Series: Walking the Talk
Message – Just Jesus!
Last week we began looking at chapter 2 in Colossians, and we discovered that as an Apostle – one commissioned by Jesus to go and start a new work, Paul loved to see Christians solid in doctrine and relational trust!
Col. 2:1-23, Weymouth
“(1) For I would have you know in how severe a struggle I am engaged on behalf of you and the brethren in Laodicea and of all who have not known me personally, (2) in order that their hearts may be cheered, they themselves being welded together in love and enjoying all the advantages of a reasonable certainty, till at last they attain the full knowledge of God’s truth, which is Christ Himself. (3) In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are stored up, hidden from view. (4) I say this to prevent your being misled by any one’s plausible yet deceptive arguments. (5) For although, as you say, I am absent from you in body, yet in spirit I am present with you and am delighted to witness your good discipline and the solidity of your faith in Christ.”
So we worked through to verses 8-10 which say,
“(8) Take care lest there be someone who leads you away as prisoners by means of his philosophy and idle fancies, following human traditions and the world’s crude notions instead of following Christ.”
I brought up the entertainment industry and how it’s goal is to influence thought, belief and practice – and that Christian’s who expose themselves to it often enough become sympathetic to those who live in sin or at very least become desensitized to sin.
Remember that Jesus said, “A little leaven, will permeate the whole loaf.”
And the proverb which says,
“(3) A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished. (4) By humility and the fear of the LORD Are riches and honor and life. (5) Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; He who guards his soul will be far from them.” ~ Prov. 22:3-5
“(9) For it is in Christ that the fulness of God’s nature dwells embodied, and in Him you are made complete, (10) and He is the Lord of all princes and rulers. (11) In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision not performed by hand, when you threw off your sinful nature in true Christian circumcision;”
So what is this saying but that if you are Christ’s then you are on a journey towards His image. So placing before yourselves and following any other image is counter productive, for you are only able to be made complete or mature in WHO you really are IN HIM!
Paul had a strong feeling about the topic of circumcision. He had these feelings out of respect to Christ Jesus. He saw all flesh efforts as self-righteous and an affront against the cross of Christ.
CONTINUING where we left off last week…
Our Union with Him begins in death
“(12) having been buried with Him in your baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith produced within you by God Who raised Him from among the dead. (13) And to you–dead as you once were in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your natural state–He has nevertheless given Life with Himself, having forgiven us all our transgressions. (14) The certificate of debt, with its requirements, which was in force against us and was hostile to us, He cancelled, and cleared it out of the way, nailing it to His Cross. (15) And the hostile princes and rulers He shook off from Himself, and boldly displayed them as His conquests, when by the Cross He triumphed over them.”
Now though these are words any believer glories in…we have to ask, “Why is Paul going over these truths to people he knew to already be born again?”
To continually strengthen their resolve that righteousness with God was purchased FOR them and was appropriated TO THEM by absolute abandonment to Christ in relational trust.
That trusting reliance and abandonment to God opens the door for Him to produce in them, the image and likeness of Christ…. Something they could not and SHOULD NEVER TRY to produce on their own.
Paul wanted to continue to stir a fresh awareness that their eternally abiding union with Him IS their life!
Especially in a day when their faith was being challenged by false teachings… tempting them from their steadfastness in Jesus.
If you remember, I’ve told you that many…many years ago, a good friend of mine from college… Dan Ericson, sent me a book when I was in a very low place spiritually.
It was written by a man named Malcolm Smith and was titled, “Spiritual Burnout”. [WARNING: Sadly I can no longer endorse Malcolm Smith since he has plunged headlong into the Hyper-grace movement and universalism which in all reality are separate sides of the same coin.]
One of the BIG takeaways I got from that book (and there were many) was HOW faith & grace worked.
Though it would be MANY years before I would discover that Grace was God’s influence upon my heart AND the reflection of that influence in how I live my life INCLUDING gratitude – I learned HOW that influence came.
Malcolm used the illustration of firing a bullet out of a gun.
He said that grace was the bullet and that our embracing our weakness was the necessary trigger to release the power of grace into your life!
This CHANGED everything – or rather began to.
- I had struggled with “Why Faith?”
- I had struggled with “never being able to do enough”
- I had worked SO hard to build a “faith foundation” in my life through memorization, meditation and contemplation.
- But I had never learned to rest – it was all works.
Malcolm said that this was a lesson Paul had learned.
Let’s turn to 2 Cor. 12:1-10,
Weymouth “(1) I am compelled to boast. It is not a profitable employment, but I will proceed to visions and revelations granted me by the Lord. (2) I know a Christian man who fourteen years ago– whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know; God knows–was caught up (this man of whom I am speaking) even to the highest Heaven. (3) And I know that this man– whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know; (4) God knows–was caught up into Paradise and heard unspeakable things which no human being is permitted to repeat. (5) Of such a one I will boast; but of myself I will not boast, except in my weaknesses. (6) If however I should choose to boast, I should not be a fool for so doing, for I should be speaking the truth. But I forbear, lest any one should be led to estimate me more highly than what his own eyes attest, or more highly than what he hears from my lips. (7) And judging by the stupendous grandeur of the revelations–therefore lest I should be over-elated there has been sent to me, like the agony of impalement, Satan’s angel dealing blow after blow, lest I should be over-elated. (8) As for this, three times have I besought the Lord to rid me of him; (9) but His reply has been, “My grace suffices for you, for power matures in weakness.” Most gladly therefore will I boast of my infirmities rather than complain of them–in order that Christ’s power may overshadow me. (10) In fact I take pleasure in infirmities, in the bearing of insults, in distress, in persecutions, in grievous difficulties–for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
So, how we can turn a weakness into a strength?
