Songs for Sunday, February 27, 2022


Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | 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.

  • Scripture | Revelation 19:11-16

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

  • Scripture | Psalm 20

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah

May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!

Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.

O LORD, save the king!
May he answer us when we call.


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.

You can also find videos from our live stream on the Christ Community YouTube channel.


Refresh & Restore — February 24, 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 — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we are looking at Colossians 2:11-15 to see what Jesus has done for His church in the midst of false teachers infiltrating the church at Colossae. You can find the text version, complete with references, Scripture passages, and pictures here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/06/15/refresh-restore-june-16-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  2. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  4. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)

Greetings Sojourners!

We are wrapping up this section of Colossians today, but I have become so thankful for this prayer!

One of the things that I enjoy about teaching and preaching the Bible – especially if I get to study and write about it – is the fact that it must first be applied in my own life. I wish I could say that this has always been the case (or even always is now), but the older I get and the longer I walk with Christ, I find that He first works on me with His Word before He works through me in sharing it.

This prayer that Paul prayed for the Colossian church has impacted the way I look at 1) the ways God allows me to get to share His Word through preaching, teaching, and writing, and 2) the people to whom He has called me to serve. Today’s verses (vv. 13-14) have me looking at this prayer – and praying similarly – more specifically.

Here is the breakdown we have been working out of for the past few weeks[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).

So, today, I want to remind you, dear Sojourner, that the gospel is the basis for your faith in Christ. I want to help you to remember that the truths it holds are more than enough to combat whatever troubles this world is throwing your way. And I want to pray for you (show you the prayer that I am and have prayed for you throughout the week as I have worked on this week’s study).

Deliverance from the Domain of Darkness (vv. 13a, 14)

In many ways, Paul’s letters to the church in Colossae and the one he wrote to the church in Ephesus are similar. Today’s verses share some similarities to what we see in Ephesians 2, and, as far as understanding being “delivered…from the domain of darkness”, Ephesians 2:1-3 is particularly helpful:

“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.”[3]

In talking about the “domain of darkness”, the place our sin holds cannot be ignored. I have cited the above verses from Ephesians several times in these devotions, and I have also cited Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”) and 6:23 (“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”). The reality of our sins – and especially the consequences of those sins when faced with a holy and righteous God – are terrifying. It should be. The Bible is clear that sin (“Human activity that is contrary to God’s will”[4]) has the consequence of death. And, if one has not been born again – repented of that sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord for salvation, that death means an eternal separation from God in Hell. It also means that, in pursuing sin instead of what God wills, we are following “the course of this world” and the “prince of the power of the air” – Satan. The “domain of darkness” falls into his area of expertise.

I think the description Peter gives of Satan is particularly helpful for the context of the “domain of darkness”. In 1 Peter 5:9, Satan is described as our “adversary” and “prowl[ing] around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. He is working contrary to the will of God and is seeking to devour (“to destroy, to ruin completely”[5]) people by keeping them away from God and his will.

In Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving for the Colossian church, v. 13 shows thankfulness that Jesus has “delivered” (“draw or snatch from danger, rescue, deliver”[6]) them from Satan’s domain and the destruction that he sought for them. The most interesting thing to me about that word “delivered” in the original language is that it was not focused as much on the rescue of someone from something as it was a drawing of the needy party to the rescuer. So, rather than simply focusing on the fact that they were no longer in Satan’s domain, he is specifically thankful that the Rescuer, Jesus, drew the members of the Colossian church to Himself that they may have “redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (v. 14, cf. John 6:44).

That is good news!

Transference to the Kingdom of His Beloved Son (v. 13b)

Carrying out of that language of being drawn to God paints a picture in my mind of one being rescued from drowning – which is one of my greatest fears. The image is very specific for me, allowing me to visualize being pulled from the depths by the one doing the rescuing and clinging to him as he rescues. It really puts the picture of what Jesus did for Peter while walking on water[7].

Matthew 14:22-33 tells the full story, but the part that stands out to me is what specifically happened when Peter decided to step out of the boat with Jesus:

“And Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”[8]

That image of Jesus standing on the water – with Peter having, naturally, fallen through its liquid surface – and reaching out His hand is very striking to me. Peter was scared. He was sinking. And he called out to the One he trusted enough to literally step out of the boat and found rescue from Him. I love the progression of the events. Peter “cried out, ‘Lord, save me’, and “Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him”.

