The bible speak so much about money? As it says in 1 Timothy 6:10, "the love of money is the root of all evil." Sadly, the modern church has been known for how preachers use the name of God for worldly gain. So let's tackle this issue here in 1 Timothy 6.
The first few verses deal with slavery. God is not okay with ill-treatment towards any of his creations. Yet, we live in a fallen world, so how should we respond to the injustice of the world. If we choose to take the sword, then we will die by the sword. God changes the world by changing hearts. The best way to stand against evil is through prayer and godly character. Whether towards a slave master or a greedy employer, we are to show respect, work hard, and trust God until we receive clear commands of action on dealing with the evil at hand.
When it comes to working, I advise people not to change their job unless God has provided a new one. God is more about our character than anything else, and He uses our work to shape us. If we abandon our job, thinking we will get a better one and not God's leading, our situation will only worsen. Consider Jonah!
Paul writes in verse three that any teaching that does not promote godliness is false doctrine. It is easy to discern a message from the Holy Spirit and one manufactured by a man by the following fruit. Fleshly words produce evil and dead works, while the spirit has the fruit of God's nature. So if nothing but disputes, arguments, envy, quarreling, slander, suspicions, and constant disagreements come forth, it is because it came from those deprived of the truth, but who imagine that godliness is a way to materialize gain (vs. 4-5).
The prosperity gospel focuses on using God's name for one's greed. The emphasis is not on godliness but personal achievement. It is all about having a platform for success rather than a towel to wash people's feet; this contradicts verse six, which says, "godliness with contentment is a great gain." Maturing in the Lord means we are eternal than temporal-minded; as it says in verses 7-8, we are content as long as we have the basic needs covered of food and clothing. You will not find spiritually mature believers amongst those who get fed the worldly gospel of prosperity.
We learn in verses 9-11 that the root behind the false doctrine of prosperity is the love of money; people want to be rich and will use any means, even the name of God, and use His children to get what they want. The result of greed is wandering away from the faith with ruin and destruction. In verses 11-16, Paul wants Timothy to run from these things and fight the good fight of faith. We are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness rather than money and fame.
Paul addresses believers who are rich in verses 17-19. Money is not the problem; we need it to survive and thrive in this world. The problem is not how much money we have but how much money has us. 1 John 3:1-2 says, "I wish above all things that thou may prosper." Spiritually, prosperity goes way beyond money; it is about being whole in Christ, mind, body, and soul. So those rich are instructed not to become proud or set their hope on uncertain wealth but on God, who provides all things to enjoy. They are to take their blessings and be a blessing through generosity, storing up treasure in heaven rather than just here on earth. It is evident in this passage that the Lord wants us to enjoy what He has given us but yet not allow His blessings to turn into a curse by having an ungodly obsession with them.
Sunday September 5th
1 Timothy 4-5
Some of you might not be aware that today is my birthday. Now that I’m 67 years old, I wanted to get a cool little sports-like car like Roger’s fancy Camaro convertible. So, when I saw my wife holding up a pair of keys in response to Joel’s prophetic word last Sunday, I thought, “Alright! My wife is going to bless me with a new sports car for my birthday!”
But just in case she wasn’t thinking the exact same way as me, when we got home from church I said. “You know, I was hoping to get something for my birthday that goes from 0 to 155 in 4 seconds or less.”
So, she bought me a brand-new bathroom scale.
In the final two chapters of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul is going to cover a wide range of doctrinal topics, from legalism to elders and widows.
He starts out by warning Timothy what might happen in the churches that they have established in “later times”.
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.
4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
What Paul was warning about was that some people won’t be content with the simple gospel of faith in Jesus. Instead, they will get drawn into legalism in order to feel more spiritual, things like what you can or can’t eat or whether you can marry or not.
