I love to look deeper into these verses in Colossians to fully understand what Paul was writing and why. Paul was poetic in his language and using wording that the Israelites used to describe the personification of wisdom. If you look through the Old Testament it is not likely that you will find the phrase “Holy Spirit”. You will however find the term “Spirit of God” which we discover is the same thing, God’s power within us. Likewise “word of God” is not seen in the Old Testament. Once there is a reference to the “word of the LORD” but the majority of the references toward the Word of God are seen describing this personification of wisdom. A different way of saying the same thing. Jesus is the living embodiment of the Word of God.
“He is the image of the invisible God” – Jesus is called the image of God in these verses and in 2 Corinthians 4:4. In Hebrews 1:3 he is described as “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being”. Two truths are revealed through the first half of this verse: God has remained unseen “no one has ever seen God” John 4:18 and second, Jesus reveals the nature and character of God for he is the image of God in which humanity was originally created in Genesis 1:26. It is the image that we as the faithful will be transformed into upon Jesus’ return.
“The firstborn over all creation” – Paul borrowed from his Jewish upbringing; firstborn was a Hebrew way of saying someone was especially honored. The nation of Israel was called firstborn (Exodus 4:22), as was David (Psalm 89:27). The word, in these instances, did not refer to their physical birth but to their place of honor before God. So here Paul is saying that Jesus has a place of honor over all creation.
“By him all things were created” seven times in these verses Paul mentions “all creation”, “all things”, and “everything” stressing that the Christ is supreme over all through the power God granted him. The tense at the end of this verse was not translated correctly in the NIV, it says “all things were” however the original language was not past-tense “were” rather present “are”.
“Before all things” like with firstborn this does not speak of time but importance. The Christ is before all things in importance for it is only through him that all things will be restored.
“All things hold together” he will usher in a new age in which sinful man will be redeemed and united with our holy God.
This passage speaks of the importance of the Christ, the place of honor over all things that he holds. Additionally it points to both Jesus’ place of honor over the church and those who will be resurrected to eternal life as well as a chronological order. Jesus was the beginning of the church as we know it. And he was the first, and only one to this point, which God raised to new life. We the faithful will follow suit once Jesus returns.
“All (his) fullness dwell” (his) was added to many translations which adds to the confusion and skepticism that people may have concerning these verses. Before moving forward think about what happens to those who come to God through Jesus. We are filled with God’s spirit, His power and character, at least to a point. But Jesus was filled with the fullness of God, all power and authority were given to him. He also displayed the nature, character, and attributes of God. Paul also had another reason for his choice of words, “fullness” was a popular term among the Gnostics who used it to refer to the combination of all supernatural influences. So Paul used their own word to elevate the Christ above all other religious ideas and systems.
“To reconcile to himself all things” Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection set the stage for not only the faithful to be made new but also all of creation. Unfortunately it does not mean that everyone will be saved from sin and ultimately death. We have free will and we make our own choices. But God does not give up on us. I believe that even those He has already seen reject Him are given daily opportunities for redemption.
It is important that we have a clear understanding of who Jesus is and the reason that we need a Christ, Messiah.
To be continued… (by someone else)
(Editor’s Note – Thank you Jeff for finishing off the book of Proverbs with us this week, and giving us two free theme days to think on! Tomorrow we will begin looking at the book of Revelation – one chapter a day through the month of November. And in December we will finish off the New Testament with the book of Luke. So many precious things in God’s Word! Keep taking it in.)
More than we would like to admit, we struggle with temptation. No matter how great our will or sense of purpose in our life, it always seems to find a way to slither into our lives and rear its ugly head. Ironically, we are caught most off guard and unaware, not when we are in the midst of a struggle with sin or a desperate time, but when things are at their best. One minute we are walking close to God, doing his will, connected to His Spirit, loving His word, sharing his Gospel, and the next we are faced with an idea (James 1:13-14). An awful idea. A wonderfully awful idea that will feed our selfishness, our human condition.
