Songs for Sunday, May 28, 2023 @ Christ Community Church

Here are our Scriptures & songs:

  • Song | At the Cross (Love Ran Red)
    Scripture References / Inspiration for the Song: John 4:14, Romans 5:21, 1 Timothy 1:16, Galatians 2:19-20, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Peter 1:1
  • Scripture | Colossians 2:13-15
  • Song | Jesus Paid It All (O Praise the One)
    Scripture References / Inspiration for the Song: Matthew 11:28-30, John 19:30, Colossians 2:13-14, 2 Corinthians 4:15, Hebrews 12:28-29, Isaiah 1:18, Jeremiah 13:23, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ezekiel 11:19, Revelation 4:10-11, Romans 6:4, Revelation 5:9-10
  • Song | Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)
    Scripture References / Inspiration for the Song: Daniel 7:13-14, Psalm 51:3-5, Isaiah 7:14, John 1:14, Romans 15:1-3, John 1:4-5, John 3:16, Romans 5:8, John 10:11, Romans 6:6-7, Psalm 103:12, Romans 3:21-26, Revelation 22:20, Luke 23:33-34, Colossians 2:13-14, Psalm 22:16, Isaiah 53:3-4, Isaiah 53:12, John 20:1, Matthew 28:7, 1 Corinthians 15:16-20, Acts 1:9-11, Acts 2:24, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Revelation 11:15-19, Matthew 24:27, Revelation 1:7
  • Invitation | Just As I Am (I Come Broken)
    Scripture References / Inspiration for the Song: John 6:37, Romans 10:13, Romans 3:23, Luke 22:20, Matthew 11:28, John 1:29, Psalm 51:2, 1 John 1:9, Psalm 51:17, 1 Peter 2:24, Psalm 22:8, 2 Timothy 4:18, Romans 15:13, Galatians 4:4-5, Ephesians 2:13, Jeremiah 33:8, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Luke 15:20, Luke 19:10, Ephesians 2:4-5, Galatians 6:14

Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 25, 2023

Greetings Sojourners!

Early in 2022, we began a study on the epistle of Colossians but were unable to complete it at that time due to my schedule. Over the next month or so, we will finish that study: Jesus Over All!

Rather than diving in right where we left off, it is important that we refresh our memories – definitely necessary for me – so that we keep our study in context. We will revisit Colossians 1[1] today, Colossians 2 next week, and then revisit each of the two sections of Colossians 3 after that. This will poise us to be able to finish the study and to grow by God’s Spirit in the study of His Word as He intended when Colossians was written – to the church then, now, and until the return of Christ. Furthermore, I will be including the biblical cross references[2] in the footnotes so that those who are interested can see what the Bible says about itself.

Colossians 1 is important for understanding Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae not only because it is the first chapter but because it contains the beautiful Christological hymn (vv. 1:15-20) which illustrates Jesus’ preeminent position over everything that is – over all creation, and especially over us. God has graciously revealed this to us so that we can see Jesus appropriately – high above us and worthy of all worship. Yet, despite our own sinfulness and unworthiness, He offers us “redemption” (v. 1:14) and the opportunity to be delivered “from the domain of darkness” and to be transferred to His Kingdom (v. 1:13). What a beautiful opportunity to recognize Jesus is Lord and above all else and to move our hearts to believe in Him (Romans 10:9-10)!

Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 18, 2023: When the Loving Kindness of God Our Savior Appears Refresh & Restore | A Podcast

This is the May 18, 2023 episode of the Refresh & Restore Bible Study, provided by You can find the written version of this, along with Scripture references and footnotes, at:
  1. Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 18, 2023: When the Loving Kindness of God Our Savior Appears
  2. Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 11, 2023: Sufficient Grace
  3. Refresh & Restore — December 29, 2022 (Behold the King)
  4. Advent 2022 — The Story of Christmas
  5. Advent 2022 — December 24 (Christmas Eve Reading for Our Kiddos)

Introduction (vv. 1:1-2)

Paul, [3]an apostle of Christ Jesus [4]by the will of God, and Timothy [5]our brother,

To the [6]saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:
[7]Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Colossians 1:1-2

The book of Colossians is an epistle written by the apostle Paul to the church in Colossae, which was established by their pastor, Epaphras. It highlights the importance of everyday individuals like Epaphras in spreading the gospel and emphasizes the significance of Jesus in our lives and churches.

One of the main themes in Colossians is the preeminence of Jesus Christ over everything. Paul teaches the Colossians deeper truths about Jesus to build upon the gospel they received from Epaphras. The whole epistle highlights various aspects of Jesus and warns against false teachings that damage His church.

False teachers and distractions continue to challenge the Church today, but the good news is that Jesus is our shepherd who offers abundant life and eternal security. His grace and love – the opposite of what we deserve – provide us with peace. The goal of studying Colossians is to recognize Jesus’ supremacy, deepen our faith, and display Him as sufficient in the face of all difficulties, those that come from within and from without.

Throughout this epistle, Paul urges us to focus on Jesus, trust in His work, and guard ourselves against false teachings. Jesus is the center of our faith, offering hope and salvation to all who believe.

For more, check out the original Bible studies from this section:

Thankfulness and Prayer for the Church at Colossae (vv. 1:3-14)

[8]We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of [9]your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of [10]the hope [11]laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in [12]the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed [13]in the whole world it is [14]bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you [15]heard it and understood [16]the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from [17]Epaphras our beloved [18]fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your [19]love in the Spirit.

