Month: April 2018
We are exhorted in Ephesians 5:10 to ‘find out what pleases God’! Much of Scripture helps us with that pursuit and yet some passages, some whole sections or even books are less about an example but more like a mirror. There are many passages, many characters in the pages of Scripture that are not an example of the life God desires for us or from us but are a mirror into which we can look to see how not to live.
As we read the books of 1&2 Kings we will come across a great number of kings who are the exact opposite of what God desires for our lives or from our lives. And when we do come across them, we are to consider Scripture as a mirror.
Is there anything in their bad example that reflects our lives, our hearts or our thinking in some way?
The context for 1&2 Kings is 1 Samuel 8 that moment in Israel’s history when the people clamoured for Samuel the prophet to give them a king so that they could be like all the nations around them. They weren’t satisfied with God as their King, they wanted an earthly king….
God warned them through Samuel, that this was not a good request, that it was not good to reject God and to put their faith in man in God’s place, God warned them of all the hardship and evil a human king would bring to them…but they would not relent and so God gave them king Saul. And from this very first king hardship and pain came to God’s people, followed by David who made many errors and the nation suffered rebellion and wars and death as a result. As we come to 1&2 Kings we will encounter a total of 40 kings (over Judah & Israel) and the BIG IDEA is that on the whole the kings despite some exceptions were a huge disappointment.
In 1 Kings, king David is dying and even before he is dead his son Adonijah is jostling for position trying to become the next king Israel by scheming and posturing, positioning himself. And yet, God had told David that his son Solomon was to be the next king and was to have the honour of building God’s temple (see 1 Chronicles 22:6-10).
So David acts to quell the rebellion of Adonijah and appoints Solomon as king and charges Solomon to ‘walk in God’s ways’ to keep God’s commands so as to see God’s blessing on his life and on God’s people , to see God establish his kingdom (see 1 Kings 2:1-4)…
But the very next thing they do together is to plot revenge for things people did during David’s reign (1 Kings 2:5-9) and then spurred on by this bad example Solomon spends the remainder of 1 Kings 2:10-46 having people murdered to establish his kingdom!
Solomon doesn’t do what he was charged to do – to obey God and then trust that God would establish his kingdom, NO, he decides to do it his own murderous way. And so, 1&2 Kings is off to a rollicking bad start.
What relevance does this have for you and me in 2018?
How are you living? Are you living with the exhortation of Ephesians 5:10 pulsating through your life? Is it your desire to live in such a way that your life pleases God? (which was the charge David gave Solomon) Is that a motivation that’s central to your life?
If it is – then you know that you love God (1 John 3:10). And you can be assured that God will keep you safe to the very end (1 Corinthians 1:8-9).
Or is there something God has promised you that has not happened yet (like Solomon) and you feel tempted to ‘make it happen’ in your own strength? Something you feel tempted to do something God’s not told you to do – to ensure it happens…?
Don’t make the mistake Solomon made.
This month, we are reading the books of 1 & 2 Kings. These books trace the very sad story of God’s people from the end of David’s life through the various kings of both Northern and Southern Israel and traces the interactions between these mostly ungodly kings and God’s agents the prophets. In the end both North and South are exiled and the books close with a question; HOW WILL GOD FULFILL HIS PROMISES TO ABRAHAM & DAVID & HIS PEOPLE? As we read, all along the way there will be things to apply into our lives!
Although there is more reading this month than you might be used to, it is narrative and so the way you read it is different to the way you would chew on one verse in Romans for example. So read through the whole section assigned and then maybe just come back to the parts you feel God is highlighting to you.
Here is a great little annimation explaining 1&2 Kings –
May you be blessed and hear God speak to your through this month’s readings.
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)
Burk Parsons said; “God calls us out of darkness and into his marvelous light and then calls us to walk right back into the darkness and shine.”We are God’s agents in the world!
Scripture describes us as God’s fragrance, ‘the aroma of Christ’(2 Corinthians 2:15) amongst unbelievers and Jesus called us ‘the salt of the earth’(Matthew 5:13) and Scripture also describes us as ‘ambassadors for Christ’(2 Corinthians 5:20). More than all of these you and I are also the sonsand daughtersof our heavenly Father (1 John 3:1)!
In all three of these passages we are not likened to these things but rather described as being them. These things are not something that’s merely metaphorical or just aspirational but is in fact a statement of what is true of us, it is in fact who we are.
And for that reason Colossians 4:5-6 instructs us to walk with wisdom, to really think about how we live out our lives and interact with those who are not yet Christ followers. It is assumed here that the church will not be some holy huddle excluding itself from the world, we are to engage with live amongst, reach out to people who are not Christ followers. We are those to whom God has entrusted the message and ministry of reconciliation – the good news that God wants to reconcile all people to Himself through faith in His Son, Jesus!
We have a high calling, we represent God in the world. In politics or business, an ambassador for a country or a brand has a real responsibility to represent his/her nation/brand well in all they say and do. Such a person is not just a free agent, they have responsibility, how they live and talk really matters.
Similarly, for us as Christ followers we are urged here to deeply consider our lives and our speech and to consider whether we are living and speaking as we ought to – with wisdom and with grace. Our ‘salty’ speech should preserve peace and should point people to Christ. God wants us to be able to answer people’s questions about life or faith or God – to give dignity to them by really considering their question and giving answers that serve them and illuminate the path to faith in Jesus.
These are easy things to write, easy things to read about yet difficult to do! I am freshly convicted of my need to wake up each day and to mentally put on this role God’s given – ambassador, representative! What an honour we have. May I, may we serve those who don’t yet know Jesus as Lord and Saviour by the way we live and speak – may we truly be the aroma of Christ and salt and light in the world for His sake and the sake of those who don’t yet know Him.
What can change today if you go into your day with this fresh realisation?
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!