Gospel Wednesday | Colossians 3-4

bibleAs we continue working through the fundamentals of the Gospel as explained in the New Testament, it is our hope that you will also explore our Old Testament (OT) studies and see how the Bible truly is one complete document, the very Word of God.

Last week we started in Colossians 2. We looked at what it means to be made alive in Christ and how important it is that we not allow false teaching lead us away from Christ and His Gospel. We see Paul progressing in his letter to the church he hadn’t visited in person from the Person of Jesus and the truth of His Gospel as the central focus of the Christian Life. Brothers and sisters, there will be many false teacher majoring in the minor things of life, seeking to profit from you while getting you off-track from the central focus of Christianity… the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is so much we can dive into in these last two chapters of Colossians, but for now let’s do a high-altitude flyover of the text to see how the Christian life should look. So, without further adieu, let’s continue in our study of Colossians.

Living the Christian Life

Colossians 3 (ESV)

Put On the New Self

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Seek the things that are above. This utterly destroys any so-called “prosperity gospel”. Paul isn’t inventing this teaching, either… Jesus taught us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:20)” The Truth of the Gospel is that in Christ we are over-comers… but not as the world defines over-comer with untouchable health, wealth, and prosperity… those are earthy treasures where moth and rust destroy, and thieves steal.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

This is the hard part, this is where the Law of God continues to work in us. The purpose of the Law is to convict us of sin… and the wages of sin is death. Now, Christ died as a substitutionary atonement for our sin so that we needn’t fear eternal death, Christ paid that price. However, Jesus told us that to follow him we’ll have to take up our cross (Luke 9:23-27) … we are to die to our sinful natures daily. Notice the wording of the first list “what is earthly in you”. These are the sins of the heart that we’ve inherited in our flesh, born of the seed of Adam. Sexual Immorality is a broad sin… it covers everything that isn’t within God’s design for sexual intimacy which is the union of one man and one woman for life. Any and all deviation from this design is Sexual Immorality. Homosexuality, pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, rape, incest, adultery… all of it. That’s the first item… impurity, passion, and evil desire are next in the same list… lust, fantasizing of sexual immorality, pornography, emotional intimacy with someone other than your spouse… these are all bad copies/replacements for God’s love for us, how He designed us to love our spouses and how we are to love our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. And your flesh craves it all. Paul is urging/reminding his readers that we must put to death that which is sin in our flesh. We do not have the strength (or even the will) to do this apart from faith in Jesus Christ. For in Him we have forgiveness and the hope of resurrection in Christ at the last day. In Him we the genuine article… Love. The second list refers to the corruption of sin in our emotions. Anger for the wrong reasons (sinful selfishness) is a fallen version of righteous anger against sin and unrighteousness. Wrath… it’s not our place. We deserve, have earned, the wrath of God… and Jesus bore the full brunt of God’s Wrath in our stead. Slander has no place in our dealings with brothers and sisters in Christ, they are His children. Slander is pointless with the lost… for they are condemned by their unbelief and destined for destruction. They don’t need slander, they need the Gospel of Jesus Christ… they need Grace… they need Faith. There is no Greek or Jew, there are no haves and have-nots within the Church… we are all equally free in Christ for He is in all who have been Saved by Him.

But the Christian life isn’t just about “thou shalt not”. The Law has both prohibitions and commandments… and in Christ all have been fulfilled. In Christ we are made free to do the works of God. So, while we put to death the sin of our flesh, we should also seek to put on the righteousness of Christ.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The world specializing in lies. The world will tell you, that you should keep silent regarding their sin or their need for a Savior because in their eyes that’s unloving. They are lying. Some of our Christian brothers and sisters will try to tell you that rebuke for sinful living or false doctrine is unloving, that’s also a lie. Silence in the face of sin is unloving. People don’t stay silent in the face of sin for the sake of the sinner, but for their own sake. Have compassion on those who are trapped in sin, and also for the lowly and the downtrodden, and for those being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. Speak and walk in kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Remember, there is forgiveness available for us when we fail (and we will fail) and if we keep that in the forefront of our mind then we should also extend forgiveness for others who have wronged us.

