Friday, December 27, 2013

What has God been teaching you this year?

Ephesians 4:15 (ESV)

[15] Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

It is God's desire that as believers we should all become mature in our faith and in our walk with God. A parent will often mark their child's growth with pictures or a mark on the door post or wall to indicate how much they have grown. As believers measuring maturity is a bit harder. There is no tape measure against which we can easily check our growth. The tape measure is the fruit of the Spirit and the character of Christ, but sometimes measuring how far we have grown by that measure is difficult. It is hard to save if I am more loving than last year or whether I have been more joyful. How many times I have gone to church and how much money I have given is much easier to measure, but it is far less accurate in terms of measuring actual spiritual maturity.

 

That being said, New Years is a time of traditional meditation on our lives. What have we accomplished? Where are we going? What needs to change? In looking back over the past year it seems that God has been teaching me three lessons. He has been reminding me again of the power and necessity of prayer. He has been reminding me that prayer is more than just "saying our prayers." Prayer is an act of faith. Prayer is an expression of dependence. Prayer is listening as much as talking. Prayer is vital in spiritual battle. Prayer is an essential blessing in times of spiritual rest. My prayer as the calendar ticks from 2013 to 2014 is, "Lord, teach me to prayer."

 

God has also been teaching me that we walk by faith, not by sight. Following Jesus is not about seeing and knowing where we are going and how things will turn out. It is not about having plans B and C in place in case plan A doesn't work out. It is not about walking familiar paths and staying comfortable. Sometimes when we follow God we discover that all of our plans with their contingencies fall apart. Sometimes God calls us to walk unfamiliar paths. Sometimes God stretches us far outside our comfort zones. We cannot know what tomorrow will hold. We can, and should, make plans, but we mist always remembef thwt our plans are contingent upon God's plans. We walk by faith, not by sight,

 

Finally, God has been reminding me again of the power of his Word. Our strength as believers is not in us, it is in him and his Word. The scriptures are the word of God himself. God's Word has the power to bring down spiritual strongholds when all our arguments fail. GDP's Word has the ability to bring peace when all of our explanations fall on deaf ears. God's Word has the ability to expose lies, reveal truth, change hearts and transform lives when all of our plans and programs fall apart. There is power in the Word of God.

 

This is what God has been impressing on me recently. The result is that I pray God will teach me to pray, remind me to trust him, and not let me get away with filling my mind and thoughts will a constant flow of nonsense when it is his Word that is truly powerful.

 

What has God been teaching you?

By His grace,

Rick Weinert


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Looking back & looking forward

1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)

[11] And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

"Such were some of you." The apostle Paul just ran through a list of grievous sins after which he reminded the Corinthian believers that they used to do those things, but they had been washed clean and made holy in Christ. As believers we are called to keep our eyes focused on Jesus and our hope set on eternity, but there is value in occasionally looking back to see how far we've come. By God's grace we are no longer the people we used to be.

Christmas is the time when we remember and celebrate the truth that God became man in order to save us from ourselves and our sin. New Years is the time when we reflect on where we have been and where we are going. So, in the light of God's grace expressed in the birth of his son, let's take a few moments this week to reflect on where we have come, what God has taught us and where he might be leading us.

What lessons have you been learning this year? What challenges do you think God might be calling you to? What is one thing you know God has been speaking to you about but you've been resistant to listening? Who has he been calling you to talk to? What decision or change in your life has been nagging at the back of your mind that you have been ignoring?  I know there are some lessons that God has impressed on me through this past year, and some changes he has been nudging me toward. I'm not much of a resolution kind of guy. I don't have much faith in my own ability to change. But right now I confess to God that I am willing to have him change me.

Father, thank you for what you have been teaching me over the past year. May I continue in those truths. Father, you and I both know the changes you have been calling me to. I am willing to have you change me, but I acknowledge that I am weak. By your grace may I cooperate with your Spirit and see you change me more and more into your image.


By His grace,

Rick Weinert


Monday, December 23, 2013

Daniel 3

Daniel 3:16 (ESV)

[16] Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. [17] If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. [18] But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

When I read these verses several thoughts occurred to me. First, these men did not have to think about this decision because they had already decided. Likely they had talked about what they would do before the actual event occurred. What we do know is that in chapter one they had already taken a stand for God even if it meant their lives. These were men of conviction. Too often we leave the hard decisions for the moment and then we are moved by fear, anxiety peer pressure, etc. Like these three men we need to decide ahead of find that we will follow God no matter what.

