Christ In You….

Colossians 1:27-28

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

I thought that our Verse of the Day needed some additional context, so I have provided that below:

Colossians 1:24-29 (NIV)

24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Some of my thoughts on this passage center on the ministry of the Apostle Paul … who labored and suffered greatly for the Church (the Body of Christ).  His view of affliction and suffering were joined to the great importance of teaching the what God had disclosed (the mystery) to His people (the Church) which believers needed to understand: “Christ indwells you!”  Like the Apostle John, Paul focused on the incredible grace and great love of our Lord Jesus to “abide” in believers through the Holy Spirit.  Remember, before His death, Jesus told His followers, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 12:18) And Paul wants us to know that reality in order for us to have a full, mature understanding of the “indwelling power” each of us possesses through the Spirit of Christ.  The confession of faith we profess in Jesus as Lord and Savior … when we experience new birth through the water (Word) and the Spirit (Cf. John 3:5) … is just the beginning of our new life in Christ.   Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17)

When each of us was born physically, our bodies grew and matured into full adults.  In fact, we had no control over the process of maturation from the time of conception to the present. Even eating, sleeping, and the functioning of our bodies is somewhat involuntary.  When we are born again, we are “expected” to grow in our knowledge of God through the experiential presence with the indwelling Spirit. It is essential to our spiritual maturity and functioning within the Body of Christ.  However, it appears that our spiritual maturation process is more subject to our will – similar to caring for our bodies as we age.  For a discourse on the gifts of the Spirit we receive and are empowered to use for ministry within the church, read 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 and you will find more about what Paul is “admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

I hope this reminder from the Word of God will encourage you to study what Paul labored and suffered so much to bring to us: a greater understanding of the glorious riches we have been given through our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have celebrated His resurrection … and now we anticipate and will celebrate the upcoming Day of Pentecost in remembrance of the amazing unveiling of this mystery – which is Christ in you, the hope of glory!  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)  I pray each of us will strive for this spiritual maturity in our lives….

So Know You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Be Effective and Productive

2 Peter 1:5-8 (NIV)

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Verse of the Day comes from 2 Peter and we have studied this passage before.  As Peter urges, we are to be “growing” in our faith; building upon the foundational truths we have learned from the Word of God. Adding these qualities and allowing them to be fruitful through our lives will “keep us from being ineffective and unproductive.”  I often wondered why Peter did not present his thought as a positive assertion; but perhaps, it makes a greater point with this phrasing.  If we are growing and adding to our faith – the phrasing implies we cannot help but be effective and productive in Kingdom work. These qualities will keep you from “failure”. They will safeguard you!  The thought being … an active faith is necessarily a “fruit-bearing” faith.  It WILL keep you and I from being ineffective and unproductive – the implication being that a stagnant faith weakens us.

But I have to point out that faith is really more of a journey than a destination for us.  It is born and then it must grow into maturity.  Consider this analogy: Infants and toddlers cannot be effective or productive in the work force.  Minor children are not so much contributors either.  But as humans continue to physically grow and mature, we find our passions and our talents and bring these to the marketplace for the benefit of ourselves and the communities in which we live.  Well, likewise, faith requires a similar process of maturation.  Adding to it … growing in it … continually increasing our knowledge and understanding of God, His will,  and His purposes for our lives, should move us into greater exercise of our faith.  Through faith that is matured and deepened, we are equipped to find our spiritual passions, gifts, and talents … and bring these to the Church for the benefit of fellow believers and for witnessing to non-believers whom God has called us to be His evangelists.

So I pray that our desire is to grow in faith … in order to be effective and productive in the Kingdom of God as He has ordained for us. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/11/19

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Here we have a continuation of the 1 Corinthians 13 and the “attributes” of love that Paul enumerates.  We often hear this passage quoted at weddings as we observe “how” love should conduct or manifest itself in practical ways. In the context of the marriage relationship, these points are great advice to anyone; however, I want to remind you that the context here is not romantic love.  In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul wrote about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  He spoke about their manifestation; their purpose in edifying the church; and how the Holy Spirit determines what gifts and to whom they are distributed to the “common good”. He then stipulated that the diversity of gifts was supposed to have a unifying effect among believers in the Body of Christ.

I believe that it is within that context we need to see these “attributes” of love through the lens of spiritual gifts and roles within the Church.  Consider the theme of this passage in these terms:

Love is patient: Am I patient with other believers who have different gifts than mine?  Am I patient with those who are weaker in faith?  Do I get frustrated with others who do not have the spiritual knowledge that I have attained?  I’m sure you can think of more questions; but the point here is the context for how we demonstrate love through an attitude of patience and longsuffering with other believers.

Love is kind: How do I show kindness to other believers at church?  Do I greet them?  Do I show interest in their lives?  Do I listen to them in order to find ways to show support and encouragement? 

Love is not envious: Am I jealous of other people and their gifts of the Spirit?  Do I covet gifts that others have because I am not content with the gift(s) distributed to me?

Love is not boastful: Do I boast in the spiritual gifts that the Spirit has given me?   Do I show an attitude of superiority over other people and their gifts of the Spirit?  Do I consider my spiritual gifts more important or valuable than the gifts exercised by other believers in the Church?

