Abounding in the Faith with Thanksgiving

January 18, 2015 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Confession, Creeds, Meditations, Sanctification, Thankfulness, Word of God

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7

Paul’s admonishes us to walk in Christ in the same way in which we received Him – and this, of course, means that we are to walk by faith. We are to reject all attempts at self-deliverance or self-justification; we are to reject moralism and legalism; we are to acknowledge our weakness and need for grace. In that posture, relying upon the help that only God can give, we are to do that which is good and pleasing in His sight.
Christ is the center: He is the center of history; He is the center of the biblical story; He is the center of our own personal lives. He has done for us what we could not do for ourselves; and, by the power of the Spirit, He continues to do in us what we cannot do on our own. So Paul urges us to be rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith just as we have been taught. Paul calls us to be faithful to the faith that was handed down in the churches, to (in his words to Titus) hold firmly to the traditions which we have been taught. Like Jude, Paul wants us to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
This injunction that Paul gives the Colossians is one of the reasons that we, each Lord’s Day, recite one of the Creeds together. Our goal in reciting them each week is that these summaries of Scriptural teaching rest in our bones and become part of us through corporate confession. The goal is that each week we grow in our knowledge of Christ and our thankfulness for what God has done for us in Him.
You see Paul wants us not to be just rooted and built up in Christ, not just established in the faith we have been taught, but established in a certain fashion. And what is that? Note what he says: he wants us to be abounding in the faith with thanksgiving. First, consider that he calls us to be “abounding in the faith.” To abound is to “exist in large numbers or amounts.” Paul doesn’t want us just holding on to the faith; not just enduring; but abounding. Abounding in our study of the Word; abounding in our devotion to prayer; abounding in service to God, to His people, and to the world. So are you abounding? Are you striving to grow, week by week, year by year, in your knowledge of the faith and service to Christ?
Second, he wants us to be “abounding in it with thanksgiving.” It would be easy to work really hard and so appear to be abounding but to have an attitude in our work that is resentful or frustrated or bitter or empty. We are not to be abounding in the faith with bitterness, or with burn out, but with thanksgiving. How is this possible? Only if we recall, once again, that it is God who is at work in us to will and to do for His good pleasure. We walk by faith – faith in the Son of God who gave Himself for us and who poured out His Spirit on us.

So this morning as we enter into God’s presence, let us confess that we are often not abounding in the faith with thanksgiving. And let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord.

Christ, the Center of Time

December 14, 2014 in Ascension Sunday, Bible - NT - Colossians, Christmas, Church Calendar, Easter, Ecclesiology, Good Friday, King Jesus, Liturgy, Meditations, Pentecost
Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)
17
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
If you’ve been at Trinity long, you’ve no doubt discovered that we utilize the Church calendar to organize our year. Our songs, our Scripture readings, our confessions, our meditation, and even sometimes our sermons are geared to the Church Calendar. Given that following the Church Calendar is not a matter of necessity, why have our elders decided to do so? What’s the point?
As we consider that question, consider what each phase of the church year does: it places Christ and His life and work at the center of all reality. It orients the entire year around the life of Christ: Advent – awaiting His birth; Christmas – celebrating His birth; Epiphany – celebrating His revelation as Messiah to the Magi and in his baptism; Lent – remembering His suffering on our behalf; Passion week – remembering His final week of challenge, betrayal, death, burial, and glorious resurrection; Ascension – celebrating His enthronement at God’s right hand as King of kings and Lord of lords; Pentecost – celebrating the outpouring of the Spirit by our Risen and Exalted Lord. Between Pentecost and Advent? Celebrating the work of Christ by the power of His Spirit throughout the course of history. The Church Calendar put Jesus at the center of our lives.
So why is this valuable? Well note Paul’s command today: So whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Whatever you do – whether eating or drinking or sleeping or waking; whether living in the winter or summer; in the fall or the spring. Do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus. The Church Calendar helps us fulfill this command by putting Jesus exactly where He belongs – at the center of our Church life. And this, of course, reminds each of us to put Jesus at the center of our own life.
But often we are consumed with other things. We want to push Jesus to the margins of our lives; oh, we’ll give Him a bit of attention on Sunday but the rest of the week? That’s ours. But Jesus demands all our time – each day, each hour, each minute, each second. He is the Sovereign Lord and all we are and do is to be offered up in praise to Him.
So what of you? Has Christ been at the center of your life this week? Fathers, have you led your family to Christ this week, worshiping and praying and speaking together of Christ’s work in your home? Christians, have you displayed Christ this week, manifesting His character in your life and speaking His praises with your lips? Or have you put your own self at the center of your calendar?

