Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022


24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.[1]

Colossians 1:24-2:10

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

For me, this is a week of transitions. I am a public school teacher, so I have transitioned from the regular school year to summer. I will transition right back next week for summer school. I will also start my second trimester at William Carey next week.

This is also a good time to look at the transition Paul makes in the book of Colossians.

He spends so much time in the first chapter of Colossians sharing his love for them and the deep and beautiful Christological doctrines they need. I have tried to show how he moves out of those topics into why he was writing to them and the church at Laodicea in the first place: false teachers/false gospel had made its way into their churches. He has shown them Christ and shown them love because he was about to have to tell them some things that they needed to hear that they may not want to hear. Since this letter is also from the Holy Spirit to every believer from then on to Christ’s return, there are some things that we need that we may not want.

This did not get framed this way in my thinking until yesterday. Yesterday was supposed to be a quick and easy work day, wrapping up the 2021-22 school year and getting (just enough of a) head start on next year to dive into summer. I had met Jamie Harrison (he’s been the guy behind the guy as long as there has been a Just Keith Harris ministry) for coffee and to discuss the book we are reading together – Do You Believe? by Paul Tripp. Every teacher up and down the halls was laughing and jovial. There were just a few things on the agenda and the pace and atmosphere of the day reflected all of that. Until my phone starting ringing….

I had been discussing the last few things that needed to be done with our ELA specialist, so I silenced my phone. No sooner than I had hit the button, another teacher burst into my room: “Xander’s busted his head. He’s in Candice’s room. It’s bleeding pretty bad.”

I ran. My mind raced faster than my legs. There was a crowd around Candice’s door. Faces were pale – but, then again, seeing someone “bleeding pretty bad” will do that to you, especially with a head wound.

Candice had everything under control, of course. Xander, on the other hand, was in full blown freak-out. “Am I gonna have to go to the doctor?!?!” Our school nurse then arrived, checked him out, and, when we saw the wound, it was clear to everyone – we were headed to the doctor. We did our best to put our fear down and let just the mama- and daddy-ness show forth. With that, there had to be questions of what happened and how did it happen and how brother and sister had managed to produce such an emergency.

Long story short, what Candice and I had told both of them hundreds of times in their life – and Candice had literally just reiterated to them – was ignored. They were rough-housing. No one was angry (I am thankful that they do enjoy playing with each other), but the roughhousing ended with Xander’s hard head against a harder object with the skin of his forehead in between.

As I drove, faster than I liked – while Keri cried out of worry and Candice held a cloth and ice pack to his forehead – I could not help but ask the question that every parent (Lord knows my parents had to) asks: why didn’t they listen to us? I was not trying to assign blame or punish – it was an accident, after all, but I was scared myself. I could see Candice’s eyes in the rearview. She was scared. There were plenty of what-ifs. Our wonderfully precocious and hard-headed boy’s head is precious to us. That is why we tell him what not to do – and tell him again – and again – and will tell him some more once the wound is officially closed.

That is what God did for us in giving us his Word, what Paul was doing for the Colossian and Laodicean churches, and what God still actively does for His people through His Spirit when they read the Word or hear it preached. And that’s what we need to get today before we move on next week to Paul’s specific teachings regarding the false teachers in Colossae.

Context is Key

If you have been reading the Bible studies I send out or have begun and continue in them, you will notice that I talk about context often. I believe one of the most dangerous questions that a believer can ask is what a particular verse means to you. The Bible means what God meant. The original authors – inspired by His Spirit – meant what the context of the original writing meant. Jesus did not proclaim that He was a Truth or a Way to Life but the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). The Bible means what it means.

Today, that is a difficult concept for us. The idea of truth today is divided between two filters or lenses: moral relativism and post-modernism. Basically, moral relativism means that each individual gets to define their truth, and post-modernism denies the existence of truth outside of how an individual sees their truth. Yet the Bible defines itself outside of those filters. Look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

That sentence, in the context of the letter of 2 Timothy and that particular section shows us not only what that sentence means but, by doing just that, clarifies the importance of Scripture and context. Just prior to that sentence, Paul reminds Timothy of the “sacred writings” – Old Testament Scriptures – that he had been taught from by his mother and grandmother; Scriptures that “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). This emphasizes how important the Word of God is for a person being saved, namely that it is a necessity (Romans 10:17). Immediately after Paul defined Scripture, he charged Timothy (and every other pastor after him) “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus” to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:1). Again, the context matters. Scripture is essential to salvation and it is clarified to be the only substance of preaching.

Look back at 2 Timothy 3:16-17 again. God “breathed out” Scripture. He produced it. Now, this is where a lot of people decide that this is too much for them. God’s Word – just like He does – must be understood in faith. If a person does not believe in Jesus, naturally they are going to deny any divine origin of Scripture. Likewise, if you deny God’s Word by ignoring it, not believing it, or simply refusing to let it interrupt your “best life” (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help sticking that in), you probably don’t believe in Him. God “breathed out” His Word to be “profitable” in the lives of His people. It is profitable for “teaching” (teaching right belief), “reproof” (correcting wrong belief), “correction” (Holy Spirit conviction of behaviors and lifestyles contradictory to God’s standard), and “training in righteousness” (teaching us how the Creator meant for life to be lived). It contains everything that can be known about God. It is enough, through the empowering of God’s Spirit, to make every Christ-follower “complete, equipped for every good work”.

Consequently, the book that Jamie and I have been reading, put this in a more beautiful way than I have ever heard. I can give you thick, theological answers as to why Scripture is important. I can try to break it down as best I can (which is what I was trying to do above). But, Paul Tripp put it in a way that brings tears to my eyes and in a way that absolutely reflects the context we need to see for why Paul was writing to the Colossian church: “When you get the word of God, you also get the God of the word, and that is a beautiful thing.”[2]

So, as we look at some key phrases in the verses that our last few Bible studies covered, we will be able to understand the context better. Hopefully, this will help us understand what God would teach us through this study.

Reteaching and Remediation of Colossians 1:24-2:10

There was a time when how I taught the Bible and how I teach English was more independent from each other. I tried to be what the school of Education at Ole Miss taught me to be in the classroom and what New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary taught me to be in the pulpit. Well, I just do not quite fit either mold. So, now, I just teach how I teach in hopes of helping whichever context learn what they need to learn. I say that because school-teacher-me is leaking over into our Bible study today.

I have standards that cover various facets of 10th grade English. Whenever I teach the standards (central idea, theme, POV, rhetoric, etc.), it is not about my lesson; it is about what the kiddos need and whether they got it. In some cases where they do not get something, I just teach it again and try to change up my methods a little. But there are times when teachers need to break everything back down to square one and try a different approach. I am bringing a little reteaching and remediation to our Colossians study because God has allowed me a part in your walk with Him and I want to “present everyone mature in Christ” (1:28)!

I have picked out nine phrases or sentences from our passage from the past few weeks (you can find them here, here, and here) and what we started with today to help us have the opportunity to see what God wants us to get and the context that helps us get it the way He meant it. I’ll list the phrase or sentence and break it down as clearly and briefly as I am capable.

…in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church…. (1:24) Our last two Bible studies looked at Paul’s sufferings. We need to understand that he was not being punished. He also was neither complaining about his sufferings nor bragging about his endurance. These people had never met him. He was an apostle – a specific office that only existed at the beginning of the early church (beginning in Acts and going until they died). He was given authority to teach them and help them have the necessary foundation. He was willing to suffer for the church – for them specifically, and they needed to know that.

I know that if Candice was to be in need and me not be available that I have folks who would do what needs to be done. My brothers, Kevin and Erin, have each dropped what they were doing and have come to her aid when it would take too long for me to get there. They would suffer for my kids. I have brothers at church who bear my burdens even when they have more on them than they should, yet they add mine without a thought. Knowing that impacted my relationship with them all. The Colossian church needed that with Paul – they needed to know that Christ would take care of His bride.

…to make the Word of God fully known…. (1:25) That is the point of the ministry of Paul as an apostle and Epaphras as their pastor. That is my goal in these weekly Bible studies. Full disclosure, if your pastor has a platform for ideals and not a pulpit for preaching the Word, you need to move on. The Word of God – all of it, not just the parts that make your heart flutter or your toes hurt – “fully known” is what is needed to be mature in Christ. You can have a PhD in the world issues, your preferred national platform, or the soapbox of your choice, yet being ignorant of the Word will matter more than any of them in the long run because there is no long run for any of them.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone, and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (1:28) Again, preaching and teaching the Word – and living it out through continual repentance and faith – is what is called for. If you want to grow closer to Christ, you need to be fed by His Word. If you do not want Him and His Word interfering with your life, that is a big deal – hence the “warning everyone” and “teaching everyone”. I hate being corrected. But I would hate it more to stand before Him and He tell me, “I never knew you; depart from me, you [worker] of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me. (1:29) The ministry of the Word – discipling other believers and helping them grow to maturity in their faith in Christ – IS WORTH TOILING. It is work. It is hard. But the strength comes from Christ.

…to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ…. (2:2) Preaching and teaching the Bible is not about knowledge. I mentioned earlier that I have things that my school kids need to learn. I help them get the knowledge they need, and that knowledge helps them on their way to the adult they are becoming. And I absolutely love teaching literature and writing. But the gospel is “riches”. I can take a Shakespearean sonnet and understand everything it has to offer. But reaching “all the riches of full assurance and understanding” is too lofty a goal for me to reach, yet it is so rich and valuable that I cannot help but pursue it and teach it and write about it.

I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. (2:4) There is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of people trying to “delude you”. False teaching will make sense. This is why spending time in the Word is so important. It is a lot like being able to tell the difference between scammers on the phone and legitimate callers. The difference is that false teachers do not want your social security number; they are after your soul. This is a good time to remediate something I said above: if you are letting “preachers” speak into your life about worldly things that, to an earthly extent do matter, at the expense of preaching the Word, you are victim of a false teacher – or at the very least a preacher who cares more for whatever he wants to talk about than the sheep in his care.

