Saturday, September 24, 2022

Do It Heartily




























Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

As is typical, this last section of Colossians 3 continues to build on the first half of the chapter. It is about our commitment to Christ. Nothing less than a full commitment will do, nothing less than a full commitment will bring us the result we seek, eternal life with Christ. I say that in full awareness that Jesus is continually loving, forgiving, and gracious, and His mercies are new every morning. Today’s reading performs as a segue in the midst of the chapter to drive home the point of our vulnerability.

Even the successful purging of just one sin in our lives leaves a void in our habits and routines. Putting off the old man leaves a void. Putting on the new man fills the old man’s void. It behooves us to fill the void as it is created. Christ Jesus is the only one that can fill us in mind, body, and spirit. It is His total commitment to us that should elicit our full commitment to Him.

“We love Him because He first love us.” 1 John 4:19

“While we were yet sinners, He died for us.” Romans 5:8


The plan of salvation is God’s perfect plan, even to the death of His only begotten Son for our sakes. Abrahams near sacrifice of his son, Isaac exemplifies in "typology" what God has done for us. The hardships of Joseph, son of Jacob, presents Joseph’s life as a type of Christ’s life. Samson, and many other characters of the Old Testament give us more and more of the history of what Jesus experienced for us during His short time on Earth.

He asks us to die to self, and to follow Him; His life then becomes a type of what ours can be if we do indeed follow Him: a new life, eternal life, with Him in heaven, with the Father and the Holy Spirit and all the rest that are His. It will be heavenly!
2 Timothy 3:16 -
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness.”
This week is part 3 for the church at Colossae: “Correction”

Sunday Morning Message:
Colossians 3:17-25 - "Do It Heartily"

 This week as we finish up the third chapter of Colossians, Paul gets very specific on what Christian conduct looks like.   In verse 17, he says, "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." Do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus! All things really mean all things! 

In Colossians 3, Paul started out his teaching by listing several sinful traits a Christian should avoid.  He then followed this with a list of Godly characteristics believers should be displaying in their lives.

So, in verse 17, Paul summarizes all of this with the following phrase: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17).
 You don’t do Christ-centered things at church and then worldly centered things at work or home. The command is all-encompassing and covers all of life. It covers all things because Jesus is Lord of all things.  “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him" (Colossians 2:6). Our relationship with Jesus is not about a set of rules, it is about our hearts. Hearts that have been renewed, captivated by His love and filled with His Spirit. We obey Him because we love Him.

It is a great privilege and a wonderful responsibility to bear Christ’s name. So, if you call yourself a Christian, remember that it is Him that you represent.

Verses 18-25 - In all our relationships we should look at Christ for our example. Husbands and wives, look at Christ and his relationship with the church as the example for your relationship with each other. Children, look at Jesus who obeyed his parents as the example for your relationship with your parents. Parents, look at Christ and his compassion as the example for your relationship with your children. Bosses and workers, look at the Lord as the ultimate reward-giver and judge as the motivation for your relationship with each other.

The false teachers at Colosse taught that spirituality consisted of higher knowledge and mystical experiences. But Paul says true spirituality is demonstrated in the practical day-to-day, down-to-earth relationships in your home and workplace.

Christ is central! He is central to the universe, he is central to the church, he is central to everything. And part of living the Christ-centered life is putting Christ at the center of your relationships as well.










Saturday, September 17, 2022

Commitment to Christ


Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The Apostle Paul opens the third chapter of Colossians with a challenge to the Church’s faith-walk. Similar to 2 Corinthians 6:17, it is a call for believers to separate themselves from their old worldly habits and the “comfort zones” of their sins. “Old habits die hard” is a cliché that describes the human condition, our propensity to sin. If we are born again, then the old life is dead, and Jesus gifts us with a second chance of living for His righteousness.

Solomon’s words “there is no new thing under the sun,” ring true because sin has been mankind’s downfall ever since Eve met a serpent in the Garden. But let’s remember that God hold all knowledge, and mankind’s fall from grace, and expulsion from the garden was not a surprise to Him.

There is another truth however, that Jesus loves us, and can change our lives. It’s like a practicum of John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

From death to eternal life is a powerful change! This is what a relationship with Jesus will do for whosoever. There are no special qualifiers, or criteria to live up to. Eternal life is available to all, if they would only believe on Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to grow and deepen that relationship. And His story as laid out in the Gospels continues to change lives. It is the simple plan of salvation. Just believe in Him. He will do the rest.

His compassion for us will make us compassionate towards others and we will find opportunities to reach out to those in any kind of need. Empathy develops as we see our “neighbors” as all those around us on earth, even strangers that we’ve never met. The good Samaritan parable provides such an example.

One verse stands out considering all these things:

“We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
All of us.

Today's Audio Message:
Colossians 3:1-14 - "Commitment to Christ"

Summary/Notes:

Last week, we ended chapter two with Paul asking the Colossian believers, “If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why…are you subject to ordinances?” 
Denying oneself (Colossians 2:21) does not lead to greater holiness and approval from God, our right standing with God is found in Christ alone. Paul says you died with Christ to the principles of this world. Why are you still submitting to its rules as though you belonged to it? We have found the answer to sins problem, it is not found in this world, in ourselves, in our works, but rather in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Colossians 3 reminds us that we have been raised with Christ so we should set our hearts on things above. We died with Christ to the things of this world. We are instructed to mortify or put to death those things, along with our old nature.  And in its place, we are to put on the new man (verse 10).  Paul further explains what this means in Ephesians 4:24; Romans 13:14; 2 Corinthians 5:17. In Christ, we are being renewed in the knowledge and image of our Creator. Paul then gives practical ways in how to live this out.

Beginning in chapter 3, Paul reminds the believers in Colossae that God having raised us to new life in Christ Jesus, we now must walk in that newness of life through the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we can do the will of God. 

Paul quickly reminds us to seek those things which are above, we are actively making a conscious decision about the way we think, and those things we are seeking.  Not only that, we are also to, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" - Colossians 3:2.   Our affection, or our undivided attention and love should be centered on the things above, not the things of this earth. What is your mind set on? What is your affection set on? Is Christ your life? 

(See also:  Mark 8:33; Philippians 2:5; Philippians 3:19; Romans 8:5-8)

2 Corinthians 5:17 - “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.”

As believers in Christ, we need to make a decision to walk in His ways. We need to decide where our minds will and will not go. These are conscious decisions that we make daily, as temptations come, we must choose to crucify the flesh and obey the Lord.

What are those “things above?” Things above simply means God’s ways.  God has given us His Word, which will sanctify us that we might walk in His truth. 

In verse3 Paul says, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” This refers to our spiritual birth, our new birth in Christ, symbolized by our baptism (Colossians 2:12). When we were buried with Christ, we were also raised with Him. This is not figurative language, Paul is speaking of a
literal change, spiritual changes that took place in us when we repented and received Christ as Lord and Savior.