Reminded this morning that whatever we do, in word or in deed, is to be done in the Name of Christ to the glory and praise of God, let us confess that we often do things and speak things in our own name. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord.

The Fullness of Deity

August 10, 2014 in Bible - NT - Colossians, King Jesus, Meditations, Temptation, Trinity
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
Colossians 2:6-10
One temptation that routinely faces us is to substitute our own religious ideas for the Word of God. Today we will see that Satan strives to persuade us to abandon God’s Word so that he can unmoor us. Without God’s Word we’re like a boat adrift, left to try and find some substitute meaning and purpose to life. So Paul warns us to beware lest we be cheated by such trifles, expressions of human tradition and not divine truth.
Paul informs us that the reason these various substitutes are vanity is because they are not connected to Christ in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Jesus was God Himself in human flesh. So the reason it is folly to reject Christ is because when He spoke, God spoke; when He acted, God acted; when He wept, God wept; when He thundered, God thundered. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the full embodiment of the deity and so we can know that the things he spoke, thought, and did were infallible revelations of God’s person and will. No clearer revelation was or is possible.
The apostles, therefore, reserve some of their most severe denunciations for those who preach a “false Christ” – a Christ other than the one who lived and breathed and spoke in human history. Jesus really was born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, baptized in the Jordan, ministered in Galilee, died on Golgotha, raised in a garden near Jerusalem, and ascended from a mountain near Bethany. So it is to this Jesus we cling – the Jesus who was and is God Himself clothed in human flesh.
If Jesus is not God then the things he revealed are no more solid and sure than the teachings of Plato or Aristotle or Hume or Sartre. If Jesus is not God, then we are left with the mere opinions and traditions of men. But glory be to God, the Jesus of history was and is fully God and fully man. He is fully capable of revealing the Father to us and fully capable of identifying with us – because He bears in His one person the two natures – divine and human.
Hence, it is no coincidence that of all the differences between non-Christian religions and pseudo-Christian movements like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, the one thing they hold in common is a rejection of the full deity of our Lord Jesus. This is the center point of Satan’s attack – obscure the Person of Jesus. But Paul tells us quite plainly today – in Him all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form.

And so, knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ was indeed God Himself clothed in human flesh, let us confess that rather than pay attention to His Word as we ought, we frequently resort to the opinions and traditions of men that can bring only vanity and emptiness. Let us kneel and confess our failure to listen to our Lord.

The Danger of Self-Righteousness

August 3, 2014 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Cross of Christ, Faith, Justification, Meditations, Sanctification
Colossians 2:6-8
6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
It is common for those who have a passion for good works to degenerate into self-righteousness. The Pharisees, the Galatians, the Judaizers, and, at moments, even Peter and Barnabas fell into this trap. After all, nothing makes more sense to our carnal reason than to say that if we have achieved righteousness, then we must have earned it solely by our own merit and hard work.
It is to combat this notion that Paul exhorts us to walk in Christ, to conduct our lives, according to the same principle that united us with Christ in the first place. And what was that principle? Faith. Faith united us with Christ, was the appointed means by which God credited to our account the righteousness of Christ, was the gift that enabled us to emerge from darkness into the light of life.
So let us be absolutely clear what this means. Faith brings nothing of its own to the transaction; we did not receive Christ because we were wiser than our neighbor; we did not receive Christ because we were more intelligent than our neighbor; we did not receive Christ because of anything in us. For by nature we are all children of wrath, deserving of destruction, committed to waste and profligacy. What then does faith do? Looking to self and despairing of any self-deliverance, faith looks to Christ and rests upon Him for deliverance – save me O Lord, for I am helpless and needy; have mercy on me, for I am a sinner worthy of death.
And so Paul urges us to pursue our growth in holiness with this same mentality. Look not to your own worth, not to your own deserving, not to your own wisdom, but instead to the grace of God, the mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who frees us from our self-absorption and enables us to pursue righteousness to the glory of God. God will not honor those who strive to achieve righteousness in their own strength. He looks to the one who is humble and who relies on His grace in Christ.

