Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.[1]

Colossians 3:9-11

Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

We are continuing in our Jesus Over All study of Colossians with a look at what it means to have new life in Christ in Colossians 3:9-11. You can find a written version of today's study at https://justkeithharris.com/2022/09/07/refresh-restore-september-8-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19)
  2. Refresh & Restore — August 18, 2022 (Jesus Over All 18)
  3. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  4. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)

Greetings Sojourners!

When we first started in these devotions a few years ago, all we had was an opportunity to help people dive more deeply into God’s Word and a desire to make that possible. We have, for the most part, been able to keep that going on a weekly basis, but for the next little while that will not be possible. Our desire has not changed. We still want to give opportunity to help people study God’s Word. The study that makes it possible sometimes requires a bit more time than life offers.

Part of that study will be completed in May. As I have mentioned before, I am getting to be part of a Master of Theology program at William Carey University. I began this past February and am thankful for all I have learned, am learning, and will learn before it is over (as well as continue to learn as these skills are applicable for the rest of my life). But that level of study, especially as a husband, father, teacher, pastor, and aspiring writer, takes time – time that takes me away from writing Bible studies like these, but time that also better equips me to write them.

Please, do not take this as complaining. I am thankful to get to do everything God allows! However, I am definitely learning my own limitations as He grows me more into who He is making me to be.

Having said all that, I am glad to be back in our study of Colossians, especially as we transition out of what we once were in our trespasses and sins (dead) and into looking at what new life in Christ is meant to look like.

When a person comes to Christ, more happens than simply joining a church or walking an aisle. Everyone who is not in Christ is dead in their sin (Colossians 2:13, Ephesians 2:1-2) no matter their religious affliliation. So for us to say that we have new life in Christ recognizes 1) that the old has gone/died and 2) there should be a marked difference in the new because that which was dead now lives through Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5)! When Paul transitions in our passage today from taking off the sins of the old life to putting on Christ, he is doing more than talking about behaviors; he is showing the Colossians what the new life in Christ is supposed to be like (and what it is not).

Seeing That You Have Put Off the Old Self with Its Practices (vv. 9-10)

The last of the sins Paul told the Colossian believers to “put…away” in verse 8 was to put away “obscene talk from [their mouths]”. In verse 9, he tells them not to “lie to one another, seeing that [they] have put off the old self with its practices” (emphasis added). You can see here that this is more than morality and the monitoring and modifying of behavior – it is about the “new self” (v. 10).

Too often, Christians and church-folks[2] put either too much or a wrong emphasis on behavior, so, for us to understand what Paul is talking to them about, it may be helpful for us to first clarify what we are not talking about.

Church-folks worry a lot about the way behaviors look. They hurry up and stop arguing as they pull in the church parking lot. They have expectations about the way that people carry themselves while at church, too. They think no cussing should occur in the church building; no obscene talk in there. If a lost person comes into the building, they want them to learn how to act and behave because the image of being sanctified or reverent or holy is more important than being sanctified, reverent, or holy. They are a caricature of Jesus said the Pharisees were like: “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). Basically, they want to look like they have been changed by Jesus – look like they have new life – when they are actually still dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2, Colossians 2:13).

If they were to repent of their sins and seek Jesus, everyone would know that they are not perfect. Everyone would know they are sinners. If this describes you, I hate to tell you, but people already know. Church-folks ain’t fooling anyone.

What Paul is telling the Colossians when he says “you have put off the old self with its practices” (v. 9) is a reminder that they have encountered Jesus. It is a reminder that they do not have to live like dead men and women because Jesus has made them alive! That would be like Jesus coming back to Bethany to visit Lazarus after he had been raised (John 11, 12:1) and finding him hanging out back at the tomb. That would be foolish, right? No, after Lazarus had been called out of death and hopped out of the tomb, Jesus found him in the house reclining at the dinner table (John 12:2). He was eating and hanging out. He was alive and no longer dead because Jesus made him alive (John 11:43-44, Ephesians 2:4-5)!

What about you?

Has Jesus made you alive, or are you still dead in your sins? Are you trying to convince others that you are not a sinner or yourself?

Paul wanted the Colossians to be reminded that they have “put on the new self” – that who they are after coming to Christ is “being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (v. 10). Everything that sin has done, is doing, and will do since the Fall (Genesis 3) has effectively marred how man bears God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). When Jesus saves us – when He brings us from death to eternal life in Him, He begins correcting that image. We go from looking like the world, little-by-little and day-by-day, to looking like Him again. The longer we walk with Him the more significant the change!

That’s good news!

Here There is Not…. (v. 11)

Think about all of the categories and labels that Paul lists in verse 11 and how that compares to the image of God: Greek, Jew, circumcised, uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free. Each of those words was a worldly description of somebody in the church at Colossae. Some of those categories were even Biblical or are part of the unique and beautiful way that God created that person. Others came from the way that other men had labeled them to either belittle or marginalize them. But none of them compare to what it is to be in Christ!

Those who are in Christ are His (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Titus 2:14). They have been adopted into His family (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5). The labels and categories that are so emphasized here on earth just cannot compare to belonging to Him – to being alive in Him. That is why Paul tells them that their ethnicity, their religious affiliation and practices, their nationality, or even whether they are free or owned by another person pales in comparison to “Christ [being] all, and in all” (v. 11).

There will not be a gate for entrance into heaven for American Christians, Evangelical Christians, Catholics, or Protestants. Their will not be gates per ethnicity or culture. Those are qualifications sinful people make up to either lift themselves up, tear others down, or some mixture thereof. No, in heaven there will be none of that foolishness! I love the beautiful picture from John’s vision of heaven in Revelation 7:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

Revelation 7:9-10

Everyone will be together. All those who are in Christ will stand before His throne. He will be the focus. Amen!

He is either “all, and in all” – or He ain’t. To paraphrase Ricky Bobby: if Jesus ain’t first, He’s last.

Wrapping Up

 Since today’s verses are transitioning from our last passage to what comes next, I am afraid that this might have come across a bit disjointed, so I want to clear things up a bit. To do so, there are two statements my pastor John Goldwater has made at Christ Community Church recently that stand out in my mind as I write this. Let me paraphrase them for you:

  1. There was a Sunday a while back where we had a noticeably large group of visitors. During the announcements, he told them that if they had come to Christ Community looking to see their social status raised by attending or are looking for some sort of worldly benefit they had come to the wrong place. He told them all we had to offer was Jesus and His gospel and that those looking for social capital would never find it with us.
  2. He is preaching through Matthew and was going through the passage where the Pharisees were angry at Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:1-14). As he talked about how the morally-elite and religiously-superior Pharisees were lecturing God Himself on what He should and should not have done, he reminded us that we do not have time to teach people how to act in church because that is all they will learn (acting). No, he reminded us that if we point them to Jesus – if we share His gospel with them, they can learn Christ, be saved, and Jesus will change their lives. All acting will do is teach lost, dead sinners how to hide how dead they are.

What Paul was doing for the Colossian church, and for believers today, is helping them to see that there is supposed to be a difference between those who have been saved – those who are in Christ – those who have been made alive by grace through faith in Christ alone – and those who are still dead. I hope you can see, beloved Sojourner, that there should not even be a comparison here much less confusion. We should be able to easily tell the difference between death and life. We should not be satisfied going back to the cemetery when Jesus is preparing a room for us in the Father’s house (John 14:1-6)!

But, sadly, we allow ourselves to be. “But that is not the way you learned Christ!” (Ephesians 4:20)

If someone taught you to act like a Christian but you have not been born again (John 3), you are dead in your trespasses. No amount of service or behavior or the Academy Award quality acting that even has your grandmama fooled will get you through the gate. Those who are not in Christ will not hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21) because they are not His servant. They will cry out that they had preached in the name of Jesus, done mighty works in the name of Jesus, and had even cast out demons in the name of Jesus (Matthew 7:22), but they had never believed in Jesus (Acts 4:12, Romans 10:9-10) – they had never called upon His name to save them (Romans 10:13). No, all acting will get is this declaration from Him: “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

On the other hand, there are those who have called upon Him and have been saved. They have been convicted in their hearts of their sins (Psalm 73:21), repented (Psalm 51), and confessed Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9). They were dead, but Jesus made them alive.

