Refresh & Restore — December 29, 2022

17  Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty;
they will see a land that stretches afar.
18  Your heart will muse on the terror:
“Where is he who counted, where is he who weighed the tribute?
Where is he who counted the towers?”
19  You will see no more the insolent people,
the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend,
stammering in a tongue that you cannot understand.
20  Behold Zion, the city of our appointed feasts!
Your eyes will see Jerusalem,
an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent,
whose stakes will never be plucked up,
nor will any of its cords be broken.
21  But there the Lord in majesty will be for us
a place of broad rivers and streams,
where no galley with oars can go,
nor majestic ship can pass.
22  For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver;
the Lord is our king; he will save us.[1]

Isaiah 33:17-22


Greetings Sojourners!

It’s that time of year again. Lord willing, a new year approaches. We have just moved out of a time of eating and gathering, and now, we move on to a time of resolutions and restarts.

For some, this is a time of regret, looking back over a year that just did not seem to go their way. For others, it is a time of remembering loss. And for some, although this seems to be the smallest group, this is a time of looking back at achievement and growth while looking forward to whatever challenges and victories await them on the horizons of 2023.

I am not quite sure which group I fall into regarding 2023, but I do know that my outlook regarding the future is changing.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had big plans. I was with the love of my life, and anything seemed possible. We were setting out to achieve our goals. She was going to be a pharmacist. I was going to be a teacher. We would get married and use her (much higher) income to pay off whatever student loans we incurred in pursuit of our goals while living off my salary. Once the loans were paid off, we would buy a nice house, fill it with kiddos, and I would head towards my Ph.D. and becoming a principal. From there, the sky, and my ambition, would be the limit.

Out of that list, I am blessed to get to still be with the love of my life, and we have filled a much smaller and less nice house with two kiddos. I cannot fathom what my life would be like with out them. I did eventually become a teacher, but neither a Ph.D. nor becoming a principal are ambitions anymore.

There was a time when these changes were regrets, like ghosts of Christmas future. But God’s plan has been much better than mine. My wife did not become a pharmacist because she got to realize she was a gifted teacher. Her impact on children (with math, no less) is incalculable. I became (and quit and became again) a pastor. My time in the classroom, although it took a decade to get there, meant and means more to me than any of the hypotheticals or the draw of being wealthier ever had. The allure of such things is no longer there.

I get to be a husband. I get to be a daddy. I get to serve the Lord as a teacher, pastor, and even a writer. If the Lord tarries His return, I look forward to whatever He lets me do, and I am excited to follow Him – an excitement that was missing in my earlier ambitions. But more than all those things, I look forward to His return. I look forward to that day when the clouds will part and Jesus will return for His bride, the Church. I anxiously await the return of the King!

The King is Coming (vv. 17-20)

In Isaiah 33, God was using His prophet to deliver the promise of some woes against Israel’s foes and peace to His people. Assyria was and had been waylaying Israel, but God was coming to their rescue. It is important to note that this rescue is not because of the righteous way in which Israel worshipped and followed the Lord. No, this rescue is in spite of their unrighteous rebellion against Him. Much of Isaiah is written prophesying the eventual downfall of Israel and Judah and their eventual capture by and captivity in Babylon. Even with that future coming, this rescue is a picture of the love that God had for His people – and has – despite their rebellion and idolatry.

Isaiah 33:1-2 set the stage and give context for our passage for today:

Ah, you destroyer,
who yourself have not been destroyed,
you traitor,
whom none has betrayed!
When you have ceased to destroy,
you will be destroyed;
and when you have finished betraying,
they will betray you.
O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you.
Be our arm every morning,
our salvation in the time of trouble.[2]

Isaiah was declaring this on behalf of the Lord over Assyria, but He was also praying on behalf of the people to the Lord that they would receive grace in their time of need.

The problem is that Israel did not take the words of God’s prophet warning them of their own future seriously. God had told them through Isaiah what was coming. They knew what the Lord said about sin and what His Law said about it. Isaiah’s ministry telling people “Thus saith the word of the Lord” lasted thirty-nine years and was filled with calls to repentance and pleading with God’s people to listen to what God was saying and look to Him. All that got Isaiah was a martyr’s death (Hebrews 11:32, 37) at the hands of His people, at the hands of God’s people.[3] Yet here, he asked God to give them grace. He asked God to be their strength “every morning” and to be their “salvation in the time of trouble”. And, consistent to who He is, God was “gracious and merciful” to Israel while pouring out His strength on Assyria; He was “slow to anger” toward His people despite their idolatry because He is always “abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 145:8).

Isaiah’s prophecy here stretches beyond the conflict with and rescue from Assyria. It even stretches beyond Babylon, which was only a few decades away on the horizon. He told them what their eyes “will behold” despite what their heart will “muse” on and their eyes could currently see. Their hearts were musing – meaning their thoughts were absorbed – on terror because that is what they were currently experiencing. They failed to look toward what Isaiah was telling them because their eyes currently beheld the “insolent people” who rained “terror” down on them. Isaiah wanted them to “set their minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2) and see what came beyond their field of vision. He wanted them to “behold the King in His beauty”!

Isaiah was not talking about any earthly king of Israel or Judah. The people would have long since been over the allure of their earthly kings because they had suffered – and would suffer again – because of their foolish and idolatrous pursuits. The best of their kings was plagued by the same sin and faults as the people. David, Solomon, and Josiah all suffered injuries and loss at the hands of their enemies, too, with no ability within themselves to turn the tide of battle. And David, “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), was still a sinner who fell “short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) just as all men do. Isaiah was talking about the King!

While Isaiah did not know fully what He was talking about, we can now. He was talking about the “Child” who would come to shine a “great light” on “the people who dwelt in a land of deep darkness” (Isaiah 9:2, 6). He was talking about the “man of sorrows” who would bear “our griefs”, carry our “sorrows”, get “pierced for our transgressions”, and be “crushed for our iniquities” – the one whose “wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3-5). He was talking about the Savior who was coming in their future, Him who would be “gentle and lowly” (Matthew 11:29) and “give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He was talking about the King who would enter Jerusalem, greeted by palm branches and cries of “Hosanna!” and “King of Israel!” (John 12:13) a week before He “died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures”, who “was buried”, who “was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). In fact, it was because God’s Holy Spirit spoke through Isaiah that Paul spoke of when He said, “in accordance with the Scriptures” (Isaiah 53)!

