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« Reply #6465 on: January 25, 2012, 08:44:25 AM »

Read: Romans 8:1-17
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again. - Romans 8:15
TODAY IN THE WORD
In May 2011, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was taken into police custody and became embroiled in a scandal of global proportions. Kahn, the managing director for the International Monetary Fund, and French presidential hopeful, had been accused of sexual assault by a hotel chambermaid. The prosecutor later found inconsistencies and other problems in the chambermaid’s testimony, and eventually dropped the case.

The strength of a case often rests in the hands of its witnesses: are they credible? Paul uses legal terminology in our passage today from Romans 8, specifically in verse 16, where he refers to the Spirit’s role as a witness, or one who testifies. The Spirit is a star witness in the story of our salvation. He testifies to our adoption as the sons and daughters of God. He affirms our acceptance by God and our inheritance as God’s children. And His testimony is credible!

One might wonder what all of this has to do in the context of a discussion about fear. But the theological argument in this text is critical to understanding why fear has no place in the life of a believer, especially when it comes to understanding our salvation. We in Christ once belonged to the “flesh”; we were enslaved to sin. Now because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, we’ve been freed to live a new life in the Spirit. It’s the Spirit who will be the generating power for this new life of holiness.

But a battle for transformation is at hand as the flesh wars with the Spirit. Were we to consider only the evidence of our lives as we live them day to day (and not the Spirit’s testimony), we could easily fall prey to the depressing belief that we can never measure up to the standard of righteousness. Fear makes us slaves to the performance myth, that we must be perfect to win God’s affection.

But the gospel dispels the darkness and fear: through Christ, despite all of our weaknesses and failures, we have been made part of God’s family! He is our Abba, Father, our Daddy.

APPLY THE WORD
Do you struggle with doubts about your salvation? Do you find yourself praying the same prayer over and over again, as if in some way to confirm that you’re saved? The gospel invites you to rest in the work of Christ on your behalf. Fear focuses on self. Faith focuses on Christ. What are the ways that you can reconnect with the important truth that you’ve done nothing to earn God’s favor and that you’re saved by grace through faith alone?
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« Reply #6466 on: January 26, 2012, 08:17:55 AM »

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:6-15
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. - 2 Corinthians 5:11
TODAY IN THE WORD
John Stott died on July 27, 2011. He was known as one of Evangelicalism’s leading voices as a prolific writer, expositor of the Scriptures, and framer of the historic Lausanne Covenant. At the announcement of his death, Billy Graham issued this statement: “The evangelical world has lost one of its greatest spokesmen, and I have lost one of my close personal friends and advisors. I look forward to seeing him again when I go to Heaven.”

The secret to living a life like John Stott’s, a life of passionate commitment to people and ministry and the gospel, is found in the passage we read today from 2 Corinthians. This text frames reality for those of us who follow Christ. There are two dimensions to life: the seen and the unseen, the temporal and the eternal. Those without the Spirit of Christ order their lives according to the first dimension, denying the existence of the second. Without an eternal perspective, there is not much to live for beyond one’s own ambitions and pleasures. But the Christian is compelled by the second dimension—the unseen. For the Christian, time is marching forward to a climactic point: the judgment seat of Christ. That moment in the eternal dimension gives meaning and purpose to every moment of the temporal dimension.

Christ is the invisible eyewitness to every moment of every day. We will give Him an account for everything we do, say, or think. To live in this reality is to have urgency about life, to know what is ultimate, and to speak courageously about these realities to those around us. We are compelled and moved forward by the sheer delight of know-ing God’s great love for us and for humanity.

Walking in the fear of the Lord motivates us to share our faith with theworld. It shapes our priorities, drives our ambitions, and fuels our passions.

APPLY THE WORD
We’re often afraid to share our faith for fear that we might lose relationships. But what gives us courage in evangelism is rooting ourselves more and more securely in the realities of heaven. Pray the words John Stott prayed every morning: “Father I pray that I may live this day in Your presence and please You more and more. Lord Jesus I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow You. Holy Spirit, I pray that this day You will . . . cause Your fruit to ripen in my life.”
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« Reply #6467 on: January 27, 2012, 08:43:51 AM »

Read: Philippians 1:3-6; 2:12, 13
Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. - Philippians 2:12
TODAY IN THE WORD
Miracle on Ice is a film that tells the story of the unforgettable hockey match between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1980 winter Olympics. Kurt Russell, who plays U.S. coach Herb Brooks, gives an impassioned locker room speech. His team knows that the Soviet Union had won gold in every Olympic games since 1964. “If we played ‘em ten times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tonight. . . Tonight we are the greatest hockey team in the world. This is your time.”

