Sunday, 29 March 2015

Responding to the fullness of Jesus

When we read Paul’s statement in Colossians 1:19 about the fullness of God dwelling in Jesus we should ask ourselves what that should mean for us. Here are some suggestions.
First, Jesus can meet the needs of everyone personally. Since he is divine, he has sufficient spiritual resources to provide for each of us exactly what we need at any given time. And he also knows how to give his grace in a manner that suits all of us.
Second, Jesus meets the needs of everyone exclusively. No-one else can meet our needs. We cannot even imagine that Jesus can meet 99%, so we can then use others for the remaining 1%. No, Jesus is the exclusive Saviour, not merely at the beginning of the Christian life, but all the way through it. And he will be the endless source of heavenly provision in the eternal world as well.
Third, Jesus can meet the needs of everyone simultaneously. This application has two sides to it. On the one hand, Jesus can meet the needs of all his followers at the same time (there are no queues at the throne of grace, composed of persons waiting their turn). Millions of his people on earth, as well as those in heaven, receive from him at the same time. On the other hand, each of them can receive a wide range of spiritual blessings simultaneously. Each may have an awareness of certain needs, but Jesus sees all that they require and gives that to them. Our prayers for divine help are never limited to our perceptions.
Fourth, Jesus can meet the needs of everyone permanently. This is perhaps the biggest challenge we face because we are bombarded with reports of new techniques and new discoveries about how to live the Christian life. There is only one way to live it, and there will never be another way, and that is by depending fully and always on Jesus.

Fifthly, there are no valid excuses for failing to receive from Jesus. His grace is available and all we have to do is ask for it. Our failures are our own faults, but the wonderful reality is that our faults can be forgiven by Jesus.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Thinking of the fullness of Jesus

Paul wanted the Colossians to appreciate that Jesus possesses all the fullness of God (Col. 1:19). Therefore the range of provisions found in Jesus is very wide and we can only focus on a few of them. One way of doing so is to arrange these provisions under his three offices of prophet, priest and king.
Jesus, as our prophet, teaches us the will of God for our salvation and does so by enlightening our minds concerning the teachings of the Bible. He comes to us by the Holy Spirit who takes the things of Christ and reveals them to us. Understanding the Bible in this way is not dependent on our intellect, nor is it a merely academic appreciation of possible views. As Jesus teaches us who he is and what he has done, we not only understand it, but we respond in worship and love. Further we will want to know more and will delight to have his instruction throughout our lives. We will come to the Bible prayerfully and expectantly in order to discover more about God’s gracious purposes.
Jesus as our priest helps us. A priest in Israel had to offer sacrifices for sin and show sympathy with the worshippers, encouraging them by assuring them of God’s provision and abilities. An example of this is Eli’s words to Hannah when he encouraged her about her longing for a son from God (1 Sam. 1:17-18). Jesus has offered the needed sacrifice and he always urges us to consider what he has done when we are concerned about our sins. The best, indeed the only means of finding consolation and pardon with regard to our sinfulness is to consider the sufferings of Jesus on the cross. Yet we need other aspects of his comforting sympathy and Jesus is always full of rich comfort and consolation. He can provide peace, assurance, guidance, fruit etc.
Jesus as our king protects us from our enemies and rules over us by his commandments. We have powerful enemies, determined to get us to disobey God’s commandments and sin. Some are external to us (the devil and the world), others are internal (sin and its desires), but more often than not they combine against us. Only Jesus can defend us, and we are to be strong in the Lord when tempted by Satan; we need the weapons of the Spirit that Jesus provides in order to be kept from falling. In one way, the Christian life can be summarised as follows: our spiritual enemies attempt to get us to sin, Jesus as our King enables us not to do so and instead he helps us to keep his Word.

Within these three areas of prophet, priest and king, Jesus reveals the limitless fullness that he possesses as God. Paul knew that grasping this was essential for the Colossians if they were to live in a holy manner. The same is true for us.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Jesus is fully God

There are many Bible verses that stress the deity of Jesus. Jesus reminded his disciples that those who saw him saw the Father (John 14:9). The apostle John writes that he and his fellow-disciples saw the glory of the Unbegotten Son when they saw Jesus performing divine actions and heard him teach profound truths – they realised that he gave out of his fullness to them and to others (John 1:14-16). Paul begins his letters by stating that Jesus is as much the source of grace and peace as is the heavenly Father. The first chapter of the Book of Hebrews highlights several ways that reveal Jesus is fully God. In the Book of Revelation, the river of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Rev. 22:1). We should approach these verses with admiration of and dedication to Jesus.

