As we continue to look at the beauties of Christ, we come to this phrase in Colossians 1:15; “the firstborn of all creation.” What is the meaning of this term “firstborn”? It is not referring to any birth order as we would in a family where there are other siblings, but points to His existence before anything was created.
In thinking about this, we must not forget the plural nature of the name “God” in Genesis 1:1, referring to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three were involved in every aspect of creation.
The preexistence of Christ as God is future confirmed in Colossian 1:17; “He is before all things.” Jesus said of Himself, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Jesus is placing extra emphasis to affirm that His statement was absolutely true. Since this saying placed the existence of Jesus before Abraham, it is understandable that He was also before creation.
If we go back to John 1:1, the gospel starts with, “In the beginning was the Word.” That word “beginning” means before the world was created, the Word (Jesus) already existed “in a state of being.” We must add that all these references also clearly point to the deity of Christ.
What then is the purpose of going into such detail on one phrase? It is the glory and beauty of Jesus that must lead us to worship and praise! He is incomparable, totally unique, and beyond our ability to adequately describe!
HIS BEAUTY - OUR WORSHIP
While the Bible is full of exalted descriptions of Jesus, and we could never exhaust the beauty of these, there are a few that capture our hearts and cause them to worship with abandoned joy. One of these references is Colossians 1:15-20.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:15–20).
I will use the next few blogs to focus our minds on Christ’s glory. As the “image of the invisible God,” Jesus enabled us to see what God is like through the incarnation. Though we cannot see God, He has revealed Himself in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus said to Philip, “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
It is no wonder that the Holy Spirit delights to show us the things of Christ and remind us of what He said (John 14:26; 16:14). If you want to know more about God, ask the Spirit to show you more of Jesus Christ and you will see more of His Father.
VERY SWEEPING STATEMENTS
If we take the time to study some of the most sweeping statements of Scripture and believe their truth, we would be compelled to accept the sovereignty of God in anything. I want to remind us of two verses that make these statements---the first one we are perhaps very familiar with.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Knowing that we are called “sons of God… children of God” (8:14, 16), we also know that God is completely in control of what He allows into our lives. That does not mean we always understand what He allows, but we accept the fact that He is sovereign and perfect in all His ways. As we walk with Him, we will gain understanding.
The next verse is in Ephesians 1:11; “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). In this verse, the word “counsel” or “boulēn” means God’s plan, intention, or purpose that was part of making or allowing something to happen.
As these two verses make us thoughtful of all God’s ways, we begin to realize there is nothing apart from what He allows or designs for our good. As we allow this truth to govern our thoughts and actions, our response to circumstances should point others to our sovereign God as the one who is over all that takes place. Nothing is outside of His knowledge or control.
CONVERSATIONS - WHAT'S THE TOPIC?
What would a conversation with Paul be like? There were many things going on during his day, including political struggles between the Jews and the Roman government. Luke alone records any of Paul’s interaction with the religious leaders or Roman appointed representatives in Jerusalem. Even then, no one acted as his attorney when he was taken into custody by soldiers in Acts 21.
He made his own defense before Ananias the high priest, Felix the Roman governor, Festus or king Agrippa. It fascinates me that in all of Paul’s letters, he never specifically mentions these events or their details. I am sure he could have said much about these in conversations, but didn’t.
Christ and the gospel of grace was his sole focus. So many of our conversations revolve around ourselves and the problems we face in this world (I AM GUILTY!). The economic and political conditions of Paul’s day were no easier than what we experience today, but they do not rise to being worthy of Paul’s letters. Even his accomplishments were rubbish (dung) to him along side “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8)
I am ashamed at the number of times I have turned conversations and made them revolve around myself and what I have done. As with Paul, when Jesus fills our spiritual vision, everything else in life must draw its meaning and importance from Him.
Hudson Taylor said, “Christ is either Lord of all, or is not Lord at all.” When Jesus called the disciples, “immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (Mark 1:18). What are we still hanging onto as if it were more important than Jesus Christ?
WEARY? DON'T GIVE UP!
There is not one of us who at some point in life and ministry does not grow weary (tired) in some degree. If we are honest, the pressures of life alone, and especially in combination with doing the Lord’s work, can make us tired and even tempt us to give up. On top of these pressures, anyone who seeks to remain faithful to the Word of God will face opposition and false teachers.
Paul certainly knew these challenges and tells the believers in the Galatian churches, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:8–9).