And so, [20]from the day we heard, [21]we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that [22]you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all [23]spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as [24]to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, [25]fully pleasing to him: [26]bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 [27]being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for [28]all endurance and patience [29]with joy; 12 [30]giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in [31]the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He [32]has delivered us from [33]the domain of darkness and transferred us to [34]the kingdom of [35]his beloved Son, 14 [36]in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:3-14

In this section, Paul offers a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the church at Colossae. He expresses gratitude for their faith in Christ, their love for one another, and the hope they have that comes from Christ. Despite facing false teachings, Paul prays for their continued growth in knowing God and walking with Him. He highlights the significance of faith, love, and hope within the church, emphasizing that faith in Christ is the foundation, love for fellow believers comes from God’s Spirit, and their hope is centered on Jesus and their eternal inheritance.

Paul also celebrates the effectiveness of the gospel, the Word of Truth, which is bearing fruit and growing. He emphasizes the importance of continually embracing and sharing the gospel message, which centers on Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Despite his own circumstances, Paul finds encouragement in knowing that the gospel is still being preached and producing faith, love, and hope. He recognizes that the gospel’s power lies in Jesus, who is living and active.

Paul expresses admiration for Epaphras, who has shared about the Colossian church and its faith, love, and understanding of God’s grace. Both Paul and Epaphras celebrate what God is accomplishing through the gospel and the Holy Spirit’s power. They demonstrate humility and joy, desiring Christ to be exalted above themselves. Paul refers to Epaphras as a fellow servant and faithful minister of Christ.

This section concludes with a call to reflection and prayer. Readers are encouraged to reflect on their relationship with Christ and to offer prayers of thanksgiving for hearing the gospel, having faith in Christ, and the hope of eternity. They are also urged to express gratitude for their faith community, the impact of the gospel, and the opportunity to be part of God’s work. Additionally, there is a call to thank God for the privilege of sharing the good news and to pray for those who have not yet heard and need the opportunity to embrace faith in Christ. Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers encompasses their faith, love, and hope, and he prays for their growth, endurance, and thankfulness for their salvation and inheritance in Christ.

For more, check out the original Bible studies from this section:

The Preeminence of Christ (vv. 1:15-20)

15 [37]He is the image of [38]the invisible God, [39]the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, [40]in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether [41]thrones or [42]dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created [43]through him and for him. 17 And [44]he is before all things, and in him all things [45]hold together. 18 And [46]he is the head of the body, the church. He is [47]the beginning, [48]the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For [49]in him all the [50]fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and [51]through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, [52]making peace [53]by the blood of his cross.

This section is a hymn that exalts and explains the identity of Jesus Christ. Throughout these six verses, the importance of understanding the true nature of Jesus in response to false teachings that had infiltrated the early church is clearly emphasized. Jesus, God in flesh and the Truth, is the only way to salvation and surpasses any distorted versions of the gospel presented by false teachers. This section points to the historical context of heresies and the recurring need to affirm the biblical understanding of Jesus throughout church history.

This passage presents scriptural evidence for Jesus being fully God and fully man, emphasizing his divine nature and his humanity. Jesus is described as the “image of the invisible God,” representing the visible representation of God and embodying His glory and nature. It needs to be clarified that the term “firstborn of all creation” does not imply that Jesus is a created being, but rather emphasizes His authority and position as the King of kings.

The passage further establishes Jesus as the creator of all things, both visible and invisible, in heaven and on earth. Jesus is credited with the power to bring everything into being and sustain the universe. He is described as being before all things and encompasses the entirety of existence. These verses highlight the divinity, authority, and creative power of Jesus, establishing Him as the preeminent and sovereign ruler over all creation.

The significance of Jesus and the beliefs surrounding Him for believers and non-believers is consistently emphasized here. This stresses the importance of recognizing Jesus as the ultimate authority and helps one not be swayed by false teachings or idolatry. Jesus is clearly shown to be the head of the Church, guiding and leading believers through His Word and Spirit. Furthermore, there is also an emphasis on Jesus’ role in reconciliation. Jesus is referred to as “the firstborn from the dead,” signifying His role as the origin of everything and the one who has conquered death. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus made a way for humanity to be reconciled with God. His sacrifice on the cross and subsequent reconciliation of all things to God demonstrate God’s grace, mercy, and love.

The significance of understanding the true nature of Jesus Christ and the importance of holding onto the biblical depiction of Him cannot be emphasized enough – His divinity, authority, and creative power, as well as His role in reconciliation between God and humanity. Let us reflect on the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice and the love of God in reconciling humanity to Himself and worship Him!

For more, check out the original Bible studies from this section:

Wrapping Up (vv. 1:21-23)

21 [54]And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, [55]doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled [56]in his body of flesh by his death, [57]in order to present you holy and blameless and [58]above reproach before him, 23 [59]if indeed you continue in the faith, [60]stable and steadfast, not shifting from [61]the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed [62]in all creation under heaven, [63]and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Colossians 1:21-23

The way Colossians 1 wraps up gives an invitation from God to the readers and hearers of the epistle – the original audience and even today – to respond to His Word and Spirit. Throughout the Bible, there are invitations extended by God to humanity. Examples include God inviting Noah and his family into the ark, inviting Israel through His prophets, and Jesus inviting all who labor and are heavy laden to find rest in Him. Through the work of His Spirit through the reading, hearing, and preaching of His Word, God offers the same to us today.

