Transforming Grace (Colossians 1:1-2)
Today we start our journey through the book of Colossians. There will be times when the reading for the day will only be just a few verses. I urge you in these days, to grow in reading & meditating on Scripture. I urge you to read, read again, to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you (from even the smallest section), to wait and to listen to the Holy Spirit for revelation about God, about faith or about the implications of our faith in Jesus for our lives. Bless you.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Colossians 1:1-2)
Here in this greeting for the letter, I see a person with a name. Scripture is full of real people, individuals who were rescued by God, with real personal stories to tell, just like you and I. More than that, this letter is written by an unlikely person!
His name was changed, he used to be ‘Saul – the persecutor of believers in Jesus’ but had been renamed by God and became ‘Paul – the anointed preacher, discipler and church planter’. His name used to be feared by believers and yet God had transformed him so that now he was one of the leaders of the early church across the known world. God is in the business of changing people!
How have you been transformed by faith in God?
What change is there that’s still needed in your life?
Is there someone you’ve been praying for that really needs big change?
Remember that change, total transformation is what God does, so be encouraged and call out again to God for your life or the life of someone else.
‘Paul, an apostle’
Paul identifies himself as ‘Paul, an apostle’ (vs1) – what does this mean? At its most basic level it simply means ‘sent one’ or ambassador! Although the term means other more specific things in Scripture just for today I want you to see that this man Paul who did such amazing things for God is no different in one sense to you and I. We too like him are ‘sent ones’ sent by God into our 24/7 lives as God’s agents, God’s ambassadors.
What would change in your life if this truth were more front & centre for you?
Whom has God sent you to?
What are you doing about it?
‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father’
All Christ followers are united in their experience of the grace of God. God saved us not by our own merit but by His grace and God continues then to pour out into our lives after salvation His unmerited favour and blessing.
God’s grace is the very air we breath every day as believers in Jesus and grace not legalistic striving leads to us being at peace with God who has become our Father in heaven. We could never be at peace with God through our own effort, but because of God’s grace we have been reconciled to right relationship with our maker our heavenly Father and so we are a blessed people.
We start the journey with Jesus by grace and grace is what we need everyday to stay on the journey. As the great hymn from 1779 declares;
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun. (John Newton)
Why trumps what! (Mark 7:1-23)
Why trumps what! Why you do what you do, matters more to Jesus than just what you do.
The Pharisees and scribes are indignant! Jesus and his disciples are not adhering to the strict codes and traditions that had built up around God’s law that regulated every aspect of life in the attempt to keep ‘pure’.
These regulations legislated behaviour in everything, here Mark mentions the scenario of coming home from the market where one could have been defiled by contact with Gentiles and the need to wash hands, pots, plates & even couches!
Jesus’ disciples were being accused of not walking ‘according to the tradition of the elders’ (Mark 7:6). Jesus rebuffs their accusations, accusing them of caring more about their human traditions than about the original commands of God that the traditions were meant to encourage obedience to (Mark 7:8-13).
So what really matters? Jesus quotes the Old Testament to them (vs6-7) which reveals what God wants from every one of us. God wants our hearts not some external compliance that’s not rooted in love for God.
You see, why trumps what! Worship/godliness that’s only skin deep or behaviour that’s not emanating from a heart of worship is not worship at all.
God is after our hearts. What we do does matter, how we live does matter but its the motivation behind the external actions that God really cares about. It’s why we do what we do that matters to God.
This is the difference between religious legalism and the gospel! Tim Keller sums it up when he says;
‘“I obey therefore I am accepted by God” = Religion
“I am accepted by God because of Jesus, therefore I obey” = The Gospel
God freely accepts those who believe in Jesus and accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness for their sins. God then delights as those saved sons and daughters begin to obey His will for their lives, not because they must, not because they’re trying to be accepted but because they already are accepted by Him, because their hearts have been melted by His love and His mercy and His grace and transformed so that they beat now with a new desire – to please their Father who is in heaven! What results, is the motivation for all true godly behaviour. Why trumps what!
