Worthy Jesus: Part One

Have you ever wondered why we pray in Jesus’ name? For that matter, why do believers call themselves Christians? C. S. Lewis said that believers are essentially “little Christs”. In Acts we learn that the term Christian was used in a slanderous way. Christians were those who walked in the way of Jesus because they accepted him as messiah. This can be seen in the discussion on Barnabas. Barnabas left Tarsus to seek after Saul who would later be named Paul. When Barnabas found Paul he brought him to Antioch where we learn that “the disciples were first called Christians.” (Acts 11:26) I am thankful that I can call myself a Christian. I am thankful to bear Christ’s name and I pray that I can live my life in a Christ-glorifying way.

Why does the church emphasize the centrality of Christ? We often hear terms like Christ-centered or Christ-driven in reference to the ministry of the church. I’m reminded of the common answer children give when asked to comment on Biblical themes. When the teacher asks the question students often eagerly proclaim that the answer is Jesus. Although one post cannot adequately discuss the supremacy of Christ, it is my goal here to give you a few reasons why Jesus alone is worthy of our attention and devotion based on Colossians 1:15-20. With Jesus there is life, hope, and peace. His cross is the dividing point of human history.

Paul’s writings are worthy of much appreciation, especially his depiction of the earliest Christian hymns. If you have been around me at all you know that I appreciate hymns that are rooted in Scripture and portray a picture of our communal fellowship with one another. Some have questioned whether or not the hymn in Colossians 1 is original to Paul or not. It would be characteristic of Paul to include examples from the church while making the hymn unique in his own way. As you read through this hymn, think about Christ’s work in creation and redemption.

[15]  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [16]  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. [17]  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. [18]  And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. [19]  For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, [20]  and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. Colossians 1:15-20 (NKJV)

Jesus alone is worthy because he takes an active role in creation. (vv.15-17)

In Colossae the false teachers were attempting to say that no one could represent God. In the Greek world the physical world was viewed as bad and the immaterial or spiritual world was viewed as the greatest good. Paul makes an interesting claim in the first part of his hymn to Christ. He said that Jesus was the image of the invisible God. That is, we need not wonder what God looks like because he has been revealed to us in the person and work of Jesus. In Hebrews 1 we learn that Jesus was the exact imprint of God. Every attribute of Yahweh in the Old Testament is given to Jesus in the New Testament because Jesus is Yahweh. Paul’s praise intensifies as we go throughout the passage.

Not only does Jesus represent God to us, but he also serves as the firstborn over all creation. What does this mean? Psalm 89:27 mentions the firstborn as ruling on David’s throne. The term used for firstborn can be understood as a reflection of Christ the new Adam. One writer suggests that this term means that “Christ is the firstborn of a new humanity which is to be glorified as its exalted Lord is glorified.” (See BDAG, πρωτόκος) Bauer helps us understand Christ as the second Adam. This is one of the primary emphases of our reconciliation to God. If you are having trouble following me here I suggest reading Romans 5. This passage further elaborates our discussion of Christ, who is the second Adam. Paul praises Christ because he is the only means by which we can access a relationship with God.

Christ is also worthy because he actively engages in creation. We are wrong to conclude that the Son had no role in creation. In Genesis 1:26 we read that God said, “Let us create man in our image. The us there certainly refers to the Trinity. John 1 reminds us that in the beginning was the Word, meaning that Christ is the eternal λόγος. Paul praises Christ because all things were created by him. The point here is that nothing is higher than Christ, for he created. He existed before everything else.

I want to pause here and reflect on verse 17. In many ways it serves as an interlude between the first and second parts of the hymn. As I reflected on this verse I was blown away by Christ’s splendor. In Christ all things continue to have their existence. Without his sovereign guidance the universe would literally split apart. There is balance in the universe and this points to the sustaining power of Christ. We serve a God who personally created the universe and who personally continues to sustain it. Because there is balance in the universe there are many fallacies associated with the Big Bang Theory.

A 2010 article by the ministry Answers in Genesis discussed the problem with the Big Bang Theory. There is a certain balance in the workings of the universe, but this balance cannot be reconciled with the Big Bang Theory. In fact, the Big Bang Theory cannot explain why the matter density in the universe is not greater causing it to collapse on itself, or less, which would cause the universe to split apart. The Big Bang should have produced exactly equal amounts of matter and antimatter. The Big Bang is a secular model of the beginning of life on earth. Secular models come and go but God’s word doesn’t. It remains the same throughout time and space.

I want to encourage you to stop reading and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to your Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. He holds the world together. I have often heard people say, “If God is good then why do all these bad things happen in the universe? Were it not for the guiding hand of God things would be much worse. Stop and give thanks that in Jesus all things hold tightly together. Sometimes we think we have life under control, but when disaster strikes we are all too aware of our human limitations. If the universe would split apart without his guiding hand, how much more would our fragile human lives? I’m amazed to know that Christ is holding us together by his amazing grace. Because of this, Jesus alone is worthy of our worship and devotion. There is none greater than the exalted Christ. Sadly, many do not know him as their personal Lord and savior.