Reconciliation is offered by God through Jesus, an offer that acknowledges that humanity, due to sin, was alienated and hostile toward God, described as being dead in trespasses and sins. This challenges the notion that all people are inherently good and highlights the need for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. God, in His love and mercy, reconciled humanity through Jesus’ death, offering salvation and presenting believers as holy and blameless.

It is my prayer that all of us recognize our need reconciliation with God, and that if any have not that they respond by repenting of their sins and believe in Jesus. Remember, this invitation emphasizes that salvation is by grace through faith, not based on deserving it. It is also an invitation for those who believe to continue in the faith, remaining stable, steadfast, and rooted in the hope of the gospel. Re-reading Colossians 1 has led me to examine my own life. I pray it does you, too.

[1] All Scripture references unless otherwise noted are from the English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:1–2.

[2] Cross references show what the Bible says about a particular verse, section, or word. I use the cross references heavily in my study of the Word, especially when preaching and/or teaching the Word. Cross references that parallel the verse, section, or word but do not directly reference it are marked by brackets, for example [1 Peter 2:9-12]. Cross references of similar themes will be designated by the word “See”.

[3] See 2 Corinthians 1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia….

[4] See 1 Corinthians 1:1 – Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes….

[5] See 1 Thessalonians 3:2 – …and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith….

[6] Ephesians 1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus…. | See Philippians 1:1 – Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons…..

[7] Romans 1:7 – To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. | 1 Corinthians 1:3 – Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[8] Ephesians 1:15-16 – For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers…. | Philemon 4 – I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers….

[9] See 1 Thessalonians 1:3 – …remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

[10] v. 23 | See Acts 23:6 – Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” | Titus 1:2 – …in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began…. | Hebrews 3:6 – …but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

[11] 2 Timothy 4:8 – Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. | 1 Peter 1:4 – …to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you….

[12] See Ephesians 1:13 – In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit….

[13] [v. 23] | [Psalm 98:3] – He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. | See Matthew 24:14 – And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

[14] John 15:5 – I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. | John 15:16 – You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. | [Philippians 1:11] – …filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

[15] [Romans 16:26] – …but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith…. | [Ephesians 4:21] – …assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus….

[16] See Acts 11:23 – When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose….

[17] ch. 4:12 – Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. | Philemon 23 – Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you….

[18] ch. 4:7 – Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.

[19] [Romans 15:30] – I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf….

[20] v. 4

[21] 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power….

[22] [Ephesians 1:17] – …that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him….

[23] ch. 4:5 – Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. | Ephesians 1:8 – …which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight…. | [1 Corinthians 12:8] – For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit….

[24] [Psalm 1:1-3] – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. | See Ephesians 4:1 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called….

[25] [2 Corinthians 5:9] – So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. | [Ephesians 5:10] – …and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. | [1 Thessalonians 4:1] – Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.

[26] v. 6

[27] See Ephesians 3:16 – …that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being….

[28] Ephesians 4:2 – …with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love….

[29] See Matthew 5:12 – Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

[30] ch. 3:15 – And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. | Ephesians 5:20 – …giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ….

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

[32] 1 Thessalonians 1:10 – …and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

[33] Luke 22:53 – When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” | Ephesians 6:12 – For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

[34] 2 Peter 1:11 – For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

[35] [Ephesians 1:6] – …to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

[36] See Ephesians 1:7 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace….

[37] See 2 Corinthians 4:4 – In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel for the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

[38] See 1 Timothy 1:17 – To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

[39] [Psalm 89:27] – And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. | See Romans 8:29 – For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

[40] Ephesians 1:10 – …as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

[41] [Ezekiel 10:1] – Then I looked, and behold, on the expanse that was over the heads of the cherubim there appeared above them something like a sapphire, in appearance like a throne.

[42] Ephesians 1:21 – …far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

[43] Romans 11:36 – For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. | 1 Corinthians 8:6 – …yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

[44] [John 8:58] – Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” | See John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

[45] [Hebrews 1:3] – He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

[46] See Ephesians 1:22-23 – And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

[47] Revelation 3:14 – “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write, ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

[48] Acts 26:23 – …that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” |                     1 Corinthians 15:20 – But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. | Revelation 1:5 – …and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood….

[49] ch. 2:9 – For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily….

[50] See John 1:16 – For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

[51] See 2 Corinthians 5:18 – All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…. | See Ephesians 1:10 – …as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

[52] See Ephesians 2:14 – For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility….

[53] [Ephesians 2:13] – But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

[54] See Ephesians 2:1-2 – And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…. | See Ephesians 2:12 – …remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

[55] [Titus 1:16] – They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

[56] [Romans 7:4] – Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

[57] Jude 24 – Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…. | See Ephesians 1:4 – …even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. | See Ephesians 5:27 – …so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

[58] 1 Corinthians 1:8 – …who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[59] See John 15:4 – Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

[60] ch. 2:7 – …rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. | Ephesians 3:17 – …so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love….