This is tough, and it cannot be done out of pride or effort, but only by faith in Christ. The take overall can be quite daunting and if you lose sight of the core of the Gospel, and start buying into false notions of “inner purpose” or “the champion within you” discouragement is inevitable. It’s not about you, it’s about Christ. Start small, start with your family. God instituted the family as a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Rules for Christian Households

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

The first relationship in the family that needs to be set straight is that of husband and wives. It points to the relationship between Christ (husband) and the Church (wife). Children are to obey their parents, fathers are not to provoke their children. Here we have bonservants and masters all included in the household. What took place in the U.S. under slavery was sinful in the sight of the Lord. Don’t let anyone get away with twisting this scripture. The better picture of what this bondservant thing would look like (when done scripturally) would be like Alfred serving Bruce Wayne, or Higgens serving Magnum P.I., or Baileywick serving King Roland. If I’ve managed to miss every pop culture reference that matters to you, then I suppose it would be best to think of this proper bondservant would be a live-in nanny or house keeper. It would also be wise to extend the rules of the master-servant relationship found in the New Testament to the Employer-Employee relationships in business.

Colossians 4 (ESV)

Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Further Instructions

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Notice that this is the first time we have a direct command regarding outsiders or unbelievers. The purpose of the Church is to grow in Christ, to mature the saints. There is a lot of bad theology out there, particularly with a complete misunderstanding of the role of the Church. The purpose of the Church is to mature the saints so they can be edified and grow in the fullness of Christ. We are all called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost, but the role of the Church is to nurture the infants in the faith into men and women of God. The role of the pastor isn’t just to preach the Gospel to the lost… it’s to feed Christ’s sheep… to tend His flock. In his closing remarks, Paul names his fellow workers in Christ… the elders and pastors/teachers. Quite the list of names, because Paul wants this church to know who is faithfully working on their behalf, for the edification of the Church.

Final Greetings

Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.

10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Such great love, to take the time to write to this young church whose congregation he never met. Paul loves them, and they are also loved by several other servants of God. This is the role of the pastor/elder. This letter isn’t a long one… and yes, there is more to learn of the mystery of God… but this letter covers the essentials, the supremacy of Christ and the need to guard your doctrine and love your family and the Family of Jesus Christ. In closing, let’s turn to the Apostle Peter’s prayer in his first letter.

1 Peter 4:7-11 (ESV) 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Colossians 2

bibleAs we continue working through the fundamentals of the Gospel as explained in the New Testament, it is our hope that you will also explore our Old Testament (OT) studies and see how the Bible truly is one complete document, the very Word of God.

Last week we started in Colossians 1 and we stopped after Colossians 2:5. By way of review, we looked at some of the history of the Church an Colossae, a church that wasn’t planted by the Apostle Paul, nor had he visited them at the time of this letter to the church. This is an important detail to bear in mind when reading Paul’s letter, because of what Paul focuses on in his letter. We looked at his letter to the Ephesians in which he is summarizing the Gospel to the Elders with whom he had spent 3 years working. Paul is reminding the Elders in Ephesians all that he had taught them, but to the church in Colossae, Paul first establishes the fundamentals of the faith, the centrality and supremacy of Christ. He doesn’t rattle of a checklist of accomplishments that prove they are Christian, he simply reaffirms the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today we will pick up where we left off and in so doing we will look at some of the primary encouragements for Christian living that lead directly into some important warnings about false doctrines. So, without further adieu, let’s continue in our study of Colossians 2.

Doctrine is Important

Colossians 2:6-23 (ESV)

Alive in Christ

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.