Galatians 2:20 - “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  Because of this, our lives are “hid with Christ in God.”

In Christ we are no longer of this world, but a part of His kingdom. Paul says in Ephesians 2:19, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” We do not belong to this world, but another Philippians 3:20 tells us, “But our citizenship is in heaven…” The sooner we grasp this the better. Our lives ought to be reflecting our citizenship in heaven and not this world. 

Our identity is in Christ - NOW! Our identity is not in our old life, not in those things that are left behind. Therefore, we are to mortify the flesh. Mortify means - put it to death. Rid yourselves of the things of the flesh. As we actively seek the Lord's ways and apply those ways to our lives, the Holy Spirit works in us, enabling us and changing us from the inside out. 

Paul goes on to list several sinful behaviors of the old life:
  • Fornication, or sexual immorality in all its forms.
  • Uncleanness, or impurity - the condition of being defiled morally.
  • Inordinate affection or “lust” - vile affections
  • Evil concupiscence or “evil desires” - a desire for things that are forbidden, or inordinate.
  • Covetousness or “greed” - the inappropriate desire for money which God calls idolatry.
Notice that most of these things deal with sexual immorality.  Any culture that turns their back on God becomes more depraved.  See Romans 1:19-32.  In verse 6, Paul warns that God’s wrath is upon the children of disobedience.

All these things are the outward manifestations of a sinful heart. But now we are dead to sin, alive in Christ, and as believers we must still deal with the attitudes of our hearts. We are to put off; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy filthy communication out of our mouths and lying.

And now we are to put on the new man, after receiving new life by believing in Christ, we are being renewed, and transformed and are growing in the grace of God. 'As believers, part of this new life requires putting on Christlike characteristics, especially love. We are to actively put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience forgiveness, and love. If we are focused on fellowship with Christ, then putting on these characteristics is our goal and our joy.

So, as Paul exhorts us to be heavenly minded.  "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith..."  (Hebrews 12:2), he presents the principles for living as Christ's followers:
  • Set your heart on things above - Colossians 3:2.
  • Set your mind on things above - Colossians 3:1.
  • Take off the old deeds of the flesh, including the attitudes of our hearts - Colossians 3:3-4.
  • Put off the old man - Colossians 3:5-10.
  • Put on the new man, clothing yourselves with Christian virtues, especially love - Colossians 3:12-15.


Saturday, September 10, 2022

Vindicated



Bobservations' Column

Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The Bible states that a blood sacrifice was required to atone for sins. The precedent was established in Genesis 3 and 4. Whether it was a sacrifice for the people, the Priests, or for an individual, bulls, goats, sheep, and even doves were sacrificed regularly on the Temple’s altar. Stipulations were always to be met in order for sins to be atoned, and each ritual of the sacrifice was important.

When it comes to Christ Jesus, the highest of the High was sacrificed once and for all, for all sin, for all time. And interestingly, in Revelation 2, we find the letter of John to the Church at Pergamum. This is where the name of our Church has come from. A white stone is given to all those who overcome (sin and the world).

The white stone is indicative of a magistrate casting a vote of “innocent” after hearing the evidence of the allegations, or charges against an accused. There is much more to the verse, but our Great High Priest, Jesus, has been given authority by The Father to judge the earth and all upon it.

For everyone and anyone who believes in the Lordship of Christ, and that He rose from the dead, they will hear our High Judge proclaim “innocent” for all their sins; innocent, because Christ Himself paid the price for us.

The Bible declares that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and Jesus’ sacrifice has paid our debt, the debt of every sinner that believes on Jesus Christ. The Bible follows up with Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” THIS is one of the messages of the Gospel: Sin & Death vs. Eternal Life through Jesus Christ.

Every individual that has ever lived, or that’s alive now, or that will live on this earth in the future has had, does have, or will have a decision to make. It is a matter of life and death for each one! And the decision is really simple. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ or suffer torment for eternity. The black and white print in our Bibles is indicative of the simple black and white choice that each of us must make. It’s a life, or death situation.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” -  John 3:16 


Today's Audio Message:

Colossians 2:14-23 - "Vindication"

 Summary/Notes:

Today we will be finishing our study in Colossians 2.  Pastor Bob titled this morning's messaged, "Vindicated."  We often think of our justification as linked to Jesus’s death on our behalf. But it’s more proper to think of it as linked to his resurrection on our behalf. To be vindicated is to be justified—to be declared righteous. In Christ, we are justified because he is justified through his being raised from the dead. Paul says, But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.(Romans 4:24–25). When we are united to Christ by faith, his justification becomes our own. We are vindicated in him.

Paul has been confronting the false teachings that had crept into the Colossian church. The Colossians were faced with a barrage of false teachers who insisted on all sorts of particular observances. False teachers offered a syncretism of pagan philosophy, Jewish legalism, mysticism, and asceticism. Paul wrote the Colossians to refute these false teachings and to present the Absolute Sufficiency of Jesus Christ for Salvation and Sanctification. 

In Colossians 2:8–23, Paul specifically mounts a frontal attack on the Colossian heresy. He has already dealt with philosophy (2:8–10) and presented Christ’s sufficiency (2:11–15).  Today we will continue on with Paul's refutation of the Colossian heresy by dealing with Legalism (Colossians 2:16–17); Mysticism (Colossians 2:18–19); and Asceticism (Colossians 2:20–23).

Christ Plus Legalism - Legalism is the religion of human achievement. It argues that spirituality is based on Christ plus human works. Paul was addressing legalistic people in the church who believed, in effect, that a personal, vital, deep relationship with Christ alone is not enough to satisfy God.  They had added rules and requirements governing the performance of certain duties that they thought were essential to spirituality.  They insisted that all the ceremonies - including circumcision, Sabbath observance, and dietary laws were to be maintained as standards of spirituality. Their legalism was in direct conflict with the teachings of Christ. Only the true cutting away of sin by salvation in Christ can make us right with God. When Christ came, the ceremonial elements of the law were set aside, because He was the fulfillment of all they foreshadowed. 

Believers are complete in Christ, who has provided complete salvation, forgiveness, and victory. Paul tells the Colossians, not to let anyone pass judgment or act as their judge.  Paul is warning them not to sacrifice their freedom in Christ for a set of manmade rules. Inasmuch as “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4), to become entangled again in a legalistic system is pointless and harmful.

The dietary laws, festivals, sacrifices, and Sabbath day worship were all things which as verse 17 indicates, are "a shadow of the things to come; but the body (substance) belongs to Christ." A shadow has no reality; the reality is what makes the shadow. Jesus is that reality.  He is the one to which the shadows pointed.