Paul calls this “deceitful spirits and teaching of demons”. The sad thing about deception is you don’t actually know you’re deceived. You’re convinced the others are wrong and you’re right. That’s how people get draw into cults. How do we guard against such deception? We have to establish that the word of God is the final source of what is true or not true. Otherwise, it’s all just people’s opinions, and one person’s opinion is as good (or as bad) as another.
Paul says that Timothy needs to be aware that some people might fall away from the faith. What’s the antidote for falling away? Staying with it – continuing in the faith.
We find this being spoken of in passages like Acts 13:43: “Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”
Do you see phrase? “Continue in the grace of God.”
But you might say, doesn’t that happen automatically once a person becomes a Christian? Why would a Timothy need to remind Christians to “continue in the grace of God”?
Why would Jude have to tell Christians to “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21)?
Why would Peter have to tell believers to be “diligent to make your call and election sure”? (2 Peter 1:10)
Apparently, there is something we are responsible to do with our faith, because all these passages are calling believers to “continue in the faith.”
And what helps us to keep on with our faith? Our old friend, proper doctrine!
6 In pointing out these things to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have been following.
Notice the emphasis again on doctrine, just as we saw in chapter one. Paul tells Timothy to give attention to doctrine. He tells him to continue in good doctrine. Salvation is found in the teaching given to us in Scripture. Of course, the real growth only comes when we, not only hear it, but also apply it to our lives, which is why Paul refers to the good doctrine “which you have been following”!
But following good doctrine also requires the presence of another “D-word”, discipline!
7 But stay away from worthless stories that are typical of old women. Rather, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily training is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers.
Discipline in exercise has certain value in keeping our temples fit for God’s use. Discipline in godliness is even more beneficial, because our spirits will far outlast our bodies. And part of that spiritual discipline is staying away from gossip and “old wives’ tales”.
As he closes out chapter 4, Paul gives Timothy a little personal pep talk, saying “You can do this! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.”
11 Prescribe and teach these things. 12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13 Until I come, give your attention to the public reading, to exhortation, and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was granted to you through words of prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to the teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
Some of the things that Paul emphasizes are teaching, public reading of the scriptures, using our spiritual gifts such as prophesy, and personal conduct and purity. We can compare those guidelines to Acts 2:42, which gives us four pillars that guided the life of the early church. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
When a church neglects the essentials of doctrine, fellowship, teaching the word, spiritual gifts, personal holiness and prayer, it grows weak and ineffective. We’re not about to let that happen here!
In the fifth and final chapter of this letter, Paul turns his attention to the “family” relationships within the church family:
5 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, and to the younger men as brothers, 2 to the older women as mothers, and to the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
A healthy church should reflect healthy, respectful interpersonal relationships between people of all ages. Children have value, older people have value, men and women all have value in God’s family.
Verses 3-16 are a detailed plan for how to make sure that widows are taken care of, especially those who don’t have any extended family to help them:
3 Honor widows who are actually widows; 4 but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to show proper respect for their own family and to give back compensation to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 5 Now she who is actually a widow and has been left alone has set her hope on God, and she continues in requests and prayers night and day. 6 But she who indulges herself in luxury is dead, even while she lives. 7 Give these instructions as well, so that they may be above reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Then Paul draws a distinction between two categories of widows:
9 A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, 10 having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to register younger widows, for when they feel physical desires alienating them from Christ, they want to get married, 12 thereby incurring condemnation, because they have ignored their previous pledge. 13 At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also they become gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. 14 Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, have children, manage their households, and give the enemy no opportunity for reproach; 15 for some have already turned away to follow Satan. 16 If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are
I think it’s important to understand all of that discussion in the light of two things:
17 The elders who lead well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while it is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 19 Do not accept an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest will be fearful of sinning.
Paul says that if the elders are doing a good job, then we should praise them and reward them. But if they are acting outside of God’s will, and several people have witnessed this, then you have a right to question and even rebuke them.