[61] vv. 5-6

[62] Mark 16:15 – And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. | [Acts 2:5]

[63] See 2 Corinthians 3:6 – …who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 18, 2023

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.[1]

Titus 3:1-7

Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 18, 2023: When the Loving Kindness of God Our Savior Appears Refresh & Restore | A Podcast

This is the May 18, 2023 episode of the Refresh & Restore Bible Study, provided by You can find the written version of this, along with Scripture references and footnotes, at:
  1. Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 18, 2023: When the Loving Kindness of God Our Savior Appears
  2. Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 11, 2023: Sufficient Grace
  3. Refresh & Restore — December 29, 2022 (Behold the King)
  4. Advent 2022 — The Story of Christmas
  5. Advent 2022 — December 24 (Christmas Eve Reading for Our Kiddos)

Greetings Sojourners!

From when we began these Bible studies, it has always been our goal not only to get the Word out to people but to do, as Nehemiah says, read the Bible “clearly” and give the “sense” so that people can understand the reading (Nehemiah 8:8). And in trying to make it clear, there is nothing more important that what it means to be saved – born again – have new life in Christ.

Some in the area of the United States where I live would say that most people they know are Christians because the southeastern region of the United States has been known as or referred to as the “Bible Belt”. Many – far too many – would start their description of what it means to be a Christian with walking an aisle or a this-one-time-at-Vacation-Bible-School story. Others might reference a decision or membership to a church or the family they were born into or their particular political party or social organization. But the Bible has much more for us than those meager (and easily incorrect) descriptions.

What the Bible offers us in Christ is so much more! And, in the places the Bible talks about what it is to be saved, it shows that we go from being lost to being found (Luke 15), from being in danger of eternal condemnation to being saved (John 3:16-17), from being dead in our trespasses and sins to eternal life in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10). When the Bible talks about salvation, it lifts up the Savior and makes much of Him! It lays out clearly that salvation comes by grace through faith in Christ alone through the hearing of God’s Word (Romans 10:17).

Salvation comes to those who are sinners – folks who need to be saved. It does not come for the best or the most worthy but the opposite (1 Corinthians 1:20-31) – folks who need saving. Folks like you and me. We were all born into sin and by our own works and merits are full-blown sinners.

By looking at Paul’s letter to Titus, a young pastor called to the church on the island of Crete, we can see what the Bible tells pastors they are to remind God’s people to be, take a good look at and into ourselves to either remind us what it is to be saved (or what we need to be saved from if we are not), and to make sure we all clearly understand the rescue that God has provided by grace through faith in the mercy of Christ and the power of His Spirit.

A Reminder to God’s People Through Pastors (vv. 1-2)

Paul begins the section serving as our passage today with the command “remind them” (v. 1). The word translated “remind” here would be like jogging one’s memory “perhaps after hints or suggestions” or to “put in mind of [or] bring to remembrance”.[2] The list that follows is something that the church at Crete would have known but either 1) forgotten (or functionally forgotten), or 2) need to keep these things in their minds because they are important.

The list is not exhaustive, but it covers a general spectrum of behaviors that are part of the Christian life. It is important to note here that none of these earn salvation nor do the actions by themselves produce eternal life. No, the behaviors associated with being a Christian are results of being born again – fruit of Christ making dead men and women alive and filling them with His Spirit (John 15:1-8).

The list, ultimately, will contrast with the before Christ stage of the lives of the believers there, but it gives a picture of what God knew the Cretan church needed a reminder to do. Being “submissive to rulers and authorities” reflects a trust that God is sovereign even through earthly leaders and that obeying them when they work for the general good reflects trust in God (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13). Being “obedient” – to the Word and the leading of the Spirit – shows the same trust in God; Jesus says that obeying His commandments is a result of being loved by Him and loving Him (John 14:15). Hopefully, you are noticing how these reminders are flowing out of one another – just as the fruit of the Spirit comes from being saved and having the Spirit indwelling in the believer (Galatians 5:22-23).

In the same way obedience leads to readiness for “good works” which the Bible teaches that God has prepared for those who He saves (Ephesians 2:10). The “good works” do not produce salvation, and they are unnatural (opposite of the way sin comes all too naturally to us). Examples of how unnatural good is to humanity is how we have a reminder here to “speak evil of no one” and to “avoid quarrelling” – two characteristics that are all too natural (at least to the human sinner writing this). Those seem like prohibitions for bad behaviors, but they really illustrate what “good work” Christ is calling His people to: gentleness. Why? Gentle, along with “lowly”, is how Jesus described Himself as He invited those who were or are “weary and heavy laden” to come to Him (Matthew 11:28).

So, ultimately, the Cretan church was being reminded to be like Jesus (Philippians 2:5). And nothing shows “perfect courtesy toward all people” like treating them as Jesus would treat them to point them to Him and share His gospel with them!

Recognition That God’s People Have a Past – That Should Be Passing Away (v. 3)

Paul’s reminder of what they should be doing shifts in v. 3 to reminding them what they “once” were like – not just the Cretan believers but Paul, Titus, you, and me, too. It is similar to Paul’s telling the church at Corinth that “such were some of you” before they were “washed”, “sanctified”, and “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). In fact, until one has been saved there is no “once” – only still is and continues to be. Sometimes when we look at lists like the one found in the previous section (vv. 1-2), we get a glimpse of – as stated above – what some would say it is to act like a Christian. But we need to be reminded that Christianity is not an act.