Again, I am reminded of C. S. Lewis’ words in Mere Christianity. In discussing the divinity of Jesus Lewis remarks,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing people often say about him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is one thing we must not say…you must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.” (p.52 in my copy)

Jesus is worthy of your worship. I have to ask you to consider what are you worshiping more than Christ? Is it entertainment, pleasure, lust, success, money, or anything other than Christ? Christ alone is worthy of the throne of your heart. We serve a great and worthy King. In that I greatly rejoice. 

In my next post I will discuss the final stanza of Paul’s hymn, which reflects on Christ’s work in redemption. If you would like to receive updates on my posts, please enter your email in the space provided on the right hand side of the page. Thank you for reading.

Advertisements

Praying like Paul: A closer look at Colossians 1:9-14

I am currently serving as a summer intern at Pine Level Free Will Baptist Church. One of my responsibilities is to preach through Colossians on Sunday evenings. For the next few weeks I will be posting a weekly review of some key element of my sermons. I hope these posts encourage you in your Christian pilgrimage.

As Christians we all know that we should pray. We even have special services called prayer meetings. There is a great deal of conversation about prayer. We all seem to recognize that prayer flows from a relationship with our Creator, yet we sometimes struggle with the practice of prayer. Maybe we just need a refresher on how the early church and the apostles prayed. Paul prayed specifically for the church at Colossae. This is fascinating in light of the fact that he first heard about this church through Epaphras. (1:7)

Paul often prayed for the churches within his scope of influence. His prayer for the Colossians is what we want to think about today.

[9]  For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; [10]  that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; [11]  strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; [12]  giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. [13]  He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, [14]  in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14 (NKJV)

There are four key themes in Paul’s prayer for the Colossians:

1.) A prayer that the church would be filled with the knowledge of the Father’s will. (v.9)

We love this prayer. “Lord, just let your will be done.” We should pray this way because our Teacher prayed to the Father in this manner. Even so, sometimes Christians pray about God’s will as if it is a mysterious thing. God’s will is revealed to us in his word as well as the person and work of Christ. False teachers believed in obtaining a superior knowledge that would enable them to transcend the material world. Paul’s argument is that true knowledge is found only in the context of a relationship with the creator. True knowledge of God’s will drastically changes the way we live our lives.

We too can pray that other believers would be filled with knowledge concerning God’s will. With lives at stake we should intentionally pray that other believers will grow in their understanding of God’s will. This really is a prayer that others will mature spiritually. I don’t know about you, but I certainly appreciate people praying that I will know His will so that I can love Him more fully.

2.) A prayer that the Christians would walk worthy of the Gospel. (v.10)

The Lord himself said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48) Those of us who have been entrusted with Christ’s liberating message are to a greater decree of accountability. How do we walk worthy of the Gospel? Paul tells us that to walk worthy is to be fully pleasing to our Savior and to bear fruit. Paul’s point is that faith is worthless if it does not change the way we live. Our worth is found in Christ alone, but there remains an impetus for us to live a transformed life. Christ paid much to high a price for us to treat grace cheaply.

When we pray we should pray that Christ through the Holy Spirit will help us grow in our holiness. This is not only a prayer we pray for ourselves, but also a prayer we pray for other believers. We need each other’s prayers because it is not easy to be holy. There is no greater encouragement in pursuing holiness than knowing that brothers and sisters in Christ are praying for our success.

3.) A prayer that Christians would be strengthened by Christ’s power. (v.11)

The great feat of Christianity is that God doesn’t expect us to do it on our own. We do need to strive for holiness, but we recognize that God in Christ provides the strength and endurance we need to become more like him. Our creator and redeemer takes an active role in restoring us to the Father. We don’t pursue a more mature spirituality by relying on our own talents and abilities. We pursue maturity by relying on Christ’s power. There is none greater than Christ anyway.

God will make his presence known when his children are actively seeking it. The next time you pray for fellow Christians you should pray that God will supply strength for their various situations. As I write this post, I can’t help but think of Josh and Lydia Provow. They have been struggling to get their visas so that they can serve in Bulgaria. Josh and Lydia, I am praying that you find strength in God’s power. He is able to work this out for his glory as well.

4.) A prayer that joy would permeate every aspect of the believer’s life. (vv.11-12)

Paul prayed that the Colossian believers would be strengthened with all joy and patient endurance. He wrote this letter while he was in prison. Paul possessed an unimaginable joy based on his union with Christ. He prayed that the Colossian Christians would find deep joy in Christ.