They may not always act right, but Jesus is still working on and in them. They need to be reminded like their Colossian brothers and sisters of old to stop doing the sins of the old self and put on Christ and His new life. They need to be reminded to get out of the cemetery and come to the table. They need to be reminded that Jesus has more for them than this world. He has given life and His Spirit to help them live it.

Which describes you?

John was right. No amount of social capital can compare with an encounter with Jesus. And no amount of acting will earn heaven when the credits roll.

I am reminded of my son Xander when he got saved about a month ago. He had asked questions for months and months. He understood that everyone is a sinner and that those who die without believing in Christ go to hell. He knew lots of information and details. The more he asked, the worse he acted. There were times where he was so worried over acting this way or that – over trying to seem like he did not sin at all – that his behavior was worse than it had ever been before. He seesawed between trying to earn salvation and acting like hell until he finally changed his question. Mid-sermon one Sunday morning, he turned around and, instead of asking how to be saved, he asked, “How do you know God will save you?” He was shocked at how simple the answer was: “You do what the Bible says to do to be saved, and you trust God will do what He promised for them.”

He was relieved. None of it depended on him. It all depended on Jesus. I imagine the Colossian church was relieved, too. They did not need to be circumcised because they had been saved. They did not need to act this way or that, or celebrate this religious festival or another, because they had been saved. All they needed was Jesus. And, dear Sojourner, that is all you need as well. If you do not know Him, I would be glad to talk to you or help you find a pastor or believer where you live to sit down with you. If you are part of a church that gives acting lessons over the gospel, I would love to help you find one where the Word of God is open and His gospel offered freely. As always, know that I am praying for you and thankful that the Spirit works through His Word!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 3:9–11.

[2] When I say church-folks, I mean religious people who go to church who use the name Christian without actually having been saved. The area of the southeastern United States where I live is inundated with church-folks. Even within my denomination, Southern Baptist, which prides itself on regenerate church membership (fancy seminary term for you must be saved to join the church), there are people who are allowed to join the church for what they bring to the table – for their gifts, talents, or, sadly, the size of their bank account – instead of having been made alive in Christ. This is important to clarify because, despite how it looks to the outside world, a church building full of dead people is not a church. It can’t be because the church is a people not a building or organization. Christ’s church is made up of those He has made alive. Church-folks are something else entirely.

Refresh & Restore — August 18, 2022

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.[1]

Colossians 3:5-11

Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

We are continuing in our Jesus Over All study of Colossians with a look at what it means to have new life in Christ in Colossians 3:9-11. You can find a written version of today's study at https://justkeithharris.com/2022/09/07/refresh-restore-september-8-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19)
  2. Refresh & Restore — August 18, 2022 (Jesus Over All 18)
  3. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  4. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)

Greetings Sojourners!

What a whirlwind year this has been. I guess it has really been whirlwind season for the past two years! So much has changed – but so much remains the same. Some things have gotten worse, others better, and a whole lot of things have gone from worse to better and back! One thing is certain, the Fall (Genesis 3) is still falling, and those who belong to Christ (Nahum 1:7, Galatians 4:4-5) are feeling the pains and crying out that this world is not our home (Philippians 3:20) and “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)!

For all that changes in our lives, unfortunately sin still lingers. For the past two Bible studies in our Jesus Over All study (July 21 and July 28), we have been dealing with the subject of sin and how the Bible teaches that we are to put it to death and take it off. I know that this is not a popular subject, but, if we profess to believe that what the Bible says is true, we need to know what it says and especially know what we do not want to hear from it. Stick with me as we move from today looking at what we need to take off (negative) to walk with Christ to next week when we look at what we need to put on (positive) to be the Church!

We had our introduction to this in the last study, so we will just dive on in today.

As with verses 5-7, we are going to rely on a single lexicon/dictionary (Spiros Zodhiates’ The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament[2]) and lay out the definition and verses that contain the same word so that we get the full picture and context.

Now You Must Put Them All Away (v.8)

In verses 5-7, there are specific sins listed that were plaguing the church at Colossae (and likely its sister church Laodicea), but the sin in verse 8 seems to be more of a heart-set and mind-set than specific actions. Each of these things can lead to sins like those listed in vv. 5-7 but evidence more of what is going on within a person rather than what is visible in their lives. Also, these are the sins Paul says are sins in which we “too once walked” and lived in but have no place in the new life in Jesus Christ. This is because those who are in Christ have been brought from being dead in their trespasses and sins – again “in which [we] once walked” (Ephesians 2:1-2) – to being “made alive…in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Those who believe in Christ and confess Him as their Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-10) are saved from their sin and the wrath that accompanies it. But it is not a new or a New Testament phenomenon; it goes all the way back to how God showed it would work back in the Old Testament prophecies (Ezekiel 36:26-27):

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

It was made abundantly clear – and continues to be made clear through God’s Word – that one’s life matches one’s spiritual standing. Those who are dead in their trespasses and sins live that out. Jesus Himself clarified in Matthew 15:18 that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person”. What is inside will come out! It will come out because the life that comes from believing and learning Jesus (Ephesians 4:20-21) is not a learned set of skills and cannot be faked. Like Ezekiel said above, God puts His Spirit in His people. His Spirit causes His people to walk in His ways. Even the desire to do good comes from Him.

So often the world says, “Fake it ‘till you make it.” Well, dear Sojourner, that just will not cut it with the Christian life because what God does is the genuine article. Just as sure as turkey does not make tasty bacon and tofu will never satisfy like a ribeye, only the divine power of God by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ will produce the genuine article. And we need to be sure that if we are not taking off these things that Paul talks about here and are content to live in them, we are more likely to make a convincing turkey than being a child of God.

Here are those things that the Holy Spirit (through Paul) is telling us does not belong in our lives.

The last in this list is “obscene talk” which essentially goes back to what Jesus said in Matthew 15:18 – what comes out of our mouths evidences what is really in our hearts. And, ultimately, it is the heart that matters. Works do prove faith (James 2:17), but there are those who appear to do good works that fall away.

Wrapping Up

There was a man named Demas who Paul mentions at the end of Colossians. In Colossians 4:14, he tells the church at Colossae that Demas “greets” them just like Luke did. In Philemon (which was mailed with the letter to the Colossians), Paul calls him one of his “fellow workers” (Philemon 24). Yet in 2 Timothy 4:10 when Paul was in his final years and a prisoner in Rome, he reported that Demas, “in love with this present world”, deserted him and went to Thessalonica.

There is a saying in contemporary America that is used to justify whatever a person wants to do, especially things that someone might call sinful: “The heart wants what the heart wants.” It is the verbal equivalent to shrugged shoulders and communicates that people cannot help what they want to do. This is right and wrong. For those who do not know Christ, it is right. They want what they want and can do what they want. One cannot get more lost. Those who are dead in their sin are dead and cannot get dead-er. But the Bible does not leave room for those who profess Christ to take that path.

Demas was able to act like a Christian convincingly. He even convinced Paul and Luke! But he could not hide his heart – eventually he did not want to hide it. 1 John 2:19 tells us that the enduring mark of faith in Christ is whether we continue in the faith – that those who “went out from us” were not “of us” because those who are in Christ continue in the faith until the end. Pretend does not endure. Acting does not endure. But what Jesus does on the inside is long lasting.

So, Sojourner, we have some soul-searching to do.

