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Colossae: Introducing Christ

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book-of-col-cover

Introducing Colossae.

Introducing Christ.

It seems appropriate to begin our study by starting with the background – to look at context, culture, and what was happening in the world.

We learned from Titus that right doctrine rightly applied produces right living. As we make our way through Colossians, we will encounter echoes of this same truth, but from a different angle. Knowledge of God is important. No it’s vital. Your view of God, your understanding of who God is, ultimately is the only thing that matters. Because what you know of Him shapes what you believe and then how you feel and finally how you act.

Fortunately God does not leave us in the dark concerning who He is! He, the eternal Creator, makes Himself known to us, the limited, finite created ones. He reveals Himself to us through His creation, but most presently and intimately through HIS SON.

Ahh, here’s where our letter speaks most loudly! Colossians is said to have a profoundly high view of Christ. Perhaps this is exactly the kind of letter we need to read today. Let us settle in and get reacquainted with Christ, the supreme and sufficient Savior!

Colossians 1:1-2 says,

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Please meet my new friends, the Colossians. Even though Paul is the first character mentioned, then Timothy, I’m actually going to discuss the Colossians first.

Colossae

You may be wondering what is so special about Colossae. To tell you the truth, nothing. It was said to be the least important church of the New Testament. In fact Lightfoot writes, “without doubt Colossae was the least important church to which any epistle of St. Paul is addressed.” (Word Comm p. 2) But don’t you just love that Paul wrote to them anyway? The church is still the Church no matter how small. Let us begin with a geography lesson!

Colossae was a city in Phrygia, a Roman province of Asia (modern day Turkey). It is located about 100 miles east of Ephesus. Here are two maps to show you where it is:

Here is another view of Colossae:

Bird’s Eye View of Colossae

It was a thriving city in the 5th century B.C. (think Esther and the Persian King Xerxes) but had declined by the time Paul was on the scene because the major trade roads that once carved through Colossae began to bypass the town for the neighboring cities like Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Trade Route

Trade Route that ran between Laodicea and Hierapolis

Another view of the trade route by Hierapolis

It is believed that Colossae was initially made wealthy due to the textile industry, and the city was known for its wool and black and red dyes which came from the nearby chalk deposits (Strabo in Word; MacArthur).

The tri-cities were nestled in the Lycus River Valley, named after the Lycus River which ran through the towns. J.B. Lightfoot writes about the Lycus River and the impressive formations that formed as a result of the river:

Ancient monuments are buried; fertile land is overlaid; river beds choked up and streams diverted; fantastic grottoes and cascades and archways of stone are formed, by this strange, capricious power, at once destructive and creative, working silently throughout the ages. Fatal to vegetation, these encrustations spread like a stony shroud over the ground. Gleaming like glaciers on the hillside, they attract the eye of the traveller at a distance of twenty miles, and form a singularly striking feature in scenery of more than common beauty and impressiveness. (in Barclay NDSB)

Unfortunately we know only a tiny amount about the ancient city of Colossae due to the fact that it has never been excavated. Here are some images of the land as it stands currently.

Colossae view from the mound

Mount Cadmos

Colossian theater

Colossian theater (notice the “seats”)

Sometime after 61 A.D., a massive earthquake destroyed the tri-city area (according to Eusebius it was 64 A.D. and Tacitus claims it was 61 A.D.).

  • Eusebius is said to have chronicled an earthquake destroying Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis (Chron. Olymp. 210.4) in the 10th year of Nero [AD 64]. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible: “That this city [Colossae] perished by an earthquake, a short time after the date of this epistle, we have the testimony of Eusebius…”
  • Tacitus records the quake in the 7th year of Nero (Nero was Emperor of Rome from AD 54-68, putting the earthquake around AD 61—Annals 14.27. Tacitus recorded that Laodicea was also destroyed in the quake, but was later rebuilt apparently without Roman assistance. Note that Jesus wrote to Laodicea, but Colossae was not mentioned among the letters of Revelation. By this time (AD 96), Colossae in large part no longer existed.  (http://religiouslyincorrect.com/Articles/TriCityAreaEarthquake.shtml)

An interesting fact concerning Colosse is that the Lycus River brought cold water to the city. Here is a view of the Lycus River:

A well-documented fact of Colossian history was that the Lycus river, beginning at Colossae, disappeared underground for about 1/2 mile. In the area where the underground course was believed to run is now a ~30′ deep canyon. It is believed this canyon was formed by collapsing of earth caused by the AD 60 earthquake [102]. This may help explain the existence of cold springs in the area; for if the Lycus flowed several hundred yards beneath the surface, it would have emerged cold. And although the 60 AD earthquake may have rendered the underground Lycus course extinct, it’s clear that underground water activity was not uncommon.

What is most interesting about this Colossian fact can only be realized if you see a map of the area and understand a little bit about the neighboring towns of Hierapolis and Laodicea.

The rivers naturally ran toward the sea which was off to the west. This means that the Lycus River at Colossae ran to Laodicea. Hierapolis, their neighbor to the north, remains famous even today for it’s hot springs.

Hierapolis hot spring

These hot springs would run south to Laodicea where they would mix with the cold water from the Lycus River. This helps explain Jesus’ “neither cold nor hot” remarks about Laodicea, which was sandwiched approximately between its two sister cities (Rev 3:16). Interestingly, the cold water of Colossae was extremely beneficial as a refreshing drink or to help soothe a fever. Likewise the hot water of Hierapolis was used to help relieve sore muscle aches as it had healing properties at such high temperatures. This is why Jesus wanted Laodicea to be either hot (therapeutic benefits) or cold (refreshing benefits) but not lukewarm.

Audience

The majority of the people at Colossae were most likely Gentiles. However Josephus describes a movement from Babylon of about 2,000 Jewish families into the area of Colossae during the days of Antiochus the Great (223-187 B.C. – 1st century B.C.; Ant. XII 6.4).

The letter was most likely written to Gentile Christians rather than Jewish believers, and this is evidenced in four ways:

  1. How the author addresses the Jewish legalism that plagued the church (1:12, 21, 24, 27; 2:11-13; 3:5-7);
  2. The scarce allusions to the OT;
  3. A list of Gentile-specific vices; and
  4. A near lack of references to the issue of reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles in the congregation (noting 3:11, 4:11).

The congregation was said to be full of new believers (but honestly, most churches were new if you think about it!), and we might assume that they either were experiencing some uncertainty in their faith due to outside pressures OR were needing more instruction in the truth of the gospel in order to buffer the outside pressure. In other words, they either needed correction or encouragement (or perhaps both). We must not be quick to assume that they had gone astray though because Paul’s tone does not seem to be harsh (as in Galatians for example).

Rome

I mentioned that Colossae was in the region known as Phrygia, a Roman province. Here is a map showing the entirety of the Roman Empire.

With the exception of the orange and yellow, this is how widespread the empire was during Paul’s time. It stretched from England to India. And just to give you an idea of Rome’s dominance, they ruled over this area (give or take a few regions) for 1500 years! To give you an idea of how incredible this is, our country is a little over 240 years old.

The reason Rome is important to our study is that we can know some defining characteristics of the culture in Colossae and the surrounding regions. We will be talking about the Persians sometime in the near future, and like the Persians, the Romans had a lust for power. They had conquest ingrained in their bones. However, unlike the Persians, they did not rule with an iron fist per se. They allowed more freedom under the law, and this resulted in a fairly long lasting sense of peace throughout the empire.

The Romans had a definite philosophy on what made a country great. Naturally they would espouse their views as the “best” way of living. They essentially believed the Roman way was “the way.” Interestingly, there were several factors that made the spread of the gospel much easier during the Roman rule.

  1. Political unity produced economic and political stability as well as encouraging trade between cities and regions.
  2. Military and trade routes meant easy access to large numbers of people.
  3. Greek was the universal language and made communication easier between regions.
  4. The mixing of cultures allowed for easier cross-cultural evangelism.