 

Second, these men had made it the practice of their lives to choose the right thing rather than the easy thing. They had chosen to eat vegetables rather than the rich food of the king. When we make it the practice of our lives to choose the easy over the difficult, the comfortable over the uncomfortable, the broad road over the narrow path it becomes much more difficult for us to choose the right thing when the pressure is on. We need to make it the practice of our lives to choose the right think over the easy thing in small decisions. When we do, the big decisions become easier to make.

 

Thirdly, it occurs to me that even though this story turned out well for these men, they had no way of knowing that up front. They were willing to put their lives on the line for truth. Too often we approach the Christian life as though it is a means to a comfortable life. We would likely never say it, but we often live as though we believe that worshiping God somehow obligates him to keep us safe and make us comfortable. These men were willing to stand for truth even if no deliverance came. When the littlest thing goes wrong in our lives we cry out, "Why me God? Where are you?" 

 

Walking with God is not for wimps, and it does not guarantee an easy, comfortable life. But it is the right thing to do. As we rapidly approach a new year, have we decided up front that we will walk with the Lord no matter where that takes us? As Joshua said to the Israelites, "Choose you this day whom you will serve."

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Colossians 1:15

Colossians 1:15 (ESV)

 [15] He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.


As the image of the invisible God Jesus clearly reveals to us the character and glory of God. He "is" the image of the invisible God. It doesn't say that he became the image, nor that he will be the image. It says that he is the image past, present and future. When we see Jesus we see God. Being the image of the invisible God makes a connection to us. People were created in the image of God. By disobedience we messed up that image. Jesus came as the perfect image of the invisible God to restore that image in us.


He is also the firstborn of all creation. The word "firstborn" can mean preceding. It can also mean preeminent. The Greek word does not necessitate that something had a beginning even though the English would seem to indicate that. We know from John 1 that in the beginning Jesus "was." He was, he was with God, and he was God. So Jesus did not have a beginning. With the Father and the Spirit he is eternal. As the firstborn of all creation he both preceded and has preeminence over all creation. He is the creator preceding and presiding over all that he created. As such he not only reveals the invisible God to us, he is God.


The Colossian heresy that Paul was addressing in this letter to the Colossians seems to favor mysticism and angelic messengers over Jesus. For them Jesus is perhaps considered their savior, but they seem to believe that in order to really know God they need something more. Even today we have all sorts of ways of adding to Jesus.  It may be experience, religion, personal commitment, philosophy, eastern mysticism, etc. Any time we believe we need something more than Jesus to really know God we have moved into the realm of heresy. Jesus is the perfect expression of the character and glory of the invisible God. He precedes and is preeminent over all that is created. He is God and we need no other. The gospel is clear: "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." Acts 16:31a


C. S. Lewis wrote that at this time of year there are two celebrations going on simultaneously, the secular celebration that includes gift giving, cards, etc. and the religious celebration of the birth of our savior. This Christmas let us not get so caught up in the secular holiday that we forget to worship the one who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Put your faith in him alone today. Worship him this Christmas.


By His grace,

Rick Weinert



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Colossians 1:23b

Colossians 1:23b (ESV)

[23b] … the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.


As Christians we often talk about the gospel as a personal relationship with Christ. That is true, but it is more than that. This whole passage of Colossians 1 is written in the context of creation. Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God, created all that exists. Adam and Eve were made in the image of God. That image was twisted and broken when Adam ate the forbidden fruit. Jesus, the image of God, came to reconcile all things to himself. The gospel "has been proclaimed in all creation" (or to every creature). Verse 20 tells us that his blood makes peace, reconciling "all things" to himself. In other words, the good news related to Jesus death is not just about people. It is about all creation. His death makes it possible to not only restore the image of God to a broken humanity, it makes the restoration of all creation possible,


The gospel is about a personal relationship with Christ, but it is also about the reconciliation of all creation. The way in which we have presented the gospel is often quite man centered. You cannot read this first chapter of Colossians without realizing that the gospel is not people centered. It is Jesus centered. Everything was created through him, by him, and for him. He is the head, the beginning and the firstborn so that "he might be preeminent." The gospel is not about us it is about Jesus. The art is about the artist.


Father, too easily I slip into thinking that everything is about me. Forgive me. Today, let me live, walk, listen, talk and minister in a manner that reflects you. "It's all about you Jesus."


