“Aim at Heaven and You will get Earth Thrown In”

TEXT:  COLOSSIANS 3:

[1] IF THEN you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [Psalm 110:1]   [2] And set your minds and keep them set on what is above–the higher things–not on the things that are on earth.   [3] For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hid with Christ in God”  (Colossians 3:1-3 AMP).

C. S. Lewis writes, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you will get neither.” (pg. 134) “Mere Christianity”.

A 1964 FORD FALCON SPRINT STORY:

In October of 1963, I was single, had a good paying job at a grocery store, living at home with my folks and had just returned from a vacation in Mexico with a friend.

And at 21 years old, I had made up my mind it was time…time to buy a new car.  What more would I need to attract young girls.  Throw a Surf Board on top of the car and head to the beach after work.  At the time I was working graveyard shift, so heading to the beach at 7:30 AM in Southern California wasn’t a problem, as long as I could grab a ‘burger’ for breakfast on the way.  Ah, youth!

I had been looking at new cars with a buddy of mine for months.  We had looked at every classy, bright-colored and fast cars that were available that year.  And after the new 1964 models hit the showrooms, I found myself visiting every one of them on my days off.

And then one day it happened.  The “ta- duh” moment–you know, when the lights go on…bells ring…fireworks explode!  There it was sitting on the showroom floor with its hood raised and the driver’s door opened– and my name written on a placard on the car’s dashboard.  A 1964 White Ford Falcon Sprint with Red Interior, 4-speed manual transmission, chrome valve covers and air cleaner all with a 264-cu engine.  And I didn’t know a thing about cars before that day except–this one was going to be the one fixed in my mind!  I know girls, it’s probably a “guy” thing–or not.

1964 Ford Falcon Sprint

An Illustration of A Man in His 80’s Who Owned a Special Vehicle–

A man who was in his 80’s, kept a restored vintage vehicle in old wooden shed.  A car very similar to the one I had in the 60’s.  He drove it ONLY on nice summer days, otherwise he kept it in the shed…in mint condition.

It too was the car of his dreams as mine was when I was but 22 years old.  We both had literally fallen in love with our vehicles.  The LOVE for those cars had made us both behave in ways we NEVER would for anything else in our lives.  So you see, AGE doesn’t have much to do with focus.

THE CHURCH AT COLOSSAE:

This was a church that had been visited many times by false teachers who tried to convince the Christians–rules and regulations could change them.  They even tried to convince them that a strict lifestyle would make them more MORAL.

But Paul wrote and explained to them that  “Such [practices]…are of no value in checking the indulgences of the flesh”  (Colossians 2:23).  In other words, RULES and REGULATIONS couldn’t change you; couldn’t make you a better person.  Only JESUS could do that.

Now, in this 3rd chapter (having said that)–

The apostle Paul explains:

God does expect us to change.

He does want us to be moral.

He does want out of our lives to be pure.

BUT–God knows there is a better way to change us than by asking us to keep a list of do’s and don’ts.

PAUL DOES MAKE US A LIST OF THINGS THAT UPSETS GOD:

–Sexual vice.

–Impurity.

–Sensual appetites.

–Unholy desires.

–ALL Greed and covetousness.

–Anger.

–Rage.

–Malice.

–Slander.

–Filthy language.

Paul is saying to us, “If you want a list to tack up on your refrigerator–consider this one.”  BUT understand…merely knowing the list does not change you and doesn’t make you a better person.  In fact, even if you STOPPED doing all those things, it wouldn’t necessarily be acceptable to God.  That is because LISTS and RULES are lacking in value (Colossians 2:23).

In fact…if I FOCUS on the evil, disgusting things on the list–THAT will dominate my thoughts.  It may, in reality, make it harder for me not to sin!

A PICTURE ON THE WALL–

As an exercise, I want you to stare at this picture and pick out key objects; the details and their relationship to the overall view.  Now close your eyes for a few minutes [count to 20 out loud] and  don’t think about what you’ve just stared at in the photo.  Come on, keep your eyes closed!  NOW, how hard was it, not thinking about the picture you just saw?

The problem with trying to be moral and keeping a list of things you shouldn’t do, is that list becomes that which you look at all the time.  It is THAT LIST that hs filled your mind.

That’s what Paul meant when he wrote:  “set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things)”  (Colossians 3:2). In fact, he goes on to say that we should, put to death [kill]…whatever belongs to your earthly nature”  (verse 5).  “put away and rid And we should also yourselves of ALL such things”  (verse 8).

An Illustration:  Living at a previous home–

 In 1980, my family and I moved from a southern California residential neighborhood to 1-3/4 acre home in a rural area of the state of Washington.  It sat in the middle of the woods where unlike California–we couldn’t see our neighbors homes on either side of ours.

One day, one of my teenage daughters came up to me to complain about mice in her bedroom.  My other daughter chimed in “there is mouse droppings under the kitchen sink!”  The mice were driving my kids crazy, my wife Dianne crazy and in turn driving me crazy.

In the process of trying to alleviate the “mouse problem” in our house…I killed the mouse [mice].  Now what do you suppose I did with that dead mouse?

*  Did I put it on top of the TV in the basement family room?

*  Did I put in a Tupperware box and put it in the Fridge?

*  Did I put a string on its tail and hang it from my car’s rear view mirror?

The answers are Nooo…I threw it out into the surrounding woods and never gave it a second thought.  I didn’t want MICE in the house to begin with.  Now that it was dead…I definitely didn’t want it around anymore.

QUESTION:  When I put something to death that I didn’t want around in the first place, how long do I keep it around the house?

ANSWER:  I don’t.  I get rid of it.

throw it in the trash…

throw it out in the woods…

I remove it from my life.

BECAUSE…I never wanted it to begin with and that’s why I killed it.

