Life Under Surveillance

Believers are called to live in wisdom and godliness such that neither their lifestyle nor speech contributes to the disbelief of the unsaved.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 48-49; Colossians 4

Because I know that you are obstinate,
and your neck is an iron sinew
and your forehead brass,
5 I declared them to you from of old,
before they came to pass I announced them to you,
lest you should say, ‘My idol did them,
my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’ Isaiah 48:4-5

5 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

Paul concludes his letter to the church at Colossae with some final charges. They are to live wisely in their relationships with outsiders, that is, unbelievers. Two areas for concentration and care are the management of time and the quality of their speech. If a professing Christian is careless with his use of time, he enables unbelievers who observe him to discount either the genuineness of his profession or the veracity of his doctrine. More often than not, it is the second option which prevails. By the same token, if the believer speaks in ways that are coarse, hurtful, lacking grace, or even corrupt (ie. salt-less), he gives evidence that the gospel he professes is either not true or is powerless to change lives. Clearly, unbelievers are quick to grasp inconsistency in Christians to buttress their case against the call of the gospel.

God through Isaiah addressed another tendency of His disobedient, faithless people in Israel. The Lord tells them that His prophecies are designed to remove their claims that the deliverance which He planned for them was the work of their idols. It was a tendency in Isaiah’s day, and it continues to the present, for unbelievers to take credit for anything good that occurs, but to use problems and tragedies as an excuse to blame God or reject His existence.

If you are identified with Christ, your life is under constant surveillance, not just by the Lord but, by your agnostic and pagan friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors. Be sure your life shows consistency with your profession. They may not believe because of you, but avoid making it easier for them to disbelieve.

Don’t Fight God

In the end, God wins. Each of us must decide today. Do we take Him as our God or substitute something else, something earthly?

Today’s reading: Isaiah 45-47; Colossians 3

22 “Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’                          Isaiah 45:22-23

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.                                                                     Colossians 3:5-6

Isaiah predicts with detail the deliverance of Judah by Cyrus, king of Persia, an event that remained some 150 years in the future. God will do what He wills with mighty Babylonia. Judah will be conquered and taken into captivity by that empire, but then Babylonia would succumb to Persia and Cyrus would become the deliverer of Judah. God, through the prophet, keeps telling them “besides me there is no God” (45:5,22; 46:9). When are they going to get this?

Paul calls the Colossians to holiness of life, beginning with their mindset. In order to focus on things above where Christ is they are certainly going to have to turn away from the things below, earthly things like “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness…” Sin related to sex is, for most of us probably, easy to spot. Guilt can be quickly detected, even when ignored or suppressed. Covetousness, however, is more subtle. It is idolatry! We want things others have because we love stuff. We rely on stuff. Stuff makes us happy. Stuff fills the emptiness in our hearts left by an earthly mindset. In reality, when we covet we worship stuff. God’s wrath is going to be unleashed on those who practice that sin. It is not a harmless, little snake, all cute and cuddly. It is a deadly python whose venom can kill multiple humans. Put it to death, Paul tells them.

The final victory of God over all evil and rebellion against Him is indisputable. What is not clear is whether we will bow before Him now, calling for His mercy and salvation, or later when we come kicking and screaming before His judgment. Don’t fight God. Seek to set your mind on Him, now and always.

Complete in Him

God’s full deity is in Christ, so we, who are in Christ, have been filled with everything we could ever need.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 43-44; Colossians 2

But you have burdened me with your sins;
you have wearied me with your iniquities.

25 “I, I am he
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.                              Isaiah 43:24b-25

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.                    Colossians 2:9-10

Isaiah describes the sorry spiritual state of Israel expressing God’s weariness with their empty religiosity, but also His mercy towards them. Yes, He has had enough of their hypocrisy. They have demonstrated again and again that they only go through the motions of repentance and offering sacrifices. Their best is worthless. But God will not let them go. He will do for them what they cannot do for themselves. He will not blot them out.  No! He will blot out their sins, the sins which have burdened Him. This is the grace and mercy of God.

But how will He do that?  Later, Isaiah will explain how God will do this, without compromising His holiness and justice.

Fast forward to Paul’s letter to the Colossians. We find the Apostle laying out for his readers the glories that are found in Jesus Christ. All the deity of God is in Christ. God is fully and completely with us in Christ. Christ is God incarnate, in the flesh. He is filled with wisdom so we need never seek other philosophies. He died and was raised from the dead so that in Him we are raised to life. In Him we are complete, filled, with nothing more to need or long for.

This plan of God revealed partially and progressively in the Old Testament and fully and finally in the New brings God the glory and His believing people salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life.   Let nothing and no one delude you, says Paul. Keep walking with Him and be deeply rooted and built up in Him (2:6-7).

