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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Your Life is Hidden in Christ!

Your Life is Hidden in Christ!



Paul traveled many hundreds of miles on his missionary journeys walking from town to town in places which are now modern day Turkey and Italy and Greece.  The date was around 62 A.D. to 85 A.D. and Paul boldly told anyone who would listen that Jesus Christ died for their sins.  That Jesus had risen and had conquered death and that if they would repent of their sins and believe in Him, He would conquer death for them also.


 It was (and is) a radical holy message of amazing good news and everywhere people back then who heard Paul’s message fell on their knees and believed in Jesus and were changed into new people and filled with the Holy Spirit!  The Holy Spirit moved with great power in these groups where Paul preached.  Signs and wonders accompanied Paul’s preaching.  The sick were healed and the lame walked as people gave their lives to Jesus.  This was something completely new!  The introduction of Christianity changed the landscape of Southern Europe and of course this Holy Spirit fire soon spread all over Europe and then around much of the world!    -   


In 63 A.D. through the power of the Holy Spirit, thousands were believing in Jesus and new churches were springing up in nearly every town that Paul visited.  These were exciting times as the Christian Church – the body of Christ – was just being born in Europe.  Everywhere enthusiastic new believers were being filled with the Spirit’s power and coming together and loving one another and sharing with each other and often speaking in tongues.  And the Bible records that healings and miracles were commonplace in these groups.


Sometimes we wonder why today we often do not experience the many miracles and healings that these early Christians did.  But these people who first believed Paul’s gospel message lived in a different time than we do. They were the very first people in their land to believe - the very first Christians.  Today when we come to Christ we have Christian people who have gone before us to lead the way - the established Christian church to fall back on and we can read the Bible – Gods’ Word.  But these people in 63 A.D. had no Bible – only Paul’s words to believe and they had never heard of a Christian church before.  These first Christians (with the Holy Spirit’s guidance) had to blaze the trail for us.  And the Holy Spirit was there to lead them forward with love and power and signs and healings.    


These very first believers in Jesus experienced severe opposition often from family and friends who did not believe in Christ and they paid a terrible price for their new faith. There were altars in temples with idols to gods and goddesses erected in nearly every town that Paul visited.  And these new Christians who believed Paul’s message had to stop worshipping at their familiar hometown altars and give all of their worship to God alone.  Of course this caused many of them to be thrown in prison and even killed.  Worshipping idols was big business in ancient times. There were businesses that lost money when these new Christians quit buying their idols or bringing their sacrifices to the town gods and goddesses.



The people in Colosse – the Colossians – had come to know Christ through one of the men who had become a Christian through Paul’s preaching when he was preaching in the nearby town of Ephesus.  Our Christian faith is marvelously contagious and Paul was overjoyed that one of his converts spread the good news to the people who lived in Colosse.  A house church sprang up in Colosse which was located in what is now present day Turkey.


Paul loved the new believers that made up the church in Colosse – loved them like a good father loves his children.  He felt like he was their “spiritual” father since thousands of people had become Christians because of his missionary journeys. He prayed for them and wrote them letters (the book of Colossians).  He knew that as new baby Christians the Colossians would face many spiritual dangers and he worried that they might forget their new faith in Jesus Christ and fall away into one of many heresies.


And there were many heresies lurking around in ancient times just like there are today.   Satan was always nearby trying to water down the precious faith that had been given to the new Christian converts.  Or confuse the new believers in Jesus with other messages that sounded good but weren’t quite “Christian.”  And alas Satan is here today hoping to mess us up and if possible take away the joy we have in our salvation.  The early Christians had to constantly be on guard to protect their costly faith from the many heresies being spread by false teachers.  And we today have to be constantly on guard against false teachers too!


It would seem that one of the temptations that the new believers in Colosse were facing was the temptation of legalism – or the temptation to believe that a person needed to do a lot of extra “things” in order to gain Gods’ approval.  False teachers were telling these new baby Christians – these Colossians - that Jesus Christ and His atonement wasn’t  really enough to save them – that along with believing in Christ they had to add some man made rules in order to please God!  We have churches today telling us this same lie!  Paul got very upset with this heresy and he writes a long letter to the Colossians reminding them that Jesus Christ is everything that they need – everything - and Paul would tell us the same thing!       