Don’t FOCUS on the evil earthly things of your life.

GOD didn’t want them in your life in the first place.  So throw it out the back door and don’t spend a lot of time focusing on that part of your life.

Paul says, put those old things of life to death–and put on Christ Jesus.

[9] “you have stripped off the old self with its evil practices,  [10] And have clothed yourselves with the new…”  (Colossians 3:9-10).

“HOW DO I PUT ON CHRIST?”

“For in Christ Jesus your are all sons of God through faith.    For as many [of you] as were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union and communion with Christ, the anointed One, the Messiah] have put on (clothed yourselves with) Christ”   (Galatians 3:26-27 AMP).

Ragged and Torn Clothing 

There is a custom among some churches in Africa that after they are baptized in Christ, they burn their old clothes and put on a new white robe to show our new position in JESUS.

What Paul is telling us here in Colossians, that when we become Christians, we need to change our clothes.  Our old ways of living life are like filthy garments and they need to be taken and burned.

I need to be excited about this “new life in Christ”–

If we are going to clothe ourselves with the new lifestyle that glorifies JESUS–we have to “put Christ on” like a new and beautiful garment.

WE NEED TO BE “charged up” — EXCITED ABOUT A “NEW LIFE IN CHRIST”!

Do you remember when you first purchased a new automobile, or your parents bought a new car?  Tom Petty wrote and performed the song Mary’s New Car, here is just a few lyrics:

Mary got a brand new car

Mary got a brand new set of wheels

Now everyone is so charged

Man you don’t know how good it feels!

When you and I first became Christians, there was perhaps that same type of excitement and anticipation.  I was so excited about my new life in Christ, I wanted to tell everyone I could about what had happened that one night; when my wife and I accepted JESUS as Lord and Savior.  I was so “charged up” in fact that I led an office co-worker to Christ the following week and she too “put on Christ.”  I was inexperienced, “green” in biblical knowledge…but I was so excited about my new-found faith, I had to share the simple truth of JESUS!

In the early 70’s, I remember the excitement displayed, in the eyes of believers, who walked that long aisle in church bearing witness publicly of their testimony.  Why do people react that way?  It’s because Christ supplies what they have needed all along in their lives.

Realizing what we’ve gained sometimes seems to fade–

“Putting on Christ” should be experienced continually; a constant state of excitement and thanksgiving if we’ve really become  new creatures in Christ JESUS.

HOW DO WE KNOW IF WE HAVE PUT ON CHRIST SUCCESSFULLY?

Paul gives us a list of those too:

*  Don’t lie to each other.

*  Show compassion,.

*  Show kindness.

*  Be humble [a lowly opinion of yourself].

*  Be gentle.

*  Show patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure no matter what!].

*  Forbearing with one another.

*  Forgive grievances.

*  Be thankful.

*  Sing songs of praise.

*  Teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.

*  AND over all things, put on LOVE which binds all things together!

The way you know if you’ve put on Christ completely–

When you can honestly look at someone who has offended you–FORGIVE THEM COMPLETELY.  It is when you are willing to “bear” with them.

THE BEAUTY OF BECOMING A CHRISTIAN:

God gives us a new life; freed from the guilt and shame of the past.  A life filled with GOD’S LOVE and acceptance.  A NEW CREATURE IN CHRIST JESUS–with a new set of ‘forever clothing’ that never wears out.

When the children of Israel left their SLAVERY behind in Egypt, they lived in the Wilderness for forty years.  Their clothing never wore out and they never had to go through life ‘bare-footed’.  God provided for them 24/7.

“Having been clothed…with the new [spiritual self], which is [ever in the process of being] renewed and remolded into [fuller and more perfect knowledge upon] knowledge after the image (the likeness) of Him Who created it.    {In this new creation all distinctions vanish.]…but Christ is all and in all…   Clothe yourselves therefore, as god’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives)”  (Colossians 3:10-12a AMP).

GOD wants you to look beautiful as you travel in life as His ‘hand picked representatives’.  And like our earthly parents, who don’t want us to represent the family with tattered and unsightly clothing, neither does our Heavenly Father want us to represent the family of God naked.

Our True Character Can be Determined  by a Formula Found in Colossians 3:3–

“Your old life is dead.  Your new life, which is your real life–even though invisible to spectators–is with Christ in God.  He is your life” ~ The Message Bible.

In closing, I want you to ask yourself three questions:

1.  What are three things you most earnestly working for right now?

2.  What are the three things you love most?

3.  What are the three things you think about the most?

Essentially the same message is used by JESUS to determine a person’s identity:

“Do not gather and heap up and store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust and worm consume and destroy, and where thieves break through and steal.    BUT rather and heap up and store for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust nor worm consume and destroy, and where thieves do not break through and steal;    For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”  (Matthew 6:19-21 AMP).

The HEART is the seat of your emotions–

Your HEART [soul] determines how and what we think  (Proverbs 23:7)“For as he thinks in his heart so is he.”  So being heavenly minded simply means, loving what JESUS loves, thinking like JESUS thinks, and viewing everything in our daily life from His perspective.  “Aim at Heaven and You will get Earth Thrown In”.

“And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His person, giving praise to God the Father through Him”  (Colossians 3:17).

 

The Christian Life as “Power Walkers” and So Much More!

POWER WALKERS

The Using of “Mixed Metaphors”–

The picture above is a group of people getting ready to walk for a cause: Breast Cancer Walk.  This is of importance to me in particular since my wife went through surgery and radiation treatment for breast cancer over two years ago.  We both were forced to ‘walk through it.’

A mixed metaphor, in case you have no reference point, combines two or more images that don’t seem to make sense.  Some examples:

“You’ve buttered your bread…now lie in it.”

“Clearly we’ve opened a Pandora’s box…of worms.”

“Burning the midnight oil…at both ends.”