My pastor, John Goldwater, has had to clarify to our church, Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS, at various times the difference between acting like a Christian and being in Christ (Ephesians 4:17-21). At various times in recent years, we have had children and youth who had no church background or knowledge of Christ acting like – well, acting like children and youth really do. Some of those instances found people remarking and even requesting that the children be taught how to act in church. Now, I am sure that these requests were docile enough and likely well-meaning. But John brought up a good and valid point: some people learn how to act like a Christian, put on an act, and never come to know Christ. If we have such a limited time with these children and youth, many of whom have no parents or grandparents to do the discipleship and instruction needed to point people to Christ (Deuteronomy 6), and our time is better spent teaching them the Word and what it is to be in Christ rather than helping them learn out to act. After all, those who are dead in their trespasses and sins are not made alive merely by acting alive.

Any behavior change that occurs in saved people is not because of some sort of behavior modification discipleship or Sunday school rehabilitation. It is because of the work of God’s Spirit making dead sinners alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10, Colossians 2:13-15, Ezekiel 36:26-27). Every saved sinner has a past, which is why Paul gives this flock reminders so that 1) they remember what God has done for them in Christ and has redeemed them from, or 2) wake them up to the realization that their sinful life is not in their past because they have never passed from death to life.

That’s the funny thing about the differences between the list in v. 3 and the one in vv. 1-2: they are opposites! The contrast either reminds people of who they are supposed to be in Christ or who they ain’t and can’t be without Him saving them! Without Christ – or before He saves you, you are “foolish” (1 Corinthians 1:20, 26-31), “disobedient” (Matthew 7:24-27), “led astray” (John 8:44), “slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy” (Ephesians 4:17-19), and “hated by others and hating one another” (1 Peter 2:12, John 13:35). You can only be reminded to do and be the things from vv. 1-2 if you are in Christ. If you are not in Christ, the qualities in v. 3 are your reality – and there is no act convincing enough to make a corpse capable of genuine life.

The Rescue God Provided Through Faith in Christ by the Power of His Spirit (vv. 4-7)

The next phrase is the most important in the passage, especially considering the stark and damning reality of the previous statement: “But when the loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us”! The conjunction “but” takes everything that comes before it and cancels it out, replacing it with what comes after. In this case – and the case of all humans who are sinners and dead in their sins, the “but” cancels that out when they become saved by grace through faith in Christ! The death is canceled and replaced with life! The lostness is canceled and replaced with being found! That’s good news – the best!

As I stated above, I live in a region of the United States where people have the false impression that everyone is saved or that all the good folks will surely not be shut out of heaven (even though the Bible clearly states that “none is righteous” in Romans 3:10 and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” in Romans 3:23). One of the best things – one of the few benefits other that Jesus’ return growing ever closer – to happen as the effects of the Fall grow worse and seemingly darker is that the Bible Belt is (or has been) unbuckled. I know that sounds frightening to some, but the Bible Belt was never truly what it seemed to be. There was a lot of acting and not a lot of being.

But, you don’t have to take my word for it. Billy Graham once said that potentially 85% of those who claim to be Christians are not actually born again. W.A. Criswell, a well-known pastor of a few generations ago, said that he was afraid that only 25% of the members of his church were actually genuinely saved. Even at Christ Community, a few years before the pandemic, it became clear that despite faithfully preaching week in and week out, somehow, we had people who did not know how to be saved. So, we had to intentionally teach and “remind” our people what the Bible says about it. And the way the remainder of today’s passage helps us see it clearly.

Paul writes that salvation through Christ is “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy” (v. 5). As stated above, “none is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Not only do we “fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23) in our sin, but the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) – our best not only does not save us but earns our death. Until that but God moment when He, “being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us”, makes us alive by saving us by grace through faith in Him (Ephesians 2:4-5), there is nothing we can do to change our position. Dead people can not raise themselves – except for Jesus, of course.

Salvation occurs “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (v. 5). I want to make a point here to help this be clearer. There are some big words in this section, and it is easy to try and make it complicated but 1) these are Bible words (not church-words or Christian-ese), and 2) they help us clearly see what God has done for those He saves! That word translated “regeneration” here is talking about being born again[3] (John 3:16)! The “renewal” of the Holy Spirit is describing the new life in Christ which is accomplished by the power of His Spirit – which has been prophesied since the Old Testament:

“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.”

Ezekiel 36:26-27

Those He saves are given new life by Him and continually renewed because His Spirit is within them. And His Spirit is “poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (v. 6). This is not some religious hocus pocus but the reality that God Himself indwells those He saves – not parlor tricks but the power and presence of God!

And the most beautiful aspect of this is when Paul winds up his long, run-on sentence in v. 7 by saying that those he saved are “being justified by His grace [that] we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life”. Because He loves us and is merciful and gracious to us, God not only takes those who are dead in their sins and makes the alive, but takes those who were His enemies in their sin and reconciles them (Colossians 2:19-20) and adopts them into His family as His own children (Galatians 4:4-5)! Such love and cost transcends an act because such actions display great truths.

Wrapping Up

What a beautiful phrase: “we might become heirs”….

Little that there is to leave them when I die, my kiddos will not have to wonder whether or not they are my heirs. They know who they are in regard to me. I am their daddy. They are my children. There is no “might become” with them. They are mine. Much to my chagrin, you can see me in them and on them. They share mannerisms with me – ears with me – corny humor with me. We share blood. They have my name.

What do you share with God? Is His Spirit in you? Are you cleansed by the blood of Christ the Son? Do you bear His name? If you do, you share mannerisms with Him – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). And there is no act capable of imitating such fruit – maybe one or two aspects some of the time, but not all of it. Only God’s Spirit can produce that fruit.