…as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him…. (2:6) This reiterates the importance of the Word in the life of the Church. The church in America is currently being called out for not “so walk[ing] in Him”. Receiving Christ means living like He has taught in His Word. When Roe v. Wade is appealed, are you willing to foster or adopt (James 1:22, 26-27)? I am a Southern Baptist and just read the report of how too many in my denomination cared more about getting sued or earthly liability than in caring for people they could have protected and most definitely should have ministered to (James 2:13-17). Walking “in Him” means being hated as He was hated. It means loving like He loved. It means living like He lived. And it may mean dying like He died. If you have not “received Christ Jesus the Lord”, though – if you have not been saved, you will walk away.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (2:8) Next week, we will dive in specifically to this and the rest of the paragraph that follows. It is our responsibility to “see to it that no one takes [us] captive”. This is important. We need to be testing the spirit of those claiming to preach the Word (1 John 4:1-6). We needed to be testing whether the Spirit be in us, too (Philippians 2:12-13). Test what you read here as well!

Wrapping Up

I hope this helps you understand the importance of the Word. I am praying for you, dear Sojourner. More than anything, I am thankful that the God of the Word is sovereign and omnipotent and cares for folks like you and me. Hallelujah, and amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2016. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Paul David Tripp, Do You Believe?: 12 Historic Doctrines to Change Your Everyday Life Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021, 38.

Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. [1]

Colossians 2:6-7

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

Suffering. Over the last few weeks of studying to write these Bible studies, I have found myself thinking about it again and again, and with it a question: is there anything in my life for which I would willingly suffer?

Of course, you can imagine the answers that would receive a willing yes – or at least ones that I would hope to say ‘yes’ to or that I at least should be willing to suffer for: Jesus, family and loved ones. But what is the likelihood that I – in the normal scope of circumstances and the trajectory of my life – would have to be willing to suffer. At most, the things in my life that approach suffering are mere shadows of it or discomforts.

Last week’s passage looked at how Paul suffered on behalf of the church and, more importantly, why he was willing to suffer. First, he found the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ” (Philippians 3:7) to outweigh the discomfort of worldly suffering. But, second, he toiled and struggled to “present everyone mature in Christ” (ch 1:28-29) so that “no one may delude [them] with plausible arguments” (ch 2:4). He was willing to suffer so that the church would grow closer to Christ and be presented “mature” (ch 1:28) – that the church would have the life that the Bible talks about (and live it).

As a pastor and teacher of the Word – as a disciple of Christ who is supposed to be making disciples (Matthew 28:19), that is pretty much the goal: to reach people with the gospel of Christ and help them grow closer to Him. But that leaves me with more questions. I’ll offer them to you as well:

  • Is this a goal (making disciples and helping them mature in their faith) that would drive you to be willing to suffer, or is spiritual maturity something you care about at all?
  • Do the lives of those who profess Christ make everything that Christ has promised His people – the lifestyle and character traits as well as the blessings – seem right and true?

This would be an easy place to turn and bash the church. Bashing, or even just bad-mouthing, the church is a popular activity even among those who claim to be a part of it. I wish I could say that I have not done it, but I have come to realize that how I view – more importantly how I treat – the church, the Bride of Christ, says a lot about me. I cannot imagine someone coming to me to bad mouth Candice. Wrath would be readily available and grace in short supply. The church is to Christ what Candice is to me – and more.

The longer I walk with Christ and the more closely I am grafted into that body through my local church, I find that I have great hope for the church: His name is Jesus. And I pray that He sees fit to use me to help her – to make a difference through the ministry of the local church He’s called me to serve.

But that is never easy. Suffering may be involved. It is good that the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ” is more and better than any bad suffering can bring.

I cannot think about people who love and care for the church and who would willingly suffer to see her members grow in maturity without my mind being drawn to Dietrich Bonhoeffer (pronounced BON-hoff-er). He was a pastor, a theologian, a teacher, a spy, and later a martyr under the Nazi regime in Germany. His story is now viewed as remarkable, but he would not have thought it so. He pastored and trained pastors, many of whom were imprisoned or martyred by the Nazis themselves. Much of his time and ministry was spent helping young ministers know and grow in Christ.

The aspect of his story that comes to mind here is when his compatriots convinced him to be smuggled to America so that he would be safe and be able to continue to serve God and be active in Kingdom work. When he got to America, things were so much more peaceful than in WWII Germany, but he had no peace. The only Kingdom work he could think about or focus on was back in Germany – back where nothing good awaited him. He fell under the conviction that he had left where God had called him to be. So, he repented. He got smuggled back into Germany where he would eventually be arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in various places until he finally reached the Flossenburg Concentration Camp in Bavaria.

That is the kind of hope that comes only from Christ. The “surpassing worth of knowing Christ” makes every other thing of considerable value to be counted as “rubbish” or dung (Philippians 3:7-8). Knowing Him and seeking His Kingdom is like discovering a treasure worth more than everything you own – worth so much that you would cash it all in to possess it; it is realizing that you have found a relationship with the One whose value so outweighs your own and rejoicing that He loves you despite your unworthiness (Matthew 13:44; Romans 8:31-39).

That is the hope that made Paul willing to suffer and follow Christ’s example and sacrifice. Suffering paled in comparison to seeing others come to know Christ and follow Him. Suffering on earth is temporary, but God’s Kingdom has no end! And that is the hope that I want to help point us to today. If you have “received Christ Jesus the Lord”, you can “walk in Him” by being “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith”.

“received Christ Jesus the Lord”

There are so many ways that people describe what it means to be in Christ – saved, born again, Christ-follower, Christian, etc. Sometimes it can feel like people are speaking Christian-ese or some sort of church language. To a certain extent, those terms are simply biblical ways to describe what happens when people repent of their sins and believe in Jesus, but that also sounds Christian-ese. Then, there are some who use these terms to camouflage their disbelief and navigate the waters of church culture. Even Demas was able to serve alongside Paul, completing “Christian” work until he “in love with this present world” abandoned him to go to Thessalonica (2 Timothy 4:10).

There are many today who once claimed Christianity but have abandoned the religion – or deconstructed their faith to construct something different in its place. Where I live in the southeastern United States was formerly known as the Bible Belt. There was a church on every corner and everyone seemed to know (at least) about Jesus, but that is not the case anymore. In fact, the predominant worldview in America as of 2021 is “moralistic therapeutic deism” which helps people speak of God generically and hold to whatever beliefs make them feel most comfortable, even attending churches for community when believing none of the Bible’s teachings.[2]

In a world where we sometimes casually speak about Christianity, especially in the church, I think it is helpful for us to look at what Paul means here when he says “as you received Christ Jesus the Lord” (v. 6). Jesus did not die for community. I like the way Jesus Himself put it: He came “to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). He is “Jesus Christ the righteous…the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2). He, “being rich in mercy”, came to make those who “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which [they] once walked” to be “made…alive together with Christ”, saving them by His grace (Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5)! He died – and raised from the dead – for more than shallow religion offers.

Surely Paul would not willingly suffer – much less Jesus die – for people to generically call on Him as a label for their community while denying Him as Savior and Lord. In fact, the Bible speaks to this specifically. Paul clarifies this as a spiritual matter in 1 Corinthians 12:3:

“Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.”

Basically, one cannot decide to accept Christianity while rejecting – essentially saying “to Hell with” – the Christ of Christianity. He is the Lord of the saved and rejected by all others. Romans 10:9, the model for true belief and what it looks like to be in Christ, leaves no room for someone to claim Him without submitting to Him as Lord:

“…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Submitting to Him is the confession – not lengthy or difficult doctrines. Confessing to the world that He is your Lord – with your mouth and especially your life – and that you commit to believing what the Bible says about Him, namely His death and resurrection are the hallmarks of being saved. The language is important because it comes from the Bible. It is important because it teaches us how to be saved and, then, what it means to follow Him.

That word “receive” from our passage today is a good indicator of what it means to “be saved” and for Jesus to be one’s “Lord”. In the original language, that word meant “receive with or to oneself what is given, imparted, delivered over…to receive into the mind, be taught”[3]; it meant that something of value had been offered or taught to be implanted and become part of the learner. The message of the gospel tells the truth about man, sin, and gives invitation and opportunity to repent of sin and believe in Jesus – to have faith and trust that He is who His Word proclaims He is and that He will do what He promised, namely bring lost sinners from death to eternal life. For those who get “saved”, they hear this message and respond to its call in repentance and faith, or they remain in their sins by rejecting the message and continuing on unchanged.

To reject the message means it is not received. This is clear. There are people who seek after many religions or philosophies. They would reject the idea that Jesus is who the Bible says He is. But, to “be saved” is to “receive Christ Jesus the Lord” – to believe what the Bible says about Him and live life the Life He gives following His example and commands. This is not a legalistic set of laws but a response of love to Him who loved us and thankfulness toward Him for all He has done and is doing on our behalf (v. 7).

This is a good opportunity, dear Sojourner, to assess whether or not you have received Him.

Jesus Himself speaks about this in His Sermon on the Mount:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’[4]

These words give me pause every time I read them. They do today. Salvation does not fall on me and my works, though. It lies solely on Him. Have I received Him – not just using His name and trying to work in His name? The Bible is clear that “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Joel 2:32, Romans 10:13) – those that call out to Him to save them, submitting to Him and trusting in Him as Savior.

