Sunday Morning Coffee: Attitude

You know, most of the time it’s easy to have a good, positive outlook. I mean, you can’t focus on politics, although you should be aware of all the nonsense going on.

You shouldn’t focus too much on anything that causes you stress and anxiety, and causes you to lose sleep because your brain won’t turn off.

Shouldn’t focus on Covid, either, with all the contradictory messages that often seem like smoke screens for other things the Powers that Be don’t want us to think about.

If you tend to be a person who worries, don’t worry–I’m not going to yell at you for worrying.

It’s just that I’ve been struggling this past week with keeping a positive attitude, and I decided to write about that. I’m hoping that as I think it through, I’ll get over it 🙂

Here’s the thing. I have some serious back pain going on. This will be the third Sunday in a row that I just couldn’t deal with going to church, and I love church. I miss it. It encourages me and helps me keep centered on the Lord. Our church family has become very special to me, and I miss seeing people I have come to care for.

But I’m totally horrified at the possibility of not being able to stand without gasping in pain. That’s the kind of pain it is–takes your breath away when it hits. It’s like there are a hundred little demons with pitchforks back there just waiting to catch me off guard, and then they all POUNCE at once. Makes me weak in the knees. And I can’t predict when it will hit. I mean, it’s always there, lurking. I’ve learned to tolerate that. It’s the pitchfork sneak attacks that make me not want to go anywhere.

Poor me, right?

No, wrong. I cannot descend into the gloom of feeling sorry for myself. So I’ve been talking to Jesus a lot this past couple of weeks, but not asking “Why?” I’m asking for courage and trust. Patience, calmness, and peace.

What the Lord says to me, in His still, small voice, is “Linda, what’s your favorite verse of scripture?”

And that answers everything. Here’s the verse: “Great peace have they which love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119: 165).

Here’s what it means: If you want peace in your heart, you have to love God’s Word. If you’re going to love God’s Word, you have to be IN His Word, reading, studying, meditating, memorizing. You have to be so full of His Word that it radiates from you, shows in your eyes, your smile, and your words.

When you truly love the Word of God, you will have such inner peace that nothing–no one, no event, no gossip against you, no illness, no pain–will offend you. In this context, the word offend means to trip up, or cause to stumble from the path.

It doesn’t mean the pain will magically disappear. It means that the pain won’t make you question whether or not God really loves you. It won’t cause you to worry. It won’t keep you in constant fear. It will not cause you to turn your back on God. It will not cause you to doubt your faith.

Other verses come to mind. A merry heart does good like a medicine. . . .Trust in the Lord with all thine heart. . . . .Be not afraid, for I am with you. . . .I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness. . . .I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. . . .the joy of the Lord is my strength. . . . He fills my mouth with laughter. . . .

And now I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes, thankful that God has, once again, touched my stubborn spirit with His Word, and brought me back to a place of peace and comfort, under His wings.

Enticing Words

Col. 2:4-5.

And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.

For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.

“I’m writing you this letter,” says Paul, “So that you learn to discern the difference between truth and lies.”

I’ve used this example many times, but it bears repeating: It has long been the practice in banks to teach new tellers how to identify counterfeit money. They are taught, primarily, to be so familiar with real money that they recognize the false. So we, as believers, learn to identify heresy not by studying it intensely, but by knowing God’s Word so well that we are immediately uncomfortable with false teaching.

Why are we drawn to false teaching, and to false teachers? It’s because they give us a warm, gratifying sense (they beguile us) that we are perfect just the way we are. Sin? Biblicists spend much too much time and energy worrying about what they call sin, and not nearly enough time enjoying the unconditional love of God.

Do you see what I did there? First, I used one of today’s most popular Mr. Rogersisms–you are perfect just the way you are. Sounds so happy, (enticing) doesn’t it? Please don’t misunderstand. My purpose here is not to destroy Mr. Rogers, and maybe he just didn’t think through this favorite saying of his. But he was wrong on this. We are NOT perfect just the way we are. If that could be so, then Jesus didn’t need to die. We would be able to work our way to heaven with our own goodness.

That’s a lie.

Second, I minimized the importance of recognizing sin–or what some religious people call sin. Is it really sin? I mean, who gets to say what is sin and what is not? Maybe it isn’t really sin–just “poor choices,” or “mistakes.”

Do you see how such thinking minimizes the importance of what GOD says?

Well, Linda, how are you going to take apart the unconditional love of God?