A very subtle thing happens when we physically get weary. Rather than guarding our thoughts, we allow Satan to suggest ideas that are contrary to the Word of God. When these thoughts are permitted to linger, they turn into self-pity. Corrie Ten Boom stated; “Self-pity is a nasty sin and the devil uses it and always starts his talks with “Poor Me…”” (ibid, page 138).
What is the remedy for becoming “weary”? “Sow to the Spirit [and] from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Through Him our energy will be renewed to keep doing God’s will for His glory.
I turn in this blog to a subject that many I talk to find very difficult. It does not matter how dark and painful our past has been, Jesus “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). In addition to that, “God made [us] alive together with Him, having forgiven all our trespasses [sins]” (Colossians 2:13). Those two facts provide truth for us to stand on when forgiving others.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (3:12–14).
Corrie Ten Boom survived the horrors of Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany and struggled after with forgiving those who mistreated her and her sister. Consider her words; “Then it was that another secret of forgiveness became evident. It was not enough to simply say, “I forgive you.” I must also begin to live it out. And in my case, that meant acting as though their sins, like mine, were buried in the depths of the deepest sea. If God could remember them no more – and He had said, “your sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17), then neither should I.” (Tramp for the Lord, Fleming H. Revell, 1974, page 184).
Stop and consider if you are “forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
WHAT IS YOUR RISK FACTOR?
The call to minister the gospel to the ends of the earth is not an easy one. I am afraid we give up too quickly and let obstacles stop us from sharing the Good News with those who have never heard. Some of those obstacles are what happens in our own minds; excuses that we create because we have lost our boldness and passion to save the lost.
If you have read the biographies of missionaries like C. T. Studd, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, William Cary, Jim Elliot and many others, you know they stopped at nothing to share the gospel with the unsaved. Suffering, separation from family, starvation and illness, lack of ordinary comforts, and loss of everything, including their spouse was a price they were willing to pay.
We should remind ourselves of Barnabas and Saul when they were sent out by the Holy Spirit and the Antioch church, they arrived at places like Salamis and immediately “proclaimed the Word of God in the synagogues of the Jews…they had gone through the whole island” (Acts 13:5-6). They gave no thought to the risks that might be involved.
We often think the risks of sharing the gospel to the unreached are too high today. Was the risk too high for John Chau who lost his life in seeking to reach an unreached people group. For these, the risk was small compared to the eternal gain of souls brought into the kingdom of God. In the case of all those mentioned here, the risk was worth receiving the eternal reward!
THE AROMA OF PRAYER
As I closed this month’s newsletter for NFI, Revelation 5 came to mind. We rightly think of all the preaching, witnessing, and years of hard missionary work learning languages and translation. Then there are the billions of dollars that have been spent over centuries. Great as all these have been, I have no doubt that the prayers that have gone up to God, pleading with Him to spread the gospel and open hearts, will remain as eternal incense to God.
“And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:8–9).
Hospitals, schools, wells, organizations and all the funding that goes into missionary effort is never mentioned in Revelation. The prayers of the saints are! Not only that, they carry with them an aroma, as if they were a sacrifice of Christ. Such prayers are answered by redeeming “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation!” We could not do anything greater than give ourselves to prayer. They have eternal consequences.
EVIDENCE BEYOND DOUBT
Whether we look at the expansive universe through a telescope or a tiny cross section of the human DNA through a microscope, we are looking at a revelation of God’s “invisible attributes” and “eternal power.” For those who do not believe in God and reject Him, Paul has something to say;
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:19-20)
How sad that so many have rejected this evidence. Paul said earlier in this chapter that such persons “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” and it becomes a willful act of the mind and heart to reject the evidence God has given in His own creation.
Those of us who believe and know God personally should value the revelation of Himself in His creation as well as the authority of God’s Word, the Bible. It is “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).
CONTROLLED BY THE ETERNAL
In a world where everything we see, hear, and touch is in some way tainted by sin, it is very hard to believe and acknowledge the sovereignty of God. The argument that so many give, and perhaps our own hearts, is, how can God be in control and sovereign when there is so much evil around us. Paul puts this issue in perspective:
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).
William MacDonald (a man I knew personally) puts this verse into simple terms; “The Almighty is self-contained. He is the source of everything good. He is the active Agent in sustaining and controlling the universe, and He is the Object for which everything has been created. Everything is designed to bring glory to Him.” (NT Believers Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson, page 544.)
Since this verse in Romans 11 is true, why should we not let this truth control our thinking and replace our anxiety with expectations of what God will finally do with this universe for His glory? If we allow this to control us, we will live now for His purpose, will and glory.
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