Could it be that salvation works similar to that? When the Bible teaches that “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13), is that true?

Being delivered from the domain of darkness – in this case a reference to being saved – results in being transferred to the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son. Our position in regard to God changes. We move from the death due to our trespasses and sins to new life in Jesus. Look at the change depicted in Ephesians 2:4-7:

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.”[9]

And again, in Titus 3:4-7:

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”[10]

To be transferred to God’s Kingdom – the Kingdom of Jesus Christ – is to move from death to life. It is to move from being an enemy of God to His adopted child. In a sense, Paul is rejoicing and thanking God that everything Jesus prophesied would happen through Paul’s calling and ministry was happening in the lives of the church members at Colossae:

“…to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:18)

What a joy it must have been for Paul to see the fruit of the gospel showing up in the lives of people. This was not hypothetical for him. Real sinners who had a genuine need of a Savior – whose eternity depended on Him – had found “redemption, the forgiveness of sins”. That is good news!

Closing in Prayer

I told you at the beginning of today’s devotion that I was particularly for this prayer and that one of the primary reasons for that thankfulness was that it affects the way I view the people I am called to serve. First and foremost, I am called to serve at Christ Community Church – many of you fall into that group of people. But I also have the opportunity to share in Bible study with the rest of you – an extended-faith-family, if you will. Some of you I know and others encounter these devotions by God’s providence and the usage of the internet.

Sojourner, I pray for you often, but today I want to pray specifically like Paul prayed for those in his charge. I typically do not write out a prayer before praying it, but I want to share with you what has been prayed for you.


Heavenly Father,

Thank you for those who read and listen to these devotions. I pray that you will fill them with the knowledge of Your will and give them wisdom and understanding by the power of your Holy Spirit.

I pray that if any of them do not know you as Lord and Savior that you would draw them unto Yourself and save them. I pray that they may be delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to Your Kingdom via the redemption and forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ.

For those who know you, I pray that you help them to follow after you in a way that is worthy of You and pleases You. I pray that they may bear fruit for You in the work You have for them to do. I ask that You strengthen them with Your power that they may endure their sojourn here on earth patiently and bear witness for You until they see You face-to-face.

Thank You for Your Word and Your Spirit. May You get glory and praise.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.


[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] ESV, Eph 2:1–3.

[4] J. Jordan Henderson, “Sin,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[5] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 233.

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

[7] I want to clarify something to you regarding this particular illustration. I believe this was a literal event that literally happened. Jesus Christ, God in flesh, walked across the surface of the water and allowed Peter, so long as his eyes remained on Christ to walk on the water as well. I am not making an allegory out of it nor am I seeking to give you a theology of Jesus pulling you from whatever you are figuratively drowning in. I just find this very specific story about Jesus literally pulling Peter from the water to be a beautiful picture of what Jesus also does for us in drawing us to Himself (John 6:44, Psalm 40:1-2).

[8] ESV, Mt 14:28–33.

[9] ESV, Eph 2:4–7.

[10] ESV, Tt 3:4–7.

Songs for Sunday, February 20, 2022

Here are our Scriptures & songs:

  • Scripture | Titus 3:1-7

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

  • Scripture | Isaiah 53:3-6

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.


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.


Refresh & Restore — February 17, 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 — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we are looking at Colossians 2:11-15 to see what Jesus has done for His church in the midst of false teachers infiltrating the church at Colossae. You can find the text version, complete with references, Scripture passages, and pictures here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/06/15/refresh-restore-june-16-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  2. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  4. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)

CLICK HERE FOR THE AUDIO VERSION!


Greetings Sojourners!

Welcome back to our study of Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae! We started with the above passage last week with the understanding that it would take us a few weeks to work our way through it. To refresh our memories and keep our study in its correct context, let us do a bit of a recap.

Colossians 1:3-14 is Paul letting the church at Colossae know what he has been praying for them and why he is praying for them. We even broke this section into smaller chunks to help us wrap our heads around – and to look at how Paul’s prayer for the Colossians has an impact on the Church today[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 9-12 at the specific things that Paul was praying for God’s Spirit to do in the lives of the Colossian church and what we should be praying for the Church at large and, especially, the local churches to which God has called us.