I’m not. And this is one of the ways false teachers trip us up. The most effective lie is based on a kernel of truth. In this case, a false teacher will tie the unconditional love of God to our need to see ourselves as being free from sin and judgment.

His love IS unconditional. He died for the sins of all mankind, no exceptions. And yet, we have a responsibility. What are we going to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus? The answer to that decides for each individual whether he will go to heaven or hell when he dies. God sends no one to hell. Each person does that for himself whenever Jesus Christ is denied; whenever we grasp the belief that we can be good enough; or when we decide we don’t really sin, we just make poor choices now and then. The truth is that the love of God lies within the boundaries of His holiness. He cannot look on sin. As a holy God, the only view God has of a believer is through the blood of Jesus.

All these things Paul teaches in his letter to the Colossians. He takes great joy in their order and steadfastness in the things of God. Those are military terms, denoting an army under attack whose ranks are not broken, who discipline does not falter.

Paul is not accusing the Colossians of heresy. He is warning them against what he sees as a danger to the church. Sometimes, that danger comes in the form of the promise of a deeper understanding than most people have, a “new” and exciting “truth” that no one else has seen before.

I’m going to leave you with a warning for the present day. Be careful about click bait on your computer. It’s at the bottom of every news article or along the right side of your page. The promises are such as “secrets from the Bible” for healing things like imperfect vision, stomach troubles, arthritis, or marital troubles, etc. The promoters of such things rake in a lot of money from people who are taken in by their phony promises. Don’t even waste your time reading those articles.

Anything that is in God’s Word is already available to you. All you have to do is read with the prayer in mind that God will show you what you need for that day, that hour.

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

Comfort, Wisdom, and Knowledge

Col. 2:2-3.

That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;  

In Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

In today’s passage and the next four verses, Paul expresses his burden for the Colossian believers, and his prayer for them to grow in the knowledge and understanding of God.

His letter to the Colossians, one of the “prison epistles,” is full of his concern for them. I think the illustration above may actually be showing a bit more luxury than Paul actually experienced.Those nice, fat candles were indeed a luxury, and were probably supplied by believers in Rome. Paul had some freedom of movement, but not much. He didn’t have a luxury suite. Dark, cold, dank and musty, it was a dismal place. There was a soldier on guard at all times. No privacy was given to him, even for private needs. Yet his whole concern was the edification of other believers.

His first concern was that the Colossian believers would be “knit together” in love, and that they would be comforted in the hard times that were coming. He wanted this because he was concerned for their enthusiasm for the gospel. He knew that Christians who felt alone and without support would be easily led astray by doctrines that appealed to their need for other people.

The word encouraged is paraklein, meaning to comfort or exhort. Paul wanted these believers to be able to face persecution with confidence and strength, love for each other and for God. He was concerned about their unity.

Knit together in love: When a bone is broken, as it knits back together there is new bone material that grows in and around the broken place. The bone ends up being stronger than it was before the break. That’s what Paul desired for the Colossians–that even when there was a break, they would heal stronger than they were before. Their love for each other, and for the truth of God’s Word, would comfort and strengthen them in times of trouble.

False teaching divides a church, weakening the people, separating them and destroying their unity. It is one of Satan’s most effective tools against the church, and he often uses those who appear to be wise in the things of the Lord, and who quickly gather a following. They are often charismatic, and I mean that in the sense of having strong personalities and the appearance of confidence in their knowledge. We need the discernment of the Holy Spirit to recognize false teaching and the false teachers who propagate it.

The full assurance of which Paul speaks comes from a full assurance of Who God is, and that He is to be trusted for our salvation. Often, when trouble comes, one of the first questions a new or weak believer has is, “How can a loving God allow this to happen?” Their question comes from a lack of knowing Who He is: A God Who cannot sin, and Who never changes in His love for us.

The mystery of God in this passage denotes the character and person of God, which we could not know unless He revealed it to us. In this context, the mystery of God was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, Who laid down His life for us–and there is no greater love. When we begin to grasp the incredible greatness of His love, then we also begin to have that full assurance in His eternal goodness.

In God, and only in Him, are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Striving and Great Conflict

Col. 2:1. “For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;”

Paul had such zeal for the welfare of the Colossian Christians that he referred to it as “a great conflict.” In v. 29 of the previous chapter, Paul, not uncommonly for him, used a sports metaphor with the word striving, and he continues the metaphor now with the great conflict. Both terms are indicative of a great physical effort to win a race, or a wrestling match. Both required training, strength, and the ultimate exertion to accomplish the goal.

He also mentions the people in Laodicea, who, along with the Colossian believers, he had not met face to face.