Note: For example, regarding food regulations, Jesus said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven” (John 6:41). There is no need for Christians to observe the Passover either, because “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). What justification could there be for demanding that Gentiles observe the Sabbath when God has granted them eternal rest (Hebrews 4:1–11)?

The old covenant observances pointed to a future reality that was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. True spirituality does not consist merely of keeping external rules, but of having an inner relationship with Jesus Christ.

Christ Plus Mysticism - Mysticism is the idea that direct knowledge of God or ultimate reality is achieved through personal, subjective intuition or experience apart from, or even contrary to, historical fact or objective divine revelation. It argues that spirituality is based on Christ plus some unique spiritual experience.  Mysticism is still very much alive today, and still using spiritual intimidation to demean the uninitiated.  Paul wrote the Colossian believers, that kind of mysticism is the product of a prideful and unspiritual mind. Those who embrace it have turned from their sufficiency in Christ.  They spin their views of God and spiritual truth out of their own self-authenticated, self-generated feelings, which become more important to them than the Bible. Don't be intimidated by them.  Heeding to these false teachers will have a serious impact on our spiritual growth. There is no "higher plane" - no surpassing experience.  Christ is all and all! In Him alone you are complete.

These false teachers are also engaged in the worship of the angels, thus denying the truth that there is “one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Note:  The Bible strictly forbids the worship of angels. “It is written,” Jesus told Satan, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only’” (Matthew 4:10). When John tried to worship an angel, he was rebuked for doing so: “I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God’” (Revelation 19:10; 22:9). The angels themselves worship God (Isaiah 6:1–4).

In addition to practicing false humility and worshiping angels, the false teachers were taking their stand on visions they had seen. There is no need for extra-biblical revelation through visions, because “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:1–2).

Paul tells the Colossians not to be intimidated by the false claims. Far from being the spiritual elite they thought themselves to be, they are puffed up with pride in their fleshly minds. These are guilty of gross spiritual pride and were devoid of the Holy Spirit.  They have gone beyond the teaching of Christ and not holding fast to the Head (Christ).  See Col. 1:18.  Spiritual growth comes from union with Christ, as Jesus described abiding in Him in John 15:4–5. These false teachers had become detached from Christ.  By losing focus on Christ and what He has done, the natural result was that these teachers would fall into error.

Christ Plus Asceticism - An ascetic is one who lives a life of rigorous self-denial as a means to earn forgiveness from God. It is motivated by pride rather than humility, and it is an attempt to accomplish in the energy of the flesh a right relationship with God, which can be brought about only by a divine transformation through faith in Jesus Christ.   Paul said we aren't in bondage to any religious systems that require some kind of abstinence to make us acceptable to God.  These teachings are deceptive and destructive. False standards of spirituality serve only to indulge the flesh.

Paul’s message to the Colossians is that we must hold fast to Christ's sufficiency, never adding to it or taking from it.   In Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).  In Him dwells all the fullness of the deity in bodily form (2:9). And nothing can ever separate us from Him (Romans 8:35-39).  
We must hold fast to Christ, in whom we “have been made complete” (Colossians 2:10).  





Friday, September 2, 2022

Damnable Heresies



Bobservations' Column

Pastor Bob Lawrenz

As Paul is laying again the foundations of the Christian faith for the Church of Colossae, he writes out a clear warning: “BEWARE…” in verse 8 of chapter one. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he is so convinced that Jesus is who He said He was, that Paul identifies things that draw believers and proselytes away from Christ: Philosophy, vain deceit, traditions of men, and rudiments of this world.

All these things are based in human thoughts and ideas and are not from God.

What does this warning tell us about the Colossian Church? It tells us that they have allowed these ideas to slip into the church. Their preaching is no longer “Jesus only,” but Jesus + human thoughts. Paul himself writes that we are complete in Christ, and our lives are hid in Him! If the Church has this, well, who could ask for anything more?

Yet, the Church is still vulnerable, and because of the human addiction to knowledge and learning these days, perhaps we are more vulnerable than the Colossians! Cults spring up regularly around the world. Their doctrines are often Jesus plus something else. Jemimah Wilkinson of Jerusalem, NY began the Universal Church of Friends. A couple of Rochester NY sisters started the Spiritualist Movement. Joseph Smith of Palmyra founded the Church of Jesus Christ Latter days Saints. These three are fairly local to us.

Mary Baker Eddie established the Church of Christ Scientist in Boston, MA. Ellen G. White (7th Day Adventists) was a follower of a proven false prophet (William Miller), and even after he was exposed, she continued and expanded his false doctrines, even adding verses to the Book of Daniel to justify her doctrines. More recently Bonnie Nettles and Marshall Applewhite led the Heaven’s Gate Cult members to their own deaths in 1997. And who can forget David Koresh as he burned down his Waco, TX compound, taking men, women, and children with him.

The NXIVM Cult leader, Keith Raniere (and Nancy Salzman) of Colonie, NY, made boastful claims to have had people killed.  He is now serving 120 years in prison for multiple crimes. The Word of Life Ministry (New Hartford, NY) was reported to have pummeled two teens to death because they wanted to leave that group.

And with what has gone on in other, well-established churches, is it any wonder why “religion” is becoming a pariah in our culture?
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” - John 8:31

Today's Audio Message:
Colossians 2:8-17 - "Damnable Heresies"

Summary/Notes:

Today we are continuing on in Colossians chapter 2, verses 8-17.

Pastor Bob has titled this week’s message “Damnable Heresies.” Heresy is any belief or practice that explicitly undermines the gospel. Any belief or idea that contradicts the Word of God. It is a teaching, doctrine or practice that goes beyond the apostle’s teachings, (what is written) and introduces something totally new or contrary to the Scripture.

Biblical heresy is often a denial of one or more of the core beliefs held by the Church that are found in the Bible. Examples of heresy are plenty, but to name a few would be the Deity of Christ, salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, the Triunity of God.

Today’s heresies are introduced into the Church mostly through new “revelation” or “prophesy,” which are often the most dangerous source of all. It should be obvious that a divisive teaching or practice from inside the Church is more destructive to our genuine faith than one from outside and should not be allowed to continue in the church.
"But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law, for they are unprofitable, and vain. A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject (have nothing to do with).” Titus 3:9-10
Interestingly, heretics always target the church. They target the church to change it. They target what God has said and spoil others with what they think or say. Some will create a “new” translation of the Bible, some will add to the scriptures or take away from the scriptures, in order to justify their abhorrent teachings. It is clear that they are simply not interested in God’s Word or His authority over the believer.
Revelation 22:18-19 says, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” 
God doesn't mince words here, this is quite a warning to those who mess with God's written Word. 

In verse 8, Paul is warning the Colossian church to "BEWARE of those trying to spoil them through philosophy."  
These are the vain ideas of man. Those false teachings that impress the flesh, tickle the ear, they are contrary to God's Word.  They are words that lead to death.