However, as great as Rome was, there was also a blending of religions. It was very easy to hold 1) syncretistic beliefs during this time because the Romans had so many gods (just like the Greeks) and did not hold to a monotheistic framework. What was one more god going to hurt? I’ll just add Jesus to my repertoire. They were polytheistic and inclusive.

Just imagine what the culture was like for the Colossians. Grab a little of that faith, a little of this one, sprinkle some of that one, and viola, I think I’ve figured out the best concoction to be fully spiritual.

In addition to this, 2) Rome was seen as the great light that had come to be the great salvation. “A lot of people had put their hope in Rome’s ability to take care of them.” (Matt Chandler)

Author and Date

The letter specifically says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus…and Timothy our brother…” It would make sense then that the author is Paul, right? Scholars note that just because the letter begins with Paul’s name does not necessarily indicate true authorship. There is evidence that people in the first century wrote letters using Paul’s name to lend credence to their words. I personally think that Paul wrote the letter, HOWEVER some scholars have questioned the Pauline authorship of Colossians. Yet a greater amount of evidence points to Paul as the author.

Let me give you some reasons for both arguments:

Those who question a Pauline authorship believe that the writer’s vocabulary/style and theology are different from that of Paul’s. Let’s talk about style first (from Berkhof):

  1. The style is said to be different from that of the apostle. They believe that some of the word choices are not typical of Paul and that the construction of the letter carries a certain heaviness that feels different from a genuine Pauline letter.
    1. To answer this objection, it is not uncommon for a person’s vocabulary to change over time, especially when dealing with the specific circumstances at Colossae. In addition his choice of “new” words (not used in other letters) is not proof that he did not write the letter. He also uses different words in the letter to the Romans, but no one questions the authenticity of that letter! The difference in his vocabulary is more likely due to his subject matter.
  2. It is believed that the Christology (theology) of this letter is un-Pauline and conflicts with the representation of Paul in his other writings.
    1. To address this objection: There is no reason to believe that Paul could not have more fully developed his view of Christ (Christology). Nothing in his Christology actually conflicts with other Pauline passages on this matter (Rom 8:19-22; 1 Cor 8:6; 2 Cor 4:4; Phil 2:5-11).

Interestingly, “there is no historical evidence that the Pauline authorship of Colossians was ever suspect in the early church” (bible.org). Louis Berkhof also explains that there is “no good reasons to doubt the Pauline authorship of this Epistle. {Marcion and the school of Valentinus recognized it as genuine. And the great witnesses of the end of the second century, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertulilian repeatedly quote it by name}.” He then lists several early church fathers who attest to Paul’s authorship of Colossians. (http://thirdmill.org/magazine/article.asp/link/http:%5E%5Ethirdmill.org%5Earticles%5Elou_berkhof%5Elou_berkhof.INT_%20026.pdf/at/Introduction%20to%20the%20New%20Testament)

Douglas Moo notes “there are simply too many specific personal claims woven throughout the letter” for this to have been written by anyone other than Paul. (Pillar)

In other words, when the beginning sentence claims it was written by “Paul, an apostle…” the people believed it was from Paul!

The other twist in this plot is that Timothy is also mentioned as if he were a co-author. Douglas Moo writes,

Timothy, enlisted among Paul’s co-workers at the beginning of the second missionary journey (Acts 16:1–3), became the most important of Paul’s ministry associates. Brother, therefore, is probably intended to suggest Timothy’s close association with Paul in ministry. What role does Timothy play in the composition of this letter? Schweizer and Dunn, among others, suggest that Timothy may have been the actual writer of the letter, with Paul perhaps reading and “signing off” on what Timothy had written. But this may give Timothy more credit than he deserves…. To be sure, Timothy’s inclusion in the prescripts of these other letters can readily be explained in terms of his involvement with those churches. (Pillar NTC)

I agree that we don’t need to make too much of this extra author because we honestly can’t know if he wrote any of the letter. He is mentioned in the greeting in three other letters – Philippians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. It’s possible that he was present with Paul and showed the same concern for this little church. I just love that it shows that cycle of missions at work – he’s like Paul’s apprentice.

This letter was written from prison so unfortunately the dating of this letter is also uncertain. To spare you all the details, Paul was either in Ephesus (100 miles away) or Rome (1,200 miles away). An Ephesian imprisonment would mean an earlier date around 52-55 A.D. and a Roman imprisonment would be later around 60-62 A.D. (Moo, Pillar)

There are equally good reasons for both dates. I would say that we can put the date of the letter before 60 A.D. for certain because of that earthquake (remember, it happened sometime after 61 A.D.). “Paul did not refer to this catastrophic event; thus, scholars believe Paul had either not yet heard the news, or that his letters to Colossians and Philemon predated the quake.” (TriCityAreaEarthquake)

And also because if it were much later, then Paul couldn’t have written it (because he was said to be in Rome after 60 A.D. and according to tradition, died in Rome). This line of thinking leans toward an Ephesian imprisonment but does not entirely rule out the Roman imprisonment.

There are four Prison Epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Most people group Colossians with Philemon because the greetings in each letter are sent from practically the same people (Phile 23; Col 1:7; 4:12-19). In fact the two letters have eight of the nine names in common. Philemon 12 tells us that Tychicus (who is mentioned in Col 4:7) had Onesimus as his companion on the journey to the Lycus Valley.

Interestingly, though Paul is the author of this letter, there is no evidence that he was ever in Colossae. Paul passed through the region of Phrygia twice, once at the start of his second journey and again at the beginning of his third journey (Acts 16:6, 18:23). However he did not even come close to the city of Colossae the first time, and if he did the second time, he certainly did not found the church there (since he says in Col 2:1 that they had never seen his face before).

It is most likely that his preaching in Ephesus (between 52-55 AD) allowed for others, namely Epaphras, to take the message to the city of Colossae (1:7; 4:12; Acts 19). Many believe that Epaphras was converted at Ephesus under Paul’s teaching and then was trained and prepared to go plant a church in his hometown of Colossae. (https://bible.org/seriespage/background-colossians)

Reason for Letter

As in every letter, it is best to look at the overall picture before plunging into the details. This is why I believe in reading the letter in its entirety when you first begin a bible study of any New Testament letter. One of the first questions I like to ask is: why was this letter written?

It seems that every letter Paul wrote was meant to correct some sort of error and also to offer encouragement for the believers to press on in their circumstances. The letter to the Colossians is no different. Paul addresses a threat of false teaching which sought to “undermine the person and work of Christ and the sufficiency of the salvation believers have in Him.” (bible.org bkgd)

You see how he speaks to the false teaching by expounding on sound teaching (theology) in Col 1 and 2, giving them the resources they would need to fend off these opponents.

He then offers his encouragement to the believers who might have been unsure of their salvation and their Savior. Paul also congratulates them at the beginning of chapter two for their “good order and the firmness of [their] faith.” (2:5)

The letter to the Colossians is best known for its major emphasis on Christology, or the summing up of all things in Christ. Many have questioned whether this high view even jives with the other books of the NT. Can they possibly be wondering if Paul declares too high of view of Christ? I just don’t see how this is a problem!

Perhaps this illustration about me and my sister will help me make my point more clear.

I have a sister who is over three years younger than me. She is taller, has darker, curlier hair, and darker skin. She has the most amazing dark eyes with the darkest eye lashes which everyone always envies about her! She is beautiful and funny and talented. One of my favorite things that everyone asks is, are you two twins? Ha! Yes, I’ll take that compliment. We look similar though I’ve just explained to you how different we are.

My mother, sister, and me

But as different as we are in appearance, we are worlds apart in our interests and preferences. She is a musician, I couldn’t tell you the difference between G and A. She went through a “goth” period with the dark, colorful hair and nails, I have never even dyed my hair (highlights yes..). She loves horror flicks and Halloween, I get scared watching Jurassic Park (The raptor scene!!! it’s terrifying people!).