Paul cheers on the Philippians in the opening remarks of his letter. He commends their faithful partnership with him in the gospel. They had sent financial support to Paul for his ministry, and Paul obviously felt a warm affection for the believers in Philippi. Every time he prayed for them, it was with great joy and thanksgiving. Unlike many of the other Pauline epistles, which were written to address problems in the various churches Paul established on his missionary journeys, the letter to the Philippians isn’t struggling with particular theological trouble. Paul shared his confidence in their salvation. Quite obviously, they were already bearing the fruit of the Spirit. God would continue the good work that He had obviously started. What cause for confidence and peace in the hearts of the Philippians!

All the while that Paul affirms that God has started, is continuing, and will complete the good work of their salvation, he commends the Philippians to a careful working out of their salvation “with fear and trembling.” The source of the fear cannot be that they lack assurance of their salvation. Paul has already attested to its authenticity. The fear is not that God will somehow reject them. They were not to rely upon their own strength and energy for their salvation and sanctification: God was providing His energy and His strength.

Rather, the fear to which Paul called them was a reverent acknowledgement of God’s presence with them always and everywhere and to genuine obedience.

APPLY THE WORD
Christians can err in one of two different extremes. Either they are never fully assured of their salvation, misunderstanding God’s role to initiate and complete it, or they take for granted the work of salvation and treat it as a free ticket into heaven, ignoring the responsibility to walk in obedience to Christ. Both the truths of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility must be held together if we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
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« Reply #6468 on: January 28, 2012, 08:58:02 AM »

Read: 1 Peter 3:1-17
When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. - 1 Peter 2:23
TODAY IN THE WORD
Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was arrested and convicted for his Christian faith in the fall of 2011. When asked to repent, Nadarkhani answered, “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” “To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” replied the judge. “I cannot,” answered Nadarkhani, who potentially faced the death penalty for his alleged crime.

Nadarkhani joins the throngs of Christians who have suffered because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Throughout history and even today, Christians face the potential of losing their jobs, their houses, even their very lives simply because they profess faith in Jesus. Fear is no doubt an unwelcome companion in those moments of testing.

Peter writes to those suffering unjustly in our passage today. He encourages them not to give way to fear. Notice what happens when fear takes root. It doesn’t always look like trembling cowardice, as if fear always drives us into the shadows to hide. Sometimes fear takes on a quality of fierceness. It becomes aggressive, presenting itself as revenge or retaliation. Because of fear, we can be tempted to simply take matters into our own hands and exact justice in a way we see as most fitting. We repay evil for evil. We dole out consequences to those who have hurt or oppressed us in some way.

Our actions betray not only our fear but also our lack of faith. What we’ve forgotten is God’s rightful role as Judge. In His kingdom, evil is not tolerated. We don’t need to fear that somehow, those who have wronged us are going to escape the judgment of God. When we suffer and when we’re afraid, we need to cast our eyes on Christ. He is our ultimate example. He didn’t despair in His suffering—He entrusted Himself to God.

There can be an incredible peace even when we’re most afraid because we know that God hasn’t failed us and continues acting as the Good Shepherd of our souls.

APPLY THE WORD
Fear, when masked as anger or revenge, can sometimes be hard to identify. Are there relationships in your life marked by fear? You find yourself defensive, even aggressive toward those who have betrayed your confidence or wounded you in some way. Christ Himself suffered unjustly. He was falsely accused and insulted. How might you live according to His example today, blessing those who have hurt you?
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« Reply #6469 on: January 29, 2012, 07:16:09 AM »

Read: 1 John 4:13-21
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. . . . The one who fears is not made perfect in love. - 1 John 4:18
TODAY IN THE WORD
In a culture where great value is placed on information and productivity, we can’t help but be tempted to measure our spiritual health and vitality by our Bible knowledge. We also find ourselves judging the quality of our spiritual lives according to what we’ve accomplished for the Lord. In this modern context, the words of Jesus sound strangely discordant: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Love is the supreme characteristic of a follower of Christ. It is the telltale sign that the Spirit of God has taken up residence in a sinful human heart.