Philosophy
 is the highest thoughts or ideas of human reasoning.   While some philosophers have had great ideas, most are false, full of deception and vanity.  None come close to the thoughts of God.  His thoughts and His ways are higher, for He is the Creator, and we are the created.  The philosophies of men fail in the light of God's Word.  See: Isaiah 55:8, 9. False teachings tickle the ear. 

Beware of the heretics, for they will take you captive through "vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world….AND NOT AFTER CHRIST."  

Remember, Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians to help them understand better the greatness of Christ, their new position in Christ, and the expectations God has for them. Paul summarizes much about Christ in the statement that in Christ all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9).

For believers to truly understand the riches they have in Christ, they need to understand more about who He really is. Paul explained the previous chapter, that in Christ we have forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14). Christ is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15a). Christ has sovereign rights over all creation (Colossians 1:15b). In fact, Christ is the Creator of all—everything that exists was created “in him . . . through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). If you want to see God, look at Jesus, “for God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Colossians 1:19).

After explaining the preeminence of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:17–18), Paul added that it is the Father’s pleasure that all the fullness of deity (the trinity) dwell in Christ (Colossians 1:19)—Jesus is God, and because Jesus is Deity, He has the qualification and authority to bring redemption and reconciliation with God to humanity (Colossians 1:20).


In Christ “dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Colossians 2:9
 See also: Deuteronomy 6:4, 5

The Colossians had strayed from what they had been taught.  There have been many in the Church today who have done the same thing.  
Anytime someone tries to replace what they have already learned and known with something “new” is in grave danger. 

If you want to avoid heretical teachings, here is a simple but applicable truth: Test everything against Christ and His Word! We all have the black and white text of Scripture in our hands. Those who have Jesus Christ, are 
complete in Him.  All the hidden treasures of God’s kingdom are in Him, we need nothing more! Anyone who tells you otherwise is a deceiver.

Paul goes on in the next several verses completely dismantling the false teachings that had infiltrated the Colossian church.  He absolutely destroys every worldview, contrary to the truth of Christ, with complete authority (verses 10-17).

Those who would worship angels, Christ is the Head of those principalities and powers. Those who want to live by the letter of the law, the traditions of man. Christ fulfilled the law, and in Him we have been set apart unto God.  Circumcision in Christ does not involve the cutting of the body, it is a cutting away of our old nature. It is a spiritual act and refers to nothing less than salvation, effected by the Holy Spirit, because God is interested in our hearts. 

The Bible covers all we need to know about God and the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My Word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free."  -  John 8:32-33.

You simply cannot change God's Word, or the work that was accomplished through Christ. You can't change it, add to it, subtract from it, twist it...and those who do are promoting damnable heresies, have nothing to do with them.

Seek the Lord and His Word.  Be rooted and ground in Him!






Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Indwelling Presence



Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The Apostle Paul’s description of Jesus from Chapter 1 of Colossians continues on into Chapter 2. Error had crept silently into the Church at Colossae. It makes me wonder just how far the error had caused the church to stray from the pure Gospel. Why, because Paul sees the need to lay the groundwork of faith in that church again. Even a little error, is still error, and everything after the error is therefore based upon that error.

Son of the Father, Creator of all things. Truly, even the “glue” that holds all the physical realm of earth and space together: (1:17 – “...by Him all things consist.” Science wondered for ages what it was that caused atoms and atomic structures to cling together, when at the molecular level they would normally repel one another.

A glycol-protein was discovered as recently as 1979 called “laminin,” and it is heavy enough in molecular weight to create a fibrous component that acts to keep molecules together. When depicted graphically, the substance falls naturally into a geometric shape. And the shape is that of a cross.

If, as Paul’s word tell us that Jesus, the Word of God created all things as God “spoke” them into existence, then Jesus has indeed put His signature on this substance we call laminin. (Google it and call up images of it.) This glycol-protein benefits the human body in a multitude of ways, too numerous to list here.

Is it too strong to say that science is finally catching up to Biblical truth, and proving it? Science will say “Yes! That’s going too far!” But what does the Spirit say unto every believer who is willing to believe Paul’s words?

Your Google search will even list the many ways that laminin even expands our understanding of the earth, our physical selves, and by extrapolation, the universe itself. With full faith is Christ, I’m quite comfortable saying that Jesus is the glue that holds all things together, for by Him, all things consist. But what do I know? I’m no scientist. I’m a believer, and if scientific discoveries support Biblical truth, who am I to argue?!

Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God...”

If you can believe these first four words of the Bible, you can trust the rest of it also.

Today's Audio Message:
Colossians 2:1-8 - "The Indwelling Presence"

Summary/Notes:

Last week in chapter 1, Paul taught us the greatest affirmation of the deity, humanity and sovereignty of Christ.  Jesus, in whom we have redemption through his blood, and the forgiveness of sins is the image of God, the Creator of all things.  He is eternal, the Head of the body, the Church.  That all of the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him.  Keep that in mind as we get into chapter 2.

Today, as we look at Colossians chapter 2, Paul, in his love for the church, is in great conflict as he’s looking at the Colossian assembly. He is agonizing over them. He includes with them a couple of other cities in that area, Hierapolis and Laodicea, all three of them being sister cities located in the Lycus Valley. Why? Because he sees these churches being attacked by false teachers and false doctrine (legalizers, philosophizers, ascetics, mystics), all kinds of heresy from everywhere.

Paul knew that the Judaizers would follow the new Gentile believers and try to put them under the law.  That they would also be bringing with them some of the superstitions of Judaism. In essence false doctrines that would change the very definition of FAITH and TRUST in CHRIST ALONE. They did not believe Jesus to be all sufficient for everything we need. If there is anything that a believer needs to understand is that Jesus plus anything is error. Those who teach otherwise are teaching a false gospel. 

In our day there are many people who go off searching the religious cults and mystery religions for a deeper spiritual life when the key to fulfillment is in Jesus Christ. 

Paul is having an inward struggle and continues writing, " That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:2-3).

We see the Apostle Paul desiring that they grow and mature in the faith they have received, that their hearts would be comforted, or strengthened.  He does not want them to lose heart but encourage them. This word “heart” here has reference to our intellect and our will. The heart is the place of responsibility., and it is that which God is going to judge.  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" 

If we are to be comforted or strengthened in our hearts, then we are going to be comforted by the Comforter, or strengthened by the Strengthener, and that is the Holy Spirit. It is important for believers to have a strong mind, and the way our mind is strengthened is by feeding on the Word of God where our minds are renewed, where we reject doubts, discern right from wrong, and keep and eternal perspective.