By His grace,

Rick Weinert




Monday, December 16, 2013

Colossians 1:15-20

Colossians 1:15 (ESV)

[15] He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.


This is the great mystery of Christmas that the invisible God took on flesh becoming a man. The scriptures teach that no man can see God, that he is a spirit and that the closest any man came to seeing God was when Moses saw the backside of God's glory. When Jesus was born mankind saw God come in human form. They didn't see what God looks like, but they saw God.


He created all things. He existed before all things, and all things are held together by him. There are things that we can see and things that we cannot see, but he brought them all into existence. Science can seek to understand what is there, but it cannot explain where it came from. Something cannot come from nothing. Everything finds its source in this one who humbled himself taking on the form of man though he is the image of the invisible God.


This is the mystery and wonder of Christmas. We try hard during the holiday season to create a sense of mystery and wonder for our children, and that's appropriate. But, the greatest mystery and the greatest wonder is that eternal God would come as a man for the express purpose of dying on a cross in order to reconcile broken, rebellious people to himself. That is mystery and that is wonder.


Father as we rapidly approach the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of your Son may I get lost in the wonder of this truth that you loved me and that your Son chose to become man for my sake.


By His grace,

Rick Weinert


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Colossians 1 -part 4

Colossians 1:6 (ESV)

[6] which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,

The gospel was producing fruit and growth in the lives of the Colossians believers. But notice that the fruit and growth followed their hearing and understanding. When we understand the Christian life as primarily doing without hearing and understanding we end up with a Pharisaical hollowness, an empty shell of show without anything of substance underneath. Doing comes from being. Being comes from hearing and understanding the truth.

When we emphasize doing without being we are like the boy that brought chocolate covered horse droppings to school and gave them to his friends. They looked really good, but they still tasted like horse droppings. On the other hand  it is not uncommon in the West to find novelty chocolates that look like deer, elk or bear droppings. Personally I would rather eat the chocolates that look like elk droppings than to eat the horse droppings that look like chocolate.

Too often in the church people are not fully accepted because they look a little different, or are a bit rough around the edges, but people that put on a good show without any substance underneath are readily accepted.  That is backwards. Jesus readily accepted the sinners who came to him knowing that they were sinners. It was the Pharisees with their show of righteousness that he called "white washed tombs full of dead men's bones. God takes no pleasure in our doing without our first being. "Faith comes by hearing and hearing  by the word of God." Fruit and growth come by hearing and understanding.

Father, forgive me for the times I have been more focused on doing than being. Today may I hear you well, understand you deeply and follow you closely.

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Friday, December 13, 2013

Colossians 1 - part 3

Colossians 1:28 (ESV). Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. [29] For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Three thoughts stand out to me as I read through these two verses. First, it is Christ that is being proclaimed. He must be the center of all that we do as believers. Do you have some good ideas about childrearing? Good, but is Christ the center or simply something tacked on to make the teaching sound biblical? Do you have ideas about marriage, finances, work ethics, etc.? Good, but is Christ the center or simply something tacked on to make the teaching sound biblical? Jesus Christ is everything. He is our strength. He is our wisdom. He is our purpose and goal. It must be Christ that we continually proclaim.

Second, notice that the author says that he toils and struggles on behalf of those he is teaching, but his struggle is not in his own power. It is in the power of Christ. Verse 29 is clear. "For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me." Our toiling and struggling on behalf of others will have little eternal impact if it is struggling from our energy. My energy is very limited. I have no strength, power or ability to change lives, influence people for Christ or guide them through difficult times. Jesus does. Any ministry I do must be in his power, not in my own.

Finally, this proclaiming, warning, teaching and struggling is for the benefit of others. The Apostle doesn't minister so that people will think, "There goes a godly man." He doesn't minister so that he can personally enjoy hanging out with people that were trained by him. He doesn't minister because it makes him feel good, because it strokes his ego, because it makes him feel like he is doing something significant, or for any other personal reason. He ministers for their sake and God's glory, "that we may present everyone mature in Christ."

As believers in Jesus we are each called to ministry. We need to make sure that any ministry we do is centered on Christ, carried out in his power and done for the good of those we serve and the glory of Christ our Lord.

Father, too quickly and too easily I forget this and it all becomes about me. Forgive me. Today may my eyes be fixed on you, may my energy be drawn from you and may my focus be others instead of myself.