Embracing our union and communion.
Paul had come under oppression from the enemy. Though it was certainly a different kind than these Colossians were under, it’s intentions were the same. To derail his faith but pulling him away from intimacy!
What is a thorn in the flesh? This term is used several times with various wordings in the Bible and is always used in reference to people hindering progress or causing trouble.
When we think of a thorn, we think of a somewhat minor irritation, but the root word Paul uses for thorn here describes a tent stake, not a splinter!
In the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint, the word thorn skolops shows “something which frustrates and causes trouble in the lives of those afflicted.”
Properly translated Paul’s reference to a thorn in the flesh would read something like this, “A tent spike – something to frustrate, afflict and cause me trouble was inflicted upon me.”
This was given to Paul to hinder his being elevated beyond measure.
This is actually a compound Greek word huperaírō. From hupér (G5228), above and aírō (G142), to lift up. So accurately translated it means – To lift up above.
While this CAN mean in “pride”, one can hardly attribute to satan a desire to keep someone from pride. No, the meaning is most certainly more akin to that found in James 4:10,
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
There is nothing inherently evil about being lifted up above. David uses a similar phrase in the Old Testament in a positive light.
“And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.”
So let’s examine what was happening here and then compare it to the reason Paul was explaining how exultant the Colossians position was in Christ.
Regardless of what you believe Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ was, it was FROM satan NOT GOD and it was designed to be like a tent spike, inflicting affliction, trouble and frustration.
Do you think this could have worked to ruin Paul’s testimony? Of course!
What was God’s answer to Paul?
My influence over your heart and its reflection in how you live your life is enough for you Paul – you do not need the thorn removed, you need to be exalted above it!
What was Paul’s response to this? Well it wasn’t grumbling and complaining I can tell you that! If Paul had allowed himself to wallow in self-pity he might have said, “Ah Lord! Can’t you just make this one go away! You just don’t know how hard it is to live with this oppression every single day! It’s there when I eat, it’s there when I try to sleep, it pesters me endlessly throughout each day – I can’t get a break from it and I’m feeling suffocated by it!”
Anyone ever feel this way? Why? Notice the words are all focused upon you!
So again, what did Paul do?
“Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So because of Christ, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Boasting in our weaknesses – What Paul was saying was that he gloried and exalted in his moral frailty, so that the achieving power of Christ might descend upon and dwell with Him.
For this reason Paul took deliberate pleasure in his moral frailties, in people being rude, disrespectful and hurtful to him even to the point of injury, Paul was determined to think good of being subject to offenses, hostile pressures against him from without and troublesome distress from within for the sake of Christ’s glory – BECAUSE in the middle of these Paul found that he was NOT alone, but united with Jesus and thus made stronger than any force against him.
Paul approached all these things with the mind-set of one who not only understands what is right and good, but freely involved his will of intention and resolve in seeing them as working towards his good!
In brief, Paul regarded as good all of these things with absolutely faith that they were working for his good even if it was painful to go through, because he was united with Jesus as they happened!
What is Paul saying here?
He was admitting his moral weakness to endure insulting rude and harmful behavior from others, injury, mistreatment and external pressures from others as well as his inability to cope with his own inner struggles which result from them, but that he has had his eyes opened to the fact that he is NOT alone. That in these times, if he will turn in helpless weakness to His Lord and allow his heart to be united with Him, God’s strength will overwhelm his weakness and cause him to count these insults and injuries as working good in him towards God’s glory – Christ in us!
His embracing of his weakness was the necessary trigger to release the grace of God into his life, but TRUSTING in God’s goodness, nearness, abiding power and dedication to him to help him in his need was what enabled Paul to relinquish control and embrace his weakness.
People are NOT willing to surrender their strength if there is nothing there to replace it. This was Paul’s choice and he made the right one. This was Israel’s chose at the mountain in Exodus and they made the WRONG one…and this is the choice facing the Colossians and Paul is encouraging them out of the lessons he himself had learned to make the right one!
Remember, these Christians in Colossae were being persecuted and tempted to re-consider Jesus. To see Him and good – not NOT enough. They were being persuaded to rely upon mechanisms under the old covenant for justification before God – things like circumcision, participation in Jewish festivals and old covenant regulations – and not just Jesus!
So Paul after encouraging these believers in all Christ did for them on the cross, he goes on to write…
“(16) Therefore suffer no one to sit in judgement on you as to eating or drinking or with regard to a festival, a new moon or sabbaths. (17) These were a shadow of things that were soon to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”
All of these things were accomplished in Christ and are practices which we might enjoy and learn from, but have NO POWER towards righteousness, justification or any other heavenly benefit.
They were used as teaching tools and object lessons under the Old Covenant until Messiah came and no longer hold any power or promise whatsoever.
It is important to realize here that all of these references were FROM THE LAW, which means it does not include THE SABBATH, just sabbaths. If you will remember the old testament taught many sabbaths, but THE Sabbath was hallowed by God on the 7th day! Honoring God on the Sabbath was NOT establish under the Old Covenant, it was simply mentioned in it as something which was true and enjoined upon mankind since BEFORE the fall. Remember Luke tells us that Jesus did not teach the law but the kingdom of God – and Jesus taught adherence to the Sabbath – NOT as a law over us – but as a provision FOR us. “The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.”
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.
You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!
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