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And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).

I see dead people! Sounds like a good title for a move. But an accurate depiction of this frightening phrase is not fiction but, according to Scripture, fact. This fact may seem ridiculous since we see the unsaved breathing, moving and, in a natural sense, “living.”  But what Paul is referring to here is spiritual death. Using the same imagery of the Gentiles once being separated (“the uncircumcision of your flesh”) but now part of God’s eternal covenant we read, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). So we see that spiritual death is having no hope and being separated from God now and forever. And what has caused this separation? Our transgressions, our sin (Hebrews 9:15)!

A transgression is a misstep, blunder, or crossing over a forbidden boundary. Paul says we are spiritually dead because of these false steps – they separate us from a holy God. Without Christ this is our spiritual condition, or state, and it has some serious ramifications. John Stott describes this condition vividly: “They are blind to the glory of Jesus Christ and deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit. They have no love for God, no sensitive awareness of His reality, no leaping in their spirit towards Him in the cry “Abba, Father”, no longing for fellowship with His people. They are as unresponsive to Him as a corpse.” This is spiritual deadness and it is caused by our transgressions and our sinful condition. We don’t become this way; we are this way. From the first moment of our earthly existence we are in this state unless awakened by the Spirit of God to the truth and reality of Jesus as our only hope.

Notice the clear statement of sovereign grace here. We are born spiritually dead and stay that way unless “God [makes us] alive together with him” The dead can’t will themselves to life, they can’t reason their way out of the grave, they can’t conjure up the might to breathe and move and live (see John 1:12-13; Romans 9:13-20). No, they are brought to life by the intervening power of God. Just ask Lazarus (see John 11:17-44)! What did he do before Jesus said “come forth”? He laid lifeless and without hope! And what did he do after Jesus said ‘come forth, Lazarus’? He lived!!  (Please note that Jesus called Lazarus by name. This resurrection wasn’t meant for all, just for the deceased Lazarus. Can you imagine the scene if Jesus’ call had not been so specific? Graves opening up everywhere and corpses stumbling out of their grave clothes! Talk about seeing dead people!!!).

Being made alive in Christ requires the forgiveness of sins and the canceling of the sin debt that we owe to holy God. Without these two glorious things we are still dead. We can’t have a relationship with a holy God; we are still “without hope and without God”. But when God called us by name and gave us His life in Christ, He did so by forgiving us of all our unrighteousness (see 1 John 1:7-9) and having Jesus pay the price, death, so that the law’s requirement of repayment would be satisfied.

And where did this miracle take place? At Calvary on a hill called Golgotha. And how is it applied to us? By saving faith in the atoning and substitutionary work of Christ. As always, Paul points us back to Jesus and the cross. This is where life-transforming faith is the instrument that makes this mysterious truth a reality in us; the faith that brings us back from our tomb, makes us “alive with Him”, forgiving all our sin, and wiping our spiritual debt away.

So, through the eyes of your God-enlightened heart, can you see the nails being pierced into the hands of Jesus? Through your Spirit-enlivened “ears”, can you hear the pounding of the Roman soldiers as His feet are nailed to that beautiful tree? These are the sights and sounds of Jesus paying it all for those of us He has called out of our spiritual grave and made alive in Him.

Have you heard Him calling your name? Have you “come forth” to fullness of life and life everlasting? If not, look to Him and listen for His voice and respond when He calls. The good news is that the way has already been made: Jesus has paid it all! So cry out to Him so that, “your eyes are blessed because they see, and your ears because they hear” (Matthew 13:16).


“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11-12). 

Paul begins this passage by making clear that the New Covenant of God is now internal and spiritual as opposed to the material and external of the Old Covenant. A covenant is a contract or agreement between two parties. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for covenant is derived from a root which means “to cut,” therefore a covenant is a “cutting”.  (see Genesis 15; Jeremiah. 34:18-19). Hence physical circumcision was the sign of the Old Covenant and the Jewish practice was administered by human hands when a male child was 8 days old. Here Paul indicates, in this new relationship with His children, God is the one who performs the act that places one under His covenant and it is not a physical but a spiritual act. This new circumcision, and thus the New Covenant, takes place in the hearts of His people (see Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 37:21-28). 