So, gaze again at Jesus! Consider who He is and what He has done for you. Be freshly impacted, amazed at Him and live your whole life as a response to His incredible love for you. What will result is observable godliness rooted in worship, and that pleases God.
Perspectives (Mark 5:1-20)
Let’s consider this account of Jesus and the demonised man from a number of perspectives.
Townspeople: Imagine the combination of feelings from the towns people… This man was wild, uncontrollable, strong, scary. They used to be able to keep him locked up with ropes, then when he kept breaking those they tried chains (vs4), but eventually even those failed to restrain him. So he roamed the outskirts of the town amongst the tombs, crying out, terrifying people.
The demonised man: What did he feel? Tormented from inside, not in total control of his outbursts, under the influence of not one but many demons (vs9). Although nothing physical could hold him, he was nonetheless gripped with fear and anger and shame, ostracised and unloved. Where were his parents? His family?
Jesus: Jesus has been busy. Healing, delivering crowds from their sickness and all forms of oppression, teaching parables about the kingdom challenging mindsets and preparing the ground for the gospel. So tired he fell asleep in the midst of the storm while on the lake (Mark 4:35-41). Arriving on the shore, Jesus is met by this man (who must have looked unkept at best, wild or even unclothed even maybe) who comes running and throws himself down before Jesus. Jesus is discerning, he knows what’s in play here this man is not free, this man is being traumatised, humiliated by demonic influence.
The Disciples: They’ve been on a roller coaster ride of emotions from the highs of seeing multitudes set free from oppression and healed, hearing perplexing yet mysteriously uplifting parables, afraid for their lives because of a storm & then in reverential awe at Jesus the one who just spoke and waves and wind obeyed Him! Maybe this guy’s reputation had preceded him, maybe they fear again as this man comes running to them…
‘Legion’: Terrified! Trembling, this is going to be a bad day! The King of kings has landed on their shore and they know who He is, they are in no doubt of His ultimate authority. “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (vs7)
The demonised man: Did he feel hope? Did he often fight his own body and what the demons made him do? This time, did he feel hope as he found himself running to Jesus? Had he heard about Jesus, was he crying out inside yet his voice silent to those watching him? Scripture doesn’t say, but when Jesus began to engage the demons controlling and robbing his life – I believe suddenly he must have felt hope for the first time in a long time! Can Jesus help me, is this going to be the best day of my life?
The Disciples: What’s going on here? Who’s talking to Jesus, begging him? Who is Legion? How do they know Jesus is God, we’re just starting to get that!
‘Legion’: In the presence of the Almighty one, this group of demons who had seemingly had so much control and power, had none at all. They are pleading with Jesus the King of kings; ‘send us to the pigs…’ (vs12)
The herdsmen/farmer & townspeople: That day, one man’s freedom was more important to Jesus than 2000 pigs owned by someone else. What a statement about the value to Jesus of the man who had been seen as having no value by the town he came from. Was this action of Jesus’ a judgment on the town for the way that they had treated the man? Strangely, they beg Jesus to leave them (vs17). Did he rebuke them?
The redeemed man: What an incredible instant transformation! From raving mad-man, scary and uncontrollable to ‘sitting there, clothed and in his right mind’ (vs15). He tries to join Jesus, stay longer with Him, Jesus days ‘no’ but rather commissions him to share the good news of his transformation through his encounter with the Messiah. And so he does, and he comes probably one of the greatest evangelists in the New Testament spreading the good news with the 10 cities in that region to the amazement of everyone (vs20). #grateful
The disciples: “Note to self…” at this point in Mark’s Gospel
- Jesus really has authority over sin & forgiveness (Mark 2)
- Jesus really has authority over sickness
- Jesus really has authority over the waves and wind
- Jesus really has authority over all demonic influence whether it’s mild (Mark 2) to massive (Mark 5)
- Jesus is really God!?
What’s happening in your life right now?
Have you considered not just yours but some of the other perspectives especially God’s? How could that change things?
How does knowing Jesus’ authority over all things impact your perspective?
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