Paul talks about a difference between the lives of the world and in those who have received or learned Christ in Ephesians 4. He describes those who have not received Christ as walking “in the futility of their minds” rather than walking in Him (Ephesians 4:17). He says that those who have not received Christ are “callous” – hardened due to “sensuality” and practicing all manner of “impurity” (Ephesians 4:19). Then, he issues one of the most chilling litmus tests for believers:

“But that is not the way you learned Christ – assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is with Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:20-24)

Paul – really the Holy Spirit appealing to the church through Paul – does not leave room for one to have “learned Christ” while living like the world. When he talks about “assuming that you have heard about Him”, it chills up my spine as I examine my own life. This is not a question of my perfection or track record – but His!

So, I ask you to examine yourself. Have you “received” Him? If so, He has surely received, saved, loved, and adopted you as His! If not, I invite you to repent and believe!

“rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith,
just as you were taught”

Until one has “received Christ Jesus the Lord”, there is no need to attain for maturity. Knowing Christ is not a class – although there are Bible teachers in churches who are meant to teach you what the Bible says for how to live your life. What I mean is that there is no program to progress through – no degree to attain. If one is not in Christ, he or she is dead. There is no maturity in death, only decay!

I find it interesting that Paul found presenting “everyone mature in Christ” (ch 1:28) as worthy of “struggling with all [Christ’s] energy” (ch 1:29) while all of our – honestly, I am speaking for me and the local church I serve – energy and focus goes elsewhere. We have to constantly be reminded that the Great Commission is about making disciples – not converts. Part of the reason is that making converts seems to be relatively easier – all we have to do is proclaim the gospel; Jesus does the saving!

Making disciples (discipleship) is difficult for us because it takes time. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we can travel somewhere, preach the gospel, and let someone else disciple the converts. But, unfortunately, we have many who profess Christ who no one disciples. They are handed a Bible, often given a job or ministry in the church, and wished good luck on their efforts. No one really took a concerted effort to disciple me until I had already been in ministry for over a decade and had burned out. To think, I was a little offended when an interim pastor approached me in my thirties and asked if I was interested in being discipled and growing in my walk with Christ. I am thankful for the offense, and, now, I seek to offend others in the same way!

I never realized what all it took to disciple someone – to truly labor and desire for their maturity – until a few years ago when my daughter received Christ. I also never fully understood the difficulties. She sees more of my walk with Christ than most anyone else, definitely more than anyone but Christ Himself and Candice. She sees my failings. She sees when I need to repent and whether or not I do. She sees when I read the Word and whether I worship God at home. What I try to teach her from the Word cannot remotely hope to compare to what she sees me living out. It is terribly frustrating at times, but, ultimately, it is a great joy to get to struggle and strive. I cannot imagine being satisfied with my own comfort if she would not be found mature in Him.

Paul did not have a wife or children. He cared that way for the churches he was called to serve. He looked at the Colossian church the way I look at Keri. He did not plant the church there, but the gospel he preached at Ephesus birthed that. Now, as I grow closer to Christ myself and mature to see more of what He has called me to, I understand more of what Paul wanted for the churches – and why he wanted them to be “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as [they] were taught, abounding in thanksgiving”.

Rooted

To be rooted in Christ lies in that foundation – “just as you were taught”. This reminds me of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-9. Some of the seed was sown on the hard packed earth of a path and was eaten by birds. Other seeds fell on shallow soil over bedrock; there was not enough depth for roots to develop that would sustain growth. Similarly, some seeds feel among thorns and were choked out. But the seeds that were sown on the good soil developed healthy roots, received all of the nutrients the soil offered, received all of the light and water they needed, and grew into healthy plants that multipled “a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:8).

Roots not only provide a means to gain sustenance but also support and strength. Think about how many times following a storm there are large trees whose roots snap off below the ground. The roots were enough to sustain the tree to grow large, but they never developed enough to withstand the pressure that comes with winds and storms. Yet there are very large and extremely old trees that line areas of the Gulf Coast in southern Mississippi. Their branches are gnarly as they have been whipped by hurricane after hurricane. Their branches bear the marks of the wind, but their roots have sustained them and held them safely in the ground.

So it is with Christ. To become mature, you must be rooted in Him. Like the branches of a grape vine have no hope of producing grapes without being attached to their vine, “apart from [Christ] you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The same gospel that brings the invitation to receive Christ also sustains. A Christian will never outgrow the truth of the gospel but, rather, studying and knowing it more means that our roots are dug deep into its good soil. Continuing to study the Word and walk with Christ draws sustenance and leaves us firmly planted in Him.

In the coming weeks of this study, we will look at the winds of false teaching that were attacking the Colossian church. There are similar winds today. The only way to withstand is to be rooted in Christ.

Built Up in Him

What good is a foundation if no one builds on it? What good are roots if there is no tree?

We looked earlier at some of Paul’s words in Ephesians 4. Earlier in that chapter, he spoke to this:

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

Disciples grow as they study God’s Word and put it into practice. That’s right: practice. Too many people have been allowed to profess Christ with their mouths on a single occasion and deny Him with their lives in every moment following it. (This typically cues a chorus of “Thou shalt not judge”.)

Paul illustrated being build up in Christ to the Ephesian church by talking about love being the catalyst. Jesus Himself said that all of the law could be summed up by loving God and loving people (Matthew 22:36-40). Love is an action. Love is a constant choice to remember what God did for us in Christ and to share that with others. Love requires effort. The church is not built with bricks and mortar but with those who have received Christ serving Him and sharing Him with others.

Established in the Faith

This word is more closely related to assurance – that one can know that they have received Christ. To be “established in the faith” is to have the Spirit of God in you, leading and guiding. Honestly, and I am trying not to generalize this too much, if any of the things written about in this Bible study (receiving Christ, being rooted, and being built up/growing in Him) are missing, there is reason for concern, especially receiving Him.

One of the greatest issues for people in the former Bible Belt is false assurance. If someone has been allowed to profess Christianity with no connection to Christ, no fruit for decades, there is little to convince them otherwise. Think back to that chilling warning from Jesus in Matthew 7; there will be people who have claimed Christ in name only who will not be welcomed into eternity with Him. This is why Paul was willing to suffer to see people presented as mature. They were faced either with assurance of faith in Christ or outed as frauds. Demas could only stay with him so long before his love for the world overrode his words.

It is an uncomfortable thing to be confronted with a harsh truth. The harsh reality that your life does not bear fruit of a relationship with Christ offers opportunity for repentance and faith – opportunity to receive Him. But it does no one any good to save their feelings on earth if only to allow them to die and go to Hell. One way is love; the other hate.

Maybe you do not feel as if you are “established in the faith”. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes our trees need pruning. Sometimes we need to be confronted with present sin and repent – to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). But, maybe, you have merely talked the talk. Maybe you learned enough Christian-ese to converse and fit in with the locals.

It is a good thing to be confronted with harsh truths. If you realize that you have never received Christ, it is not too late. The same words that showed us earlier what it means to believe show us how to receive Him now. Romans 10:9-10 says:

“…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

There is no better time for such a confession than right now. If you would like to talk, I would love to help you; feel free to reach out any time.

Wrapping Up

I have gone on longer than normal, but I definitely feel that this is important. Anything worth suffering over is worth our attention. And the state of our soul in the face of the holy and righteous God of the universe is worth attention.

I began by talking about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and how his repentance led him back to Germany and, ultimately, to Flossenburg Concentration Camp. But I did not tell you what happened to him there.

This is usually the part of the story where something inspirational comes, and that definitely happens here. But nothing comes out of the wings to save Bonhoeffer from the fate one would expect at a concentration camp.

As WWII was drawing to a close – Hitler had already committed suicide and the Third Reich was preparing to surrender, the Nazis still harbored great hatred toward Bonhoeffer. They hated him so much, in fact, that one of their last official actions would be to have him executed rather than letting him go free after the surrender.

The morning of his death, he was not sad. He preached a sermon to people in the camp with a fellow prisoner, a British officer, standing watch and Nazi soldiers waiting to accompany him to his execution. When he finished preaching, he went with them willingly. In the moments before his hanging on the morning of April 9, 1945, he bowed his face to the ground, prayed to the Christ he would meet face-to-face minutes later, and uttered the words: “This is the end – for me, the beginning of life.”

From an earthly perspective, this seems like such a sad story. But, the longer I walk with Christ, it is a story of hope. How could a man not fight against his executioners? How could he proclaim the gospel truth to his killers on his way out of this world? Hope. Hope in Christ that comes from being “rooted and built up and established in the faith”. Hope that comes from receiving Christ Jesus the Lord.

I cannot boast of great courage like that in my future. I can boast only in Christ and the hope He gives me now.

I pray He gives the same and more to you.

Hallelujah, and amen.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2016. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Barna, George. Rep. American Worldview Inventory 2021, Release #02: Introducing America’s Most Popular Worldview – Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Glendale, AZ, 2021.

[3] Zodhiates, Spiros. 2000. In The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, electronic ed. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2016. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.[1]


Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

I hope this week’s Bible study finds you well and safe. As I write this today, I am at home, sitting and writing where I can see out my window. Torrential winds are going to come, or they will not. A massive thunderstorm may come, or it may not. I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24-27:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”[2]

Jesus spoke those words as a close to the greatest sermon ever to be recorded, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). There are two reasons why I think they have come to mind right now: 1) I am trying to organize my thoughts to continue walking through the Christ-centered hymn in Colossians 1:15-23, and 2) I am a bit scared. The first reason is obvious as it is what I am doing now. The second is for many reasons. If the forecasted weather comes through, it is likely that my home could be damaged or the home of family, friends, and neighbors could be damaged. More than that, my family is with me here now, so, if the wind and the rains come, I could lose one or all of them. Yet somehow, I continue to sit here and type.

That somehow is faith – faith in the One who “upholds the universe by the Word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3), the One through Whom “all things hold together” (v. 17). And, thinking about what we are studying today and all that we have studied previously, faith is essential in understanding how it all works together. We are jaded and skeptical by nature, and it takes faith to believe that Jesus is Who He says He is in His Word. It takes faith that is birthed out of the belief that we are sinners in need of a Savior – belief that He is the only Savior, “our blessed hope…, our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us” (Titus 2:13-14).

