In times like these it is important to anchor ourselves in that which we know to be true.
In the first century Roman world there were many forces at work. Many of these facilitated the spread of the gospel. At the same time there were elements of Roman government, religion and society that reacted against the exclusive teachings of the early Christians.
Over the centuries governments have come and gone. Meanwhile the writings of those first-century authors have provided a touchstone for believers in the gospel (literally, good news) of Jesus Christ. This good news has been historically verified. It is internally consistent with the Old and New Testament Scriptures. The prophecies of the prophets have been fully realized in Jesus Christ and will continue to unfold until His return.
These Scriptures point towards a common goal that centers around God becoming uniquely both human and divine. Christ dwelled among us, was crucified, arose from the dead, and ascended to heaven. He now guides the forces of history towards its final consummation with His return one day.
THE GOSPEL DEFINED
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.– The Apostle Paul – 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 (NIV)
WHAT IS TRUTH?
Since the time of Jesus Christ the words of the Bible have provided solid ground for His followers in times of crisis and upheaval. The answer to Pilate’s question to Jesus, “What is truth?” was, indeed, standing in front of him. Jesus answered him, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth” (John 18:37, NIV). Jesus would tell His disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV).
In the midst of tumultuous times the apostles would point believers to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit within them. These emerging qualities of character would weather the winds of change. Their heavenly citizenship would became increasingly obvious validations of the gospel message. Indeed, these qualities have always permeated the lives of Christ’s people with hope when the world around them seemed to be falling apart.
The message of the gospel still rings true today. So, our lessons on Virtues is intended to remind each other of the qualities and characteristics of the citizens of Christ’s eternal kingdom. We will be exploring the following key passages: 2 Peter 1:3-11, Galatians 5:13-26, and Colossians 3:1-17.
Click on the links below to follow our Facebook Live worship services as we focus upon Christian Virtues in Times of Uncertainty and Change.
Paul’s Letter to Philemon – “He [Tychicus] is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here” (Colossians 4:9). In our closing lesson on Virtues we review the concluding words of encouragement of Paul in Colossians 4:7-18. This provides a launching point for Paul’s accompanying letter to Philemon which beautifully encapsulates the virtues that Paul had listed in Colossians 3:12-17.
PRAY AND LIVE WISELY
Colossians 4:2-6 – “Live wisely…and make the most of every opportunity” (vs. 5). Dean Wolf is our speaker today, addressing the importance of being ready to tell others what Jesus has done in our lives. Focusing upon prayer, he notes Paul’s description of the prayer of Epaphras for the church in Colossae: to make them “strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God” (vs. 12). Unfortunately, the Facebook Live session cuts short of Dean’s concluding prayer–the highlight of his sermon–in which he prays for the Shoreline church as Paul and his co-workers prayed for the church in Colossae.
Colossians 3:22-4:1 – “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (vs. 23). The expression, “All men are created equal” may not be a direct quote of Scripture; but, it does express a biblical truth of the kingdom of God (Galatians 3:26-28). Indeed, Jesus humbled Himself and became a slave (Philippians 2:6-8, NLT) in order to make us free (Ephesians 1:7, NLT); to serve, not to be served” (Matthew 20:26-28, NLT). Involuntary slavery, in whatever form it takes, is one of many forms of human oppression in our world of trafficking, persecution, abuse and more. For the Christian in who must endure suffering in all of its forms, the Bible encourages everyone: “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Colossians 3:18-21 & Ephesians 5:21-33 (NLT) – When Paul says “Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus” (vs. 17, CEV) he briefly addresses what this means in families. Husbands, wives, parents and children that have been brought under Jesus’ Name begin to live their lives very differently than the world around them. In the first century, this was counter-cultural instruction that would set Christian families apart. This is true as well in 21st century America. To understand this passage better we will quickly survey the Bible’s teachings, including Paul’s parallel instructions to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 5:21-33).
Colossians 3:12-17 (CEV) – “Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks to God the Father because of him.” Today’s lesson begins with Jesus’ prayer for Himself, for His disciples and for us in John 17 (NIV). God glorified Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection where Jesus glorified God. This initiated a glorifying feedback loop which Jesus extended to His disciples and to those of us who would believe. So, when Paul speaks of “whatever you say or do” in the Name of Jesus he is pointing to this continuing cycle for “the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:5-6, 12, 14, NASB95).
Colossians 3:12-17 (CEV) – “With thankful hearts, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” Someone has said that music is “the window to the soul.” When God commands His people to sing, He is encouraging us to thankfully explore how the good news of Jesus Christ resonates with our hearts and minds.
Colossians 3:12-17 (CEV) – “Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives, while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other.” Our Shepherd, Dean Wolf, discusses the centrality of Christ in our lives and how Paul calls us to share our stories about how Christ has changed us.
Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV) – “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” On Easter Sunday we celebrate the source of the power that works in us to produce these virtues which is the cross of Christ (Colossians 1-2).
HUMILITY, GENTLENESS & PATIENCE
Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV) – “…clothe yourselves with…humility, gentleness and patience.” These virtues are characteristics of kingdom people because these virtues begin with the Father and the Son; necessary traits for the unity of the Body of Christ, the Church (Ephesians 4:1-3).
Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV) – “…clothe yourselves with…kindness,” says the apostle Paul to the church in Colossae. This virtue is a characteristic of God the Father, illustrated in Jesus, His Son, and planted in the Christian as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Colossians 3:12-17 (NASB95) – “put on a heart of compassion” – God defines compassion, His Son illustrates His compassion and we reflect His compassion to the world. Compassion is an emotion that moves us to action.
Colossians 3:1-17 – “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Reaching back to Colossians 2:9-23 we set the context for Paul’s list of the Christ-follower’s virtues in Colossians 3:12-16. Rooted in the cross of Jesus Christ, these virtues will guide our studies until Easter Sunday (April 4, 2021).
FRUIT (PART 2)
Galatians 5:13-26 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” What walking by the Spirit does look like. There is no law against these characteristics; so, we are free to exercise them without restraints.
Galatians 5:13-26 – “The acts of the flesh are obvious….” Paul says that the Spirit and our fleshly desires are at war with each other. What walking by the Spirit does not look like.
2 Peter 1:3-11 – “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature….” The divine power of Christ Himself makes us participants in His divine nature; present tense promises.
2 Peter 1:3-9 – “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him….” Knowing Christ (vss. 3, 8) is the beginning and end of our every effort to become effective and productive, the apex of which is agape love.
Ephesians 1:3-4, 5:25-27 – “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. ” The presence of the Lord in your life makes you holy, too. Wherever you go, whatever you do, with whomever you encounter, you are standing on holy ground.
Joshua 5:13-15 – “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” It was the presence of the Lord that made Holy the place where Joshua was standing.