Neither Israel nor Isaiah could understand then, but God used Isaiah to point them to a greater hope in Jesus than they could imagine – greater than the threat the Assyrians were that day or than Nebuchadnezzar would be in their near future. The eyes of God’s people will eventually see “the King in His beauty”. Their eyes will a new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-11) that will be “untroubled” (v. 20) and truly a city of peace because it will be graced with the presence of the “Prince of peace” and because of whom “the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).

Those who trust in Christ today need to keep in mind that our “eyes will behold the King in His beauty”. We “will see a land that stretches afar”.

The King Will Save Us (vv. 20-22)

Verse 21 starts with the phrase “But there”, speaking of the Jerusalem of the future. The conjunction “but” carries in it everything that comes before and cancels it out in favor of what comes after it. In this case, the before is different than the descriptions of this new Jerusalem found in vv. 20-21. What it says would be “there” will cancel out what is there at the time Isaiah was written.

Israel, namely Judah, during the time of Isaiah 33, could celebrate all the “appointed feasts” in Jerusalem, but there would be a time coming after Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem that no feasts – not Passover, the feast of tabernacles, etc. – would be observed. For a few centuries after they returned from Babylonian exile, they could observe the appointed feasts, but they would gradually morph into celebrations that are pale imitations of what is laid out in the Bible. Even today, there is much turmoil in Jerusalem and many who claim to be children of Abraham but who have denied His Christ, His Messiah. But there will come a day when a greater feast will be celebrated – the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9)!

Isaiah speaks of the future Jerusalem as being “an immovable tent”. In the wilderness, God’s people did not have a temple but a tabernacle. It was portable and crude compared to Solomon’s temple – even the temple after Babylonian captivity or Herod’s temple. When God moved His people around in the wilderness, they would take up its stakes and cords and move it, too. Later, Israel rejoiced greatly when the tabernacle was replaced with the temple. The temple was not meant to be portable and did not need cords or stakes to hold it down.

Both the tabernacle and temple represented the presence of the Lord. Both held the holy of holies hidden behind a veil where the ark of the covenant – and the Mercy Seat – was kept. This was the representation of the throne of God where atonement was made for the sins of Israel. Yet the temple turned out to be as movable as the tabernacle. It was destroyed by the Babylonians, rebuilt after the return from exile, and destroyed again in 70AD. There is currently no temple. Well, a temple does reside on the temple mount, but it is the Dome of the Rock and devoted to Allah instead of Yahweh.

That is the sad reality of those looking to the current Jerusalem to be their hope. There is no hope in Jerusalem today nor has there been in nearly two millennia.

What Isaiah was talking about here in Isaiah 33 was better than the tabernacle or temple because he is pointing to what the holy of holies pointed to: the presence of God in Jesus! In Jesus, God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). That phrase “dwelt” (Gr. eskenosen) can be translated “to have one’s tent” or to tabernacle.[4] God left His throne on high and came to tabernacle with His people! Look at the significance of this in Matthew 27:50-51:

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.[5]

When Jesus – God become flesh – died on the cross, the curtain (veil) separating the holy of holies from the rest of the temple was ripped “from top to bottom” (see footnote [6] for some cool word-nerdiness). Man had access to God as never before because God came to them! That’s good news! Jesus tabernacling with His people means that He is the “immovable tent”!

But there’s greater news yet! Look at the way Revelation 21:1-5 describes the Day we will “behold the King in His beauty”:

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

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”[7]

That is the place Isaiah spoke of where “there the Lord in His majesty will be for us”. It is a land where none of the troubles of the earth can reach us – even the most advanced and dangerous “galley with oars” or “majestic ship” of the most terrible enemy – because the King will have already struck down the nations and “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Revelation 19:15)! This is the Day when all of the sad things of this earth come untrue because God will be dwelling with His people. The eyes that were once blurry with tears will be able to look upon the King face to face!

Wrapping Up

I do not know if these words were a comfort for Israel during this time. I know the Assyrians were sent packing and were unable to overtake Israel. By Isaiah’s day (which was also Jeremiah’s, Amos’, etc.), their idolatry had already reached a point of no return. The Father had promised punishment for their sake and was to fulfill His word to them. They, just like our children, had a penchant for ignoring warnings of punishment until it is too late or forgetting former punishments after their sting has faded. What about us?

There is no shortage of troubles. And no matter our plans or hopes for 2023, the only sure hope is that there will be a day when we “behold the King in His beauty”. But we have yet to deal with v. 22: “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our King; He will save us.” If we belong to Him – if we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus, that is good news for us.

When He comes to judge, He will see Jesus’ righteousness instead of our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 2:1-2). Jesus came to fulfill the Law because we cannot (Galatians 4:4-5), so our faith is counted as righteousness (Romans 4:2-4).

When Jesus returns as King of kings and Lord of lords on that glorious future Day (Revelation 19:11-16), His enemies will fall, but those who have been redeemed – purchased – and reconciled by the death of Christ will no longer be enemies but part of His Kingdom (Romans 5:9-10)!

I am reminded of the words of one of my favorite hymns that is based out of today’s passage:

“I know I shall see in His beauty / The King in whose Law I delight / Who lovingly guards my footsteps / And gives me songs in the night // Redeemed, redeemed / Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb / Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it / His child and forever I am!”

So, today’s Bible study can either be good news for you or bad – not both. Just as there will be days in 2023 that are good or bad, the Day of the Lord will only be good if you can look forward to the coming of the King. If you have been redeemed, then you can look forward to seeing “the King in His beauty”, but if you do not know Him, you get the rider on the white horse – the full wrath of God in His might and strength. A few decades after today’s passage, there were people who understood this more than they had hoped. They stopped receiving grace and mercy and experienced wrath. The saving and powerful hand of God was lifted, and Nebuchadnezzar was allowed into Israel. What will it be for you?