A Prayer Worth Continuing (or Not Ceasing) (vv. 9-12)

All of these aspects of the what Paul is praying here flows out of the why that we looked at last week. Since Paul had heard of their “faith in Christ Jesus” (v. 4), “the love that [they] had for all the saints” (v. 4), and the hope they knew was “laid up for [them] in heaven” (v. 5), that knowledge – that testimony of their relationship with Christ – motivated Paul to continually pray for them. I love the way he words it: “from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you” (v. 9). This is a beautiful picture of the relationship and care between believers that is supposed to exist because of common faith in Jesus.

Today, as we walk through what Paul – and those who were serving with him (“we” – v. 9) – prayed for the church at Colossae, let this study move you to pray for your church. To help keep our prayers grounded in the Word and what God’s Spirit wants for His Church, explanations will be minimized and more attention will be given to showing what the Bible says about these requests. After all, how much better could our lives be if God granted our prayer, giving us these “characteristics” of a life that is pleasing to God, dependent on His power, and overflowing with fruitful thankfulness because of all that Jesus has done for us[3].


…asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding… (v. 9)

  • ch. 3:16 – Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
  • Ephesians 1:17 – …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….
  • Ephesians 5:17 – Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:14 – The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to Him, and He is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
  • Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

This is a request for God to fill the Colossian believers with His knowledge – knowledge that comes from His gospel and grows through His Spirit inside them. Part of the reason for this request is for the knowledge of God and His will to counteract and overpower whatever false teaching is occurring in Colossae. But we all need to be filled with “the knowledge of His will” and interpret it with the “wisdom” that comes from His Spirit – to understand based on the new life we have in Christ and His indwelling Spirit rather than with our own worldly brains and experience.

Let us pray that God would grant us knowledge according to His Word that shows us His will. Let us ask to rely on the wisdom and understanding of His Spirit instead of leaning on our own understanding.


…so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him…. (v. 10)

  • Ephesians 4:1 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called….
  • Philippians 1:27 – Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel….

Understanding this particular request requires a little bit of understanding and context regarding the original language. When it says “to walk” here, it is referring to one’s “manner of life”[4]. It is also related to the command of Jesus for His disciples to “follow” Him (Matthew 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:14, 19:21; Mark 1:17, 2:14, 8:34, 10:21; Luke 5:27, 9:23, 9:59, 14:27, 18:24; John 1:43, 10:27, 12:26, 13:36, 21:19-22). You also need to understand that when it is translated as the English word “worthy” it is not referencing our value to be saved or ability to save ourselves. The original word had a connotation of being suitable or fitting[5]; it referred to one’s walk showing evidence of actually following Christ. This was important to the church at Colossae and in our churches today. And it only occurs when our own lives reflect the gospel that our mouths proclaim. But there’s a catch: it is not based solely on actions that can be observed by man because it requires a new heart that can only be observed by God (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26; Hebrews 4:12-13). Oh, that the content of our lives would be pleasing to Jesus!

Let us pray for God to make our hearts and our lives match. Let us pray that the knowledge of His will that we gain from His Word would impact our lives in such a way that people recognize we are walking with Jesus.


…bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…. (v. 10)

  • ch. 1:6 – …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….
  • Matthew 7:16-20 – “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in to the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
  • John 15:1-6 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the Word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
  • Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Hopefully by now you have noticed that these prayer requests build on each other. There is no way to do one without God having granted the former (i.e., walking a walk that is fitting for a believer requires knowing what God wants a believer to walk like). This request is a little tougher. This request requires a bit of pruning.

Ultimately, the idea of bearing fruit is a metaphor, but it is one that is important to understand. Paul has already used it to describe how the gospel bore fruit in the Colossian church and that its message was bearing fruit all over the world (vv. 5-6), so the Colossians could connect that with what he was praying for them now. To “bear fruit” is for what is inside to produce outside results. So, walking “in a manner worthy of the Lord” is fruit of new life in Christ Jesus. Yes, good works can be fake or faked, but what is inside will always show out in the end. If you just thought of a particular person (who is not you) when you read that, you need to know the same is true for you, too! The verses above that Jesus – God Himself – spoke about this show its importance: the kind of fruit one bears indicates what kind of tree they are (or are not). Our churches need regular pruning to make sure that God’s fruit (singular) – that “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” – shows that inward change has happened because none of those (individually and especially collectively) are not natural to sinful humans.

Let us pray that God helps us recognize whether or not we are bearing fruit and deal with the reality that a lack of fruit may indicate for us. Let us pray that we have a desire to bear fruit – not only in completing “good work” for Him but increasing in our knowledge (intimacy, not academics) of Him.