And so, reminded that God’s grace is the source of our strength and righteousness; that that which distinguishes us from our neighbor is not our commitment, not our determination, not anything of ours, but rather the completely free grace of God, let us confess that we often fall into the sin of self-righteousness.

Confessing Christ

September 12, 2011 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Creeds, Meditations

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7


As a congregation, we at Trinity Church have been making our way through Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Here in Colossians 2 Paul begins to transition away from his opening greetings to the exhortations which he felt compelled to deliver to the Colossians. It seems that the Colossians were being tempted to move away from the message that their pastor Epaphras was preaching in favor of some new teaching that was tickling their ears.

Consequently, Paul urges them to continue in Christ even as they began in Him. Don’t be moved away from the Gospel that you originally heard: the good news that though we were dead in transgressions and sins, estranged from God because of our rebellion, God Himself took on human flesh and dwelt among us; He sent His only Son to rescue us from our sin and slavery and to restore us to fellowship with Himself; Jesus lived for us, suffered for us, died for us, was buried for us, rose again from the dead on the third day for us, ascended into heaven for us, and has sent His Spirit to give us faith, make us more holy, and assure us of our resurrection. This is the message you heard – now, Paul says, cling to it tenaciously.

Notice that Paul calls us to be faithful to the faith as it was handed down in the churches, to (in his words to Titus) hold firmly to the traditions which we have been taught. Like Jude, Paul wants us to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

This injunction which Paul gives the Colossians is one of the reasons that our churches, every Lord’s Day, recite one of the ecumenical creeds together – in a moment we will be singing a setting of the Apostles’ Creed. As these summaries of Scriptural teaching rest in our bones and become part of us through corporate confession, we are being rooted and built up in Him. For each Lord’s Day we grow in our knowledge of Him – where did He come from? He was eternally begotten of the Father before all worlds. Who is He? He is God of God, light of light, very God of very God. Is he a creature? No for he is begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. What has he done? Through Him all things were made, who for us men and our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried, the third day He rose again from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

This, brothers and sisters, is the Christ we worship. The very one who is worthy of all glory, laud, and honor. The very one who created all things and to whom it is right and fitting to give glory and dominion. And it is in this One that Paul tells us to be rooted and grounded and in whom we are to grow.

And note that Paul insists that it is not enough to recite this faith, not enough to know who Jesus is and what he has done; he commands us to be abounding in the faith with thanksgiving. To abound is to overflow, to know no limits. The words we recite or sing each Lord’s Day should come from hearts that are in the full flood of thanksgiving – thanks for rocks and trees and good friends and green grass and fresh honey and butter and flashlights and honorable men and lovely women and cheese and forgiveness and resurrection.

And so, coming into His presence, let us kneel and confess that we have failed to appreciate fully His glory and to honor His name accordingly by rejoicing in the faith as we have been taught.

Church Calendar

December 12, 2010 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Church History, Liturgy, Meditations, Tradition

Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)
17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Last week we insisted that as we enter into the Advent season, the beginning of the Christian calendar, it is imperative for us to remember the distinction between the Word of God and the traditions of men. But given that the observance of the Christian calendar is not a matter of necessity, why have our elders decided to emphasize it? Why have we decided, among the myriad of things that we could emphasize, to emphasize this? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? Isn’t this perhaps putting an unnecessary stumbling block in front of God’s people? Aren’t we straining at gnats and swallowing camels?

As we consider these questions, I would like us to meditate on the meaning of calendars. What do calendars do? They measure time, they organize our lives, they shape us and mold us as creatures made in the image of God.

