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Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Filled

Colossians 3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
 
This is going to seem obvious perhaps yet we need reminding...
 
In our cupboards there are glasses. Many of them. When they are in the cupboard they are empty. We only take them out to fill them. It would be insane to take them out and expect to pour anything out of them. It would be equally insane for me to take out a glass and fill it with orange juice and then expect to get apple juice when I put the glass to mouth to get a drink.
What a stupid story right?
 
Yet how many of us call ourselves Christians yet leave the house every day as an empty glass and expect when we encounter people to be able to have a Christ like impact on them? How many of us leave the house empty and expect or at least hope if the devil comes our way that we will be strong enough to resist him or fight him off? Worse still how many of us take the time in the morning to fill up on the news or the sports highlights or talk radio or Jesusless music or something else spiritually neutral and expect when we face opportunities to be like Jesus, think like Jesus or react like Jesus would?
 
 
Again and I can't repeat this enough because it was something I was blind to for far too long and still tend towards relapses: following Jesus is not primarily about avoiding doing bad things. If that's all it was I suppose going to live in a cave would be a good strategy. No, following Jesus is exactly that. It's giving Him the reins of your life. It's considering yourself a vessel and each day you let Him fill it and pour it out as He chooses.
 
Did you notice verse 16? LET the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Even our reading of His Word can be corrupt if we're coming to it with an agenda to find or prove some idea or conclusion we already have or to fulfill a religious requirement. That is not following. That is leading. Open your Bible with a prayer for His guidance and LET Him lead you. Think about it, you do not know what your day will bring but He does. He wants to fill you in preparation for it. To not let Him lead is pure folly.
 
He loves us. He wants us to be blessed and to be a blessing. He wants to impact the world for His kingdom through you and I. What an amazing thought!
 
Finally I want to share what He showed me in verse 17 - "...do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God..."
 
I need to back up the train and give you some background. In John 14:15 some translations say "If you love Me, keep my commandments." Other translations say "If you love Me you will keep My commandments." One can be misunderstood as "if you love Me prove it by keeping My commandments". The other is much more clear. "If you love Me the result will be that you will do whatever I ask you to do".
 
Now verse 16 above opens to us the "secret" of living for Jesus. We need to allow Him the opportunity to fill us day by day by day. There are multiple ways to do this. Paul lists some of them. Then he appears to say "make sure you do good things like Jesus would". However this is again a misleading translation. The word "do" in verse 17 is actually supplied. There is a word in the Greek that was left out. The word is "if".
 
Are you starting to see the picture? Paul is telling us in verse 16 what we need to do to be filled and then he says "if/then everything you do will be done in the name (character) of Jesus" and then he says "giving thanks to God..." Why are we to give thanks if we are the doers? We aren't the doers. Our only role was to let, permit, allow. Once we let Him in the rest is all Him. He preps us for our day by filling us with the Word we need, the song we need, the psalm we need. Simply put He puts Himself in us so that our impact on the world is a kingdom of God impact. If we let Him do this each day the results are guaranteed. Orange juice in = orange juice out.
 
Are you an empty glass, a glass full of anything and everything but Jesus or are you filled so that you can be poured out on the world and be a spring of Life in a dry and thirsty land?
 
Let Him in. Today. smile emoticon

Monday, 30 March 2015

We're Losing Our Anchor

Colossians 3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

Everyone has opinion and if you think about your own over time how many times has it changed? Science (which I think is great but only as reliable as the scientist) changes. Laws change. Textbooks change. Everything is in a constant state of change. Why? Because we are changing. Why are we changing? Because we haven't arrived at Truth. Once you know something is absolutely true it never needs to change or our view/understanding of it never needs to change again.
 
What is my point? We live in a culture that has changed in an area where it's killing us. Preachers to a large extent have set aside God's Word. Christians have followed the lead. We read books, we watch Ted Talks and other "experts" but we have set aside the Book.
 
What has been the fruit of this drift away from being rich in His Word? Technology has increased and yet our capacity to have and hold deep meaningful human relationships with each other has decreased. Divorce rates continue to climb for those who even bother. More and more children are being raised by single parents in an environment loaded with conflict, often pawns in a war between two "adults" who have "fallen out of love".
 
It isn't just couples who can't get along either. People in general are becoming more and more isolated from one another. Forgiveness, humility, love, compassion are constantly being eroded away and replaced with bitterness, pride, hate and competition. We are constantly told we need me time, we need to defend ourselves, respect ourselves, protect our rights, and love ourselves. Our devices are called "I" phones and "I" pads etc... Advertising is worded for the worship of ourselves. "You deserve... treat yourself... isn't it about time you did something for yourself...
 
Yet all this great sounding advice to be all about me so I can be the healthiest, happiest me possible is producing exactly the opposite. Mental health issues have never been higher and they are affecting us at younger and younger ages. While our world appears more shiny and advanced on the outside our hearts and minds are falling apart on the emotional level.
 
Why? Because the counsel of the Unchanging One who is love has been taken out of the picture. The very One who if taken seriously would bring us happiness is ignored, replaced by self help books and experts who are as broken as those they are seeking to counsel.
 
The church, the body of Christ, should be a place rich in the Word and wisdom of God. A place where we support each other by reminding each other to return to the Source, to drink from the fountain of His wisdom and love, to set our hearts and minds on things above, to remember that no matter how incomplete we may feel or be we are absolutely complete in Him. The church should be a family that the world wants to join because we have what they lack.
 