…being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…. (v. 11)

  • Ephesians 3:16 – …that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being….
  • Philippians 4:10-13 – I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 – Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Think about the illustration that Jesus gave of people being able to do nothing if they are not connected to Him – that no one can bear fruit unless they are connected to the Vine. If there is a good work to be accomplished, He provides the strength. If there is an obstacle to be overcome, He provides the boost needed to climb over it. So often, people misunderstand 1 Corinthians 10:13 to mean that God will not give them more than they can handle. This particular request relies heavily on 1 Corinthians 10:12 (remember how important context is): “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Paul’s request for the Colossians is not for them to display their spiritual strength and ability. No, he recognizes what they are up against and prays that God’s strength will be what carries them through, giving Him glory in the process. He does not ask for them to be successful in worldly sense but, instead, seeks for them to endure whatever trial with patience, holding onto the joy that comes from Him alone – from the “hope laid up for (them) in heaven” (v. 5).

Let us ask the same for ourselves – for God to supply His strength to help because our own is not enough, for God to magnify Himself in our weaknesses and accomplish so much more than anyone would ever think could be done in or through us. Oh, what a glorious revival would come if we as individuals, and especially in our churches, relied on the power of God’s Spirit to complete His mission!


…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (v. 12)

  • Ephesians 3:15 – And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
  • Acts 26:18 – …to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’

Paul’s last request is what will truly occur once all of the others have been granted: thankfulness. Once God has saved us – turned us from dark toward His Light, from Satan’s power to the finished work of Jesus Christ, once we have grown in the knowledge of Him and His will, once our manner of life is fitting for one following Jesus, once we have been pruned and bear His fruit, and once we are running under Holy Spirit power and not our own steam, there is NO other result than thanksgiving. If we are in Christ, we have moved from the wages of our sin – death (Romans 6:23) – to sharing “in the inheritance of the saints in light”. We should pray as Paul did for our churches. We should pray it for ourselves. Let us do so!

Reflecting & Closing

There are a few things that are on my mind as I wrap up this week’s study.

First, I am scared to pray these things for myself. What if God answers them all with a resounding “yes”? I look at my own life and see the changes that need to happen – that will happen as I grow more in Christ and my fear of praying these things gives way to the faith in Him who does the changing in my heart. So, I recognize that changes need to be taking place that are not – just as I am sure there are the same in your life. Know I am praying for these things to happen for you, whether you want them or not! If you do not like that, feel free to get your revenge by praying for me, too.

Second, I know that the local church God has called me and my family to be a part of (Christ Community in Grenada, MS) is not perfect and will change if God grants these prayer requests. It might not feel like I am used to it feeling. Good. I also pray that God’s Spirit will give us a good swift kick in the seats of our comfort zones and do a little uncomfortable pruning so His church (not mine) will bear His fruit.

Third, I know that some of you probably do not have a church home right now. Covid is still a thing. Your old church was probably full of hypocrites and sinners. But we need a local body of believers to stir us up to the good works that we need to be doing – to keep us in check and focused on Jesus’ imminent return (Hebrews 10:23-25). All of the people who hold me accountable are in my church, and it ticks me off to no end when they have to do it. Pruning hurts. But you will never know if you are a thistle, a thornbush, or a Galatians 5 tree if you are not planted in a grove of other believers. Let that sink in. Christianity is not for spectators or solo artists. It exists in the communities God plants because that is how He decided to do it.

I am praying for you and love you. Let me know if I can serve you in any way.


[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] Charles L. Quarles, “Colossians,” in The NIV Grace and Truth Study Bible, ed. R. Albert Mohler Jr. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021), 1654.

[4] Compare the language and intent of Colossians 1:10, Ephesians 4:1, and Philippians 1:27.

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

[6] No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

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 — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we are looking at Colossians 2:11-15 to see what Jesus has done for His church in the midst of false teachers infiltrating the church at Colossae. You can find the text version, complete with references, Scripture passages, and pictures here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/06/15/refresh-restore-june-16-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  2. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  4. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)

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).

Songs for Sunday, February 6, 2022

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | Psalm 96

1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
tell of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
bring an offering, and come into His courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before Him, all the earth!

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord, for He comes,
for He comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

  • Song | The Son of God Came Down
    Scripture References / Inspiration for the Song: Luke 2:7, John 1:1-5, John 1:14, John 1:34, Ephesians 2:14-16, Philippians 2:5-8
  • Scripture | Philippians 2:5-11

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, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


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, January 30, 2022

Here are our Scriptures & songs:

  • Scripture | Psalm 145:1-13

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.