Paul then gives Timothy this passionate charge, along with a little bit of health advice:
21 I solemnly exhort you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. 22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too quickly and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.
23 Do not go on drinking only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.
Timothy is to show no favoritism in how he manages the affairs of the local church, and he is warned not to elevate people too quickly to positions of authority that they may not be ready to handle.
He is also told to keep himself pure spiritually, and take care of himself physically. I wouldn’t read too much into Paul’s instruction that Timothy should “use a little wine” because many commentaries believe that this was probably just an indication that the local water supply was polluted and was making Timothy sick. Paul had lived in that area before so he was most likely aware of the problem.
The last two verses of this chapter are somewhat difficult to grasp, so let’s look into them
24 The sins of some people are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. 25 Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.
A lot of Bible scholars think that these verses are actually connected to Paul’s warning about not putting people into positions of leadership too quickly.
Because in verse 22 he says that if the people that you put in authority too soon prove to be unreliable or unfaithful, then you would, “share responsibility for the sins of others.”
In these verses, 24 and 25, Paul is simply pointing out that some types of sin are clearly obvious, but people are able to hide other kinds of sin for a little while, things that are more on the inside, like pride, anger or jealousy.
Matthew Henry puts it this way in his commentary:
There are secret sins, and there are open sins; but God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness.
In some ways, I think this mirrors the journey to personal holiness that we’ve all been called to.
When we first get saved, we know that the obvious outward sins in our lives have got to go, things like cursing, lying, stealing, drunkenness and sexual immorality. But that’s when the real work is just getting started. 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
We’re all a work in progress. Have you cleaned up most of that outward junk that used to be part of your life? That’s a good place to start.
Now get ready to embrace a lifelong deepening of God’s work in your life. He wants to get in there and address issues that you didn’t even know were there.
But it’s all for our good and all for His glory. After all, what He’s really doing throughout this whole process is making us more and more into the image of Jesus.
And who wouldn’t want that?
The Great Reset has been a buzzword through the current pandemic. The World Economic Forum spoke of this matter in 2020, with a strategy to restart the world towards a more fair, just world for all. Conservative thinkers would be very concerned about these ideals, for they lean on the Socialism side of governing rather than Capitalism. This message is not to be a political discussion but rather to focus on the opportunity for each of us to push the reset button and start our lives over centered on Christ Jesus. The world's solutions will never work for man's innate nature apart from God is sinful, greedy, selfish, and so no matter the desire to do better, one cannot without being transformed within.
Here in Colossians 3-4, we will discover the knowledge of new life in Christ. Let's allow this to be a mirror to the condition of our soul and where we see shortcomings, repent, pushing the reset button, starting over with Christ as Lord in every area of our lives. As it says in verse one, the first thing we are to do is set our sights on the realities of heaven. The saying goes, "if you are too heavenly minded, you are no earthly good," but here in Colossians, we learn, "if you are to earthly minded, you are no heavenly good." Romans 12:2 says, "be transformed by the renewing of our minds," so that we can know the will of God. Christianity is not an escape from this world but rather the source behind changing the world for the better.
Our life in Christ is our real-life; everything apart from Him is fake, phony, a lie. If you watched the Matrix series movies, you would see a typology of this understanding with the choice given between the red pill, which opens your mind to the reality of the truth, and the blue pill that keeps you ignorant. People say, "ignorance is bliss," no, ignorance is bondage! The truth may be hard to face but, it is the only path to freedom. This path to freedom comes not just by knowing the truth but by applying it. In verse 5, it says to put to death the sinful, earthly desires lurking within. How do we do that? The answer is Romans 8:13; we put the flesh asunder through the Spirit of God. The Word of God and the Spirit of God work together hand in hand. When we respond to a situation with truth, the Spirit empowers us to walk it out. The Spiritual life is the only way to experience deliverance from lying, greed, lust, anger, rage, malicious behavior, idolatry, etc., as described in verses 5-9.