If someone were to write a letter to her about how to handle a troubling situation, it would sound very different from how a letter to me might sound. The message will ultimately be the same, but you’ll find very distinct emphases because not only are we different people but what would be troubling to her might be different from what would trouble me. Yet at the end of the day, my sister and I aren’t so different. I still need Jesus just like she needs Jesus.

Louis Berkhof writes “the Christology of this letter is in perfect harmony with that of previous Epistles, but there is a difference of emphasis.” Paul emphasizes the significant impact Christ makes not only on the Church but on the whole Cosmos or creation. “All things were created by Him and find the purpose of their existence in Him.” Word Commentary notes that the specific conditions at Colossae necessitated the need for this high view. I would go further to say that WE ALL need this high view of Christ.

Many have said that the letter to the Colossians is the twin letter of Ephesians. Berkhof notes that of the 155 verses in Ephesians, 78 find parallels in Colossians. As you read in the intro, Ephesians focuses on ecclesiology (study of the church) whereas Colossians focuses on Christology.

So now you may ask, what exactly was the Colossian heresy? What was the threat of false teaching? Who was it that was threatening this congregation?

All great questions! This issue is the topic of MUCH debate beginning in the 19th century (interestingly, there was no debate about it before this time). The writers of the Word Commentary note 44 different suggestions among 19th-20th century NT scholars. Just to relieve your angst, I will not be going over all 44 views. Just 20. Aww! I’m teasing…

My personal preference when dealing with unclear passages or issues in a passage is to take a look at how Scripture, and to be more specific, how Paul handles the truth in the letter in order to combat any external pressures. It also just so happens that knowing a little about the culture and history can inform our view as well. I will not go into great detail concerning the WHO because we will deal with the opponents as the passage progresses.

So how does Paul handle these opponents? Well he warns the Colossians to be on their guard (2:8) because these opponents would try to ensnare them “by philosophy and empty deceit” (2:8). But he also mentions “human traditions” that are set up against Christ (2:8). Finally there seems to be a Jewish edge to these opponents which you will find in 2:16-19.

In other words, the Colossians were dealing with a combination of philosophy and Jewish tradition. Arnold argues, “The Colossian ‘philosophy’ … represents a combination of Phrygian folk belief, local folk Judaism, and Christianity. The local folk belief has some distinctive Phrygian qualities, but it also has much in common with what we could also describe as magic or ritual power.”65 (Moo, Pillar)

{Remember the tolerance or inclusive nature of the Romans.}

This means that the opponents were not wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing, lurking in and among the church members, but rather were most likely outsiders pressing in on the Colossian church. To be clear, they were still wolves, but not those who had infiltrated the church as we saw in Titus.

In his letter, Paul also uses slogans or catch words of the opponents but turns them on their heads by using different definitions to more accurately reflect the truth. For example he uses the phrase “all the fullness” (2:9), which was likely a catchword used by the opponents (based on studies of word usage in the NT and early Greek writings). Moo notes, “Paul’s use of this ‘fullness’ suggests that the false teachers were claiming to offer a “fullness” of spiritual experience that could not be found through Christ alone.52” (Pillar) So as to highjack and therefore baptize the slogan, Paul applies this title to Jesus and not to whatever “fullness” the opponents were focusing on.

A major criticism Paul makes about the opponents was that they were puffed up with pride (v. 18 “their unspiritual minds puff them up with idle notions”). Apparently they were bragging about their ability to find ultimate spiritual “fulfillment” by means of their own spiritual program of visions and asceticism as well as observance of several Jewish traditions. (Moo, Pillar) Moo writes, “Paul … implies that the main deficiency … the false teachers found in Christ was his inability to provide ultimate spiritual ‘fulfillment.’” (Pillar)

This spiritual program they followed caused them to separate themselves from finding the true source of spiritual power which is Christ alone.

The essence of false teaching was that it was “not according to Christ” (2:8), or to use another phrase from Paul, they were trying to set up anything against Christ. {Christ + _______}

Thus the reason for our title, Christ – sufficient and supreme. Paul teaches the Colossians that they can find all they need in Him. Though the opponents would not teach according to Christ, he would continue to teach “according to Christ.” (I’m keeping this short and precise because you will get into this more as we dive into the particulars.)

Key Themes

Finally to give you some themes or key words to watch for:

  • Wisdom/knowledge/mystery (Christ is where it is found and He makes it available to all His people, not to an elite only)
  • Slavery v. Freedom (Christ has overthrown the powers; victory in Jesus!)
  • Old self v. new self (The Greek word for “old” does not refer to something old in years but to something that is worn out and useless. The old self died with Christ, and the life we now enjoy is a new, divinely given life that is the life of Christ Himself (Gal 2:20). (MacArthur))
  • Already, not-yet (we already have salvation but heaven is not yet) (Paul’s [often discusses] what God has “already” done in Christ [which] is balanced and kept in tension with what has “not yet” happened. Yet Colossians replaces the temporal scheme of “already” and “not yet” with the spatial scheme of “below” and “above” (3:1–4) and teaches a “realized” eschatology. We are already resurrected in Christ. We are already free in Christ. Douglas Moo Pillar Comm)

Final thoughts – Introducing Christ, the only one you need

As we ponder the bigger picture of this letter, I’d like us to consider God’s heart for His people. What kind of God hand picks the most zealous Jewish man to lead His missionary movement? A movement that will largely reach the Gentiles? Think about who Paul was before Christ interrupted his religious tirade against the followers of Christ. He called himself the Hebrew of Hebrews in Phil 3:4-6:

though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

If there was anyone who would be considered godly (to have spiritual fullness), it was Paul. One thing that I’ve read over and over again is that the Jews did not proselytize. They did not go out and make disciples of other nations. But Christ chose Saul, later to be known as Paul, to lead His church, becoming the apostle to the Gentiles!

And think about how incredibly suited or qualified he was to be able to preach to the Jews. He knew the Law backwards and front (Napoleon Dynamite reference! BAM!). He was able, from his vast training in the Hebrew culture and Scripture, to explain to the Gentiles (and Jews) how Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Scriptures.

He was also able to see that, as great as the Law was, it could not do what Christ did. (Rom 8:3 “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.”) How perfect then was it for God to choose Paul who would be able to refute any opponents to the gospel of Christ!

Think about how difficult it must have been for the Colossian believers to come to faith in Christ only to be told that they needed something else, in fact that they needed to become Jewish and/or mystical in their practices. That they needed some extra knowledge that only this philosophy would give them. Or worse, that they couldn’t possibly be God’s chosen people because they were not Jews. How could God choose Gentiles? (said with utter disdain/contempt)

Surely these opponents would have shaken them enough to cause them to question their salvation and their Savior. Are we really qualified to share in the “inheritance of the saints in light” (1:12)? Do we really have forgiveness of our sins (1:14; 2:13-14)? Are we really “holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (1:22)? Could these philosophies and human traditions really help us to attain to the Godward life? (1:22-23, 2:8) Can we really have “full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery” (2:2)? How can we, being dead in our sins, be made alive (2:13)?

More importantly, how did the opponents cause them to doubt Christ? Was He really God (1:15, 19; 2:9)? Is He really as important as we’ve been told (1:15-20)? Could Christ really cancel the record of debt against me (2:14)? Or would the law do this (2:8, 17, 23)? Was Christ’s death also for me, a Gentile (2:11-15; 3:11)? Is Christ really supreme? Is He really sufficient?

There is truly nothing new under the sun. Paul and the Colossians had to deal with opponents to the gospel, and we are no different today. What philosophies do we buy into which claim to have the answer to all our spiritual woes? What tried and true traditions are we told to follow in order to be truly godly?

So you’ve tried praying, and you aren’t getting the answers you hoped for… have you tried ______? You don’t like the direction your marriage is heading in…have you tried ______? You are unsure how to handle those unruly children…have you tried ______?