But the love a believer has for his fellow human beings finds its source in a greater Love. Like a river whose source is the mighty ocean, so a believer’s love for humanity originates in God’s love. It’s the breathtaking moments we have as believers when we drink deeply of God’s love for us that we pour out love for others.

The gospel is the ocean, and we are the rivers and streams and bubbling brooks.

Notice that the opposite of love is not hatred. It is fear. John seems to be alluding here in this passage to fear of judgment, and certainly it’s the gospel that drives from our hearts the fear of being punished for our sins. Jesus took on our punishment. Jesus secured for us God’s abiding love, and because of that love, He has punished His own Son in our place.

But it’s also true that a fresh experience of God’s love for us frees us from fear in other aspects of our lives. We’re commanded to engage with God’s love in two different ways (v. 16): we should know it (cognitive), but we should also rely on it (experiential).

Relying on the love of God means developing the kind of faith that believes in God’s goodness and power. That faith, founded on God’s love for us, drives out fear.

APPLY THE WORD
In the past, how and where have you been most aware of God’s love for you? Have you sensed God’s nearness most in the context of fellowship with other believers? Through your private Scripture reading? Maybe you connect most intimately with God through music or as you explore nature. Identify what is most meaningful and profound for you, and seek to make that a regular part of your spiritual practice.
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« Reply #6470 on: January 31, 2012, 08:07:24 AM »

Read: Psalm 128
Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him. - Psalm 128:1
TODAY IN THE WORD
Psalms 120 through 134 are each entitled, “A Song of Ascents.” Scholars don’t exactly know what this phrase means, but most have speculated that these were either songs sung by the people returning to Jerusalem for the three pilgrim festivals or songs sung by the priests actually ascending the fifteen steps of the temple. Psalm 128 is a song of ascent, and its tone is filled with hope. The psalm catalogs the blessings for those who fear the Lord, and it is a fitting way to close our study this month on fear.

We’ve studied the portraits of courageous men and women in the Bible, examining what inspired their courage. We’ve also seen examples of cowardice and been reminded of what not to do in moments of fear. What was common to each of their experiences was that those who demonstrated courage stayed rooted in a confidence of God’s character. Their faith became the lens they used to interpret reality. Rather than focus on the threatening circumstances, they fixed their eyes on God and trusted His deliverance.

We also traced over the history of the Israelites, a people called by God to walk in obedience to Him as King. They were given fantastic revelations of His greatness and power, and yet they turned away from Him. They followed after other gods. Despite all they’d seen and experienced of Yahweh, their hearts were chronically calloused. Their story teaches us the importance of attention to God’s activity in our lives. We’re reminded that walking in the fear of the Lord requires we stay mindful of who God is, what He’s done, and allow these lessons to bolster our faith for new challenges and new fears.

And finally, we’ve claimed some of the marvelous New Testament promises for those who follow Christ. What we’ve ultimately learned is that Christ delivers us from fear. His work of redemption on our behalf has secured God’s loving favor towards us. We need only to look to the Cross to be reminded of God’s abiding love for His people.

APPLY THE WORD
In this month’s study on fear, have you unmasked the fears in your life that masquerade as anger or self-protection? What is it that you have the most difficulty believing about the character of God or the promises of Scripture? Take what you’ve learned, and get honest with another believer. Share how you’re afraid. Confess where your faith is struggling. Commit to praying with this brother or sister that your fear will be replaced with faith.
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« Reply #6471 on: February 01, 2012, 07:40:23 AM »

Read Colossians 1:1–2

“Jesus, name above all names / Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord / Emmanuel, God is with us / Blessed Redeemer, Living Word.” The words of this classic chorus by Naida Hearn are simply a list of names for Jesus. Simple, yet profound. Simple, yet powerful. Simple, yet it will take eternity for us to worship Christ. This month we’ll study the book of Colossians and see some of the simple, profound, and powerful truths about Jesus. We’ll examine the evidence for His sovereignty, superiority, and glory, as well as His redemption proclaimed in the gospel and through our life in Him.

Colossae was a city located in the Lycus River Valley in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), about 100 miles east of Ephesus. Its location has been identified, but it has never been excavated. Focusing on the centrality of Christ, the epistle appears to have been written to combat a heresy. We don’t know exactly what heresy, but it seems to have been a syncretistic blend of Judaism, mysticism, legalism, and paganism. Epaphras, very likely the

planter and pastor of the Colossian church (1:7), knew the heresy threatened the purity of the gospel and the spiritual lives of believers in his congregation, probably a mix of Jews and Gentiles. He was worried enough to go on a trip to Rome to ask Paul’s advice (4:12).