In the New Covenant we instead see baptism (One of the reasons I believe that biblical baptism is by emersion is this image of burial and raising. Plus, the Greek word baptizo means “to dip”) as the mark, or sign, of relationship with God. This sign, however, is connected not to the law but faith in Jesus and His atoning mission. That mission involved the necessary death, burial, and resurrection of the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus. He is the only one who was worthy to put this New Covenant in place. Jesus is the one, through faith in Him, that restores us to full relationship with Holy God. The demand of God that we keep the law in its entirety is fulfilled in a perfect Savior (this is justification). Jesus’ death is the penal substitution for the wrath we deserved (this is mercy). His resurrection is our victory over death and the grave (this is grace). And this becomes reality through the vehicle of faith; life-altering faith in Him and His work alone (this is salvation)! 

But faith in what? In an interesting twist Paul, in verse 12, says that it is faith not just in God but in the power (energeia) of God; not that these two things – God and the power of God – can ever be separated. Paul, I believe, was indicating that saving faith not just acknowledgement of the person of God (Jesus) but His unique ability, or power to save us, to resurrect us from the dead just as He did Christ. This foreshadows the next two verses: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” 

In other words, life-transforming faith believes in the power of God to do in us what He did in Christ. He has such a unique and incomprehensible power that, in a real sense, only God can do this type of thing. This passage suggests that a life complete in Christ believes that the God of all power, the omnipotent, limitless energy of the God of the New Covenant, is capable of doing for helpless and hopeless us what we are incapable of doing for ourselves; not only in salvation but also in living out our salvation. 

We see this kind of faith at work throughout the Gospels in the miracles of Christ. Often we see that it seems as if Jesus healed many because they believed in His ability to do so (see Matthew 8:2, Mark 5:34 and Matthew 9:18-19 as some examples). They didn’t just believe He was the Christ, the Messiah, but they believed that His “power of God”, supernatural ability to be available to them. This pertained not only to the forgiveness of sins (and there are also many Gospel accounts of that) but also to supernatural intervention in their daily affairs and circumstances. 

Could it be the reason we see so little of the miraculous manifestations of our  infinitely powerful God in, around, and through us is because we have faith in God to save but have little faith His power or willingness to intervene in our lives and situations? If so, we must look with greater faith to Him “in which you were also raised with [Jesus] through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead”. For the unfathomable power of God that raised Jesus and spiritually raised us from the dead is the same power available to us in our daily endeavors. For He has the power to do all things for His glory and our eternal good – and, it seems, especially for those who believe completely in His power to do all things, even to raise the dead.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:8-10). 

False teaching and heresy had infiltrated the church at Colossae just like it has the contemporary Western “Church”. For the Colossian church this deception seems to have been some form of Gnosticism, Jewish legalism, or asceticism – or maybe a combination of all three. No matter what this heresy was, like all false teaching, it was inherently man-centered; man-made in its origin and man-exalting in its application. 

Such is the case with the current “Word of Faith” or “Prosperity Gospel” theologies. These false teachings really have little to do with the Word, self-denying faith, cross-bearing obedience, or spiritual prosperity (the only form of prosperity spoken of in the New Testament). And these teachings are not the true Gospel! It takes little discernment to see that such doctrines are created by man, for man, and glorify man (read 2 Peter 2 to see how clearly and powerfully Peter exposes those who distort God’s Word for their own selfish purposes). Like the church at Colossae (and the Pharisaical religion of Jesus’ day) we see the focus shifted away from God to personalities, power, programs, and possessions. I cringe nearly every time I turn on “Christian” TV and see the exaltation of men and the attempted manipulation of God to get what man wants or “deserves”. We have made God our servant and us and our wants our god. 