This is the focus of the Christian life. Not miracles, not visions, not even spiritual warfare… the focus of Christian living is being firmly rooted in Christ, being built up in Christ (in knowledge and obedience) and established in the faith as taught (the Gospel of Jesus Christ), abounding in thanksgiving to God. Everything is covered here in a concise manner. I make this comment to point out that there is no “advanced Christianity” dimension or state, we never “move on from” the faith nor do we ever have roots planted anywhere other than Christ Jesus. There will always be crafty, scheming men who will try to convince you, dear Christian, that there is something beyond the Gospel that you need to learn, study, practice, and perfect in order to achieve “the higher calling” or some kind of “special anointing”. This is falsehood. Paul hasn’t even met these folks and already he is encouraging to remain in Christ “just as you were taught”, because he knows that they were taught Jesus Christ. They don’t need anything “new” to advance in their walk, they just need to grow roots and be built up in Christ, whom they have already received, the Glory of God.

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, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.11 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, 12 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. 13 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, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Praise the Lord. I want to interject here, if I may, to mention that we discussed these verses two weeks ago OT look at the Crossing of the Red Sea. We saw how Paul’s declaration that the cross put the rulers and authorities to open shame in much the same way that Egypt was put to shame when God destroyed Pharaoh’s army by crushing them with the waters through which Israel safely walked. I’ve also underlined four phrases in verse 8 that we will address more fully after we close out the chapter. For now, these represent four principle means by which Christians are led astray into false doctrine, making shipwreck of their faith.

Let No One Disqualify You

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Paul packs a lot of great instruction, warning, and encouragement in this short chapter. Now that we’ve read through the chapter, lets try to unpack this wonderful passage in a way that brings clarity to our Christian walk (being rooted and built up in Christ).

I mentioned earlier that in verse 8 Paul introduces four primary ways in which Christians are led astray into false teaching. Let’s take a look at each one.

Elemental Spirits of the World

Within this passage we see a few things listed by Paul that help us understand how Paul is using this phrase. We see he lists worship of angels and going on in detail about visions, but we also see a reference to festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths. Paul is not only talking about completely false elemental spirits, but he is including false teaching surrounding real spirits as well as applying shadows of truth over the substance of the Truth, which belongs to Christ. By the time Christ arrived in human form (by virgin birth), the world already had Aristotle and “ancient” Greek philosphy/mythology. They had false elemental spirits and false deities, all of which were unclean spirits or demons. Paul is clearly insisting that the Christian not be disqualified by caving into any idolatry.

The Jews also had festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths in the Law of Moses (or the Mosaic Covenant). These were shadows of what was coming, Jesus Christ. Paul is warning the Christian not to fall into the snare of those who would insist that in order to truly follow Christ, a Christian must keep the Law of Moses (circumcision, feasts, festivals, Sabbaths, etc). The entire Book of Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul to the Churches of Galatia for precisely this reason, they had allowed this false doctrine to take root and divert their eyes from Christ. Paul didn’t mince any words in that letter.

Galatians 1:6-9 (ESV) | No Other Gospel
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Seriously a wonderful book to read and to study. While the prevailing theme of the letter is a rebuke against false teaching, Paul also provides some truly wonderful teaching in that letter to the Galatians. Here, in his letter to the Colossians, Paul is encouraging the Church not to allow anyone to disqualify them regarding these festivals, new moons, or Sabbaths. But notice that he said “let no one pass judgement on you in…” As foreshadows of Christ, they are simply not a factor for those who are in Christ. What do I mean? I mean that whether you choose to observe the feasts, the new moons, or even dietary restrictions, so long as you do everything to the glory and honor of Christ, there is no judgement for the observance or the abstinence from these traditions. Paul also brought up food and drink. The Law had detailed dietary rules. The world also has it’s own theories on food (Paleo, Gluten-Free, Oragnic, Vegan, etc) which stem from a godless worldview (evolution or pagan theology). Paul addresses this teaching in more detail in his letter to the Romans. Let’s take just a quick look at the start of chapter 14.