Sadly we have what they have. Escalating divorce rates, pornography epidemic etc... etc... and a plague of isolation and loneliness. Why? Because in our pulpits and in our homes and in our individual lives we are destitute of His wisdom and presence and influence in our lives. When Jesus was here in person He looked over Jerusalem and wept and said "How I have longed to gather you together as a hen gathers her chicks but you would not". Every morning He longs to be the first part of our day. Every decision He longs to help us. He loves. His existence is not about Himself. He is all wrapped up in us. Love is never about self. That's the biggest lie in our culture today. Happiness and fulfillment don't come from taking, they come from giving. Think about it. In a world where everyone gave everyone would be happy. Instead we live in a culture where we are told to take and it's causing nothing but misery.
 
Life can be so much better. Let's end where we started:
 
3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
 
I hope you take some time with Him today. I hope you share what He shares with you and I hope you have a song in your heart that will bring some Light into your life. We have much to think about that will bring a smile. We are loved, forgiven, complete and hidden in Him.
 
"Freely you have received, freely give..." That's heaven's wisdom - Matthew 10:8 spoken by Jesus Himself.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Filled = Changed

Colossians 3:12 "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
 
Such a beautiful practical letter. Let's review a little:
 
 
Problems in Colossae and Laodicea cause Epaphras to write to Paul looking for answers. Paul's response to the churches in the form of this letter is that they are complete in Jesus. Those who have come in among them with persuasive words telling them they need more than Jesus in the form of religious customs etc... are liars.

 
He reaffirms that in Jesus they are complete and perfect. He explains that rules and strictness and self imposed religious practices have an appearance of wisdom and holiness but are completely powerless to change our hearts.
 
In chapter three he offers the real solution. He says now that Jesus has done it all for us focus your heart and mind on Him and the things of heaven. Don't look into the darkness of our human brokenness but into the light of His love and sacrifice for us.
 
Then Paul lists the issues we really have which are far more significant than what we eat or drink or the religious customs we keep. Issues of the heart like sexual immorality and greed and lusts and anger and malice etc... these are the things that Jesus will fix as we day by day meditate on Him and follow His lead in our lives.
 
Then we come to today's passage. It's the flip side of yesterday. Notice carefully the setting: Therefore - because - you are God's special child, holy and beloved put on tender mercies, kindness, humility etc...  Notice carefully that adopting these attributes which are the attributes of Jesus will not make you more loved or more saved or even more holy. In Jesus you are already as holy as is possible because as we have read already in Jesus we died and rose and our life is now hidden in Him.

Now notice carefully how His attributes will more and more become our attributes as we set our hearts and minds on things above. When we focus our thoughts on Jesus instead of the darkness and pain and injustices of this world we begin to absorb how forgiving He truly is. His love literally begins to deeply impact our very thoughts. As we spend time morning and evening discovering Him through His Word, Scripture becomes part of our thought processes. As we learn songs that tell His story and we play them in the car and in our homes and hum them while we work our interactions and reactions toward others are affected. How can I withhold forgiveness from my friend, my coworker, my wife when Jesus has washed all my sins away by a sacrifice I will never fully comprehend? How can I be less than merciful when so much mercy has been poured out on me? How can I think less of anyone when My Father is their Father too? How can I not love everyone always when Jesus died for me before I even cared? When He loved me when I was far from Him?
 
Sing about it, think about it, read about it, find a church family that talks and teaches about it. When others who believe start drifting remind them, not of their dark behaviour but of Him. When you drift they will remind you. When we meet we will remind each other and when people come into our churches or our lives trying to preach a convincing message that we need just a little more than Jesus we will be well filled with Truth and there will be no room for such nonsense.
 
As Jesus said so succinctly: "You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free and you will be free indeed!"
 
Religion is powerless bondage but Jesus is our soul freeing Saviour.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Complete But Healing

Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."
 
WARNING: Please please please please please do not lose focus. Yesterday we saw how critical it is to fill our hearts and minds with the things of heaven. Today we will see that it is also important to recognize and reject the habits and thought patterns of darkness. HOWEVER the purpose of focusing on the good while rejecting the bad is NOT to acquire God's favour or to become good enough.
 
Notice in verse 3 that when you chose Jesus you died and your life is now hidden. When the accuser comes at you to expose all that is dark in you he will have nothing to say because your darkness was put to death on the cross and the only record by your name is the spotless life of Christ. There is nothing you can add going forward to what He has done. You can't make His perfection more perfect. Again at the risk of being overly repetitive - You are complete in Him.
 
OK, that being the case what is all this talk about immorality and lust and anger and malice? Why are we back talking about the darkness? I thought we were supposed to be focusing on all the good things? We are. We absolutely are.
 
There is a problem in Colossae and Laodicea remember. Persuasive men have come in among them to convince them that they need more than Jesus. As if that idea alone isn't bad enough they are adding to Jesus completely external superficial things. Paul wants to make it crystal clear in chapter three that the darkness in us is not of a superficial nature therefore superficial strategies like circumcision and holy days and food and drink etc... will do nothing to effect any real change.
 
You can be as evil as evil can be and keep a holy day or a feast day or eat certain foods at certain times. You'll still be evil when you're done your religious duties.
 