Interestingly, Paul did not enter into a debate or go into a lengthy apologetic to combat these deceptions. He did not spend his efforts and energy with a detailed refutation of the false, human, worldly philosophies and deceits that endangered these believers. So what is Paul’s antidote to such deception? He points them to Jesus; the person, presence, and power of Jesus! Essentially he says these views are not of Christ or about Christ, therefore they are false. Instead of debunking these myths with a point-by-point analysis of their flaws, Paul implicitly directs us to look at Jesus in all of His glory, truth, and authority. What was Paul’s argument against the worldly deceptions that make us vulnerable to moving away from the truth in Christ? Christ Himself! He pointed to and extolled the matchless virtues of Jesus!   

Paul is not warning against all philosophy. What He is saying is to flee from anything that undermines, supplements, or distracts us from Jesus,  His work, and His truth. Why? Because Jesus is truly enough and all we need. The NASB sheds light on this by translating the first part of verse 10 as “in Him you have been made complete.” Now we get to the heart of the Colossian deception (and often the deception in the contemporary church) – there is something else, a replacement of or an addition to Jesus, that will make us and our spiritual journey complete. And this is the fundamental basis for all false teaching  – it takes the focus off of Christ. Paul says, ‘stick to Jesus and Him alone to find true fullness and completeness.’ ‘This thought points us back to the 3rd verse of this same chapter where he describes Christ as: “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 

To further emphasize just how Christ completes us, let’s see some other New Testament occurrences of this same Greek word that is often translated “filled”.  This word describes followers of Jesus as: 

  • Filled with the Holy Spirit – Ephesians 5:18
  • Filled with joy and peace – Romans 15:13
  • Filled with goodness and knowledge – Romans 15:14
  • Filled with the fruit of righteousness – Philippians 1:11

So let us be vigilant in guarding ourselves against deceptive, man-made philosophies; that is, anything that undermines the supremacy of Christ and draws us away from our utter dependence on Him, His grace, and our completeness in Him. Let us be vocal about any idea or view that suppresses our absolute subjection to and adoration of Jesus . Let us identify false teaching, denounce it (see 1 Timothy 1:3-7), and deliver those trapped in its evil clutches. While always pointing people to majesty of Jesus and the true completeness found only in Him.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:13-18). 

What I’m about to write will be perceived by some as hyper-critical or a nitpicking over semantics but I don’t believe this is the case (to read a more positive assessment of a church experience please refer to my post “Serving in Never Small” dated 5/5/10). These things are written with a soft, but sad, heart. However, I don’t believe we can be too careful with the way we use language when speaking of the things of God. Our choice of words is usually an indication of the attitudes of our heart and our belief system. None of what I’m about to say is intended to judge the reality or genuineness of anyone’s faith. This is merely a snapshot of a potentially deadly trend that has become pervasive in the Western 21st century institutional church. 

I recently attended a large gathering at an institutional church. Being a little late, I was able to catch only the latter part of the “worship” piece of the agenda. I immediately sensed the raw enthusiasm (maybe a euphemism for emotionalism) during the music time and the sermon delivery confirmed this. Although the pastor had an earned doctorate from a recognized seminary, he was more a “preacher” than a “teacher”. The Biblical exposition was sound but it was more animated than deep (I call this “Southern Baptist shallow”…sorry -:). The pastor spoke more of himself (the tragic modern preaching tool of telling personal, motivational stories instead of expounding the Word) than he did of Jesus. He often raised his voice to emphasize the weaker points. Now don’t get me wrong here: everyone there reeked with sincerity and I do not consider myself superior (probably just the opposite) to any of those folks, the pastor included. 

But it all came together for me when I suddenly realized that this sermon was one in a series called, “Making our Church Great”. OK, let’s park here for a moment and ask a couple of pivotal questions. Who is “making” the church? And whose church is it? Now Linden, you might ask, aren’t you getting a little sensitive here (or just exaggerating) over the use of language? Well, maybe I am. And that is because “we” don’t make the church and it is not “ours” ( I dare you to find the phrase “our church” in any major translation of the Bible). Jesus is building His church! It’s not us, it is Him. It is not ours, it is His. And that’s where I believe the “Americanized church” has gone so dangerously wrong. Mathew 16:13-18 makes one thing crystal clear: the church is about Jesus – the profession of Him, God’s initiation of that profession, and His ownership of His body, all those that sincerely profess Him – and not us. 