Is Christ not enough?

Scared about the future of the nation? Worried about your job? Anxious about family relationships? Struggling with sin?

Is Christ not enough?

Let Paul paint you a picture of your Savior. The Messiah. The Head of the Church. The risen One! The One who is our Peace. Our Hope of Glory. Our Victory over sin and death! The King on His throne. Christ, who is our Life.

Christ, not enough?!

No, Christ sufficient and supreme!

The only One you need.

Isaiah 1: The Consuming Fire

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I remember the first time I learned about God as the all-consuming fire. It was when I first heard about Moses (the un-cut version – not the nicey-nice children’s version). Take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy groundIt was such a strange and foreign image to my mind – God being a fire. But I was young and have since learned more about this consuming fire.

The next time I remember reading about fire in the Bible was when I read about the Hebrews in Babylon. They would not bow down, so they were thrown into the fire. But then there was a fourth person in the fire! And when the three men came out (yes, they walked right through the blazing inferno), not even a hair was singed on their bodies. Okay, make a mental note: not only is God an all-consuming fire, but He can rescue His faithful followers out of a fire. (You have no idea how much I want to continue talking about this amazing story…but I digress.)

In college my Old Testament professor drove home the image of fire as a metaphor for judgment. For some reason this concept has stuck with me more than all the others. It seems like fire is sprinkled all throughout the Bible: God as the pillar of fire. Elijah at Mount Carmel. Endless sacrifices. The refiner’s fire. The tongues of flame at Pentecost. The fiery pit of hell (and those are just the ones I could think of off the top of my head). Aside from these examples, the largest majority of references to fire actually pertain to judgment (whether from God or man). Frankly, I see why fire is used as a metaphor for judgment. The imagery is frightening. I can’t think of a worse way to die either – to be burned alive in a fiery blaze.

It’s with all these pictures in mind that I read through the first chapter of Isaiah. First my eye caught the words “Sodom” and “Gomorrah” (v. 9-10), and I recalled Genesis 19:24:

Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. (ESV)

Terrifying reminder number one. Surely the Judahites’ ears perked up a little when they heard Isaiah speak the name of those two condemned cities. And then in Isaiah 1:10 he calls them “you leaders of ‘Sodom'” and “people of ‘Gomorrah.'” I’m sorry, did he just refer to us as the leaders of the worst cities ever? Why yes, I think he did.

He goes on to describe their self-centered approach to worship, calling it sinful and false (v. 13).  Now those are fightin’ words, Isaiah. We’re just doing what’s in the Law. We’re following our religion. And how’s that working out for you? God says He wants none of your sacrifices, He’s sick of your offerings, He gets no pleasure from your animal sacrifices, wishes you’d stop bringing your meaningless gifts, is disgusted by your incense offerings, hates your celebrations and festivals, believes all of this is a burden to Him and He cannot stand them (v. 11-14). He even refuses to look when they lift up their hands in prayer because their hands are covered with the blood of the innocent (v. 15). If we’re being honest, maybe Sodom and Gomorrah is a fitting description for them after all.

Following this laundry list of all the things appalling to God, Isaiah (God) tells them “Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of My sight. Give up your evil ways.” (v. 16, NLT)

Anytime someone says “get out of my sight,” it’s usually uttered with absolute contempt or disdain. And usually, the person isn’t joking around. It’s a serious matter and requires an immediate response. I suppose you could call it an ultimatum. Do X or else Y will happen to you. Isaiah goes on to tell them what they should do (v. 17) and in verse 18 we read a familiar passage:

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as  white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool. (ESV)

But we often miss v. 19-20, “If you will only obey Me…But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword…” (oh boy, another judgment metaphor). He tells them, I don’t care for all your “religious”, lack-luster, disingenuous worship. I want your obedience. I want to take away your sins, and I want to make you holy. In v.24-26 Isaiah tells the people that God will use judgment or discipline to make this happen. He would even bring renewal through the appointment of godly leaders. Again in v. 27-28 He reminds them to repent (wash yourselves, be clean, give up your evil ways!) and if they don’t, they’ll be destroyed, consumed. And we finally arrive at the image of fire in v. 31:

The strongest among you will disappear like straw;
    their evil deeds will be the spark that sets it on fire.
They and their evil works will burn up together,
    and no one will be able to put out the fire. (NLT)

Their own sins will set them on fire, and no one will be able to put it out. It’s one thing to have a blazing fire that can be contained. It’s a completely other thing to have a devouring fire that can’t be extinguished. That’s complete destruction. That’s an all-consuming fire. And that‘s how God describes Himself on several occasions (Deut 4:24, 9:3, Is 30:27, 33:14, Lam 2:3, Heb 12:29). What do I even make of this?

The passage in Deuteronomy tells us that God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. He refers to Himself as a jealous God several times as well (Ex 20:4-5, Deut 5:9, 6:15, Ez 38:19 and it goes on and on), and it’s almost always coupled with anger (as burning or kindled or smoking – in other words, like a fire). Perhaps we have a hard time with this fiery, jealous anger, because when we respond with jealous anger, it’s sinful. I believe we could have moments of divine jealousy, but I think those are rare. But God does not sin. His jealousy is completely legitimate and founded. His jealousy is the Lover’s jealousy written in Song of Solomon 8:6:

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame.

When the Bible speaks of God’s jealousy, it is usually a jealousy for His holy reputation and for those things and people who belong to Him – 1) God is jealous for His name, 2) He is jealous for Jerusalem/Zion, and 3) He is jealous for us (Ez 39:25, Zech 1:14, James 4:5). First, He is unwilling to share His glory (Is 42:8, 48:11). Interestingly God’s glory is known as the shekinah glory, and when He manifests His glory on earth, it appears as a brilliant light that blazes like a fire (Ex 30:44-45; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Ez 1:28; Matt 17:1-8). It is something that no man can behold in its fullness and still live to tell about it (Ex 33:20). Secondly, God is jealous for the place where He has said He would make His name, eyes, and heart dwell (1 Kings 9:3, 11:36; 2 Kings 21:7). This again is connected to His reputation. And finally, like the jealous lover, God is not willing to share His people (who also bear His name) with anyone or anything (Ez 36:22-32). He will defend the holiness of His name wherever He has made His name to dwell. We are caught up in a love that is as fierce as a fire.

This jealousy, though it is a burning desire for His glory, somehow manages to be great news for us. Actually it is our only hope. In the Ezekiel 36 passage, God declares:

23I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (ESV)

His motivation is for “the holiness of [His] great name,” but we benefit from this jealousy as He makes us holy and gives us His Spirit who makes it possible for us to obey Him. The all-consuming fire came down to earth, but He didn’t devour and destroy. He came to save (John 3:16-17; 1 Tim 1:15). John 1:1-5, 14 tells us of the light that came down:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (ESV)

This is the greatest news! This is the gospel. The people spoken of in Isaiah whose own sin had set them on fire have a God who is greater than their sin. They have a God who is greater than the Law which they were trying so hard to follow (Rom 8:1-4). Come, though your sins are as scarlet, I will make them as snow. Come, I will cleanse you, giving you a new heart and putting My Spirit in youCome, I have set My name on you as seal, and I am the jealous Lover. You are Mine.

Isaiah 1: When It’s All About Me (But Really…It’s Not)

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My husband and another man at our church took our Sunday School class through lessons on the prophets last year. It was (mostly) chronological which I found extremely helpful in placing their prophecies at the correct times in history. Knowing the context opens up our understanding of  the text. For example I learned that Isaiah’s prophetic ministry ran from 739 BC – 681 BC and through four kings (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah). In addition to this, I know that in 722 BC King Shalmanesar V of Assyria attacked Israel and dispersed them into various regions in his kingdom, while also importing other cultures into the northern kingdom (Israel). He mostly speaks to Judah, but still addresses Israel in his prophecies. Interestingly Isaiah was a well educated aristocrat and had access to the king and the royal court. Having this knowledge makes me more aware of certain nuances in the text and provides more meaning behind some of his message.