“Solomon reminds us that there is a season for all things. That is, that timing
is an important feature of wisdom. God tells us that the whole sky that we walk
under was created so that man could understand the season and timing of things.
Then God descended upon Sinai and gave Israel a calendar of holidays as part of
its heritage… which the gospel writer John shows pointed to Jesus. Even Jesus
himself tells us that he comes during an acceptable season. Seasons, timing,
memory. memorial, history, heritage, and holy days are all a central concern to
our God and concern for God’s people. For he divides times, and we are made in
that image.” (Troy Martin)

This centrality of time, the centrality of calendars, was made evident in the French Revolution. For one of the first things that the revolutionaries endeavored to accomplish was to change the calendar, to reorient it – not around the birth of Christ but around the beginning of the French Revolution since that was the most important thing in history.

So what does this all have to do with the Christian calendar? Consider for a moment what the Christian calendar does. First, it dates all things in history from the birth of Christ declaring in no uncertain terms that Jesus is the center of history. Second, it not only dates all things from Christ’s birth, it also orients the entire year around the life of Christ. Advent – awaiting his birth; Christmas – celebrating His birth; Epiphany – celebrating his revelation as Messiah to the Magi and in his baptism; Lent – remembering his suffering; Passion week – remembering his final week of challenge, betrayal, death, burial, and glorious resurrection; Ascension – celebrating his enthronement at God’s right hand as King of kings and Lord of lords; Pentecost – celebrating the outpouring of the Spirit by our Risen and Exalted Lord. Between Pentecost and Advent? Celebrating the work of Christ by the power of His Spirit throughout the course of history.

In other words, the Christian calendar is a reminder that “Christ marks our time, Christ marks our calendar. It is wisdom to know the season of things, and Christ is our wisdom, …” (TM)

Why is this important? Precisely this: our calendars always reflect the god we worship. In the ancient world, it was the lives and doings of the gods that structured time. In the Muslim world, it is the actions of Muhammed and the operations of the heavens that govern the world. In the Western world, a world that still clings to the vestiges of a Christian heritage but is now apostatizing, rejecting that heritage, what gods do we worship? We worship the god of self.

Our schedules are dominated by us. Our thoughts about time are filled with
thoughts about our own time, our own work, our own busy schedule. And should we ever have a holiday, we understand it only as a personal vacation. So today’s
exhortation is an invitation, to remember who marks your steps and determines
your times. You were bought with a price, you do not belong to yourself. Neither
does your time.
(Troy Martin)

So whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Reminded that we have failed to do so, let us kneel and confess our sins to God.

Don’t Trust Your Strength

February 22, 2010 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Faith, Meditations

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7

No sin is more common among those who have a passion for righteousness and purity than to imagine that these things are to be achieved by human striving rather than divine grace. The Pharisees fell into the trap, the Galatians fell into the trap, the Judaizers fell into the trap, Peter fell into the trap, and, according to our text today, the Colossians were in danger of falling into the trap. After all, nothing makes more sense than to say that if we want to pursue the righteousness of God, then we must earn it; we must strive for it; we must achieve it.

For the last several weeks we have been considering the strength that God has placed in young men, the particular gifts that He has given them. Our text today in Colossians reminds all of us, young men included, that native strength is not the key to victory over the evil one – the key is faith, trust in the promises of God.

Paul exhorts us to walk in Christ, to conduct our lives, according to the same principle that united us with Christ in the first place. And what was that principle? Faith. Faith united us with Christ, was the appointed means by which God credited to our account the righteousness of Christ, was the gift that enabled us to emerge from the shadow of darkness into the light of life.

So let us be absolutely clear that we understand what this means. Young men, do not trust in your strength – trust in the goodness of God who has given you strength. What do you have that you have not received? And if you have received it, why do you boast?

Paul urges us to pursue our growth in grace by looking not to our own worth, not to our own deserving, not to our own wisdom, but looking instead to the grace of God, the mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has given us all things. And precisely because He has given us all things, we should be the most grateful people on earth, we should be “abounding with thanksgiving.”

And so, reminded that God’s grace is the source of our strength and wisdom; that that which distinguishes us from our neighbor is not our commitment, not our determination, not anything of ours, but rather the completely free grace of God, let us kneel and confess that we often fall into the sin of imagining that it is by our own strength that we serve the Lord and not by the strength which He has supplied.