  • Scripture | Proverbs 30:1-4

The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle.

The man declares, I am weary, O God;
I am weary, O God, and worn out.
Surely I am too stupid to be a man.
I have not the understanding of a man.
I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in his fists?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is his son’s name?
Surely you know!

  • Offertory | There’s Just Something About That Name

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.


Refresh & Restore — January 27, 2022

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.[1]

Colossians 1:1-2

Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we are looking at Colossians 2:11-15 to see what Jesus has done for His church in the midst of false teachers infiltrating the church at Colossae. You can find the text version, complete with references, Scripture passages, and pictures here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/06/15/refresh-restore-june-16-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  2. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  4. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)

Greetings Sojourners!

As I have said (and will likely say again), I am excited to study Colossians with you. As we begin today, I hope you can see how important context is to studying God’s Word so that we hear from Him and not impress our own voices onto the Word.

When I think of this epistle, I am reminded of Martin Luther’s words when he talked about the book of Galatians: “The epistle to the Galatians is my epistle, to which I have wedded myself. It is my Catherine Von Bora [Luther’s wife].”[2] My walk with Christ is similarly wed to Colossians. In a sense, it is my Candice. I have read and studied through Colossians many times over. I have preached through it twice. Every time I go through it, it impacts my life. And I know that I have barely scratched the surface because, the longer I walk with Christ and the more fix my eyes on Him in His Word rather than on the world around me, my worship of Him grows with my understanding.

When studying through a book of the Bible, it helps to have some background information for context. You do not have to be a Bible scholar to research this because there is ready access to the research already done by Bible scholars. Many study Bibles (the ESV Study Bible does a particularly good job with historical context and has a section for where each book of the Bible fits in God’s Story of redemption) have sections at the beginning of each book for context. Today, we will look at some things that jumped out at me when studying.

From Paul to the Colossians

The book of Colossians is technically a letter (or epistle, as you might see in your Bible). That is the category it falls into within the New Testament. It is one of the thirteen epistles written by the apostle Paul to cities where the gospel had been planted, the Holy Spirit had moved on people’s hearts so that they came to faith in Jesus, and a church had sprung up. In many of the letters Paul wrote to churches that are also books of the New Testament, Paul planted the churches himself or at least came to those towns with the gospel (Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, & Philippi), but he did not visit Colossae or plant the church there.

There are different theories as to how exactly the church at Colossae was planted, but the general consensus is that it was planted by their pastor at the time of Paul’s writing – a guy named Epaphras. Epaphras likely heard the gospel when Paul was preaching in Ephesus (Acts 19:8-10), which was about 120 miles away from Colossae. And, basically, he got saved, came home to Colossae, and told others the good news – the gospel – about Jesus that he had heard and believed. Naturally, as the only one that people in Colossae had heard preach, Epaphras was the perfect candidate to lead as their pastor.

This is one of the aspects of Colossians that I love the most because it shows the future of the church beyond the era of the apostles – our era. I am often intimidated by the faith and spiritual gifts of the apostles. I know they had a special gifting that was specific to their being apostles (Acts 1:20-26, 1 Corinthians 15:8-11), but Epaphras was just a regular guy. He was a sinner in need of a Savior who heard the gospel preached. He responded in faith and repentance, put his trust in Christ as Savior and Lord, and went about “proclaim[ing] the excellencies of Him who called [him] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). He experienced what every saved person experiences. He did what every saved person should be doing. He gives us an example in following Christ and gives us hope because we see that God’s Spirit really does work through every-day people.

Not only was Epaphras someone we can relate to, but Colossae was relatable, too. Colossae was

“at the crossroads of two well-traveled highways: one that ran east and west, connecting the coastal cities of Ephesus (120 miles to the west) and Sardis with the interior east; and another running north and south. When, however, the latter road was moved west to pass through Laodicea, Colossae began to decline. In Paul’s day it was not as large or important as the neighboring cities of Laodicea (twelve miles to the west) or Hierapolis (fifteen miles northwest).”[3]

It was not so different than many towns I have visited in my home state of Mississippi where once-thriving towns that boomed during the eras of buggy or railroad travel wilted when the interstate was built a few miles away from the highways of old. In fact, there are reminders all over the town where I live that point to prosperous times that have long since been in the past. For these reasons, historians have decided that Colossae was less important than other places. You may have decided that your town or community is less important than other places. But, if God has brought the gospel to your town – through regular, every-day people like you and me, that sounds important, and there is important work still to be done!