God has a two phase plan for you and I. The first phase was to give His Son and that is finished. We are complete in Him. The second phase is to begin the healing process. "You will call His name Jesus because He will heal His people from their sins." Matt. 1:21
 
Our sins are deep, much deeper than any religious "malpractice" and even though Jesus has taken the guilt and punishment on Himself already we are still here. Our immorality and rage and malice are still affecting us here. He does not want that for us. We are destroying ourselves and others while we talk about heaven but live like hell.
 
The putting off of sin Paul is addressing here in chapter three is not about becoming good enough since we are already complete. It is about healing so we can be happier here and now and win others to Him by our lives. Look at verses 9 and 10. It embodies the tension of what it means to be a Christian in a few words:
 
"9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."
 
New and being renewed. Complete and being completed. Look at how we are renewed - in knowledge. Transformed by the renewing of your mind. Set your heart on things above. Set your mind on things above. As we do this morning by morning and evening by evening our lives are being reshaped and renewed on the deepest levels. Levels that long dresses and circumcision and dietary restrictions or additions can never hope to touch.
 
Only He can do the healing. We just need to choose to live in His presence where the Light can shine. Darkness can't survive there.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Mind Your Mind

Colossians 3:1 "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."
 
At this point I wish I had a white board. I would draw a line dividing the white board in half. On one side would be you and I. On the other side would be God. Below you and I I would write all the characteristics and behaviors that damage us. Attitudes and addictions that destroy us. On the other side under God I would write all the beautiful characteristics that bring happiness and hope and healing wherever you find them. Joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, temperance etc...
 
When someone is going through a horrible ordeal (like say being thrown into a nasty prison unjustly) and while there they are bringing encouragement to you it might be a good idea to discover the source of their inspiration. Here is what Paul wrote to the church in Philippi from prison:
 
4:6 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things."
 
Some of those in the church who have persuasive reasoning might try and convince you that meditation is evil and of the devil. They will add it's avoidance to their long list of things you must be doing and not doing in order to be "good enough". However the Bible speaks much about meditation. The problem with our minds is not that we meditate. The problem is what we meditate on. When we rehearse any of the following big four as I like to call them we are in trouble. Here they are:
 
1, What is wrong with me
2, What is wrong with others
3, What I have done in the past
4, What others have done or are doing to me.
 
If any or some or all of these subjects are what you meditate on your mind is literally a black hole of despair. There is no light or hope in any of that. If we come back to the white board we can add two words. On God's side the word Light and on our side the word Darkness. We become what we look at.
 
Set your mind on things above. This is a deliberate choice. It requires repeated effort. It is literally a war. Let me give you three practical tips to help you with this:
 
1, Start your day in the Light. Start it with God. Make sure the first imprints on your mind in the morning are positive life giving things to think about.
 
2, End your day in the exact same way. Your mind never sleeps fully and it is particularly active as you are falling asleep and as you are waking up. Your dreams are largely made up of random bits of info your mind has collected through the day. You are far more likely to wake up with Jesus on your mind if you went to bed with Him on your mind.
 
3, When dark thoughts invade your mind during the day (it will happen) have something to replace them with. You know when a song gets in your head and you can't get it out? The reason you can't get it out is because you fixate on it. The most effective way to kick that melody to the curb is to choose another song and sing it. Thoughts are the same. Sing dark thoughts away or meditate on an uplifting thought. Fight the fight with good things. Set your mind on things above.
 
We'll explore this more tomorrow...

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Religion - Jesus = Useless

Colossians 2:23 "These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh."
 
I wanted to focus right in with a magnifying glass today on the key point of all that Paul has been addressing. Lists invented by the self obsessed to create a self imposed religion look impressive from the outside. It can even, no it does even make others watching doubt their own relationship with Jesus. However do you know what I have discovered over time? Some of the most strict pious seeming people are standing in front of deep dark closets. Here is why and Paul nails it:
 
Rules however strict do not, will not, and can not change desires. The human will is not impacted by law. You can punish yourself, deny yourself, starve yourself, etc... but what you and I can never do is change ourselves on the level of our desires. This is why Jeremiah (13:23) stated the problem so plainly "Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard his spots? Then can you do good who are accustomed to do evil?" No, no, and no. Yet the core of every religion keys in on behaviour modification as a band-aid over our wretched souls. It does not work, it has not ever worked and it can never work. From yo yo dieting to the addiction cycles we have proven to ourselves and each other repeatedly that self imposed behaviour modification does not work.
 
Recently I was on an airplane beside a woman who works in addictions counselling. 23 years experience. "Does it work?" I asked her. "Not usually" was her forlorn reply.
 
AA has a success rate of 5%. I guarantee that if you tracked the 5% it was the Higher Power that rescued them and not the program. If the program was the rescuer it would work for everyone. Having said that I never discourage anyone from taking the program because it might be the vehicle that takes them to God.
 
When the human soul is wired to self destruction there is only One who can rewire it. No amount of man made religion can cure us. Those men who criticized Jesus' disciples for not washing their hands "correctly" were the same men who plotted His murder. Men stand behind pulpits and tell their members to be good while secretly consuming child pornography. A famous evangelical preacher railed repeatedly against homosexuality before it was discovered he was cheating on his wife with a male prostitute and using drugs to self medicate. My point is not to shame anyone but to expose our powerlessness. We are broken and unable to fix it.
 
The good news is this: Everywhere we fail Jesus succeeded and then He traded His success for our failures. As a result we are complete in Him. It is gloriously and marvelously true that as we live in Him and for Him and let Him lead our lives He begins the healing process. It is His work and only He can do it.
 