But for those whose boast is in being redeemed by the King…. Their entire life is altered changed because of what He has done for them and in them. His Spirit dwells within them, and He is on the throne interceding on their behalf. And His return is promised.

But just because He has not yet returned does not mean He is distant. Just as God became flesh and tore the veil that separated us from Him, He is still approachable today! No other king on the face of the earth gives access to all his subjects. Even the prime minister of England cannot waltz into Buckingham Palace, roll into King Charles’ private quarters, and merely ask him for whatever he needs. There are protocols. He is the king of England, after all. But the King gives His people access.

In Hebrews 4:16, we are told: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We can fix our eyes upward where He is and look forward to His return, but in the meantime, He gives us access to Him on His throne! The grace Isaiah prayed for is available to us today. All we must do is approach.

That is my prayer for you and yours, me and mine, in 2023. I want every day that the Lord tarries to be one of anticipating His return. I want my actions, hopes, and desires to be dripping with longing for Him and obedience to His great commandment and commission. I want my life to exude gospel at every opportunity. But I am so thankful that the King is available in my waiting.

I know there will be days when I will fail and be filled with doubts and fears, but I also know that I can approach His throne with confidence because I know it is not empty.

The King who sits there cares for me. He is approachable. He has the grace and mercy I need and will give it to me when I need it.

The King redeemed me, loves me, and is coming again. Hallelujah! And amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 33:17–22.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 33:1–2.

[3] Donald E. Hartley, “Isaiah the Prophet,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[4] Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 27:50–51.

[6] But wait, there’s more! In case you like interesting tidbits (or are nerdy like me), there is another layer to this. In Hebrews 9, the writer of Hebrews is describing the elements of the tabernacle/temple in order to show how Jesus is the substance to their shadow. The mercy seat was on the lid of the ark of the covenant and was representative of the throne of God. It is where the priest would sprinkle the blood each year on Yom Kippur (the day of atonement). The word translated “mercy seat” in Hebrews 9:5 (hilasterion) is only used in that form one other place in the NT. In Romans 3:25, it is translated “propiatiation” – the sacrifice made to trade our sins for Jesus’ righteousness! Written right into the fabric of Scripture by God’s Holy Spirit is the beautiful truth of Emmanuel – God with us – showing us that Jesus is the mercy seat and He is the sacrifice!

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 21:1–5.

Songs for Christmas Sunday

What a beautiful opportunity it is to get to gather on the Lord’s day to adore Him in worship, thinking on His first coming, life, death, and resurrection, and looking expectantly toward His return!



Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | Luke 2:8-17

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

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

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.

  • Song | Go Tell It on the Mountain
  • Song | Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • Scripture | 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2

     5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 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.

     6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

       “In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

  • Song | The Son of God Came Down
  • Song | Joy to the World
  • Invitation | What Child is This?


Advent 2022 — December 15


For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised up on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve, then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, the majority of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.

1 Corinthians 15;3-6

21 He made the one who did not know sin to be sin on our behalf, in order that we could become the righteousness of God in him.

2 Corinthians 5:21

But what does it say? “The word is near to you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim), that if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who is rich to all who call upon him. 13 For “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:8-13


“Good News of Great Joy, or A Weary World Rejoices

We have spent a good bit of time this week in Luke 2:10 and the verses around it. The declaration of the angels to those poor and frightened shepherds should just about be memorized at this point: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring good news to you of great joy which will be for all the people”. Good news. Great joy. For all people.

The word translated “good news” is often translated gospel, and the message that the angels proclaimed on that hillside 2,000 years ago is a beautiful and succinct picture of the gospel. They preached that the Savior “who is Christ the Lord” was born for them – for those dirty, stinky shepherds – and that He could be found that very day in Bethlehem. It was news that would and could change the trajectory of their lives. They just needed to believe in Him and receive the salvation He had to offer – they would receive grace by faith through Him.

Now, I know that on the day they heard that gospel message Jesus was still laying in the feeding trough, still an infant, and was decades away from His death, burial, and resurrection. But the babe in the manger was still “the Word [become] flesh” (John 1:14). He was still the Lamb slain “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

We sometimes want to overcomplicate things. We know the whole story and want to add and fill in the gaps in the angels’ proclamation that day, but the “good news of great joy” is still just as simple. In fact, Paul gives very succinct proclamations of the gospel, too. The first can be found in 1 Corinthians 15 where he tells the church at Corinth that he is passing on to them the most important message he had to offer – the very same message that he received himself: Jesus died for our sins according to the way that the Bible said He would, He was buried, and He rose from the dead on the third day exactly as the Bible and Jesus’ own preaching said He would. That’s good news!

Paul’s second succinct gospel summary comes in his next letter to the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 5:21. In one little complex sentence, he shares that God put the sins of those who would be saved on Jesus. Jesus had never sinned and did not deserve any condemnation, but He willingly bore our sin on our behalf. Those who trust in Him no longer are under the condemnation and shame due to their sin; Jesus bore that (Colossians 2:13-14). In a great exchange, Jesus traded His righteousness for our sin. He bore the wrath of God and exchanged it for God’s favor. Basically, He traded His extravagantly full bank account for our bankrupt one so that when God looks upon those who Jesus has saved, He does not see their sinfulness but Jesus’ righteousness! That’s good news!

The gospel is good news, but there is also bad news. Those who do not confess Jesus as Lord and believe He died for their sins and rose again do not receive part in that great exchange. They remain in their sin. Their condemnation remains their own. It does not have to be that way. All who call out to Jesus in faith will be saved. Anyone who believes in Him will not be but to shame (Romans 5:5), but not believing leaves the shame where it belongs – on the sinner (John 3:18).

Look at how the Christmas hymn “O Holy Night” puts it:

            Long lay the world in sin and error pining
            Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
            A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
            For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
            Fall on your knees!