In Matthew 4, today’s reading, Jesus is led by the Spirit to the desert. God, being the great storyteller he is, takes Jesus to the ultimate contrast of Eden, where the groans of nature longing for restoration can be most heard (Rom 8:22). A setting that is far away from paradise, an allegory of the state of mankind, filled with the different, yet same challenge – temptation. Now, there are theological hairs you can split as you read this message today. Don’t do that. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
Jesus’s triumph begs the question, “How did He overcome temptation?” Well, He was the Son of God, right? This is true, but an error in our thinking if we think this is the sole reason that Jesus wins the days. He is the Son of God, but he faced temptation, “just as we are”, and did not sin (Heb 4:15). You might say, “He obviously had a special ability to resist.” You are right. It is the same special ability we have access to: The Holy Spirit. God may take us to the desert to see what our faith is made of, but He will not give us something we can’t handle, and will actually empower us if we seek Him in that moment (1 Cor 10:13).
But careful. Careful we must be because when we are in the desert it is easy to see what is coming. We might feel as though we have plunged a dagger into the heart of temptation, but we have not put it to rest. We must remember, we are human. No matter how willing our spirit is to continue on day after day in the will of God, our flesh is weak (Matt 26:40-43). We crave food. We seek power. We want to be known. Our eyes, the lamp into our soul (Matt 6:22-24), see a way we can instantly fulfill the desires that will be made complete by God and chases after them in selfish, fleeting moments. Unfortunately, this often comes on the day we leave our armor at home, catching us off guard, not ready to do spiritual battle.
Looking to Jesus, how can we be ready to do battle with temptation? First, he knew the word of God. It is how He responds not only to the temptation, but even when the word of God is seemingly being used against Him. How can you know the will of God? It is as ironically simple as losing weight: diet and exercise. Consume the right thing, His word, and practice it daily, so you will be spiritual healthy. Next, do God’s business. Know that temptation can come at any moment, but comes easier when we are idle (Prov 16:27-29). Keep your eyes on God and your hands and feet busy to his work. Like the old adage, “if you’re going through hell, just keep going,” Jesus faced the temptation, but immediately moves onto His ministry. Temptation IS NOT sin. No guilt required; pick up and move on. Finally, be on guard. Relapse can setback or even kill your spiritual life. Removing unnecessary temptation from our lives is a must. Even if we are in the word every day, engaging in spiritual disciplines, or deeply involved in a ministry, at the very height of our endeavors, it only takes a moment to go back to sin and fall harder and faster than we ever did (the very nature of relapse). If you can’t hang out with your friends without getting drunk, then don’t hang out with them. If you can’t be on the internet without looking at inappropriate sites, then don’t get on it. If you can’t use social media without bridling your tongue and speaking in love, then stop. Jesus uses hyperbole to illustrate the practical advice when he states, “it is better to cut your hand off” or “pluck your eye out” (Matt 5:29, 30) than to be lost to sin, and ultimately the kingdom of God.
It is imperative you know there is a way to overcome temptation, no matter how great. We have access to the Father, power through His Holy Spirit, and our eyes on Jesus Christ not only as our example, but our mediator when we fall short. He speaks to the Father because Jesus knows what it is like, and encourages us to not give in or give up. Study. Do. Guard. Repeat. Temptation may come, but sin will no longer find a foothold in you.
When Paul writes II Timothy he is in Rome. In Prison. Piecing together his life from Acts and his letters, it is believed that during his first trip to Rome he was under house arrest – and then released and able to take his final missionary journey. But, back to Rome he goes, and this time he ends up in prison. Real prison. In chains. And, he is now writing about having “fought the good fight and finished the race.” (4:7). The end is in sight. And Paul has no regrets. In fact, he still has hope for the future – “a crown of righteousness” (4:8).
I was blessed by the opportunity to go to Rome with Jason several years ago while he was on a business trip. While he worked, I walked. It was incredible to walk through the ruins and roads where Paul very well may have walked before his chains. Courthouses, palaces, the temples of foreign gods, and in their midst, the Mamertine prison which according to tradition housed the apostle Paul, as well as Peter, before they each died for their faith. Perhaps it was a different prison, hard to be certain. But I do know that there was a real prison with real chains. Real places. Real people. And a very real God who was at work then (and long before) and is still at work now – and for all eternity.
A God worthy of serving with our life and if necessary our death. A God who does not give a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7) – and I sure need that! A God who breathed out the Scriptures for us so we would have his wisdom and words – so useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16) Without them we can not be thoroughly equipped for the work he has for us to do. (2 Timothy 3:17).
A few years ago our theme at Family Camp was Apprentice. How to pass along a craft – an art – from one master artisan to the next generation. Paul said, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2) How are you contributing to the cycle?