Let's say I'm attracted to men and only men. Guess what I can do about it? Nothing. Now let's say I marry a woman to hide my secret and become crazy religious to make up for my "flaw". At the end of all that what have I accomplished?
 
Now imagine heaven being like religion. A place where people with flawed secret desires get to live forever while trying to keep them under control or at least hidden. Around the tree of life sits Bob who desperately wants to smoke but can't. Beside him is Susan who is secretly a sex addict and wishes she would sleep with Bob and everyone else but that behaviour is not allowed. Beside Susan is Tim and Tim is secretly never happy unless he is in charge except Tim can't be in charge in heaven... on and on the list of people and their secret hang ups and flawed desires and taboo lusts go. Each trapped for eternity in a place where inside they remain themselves but externally they are bound to holy conformity. Still want to go? Welcome to religion...

Now Jesus - that's a very different story. Jesus says "Follow Me and I will cause you to become..."
 
With Jesus the heart changes will come and you are complete and loved and accepted the entire time those changes are taking place.
 
Welcome to the Good News...

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Less is More

 
Colossians 2:16 "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh."
 
Here we are, day 3 on the same passage. Why? Because it isn't just the heart of this letter to Colossae and Laodicea. It is the heart of an issue that continues to plague humanity today.
 
Look closely at verse 20. Paul says this world has basic principles and goes on to basically say that Christless religion - religion without Jesus - follows those basic principles. Let me define what the most basic principle of this world is: me first.
 
There is always a pecking order and it is set up in the mind to either believe I am the top dog or I am hopeless. At the time of Jesus in the Jewish mind they were the top dogs. Then within Judaism there was a pecking order. Women, children, sick, and poor were at the bottom. Rich male Pharisees (or Sadducees depending on your views) were at the top. Within all that rank and family lines and various other factors impacted the pecking order as well.
Jesus spoke openly against this mindset. He modeled a different mindset. He turned the basic principles of the society and class distinction upside down. He ate with the undesirables. He said crazy things like "Love your enemies and do good to them that persecute you" and "the first will be last and the last first".
 
He openly stated that the pecking order within Judaism was no different than how the Gentiles behaved. In other words it was the way of the world.
 
Following Jesus means we are no longer part of this world. We are dead to the world. It's norms and practices no longer apply. It's philosophies are not our philosophies. Here is the gist of Paul's message:
Jesus paid it all. The ground at the foot of the cross is level. There is nothing more to achieve or acquire. There is no class distinction or pecking order inside His church. There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, circumcised nor uncircumcised, bond or free. A man who fasts 7 days a month is not superior to a man who does not fast at all. A woman who dresses from her ankles to her neck is not a more advanced Christian, closer to God, or more saved than a woman who doesn't. In reality those going the "extra mile" in "holiness" may not be in Christ at all. They might be all wrapped up in themselves. Me first... The inverse can also be true btw. We might be so proud of ourselves and our "freedom" and our "better understanding" of Jesus that we have no principles at all and look down on anyone who does as slaves to religion etc...

 There is a common thread between the two extremes. Me first.
 
One of my favourite authors has a litmus test for our Christian experience. "Who do you like to think about and talk about? Who has your best energies? Who has your first thoughts in the morning and your last thoughts in the evening?"
 
If your religious life is a constant comparison test and judging of others in relation to yourself or yourself in relation to others you are in the same trap as the hedonist who judges himself by his material wealth and accomplishments.
 
We are complete in Him. End of story. We can not add to or take away from what Jesus has done for us. It is finished. When men with persuasive words come into your life or your church and make it sound so good and holy and necessary to do more, be more, advance further look to Jesus. In Him you will become less and more. Less about self obsession and more about others. Less about anxiety over your own performance and more about sharing His completeness with those who need Good News in a bad news world.
 
 
You are free. Don't go back to Egypt and bondage. Walk in the Light.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Truth is a Person

Colossians 2:16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh."
 
So here we are at the heart of the letter to the Colossians and Laodiceans. Let me begin with a true story:
 
 
I heard a preacher on Colossians 2:21. He preached with enthusiasm and conviction. He showed how so many of the things we are eating are killing us and his key text was "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle". I was only a child at the time but out of curiosity read the following verses and came to the obvious conclusion that he had not. I know how it happened. When I was 12 I was asked to preach. The young people were going to take over the whole service and they nominated me to be the preacher. My dad gave me a book called a topical concordance to help me. The book was a list of topics: prayer, marriage, angels, etc... Under each topic was a list of Bible references that addressed that topic - verses ripped from their original context, verses which alone may appear to say one thing but when put back where they came from say something entirely different sometimes. There is no more radical example of how true this can be than Colossians 2:21. Alone it shouts "Don't eat that! Don't even touch it!!!" However put back in context it is saying something very different.
 
The sad truth is that much of religion is about using holy books to back an agenda rather than seeking to learn what the book is actually saying. That is why you can have Muslims on one end using the Quran to promote violence and Muslims on the other end decrying the violence and using the same book to do it. How can this be? Each group is selectively choosing which parts of the book to promote and which parts to ignore.
 
In the case of the preacher I heard I don't believe he even did it on purpose. He found the verse in a concordance and just never checked the context.
 
You see when a deceiver comes into a group of believers in Jesus who sincerely love Him and want to follow Him he can't deceive them by rebellion. It takes a different brand of deception. It takes shifting their gaze from the completeness they have in Jesus to the lack they have in themselves. It takes using Jesus not as our Saviour but as our measuring stick. Following Jesus becomes nothing about trusting His life and learning His personal plan for our lives. Instead it becomes about mastering holiness to attain a reward. This was the trap the Pharisees were in before Jesus ever came and this is the trap these persuasive men were trying to drag them back into.
 