Christ is the rightful ruler over His church because He purchased it with His precious blood: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Therefore, Colossians 1:18 tells us that Jesus has been rightly appointed the head of His body, which is the church. And this is not an honorary or traditional title. He is Lord over His church whether we fully see this manifestation in the visible church’s fruit, mannerisms, and organization. Could our lack of Spirit-manifested fruit be because those professing to be “the called out ones” often haven’t surrendered to His rule over our gatherings?  Could this be because we have cultivated a man-centered culture based upon personalities and programs? 

Thankfully, often we see God’s sovereign rule displayed despite the institutional church and its methodologies! As the writer of Hebrews expresses it, “putting everything in subjection under his feet, now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Hebrews 2:8). So, despite our humanistic and self-righteous efforts to usurp ownership of His church by human effort, mechanisms, persuasion, and political power, He is the one “building [His] church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:18). 

All of this begs some critical questions. Have we surrendered to His preeminence over the church? Is the gathering of believers we are associated with united under Jesus’ leadership, headship, and Lordship over them in their adoration and activities as His body? Do our gatherings experience the organic, dynamic, and vital presence and direction of our preeminent Savior? This is His rightful place – with all things under Him and Him ruling over all things! And God has dictated this: “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:22).

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7). 

Anytime we see the word “therefore” we need to see what it is there for. In other words, Paul is continuing his thoughts from the previous verses. He has addressed the necessity of a firm faith in Christ in the midst of deceptive, false, and worldly philosophies. Now he says that it is not enough just to hold fast to the truth of Jesus we must also walk “in Him”. This is a fundamental truth in following Jesus (and in all of life, for that matter) – right believing is always a precursor to right living! Again we see this critical phrase (actually it is used twice in these two verses) that points to the power and possessions of those who are true disciples of Christ, those experiencing His presence and subsequently empowered to live out heart-transforming faith. 

Actually the NASB version is helpful here in getting a better sense of what Paul is saying in these two verses: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 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”. The subtle difference is extremely encouraging. Basically it says that since we have already been rooted in Christ (we have been place into the soil of His life) through saving faith we are now being built up in Him. This is the platform from which we can walk in Him and abound in the thanksgiving of Him establishing us in our faith. 

Do we get that? We are continually being built up in Christ because of what He has already done for us. It, with the brutal nature of the world we live in, the weakness of our flesh, and the ever-present attacks of the enemy, may not seem that way. Often we feel as if we are just surviving or sinking instead of spiritually flourishing. But that is our finite perception. God, through all of this, is building us up. This is where faith and thanksgiving come in and come together. This is where we are thankful by faith in the sovereign working of our God in our lives even when we do not see the final outcome of our current circumstances. Be reminded that He has promised that not only will we be with Him but we will also eventually be like Him (1 John 3:1-3)! 

This is how we “walk in Him” – believing and knowing we are planted in Him by His grace, grounded in His goodness, and established in His purpose for us and through us. Walking in Him means that, no matter our situation, we are persevering in this faith-filled hopefulness and trusting He is at work in us. In other words, Jesus, and nothing else, is our identity and security! We know this because we, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). This means that part of His good news is that no matter how imperceptible it may be, He IS building us up! What we and the world seem to be tearing down in our spiritual progression into His likeness is just part of His mysterious refining fire that builds and solidifies our faith and brings glory to Himself: 

“These [trials] come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 2:7-9). 

All of these thoughts – being placed in Him by His sovereign grace, rooted and built up in all our circumstances, established with a grateful faith, and being built up into the likeness of Jesus – come together in Romans 8:28-33: 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” 

So let us walk in Christ with a firm faith, filled with joyful gratitude knowing that He is working out His eternal purpose in us. Be encouraged – for those in Christ this is true no matter how discouraging and dark it may seem!