By His grace,

Rick Weinert



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Colossians 1:7 (ESV)

Colossians 1:7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf. (ESV)

In this chapter Paul, the Apostle and author, rejoices in the faith of the Colossians and prays for them even though it was through the ministry of Epaphras that they came to faith, not through Paul's direct ministry. Too often, in our arrogance, we come to believe that we are the only ones that have the truth or that it is only through our particular presentation of the gospel that anyone can truly understand and come to faith. But Paul taught the Ephesians (Eph 4) that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are not given to the church to do the work of the ministry, but to equip the church to do the work of the ministry. If church leaders are truly doing their job then they do not need to be on call 24/7 to answer every question and make every gospel presentation. Any believer should be equipped to do that.

 

Not only should any believer be equipped to minister the truth of God's word, but any evangelical minister should be able to equip them. Every church is different. I understand that. Some churches over-emphasize the ministry and gifts of the Spirit while others under-emphasize them. Some churches are more liturgical while others seem to have no order. Some churches are more contemporary while others don't seem to have made it out of the 19th century. But the gospel is the heart and soul of a biblical church. Rather than thinking that we are in competition with those who differ from us in any area of theology, we need to learn to rejoice that despite our faults God uses us to influence and impact lives for eternity. People don't get saved in our church because we have every theological i correctly dotted and every theological t correctly crossed. They come to know God by grace through faith. We need to learn to rejoice in that.

 

With Paul we should pray for one another, rejoice in what God is doing and hold our differences with humility. Father forgive me for the arrogance and fear that I have too often allowed to slip in to my own thinking. Thank you for how you are using those who are not me. In fact, thank you that everyone is not like me. Continue to build your church for your glory as you promised, and may I rejoice in that.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Colossians 1

Colossians 1:3 (ESV)

 [3] We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, [4] since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, [5] because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,
 
Faith, hope and love. 1Corinthians 13 says that those are the only three things that last. Spiritual gifts will end, but faith, hope and love abide forever. Faith is foundational to all that we do as believers in Christ. We are saved through faith. We walk by faith. We are protected in spiritual warfare by faith. Faith is foundational. Hope brings clarity of purpose and meaning. We endure hardship because we have hope. We are willing to forgo personal peace and affluence for a higher calling because of our eternal hope. We understand that there is more to life than this life because of our hope in Christ. Hope brings clarity of purpose and meaning. Love is the greatest.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a; 13 (ESV)

[4] Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant [5] or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; [6] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. [8] Love never ends...[13] So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

These verses in themselves could take volumes to expound. Love is what unites. Impatience, unkindest, envy and boasting divide. Love is what builds up and encourages. Irritability and resentment tear down and destroy. Love does wink at sin but seeks to restore a fallen brother because we truly care for them. Selfishness and impatience allows sin to continue unchecked. Love lives in the realm of truth, not personal comfort. Loves never quits.


Faith, hope and love, these three are the reasons for which the Apostle Paul gives thanks for the Christians in Colosse. Father, in this Christmas season and throughout the year may faith, hope and love dwell richly in me as well.


By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Friday, December 6, 2013

Colossians 2 - part 5

Col 2:6-7 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (ESV)

"As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him." What does that mean? These verses provide the answer. First, it means understanding that as believers we are "rooted and built up in him." Christianity is about the person of Christ, not a system of religious practice or rules. When we put our faith in Christ we can be assured that we are rooted in him and have begun the process of being built up on him. Tree roots provide both stability and nourishment for the tree. The same is true of Christ. He is both our stability, he promised to never leave us, and our nourishment causing growth. Jesus taught us to abide in him just as the branch abides in the vine and thus receives nourishment. Christians are rooted and built up in Christ.

Second, believers need to be established in the faith. The faith is that system of truth which Christianity embraces. The early church "devoted themselves to the apostles teaching" (Acts 2:42). As believers we need to both teach and be taught the biblical system of belief. We don't need perfect theology to be saved, by when we are saved we should strive to properly understand and communicate God and his word. Walking in Christ means being established in a biblical understanding of God and the world.

Thirdly, walking in Christ means super-abounding in thanksgiving. Gratitude is an expression of humility and trust. As believers we are rooted and built up in Christ, we need to understand and communicate the truth, and we need to be thankful. That's what it means to walk in him. It is not about rules, systems or traditions. It is not about religious activities, denying personal comforts or trying to win God's favor. Walking in Christ is first and foremost about Christ. He has rooted us in himself and is building us up. We need to then be understanding and communicating the truth with hearts of gratitude for all he has done.