Jamie Harrison has been teaching through the book of Revelation at Christ Community, and right now we are in the letters from Jesus to the seven churches. One thing that Jamie has done consistently through this section is remind us that Jesus is speaking to us and our churches by His Spirit through the reading and hearing of His Word. And He points to where the Bible gives us application. That is fitting here because we may be tempted to work our way out of any of these sins that are present in our lives. That will not work. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus and repent, trusting in His Spirit to give us what He promised back in Ezekiel 36.

Let Psalm 139:23-24 be our prayer as we look at our own lives and seek to take off these sins – as we desire to love and follow Jesus and not allow our love for our sins draw us away like Demas:

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

I am praying for you as always and want you to know that you are not alone in the struggle against sin. Sometimes it seems harder to take certain sins off than others but know this: Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin and made a way – the only Way (John 14:6) out of death and into His eternal life. Will you trust Him or continue in sins? Do you love Jesus, or are you in love with this present world? I pray He helps you see which and draws you to Himself.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 3:5–11.

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

[3] The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Old Testament in the 3rd-2nd centuries BC by Jewish scholars who understood Hebrew (and Greek) better than anyone who has lived in the last 1,800 years.

Refresh & Restore — July 21, 2022

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.[1]

Colossians 3:5-11

Greetings Sojourners!

If you look back over the first seventeen installments of our study of Colossians (this is the eighteenth!), I have said again and again how much I love the book of Colossians. And I do. How much I love to study it. Again, I do. But the book of Colossians can be tough – it is meant to be, yet it is loving in its toughness. I am not particularly excited to write on this particular section, though. Why? It deals with sin.

Oftentimes, if asked, church folks would remark that sin is a constant topic in sermons they hear. And it may be in some places. I am reminded of an episode of The Andy Griffith Show that features Barney Fife, sitting right on the front row, sleeping through the sermon of a prestigious visiting preacher. As they were filing out of the church, Aunt Bee, Andy, and Barney stop to talk to their pastor and the visiting preacher:

Aunt Bee: Oh, Dr. Breen, your sermon has such a wonderful lesson for us.

Andy: Yes, sir, you really hit the nail right on the head there.

Barney: Yes, sir, that’s one subject you just can’t talk enough about…sin!

The studio’s laughter follows as does Andy’s embarrassment, but this reveals something about the nature of people’s attitudes toward preaching and studying the Bible – especially within the church. There is a hellfire-and-brimstone view that has left many callous toward talking about sin, in some cases injured by a misuse of talking about sin, or ignorant of it because some pastors refuse to talk about it at all.

When we talk about sin, read about it in the Bible, or listen to sermons from passages that deal with sin, what do we say, understand, or hear about it? If asked, most who are part of a local church would say that they believe the Bible is true and what it says is necessary to live, but what about when we get out into the world? What about our lives and the lives of those around us? When the rubber hits the road, the majority of us would definitely disagree with Barney and feel that we have had enough talking about sin.

Before we get into this passage, I believe we need to have a brief reminder of the presuppositions – “basic beliefs that are essential for a particular type of study to be conducted”[2] – that we have stated to be necessary to study the Bible.

  1. The Bible is what it claims to be (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is God’s Word. It is true. It contains everything that can be known about God and is sufficient to bring us to Him.
  2. There is a difference in the lives of those who know Christ – are saved/born again – and those who do not – are lost/dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-10, 4:20-24).

Today, we add to those the fact that God has authority over creation, which He Himself created. What He intended to be right is right, and what He intended to be wrong is wrong. What He says (see presupposition one) goes. That means He has the authority to declare what sin is. Again, most church folks would say they agree with those statements, but what about when His Word declares an activity you enjoy as a sin? What if it was your family, friends, or kids?

What happens when one of your presuppositions or your world view is challenged by something you come across in the Bible? I am quick to say that, when confront with this in theory, my beliefs will change if I find they are contradictory to God’s Word. That is theory; what about when that theory intersects real life?

This is where the pre- part of presuppositions is extremely important. These beliefs need to be nailed down before the rubber hits the road. Look at people in the Bible who we would call “heroes” whose beliefs before their trials and tribulations made the difference in how they made it through.

  • Joseph survived his brothers faking his death, selling him into slavery (Genesis 37:12-28), being slandered by his master’s wife (Genesis 39:1-21), and ending up forgotten in Pharaoh’s dungeon (Genesis 40). Yet he was faithful throughout because of the beliefs that came before and could say to the very brothers whose jealousy set all those terrible events in motion that led to Joseph being exalted by Pharaoh: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:19-20).
  • Job’s worship of God was tested in ways we never hope to experience. God Himself described him as being unlike any other person on earth – “a blameless and upright man” (Job 1:8, 2:3). Satan took his children. His great material wealth was brought to nothing. Satan asked even to be able to attack his health because if one were to “stretch out [their] hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse You to Your face” (Job 2:5). So, Satan made it so their were sores from the tip top of Job’s head to the soles of his feet (Job 2:7). Yet despite all the loss and pain – including three knot-headed friends and a disparaging wife – Job never recants his faith in God.
  • Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego) were taken from their homes, imprisoned, indoctrinated, and made into eunuchs (Daniel 1). Their names that spoke of Yahweah were traded for names proclaiming gods of Babylon (Daniel 1:7). Yet they continued the faith in Babylon as they “had done previously” (Daniel 6:10) and saw God strengthen their bodies (Daniel 1:8-21), answer their prayers (Daniel 2:17-18), give interpretation to dreams (Daniel 2:19-45, 4:19-27), stand with them in the midst of the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:16-26), and shut the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:16-24).

The faith and beliefs that come before mattered when it came time to live them out.

For that reason, today’s Bible study will serve as a reminder of what the Bible teaches about sin and why Paul wrote Colossians 3:5-11.

How Sin Works (James 1:13-15)

Most of the time when we talk about sin, we talk about it generically. If asked in church who is a sinner, we are quick to remark that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). At Christ Community, if one of our pastors asks the congregation what the “wages of sin” is, there is a resounding “death” (Romans 6:23). But that is generic. That is hypothetical sin. What about when it gets personal? We see it in other people’s lives and are well-acquainted with their sins. But, when it comes to recognizing it in ourselves, we are like the hypocrite Jesus describes in Matthew 7:1-5; we have a giant log stuck in our eye (unconfessed sin we are willfully ignorant of) while trying to point out the sawdust in the eye of another (sin we would rather recognize). We know how sin works in the lives of others but all too often fail to recognize it – and repent of it – in our own lives. It is important for us to know and understand how the Bible talks about sin and let our lives – “assuming that you have heard about [Jesus] and were taught in Him, as the truth is” (Ephesians 4:21).

If we were to describe the workings of one’s life, we call it the life cycle. James 1:13-15 clearly defines the cycle of sin from temptation to death:

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.[3]

In this brief passage, we see three things that are necessary for our understanding of sin.

First, we see that sin does not come from God. To see it one needs only to look back to the Fall in Genesis 3 and the first sin ever to be committed. God told Adam what was right. He gave Him the idyllic garden of Eden and every tree in the garden for food – except one. God told Adam that to eat of that tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, would cause him to “surely die” (Genesis 2:16). There has been debate as long as there has been a Bible as to who made whom sin: Adam, Eve, or the Serpent. The serpent had his role, to be sure, but Adam and Eve each made their own decisions to disobey the commandment of God. But, as we said in our third presupposition above, God has the right and authority as Creator to declare what is right in His creation – and to command against going against that as sin. Adam, who heard the command from God Himself, willingly disobeyed. And every one of his descendants from the beginning until the return of Jesus has dealt with the repercussions and struggles that come from their own sin (Romans 5:12).

Second, we get a picture of what exactly temptation is. Temptation originates in our “own desire”. James gives a fishing analogy. Temptation is like a lure attached to a fishing pole. Fishing lures are designed to look like the most appetizing food for certain types of fish. When a fish sees the lure moving through the water, it cannot help but bite it. Then, the hook hidden within the lure is set, and it is too late for the fish. They are reeled into the real-life consequences of biting onto the lure.