While that bit of history is interesting – or not if you do not like that sort of thing, the book of Colossians is not about Paul – or Epaphras – or Colossae. It is about Jesus. And just like it was for the Colossian church who received this letter, many of us and our churches today have lost track of Jesus. We have taken our eyes off of Him and allowed things of lesser-importance to eclipse our view of Him who is of the utmost importance.

“in Christ at Colossae”

One the themes we will see in Colossians, definitely the most important, is that “Jesus Christ is preeminent over all creation, Lord over all human rulers and cosmic powers”[4] (1:15-20, 2:9-10, 3:1). It would be easy to say that the church at Colossae had forgotten about Jesus, but they had never been fully taught about Him. They did not have the Bible like we do today.  Epaphras had the gospel, and the gospel is “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). But believers need the whole of Scripture to be healthy and grow into grown Christians. Without feasting on the whole thing, we stay spiritual babies with sippy cup theology when we need theology that requires a fork and knife – that can be chewed on (Hebrews 5:12-13). This is not to say that we do not need milk – the basic truths of Scripture – because we absolutely do; we should thirst for “the pure spiritual milk” like infants but hunger for the deeper things – “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3). So, after Epaphras visited Paul in prison and told him how he hoped that the Colossian believers would “stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” (4:12-13), we see Paul teach them fuller and deeper truths about Jesus and build on the gospel that Epaphras brought home (1:7-8).

We benefit from Paul’s writing, too. Colossians teaches so much about Jesus and has had an impact vastly bigger than its four chapters. It proclaims “Christ celebrated as the object of the believer’s faith, the image of the invisible God, the creator of all dominions, the head of the church, the firstborn from the dead, the unifier and reconciler of all things, the Savior through his sufferings on the cross, the treasury of all wisdom and knowledge, the triumphant victor over sin and Satan, the exalted Lord of life and glory, and the true pattern for the life of Christian faith.”[5]

Paul was not seeking to give a seminary education; he was helping them “seek the things that are above, where Christ is” (3:1) because false teachings and practices from other religions had crept up like thorns to choke out the gospel in Colossae (Matthew 13:7, 22). Things like the worship of angels, pagan body mutilation, and Jewish legalism had crept in as false teachers and wolves told them that the gospel was not enough, that they needed to add something more. They sought to add to Jesus and thereby subtract from Him. As we look at the impact of these false teachings and how Jesus is better, these equations (I told y’all – Colossians & Candice) to help us keep it straight:

Jesus + nothing = everything                          Jesus + anything = nothing

When you add to the gospel, you change it. Jesus is either the only way (John 14:6) or He is no way at all. If we need anything more for salvation than the Bible says, God is a liar, and we are without hope. Paul offers the Colossian church – and us – the hope of who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He is doing in the lives of His people. That hope is worth more than any amount of religion. That hope is real.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father”

When I read Colossians, I see so much of our world and situations that oppose the Church today. There are thorns everywhere seeking to choke the gospel out of our lives. There are wolves seeking to confuse and distract from Jesus. And, too often, we are hoodwinked and fooled when wool is pulled over our eyes and we prove to be nothing but ignorant sheep.

While that seems like bad news and we often lose hope because of the existence of evil in the world, there truly is good news. It is good to be a sheep when we can cry out with Scripture: “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). Not only is He our shepherd, but He is the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). So, the same hope offered to the Colossian church is offered today: Jesus alone. False teachers, wolves, thieves, and even Satan himself seek to come after the Church. They “steal and kill and destroy”, but Jesus promises that His sheep will have “life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). He knows His sheep – lays down His life for His sheep – and He takes up His life again (John 10:17-18). And He promises that those who trust in Him, those who are His sheep, will have “eternal life”, “never perish”, and “no one will snatch them out of [His] hand” (John 10:28-29).

We do not deserve it, but He does not do it because we deserve it. He does it because He loves us. That is what grace is. And, just like the Holy Spirit did through Paul to the Colossian church, He gives us “peace from God our Father” by pointing us to the hope that is in Jesus Christ alone.