Paul’s authority as an apostle extended to the people of his own day, although they had never seen him, just as it extends to us today. We can accept his teaching as having the authority of the leading of the Holy Spirit, just as valid now as it was then.

I don’t believe Paul was a prophet, in the sense that he could see down through the centuries in the way that Isaiah or Jeremiah did. But Paul did understand the importance of the clear teaching of the truth of the gospel for the believers of his day; I believe he understood that there would always be conflict stirred up by Satan as long as God allowed believers to spread His Word, even into our present day. Paul’s burden for the clear truth of the Word was a heavy one.

Maybe our world wouldn’t be in the mess it is in today if only our own zeal were as hot as Paul’s.

Whom We Preach

Col. 1:28-29.

Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.

In verse 28, the pronoun Whom refers back to v. 27, the Lord, Jesus Christ. Some translations use the word Him instead of Whom. It indicates that Jesus Christ was the sum total of all that Paul preached. He didn’t entertain with one funny story after another. He didn”t preach anything or anyone except the Lord Jesus Christ. He was totally focused on presenting Jesus wherever he went, including doing so from his prison cell.

He taught Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, come down to earth to save all mankind. The word man in this passage embraces all humankind. It excludes no one.

His goal was to present all those who heard the gospel perfect (full grown, complete, mature) in the knowledge of Jesus.

The word warning in v. 28 is also translated as counseling or helping to impart understanding. Paul’s desire, his life’s work, was to establish and enable people to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ.

Paul not only preached; he taught, mentored, encouraged, poured his heart and life into the ministry of spreading the gospel wherever he went. It was his sole purpose in life.

I’ve done a lot of public speaking over the years. I can tell you that preparing for one session in which I am the speaker isn’t nearly as much work as dealing with individuals on a daily basis, helping them grow in the Lord. More than that, making sure that I practice what I preach so that my walk is not a stumbling block to anyone who is watching is a daily goal.

Be certain, if you are a believer, there is someone who is watching you. People are watching to see if your walk matches up with your talk.

Finally, Paul clarifies that it is not he himself who is powerful in the work of the gospel, but rather it is the work of the Holy Spirit in him that constrains him to waste no time feeling sorry for himself or questioning his circumstances.

That same Holy Spirit enables us today. All we need to do is to seek Him with all our hearts, and He will supply what we need for the ministry of the gospel.

The Hope of Glory

Col. 1:27. To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

This verse refers back to the end of v. 26: “The mystery. . . .made manifest to His saints.”

The mystery is the church age; the age in which God chooses to use people who believe in Him to minister to those who have not yet received Jesus Christ as Savior. The church is made up of believers, across all nations, races, traditions and cultures. Everyone who has confessed and repented of sin and accepted Him as Savior is my brother or sister in Christ. There are no barriers that the gospel cannot cross.

God makes known the riches of His glory to those who had already believed; they, in turn, would go to the Gentiles to share the riches of His glory and the hope of glory.

We need to define some words to help us understand this completely.

Riches: Fullness, abundance, plenitude. We cannot begin to understand the whole meaning of this phrase, the riches of His glory, because our understanding is finite. I can tell you that the longer you live in Christ, the more you begin to understand His greatness, His love, and what He has in store for those who love Him.

The glory: The kingly majesty of the Messiah: the absolutely perfect inward or personal excellency of Christ; His majesty. Again, our finite minds cannot comprehend all that Jesus is. We struggle with the idea of holiness, which is the complete and absolute lack of any taint of sin. The best person you know cannot compare to the spotless, sinless, perfect Lamb of God.

This mystery: Hidden thing, secret, mystery, secret will of God: the secret counsels which govern God in dealing with the righteous, which are hidden from ungodly and wicked men but plain to the godly. The church is that great mystery that had been hidden from the beginning, until the time was right for Jesus to make the supreme sacrifice in our behalf. God has allowed the church age to continue for over 2000 years, in spite of all the efforts of man to destroy it, change it, dilute it, make it politically correct.

The hope of glory: Joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation. In this context, it is not a thing we hope for in the sense of hoping for a particular Christmas gift, which may or may not happen. Instead, it is the complete assurance of heaven, given to us by the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is NO DOUBT that all believers will gain heaven. It is a sure hope based on the Word of God.

The Mystery Made Known

Col. 1:25-26.

Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints:

In verse 25, Paul again confirms his status as a minister of the gospel. The word minister has several definitions, depending on the context in scripture. In this passage, it carries the meaning of being a teacher, a servant of the great King, a messenger of God’s choosing.