For humans, it is not a shiny lure attached to nearly invisible fishing line but be assured: there is a lure. It looks like what we desire most – what we want that we either know we should not have, or our wants wrapped in a way we should not have them. Do not be mistaken; the sins we desire are attractive to us. So often the struggle one has with sin is because of the great desire they have to commit that sin. Think of the time spent thinking or fantasizing about sinning – not planning to commit said sin, of course, just looking.

Think about King David. He could have easily made the list of “heroes” above as Joseph, Job, Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael were all sinners, but David gives a better example of what it looks like to be hooked. David was described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). David’s lure was lust and desiring sexual sin.

Early on in David’s narrative, he married Saul’s daughter Michal (1 Samuel 18:27). Later, he met Abigail who was described as “discerning and beautiful” (1 Samuel 25:3). She helped keep him from making mistakes due to her husband Nabal’s treachery, and Nabal’s death happened to coincide with Michal marrying another (1 Samuel 25:44 – though 2 Samuel 3:13-14 shows David never stopped considering her his wife). It would make sense if David simply married Abigail, yet David married her and a woman named Ahinoam at the same time (1 Samuel 25:43). God never supported polygamy but intended marriage to be between a husband and wife (Genesis 2:24-25). David obviously wanted three wives to support his appetites.

Fast forward to 2 Samuel 11, and we see David chose to stay home rather than be where he should be – at war with his soldiers, on his roof with a clear view of a naked woman – Bathsheba, wife of Uriah, and his sending of his servants to take her (2 Samuel 11:1-4). In 2 Samuel 11:2, it says “It happened, late one afternoon”. What happened? Sin. His looking gave way to taking. David’s sin had him hook, line, and sinker. And what he thought would be casual sex – that 2 Samuel 11:4 seems to say he thought could not result in conception – produced live evidence of their union.

That is a good segue into the third thing James 1:13-15 teaches us about sin. The fishing analogy gives way to the analogy of conception and birth. That desire that lures in verse 14 is compared to conception – to human biology. Conception is when a man’s sperm fertilizes a woman’s egg. Lust does not do this. Sex does. Conception is supposed to lead to birth. The baby has a life. But sin is about death. The conception of sinful desire in the mind and heart ultimately leads to committing the sin. It is rarely enough to just enjoy the guilty pleasure of sin once. The behavior grows into a lifestyle. And sin, “when it is fully grown” brings forth death. That life of sin earns – remember “the wages of sin” (Romans 6:23) – death.

Wrapping Up

When we look at sin, it is tempting to question all this talk of sin producing death and doubt and whether a good and loving God would allow such – whether He would really let the consequences of sin be death. To that, I would remind you 1) of the existence of death, and 2) what our good and loving God did for sin was to give Himself as a sacrifice to bear the death we deserve on the cross, not ignore it.

Next week, we will begin diving into the specifics of Colossians 3:5-11. The sheer volume and span of the lists (there are two) of sins will hit us all more than once. It will not be enjoyable. It will be uncomfortable. You may even be mad at me before it is over. I promise you that I have been mad at me in studying this, too.

I urge you to meditate on what we have seen from James 1:13-15 and in Colossians 3:5-11. Search your heart. As you do, consider the Holy Spirit’s motives for giving such a passage to the church at Colossae and to us today. Why would He take the time to tell us here – and again and again throughout Scripture – what we should be putting to death in us (Colossians 3:5) and what we should be taking off as if it were a filthy garment (Colossians 3:8)? Does He just not want us to get to do what we want to do and be happy?

God is the Creator. He knows how He designed life to work best. He knows what truly brings happiness – following Him, and He knows what brings death and sorrow – sin. He knows how to take lost sinners who are dead in their trespasses and sins and make them alive together by grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-10).

So, I pray that God grants repentance for you where you need it. I pray the same thing for me. And I pray that God helps us to learn to pray like David in Psalm 139:23-24:

23  Search me, O God, and know my heart!
        Try me and know my thoughts!
24  And see if there be any grievous way in me,
        and lead me in the way everlasting!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 3:5–11.

[2] F. Leroy Forlines, Biblical Systematics: A Study of the Christian System of Life and Thought (Nashville, TN: Randall House Publications, 1975), 5.

[3] ESV, Jas 1:13–15.

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 — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

We are continuing in our Jesus Over All study of Colossians with a look at what it means to have new life in Christ in Colossians 3:9-11. You can find a written version of today's study at https://justkeithharris.com/2022/09/07/refresh-restore-september-8-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19)
  2. Refresh & Restore — August 18, 2022 (Jesus Over All 18)
  3. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  4. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)

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 — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

We are continuing in our Jesus Over All study of Colossians with a look at what it means to have new life in Christ in Colossians 3:9-11. You can find a written version of today's study at https://justkeithharris.com/2022/09/07/refresh-restore-september-8-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19)
  2. Refresh & Restore — August 18, 2022 (Jesus Over All 18)
  3. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  4. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)

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 — October 21, 2021

14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.[1]

2 Timothy 2:14-26

Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

We are continuing in our Jesus Over All study of Colossians with a look at what it means to have new life in Christ in Colossians 3:9-11. You can find a written version of today's study at https://justkeithharris.com/2022/09/07/refresh-restore-september-8-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19)
  2. Refresh & Restore — August 18, 2022 (Jesus Over All 18)
  3. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  4. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)

Greetings, Sojourner!

I have thoroughly enjoyed looking at these But GOD moments in this series. We have seen them be as simple as trusting Christ in salvation and as beautifully complex as Him bringing those who are dead in their sins to life in Christ. We have seen God change the trajectory of men – change their entire lives by saving them and working through their lives. We have seen those men share Him with others and God give life to the seeds of their work by changing the trajectory of future generations, even unto our own.

I do not know whether or not I realized it when I set out to write this series, but I think – deep down – it has always been my goal to emphasize that there must be a change in the lives of those who profess that they were once lost but GOD saved them. If one’s testimony is that they are in Christ, it is that they were once dead but God made them alive. Remember that the conjunction “but” means that all before it is cancelled out by what comes after. So, if all of our past life is cancelled out by God, what comes after should be characterized by Him – we should be different. Our trajectory should be heavenward, even while still on the earth.

A Worker for Christ: Unashamedly Handling the Word

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is markedly different than his first. This is largely because both Timothy and Paul were different. They were both older. Timothy was no longer the young pastor who needed a guidebook for starting out. He had blossomed beyond needing to be reminded to not let his flock “despise [him] for [his] youth” to one whose “example” needed a bit of correcting (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul was at the end of his life and ministry in Rome, having “fought the good fight”, “finished the race”, “kept the faith”, and ready to accept that which was “laid up for [him by] the righteous judge [with] all who loved His appearing” (1 Timothy 6:7-8). He loved Timothy like a father loves a son and wanted to remind him to continue in what he had “learned and…firmly believed, knowing from whom [he] learned” it (2 Timothy 3:10, 14).

We need to be reminded that – despite the trials, tribulations, and trip-ups – God brings us from death to life to live for Him (Ephesians 2:10)! So, let us look at the reminders that Paul gave to Timothy and see how the Holy Spirit wants to remind us. Just as Paul wanted to remind his spiritual son of who he was in Christ, let us be reminded that we are sons and daughters of the King and we are who He says we are!

How we talk matters!

He mentions this several ways in this passage: “not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (v. 14), “avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene” (vv. 16-17), “have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies [which] breed quarrels” (v. 23), “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach” (v. 24), and “correcting his opponents with gentleness” (v. 25). All of these point to how difficult it is to control our speech; so much so that James says that if “anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (James 3:2) and that “the tongue is a fire” that sets the whole life afire via hellfire and “staining the whole body” (James 3:6)! It is no accident that Paul emphasizes it so much here.