Just as we get dressed every morning before we go to work, we must put on Christ Jesus, or we will fall back into our old ways. When we put on Christ, the way we see our world changes; we no longer get caught up in trivial things, for as it says in verse eleven, the only thing that matters is Christ. Our skin color does not define us or our cultural background; our identity is in Christ alone. Those clothed in Christ have put on mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, peace (vs. 12-15). To put this new nature on, we must allow the teachings of Christ in all their richness to fill our lives (vs. 16). If we genuinely desire the new life, we must invest time knowing the truth to remove the stinking thinking from our minds.
Life in Christ is not only in our church involvement; no, it affects everything, starting with our relationships with our family and then at work. Wives submit to their husbands; husbands are to love their wives, never treating them harshly. Children are to obey their parents, and fathers are not to aggravate their children. Employees obey their employers, working unto the Lord, trusting Him to provide all they need, expecting no favoritism, while employers are to be just and fair (Col. 3:18-25; 4:1).
To walk in this world and not be of it, we must be devoted to God through prayer. Intimacy with Christ imparts the sensitivity necessary to take advantage of every opportunity placed before us to share His love with everyone He sets before us (4:2-4).
The Great Reset the world needs is believers being born again, again, where they truly make Jesus Christ not just Savior, but Lord!
Some people find certain things easy, while others might struggle with those same things.
For example, I always found math to be fairly easy in school, while Pastor Josh has admitted that he always struggled with math.
But you don’t need to feel bad if math is your struggle. In fact, I read a statistic recently that said 5 out of 4 people struggle with math!
As we begin to explore chapter 2 of Colossians, we find the Apostle Paul talking about the struggle that faith can involve - verse 1:
“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face.”
At the end of chapter 1 Paul said “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.” Now he talks about “how great a struggle” he has experienced for “all those who have not personally seen my face.”
That last statement might seem a bit surprising. The church in Colossae hadn’t been started by Paul, but by a disciple named Epaphras. And when problems started to surface in his new church, Epaphras had gone to Paul asking for his advice. So, Paul had never really met most of the people he was writing this letter to. But that didn’t mean he didn’t care about them or that he didn’t pray for them.
In verses 2 and 3 Paul explains some of the things that he prayed about for them:
2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Paul prays for unity, understanding, and knowledge. And notice how Paul emphasizes that TRUE knowledge “is Christ Himself”.
That was particularly important, because there were false teachers coming into Colossae who were trying to replace Jesus with their own so-called “secret” knowledge. That’s why Paul warns in verse 4:
4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.
Paul was praying for their protection because he couldn’t be there with them in person:
5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.
The false teachers were right there on the ground with the people, pushing their unbiblical viewpoints, while Paul was stuck in a Roman prison, able to communicate with them only by writing letters. Obviously, he was at a disadvantage in the natural realm, but not in the spiritual realm. And he points out three key weapons that all believers need to use to fight back against false teaching:
These same three strategies are still our best defense: Being in the Spirit, practicing good spiritual discipline such as regular church attendance, bible reading, and prayer, and having stability in our faith; knowing what we believe and why we believe it.
Then of course there is the actually “putting into practice” of what we know.
That’s what the Apostle Paul talks about in verses 6 and 7:
6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
You’ve probably heard this before, how we are supposed to “walk the walk” of discipleship, not just “talk the talk”:
Jesus said it in John 8:12
"Then spoke Jesus again unto them saying, I am the light of the world; he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Paul said it in Galatians 5:16
"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."
In verse 7 Paul used two analogies to describe what a healthy Christian walk should look like.
The first picture is that of a tree.
He says “having been firmly rooted”
This analogy goes all the way back to Psalm 1:3 which describes a righteous man this way:
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
The second picture is that of a building.
He says “now being built up in Him and established in your faith”
Sin breaks us down. It wants to destroy us; to reduce us to nothing. But God comes along and puts us on a solid foundation through our faith in Jesus, and begins a new work of rebuilding our lives that He has every intention of completing.