Father, too often I slip into the mindset that somehow following you is about me. Thank you that it is all about you. I have no faith in myself, but I rest in your faithfulness.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Colossians 2 - part 4

What does it mean to be saved?

Col 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, (ESV)

In three verses Colossians 2 explains three incredible truths concerning those who have put their faith in Christ. First, verse 13 tells us that we have been made alive together with Christ. Salvation in Christ is about more than just being forgiven. It is about being made new creations in Christ. As believers we died with Christ, we were buried with him, and were raised to new life. This is not just a metaphor for forgiveness. It is an empowering truth. We possess the life of Christ. We are not only forgiven, we are no longer sinners. We may sin, but we are no longer sinners by nature. We are alive to God.

Second, verse.14 tells us that we are forgiven. Jesus death canceled "the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands." It is not enough to say we are new creations in Christ. There is still our record of sin that stands as an offense to the righteous holiness of God. The death of Christ in our place satisfied God's justice and resulted in that record of past, present and future sins being wiped clean. We are forgiven if we have trusted God to save us because of Jesus.

Thirdly, verse 15 Jesus death, burial and resurrection "disarmed the rulers and authorities." Before faith in Christ we were, consciously or unconsciously, living in the realm of the Deceiver. We were under his influence and authority. Jesus death and resurrection disarmed him. The spiritual rulers and authorities of this world have no authority over us. By their very nature they will lie to us and try to convince us that this is not true, but we are free in Christ. Spiritual warfare is not so much a power struggle as it is a truth struggle. We are free. Believe it.

Salvation is so much more than, "You've been forgiven, now try to be good." When we put our faith in Christ we are forgiven. We are given new life. We are freed from the bondage of the Enemy. We are truly and completely saved.

Father, thank you for this incredible truth. Today may my life reflect who I am in Christ and may I live in gratitude for your gift of life.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Colossians 2 - part 3

Col 2:18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, (ESV)

There seems to be a close connection here between asceticism and mysticism. Both appeal to the "sensuous mind." When I hear sensuous I think sensual and sexual, but that's not the idea here. The word is most often translated "flesh" or "fleshly." It refers to who a person is apart from Christ. Both asceticism and mysticism appeal to the "flesh."

Asceticism appeals to the flesh in that the individual is doing something, in this case denying oneself comfort in some way, in order to gain or earn God's favor. This sounds plausible. Sin has consequences. God's wants us to obey him. Blessing seems to follow obedience throughout the scriptures. Surely denying myself certain comforts and pleasures in life will draw me closer to God. But that is bad theology.

In Jesus the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. As believers we have been filled in him. (Col 2:9-10 ESV) We can't add anything to that. Our part is faith and thanksgiving (See Col 2:5-7). Denying ourselves certain comforts can add nothing to what we already possess in Christ. Certainly fasting for a time may remove some distractions on our part, and there may be value in that as an occasional practice, but it does nothing in terms of making God like us more or acquiring his favor.

Mysticism also is attractive to the flesh and has an appearance of wisdom. Didn't Abraham, Moses, Elijah and others in the Old Testament have encounters with angels? Don't we live in a world that contains both angels and demons? Didn't Ezekiel fall on his face when an angel confronted him? Shouldn't we honor those creatures who have access to God? Wouldn't having an experience with an angel strengthen our faith by making us more aware of spiritual things?

Mysticism is attractive, but just as asceticism can add nothing to what we already have in Christ, so mysticism fails as well. God's grace, his favor (that's what the word grace means) is a free gift. We access it by faith, not by ascetic practices and mystical experiences. We respond to it not by trying to deserve, earn or attain God's favor, but by giving thanks that in Christ we already have God's favor.

Father, it is so easy to slip into the mentality of the flesh that exalts what I do rather that what Christ has done. Thank you so much for your love and acceptance. May I live by faith and thanksgiving rather than by human effort and experience.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Colossians 2 - part 2

Col 2:4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. (ESV)

What is it that will guard us against the plausible arguments of false teaching? Is it a theology or philosophy class? Is it a better catechism? Is it taking notes during the sermon, or maybe a better, deeper preacher? Is it more Bible studies? It is none of those, although they seem to be our preferred methods of trying to inoculate people against false teaching.

Colossians 2:2-3 give us a different perspective. These two verses list three things: 1. Encouragement 2. Understanding 3. Knowledge. But here us where it gets interesting. What is the source of this encouragement, understanding and knowledge? First, the author's yearning is that their "hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love." So the first protection against false teaching is the encouragement that comes from the fellowship of love within the Body of Christ. We were never intended to live the Christian life on our own. It is a community of faith as much as a personal faith.