If we are going to profess that God has changed our lives, our speech will be the first to betray the depravity of our hearts. We can see how Jesus condemned the Pharisees with the same evidence in Matthew 12:34 and 37:

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…. …[F]or by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

I realize that this concept seems harsh, but the fact remains that if one’s life has been changed by Jesus there should be evidence in that life of it.

In the earlier years of my marriage, my wife would be quick to tell me that “I’m sorry” loses its meaning if there is no change to follow it. How can repentance mean anything if our speech is still as quarrelsome as those who do not profess Christ? How can we “speak…all the words of life” (Acts 5:20) if our irreverent talk spreads like an infection through the body of Christ?

How we handle the Word matters!

Just as how we talk illustrates the reality of our heart, the place we give to the Word of God shows our hearts, too. I know that I have been guilty of proclaiming that I believe the Bible to be inerrant, infallible, and inspired, yet only following it on a level that was visible to church-folks around me. There was a certain amount of acting that was not being a doer of the word and deceiving myself and others (James 1:22).

Our lives will indeed reflect what we believe about the Bible. Several things that Paul reminds Timothy of in this passage reflect this: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (v. 15), “let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity” (v. 19; cf. Isaiah 26:13), and to be “able to teach” so that “God may perhaps grant…repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (vv. 24-25). I can already hear the counterarguments of how no one will be able to be perfect and that all of us sin. Yes, and yes. I agree with you wholeheartedly and see the same difficulties in my own life. But I will respond with the same question I have to ask myself: what is God doing in your life, and what evidence is there that He has worked in it and is working in it now?

When Paul tells Timothy that he should do his best to be an unashamed worker, it is not a command to act a certain way or simply not to fail. No! It is a testament to following Christ. It is a testimony to the fact that repentance is necessary to continue following Christ despite our hang-ups and mis-steps. He is not telling Timothy to seek to earn his salvation but reminding him that the esteem given to the Word – the respect, focus, and usage (mileage, even) that it holds – will impact his following. Just as David wrote in Psalm 119:9 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word.” – if we, like Timothy, will be willing to rightly handle the Word of truth, we will have no need to be ashamed because we will end up face-to-face with our Savior before His throne.

Usable Vessels and Willing Doulos-es

If God has changed our lives, we will actively follow Him. I do not believe that the Bible leaves room for a fruitless, evidence-less Christianity. Now, you could argue faith versus works and pull you a few proof texts (Ephesians 2:8-9 v. James 2:14-17), but, if we are rightly handling the Word and believe that all of it is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), we need to recognize that all of its teachings are true and let its reproof and correction bring us to repentance. So, if you claim to belong to Christ, you must be willing to be His vessel.

Paul uses the illustration here of a house and the different kinds of vessels that can be found in it: gold and silver for honorable use, wood and clay for dishonorable. Much of Churchianity (a made-up word for churchy-religion in the place of biblical Christianity), gets caught up in who gets to be an honorable vessel and who gets to be dishonorable. In fact, too much focus is given to whether we are being honored at all. I want to help us all with a bit of perspective: 1) none of us are honorable until Jesus saves and redeems us, 2) this means that we are all wood/clay until Jesus gives us the value (His value) of gold/silver, and 3) it is much better to be a terracotta chamber pot in the household of King Jesus than a golden toilet in any kingdom of this world (yes, I went there).

If you are in Christ, be thankful for His cleansing (1 John 1:9)! Be thankful that He takes the dishonorable and gives it honorable usage (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)! Be thankful to be set apart, useful to Him, and excited for the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10)! But there is more to Paul’s reminder than we are comfortable with. Not only do we need to be willing to be His vessel; we also must be willing to be His doulos.

In verse 24, we see the phrase “the Lord’s servant”. Before I dive into the original Greek word translated “servant” in the ESV, I believe that the best place to begin is with the meaning of the Greek word for “Lord” in that same phrase. The word “Lord” is kurios, and it means Lord, master, or owner. It speaks of one who has authority over the entire life of another and goes beyond the realm of employer. In the context, doulos would refer to one who is in bondage to serve the kurios. This goes beyond being willing to be used – it recognizes that if we are in Christ that we “are not [our] own, for [we] were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This is uncomfortable because of all the – rightful – negative connotations that go with slavery (both in the historical sense with early America and Britain and in the modern sense with human trafficking). But this ain’t that.

This concept goes back to the beginnings of salvation. In these devotions, we often quote Romans 10:9 as a guide to help us see what needs to happen to come to faith in Christ: “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”. This is the submission that takes place. He is Lord/kurios, and we submit and lay down our lives to become His/His doulos. This is a willing submission that sees us go from death to life, from lost to saved, from bound to hell to bound up in His love, grace, and mercy. This sort of submission means that we entrust our past, present, and future to Him. It means that we step out of the driver’s seat and trust Him to lead, and, in that trusting, submitting to live like He has called us to live.

For many, this is a deal-breaker. This is why many people reject Christ and do not follow Him. They do not want to submit to His will. This is also why many who follow cultural Christianity eventually fall away; they simply cannot abide with Christ being Lord and walk away when their will conflicts with His. This is also why I am bringing this up to you today, dear Sojourner. It is not a minor detail that can be dealt with later. It is foundational to who we are in Him – or not.

Look at how Paul shows how much this submission is going to cost Timothy. It is going to cost him some earthly comfort, respect, and put him in a position to receive some dishonor as he serves out his honorable purpose in Christ. To illustrate, let us walk through verses 24-26 to see why. There will be times where a quarrel will seem logical (or even right) and potentially personally-satisfying, but Timothy will have to choose to be kind and endure the evil. There will be times where his opponents will need clear correction, but Timothy will need to remember that kindness is commanded rather than seeking retribution as he corrects. There will be times that call for harshness, but Timothy will have to respond in gentleness. Why? First, because that is exactly what Jesus would have done (and does for us). Second, there is more at stake than Timothy’s (or our) honor – those who oppose him and are currently enemies of his and God’s are people who need Christ. And they are people that God allowed Timothy to be the honorable vessel to preach Christ to them.

Where do we go from here?

There was a time in my life where, if you had asked me what my life verses were, I would have given you 2 Timothy 2:24-26. They were my way of showing how humble I believed I was at the time. I first encountered them in a seminary class, and I felt that I was receiving more dishonor than I thought I could bear. I was encountering more opponents than I could count and used this as my mantra to show how much better I was than them. But, rather than seeking for God to grant them repentance, I became more and more self-righteous and highlighted and bemoaned my trials rather than preaching Christ to them.

I eventually dropped out of seminary and quit on those life verses. I even quit preaching Christ entirely for a time. During that time, I found myself clinging to that self-righteousness. I wore what I perceived to be mistreatment by “church-folks” and the dishonor that I felt I had suffered to be my reason for burning out and walking away. But GOD was not done with me!

God allowed my dishonorable vessel to be cleansed and filled once more. He reminded me of these things not through quarreling but His kindness. He gently corrected me, loved me because I am His, and granted me repentance that lead “to a knowledge of the truth” and allowed me to come to my senses and “escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (vv. 25-26).

He can do the same for you, and that’s good news! I do not know where you are in your walk with Him, but I would be willing to wager that you could desperately use a but GOD moment in your life.

Maybe you realize that you do not know Him and want to come to faith in Him. I would love to talk with you or help point you to a Bible-preaching/believing church where you live!

Maybe your vessel has gotten dirty and been used for the wrong tasks. I would love to pray with you and help you seek God in His Word and find cleansing in Him.

No matter your situation, know that you are loveA close up of a logo

Description automatically generatedd, prayed for, and not alone! No matter what is going on in your life, if you are in Christ, Paul’s reminder to Timothy is both an encouragement and a challenge to us today:

But GOD’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’” (v. 19)

Hallelujah, and amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Ti 2:14–26.

Songs for Sunday, October 10, 2021

It’s almost Sunday!