Those who are without Jesus are still in their sin and “pining” after the wrong things, sinful things. But everyone – all people – have the opportunity to fall on their knees, believe in Him – confess Him as Lord, and repent of their sin. And those who do will not only have heard the good news of great joy but also to have believed it and received the salvation Jesus offers.

I love the phrase “good news of great joy” because 1) it is straight from the Bible, and 2) it captures what Jesus offers. But I also love the way the writer of “O Holy Night” captured what it is to be a sinner and receive Christ: “a weary world rejoices”. If you have been reading with us over these past two weeks, you have read snippets of the “good news of great joy”, but have you received it? Have you believed on Jesus, or are you still on the fence? If you haven’t, I urge you: fall on your knees, believe what the Bible says about Him, confess Him as Lord, and rejoice in the salvation He brings!

Refresh & Restore — November 23, 2022

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”[1]

Luke 17:11-19


Greetings Sojourners!

It’s been too long! But I’m glad to be back studying God’s Word with you!

I’ve been writing – just a different sort of writing. As I have said before, I am blessed to be a part of the Masters of Christian Theology program at William Carey University. It has not been easy, but it has been a blessing to me. As bad as I hate to admit it, I have lost a step or two since I was last in school (as a student), but it has been good to grow in my understanding of the Word of God and in theology; it’s even been good to grow as a writer through the (many) research papers.

While I have, unfortunately, been a little more hit-or-miss in the writings here, that is something that I hope will be remedied between now and when I graduate – and definitely beyond if the Lord allows. I have enjoyed our time spent studying Colossians, but we are going to pause that study for the time being. In the meantime, I will shift the writings between now and graduation to dive into passages that fit into and overlap with passages I am diving into either in personal devotional time or in my studies for Christ Community or at Carey.

Even as I look at how to better maximize my time and strategize to use it more effectively, I am thankful to get to be a part of all I get to do. I get to be a follower of Christ. I get to be a husband. I get to be a father. I get to teach and write and serve. I am even thankful for the time I must schedule all these aspects of my life.

This week is a time set aside in America for one to be thankful. The fourth Thursday in November is supposed to be a holiday devoted to celebrating all we have to be thankful for. Since the invention of social media, some challenge themselves to find and commemorate something they are thankful for every day in the month of November. Part of me thinks that it is sad that we need to be reminded to be thankful, but the rest of me knows just how selfish I am and that, left to my own, I will neglect to be grateful. Maybe you don’t need reminding, but I find that I do.

Today, I would like to look with you to God’s Word at a passage that reminded me to be thankful and convicted me of my own lack of thankfulness.

Meeting the Master and Finding Mercy (vv. 11-14)

Any time I study a passage in the latter half of Luke, I cannot help but think of Luke 9:51: When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem. That phrase “set His face” could also be translated “he steadfastly set his face to go”[2]. This describes Jesus’ attitude and mindset when the end of His life was drawing near, knowing full well that the cross is why He was headed to Jerusalem. You see, He was not caught off-guard by His crucifixion. Luke’s gospel records this as the moment of Jesus “turned to Jerusalem to complete his work through the predicted betrayal, death, and resurrection.”[3]

This is important because it highlights that His sacrifice was willing. The fact that “He set His face” illustrates that He was resolutely focused on getting there. It brings to mind the sort of focus that an Olympic athlete has when preparing to compete. They focus only on things that are necessary to carry out that goal. Jesus, however, did not stop doing what He came to do – seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10), which is what He was going to the cross to do! So, the encounters He had with those who needed saving were not random encounters or detours, they were part of His mission.

Jesus and His disciples were, as we saw in Luke 9:51, still “on the way to Jerusalem” (v. 11) when they encountered ten lepers. Leprosy meant that these men would have had to declare that they had leprosy when approaching other people by crying out “Unclean, unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45-46) so that 1) people would not come into contact with the infected person[4] and 2) those concerned with being clean according to the Law would be made aware so they would not become unclean.

Leprosy was a catch-all term in the New Testament that referenced any skin disease from the period, but it is safe to say, regardless of the level of severity, that these men had been ostracized and at a distance from society for some time. They would have been unable to work or socialize with others, even family. They would feel isolated and alone. More than that, they were isolated and alone. When these men saw Jesus, they respectfully kept their distance, but they ceased their cries of “unclean” to cry out to Jesus: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (vv. 12-13).

Time and again, those who are outcast and downcast found their way to Jesus seeking help from Him. These particular outcasts asked Him for mercy. The word translated “mercy” here meant “to have compassion or mercy on a person in unhappy circumstances” or “to be gracious toward [or] bestow kindness”.[5] This request for mercy would have been the same whether they were asking for charity or alms or to be healed, so it is difficult to tell exactly what they were seeking. They found more charity than they could have ever hoped to receive.

No matter what they were seeking, they were likely confused by Jesus’ response. He did not toss them a coin or lay hands on them for healing. He didn’t even make mud and rub it on them (John 9:6) or tell them to bathe in the Jordan (2 Kings 5). He simply told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” If they had been familiar with the Law, they would have recognized that this was what those who were cleansed of leprosy were told to do in Leviticus 14:1-32 – to go and show themselves to the priest so that he could confirm they were clean and make an offering for their guilt and atonement for their sin. When the text says, “as they went” (v. 14), it shows that the men – all ten of them – departed to go to the priest. They had faith. Or at the very least belief or held to 1st century Judaism.

Nothing miraculous had happened to spark their journey, merely the command of Him from whom they sought mercy. But after they headed out on their journey, the miracle happened. They were cleansed. The sores on their skin were healed, yes, but something more happened. They were cleansed. Those who had just moments before needed to cry out “unclean” when they approached others were made clean by Jesus. They did not need lengthy washings or offerings by a priest because they had been cleansed by the God those priests served. Those ten men’s lives were changed in a moment. But the heart of one was touched more than the other nine.

Gratitude and Grace (vv. 15-19)

I cannot imagine what those men must have felt in their hearts – and in their bodies! It is important for us to look at the distinctions between the one and the nine in this narrative. Before we judge the nine too harshly, it is important to note as we did in v. 14 that they likely were heading exactly where Jesus had told them to go – to the priest. They were being obedient to Jesus and to the Law. The one who turned back would have had a hard time fulfilling that command, though, because he was a Samaritan.