Second, the writer desires that out of that community of faith the Colossians "reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding." Perhaps this is where training comes in, but notice that this understanding also flows out of the fellowship of love within the body. This understanding is called "riches." There is a wealth found in biblical understanding that is worth more then all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals put together. The understanding results not in the ability to pass theology tests with flying colors, but to experience the wealth of full assurance.

Thirdly, Paul writes that his desire of for them to have "the knowledge of God 's mystery." This knowledge, however, does not come from theology classes, Bible studies and preaching. It comes from knowing Christ, "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Sitting under good preaching and teaching is valuable, but if one never comes to know Christ through experience then they have not been adequately prepared against false teaching.

Certainly churches and individuals can err on the side of emphasizing experience without understanding, but it is just as dangerous to emphasize understanding without experience. Having full and precise knowledge of God's mystery is necessary, but that knowledge is found in the person of Christ. Having the assurance of understanding and the encouragement to stand firm in the faith is essential but they result from hearts knit together in love. Relationship with God and his people are what protect us against the plausible arguments of false teaching.

Father, thank you for the people you have placed around me and for the grace and mercy I daily experience in Christ. May I grow in my appreciation for those gifts.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, December 2, 2013

Colossians 2 - part 1

Col 2:23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self- made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (ESV)

Throughout this chapter the author continually refers to the Christian life in terms of growing and being built up. He warns against plausible arguments, philosophy, deceit, and twice he warns against the elemental spirits of this world. When I read that I think demons, Greek philosophy, New Age mysticism, cults and false religions. But that's not really what the apostle has in mind. He clarifies it for us in verse 23 when he defines these things as "self- made religion and asceticism and severity to the body." Certainly you will find these three concepts in demonic influence, Greek philosophy, New Age mysticism, cults and false religions, but you will also find then in Judaism, legalism and what appears on the surface to be biblical fundamentalism. He is not trying to identify specific religious systems that are dangerous. He is saying that any religious system is dangerous when it relies on rules, self-effort and personal discipline to produce what only the Holy Spirit can grow in us.

I have rules by which I live. I occasionally fast, or practice other forms of self-discipline. But I never assume that practicing those somehow makes me acceptable to God. Nor can I, by imposing those on others, produce spiritual life in them. Rules and self-discipline cannot change the heart. They can sometimes change behavior by establishing new habits and patterns of behavior, but spiritual growth starts on the inside.

The Christian life is not about keeping a list of rules. It is about understanding who I am in Christ and growing in that. It is about walking by faith. Being thankful is a key element in that walk. That's the point the author is making.

Col 2:6-8 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (ESV)

Father, thank you that you have not left it up to me to try and find you or earn your favor. I would fail. But you have gifted me with life. Today may I walk by faith, resting in Christ, not trusting in myself.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Colossians 3.- part 6

Col 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (ESV)

As believers our life is hidden with Christ (vs 3). Our old self, who we are apart from Christ, has been put off (vs 9) and crucified (Romans 6). We are new creations in Christ (2Corinthians 5:17). But there is also a sense in which the new creation is a process. Colossians 3:10 tells us that the new self "is being renewed." Notice three things in this verse. First, the new self is in process. The Christian life is not just about the event of faith, i.e. trusting Christ as our savior. It is also about the process of faith. Disciples are not made overnight.

Second, notice that the new self is being renewed in knowledge. The word is actually "full knowledge." Walking with Christ is primarily a truth battle not a power struggle. What we know and believe affects what we experience. Following Christ us not about trying harder. It is about knowing and believing.

Third, notice that the new self is being renewed "after the image of its creator." When the Church split between east and west around 1054AD, theologically the western church had focused on the legal aspects if salvation. Jesus death satisfied the righteous justice of God. The eastern church focused on the need for the restoration of the image of God in man. Biblically both are true. As a fallen people who had been created in the image of God that image had been severely damaged. The death and resurrection of Christ, by satisfying the justice of God, not only saves us, but also begins the process of restoring in us the image of God.

When Colossians 3:2 tells us to set our mind on things above it is this image of God the passage is taking about. Father, by your grace restore your image in me. Teach me what I need to know and may I truly believe you. Thank you that you are faithfully recreating your image in me through Christ.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Isaiah 50

Isaiah 50:4-7 (ESV) The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him w...