We began walking through what we are calling the Colossian hymn last week. Verses 15-17 lay the foundation for everything we are looking at today. Verse 15 tells us that Jesus is God and, rightfully, has all authority, dominion, and power. Verse 16 illustrates how there is nothing in all of Creation that can remotely hope to attain to His power and glory; in fact, all creation finds its beginning and continuation in Him. And verse 17 clarifies that everything He created is still held together by His power.

Today, we will tackle verses 18-20 and see how last week’s verses point us to the reconciliation of God and sinners like you and me.

Diving In

And He is the head of the body, the Church. (v. 18a)

One of the aspects about Jesus and beliefs about Him that I believe is often overlooked is what those beliefs mean to those who believe them versus those who do not. First and foremost, it must be understood that, while we hold that the Word of God is important and the truths it holds are of the utmost importance, God’s Word is true whether we believe it or not. For the Church, His Word is where we find everything that can be known about Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But, for the unbelieving world, it seems like foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The beginning of verse 18 helps us to see how this Colossian hymn fits into the lives of believers. Those who are saved are part of what is known as the Church, or the body of Christ. Simply put, Jesus is the head of the Church; He is, ultimately, its sole leader and guides it through His Word and His Spirit.

Look at the “and” at the beginning of this verse; it points us back to verse 17 which says that “He is before all things” and “in Him all things hold together”. The “and” here in verse 18 tells us that, just as He is set over all of creation and is actively holding all of it together, it is the same in the Church. Look at the way that Paul describes it to the church at Ephesus: “…we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).

The church at Colossae – and our churches today – need to remember this! We are not the necks that turn the head. Christ, the head, is in the lead. The image created here is a body with members (parts), so if we find ourselves following something else (idolatry), we can no longer call ourselves part of the Church as we have dismembered it by severing ourselves from it. There were false teachers seeking to do that in Colossae, and there are those today who seek to tear down and ravage the body of Christ (1 Peter 5:8-9, Matthew 7:15-19, 2 Peter 2).

We would do well to look to the head, to Jesus, and remember His words from Matthew 7 that we looked at earlier: the wise man, the man whose house is not washed away in the torrents of the storms, is only wise because he “hears these words of mine and does them” (Matthew 7:24).

He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. (v. 18b)

I write often about how we have no ability within ourselves to save or to receive glory. But Jesus is worthy of His titles, not just because of His status before the foundation of the world, because He continually proves Himself to be worthy. To say that He is “the beginning” points to Him being the origin of everything we know, but to say that He is “the firstborn from the dead” highlights what He has done for His Church.

I recall David Platt recounting a conversation between a Christian missionary and two religious leaders, one Muslim and the other Hindu. They were concerned that some of their people were forsaking Islam and Hinduism and following Christ. They presented the missionary with a metaphor they believed would convince the missionary to leave the territory so that everyone could just keep on believing what they were before he arrived. They were in agreement that religion can be understood through the metaphor of a mountain. Life is man’s journey up the mountain trying to get to god in his lofty paradise. There are many paths, they argued, to get up the mountain but that the destination was the same. They felt quite confident in their presentation until the missionary told them that Christianity was not at all like that. Christianity, he told them, was different because man was completely and utterly unable to make it up the mountain, and God, rather than condemning them for their inability to make it to Him, came down the mountain and made a way for man, basically carrying them up the mountain to be where He abides. The religious leaders were disappointed and left to continue trying to make it up the mountain.

Jesus is “the firstborn from the dead” because, in Christ, God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He lived a full and sinless life on the earth despite encountering all the temptations we do (Hebrews 4:15). And “for our sake God made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21) – that is, He died the death we deserve to make a Way for us (John 14:6)! More importantly, He did not stay dead but “He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4)! He is “firstborn from the dead” because death could not hold Him, and His Life is the source of our eternal life!

That is why He is “preeminent” – supreme, sovereign, superlative! Paul illustrates this beautifully in Philippians 2:9-11:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[3]

He has always been worthy because of Who He is to everything that exists. He remains preeminent because He never changes and proves Himself again and again. That’s good news!

For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross. (vv. 19-20)

We have already seen that Jesus is fully God in verse 15, but here we see an example of why that is so important: reconciliation.

Reconciliation means “to restore harmony or friendship between two entities formerly divided”.[4] When we use this word in the present day, we use it to describe a relationship where some wrong done by one of the parties has caused a rift in the relationship and the rift is somehow healed. It could be as simple as two friends allowing a misunderstanding to come between them and, upon clearing the issue up, reconciling and renewing their friendship. It could also be used to describe a married couple deciding to stay together and weathering the storm of some indiscretion or issue that could have ended the marriage. In the case of God and man, we caused the rift; our sin did the dividing.

Romans 5 does a better job than I ever could painting the picture of God’s love despite our sin and what His desire to reconcile cost Him:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.[5]

Our sin made us enemies of God. He has wrath toward sin and toward His enemies. Now, I know this is a scary prospect (not to mention very unpopular), but it is necessary to understand what He did for us – and why it is so important that in Christ “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”.

You see, God would have been absolutely just if he had wiped the slate clean when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-13). He could have smoked them right then and there and been done with the whole lot of humanity in one righteous and just smiting. He did not have to rescue Noah and his family from His wrath in Genesis 6. He would be totally righteous and just if He would have not forgiven me of my sins or reconciled me to Himself. I am a sinner. He has wrath toward sin and toward His enemies. But instead of being only righteous and just, He provided a means for reconciliation that would not compromise what is right – He decided on grace, mercy, love, and propitiation. God Himself paid the penalty for the sins of the world on the cross (1 John 2:1-2).

There is a price to pay for sin. It has a cost. It is different than merely declaring that the stormy sea be calmed because He has already laid out penalty for sin all they way back in the beginning – death. Yet Jesus, in whom “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”, cancelled the “record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” and set it aside, “nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). God did it all!

Think on it like this:

“…[A]n altered relationship now exists between God and sinners by Christ’s interposing sacrifice on behalf of fallen humanity. The point of the reconciliation is that God, for Christ’s sake, now feels toward sinners as though they had never offended him. The reconciliation is complete and perfect, covering mankind both extensively and intensively—that is, all sinners and all sin. The cause of rupture between God and sinners has now been healed, a truth wholly independent of humanity’s mood or attitude. While sinners were still the objects of God’s just wrath, Christ, in full harmony with the gracious will of his heavenly Father, interposed himself for their sakes, for the restoration of harmony.”[6]

Or as the hymn of old[7] put it:

“Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandring from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Bought me with His precious blood.”

All I know is that He could have poured His wrath out upon me but loved me instead. He could have made war on me as His enemy but instead made peace “by the blood of His cross”. That kind of love at such a cost as “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:19) is worth singing about. More than that, a God like that is surely preeminent because there is none like Him in all of existence.

Wrapping Up

I keep thinking back to Jesus’ words from beginning of today’s Bible study (Matthew 7:24-27). They came to mind because of thoughts of wind and rain, but Jesus was talking about so much more. He says that we will either build on a bedrock of faith – a foundation that is not determined by our own ability or strength but His, or we will build a foundation determined by what we can (and cannot) accomplish on our own. He says that His words – listening to Him and, most importantly, obeying what He tells us – ensure that when the rains, floods, and winds come – and they will, the foundation of His Word will never fall away. Those who build on Him will not fall because they have been founded on the rock!

Look at the beautiful words of the hymn “Be Still My Soul”[8] (1855):

“Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He lived below.”

What amazing truths are held in those lines! He has rebuked storms, telling them to be still, and He has allowed storms to rage. He has parted a sea, piled a river into a giant heap, and walked across water like it was solid ground. There are many who are skeptical of such things, but I believe them. I have faith, and that faith is rooted in my rejoicing that I am a sinner who has been reconciled to God by the blood of His cross. Without Him, there is no hope. Without Him, I am just dead in my sins. The more I read of Him in His Word, the more I see my sin. And, the more I see Him for Who He is and me for who I am, I am thankful and humbled that He would love one such as me. The storm is still raging outside my window, and the storms of life still rage as well. But the words of the Colossian hymn – words that proclaim a God who died yet lives, a Messiah who took the wrath I deserve while giving me love and grace – giving me hope. I pray they do for you also.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:15–23.

[2] ESV, Mt 7:24–27.

[3] ESV, Php 2:9–11.

[4] Barbara E. Bowe, “Reconciliation,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1112.

[5] ESV, Ro 5:6–11.

[6] Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 1113.

[7] “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, John Wyeth | Robert Robinson © Words & Music: Public Domain

[8] Franz Dickerson | Joel Chernoff © 2002 Galilee of the Nations Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

Refresh & Restore — February 10, 2022

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.[1]

Colossians 1:3-14

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

I am excited to dive further into Colossians with you today! We have the context of the letter – the author (Paul), the recipients (the churches at Colossae and Laodicea), and some of the history and purpose, but, today, we are going to see what motivated Paul to write to them.

The passage listed above (ch. 1:3-14) will be our passage over the next few weeks so that we can keep our study in context. This is important because it is easy to forget that the verses and sentences are part of paragraphs and sections and chapters (and in this case whole letters or books). It is also important because there is a lot that can be mined from this section that we still need as the Church today.

The verses in this section are a prayer of thanksgiving from Paul to God on behalf of – and because of – the church at Colossae. It might help you to see it broken down a little bit[2].

  • Paul thanks God often for what he has heard about the church at Colossae – their faith in Christ, love for each other, and hope found in Him – because of the gospel bearing fruit in their midst (vv. 3-8).
  • Paul prays specifically for their continued growth in knowing God and walking with Him so that they can continue the gospel work in Colossae (vv. 9-12).
  • Paul reminds them that the gospel that they believed is the basis for their faith in Christ and his prayer for them – which is enough to combat the false teaching they are encountering (vv. 13-14).