In response, Paul, with Timothy’s assistance, wrote this epistle and sent it to Colossae (vv. 1–2). Since it was written during one of his imprisonments (4:3, 18), it is often grouped with other “prison epistles” such as Philemon. Scholars are not sure exactly which imprisonment, but scholar Douglas Moo identifies Rome as the most likely location, meaning that the book was probably written around a.d. 60 (see Acts 28). Commentator N. T. Wright summarized the book’s overall purpose: “Writing to a young church discovering what it was like to believe in Jesus Christ and to follow him, Paul shares their sense of wonder as he encourages them to explore the treasures of the gospel and to order their lives accordingly.”
Apply the Word

For many in our culture today—as in the culture of the Colossians—truth is considered relative: you have your truth, and I have mine. As we study the letter to the Colossians this month, pray that the Spirit will renew your commitment to the truth of the gospel and the truth of who Jesus is. Pray that this truth will make a difference in how you live as a committed follower of Christ.
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« Reply #6472 on: February 01, 2012, 07:42:25 AM »

Read Hebrews 2:10-18

Philip and Lucy Bliss died the night their train to Chicago crossed a trestle bridge that collapsed, sending the train plunging 75 feet into a ravine. When Philip’s trunk later arrived in Chicago, in it were found the words to a hymn he had recently written: “I will sing of my Redeemer / And His wondrous love to me; / On the cruel cross He suffered, / From the curse to set me free.

Philip and Lucy Bliss didn’t know how soon they would meet their Redeemer. Yet it is the redemptive work of Jesus Christ which is the answer to our greatest fear. Perhaps there is nothing that we fear more than death itself. As human beings, we find our own mortality one of the hardest realities to bear. Death is a curse of the human existence. Even for Christians who hope for eternal life beyond death, death is still our enemy.

What Jesus did on the cross was to break the power of death. By rising from the dead, He determined that death would no longer be the final word. He wasreversing the cruel fate to which all of human creation had been subjected, beginning when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden and were sentenced to death. From Adam onward, humans have known what it means to be haunted by death, and to know that at any moment, breath can be extinguished, and life evaporate.

Apart from Christ, the fear of death is a form of slavery. Those who have no eternal hope are powerless in the face of death. They cannot control or determine when or how it should come. In a universe without a Sovereign God, death is the ultimate victor. Every day is pregnant with fear, whether conscious or subconscious.

But Jesus Christ has conquered the grave. He has reversed the curse, and He has set the captives free. What is there to fear if death itself, seemingly so ultimate and terrifying, has been rendered powerless?

Apply the Word

Maybe you’ve recently received a terminal diagnosis—or someone you love has. Death is cruel, and aging and disease were not part of God’s original plan for the world He created. And yet, even in death, there can be freedom and hope. Look to the merciful and faithful High Priest, Jesus Christ, who suffered a very cruel death on your behalf. Cry out to Him, knowing that He understands and sympathizes. Because of Him, death is not the end of the story.
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« Reply #6473 on: February 02, 2012, 06:56:55 AM »

Read Colossians 1:3–5

In “A Call for Christian Risk,” pastor and theologian John Piper discussed the life of faith as a call to courage: “When the threat of death becomes a door to paradise the final barrier to temporal risk is broken. When a Christian says from the heart, ‘To live is Christ and to die is gain,’ he is free to love no matter what. Some forms of radical Islam may entice martyr-murderers with similar dreams, but Christian hope is the power to love, not kill. Christian hope produces life-givers, not life-takers. The crucified Christ calls his people to live and die for their enemies, as he did . . . Jesus unleashed a movement of radical, loving, risk-takers.”

This is the Christ-centered faith Paul lived out and wrote about. He had already identified himself as an “apostle of Christ” (v. 1) writing to “faithful brothers and sisters in Christ” (v. 2). In today’s verses, he went on to recognize the Colossians’ faith in Christ as a key reason to thank God for them (vv. 3–4), and to remind them that their faith and love were rooted in the gospel of Christ (v. 5). Faith and love “spring from” or are the active result of the hope of the gospel. Here, “love” is not an emotion, but rather the virtue of acting for others’ good. Paul elsewhere referred to faith and love as part of the armor of God that should be worn by Christians (1 Thess. 5:8).