“I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.  For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ” (Colossians 2:4-5). 

Paul has just explained that he willingly suffers, preaches, encourages, and struggles in prayer that everyone might be mature in Christ and treasure Him above all things (see Colossians 1:28-2:3). Now he continues these thoughts with another reason for his teaching, tribulation, and toils; that they may not be deceived by false philosophies but remain firm in their faith in Christ. Here again we see that all-important phrase “in Christ” but this time it refers not to what we receive or have “in Him” but the means by which it is obtained – faith. Paul’s concern here, and the reason for his earlier discourse of the preeminence of Christ and His calling to proclaim Him as such, is that the church at Colossae (and us, for that matter), “…may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). 

Much of the world’s philosophies sound plausible and even logical. What makes false teaching inherently dangerous is its direct appeal to our fleshly, carnal, and self-centered natures. In other words, not only do they sound good but the feel good, too! These man-contrived and man-centered philosophies are spoken of later in this chapter with the description of, “empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (2:8). It is no wonder that Paul warns us against their delusion (the NIV renders this word “deceive”) and their potential to “take [us] captive”. Therefore, we must be discerning. These messages come from every possible angle in our world. The launching pad may be the godless professor, the liberalized media, secular psychology, the subliminal message of materialism, the the vocal and vitriolic atheists, agnostics, and humanists, and even the unbiblical persuasions of “American Dream” culture. Some come at us with a frontal assault but most are subtle and insidious: before we know it our worldview is not a paradigm filtered through the lens of the truth of Jesus and His Word. 

Paul desires for the church at Colossae to stay firm in their faith, not led astray, and, take note, be well-ordered. This refers to a well-constructed, well-organized way of thinking and living. Following Jesus has a certain logical routine to it, a routine based upon the sound, Biblical principles of the truth of Christ. God is not the author of confusion or chaos (see 1 Corinthians 14:33 and contrast it with Isaiah 45:16) – not of our mind (thinking) nor of our lifestyle (the former always leading to the latter). Christ’s disciples are called to have a mind centered on Jesus and His truth (Hebrews 12:2) and thus a life that is ordered by that truth (Hebrews 12:1) , firm in the faith (Hebrews 12:3), and not deceived by the arguments of the ungodly and worldly. 

Based upon Paul’s soaring description of Christ’s supremacy in Colossians 1 – “He is the image of the invisible God…For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together…that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:15-17, 19) – we see the basis of our steadfast belief. We are not persuaded or deceived by “logic” or “reasoning” from a lost world that is dead in its sin (Ephesians 2:1), blind to God’s truth (Matthew 15:14), without hope (Ephesians 2:12), and condemned already (John 3:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:12) because our faith is in the all-sufficient, preeminent Jesus. 

This is why Paul commends “the firmness of [our] faith in Christ” (2:5). What man-made model of truth and life can compare to the One who is the truth (John 14:6) and whose truth we can be assured of (John 8:32)? What earthly philosopher can stand next to Jesus’ life and wisdom without us quickly dismissing the former and clinging to the latter? Why do we steadfastly believe, unmoved by arrogant human “wisdom”, living an ordered life that images forth the glory of God? Jesus! This is who we believe because every other argument or philosopher pales in comparison to His truth and His beauty. This is why we are to remain in the Truth, undeceived, in good order, and steadfast by our faith in Him and by no other means. 

So who or what are you trusting? What philosophy has captivated you? If it is not Jesus and His Word, I challenge you to honestly compare them and see if that philosopher or his argument is worthy of the same faith and trust that Jesus is due; Jesus, the all-sufficient, eternal,  preeminent embodiment of truth!

