CHANGED BY A PORTRAIT

Col.1:15-17 – TPT – He is the divine portrait, the true likeness of the invisible God, and the first-born heir of all creation. For through the Son everything was created, both in the heavenly realm and on the earth, all that is seen and all that is unseen. Every seat of power, realm of government, principality, and authority—it was all created through him and for his purpose! He existed before anything was made, and now everything finds completion in him.

I love the way the Passion Translation translates this text. Jesus is the divine portrait of the Father. Jesus told His disciples, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father”. Paul says In Hebrews 1:3 that “The Son is the dazzling radiance of God’s splendor, the exact expression of God’s true nature—his mirror image!” Wow! This is why I say my job as a preacher is to paint His portrait with my words. As we testify to others what we have “seen” of Christ for ourselves He becomes real to the hearers. After all, the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophesy. Here is how John Calvin describes this verse.

“The sum is this — that God in himself, that is, in his naked majesty, is invisible, and that not to the eyes of the body merely, but also to the understandings of men, and that he is revealed to us in Christ alone, that we may behold him as in a mirror. For in Christ he shews us his righteousness, goodness, wisdom, power, in short, his entire self. We must, therefore, beware of seeking him elsewhere, for everything that would set itself off as a representation of God, apart from Christ, will be an idol.”

So it is in Christ that we find our God. We can see glimpses of Him by His handiwork in creation, but at the end of the day they are all shadows pointing us to the substance found in Christ. We can find Him standing outside Lazarus’s tomb calling Lazarus back from the realm of the dead, we see Him with His hand on the casket of the young man from Nain answering the prayer of the grieving mom, we see Him multiplying the fish and bread, walking on water, and casting out the demons. God lives in Christ and reveals His glory to all who are hungry. Open the gospels and you too can see a snapshot of the Lord, one glimpse of His portrait can change you forever.

CHRIST IS OUR MESSAGE

Col.1:28,29 – Christ is our message! We preach to awaken hearts and bring every person into the full understanding of truth. It has become my inspiration and passion in ministry to labor with a tireless intensity, with his power flowing through me, to present to every believer the revelation of being his perfect one in Jesus Christ.

I often talk about how I was changed by a Holy Spirit visitation in the 1990’s. One of the things that changed for me was my preaching. I felt it was my duty as a pastor to be an expert on virtually all topics. I would preach on finances, marriage, child raising, healing, church growth and even dabbled a little in the political world. My subject changed drastically shortly after my 1994 encounter with the Holy Spirit. Rather than preaching topics my message became Christ. Christ as Savior, as Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Provider, Deliverer, Healer, and soon coming King. The Lord said that He had called me to be an artist. He said to paint pictures of Jesus with my words. Here is how Wolfgang Musculus responded to the preachers and priests do his day, his answer was to preach Christ.

“Do they not also proclaim Christ? They proclaim Christ, we confess, but what kind? The only begotten of God, true God, of one substance with the Father, and true man, as he is according to the Gospel stories? I confess that truly in this they fall short because they do not proclaim  Christ as our only righteousness and only mediator, but in the matter of justification and our salvation they add in intercessions, different merits, offerings of oil and roses and our good works.”

As we magnify Christ with our words while we are preaching or testifying, the Holy Spirit always comes. I often think of how Peter’s message was the message of Christ. In Acts 10 when he was preaching to a gathering of gentiles at a Roman officer’s home the Holy Spirit actually interrupted Peter’s preaching. Sometimes interrupted preaching is a good thing. What kind of message does God Himself interrupt? Part of what Peter preached was this “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Peter started rehearsing what he had seen and heard Jesus do and the room was suddenly filled with the glory of His presence. Let Christ be your message, anything else tends to bring us back into a works mentality or worse.

GLORY IN US

Col. 1:26,27 – that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Sometimes I think we don’t really know how much the world changed on the Day of Pentecost. Now don’t turn me off since I used that old fashioned “Pentecostal” word. Just stop and think for a minute. What was Peter’s point in that first sermon that he preached that gave birth to what we call Christianity? He said that something monumental had changed. What he said was this, all people everywhere now have access to something that is absolutely unthinkable. The Lord is pouring His Spirit on every kind of person everywhere. Young and old, rich and poor, red and yellow, black and white; no one is left out. His presence is not only on us for special empowerment, His Spirit is in us. He has become one with whosoever will. I told you it was too good to be true!!! Here is how C. S. Lewis describes this mystery.