Why all of this concern? "I say this lest any man should beguile you with enticing words" (Colossians 2:4). Paul does not want them to become ensnared in false teaching. There were slick and sophisticated false teachers who had infiltrated the church. Their reasoning sounded convincing, but it was far from the truth. Like fast talking marketers selling goods that we do not need, these false teachers are selling heresy, and denying the all-sufficiency of Christ. 

False teachers always claim a secret knowledge to entice others to follow. Their secret knowledge could only be obtained by following their prescribed rituals and ceremonies. But scripture clearly teaches that true knowledge that leads to God is found in Christ Jesus, and in no other.  

God’s mystery is Christ! Christ is a great treasure house where you find wisdom and knowledge. Do you want an intimate knowledge of God? Look to Christ. 


In last week's study, we read Paul’s in-depth description of who Jesus is.  In verse 19 Paul writes, “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.”  This fullness is the fullness of the Godhead (The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) bodily (Colossians 2:9). What is truly incredible is when we become a Christian, we are complete in Him. There is no other necessary.  Jesus has no rivals. Nothing can be added to Him to complete our salvation, for we are saved through Christ and Christ alone.

Read John 14:16, 18, 20.  The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are One, and they dwell in us…Christ in us. Can it be any more intimate than that?

I encourage you to go back and read Colossians 1:13-21 again. Do you want to know what God is like? Take a long hard look and examine Christ. Do you want an intimate knowledge of God? Look to Christ. If Christ dwells in us, what more could we possibly need? Nothing at all!

Paul is reminding them, and all of us that we are complete in Christ! We don't need to be captured by philosophy; "we are complete in Him" (vs.9). "For in Him (alone) dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (vs. 10).  Further, Peter tells us that "we have become partakers of the divine nature." - 2 Peter 1:4

We will never need anything outside of Jesus Christ!

The apostle Paul stressed this great secret: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). That is the secret of Christianity. It is Christ living His life in and through you to God’s glory.

Paul said in effect, the mystery is out. It is an open secret. Go to the house tops and shout: Christ the hope of glory! In the first century the word "mystery" was a truth undiscoverable except by divine revelation. The great mystery is that the believer has a spiritual union in Christ. That which was once a secret has now been fully revealed in the good news of Jesus Christ. The content of this mystery is "Christ in you." It is not found in some cultic religious leader, or secret formulas, or philosophies. It is Christ! It is Christ indwelling in His people. He is the grounds for the expectation of glory.



Saturday, August 20, 2022

TRUTH EXALTED


Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

As we studied Paul’s Epistle to Philemon last week, we were aware of the personal nature of Paul’s message to the Church Leader in Colossae. Tychicus, a faithful brother, delivered the letter to Philemon from Paul who was imprisoned in Rome. Tychicus’ delivery also included more general letters to the churches: Colossians, Philippians, and Ephesians as well. These four are known as “The Prison Letters.” Though far less personal than the Philemon letter, Colossians, and all of Paul’s other Church Epistles are indicative of Paul’s encouragement to the churches as he teaches and corrects some doctrinal errors he learned of as he traveled, and from his visitors in Rome, and from Epaphras, another faithful brother who was imprisoned with him.

Having been born in Tarsus in Asia, Paul had some familiarity with the beliefs of pagan neighbors. As Paul moved closer to Jerusalem, the geographical center of Judaism, he was able to identify pagan doctrines local to Asian gods that were absent from Jerusalem’s “purer Judaic doctrines.” And upon his conversion to Christ, he could see error that had crept into the churches too.

This is true as Christianity spread around the world; the worship of local deities will always tend to creep into churches that spring up wherever Christianity is introduced. If you ever wondered why there are so many Christian denominations, this is at least part of the reason, for local religious beliefs have deep roots. The old saying, “you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy,” is appropriate to today’s Church also. False doctrines are one of Satan’s favorite ways to corrupt truth, and it happens almost seamlessly because the people are already familiar with the error, and they’re comfortable with it.

In the case of the Colossian church, Paul will be addressing a false mysticism that had crept into the church, and the error of Alexandrian Asceticism as well. But for this first chapter of Colossians, Paul affirms the foundations of faith that he and they hold in common: a bridge upon which he can teach them truth. The chapter is in three parts: Paul introduces himself to the church, he solidifies his Christian kinship with them, and finally, an exaltation of Christ as Creator, Redeemer, and Indweller of every true Believer.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” ~ John 1:14

Today's Audio Message:
Colossians 1:1-29 - "Truth Exalted"

Summary/Notes:

As we begin a new study from Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, we pray the Holy Spirit open our understanding, and teach us the revealed truth of Who Jesus is, and what He has done for us.

There is so much here in this first chapter. The passage is so full that we cannot deal with all the points raised, but we would not be wrong in saying that the great theme throughout is CHRIST.  Pastor Bob encourages those who are listening to this audio message, to take time in your own personal study to dig deeper.

Pastor Bob entitled this message, “Truth Exalted.”  That truth being that Jesus Christ is God.  
The Colossian church experienced numerous attacks from false teachers, and that continues today.  The way to combat the heresy is by proclaiming Jesus Christ and what He accomplished through His death and resurrection. 

In Colossians 1:15–20, Paul wrote one of the most profound summaries of who Christ is and what He accomplished. In doing so, he crushed the arguments of the false teachers, and gave the Colossian Christians, and us, even more reason to worship and exalt Jesus Christ as God.

In chapter 1, Paul is under house arrest in Rome. He understands that there is a certain false system of doctrine being propagated at Colossae, and he understands that because Epaphras has visited him. Epaphras, undoubtedly is one of the pastors of the Colossian church and perhaps its founder, has come to visit the apostle, Paul.

The church in Colossae was under attack by false teachers who had come in and were propagating heresy amongst the believers. One such heresy relates to the deity of Jesus Christ, they were denigrating His deity, saying that Christ is not actually God; that He is not sufficient for salvation; that in addition to Christ, they must include the worship of other spirits. That there was knowledge beyond Him. That Jesus was a great spiritual master, but not the Savior of the world. Christianity to them (and to many today) was narrow minded thinking, and that one must include the mixed bag of paganism, false religions and human philosophies in order to ascend to higher spirituality. Haven’t we all seen the same lies creeping into the church today with New Age teachers and Eastern Mysticism, amongst other many other false claims. These particular heresies later developed into what we know as Gnosticism, the attack was at the deity of Christ and His total sufficiency as Savior.

Paul addresses these issues head-on, so that no believer should ever be ignorant of who Jesus is, and what He has done for us. The truth is that the Christian faith stands alone, it cannot be mixed with any other ideology, philosophy, religion or practice. Jesus + anything else = deception. It is Christ and Christ alone, there is no other.