Today, we will dive into verses 3-8.

Thanksgiving for the Work of the Gospel in the Colossians (vv. 3-5a)

I mentioned in the last devotion that one of the things I love the most about Paul’s letter to the Colossians is how relatable it is to churches today. It was planted by a regular, everyday guy named Epaphras who cared enough about the people in his town that he shared the gospel with them. This is also important because it reiterates God’s design for the spread of the gospel – for all who are saved to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). The gospel is spread through us sharing. In 2 Corinthians 5, the Holy Spirit through Paul tells us that we are “ambassadors for Christ” and that God makes His gospel “appeal through us” to “implore [people] on behalf of Christ [to] be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Epaphras did that. He was God’s ambassador. And, now, Paul writes to the embassy – the church – that God planted there regarding how thankful he is to God for the work!

Paul prayed for the Colossian church often, which is cool, but, what strikes me even more is why Paul said is the reason he is thankful in his prayer for them: faith, love, and hope. Let us look at these one-by-one.

Faith

He tells them that he has been praying for them “since [he and those with him] heard” of those at Colossae’s “faith in Christ Jesus” (v. 4). This is important because this is the basis of what a church is – and what it is not. This is not a group of like-minded people who decided to start a social-religious organization. It is not a group of people who share moral values who want to reform their community to certain standards of living and behavior. No, this is a group of people who were formerly “dead in the trespasses and sins in which [they] once walked” (Ephesians 2:1-2) who God, “being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us…made…alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4)! They were the local body of Christ, “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that [they] should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

He is rejoicing that people had been saved from their sins by putting their faith in Jesus Christ alone. That same faith should be a pillar in our churches today.

Love

Paul was also thankful for “the love that [they] had for all the saints” (v. 4). We may think that this is an amazing attribute to be seen in a church today, but Paul mentioning here shows that this is something accomplished by God’s Spirit in churches – not in the ability of people to tolerate or be polite. Love is part of the fruit of God’s Spirit dwelling inside of you (Galatians 5:22-23). This love occurs because of the love that God showed us in Christ Jesus, and it is to be the hallmark of a genuine church (1 John 4:9-10, 19). It is such a big deal that the Holy Spirit had John write that if someone had hatred for a brother while professing to love Christ that the person “is a liar” (1 John 4:20-21).

Just as Paul saw the faith of the Colossian church and thanked God for it, he recognized the love that he heard about (remember, Paul had not been there to see this in person) – by reputation – and thanked God for that fruit (evidence) of their faith.

Hope

Just as their love flowed out of their faith, the hope that the Colossians had did, too. Their hope was “laid up for [them] in heaven” (v. 5). This may seem like a moot point, but I think we need to be reminded that Jesus is the prize – not heaven. In fact, He is the reason heaven is worth having! The Colossians came to faith in Christ not to escape hell. They loved one another because they had been loved well. And their hope was found in trusting that the object of their faith had a place prepared for them (John 14:2-3). Their hope was that “living hope” that the Holy Spirit wrote of through Peter that was rooted in “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for [them], who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

To truly have hope in Christ that impacts now and echoes into eternity, is something to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving for the Work of the Gospel around the World (vv. 5b-6)

Paul’s next area of gratitude is that “the Word of Truth, the gospel” is “bearing fruit and increasing” (vv. 5-6). I know that we have looked at what the gospel is many times in these devotions, but we should never tire of hearing it or think we have grown past it. Rather than trying to sum it up myself, I would rather point to a passage that sums it up very well; after all, the Bible says that “the Word of Truth” is the basis for hope (Psalm 119:43):

For I delivered unto you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures….”

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

That message has power because Jesus is alive! For two thousand years people have been proclaiming the gospel – the good news – that Jesus died to save people from their sins and rose again.

I believe that was particularly good news for Paul to hear about – that the gospel was working through others – because he was nearing the end of his life. But the end of his life was not a lengthy retirement reaping the benefits of his 401k; no, Paul was in chains in the Mamertine prison in ancient Rome awaiting execution for preaching the gospel. Paul was encouraged that the gospel was still being preached. He was thankful to hear of the faith, love, and hope that it produced.

Paul has now been dead for the majority of those two thousand years, but the gospel is still “bearing fruit and increasing” (v. 6). It is still working because God’s Spirit is still working. It is His power that moves on the hearts of men and women who hear the Word preached (Romans 10:9-10, 17). And it is still “bearing fruit and increasing” long after Paul’s death and then after Epaphras’ death. In fact, if Jesus’ tarries, it will bear fruit and continue to increase after my death and yours. The gospel is not dependent on men and women who can die. It is dependent on Jesus, and He’s still alive!

Thanksgiving for the Worker Who Took the Gospel to Them (vv. 7-8)

At the time that Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians, apparently Epaphras was with him. I love the descriptions that Paul gives of Epaphras having shared with him about the Colossian church. This proud pastor did not boast of numbers or programs but of faith, love, and hope. He did not brag on accomplishments but of how people were hearing and understanding “the grace of God in truth” (v. 6).

This is refreshing.

Paul is not jealous that Epaphras planted the church instead of him. Epaphras is not seeking recognition. They are both celebrating what God is doing through His gospel and the power of His Spirit. This is the same sort of spirit that John the Baptist displayed when Jesus came, which effectively ended his ministry: “Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Remember how I said that I loved how a regular, everyday guy brought the gospel to Colossae? Look at how Paul described him here. Paul called him a “fellow servant” – a syndoulos[3] – which is basically honoring Epaphras by saying that he was of the same service as a bondservant of Jesus that Paul was. Epaphras surely would have never described himself as such, but Paul did. Paul recognized the love that he had for his flock as their “faithful minister of Christ on [their] behalf” (v. 7).

Reflecting & Closing

I pray that at least some of what we have looked at has caused you to think and reflect on your own situation. Most of all, I pray that you find yourself reflecting on your relationship with Christ.

Since this passage (which we will continue to cover in the coming weeks) is focusing on a prayer of thanksgiving, I want to close with an opportunity for you to be able to pray, too. I am not going to write out a prayer for you to pray because I do not think we have to be eloquent pray-ers. Feel free to look at these points to help you get started or guide you, but, ultimately, prayer is you talking to God. I do not want you to feel limited by only the things I have listed. If you are thankful, He would love to hear from you!

If you come to places that talk about having faith in Christ or a relationship with Him and you do not, please do not hesitate to reach out. I would love to talk with you about that or help point you to someone where you live and help you learn more about that.

If you come to the part where the prayer guide points you to pray for your church and you do not have one, I would like to help you find one of those as well. I know there are still a lot of unknowns regarding the continual pandemic, but, reaching back to God’s call on us as “ambassadors” earlier, we cannot do this work alone or without an embassy! If you do not have a church home, I would love to help you find one. If you have not been back with your church family in a while, I pray that they will welcome you back with open arms and the love we saw in the church at Colossae!


Thanksgiving for the Gospel in Your Life

  • Thank God for your getting to hear the gospel and come to faith in Him.
  • Thank God for loving you and giving His life for you.
  • Thank God for the hope of eternity with Him.

Thanksgiving for the Gospel in Your Church

  • Thank God for having a faith family.
  • Thank God for the way the gospel worked in building your embassy.
  • Thank God for the opportunity to be part of His Kingdom work.
  • Thank God for your pastor like Paul did for Epaphras.

Thanksgiving for the Gospel in Your World

  • Thank God for the opportunity to get to be an Epaphras – a regular, everyday person with the best good news anyone could hear.
  • Thank God that His gospel is still bearing fruit and increasing around the world.
  • Thank God for those involved in preaching that the gospel and pray for people who have yet to hear to have the opportunity to come to faith in Christ.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:3–14.

[2] Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2008), 81.

[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

Refresh & Restore — January 13, 2022

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.[1]

1 Peter 5:5-7

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

I am excited to begin writing again as we embark in 2022! I intended our first study together to be the book of Colossians, but a thought struck me yesterday and spurred today’s devotion and delayed our start of Colossians until next week.

We will begin with a question: what comes to mind when you think of the hand of God?

Some think of the picture above which has been adapted from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. In that painting, you see a depiction of Adam (the hand on the left) and God the Father (right hand) reaching out toward one another. You will notice that the hands just do not quite meet. Some argue that Adam is reaching out to God but unable to grasp his hand (because of sin or inability). Others argue that it symbolizes God trying to reach out to Adam but not quite making the grasp Himself.

But there are other perspectives on the hand of God than just Michelangelo’s mural.

There are some that see the hand of God as a tool of vengeance. They see it poised for a good smacking when all His little children get wayward. Some who hold this view wish for God to strike people down with a mix of Old Testament fury and some Zeus-like lightning bolts. This hand is hard, calloused, and ready to strike and represent a definitively angry and wrathful God.

There are some who view the hand of God like those of the European-looking Jesus shepherds – hands that have nothing but soft cushiony care as they caress the little lambs in their grasp. These hands would never strike, nor would they ever need to because they represent a God of only love and no anger whatsoever.

Yet when the image and thought of the hand of God came to my mind, it brought with it the Scripture above from 1 Peter. As we study this particular passage today, it is my prayer that you see God in accordance with His Word and not by any alternate points of view no matter how lofty they appear.

Context

To understand this passage, you need to look at the context of the book of 1 Peter and, especially, the context of the paragraph and chapter where it is found. 1 Peter is a letter to the “elect exiles of the Dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1), a group of people who were likely dispersed due to persecution – maybe even those who were forced to leave Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen when Paul was Saul (Acts 8:1). These were believers, many of which were probably Jewish, who had been forced to leave their homes and the land they had grown up in. They were afraid and felt alone. They needed to be reminded that God knew who they were and had a plan for their lives (1 Peter 1:3-5) and that, even in their suffering and troubles, He cared for them.