Paul had never actually been to Colossae (2:1). Yet he kept them in his prayers and was aware of the church’s reputation. He wanted the believers there to continue growing in Christ, that is, to be “radical, loving, risk-takers” for the sake of the gospel. This was the “word of truth” they had originally heard and believed and which was eternally guaranteed or “stored up” for them by God (v. 5).

Since these things are true for all believers, this epistle is written for us as well! We, too, have heard and believed, want to keep growing in Christ, and trust in God to guard our salvation.

Apply the Word

Paul wrote of thanking God in prayer for the Colossians (v. 3). Praying for specific individuals and groups is a good habit. For example, instead of just praying for the “unsaved,” we might name a specific friend or neighbor. If you are reading a news article about persecuted Christians in China, Egypt, or elsewhere, that would be a great time to pray for the people in the article. Another idea is to pray for a specific Facebook friend every time you use that social media website.
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« Reply #6474 on: February 03, 2012, 08:21:37 AM »

Read Colossians 1:6–8

Last year was the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. Believers and unbelievers alike acknowledge the powerful influence of the KJV throughout Western culture and history. One writer pointed out: “It’s the Bible of the speeches of Lincoln. It’s the Bible of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. It’s the Bible of the speeches of Martin Luther King.” More than 350 idiomatic expressions used in daily life come from the KJV. Many readers find that the archaic language still conveys a sense of the beauty and majesty of Scripture. In fact, the KJV is the best-selling Bible translation of all time!

The story of the King James Version is just part of the ongoing story of the worldwide spread of the gospel. As Paul wrote, “The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world” (v. 6). This was something the Colossians themselves had been experiencing from the first day they heard, understood, and accepted the message of God’s grace in all its truth. The idea of “bearing fruit and growing”

is geographical, as when the unreached hear the gospel and new churches are planted, as well as personal, meaning that the Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of believers to make us more like Christ.

The church at Colossae was apparently planted by Epaphras (vv. 7–8). Many scholars believe that Epaphras first trusted Christ during Paul’s ministry in Ephesus (see Acts 19), then went from there to preach the gospel in Colossae, and possibly Laodicea and Hierapolis as well (4:13). By mentioning the church’s pastor, Paul made a personal connection with a congregation he hadn’t met and honored one of his co-workers in Christ. This connection also alerted the Colossians, in an apostolically authoritative manner, that they needed to heed Epaphras and reject false teachers. The heresy wouldn’t be addressed until chapter two, but Paul was already laying the groundwork. From his perspective, the gospel is a powerful reality that is past (received), present (“bearing fruit and growing”), and future (promised).

Apply the Word

One excellent book about the 400th anniversary of the KJV is The Legacy of the King James Bible by Leland Ryken (Crossway, 2011). He recounts the historical story of the KJV, including the translation itself and also its influence in education, government, religion, and art. As a scholar of literature from that historical period and of Bible translations in general, Ryken focuses especially on the KJV’s literary qualities and its status as an enduring literary masterpiece.
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« Reply #6475 on: February 04, 2012, 08:42:57 AM »

Read Colossians 1:9–11

Images of roads and journeys and the theme of pilgrimage are central motifs in the Christian life. The idea is that we, like the Israelites in the Exodus, are on our way to somewhere better. While on our way, we have choices to make, lessons to learn, people to serve, commands to obey, injustices to suffer or make right, and praises to sing. Through it all, God is glorified—that’s the meaning of the journey. No wonder we call this our “walk” with the Lord!

Paul had this theme in mind when he wrote to the Colossians about living “a life worthy of the Lord” (v. 10). Such a life was at the center of his prayers for them. “For this reason” meant that he prayed on the basis of their history with the gospel and the gospel’s truth and power in their lives and throughout the world (v. 9).

His main prayer request was for “God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.” That is, now that they had received the gospel and were growing in faith and love, Paul’s

ambition was for them to grow also in obedience and wisdom. To be filled with the knowledge of God is to be controlled by it. To know God’s will is to follow it. Therefore, the outcome of this prayer would be a God-pleasing life—a high calling indeed!