The first half of the Book of Colossians is one of the most profound studies of the Person and work of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. A Biblical understanding of Jesus Christ is crucial to our salvation. Cults and world religions may claim to believe in Jesus Christ, but the problem is that they do not believe the Jesus of the Bible, but rather a false representation of Jesus. Paul sets the record straight!

The second half of the book addresses every aspect of the Christian life, our conduct, our friends and even our speech.

As we begin chapter 1, Paul begins with his customary salutation followed by an expression of thanksgiving and prayer. He prays that they be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, strengthened by God’s glorious power, and to be thankful to be partakers of the saint’s inheritance, being delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, where there is redemption and forgiveness of sins.

Paul then broaches the theme of this epistle, which is the preeminence and all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ our Savior.

Lastly the chapter ends with Paul’s description of his ministry, and his goal to diligently preach Christ to every man, and to present every man perfect in Christ.

Of all the statements in the Bible, in the Word of God about God becoming man, none is more significant than the one in Colossians 1:15, for here we have the identification of the Son as God very, very clearly.

Jesus, “The Son” in Colossians 1:13, is the “who” in verse 15. Who is:
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For by Him were all things created, that are in that heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him. And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist (or hold together). And He is the head of the Body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things, He might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.”  - Colossians 1:15-19
If we are to understand anything at all about the Christian faith, we must understand this vital statement. The Christian faith centers around who our Lord Jesus Christ really is, the work that He alone accomplished for us, and the future He holds for us.

Paul presents for us an ageless, and timeless eternal Savior - that’s who Jesus Christ is. He alone is the solution to the dilemma of mankind throughout the ages. Science has nothing on the architect and Creator of life. He alone is the sustainer of the universe.

In this chapter we will see Jesus in relation to God, in relation to the universe, in relation to the unseen world, and in relation to the church, and Christ as pre-eminent. We will see the uniqueness of His being and the descriptive names given to Christ.  He is the image; the First-born; the Creator; and the Head of the Church. We can also clearly see the result of His finish work: Redemption and Reconciliation.

Paul makes clear that Jesus is God. He is God in the flesh. God who is invisible became visible in Christ. In Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead. Christ is eternal. He created everything (verse 16). Jesus Christ is the only perfect representation of God. No other! Nothing other! No other religion, deity, philosophy or human invention will ever represent God truthfully, because Jesus is the only perfect representation. He alone is the image of God. He is God revealed in the world. 

If you want to know what God is like - look at Christ.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  - John 14:6







Saturday, August 13, 2022

Two Lives To Change



Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In last week’s final chapter of Ecclesiastes, we read Solomon’s closing words summarizing twelve chapters of what he had learned during his life and his reign over Israel: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14)

Every good work, every evil work, every secret thing we have done or attitude of the heart shall be laid next to God’s Word, and judged righteous, or judged as being worthy of God’s judgment. It is therefore no wonder that the Apostle Paul was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write verse 23 of Romans 3.

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.”

When our lives are measured against God’s Word, no one will measure up to God’s perfection found in His Word, or in The Living Word, Jesus Christ.

As we open the Epistle of Philemon, we find our own shortcomings. The attitudes and behaviors of two men are scrutinized, and Paul admonishes and corrects both of them. One a rich landowner Philemon, who was converted by the Gospel. The other is a slave, Onesimus, owned by the first man and was also converted by the Gospel.

This Epistle is perhaps the most personal of all the Epistles, for it is written by Paul to a single brother-in-Christ. As we go through this letter, you will have a sense that you are looking over the shoulder of Philemon as he is reading it. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit is evident by its simplicity and its truth to both men of which is speaks.

Onesimus the slave had run away from his master, run from Colossae of Phrygia in western Asia Minor, all the way to Rome. Paul seeks to restore the relationship between these two Christians in an atmosphere of Brotherhood within the Church.

Paul already is aware of how Christian faith taken to heart can change a person, and every relationship they are involved in, even between a master and a slave. Anything withheld from that change, is like everything else in the world, just vanity.

Matthew 7:12 – 
“Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men do unto you, do ye unto them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

Today's Audio Message:
Philemon 1:1-25 - "Two Lives to Change"

Summary/Notes:

The “book” of Philemon is the shortest in the Bible where the apostle Paul offers us a lesson in diplomacy and peacemaking, but that is not the only lesson.

It is basically a one-page letter, written by the Apostle Paul to Philemon, a wealthy merchant and host of the house church in the city of Colossae (modern western Turkey).

The reason for Paul’s letter is a plea for forgiveness on behalf of Philemon’s slave, Onesimus.

Onesimus was a rebellious slave who left Colossae to take refuge in Rome. Although the reason is not made specific, the text implies that Onesimus had stolen a substantial amount of money, and probably used some of it to buy passage to Rome. Onesimus met up with Paul who eventually led him to Jesus, and through this process, Onesimus received a new identity as a brother of Christ. Paul no longer defined him as a fugitive but as one of his spiritual children.

For Philemon, not only was he Onesimus’ master, but he was also a close friend of Paul’s and apparently a model Christian who was holding church gatherings at his home. The crime of Onesimus was heavy. He not only ran away, but he stole money from Philemon. Both the Roman law as well as the Old Testament law gave Philemon the green light to punish Onesimus. But Paul has another idea.

With his diplomatic approach, Paul draws Philemon into accountability with Jesus. Yes, Onesimus had wronged him. Yes, it was a punishable offense. Yes, he had stolen money and left Philemon without a worker in his household. But Philemon was once living in rebellion to Jesus before Paul led him to Christ. So, in a very gentle way, Paul is reminding Philemon that whatever he chooses to do with Onesimus should be in line with what Jesus has done for him.

On top of this, the book of Philemon really highlights the issue of identity. Onesimus should no longer be viewed as a slave. The greater relationship he has to both Paul and Philemon is as a brother in Christ. Philemon’s role as “master” and Onesimus’ role as “slave” were secondary to the identities they shared as children of God.

Paul uses a play on words to emphasize Onesimus’ new status. Onesimus means “useful” in Greek, but of course he became worse than useless when he stole his master’s money and fled to Rome.

Paul writes, “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.”

Note: 
There is an additional play on words in the original Greek. The specific Greek word for useless is “achrestos”, which is very close to Christos (Christ).

In other words, previously Onesimus was “without Christ,” but now he is “euchrestos”, i.e. “full of Christ”. This type of word play is common in rabbinic writing, of which Paul was a master.

Unlike the other Pauline epistles, which are letters written to a general audience of believers in a specific church, Philemon is personal, written to one individual. One wonders why it became part of the canon of scripture, given its uniqueness.

There are several important themes at play in this letter. The most obvious is the theme of forgiveness.