“Marching to the beat…of a dead horse.”

“Robbing Peter…to pay the piper.”

The apostle Paul mixes several metaphors in Colossians 2:6-7:

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,  having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude”  (NASB).

Many commentaries that I have read during the writing of this blog believe the theme of the entire book, is a “hinge point” of Colossians.

On The FAITH Side…

The Colossians had received Christ JESUS as Lord and Savior and they had been taught the faith.

And On the PRACTICE Side…

They needed to continue to live in Him, built up in Him; becoming strengthened in their faith, overflowing with thankfulness in their everyday and sometimes hectic lives.  Boy, can we relate to the Colossians or what?

PAUL USES 6 -WORD PICTURES OF CHRISTIAN SPIRITUAL PROGRESS:

“For though I am away from you in body, yet I am with you in spirit, delighted at the sight of your [standing shoulder to shoulder in such] orderly array and the firmness and the solid front and steadfastness of your faith in Christ [that leaning of the entire human personality on Him in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness]”  (Colossians 2:5 AMP).

Raising the Standard

The First Word Picture–The Soldier (verse 5):

The first picture is a review  “…to see how orderly you are and how firm your FAITH in Christ is“, as part of God’s Army–solidly united against the enemy–standing shoulder to shoulder.  All the while as we practice discipline, we strive to obey our Commander and Chief.  We’re not to battle against each other, but to do battle with each other–raising the banner or flag in serving side-by-side!

The Second Word Picture–The Power Walker (verse 6):

POWER WALKERS

The Christian Life Must Be Lived Out!

How do we do that?  We must go from our heads, to our hands, and then to our feet!  When Paul says, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him.” Paul is reminding his readers, since they received JESUS by faith, so too they must WALK BY FAITH in His power.  That is the only way to make spiritual progress.

Moving with a purpose–

The verb continue; “to continue to live in Him” indicates a “continuous action”, moving in power.  Remembering the day of your salvation must be a present reality in your lives.  Our conduct must be consistent with His lordship and our worship should affect our walk; our practice must conform to our character, our principles, our INTEGRITY [see the Word Detective’s Archives: the post regarding INTEGRITY].

The Third Word Picture – The Tree (verse 7):

Our Roots Are Planted In Him

In this agricultural metaphor, just as a tree is “rooted”, we are to be grounded in the soil of God’s Word.  I like to call my Bible, 66 bags of “word seed” instead of 66 books of the Bible.

The tense of the Greek word means, “once and for all, having being rooted.”  Those who have truly received Christ Jesus are rooted in Him.  A tree puts down deep roots to find nutrition and to provide stability in the growing.

Likewise, we must go deep with Christ to find the fuel that we need to flourish during the storms of life.  This image most likely comes from the beautiful picture displayed in Jeremiah 17:8:

“For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters

that spreads out its roots by the river;

and it shall not see and fear when heat comes;

but its leaf shall be green.

It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought,

nor shall it cease yielding fruit.”

When we are rooted in a relationship with JESUS, we will have everything that we need for life and for godliness.  2 Peter 1:3declares,

“For His divine power has bestowed upon us ALL things that

[are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the

[full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us

by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).”

Just as a tree cannot thrive without any roots, we too cannot grow if we have not been grounded in “His glory and excellence.”

The Fourth Word Picture – The Building (verse 7):

Starting with a FOUNDATION

Paul now moves into a construction image to show us that our foundation is built on JESUS; where we must continue to add-on, so that we’re “being continually built up in Him.”

Ephesians 2:20 says, “You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself the chief Cornerstone.”

At our conversion, the construction process begins with a foundation first.  Then raised up and anchored with a cornerstone, helping align the whole structure in tying it together.

CORNERSTONE

 In the same way, as the chief cornerstone, JESUS holds everything together while providing alignment to our lives.

The CHURCH you’re attending right now wouldn’t be of much use with just a foundation in place.  A foundation is only the beginning of better things to come–the base is laid in order to build a strong building.

God doesn’t want us to STOP at conversion. Instead, He desires for us to construct our lives as in…  1 Corinthians 3:12:  “gold, silver, and precious stones” instead of using things that don’t last such as “wood, hay and straw.”   This is in order to be strong, building with solid materials.

Again, the tense of the verb [“continually”] indicates that the building keeps on going.  The Christian Life is not meant to be a one or two-story house, but rather a skyscraper that keeps going up and up!

The Fifth Word Picture – The Student (verse 7):

GRAD STUDENTS

The next METAPHOR in place:  “increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught”.  We are to be students in God’s Grad School so our FAITH can be strengthened and established.

We are to be STUDENTS in God’s Graduate School–

When I mean STUDENTS in God’s Grad School, I don’t mean spending years in a Christian preschool.  Hebrews 6:1-3 in The Message Bible brings word picture into focus:

“So come on, lets leave preschool fingerprinting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art.  Grow up in Christ.  The basic foundational truths are in place…But there is so much more.  Let’s get on with it!”

We are Disciples of Christ–

As STUDENTS, it becomes our responsibility to learn and know the Word of God if we are going grow in our FAITH.  Being disciples of Christ, we are to be always learning and putting ourselves in an environment of study and being strengthened on a regular basis.

It is important for every believer to plug into a small group whether at church or in a neighborhood.  However, you don’t want to just be a church with “small groups”… but a church that is made up of small groups.

The Sixth Word Picture – A River (verse 7):

An Overflowing River

The idea here is based on verse 7“abounding and overflowing with thanksgiving.”  Receiving instruction in biblical truth should produce inner JOY.  The more we understand grace, the more gratitude we will have.  JOY from Thanksgiving shouldn’t be experienced just on the Legal Holiday.  It should be continual!