What does a God-pleasing life look like? In verses 10 through 12, Paul lists four characteristics. First, “bearing fruit in every good work.” That fits with his earlier mention of Christian love, or acting for others’ good. Second, “growing in the knowledge of God.” This means “learning” in the sense of both information and action. If theology is a relationship with God, then the “knowledge of God” must involve both knowing and doing. Third, “being strengthened with all power.” The source of strength is divine, and the outcome of a strengthened faith is endurance and patience. Finally, “giving joyful thanks to the Father.” The One for whom we are to “live worthy” is the One who empowers us to do so!
Apply the Word

One is struck in today’s reading by the holistic nature of pleasing God and living lives worthy of the gospel of Christ. We can’t just learn about God abstractly—learning and doing go hand-in-hand. We can’t just emphasize attitude—gratitude must include action, not just feelings.. This is not something we can do on our own. We must rely on the Holy Spirit. To walk God’s way requires His truth, power, and grace!
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« Reply #6476 on: February 05, 2012, 08:31:05 AM »

Read Colossians 1:12–14

The famous scientist Isaac Newton graduated from Cambridge University in 1665. At that time, people believed that white light was the purest form of light, and thus that colored light was somehow impure. To test this belief, Newton shone a beam of sunlight through a glass prism. The prism separated the light into a spectrum of colors, showing that white light is actually composed of many different colors. Newton concluded that these colors, also seen in rainbows, are the fundamental colors seen by the human eye. His test changed our view of light and color and is one of the best-known experiments in the history of science.

Today’s reading focuses on a spiritual movement from darkness to light. The final item on yesterday’s list of characteristics of a God-pleasing life was thankfulness. And the primary reason we have to give thanks to God is for His plan of redemption—how He saved us from death by sending His Son to die in our stead (vv. 12–13). As a result, we who were enslaved in the “dominion of darkness” are now “qualified” to be citizens in His “kingdom of light.” This is pictured as an “inheritance,” that is, as a gift, something earned not on our own merit but by virtue of being a member of God’s family.

The light-versus-dark imagery captures the complete contrast between two realities. The “dominion of darkness” is about sin and death, while the “kingdom of light” is about holiness and life. These two realities have opposite power structures, opposite beliefs to live by, and opposite outcomes. We were spiritually dead and headed for damnation—there was absolutely nothing we could do to move ourselves from one domain to the other. Only God could rescue us, which He graciously did even though it meant the sacrifice of His beloved Son.

Christ died and rose again, winning the victory over death and making possible forgiveness of sin (v. 14). The “kingdom of light” is rightfully His kingdom, and the gospel received by the Colossians and still spreading all over the world proclaims the loving power of His kingship.
Apply the Word

The word “qualified” in verse 12 shows us clearly that our redemption is a gift from God. The term means “made sufficient” or “made fit.” The idea is that something lacking is provided, or that someone who needed something is equipped with it by someone else. Spend time today thanking God that His Son made your redemption possible, and that His Spirit lives in you. This is the greatest gift; let us live out our gratitude to the Giver!
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« Reply #6477 on: February 06, 2012, 08:17:39 AM »

Read Colossians 1:15–17

Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend penned the popular modern hymn, “In Christ Alone.” In its second verse, this hymn reflects on the wonder of the Incarnation: “In Christ alone / Who took on flesh / Fullness of God in helpless babe! / This gift of love and righteousness / Scorned by the ones He came to save. / Till on that cross as Jesus died / The wrath of God was satisfied / For ev’ry sin on Him was laid / Here in the death of Christ I live.”

Paul, too, exalted the full deity and humanity of Christ. Colossians 1:15–20 is often considered the climax of this epistle because of its doctrinal and poetic qualities. Paul might be quoting an existing hymn, but it’s also possible he composed the hymn or poem himself. In any case, he asserted that Christ “is the image of the invisible God” (v. 15). This means that although God is a spirit and cannot be seen, Christ became human and made it literally possible to see God. This is also a way of saying that Christ is fully God. Hebrews 1:3 similarly affirms, “The Son

is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”

Christ is also “the firstborn over all creation.” “Firstborn” is a positional metaphor—that is, it doesn’t mean the Son of God began His life at a certain point in time (He’s eternal!), but rather indicates His position as ruler over the created world. This interpretation is confirmed and expanded in the next verse, where we learn that “in him all things were created” (v. 16). Christ’s relation to creation is not only one of authority, but also one of authorship. He spoke it into being and continually sustains it (cf. John 1:14). His preeminence covers the entire created realm, including supernatural beings, a truth that will be applied specifically in chapter two against the false teachings spread in Colossae (2:18–19). In summary, Paul wrote: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (v. 17). Or as one commentator put it, “Things make sense only when Christ is kept at the center.”
Apply the Word

