Colossians 4

Read Colossians 4.

This chapter began by continuing to describe how being raised with Christ and setting our minds on things above (3:1-2) changes our daily lives. After applying this truth to masters (4:1), the scripture turned to our prayer lives (vv. 2-4) and how we share the gospel (vv. 5-6). The rest of the chapter was concluding personal remarks (vv. 7-18) that closed the book.

For our instruction today, let’s turn to verses 5-6: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

These verses speak to us about how we speak with unbelievers.

Verse 5 encouraged us to to “be wise.” The word “wise” simply refers to skill. In the Old Testament, God called some men who were “wise” in craftsmanship to create the furniture for his tabernacle (see Exodus 31:1-5. Here, the wisdom we are commanded to have refers to the “soft” skill of communication.

Part of our faith, the result of being raised with Christ, means learning how to skillfully talk with unbelievers about Christ. Verse 5b encourages us to think about talking with unbelievers as an “opportunity” that we should “make the most of.” In addition to understanding the gospel message well enough to explain it clearly to someone else, we should develop our conversational skills so that we can speak of Christ in ways that draw the interest of unbelievers.

Think about how Jesus skillfully spoke with Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and others about himself. He did not use a canned speech, a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, he engaged the other person at the level of their own interest and then led them to see that they needed him.

What does this kind of evangelistic conversation look like? Verse 6 says it is “always full of grace.”

Grace, of course, is an undeserved gift. In evangelistic conversations, we want to get to God’s grace, to tell people what Christ can give them by faith. But I think Paul means more than just filling our conversation with God’s grace. I think he means that the tone of the conversation is giving so that the unbeliever understands we have something to offer them.

We have hope and joy and peace to offer in Christ. We can show unbelievers how to truly know God, so the way we speak to them should be inviting, encouraging them to “taste and see that the Lord is good” and that we can “take refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8.

Verse 6 (here in Colossians 4) tells us that these conversations should be “seasoned with salt.” Again the image is that our talks with unbelievers are stimulating and pleasant. It might be taking the “salt” image too far, but what if “seasoned with salt” means that our talks with unbelievers about Jesus makes them “thirsty” so they will want to talk with us again about him in the future?

Of course we don’t ignore the problem of sin or give unbelievers reassurances that everything will be OK whether they believe in God or not. Instead, we must show them the possibility of a better life–the ability to know God, to feel that he is listening to us, the opportunity to understand why the world is so beautiful but also broken, and how the world that Christ promised will be the perfect one that we all deeply crave.

What would you need to do to be able to speak the gospel to unbelievers like this?

Have you read any books about it or taken a class to learn how to engage in a spiritual conversation like this? This is part of growing in grace–learning to speak gracefully to unbelievers about the grace of God. May God give us opportunities to hone our skills in evangelism and opportunities to practice those skills among unbelievers with hungry hearts.

Colossians 3

Read Colossians 3.

In many different ways, Christ calls us to live in the present based on things that are past or future. In the present we have to live in a fallen world and we struggle against the instincts of our fallen nature. But we came to know Christ in the past and when that happened we were “raised with Christ” (past, v. 1a). In the future, we’re told that our life “is now hidden with Christ in God” (v. 2) and will be delivered to us fully and finally “when Christ who is your life appears” (future, v. 3).

So what do these past and future events have to do with us now?

First, they call us to “set our hearts on things above” (v. 1b). The reason is that that is “where Christ is” (v. 1c). Since he is our Lord and the one we long to love and know, our thoughts belong where he is.

And what is he doing there? He is “seated at the right hand of God.” This is the place of victory and also his place of intercession for us. In Christ, then, we have everything we need to succeed in godliness today. We have his power which raised him from the dead, his promise that we will see him when he returns, and his victory and intercession for us while we wait.

So, what do we do while we wait?

We “put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (v. 5). These are things that belong to this world, this age. When people indulge in “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” they are showing that their hearts are set on this age rather than “on things above, where Christ is” (v. 1c).

When we clothe ourselves with “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (v. 12) and “bear with each other and forgive one another” we are acting consistently with hearts that are set on things that are above because these are qualities that Christ embodies himself, that he has shown toward us and that he calls us to demonstrate toward others.

1 Corinthians 1

Read 1 Corinthians 1.

Was there ever a more mixed-up group of Christians than the believers in Corinth?

Although they had been blessed by the ministries of several faithful men (v. 12), they could not receive and each man’s teaching. Instead of seeing each man’s ministry as one part of God’s complete instruction to them, they took sides. They claimed to follow one of these men as if they were in opposition to each other instead of co-workers for Christ.

In addition to their divisions, they were confused about what God’s grace meant and about several points of Christian doctrine. We’ll read about all of this in the coming days, but just know or remember that the church in Corinth had a lot of problems.

Yet, Paul began his letter to them by writing, “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 2-3).

That greeting gives me great hope. It reminds me that we don’t belong to Christ because we volunteered and worked hard morally to become worthy of being his people.

Instead we are “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Sanctified means “set apart.” In this context, it refers to our membership in God’s family by faith. It is our association with Christ—being “in Christ Jesus”—that caused us to be set apart to belong to him. It is through the gospel Jesus preached that they and we were “called to be his holy people” (v. 2).