I have a passage on my mind that is going to seem odd considering how excited I am. It’s going to seem a bit sad though I am full of joy reading it. But, then again, that is what hope in Christ does – it flips the sad realities of this earth upside down through the hope of what He has done, is doing, and has promised to do in the future.

Here’s the passage:

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?

Psalm 137:1-4

When these words were written, nearly all of Israel was in exile. The punishment God had promised for the idolatry of their kings and the hearts of His people who were supposed to love Him above all had come into fruition. The temple lay in ruins. Jerusalem’s walls were in shambles. And God’s people were far from His promised land and seemed farther away from the covenant promises they had forsaken.

Those who led Israel in worship now found themselves in the crosshairs of mocking and shame. Where there had once been loud singing and music in their hearts, there was only shame. They hung up their lyres. They traded worship for weeping. All the while, their captors tormented them by asking them to sing some of their beloved “songs of Zion” – basically, sing some of those songs about how much you love the Lord and what all He has done for you….

They had no song or desire to sing, only tears.

Their memories of former glory and worship did nothing to satisfy their longing for rescue in their present. The rubble of the temple and reverence for past faithfulness had no effect on their current weeping.

Those feelings are not exclusive to Babylon.

There was a time in my life that I wanted nothing more than to hang up my guitar and sing no more of the Lord. In fact, I sold my guitar to pay the moving expenses to leave ministry behind to move back home ashamed of quitting and being burned out, afraid of the future.

I had barely been home twenty-four hours when a tormentor ridiculed, asking how dare I quit on the Lord and reminding, almost gleefully, of the shame I felt. And tears fell in my car the same as they had once fell by the waters of Babylon.

The joy I had once felt in leading in worship and preaching the Word were not enough to combat the present sorrow I felt during that time. In fact, all of my efforts were wrapped up in the past – past righteousness, past success, past calling, past motivation, past personal worship of Jesus. But, just as with those worship leaders in Babylon with lyres hung on trees and hopes hung up in their past, I found that the past was not enough to sustain my present, much less my future.

Thankfully, God brought repentance and, little-by-little, joy back into my life following after Him. Just as He did for Israel, He healed the pain of my exile, helped me follow Him more closely than I ever did in the past, and held out His mighty hand to me because “He cares” for me (1 Peter 5:7). I remembered that Jesus is alive and well, seated on the throne, and found myself rejoicing in the pains of my past because they highlight Him and how He was with me every step of the way.

And that’s how we will “sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land” tomorrow. That may seem odd since we will be in our homeland, so-to-speak, but this world is not our home because “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)! We will gather together, not because of our past faithfulness but HIS! We will remember what He has done, but we will rejoice because our resurrected King is doing things – working for our good and His glory – NOW! And we will rejoice that our exile in this old world is not permanent and He has promised us future eternity with Him where the last of the tears from Babylon will be wiped away by His own hand (Revelation 21:4)!

So, I hope you will join us tomorrow as we make much of Jesus. You can’t do anything about your past, but – PRAISE GOD – He already has! And He has given hope for a better future than we could ever earn on our own.

Here are our Scriptures & songs:

  • Romans 6:1-5

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

  • Romans 6:6-11

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.


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 9, 2021

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.[1]

Romans 5:6-11

Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

We are continuing in our Jesus Over All study of Colossians with a look at what it means to have new life in Christ in Colossians 3:9-11. You can find a written version of today's study at https://justkeithharris.com/2022/09/07/refresh-restore-september-8-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19)
  2. Refresh & Restore — August 18, 2022 (Jesus Over All 18)
  3. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  4. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)

Greetings, Sojourner!

As we continue to look at the idea of “but God” – that God intersects Himself into the lives of people, even our own, we are going to delve more and more into what is known as the gospel. You probably feel very comfortable with the idea of the gospel, but you may not feel as comfortable defining it. At its very simplest it means “good news”, specifically the good news about what God has done for us in Jesus. The specific Greek word that our word gospel comes from (evangelion) is a compound word made up of the words for “good, well” and “proclaim, tell”, giving the meaning that we should be going and telling the good news of Jesus.

In our current world, good news is all too often associated with bad news. Many people (unfortunately, many church people fall into this category) are now bad news people. They (often, we) thrive on bad news. My friend Jamie describes those people as always having their horse in a ditch; no matter their situation, its always the worst. Mainstream media thrives on terrible news, the next always out devastating the earlier. I talk to students every day whose days are consistently worse or the worst. I have to fight within myself to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated” instead of “things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). When asked how I am, I find myself saying phrases like “making it” or “I’m present” even when things are actually going well.

Realistically and biblically speaking, things are going to continue escalating – even for those whose joy is in the Lord – showing us that “in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1). Yet can we not rest in assurance by holding “fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23)? Can we not rejoice that our God remains strong and unaffected by the realities of bad? To a certain extent, we may even have to ask whether the good news of the gospel can be good without news of the reality of evil, wickedness and sin – even and especially in our own hearts.

In today’s passage, the presence and existence of sin and its impact on lost sinners makes the good news sweeter. It is, after all, sin that reveals our need for a Savior. So, today, we are going to look at the reality of sin and God’s wrath toward it to understand how those who are saved can say that they were once sinners, but God redeemed them – once were enemies but God reconciled them, even still.

Give Me the Bad News First

In this section of Romans, Paul uses several words to talk about the existence of what we will call bad news: “weak” and “ungodly” in v. 6, “sinners” in v. 8, “wrath of God” in v. 9, and “enemies” in v. 10. Before we dive into these words and their effects, I would like to remind you of our passage from last week’s devotion where we looked at Peter preaching that repentance and turning from one’s sin is what brings the “times of refreshing…from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20) – that the reality of the bad news move people’s hearts to turn from their sins to the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ! So, we will move through the words listed above and hope that God moves our hearts to repentance, faith, and hope in Him.

The words “weak” and “ungodly” in v. 6 are fair and valid descriptions of the before of anyone who is saved or the reality of all who are not born again, redeemed, or saved by Jesus. To say that we were “weak” is to say that we could do nothing to save ourselves. The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), illustrating that all of our work – all we can accomplish – is sin and “sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). In reality, it is our own sinfulness that separates us from God and makes us “ungodly”. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, was tempted to sin in “every respect” that we have yet remained “without sin”. Sinners are his opposites. It leaves us “separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

You would think that is about as bad as the news could get. But, then again, we have yet to get to the “wrath of God” in v. 9. This is definitely not a popular or comfortable topic, even for people who crave bad news. Spiros Zodhiates defines the word translated “wrath” here as “the effect of anger or wrath, …  punishment … from God, referring to divine judgment to be inflicted upon the wicked”[2], so it is a reference to the reality of hell (Matthew 3:7, 10:28, 23:33; Luke 16:23; Romans 1:18, 2:8; Colossians 3:6; Revelation 14:10, 20:13-14). God does have wrath toward sin. I am a sinner myself, so that scares me more than I have words or ability to describe. The reality of the bad news is made complete when, in v. 10, we realize that being the focus of God’s wrath classifies us as His “enemies”.

As I said, this bad news frightens me because I know me! I know that what the Bible says about my sin and my heart is true! But I also know that my story does not end as an enemy on whom God has and is going to pour out His wrath. I know that I deserve it, but my story takes a turn with the reality that all of this is true, but God…!

Alright, Give Me the Good News Now

As I have stated several times, bad news makes good news better! Water is never more refreshing than when you have been laboring on the hottest day. One’s health is never more valuable than after facing death or disease. Loved ones are never more cherished than when experiencing great loss. And no one will ever turn from their sin to the Savior without the reality of sin, death, and the wrath of God!

If you looked at our passage for today, you know that this is not a passage of doom, gloom, and terror. No! This is a passage of redemption, salvation, and life! Each of these realities that we have looked at as part of the bad news has a rescue available through faith in Jesus Christ!