Kent Hughes writes, “A thankless spirit betrays a life which is no longer focusing on the greatness of Christ.”  If you don’t feel like being thankful today, it is probably because you’ve taken your eyes off of JESUS and putting them on your problems instead.

A Christian LIVING IT OUT!

The two verses in Colossians 2, verses 6-7 challenges us to…

1.  GROW downward–being “rooted.”

2.  GROW upward–being “built up”.

3.  GROW inward–being “strengthened in the faith.”

4.  GROW outward–as we “overflow with thankfulness.”

As Paul mixes up his metaphors, he also changes his verb tenses in order to show what happened to us and what we are responsible for.  In the list of 6 Word Pictures, I was able to find only two active verbs:

1.  To live continuously in Him.

2.  To be continuously thankful to Him.

Our task is to live surrendered to His preeminence, His supremacy; and to abound in giving thanks to what God has done for us in Christ.

So in Christ JESUS, have a JOYFUL THANKSGIVING THIS YEAR and in each and every day!

“Where is the PREEMINENCE of Christ in Most of Our Churches?”

In my last blog-post, JESUS Is More Than An Image, I intentionally skipped over Colossians 1:18 to address the importance of who JESUS is and His headship of the body, the Church.

“He [JESUS] is the head of  [His] body, the Church, seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent]”  (Colossians 1:18 AMP).

Church in the Wildwood

A Song of Old – “The Church in the Wildwood?”

I’m probably dating myself with this song, but here are but a few of the lyrics:

There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood.

No lovelier spot in the dale.  No place is so

dear to my childhood.

As the little brown church in the vale.

I enjoy the song, but being perfectly honest here, what a sappy and sentimental picture this is of the Church.  The words might bring back some memorable images, but not a true picture of the Church.

The Church is…

The Church is the body of Jesus Christ Himself.

The Churchthe one we might be attending–is the body of Immanuel, God with us.

Before we start the detective journey together, let me give you understanding of why I chose the word PREEMINENCE in the title of today’s blog.

PREEMINENCE simply means “to be first” (Grk. protos) and is used of Christ in relationship to the church in verse 18.  So now perhaps you understand a little better and I’ll continue on with the importance of Christ being Pre-eminent; in everything that we do personally and the effect of our responsibility in the church.

How dare we ever take that for granted.  How dare we abuse the body of Christ with gossip and backbiting.  How dare we neglect the body of Christ with messed up priorities and apathy.  Notice who the apostle Paul is talking to here–the local church and not some unseen universal church.  He is writing to a specific group of believers who gathered together on a regular basis; the local church in Colosse.  Paul tells them they are JESUS’ body!

The Church Is the Body of Christ Jesus–

The word “church” comes from ekklesia (ek-klay-see’-ah), meaning a congregation or assembly made up of people who have been “called out.”  Being “called out” by the gospel (“born-again”) means being part of the local church as Jesus’ body.  This is the only way that we can truly give Him the preeminence in verse 18 of Colossians 1 refers to.

Don’t misunderstand me here, the preeminence is already His:

“Therefore  [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him [JESUS] the name that is above every name” ~ Philippians 2:9.

JESUS willingly obeyed the will of the Father, and the FATHER highly exalted Him–lifted Him up.

JESUS SAVES–

When JESUS saves a person, He saves them to be baptized into the local church, to be united with other believers into His body.  If you think that you are saved and not part of a local church, you might want to check your heart.  The Bible doesn’t talk about JESUS’ body parts floating around by themselves.

Jesus’ Relationship to His Church and its Importance–

His relationship to His church is His body on earth.  Paul speaks of the many parts of the body; the body does not consist of one limb or organ but of many (1 Corinthians 12:12-24).  So when you hear of a friend in the local church who is in the hospital sick, don’t ask and expect the Pastor of your church to go–you’ve got feet…you go!

JESUS in-dwells those who trust Him as Lord and Savior and because He in-dwells us, we become part of His body.  As a part of His body, we should desire to unite with the rest of His body.

But Only In The Context Of Worship and The Work In The Local Church–

I am probably sounding redundant to you at this point, about PREEMINENCE, but the emphasis is critical to the church.  This is where the body gathers, where we can truly show JESUS the preeminence He already has.  Our worship, our work (James 1:22-27; 2:26), is the only thing that truly shows who JESUS really is to a lost and dying world.  Don’t judge your own past relationships with people in a church you once attended by what God has to offer.  It’s not all about you, it’s about JESUS–His preeminence.

JESUS HAS A RELATIONSHIP TO HIS CREATION:

In 1985, being without employment, I decided to take an opportunity of a new job and location in the United States–Honolulu, Hawaii:

I lived with a young couple who also worked at the same job in a small cute home.  They were parents of a three-year old little girl and were having difficulties with their finances.  Contrary to belief, Hawaii isn’t the Paradise you might think.  So here I was, in Paradise (not really), living in a small but full house, with people I barely knew.  Three months later, I left the island of Oahu after sharing the Gospel and seeing a young man saved by JESUS.  This would have never happened if a relationship hadn’t been developed and nurtured.  It’s called Life Style Evangelism and I had become like a member of their family.

Living in someone else s family, in their home, made it impossible not to have a relationship.  JESUS has a developing and nurturing relationship with us–His church.

Biblical Examples of Christ’s Relationships–

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,    So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word.    That He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things [that she might be holy and faultless.    Even so husbands should love their wives…”  (Ephesians 5:25-28).

SALVATION and BAPTISM ARE ALWAYS IN THE CONTEXT OF THE LOCAL CHURCH:

When JESUS SAVES a person, He saves them to be baptized to the local church; to be united with other believers into His body.  If you think that you are saved and not part of a local church, you might want to check your heart and the hardening of an artery or two.  The Bible doesn’t talk about JESUS’ body parts floating around by their selves.