No one is name-dropping “Keith Harris” to share in the inheritance my kids await, but being saved is more than labeling yourself with His name. It is laying down your life and picking up His. It is recognizing that the only way for a dead man or woman to have life is through the one who raised Himself from the dead. It is trusting and having faith in Who He is and what He has done and all that He has promised to those who believe in Him.

Every service at Christ Community closes with the following verses because, as I said earlier, we are committed to making sure we tell folks how to be saved every week. We know only God can save and that He tells us clearly in His Word how:

  • Romans 10:9-10 – …because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
  • Romans 10:13 – Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

It is my hope that in reading this week’s Bible study that you either have become sure that you are saved or that you are able to see clearly that you are not. While I hope the latter is not true, I am thankful that you get to read God’s Word and see the salvation – the hope – He offers. May His Word and His Spirit do their work in your life!

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Tt 3:1–7.

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

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

Songs for Sunday, May 14, 2023 @ Christ Community Church

Here are our Scriptures & songs:

  • Scripture | Ephesians 1:15-22

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

  • Scripture | Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 18, 2023: When the Loving Kindness of God Our Savior Appears Refresh & Restore | A Podcast

This is the May 18, 2023 episode of the Refresh & Restore Bible Study, provided by You can find the written version of this, along with Scripture references and footnotes, at:
  1. Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 18, 2023: When the Loving Kindness of God Our Savior Appears
  2. Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 11, 2023: Sufficient Grace
  3. Refresh & Restore — December 29, 2022 (Behold the King)
  4. Advent 2022 — The Story of Christmas
  5. Advent 2022 — December 24 (Christmas Eve Reading for Our Kiddos)

Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 11, 2023

I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.[1]

2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 18, 2023: When the Loving Kindness of God Our Savior Appears Refresh & Restore | A Podcast

This is the May 18, 2023 episode of the Refresh & Restore Bible Study, provided by You can find the written version of this, along with Scripture references and footnotes, at:
  1. Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 18, 2023: When the Loving Kindness of God Our Savior Appears
  2. Refresh & Restore Bible Study — May 11, 2023: Sufficient Grace
  3. Refresh & Restore — December 29, 2022 (Behold the King)
  4. Advent 2022 — The Story of Christmas
  5. Advent 2022 — December 24 (Christmas Eve Reading for Our Kiddos)

Greetings Sojourners!

It has been quite a while since I have been able to write (for pleasure instead of school), and I am ecstatic!

For those of you who have been keeping up with my grad school journey, it is finally at an end! I passed my oral exams last Friday and graduate tomorrow. I have learned a lot and been stretched in ways I did not expect, but by God’s sufficient grace, Candice’s perseverance, my kiddos patience, and prayers of my family, friends, and fellow Sojourners, I can now breathe and begin applying all that I have learned. And I cannot express how thankful I am that the application of it kicks our Refresh & Restore Bible studies off once more!

Another reason I am ecstatic is that I am getting to revisit this particular devotion. When I began 2023, I intended to hit at least forty devotions – ambitious considering how much of the year would be teaching school and going to school. Needless to say, I did not hit that mark. Far short, actually. This is the second devotion of 2023.

The first draft of this was unfinished, and I had no idea. In January 2023, my world was full of anxiety. I had allowed work and life to weigh on me heavily. More than a decade of the roller coaster of anxiety and depression, along with highly stressful jobs/careers had taken its toll. I tried my best to hide it (even though I have learned the hard way that such things are as damaging as they are foolish), but my health had begun to be affected by it worse than ever. Daily panic attacks and anxiety had invited painful inflammation in all my joints. I honestly did not know how I would keep it all going. My family – home family and church family – were my only solace.

And amid all that, I wrote the January 11 version of this devotion. Looking at it now, I am thankful that I did. The hope that I knew I had in Christ Jesus alone was there. The sufficient grace that He was continually pouring into my life was there, and I knew it. I just did not realize how much farther I had to go in this leg of my journey, and, thankfully, today I can edit it from the vantage point of God having carried me through that season of difficulty.

A Thorn in the Flesh (vv. 1-7)

The content of verses 1-7 are widely debated, and I do not intend to wade into that debate today. When it comes to Bible interpretation, I tend to take the Alistair Begg approach: in Scripture, the main things are the plain things. Chas Rowland puts it a little clearer: in Scripture, the important things are clear, and the clear things are important. There are parts of this passage that are clear and parts that are purposefully left unclear.

When I say purposefully left unclear, I mean that the Holy Spirit obviously did not decide to give us the specific details regarding the content of the “visions and revelations of the Lord” (v. 1), what it means to be “caught up to the third heaven” (v. 2 – and which Paul himself did not know whether it was “in the body or out of the body”), what it means to be “caught up into paradise” (v. 3 – which Paul states only “God knows”). If I were to give my best and most theologically sound interpretation of these things, it would be two-fold: 1) I don’t know, and 2) it cannot be (fully) known because the Bible clearly does not provide the information, we need to know these things.