“And this brings me to the other sense of glory—glory as brightness, splendor, luminosity. We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”

That is what all humans are longing for (though must don’t realize it). We want to experience the beauty of the Lord for ourselves. We want desperately to be one with Him. Sermons, songs, and prayers describe this blessing; only when you taste and see for yourself will you finally know why you are alive and what life truly is. That is the mystery that Paul preached, Christ in you the hope of glory.

STRUGGLING WITH THE GOD

Col.1:29 – For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Paul was all about the anointing. He knew better than anyone the calling on his life could not begin to be accomplished by human effort alone. Paul knew that in order to really touch the world it could only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit. His words were totally saturated with the power of God. How did that happen? Why were Paul’s words different than others? It comes down to the word ‘striving’ in today’s verse. Now this is not talking about striving in the flesh or trying really hard to accomplish something. This is something other than that, something totally different. Paul was describing his agonizing with the Holy Spirit. The picture being painted is like Jacob wrestling with the Angel of the Lord. Paul was engaged in the agony of struggling with God the Holy Ghost. Here is a description of Paul’s struggle from the Life in the Spirit Commentary.

“Paul’s commitment to ministry entailed labor, struggle, and suffering….The noun dynamis is a: “I labor,” says Paul, “struggling according to his energy [or ‘power’] that is at work in me in power [or ‘powerfully’]. Undoubtedly it was this “energy” of Christ powerfully at work in him that gave Paul the strength to carry on in the face of many hardships. In giving testimony to his dependence on this divine enabling, he was merely putting into practice what he had earlier prayed for on behalf of the Colossians. In 1:11 he prayed that they would be “strengthened with all power according to his glorious might” in order to display “great endurance and patience.” It was a dynamis that Paul many times had had to depend on (he refers to it again in Eph. 3:7). And as it was available to him, so it was available to the Colossians and to all other believers and Christian workers who would follow.”

To the natural man this struggle doesn’t make sense. Only the renewed mind can grasp this struggle. Paul knew he needed divine power to accomplish anything. He had discovered the secret to the Christian life, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens (empowers) me”. So no matter what you are facing, look to the struggle for divine power. The striving with God will produce supernatural power in your life.

WORKING WITH THE ENERGY OF GOD

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Col. 1:29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Sometimes Christianity seems to be in conflict with itself. Paul’s life is a great example of what I mean. We see in Paul’s life someone eaten up with zeal and vision for his ministry; obviously Paul holds nothing back. At the same time we see the transforming, supernatural power of God working powerfully in and through the Apostle Paul. This conflict is at the heart of all Christian endeavors. Was Paul’s success all Paul or all God? We see the dilemma in today’s verse, Paul says he is struggling or agonizing with the very energy and power of God. This is how Adam Clarke describes this conflict.

“Whereunto I also labour. In order to accomplish this end, I labour with the utmost zeal and earnestness; and with all that strength with which God has most powerfully furnished me. Whoever considers the original words, will find that no verbal translation can convey their sense. God worked energetically in St. Paul, and he wrought energetically with God; and all this was in reference to the salvation of mankind.”

So is it Paul or is it God. It seems as if the revelation of God awakened Paul’s passion and drive and at the same time empowered him in unprecedented ways. Albert Barnes also talks about this strange convergence of human and divine energy.

“Striving. Gr., agonizing, he taxed all his energies to accomplish this, as the wrestlers strove for the mastery in the Grecian games. According to his working. Not by my own strength, but by the power which God alone can give.”

Was Paul striving ? The answer is yes but not the striving in the flesh we normally associate with striving. He was striving together with the Lord to see all mankind effected with this divine power that had changed his life. So there was supernatural power involved, not just the will power of a driven man. Wuest also talks about this divine energy at work in Paul’s life.

“Our word “energy” is derived from this word. “Mightily” is Dunamis, “power” in the sense of natural, inherent ability. Expositors says; “The struggle is carried on in proportion, not to his natural powers, but to the mightily working energy of Christ within him.”

The good news about all of this is this; this power is working in whosoever will. Rather than doing nothing and waiting on the Lord or taking matters into your own hands; we can yield our hands, all of our strength and talents, into His hands. Learning to yield to the conflict will bring you into the place where you too can say, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me”.