Now when I read the Bible for my own personal benefit (as in, I’m not reading it to teach to someone else), I like to research the background and then take a long, slow stroll through the text. Sometimes I’ll double back and walk the same path several more times just to make sure I didn’t read it too quickly or miss something. I will underline in different colors (with my new Bible because it is an illustrated Bible), and each color has a purpose (teal for mankind, purple for God, blue for commands, and so on). I will also circle words that are repetitive (Holy One of Israel, Lord of Hosts, a series of I’s and you’s), and I watch for patterns of thought that might meander throughout the entire chapter (burden, sin, evil, fire). I even write main themes for verses and draw pictures if I have a really vivid image in my mind after reading the text (fire). This is how I search the Scriptures. This is how I observe and sift through the details. I’ve been reading Isaiah 1 for a week now if that gives you a clue (and I’m not sure I’m done reading it yet).

Last week, I wrote about the expectant heart when searching the Scriptures. It is approaching the Word with a certain expectation that the Holy Spirit will speak through it and being unwilling to turn back until you have gained a fresh insight. It is bold, and it might border on foolish, but it’s what I do. Sometimes the insights are tiny, and sometimes they are enormous. I’ll take what I can get. Beggars can’t be choosers.

This week as I’ve read through Isaiah 1, I’ve listened for the heart of God for the people of Judah. I’ve listened for Isaiah’s heart as he prophecies to God’s wayward people. And I can’t lie – I heard something for my own heart. No, I don’t mean God audibly spoke to me out of the pages of my new, beautiful, teal Bible. I mean the Spirit provided me with a spiritual perspective that spans the ages. It’s utterly amazing to me that God can use a message written specifically for one group of people at one specific point in history and also speak it into the hearts of His people throughout all time. His Word has life and breath, and it breathes into my life today. Thanks be to God for His Word.

However this Word can break my heart with its raw emotion and dramatic (sometimes gut-wrenching) word pictures. At least that’s where I found myself this week. (taken from ESV)

My people don’t recognize my care for them. (v. 3)

They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him. (v. 4)

Then I got to verses 10-15:

10 Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.”
    Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.”
11 “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
    says the Lord.
I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
    of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to worship me,
    who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
    the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
    and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
    I want no more of your pious meetings.
14 I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
    They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
15 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.
    Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen,
    for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.

There’s an awful lot of you‘s and your‘s in those verses. It actually disgusted me (and apparently it disgusted God too). How do we get so turned around, thinking that even worship is about us? Of all the things that should always and only be about God, worship is at the top of the list. And yet, Isaiah writes that God is repulsed by the sacrifices, the ceremonies, the gifts, offerings, celebrations, special days, meetings, festivals, and prayers. What makes you think I want this? Well, didn’t you tell us in Your law to do these things? You’ve missed the point of the Law then… 

When have I missed the true intent of God’s commands? When have I made even worship about me? When have I done something for God that was more like a burden than a blessing? That wasn’t actually for Him at all? Stop bringing Me your meaningless giftsI want no more of your fake worship

Yikes. That’s bad news. That’s a heart check right there.

Lord, forgive me when I make my life all about me, myself, and I. Reorient my perspective so that my focus is on You. Help me to learn from these moments so that I don’t also find myself in exile (like Israel and eventually Judah).

 

Having an Expectant Heart

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During my college days, I remember reading through the book of Isaiah, and I’m fairly certain that few lines were left unmarked. I have very fond memories of reading through this prophet of old, and so it was with great excitement and anticipation that I decided to read through it again. It has been that long (2004) since I last read through it, so it feels like I’m catching up with an old friend. Life has a way of going on even if you’re not entirely ready for it to move on, and my time in the book of Isaiah during college is one of those times I wish I could bottle up and re-open when I wanted to rekindle the joy of those moments.

Isn’t it all too easy to wish for the exhilarating times in God’s Word where it feels like your spiritual mind is opened up to behold the wondrous truths you had never thought of or known before? We get stuck thinking that these mountaintop moments are the only way we can approach the reading of God’s Word. Well, I get stuck in this thinking anyway. Can I tell you a secret? I was a little nervous about reading Isaiah again, because I didn’t want to “ruin” my favorite memories from my time in it during college. But then I got over it because God reminded me that His Word is living and active. When we get in the Word, the Word gets in us. The Living God actively reveals Himself to His beloved as they faithfully search for Him in His Word. He uses the Holy Spirit to reveal the truths of God as we need those truths. This is why I can read Isaiah thirteen years later and see it with fresh eyes.

Now what to do with that insatiable thirst for the mountaintop moment? I’m convinced that my motives aren’t entirely selfish (of course). I really really want more of God. I don’t want to settle for good when I can have great. This is why I beg and plead and stubbornly wait and feverishly search for that special word or message that’s just waiting to be found. I’m not searching for a high, I’m searching for the One who is higher than I (Ps 61:2). It’s the sentiment from Christy Nockels song “Waiting Here for You”:

If faith can move the mountains
Let the mountains move
We come with expectation
Waiting here for you, I’m waiting here for you
You’re the Lord of all creation
And still you know my heart
The Author of Salvation
You’ve loved us from the start
Waiting here for You
With our hands lifted high in praise
And it’s You we adore
Singing Alleluia
You are everything You’ve promised
Your faithfulness is true
And we’re desperate for Your presence
All we need is You
Waiting here for You
With our hands lifted high in praise
And it’s You we adore
Singing Alleluia
Singing Alleluia
Alleluia, singing alleluia, alleluia
Waiting here for You
It’s that child-like expectancy at Christmas. It’s that thirsty desperation that grips our parched throats. Only in this case, it’s our parched hearts that can only be quenched with the Living Water that is our God.  And I believe He really wants to fill us up.
But then what if He doesn’t? I have to remind myself that His filling may not look like I want it to look. I’m going to write a post about something I learned (or rather was convicted about) that wasn’t pleasant but oh did it fill my soul! It was a message that I sat and waited for and pondered over and read and re-read and underlined and circled and colored. I’m confident that I would not have received this message if I hadn’t been stubborn and refused to give up waiting. However, it should be noted that I am not waiting around in order to make the text say whatever I want it to say. I’m not stubbornly raising my fist to God and telling Him what I think He ought to say to me. I’m not begging for a message I want to hear or that might make me feel comfortable or happy. Far from it! It’s also not a rejection of a truth that’s hard to hear in order to wait longer for a “nicer” truth to come along.
What it really boils down to is patiently seeking to know God, even if it means I learn some ugly truths about myself. Fortunately it can also mean learning life-changing, perspective-shifting truths that enliven my heart and soul. I trust that He’s going to speak – the real question is, will I be humbly submitted in order to listen (hear)?
Perhaps I’ll never give up on this pursuit of the great. Maybe God sees me as a fool sometimes and maybe I’m wrong about this (maybe it’s not really great). I trust that as I’m getting in the Word, the Word will get to me.

Titus: Final Words for the Church

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Titus 3:9-15 –  But (R)avoid foolish (S)controversies, (T)genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for (U)they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, (V)after warning him once and then twice, (W)have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. 12 When I send Artemas or (X)Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me (Y)at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and (Z)Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 14 And let our people learn (AA)to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not (AB)be unfruitful. 15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. (AC)Grace be with you all.

{If you’d rather skip the reading, you can find the video here: http://subsplash.com/northwestbiblechurch/v/ajfpe7o}

Don’t you just LOVE the richness of Scripture? The depths of God which no one can possibly know entirely? Myhope is that you have fallen in love with the doctrine of God, not for the sake of knowledge or pride in knowing, but because in it you have found the heart of God and it causes you to fall in love with Him all over again. We love because He first loved us.