Peter lays out for them how to “conduct [themselves] with fear [of God] throughout the time of their exile” (1 Peter 1:17) and reminded them that even though they “were not a people” and had previously “not received mercy” that “now [they were] God’s people” and “now…received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10). It is a letter of good news in the midst of a lot of bad news.

He reminds them of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone and the hope of eternity with Him. And He reminds them through many specific instances that the gospel of Jesus Christ gives hope in every area of their lives from the tyrannical governments they were suffering under to their relationships and daily lives. That good news is for us, too.

Today’s passage is part of 1 Peter 5 which begins talking to the “elders” who were “shepherd[ing] the flock of God” where these exiles were living (1 Peter 5:1-2). He wrote to the pastors of their local churches and talked with them about how they should serve. He reminded them that they were to “shepherd” in such a way that, “when the chief Shepherd appears” (1 Peter 5:4) – when Jesus returns, they would have exhibited His love, care, instruction, and correction as He would have them: “not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). You see, the pastors were to be examples because the same sort of example (“likewise” – 1 Peter 5:5) is to be followed in the relationships of the generations in the church as the young are to “be subject” to the elders (both the pastors & older, more mature leaders/disciplers in their churches) following the same pattern.

The beautiful thing about this is God uses the imagery of the hand of God to show what this is like.

Humility v. Mighty

Sometimes there is a fine line between humility, being humbled, and humiliation. Many people who define themselves as humble are everything but that. Some people get too big for their proverbial britches and need to be humbled or brought back into reality. But for others there comes a time where their lives end up at a screeching halt because their pride has written a check too big for their…britches to cash. Then comes humiliation. A force greater than them applies pressure and knocks them down a peg. We often cheer at those who do the knocking down and jeer at those who find themselves in the humiliation that (in our humble opinions) is much needed and deserved.

Peter’s advice – really the Holy Spirit’s advice, since this is Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17) – is that the way the church needs “to be subject” to each other and especially to God is for them to “clothe [themselves] with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5). He clarifies that this is not just some or they thought should have to; no, he says to them “all of you” (1 Peter 5:5), which goes from the pastor to the back pew. To back this up, he quotes from Proverbs 3:34 and reminds them that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. That proverb sounds like a tough warning from stern God, but, really, it is a proverb of pleading. It is a reminder of our need of grace and how dangerous a distractor our pride is, especially when we need to repent of our sin. This is seen in the command that Peter follows up with in the next paragraph: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6).

If we hold to one of the views of the hand of God that we looked at earlier, this is a frightening image. If it is the hand from the Sistine Chapel, we cannot reach it nor can He reach us, leaving us hopeless instead of humble. If it is the hand hurling lightning bolts and smacking sinners about, we can hope for humiliation and hurt instead of help. And the weak and soft hands of the European shepherd, the hero we need is nowhere to be found.

The “mighty hand of God” that Peter tells these exiles about is different altogether. The call is not to humble oneself out of fear or shame. The call is to humble oneself in recognition of the hand of the mighty God of the Bible. It is the “mighty hand” that Moses spoke over that represented His “greatness” and begged the question, “What god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours?” (Deuteronomy 3:24) It is the “hand of God” that was “on Judah to give them one heart to do [what was] commanded by the Word of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 30:12). It is the “good hands” of God that were on Ezra when he got to leave Babylon and come home to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:9). It is the hand of God that Nehemiah said had been upon him “for God” and gave strength to the hands of those involved in the “good work” of rebuilding Jerusalem after returning from Babylon (Nehemiah 2:18). It is the same hand that Israel was taught to sing of that God would “lift up [His] hand” and “forget not the afflicted” (Psalm 10:12).

Yet it was the same hand that was upon Jeremiah that “filled [him] with indignation” (Jeremiah 15:18). It is the same hand that was raised at His enemies to strike them down. Yes, the same hands that the writer of Hebrews wrote of when he said, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Which hand is reaching out to the humbled in 1 Peter 5?

The reality is that it is the same hands. The hand that punishes is the same hand that protects; the same hand strikes and saves. All of God’s attributes work together in harmony. He is everything the Word says about Him. And this is the reason we humble ourselves. We recognize that He is greater. We recognize our sin as we recognize our need for a Savior.

We humble ourselves because our pride cannot earn us heaven as we have “fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and realize that “the wages of sin” – all that we can earn or accomplish – “is death” (Romans 6:23). And in that humbling, we submit to Him – are willing “subject to” (1 Peter 5:5) Him – as our Lord and Master (Romans 10:9).

Peter’s call for people to humble themselves “under the mighty hand of God” is to submit to Him that “He may exalt you” – to lay down their lives at the offer and promise of His Life and Righteousness (John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:21). And the hand that reaches out – the mighty hand of “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness” (Titus 2:13-14).

Wrath and love are intertwined in that mighty hand. You see, the same hand that reaches out to the humbled was the same one what was “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). The God who people expect ready and waiting to smite the wicked with curses “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’ (Galatians 3:13, cf. Deuteronomy 21:23). He is the God who loved us enough that He showed “His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), dying for us to pay for the forgiveness of our sin. He saves sinners “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands…nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).

That’s good news!

God’s Mighty Hand & You

Look back at that picture from the Sistine Chapel. More frightening than any anger or weakness would be a God who would not or could not reach down at all. God not only reached down, He came down, “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He set the example in humility:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”

Philippians 2:4-8

And that hand reaches out to us offering eternal life in the grandest gesture of love to ever be found. The hand that punishes wickedness and sin is the same hand that reaches out “at the proper time” to lift us up (1 Peter 5:7). It is not weak for forgiving but even stronger, the same hand of care still shows strength as Jesus said of those who are His, that He gives them “eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27).

The mighty hand of God is better than the Sistine Chapel. It is stretched out in love to those who repent and believe in Him. It represents the God who is not far off but close enough to cast your anxieties on. It is reached out “because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

That’s good news!


STARTING NEXT WEEK!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 5:5–7.

Songs for Sunday, December 12, 2021


The Christmas story is summed up aptly by the angels to the shepherds: good news of great joy!

CCC Advent Guide

I love the preaching of the angels in Luke 2!

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

I love this passage because of its truth! I love it because of the mercy it displays on those who normally would not be considered worthy to get such news! And I love it because that “good news of great joy” is still – don’t miss this, STILL – good news and for all people even today!

Let’s break this down together.

Mary and Joseph had journeyed to Bethlehem together to be registered counted for the census. For whatever reason, “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7) and were forced to camp out in the stable area. Mary had just given birth to the Messiah, the Son of God. Instead of a baby blanket, she swaddled him in strips of cloth. Instead of a bassinet or crib, she laid in a manger – a feeding trough for animals.

While the most important birth – fulfilling prophecy since the beginning (Genesis 3:15) – was occurring without pomp and attention, there were shepherds in the nearby countryside camped out caring for their flocks. They were no doubt dirty. They were definitely the last group to expect to receive an angelic royal birth announcement. Yet it was for them Christ had come, and, to them, would come this beautiful gospel (good news) message that still rings through the years.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

The gospel message is not for fear but faith and hope. There is no greater joy than celebrating that the lost has been found (Luke 15). The beauty of this gospel of great joy is not in the reality that befalls those who reject the message but in the amazing reality of the eternal life that comes to those who believe – that dead men and women find life in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5) and find a place in the Father’s house as His adopted children (Galatians 4:4-5)! And it is beautiful because it is for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16-17), whether you be shepherd or king, poor or rich, look-like-you-have-it-together or clearly-a-hot-mess, “all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13)!

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

These shepherds were the first to hear the news that the Messiah had been born. Herod remained ignorant. Scribes and Pharisees were left in their legalism. Everyone, from the priests to the powerful, heard after these lowly shepherds that the promised Messiah had arrived in the “city of David”, Bethlehem. So, the best “good news” in history rang out to the most insignificant group of people in the most insignificant city and the least significant time of being counted in a census. And it still rings true to those the world deems insignificant in places that seem insignificant and in times that seem like hope is gone or at least quickly leaving. It still rings true because it IS true. What a beautiful reminder that there is this day a Savior. His name is Jesus. And He cares for us!

“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

The shepherds needed a sign to point them where they needed to go. They needed to find Him to worship Him. Praise God, we do not have to look today! They sought Emmanuel (“God with us”) to lay their eyes on Him, yet all we have to do today is believe. He was born, and the shepherds were His witness. He died, and Scripture and, even, history are His witnesses. But He rose again and has given His Spirit. He was and is and is to come (Revelation 1:4). We do not need a sign because we have access to the Savior!

While I write this, “What Child is This?” is playing in the background. There is busy-ness happening all around me. People are buying coffee to fuel their busy-ness. There is chatter throughout the coffee shop. People are driving and walking by. And the poignancy of the words of the song echo the hope I find in this “good news of great joy”.

Read these words and ponder their reality and beauty to prepare your heart to gather with a faith family tomorrow in worship:

What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping,
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King!
Haste, haste to bring Him laud!

Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and beast are feeding?
Good Christian, fear, for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading!

Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through!
The cross be borne for me, for you!
Hail, hail the Word made flesh!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him!

Raise, raise a song on high!
Joy, joy for Christ is born!
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Joy to the World
  • Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.            
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

  • We Have a Savior
  • Luke 2:8-20

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14    “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

  • Away in a Manger (Forever Amen)
  • Revelation 21:1-5

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

  • Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)
  • (invitation) The Son of God Came Down
  • (offertory) Mary, Did You Know?

As a church, we are reading through the gospel of Luke each from December 1-4 as part of our Christmas to Calvary advent focus. You can grab a paper copy in the church lobby or download it here.