The Bible does say that a dog returns to its vomit. We go back to the familiar but dysfunctional far more easily than forging ahead into an unknown but healthy future.
 
Verse 22 says these persuasive men were bringing in commandments and doctrines of men; regulations God either only instituted for a time such as the practices and feasts related to the temple or extra laws God never instituted at all.
 
Look what verse 23 says. These regulations appear wise! How can the man in church beside me who is obviously more devout than I am be a wolf in sheep's clothing, a deceiver?! How can a church with higher standards and more rules be more inclined to be lead by the forces of darkness? It seems counter intuitive. Backwards. Impossible! Right?
 
All my life I've heard believers around me concerned that the church is lowering the standards. It didn't take long once we started talking about rules and standards for Jesus to disappear did it?
 
Religion is a list. Truth is a Person.
 
More on this key passage tomorrow...

Monday, 23 March 2015

Persuasive Words

NOTE: This blog posting belongs between 'Head and Heart' and 'Nailed to the Cross' if you want to read in sequence.
 
Colossians 2:4 "Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. 5 For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power."
 
Now we are beginning to get a picture of what the problems are in Colossae and Laodicea. The truth is you are likely to have more problems following Jesus than living a "normal" life. 1 Peter 5:8 says this:
 
"Be vigilant, be sober, for your adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour".
 
Think of this life and this earth like a turf war. Satan considers you his "territory" and Jesus wants you back. Whenever the devil sees you getting closer to Jesus he will do whatever he can to stop that from happening.
 
Now think about the image of a roaring lion. Does it make sense for a lion on the hunt for victims to be roaring. Crazy right? But there is one circumstance when a lion will roar at it's prey. If a lion finds prey that has found a safe place that he can't get at he will roar. The roaring is meant to cause fear and panic so that his prey will freak out and run to escape the roaring. As soon as the prey runs he becomes more accessible and the lion gives chase...
 
 We have now learned that there are one or more people in Colossae and Laodicea who have come in with persuasive words. This is the opposite of a roaring lion. This is a wolf dressed like a sheep. Notice what Paul says repeatedly: Keep your faith in Christ, remain steadfast in Him, stay in Christ and walk with Him, be built up in Him. Then his last line gives us a deeper insight into the trouble that is brewing. "You are complete in Him". Clearly whoever has come in among these believers is deceitfully persuading them that they are incomplete - that they need more than Jesus.
 
This of course appeals to our nature. More sounds better, seems better. If Jesus is good, Jesus plus ??? must be even better right? Paul says in Christ is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. What can be added?
 
As we continue deeper into the issues at Colossae and Laodicea we will find out exactly what the "more" is. Let me leave you with the truth Paul is speaking of. When you find Jesus the devil will come hunting. He will do it through any means available to him. It might be the roar of fearful intimidation or the sweet counsel of someone who seems so close to God that you can't imagine them speaking anything but truth.
 
Here is the litmus test: If they try in any way to add to or take away from Jesus then you are being lied to and are in danger of being deceived. Put all your faith in Jesus. Walk with Him. Remain steadfast in Him. You are complete in Him. You don't need anyone or anything else.

Complete is Complete

Are you ready? If you haven't been following the context I can tell you that you are not. (wink) You can catch up at www.lookingtojesus.ca
 
Colossians 2:16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, asthough living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, ”22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh."
 
There are 5 crucial things to consider when studying a verse or several verses of Scripture: context, context, context, context and... context.
 
So far we know that the pastor (Epaphras) has written to Paul because his churches in Colossae and neighbouring Laodicea are having problems. They were doing well until persuasive men came and joined them. These men were undermining the idea that Jesus is enough.
 
Paul has been repeatedly affirming in his letter back to them that Jesus is enough. He made the plain
statement in our passage a couple of days ago that "you are complete in Him". Yesterday we read that Jesus circumcised them in a way no snipping of the foreskin could and that in dying on Calvary He nailed all of our sins and shortcomings and any accusations the adversary has against us to the cross.
 
Now to understand the context even more fully you would have to read Romans and the other letters Paul wrote to see that the major controversy (which lead to a council in Jerusalem) was over how Jewish a follower of Jesus had to be. Up until Jesus came heaven was for Jews and heaven was on earth. They expected their Messiah to come and deliver them from their Roman oppressors and make Jerusalem the ruling city of the world. To achieve this God must be happy with them and for God to be happy with them there were endless rites and ceremonies and customs which they must fulfill. Circumcision was a huge one but there were feast days and special Sabbaths and new moon festivals and laws concerning food and drink right down to how they washed their hands. Being a Jew was no simple or casual thing.
 
Then came Jesus. He marched into the temple at the beginning of His public ministry and overturned the tables, scattering the money changers and the priests. He came at the end of his public ministry and did it again. When He died there was an earthquake and various phenomena in the natural world including complete darkness in the middle of the day. When all this took place there was a veil in the temple which divided the holy place from the most holy. It was 75 ft high and 6 inches thick and it tore open from the top to the bottom.
 
From heaven's perspective Judaism was over. Everything they had been instructed by Moses to do as a people was all pointing to one grand event and it had come. The men were circumcised beginning way back with Abraham to symbolize two things. The Seed who would bless all nations was to come through Abraham's descendants and that He would come through the power of God not the strength of man. It would be all His doing and none of ours. Our flesh would be "cut off" from the process.
 