Why Nothing is Going Wrong

Ultimately, nothing is going wrong, because Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of all things, including us who believe in Him.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 41-42; Colossians 1

1Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1

19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  Colossians 1:19-20

Yesterday, I said “everything is going wrong” and tried to summarize the cause. But there is more to the story. Nothing is going wrong, because all things are under God’s control and all things will culminate according to His plan and will.

Isaiah wrote to Judah and Israel, the divided kingdom, where it seemed that their existence was hanging by a thread. He has called Israel “His servant” (41:9), but what a flaky servant she is! She cannot be trusted to be faithful to the Lord. She is quickly drawn away to idols. She is blind to her own calling and history (42:18-25). What does God do? He chooses a new servant. Well, He is not really new because we learn He is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

This chosen servant has the Spirit of God upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not wear out or be discouraged before accomplishing His work in the earth. How gracious of God to find Someone to do what Israel could not or would not do!

Paul writes much about Jesus, showing who He is and what He has done (see also Ephesians 2-3). Paul prays that the Colossians will grasp the truth about Jesus, because it is through His suffering on the cross that He has made peace and reconciled all things to Himself. Through Christ we “have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (vs. 14).

While it is important to recognize the trends and problems of our society today and do what we can to forestall corruption, it is even more important to recognize that God is not intimidated or frustrated by anything. Jesus will not grow faint or be discouraged before accomplishing His work of redemption in the earth. Should we? Take heart. Ultimately, nothing is going wrong.

 

A Quick Guide on How to Do Everything

Today’s reading: Colossians 3:1-1 Thessalonians 3:13

My selection:  Colossians 3:17

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

My reflections: All of life is to be lived in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  This implies that all of life is service to the Lord.  Nothing we do that is good and true falls outside of our Christian life.  This obviously includes our worship, but no less it includes our health, our eating, our work, our play, our relationships, our finances, everything.  All of life is lived before Him.  All of life is important.  Many tasks are routine and commonplace, but nothing is meaningless or useless.  “Give thanks in all circumstances,” Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:18) .

My challenge: I once heard Joni Eareckson Tada, who is a quadriplegic, express longing to be able to plant vegetables or wash her own hair.  It is easy for me to complain about tasks that she might find exhilarating if she could do them even once.

How about you? Do you consciously live before the Lord, giving thanks to God for the every day, repetitive activities of your life?  Live life fully as an act of perpetual worship and thanksgiving to God.  That is your privilege if you are a Christian.

Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 Thessalonians 3:15

Jesus Christ: His Person and Work in a Nutshell

Today’s reading: Philippians 3:1-Colossians 2:23

My selection: Colossians 1:19-20

19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

My reflections: Here in a few words is a concise statement of the Biblical teaching on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

  • Who is He? He is the God-Man in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. There is nothing lacking in His person that is in God the Father. “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father,” said Jesus to Philip (John 14:8-11). Through Christ we know fully and accurately God the Father.
  • What was His work? In a word, it was reconciliation. He came to reconcile fallen, sinful Man to God, but, not only that, His reconciliation includes all things as well. The creation was delivered from its bondage to corruption through Him. This reconciliation brought peace between the fallen world, including humanity, and God.
  • How did He do this work? All this was accomplished by the blood of his cross. By Jesus’ death God’s wrath was satisfied against sinners. Believers in Him, trust His work as the basis for their peace with God.

My challenge: Do you glory in Christ Jesus? Is all your confidence in Him? Do you resist the temptation to look for new or novel ways of knowing God apart from Christ? If you believe in Him, give Him praise for His faithful submission to death on your behalf. Trust Him alone, not in any worthiness in you or your works, for your reconciliation and peace with God.

Tomorrow’s reading:Colossians 3:1-I Thessalonians 3:13

Having the Mind of Christ

Today’s reading: Ephesians 6:1-Philippians 2:30

My selection: Philippians 2:5-7

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

My reflections: Paul commanded the Philippian Christians to have the mind of Christ among themselves. What is that mind? It is the mind of One who gave up the greatest glory in the universe to assume the lowest form of humankind, a servant. It is the mind of One who, after becoming a man and a servant, humbled Himself submitting to the most horrific death possible: crucifixion. Indeed, He was honored by God for all this and will be recognized by every person in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

That is the mind, says Paul, that Christians are to have.

My challenge: It should be a small thing for us to relinquish our position, prestige, and pride to serve others. We have so much less to give up than Christ had. We are already human so we are partly there toward being servants and dying to ourselves for the good of others. Why is this so hard?

Jesus modeled what He taught. He who loses his life will find it. Do you believe that? Have you learned that by experience?

Look for the areas of your life where you put yourself first. Look for the ways that you are liable to get angry or depressed when slighted or underestimated. Confess sin and pray that you may have the mind of Christ in your dealings with others. Actively seek to serve others as Christ did.

Tomorrow’s reading: Philippians 3:1-Colossians 2:23