Washing away our sins in Baptism–

The context here in these verses pertains to the RELATIONSHIP between husbands and wives.  Something I’ve learned in over 48-years of being married to the same woman is,  “LOVE can only be known by the action it prompts.”  Christ uses His relationship with His bride, the church as an example for us to follow.

The definition of the word “washing” as found in Strong’s Concordance Greek Dictionary #3067, indicates that water baptism is used by Christ to achieve cleansing and sanctification of the bride–the church.

“And now, why do you delay?  Rise and be baptized, and by calling upon His name, wash away your sins”  (Acts 22:16).

I was saved and baptized at the age of 30.  Although I understood the meaning of the act–and in obedience to His Word–I somehow had lost the preeminence of JESUS over the years and I know my worship had suffered.

THE REAL JESUS IN OUR CHURCHES:

God almighty cannot be known, worshiped, served in any way, to any decree, except as He is known, worshiped and served by faith in and through the merits of Christ Jesus our Mediator.

Our Savior declares, “No man comes to the Father but by Me.”  Our faith, prayers, church services, and sacrifices of praise are acceptable to God only through the person and work of JESUS our Mediator (1 Peter 2:5).

In the Preaching of the Word Christ is Pre-eminent.

The most important aspect of public worship is reading and preaching of the Word of God.  But this fact must be understood–it is not enough to just preach the Bible.  We are “called to preach” the message of the Gospel!  And the message is JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED.

There is not a page in our Bible that doesn’t speak of Christ, not a page!  And there is no preaching of the Word of God unless Christ, who is the Gospel, is preached (1 Peter 1:25).

The Book of Acts–

The Book of Acts demonstrates that our Lord JESUS was the  singular subject of preaching in the earliest days of Christianity.  The words preach, preached, and preaching is used 37 times in the Book of Acts.  Every time they are used the subject preached is JESUS Christ the resurrection!  So if the Book of Acts is then our standard, it must be concluded, unless Christ has been preached…no preaching has been done.

That man who pretends to be a “preacher”  and doesn’t preach JESUS Him crucified, mocks the people who hear him.  Rather than serving their souls, he destroys them.

In all our songs of praise Christ must be Pre-eminent–

It’s insignificant–what musical instruments are used.

It’s insignificant–whether the tempo of the music is modern/contemporary or conservative.

But it is the utmost importance that the Word of and message contained in our songs of praise be both doctrinally accurate and Christ exalting.

Going Back to the Question I Started With–“Who is Jesus to you?”

Is He just a baby in the manger taken out of a boxed stored in the garage, then dusted off once a year?

Is He some “get out of jail free” card to you?

Is He some type of Fire Insurance that lets you live any way that you want to and still escape the fires of Hell?

Do you know the real JESUS or have you settled for a cheap imitation?

What the Real JESUS Demands in His Preeminence–

Preeminence in yours and my church! 

He doesn’t just SAVE you to keep you out of Hell!

He doesn’t just SAVE you to make you healthy, wealthy and prosperous!

1.  THE REAL JESUS SAVES YOU FOR A PURPOSE–To die to flesh and live for Him!

2.  HE SAVES YOU TO GROW IN HIS CHURCH–

3.  HE SAVES YOU TO REACH THE LOST– (even going to Hawaii if needed)!

That’s the REAL JESUS!  It is your decision if you haven’t already, to make Christ Pre-eminent in your life–in your church.  What then are you going to do?  I’ll be looking forward to you answers in the comment section of this blog.

JESUS Is More Than An Image!

“Who Is JESUS, Really?”

[15] “[Now] He is the exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]; He us the firstborn of all creation.  [16] For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him.  [17] And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together” (Colossians 1:15-17 AMP).

A Child’s Answer:

A Sunday School Class teacher once came up from behind a little girl busy drawing a picture.  She couldn’t make “heads or tails” of what the picture was revealing, so she asked the simple question:

“I can’t quite make out sweetie, the picture your drawing.  Could you give me a hint?”

And without looking up from her drawing she said,

“I’m drawing a picture of Jesus.”

Taken back by the little girls answer, the teacher said in a soft but authoritative voice,

“No one has seen Jesus, so you can’t really know what He looks like.”

“Really”, said the young girl.  Without a pause and her head still down, she went on to say,  “Well, after I finish coloring my picture, they will know what God looks like then!”

How Many Times Do We Color Our Own Images Of God?

People have seen Hollywood’s images of Jesus and famous artist renditions of Jesus, and with the replicas hanging on our walls.  We base those images on who we think He ought to look like; when we see His face in eternity.  We do this rather than what He is really like.

How many times do we make Jesus out to be something that He really isn’t?  Many people throughout our nation say that they love Jesus, but have no real idea who JESUS is!  So my question to you who are reading this blog today is this…WHO IS JESUS TO YOU?

I  am amazed at the answers to that specific question:  “Who is JESUS to you?”  Some people think he was a “great teacher”, a moral example, and some think that he was a prophet.  In fact, JESUS Himself asked this same question to His disciples,  [13] “Who do people say the Son of Man is?  [14] And they answered,   Some say…   [15] He said to them, But who do you [yourselves] say that I am?  [16] Simon Peter replied, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  (Matthew 16:13-16 AMP).

But most people won’t answer the question, tending to deflect as if they were running for some political office.  They talk about what a good person they are.  Tell you what church they are a member of or talk about all the deeds they’ve accomplished and charity work they have performed in the community.

Some people will tell you that when they turned nineteen years old, they spent 2 1/2 years on their churches appointed mission field.   Sometimes I feel like acting like a judge in the courtroom.  I feel like saying,  “OBJECTION–just answer the question.  “Who is JESUS to you?”

The Apostle Paul answers this exact same question to the Church at Colossae.

