In Colossians 4:1 the instruction turns to those who are called ‘master’ by others. These are the equivalent of employers in our day. And to such people the instruction is clear and bold. Masters are to treat those who work for them in a manner that gives dignity, honour, value & proper respect (see the general instruction in 1 Peter 2:17).
Christ followers who employ other people are to know that their King requires that their faith and their belonging to His kingdom must impact their treatment of others in all spheres of life. And so, those who employ others are to be just and to be fair in all their dealings with their employees. They are to pay fairly and justly, they are to be like their Master, Jesus is towards them.
Finally, they are to keep in mind that they will appear one day before their Master, Jesus and will give an account on that day for how they treated those who worked for them.
What we see in this section of Scripture is that Jesus’ kingdom rule impacts every sphere of life. Employees for whom Jesus is Lord become the best employees on the planet and employers likewise have their employment practices transformed by the Lordship of Jesus so that they become blessing to those who work for them. Nothing in life is untouched by our followership of Jesus.
So in closing; whether you work for someone or whether you employ anyone in any context, contemplate for a moment whether your attitude, your thinking and your treatment of others in those contexts is godly?
Are you treating others (employers or employees) as King Jesus wants you to?
What might need to change?
The little section (3:18-4:1) that follows Colossians 3:17 expands on what it looks like in a number of life-spheres, to have Jesus as our Lord. What it looks like to ‘do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus’, to live a life that is ‘fitting in the Lord’ (vs18) and a life that pleases God (vs20).
Now some of a section like this might ruffle your modern-day feathers and ways of thinking but before you baulk at anything in this section it’s worth noting something…
This section of Scripture is not an appeal to some societal norms at a point in history. Why do I say this? Simply because in just nine verses the imperatives are rooted in the foundation of Jesus being Lord (or some similar phrase) seven times!
This is not some out-dated teaching, but is rather instruction regarding the type of life that is worthy of someone who has been saved by Jesus Christ and who has professed Him as their Lord.
- ….wives.,submit to your husbands and husbands are to love their wives with gentle affirming love – as this is fitting in the Lord (vs18-19)
- Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord (vs20)
- Bondservants (employees), obey…fearing the Lord (vs22)
- Whatever you do, work heavily, as for the Lord… (vs23) knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance (vs24)
- You are serving the Lord Christ (vs24)
- Masters treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven (4:1)
Jesus as our ‘Lord’ can also be understood as Jesus being our ‘King’. In a king’s kingdom, it’s the king that determines the way that life will be lived out, what will be prioritised and what will be outlawed. When we accept Jesus as our Lord, Jesus becomes our King and our whole lives need to then be lived out according to His plans and purposes, His ways.
Jesus’ kingship over us impacts marriage, family, the workplace, all aspects of our days and lives regardless of what we do for a living. We are not to resemble the world and its ways, we are to be a different people, walking to a different drum beat to that of the world around us.
So read and re-read this passage as a wife or a husband, as a child or parent, as an employer or and employee and whatever you do, whatever is your life situation – do everything remembering that ultimately; “You are serving the Lord Christ” (vs24) as you obey these instructions.
So read and re-read and ask Your LORD and Saviour to speak to you personally about anything you need to be challenged on or anything that needs changing.
In Colossians 3:1-17 we find a vision for an incredibly amazing church. A church where the people are living out holy lives in response to the wonder of the Gospel of Jesus. They have and are putting to death old sinful life-patterns which affect their attitudes, actions, speech & behaviour (vs5&7-9). They are living in a right reverent fear of their awesome God who is holy and yet their Father (vs6). These people in this church have put on the new nature that is theirs as the children of the living God – they are beginning to look more and more like their Saviour – Jesus.
This church is a multi-cultural church, a community of faith that has formed because of the Gospel. They have come from all walks of life but have all been united in their common need and their common faith in Jesus who answers all their sin-problems (vs11)!
These people know that God literally chose them to be His beloved children, His holy ones on the earth (vs12). They live with this truth shaping their thinking and their lives. They were chosen to be holy ones, chosen as sons and daughters of the most High God. And because of this knowledge, these people live differently!
They are confident because of God’s love and yet humble and compassionate & kind because they know God loved them when they were unlovely. They love others, are gentle, patient and forbearing with one another because that is how God has treated them (vs12). They don’t hold on to wrongs done to them but forgive one another because they know that they have been forgiven (vs13)!
This church is characterised by love, pulsing through everything that’s done and said and this results in a deep community and a deep unity and peace in their community in spite of their diversity (vs14-15). The people of this church are characterised not by anxiety and worry but by peace that comes from knowing that your Saviour holds the whole world in His hands (Colossians 1:15-20)!
These people are a gospel-centred people in that they are supremely grateful to God. Thankfulness saturates everything because they keep looking back at who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for them and that discipline fills them continually with thanks and praise and faith for the future, that thanks glorifies God and fuels their worship and the lives (see thanks 3x in vs15,16,17).
They are a Scripture-saturated people! They love God’s word, read and honour God’s word by obeying it. The Scriptures form the basis of their conversations, their relationships, their counsel and their worship. They aren’t just taught by preachers but in fact they all teach each other continually from the Scriptures in TRIO’s and Community Groups(vs15-16).
Worship, songs of thanks, songs that tell of the greatness of God and express praise that makes Him the centre and their preoccupation are forever in their hearts and on their lips (vs16). In fact they’ve turned anything and everything in their life into worship as they do everything from a place of wanting to represent Jesus, to bring Him honour – whether they are employing people, studying, working for someone, being a husband or a wife or a neighbour… They do everything for Christ and in the power of Christ knowing that they are His ambassadors in the world (vs17).