And don’t you also love the picture we read of God pouring out the Spirit richly on us? It was foretold long ago by Isaiah and Joel (Is 32:15 “until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high…”; Is 44:3 “I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring…”; Joel 2:28-29 “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…your sons and daughters…old men…young men…servants…”). For it is in the giving of the Spirit through the Son that it is even made possible for us to live holy lives. We respond to the Truth of God (doctrine) by obeying Him (godly living).

We’ve come to the closing at last, and I wonder if your heart is as heavy as mine. Must I say good-bye to Titus? To the Cretans who have wormed their way into my heart? We have one final session with our friends.

First I want to point out that this closing reveals the evidence of mission activity in Crete and the surrounding nations. “There is an assumption in this letter that the life and mission of the new churches on Crete is shared with Christian communities elsewhere. We see how Paul utilizes trained workers from all over to share in the building up of the churches as they send and receive the new workers. Titus played a significant role in the establishment of the churches (Titus 1:5), but he is soon to move on to other work and someone else will take up the task on Crete (Titus 3:12). From the beginning, these new mission churches were to be productive (v. 14) in the wider Christian community and its task in the world.” (Wieland, “Grace manifest: missional church in the letter to Titus” in The New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought & Practice).

This is also evidence of God pouring out those He has equipped in order to strengthen the church and spread the light to the world at large. With this in mind, let us begin…

Counterproductive Lives

To be counterproductive means to defeat one’s purpose or to hinder or act against that which you aim to accomplish. In the previous verses we learned that the people were to be devoted to good works (to Jesus) because THOSE things were excellent and profitable, and then Paul says in verse 9:

9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

  • AVOID

Perhaps if Paul were speaking in today’s language, he would tell us, “Avoid it like the plague!” Turn yourself around and get away from it! Shun it. Pretend it’s vomit on the floor and give it a wide berth. In fact this word (periistemi – per-ee-is’-tay-mee) is in the middle voice, and carries the idea of “going around something in order to avoid it.” (Exeg. Comm. https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)  So yes, stay away!

Interestingly this verb is a present imperative of command calling for a continual attitude that seeks to avoid such useless discussions. (https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263). Paul’s command is for them to avoid the foolish (literally moronic from the Greek word moros) controversies, the fights about what God’s Word says. Since we’ve already gone over what Paul meant by “foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law” let me summarize with this quote:

The second part of the passage warns against useless discussions. The Greek philosophers spent their time on their fine-spun problems. The Jewish Rabbis spent their time building up imaginary and deifying genealogies for the characters of the Old Testament. The Jewish scribes spent endless hours discussing what could and could not be done on the Sabbath, and what was and was not unclean. It has been said that there is a danger that a man may think himself religious because he discusses religious questions. There is a kind of discussion group which argues simply for the sake of arguing.” (https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

As Steven Cole writes, “Truth must be obeyed, not philosophized.” (bible.org “dealing with factious people”) Avoid these things…

In lesson 3 we talked about how Paul was concerned about the believers being led astray by the false teachers, but that he is also concerned about the unity of the church. The NIV says in 1 Tim 1:4b “…Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.

Talk about being counterproductive to the advancement of God’s kingdom! AVOID foolish controversies and fights about the law. Why? Because these fights are:

  • Unprofitable, worthless

Paul seems to be going for an emphatic statement here because these two words are very similar in meaning. At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, to be unprofitable means that it has no profit for you or others. If you look up the word “unprofitable” it can also mean “useless” (which makes sense because something that brings you no profit is useless or worthless to you)!

Remember Titus 1:10 spoke of “empty talkers” who were like “windbags” and we likened that to idol worship because idols are “empty wind”? They were worthless…

The word worthless is the Greek word

  1. Mataios (mat’-ay-os) and meant being of no use, idle, empty, fruitless, useless, powerless, lacking truth (Lexicon)
  2. Some of its uses include a person’s worship that is worthless (James 1:26), useless fasting (extra biblical), foolish thoughts (1 Cor 3:20), futile desire, directed toward worthless things (extra biblical), empty (1 Cor 15:17), futile way of living (1 Pet 1:18), and idols (Acts 14:15, Esther 4:17, Jer 2:5, 8:19; 3 Macc 6:11).

You see the connection between the two words! Unprofitable or useless and worthless (even with the connection to idols).

Paul writes in 2 Tim 2:14-16 “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words;(X) it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.(Y) 16 Avoid godless chatter,(Z) because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”

Paul tells Titus to avoid controversies and fights about the law because they’re worthless. In 2 Tim 2 he says it’s “of no value.” And we learned that those who were unfit were not able to stand the test, or not approved. This is why in 2 Tim 2, Paul follows up his point with “Do your best to present yourself to God as one APPROVED…[one] who correctly handles the Word…”

1 Tim 6:4-5 is also helpful in its description of those who choose to stir up fights about the Law: “They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words(H) that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth

I guess any one of us could look back on a time when we were not so proud of ourselves in an argument. Perhaps we kept pressing on into the fight, wanting so badly to be right, but only stirring up more and more trouble as we stubbornly refused to give up. This is UNHEALTHY and ROBS people of the Truth. Thus the reason Paul tells them to AVOID these things. They do not profit, are of no value, they are worthless and do not advance the gospel but rather rob people of the truth! Avoid them.

Counterfeit Lives 

Something that is counterfeit means it is an imitation of something valuable or important with the intent to deceive. A counterfeit person is a fraud. A fake. The one who stirs up division is living a counterfeit life of the gospel of Christ.

Paul continues in verse 10-11

 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

  • Stirs up division

To stir up division is the word:

  1. Airetikos (hair-ret-ih-kos) meaning “to cause division, to be factious, a division-maker” (Greek Lexicon)
  2. Only used here in Titus.
  3. Word origin: Started out to mean “to “choose, or to prefer…to take for oneself.” …It had the idea of someone who makes a resolute choice. It then started to mean someone whose choice is obstinate and against the truth. It is used here to mean one who had chosen an idea, … a teaching, a doctrine, a viewpoint, a perspective, a course of behavior that was not acceptable to the church…or the Word of God. …Literally, one who chooses for himself…He will not submit to the Word…or to the leadership.” (MacArthur)
  4. Eventually this word came to mean Heretic!

Don’t be a heretic! Those who would try to cause division. There are so many, even among us, who are divisive or factious (one who chooses for himself). Not thinking of others. You can recognize them as those who want to “start a conversation” about some hot topic (HELLO! “foolish controversy” or “quarrel about the [Word]”!!!). These people have an “unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels” (HELLO! They’re just looking to pick a fight with whoever falls for the bait). It’s the same thing we addressed when we learned about the false teachers and deceivers.

They might mask their true motives by trying to get you “on their side” as if they were fighting for some noble cause. They’ll try to get you to believe that the godly thing to do is to “fight” for some issue – for some issue that typically tends to be controversial. But what does it actually accomplish? Almost every time, it’s just going to produce friction. As Paul says, it’s unprofitable and worthless.

To better understand what it meant to “stir up division” sometimes it is best to think about what it would look like in the complete opposite term. Reading from Phil 2:2-4 Paul writes: “ (D)complete my joy by being (E)of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from (F)selfish ambition or (G)conceit, but in (H)humility count others more significant than yourselvesLet each of you(I)look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Not just choosing for yourself. Notice the phrase “of the same mind”, indicating unity and not division. Also note the charge to do nothing out of selfish motives but to walk in humility by treating others as more important than yourself. Paul tells them to look out for others’ interests. Why? You’re much less likely to try to press for your rights and to fight just to prove you are right when you are looking to another person’s interests. It’s asking yourself, “how can I show preference to this person rather than seeking to gain something for myself?” “how can I benefit them rather than advancing myself?”

The person who avoids foolish controversies and quarrels about the law, who chooses unity over division, is the one who aligns himself with Christ. Phil 2:5-8 “(J)Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] (K)who, though he was in (L)the form of God, did not count equality with God (M)a thing to be grasped, but (N)emptied himself, by taking the form of a (O)servant,[b] (P)being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by (Q)becoming obedient to the point of death, (R)even death on a cross.”