Paul reminded the Colossians that in Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Col. 1:19). Why is this the case? Out of many possible answers we can select three suggestions.

First, Jesus has this fullness in order to achieve great purposes. After all, his actions are divine actions. Paul has already shown in this chapter of Colossians that Jesus, before he became a man, had created all things and upheld all things. After he became a man, without ceasing to be God, Jesus has this fullness in order to be head of the church (as Paul states in the previous verse), and he has this fullness in order to be the Reconciler (as Paul mentions in the next verse). So Jesus has the fullness of God in order to accomplish great things.

Second, Jesus has the fullness in order to bring pleasure to God. Here we have a reference to the eternal purpose of God – he does what brings him pleasure. When he was on earth, Jesus always did what pleased the Father, even when living as one who was also a real man. And Jesus will continue to please the Father throughout the endless future because of the divine fullness which dwells in him.

Third, Jesus has the fullness in order to help empty sinners. This aspect is seen in the connection of this verse to the previous one which says that Jesus is the head of the church. He possesses all that God has in order to bless sinners whom sin has emptied of all capabilities and resources. As the apostle John wrote, ‘We have all received out of Christ’s fullness.’

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Responding to the bigness of Jesus

In Colossians 1:15-17, Paul writes that Jesus made all things and maintains all things in existence. Of course, we are to remember that each of us is part of his creation, that he is keeping us in existence, and that we were each made for his pleasure. It is a question we should ask ourselves, ‘Am I fulfilling the purpose of my creation? Am I using my mind, my abilities, my possessions for the pleasure of the Son of God?’
What attitudes should knowing these details about Jesus produce within us? An obvious one is humility. Who are we in contrast to him? What are our achievements in contrast to his? He is the eternal Son of God who created and maintains the universe. What we should do is bow before him and say to him, ‘You are very great and I am very small!’
A second response that should be produced within is hope. After all, he has kept us in existence and he has allowed us to hear the gospel. Millions of people have never had this privilege from him. Instead they are, at present, without God and without hope in the world. But we should see his goodness to us as a reason for having hope that he will be merciful to us.
Third, we should have a strong sense of horror at ourselves for failing to recognise the glory of the Son of God. He is not merely a slightly higher person than us. Instead he is the exact replica of God. He has all the attributes of deity and he reveals them to us. It is terrible that we have treated him with disrespect. If I showed disregard for a prominent human, I would be ashamed of myself. What can I say about myself if I show dishonour to the Son of God? I should be horrified by myself.
Fourth, we should be marked by honesty. Each of us should say, ‘After all, I am only a creature.’ Yet each of us can also say, ‘But I am his creature, I am the work of his hands. Sadly, my sins have marred his handiwork, nevertheless the evidence is still there of his abilities.’ We are to realise who we are and why we exist, and then be honest and live for the pleasure of the Son of God.

Fifth, we should be marked by haste in the sense that we speedily make our way to the Son of God by faith and ask him to forgive us our sins and then renew us, so that as new creations we will once again live for his pleasure. And we may find that it will give him more pleasure to resurrect our bodies and recreate the universe at the second coming than what he experienced when he made the universe at the beginning.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Knowing God's Will

Pauls prayer for the Colossians was that they would have the knowledge of Gods will (Col. 1:9-10). There are three possible options with regard to the meaning of Gods will. One is Gods secret will, his purpose for everyone and everything. Paul does not expect any of the Colossians to get access to Gods secret will because God will not share these details with others.
The second option is Gods specific will for us as individuals. Some Christians are eager to discover what role God has for them and assume that they will be given infallible confirmation. So they pray about their career, or marriage, or house, and often expect to receive specific answers, when usually what provides answers in such areas involves common sense. Dont get me wrong. I am not suggesting that we should not pray for specific matters.
So if it is not Gods secret will or his specific will, what will does Paul have in mind? I would suggest it is Gods revealed will found in the Bible.
The Bible mentions several responses that God wants from us, and these responses will involve conformity to his will. In Romans 12:2, Paul informs his readers, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Our minds, therefore, have to be informed before we can know Gods will.
Another detail given in Gods Word is a principle that covers all our behaviour Paul instructs the Thessalonians, For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3). We should not engage in any thoughts or actions that hinder sanctification.

And there is his other reference to the Thessalonians concerning Gods will: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:16-18). 
If anyone asks about knowing Gods will, reminding them of the three details mention here by Paul is a good start.