All my life, I have heard the issue with Samaritans oversimplified to say that there was simply a sort of racial tension between Jewish people and those from Samaria. They have a long history of division. The Samaritans are largely the descendants of people brought in to colonize the region when the Assyrians conquered the land.[6] Those inhabitants were later educated in the Law after God had sent lions into the land to attack them (2 Kings 17:25-26) and some intermarrying occurred with the northern tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.[7] They claimed the same or at least similar beliefs as their Jewish relatives, but they had different holy places and places of worship. So, the tensions over ethnicity are accompanied and highlighted by the religious differences. The Samaritans were not accepted by Jewish people.

A leper would have been ostracized, but a Samaritan leper would have been a total outcast. So, for the Master (v. 13) to show such grace apparently made quite an impact. Ten lepers were cleansed. Nine Jewish former-lepers went to show themselves to the priest like Jesus commanded them. But only one stopped to thank Jesus. In fact, saying that he stopped to thank Jesus is an understatement. Look at what the text says. He saw that he was healed, turned back to where Jesus was, praised God, fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, and thanked Him (vv. 15-16).

Imagine what led this man to have such a reaction – a potentially incurable and infectious skin disease, seeking charity in a foreign land that is hostile to you and your people. Then, he encountered the One from whom mercy could be found. Imagine the feeling when looking down at your hands, expecting them to be covered in sores and boils but seeing clear skin. You would still have to go to present yourself to the priest, but Jesus was still standing there. Being cleared by the priest would mean you could go back to your life, but the One who healed you is right there.

What we see as a display of thankfulness was an act of worship for this man. What does that say for our thankfulness for what God has done for us?

Jesus asked the man some important questions: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” What can he ask of us?

Jesus knew the man’s heart. He knew what he meant when he asked for mercy. And He knew what drove the man to his face at His feet in praise and thanksgiving. Rather than showing himself before a priest, this man laid himself down at the feet of the Great High Priest. Jesus told the man, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Amen.

Wrapping Up

I asked you to imagine what the man must have been feeling, but, if you are in Christ, you know. If you are in Christ, you were formerly outcast (Ephesians 2:12). You were formerly not His people (1 Peter 2:10). You were His enemy (Romans 5:10). And you were dead in your sin (Ephesians 2:1-2, Colossians 2:13). Any of those are hopeless, but all of them leaves one desperate and despondent. Or it leaves one callous and defiant (Ephesians 4:17-19).

If you are in Christ, that means that you have been saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). You did nothing to save yourself (Ephesians 2:9). In fact, you were and are completely incapable of saving yourself (Romans 3:10-12). Jesus did it all (Titus 3:4-5). When you respond to Christ by believing that He died for your sins and was raised again and confessed Him as your Lord (Romans 10:9-10), a transformation takes place (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). The outcast is brought near (Ephesians 2:13). Not-His-people becomes His people (1 Peter 2:9-10). His enemy is adopted into His family (Romans 5:8-11, Galatians 4:4-6). And the dead is made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5, Colossians 2:13-14).

If that is true of you, does it move you to worship? Does it move you to gratitude? When is the last time that you cast yourself on your face before God and thanked Him for His love and grace and mercy?

Religion does not produce such a reaction.

When John the Baptist sent His disciples to Jesus to make sure He was the Messiah, Jesus answered them by paraphrasing Isaiah 29:18-19 and 35:5-10: “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them.” This answer satisfied John, and it points us to who Jesus is and what He does. He is the God who saves! One thing is for sure, dear Sojourner, the ones who can now see or walk who couldn’t before, the ones who were cleansed from their leprosy or given the ability to hear, those who were dead and are now alive – they are grateful! What does it say for me if I am not?

I needed this reminder. It is so easy to forget sometimes what it was to be lost, what it was to be dead in my sins. But there is a Savior who has earned my gratitude. He is worthy of better worship than I can offer.

I urge you to examine your heart – not because tomorrow is the fourth Thursday in November but because encountering Jesus produces a response. Encountering Him either drives us to repent of our sins and put our trust in Him or to vehemently deny Him. There is no middle ground. The good news is that if you find that you are not saved, He is still the God who saves! And I would love to help you encounter Him today.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 17:11–19.

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

[3] Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 151.

[4] Brenda Heyink, “Leprosy,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[5] Zodhiates

[6] Robert T. Anderson, “Samaritans,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 941.

[7] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Samaritans,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1886.

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


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


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.

Songs for Sunday, July 24, 2022 @ Christ Community Church

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | John 3:16-21

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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

  • Scripture | Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

  • Scripture | Philippians 2:5-11

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


If you have not been gathering, consider gathering with your church family again. We have a 10:00 Bible study where Jamie Harrison is walking us through the book of Revelation. If you are at-risk, this Bible study would be perfect for you so you can spread out (and even dip out the side door before the 11:00 worship gathering begins).


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 — July 7, 2022

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.[1]

Colossians 3:1-4


Greetings Sojourners!

I love the way that Paul’s letter to the Colossian church builds and builds and builds. Where we see sections or passages, there was just a letter from an apostle to a church that needed help. Paragraph by paragraph the help he offers them is pointing them to Jesus.

In chapter 1, we see Paul presenting Jesus in a beautiful hymn highlighting how Jesus, God incarnate, is preeminent over all and yet cares for them enough to deliver and redeem them (and us) “from the domain of darkness” to His Kingdom (ch 1:13-14). Chapter 2 saw Paul helping them to understand what it is to be alive in Christ and helped them understand that receiving Christ and walking in Him (ch 2:6-7) is necessary to combat the false teaching attacking their church.