Paul has many powerful words to Timothy about his duties as a young preacher, and what he is to pass on to others. And they become even more powerful when you pause to remember that they are being written by Paul, the mighty apostle and missionary, now chained and in prison, near the end of his life. According to tradition, soon to be beheaded for his faith. He writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) Are you doing your best? What can you do to improve how you present yourself to God? Is it evident you are a workman for God? Any areas of shame that need to be addressed? How are you handling the word of truth?
I think it would be fascinating to see documented how the Word of God was passed down from Jesus to Paul, and on to Timothy and then to Timothy’s church, etc …. Through the ages … across the oceans … from generation to generation . . . to you. Your spiritual genealogy. What will you do with it? How will you pass it on? “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved.”
The Old Testament has 17 books of prophecy (5 Major Prophets and 12 Minor Prophets). It is here that God’s messengers gave many warnings of what troubles and destruction would come to those who didn’t repent and live a life pleasing to God. Many (though not all) of the prophecies recorded in these books have already taken place: destruction of ancient Israel and Judah, restoration for a remnant and the coming of the Messiah.
Similarly, the New Testament ends with one book of New Testament prophecy – the book of Revelation. And in it we read many warnings to those who don’t repent, accept Jesus and live a life pleasing to God. Most of the prophecies recorded in this book have yet to come: destruction of the ungodly, the 2nd Coming of the Messiah, and restoration for the godly in the Coming Kingdom.
God sends this series of revelations to John (by way of Jesus and an angel). He writes of what must soon take place and says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (1:3).
In chapters 2 & 3 the seven churches in Asia are individually commended for what they were doing right (hard work, perseverance, not tolerating wicked men, etc…). And, they were then challenged to work on other issues which required repentance and renewed commitment to truth and purity (not allowing false teachers and immorality, etc…). These words are very applicable to us today. We would be wise to consider what we as a church are doing well, as well as what we need to repent of and change. Each church is challenged to listen well to what the Spirit has to say to the church, and promised that overcomers would be rewarded.
Then the vision turns to the throne room of God where a lamb, looking “as it had been slain” (5:6) breaks 7 seals from a scroll unleashing war, famine, and other disasters on the earth. A dragon and two beasts, allied against God, arise to demand the worship of earth’s people who have not been killed in the earlier catastrophes. Seven bowls of the wrath of God (reminiscent of the plagues on Egypt) bring disasters such as darkness, the most severe earthquake ever and huge hailstones. The upheaval destroys Babylon the Great. Next, the heavens open and the Savior, Messiah, King Jesus, also called the Word of God, appears on a white horse ready to lead heaven’s armies in destroying evil. For 1000 years Christ reigns on earth while Satan, “that old serpent” (20:2) is bound and kept from deceiving more. At the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released briefly to instigate a worldwide war, but never fear – it says as they surround the camp of God’s people fire from heaven will devour the enemy and Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire. God unveils a new heaven and a new earth. The new Jerusalem comes down from heaven, and God will dwell with men. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (21:4). There are so many more beautiful descriptions of the coming Kingdom on earth found in the last 2 chapters of Revelation. It is truly something you don’t want to miss. But, we know that many will, because of the decisions they are making today.
Just as Moses laid out for the people blessings and curses depending on what the people did, so too, John’s Revelation includes good news and bad news. What will you do today to prepare for a Coming Kingdom?
Be an Overcomer
This week we are looking into the importance of God’s Word as well as some of the goodies we are rewarded with when we open the book. First, we had an overview of the 5 books of Law. Yesterday we considered the 12 books of History, so today we are up to the 5 books of Poetry.
When I was a school kid eating up my history classes, I was yawning during my poetry course. And, I still haven’t matured enough to really enjoy a ‘good book of poetry’ whatever that means. However, I truly love opening up my Bible to these inspired books of poetry. So many times when I reach for my Bible – it is to the books of Poetry that I go, and I am not disappointed.
Often when reading the books of law and history you get the facts of the events. And from there you can piece together the likely thoughts or emotions of the characters and what their relationship with God was like at the time. But, in many of the books of poetry you get the poet’s raw emotion: disappointment, anger, depression, elation, thankfulness, etc… And, through it all – God is there. Along with the poet’s emotion, you get to read of his personal testimony of God’s faithfulness. Psalm 13 is one short example – it starts out with quite a bit of pain and anguish and questions for God – but it ends with a beautiful statement of God’s unfailing love and goodness.