There are also daily audio uploads if you prefer to listen rather than read. Here’s Luke 4 for today’s reading:


If you have not been gathering, consider gathering with your church family again. Various variants are still issues in this prolonged pandemic, but prayerfully consider gathering in the 10:00 Bible study where there is plenty of room for social distancing and one could slip out before the worship crowd comes in for the 11:00 service.

Songs for Sunday, October 3, 2021

Tomorrow is the Lord’s day!

It’s His because of all He has done.

Gathering together as His Church gives us the opportunity to share our worship, our thankfulness, our desperate need for Him!

In these posts, I try to share something that will stir your heart and help you and yours prepare your hearts for worship tomorrow – to help you set your minds on Christ and what He has done for you (Colossians 3:1-4). But I read a poem by the late-missionary C.T. Studd (posted by Kayla Golden) called “Only One Life” that definitely stirred my heart for tomorrow:

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,

And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes, only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
Living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me, Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow, Thy Word to keep;
Faithful and true, whate’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh, let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes, only one,
Now let me say, ‘Thy will be done’;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say, ‘Twas worth it all’;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.

C.T. Studd (1860-1931) was a missionary to China, India, and Africa. He was saved in 1878, but, for the first six years of his new life in Christ, He described himself as “backslidden” and captivated by a love of the world because he did not share Christ with people. He repented after hearing D.L. Moody preach in 1883, and sharing his faith became a part of his life – so much a part that his love for the world faded as much as his love for Christ grew. May it be so for us!

He gave all his earthly treasures, including a large inheritance from his father’s will to show that he trusted in Christ and was in the will of the Father. And, potentially, his most famous quote showed his heart for following God’s will and sharing His gospel more than any bio could:

“Some wish to live within the sound of a Church or Chapel bell; I want to run a Rescue Shop within a yard of hell.”

May this be our heart for the gospel as well.

So, tomorrow, we’ll sing of the grace, shed blood, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. May our hearts overflow with gratitude and worship for Him. And may our love grow for Him in such a way that our attraction to this world will dim more and more with each passing breath until we kneel before His throne.

Here are the Scriptures & songs:

  • Hebrews 4:12-16

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

  • 1 John 4:9-10

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.


We invite you to join us this Sunday at Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS!

We have Sunday School classes for all ages at 9:30a and worship – everyone is welcome – at 11:00a!

If you are concerned about social distancing or are at-risk, consider gathering with us at 10:00a for a small group Bible study in our worship center. There is plenty of room to spread out, but there is also opportunity to gather with others at the same time! No one will crowd you, and you can exit out of our side door and avoid the crowd coming in to worship after the Bible study!

We also continue to live stream from Pastor John Goldwater’s facebook page and have current and past services on the CCC YouTube page.

Refresh & Restore – September 16, 2021

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.[1]

Ephesians 2:1-10

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings, Sojourner!

Over the past week, I have been contemplating our last discussion regarding the good news of the gospel (and the reality of sin and the bad news it brings). Honestly, I cannot imagine life without that “but God” moment – the moment where He crashed into our lives and changed everything.

We have seen this change the life of a man who had never walked until he met Peter and John on their way to the temple. We saw that the greatest change was not his walking away freed from his burdens but running to worship and proclaim what Jesus had done through His followers. Then, we saw the beauty of Jesus’ demonstration of love in His sacrifice on the cross. There is no more beautiful picture of sacrificial love than one who would be willing to die to reconcile – to change the status – of His enemies.

Today, we get the opportunity to look at the same truths from a different angle. It is an awesome thing to see how we were once enemies, but God reconciled and adopted us. It is an amazing miracle for a man to say that He had never walked but God healed him. Now, we are going to look at the amazing miracle that takes place in the lives of every sinner who is saved: we were dead, but God gave us life!

This passage is life and death serious, so I do not want us to miss anything. We are going to dive in sentence by sentence, sometimes phrase by phrase.

Dead in Our Sins

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…. (vv. 1-2a)

This is an extremely tough reality. It is tempting to excuse Paul’s talking about death here as merely a metaphor to talk about just how bad sin is or as an illustration that could happen. It is tempting but untrue. Death did not exist until sin was first committed. In fact, the verse that immediately follows last week’s passage states clearly that “just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

When everyone’s ancestors Adam and Eve sinned against God by breaking His commandment, they were exiled from the garden, removing their access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:23). That exile meant death, which was what God promised in Genesis 2:17. Adam and Eve never ate of the tree of life again, and, even though he was 930, “he died” (Genesis 5:5). All of his sons were sinners after him, and so on and so on until you and I lived. All of his sons after him died, and so on and…well, you get the picture. Sin and death continued and will continue until Jesus Christ comes again and restores everything as He said He would (Acts 3:21).

If you are in Christ, this is supposed to be what you “once walked” in, but death is the reality that everyone faces because of the reality of their sin. Paul uses two words here to describe the sin. Understanding them brings the terrible nature of our sin to bear more than simply looking at their English translations. The word for “trespasses” basically means to step off of a path or “fall by the wayside” [2]. It works out of the understanding that God, being holy and righteous and the Creator of all things can prescribe a way that is best. Our “trespasses” occur when we seek our own way instead of His. The word for “sins” was an archery term that meant missing the mark or bullseye. The reality is that, in our sin, we are “missing the true end and scope of our lives, which is God” [3].

…in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…. (v. 2)

Again, it needs to be reiterated that – for those who profess to be saved, to be born again through Jesus – these realities should fall into the “once walked” category. If one’s life is still plagued with unrepentant sin, it is necessary to look at how the current reality may be evidence that the fruit of your life is not of Christ but of “this world” and “the prince of the power of the air”.

The “course of this world” has become more and more fallen since the Fall in Genesis 3. And, more and more with each passing year, people are captivated into following after Satan – whom Paul calls a “prince” here (“ruler of this world” – John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; “god of this world” – 2 Corinthians 4:4). Sin continues as those aligned with Satan’s agenda (and their own selfish agenda of indulging their own sin), and death seems to reign.

…among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind…. (v. 3a)

Here again we see Paul contrast the new life in Christ with what should be our former life when he says “among whom we all once lived”. He illustrates how the lives of the dead and living are in different spheres. Those living “in the passions of [their] flesh” are not concerned with pleasing God but with “carrying out the desires of [their] body and the mind”. In Romans 6:23, which I find myself quoting often describes the end of living for sinful passions – “the wages of sin is death”.

…and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (v. 3b)

To be a child of wrath is the opposite of being a child of God, but every child of God was once under God’s wrath (Romans 5:9-10). That is a result of our “nature” – descending from Adam. But that does not mean that it is Adam’s fault. No, to paraphrase Tyler Perry, we can do bad all by ourselves. Our sin occurs when we find ourselves, “like the rest of mankind”, tempted by our “own desire” and falling into the reality that when “desire…has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).

Sin and death is clearly our beginning, but, thank God, it does not have to be our end.

Alive in Our Savior

But God, being rich in mercy…. (v. 4a-b)

I cannot read through today’s passage without vv. 4-5 causing my voice to be filled with excitement. Paul sharing the reality of but God here is such a needed contrast to all of the death and bad news of vv. 1-3! Not only that, it is how God changes the reality of death to the hope of eternal life; He is “rich in mercy”!

Church people talk a lot about grace being undeserved favor, but this passage is a particularly good example of the beauty of mercy. Mercy is also undeserved but not because it is favor. No, mercy is the undeserved withholding of punishment that we do deserve. The first three verses of this chapter show how much we deserve death, but that only highlights how rich God is in mercy – He abounds in it. He lavishes it on us.

But God…because of the great love with which He loved us…. (v. 4a, c)

I often find myself wondering why God would spend His mercy – even though He is rich in it – on a sinner like me. He gives mercy because He loves. He gives grace because He loves. And His love is as great as He is rich in mercy and grace! This resounds throughout the Bible, throughout Jesus’ teachings in the gospels. Time and again, passage after passage He tells us He loves us. There is no greater love (John 15:15)!

…even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved…. (v. 5)

The most amazing aspects of His love is the timeline. He loved us “when we were dead in our trespasses”. Indeed, God “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)! He meets us where we are, amid sin and death, and offers us salvation. Those who respond to His loving offer in faith are saved from sin and death by His grace alone. More than that, it is eternal life (John 3:16) to be spent with Him – “alive together with Christ” – who can promise life after death because HE IS ALIVE!

…and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (vv. 6-7)

Jesus paid the price for our sins, knowing fully that we “were dead in [our] trespasses” (Colossians 2:13) and fully intending to forgive “us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” by “nailing [them] to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14)! He offers the opportunity to move out of the realm of “this world” and “the prince of the power of the air” to be “seated…with Him in the heavenly places” where He will continually “show [us] the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness”! That’s good news! What’s more is that He paid the price for our sins by bearing our sins “in His body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24) – by dying in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21), yet “God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24)!

But there is hope for those who are saved by Him. There is a life on earth for those with the hope of eternal life between the time of salvation and heaven.

Living for & Walking with Christ

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (vv. 8-9)

It is important to note when talking about the good works – the fruit (Galatians 5:22-23, Matthew 7:15-20) – that accompanies being saved. Salvation is clearly the result of what God has done for us in Christ and not His response to how good we are. Just as we cannot clean ourselves up and come to God but come in weakness and sin to be cleansed by Him (1 John 1:9), our boast needs to be in what He alone has done (2 Corinthians 10:17, Galatians 6:14).

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (v. 10)

Our works do not earn our salvation. But “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). When God saves us and we are “born again” (John 3:3), He has more for us than a humdrum life waiting to die and go to heaven. As my favorite octogenarian, L.G. Schmitz says often: “God has a plan for your life!” He does! We get to spend the rest of our lives on earth sharing His Life with others! We are supposed to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14), not to set ourselves apart and put ourselves on a pedestal but to give an example of the love, grace, and mercy that Jesus showed (and still shows) us. Once you are saved, you begin realizing that you “are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This was not a purchase of a slave but the price to be adopted as God’s child (Galatians 4:4-5)! And we have the privilege and responsibility to plead with everyone we can with the Word and the works God gives us to “implore [all God allows us to meet] on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20) – to let them know that there is mercy, love, and life greater than our trespasses and sins!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 2:1–10.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[3] Ibid.