Having the mind of Christ who did not choose for Himself but submitted to the will of the Father. Not being divisive.

  • Warning!! 

Now he goes on to address how to handle the “heretic” or divisive person. Notice he doesn’t tell Titus to talk theology with the divisive person. No he says: Warn them once and then twice. Paul likely got his teaching from Jesus which is what you read in your personal study in Matthew 18:15-18 (v. 17 “If he refuses to listen to them, (O)tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, (P)let him be to you as [o]a Gentile and [p]a tax collector.”). This word warn (nouthesia) is the same idea as the rebuke we talked about earlier. It is aimed at bringing spiritual understanding and conviction, not just verbal disapproval. It’s a restorative action. Warn.

Paul has strong words for the church to avoid a person who chooses not to heed correction. He tells them “have nothing more to do with him.” He should be to you “as a Gentile and tax collector” OR an OUTSIDER (to quote Jesus). Though that seems harsh, wait until you hear how Paul handled a few other individuals. 1 Cor 5:5 tells us that Paul would “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh…” (this man being the one who continued in a disgraceful and public sin). Paul also speaks of handing over two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, to Satan to “be taught not to blaspheme” in 1 Tim 1:20.

I can just hear Paul telling Titus, “listen, that person, if he doesn’t listen to you the second time, don’t try to go back to him again. He’ll simply end up being a heavy stone tied around your waist. You don’t need to use up all your energy on the person who doesn’t want to be a healthy member. Let him go and entrust him to God (or perhaps Satan!).”

Maybe you need to hear this today. You can have nothing more to do with the one who stirs up division. That doesn’t mean you can’t still pray for that person. It simply means, you aren’t responsible for what that person does. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself if you’ve already done all that is biblically necessary for correction. Let. It. Go.

As MacArthur says, “the last word on false teachers, shun. The last word on factious people, reject.

Paul says the person who stirs up division and doesn’t listen to correction is:

  • Warped and Sinful

I think of those deceivers back in Titus 1:15 – both their mind and their conscience are defiled. Warped is the word:

  1. Ekstrepho meaning “to turn or twist out; to turn inside out; pervert, corrupt.” Also “to cause to turn aside from what is considered true or morally proper” (Lexicon)
  2. This word was used in medical literature and was translated as “dislocated” (MacArthur) [twisted/distorted]
  3. Only used here in Titus.
  4. This is different from the word we learned about repentance which is also a turning. This turning in Titus is a negative turning! It’s a turning that leads a person away from holiness, away from God.

Let me read to you one commentary on this word: “First, such a person is ‘twisted.’ ‘Twisted’ is the perfect passive of ekstrepho. The perfect tense points to a condition that has been reached with results that continue. It stresses the present state of affairs. In the passive as here, ‘to be perverted,’ points to an unmentioned agent or cause, but something has had a negative impact on the person’s life. The translation of the NET Bible, ‘by sinning,’ suggests that the cause of the perversion is a continual life of sinning, whatever that might be. But since the text literally says ‘and is sinning,’ the sinning could just as well be the product of the perversion, especially when the root problem is a mind that has been twisted by false doctrine which is futile to change one’s life and this is ultimately the issue here. Regardless, the character (‘perverted,’ a state that has been reached) and the conduct (‘is sinning,’ a process that continues) point us to the reasons for rejecting such a person.” (Exegetical Commentary on Titus at https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

To further drive home that point on the continual life of sin: this word for sinful (harmartano) is used in 37 passages, one (illustrates) of which is 1 Tim 5:20 “20 Those who continue in sin(A)rebuke in the presence of all, (B)so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.

Here is a dislocated distorted twisted perverted inside-out individual.” MacArthur

In our Titus passage, Paul tells Titus, after you’ve rebuked the divisive man and he still doesn’t listen, choosing that continual life of sin, have nothing more to do with him. He’s warped and sinful, but he is also:

  • Selfcondemned

This word is only used in Titus. The ESV translates this as “self-condemned” but “the NET Bible [says] ‘and is conscious of it himself,’ [which] seems to understand… that the twisted person is aware of his true spiritual state. In other words, he knows that in his persistent refusal to abandon his heretical views he is wrong and stands condemned by his own better judgment. However, the Greek term, autokatakritos, ‘self-condemnation,’ may also be understood to mean that the twisted teachers are condemned by their own behavior (as Paul writes in Titus 1:16 ‘They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable disobedient, unfit for any good work.’). (https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

By self-condemned, Paul may mean that when such false teachers attack godly church leaders, they expose themselves for what they really are.” (Steven Cole)

Paul also speaks of a person who condemns himself in Romans 2:1-3 Therefore you have (A)no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For (B)in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

The one who stirs up division by promoting foolish controversies is self-condemned. He has condemned himself in continuing in his warped and sinful behavior. His stubborn heart has refused to see the One who rightly judges and it is God who in the end will judge this one who has stored up wrath for himself by saying “I don’t need God.” (chosen for himself)

We’ve talked about the counterproductive life, the counterfeit life, now let us investigate the…

Authentic Lives   

Authentic means “having a genuine original or authority, in opposition to that which is false, fictitious, or counterfeit; being what it purports to be; genuine; true.” (Webster’s 1828)

Paul then switches gears for his final greetings:

12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 

These men are the ones serving in the trenches and living out the authentic Christian life. These are the ones who are being poured out (like water; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast Ps 22:14) in service to God.

You can learn about Tychicus in 2 Tim 4:9-13 and Apollos, the Alexandrian Jew (mentioned in Acts 18 and 1 Cor 3). We don’t know anything more about Artemas, but we can make a few guesses about Zenas, “the lawyer”. He may have been an expert in Jewish law, or, as his pagan name might suggest, a Roman lawyer. Apparently it was common for lawyers to visit Crete in Roman times because of the famous Law Code of Gortyn dated from 450 B.C. (Wieland, quoting W.A. Lock in Crete and Titus)

Here is a picture of Gortyn and the location of the Law Code. It’s that building on the left:

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Here are two pictures of the Law Code written on the walls:

law-of-gortyn2 law-of-gortyn

As for why this section is important, I want you to consider the mission efforts of this team. Paul laid the groundwork for these other workers and then delegated missionaries to go into these areas to continue building on the foundation he laid. Titus, Apollos, and Zenas would be leaving, but Paul made sure that a new pair—Artemas and Tychicus—would remain for the growing community of believers at Crete. It was a sort of “changing of the guard.” Paul requests that Titus join him for the winter in Nicopolis.

See map:

nikopolis-map

One resource said that “Nicopolis was a busy port town on the western coast of Greece. It was actually known for its harsh winters; many travelers from all parts would have been forced to spend the winter there, so that Paul could continue ministry despite the impossibility of travel…” (Quoting Philip Towner in his commentary on Titus https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

Apparently Titus makes it to Nicopolis because Paul writes about him in his second letter to Timothy (2 Tim 4:10) which was written after Titus. “Eusebius [father of church history] reflects the tradition that Titus returned to Crete and served as a bishop there until his old age (HE 3.4.6).” (NIGTC Pastoral Epistles by George Knight).

As we reflect on our time with Titus, I wonder about some of the personal moments Titus had in Crete. After he received Paul’s letter, how much time did he have before he had to go to Paul? Did he feel like he could leave Crete, knowing he’d done all he’d been called to do? Would it have been hard for him to leave? What kinds of heartfelt good-byes must he have had with the Christian community? What about the warm welcomes as he greeted the new workers? Did he tell them to take good care of “Mean Ol’ Charlie” and make sure that they keep their eye on “That Sly Fox Ben”? Did he have a special place in his heart for “Sweet Grandma Bea” and for that young, promising leader “Stalwart Mark”?