How many of us have watched with morbid fascination the shows Buried Alive or Hoarders? We are amazed at the tragic and debilitating obsessions of these plagued by this form of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). We wince at the junk or “clutter” that has become, to these folks, sacred treasures and a reason for living. To us, these things and these behaviors that drive those with this problem seem outrageous and even silly. We find it hard to imagine anyone would discover meaning in this kind of twisted pursuit to find comfort and security. Piously, we are reminded quickly of Jesus’ words in Luke 12:15, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 

But before we jump on the “junkwagon” of ridicule and condemnation of those entangled in a  bondage to “things”, let us look at ourselves (and pray for them). No, our pursuit of the material trinkets, gadgets, and toys of this life may not be that extreme but don’t we know that the temptation to accumulate lurks deep within each of us? And this sinister monster can easily raise its ugly head in us when we become immersed in a culture like America, a culture that proudly prizes its “ownership” of this world’s stuff. Can we truly say that we are not victims of a “hoarding mentality” as well? 

In talking recently to a friend who was in the process of moving from one house to a new (and bigger) one she said something sadly profound. “I can’t believe how much meaningless junk I’m throwing away. And to think, I once thought this important enough to buy with my hard earned money and save for all of these years.  What a waste!” This raises some relevant questions: Do we have too many things? Look around you as you read this. Do we really need all of this stuff? What value does it really have? Does it really bring us satisfaction or joy? My guess is that if these questions don’t trigger a serious analysis or conviction then we would be correct in doubting our own veracity. 

Paul found contentment elsewhere: 

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me…Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:10-13). 

And, like the writer of Hebrews in 13:5 who admonished us to, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”, shouldn’t we find our greatest joy and satisfaction in the person and presence of God in Christ? 

Doesn’t Paul’s edification of young Timothy resonate with us as we take an honest assessment of our own carnal tendencies and the danger of making possessions of any kind (especially money) an idol that replaces or diminishes our love affair with Jesus? 

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money [or things] is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10). 

For me, as I look around my small condo, I have very little in comparison to many folks in America. Yes, I have intentionally downsized and liquidated a lot of things. But the truth is I still have too much – too many trinkets, gadgets, and toys that really are junk and a distraction is my pursuit of Jesus. Forgive me for writing no further: I must take some time to gather some of these meaningless possessions and throw them away or find someone who really needs them. Certainly I don’t! And I believe that I will be more content without them and have a greater sense of the presence of my true treasure, Jesus, once they are gone.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:1-4). 

Check out this excerpt from a recent Wall Street Journal article. (see for yourself –

Let’s see disgraced pastor Ted Haggard’s new ministry technique: 

“Mr. Haggard plays up his new regular-guy image. At the picnic, he asked a friend whether anyone noticed he had said “hell” in the sermon—and not in a Biblical context. 

“I cuss now,” he said proudly. 

Mr. Haggard said he believes people trust him more as a pastor since his spectacularly public fall. Strangers, he said, keep pulling him aside, asking advice about their personal struggles. 

“It’s amazing. People tell me everything,” Mr. Haggard said. “That never happened when we were respectable.” 

That’s it!  Let’s make profanity acceptable in the church. That’ll bring ‘em in by the droves. And let’s use it proudly from the pulpit so that we can make people who have limited vocabularies and potty mouths feel accepted and comfortable. You know, the offerings will pile in and we’ll build a bigger building! Seem shocking? It shouldn’t. This comes from the same man who claims he “over-repented” and that “he accepted too much guilt” over his fall from grace that included meth purchases from a male prostitute. He portrays his encounter with the prostitute as “a massage that went awry.” This begs so many questions that I can’t even begin. 

And you shouldn’t be shocked, either, that his young church has quickly grown to 200 attendees and is experiencing stunning numerical growth. Now they need, you guessed it, a building. We need more church buildings, don’t we? The total value of real estate owned by churches in the US alone is in excess of $230 billion (and $10 billion more is spent on new properties each year). That’s billion, with a “b”. And it is nauseating! Just think of what is spent on “padding our pews and our pockets” that should go to missions and the billions (that is a “b”, also) of those who are starving, dying, and facing eternity without ever hearing the name of Jesus. 