Disarming the Principalities and Powers

January 18, 2010 in Augustine, Bible - NT - Colossians, Bible - NT - Revelation

Colossians 2:13-15 (NKJV)
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

This Lord’s Day we explored the inauguration or beginning of the Kingdom of God through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. One of the issues discussed was the conquest of the demonic forces, the principalities and powers, that at one time ruled men and nations. These minions of the devil were, according to Paul, disarmed when our Lord was crucified. Imagining themselves the victors, they were defeated. Augustine explains this winsomely. Below is a quotation I read in the sermon – rearranged by me to make the oral hearing of it easier to follow. I pulled the quotation from David Chilton’s The Days of Vengeance: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation:

The devil was conquered by his own trophy of victory. The devil jumped for joy, when he seduced the first man and cast him down to death…. [He] jumped for joy [again] when Christ died; [but] by the very death of Christ the devil was overcome: he took, as it were, the bait in the mousetrap. He rejoiced at the death, thinking himself death’s commander. But that which caused his joy dangled the bait before him. The Lord’s cross was the devil’s mousetrap: the bait which caught him was the death of the Lord… By seducing the first man, [the devil] slew him; by slaying the last man, he lost the first from his snare. The victory of our Lord Jesus Christ came when he rose and ascended into heaven; then was fulfilled what you have heard when the Apocalypse was being read, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah has won the day.”

The Gift of Good Manners

September 15, 2009 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

“5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:5,6

In closing his letter to the Colossians, Paul urges a number of common graces upon the believers in Colossae. Knowing that they would be tempted in the cosmopolitan and corrupt city of Colossae to retreat into a holy huddle and be cranky and uptight, Paul imparts to them some closing words of counsel about their actions and their speech.

In regard to our actions, Paul commands us to “walk in wisdom” and to “redeem the time.” Paul urges us to follow the exhortations to wisdom found in Proverbs and other books, particularly in light of the brevity of our lives and the time that the Lord has allotted to each of us on earth. We are to use the gifts and talents that the Lord has afforded us to the best of our ability and for the benefit of others.

This other oriented focus continues in Paul’s exhortation regarding our speech. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Elsewhere he gives the same basic command urging us to speak in such a way that it “gives grace to those who hear.” Our speech, Paul tells us, is not primarily to serve ourselves but to serve others.

And so, what do these exhortations mean for us? First, they remind us that Paul saw no contrast between the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the wisdom literature, like the Proverbs, in the Old Testament. After all, these words that Paul entrusts to the Colossians were nothing new. Solomon had given the same basic exhortation years before.

“24 Put away from you”, Solomon counsels, “a deceitful mouth,
And put perverse lips far from you.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
26 Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil.”

Notice then that when Paul urges us to walk in wisdom, he is commanding us to have these proverbs dwell in our hearts and minds. Let us teach them to our children and grandchildren that they might learn what it means to walk in wisdom and redeem the time.

Second, in this passage Paul is endorsing the old-fashioned concept of good manners. For what are manners but simple patterns of behavior that attempt to put others at ease and consider their well-being as more important than our own? Opening the doors for ladies, saying hello and goodbye, saying thank you and you’re welcome – we should view all these trifles as attempts to incarnate Paul’s admonition to let our conduct be characterized by wisdom and our speech seasoned with salt.

There is one particular way in which we can be practicing Paul’s wisdom every week as we gather together. We worship in a facility that is not our own but which we are being permitted to use. As guests in this facility, we need to demonstrate good manners. And so, children, you shouldn’t be climbing over the furniture, playing with things that aren’t ours, or carrying your donuts outside the eating area.

And you, parents, take responsibility for your children. Watch over them with all diligence and teach them the importance of manifesting good manners in their treatment of this facility. But let us not do this in such a way that we too violate the command to have our speech seasoned with grace. We mustn’t yell and scream at our children because we have failed to train them in good manners. Instilling manners into our children is not done on Sunday morning – it must be happening all week so that Sunday morning is nothing new. So the exhortation comes to us: we must impart the grace of manners to our children.

Walk in wisdom, redeem the time, speak with grace – these are the reminders that Paul gives to the Colossians and to us. Reminded how we as a people have failed to fulfill these things, let us kneel and confess this to our Father seeking His forgiveness.