BRAND NEW FAMILY

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Col. 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

Redemption is what Christmas is all about. We were all slaves by birth. We knew no other life, we were born into darkness and slavery was our lot in life. We were slaves to sin, slaves to the prince of darkness, and slaves to the law. That is the whole purpose of Christmas, man was in need of a Redeemer since the time of the fall. We see this in the desperate cry of Job thousands of years before Christ, “For I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last he will stand upon the earth”. Christ appeared on earth to purchase us from our life of slavery. His death was the price of redemption; the results, we are now members of a brand new family. We are no longer slaves, we are members of the family of God. Here are some thoughts from John Piper on redemption and our new family.
“The reason we need a ransom to be paid for us is that we have sold ourselves into sin and have been alienated from a holy God. When Jesus gave his life as a ransom, our slave masters, sin and death and the Devil, had to give up their claim on us. And the result was that we could be adopted into the family of God. Paul put it like this in Galatians 4:4–5: “When “the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” In other words, the redemption, or the ransom, frees us to be a part of God’s family. We had run away and sold ourselves into slavery. But God pays a ransom and redeems us out of slavery into the Father’s house.”
This slavery has effected all of us throughout our lives. Some cover it over trying to be the best they can be, others cloak it with various forms of self medication, and still others just sink into the bog of depression. Hopelessness is normally the end result of all of the drama. It’s in hearing and embracing this good news of great joy that we are finally free. Like the shepherds of old, its in embracing the good news of great joy that brings us into the family of God.

UPHOLDER

Heb. 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Col. 1:17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Some people think theology is somehow irrelevant in our hip, modern world. I disagree. Theology gives us the framework for our faith, faith is how we meet and maintain a daily relationship with the Lord. Today’s two verses are loaded with theology that opens up a new way to live our lives. They describe various aspects of Christ and bring out one of His amazing attributes. He upholds all things in the created universe. That’s right, the man Christ Jesus is the upholder of everything. Matthew Henry points out the role of redemption in Christ’s amazing work.
“He upholds all things by the word of his power: he keeps the world from dissolving. By him all things consist. The weight of the whole creation is laid upon Christ: he supports the whole and all the parts. When, upon the apostasy, the world was breaking to pieces under the wrath and curse of God, the Son of God, undertaking the work of redemption, bound it up again, and established it by his almighty power and goodness.”
Not only was the world breaking to pieces as a result and ramification of the fall. All our lives were falling to pieces. Jesus is the restorer and upholder of those broken lives. Without His involvement in our everyday lives implosion is inevitable. With Christ at the center of our world, He causes even the attacks and even poor choices to work together for our good. Andrew Murray shows how creation itself is dependent on His sustaining power every moment.
“Upholding all things by the word of His power. He bears all things, all things consist in Him. Since they were not created without Him, can they exist without Him? He upholds them every moment by the word of His power, even as by His word they were created. This is the Son through whom God speaks.”
So what do you think? I think theology is important. Knowing Christ as sovereign, actually holding everything together, changes everything in my life. Maybe He does have the whole world in His hand.

THE IMAGE OF GOD

Col. 1:15 ¶ He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

The apostles started dealing with doctrinal error at the earliest days of the church. The errors always boiled down to one thing, who exactly is this Jesus of Nazareth. Was He a man, a created being, some sort of heavenly angel like creature, or was He more mystical, like a spirit? Paul and John both drew the line in the sand, Jesus Christ is no less than God Himself. John said that whoever did not call Jesus the Lord was antichrist, part of the antichrist spirit. Paul had a more theological explanation. He said that Jesus was the very image of God, the radiance of the Father’s glory. He began to explain in human words what it means to be the only begotten Son of God. Obviously there is quite a difference between what we are as adopted sons and daughters and who Christ is as the eternally begotten Son of the Father. Here are some thoughts from the Tyndale Commentary on today’s verse.
“From all eternity Jesus had, in his very nature, been the ‘image of God’, reflecting perfectly the character and life of the Father. It was thus appropriate for him to be the ‘image of God’ as man. The doctrine of incarnation which flows from this cannot, by definition, squeeze either ‘divinity’ or ‘humanity’ out of shape.