This, my friends, is the frightening state of the Western “church” landscape. It has regressed from the unbiblical methodology of “seeker sensitive” to being spiritually senseless. And if you haven’t noticed, you’d better wake up. The model of the New Testament church has become a foreign concept in Americanized “Christianity”. We have perverted the gospel and built man-made kingdoms by rationalizing our commercialization of the church with a “means justifies the end” philosophy. The means is “whatever it takes to bring them in.” And the end, I’m afraid, is not to glorify God but make people more comfortable on their bumpy ride towards hell. 

A recent discussion I had with a wonderful (and insightful) sister is Christ was telling. She articulated very well what we have tragically become in our modern version of “Christianity”. We were discussing the mega best-selling book Radical by David Platt. We both indicated how convicting it was, how it told many truths that we desperately need to hear. Then she said something really convicting: “My dad [a rural pastor] read it and his comment was: ‘It should be called Normal. After all, nothing he said was really new or radical. What Platt said is what Christ-followers and His church are expected to do. It’s just what the Bible has always said. Those things should be the norm and not the exception’.” 

Wow! How spot-on is that? The Western “church” has deviated so far from the “norm” of scripture that now it has to call actually following Him and His Word “radical”. Not because it is, but because it looks like that way when framed against of the ugly backdrop of the landscape that has become the “Americanized church”.

“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,  that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…” (Colossians 2:1-3). 

We are reminded again that, despite the fact Paul had never met the faithful saints in Colossae, he has a burden for them in their collective and individual walks in Christ. Let’s see Paul’s sweat-drenched desire for them: 

  • That their hearts be encouraged. Looking back to Paul’s bold statement of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27) we see the characteristic result of such a hope – encouragement! He wants their hearts to be brimming with all the beauty of the present reality of Christ in them and their future guarantee of His presence fully experienced for all eternity. And what could be more encouraging than that? This is to be the reality of all true followers of Christ. Encouraged by the God of all comfort and encouraging one another.  First Thessalonians 5:9-11 captures the essence of this:  “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing”. 
  • A love-propelled, close knit community. Mutually encouraged followers of Christ, those with such understanding the riches of Jesus, are marked by love-saturated unity and community. Can we even consider a greater impetus for true fellowship, relational caring, commonness of purpose, and familial love than Christ-centered truth based upon our hope in Him? We see the connection between encouragement and our involvement in the family of God in Romans 1:12: “…that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” The writer of Hebrews confirms this connection as well when he said, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). 
  • The riches of full assurance in Christ. Encouraged hearts and real, love-motivated community breeds assurance. Based upon the truth of Christ we can, individually and collectively, gain the full security of our faith in Him. When we gather in unity and are immersed in the undeniable truths of His unbreakable promises the seal of His Spirit becomes more real. This removes the toxic doubt that can stunt our faith and our service. We are freed to love, obey, serve, give, bear fruit and, in summation, exalt and project the beauty of our Savior. Security in Christ unshackles us from the bondage of doubt that leads to disobedience. So “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22)! 
  • The wisdom and knowledge of Christ as their treasure. This is the goal and purpose of encouragement, community, and assurance: that we see and savor Jesus as our greatest treasure. That we know Him to be all wisdom, knowledge and righteousness. Why? Because He is and only He is: “…because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Jesus is that field of buried treasure that is worth forsaking all for (Matthew 13:44). He is that pearl of great price that we would joyfully sell all that we have in order to gain (Matthew 13:45-46). But the glorious irony of it all is that Jesus has purchased us, His body, and all we are and have is due to Him, Therefore He is our greatest treasure and all other pleasures and possessions shrink to meaninglessness in the light of His glory and grace!  

The merciful encouragement of the God of all comfort, the Body that Christ has bought and is building for His glory, and the assurance He gives us in His promised redemption all do one particular thing – point us to Jesus. They show to us and the world His infinite worth and beauty. God has orchestrated these things so that Jesus would be known to us as “the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge..”, so that we would adore and treasure Him with all that we are and above all else. Now and forever.


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