Christians should be the most joyous people on the planet. This is not a false joy that is characterized by positive thinking. Every day is not a Friday, no matter how much we would like to convince ourselves that this is true. Even so, Christ’s work on our behalf should bring a new joy to our lives. What exactly has Christ done for us?

Paul answers that question in verses 12-14. The Father has qualified us to be heirs of the promise. He has set us free from darkness. He has invited us into the kingdom of Christ. He has released us from sin’s curse and God’s wrath. He has forgiven us for every and I mean every evil dead. Wow!

When we pray for others we must pray that they will find joy in Christ. As we await the hastening day of our Lord’s return we need only rest in the joy of the Lord. Joy in Christ will give us renewed strength as we continue on this journey. After all, the joy of the Lord is our strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

An Example to follow

The apostle Paul has left us a great example of how we should pray. No matter who we are praying for, we can pray that they will be filled with the knowledge of God, that they will walk worthy of the Gospel, that they will rely on God’s strength, and that they will have joy. Implement these principles into your prayers and the kingdom of God will advance through Christ’s transforming power.

My Semester in review: What I learned this semester

I have just completed my senior year at Welch College. No, I did not graduate as I still need to take a few remaining courses. This semester was one of my most blessed and most challenging yet. I was blessed to serve as a society president for a second term. I was also privileged to serve with Mr. Matthew McAffee with Campus Church responsibilities. These are undoubtedly unique experiences, but nothing in comparison to what I learned about the Father this semester. Here are some things I learned in the 2015-2016 school year.

1.) God cares for His children. He really cares. 

Following a discouraging season in my life, one of my best friends reminded me that God cared. He told me that God did not want His children to be miserable. The creator, redeemer, and sustainer over all creation cares deeply for His children. I can think of no greater encouragement than that. Thank you Mike for sharing God’s word as he had laid it on your heart. For my readers, you should take a moment to meditate on this passage of Scripture.

[6]  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, [7]  casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)

2.) Grace really is beautiful. 

From past due assignments to extensions on my student account I have seen God’s grace displayed among the wonderful faculty at Welch. One assignment was extremely late but my teacher encouraged me to do it the final week of school. This swayed my grade from a B to an A. I told my instructor, “I will do this assignment if you really want me to, but I do not deserve this opportunity.” He simply responded, “Do it!”. I was given a chance I didn’t deserve.

That is precisely what Jesus has done for us. He has given us a chance that we did not deserve. Now we stand in this grace. We are literally swimming in an ocean of grace. (Romans 5:1-2) 

My Nashville pastor likes to think of God’s grace like the chips and salsa you are given at a Mexican restaurant. Any Mexican restaurant worth its queso WILL NOT allow you to run out of chips and salsa. I think this is a fun illustration. Thanks Pusch!

3.) God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. He himself is good. 

If I have quoted this verse once, I have quoted it multiple times. Not only did I learn that God cares, but I also learned that He is good, despite our sometimes troubling circumstances. God is the giver of life, not death. Satan wants us to self-destruct, but Jesus wants to give us life abundant and free. (John 10:10) The following verse could be very well be my favorite for the time being.

[17]  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17 (NKJV)

Not only is God good, but He doesn’t change. I change, but He does not. What a great truth for us to rest our lives upon.

4.) God created us to live in community: we need friends.

In Genesis 1 we learn that God created Adam, but found that it was not fitting for him to be alone. He created Eve as a helper for Adam. Most of the time this passage refers to the beautiful union between one man and woman in marriage. Even so, it seems okay to conclude that we were also made for community. Mr. F. Leroy Forlines claims that there are four basic relationships for the human person:See Quest for Truth.

          A.) God: the most important relationship is one’s vertical relationship with the Creator.

         B.) Self: We must view ourselves as image bearers of God. We are the unique point in God’s creation.

         C.) Others: We were not made to do life alone. We need friends.

         D.) Created Order: Christians should be at the front of the line when it comes to taking care of this earth God created.

Some of the most important people in my life are Mike, Andrew, and Zach. These guys have held me up through difficult times and they have encouraged me to persevere in the good times. Aside from our coffee time together, we occasionally enjoy some chicken from McDougal’s. Some of that would be amazing about now. I love you guys and greatly appreciate your friendship. We need each other, so stay in touch.

5.) You are not the only one who is going through a difficult time. 

This semester I came to realize that other students hurt and struggle as well. There is not a single person who does not feel the bitter sting of sin’s curse on all that we do. (or don’t do.) There were many times I was given an opportunity to be an encouragement to another student. Thank you for sharing your issues with me. It is encouraging to know that we are not in the battle alone.

Take a moment and invest in those around you. You will not regret it. They need your encouragement. You need theirs. 

There is nothing more amazing than this journey of faith. God will supply the strength you need for this pilgrimage. Thank you for joining me in praising the Father for his work throughout my journey.