 Paul writes these words to the Colossians.   “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)   “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to religious festivals, etc.  These are a shadow of the things that are to come: but the reality is found in Christ.  Do not let anyone who delights in false humility or the worship of angels take you away from Christ.”  (Colossians 2:18) 


Paul wanted these new believers in Colosse to reject any rules that aim to cleanse the spirit by means of humanly contrived regulations.  They were to realize that they were in Christ and were no longer subject to human wisdom or works, but were only subject to God.  False teachers tried to teach these new Christians to worship angels and Paul knew that the Bible teaches that we are not to worship angels but to give our worship only to God.   And Jesus Christ is God the Son.      


Paul wanted the Colossians to know that on the cross of Christ their debt of sin was cancelled and the powers holding them captive have been defeated.  That they don’t need to eat special food or drink special drinks or observe special days in order to please God.  The believer is “free in Christ”.  On Calvary (Jesus’ death) the believer died with Christ to this world and so we must not live as though this world or its ordinances still have a claim upon us.   


Paul tells the Colossians (and us) that the believer in Christ has not only died but also has “risen with Christ”.  The believer has been given a new nature and lives “in heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6)   Our new nature is hidden with Christ and its’ beauty will be revealed when we get to heaven.  The believers’ old sinful nature is still with her/him until death but the believer in Christ should ignore his old sinful nature and live in the new nature – live in the Spirit. In other words the believer should live her/his life trusting Christ and following Him. 


Here is how Paul tells the Colossians how to live.  And this lesson is for us too.  “Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you will appear with Him in glory.  Put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry….also anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old nature and have put on your new nature….Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love… Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and let the word of Christ dwell in you richly … and whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  (Colossians 3: 1-9, 12-15a, 16a, 17b)


Let’s face it, we like rules and regulations .  If we could all just be given three or four rules to follow or rituals to perform in order to be part of Gods’ kingdom we would most likely work to do these things.  We like to be in control!  Doing good deeds is simple and straight forward and makes us feel proud of ourselves.  Makes us feel like we are earning our own way and maybe we are better than others.  But Paul (and the Bible) says “No! No! No!  We don’t earn our own way.  Jesus Christ does it for us. ”     


Paul told the new believers in Colosse, and the Bible tells us that we have two natures.  The nature we were born with and our new nature we are given when we believe.  The nature we were born with – our earthly nature is selfish and we are not to give in to it.  Since it was put to death at the cross we are to consider it dead, since it is.  And our new nature –the one that loves God – the part of us that is “hidden in Christ”, - we are to “put it on” – encourage it, walk in it, enjoy it! 


It sounds a little confusing doesn’t it?  But it is really very simple.  We just trust and obey. Trust and obey!  Without trust in God it doesn’t work!  The Bible promises that the Holy Spirit will be there to help us – open doors for us – guide us.  Jesus is there to lead us and all we have to do is follow.  And there is peace and joy scattered along the way.


When a caterpillar starts to build a cocoon something is pushing him along and an instinct is driving him forward. A caterpillar doesn’t think his life through on his own.   He doesn’t fight against the urge to die. He just follows the path God gave him.  He moves ahead as he is nudged and builds his own coffin (cocoon) and then sleeps – or almost dies –he curls up and dies through the long cold winter.  He most likely doesn’t know that when he dies to his old caterpillar self, he will later be raised anew as a butterfly that can fly.  He doesn’t know that hidden away is a pattern for his new life as a beautiful butterfly –He must first die to his old life before he is resurrected into the new.   Resurrected to spread his wings a new and glorious creature.


Perhaps our life and the caterpillars’ have some similarities.  If we believe in Jesus Scripture says that His Spirit will lead us.  Guide us along.  But we need to trust and follow!  Unlike the caterpillar we can argue with God!  We are told, “Put to death therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:” (Colossians 3:5)   So when our ego is hurt by a slight or insult we don’t need to hold so tightly to this life since we are on our way to another life – a better one.


 Scripture goes on to say: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  (Colossians 3:2-3)   Like the caterpillar, all we have ever known is this life.  – this worm like life.  We can not even imagine our future!  But it will be glorious and it is “hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)


 And this is the way Scripture describes this future life of ours that is now hidden in Christ – this pattern of our future selves that we cannot begin to imagine!   But this is how we will appear on that Day!   “Listen, I tell you a mystery.  We will not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.  In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead in Christ will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed!”  (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)  Here’s another description in the Bible.  “Now we are children of God, and what we will become has not yet been made known.  But we know that when He (Jesus) appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  (1 John 3:2)  And also this: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory!”  (Colossians 3:4)  It doesn’t get any better than that! 










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