I really appreciated Andrew Cheatwood’s devotions two weeks ago when he wrote candidly about his struggle with spiritual depression and the help he found in the Psalms. I applaud his wisdom in looking to God’s Word.
Here’s a brief overview of the 5 books of Poetry
JOB – Suffering, But Still Trusting
Satan attacks Job. He loses everything except his trust in God – and that is enough. He prospers again, even more than before.
PSALMS – Jewish Songbook
Songs, prayers and praises to God in poetry. The longest book of the Bible, mostly written by David. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible – all about the greatness of the Word of God
PROVERBS – Wisdom!
Wise King Solomon shares his wisdom on many matters: work, money, temptation, discipline, etc…These 31 chapters can be read one chapter a day every month and you will find yourself a wiser person.
ECCLESIASTES – Search for the Meaning of Life
Solomon found pleasures, riches, and fame don’t satisfy. Instead, revere God, follow Him and let God be God
SONG OF SOLOMON – Love Songs
Poems by Solomon celebrating the beauty of married love, also called Song of Songs
Which is your favorite book of Poetry? Go ahead – read some God-inspired poetry today!
For some of you, dropping everything and going on an adventure like Abram is not possible. You may already be settled in your life, married, with kids. Maybe you’ve got a steady job that you can’t leave. Many of you may feel stuck trapped by your responsibilities. It’s when we get stuck in this rut that we start to believe the lie that we’re useless to God.
Today, we are looking at two important women of the New Testament: Lois and Eunice. We don’t know much about their everyday lives, but what we do know is that they were responsible for introducing Timothy to the word of God. Timothy, the author of 1 and 2 Timothy, is Paul’s young apprentice. From the time Paul met Timothy, he took a special interest in cultivating the church leadership skills within the young man. Paul eventually came to think of Timothy as a son. But, there would be no Timothy if there was no Eunice, and there would be no Eunice if there was no Lois.
Lois first taught the scriptures to her daughter, Eunice. Eunice in turn taught the scriptures to her son, Timothy. Timothy, with Paul’s mentoring, brought many people to Christ and eventually wrote two books of the Bible. Those two books of the Bible have encouraged generations of people in their faith. It’s a domino effect, but it would not have started were it not for Lois and Eunice.
Maybe you can’t move to Africa to be a missionary. Maybe you aren’t called to lead a church. Lois and Eunice may have also been missionaries or great leaders, but that is not why they are remembered. What was important in their story was that they took the time to share their faith with the children in their lives. That is something that you can do today.
Listen, you are not stuck. Wherever you are in life, God wants to use you. Let him.
P.S. Go listen to the song “Dream Small” by Josh Wilson while you get ready for the rest of your day today!
2nd Thessalonians 2
This chapter talks about the coming of the Lord Jesus. It tells us not to be alarmed by others saying that the day of the Lord has already come. We are not to be deceived. This chapter mentions several things that need to happen before Jesus returns.
- Rebellion occurs
- The man of lawlessness will be revealed; he will set himself up in God’s temple and proclaim he is God.
When the lawless one is revealed, the Lord Jesus will overthrow him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him. Satan will display counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders to try to deceive us all. We need to be ready. We need to anchor ourselves in the word of God, watching for these things. Stand strong in your faith and do not be deceived. I am going to end this devotional with verses 16-17:
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
Tomorrow we will talk about 2nd Thessalonians 3.
Hebrews Chapter Four
There is a belief in the Christian world that some hold to called “once saved, always saved.” Basically this means that if you come to a saving relationship with God and Christ, then you can never lose your ticket to eternal salvation. This can be a dangerous perspective because it enables Christians to become complacent with where they are at if they believe they can never lose their salvation. Worse yet, it can lead people to a life of sin and destruction if they do not take seriously the consequences of sin. Verse six of Hebrews chapter four discusses this doctrine of once saved, always saved a bit by stating, “Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience.” The author is stating that some who receive the good news/gospel fail to enter rest because of their disobedience. They initially accepted the promises of the gospel, but they failed to enter because of their disobedience. In other words, they were once considered saved when they accepted and received the gospel, but they lost it when they disobeyed. This verse suggests that maybe the doctrine of once saved, always saved is not founded in the Bible.
This should provide a wakeup call for us! We need to take the sin in our lives very seriously. We are to be sanctified and set apart from this world, so let’s act like it! Let’s not become complacent and degrade the consequences of sin. God hates sin. The hardening of our hearts can lead us to sin, and again the author warns us of hardening our hearts in verse seven. We should take this warning seriously since the author has repeated it three times in chapters three and four.