Philemon was wronged by Onesimus and was probably quite angry with him for his dishonesty and theft. Forgiveness, however, is essential for the restoration of a right relationship between two people. Failing to forgive, hanging on to resentment, has no place in the Christian life. If there is injustice, we should deal with it through prayer and godly action. If there is insult, we should concentrate on who we are in Christ, rather than our feelings. In the course of our work for God, we should expect to face injustices for righteousness sake. God will use every difficult trial for our sanctification as He refines us, and as a testimony to the unbeliever of Christ living in us.

A secondary theme is the role of the spiritual master in relation to a disciple.

Paul reminds Philemon of his authority as a master (“you owe me your very self”), but instead he appeals to him to behave in a Christ-like way, voluntarily doing the right thing.

The most important underlying theme of Philemon, however, is the brotherhood of all believers.

Paul writes, “I am sending him…no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” I think it’s pretty clear that he entreated Philemon to treat Onesimus as a brother in the Lord, not a piece of property.

In his separate letter to the believers at Colossae, Paul writes, 

“And have put on the new man...Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another...even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye... And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” - See Colossians 3:10-17.

Christianity is a faith which erases ethnicity, social distinctions, employment status, and all other titles and positions. We are all equal in Christ and must treat one another as brothers and sisters.

Finally, the book of Philemon is important because it is a reminder that before our own conversion, we were all like Onesimus — useless to our Lord and Master and slaves to sin. In this sense, Onesimus is a metaphor for us all.

But Christ forgave us everything, and welcomed us as brothers and sisters in the Lord. In Him we are “useful,” to share our faith and work tirelessly for the kingdom of God.

And that, my friends, is why this little “book” is such an important part of our Bible.










Saturday, August 6, 2022

DISTRACTIONS OF LIVING



Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In this last chapter of Ecclesiastes, “The Preacher” sums up the eleven chapters prior to this one. So, it becomes apparent that God had a plan, and perhaps an outline for this book. As this chapter summarizes what Solomon has learned over the course of His reign, God’s intent seems to have been to address life’s distractions and expose the vanity of each of them.

Verse 9: “And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.” This verse lets us know that Solomon lived all the things he had written of and managed to teach the people of life’s pitfalls and distraction that draw them away, and into themselves. This verse also tells us that his life experiences have been the basis for the Book of Proverbs which Solomon wrote subsequent to Ecclesiastes.

In all of this, God used Solomon’s life to teach His people, the Holy Spirit bringing to mind all of his life’s disappointments, and purposeless endeavors. In 2 Timothy 3:16, the Apostle Paul writes “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” which affirms the Apostle John’s 14:26, that one role of the Holy Spirit is "to bring all things to our remembrance, whatsoever I (Jesus, the Word of God) has said unto you.” This affirms all of Solomon’s three books which have been included in the Cannon of Sacred Scripture. God’s
“stamp of approval” is all over this book, and Proverbs, and Song of Solomon.

Solomon grew up in the household of his father, King David, of whom it is written, "was a man after God’s heart" (1 Kings 11:4).  It becomes evident that in all of his life-distractions, and dead ends, Solomon always kept God to fall back on; literally, God had his back, even though Solomon’s heart was not perfect before God, as his father David’s was.

How easily we can all get our eyes off God and be turned to empty vanities. Solomon’s narrative teaches us all that nothing satisfies, nothing fulfills, and no vain thing can complete us. Only the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can do that. Solomon learned it the hard way. The Prodigal son learned it the hard way. Listening to empty promises, can lead us off as Eve was led away, then Adam, then Cain…we are all susceptible.
“Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21

Today's Audio Message:
Ecclesiastes 12:1-14 - "Distractions of Living"

Summary/Notes:

As we come to the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, now an old man, has come to the conclusion that all of his pursuits seeking happiness in worldly things are vanity. Solomon, though very wise, explored every form of worldly pleasure, and none of it gave him a sense of meaningful purpose. In fact, his attitude toward the world and life drastically changed. Disillusioned with the world system and its humanistic values, Solomon remembers the God of his youth, the Lord God our Creator who created each of us with a purpose. In the end, his faith is renewed, and he writes to instruct and exhort young men, and to all readers, to acknowledge God from youth, and to follow His will.

Chapter 12 is really a masterpiece of literature. His dissertation on old age and dying is unique and poetically picturesque as he warns us that old age and death comes to everyone. Solomon is not writing primarily to those who are experiencing these difficulties, but to those who are still “in the days of thy youth.” Younger people who know nothing from personal experience of the realities he is describing, are urged to live and think in the light of the fact that dark days, as he describes them, are coming.

With that in mind, what better time to remember, and know, and serve your Creator than in the prime of your life? These are the years of opportunity, ability and strength. They are easy years compared to the difficulties that come with old age, and finally death. Ultimately, each of us will stand before God and give an account of our life, and whether or not we have received salvation through Christ. Solomon wants to impress on younger people that they need to enjoy the life that God has given them, and to serve God while there is still time.

If we are seeking meaning and fulfillment from the “things of this world,” we will find that our lives will be empty. Sadly, Solomon realized at the end of his life, that he should have centered his whole life pursuing God.  Though we may have strayed away from God, God is merciful, and He is able to lead us to repentance. He is able to accomplish in us what we ourselves cannot do, and to make us what He wants us to be.

In verses 10- 11, Solomon considers the words of the wise. Words like those of the Preacher. He says that they are like goads. It’s meant to move man to righteous living, provoking us to do what is right in God’s eyes.

These wise words are intended to be unmovable - unshakable - never changing.

This world offers a never-ending supply of worldly wisdom from philosophers, writers of self-help books, psychologists and so forth, and all of it is empty and void of meaning, purpose, and lasting joy. Books come and go, they lose their value over time, but God’s Word is eternal.

2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

There is only one Shepherd, He is the Lord, the One who breathe out Scripture and preserved since the beginning. His word never fails. It’s infallible. And that is why it remains so relevant even to this day!

Finally in verse 13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the duty of man.”

Everything hangs upon that word, "Fear God." Life isn’t just lived under the sun, life on earth isn’t all there is to it. We were created by God in His image, for His purpose and His glory. And though we all will face physical death; our souls will live on in eternity.  

We can't hide from God. He is evident in all our life. He knows everything that goes on; he knows every thought of the heart, every word of the mouth. He knows the motives that we seek to hide from others. He sees the duplicity, the deception, the lovelessness. He has made provision for it all; nothing can be hidden. Everything is going to come out in the open at last. All the illusions by which we seek to convince ourselves that things are not the way the Bible says they are, will be stripped away and we will see ourselves as he sees us; and there will not be a voice lifted to challenge the righteousness of his judgment.

We ought to be living our lives fearing (or reverencing) God. Everything we do ought to be a reflection of the love that we have for Him. So, as Solomon urges young people, and all of us, live your life with an eye on the judgment that is to come. Get ready to meet God and give an account to him.

Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross for our sins, that we might be reconciled to God. His blood is sufficient to cover all of our sins. 
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news that God loves the world enough to give His only Son to die for our sin (John 3:16). The gospel is good news because our salvation and eternal life and home in heaven are guaranteed through Christ (John 14:1–4).

I Peter 1:3-5 -
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.






 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

CHILDHOOD AND OUR YOUTH




Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In the 1950’s and ‘60’s, Hollywood starlet Doris Day was a popular figure on the silver screen. She played her roles opposite some of the most handsome leading men in Hollywood. Now passed on, she lives only in the memory of her fans. Her roles often included a singing part, for her voice was clear and crisp. In “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955), her song from the movie crossed over to be a hit on the Pop Charts. “QUE SARA, SARA” was the song, and the lyrics were simple and entirely akin to today’s message. The song answers the question of a child with a non-answer: “What will be, will be.”

Lacking God’s foreknowledge, we often ask the similar questions “What will the future bring,” or “What will be my family’s fate?” The Apostle Paul taught in four of his Epistles that he would not have believers ignorant, and he then goes on to explain a doctrine, or teaching. Paul is following God’s example in the Word, as He tells us before-hand what to expect in the future. Frankly, the Lord tells us in Bible prophecy what to expect, and even goes into detail about how to live a good life, and how to succeed in life in a corrupt world. But choosing to live as God suggests is up to every individual.

God’s pattern of prophecy and fulfillment gives us hope, for “with God all things are possible.” Though Doris Day had no direct answer to the child-like question, the Lord would neither have us in ignorance, nor leave us wondering. When we consider the entire Bible, about 25% of it is prophetic. God’s Word answers our questions, if not directly, then by way of further study, leading from cross-reference to cross reference. We also have God’s track-record to consider for His faithfulness to fulfill His Word, and the scriptures reveal that God is 100% faithful to fulfill His Word.

Solomon’s 11th chapter of Ecclesiastes is a short one, but it puts our 21st Century minds into overdrive, thinking about the future: our personal future, our nation’s, and our world’s future. Solomon himself offers us no hope, but God’s word does. It eases our minds with assurance and hope.
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience; and experience, hope. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” - Romans 5:3-5


Today's Audio Teaching:
Ecclesiastes 11:1-10 - "Children and Our Youth"

Summary/Notes:

Verses 1-2 - "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." This statement emphasizes the element of risk and uncertainty, and opportunity – these things face us daily with many decisions we make. We have read in the last passages of chapter 10 these directions:
“16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! 17 Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles, and your princes feast at the proper time— for strength and not for drunkenness! 18 Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks. 19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry; But money answers everything. 20 Do not curse the king, even in your thought; Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; For a bird of the air may carry your voice, and a bird in flight may tell the matter.”
These previous passages were dealing with royalty and leaders. Solomon now focuses on the common people in verses 1 through 6. Opportunities come before us on every level of this life. They are found in the workplace, in the financial realm, in our own relationships. They also are found in our reactions to much that come upon us. It is an opportunity to shine for Jesus or simply revert to our own human nature. Many times, there is no middle ground.

Solomon tells us to cast our bread upon the water – this sums up the whole risk and opportunity aspect. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring. We don’t know the outcome of our investment. We don’t know how God has planned for us in the future. Regardless of not knowing these things, it shouldn’t hinder us from making valuable and productive use of ourselves and our resources each day.

'Cast' - is a decision for action to be taken. 
'Your Bread' - something of value to you must be ventured. 
'After many days’ - develops patience in waiting for results. 
'Find it' - is the reward for taking the step of faith.

Verses3-4 - Have you observed some of the people around you? Sadly, they do not seem to have a clue of what is going on in the world. Sometimes the statement, ‘ignorance is bliss’ is true, but ignorance all the time isn’t. The natural man doesn’t know what lies ahead, but the believer trusts the Lord. He knows that “God will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory.” A wise person will understand the times and season and prepare accordingly. If it looks like it is going to rain, then a person will prepare and use it to his or her advantage. 
"Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time." Colossians 4:5. "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil."  - Ephesians 5:16

When a tree dies and falls, that's where it is. Just because it appears that a tree is leaning in one direction or another, it doesn't mean it might fall on your house. In other words, even though you cannot control things does not mean you ignore the potential problem. Don’t be a procrastinator. Be aware of the warning signs.  Sow while you have the opportunity.  

Vs 5 - Having warned about the need to take precautions, Solomon now tells us the flip side, that is the problems associated with being too cautious. If you analyze everything to death before you venture forth to do the task, you will not get anything accomplished. We need to respond to the opportunities that the Lord has given to us. The reason for this is that we do not know how God works. Even with all the knowledge and talent and ability, we are ignorant of so much, such as the secrets of the wind or the human body. It is the work of God; it is His and His alone.

Again, God is in control of all things. This should be a great comfort to us. He knows the number of our days; our very breaths are in His hand. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He is Eternal. He is all knowing. He is all powerful. He is the beginning and the end.

Vs 6 -This should be our hearts attitude: “In the morning sow your see, and in the evening don’t withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” Can we really give too much? Can we outgive the Lord? Sow in the morning and the evening. Invest in industry. Invest in others. Invest in the Church. Invest in God’s Word. Give Him your time, your effort, your all. Scripturally speaking, we are not only supposed to be sowing spiritual seed morning and evening, but far and wide...God gives the increase (Galatians 6:9).

Verses 7-8 - We all need to stop and reflect on how short our lives really are. While we enjoy the time that we do have, we need to evaluate the future carefully.  Even if a person has enjoyed a good life "under the sun", the dark days are coming, more dark days than light if he is not prepared for the coming judgement.   All will be vanity.  A time of everlasting regret (2 Peter 2:17). 

Verse 9 - After having described these facts of life, Solomon speaks directly and personally to each young man. When we are in the prime of our lives, we think we are invincible. We can do what we like, participate in dangerous adventures and foolishly believe nothing will happen to us. The sins of youth are many! Thankfully we wise up with age! While making the most of our lives, we would be wise to remember that all we do will be judged.

Verse 10 - Childhood and youth are vanity," just like every other aspect of life if it is lived only under the sun.  Therefore, as Paul later would write to young Timothy, "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believer, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12). "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart: (2 Timothy 2:22).  It is natural and proper for young people to enjoy their youthful years, BUT they should do so in ways pleasing to God, knowing that "for all things God will bring thee into judgment" (verse 9).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."  (Matthew 6:33). We are to seek the things of God as a priority over the things of this world. Putting our trust in Him. Seek salvation! See newness of life. Seek His righteousness and truth! God has promised to provide for His own, supplying all of our needs (Philippians 4:19), but His idea of what we need is often different from ours. He knows what we truly need, and He always wants what’s best for us. Let us put away sin and follow the Lord!  Know Him.  Trust Him!











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