So, as we embark on this journey through the book of Colossians, it is my hope that you truly see that Jesus is Over All. I pray that you come to know Him more deeply, or that, if you do not know Him, that you see Him for all His glory and worth and come to faith in Him. I pray that studying His Word changes us and spurs us to be the Church He has called us to be. More than anything, I just want to show you Jesus. Because He is enough.

Hallelujah, and amen!


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

[2] Luther, Martin. What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian. (Edwald M. Plass, Ed.). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House,1959., page 989.

[3] 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), 26.

[4] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2290.

[5] ESV Study Bible, 2291.

Songs for Sunday, January 23, 2022

It’s almost Sunday!

I find myself excited at the prospect of Sunday every week. I find myself needing it. More than an experience or a service, I find myself needing Jesus – needing to worship Him and hear from Him.

I know He is Emmanuel and with me always, but there is something about gathering with my faith family to worship Him. There is something about hearing from Him in the preaching of His Word. There is something about hearing about Him from the voices of my brothers and sisters pouring out their hearts to Him. There’s something about knowing that in seeking Him He is always found.

I know that all of that can be true on any day of the week and in many applications, but there is something special about Sunday.

It all hails back to that one Sunday when the tomb was empty, when death was defeated, Hell was silenced, and the defeat of the devil was sure. It hails back to that one Sunday where the angel preached the good news that “He is not here! He is risen as He said!” Every Sunday joins that one because every Sunday the tomb is still empty. Every Sunday He is still risen as He said. That’s still good news!

We are singing a new song Sunday that proclaims that good news beautifully:

For my life He bled and died
Christ will hold me fast
Justice has been satisfied
He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life
He will hold me fast
‘Til our faith is turned to sight
When He comes at last!

“He Will Hold Me Fast”

And, Lord willing, we will gather tomorrow and celebrate that one Sunday as we wait to celebrate Him face-to-face when He comes!

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | Jude 24-25

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

  • Scripture | 1 Peter 1:17-21

17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.


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.


Refresh & Restore — January 20, 2022

Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we are looking at Colossians 2:11-15 to see what Jesus has done for His church in the midst of false teachers infiltrating the church at Colossae. You can find the text version, complete with references, Scripture passages, and pictures here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/06/15/refresh-restore-june-16-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  2. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  4. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)

Greetings Sojourners!

It is my joy to continue studying God’s Word with you in 2022! And, in so doing, I am ecstatic to start with the epistle of Colossians – by looking at how Jesus is indeed over all, how He is preeminent and indeed everything.

Before we begin, I want to try something a bit different from our past normal. Just as we looked at the idea of Bible meditation last November, I believe that by meditating on Colossians before we begin studying it together we may glean more of what He – that is God through His Spirit – is saying to us than to hear my feeble words fumble around trying to help. We do not need me, but we absolutely need Him – to hear from Him and commune with Him and worship Him. So, let us look the letter that God sent to the church at Colossae through His apostle Paul (and thereby the letter that God sent His Church today at the same time).

It typically takes thirteen to fifteen minutes to read through Colossians. If you prefer to listen, there are many options available for your translation of choice (I use the Dwell app for Bible listening), or you can access my audio reading via the podcast feed above.


Greeting

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Thanksgiving for the Colossian Believers

We give thanks always to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when we pray for you, since we heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope reserved for you in heaven, which you have heard about beforehand in the word of truth, the gospel, that has come to you, just as also in all the world it is bearing fruit and increasing, just as also among you from the day you heard about and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow bondservant who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, who also made clear to us your love in the Spirit.

Prayer for Maturity Based on Christ’s Preeminence

Because of this also we, from the day we heard about it, did not cease praying for you, and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual insight, 10 so that you may live in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good deed and increasing in the knowledge of God, 11 enabled with all power, according to His glorious might, for all steadfastness and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you for a share of the inheritance of the saints in light, 13 who has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son He loves, 14 in whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of sins, 15 who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, 16 because all things in the heavens and on the earth were created by Him, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers, all things were created through Him and for Him, 17 and He Himself is before all things, and in Him all things are held together, 18 and He Himself is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself may become first in everything, 19 because He was well pleased for all the fullness of God to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to himself, by making peace through the blood of His cross, through Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

21 And although you were formerly alienated and enemies in attitude, because of your evil deeds, 22 but now you have been reconciled by His physical body through death, to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him, 23 if indeed you remain in the faith, established and steadfast and not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Paul’s Suffering and Stewardship

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings on behalf of you, and I fill up in my flesh what is lacking of the afflictions of Christ, on behalf of his body which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister, according to God’s stewardship which was given to me for you, to complete the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from the ages and from the generations, but has now been revealed to his saints, 27 to whom God wanted to make known what is the glorious wealth of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory, 28 whom we proclaim, by admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, in order that we may present every person mature in Christ, 29 for which purpose also I labor, striving according to his working which is at work powerfully in me.