And, as we begin chapter 3 where Paul lays out for the Colossian church – and again, the church today – what new life in Christ is and is not, the final verse from last week’s passage (ch 2:23) strikes me a bit stronger: “These (human precepts and teaching) have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

We looked at it in the context of last week’s passage, and we need to look at it as the hinge that opens the door between last week’s and ours today. The “human precepts and teaching” (ch 2:22) were spoken of in the context of the false teaching plaguing the Colossian church – that people were trying to tack on additional religious practices to the gospel and distract from it. But, as we are about to begin looking at precepts and teaching given by Paul, it is fitting that we clarify the difference between human precepts and those “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Sins are going to be listed – not Paul’s interpretation of a religion but speaking from God as He was “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). So, as we talk about what is taught in Colossians, we must be careful to focus on and look at what God is saying to the church – then and now – through Paul. We must be careful to recognize the authority of Scripture to teach us what to believe and correct us when we are wrong – to teach us how to live and correct us when we sin – to give us everything we need to live this new life in Him.

There is temptation to blunt what God makes sharp regarding sin – to call good what God called evil (Isaiah 5:20). There is also a temptation to take God’s Word and use it to hurt people rather than to point them to Him. Both are dangerous. Both are trying for “human precepts” instead of the divine. God’s Word says what it says, and it has power. But the former, the man-made or man-twisted have “no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh”. Thankfully, Paul’s answer to both – the answer that has been consistent throughout Colossians and will continue to be through the end is Jesus.

If You Have Been Raised (vv. 1, 3)

The first word of today’s passage is “if”. As a parent and a high school teacher, I understand that this word carries the utmost importance.

Daddy, can I go to __’s house Friday? Yes, if, you clean your room. Mr. Harris, if we all make __ or above on the assessment, you should buy us donuts. I sure will if you hold up your end of the bargain. When Friday comes or the assessment is over both sides play the parts of expert lawyer explaining how I am bound to do this or how I should change my mind because of how close they got to the agreement. Yet if leaves extraordinarily little wiggle room. If is conditional. Any agreement containing if means that its completion is contingent upon whatever in-the-event-that occurs.

In the case of today’s passage – “If then you have been raised with Christ”, the condition is if someone is in Christ, whether or not they have been “raised with Christ”. One either is or is not. Think back to the way that Paul has presented this state of being in Christ throughout the letter: either in “the domain of darkness” or “the kingdom of His beloved Son” (ch 1:13), either reconciled to Him through “the blood of His cross” or “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (ch 1:20-21), either “dead in your trespasses” or “made alive together with Him” (ch 2:13). So, to say “If then you have been raised with Christ” is to say you are either dead in your sins or raised to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

It is important to the message Paul is communicating because the teachings are for those who have been “made alive…with Christ”, saved by grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:5). These are not principles for a good or successful life. They are not suggestions or even a how-to manual for faith or practice. Look at the rest of that conditional statement: “seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God”. Basically, if you are in Christ, seek Him. Verse 3 clarifies it even further because, once one is saved, the former pre-salvation life is over and life is “hidden with Christ in God” – eternal life is contingent upon His life, His resurrection.

This is why the new life that comes from being in Christ is not simply a how-to manual or list of instructions – it is real and lasting transformation, life change that occurs when one goes from the “wages of sin”, which is death, to “the free gift of eternal life” (Romans 6:23). Seeking Christ is more than reading His Word or praying to Him as a religious exercise, it is seeking the One who rescued you and redeemed you – who saved you. If you have been raised with Christ, why would you not want to seek Him?

Set Your Minds (vv. 2, 4)

There is good news in the command to seek Jesus, namely that He will be found! Look at this beautiful passage in Isaiah 55:6-7:

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
call upon Him while He is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.

This is often viewed as an invitation – which it is – for those who do not know Christ but let us look at what it means for those who do know Him. If you have been raised with Christ, He will be found when sought and near when He is called upon. But also, if one’s wicked ways have been forsaken and unrighteous thoughts laid aside, one surely has sought the Lord and received His compassion and forgiveness – received His life – because human beings do not lay aside their wickedness of choice easily.

The command here moves from seeking Him, though, to setting one’s mind on Him. That word “set” means be mindful of, to be devoted to”.[2] Think about it like we would set a thermostat or an alarm. A thermostat ensures that our house stays within the confines of temperatures that will keep us comfortable. An alarm ensures that appointments are kept and things that one really does not want to miss. As a resident of Mississippi in July, I am devoted to making sure my thermostat is set correctly as the humidity and heat would quickly overtake my home. Alarms are necessities for things I want to make sure I do not miss and things I must do and are set as needed – as often as needed, as often as I need to be mindful of a time or date. What about Jesus?

Paul tells the Colossian church to “set” their minds “on things that are above” – the same thing that he just commanded them to “seek”. The mind of the church, its members, should be set on Jesus “not on things that are on earth”. Set – like a thermostat – to keep one’s mind consistently where it needs to be, on Jesus. Set – like we would an alarm to remind us of where we need to be. Set.

Now, I have heard people say that there is a danger of being so heavenly minded that one is no earthly good, meaning that one can be so focused on “things that are above” that things below are forgotten about. They would have a sort of monastery view that would isolate them from the world.

I would argue that I am of no earthly good if my mind is not set on Christ. When we look at the rest of the larger section that today’s passage begins, what follows comes from setting one’s mind on Jesus. The sins that are crucified are because of focusing on Jesus and the life He gives. The behaviors that characterize the new life follow in the way that He lived – and lives!

This leads to the ultimate goal: meeting Jesus. If we look at verse 4, this is the goal – the expectation of seeking and setting one’s mind on Christ – “When Christ who is your life appears”.

This is the sort of expectant devotion that reminds me of my son. The first day I spend alone with my son, he was barely a month old. He screamed. He cried. He was upset. But everything changed when his mama called to see how everything went. As soon as he hit her arms when she got home, he was at rest. Now, I know it would be hard to say that as an infant he was thinking this or that. Yet last week while my wife – his mama – was chaperoning a youth mission trip for my daughter, every audible car noise from the street brought, “Are Mama and Keri home?” Every buzz on my phone brought questions whether it was his mama on the other end. And, as hard as he tried to play it cool when we picked them up at the church when they got back, everything was right in his world once his mama was home.

Expectantly setting one’s mind on Christ shows devotion. But, more than that, it is a connection between the one you confessed as Lord and the life you actually live. And when He appears – when He returns, He comes to take you with Him. And those who are His will be ready.

