colossians

Colossians 4

Today we’re scheduled to read Colossians 4.

This chapter began by continuing to describe how being raised with Christ and setting our minds on things above (3:1-2) changes our daily lives. After applying this truth to masters (4:1), the scripture turned to our prayer lives (vv. 2-4) and how we share the gospel (vv. 5-6). The rest of the chapter was concluding personal remarks (vv. 7-18) that closed the book.

For our instruction today, let’s turn to verses 5-6: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” These verses speak to us about how we speak with unbelievers. Verse 5 encouraged us to to “be wise.” The word “wise” simply refers to skill. In the Old Testament, God called some men who were “wise” in craftsmanship to create the furniture for his tabernacle (see Exodus 31:1-5. Here the wised we are commanded to have refers to the “soft” skill of communication. Part of our faith, the result of being raised with Christ, means learning how to skillfully talk with unbelievers about Christ. Verse 5b encourages us to think about talking with unbelievers as an “opportunity” that we should “make the most of.” In addition to understanding the gospel message well enough to explain it clearly to someone else, we should develop our conversational skills so that we can speak of Christ in ways that draw the interest of unbelievers. Think about how Jesus skillfully spoke with Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and others about himself. He did not use a canned speech, a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, he engaged the other person at the level of their own interest and then lead them to see that they needed him.

What does this kind of evangelistic conversation look like? Verse 6 says it is “always full of grace.” Grace, of course, is an undeserved gift. In evangelistic conversations, we want to get to God’s grace, to tell people what Christ can give them by faith. But I think Paul means more than just filling our conversation with God’s grace. I think he means that the tone of the conversation is giving so that the unbeliever understands we have something to offer them. We have hope and joy and peace to offer them. We can show them how to truly know God, so the way we speak to them should be inviting, encouraging them to “taste and see that the Lord is good” and that we can “take refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8. Verse 6 (here in Colossians 4) tells us that these conversations should be “seasoned with salt.” Again the image is that our talks with unbelievers are stimulating and pleasant. It might be taking the “salt” image too far, but what if “seasoned with salt” means that our talks with unbelievers about Jesus makes them want to talk with us again about him in the future? Of course we don’t ignore the problem of sin or give them reassurances that everything will be OK whether they believe in God or not. Instead, we show them the possibility of a better life--the ability to know God, to feel that he is listening to us, the opportunity to understand why the world is so beautiful but also broken and how the world Christ promises will be the perfect one that we all deeply crave.

What would you need to do to be able to speak the gospel to unbelievers like this? Have you read any books about it or taken a class to learn how to engage in a spiritual conversation like this? This is part of growing in grace--learning to speak gracefully to unbelievers about the grace of God. May God give us opportunities to hone our skills in evangelism and opportunities to practice those skills among unbelievers with hungry hearts.

Colossians 3

Today’s reading is Colossians 3.

Although the Colossian church had faith in Christ and evidence of spiritual growth, there were doctrinal issues in the church that were threats to the spiritual health of the church. One of those threats seemed to be legalism, which Paul began addressing at the end of Colossians 2.

We need to stop here and define what legalism is. I would argue that the New Testament confronted two types of legalism:

  • Legalism for salvation. This type of legalism was the belief that good works were necessary for salvation. This belief taught that someone had to do good works (usually defined as religious rituals of some kind) to be accepted by God in eternity or that someone had to believe in Christ but also do good works to be accepted by God into his kingdom.
  • Legalism for spiritual growth. This type of legalism taught that Christ alone was necessary for salvation but that obedience to religious ceremonies and self-discipline were necessary to help you grow spiritually.

The second type of legalism--the “legalism for spiritual growth” type seemed to be an issue for the believers in Colossae. In Colossians 2:6 Paul urged them to live in Christ because they had received him as Lord. Then, in verses 16-23 of chapter 2, Paul urged them not to submit to religious rules as if those could cause you to grow. One of the most important concepts for refuting this false idea is that believers have died with Christ to the old ways. As verses 20-21 of chapter 2 put it, “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’?”

