Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[our] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory…16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Here’s a timely grammar lesson for 2020 courtesy of the Apostle Paul written during the first generation after Jesus, sometime in the 50s, while Paul was in prison. His If/Then sentences present conditions/situations [the Ifs] and the resulting/expected outcomes [the Thens] that even the passage of time can’t diminish.
If – “you have been raised with Christ”
Then – “seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right
hand of God”
If – “you 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”
Then – “when Christ who is your[our] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”
If – this Word from the Apostle has found it’s life in you today
Then – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
2 Corinthians 3:Are we beginning to praise ourselves again? Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not! 2 The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our[your] hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. 3 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. NLT
Stone is so enduringly permanent it’s surprising the truth of those letters carved on tablets of stone is lost. But is it?
The recent pandemic has tragically highlighted just how vulnerable life can be. That makes it equally surprising that God has now chosen to write the permanence of His truth in human hearts. The letters of eternity and permanence no longer lie in impenetrable stone. God has rewritten His own truth in our/your heart. That truth rewrites the story of a stubborn, stony hearta being replaced with a tender, responsive one able to feel, think, grow and replicate God’s own heart one to another. “Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.”
aAnd I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. [Ezekiel 36:26]
EPH 5:13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” ESV
These words about Christ and light reminded me of John 8:12 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” I assumed Paul was echoing John but a chronological timeline of the Bible showed Paul was martyred before John was even written. What first seemed like an echo became instead Paul’s faithful voice of personal experience pleading for all to wake up and see the light!
Paul wrote these words about the same Lord who’d confronted him with blinding light on that long ago road to Damascus: “Christ will shine on you.” He knew their reality can make light visible even to conflicted hearts. There’s no amount of human intellect that can explain the process that changes ambivalence toward God into living faith. There’s no amount of good preaching that can convince a heart to respond to Christ. There’s no amount of scientific proof that can prove salvation has occurred, or explain how an in-dwelling Holy Spirit can be an actual reality. That, by definition, is the mystery of Faith. Faith is not an echo of anyone else’s intellect or truth. “It becomes visible” only when individual hearts are exposed by the Light himself and the “light of life” becomes personal experience.
The notable JB Phillips New Testamenta says “For light is capable of “showing up” everything for what it really is. It is even possible (after all, it happened to you!) for light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also. Thus God speaks through the scriptures: Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
aJB Phillips: English clergyman who studied classical Greek at Cambridge University and personally translated the New Testament into modern language.
2 Corinthians 1:3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. [NLT]
This passage is remarkable for the number of times some form of the word “comfort” is used in just five verses. Certainly that’s repeated for emphasis. The need for comfort is more frequent that we realize and that need doesn’t always look the same. Sometimes what comfort looks like turns out to be a surprise too. We know “God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort” but when faced with a heart in need it “takes one to know one.”
Comfort is the presence of one needy heart’s response in humility to the need of another. It may take the more familiar form of shared scars of experience, love, grace, compassion, Scripture and prayer…OR sometimes it may just take a plate of cookies
Let your heart respond…”when they are troubled…give them the same comfort God has given us.” Comfort is not meant to be the solution. Comfort is the revelation of Jesus from one heart to another and He’s the solution.
Jesus was a revolutionary, who did not become an extremist, since he did not offer an ideology, but Himself.” Henri Nouwen from The Wounded Healer
2 Corinthians 3:7 The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. 8 Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? 9 If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! 10 In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. 11 So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! [NLT]
God’s law was chiseled into those tablets of stone. What could be more permanent than stone? Those tablets were “new” then but they are lost today. God had something even more permanent in mind; the same truth reproducible in the hearts of transformed people. Truth that would be new not only in point of time, but also new in quality…for all time.
Etched in stone or etched in life is the difference between the law versus the Spirit and the bottom line of the new way. Now “the Holy Spirit is giving life.” God’s truth is not new but the “new” quality is truth being chiseled into our hearts. No wonder it sometimes hurts but it’s truth that will last for all eternity. We are the tablets the world sees today.
Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
We try many things in our attempt to “delight in the Lord” only to discover we still can’t find that bottom line because we’ve made it more about what we do than the desires of our heart. Our problem is we think we’re strong enough to figure out what the desires of our heart are instead of admitting we haven’t a clue. We take God at his word that our hearts are his domain without remembering he sees the reality of those desires. It’s a scary fact we have to face that God may allow us the desires he sees there.
C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory said this: “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward … promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us…”
The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives us a simple bottom line. Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
This is about the Simplicity of Grace. Grace is not an exemption for our flaws. Grace is God’s bottom line. It’s purpose is to change us through combining the desires of our heart and our actions with what he knows to be true about us. Grace is the place your heart finally learns the “desire” to “take delight in the Lord.” Grace is the Simplicity of what it means to “glorify God” and sincerely “enjoy him forever.”
Matthew 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”…11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The Magi were men who still had the desire for God in their hearts. Desire was why they watched for a sign. When they recognized the star they prepared their gifts and took that first step of a long journey expecting God would to lead them to a king.
People really do still have the desire for God in their hearts. God has pulled out all the stops for us during this season with many different and personal signs to guide us to “the one who has been born king,” the Big Event. This is our modern-day version of the journey but it’s still all about desiring God, watching for the signs, preparing our gifts of worship and then taking that first step expecting God will lead us to the King.
These are the perfect gifts of worship if you’re short on gold, frankincense and myrrh.
• Give Jesus your desire.
• Offer this new born priest your long journey.
• Let him be King of all your expectations.
God bless our journey.