LentBlog 2015, Day 32 …Provided That You Continue…

Colossians 1:21-23

21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled[j] in his fleshly body[k] through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— 23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.


I gotta say, I think the whole “once-saved, always-saved” theology of certain parts of Christianity is pretty goofy. Passages like this seem to go directly against the idea. Christ will present us blameless and irreproachable, provided  that we continue established and secure in the faith, without shifting from the hope we have heard.

Short and sweet tonight– this “provided” business becomes important, then, if you reverse the logic. If we don’t continue established and secure in the faith, if we shift from the hope we’ve been given, then perhaps Christi will not present us blameless…

Then of course, the hope we’ve been given is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. The hope we have, the faith we exercise, is in Jesus.

I find myself hungry for more. To be more established and firm in the faith.

And I feel God’s answering that prayer.

Blessings,

Mark

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LentBlog 2015, Day 31: The incarnational, reconciling, upside-down, way of Jesus.

Colossians 1:18-20 NRSV:

18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.


So much in these three verses. The profound incarnational statement of verse 19. The idea that in Christ all things, whether on earth or in heaven, are reconciled. (This of course means that Jesus’ goal isn’t just to save our disembodied souls or something… salvation is cosmic… everything gets to be redeemed. Take that, Gnosticism.)

Then the upside-down way God makes peace… not through power, superior strength, or show of force, but through the cross.

Worth thinking about, y’all.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog 2015, Day 30: It’s not “my” church. Not really.

Colossians 1:15-18 NRSV

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in[h] him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in[i] him all things hold together.18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.


Just a couple of quick reflections on this completely awesome passage… This last part of Colossians 1 is just packed with profound stuff.

The Greek word for image in v.15 is εἰκὼν, “icon.” A theology professor of ours first pointed that out to us about 17 years ago and I’ve been working ever since on what it might mean.

It strikes me again the importance of understanding that Jesus wasn’t God’s “plan B” or something. God is Trinity… Father, Son, and Spirit… and the Son was coming before creation was even a reality. That’s important on a bunch of different levels.

Then secondly, it’s important for us pastor types to remember v. 18 now and again… I’ve heard way too many pastors utter the term “my church.” I’m guilty, too. But when we use those words I think sometimes they really do reflect where our heart is. We’ve come to the place where we view our ministry as “ours.” Mine to manipulate, manage, create, control, and protect. Or something. Probably we need to be careful thinking that way, because Paul in this passage reminds us repeatedly that Christ is to have first place in everything. Anything else is idolatry. And sometimes I think even our own church (and worrying about her “success” or “failure” can become an idol. And that very real temptation to idolatry reveals itself when we refer to the charge we’ve been given as “my church.”

Blessings, folks.

Mark

LentBlog 2015, Day 29: Paul’s Prayer… for Us.

Colossians 1:9-14, NRSV

For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s[d] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled[e] you[f] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.


So, tonight this passage is hitting me in a way it and passages like it never have before. I feel no desire to do word studies or try to read the Greek here.

Just this:

As I read this just now, I tried to imagine Paul (or maybe one of our mentors, or one of our brothers and sisters in the church) saying them to me. And I find I need to hear every single word of this passage. It’s a blessing, really. Paul is praying some pretty profound things for the church in Colossae. Tonight, I feel like someone is praying them for Stefanie and I. And I gotta tell you, we need it.

And all of a sudden, the God who stands behind and previous to the scriptures speaks through them. And the Word (Jesus) is pretty much what I think I needed to hear tonight.

Thanks be to God.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog 2015, Day 28: To Comprehend the Grace of God

Colossians 1:3-8

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant.[b] He is a faithful minister of Christ on your[c] behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.


It’s going to be short tonight– I’ve finished up my last session of the theology course I’ve been teaching, and I’m dead tired. What hits me about this thanksgiving section in Colossians is the phrase in verse 7: the gospel has been bearing fruit among them from the day they heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.

Short and sweet: I wonder if one of the big reasons the church is tending not to bear much fruit these days (though defining “fruit” NOT primarily along numerical lines is a good thing) is that we really aren’t truly comprehending what grace means. I wonder if we had a more mature idea of grace if we’d bear a lot more fruit…

Food for thought…

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog 2015, Day 27: Peace, again…

Colossians 1:1-2, NRSV:

 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters[a] in Christ in Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.


I ran out of Ephesians, so I’m starting Colossians tonight to continue through Lent. I figure I started in an epistle, why not stay with one?

As with my post about the first few verses of Ephesians, “grace and peace” jump out at me again with this passage. Only this time, specifically “peace” is working on me. The Teknia online Greek dictionary defines εἰρήνη as “peace, harmony, tranquility; safety, welfare, health; often with an emphasis on lack of strife or reconciliation in a relation, as when one has peace with God. Often used as a verbal and written greeting.”

Lack of strife.

Reconciliation in a relation.

We were once at war, but now we are at peace. With God… with each other… In Christ.

I think it’s way too easy to say we are at peace with God when we are at the same time in unresolved, open conflict with brothers and sisters in the church. I think it’s too easy to say, “sure, I have peace with God” when the life together of “God’s people” is anything but. Not saying that the church is never going to have conflicts or disagreements… it’s not going to be 100% sitting around the campfire singing Kum-Ba-Ya. But it seems like we could be reconciled with one another on a profoundly deep level and still have disagreements. It’s just that the peace among us runs deeper. Or at least it can, if Paul’s blessing applies to us.

Things to think about…

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog 2015, Day 26: Paul’s Concluding Request

Ephesians 6:18-23, NRSV:

 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,[d] 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus will tell you everything. He is a dear brother and a faithful minister in the Lord. 22 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, to let you know how we are, and to encourage your hearts.

23 Peace be to the whole community,[e] and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ


Ya gotta love passages like this in Paul. He’s in prison, chained for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus as the Messiah. His Jewish countrymen for the most part want his head on a plate. And as he concludes his letter to the church at Ephesus, he asks for their prayers. NOT so he can get our of jail. NOT that his circumstance will change. NOT so that he can get out there and start more churches or something. He asks them to pray that he would be able to preach with clarity and boldness about the Lord Jesus, which is the reason he’s in chains in the first place.

It’s almost as if he’s got other priorities than his level of comfort or something.

More I’m thinking about in relation to this, but I shant publish it publicly. 🙂

Blessings,

Mark