Now here in verse 8 Paul gives them an additional warning:
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
Paul is telling us this: Guard your thought life.
This is critical because the enemy of our souls, is trying to “take captive” our minds and our hearts.
Guarding your thought life is the key to determining whether you’re living in freedom or captivity.
Here are three important tools to guard our thinking:
1. Make time to read the Bible regularly.
2. Carefully choose your sources of information.
3. Use the Scriptures as a filter.
We can’t have a biblical world view if we don’t read the Bible, so that becomes the starting point for guarding our thoughts.
And since the Bible isn’t the only source of information that we’re going to come across, we also need to carefully choose our sources of information.
Choose carefully what you’re going to read. Choose carefully what you’re going to look at on TV or on the internet. Choose carefully who you’re going to listen to. Get input from sources you know you can trust.
The third safeguard is: Use the Scriptures as a filter.
When you hear or see something, run it through the filter of Scripture to determine whether it’s worthy of your time or your thoughts.
If it’s in agreement with the Bible, accept it. If it goes against the Bible, disregard it.
In 2nd Timothy 4:3-4, Paul warns young Timothy that the time will come when people will turn away from sound teaching and turn toward what their sinful ears want to hear. He says they “will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
But starting in verses 9 and 10, Paul declares that you CAN’T push Jesus aside!
If you push Jesus away from the center of what you believe, everything else that you believe won’t make sense! Why not?
9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
Jesus has it ALL! He is the fullness of God! Paul continues making his case in verse 11:
11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;
Why does Paul mention circumcision? Because the false teachers were making circumcision a requirement for becoming a “true” Christian. Paul is showing that we don’t need any rituals or traditions to become followers of Jesus. Rather than circumcision, Paul points to baptism in verses 12 and 13, as a testimony of the change that Jesus has brought about in our lives.
Notice how the emphasis here isn’t on what WE’VE done, but on what Jesus has done FOR us:
12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions
Aren’t you glad that God already did all of the work necessary to get us saved?
Then in verse 14 Paul paints this wonderful picture of exactly how God accomplished our salvation:
14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
That “certificate of debt” could be compared to what we might call an IOU.
If you think about it, most of us spent a large portion of our lives “borrowing” from God’s grace and mercy by living lives contrary to how He created us to live.
And that IOU just kept getting BIGGER and BIGGER! And the saddest thing is that we couldn’t ever pay it back.
But thank God, Jesus took our IOU “out of the way” and “nailed it to the cross” while He hung there and died in our place.
15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
One commentary says “Through Jesus’ death, Satan was robbed of his power to intimidate and control people through the threat of death and eternal separation from God. The devil’s power over us is broken, and if we understand that we can walk in victory.”
In the next few verses Paul is going to warn Christians against falling back into living a life of bondage:
16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—
There WAS a time when the people of Israel WERE expected to observe the Sabbath a certain way, and celebrate the festivals a certain way, and to eat certain foods and to NOT eat certain foods; but that was the OLD Covenant. We are under the NEW Covenant! That’s why Paul sums up ALL of that stuff in verse 17 by saying that those things were simply:
17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
This is a critical, crucial truth for us to understand!
Your relationship with God should be built on one thing and one thing only – your faith in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. That’s the SUBSTANCE of our lives!
Anything else other than Jesus, no matter how religious or spiritual it looks or sounds, is just a SHADOW of what real faith looks like.
And there’s no reason to settle for the shadow when you can have the substance! That’s what Paul means in this next verse when he says:
18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,
What was the prize that they were in danger of being defrauded of? It was the prize of a true relationship with Jesus. Paul knew that Jesus was the real prize we should be seeking after. He said in Philippians 3:13-14 “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Instead of the real prize, the false teachers were trying to get the people to chase after what we might call “booby-prizes”!