This concept that we “died with Christ” or that “in Christ” we have certain spiritual benefits and privileges is a doctrine “Union with Christ.” I did an entire series on this doctrine last spring called, :”I.D. Understanding who you are before God.”. Here in Colossians 3, Paul continued developing the doctrine of the believer’s union with Christ. We saw that in verse 1 which said, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ....” The idea of being “raised with Christ” is that our identification with Christ--our union with him--means that the spiritual benefits of Christ’s resurrection now belong to us who believe in Christ. Now that those benefits belong to us by faith and await us in Christ’s kingdom, we are commanded to desire “things above” v. 1b. And, what are those things above? First and foremost, Jesus: verse 1 says that he is there seated at the right hand of God, verse 3 says our life is hidden with him and verse 4 says that we will appear with him in glory when he appears. Living the Christian life on this earth begins when we start longing for Christ and his kingdom. That is when the full benefits of being “in Christ” will be ours and when the promises Christ made to us will be ours.

The hope of our eternity with Christ has practical benefits today, however, because that hope helps us to “put to death...whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (vv. 5-11). It also helps us to live “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” (v. 12). When we put our hope in Christ, his power and future promises, it helps us to say no to sin and live a kinder (v. 12), compassionate (v. 13), loving (v. 14), peaceful (v. 15a), and worshipful life (vv. 15b-17). It also helps us to live a godly life in our human relationships, whether as wives or husbands, children or fathers, slaves or masters (vv. 18-25).

Here’s a great truth to start out our week! We are “in Christ” by God’s grace, so we should live for the future--hoping not so much for things to get better in this life, but for the promises Christ made to us in the future. When we hope in the future Christ promised us, THEN our everyday lives get better because that hope draws us toward purity and godliness in this life. Whatever problems you encounter today or this week, remember that God has given you hope for a perfect eternity with him in Christ. Let that hope cause you to live for him in your daily decisions and relationships.

Colossians 2

oday’s reading is Colossians 2.

The church at Colossae that received this letter was not started by Paul. Colossians 1:7 plainly states that the people who received this letter from Paul had received the gospel from “... Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf.” As we read yesterday in chapter 1, Paul was thankful and encouraged by the faith of these Colossians. Now, here in chapter 2, he assured them that he was “contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.” Though they were not churches he had founded, Paul was concerned for their spiritual growth and health (vv. 2-4). Then, in verse 5, he wrote, “I... delight to see how disciplined you are....” That phrase, “how disciplined you are” is kind of unexpected. The rest of the verse, “and how firm your faith in Christ is,” is exactly like something we’d expect Paul to write. But what did he mean by, “how disciplined you are”?

Let’s start with the word “disciplined.” Discipline means training. When you discipline your children, you are not (or shouldn’t be) punishing them for being bad; you should be teaching them that doing wrong is harmful and doing right is better. So, when Paul said, “I... delight to see how disciplined you are” he is referring to the training they had received from Epaphras (again, 1:7). Epaphras not only told them that Christ died for their sins, he taught them what it meant to live in obedience to Christ and he expected them to show obedience to Christ in their daily decisions and lives. This was and is Christ’s goal for every Christian. He commanded his apostles to “Go make disciples” (Matt 28:19) and to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt 28:20). Epaphras not only obeyed the “make disciples” part, he obeyed the “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” part of Matthew 28:19-20. Paul was happy to hear how these believers were growing in that way spiritually.

Still, threats to their faith were lurking around. False ideas about spirituality were gaining a hearing among the believers in Colossae. That’s why in verse 2 he said that he wanted everyone to “know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.” It’s also why he said, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Everything they and we need spiritually is in Christ. There is no need to look to Judaism or to pagan religions. God has given us everything we need in the church. What we need to put these growth resources to work in our lives is discipline. Discipline is a form of self-control that enables a person to make progress in the Christian life. Discipline is what calls us to form daily spiritual habits--Bible reading and prayer at the least--that will nourish our faith and stimulate our growth. The fact that you’re reading this devotional probably indicates that you’ve developed the discipline of reading the scripture daily. That’s great! But, also, each believer should discipline him or herself to pray everyday, asking God to keep purifying them even more.