It is okay to say “I don’t know” when it comes to Bible interpretation. That does not mean we do not need to study or that we should not dig into God’s Word to search for answers. Those are good and valuable things – things that we should be doing and doing regularly. But it is important to be honest about what we do not know or understand in the Bible, especially if the alternative is to teach or proclaim things that may be untrue or dangerously heretical. All too often pastors and church folks will fill in what they perceive as gaps and try to make clear what the Bible does not. At best, this practice might lead people to check the Bible to see whether what is taught is true or accurate, but unfortunately, people are all too willing to take people’s opinions, views, and best-guesses at what unclear passages are talking as gospel truth at the expense of the actual truth of the gospel.

Some might balk at my saying that there are things in Scripture that cannot be fully known, but we are limited to what God has given us in His Word – and rightly so! The Bible contains everything that can be known about God. There are commentaries galore, but they are written by men. Peter’s second letter deals with this subject at length in the section of 2 Peter that leads to his teaching on how dangerous false teachers are. Look at this passage from 2 Peter 1:19-21 which talks about the importance of the special revelation[2] of God found in His Word versus the direction men (or women) may take it:

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter is talking about the illuminating value of God’s revelation through Scripture. Man’s interpretation can be helpful, but it is the Word that is a lamp for our feet and light to guide our path (Psalm 119:105)!

So, here is what is plain and clear in verses 1-7 and therefore main and important.

  • Paul was given visions of “surpassing greatness” (v. 7). Based on the context (“third heaven” and “paradise)”, he was given some sort of glimpses into heaven.
  • These visions were so great that Paul wished to boast about them, and it took great pains to keep him from boasting. Paul had written earlier to the church at Corinth about the dangers of such boasting, explaining that is why God chooses “what is low and despised in the world…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:28-29) and reminding them – and apparently himself – of the Lord’s words in Jeremiah 9:23-24: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.”
  • Paul was given “a thorn in the flesh” to “keep [him] from becoming conceited”. There are three main categories that interpretations of this “thorn” fall into: “(1) spiritual or psychological anxiety (such as anguish over Israel’s stubborn unbelief); (2) opposition to his ministry or message; and (3) a recurring and tormenting physical malady”.[3] Scholars and theologians find reasons in the text for all three. I have speculations but find no value in sharing those with you here. What is clear is that God allowed this “messenger of Satan to harass” Paul just as He allowed similarly with Job – just for different reasons. It is the same God who decided not to give us more information in this section of Scripture. I trust Him and His wisdom.

If you are uncomfortable with not knowing more about this, let me give you a little guidance on how to proceed. First, I would tell you to dig into the biblical cross-references (those little letters that point you to other places in the Bible that talk about similar things/topics that connect you to Bible verses – almost like little biblical footnotes). Limit yourself in your searching to what can be known in the Bible. Second, be careful about letting your favorite Bible guy or gal tell you fully what the Bible limits. Our Father knows best, and if He has not fully revealed something, be wary of a “preacher” who touts full revelation. That means what has been revealed to him (or her) did not come from the Bible. I am scared of those people. I would rather be a Bible-guy, satisfied with what is in it, than a popular preacher spreading my own words. Furthermore, if God had waited nearly 2,000 years for your favorite preacher to shed light on His Word or even needed them to make clear what His Word could not, that God would neither be loving nor sovereign.[4] Who loves you more: the God of the Bible who revealed Himself through His Word, or someone who claims to have more or better knowledge than what the Bible offers?

The good news, especially for us in this Bible study is that what comes after verses 1-7 is clear and plain and, therefore, important and main!

Sufficient Grace (vv. 8-10)

Whatever the “thorn in the flesh” was, it was so bad that Paul says that he “pleaded with the Lord” about it three times that it would “leave” him (v. 8). The word translated “plead” means to “call for or upon someone as for aid, to invoke God, to beseech, entreat”[5]. Paul was literally begging God to make this “thorn”, this “messenger of Satan” that was harassing him to go away – because God was the only one who could make it go away! Apparently, Jesus’ answer was different than the one Paul was looking for: no.

I know something of struggling and begging God to take the struggle away. I also know a little bit about the answer being no. Thankfully, Paul’s “no” carried with it an explanation. Paul’s “no” got a verbal answer from Jesus (notice the red letters). Rather than taking away this thorn (which again was allowed by God) Jesus – the King of kings and Lord of lords – told him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Rather than immediate – or eventual since we do not know if this thorn was ever removed – relief, Jesus told Paul that He would supply the strength to endure the thorn, that sufficient grace would be provided in his moments of need.

This may not seem like good news since we live in an era where immediate gratification or immediate relief are what many people are seeking, but this really is good news. You need to understand that I am not saying this out of some sense of religious obligation. When I cry out for God to rescue me from a struggle that has plagued and harassed me, I want immediate deliverance, too! I begged Him for relief daily for most of the last year and earnestly hoped my “thorn” would leave me right then and there. But it didn’t. It didn’t immediately go away, and it will likely be back. Paul’s “thorn” would not go away, but neither would Jesus! Jesus – Emmanuel (“God with us”) – met Paul’s weakness and provided sufficient – enough to overcome and get through – grace and strength to carry him! Jesus meets me in my struggle and stays with me and will meet you, too. He provides the same sufficient grace for you and me today.

Paul pleaded and begged for relief received the presence of Jesus and the full strength of God Himself to overcome the struggle! I hate my struggles. I hate being weak. More often than not, I find myself feeling hopeless when the struggles linger and return. But I am so thankful that despite the struggle, I find the presence of God. I find His strength. I find grace sufficient to do more than survive but to live and thrive in Christ. I find new mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23). Like Paul, I find Jesus, time and again.