Epaphras went to Paul while he was in prison in Rome asking for help in the newly established church.  So Paul wrote this letter not only remind the Colossians, but also to us in the church today who JESUS is.

JESUS IN HIS RELATIONSHIP TO HIS CREATION:

I need to clear up a little language first.  I found it interesting to know Paul wrote this letter to warn the church of the false teaching about JESUS.  It’s interesting because many false teachers today use this very same verse 15 to support their false teaching about JESUS.

The Mormon Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses misuse Colossians 1:15 in making it say what it doesn’t say; to support their false doctrines, that JESUS isn’t God.  Their explanation and use of the Word of God is WRONG!

Here’s what the verse means:  Just as the invisible Father is God, so is the Son who came to earth, a visible flesh; God incarnate.  The Amplified Bible uses “exact likeness”, while the NIV, NASB and the KJV use the English word “image.”

Greek Word “eikon”

The Greek Word “eikon”:

The Greek word was used to describe a STAMP, specifically used in displaying the image of Caesar on documents and other articles.  People in the Roman Empire knew when they saw the stamp, it was from Caesar personally from the “image stamp”.

In other words, JESUS is the exact representation, the exact likeness of God.  Is it something we can ever understand fully?  No.  If we could, we would be saying that are “little brains” are big enough to contain the thoughts of God Himself.

No matter how smart you think you are–Scripture says your thoughts are not His thoughts–your ways are not His ways.  You and I will never completely figure God out!

Verse 15 also tells us…“JESUS is the firstborn of every creature.”

Those same false teachers of our day say…‘that proves that JESUS was created’.  They say that because they don’t know their Scriptures.

FIRSTBORN can mean one of two things:

It can mean born chronologically, like our daughter Karen.  Karen is our firstborn child because she was born before Kristin and Kevin.  That is not the sense here.  Even though JESUS was born of a virgin, that’s not where He began.

John 1:1 says,  “In the beginning [before all time] was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God  Himself.”

In John’s vision (Rev. 19), he sees Christ Jesus returning as Warrior-Messiah-King, and “the title by which He is called is The Word of God…and Lord of lords”  (Revelation 19:13, 16).

The Gospel of John goes on to say,  “And the Word became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us”  (John 1:14 AMP).  JESUS wasn’t first-born in the chronological sense.  He couldn’t because He was without beginning or endAs God, He is eternal.

JESUS was born in the other sense of the word–JESUS was born according to His rank.

He is above ALL of creation and He has ALL the rights, privileges and responsibilities of His Father.  To say that He is the Firstborn of all creation carries the exact same meaning when Scripture tells us JESUS is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He occupies the position of prominence.  And as God of very God, verse 16 tells us JESUS created ALL THINGS:

“For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him.”

When you read the creation account in Genesis 1, JESUS was with God and JESUS was God as God created the heavens and the earth.  Nothing exists that JESUS didn’t create and nothing continues to exist that JESUS doesn’t sustain.

Atheists say “God is Dead!”

GOD is not dead, JESUS is not dead!  The only reason an atheist is able to say, “Jesus never existed”, is because JESUS is alive and well!

Verse 17 tells us that by ALL THINGS consisthold together:

“And He [JESUS] Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together).”

If JESUS was to remove His sustaining hand from creation for one brief moment, everything would collapse and cease to exist.  His relationship to His creation is as our creator and our sustainer.

The Christmas Exchange–

Most of us know why we celebrate the Christmas season: To celebrate JESUS’ birth, the giving and receiving of gifts, the decorations, and the smells of Christmas.  But when it comes to the exchanging of gifts to the stores on the day after, that is a different story.  All the stores are a disaster; shopping cart after shopping cart full of things people are exchanging.  Clothes that don’t fit, the wrong color or style of choice.  People line up at the customer service desk trying to exchange things.  But let me cheer you up with the exchange JESUS made for you and me:

“And God purposed that through (by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross”  (Colossians 1:20 AMP).

Over 2000 years ago, JESUS exchanged His life for yours and mine.  But not only did He exchange His life for yours, He exchanged His death for yours.

Man’s Fall Into Sin–

“Therefore as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death as the result of sin, so death spread to all men, [no one being able to stop it or to escape its power] because all men sinned”  (Romans 5:12).

We were all born into sin, sworn enemies of God according to His Word.  The only thing that man deserved was the total wrath of God.  Our relationship with our Creator was irreconcilable, sort of like divorce proceedings in America– by irreconcilable differences.  That was how things were on earth until JESUS paid the price to reconcile, to redeem us back into the relationship by His blood on the Cross.

The Two-fold Purpose of Reconciliation

“Yet now has [Christ, the Messiah] RECONCILED [you to God] in the body of His flesh through death, in order to present you holy and faultless and irreproachable in His [the Father’s] presence”  (Colossians 1:22 AMP).

1.  To take away your unrighteousness.

JESUS’ perfect sacrifice accomplishes that for you.  But of that was all there was, it still wouldn’t reconcile you to God.  It would just bring you back to neutral and take away His wrath.  His wrath would be gone, but you would still be empty, without eternal purpose, an interrupted relationship. 

2.  JESUS’ perfect life clothes you in righteousness. 

While His perfect sacrifice takes away your sins, His perfect life can clothe you in righteousness.

A PICTURE OF DIRTY LITTLE HOMELESS CHILDREN–

World War II Picture

I want you to visualize a picture of a dirty little homeless boy (or girl), living in filth and poverty out in the streets.  A servant of the king invites him off the streets and to come into the palace of the king.

In order that the boy to stand in the king’s presence, the boy must be washed of all the filth accumulated on the street.  But not only bathed, he must put on new clothes.

That’s the picture of what JESUS does for us in salvation.  He washes away all the dirtiness by His spilled blood–ALL of our sins– and gives us new clothes; He clothes us in His righteousness so we can stand reconciled before Him as our King.