Wrapping Up

It is so easy to regiment our lives to fit everything that we want. We can schedule and plan. There are immovable commitments in our lives that will trump anything that comes up. I can be in the middle of something that has everything else in my schedule detouring around it and have it all upended with a single emergency call or text from my wife or kids. In that moment, everything else pales in comparison. The immovable becomes movable.

But how does God fit in my life? Is time with Him immovable in my schedule? I learned – and sadly later than I should have – that there are times that, if I do not schedule time with my wife I will run out of time – the same with my kids. I felt bad initially because it seems so impersonal to schedule things as important as time with my wife and kids. Then, I realized that it is better to schedule than miss something important and that was the reason I had a calendar in the first place – to ensure that important things do not get missed.

I must do the same with for my time with the Lord – in His Word and praying. It has become part of my daily routine (which I know also sounds impersonal). And, if I do not start my day in His Word and in prayer – if I do not set my mind on Him at the very beginning of my day, I will be off. I will be more like the old self than the new.

Important things are set. They are fixed.

And so, it must be for the minds of those who claim to be saved.

If you are reading this and find that you have no desire to set your mind on Christ or that you can make it through days or weeks or months or years without caring about spending time with Him in His Word or praying to Him, there is a problem. Remember that conditional if. If you are His, you will seek Him. If you are His, you will desire to spend time with Him. If you are His, there will have to come a time when you are set – fixed – on Him. It is conditional. Know I am praying for you. I am praying for you to have a desire to meet God in His Word and talk to Him. I am praying for His Spirit to help you set your mind on Him and seek Him while He may be found. And, if you come to realize that you are not in Him, know that I would love to talk with you and pray for you. I would love to introduce you to Jesus.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 3:1–4.

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

Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 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, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.[1]

Colossians 2:11-15


Greetings Sojourners!

I know that I have mentioned time and again how Colossians is one of my favorite books of the Bible and that my walk with Christ is seemingly married to this book. Today’s passage gets right to the heart of that. It also illustrates again one of the most beautiful aspects of Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae: Jesus is at the heart of the issues they are facing, He is the solution to their troubles, and He is the hope they have for the future! Jesus – period!

This passage is sandwiched inside of Paul’s response to the false teaching infiltrating the Colossian church. Just prior to this was our passage from last week that told them (and us) what to watch out for that is seeking to capture the church – philosophy, empty deceit, human tradition, elementary principles (v. 8). The issue was that those things were “not according to Christ” (v. 8) who is God (v. 9) and is above all things as “the head of all rule and authority” (v. 10). This highlights something beautiful and important about this letter: every opportunity Paul gets, he makes much of Jesus. He could have offered them philosophies or traditions or strategies to try to fend off false teaching. No, “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ” (Philippians 3:7) stays at the forefront of his writing because that is the foundation of his worship. And what we worship is clearly seen in our lives – and in the solutions we seek ourselves and offer to others.

There is a temptation when looking at passages like this one to dismiss it because of words that seem foreign or that challenge our presuppositions or maybe even hurt our feelings. We need to remember that the Bible is not concerned with keeping our status quo. It is not meant to be twisted and contorted to fit human agendas or to support things contradictory to it. It is, however, meant to point us to its Author, and, in meeting with Him, there are going to be things that challenge us.

My prayer for today’s Bible study is that you find yourself willing to come face to face with Jesus, “the founder (or Author) and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and see what He has done for those who put their hope in Him. Knowing Jesus – not knowing information about Him or following in the footsteps of people who knew Him – is the only way to eternal life, the truth that transcends everything the world has to offer, and the only hope in the face of the wages of sin.

Let’s Start with Circumcision

I can promise you that this is one of the last subjects I wanted to write about today. It is awkward. It is a little weird to talk about in general. It comes off as very old-covenant, and many preachers and teachers just kind of loosely compare it to baptism and stay on the baptism side of the discussion. I have been one of those guys. But the older I get and the longer I walk with Christ – the more I grow into Him and find my mind renewed by His Spirit (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23-24), I want to hold onto and dig into every part of Scripture I get to study. So, study this we will.

Look at the way Paul brings up this subject. He is writing to the members of the Colossian church – to those who have been saved. He reminds them that not only have they been “filled in Him” (v. 10), but they were “also” circumcised “with a circumcision made without hands” (v. 11). Circumcision was introduced in Genesis 17. God had already made His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 to give him offspring that would number like the stars in the heavens (Genesis 15:5), promised the trials of Egypt and the prosperity that would follow (Genesis 15:13-16), and now He continues that covenant calling for Abraham (at this point ninety-nine years old) and all of the males in his household to be circumcised as a sign of their covenant.

Covenants at this time in history were done in very bloody and threatening ways. Throughout the near and mid-East at that time, covenants were known as covenants of halves. If you go back and read Genesis 15, you can see why:

And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram….

The covenant of halves is illustrated in the way the animals – in this case a heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon – were, well, halved. They were slaughtered and cut in half, leaving a bloody path between the halves. When two parties were going to make a covenant, they would both walk through the bloody halves before agreeing or promising to keep the covenant, giving the understanding that whichever party broke the covenant was forfeiting their life. The one who broke the covenant would share the same end as the animals.

It was a very bloody picture, but it was meant to hold both parties in a covenant to their word. I imagine it was quite a convincing scene! But think about man covenanting with God. Mankind is sinful and deceitful and prone to break covenants. God is the opposite. If God covenanted with mankind like men did with one another, He would have to pour out His wrath again like He had on the world in Noah’s time (Genesis 6-9) but with all mankind and no ark. There is an important difference in God’s covenant and the covenant of men, and it is through two easily overlooked details in Genesis 15:12 and 17: God put Abraham to sleep, and God alone (see the smoking fire pot and flaming torch – that’s Him!) walked through the halves!