Jesus didn't just change the Jewish world on the inside by "turning the tables". He crossed borders and tore down invisible walls. He brought hope and healing far beyond Jewish lands and peoples. He did things that shocked His own disciples. Jesus was indeed the Seed who would bless all the nations.
 
It is important to point out that things like circumcision were vitally important but only as a means to an end. When you are on vacation and you're following a map or the GPS to get to your destination those tools are vitally important. However once you arrive they are turned off and/or put away. Their purpose has been fulfilled. They are not THE THING, they only point to it.
See persuasive men came into the churches in Colossae and Laodicea and said basically that what Jesus did was important but to be truly holy and good required Jesus + Judaism.
 
We tend to think of falling away from Jesus as doing bad things and "leaving the body". The danger in Colossae was losing sight of Jesus by a false pursuit of increased holiness. In other words the danger was not from outside but from inside and was dressed in "holy clothes".
 
We take an even closer look tomorrow.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Nailed to the Cross

Colossians 2:11 "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it."
 
If ever there was a chapter in the Bible ripped from it's context and misapplied by countless theologians and preachers and everyone else it is Colossians 2. Thankfully there is Colossians chapters 1 and 3 and the rest of the Bible to balance it all out and frame it in time and space.
 
Remember from yesterday that persuasive men have come in among the believers in Colossae and Laodicea with philosophies designed to convince them that Jesus was not enough. Paul affirms that they are complete in Jesus and in today's passage he explains why. He says Jesus circumcised you in a way no human circumcision ever could. How? By removing all sinful flesh.
 
Buckle your seat belt:
 
In Psalms 130 the Bible says God does NOT keep a record of our sins. 1 Corinthians 13 says the same. Jesus needs no record because His plan was to do something so powerful that they would all be obliterated anyway. In metaphorical imagery Jesus cut off our sinful flesh (circumcision without hands) and took it on Himself. Then He died because the wages of sin is death. The He arose to demonstrate his power and victory over sin and death. Our sins caused Him to lay down His life but His sinless existence here as one of us empowered Him to take up His life again.

By faith we went through all that with Him. By faith our sins are gone. Our sinful flesh is cut off and destroyed in Him. By faith we rise with Him free and victorious and new. It's called Good News (gospel) for a reason. It is so good only faith can grasp it. In Colossae and Laodicea they had the truth of our completeness in Jesus but persuasive men have come in among them to convince them that there is more. Jesus + more = true salvation they are saying.
 
So what was this handwriting of requirements that was against us that was nailed to the cross? Some say it is the ten commandments but properly understood they are ten promises and you don't kill promises. Some say it is all the other laws Moses wrote down. However all those laws were in detail and/or in principle for our good so why nail them to the cross?
Think about it. The law is not and never was the problem. Our failure to live in accordance with them is what has caused and continues to cause us pain. Every failure on our part has been faithfully recorded but not by God or Jesus. There is an accuser of the brethren who accuses us before God day and night. He holds up before God a list of our failures in an attempt to prove we are not worthy of anything but death. Jesus took that and nailed it to the cross. In one act he fulfilled the requirements of a sinless life to satisfy the law and paid our death penalty thus silencing the arguments of the accuser.
 
Tomorrow we will get a clearer picture of what the persuasive arguments were in Colossae and Laodicea.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Head and Heart

Colossians 2:1 "For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
 
We are about to enter into the conflict and the reason Paul is writing to this small group of believers he has never met. Apparently the pastor (Epaphras) has written to Paul seeking wisdom and counsel on how best to handle what is happening in the churches in Colossae and Laodicea and Paul has written this letter in response.
 
 
Before we get into the problem I want to pause and examine what Paul sees as the solution. Basically Paul is saying he is struggling because things are not as they should be in these churches and then he goes on to describe what he wishes they were experiencing:
 
1, hearts encouraged
2, hearts knit together in love
3, having the riches of full assurance as a result of understanding
4, deep knowledge of the Father and Christ in Whom are hidden all wisdom and knowledge.
 
Do you know what this sounds like? It sounds a lot like the prayer Jesus prayed for His disciples and for His followers down through the ages just before He died.
 
I want to specifically point out the dual elements of heart and head. As flawed humans in whom the image of God is severely distorted we tend to extremes. For some their faith in God is all about emotions and the heart. Ultimately this ends in disaster when someone comes along and crushes their heart and they have no deep understanding or head knowledge to carry them through the painful experience. Another danger of heart only religion is that it tends toward manipulation by others. Feelings and emotions are used to confuse and ultimately control people who are sincere but don't have the head knowledge to see through the manipulation and warped character of the dysfunctional leader.
 
Equally dangerous in the opposite direction are those who have what they think is perfect head knowledge of God and the Bible. What they really have is knowledge of facts and figures with little to no empathy or sympathy for others and no knowledge of the heart of God. Extreme examples on this side can quote chapter and verse and explain complex prophecies and concepts yet are unable to speak to or deal with the human experience on a practical level. Paul described these in 1 Corinthians 13 as reverberating gongs and clanging cymbals - lots of sound but no love to make it healthy and whole.
 
The solution for those in either camp? A deep knowledge of God and Christ in Whom are found the perfect balance of intellectual understanding and deep heart love and emotion. God is neither a brilliant but heartless robot or an emotional force with no sense. He is both in perfect balance and harmony.
 