Indeed, it is only in Jesus Christ that we understand what ‘divinity’ and ‘humanity’ really mean: without him, we lapse into sub-Christian, or even pagan, categories of thought, and then wonder why the doctrine of incarnation causes us so much difficulty. Paul’s way of expressing the doctrine is to say, poetically, that the man Jesus fulfils the purposes which God had marked out both for himself and for humanity.”
You have to be careful when it comes to the deity of Christ. Even the modern day cults can be clearly identified by their beliefs about Christ. They may call Jesus the Son of God but may mean something totally different from what Paul meant. That’s why he spelled it out so clearly. They knew that it was the relationship with this Person that God’s the key to life itself. He is where true life begins. Knowing Him is everything. Who do you say that He is?

I’VE GOT THIS

Col. 1:17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

I was recently reading a book about black holes, creation, and time. In it, there was obviously a missing ingredient that added tension to all the arguments about the universe and its origin. This missing something is the so called X factor that holds everything together. Without it everything would collapse upon itself. Today’s verse says that the Lord holds all things together or sustains all things. The very fabric of creation is held together and filled with God. Without Him everything would collapse into an atomic disaster. Wuest says Lightfoot has an interesting way to describe this characteristic of the Lord.
“Lightfoot translates; “hold together, cohere.” He says; “He is the principle of cohesion in the universe. He impresses upon creation that unity and solidarity which makes it a cosmos (an ordered system) instead of a chaos (an unformed mass). Thus (to take one instance) the action of gravitation, which keeps in their places things fixed and regulates the motions of things moving, is an expression of His mind.”
The Lord not only sustains the universe, He actually holds the details of our lives together. We are part of the all things that He sustains.” Here is how John Owen describes this aspect of the Lord.
“Some translate this as “upholding, supporting, bearing, carrying.” These commentators maintain that it refers to the divine power that is exerted in the conservation of creation that keeps it from sinking into it original confusion and nothingness. About this our Savior says, “My Father works hitherto and I work.” This refers to the providential sustaining of all things made from the beginning. “And this,” says Chrysostom in his commentary, “is a greater work than that of the creation.” By the former all things were brought forth from nothing; by the latter they are preserved from returning to nothing, which is their own nature.

Some take the word to mean his ruling, governing, and disposing of all things made by him and sustained by him. So it may denote the power over all things given to the Son as mediator, or else that providential rule over everything that he has with his Father.”
If this all sounds really complicated lets simplify. The Lord is right in the middle of your life and all of its circumstances. He has a word for you, “I’ve got this”.

GOD’S POWER IN ME

Col. 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,
It seems life is getting more and more complicated. Without supernatural help on a continual basis there is not really much chance to survive as a Christian. We deal with temptations from our own flesh, attacks from the enemy, ridicule and mockery from the world, and more recently even out right persecution. This was the advantage the first century church had; it was birthed by the power of God. It’s very existence was supernatural. Without the continually help of the Holy Spirit the church would have not lasted even a few weeks. The fact that it survived and even prospered in that most difficult time is explained only one way; it was saturated, empowered and sustained by the power of God. If we are to live a different kind of life with different standards than our corrupt society we absolutely need the power of God. Here are some comments on today’s verse from the Wuest word book.
“In the expression “strengthened with all might,” the verb is dunamoō, the noun, dunamis. The reader will observe that both words have the same stem, which means that intrinsically they have the same meaning. Dunamis, the noun, has the following meanings, “strength, ability, power, inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, power which a person or thing exerts and puts forth.” The verb dunamai means “to be able, to have power.” Thus, it is easy to see that these words speak of inherent power which gives one the ability to do something. Dunamoō, which is used here, means “to make strong, to strengthen.” One could translate, “by every enabling power being constantly strengthened.” The word “power” is kratos, “relative and manifested power.” The Greek has it, “according to the manifested power of His glory.” Light-foot says: “The glory here, as frequently, stands for the majesty or the power or the goodness of God, as manifested to men. The doxa (glory), the bright light over the mercy-seat (Rom. 9:4), was a symbol of such manifestations. God’s revelation of Himself to us, however this revelation may be made, is the one source of all our highest strength.”
Man was made to live in and by the glory of God. Nothing less will do. We have been satisfied for far too long with an anemic form of religion when our souls hunger and thirst for the real. Today, determine to press in until… until you too are ‘strengthened with all power according to His glorious might’.