Grace and discipline are not enemies; instead, discipline is an expression of grace and an application of the grace we received in salvation. Without grace, we could never discipline ourselves just to become more godly but, since “all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in Christ” (v. 3) we can use God’s grace to teach us to be more holy and Christlike. So think about an area of your life where you need to become more holy and Chrislike. What kinds of self-discipline should you use by grace to become a godly man or woman?

Colossians 1

Today, read Colossians 1

Sorry to do this but it's been a long, exhausting day. Here's a re-run (an encore episode!) from last year's devotional series, 66in16. The original article is here

Whenever I read Paul’s descriptions of his prayers, I am struck by how different they are than the way I often pray and the way that I’ve heard most other Christians pray. Frankly, most of our prayer requests and prayers for each other are about physical illnesses and injuries or other basic life problems. While there is nothing wrong at all with praying for these things—and we should pray for them—think about them in contrast to how Paul prayed for the Colossians here in Colossians 1. First of all, he and his associates “have not stopped praying for you” (v. 9a) which is something I can’t always honestly say. Second, notice what we asking God for: “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light” (vv. 9b-12). In other words, his prayers were for their spiritual growth in specific areas. He wanted them to know God and be stronger in their Christian lives. Do we honestly ever pray that way for other believers?

Leviticus 5, Psalms 3–4, Proverbs 20, Colossians 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 5, Psalms 3–4, Proverbs 20, Colossians 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Colossians 3.

So much about the Christian life calls us to live in the present based on things that are past or future. In the present we have to live in a fallen world and we struggle against the instincts of our fallen nature. But when we came to know Christ by faith we were “raised with Christ” (past, v. 1a) and our life is “is now hidden with Christ in God” (v. 2) and will be delivered to us fully and finally “when Christ who is your life appears” (future, v. 3). So what do these past and future events have to do with us now? First, they call us to “set our hearts on things above” (v. 1b). The reason is that that is “where Christ is” (v. 1c). Since he is our Lord and the one we long to love and know, that’s why our thoughts belong where he is. And what is he doing there? He is “seated at the right hand of God.” This is the place of victory and also his place of intercession for us. In Christ, then, we have everything we need to succeed in godliness today. We have his power which raised him from the dead, his promise that we will see him when he returns, and his victory and intercession for us while we wait.

So, what do we do while we wait? We “put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (v. 5). These are things that belong to this world, this age. When people indulge in “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” they are showing that their hearts are set on this age rather than “on things above, where Christ is” (v. 1c). When we clothe ourselves with “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (v. 12) and “bear with each other and forgive one another” we are acting consistently with hearts that are set on things that are above because these are qualities that Christ embodies himself, that he has shown toward us and that he calls us to demonstrate toward others. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Leviticus 2–3, John 21, Proverbs 18, Colossians 1

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 2–3, John 21, Proverbs 18, Colossians 1. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Colossians 1.

Whenever I read Paul’s descriptions of his prayers, I am struck by how different they are than the way I often pray and the way that I’ve heard most other Christians pray. Frankly, most of our prayer requests and prayers for each other are about physical illnesses and injuries or other basic life problems. While there is nothing wrong at all with praying for these things—and we should pray for them—think about them in contrast to how Paul prayed for the Colossians here in Colossians 1. First of all, he and his associates “have not stopped praying for you” (v. 9a) which is something I can’t always honestly say. Second, notice what we asking God for: “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light” (vv. 9b-12). In other words, his prayers were for their spiritual growth in specific areas. He wanted them to know God and be stronger in their Christian lives. Do we honestly ever pray that way for other believers?

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.