Today’s passage takes us back to Genesis 1 with fresh eyes. Since Christ is the creator and ruler over all creation, then He is the One to whom we as stewards of creation must give account (Gen. 1:28–30). He made it all, and He will make it all new (Rev. 21:5). It can be invigorating and convicting to realize that He is the One holding everything together, that He stands at the beginning and end of history as its Alpha and Omega, and that in Him we actually see God.
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« Reply #6478 on: February 07, 2012, 07:33:50 AM »

Read Colossians 1:18–20

Paul pictured the church as one body that consists of many parts (see 1 Corinthians 12). A body made entirely of ears wouldn’t be able to walk. A body made entirely of legs wouldn’t be able to eat. A body made entirely of hands wouldn’t be able to see. In the same way, a diversity of people and spiritual gifts is exactly what the church needs to thrive. The key, of course, is a head. Without a head to run the show, a body is just a corpse. In the case of the church, the Head is Christ. He’s the One in charge!

Christ’s headship over the church is yet another facet of His greatness and glory (v. 18). He is also “the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead.” Just as He rose from the dead with a glorified body, so also will we (see 1 Corinthians 15). Because of Him, death has lost its sting and the gift of eternal life is ours. This has been God’s plan all along: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be

 the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom. 8:29). In everything Christ has the supremacy.

Christ’s identity and mission are closely intertwined. His identity is fully God, that is, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (v. 19). In His humanity, Christ’s mission on earth was redemption and reconciliation. Why reconciliation? Because of sin, we were God’s enemies. We were in a state of war with the Almighty, and peace needed to be made. But we were enslaved in the “dominion of darkness” and incapable of rescuing ourselves. So God reached out to us and made “peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (v. 20). The state of war ended, thanks to the sacrifice of the Victor Himself.

Paul celebrated the identity and mission of Christ in order to remind the Colossians of the Person and truth who had transformed their lives, and to call them (and us) to worship and live worthy of Him.
Apply the Word

Every believer has one or more spiritual gifts that are to be used in service to the body of Christ, the church. These gifts are given and cultivated by the Holy Spirit. A variety of gifts is necessary for the health of the church (see 1 Cor. 12:6–7). Are we using our gifts to participate in the life of the church? Just as our gift of salvation should prompt us to live in gratitude, so also our spiritual gifts should encourage us to live in service to God and others.
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« Reply #6479 on: February 08, 2012, 07:46:50 AM »

Read Colossians 1:21–23

The Ardabil Carpet is regarded by experts as “one of the two greatest Persian rugs ever woven.” Dating from the sixteenth century, it was originally made for a religious shrine in the city of Ardabil (modern Iran) and is now housed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It was created by “Maqsud of Kashan”—probably a court official supervising a team of weavers—and consists of 35 million knots, or an amazing 800 knots per square inch. It measures 23 feet long by 13 feet wide, and pictures a garden of paradise through intricate floral patterns and geometric shapes.

Just as the Ardabil Carpet is an artistic masterpiece, so also is Christ’s work of redemption a spiritual masterpiece. Today’s verses are a classic “once you . . . but now” before-and-after picture that Paul loves to use. “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (v. 21). While the preceding verses position Christ with reference to people, these verses position people with reference to God. Due to sin, we were disconnected from our Creator and in a state of rebellion against Him. Paul located this rebellion in our minds, because in this epistle his emphasis is on knowledge and truth and their consequences.

But then . . . the alienation turned to friendship and the rebelliousness to obedience (v. 22). The relationship was transformed. How did this miracle occur? “By Christ’s physical body through death” (cf. 2:15). And the fact is that this miracle is still occurring. We’re being purified and made holy through God’s ongoing work of sanctification in our lives. Salvation is a one-time event that changes our life forever; it’s a process or pilgrimage that continues until we reach our destination. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel” (v. 23). Letting God do His work in us is what faith is all about. If the Colossians and Paul have learned anything from their experience with the gospel, this is it!
Apply the Word

For those of us who live on the “but now” side of redemption, the issue is whether we are living as if Christ really does have the supremacy in everything (v. 18). Does He hold first place in our thoughts and feelings? Is He preeminent in our marriage, family, work, and play? Is He glorified above all else in our words and actions, including in our leisure, media, and music choices? Is He honored and worshiped as Head of the church and of every dimension of our lives?
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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