What are the “booby-prizes”? Things like false humility, worshipping angels, and a belief system based upon personal visions, rather than upon God’s word.
Then in verse 19, Paul uses the analogy of the human body to explain why all of these false “booby-prizes” are unable to provide true spiritual satisfaction:
19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
Anything that is lifted up into a place of spiritual significance, whether it’s specific ways of acting, or praying, or the latest “vision”, runs the risk of replacing Jesus as the “head” of our lives. If something other than Jesus is at the center of your spiritual life, you are getting off track and you’re headed for trouble. That’s why Paul asks the Colossians in verses 20-23:
20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
Trying to live a spiritual life based upon man-made rules instead of a living relationship with Jesus is pointless, fruitless, and basically insane.
Chasing after artificial religious practices reduces our Christian walk from a living faith to dead legalism. And Paul points out the most absurd part of this whole picture in verse 23 when he says:
“…self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body…are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
Pay attention to these two phrases:
1. “self-made religion” - In other words, if your belief system isn’t based on what God says in His word, it’s just something you made up on your own! And therefore, it is:
2. “of no value” - the false teachings of self-made religion are not just worthless in solving our sin problem. They are actually harmful. In other words, they will most likely backfire, and make the situation worse! Because if we are focusing on rules and rituals and jumping through religious hoops, that means we AREN’T focusing on Jesus!
Back in chapter 1 verse 27, Paul told us that the great mystery that had been revealed to us was “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Do you want to have fewer struggles in life? Put your focus on Jesus and only Jesus. Don’t ever put your hope in anything or anyone else!
In John 15, the result of abiding in Christ is bearing fruit. The nature of God is the fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Matthew 7:16 says, "by their fruit, you will know them." Using the Christian label does not mean one is in Christ; being Christlike as seen in one's nature reveals we are in Christ. When Jesus saw the fig tree not bearing fruit, He said, "every tree that does not bear fruit will be cut off." John 15 reveals that God is the gardener, and He prunes every tree to bear more fruit.
If we do not want to be cut off from the blessings of God, we must daily renew our relationship, drawing near, abiding, allowing Him to remove anything attached to us that is not of Him. Our dominion mandate from Genesis 1:28 is "be fruitful and multiply." What comes out of us as we minister to others is the seeds of our fruitfulness. Those who receive from us gain the very seed of God, and as we water the seed, multiplication transpires.
Paul writes to the Colossians, sharing the reports that how the good news that went to them is going worldwide, bearing the fruit of changed lives. Transformation comes to those who go to God daily. We cannot get near God and remain the same. The question is, are we drawing near to the Lord daily? Are we like Paul's example of Epaphras, faithful servants?
Paul now prays in verses 9-14 for the Colossians, speaking the work the Lord wants to form in them. May the love of the Holy Spirit fill us, having complete knowledge of His will in all wisdom and understanding, producing every kind of good fruit. Our lives bringing honor to the Lord, as we know Him more and more, being strengthened with power, endurance, and patience as needed, walking in the joy of the Lord, always giving thanks, as we live in the light.
Paul, in verses 15-20, shares on the supremacy of Christ. We must know Christ in His fullness to become like Christ in all of His ways. Christ created everything in heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible, through Him and for Him. All things are held together by Him; He is the head of the body, the church. His will is that He would be first in everything, reconciling all things to Him through the blood of His cross.
The purpose of every test and trial is to bring us to a place of Christ being first. If we can recognize this, then life will become much smoother. Nothing in this world was created evil; everything was made good; our job in life is to reconcile all things to God. To take what the enemy has meant for evil and turn it around for good. The branches in our life that do not produce fruit are those where Christ is not first. If we desire more excellent fruit, we need to allow the Lord to search our hearts and reveal to us the things He wants to prune. God wants to use us to better this world, but we must first allow Him to change our hearts.
