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Archive for the tag “Colossians”

Who Died On The Cross?

Read Colossians 2:9

As we approach the observance of Good Friday, it seems appropriate to discuss what actually happened in the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus.  I was in a discussion this morning when it was reported that a popular theory of the atonement was that God was the divine father who carried out child abuse on his son.  The implication of this “theory” is that in order to bring salvation to the world, God, the abusive divine Father, poured out his wrath on his innocent Son, quite apart from any cooperation from the Son, in fact, against the will of the Son.  I was immediately reminded of other, equally offensive, “theories” of the atonement, but that are often much more readily accepted.  One is that the compassionate and gracious Son wrestles forgiveness from a reluctant Father.  Another is that the Father sacrifices his Son in order to save mankind, much like a sobbing railroad switch operator is forced to crush his little boy who is playing among the gears of the mechanism that controls the switch when he guides the train onto its proper track,  thus preventing the train, and its passengers, from plunging down a steep ravine.   Such images – divine child abuse, compassionate Jesus and reluctant Father, innocent child and grieving father, find very little, if any, support in Scripture.  Over the next few days, I will attempt to clarify just what happened on the cross and expound the glorious riches of the central event in human history.

I begins today with a brief discussion of just who was on the cross.  The Apostle Paul summarizes the nature of Jesus profoundly.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, (Col 2:9 NIV)

This verse unites the two most significant Christian observances, Christmas and Easter (Good Friday and Resurrection morning).  At the incarnation, Jesus became the God/man, 100% God and 100% man, at the same time.  One of the ancient councils concluded that in Jesus there were two natures that were united in four distinct ways.

Inconfusedly – Jesus’ divine and human natures were united, but they did not meld together to form a hybrid person, like yellow and blue meld to become green.

Unchangeably – Jesus human and divine natures both retained their full essence.  Jesus was not part God and part man – his divine nature did not change to become less than divine and his human nature was fully human.

Indivisibly – Once united, it would not be possible distinguish one from the other.  Jesus lived a “both and” existence.

Inseparably – In Christ, the divine and the human are united forever.  They will never be separated.

So who was on the cross on Good Friday?  God himself, in the man Jesus, was on the cross.  I will unpack this conclusion over the next two posts, but for now marvel in the glorious truth that when God poured his wrath out on his son, he poured his wrath out on himself.  When Jesus took our place on the cross, God, in Christ, substituted himself for us.  The cross was a divinely scripted plan fully embraced by the both the Father and the Son.  Let’s put to rest any idea that either the Father or the Son acted independently from the other.  Jesus declared, “I and the Father are one.”  (John 10:30)  So who died on the cross – God, in Christ, did.  And it  was all for love!

Praying For One Another, Part 3

Read Colossians 1:9-14

Experts in the social sciences tell us that a person is capable of having a relationship with approximately 70 people.  That means that we know their name, we know something about their family, their employment, and their likes and dislikes.  But that is about all the deeper we can get with that large of a group of people.  Nonetheless, it is important that we pray for one other.  At the time when the Apostle Paul penned the letter to the Colossians, he had yet to visit them personally.  Yet, Chapter 4:2-6 tells us that Paul nurtured a relationship with his readers long distance, telling them of his needs and asking that they pray for him.  He then (4:16) asked them to circulate his letter to other churches, so they could in turn get to know him and to pray for him.  But how do we pray for one another if we only have a brief introduction to the circumstances of our lives?

In my last post I suggested that we pray for one another that we would know God’s will.  Today I will get specific about what that means.

And we pray this so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,  being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Col 1:10-12 NIV)

Here are six specific prayers we can pray for those 70 people we rub shoulders with once in a while, as well as for those who are on our prayer list, but with whom we don’t have the opportunity to develop a close personal relationship.

Pray that they would…

  1. live a life worthy of the Lord
  2. please him in every way
  3. bear fruit in every good work
  4. grow in the knowledge of God
  5. have great endurance and patience as they live for Jesus
  6. joyfully give thanks to the Father for his gracious gift of salvation.

There is a benefit to learning to pray for one another in this way.  Here are six great subjects to talk about when we have the opportunity to sit down with someone when we do meet them.  Have you ever met someone you know, and then experienced an awkward silence because there is nothing to talk about?  If we learn to pray for one another according to these six subjects, we have instant conversation.  “Isn’t it a challenge to live as a believer in our culture these days?”  “I continually think about the difference between being pleasing to the Lord and making decisions that please him.”  “How have you been experiencing God’s blessing these days?” “What have you been getting out of church lately?  I’ve been learning ___________ in my small group?”  Is there something that is giving you particular stress?”  “I’m so thankful for the grace that God has given me in Jesus.  How is your joy in the Lord? How can I pray for you?”