Love is not proud: See questions to 4 above…. Am I condescending towards others when operating within my spiritual giftings?

Love does not dishonor others: Wow!  Think about this one…. Have we exercised our gifts in ways that disrespect other people?  Make them feel lower or inferior?  Are we sensitive to whether a person would be receptive to our exercising our gifts … or perceiving them as offensive?

Love is not self-seeking: How many of us self-evaluate our motives when operating in the Spirit … especially within the context of the Church?  Are we trying to draw attention to ourselves and our spiritual piety?

Love is not easily angered: I’m not sure about the application of this one.  It is hard for me to imagine someone exercising a spiritual gift in an angry manner.  But I suppose that could the case in question.  Do I get angry with others who do not accept my exercise of spiritual gifts? Do I get angry with those who believe the gifts of the Spirit were for the Apostolic Age and not for modern times?  I think this attribute is connected closely with patience and longsuffering….

Love keeps no record of wrongs: Forgive and forget!  The term used here is an accounting term.  Do you keep an accounting of all the times you have been offended by other believers? Are you offended when other believers exercise their gifts?  Do you feel slighted?

I believe the point Paul was trying to make here is that LOVE is the most excellent way to exercise your spiritual gifts.  In other words, when operating in your spiritual gifting(s), is love for others your overriding motivation for doing so?  When you exercise gifts of the Spirit, is your aim to edify the Church?  Spiritual gifts are not for our personal benefit or enjoyment. God is not giving us His divine power for our own privilege or private edification.  They are GIVEN to use for the common good … just as roles or positions of spiritual leadership were GIVEN by Jesus Himself to the Body of Christ for equipping us for works of service and the building of His Church for the purpose of unity of faith.  (Cf. Ephesians 4:11-13)   For any of us to exercise our gifts or roles without love for one another is “worthless” according to Paul.  It will profit you and I nothing of eternal value … and it will certainly not facilitate unity within the Body of Christ.  Do you have a gift or talent that you recognize in yourself?  Do you share it? Do you share it for the benefit of others?  Do you share it because you love other people … especially those of the household of faith?  Consider this thought:  God is love. So everything He does is done so in love.  Should not we who God created in Christ Jesus (in His image) do good works in love as well?

While these attributes or qualities define how love should operate within any relational context; I hope that we will look at them in the specific context of spiritual gifts.  Remember, your gifts and mine were determined by the Holy Spirit … distributed by the Holy Spirit … and given to us for the sole purpose of ministry to the Body of Christ and to a lost world.  There is no other practical or valuable purpose for them being exercised except for the glory of God and His Kingdom.  To think otherwise is … well … unloving as Paul would characterize it.  To me this teaching goes hand in hand with what Paul wrote in Romans 12:1 – that we should offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – as this is our true and proper worship.  Offering ourselves through our spiritual gifts for the benefit of the Church is a sacrificial act … and it can be a humble demonstration of our love for God and one another….

Well, I’m not sure if I have conveyed my thoughts very well.  I hope, at least, that I have stirred your thoughts on this popular chapter of Scripture and challenged you with a different context in which to evaluate the sincere demonstration of your love for others.  I pray we will all exercise our spiritual gifts for the common good; motivated by the excellence of love for the glory of God.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/10/19

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

This passage from 1 Corinthians 13 (commonly referred to as the “love” chapter) should be familiar to most of us.  If not, I encourage you to read Chapter 12 and then read Chapter 13 in order to have some additional context for what Paul develops for us in his discourse on brotherly love.  In Chapter 12, Paul focuses on the spiritual gifts and how these are to operate within the Church (Body of Christ).  He discusses and comments on the diversity of gifts appropriated by the Holy Spirit to believers, but emphasizes the unity and wholeness their exercise should create for the benefit of all believers.  Paul finishes his thoughts and instructions on these matters by encouraging believers to desire spiritual gifting for the edification of the Church … but then remarks in 1 Corinthians 12: 31 … “And yet, I will show you the most excellent way.”

The most excellent way to what?  In the context of Chapter 12, Paul moves on in Chapter 13 the most excellent way for believers to work together and use their individual giftings for the Church. These opening verses set the stage regarding the preeminence of love in our relationships.  One or more manifestations of the Spirit are given to each of us for the common good. So regardless of which manifestation has been determined and distributed to each of us according to the Holy Spirit, it has not been given for the purpose of “personal benefit.”  In other words, your spiritual gift(s) or roles (offices within the Church) are not for your personal edification or glory. If sincere love is not the highest motivating factor for exercising spiritual gifts, then Paul asserts our gifts will accomplish very little of value to the community of believers.  To be sure, we are called to operate in our gifts for the Church, but loving one another is the only reason they were given in the first place.  Without love in our hearts, the gifts of the Spirit are essentially useless in effectuating the common good: developing, discipling, equipping, encouraging, or ministering to the community of believers.

Paul will continue to provide some practical definitions for love to give us essential references on how love will manifest itself through our spiritual giftings, but I will save that for our next lesson….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!