Paul clarifies his ministry in verses 24-29, that he rejoices in his sufferings for the church, so that his purpose of making known the hidden mystery for ages among the Gentiles, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, striving in His strength, so that every person is presented mature in Christ. Our desire in ministry should be the same.
The charge from this devotion is for us to draw closer to the Lord so that we may bear more fruit and have a more significant effect on those whom God has entrusted into our care.
Sunday July 18th
A woman was walking along the beach when she stumbled upon an old oil lamp. She picked it up and rubbed it, and lo-and-behold, a Genie appeared.
The Genie said, "I can grant you one wish. So, what will it be?"
The woman didn't hesitate. She said, "I want to see peace in the Middle East.” She pulled out a map, and pointed to Israel and all of the surrounding countries. She said, “See this map? I want these countries to stop fighting each other."
The Genie looked at the map and said, "You must be crazy, lady! These countries have been at war for thousands of years. I'm a good genie, but not THAT good! Make another wish."
The woman thought for a minute and said, "Well, I've never been able to find the right man.
You know, one that's considerate and fun, likes to cook and helps with the housecleaning, who gets along with my side of the family, and who doesn't watch sports all the time. That's what I’m going to wish for ... a great husband."
The Genie let out a long sigh and said, "Let me see that map again!"
We all wish for peace, don’t we?
But if someone were to ask you, “WHAT IS PEACE”, how would you answer them?
Webster’s dictionary has this to say about peace: it is “freedom from or stopping of war; freedom from public disturbance or disorder; freedom from disagreement or quarrels, harmony, concord; an undisturbed state of mind, absence of mental conflict; calm, quiet, tranquility.”
All these explanations of peace talk about peace as if it is something that happens when conflict and problems aren’t present.
I have to get rid of all those things that create anxiety in my life in order for me to have peace. If this is true, then we’ll never have peace. Because as long as we are alive, we’ll always have conflict, and we’ll always have problems. Peace doesn’t come by getting rid of our problems. Peace comes by focusing our thoughts on what God wants us to think about. Peace doesn’t come with the absence of the storm; it comes in the presence of the storm because Jesus is walking there beside us, and we’ve got our eyes fixed on Him.
This is exactly what Paul is addressing in the opening verses of this final chapter of Philippians:
1Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!
2I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 3Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
One of the main issues concerning peace in the Philippian church was these two women who were fighting with each another. We have no record of what they were fighting about, but whatever it was, it had separated their friendship. This situation was creating enough of a problem that word had gotten all the way to Paul in his Roman prison about their conflict.
This situation created great pain for Paul. He describes the people of this church as brothers. He calls them his source of joy and his crown. And he calls them his friends. Paul had started the church at Philippi. Most of the people in the church had been saved as a result of Paul’s teaching. That most likely included these two women that were now fighting, women who Paul says had, “contended at my side in the cause of the gospel”. When they were focusing on the gospel, they got along. But somehow, they took their eyes off of Jesus and started focusing on themselves. That’s when the trouble started! That’s when the trouble always starts – when I take my eyes off of Jesus and only think about myself.
Paul not only tells these women to fix the problem that was standing between them, he tells them how to fix it. He tells them to “agree with each other”. The NKJV says, “be of the same mind”. They couldn’t change what had happened between them. That was over and done with. But what they could change was how they felt about the situation and their attitude toward one another. They had to change their minds about who was at fault. They had to change their minds about who was going to be the one to seek forgiveness and restoration.
A couple of chapters earlier in this letter, Paul said this: (Phil 2:5 -8) “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” These women weren’t going to get past their conflict until they changed their minds and got Jesus’s mind instead!
Paul gave one more piece of advice to help these two Christians get back in relationship with each other. He asked other Christians in the church to act as mediators between them to help pull them back together. Because sometimes we need help, and blessed are the peacemakers!