Yes, sinners are “weak” and “ungodly”, but at the “right time” Christ gave His own life that they may believe in Him and live! He came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) that they may be “found in Him, not having a righteousness of [their] own [actions and deeds], but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9)!

It is in His willing sacrifice for sinners that He “shows His love for us” (v. 8). In America, we have a long heritage of people willing to serve their country, to give their lives if the need arises, so that the American people can have the freedoms we celebrate. Yet we also have prisons full of wicked men and women for whom no one would dare to die. Our American soldiers have gone up against and fought evils from Nazi fascism to terrorist despots and beyond. Yet Christ’s sacrifice stands apart even from theirs. He – our “blessed hope”, our “great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) – demonstrated “the great love with which He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4) by reminding us “that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8).

This is a love that we cannot fathom. He did not wait for us to clean ourselves up because we are too weak to do that. He did not wait for us to find goodness in ourselves because we are ungodly. He did not wait for us to come for Him because He came for us! He came for us while we were sinners. He came in righteous and redemptive love while we were still facing the reality of His wrath as His enemies. That’s good news! There is no better.

The Depths of God’s Love for Sinners Like Us

I am afraid that my trying to illustrate just how good this news is will fall short, and, ultimately, it will because He is better and more powerful and more loving than any feeble human words could describe. So, I want to draw your attention to the reality of what that love cost Him. Let His Word move on your heart and clarify this.

  • God’s love cost Him His Son (John 3:16): “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
  • Jesus did not deserve to die in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21): “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
  • Jesus bore our sin that we may have life in Him:
    • (1 Peter 2:24) “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.”
    • (Colossians 2:13-14) “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
  • His resurrection means that His love continues forevermore!
    • (vv. 10-11) “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. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
    • (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) “For I delivered to 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 15:54-57) When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

No matter the reality of the bad news of your sin, you can look to the Savior. Your reality may seem dire, but God alone determines your eternity.

Will you trust in Him and in His great love today?


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 5:6–11.

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

Refresh & Restore — September 2, 2021

Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

We are continuing in our Jesus Over All study of Colossians with a look at what it means to have new life in Christ in Colossians 3:9-11. You can find a written version of today's study at https://justkeithharris.com/2022/09/07/refresh-restore-september-8-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19)
  2. Refresh & Restore — August 18, 2022 (Jesus Over All 18)
  3. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  4. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”[1]

Acts 3:1-26

Greetings, Sojourner!

I am excited about the new series we are beginning today. It is almost like the idea of it has been picking at the edges of my mind for quite some time, and I hope over the next month or so we can see just how beautiful, awesome, hope-giving, and worship-inspiring the words “but God” can be.

While the phrase is just two words, it carries a lot of weight. The word “but” carries with it the idea that whatever comes after it cancels out what preceded it. In this case, whatever comes before is canceled out by God. “But God” carries with it the message of the gospel that shows us that whatever came before – sin, shame, guilt, condemnation, death – is canceled out through the death of Jesus on the cross and, most importantly, His resurrection from the grave! For those of us who live a lot of our lives in the whatever-came-before, there is perhaps no greater comfort than “but God”, knowing that He is a God willing to intervene and make the sad things come untrue in Him. May we find hope in this truth – truths, really – over the weeks to come.

To begin, we are going to look at a passage that we have looked at a couple of times already. It was in this very passage that the idea of these Refresh & Restore devotions came about. In this passage, we see two men whose testimony was “but God”. Peter and John, two ordinary fishermen from some backwater hamlet had their whole lives changed when they met Jesus. They followed Him and became fishers of men (Mark 1:17). Little did they know as they approached the temple to pray that they would reel in a powerful opportunity to see God move in the life of a man who desperately needed God to interrupt his status quo – and get an awesome opportunity to offer the same hope to others and preach outside the temple.

Paralyzed & Poor BUT GOD…

For a “man lame from birth” (v. 2), there were not many options to make a living, but he was blessed to have people who would carry him and putting him in the path of people heading to the temple. Imagine the conviction you would feel encountering a person laying outside your church building “to ask alms of those entering” (v. 3); surely we would be willing to help under any circumstance, but especially one so convicting! The Beautiful Gate was covered in Corinthian Bronze and richly elaborate. There was no better place for one seeking to be richly blessed by people who would be nearly guaranteed to help him.

He was more blessed than he knew when Peter and John walked up. He asked for monetary help from them, but they were poor themselves. BUT GOD moved in the paralyzed man’s life by having Peter and John share of Christ instead of coins – the power of the Almighty instead of alms! Peter’s words in verse 6 fire me up every time I read them: “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Basically, “We’re as poor as you, buddy, except in one area – our God is rich in mercy and overflowing in love and power; in His name, come here!” The entire trajectory of this man’s life pivoted in this “but God” moment!

It seems so simple when we see the words written. Peter reached out and took the man’s hand in his, and “immediately his feet and ankles were made strong” (v. 7). Think of how much it takes to learn to walk for the first time – how long it takes to build the muscles, impulses from the brain, reflexes from so many unperceived impulses. Yet a lifetime of brain chemistry and years of physical therapy occurred in as much time as it took Peter to invoke Jesus’ name. And rightfully, the man’s first steps were not just walking but also leaping, and more than that praising God (v. 8)! As unexpected as this must have been for these three men, none of it was a surprise to God who prophesied such things would come about when He would intersect history in the person of Jesus:

Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Isaiah 35:4-6

In Isaiah’s days, these prophesies gave hope but must have seemed so distant, but God gave hope in their fulfillment in the name of Jesus.

Guilty of Killing Christ BUT GOD…

As I said, we have looked extensively at Peter’s sermon before (here, here, & here) since we first launched this ministry. Today, I want us to look at the context of the hope that Peter offered in his sermon outside the temple.

The formerly-paralyzed man clung to Peter and John and followed them – actually ran – to Solomon’s Porch on the side of the temple (v. 11). Peter and John’s fishing expedition was about to cast a much wider net! The crowd could not help but recognize the drastic difference in the man and were rightly “filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (vv. 9-10). Peter began his second sermon, and the content was quite shocking and definitely much tougher than many typical evangelism sermons.

Some of those men in the crowd were in a crowd a few months earlier that was crying, “Crucify! Crucify!” That’s right. The Holy Spirit through Peter called them out by saying, “Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life…” (vv. 13b-15a).

Some, when looking at this passage see Peter seeking vengeance for His crucified Savior and friend. They see anger and empathize with the pain he must have felt. But we need to remember that God’s Spirit was at work this day, not the Peter who drew his sword in the garden. No, I believe that the Peter here today was in full remembrance of the sound of the rooster crowing to herald his betrayal of Jesus. I believe Peter remembered the forgiveness of Jesus when He asked him once for each denial whether he loved Him. I see Peter here essentially preaching to these lost men who voted in favor of crucifying their Messiah something similar to what he said to the paralyzed man. I hear him saying, “What I do have I give to you. I also betrayed the Holy and Righteous One and have experienced His grace.” I hear that in the way that he gave them the offer to “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (vv. 19-20b). Rather than vengeance, he offered the chance to “repent” or cease their sinning and “turn back” to the God they had sought to kill. He reminded them that while they were successful in killing Jesus that His death did not stick because “God raised [Him] from the dead” (v. 15). Essentially, he said you meant evil and committed great sin, but God has already undone it. They had great guilt due to great sin, but God offered grace to be found in the presence of Him who they killed.

There were many who entered the temple mount dead in their sins, but God gave life – that day alone – when “many of those who had heard the Word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand” (ch 4:4)!

BUT GOD Still Today

When Peter was preaching in Solomon’s porch and confronted those men of their sin, he said, “But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer He thus fulfilled” (v. 18). It is because of this we can trust in what He says. If He will prophesy that He would take on our sin “for our sakes” (2 Cor. 5:21), we can trust that He, having our best interests at heart, will be sure to offer those who repent and trust in Him “times of refreshing in His presence” (v. 19) and, ultimately, will restore “all things about which God spoke” (v. 21).

