Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 7 July 2022:
Deuteronomy 33:27 — The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
And he thrust out the enemy before you and said, ‘Destroy.’
Listen to this sermon by the late Pastor Chuck Smith on Deuteronomy 33:27 and the Eternal God — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TB2kVs0DuJc
Note: Here is a short video overview of Colossians — https://youtu.be/pXTXlDxQsvc
Colossians 1:24-26 — Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.
Colossians is another letter written by Paul in prison while he was being persecuted for sharing the truth of Jesus publicly. Paul had been empowered and entrusted by God with the ministry of suffering. We too have been entrusted with the ministry of suffering. Paul rejoiced in suffering for sake of the Gospel; we should too. However, our fleshly nature seeks to avoid all suffering. Yet, our knowledge of Christ, our love for Him, and the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, overcomes our carnality and compels us more and more to rejoice in our suffering for sake of the Gospel (as opposed to self-induced suffering as the consequences of sin), appreciating the opportunity to fellowship with Christ in His sacrificial love for His chosen.
- Luke 9:23; 14:27 – And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me…. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
It is impossible to love like Jesus, grow closer to Jesus, and share the love of Jesus without suffering for others daily. Paul was suffering in prison, but for most of us suffering for Christ, with Christ, and through Christ will be much more subtle but equally powerful. Our suffering will look like radical, unmerited grace bestowed upon others in the name of Christ, turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), walking the extra mile (Matthew 5:41), forgiving “seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22), giving beyond our means (2 Corinthians 8:3), and truly, from the heart, loving our enemies and doing only good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27), all while sharing the gospel so the focus would always be on Jesus and not on ourselves.
- 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 — All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
We have been entrusted by God with the ministry of reconciliation as ambassadors of Christ. With the ministry of reconciliation comes the ministry of suffering as Christ suffered. God has appointed us and empowered us to share the love of Christ with sinful people who Jesus promised would treat us sinfully, and we are called to take our inevitable persecution to the cross metaphorically as Jesus did for us literally, displaying and proclaiming the grace of God by our response in word and deed – “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:4)
Having this mind of Christ in our personal relationships and daily encounters with others is difficult for us as we have not yet been perfected in His love. However, as we ‘practice’ walking with Christ as an infant would walk with a parent, we will get better at it. As we mature, increasingly we will take steps in love, walking as adults with Jesus, without even thinking about it – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) As any toddler knows intuitively, the key is to get up every time you fall down and keep trying (practice) – “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.” (1 John 3:7) “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” (2 Peter 1:10)
- Hebrews 11:6 — And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Practicing anything is an act of faith, believing you will one day master that which you practice. Our practice of godliness is an act of faith that rests on the promise and assurance that God will complete in us the work which He started – “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
All practice is hard (a form of suffering, tolerating unpleasantness), particularly in the beginning, but practice is the path to perfection. And the better you get, the more you appreciate that mastery involves the constant refinement of the ‘little things.’ Growing in Christ involves adjusting how we respond to the little things, how we respond to today’s events and the people we encounter, how we respond when we are offended by someone, how we respond when we see someone with a need, how we respond when someone wants to praise us (tempting us to be prideful), and what we choose to say and do when we are given an opportunity to share the gospel. What we do in the little moments of the day defines how we will respond to the bigger matters. You can’t do great things until you master the little things — “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” (Luke 16:10) You won’t have joy in prison as Paul did if you don’t practice remaining joyful today when someone offends you in some small way. And you won’t share the Gospel boldly to powerful leaders and multitudes as Paul did, if you don’t practice sharing the Gospel with that person you will meet today.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church….” (Colossians 1:24) “Ministry is costly. When the heavenly Father wanted to save His creation from sin, He could find no other way except the sacrifice of His Son (Rom. 5:8). Scripture gives a stark picture of the price our Savior paid to obtain our salvation: “He is despised and rejected by men, / A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). If Christ is your model for ministry, you cannot avoid going to the cross for the sake of others. Salvation comes with a great price, and if we are going to “take up our cross” and follow Jesus, then we must be prepared to go with Him to the place of suffering if that’s what it takes to bring salvation to those around us.
If our goal is to bring others to Christ we must be willing, as He was, to risk rejection. People may disappoint us, misunderstand our motives, even despise and persecute us. Our Savior did not let suffering prevent Him from being used by God to bring salvation to those He loved. Love for His Father provided all the motivation that was necessary. Are you presently experiencing hardship because of the ministry to which God has called you? Have you begun to wonder if the price you are paying is too great? Take a moment to reflect on the price God was willing to pay in order to bring salvation to you. Are you glad He was willing to do what was necessary? Will you not join Him in whatever is necessary to bring salvation to those around you?” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Colossians 1:27 — To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
“The heavenly Father’s plan from the beginning of time was to place His eternal Son in every believer. If you are a Christian, all the fullness of God dwells in you. Christ’s life becomes your life. When Christ lives in you, He brings every divine resource with Him. Every time you face a need, you meet it with the presence of the crucified, risen, and triumphant Lord of the universe inhabiting you. When God invites you to become involved in His work, He has already placed His Son in you so that He can carry out His assignment through your life.
This has significant implications for your Christian life. Discipleship is more than acquiring head knowledge and memorizing Scripture verses. It is learning to give Jesus Christ total access to your life so He will live His life through you. Your greatest difficulty will be believing that your relationship with Christ is at the heart of your Christian life. When others watch you face a crisis, do they see the risen Lord responding? Does your family see the difference Christ makes when you face a need? What difference does the presence of Jesus Christ make in your life?
God wants to reveal Himself to those around you by working mightily through you. He wants your family to see Christ in you each day. God wants to express His love through your life. There is a great difference between “living the Christian life” and allowing Christ to live His life through you.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Colossians 1:28 — Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
“Discipleship is personally transferring the full dimensions of your relationship with Christ to the person you are walking with. It is not the imparting of spiritual disciplines as much as it is acquainting another with a Person you love. Paul said that he would teach and urge with all his strength that every person God placed in his life would come to a complete experience of the person of Christ (Col. 1:29). He was not satisfied with people becoming partially like Christ. He would not rest until those around him were perfect, or complete, in Christ. That is, that the fruits of the Spirit were being fully expressed through each life and the character of Christ was reflected in each person (Gal. 5:22).
We can mistake Christian activity with becoming like Christ. Christian activity and Christlikeness are not the same things. We must not assume that because our friend attends church and reads her Bible, she is growing as a Christian.
Christian activities are an important expression of your relationship with Christ. They can lead you to a relationship, but the danger is assuming that your religious activity is the relationship. If you are only encouraging those around you to attend Christian activities, then you have not “discipled” them the way Paul did. You do your fellow Christians an injustice by teaching them that Christian activity is equal to Christian maturity. Do not rest until those around you have become “perfect” in Christ. If God has put new Christians under your care, you have an obligation to “stay with them” until they have reached Christian maturity.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 7 July 22: Practice joyfully suffering today for sake of the Gospel.