Going Back to the Question, “Who is JESUS to you?”

JESUS SAVES you for a purpose; to die to the flesh and live for Him.  The question is, “do you know the real JESUS?”  Or…have you been dealing with a cheap imitation?

If you have never trusted JESUS as your Lord and Savior, then now is the time for you to come out of the streets of squalor.  Begin to make your calling and election sure and start serving Him where you are today.

If you know Jesus for sure, that He is your Savior, but have turned your back on His lordship, then turn back to Him today.  For when you do so, this is what JESUS will immediately do:

“…present you holy and faultless and irreproachable…  [23] [And this He will do] provided that you continue to stay with and in the faith [in Christ], well-grounded and settled and steadfast, not shifting or moving away from the hope [which rests on and is inspired by] the glad tidings (the Gospel),  which you heard and which has been preached  [as being designed for and offered without restrictions] to every person under heaven…”     (Colossians 1:22b-23 AMP).

“MASQUERADE” – Removing the Masks of Religion!

SCRIPTURE TEXT:

[3] “[The acts of the hypocrite’s worship are as abominable to God as if they were offered to idols.]  He who kills an ox [then] will be as guilty as if he slew and sacrificed a man; he who sacrifices a lamb or a kid, as if he broke a dog’s neck and sacrificed him; he offers a cereal offering, as if he offered swine’s blood; he who burns incense [to God], as if he blessed an idol.  [Such people] have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations;  [4] So I also will choose their delusions and mockings, and I will bring their fears upon them–because when I called, no one answered; when I spoke, they did not listen or obey.  But they did what was evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight”  (Isaiah 66:3-4 AMP).

Well, after a month and a half, and my last three posted blogs, I find myself in the last chapter of Isaiah.  You might be asking yourself, as I found myself asking,  ‘Why these particular verses of the last chapter?  The Religious Ways of Man?’

WITHOUT A HUMBLE SPIRIT:

ADVENT

FIRST of all, the focus is NOT on HUMILITY, or even definitions of WORSHIP, but more about “the WHY’s” of our worship; why we do the things we do.

Often over the years, I have wondered why Christian denominations practice their rituals of worship without any Biblical understanding.  Christmas Advent Candles, Lent, Ash Wednesday, Church fasting, and Communion…on the first Sunday of every month, are just some examples.

Now I’m not saying that these religious events are out-of-order in the Church, but has religion and religious acts, for the sake of ‘just doing it because of tradition become hateful and distasteful to God?  There becomes a ‘honor with lips, but the heart holds up’ (Mark 7:6) that shows up in our private and corporate ways of worship.  Now that I got that off my chest…that’s where I want to begin.

Hypocrisy is Rebuked – Isaiah 66, verse 3.

The language seems specifically chosen for the purpose of offending religion in that day, even in our day.  Strange comparisons in verse 3 indicate people’s religious sacrifices and offerings were but an external ritual.

WHAT IS HYPOCRISY IN WORSHIP ?

Lets start out with Stephen D. Renn’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts:  The Old Testament word for Hypocrisy, Hypocrite in the Hebrew Language is haneph [Strong, 2611]. 

The noun occurs thirteen times and refers to people who are “profane,” “godless,” or “hypocritical” (cf.  Job 8:13; 17:8; 36:13; Prov. 11:9; Isaiah 9:17; 33:14). 

In Isaiah 66, the term is used by the Amplified translators use of Brackets [  ]; contain justified clarifying words or comments not actually expressed in the immediate original text, as well as definitions of Hebrew and Greek names.  This idea was intended to achieve the greatest possible clarity and understanding in their reading of the text.  The Amplified Bible is what I choose to read and study for this Blog.  I am NOT necessarily endorsing the translation as the only accurate translation, just my personal choice.

The New Testament word is hypokrisis [Strong 5272, 5273].  In the Greek text, the term refers to the practice of dissimulation or hypocrisy, with the Pharisees being the target of Christ’s public condemnation during His earthly ministry; hypokrisis occurs seven times and is translated “hypocrisy” in all but one text, James 5:12, where it is translated as “condemnation.”  It is also found in Matt. 23:28; Mark 12:15; Luke 12:1; Gal. 2:13; 1 Tim. 4:2; 1 Pet. 2:1.

In Mark 7:6-7, JESUS is speaking to the “religious leaders” of His day:

“[6] Excellently and truly did Isaiah prophesy of you, the pretenders and hypocrites, as it stands written:

These people [constantly] honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far distant from me.

[7]  In vain (fruitlessly and without profit) do they worship Me, ordering and teaching [to be obeyed] as doctrines commandments and precepts of men.”

The Strange Comparisons of Isaiah 66:3–

The words Isaiah uses, indicates the peoples religious sacrifices and offerings of that day were but an external ritual; a tradition of religion.  Their proud sacrifices were but external compliance to man.  In their hearts…they still served themselves.

Since there was no change in heart [“heart condition”], their tithes and offerings had become an abomination to God, as murder was and perverted as offering unclean animals (Lev. 11:7).  In reality, they were going do it their way (Isaiah 53:6; 65:12), rather than the Lord’s way.  Frank Sinatra would have been proud!

What God Desires–The Lord’s Way.

God tells us, in Hosea 6:6, what He desires:

“For I desire and delight in dutiful steadfast love and goodness, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of and acquaintance with God more than burnt offerings.”

Anything, and I mean “anything” we give to God, not accompanied by a heart of mercy and obedience isn’t acceptable.  Our society that we live in and work in, urges us to be assertive; follow our urges and fulfill our desires.

Don’t let your freedom and right to choose lead you away from God’s pathway of eternal life.  God looks for a heartfelt obedience      (2 Chronicles 16:9; 1 Samuel 16:7).