Actually, these are good discussion points for a date with your spouse!  If we begin with these subjects, it won’t be long before we are deep in conversation.  But if we can’t go deep with our friends, we can pray deeply for them, all 70 of them.  Be encouraged and pray for one another.

Praying For One Another, Part 2

Read Colossians 1:9-14

A very common question from followers of Jesus is “What is the will of God for my life?”  This issue arises when we are faced with choices, like what college to attend, which of two jobs to take, or whether to go to the next level in a dating relationship with Sam or Peter.  We also ask it when we approach a difficult situation, such as whether to stay in a hard job or retire, how to deal with an aging parent or a “challenging” teenager, or how to handle a health crisis.  Then there is the daily concern that God would guide our steps so that we would walk in his will and not fall into an activity or behavior that is out of his will.  “What is the will of God for my life?”  Every believer wants to know the answer to that question.

But I would suggest that in the context of praying for one another over the long haul, this is the wrong question.  Certainly it is appropriate to pray for one another to know the will of God in every circumstance they face, but I would suggest that this is not practical, maybe not even appropriate.  I face dozens of situations that are too personal to discuss, even with my closest confidants.  Yet, I sill desire that people pray for me. The right question is this.  “What is the will of God?” I hope you see the difference.  Asking about the will of God for our lives enters the arena of personal and specific details.  Certainly, God is concerned about every detail of our lives, including the number of hairs on our heads.  But to keep abreast with everyone on our prayer list with this degree of specifics is overwhelming.  Therefore, I would suggest that there is a better way to pray for one another over the long haul, and Paul tells us in this passage.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, (Col 1:9 NIV)

Here we have it.  Paul prays that the Colossians, a people he has never met, will be filled with the knowledge of the will of God.  Then he explains his understanding of what that means.  Paul prays for his readers to be filled with the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.  He doesn’t have to know any of the specific or personal details, yet his prayer is profoundly personal.  I can pray for you, and partner with you as you trust God for all the intimate details of your life, without knowing any of the specifics.  I can pray that the Spirit will give you wisdom and understanding in all of your circumstances, and I can ask you to pray the same way for me.

Now this may seem quite general and even impersonal.  However, as we will see in a following post, it is quite personal and it nurtures a significant relationship with one another.  Stay tuned.

Praying For One Another, Part 1

Read Colossians 1:9-14

I am slowly learning how to live in the age of technology, doing more and more with computers and the internet. But I am still quite protective of my personal handwritten prayer list that is in the back of my leather three ring date book. Until I get a smart phone or an iPad or some other such electronic tool, when I do my times of personal Bible reading, reflection and prayer, I will refer to three pages of prayer requests and names that I have categorized according to family, friends, and ministry partners. I don’t put every prayer request on my list. Often when I hear of a prayer need via an e-mail I will write out a prayer and send it right on to the one who asked for prayer. Other times I will pray over the phone or bow in prayer personally with the person I am with. But these issues don’t get put on my list. The items that make it to my prayer list are the ones that I perceive will be long term prayer concerns – a pastoral colleague facing a challenge in his ministry, the ministry of a friend who just got elected an elder, a former elder from Harvest who is now leading another ministry, a friend who is beginning a new career, a family who is struggling with a wayward teenager, a marriage that is in trouble, a surgery that requires extended recovery, or my children and their educational and spiritual journeys. These are prayer issues that are long term and don’t necessarily have a “quick fix.” From time to time I revise and update this list, but for the most part, unless I make additions, my list will remain for many months, maybe even years. Now to be honest, sometimes this gets laborious and it is challenging to stay encouraged in these prayers. I even have to admit that I get to the point when I really don’t what to pray for them. That is when the words of the Apostle Paul speak to my heart.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Col 1:9-12 NIV)

This passage gives us a model of how to pray for our Christian friends and loved ones. In my next blogs, I will unpack this profound prayer and attempt to help us learn how to pray the concepts and principles found in this prayer for one another. But for today, simply pray Paul’s prayer for the people on your prayer list, and make a commitment to pray for them over the long haul.

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