The good thing for us is that we do not have to wait for an audible word from the Lord to intervene in our times of despair. The words from our passage today – those red letters –are spoken to us as well. We don’t have to wait for God to speak because He has spoken![6]

Paul just thought that the visions he had were of surpassing greatness, but through the sufficient and continual grace of Jesus he grew to understand that the presence of Jesus was better than the loftiest visions. At the end of Paul’s life, shortly before his death (by martyrdom), he wrote to the church at Philippi. He did not talk to them of a thorn or visions. He spoke to them of the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ [his] Lord” (Philippians 3:7). He explained to them and to us that everything he had previously boasted in – his Hebrew heritage, his Pharisaical pedigree, his exorbitant education, and even his most-valued visions – was equivalent to and counted by him as “rubbish” (Philippians 3:8) – literally “refuse…of dung, and figuratively of the filth of the mind”.[7]

I want you to think about what these visions likely showed Paul and what this statement means. Paul’s vision was one of heaven – of paradise! But it paled in comparison to the “surpassing worth” of Jesus! Heaven, without Jesus, (pardon the crass language here) is crap. Read that again. A Jesus-less heaven is worthless – as the kids today say, “straight trash”. Does that seem odd to you? If it does, you are boasting about the wrong things!

Paul was at risk of boasting in the wrong things in our passage today, but by the grace of God, he received a “thorn”. The Lord allowed something bad to bring about the grace that helped Paul boast only in Christ. What did not seem like a blessing – and would not have been had it not been for Christ – blessed Paul because of the grace it gave him. The question for us, and honestly the question I must ask myself often, is whether or not I can be satisfied with the grace and presence of Christ in the face of continued difficulty.

Wrapping Up

I am thankful that Jesus is better than my struggles. His power is enough to withstand. His Spirit never leaves me nor forsakes me. And, just as He promised, He is with me always, “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). But I need constant reminding.

If I am not careful, I can be so boastful. God’s power becomes eclipsed in my mind by my pride. His grace gets masked by my desire to be my own man and get through in my own steam. Thankfully, I have the Word of God and passages like ours today to remind me of the gift of God’s sufficient grace!

In fact, when I wrote the first draft of this devotion, I was boasting relief when the thorn was just digging into me the deepest. But I couldn’t even record the podcast for it because I was in tears every time I started. During the months since, I have been brought low, depressed, and more anxious than I have ever been in my life. I have desired to quit just about everything in my life. But God’s grace has been, is, and always will be sufficient. So, now being on this side of that rough patch leaves me boasting only about Him – I can surely testify that the strength provided and victory were His because all I had in me was quit.

What about you?

Are you satisfied with the idea of heaven apart from Jesus? Would you rather have a mansion and immediate release from your earthly troubles rather than be in the presence of God and experience His sufficient grace? These are difficult questions, but they are necessary ones. God is big enough and strong enough for our questions. His loving-kindness can withstand and carry us through our darkest days and nights. His mercies and sufficient grace are enough to get us through whatever thorns tear at us. That’s good news! And I needed to hear it today – as much or more than when I first studied it four months ago. I hope it helps you as well.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 12:1–10.

[2] General revelation “about God’s existence, character, and moral law is given to all people; it is seen through nature, God’s historical works, and an inner sense that God has placed in everyone” and “called ‘general revelation’ because it is given to all people in general”. Special revelation is “God’s revelation to specific people”. “The Bible is special revelation and so are the direct messages from God to the prophets and others as recorded in the Bible’s historical stories.” (Wayne A. Grudem, Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know, ed. Elliot Grudem (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 18)

[3] Douglas J. Moo, “The Letters and Revelation,” in NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 2096.

[4] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 68.

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

[6] Wayne A. Grudem, Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know, ed. Elliot Grudem (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 19.

[7] Zodhiates

Songs for Sunday, May 7, 2023

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | 1 John 1:5-10

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

  • Scripture | 1 John 2:1-2

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Songs for Sunday, April 30, 2023

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | Psalm 30

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

  • 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.

Songs for Sunday, April 16, 2023

Here are our Scriptures and songs for Sunday:

  • Scripture | Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

  • Scripture | Romans 5:6-8

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

  • Scripture | Romans 5:9-11

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Songs for Easter Sunday, April 9, 2023

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

We look forward to celebrating Resurrection Sunday @ Christ Community Church!

Small Group Bible Study @ 10:00am

Worship @ 11:00am

2950 Carrollton Road
Grenada, MS 38901

Here are our Scriptures and songs for Sunday:

  • Scripture | 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

  • Scripture | 1 Corinthians 15:50-57

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Songs for Palm Sunday, April 2, 2023

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday – the anniversary of what is known as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We get the opportunity to remember how His last week on earth began with people shouting “Hosanna!” and praising and celebrating Him. The streets were packed with crowds awaiting His arrival.

“Hosanna” is a Hebrew/Aramaic cry or shout of praise. It originally meant “Help, I pray!” or “Save, I pray!” (Psalm 118:25), but somewhere over the years, that cry for help or salvation became a cry that meant “praise be to God!” Think about it: God’s people cried out to Him for help and salvation, He helped/saved them time and again, and they praised Him out of a spirit of thanksgiving. This happened enough in their culture that their cries for help transformed into cries of praise.

That is what we need today!


Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | Matthew 21:1-10

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

  • Scripture | Psalm 118:25

Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success!