God never intended on His covenant needing man to be faithful. He alone is faithful. He already knew that mankind would break the covenant, and He had already decided “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) everything that He would do in Jesus on behalf of the world. God Himself walked the bloody path between the halves. Thousands of years later, He would walk a path to a place called Golgotha to reconcile people to Himself and make peace “by the blood of His cross” (ch 1:19-20).

So, as far as circumcision went from Genesis 17 to the cross, it was a symbol of the bloody sacrifice God took upon Himself. Mankind could not keep the covenant nor would man’s death as a result of breaking the covenant do any good. Circumcision was a way to (forgive the pun) give man opportunity to have a little skin in the game – to have a reminder that there was cost involved. Understanding that circumcision does not equal salvation was important for Israel, but, for the church at Colossae, it was important because there were false teachers known as Judaizers who were proclaiming that they needed Jesus plus circumcision to be saved, which led to Jesus plus the Law and Jesus plus festivals and so on and so forth. Our passage today reminds us of the formulas we saw back at the beginning of this study:

Jesus + nothing = everything                       Jesus + anything = nothing

Circumcision pointed to the covenant God made with Abraham. But the blood pointed to Jesus. He alone is what the Colossian church and every sinner has ever needed for salvation. To add to Him, to add to His gospel is to give a different one (Galatians 1:6-9). There is no other Jesus (Titus 2:13). There is no other way (John 14:6).

The Importance of What Jesus Did

When we go back to today’s passage, it makes what Paul was saying clearer. The circumcision he is talking about in his letter to the Colossians is not the physical removal of the foreskin of males but “a circumcision made without hands” (v. 11). It reflects the way God through Ezekiel talks about the new covenant that would be made through Jesus: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). The idea was not cosmetic surgery; it was a transplant! God knew we could not keep His covenant, so he kept it for us. He knew the “wages of sin is death”, so he prepared a way – through Himself – to transplant people from death to eternal life!

As I mentioned earlier, circumcision and baptism are often talked about together, and the Bible clarifies how. They are both outward symbols of things that occur in the heart, but, more importantly, those activities are supposed ways to proclaim faith in Him. In the Old Testament, circumcision pointed to the way that God ratified His covenant with Father Abraham as we discussed above. But, now with baptism, we see a reflection of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection in the way He saves people (see picture below). When one repents of their sin and believes in Jesus, they are saved. That means that when it says that “having been buried with Him in baptism…you were also raised through faith in the powerful working of God” (v. 12), that means you were raised from being dead in your trespasses and sins (v. 13, Ephesians 2:1-2) to be “made alive” in Christ (v. 13, Ephesians 2:4-5)! Paul says it beautifully in Romans 6:4: “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.” That’s good news!

The rest of the picture shared in our passage today is good news, too! Our trespasses – times when we have strayed from the path of what is right and good by sinning – and uncircumcision – lack of faith/covenant in God – produced death in us, just as it did in all people since Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. The emphasis Paul is making to the Colossian church is not that they are still dead and not that they have lost salvation when being led astray by false teachers. He is emphasizing to them that those who are “filled in” (v. 10) Christ have been “made alive” in Him (v. 13)!

This beautiful picture continues to unfold with layer upon layer of God’s love, grace, and mercy through Jesus! He who makes lost sinners found and the dead in sin alive has “forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” (vv. 13-14). This is something we need to understand. If we are in Christ, it is because He has forgiven us – He has changed our standing – He has brought dead sinners to new life in Him! His forgiveness is important because it is God we have sinned against (Psalm 51:4). The “record of debt” and its “legal demands” are results of our sin – death (Romans 6:23). The righteous and holy God who declares what sin is must not shirk payment. It would not be just for Him to simply let people off the hook – payment has been demanded. Thankfully, He is not only just but also the one who justifies (Romans 3:26) those who have faith in Jesus! He paid with His life to cancel our “debt”, “nailing it to the cross” (v. 14, Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 1:18-19, 1 John 2:1-2).

Once one has put their faith in Christ and believed upon Him, they find themselves living in new territory: freedom. Romans 8:1 tells us that there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. He was condemned in our place covering us with His righteousness in the exchange (2 Corinthians 5:21). No one on earth would – or even could – do that for us. And this changes our lives. Galatians 2:20 describes the change: our flesh is “crucified with Christ” that we may live since “Christ lives in [us]”; and the lives we live from that moment forward are lived “by faith in the Son of God, who loved [us] and gave Himself for [us]”. It changes everything.

Satan hates those changes. He hates what God has accomplished in Christ. I often hear people talking of something being final and they describe the circumstances by saying that the final nails have been driven into a coffin, sealing it. The nails on Jesus’ cross (v. 14) ring with that sort of finality for Satan, his demons, and his followers/false teachers. As the Roman hammer nailed Jesus – God in flesh – to the cross, Jesus was disarming “the rulers and authorities and put[ting] them to open shame” – the cross was not a loss for Jesus but triumph (v. 15)! When He arose from the tomb, He “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10)! Once again, that is good news!

Wrapping Up

There are so many opportunities to argue and debate over what is and what is not true belief or true religion. I used to be very interested in the field of apologetics and giving a reasoned defense for what the Bible says versus what other religions or other worldviews believe. But I find myself more and more coming back and pleading for the gospel – the good news of Jesus – like Paul did here.

Now, I am not saying that there are not times to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3); there are times and places for that. What I am saying is that there is immense value in sharing what Christ has done. I want to see people come to know Christ more than I want to win a debate. I hope that there would be opportunity for faith in Christ through these Bible studies more than refuting false belief. I specifically pray for this Bible study to be used to point people to Jesus.

But I recognize Paul’s context here. Wolves had entered the sheepfold. False teachers were attacking the Colossian church. The church needed – and needs today – to be protected. But the answer is still the same – the debate is only over one thing: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, I ask you, dear Sojourner, as I close today: do you believe in Christ – are you in Christ?

It is easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. It is easy to get side-tracked by focusing on so many distractions that we lose sight of the big things. False teachers are convincing, but our own deceitful hearts are even more convincing. Today is a good day to look at your life and assess where you are – or where you aren’t – with Christ. But, if He has granted you today, there is opportunity for salvation!

That’s good news!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 2:11–15.