Why God Despises Their Worship–

“So I will choose their delusions and mockings, their calamities and afflictions, and I will bring their fears upon them–because when I (God) called, no one answered; when I spoke, they did not listen or obey.  But they did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight”  (Isaiah 66:4).

Their refusal, in responding to God’s call to come and listen to Him, brought about harsh judgement in the last four lines of verse 4.  It is almost identical to Isaiah 65:12 based on people’s choices.

People in Israel (the congregation), professed to know the Lord in their doings.  But actually, their doings, their play-acting— were evil because they did not choose God’s way.  And since they have chosen their way, God will choose their punishments; they will become victims of nameless fears which haunt their subconscious minds.

“SPIRITUAL HEART DISEASE” CAN BE PREVENTED!

Taking the Holy Spirit’s Lead–

“Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word:  Your brethren who hate you, who cast you out for My name’s sake, have said, Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy!  But it is they who shall be put to shame.  [6] [Hark!]  An uproar from the city!  A voice from the temple!  The voice of the Lord, rendering recompense to His enemies!  (Isaiah 66:5-6 AMP).

The Holy Spirit will lead you in worship.

He will put aside the masks of power, position, pride from your heart in order to humble yourself under God’s mighty hand.  Resist manipulation in the temptation to use your power, position of authority and pride to manipulate people to your advantage.

The apostle Peter wrote, 

“Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you”  (1 Peter 5:6 AMP).

Ask the Lord to help you put aside your dependence on your power, position or pride; enabling you in the best of ways.

UNVEILING THE FIVE MASKS  OF “RELIGIOSITY”:

Masquerade

1.  The Mask of “Legalism”–

The Holy Spirit sends discouragements to those who try to hide behind the “Mask of Legalism”.  Paul wrote to the church at Colossae:

“If then you have died with Christ to material things and have escaped from the world’s crude and elemental notions and teachings of externalism, why do you live as if you still belong to the world?”  (Colossians 2:20).

“If then you have been raised with Christ, aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  [2] And set your minds and keep them set on what is above, not on the things that are on the earth”  (Colossians 3:1, 2 AMP). 

2.  The Masks of “Super Spirituality”–

YES, the Holy Spirit takes us to task with this “chameleon” camouflage we put on at times.  JESUS said to the super-religious of His day,  “You are the ones who declare yourselves just and upright before men, but God knows your hearts.  For what is exalted and highly thought of among men is detestable and abhorrent (an abomination) in the sight of God”  (Luke 16:15).

* Ask the Lord to teach you how to be more responsive to His correction when you lean towards Pharisaic spirituality.

3.  The Hiding Behind “Frantic Activity” Mask–

Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia addresses the congregation on this very issue, saying to them,  “know that man is not justified by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.  [17] If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin?  Absolutely not!”  (Galatians 2:16-17 NIV).

* Ask Holy Spirit to find your satisfaction by obeying the will of God, instead of trying to impress people with your church related activities.

4.  The Popularity Mask–

JESUS said,  “Woe to (alas for) you when everyone speaks fairly and handsomely of you and praises you, for even so their forefathers did to the false prophets”  (Luke 6:26 AMP).

* Ask the Lord to help you from hiding behind the “Mask of Popularity”, choosing instead… the of pleasing God, regardless of whether or not it pleases people.

5.  The Holy Spirit Counsels Church Leaders In Hiding Behind the Mask of “Super-Rationalism”–

Paul wrote to the Assembly of Corinth:

“And my language and my message were not set forth in persuasive (enticing and plausible) words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit and power [a proof by the Spirit and power of God, operating on me and stirring in the minds of my hearers the most holy emotions and thus persuading them],  So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (human philosophy), but in the power of God”  (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 AMP).

* Ask the Lord to help you rely more on the Holy Spirit’s empowering rather than human wisdom.

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart write:

“Christianity does not stand or fall on the way Christians have acted

throughout history or are we acting today.  Christianity stands or falls

on the person of Jesus and Jesus was not a hypocrite. 

He lived consistently with what He taught, and at the end of His life

He challenged those who had lived with Him night and day,

for over three years, to point out any hypocrisy in Him.

His disciples were silent, because there was none.

Since Christianity depends on Jesus, it is incorrect to try

to invalidate the Christian faith by pointing to horrible things done

in the name of Christianity.”

(Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions

Skeptics Ask About the Christian Faith ~ Here’s Life Publishers 1980) pg. 128.

THE CHURCH IS A WORK IN PROGRESS– (and so are its members):

Like a cathedral, it may take decades or centuries to complete.  The process is long and difficult at times but someday…it will be complete, standing as a testimony to the power of Christ that will transform lives for the better.

Until the Church and all the followers of JESUS are glorified there will be, unfortunately, hypocrites in the Church.  That doesn’t negate Christianity or the claims of Christ.

A Fitting CLIMAX to the Book of Isaiah–(Isaiah 66:6):

” [HARK!]  An uproar from the city!  A voice from the temple!  The voice of the Lord, rendering recompense to His enemies.”

The disgrace of the proud and the JOY of the faithful is announced from the Church.  The thought that God Almighty will lift up the humble and judge the wicked is a fitting climax to the Book.

The hope of God’s people, not in the externals of religion (the “masquerade”), but in repentance and faith (the removal of the “MASKS”) and the power of God to enable us to live truly righteous lives.

Faith and power comes from the listening to and obeying God’s Word (Romans 10:17-18).  Even in the climax-ending to The Phantom of The Opera, the Phantom’s mask is gone; removed to reveal all his external flaws, his ugliness.  But Faith removes the mask and unlike the Phantom, reveals the beauty of Christ Jesus in who we want to be.

The Phantom’s Mask
The Mask Removed

Note: Photos from The Phantom Of The Opera was provided by ALL MOVIE PHOTO.com/