As Paul wrote the beginning of his letter to the Colossians, he is encouraged by how well they’re doing. He has heard a good report of their faith, and he makes sure to let them know that. However, that doesn’t mean that he stopped praying for them.
Col 1:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
Col 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
I know that we can get complacent. It has been said that the Christian life has “mountaintop experiences.” We have these experiences where we feel very close to God, and that is a great thing. I imagine we all have had them in some capacity.
However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t need prayer. It doesn’t mean that we cannot remain vigilant. Paul was praying that the Colossians would continue to walk with the Lord. Even though they were currently doing it, he wanted them to remain steady.
It strikes me then that we need to be careful about this in our own lives. We might feel like everything is going great. Our friends and family are great, our job is great, our church is great and whatever else might be going extraordinarily well. However, we are still human, and we might lose our footing. We might start to trust in our own ability rather than our walk with God. We might forget where our strength comes from.
Paul knew that. He knew that we need the strength of God on a daily basis, so he prayed for the church that they would remain a force for good that they had been.
I don’t know about all of you, but it is pretty easy to let your mind wander. It interesting that in Philippians 4, Paul advises some areas that it is wise for us to think about.
Php 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
In greater context, these are the final pieces of advice that Paul is providing to the Philippians, so he wants them to control their thoughts. There are plenty of evil things to think about in the world. Just watch the news. It is easy to dwell on the things that are negative.
Rather, Paul encourages us to focus on those things that are positive. It does not mean that we can never speak out against evil or criticize our culture, but the definition for think on here carries the connotation of numbering. It is like taking inventory of the things that are honest, just and all of the other characteristics.
We can get so wrapped up in all of the negative things around us that we entirely miss out on all the great things that God is doing. God is opposed to evil. There is no doubt about that, but there is a lot more to God than simply being the force for good in the world. He is not simply a supernatural police force who shows up when someone breaks the rules.
Think about the implications that this would have in our everyday lives. Jesus Christ is our hope. It makes sense that our hope was also be the source of everything that is good. After all, there are many true things in the world, and we can thank God for them. There might be many false things out there as well, but we need to make sure that we are fully aware of the great ones as well.
God is good all the time. Let’s try to remember that even though it might be easier to think about all the evil around us.
It is easy to think that we have done all the right things and are going to get into heaven because of how great we are. After all, I think most of us think that we are pretty good people. However, in Philippians 3, Paul points out how that simply doesn’t seem to be the case.
Php 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
Php 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Php 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Php 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Paul had a pretty impressive pedigree. However, they were all loss. They ultimately didn’t have any value because of that is not how you earn favor in the eyes of Jesus Christ.
Php 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Our righteousness comes from God alone. I think that’s hard for us to conceptualize because it doesn’t always make sense God would give that to us. We receive righteousness from God by faith. That’s it. In a world where there is always a price, there really isn’t one as far as God is concerned. God gives it to us freely.
Personally, this makes me think about gratefulness. God doesn’t have to help us freely. God could set conditions about certain laws we would not be able to break or something like that, but He didn’t. He chose to help us freely, and that is something we all ought to reflect on.
There’s a lot of times we do things that we really don’t want to do. Whether it is waking up early to go to work or having to go to that strange reunion where you really don’t know anyone but feel obligated to attend. Philippians 2 provides us with some strong words about how we need to act at all times.
Php 2:14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
Php 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
Php 2:16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
Paul tells us to do all things without murmurings. That even involves the things we really don’t want to do. That’s a tough one.
However, his rationale admittedly makes quite a bit of sense. We’re supposed to stand out in a world that complains all the time. We’re supposed to be representatives of Jesus wherever we go, so while this certainly does not mean that we have to agree with everything, we don’t want to get into an attitude of negativity that brings other people down.
To put it in perspective, let’s think about what we have as children of God. We have peace that passes understanding among many other things. If we have that in our lives, then it only seems to follow that that should come out in our everyday conduct and personality.
I guess that’s a challenge for all of us then. We have good news that is better than anything you’ll see on your preferred news network. We have the gift of God which is better than any gift any of us will ever receive. We have all of this going for us, so I think we need to make sure that we don’t become murmurers and ruin that testimony before others.
Welcome to yet another book! In Philippians 1, I think that Paul gives us some great perspective on related what it means to be with Christ.
Php 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Php 1:22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
Php 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
Php 1:24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
Paul had no fear of dying. He did not need to worry about it because he understood that being with Christ was the best possible experience. At the same time, he did not want to leave Earth because he was helping the Philippian church among others.
I think this is a great perspective. On one hand, it is always positive. No matter what happens, there is something good we can be doing. As we live, we live for Jesus. If something happens along the way, we get to be with Him for all eternity. There is really no bad option.
I wonder if this is a message that might resonate particularly strongly with our world today. We have people who are obsessed with youth, and they are afraid of the fact that life might someday come to an end. For Christians, then there is no reason to be afraid of that. Actually, we should look forward to that event. It makes me think of the line at the end of The Last Battle by CS Lewis.
“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Ephesians 6 is obviously well known for telling us about putting on the whole armor of God.
Eph 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Eph 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
There are a few important things that stand out about this prelude to the description of the actual armor.