Let me illustrate this way:
 
When Jesus was dying in Gethsemane as the weight of our sins began to crush Him you see the perfect character of God come into play in gut wrenching fashion. We're God and Christ emotionless Beings the cross would have been a far different experience. Jesus would not have been in emotional agony because pure logic has no emotions. The cross would have been a math equation. His perfect life given to balance a cosmic equation.

On the flip side if Jesus was all emotion and no deep understanding He would never have gone to the cross. The crushing pain of the moment would have caused Him to flee to seek escape from the pain. When emotions take over rational thought dies. The question "If it be possible let this cup (experience) pass from Me" is an emotional one balanced by rational, logical thinking. It was Jesus' deep intellectual understanding of our need combined with His exhaustless love for us that kept Him moving forward. It was God's deep knowledge of the entire situation and His exhaustless love for us and the created universe that kept Him from sending His angels to rescue His Son.
 
 Intellect without a heart is a psychopath. Heart without knowledge is a storm of emotion driven in every direction by circumstances divorced from principle and truth. A whole person is in connection with all their emotions without being a mindless slave to any of them. They make decisions for the greater good rather than in the moment. They are neither driven about by every wind of doctrine no are they double minded and unstable in all their ways. Rather they are like are tree planted by the waters whose roots run deep and enable the tree to draw from unseen resources and withstand any wind.
 
Paul saw in Colossae and Laodicea a lack of health in the Body that only a deep assurance rooted in a full understanding of the Father and the Son could supply.
 
Examine your life and your church. If it is primarily emotion based you are in danger. If it is primarily knowledge and theory divorced from compassion you are in danger.
 
Tomorrow we'll begin to explore both the problem(s) and get a clearer picture of the Solution.

The Third Temple

Colossians 1:24 "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily."
 
There are two major themes in this passage. One I will cover briefly and the second I will put more focus on.
 
First Paul talks about what He does and why he does it. Paul is a man who is all in and going all out for Christ. He is fully invested.
 
It is over a year later and people still ask me why we moved to Grande Prairie. When the possibility came up one person specifically was trying to convince me to come. I told her if we were not convinced it was God's will we wouldn't come no matter how good it might be here and if we were convinced it was His will we would come no matter how bad it might be. Location, task, finances, convenience, appeal - none of those factors come into play when God makes his will known.
 
Paul is simply saying he is committed 150% to following Christ and making him known at any cost. Yesterday we talked about freedom and choice. At some point we each must decide we are either all in or not. You can't be half married. It's all in or a mess.
 
The second and more important point in this passage is a deepening understanding of the gospel. Without a comprehensive view of Scripture you would likely miss it but here is what Paul said: "To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
 
For millennia humanity has had a pretty vague view and understanding of God until Jesus came. That is not to say they had no understanding. Through the faith of Abraham God built a family of faith and from that family a nation. Under the leadership of Moses God created the priesthood and had them build a sanctuary. All of it was designed to help them understand God and His plan better. At that time He said: "Build Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among you." When the sanctuary was complete God literally though the visual manifestation of a glorious bright cloud "lived in" the sanctuary. The people could "see" Him.
 
Later on King Solomon built a permanent temple to replace the tent Moses had built in the wilderness. Again when it was completed God filled the Most Holy above the ark with the glorious cloud indication His presence among them.
 
Later that temple was destroyed and a new one built. When it was completed it was inferior in every way to Solomon's temple and God never "showed up" to fill the Most Holy. However He declared through His prophet Haggai that the glory of this latest temple would exceed Solomon's. How?
 
In John 1:14 it says "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory..." God became a man and used the temple on many occasions to teach and reveal the glory of God. By His personal presence and ministry this temple far exceeded the elusive cloud confined to a space the people could not enter.
 
Watch this:
 
Phase 1 - God lived among us veiled in a cloud inside a building that was inaccessible to the people yet He was undeniably present.
 
 
 
Phase 2 - God became one of us and did not just occupy the temple but traveled all over meeting humanity where they were. He ate with us and cried with us and touched even the lepers. He was Emmanuel, God with us.
 
Phase 3 - This phase is to be exponentially more intimate than phase 2. The glory of it will far exceed the former. The truth is Christianity is still struggling to comprehend the implications of the full manifestation of Phase 3. Pentecost revealed a taste of it but even that was a shadow.
 
 
 
"Christ in you the hope of glory".
 
God in a building, then God among us as one of us yet nothing like us, then the grand finale - God in us.
 
We will never receive what we do not believe.
 
"Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."
 
God has no plans for a temple in Jerusalem. We are the final temple. He lived in Adam and Eve and to make the restoration complete He will live in us again and sin and sinners will be no more.
 
Deep stuff. A reality only God can bring about. Are we all in or are we like Judas? The choice is ours, the work is His. The promise is grand: "He who has begun a good work in you will be faithful to complete it."

If...

Colossians 1:21 "And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister."
 
 
If is such a small word... with such potentially huge implications. Verse 23 begins with this little word 'if'.
 
Yesterday our transmission died in Spruce Grove, 5 hours from home. Not a wonderful event but it would have been much worse if a great friend had not come to rescue us. Thanks to him we are home safely with our injured vehicle. If he had not come I'm not sure what we would have done.
 
Yesterday Tracey's grandmother died at 99 years old. It was still a shock. Death is an enemy no matter how and when it comes. However if love did not bind us to each other it would just be an emotionless event. Also if we did not have faith in the One who has the keys of death we would have no hope for the future. It would just be a final end.
 