Paul seemed to expect a good outcome to this situation, because his next words to them are a double reminder of what he’s been saying throughout the whole letter: Verse 4
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”
I don’t think that we struggle so much with the concept of REJOICING as we do with the word ALWAYS! We actually like rejoicing, but we like to have something that we feel is worth rejoicing OVER!
The thing is that if we truly believe that God is working ALL things for our good - then what’s NOT to rejoice over! Even the hard things are going to turn out for our benefit!
Sometimes we need to get a little more excited waiting to see how God is going to turn our situation around for our ultimate good. And while we’re waiting, we can start our rejoicing because we know that He WILL turn it around!
Paul gives us some guidelines as to how to accomplish this in verses 5-7:
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
We have to remember that worrying accomplishes nothing.
Proverbs 12:25 - "An anxious heart weighs a man down."
So what should we do instead of worrying? PRAY!
Pray about everything, Paul says. And pray with Thanksgiving both for what God has already done in your life and what He’s about to do in answer to your prayer!
And when we do that… when we give it to God in prayer instead of worrying about it… that’s when we finally find peace. It’s a peace that surpasses or transcends all understanding, which means that people won’t believe how much peace we have when they see what we’re going through, because the peace we’re experiencing isn’t a NATURAL peace, it’s a SUPERNATURAL peace!
Then Paul gives another tip to finding God’s peace in verses 8-9:
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
The key to our peace is where we are putting our thoughts. It’s all about our thinking!
Just like Euodia and Syntyche, those two quarrelling ladies, we need a change of mind to replace our negative, “stinking thinking”!
We need to let go of our focus on past hurts and replace it with a focus on the things that GOD is telling us to focus on… true things, noble things, pure things, lovely things, admirable things, excellent things, praiseworthy things.
To emphasize what he’s talking about, Paul uses the example of the recent offering that the Philippians have sent to him (verses 10-13)
I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Here’s how Paul looked at their gift: He appreciated it, but he was already fully content even without it. He had experienced times of plenty and times of want, and either way, he had learned that his REAL source of security wasn’t gifts or finances, it was JESUS!
If we lose sight of that, our sense of peace and contentment is easily affected by our constantly-changing circumstances.
Paul emphasizes in verses 14-18 that the real benefit of their giving wasn’t what it did for HIM, it was what it did for THEM… to give their offering as unto the Lord:
14Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;
16for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.
17Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 18I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
And then Paul caps it all off with this wonderful promise:
19And my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
You have made an effort to provide for ME, says Paul, and I GUARANTEE you that God will provide for you!
Compared to other places that Paul visited, Macedonia was very poor economically. The brethren in Philippi were not ‘well-to-do’ people. Yet, despite their poverty, they were the most charitable and giving congregation of all the churches that Paul had founded.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, Paul uses the example of the generosity of these Macedonians to encourage the wealthy Corinthians into giving to the relief of drought-stricken Jerusalem:
“Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.”
These impoverished brethren in Philippi had begged Paul to let them send a financial contribution to help their fellow believers in Jerusalem who were suffering the effects of a severe drought.
We don’t need to worry about our own needs when we share in giving to the needs of others.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”
Paul promised the Philippians that they could count on God to provide for their needs - not necessarily everything they ever wanted, but their needs would always be met. And his assurance to them, AND to us, is that they would receive blessings because they had been faithful in their giving, because it’s impossible to out-give God!
Paul’s closes his letter with these personal words to this church that he loved so much:
20To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
21Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings.
22All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household.
23The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Peace is a real thing. We can not only attain it; we can maintain it.
But we have seen that the key to peace comes from an attitude of the heart – an attitude of gratitude that gives thanks and praise to God no matter what is going on in my life. It is a decision to rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS.
It is a choice to focus my thoughts on things that are good, and pure, and noble, and true – rather than on all of the negativity in the world around me.
I would like to take verse seven and turn it into a prayer declaration over us all today:
May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard our hearts and our minds this day, and in the days to come. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.