Why does Paul repeat what he had already said? It is because of those who refused to accept his authority as an Apostle, one who had actually seen and heard Jesus during His earthly ministry. Paul reminds those who doubted his authority in several places in scripture. That authority was based on his vision of Christ on the Damascus Road, and the conversation he had with Him at that time. It is important for us to remember that God is not limited by man’s rules.

Paul goes on to say that his own ministry is according to the dispensation of God. That is, the office (duty)entrusted to him by God (the Lord and Master) of proclaiming to men the blessings of the gospel. Paul felt this stewardship so strongly that he devoted the rest of his life to preaching, teaching, and discipling others in the spread of the gospel. Indeed, he gave his life for that cause.

What is that mystery to which Paul refers in verse 26? It had been hidden down through the ages, never mentioned by name in Old Testament scripture, but was now revealed to believers.

In the Biblical sense, a mystery is not a riddle or puzzle. It is a spiritual truth that can only be known by revelation and not by intuition. Now it can be known, because it now has been revealed to His saints.

The specific mystery Paul refers to here deals with many aspects of the work of Jesus in His people, but especially the plan of the church, to make one body out of Jew and Gentile, taken from the “trunk” of Israel, yet not Israel.

ii. “The mystery is this: that God had deigned to grant the Gentiles the same privileges with the Jews, and make them His people who were not His people. That this is what Paul means by the mystery, see Eph 3:3, etc.”

Clarke, Blue Letter Bible

Never in all their history had Israel considered the Gentile world to be equal with them in God’s eyes. Yet, over and over, Israel forsook their special relationship with God to serve the idols of the Gentile world.That irony cannot be overlooked. Now, believing Jews had to begin to understand that salvation was available to all people, regardless of nationality, race, or any other factor. Salvation was given only to those who believed in Him, and accepted Him as the only way to heaven. This was indeed mysterious to the Jews, who had always thought of themselves as the only race to inherit salvation.

A Minister of the Gospel

Colossians 1:23b-24. and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the church:

I neglected yesterday to comment on Paul’s words that the gospel had been preached “to every creature which is under heaven.” I did some searching because I wasn’t sure of the exact meaning. What I found is that there are many differing opinions and interpretations of that statement. The one that makes the most sense to me comes from Barne’s Notes on the Bible:

The gospel in the time of Paul seems to have been so extensively preached, that it might be said that it was proclaimed to everybody. All known countries appear to have been visited; and so zealous and laborious had been the heralds of salvation, that it might be said that the message had been proclaimed to all the world.

Barne’s Notes on the Bible

In our own time, we can say that the gospel has been taken around the world, to every known corner. Maybe not every individual alive has personally been confronted with Jesus Christ, but the opportunity to hear the gospel is virtually everywhere, as it was in Paul’s day due to the preaching of the Apostles to every known area of the world at that time.

God blesses the preaching and teaching of His Word. To use a personal example, I am just a no-name housewife. I love the Lord, and I want to teach. This blog has been one way in which I can teach. According to the information I gather from my statistics page, this blog has been read in places I’ve never heard of, by people I will never meet. Perhaps some of those readers will share what they have read with someone else, who may then pass it along. Also, the ubiquity of the internet has spread the gospel all around the world by writers both known and unknown. God has said that His Word will not return without a harvest. It is true today, and it was true in Paul’s day.

Paul, in verse 24, goes on to say that he rejoices in his suffering for the sake of the saints in Colosse. He was writing from a Roman jail, which was not exactly a luxury suite. He was glad to be so incarcerated for the sake of the gospel, and those to whom he preached.

He goes on to mention afflictions. That word, afflictions, is never used of the suffering of Christ on the cross. Rather, it relates to His struggles during His ministry, which are not yet complete as His Word is spread through the ministry and afflictions of those appointed to carry the gospel to others. Paul’s afflictions in no way increased his salvation, but he considered that they were simply a result of his desire to preach and teach, and to minister to the believers in Colosse and elsewhere. His affliction were always for the sake of others, and not for his own holiness or sanctification.

Asceticism was a problem in the church in Paul’s day. People who followed Asceticism practiced self-affliction in the hope of being worthy of salvation. They starved, went without sleep, endured the cold with no fires or clothing to protect themselves. Ascetics focus on themselves; their own holiness, spiritual growth, and perfection. Paul’s suffering was for the sake of the gospel, and for the believers who needed his encouragement and teaching. He suffered for the church, for the Body of Christ, and felt privileged to do so.