Romans 14:1-6 (ESV) |Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another
1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Notice how it ties back to Colossians 2:7, where Paul ended his summary of walking in Christ with “abounding in thanksgiving”, and that thanksgiving is to God. The passage in Romans 14 often gets overstretched (twisted out of context) to include opinions that run contrary to God’s Word, guard against that. The festivals and food rules point to Christ, therefore if we have Christ we have the fulfillment of the Law that can only be found in Him and in His work of obedience, even to death on the Cross. So, keep it in Scriptural context… Jesus declared all foods clean, and He also declared Himself Lord of the Sabbath. So, you see, we have freedom in Christ, and only in Christ, and in that freedom we are not to make judgements against our brothers and sisters in Christ regarding matters of freedom.

Human Tradition

After discussing all of the Mosaic covenant and the poor teaching of the Law of Moses, one might be tempted to think we already addressed this point. Not yet, we haven’t. You see, the Law of Moses didn’t come from men, but was given to men as a Testimony of who God Is and what He will do in His Son, Jesus. A common error in the church today, is to accuse Christians who hold tightly to the Scriptures, the Written Word of God, of being like the Pharisees. The truth is that had the Pharisees kept to the Written Word of God, and believed Moses, they would not have rejected Jesus.

John 5:45-47 (ESV) 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

The Pharisees had a separate tradition, what they called the “oral law” or “oral Torah”. They believed that there were 2 laws given to Moses, one written and one only spoken. They believed that the oral law could only be passed down orally within the Priests and Scribes of the tribe of Levi. They believed that their role as Levites was to interpret the Written Law. For example, the written Law says “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”, but the Oral Torah had all kinds of rules and regulations specifying what it meant to keep it holy, down to the distance one could walk on that day without breaking the Sabbath. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for enforcing their man-made traditions over the Written Law.

Matthew 15:1-6 (ESV) | Traditions and Commandments
15 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and,‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

We, the visible Church, still struggle with this today. God forgive us for elevating our own traditions and customs to the status of Scripture. Many denominational splits are defined by differences in man’s “oral laws” taught to explain what is happening behind the Scriptures. May the Lord grant us Grace and Mercy in this regard. We also see this in churches who push a “social gospel” where the primary role of the church is somehow to “make the world a better place” even if that means preaching Law and Gospel needs to take a back seat until we’ve “earned the right” to share the Word of God. Again, may the Lord forgive us of this, and cleanse us from this unrighteousness. Are good works bad? Not at all, but they flow out from the Gospel of Jesus Christ; therefore, they cannot replace the Gospel in any way.

Philosophy

Philosophy was born out of a desire to explain the inner workings of the mind, our social interactions, even religion without invoking what God has revealed about Himself and His Creation in His Word. It begins and ends in death. Philosophy began as Metaphysics. Paul engaged the Greek philosophers that the world today think they’ve rediscovered in some new way. What did Paul have to say about their philosophy?

Romans 1:18-23 (ESV) 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

The modern church struggles with this today, and some might argue in greater measure. The church has begun to doubt the historical accuracy of Genesis, the Creation, and whether or not the Bible is infallible. These doubts are born out of philosophy, man’s attempt to explain away God, by refusing to honor Him as God. They have become fools.  Brothers and sisters, evolution is a lie, God did NOT use evolution to create the world by “trial and error”. The flood through which God carried Noah and his family was a global flood, not a localized one. God made man and woman, and He made them that way for His purpose. We do not get to decide when He made a mistake in gender, or sexuality. It is not for us to interpret the Bible through the Philosophy of men; rather, it is by the Bible that we are to measure the philosophy of men.

A word of caution, if I may. Pay attention to how your pastor/teacher breaks down sermons into Principles or Philosophies (even this blog post). As long as the principles/philosophies are being taught from the scriptures, then there is Truth to be revealed by God the Holy Spirit. However, there is a danger when the philosophies and principles being taught draw their origins from men, their ideas or their experiences, even their dreams/visions.

