Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Love ruling vs. Living rules

Pastor Mark Johnson, one of our Grace teachers, spoke last Sunday on Philemon.  As you may know, this is a companion book of Colossians since Philemon lived in Colosse; in fact, there was probably a house church in his home.  Paul calls Philemon to be reconciled to his former slave, Onesimus, and this letter to Philemon demonstrates the importance of reconciliation.,  Listening to this message would be worthwhile for anyone estranged form someone, and it can be heard at, our church website under "Message, October 14".

A critical phrase in Pastor Mark's message was this, "When love is the rule, we do not need rules".  in Philemon, Paul encourages reconciliation not because he orders it from Philemon, but because he trusts it will come from the compulsion of his heart.

This is a tricky principle for us to understand.  when we study Colossians we are aware of the grace of God that has brought our salvation as Paul identifies the importance of the gospel and the supremacy of Christ in chapter 1.  In chapter 2 he wards against the problem in Colosse--some were trying to suggest that something needed to be done in addition to the work of Christ.  Whether it was Judaizers calling Christians to the observance of the law or Gnostics, suggesting there was a higher form of communication with God through the pursuit of mystical rituals and special visitationa from/with angels, Paul dismisses it as lacking"any value in restraining sensual indulgence".  That alone is the product of salvation in Christ, for "we have been given fullness in Christ". 

In chapter 3 Paul acknowledges that we have been raised with Christ  and our "life is now hidden with Christ in God", and then proceeds in verses 1-17 to give a list of commands about holy living.  It has been rightly suggested these are the results of our relationship with Christ  and His indwelling Spirit, not rules to guide our determined human efforts.

So here's the point.  It is futile to grit our teeth and to determine we will keep the rules, if that's what the Christian life is reduced to.  But if we love God (John 15) we will want to keep his commandments and His Spirit dwelling within us makes that possible.  In our own strength, we cannot.  The beauty of our relationship with Christ is allowing our love for Him to rule our lives and then we will not be under the external short-lived compulsion to keep the rules.

In closing the Colossians 3 section, Paul tells us that we are to let the peace of God rule our lives and to let the Word of God dwell within us richly.

Reconciliation and living in agreement with the peace to which God has called us as believers is hard work.  In fact, it is impossible unless the love of God ruling in our hearts propels us to obey Him and to utilize the grace and strength He provides to what would otherwise be our own futile human effort.  When love is the rule we do not need rules.  We will want to obey.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Psalm 11

In my study of the Psalms I was struck by a verses sandwiched into the middle of Psalm11--"When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

Without identifying my own political persuasion let me just comment on some things I think that make that question from three thousand years ago relevant today.

*Same-sex marriage continues to gain political advocacy.

*Abortion on demand remains a so-called twenty-first century "right".

*North Africa's political climate is rife with unrest and the nation of Israel seems increasingly vulnerable to attack.

*Countries like Iran and North Korea flaunt their nuclear capabilty with frightening arrogance.

*Greece, Portugal and Spain--once strong financially--now are in deep economic crisis.

*Our sixteen trillion dollar debt shows no signs of diminishing with congressional gridlock hampering any potential resolution.

*The current pre-election climate demonstrates how deeply-divided philosophically our country is and the accusations of deceit and dishonesty by both parties makes it difficult to discern what is true.

*Increasing incidents of mass murder escapades by disgruntled unbalanced individuals continue to result in unfathomable tragedies in our work place and on school campuses.

*The number of welfare recipients has increasing astronomically over the last four years, consistent with high unemployment figures.

*A large neighboring city of nearly 300,000 has declared bankruptcy, and there are other large cities--as well as entire states--precariously close to the same.

This resume of pain that affects our sense of well-being is not about to get better.  I am not a harbinger of doom but the forecast for the future of America and the world is alarming and discomfiting.  It seems as if the very foundations of our civilization as we know it are being diminished, if not destroyed.

"What are the righteous to do...?"  In the context the "righteous" are those who have heeded the commandments of God and are seeking to follow His guidance and to find "refuge" in Him.

The comforting tone of this Psalm is that God is alert to all that is going on--observing and examining the ways of men, both wicked and righteous, and in the end His justice will be executed. We are encouraged in the end that "the upright will see His face".

Until then, we must seek His face and His forgiveness for what we have is what we asked for.