Christ, the Mystery of God

2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on behalf of you, and those in Laodicea, and all those who have not seen my face in person, so that their hearts may be encouraged, united in love and into all the wealth of the full assurance of insight into the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden. I say this in order that no one will deceive you with persuasive speech, for even if I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing and seeing your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.

Made Alive in Christ

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, live in Him, firmly rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding with thankfulness. Beware lest anyone take you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ, because in Him all the fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you are filled in Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority, 11 in whom also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made by hands, by the removal of the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which also you were raised together with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And although you were dead in the trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 having destroyed the record of debt that stood against us, which was hostile to us, and removed it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and the authorities, He made a display of them in public, triumphing over them by it.

Do Not Be Judged by Human Religious Rules

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you with reference to eating or drinking or participation in a feast or a new moon or a Sabbath, 17 which are a shadow of what is to come, but the reality is Christ. 18 Let no one condemn you, taking pleasure in humility and the worship of angels, going into detail about the things which he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by the ligaments and sinews, grows with the growth of God.

20 If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, why do you submit to them as if living in the world? 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch,” 22 which things are all meant for destruction by consuming according to human commandments and teachings, 23 which things although they have, to be sure, an appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and humility and unsparing treatment of the body, do not have any value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Seek the Things Above

3:1 Therefore, if you have been raised together with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Put Off the Old Behavior

Therefore put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustful passion, evil desire, and greediness, which is idolatry, because of which the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which also you once lived, when you used to live in them. But now you also lay aside all these things: anger, rage, wickedness, slander, abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, because you have taken off the old man together with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free, but Christ is all, and in all.

Appeal for New Behavior

12 Therefore, as the chosen of God, holy and dearly loved, put on affection, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, 13 putting up with one another and forgiving one another. If anyone should have a complaint against anyone, just as also the Lord forgave you, thus also you do the same. 14 And to all these things add love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And the peace of Christ must rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body, and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom, with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God, 17 and everything whatever you do in word or in deed, giving thanks for all things in the name of the Lord Jesus to God the Father through Him.

Mutual Responsibilities in Christian Relationships

18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing in the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, so that they will not become discouraged. 22 Slaves, obey your human masters in everything, not while being watched, as people pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, accomplish it from the soul, as to the Lord, and not to people, 24 because you know that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. Serve the Lord Christ. 25 For the one who does wrong will receive back whatever wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

4:1 Masters, grant your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you also have a master in heaven.

Further Advice for the Christian Life

Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving, praying at the same time for us also, that God may open for us a door of the message, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which also I am a prisoner, so that I may reveal it, as it is necessary for me to speak. Live with wisdom toward those outside, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how it is necessary for you to answer each one.

Exhortations Regarding Fellow Workers

Tychicus, my dear brother and faithful servant and fellow slave in the Lord, will make known to you all my circumstances, whom I have sent to you for this very reason, in order that you may know our circumstances and He may encourage your hearts, together with Onesimus, my faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all the circumstances here.

10 Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions—if he should come to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only ones who are fellow workers for the kingdom of God from the circumcision, who have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, greets you, a bondservant of Christ always struggling on behalf of you in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I testify to him that he is working hard on behalf of you and those in Laodicea and those in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the physician, our dear friend, greets you, as does Demas. 15 Greet the brothers in Laodicea, and Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And whenever this letter is read among you, see to it that it is read also among the Laodicean church, and that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And tell Archippus, “Direct your attention to the ministry that you received in the Lord, in order that you may complete it.”

Final Greeting and Benediction

18 The greeting is by my hand, Paul’s. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.[1]


[1] W. Hall Harris III et al., eds., The Lexham English Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Col 1:1–4:18.

There are a few instances (1:19, 2:14) where the writer has chosen the rendering of certain phrases from the English Standard Version, as well as a differing in the rendering of the word doulos as “bondservant” where it refers to those redeemed by Christ and “slave” where it refers to that particular status – as there is a definite need for clarification between the two in Colossians and Philemon.