Empty Deceit

Finally, what remains are the open deception of self-seeking false teachers, prophets, and christs (anointed ones). These religious con-men have always existed, and will always be a plague on the Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul had to deal with what he called “so-called super apostles” who had deceived many in Corinth.

2 Corinthians 11:7-15 (ESV) 7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.Their end will correspond to their deeds.

The Apostle Peter also had something to say about such false teachers.

2 Peter 2:1-3 (ESV) 1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

This problem is most notably (thought not exclusively) present in the Televangelist, Faith Healer, and Megachurch scene. If ever you hear a preacher link the giving of money with the favor of God, His promises, or His blessing, run. RUN away. Should we give to the work of the ministry? Absolutely, but in the same light as performing good works, they flow from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are not a pre-requisite in any light. As servants of the Most High God, we belong to Him and are but humble stewards of His Gospel. As such, nothing we own is ours, yet He has blessed us with every good thing that is Above, with the Hope of eternal life in the resurrection of Christ. And this gift of Grace came by faith, and that faith by hearing the Word of God. Who then, dare proclaim to you a different gospel that compels you to give them money so that they can serve as your advocate to Our Heavenly Father? Only a false teacher. If you remember from our first discussion of Ephesians, Paul’s final farewell to the Elders of the Ephesians.

Acts 20:28-30 (ESV) 28 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. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Pay careful attention. If the message, the proof, and commandment all point to the individual preaching, then it is not of God. Remain in the Word of God, study, and take every thought or opinion captive, subjecting it to the Authority of the Word of God. I pray that this has been an encouragement to you. It was longer than I had anticipated, but I enjoyed this study very much.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)| Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Praise the Name of the Lord

fireworksThis week, I’d like to start by reading Psalms 148.

Psalms 148 | Praise the Name of the Lord
1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!

3 Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
6 And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!

9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the Lord!

Let everything… everything… praise the Name of the Lord. Amen! This Psalm was read in our Church service last Sunday during corporate worship. It is a beautiful Psalm. As we were reading through it, a thought crossed my mind regarding idolatry. How great is the sin of man and the curse on the Earth as a result. Remember the temptation that the father of lies brought to Eve?

Genesis 3:1-5 (ESV) 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The original sin, was committed under the false promise of becoming like God. Idolatry. You see, we are familiar with the idolatry of worshiping things created by man (engraved images, carved idols, Asherah poles, etc.) and the idolatry of hero-worship, the love of money, and the love of self. However, there is yet another form of idolatry that is alive and growing today that must be struck down. The undue worship of God’s creation. The sun, moon, stars, mountains, hills, oceans, rivers, beasts, birds… nature… “mother earth”. Ever think about all of the pagan religions and the objects of their worship? Paul’s letter to the Romans (Gentiles) begins by addressing this rejection of God, the Creator.

Romans 1:18-32 (ESV) 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Sin. What were the first commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai?

Exodus 20:1-7 (ESV)1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

And which did Jesus say was the Greatest Commandment?

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV) 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

This is a serious, and ever-present problem for mankind. It is the underpinning of every sin… the desire to worship anything other than the One True God. Do you truly think that mankind has somehow evolved beyond Israel’s continual idolatry (Asherah Poles and Baal)? No, my friends, we are the same as we were in those days… in some ways even worse.

David understood the heart of men… and he is described as a man after God’s own heart. He gave us this and many other Psalms as a reminder that we are to Praise the Name of the Lord. Not only mankind, but every created thing is to praise His Name. All of Creation points to God, and serves to worship and honor Him.

Psalm 96 (ESV) | Worship in the Splendor of Holiness

1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

This weekend, here in the US, we celebrate our Independence Day (July 4th). Don’t let patriotism, rise to the level of idol worship. God has no need of this nation. There is only one earthly nation blessed by God, who is described as the apple of His eye. Our hope rests in the Kingdom of Heaven, in the Resurrection, and the Great Day of the Lord. Therefore, let us always and forever more praise the Name of the Lord.

May the Lord Bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge