Posts Tagged “Colossians”

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
2 Corinthians 5:20a (NIV)

I was shopping at Walmart the other day and a sales associate smiled and greeted me as I walked by. His greeting took me by surprise and put a smile on my face.

And the Holy Spirit used the opportunity to remind me that I am Christ’s ambassador…and then to ask me how that was going. The answer – not nearly as well as the Lord and I would like it to be. You see, I keep forgetting to act like an ambassador. The Walmart associate was doing a better job that day of being an ambassador for Walmart than I was at being an ambassador for the Lord. Ouch!

I once took a missions trip, and throughout the trip, I was so aware that my behavior represented Christ to the people around me. I made a point of smiling and being pleasant and talking about the goodness of God. Throughout the trip, I was mindful that I wanted people to see Christ in me, their hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Then I came home. And I returned to life as usual. I don’t want to live my life as usual in 2015. I want God to use me to impact the Kingdom of God. That requires living life as an ambassador for Christ. Let’s put the verse in context:

16So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

18And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NLT)

One of the purposes God has given us – and it’s one He will infuse with His power as we perform it (read this blog for more on that topic) – is telling others about Christ. That’s what this passage says, but it wraps in it in a bit of a different package.

God, through Christ, took the initiative to reconcile the world to Himself. That means He took the first step to restore the relationship between sinful man and holy God. That reconciliation is possible because God no longer counts our sin against us. That’s His gift to us. We are forgiven. And being forgiven, our relationship with Him is restored to the way God originally intended it to be – loving, intimate and ongoing.

He’s given us the message of reconciliation – in other words, He wants us to tell others that they can be reconciled with God, just as we are. God is making His appeal to the world through us – you and me. In other words, we are Christ’s ambassadors. We speak and act for Him.

An ambassador is “the highest-ranking person who represents his or her own government while living in another country” (Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary).

  • We’re not flunkies! As ambassadors for Christ, we are people of high stature and authority. We speak for the King. We’ll need to study what the King would say and how the King would respond to situations we encounter if we want to represent Him well.
  • We represent the government of our true home – God’s Kingdom. To do so, we must know as much as we can about our country – God’s Kingdom. Its values, customs and goals are significantly different from our earthly country.
  • We live in a country that is not our home. While we’re here on earth, we’re just passing through – earth is not our home. Lord, help me to live that way! Someone who is just passing through travels light. I confess that I’ve accumulated too much stuff to be considered one who is traveling light!

It’s important for us to get all three of those points firmly planted in our minds and spirits. Being confident of these things, we can fulfill our role as ambassador effectively. When we lose sight of any of those points, our ambassadorship is hindered. We don’t live or act in the authority of the King, we don’t represent Him well or we become too preoccupied with the way things are done in our temporary country.

While living in our temporary home, it’s important that we have a Kingdom perspective. Verse 16 reminds us that we should not evaluate others from a worldly or human perspective. In other words, everyone we meet is a child of God, create in His image, loved by Him. God wants to shower His love on each person we meet. He wants each person to join us with Him in eternity. Do you view people from this perspective when you meet them?

Lord, change my perspective. Help me to see others as you see them. Help me to love others from a Kingdom perspective and in a Kingdom way.

I want to be a better representative of Christ in 2015. How about you?

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1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

In my last blog, I wrote a tribute to my mom. She is an example to me of a person who lives in difficult circumstances but remains thankful, joyful and positive. I ended by saying that she is God’s living example to me of someone who lives Colossians 3:1-4. I had preached on it a week or so ago but mom had been bedridden and unable to attend. Yet upon receiving sad news she did what the Apostle Paul encouraged – she directed her thoughts to things above. Let’s look at the Colossians passage in more depth.

Paul was writing to the Colossians – a city that had once been a thriving, important city but at the time of Paul’s writing was a dying city. Although it was located on a trade route, cities had grown up to the east and west of it and it somehow became overlooked. The population had declined as people moved away to the larger cities where most of the trade was occurring.

If you’ve ever lived in such a place, you know that they are depressed and depressive places – they have seen glory days but are now in decline. Living in that kind of place has a way of seeping into your psyche and it’s easy to become depressed yourself. At the very least, it’s hard to stay positive and creative and hopeful when living in such a place.

It occurs to me that Colosse is also an analogy for many of our lives. At some point in our lives, our “glory days” seem to be over and our health and prospects for an exciting future dwindle. Don’t get me wrong – I believe that God has purposes for us to fulfill in all stages of our lives. Still, there can be times when we are tempted to succumb to the aches and pains that come with aging and there are times when it is easier to let our culture – which worships youth – to seep in and drag us down.

It’s in those times, when Paul’s words to the Colossians are especially important. Paul is saying “It’s time for you to hit the reset button. Your lifes aren’t working quite the way God intended it work – you’re not living in the Kingdom while still here on earth.” Scripture is clear that eternal life isn’t something that we wait to experience once we’ve gone on to be with the Lord. It says that eternal life has come to all who receive Christ. Eternal life is, or at least ought to be, a part of living on earth. With the Lord beside us and the Holy Spirit in us, we can live lives that are full of peace and joy and purpose no matter what our circumstances are. Here’s how Paul put it:

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

Paul first gives a reason for hitting the reset button – he begins by saying “Since you have been raised with Christ.”

In other words…you are thinking and acting as if you live here in this city that is declining. I’m here to tell you that you have been raised with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly realms. You are thinking and acting as if the boundaries of your life are related in some way by the limitations of this world. They are not. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 2:6 (NIV)

So, even before you hit the reset button, you need to remind yourself that this place is not your home, you are just passing through on your way to your eternal, heavenly, glorious home.

Now with that firmly planted in your mind – since you have been raised with Christ, Paul says, set your hearts on things above.

Set your hearts on things above.

Hit the reset button on your heart – reset the longings of your heart to things above. We long for things from our hearts. Our minds reasons, our hearts long. Our hearts desire. Desire the things of heaven. Let the things you long for be the things of heaven.

What are those things? What does Scripture teach us about heaven? It’s where God lives eternally. It’s where we will be face to face with God. It’s where we’ll sit with Jesus and reason together. It is where we have a mansion – a home created just for us. It is where our loved ones who have trusted Jesus wait for us. It is where there is no more sorry or sadness. It is where there is no sin or pain. It is where we will understand and fully experience the deep richness of God’s love.

Hit the reset button and set your heart on things above instead of things here on earth. Don’t long for the things of this world, long for the realities of heaven. That’s how the New Living Translation renders this verse: “Set your sights on the realities of heaven.”

Now I realize that’s not always so easy, because this world often seems more real than heaven. This world presses in on us and blocks out the realities of heaven.

The Apostle Paul realized that, too, so he continued, saying that there are two reset buttons we have to push to get our life headed in the right direction. The first, is that we need to set our hearts on things above.

The second reset button is found in verse 2:

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV)

We are to set our hearts on things above, and we are to set our minds on things above. Our hearts are the center of our longing. Our minds are the center of our thinking. The Apostle Paul is very appropriately telling us to hit the reset button on our thoughts. Set your minds – in other words, center your thoughts – on things above.

Our minds are very powerful muscles. You will find that they are very suggestible and whatever we tend to occupy our mind with, our desires quickly follow. So one big way that we reset our hearts is by resetting our minds. Set your minds on thoughts above and your heart will follow. If you want to long for heaven more, think about what is waiting there for you.

Are you at a place in your life where you have something in common with the Colossians – perhaps your life today doesn’t compare well with the life you once had. If that’s the case, let me challenge you to take the Apostle Paul’s words to heart this week and hit the rest button – reset your heart and mind to things above.

This week, when you wake up each morning, do two things:

  • Set your heart on things above
  • Set your mind on things above

And each day at lunch, use your mealtime prayer as a reminder to

  • Set your heart on things above
  • Set your mind on things above

And then again at dinner, before you eat, pray and use it as an opportunity to hit the reset button:

  • Set your heart on things above
  • Set your mind on things above

And finally, when you go to bed at night – be sure to be thankful as you

  • Set your heart on things above
  • Set your mind on things above

Colossions 3 continues:

3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

You are hidden – kept safe from the worst this world has to throw at you – with Christ in God. He is your protection. He is your safe place. He is also your ultimate reward – if you know Christ, you will one day appear with Him in glory.

Trusting Christ is the first step in living the Kingdom He has given us here on earth. It is the first step in a journey that takes us through our death into eternal life. That journey is made easier when our hearts and minds stay with the One who loves us more than anyone, who protects us, and who leads us home.

I sign most of my emails with the simply closing “Enjoy!” It is my shorthand for “Enjoy God! Enjoy life!” We do that by keeping our hearts and minds on Him. Friends, enjoy!

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A Tribute to My Mom, Leona Jane Miller Parks Vinck

My mom had a stroke sixteen years ago. Prior to her stroke, she had an active life working, dancing, traveling and organizing bus tours for friends. Many of you may remember the Promise Keepers Stand in the Gap rally in Washington DC in 1997. Phil and I took a busload of men and women to it. (We women in attendance served as volunteers.) It was my mom’s suggestion and planning all the way.

Then she had surgery on her shoulder because the bone was infected. They removed most of her shoulder bone and socket. At some point during that first evening after surgery she had a major stroke that no one in the hospital recognized until the next morning. They attributed the symptoms she was exhibiting to coming out of the anesthesia. I’m sure if we were suing people we would have won the case against the very prominent hospital that missed her stroke for more than twelve hours.

Mom’s world instantly changed, and it changed dramatically. The short version is that from that moment on she never walked again, never drove car, never stood on her own and for many years now has not been able to feed herself. Since that time she has required total care. She has been fully paralyzed on her left side and has limited use of her right arm. Having been in a wheelchair for sixteen years she now has chronic pain and her skin is beginning to break down – which often requires that she cannot even get in her wheelchair but must remain in bed while the sores heal.

Today is her birthday. Today I had to tell her that her baby sister died. I drove to the nursing home where she lives to deliver the news in person. Many, including me, were concerned about how she would take the news. On the way to her room I explained to the nursing home staff that I was about to give mom news of her sister’s death on her birthday.

My mom is my hero. Her first words were “that just leaves me and my brother.” That was quickly followed by “I feel so badly for her children because they have now lost both parents.” She went on to say how my aunt is so much better off because she loved Jesus and she’s sitting at his feet and she’s meeting up with her mom and her sister and her first husband and her baby who died in infancy and their favorite aunt and their favorite cousin, and…so many other saints who have gone before.

This wasn’t the pie-in-the-sky “she’s better off now” comment that so many people make when someone dies. Mom was making a statement of fact and adding specifics.

While I was there several staff members stuck their head in the door to wish her a happy birthday and she would say “It’s a happy birthday but I got bad news on my birthday.” They would say they had heard and they were sorry. She would consistently say “It’s sad for us but she’s much happier now. So we should celebrate how good it is for her.”

As I sat and talked with mom this morning, at one point she said “I have so much to be thankful for. Oh, if you could hear my prayers at night, you’d think I was crazy. They’re almost the same every night. I tell God how thankful I am for my mother and father, my grandparents and my aunts and uncles. They all made me the person I am. I thank him that I’ve always had a place to live and food to eat. I’ve never really been without. I thank Him for you kids and my grandkids.” And she went on and on telling me what she’s thankful for.

I was around for a good part of mom’s life. She went through some pretty hard times and it was a struggle to make ends meet. She and my dad went through a very bitter divorce. “Us kids” didn’t always act lovingly toward her. In fact, we didn’t even always think lovingly toward her. (Lord, forgive me.) And for sixteen years she’s been in a wheelchair. She used to love to do crafts. She cannot. She used to love to dance. She cannot. She used to love to go places. She cannot. She used to love to pick up the phone and call a friend. Even that is a challenge and she can’t always do it.

Many would see her life as having no purpose. Those people would be wrong. She lives today to encourage those around her and to build up their hope and faith. When she’s not bedridden, she seeks out residents of the nursing home who are the loneliest and in the most pain and she does anything and everything she can to brighten their day. And every day she teaches me that no matter what your circumstances are, you can experience the joy of the Lord and bring it to those around you. I absolutely love to hear her laugh and every time I am amazed that she does it. In the midst of her constant pain and difficult circumstances, she laughs – big belly laughs – often.

I preach at mom’s nursing home on the first Sunday of every month. Mom wasn’t able to make the church service this month. But she’s living my sermon. The key passage was Colossians 3:1-4.

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

In my next blog, I’ll expand on these verses. Today, just know that Leona Vinck, my mom, lives them every day. And I am a blessed woman because of it.

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I was asked recently about my position on the rapture – would it occur at the beginning of the 7 years of tribulation, in the middle, or at the end.

I doubt that my answer satisfied the questioner. “It really doesn’t matter!” was my straight forward response to the question.

Studying prophecy can be fascinating. It can be exciting. (It can also be scary if you lose sight of God’s faithfulness and goodness.) It can be great at reinforcing the validity of God’s Word. Reading about fulfilled prophecy was instrumental in bringing me to Christ. And as a young Christian, I spent a great deal of time reading about and listening to speakers teach about different views on when the rapture would occur. I had an opinion at the time, but in honesty, I just don’t any more. Because it has no impact on how I live out my relationship with Christ.

The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Colossians:

10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:10-14 (NIV)

Paul prayed for the Colossians not so that they would have a correct and perfect understanding of when the rapture would occur. He prayed for them so that they would life a life worthy of the Lord and so that they would please him. He prayed for them so that they would bear good fruit and grow in the fruit of the Spirit and thankfulness. Why are those things important? Because God has done so much for us – rescued us from sin, brought us into the kingdom, redeemed us and forgiven our sins. Because God has done those things, Paul prayed that the Colossians would live a life that honored and reflected them.

Paul urged the Colossians to live out his prayer for them:

6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.    
Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

You see, our life isn’t supposed to be about debating things that have not been fully revealed, it’s to be about living in Christ. It’s to be about demonstrating His life and love to those around us. An occasional evening spent discussing prophecy with friends (note the word discussing, not arguing) can be enjoyable. But if such discussions are the focus of your faith and practice, perhaps it’s time to enjoy the Epistles and spend a little less time in Revelation.

Because the truth is…when the rapture occurs really doesn’t matter. God will keep us in the palm of His hand here on earth until He’s ready to receive us in glory. May we glorify Him through the whole process.

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

We’re down to the final days of summer. Take a bit of time to sit in the sun (or shade) and enjoy God’s Word over the next few weeks. Use our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules to stay on track with us, reading four or five chapters each weekday. If you fall behind – don’t worry about it! Use the weekend to catch up or don’t worry about keeping up. Just keep reading. God will reveal Himself to you – He promises to! Ask Him to and He will.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the July/August bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the July/August 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The August Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

I love the way God’s Word seems to speak to my specific situations as I read through His Word. I know He’ll do that for you, too. I’d love to hear about it. Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for August is below.

Resting at the River's Edge Reading Schedule for August 2013

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

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Pair of Dolphins KissingLet me give you some insight into our typical schedule. Three or four days a week my husband works second shift at the job God has graciously provided to pay our health insurance. I work fulltime in our home-based business during the normal work day (and beyond). So I am in the office by 8am, but because he doesn’t get to bed until about 2am several nights a week, Phil doesn’t come in until 9 or 10am.

This morning, I was busy working – in the middle of writing something – having a full thought in my head that I was trying to rapidly get on paper (well, screen actually). I also had a second thought in my mind that I desperately didn’t want to lose – it was firmly planted as the next task, but if I didn’t get to it soon, I was afraid it would wilt before blossoming.

That’s when my husband came into the office. He didn’t follow his normal routine – going to his desk and cheerfully say “Morning, Beeb!” (now you know our favorite term of endearment for one another). Instead, he came to my desk, pulled up a chair and came in for a kiss.

Now I love my husband dearly and I love his kisses…but I REALLY wanted to get these thoughts down…kisses could wait, but could my thoughts? Yet I felt prompted, yes, I believe by the Holy Spirit, to turn away from my keyboard and give my full attention to my husband. Praise God that I was obedient to that prompting. My husband greeted me with a very tender kiss followed by professions of his undying love. It wasn’t a peck, and it wasn’t passionate – it was soft and gentle, letting me know that I am a treasured woman. Wow!

And the Holy Spirit turned it into a teachable moment.

§ Giving and receiving love and affection from my husband is more important than getting the next thought on paper or the next task done.

§ God can use moments to change our lives. How long was my “interruption” this morning? Not long. Yet my day is changed. And I know Phil’s day is changed. In the front of my mind is the tender moment we shared and the knowledge that I am very special to him. Moments that can change days can change our lives.

§ God is my Husband. He has given me an earthly husband not only for my joy, but also as an illustration – an earthly picture/experience – of my relationship with Him. He wants to surprise me with tender moments that can change my day and my life. I could have said to Phil “I’m in the middle of something” when he pulled up a chair this morning. I would have missed out. I can say the same thing to God – “Lord, I need to finish this thought before I pay attention to You.” And it will be my loss – I will miss the opportunity to experience God’s love, His grace, His wisdom – all things He wants to shower upon me. I will miss the moments with God that can change my life.

Lord, thank you for lessons that come out of tender kisses. Thank you for my husband, who loves me and who gives me glimpses of Your love and care for me. Help me to be tender toward You and toward him – even when I’m in the middle of some seemingly urgent task.

Husbands and Wives

1In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2by observing your pure and reverent lives. 3Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God….

7In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

8Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.
1 Peter 3:1-4, 7-9 (NLT)

Gentlemen – Kiss your wives tenderly. Love her.

Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
Proverbs 5:18 (NLT)

Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
Colossians 3:19 (NLT)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)

Ladies – Love your husbands passionately. Read Song of Solomon in a modern translation and love your husband as the young woman loves her bridegroom. And resist the urge to nag.

2Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine. 3How fragrant your cologne; your name is like its spreading fragrance. No wonder all the young women love you!
Song of Songs 1:2-3 (NLT)

A quarrelsome [or nagging] wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day.
Proverbs 27:15 (NLT)

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NRSV)

1In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
Matthew 3:1-2 (NLT)

Remember, the word “repent” literally means “think differently” about your sins. We need to think differently about them because we tend to like them! Before we came to Christ were happy to indulge in many of them. But we’ve been called to repentance. We’re to think differently…But repenting isn’t only about thinking differently…

Skipping down to verse 5, Scripture continues…

5People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. 6And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. 7But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? 8Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”
Matthew 3:5-8 (NLT)

The way that we prove that we have repented – the way that we prove that we think differently about our sin – is by living differently. “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”

Just as God’s actions prove His love for us, our actions prove our love for Him.

But what are those actions that prove we love God? Let’s look at what Colossians says:

1Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand….
5So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Colossians 3:1-10 (NASB)

The first part of the chapter tells us that we’re to think differently about our sins – that we’re to repent of them, and not only think differently about them but to put them to death. Since we’ve been raised to new life with Christ, we’re to put to death the “sinful, earthly things lurking within you.” Whether we’ve been Christians for a few days or a few decades, when we’re honest with ourselves and God, we recognize that there are still sinful desires lurking within us.

Those sinful desires hang around the edges and wait for the opportunity to pounce. What are they? Paul doesn’t list all of them in this passage, but he lists these:

  • sexual immorality
  • impurity
  • lust
  • evil desires
  • Being greedy (for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world)
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • malicious behavior
  • slander
  • dirty language
  • lying

Paul says we’re to put these things to death. That requires action on our part.

Paul doesn’t say “watch them die,” he says “kill them.”

  • That means when you are tempted to lie, what should you do? Kill the lie – don’t let it live – don’t give it breath – instead, kill the lie by telling the truth.
  • When you are tempted to be greedy, what should you do? Kill the greed by being generous – giving something away that you love.
  • When you are tempted to be angry, what should you do? Kill the anger by showing love.

Becoming a mature believer doesn’t just happen because we come to church on Sunday and pray throughout the week. Becoming a mature believer doesn’t happen just because we read our Bibles every day. Becoming a mature believer happens as we think like God thinks about our sins – we repent of them and put them to death.

And I know that’s not easy, but this Colossians passage has helped me over the past month because of the imagery. As Paul wrote in verses 9 and 10:

Don’t lie to each other for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.
Colossians 3:1-10 (NASB)

Paul uses the imagery of putting on our new nature and he continues it. Let’s skip to verse 12.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,…
Colossians 3:12 (NASB)

I love that intro. Paul started chapter 3 by saying “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand…” now he begins the second half of the chapter by saying “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved…”

Paul is giving us instructions how to prove our love to God, but he fills the chapter with words that reassure us that we are loved by God. God has already proved His love for us.

12So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
Colossians 3:12-14 (NASB)

Those 5 verses are chock full of instructions for living in a way that pleases God. I want to look at them a little more closely this afternoon. What do they say?

V12 “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

“Put on” – Like you put your clothes on each morning! And we have to do it each morning because those characteristics, those qualities, don’t come naturally to most of us. So each morning, and sometimes many times throughout the day, we have to consciously think “I am going to put on patience right now.” Or “I am going to put on kindness right now.”

I put my sweater on a dozen times a day because I get cold. I need to put on compassion and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience just as many times because my heart grows cold and I want to be impatient and selfish and demanding. (I know that’s hard to believe about me, but it’s true.)

V13
“Bearing with one another, forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

“Bearing with one another” means putting up with each other! But doing so with patience and kindness and gentleness and compassion and humility! You know, sometimes my husband really gets on my nerves! Not very often, but it happens! And when that happens, I have two choices: Be frustrated with him and snap at him, or take a deep breath and put on patience and bear with him.

And if he has done something to offend me, I’m to forgive him – just as the Lord has forgiven me.

V14 “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”

We are most like Christ when we love one another. Scripture describes love as the perfect bond of unity. It is what Jesus prayed for us before His crucifixion:

20“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
John 17:20-21 (NKJV)

Jesus prayed that we would be one. That requires putting on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. So when we get dressed in the morning, we also pray “Lord, help me to love like You love today.” Because I can’t do it on my own. I need His refreshing and His filling each day.

Jesus gave us the example of perfect love:

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NRSV)

When He has done so much for us, let’s commit again to prove that we love Him. As He prompts us this week, let’s put our repentance into action – let’s put to death the deeds of the flesh and put on patience and kindness, forgiveness and love.

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“Then war broke out in heaven, Michael and his angels going forth to battle with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no room found for them in heaven any longer.”
Revelation 12:7-8 (AMP)

This blog post, titled The War Over Reality, by Francis Frangipane caught my attention this morning. It has been adapted from his book The Three Battlegrounds, available at Arrow Publishing’s online Bookstore.

While its message feels especially appropriate during this Christmas season, I know it is a life message appropriate for the whole year. Jumping off the phrase “there was no room for them in heaven” (Revelation 12:8, AMP), Frangipane writes about spiritual warfare in a unique way.

“This war in Heaven is difficult for us to comprehend. How do angels and demons, beings who do not die from wounds, wage war? With what do they do battle? And how do they conquer one another? Without exceeding the bounds of our knowledge, we can safely say this: All spiritual warfare is waged over one essential question: Who will control reality on earth, Heaven or hell?”

Christmas is pregnant with possibilities – the possibility for family dissension at annual gatherings; the possibility for personal meltdowns caused by unmet expectations or grief; the possibility of illness brought on by over-stressing our bodies, minds and spirits as we attempt to do all things and be all things to all people.

Who will control your reality? Will it be the influences of the world or the influence of God?

“We should also recognize that the ancient Greeks, in whose language the New Testament was written, had no word for ‘reality.’ To them ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ were the same essence. If we seek to experience the true work of the Holy Spirit, we should understand that the Spirit has been sent to establish the reality of God’s kingdom in the lives of Jesus’ followers. Thus, as we become one with the Spirit of Truth, and as we fully embrace the Word of Truth, we are brought into the reality of God Himself!”

Let me again encourage you to spend time with God during this busy season. Allow the Holy Spirit to bring God’s reality into your world.

And as you attend to things in your every-day, Christmas-season life – those activities and events that are routine and those that happen only during this season – take His truth – that is, reality as only Believers can know it – with you.

“We do not fall in sin as much as we are seduced by it; every sin is cloaked in some measure of deception. But as these lies are uncovered and destroyed, as our thought-processes are freed from illusions, we will discover the blamelessness, perfection, and truth of Christ in us, the hope of glory (see Colossians 1:27).”

Take Christ with you this Christmas season.

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A special thanks to my husband, Phil, who loves to travel – both virtually and in the real world. He sent me this link from his virtual travels. God has created a beautiful world for us to enjoy. Can you imagine how beautiful heaven must be? And what does such variety and beauty say about our Lord? Truly unimaginable, but worth my meditation.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
Colossians 3:1 (NLT)

While it’s hard to pick a favorite from the images on this site, here’s one of mine. Which is your favorite?

Marble Caves, Chile Chico, Chile

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1Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)

Today’s Resting at the River’s Edge reading has us in Colossians 3. I love how this chapter starts: “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ.” So many great words in that phrase:

Since — Paul is saying that what follows is because of what has occurred. Well, that means something has occurred. It has happened. It is a done deal!

Raised – You have been brought to a higher level. You weren’t pushed down and you’re not eating dirt. You have been raised up. When you are tempted to feel down about yourself, remember this first phrases – “Since you have been raised.”

New Life – That’s what you’ve been raised to – a new life. It is a life that is higher and better than your old life. No matter the circumstances, you have been raised to a new life. (Someone say “Hallelujah!”)

With Christ – You’re not raised to this new life alone, you have been raised “with Christ.” You have been raised with the One who said “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20) You have been raised with the One who loves you so much He died for you. What an awesome thing! We know that the One who has been raised up sits at the right hand of God. Ephesians 2 reinforces that we are not only raised up with Him we are also seated with Him:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…
Ephesians 2:6 (NIV)

Because of that, dear friends, Paul continues in Colossians:

set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)

Let’s look at a couple more words:

Set your sights – Focus your attention, dial in your scope. Actually, the Greek word is most often translated as “seek” and is the same word as used in this great verse:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [i.e., what you need to eat, drink and wear] will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

Our focus is not to be on the realities of this world or this life, but on the realities of heaven.

Realities of heaven – The realities of heaven. Paul emphasizes that heaven is a reality. It can be so easy for us to lose sight of that. The pressures of this world can crowd around us and block out the true realities of life. The urgent can so easily displace the important.

So Paul reminds us in verse two to think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth because our “real life” is hidden with Christ in God. This life we live is only a temporary reality at best. Yes, we have to deal with the realities of it, but the true, lasting realities of life are heaven for those who know Christ and hell for those who do not. So let’s think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

I wonder…how much time do you spend thinking about heaven? I would have to confess that my answer to that question wouldn’t set any records. But I did have an experience recently that validates Paul’s exhortation. Not that Scripture needs validation, of course, but let me share it with you.

Phil Looking Good!The other day I was waiting for Phil in a public place. I don’t remember the details, but I know that I was starting to get frustrated at the unexpected wait.. I quickly realized that my face was communicating to all around me that I wasn’t a happy camper. That’s not a witness I want to have. That’s not a testimony I want to present. So I changed my thinking. Instead of thinking about how late Phil was, I began to think about what a truly wonderful husband I have. I thought about his idiosyncrasies that I love and those that drive me a little crazy. (By the way, one of those idiosyncrasies is that he loves to pose for pictures as he did in this one.) I thought about his kindness. And I went on to think about how great God is to have given me such a partner.

You can guess what happened. My demeanor changed quickly and when Phil found me moments later I had a big old smile on my face! And until then, I smiled at everyone that passed me by. Perhaps I brightened the day of a few of those people.

Paul tells us to think on the realities of heaven. Let that be what gives us a pleasant expression throughout the day. Let that be what enables us to smile at the person who treats us rudely. Let that be what gives us patience when ours is in short supply.

Paul continues by exhorting us to holy living. Hmmm…Seems to be a topic we can’t get away from! (See two blogs from last week Live Worthy and Live Worthy, Part 2.) Because we’ve been raised up with Christ, because we have died to our old life, we’re to die to our old, sinful habits and practices. And focusing on the realities of heaven, we’re to clothe ourselves “with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12, NLT)

Before he addresses specific relationships (wives, husbands, children, fathers and slaves), Paul gives a generic command

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Colossians 3:1-17 (NLT)

That’s a whole lot easier when we’re remembering our position (raised up with Christ) and keeping our sights on the realities of heaven. Let’s do it!

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