If.
 
"If you continue" says Paul. To finish a race you can't just begin, you must continue. To finish a degree you can just begin you must continue. To finish anything we can't just start we have to persevere until the end.
 
The nation of Israel had enough faith to leave Egypt but not enough to enter the promised land. It's a tragic story. So many incredible experiences on their journey of faith yet with the destination just in sight they lost their faith and never made it.
 
How did it happen? It seems so crazy and illogical and wasteful.
 
Here is exactly what happened to them: At the climax of their journey they forgot who was the one doing the work. They looked inward instead of upward. They either forgot who carried them so far or they became delusional thinking it was all their accomplishments.
 
In the verses preceding 23 Paul says because of what Jesus has done and is doing He will present us blameless and irreproachably perfect in the end. He initiated the plan we call the gospel and He has fulfilled every part of the mission. He took us out of Egypt and He will get all of Egypt out of us if... if what? What could possibly stop Him? If we take matters into our own hands and look inward instead of upward.
 
Paul's life was one of following regardless of the obstacles or his apparent inability to meet a given challenge. Are we following or are we carefully only doing what we can handle? Are we walking by faith in His limitless power or walking by sight where we can safely go on our own?
 
If.
 
What you do with your life is entirely up to you because God values our freedom supremely. However the Master can't make you His masterpiece if you refuse to be molded in the crucible of surrender.

He Succeeded!

Colossians 1:21 "And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked (pain inducing) works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister."
 
How did Jesus do it? How did he reconcile our brokenness with His perfection? He became one of us. He experienced the temptations of greed, lust, self worship etc... He put Himself in our place. The Bible calls Him the second Adam. Where Adam failed Jesus succeeded. Adam felt he must disobey God. He couldn't see any other way forward.
 
 
That is what temptation is like. It blinds us to everything but the immediate. Whatever has grabbed our attention in the here and now becomes like an itch that must be scratched. The desire overwhelms and like a task master it must be obeyed.
 
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness he faced more powerful desires to disobey than Adam ever faced and he resisted every one. Jesus had His eyes on the future, not the present, and that is the great difference. He also had His eye on others rather than Himself. That is the other great difference. Giving in would have been beneficial for Jesus in the short term but devastating for Himself and others in the long term.
 
Like the intoxication of a husband and father having an affair it is "beneficial" for him in the short term but devastating for his whole family and friends in the long term. Sin is short term gain for long term pain. Faithfulness to God is short term pain for long term gain. I've seen the devastation affairs have caused both short and long term. Sin is destructive no matter who you are or what your beliefs are.
 
Jesus said if any one wants to follow Him they must take up the cross of self denial. The government of God is one of self sacrifice while the government of Satan is one of narcissism - complete slavery to the big ME.
 
Any middle ground is an illusion and any grasping at happiness on the road of self worship is fleeting and elusive. When we put others first everyone wins and the positive effects multiply over time.
 
Jesus denied Himself completely every time and then offers that perfection to us...

God in Human Flesh

Colossians 1:19 "For it pleased Him that all the fullness should dwell in Him, to reconcile all things to Himself by Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross."
 
Way back when Adam and Eve disobeyed and opened the way for Satan to take dominion of this planet Jesus came to them and promised that He would send His Seed to crush the serpent and buy back humanity. The Bible says Jesus had the plan in place for our rescue before we were ever lost. He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He made us free to choose and took the consequences and responsibility on Himself before He ever made us.
 
 
The plan involved Jesus becoming us in every way while maintaining the full character of Himself - the all loving God of the universe. Since the expulsion of Adam and Eve from God's direct presence His character remained a mystery to humanity. Still today much confusion and error exists about who God is and what He is like.
 
Many Christians believe Jesus came just to die and fulfill a legal obligation. He certainly did that but He did much more than that. Our verse today says all the fulness of God was in Jesus the human. In John 14 one of Jesus' disciples asked if they could see God. Jesus' response was clear: "Philip have I been so long with you and you have not known Me? If you have seen Me you have seen God."
 
The confusion over what God is like is erased when we study the life of Jesus. His purpose in coming here could have been fulfilled in a day if it was just to die. No Jesus came for much more. He came to erase the demonic picture of God Satan had been drawing for thousands of years. Sadly this picture still exists for many because we are followers of religion rather than followers of Jesus. Even those who claim no belief in God still have a view of Him painted by the religion of their childhood or by the religious culture and ideas around them.
 
Never forget that Jesus' greatness enemies and those who plotted His death were those who controlled religion, those who were defining God for the masses. Religion then as now was used to advance the personal gain of those in charge.
 
Just yesterday I was speaking to a good friend who has for the time being chosen to believe there is no God. In the course of our conversation she said she could never be comfortable or happy in heaven if there is such a place while others were being tortured in agony for eternity. This was the picture of God she was raised with. It is a credit to her that she rejected such a god for he does not exist. Understandably she assumed I as a Christian pastor was believing in and promoting this monster like, bloodthirsty god.
 
I am not because I am not a follower of religion. I have one aim in my life: to follow Jesus. I aim to know Him better each day by studying His life, learning His character, and little by little reflecting more of His love.
 
All the fulness of who God is was lived out in the human life of the carpenter from Nazareth. Religion rejected him and killed him but many saw God in Him then and see God in Him now. Look and begin to truly live.