Despite our many differences, we are one in Christ “with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours” (v. 2). Despite differences in where we live on earth, or when we live on earth, or age, or language, or anything else, if we’re in Christ, we are one. We all call on the same Lord and that same Lord is working on us, causing us to grow and become like him.

Joshua 24, Jeremiah 46, Romans 8

Read Joshua 24, Jeremiah 46, and Romans 8 today. This devotional is about Romans 8.

In the previous chapters of Romans, we were taught much about the Law and its relationship to humanity. In chapter 7, we learned that God’s Law is great and holy; our problems with it are not with IT but with ourselves: “…the Law is spiritual but I am unspiritual….” Paul wrote of himself that he was, “sold as a slave to sin” (7:14) and his self-description applies to us as well.

As Christians, we are torn by our mental and spiritual desires to obey God’s law (7:21-22, 25b) and our sin nature which rebels against God’s holy commands and makes us subject to death (7:16-20, 25c).

What is the remedy for this spiritual dilemma?

Romans 8:1: “ Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are “in Christ Jesus” therefore the condemnation of the law has been removed from us. That removal took place through the atonement of Christ for our sins (vv. 2-3). The result of his atonement is that you are not guilty before God because God has credited to you the righteous life Jesus lived (his “active obedience”) and the atoning death Christ died (his “passive obedience”). Verse 3b-4 says that in these words, “And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Did you notice that phrase, “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us….” If you are in Christ, you’ve kept the law fully. The law has no beef with you because Christ has fulfilled it all on your behalf. He’s met every standard spelled out there and paid every penalty for your failures (and mine).

Many Christians live with a feeling of defeat. We beat ourselves up for our sin struggles and our failures. If that’s you, please take heart today. If you’re in Christ, it’s all good. Jesus has done all that you will ever need to cancel the law’s condemnation over your life and to declare you perfect in the sight of God. “Therefore,  there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” so stop condemning yourself and live in the freedom of complete forgiveness!

Colossians 3

Today’s reading is Colossians 3.

Although the Colossian church had faith in Christ and evidence of spiritual growth, there were doctrinal issues in the church that were threats to the spiritual health of the church. One of those threats seemed to be legalism, which Paul began addressing at the end of Colossians 2.

We need to stop here and define what legalism is. I would argue that the New Testament confronted two types of legalism:

  • Legalism for salvation. This type of legalism was the belief that good works were necessary for salvation. This belief taught that someone had to do good works (usually defined as religious rituals of some kind) to be accepted by God in eternity or that someone had to believe in Christ but also do good works to be accepted by God into his kingdom.
  • Legalism for spiritual growth. This type of legalism taught that Christ alone was necessary for salvation but that obedience to religious ceremonies and self-discipline were necessary to help you grow spiritually.

The second type of legalism–the “legalism for spiritual growth” type seemed to be an issue for the believers in Colossae. In Colossians 2:6 Paul urged them to live in Christ because they had received him as Lord. Then, in verses 16-23 of chapter 2, Paul urged them not to submit to religious rules as if those could cause you to grow. One of the most important concepts for refuting this false idea is that believers have died with Christ to the old ways. As verses 20-21 of chapter 2 put it, “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’?”

This concept that we “died with Christ” or that “in Christ” we have certain spiritual benefits and privileges is a doctrine “Union with Christ.” I did an entire series on this doctrine last spring called, :”I.D. Understanding who you are before God.”. Here in Colossians 3, Paul continued developing the doctrine of the believer’s union with Christ. We saw that in verse 1 which said, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ….” The idea of being “raised with Christ” is that our identification with Christ–our union with him–means that the spiritual benefits of Christ’s resurrection now belong to us who believe in Christ. Now that those benefits belong to us by faith and await us in Christ’s kingdom, we are commanded to desire “things above” v. 1b. And, what are those things above? First and foremost, Jesus: verse 1 says that he is there seated at the right hand of God, verse 3 says our life is hidden with him and verse 4 says that we will appear with him in glory when he appears. Living the Christian life on this earth begins when we start longing for Christ and his kingdom. That is when the full benefits of being “in Christ” will be ours and when the promises Christ made to us will be ours.

The hope of our eternity with Christ has practical benefits today, however, because that hope helps us to “put to death…whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (vv. 5-11). It also helps us to live “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” (v. 12). When we put our hope in Christ, his power and future promises, it helps us to say no to sin and live a kinder (v. 12), compassionate (v. 13), loving (v. 14), peaceful (v. 15a), and worshipful life (vv. 15b-17). It also helps us to live a godly life in our human relationships, whether as wives or husbands, children or fathers, slaves or masters (vv. 18-25).

Here’s a great truth to start out our week! We are “in Christ” by God’s grace, so we should live for the future–hoping not so much for things to get better in this life, but for the promises Christ made to us in the future. When we hope in the future Christ promised us, THEN our everyday lives get better because that hope draws us toward purity and godliness in this life. Whatever problems you encounter today or this week, remember that God has given you hope for a perfect eternity with him in Christ. Let that hope cause you to live for him in your daily decisions and relationships.