What a church! Where do I find such a church?
You don’t find one, you and I all make one! You and I and others all saved and rescued by Jesus together form a community, work out our salvation, keep Jesus the centre, saturate ourselves with Scripture, and keep being transformed by the incredible power of the Gospel and then this is the type of incredible church that will form! Don’t look for a church like this – play your part in making one!
The letter to these believers in Colossae (and now to you and I) is about to take a turn towards exhortations on how we should live out our response to the risen LORD Jesus. In these verses 3:1-4 the apostle is changing gear as it were, setting up what he is about to exhort us to do, the godly practical life instruction he is about to give…
But before any life instructions are given, Paul calls us to look upwards again, to consider our great and glorious Jesus again.
May Jesus fill my vision, fill your vision. May who He is and what He has done for us captivate us and motivate us to live our lives in a life response that is fully pleasing to Him and is worship to Him (Colossians 1:10).
What is happening or has happened in your life that is filling your vision, your thoughts?
What can you do practically today to fix your eyes again on Jesus, to look up and not down, to worship not worry?
In all the imperatives to godly living that are about to follow in the letter, need something IF they are avoid just becoming like the rule-keeping rituals & regulations of the false teachers that Paul has warned us of in Chapter 2.
You see it is not just what we do, but why we do what we do that matters!
The motivation behind all the instructions for godly living needs to be our love for Jesus. Otherwise these things will become just another religious list like that of the false teachers.
But when we continually contemplate, meditate on Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross, then we are filled with the desire to please Him and when we are filled with the desire to please Him with all of our lives then moral instruction like we have in this letter will not shut down the life of God in us but will stimulate & instruct us on how to live in a manner that is fully pleasing to God – the very thing we want to do.
So, set your mind on Jesus, worship Jesus, love Him more and more and you will want to live the life He wants you to live.
Religion is both hard work and useless! False teachers had come into the community of believers in Colossae and were spreading false teachings that seemingly urged the believers to live an ascetic life, to give up all sorts of God-given pleasures or joyful things. Their teachings came with rules about special days and ceremonies and rules and regulations that were essential for spiritual growth according to them.
But the Gospel is good news not good advice! Advice requires you to DO something to achieve something, news is hearing about something that has been DONE already. The Christian life is not about list of things we must DO (observing special rules and rites and filling our calendars with special days and traditions…) so as to please God. No the gospel is the good news that God is pleased with us already not because of anything we did but because of what Jesus has DONE for us!
So hold on to Jesus (vs19)! Don’t let anyone who has been taken in by false religious teachings rob you of your joy in Jesus or your freedom in Jesus.
After all, false religion is both hard work and just plain useless! It can appear so intensely spiritual (such people are always so intense) but in fact it’s nothing of the sort. False religion’s foundation is not Jesus but rather self-righteous, prideful, worldly thinking (20-22). Religion and legalistic rule-keeping don’t have any ability to produce true godliness in us or to restrain our sinful desires, such thinking doesn’t bring any freedom or produce any spiritual growth (vs23).
Only trusting in Jesus, responding to the glorious good news of what He has DONE for us at a heart level, only loving Him back and letting His love for us melt our hearts so that our desires change from the inside out, only that will produce true spirituality and godliness.
For sure, the Christ follower’s life does get totally transformed, everything changes as we shall see in the rest of Colossians, but it’s so important to not slip into religious thinking, to not get taken in by false teachings that have the appearance of spirituality but in fact in the end do not help us at all to worship Jesus more fully and live the rest of our lives as a worshipful response.
So don’t let anyone tell you, now that you’re a Christ follower you HAVE to do this or that!
If you’re truly a Christ follower and you’ve seen what He has done you’ll WANT to make changes in your life, you’ll WANT to press in to Jesus and so you’ll do all sorts of things, but you’ll do them from a place of worshipful joy and not duty, you’ll do them because you’ve been accepted and loved by God not hoping that your activity will earn God’s acceptance and love.
Although I am a devoted Christ Follower, I am not a good person in and of myself! There are plenty of people who are more loving, more generous, more patient , more kind — than I am sadly. There are far too many times when I don’t like who I have become in this scenario or that one, when I’m provoked or prodded.
But then a passage like this one reminds me, that I was hopeless without Christ. I was more than hopeless, I was DEAD, living breathing but spiritually DEAD before I came to the point of trusting in Jesus and asking Him to be my LORD and Saviour (vs13).
Sometimes we look at people and think they’re ok, they’re not that bad really. But Scripture never allows for that false perspective – outside of Jesus we are all DEAD in our transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1 & Colossians 2:13), without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12), not one of us is righteous enough (Romans 3:9-12), everyone of us is morally corrupt and bankrupt (Romans 3:23). I was, we were or still are in a bad situation…
But God. “God made us alive together with Him” (vs13)! God forgave us all of our many sins, God cancelled the long list of all my, all our wrongs against Him and against others (vs13). What good news this is for a person like me, like you. God set aside our sin, by nailing it to the cross when God nailed Jesus to the cross, so that Jesus could pay the punishment for our sin (Romans 6:23) so that we could be ransomed, set free from the consequences of our sin.
And so now, I am free from sin’s consequences and I am free to love and obey and follow God, I am not under the control of sin or the devil anymore (like I once was – see Romans 6:15-23) but am under the loving command and control of Jesus Christ my LORD.
I still mess up, but praise God I am forgiven and I am able to continually keep becoming more and more like my LORD and Saviour Jesus, keep becoming more loving, more kind, more generous and patient…
But only because I have been ‘made alive together in Him’ (vs13) and because of that I have the life and the light of Jesus in my life which keeps having the effect of transforming me daily. Thank you Jesus!