Songs for Sunday, September 12, 2021

As I sit down to write today, Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew 6:34 are at the forefront of my mind —

“Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Amen.

Do you ever feel like there is more than enough trouble – a surplus of trouble – and peace is hard to find. You are not alone.

Jesus’ words there are in the context of Him reminding His disciples (then and now) that we do not have to be anxious about anything because we can trust that He is in control and is taking care of us.

Listen to His words – the words from the Word, Jesus Christ – for His disciples across the ages from Matthew 6:25-34:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Unfortunately, we have grown all to accustomed to being anxious about our lives – whether or not we will have the necessities we need to live (v. 25). We operate like our anxiety is necessary, but Jesus clearly shows us that He takes care of birds and flowers and all of the plants, ecosystems, and food chains that keep them going. How much more will He care for those He made in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27)?

He does not want us to live our lives worrying. In fact, He says that “the Gentiles” (Greek word for “the nations”) live like that; clearly showing He wants more trust – more faith in Him – from us. Rather than seeking anxiety and worry, He would have us seek Him! He would have us “seek first [His] Kingdom…and His righteousness” (v. 33) knowing all of our needs will be cared for in the pursuit.

It seems so easy to just type this out, but it is another thing entirely to live it. I find myself plagued with anxiety. I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders sometimes. I even worry when things are peaceful – I mean, I might have forgotten something, right? Maybe it is less about what God wants from us – like faith and trust – and more about what we get from Him (including the faith that we have – Romans 12:3).

So, when He says that we do not need to be anxious tomorrow, it is because He is the “same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)! And when He says that today’s troubles are sufficient for themselves, we do not have to let the troubles of day take our eyes off of Him. We need to “turn [our] eyes from looking at worthless things” and seek the life that comes from His ways (Psalm 119:37). We need to take our focus off of the troubles that are sufficient and be reminded that His “grace is sufficient” – that His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He was upfront and honest with us: trouble will come, trials will come. But He did not leave us with the bad news. No, He told us: “take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)!

Tomorrow, we’ll sing to Him. We will read from the Word and be reminded that nothing can separate us from His love because “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). We will read from the Word and be reminded that He has more grace – a more than enough – for any troubles that may befall us. We will sing of trusting Him in good and bad, resting in the hope that only comes from Him, recognizing that on the other side of the storms of this earth is a nail-scarred hand to wipe away the last tears.

May you lift your voice with ours. May you submit your heart to Him.

Here are the Scriptures & songs:

  • Romans 8:31-39

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

       “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Lamentations 3:21-24

21  But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22    The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
23    they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
24    “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in Him.”


We invite you to join us this Sunday at Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS!

We have Sunday School classes for all ages at 9:30a and worship – everyone is welcome – at 11:00a!

If you are concerned about social distancing or are at-risk, consider gathering with us at 10:00a for a small group Bible study in our worship center. There is plenty of room to spread out, but there is also opportunity to gather with others at the same time! No one will crowd you, and you can exit out of our side door and avoid the crowd coming in to worship after the Bible study!

We also continue to live stream from Pastor John Goldwater’s facebook page and have current and past services on the CCC YouTube page.


Songs for Sunday, August 29, 2021

Sunday.

For some, it means the last day of the weekend before jumping back into the grind of the week. For others, it is a peaceful first day in preparation for whatever the week may bring. Across the United States, it will be filled with brunches, golf games, traveling, sporting events, and diversions of every shape and kind. Yet for those who belong to Jesus – those He has saved and redeemed, those He has brought from death to life (Ephesians 2:4-5) – it is a day of joyful remembrance and expectation.

For centuries before the birth of Christ, Saturday – the Sabbath day of rest – was the centerpiece of worship. It was a day of rest following the example of God Himself (Genesis 2:2) and set aside as holy (Genesis 2:3, Exodus 20:8). The shift of focus from Saturday to Sunday was as simple as shifting from Sabbath to celebration – from resting to rejoicing. Just as on that original Easter Sunday when the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb and He walked out alive and well – shaking off the pangs of death and crucifixion in His own resurrection power, Sunday became a day for the people of God to gather together in worship and joy at His resurrection and recognition that Jesus “is not in [the grave], for He is risen (still today) as He said” (Matthew 28:6)!

Every Sunday since then, followers of Jesus have gathered. They have gathered through persecution. They have gathered through prohibitions against gathering. And they have even gathered during plagues (and even pandemics)!

There has been a piece of a quote from Martin Luther floating around social media, but it lacked context. It has been used to spur gatherings and to spurn them. Being a lover of context and authorial intent, I looked further for the context of the quote. Here are a few quotes (with the typical social media selection italicized, and, should you desire, you can read the original letter in its entirety):

“You wish to know whether it is proper for a Christian to run away from a deadly plague. I should have answered long ago, but God has for some time disciplined and scourged me so severely that I have been unable to do much reading or writing. Furthermore, it occurred to me that God, the merciful Father, has endowed you so richly with wisdom and truth in Christ that you yourself should be well qualified to decide this matter or even weightier problems in his Spirit and grace without our assistance.”


“To begin with, some people are of the firm opinion that one need not and should not run away from a deadly plague. Rather, since death is God’s punishment, which he sends upon us for our sins, we must submit to God and with a true and firm faith patiently await our punishment. They look upon running away as an outright wrong and as lack of belief in God. Others take the position that one may properly flee, particularly if one holds no public office.

“I cannot censure the former for their excellent decision. They uphold a good cause, namely, a strong faith in God, and deserve commendation because they desire every Christian to hold to a strong, firm faith. It takes more than a milk faith to await a death before which most of the saints themselves have been and still are in dread.”


“In the case of children who are orphaned, guardians or close friends are under obligation either to stay with them or to arrange diligently for other nursing care for their sick friends. Yes, no one should dare leave his neighbor unless there are others who will take care of the sick in their stead and nurse them. In such cases we must respect the word of Christ, “I was sick and you did not visit me …” (Matt. 25:41–46). According to this passage we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.”


“Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together (as previously indicated) so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another.”


“It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.

“No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”


As you can see, there is context in history regarding plague and pestilence. Martin Luther wrote this in the midst of the second pandemic of the Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Death. The first wave in the 1300s had a survival rate of about 50%! Knowing that, it is interesting the perspectives that Luther held regarding this. Trying to be as objective as I possibly can, here is what I got from reading the entire letter (especially the quotes above):

  • Ultimately, there is grace for needing to avoid gathering for the purpose of protecting one’s self and family in times of deadly pestilence.
  • Consequently, there is also grace for consciously deciding to forsake one’s health to care for the sick and serve the Lord even in times of pestilence.
  • Even pastors and those active in ministry get to choose whether to stay/gather or flee/quarantine as long as there are still pastors and ministers to carry on the work.
  • He spends a significant amount of time clarifying the difference between external persecution and personal decisions for safety, even governmental decisions to try to help keep people safe and the support of such things from Scripture. My understanding of his points in those sections says that 1) there is a difference between persecution and personal/governmental decisions and 2) none of them excuse God’s people from carrying out His work. Personal safety does not excuse obedience to His commands, especially regarding caring for one’s neighbor.
    • Interestingly, this does a lot for both camps – gather & separate, but what it does not do is leave room for complete isolation from God’s calling on the lives of those He has saved. Both camps have something to learn here!
  • The last section has a few gems that I find quite interesting:
    • If you need medical help or have medical reasons for not gathering, don’t be foolish! This should go without saying, but, even in the midst of so much talking, it should be recognized that God’s Holy Spirit is sufficient for the wisdom individual believers need.
    • There is nothing wrong with measures for safety in gathering. He speaks of fumigating. Later this afternoon, that’s exactly what will happen to Christ Community (and, consequently, it has happened nearly every Sunday since the onset of the pandemic – every, single chair and all high traffic areas/surfaces, and increasing with every aspect we have reopened/started again). If you want to wear a mask, wear one. If you want to sit in the back away from others, do it. If you want to come to 10:00a Bible Study, sit away from others, and slip out the side door before the worship crowd comes in – do that!
    • Know that God is ultimately in control. He has called us to love our neighbors and our families. Yet He has called us to serve Him and give our lives for Him. And He called us to all that fully knowing everything ahead of time!

I know this has been longer than usual, but I felt it would do us good to hear from a voice from Church history instead of the talking heads from contemporary media. Ultimately, all of us need to be seeking the Lord regarding all of this. And we need to look to Him in faith before we make any decisions in fear.

Basically, that’s what we’re singing to Him tomorrow. We are going to seek that He give us insightful wisdom by His Spirit to help us lift up His name. We are going to consider the awe worthy to His greatness and majesty. And we are going to beseech Him to come quickly!

I hope your voice will be lifted with ours!

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Ephesians 1:7-14

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

  • Open the Eyes of My Heart
  • Great I Am
  • Ephesians 1:15-21

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

  • Forever Reign
  • Come, Jesus, Come
  • (invitation) Battle Belongs

We invite you to join us this Sunday at Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS!

We have Sunday School classes for all ages at 9:30a and worship – everyone is welcome – at 11:00a!

If you are concerned about social distancing or are at-risk, consider gathering with us at 10:00a for a small group Bible study in our worship center. There is plenty of room to spread out, but there is also opportunity to gather with others at the same time! No one will crowd you, and you can exit out of our side door and avoid the crowd coming in to worship after the Bible study!

We also continue to live stream from Pastor John Goldwater’s facebook page and have current and past services on the CCC YouTube page.