Maybe you have yet to have that “but God” moment where God intersects Himself into your life. I cannot intervene for you. I cannot save you. I may not even be able to meet your physical or temporary needs. But what I do have, I give to you: the message of hope that comes from Christ alone.

Will you receive what He offers?


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 3:1–26.

Refresh & Restore — July 29, 2021

Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

We are continuing in our Jesus Over All study of Colossians with a look at what it means to have new life in Christ in Colossians 3:9-11. You can find a written version of today's study at https://justkeithharris.com/2022/09/07/refresh-restore-september-8-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — September 8, 2022 (Jesus Over All 19)
  2. Refresh & Restore — August 18, 2022 (Jesus Over All 18)
  3. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  4. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)

23  Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.[1]

Psalm 73:23-28

Greetings, Sojourner!

We are going to take a brief break in our Ruth series. I feel like there is someone out there who needs to hear this. If not, maybe I just need to write it.

I struggle.

I just want to lay that out there – I do; I struggle. My mind is often a mess, as is my heart. I do not have it (whatever “it” is) all together. I get depressed. I get stuck in my own head.

I am human. I am a sinner. Like I said, I struggle.

As I was reading the Word and studying this morning, I came across this passage. I was initially going to use it for an upcoming series, but I just could not get it to fit. I also could not get it off my mind and heart – two phrases specifically were sticking with me: “nevertheless” (v. 23) and “but God” (v. 26).

So, if you will indulge me. I would like to share a word with you today for those who struggle – for those who do not have it all together. And, it is my hope, dear Sojourner, that you realize you are not alone.

Nevertheless

In the ESV translation, the publishers titled this psalm “God is My Strength and Portion Forever”. That sounds so positive and good. And that is exactly how Psalm 73 starts out: “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (v. 1). That is good news if you are Israel or if your heart is “pure”. However, I feel like we are more likely to fall in with the beginning of v. 2 which says, “But as for me…”.

One of my Bible school kiddos did an excellent job explaining what the conjunction “but” means. He said that it cancels out everything that comes before and replaces it with what comes after. So, all that good news for Israel and pure-hearted folks is cancelled and replaced with the psalmist’s (his name is Asaph[2]) reality. He describes his situation like one whose feet “had almost stumbled” or “had nearly slipped” (v. 2). And what tripped him up was his own heart because he was “envious” of “the prosperity of the wicked” (v. 3).

It is easy to get tripped up. For me, it does not have to be some outside stimulus; to quote Tyler Perry, “I can do bad all by myself.” My own mind has a magnetic pull toward darkness. My heart is drawn toward sin like a moth to a flame. But what Asaph describes shows how disheartening our problem can be since he is jealous of those who blatantly work evil because they seem to be doing well (and you can infer that he is trying to do good and struggling).

If you look at how he describes them, it does not seem as if they are doing very well at all. He says that they are not suffering and have all their appetites filled (v. 4). They do not have the same troubles as other folks, “like the rest of mankind” (v. 5). But he also says that their pride and violence is all over them like clothing (v. 6) and that, while they have their appetites filled, they are actually filled with foolishness (v. 7). Ultimately, that foolishness leads them to mock God and mistreat others (vv. 8-11).

Rather than see their plight for what it truly is, Asaph is blinded by his desire to have his appetites filled – to have his own way. Instead of seeing the danger of their lifestyle, he sees them “at ease” and how “they increase in riches” (v. 12). He feels as if his pursuit of God was “all in vain” (v. 13) because of how difficult it was to follow God rather than his own desires (vv. 14-15).

I love the way that verses 16-17 transition and get us closer to our passage today: “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to be a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” When he was wallowing in sinful desires and flirting with following the wicked rather than God, it “seemed…wearisome”. It seemed that way until he got alone with God in His “sanctuary”. Then the truth became clear.

That is how that works. When we are with God, spending time with Him in His Word and in prayer, things seem so clear. Yet when we try to live like the world things get muddled. He was jealous of the prosperity of the wicked until he basked in the glory of the only Righteous One! In the presence of God, he could see that those he was jealous of were on “slippery places” and headed toward “ruin” (v. 18). All that prosperity they flaunted would be “destroyed in a moment” (v. 19) as God cast them away like one would a bad dream upon waking (v. 20).

More importantly, Asaph – because of the time he spent with God – saw himself more clearly and honestly! He began to discover that he was closer to the wicked than he was the Righteous One (v. 22)! He found that his “soul was embittered” – he was disheartened. But the good news is that through all of this he was “pricked in the heart” (v. 21). To be pricked in one’s heart is to be sharpened, honed, or taught. In his covetousness of the wealth of the wicked, his heart had become dull. He had grown weary of doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13).

Not only was it good news that his heart was pricked and repentance began to occur, the fact that he could say “nevertheless” in the midst of those difficulties was good news! This is a beautiful contrast to his early descriptions of slipping and sliding because he realizes God was continually with him and holding his right hand providing strength and support (v. 23)! He realized that he was not going to fall – even though he found himself stumbling – because God was guiding him (v. 24). And he realized that striving after temporary rewards like what the wicked had could not compare with the glory that would come “afterward” from his God (v. 24, 2 Corinthians 4:17)!

But God

How easy it is to veer from the path! It does not take much to steer our hearts and minds in the wrong direction; after all, we are only human! Yet the closer we get to God, and the more we realize that what the Bible says about Him is true, the easier it is to see our desire shift – little by little – from the fading, temporary appetites of the earth to God. Asaph’s desires shift when he realizes that there is no one like God and nothing on earth that can compare with Him (v. 25).

The most common advice is to follow one’s heart. But look at where following his heart got Asaph! He began to learn what we find in Jeremiah 17:9-10:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

He could see how his heart and flesh would fail him (v. 26). In fact, that was his reality, slipping and sliding on his path instead of following God on the foundation of His Word. The good news – for Asaph and for us today – comes in the middle of verse 26 – “but God”. Remember that “but” cancels everything before it and replaces it with what comes after. The good news here is that God’s strength replaces our failing hearts and minds; God becomes our “portion”, satisfying our hunger, to replace our earthly failings and lusts. That’s good news!

But For [Us]

Asaph wraps up his psalm by sharing what God taught him through this tough and disheartening time: salvation comes from God and that those who are “far from [Him]” and “unfaithful to [Him] will ultimately “perish” (v. 27). That is bad news for those who do not know the Lord, but it is true. This highlights the contrast in verse 28 when Asaph says, “but for me it is good”. Again, we see that “but” changes things up.

Asaph’s “but for me” shows that his faith in God – his nearness and relationship with Him – has cancelled out the perishing that others would experience. Rather than desiring their wealth, he now takes refuge in “the Lord God” and sets out to “tell of all [His] works” (v. 28). We need the same thing for ourselves today. Maybe you are like me and find yourself disheartened from time to time (or depressed, in a funk, whatever you want to call it). The only lasting solution that I have found is that of Asaph – to take up the “wearisome task” of moping our way to “the sanctuary of God” and letting Him set us aright.

If you are not saved, then you have nothing to set right. In fact, you need a new heart altogether (Ezekiel 11:19). But I urge you: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). God offers us the same help that He gave to Asaph. Yet we have hope that Asaph did not yet realize. God has already come down to help us in Jesus Christ (John 1:14). He has walked every path that we need to walk, overcome every temptation we will encounter, and paid the price so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

If you belong to Him but feel like you are slipping, I want to urge you to reach out to Him. Heed Peter’s words from 1 Peter 5:6-7: “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.” Then, we can call out to Christ with the words of Asaph:

“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.”


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 73:23–28.

[2] Asaph was a worship leader from back in the days of David (1 Chronicles 15:16, Nehemiah 12:46).