Evil is not simply confined to one person. After World War II, evil did not die because Adolf Hitler was dead. There were plenty of ways that evil continued to exist. We do not wrestle with simply a person, but there is a spiritual dimension as well that we cannot remove from earth. There is never a shortage of bad news, and that is simply because we live in a fallen world. There are forces that are rulers of the darkness, and they do a very good job of spreading that darkness.
However, notice that when we put on the full armor of God, we will be able to stand. That is the important part of this passage. Yes, the darkness is powerful, and we cannot fight it on our own. However, by putting it on, we will be able to withstand the evil. We will not become victims, but we will triumph.
I think that we need to remember this conclusion that Paul gives us. If we are following the will of God, we are going to triumph. We on the winning side. Evil is going to pass away, and God will reign forever. Why do we always live like we are so afraid then?
I certainly do not believe that salvation comes through our good works because if that was true, I think most of us would be in a lot of trouble. However, I do believe that good works are evidence of the Christian life. Therefore, it is not that works bring about salvation, but if someone claims to be a Christian, you would expect to see them moving in a direction of conforming to Jesus Christ. Paul speaks to that in Ephesians 5.
Eph 5:8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
Eph 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
Eph 5:10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
Eph 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
We’re supposed to walk as children of light. Walking involves action. We are not supposed to simply talk about being children of light, but it seems to be the case that we’re supposed to be doing what children of light do.
This is a very difficult thing for us to do naturally. We are still human, and we’re still going to make mistakes. Nevertheless, walking in the light is what we are called to do. As a result, we need to make sure that we are moving in direction that God would want us to be moving.
How do we know what direction that is?
I was reading in my devotional the other night about three relevant questions we can ask about any decision we face. Can I thank God for it? Can I do it in Jesus’ name? Can I glorify God through it? I think that is a pretty good outline. When you combine them with praying for discernment from God to make the right decision if there are multiple good decisions, our conduct will reflect our calling in a greater capacity which is definitely a better thing.
I find it interesting that Jesus Himself spoke about the necessity of people coming to Him as children, but in Ephesians 4 we receive the encouragement from Paul to grow up in our faith.
Eph 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
Eph 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
There’s nothing wrong with being a child, and we all started out that way. However, there is something wrong with the picture when a 40-year-old is acting like a seven-year-old. There is a natural development to our physical lives here on earth. As we get older, we become wiser ideally, and we certainly become more mature. Although I’m sure it does happen, you do not see very many adults throwing temper tantrums in the grocery store. The time for being a child, while entirely necessary, has passed, and our hypothetical 40-year-old needs to grow. He does not become a new person, but he does develop.
I think about that in our spiritual lives. Yes, we need to come to Jesus Christ as children with faith, and that will always be part of our identity. However, there needs to be development. Then needs to be maturity. We don’t want Christians who don’t know how to be Christians. As Paul said, we want to understand our doctrine so that we don’t get deceived.
Obviously, people will develop at different rates, and it is not a question of salvation. However, it is a part of our natural development in Christ. Just like we grow up in our physical bodies, our spiritual lives should develop as well. We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to worship God with our minds along with our hearts and souls.
Ephesians 3 seems to provide us with a contradiction about our perspective on the love of God.
Eph 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Eph 3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
Eph 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
Eph 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
Eph 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
Eph 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
We bow to God the father, and because of our faith, we have Jesus Christ in our hearts. As a result of that relationship we simultaneously know the love of Christ and also recognize that it passes knowledge. That almost seems like a contradiction. After all, how can we have knowledge of something that goes beyond what we know?
I think about this in relation to a human relationship. Think about your best friend. It would be safe to say that you know your best friend. Simultaneously though, there are parts of that friend that you don’t know. I think about my friends, and I think I would be able to say what any of them had for dinner last Tuesday. No one has perfect knowledge of anyone else’s life, but that does not stop us from claiming that we know people.
I think the same is true with the love of God. We might not always understand it or know everything about it, but we understand that it does exist because we have experienced it. This might appear to be a contradiction, but it doesn’t strike me as a particularly difficult one. We can know the love of God without knowing everything about our infinite Creator.
Obviously, churches are more than physical buildings, but it is interesting that in the Ephesians 2, Paul uses the illustration of a building to describe the church and the people who make it up.
Eph 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Eph 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
Eph 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
Eph 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
The foundation was laid by the apostles and prophets. Those who have gone before us have been building a foundation that we are now able to build upon. Think about mathematics. If I want to do a particular problem, I do not need to do the formal proof to show that every theorum they used is valid. I don’t need to prove the Pythagorean theorem; I am able to use it because of the foundation that has been made.
I find our life in the church at the same way. If you think about someone like Thomas Aquinas, he developed his five ways. I am able to benefit from what he has done, and then I am able to build on it. It is great to have a foundation of thought in the church.
However, it is also important to remember that while we certainly do have this foundation from others who have gone before, Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone. He is the part that holds everything together. After all, with that Jesus Christ, what would Christians believe anyway? Therefore, while it is awesome that we have such a great intellectual tradition in the church and it is incredibly important, we can’t forget about our most important part. Jesus Christ is what the entire church is also upon.