The concept of rest is repeated a lot in this chapter. What exactly is the author referring to when he is talking about rest? Let’s take a look at what this rest is described as in chapters three and four:
- Israelites unable to enter God’s rest because of their disobedience and unbelief (3:18-19)
- The promises of entering God’s rest still stand (4:1)
- We who believe enter the rest (4:3)
- God swore that some will not enter his rest (4:3,5)
- God rested on the seventh day (4:4)
- Remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (4:9)
- Whoever enters God’s rest also rests from his works (4:10)
- Strive to enter the rest (4:11)
Here’s what I get from all of this. God offered the Israelites during the exodus a chance to rest, but they were not able to enter God’s rest because they were disobedient. The author then compares the rest that was offered to the Israelites to the coming Kingdom. I come to this conclusion because the promises of entering God’s rest still stand. There is still a chance to enter God’s rest. However, not everyone will attain that rest, only the people of God. In fact God swore that not everyone will enter his rest. If we are disobedient and unbelieving, then we will not enter God’s rest. However, if we are a people after God’s own heart, then we surely will enter God’s beloved rest in the coming Kingdom. Hallelujah! Praise God! Amen! Therefore, continue to strive toward the Kingdom and bring as many people with you as possible because one day you will enter God’s rest in the Kingdom.
Chapter four ends with talk of Jesus being the great high priest. We truly do have a great high priest in Jesus. One of the awesome things about Jesus being our high priest is that he is able to sympathize with us. Jesus was tempted just like we are, but fortunately he did not sin. He knows what we go through when we are faced with trials and temptations. He is no stranger to struggle and suffering. We can seek refuge in our high priest when we face these temptations because he is able to sympathize with us and plead our case to our Heavenly Father, YHWH. Jesus being tempted is also more great proof against the trinity. James 1:13 states, “God cannot be tempted with evil.” If Jesus were God as well, then James and the author of Hebrews would be contradicting one another. It cannot be possible for the word of God to contradict itself. Jesus can’t be tempted, and never have been tempted at the same time. It doesn’t work that way. It logically does not make sense. Jesus was indeed tempted like us, and being our high priest, he is able to sympathize and help us.
To close out today’s devotion, I want to point out Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I hope you have gotten benefit from reading these posts. However, if you don’t get anything else, I want you to know and fully understand that the word of God is living and active. We are beyond blessed to have the Bible today. If it weren’t for God’s supervision, there would be no stinking way that we should have it because of the numerous attempts to rid the world of the Bible. The Bible has only flourished though. It is truly a divine miracle that we all have access to a Bible, God’s word. I want to encourage you to keep up the awesome work in delving into God’s word through these devotions. You are truly doing a great deed. Keep up the awesome work, and truly believe in your heart that these words are living and active.
Luke 8 is a pretty fast-paced chapter. Jesus is in full ministry mode at this point and going about performing many miracles and teaching a lot of parables. Here are a couple that jumped out at me.
Jesus tells the parable of the Sower, a farmer who is spreading seeds. The seeds grow based on the quality of soil that they are planted in. The disciples do not understand the parable, so Jesus explains it in more clear language in Luke 8:11-15.
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
I think it is important to realize that the gospel is not directly injected into our hearts (metaphorically) but is presented to us. It is up to us to make the decision to accept it, and then to purposefully fill our lives with the word in order to change our hearts. As Jesus said, only through perseverance will we grow. You cannot be passive about your relationship with God.
Later in the chapter Jesus drives out many demons from one man and they go into a herd of pigs, which immediately drown themselves. Which is kind of weird. But anyway, the man’s life had been completely changed by Jesus and he wanted to serve Jesus, and here is Jesus’ response in Luke 8:38-39.
38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
Instead of hitting the road with Jesus and spreading his testimony all over he is instructed to stay in his hometown and to give his testimony to the people in his hometown. When a lot of people think about spreading the gospel they think about people far away that haven’t heard the gospel, and some are called to travel great distances as some of the disciples were, but many more of us are called to stay home and tell our story to unbelievers in our home towns. Either way it is very important to share what God has done for you in order to help strengthen the faith of other believers. For my family God performed a mighty act of healing in my Mom with her cancer and I try to share that as much as I can to show the power of prayer.
So I encourage you to “return home and tell how much God has done for you”.
– Chris Mattison