Did he look back on his time in Crete and know he’d spent his time wisely? Teach us to number our days, Lord, that we may gain a heart of wisdom! (Ps 90:12) Help us to see the value of using our gifts wherever God plants us.

Finally Paul ends with his closing remarks:

14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Last week we discussed the spiritual versus physical and how that relates to good works (devotion). Paul uses the phrase “good work(s)” five times in Titus! Paul wants to make extra sure that they heard him the first time, so he reminds them to be devoted to good works. The reason? So as not to be unfruitful. Authentic lives are evidenced by fruit.

How do we devote ourselves to good works without those works becoming our goal and perhaps an idol? The simple answer is that our devotion is ultimately to God and it is out of our devotion to Him that we do these good works which He Himself has prepared for us in advance.

But let me give you some perspective on the image of being poured out as it relates to good works and our devotion to God. It all starts in the garden..

POURED OUT 

Perfect world. Perfect intimacy between God and man. Eve is deceived. Sin enters. Death enters. God’s perfect justice and holiness responds. Man remains fallen under the first Adam.

But God…

God sought after man. God promised oaths, He initiated covenants. He set up the sacrificial system in order to allow for the atonement of sins. Blood would be poured out as an offering to God. Yet man remained fallen and would go astray time and again. Therefore God would pour out His wrath (Jer 7:20; Ez 7:8; Zeph 3:8) in judgment and in an effort to bring His people back to Him.

But God…

God would stay true to His word. He would show grace and mercy. And when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman to undo the damage done by the deceived woman, born under the law in order to live it out perfectly and to break us free from the curse of the law (Gal 4:4). He who is the exact representation of the Father (Heb 1:3) walked among us to show us who God is and how God loves. There would be those who would pour out oil so as to anoint the One who is Grace (Matt 26:12).

But God…

God the Son would reveal His heart as the Servant King by pouring water into a basin and washing the feet of His own disciples who would become His servants in the kingdom (John 13:5).

But God…

Before He would be glorified as King, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death on the cross where God was pleased to crush Him (Phil 2:8; Is 53:10). “He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many and makes intercession for [them]” (Is 53:12).

But God…

The Father poured out His wrath on the Son and the wrath of God was satisfied. He looked on Him and pardoned me (Rom 5:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Eph 1:7).

But God…

Triumphed over death and sin and by His great power He raised Jesus from the grave (1 Cor 15:55-57; Col 2:12). The last Adam made redemption possible for all of fallen man (1 Cor 15:22, 45). Because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, He ascended to the Father as a fragrant aroma where He sits at the right hand of God (Heb 10:10; Eph 5:2; Rom 8:34).

But God…

Did not leave us without a Helper and God poured out His Spirit richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:6) and set His Spirit as a seal over us as a promise of our inheritance that is being kept for us until we take possession of it (Eph 1:11-14). And it is by His Spirit that God washes and renews us and produces good fruit/works as we abide in the Vine (Titus 3:5; John 15:4-5).

But God…

Being rich in mercy and love pours His love and the attributes of His Son into our hearts and we are able to cry Abba, Father (Rom 5:5; Rom 8:29; Gal 4:6)! And we, God’s servants, pour ourselves out as an offering to God in humble gratefulness and devotion to the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Rom 12:1; Phil 2:17).

This is why we do good works. We must bear fruit (in every good work) because this proves the authenticity of our faith. And this is no longer impossible as we walk by the Spirit.

In this letter to Titus, Paul is coming to his close. He wants to drive home the most pressing point: to be devoted to good works. To be fruitful. Not living like those who would cause divisions, whose false doctrine resulted in fruitless living. Avoid the counterproductive, counterfeit life.

With the sending of Artemas and Tychicus, and the exit of Zenas, Apollos, and Titus, we see the beautiful cycle of missions at work. We see God pouring out His servants as offerings to the glory of God! Paul calls on Titus to wrap up his ministry in Crete so that he can join Paul on the next leg of ministry. But the gospel will continue to have its effect in Crete. And those Cretans will learn to devote themselves to good works, grounded in the sound teaching of the Word.

CLOSING – Recap

Looking back over the last 9 lessons, we heard and read one message loud and clear: Right doctrine rightly applied produces right living.

Lesson One: We fell in love with Titus, Paul’s true child in the faith, who would minister to some of the most difficult of people. We learned the significance of the term bondservant as the apostle Paul laid out his mission, motivation, and method of ministry.

Lesson Two: We listened in as Paul gave Titus instructions for Crete – to put things in order by appointing elders who would live upright lives (above reproach), holding fast to sound doctrine. We learned that character matters.

Lesson Three: We discovered that there are those who would be deceptive wolves seeking to destroy the flock but who lived defiled lives, making them unfit for good works. We must watch their motivation, messes, message, master, and methods.

Lesson Four: Along with Titus, we learned that sound doctrine is the framework of core Biblical truths, and that Paul called him to teach it and teach what it looks like lived out.

Lesson Five: We saw what Paul meant by adorning the doctrine of God – to live holy, self-controlled lives in such a way that attracts others to Christ.

Lesson Six: We leaned in as the sisterhood, seeing how the status of women came to viewed in reverent terms, as priestesses who were called to teach what was good and train our sisters in holy living.

Lesson Seven: We discovered the One who is Grace, bringing salvation and redemption for His Bride, His own possession. And we await this One who is coming again, not as the One humbled on the cross but as the One coming for the crown, honored as the King.

Lesson Eight: Paul reminded us what we were and now who we ARE because of Jesus Christ our Savior, the only One worthy of our full devotion.

This Lesson (Nine): We were urged to avoid being divisive and the divisive person but instead to be devoted to good works. We also saw the beautiful cycle of missions at work as we say good-bye to Titus and the people of Crete.

Now we must ask ourselves…so what? We’ve come to the end and we’re sad that it’s over, but we look with great anticipation to what is to come. We too can be beautiful offerings poured out to God as we seek to be used by the Father and to walk in those good works that He’s prepared for us.

WE are the Church, this is the Sisterhood. The One that reaches into the difficult and even daunting places. That reaches the most unlikely people. This kind of church nurtures authentic Christian lives.

May we be a community of women who are devoted to God, dedicated to the truth of Scripture, and passionate about the spiritual health of our brothers & sisters in Christ.

Poured out as beautiful offerings to the praise of God the Father.

Titus: Physical vs. Spiritual

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Titus 3:3-8 – For (F)we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.But when (G)the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, (H)not because of works done by us in righteousness, but (I)according to his own mercy, by (J)the washing of regeneration and (K)renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he (L)poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,so that (M)being justified by his grace we might become (N)heirs (O)according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is (P)trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful (Q)to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

Paul offers a nice contrast again, following on the heels of the last section of Scripture. In the last lesson, we learned that he wanted the believers to be submissive to authorities and to be ready for good works, displaying their faith in the crooked Cretan world. In this passage he reminds them that they (including himself) too were once depraved and enslaved to their passions. Perhaps this was his way of encouraging them so that they could see their new identity and not despair or be discouraged about their former life or habits. 2 Cor 5:17 tells us that we are a new creation. We were slaves to sin, now we belong to Christ. In Eph 2:1-3 Paul also writes about the believer’s former life. We used to be “children of wrath,” and we were dead in our sins. We lived out the passions of our flesh and carried out the desires of our body. It’s just not a pretty sight, folks. But there’s always good news right around the corner.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared…” There’s that appeared word again (epiphaneo). God’s goodness and love broke through as the light of dawn. And when our Savior appeared, He saved us. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

To be certain that no one forgets what their role in salvation is, Paul writes that God saved us not because of works that we do, but He saved us in His mercy. This echoes his teaching in Eph 2:8-9 – it is by grace we have been saved through faith (not of ourselves). As if this weren’t great news already, God also uses the Holy Spirit to regenerate and renew us. Regeneration is basically new birth (after all, we were dead in sins and we needed to be made alive again). This Spirit has been poured out on us richly through Christ. I don’t know about you, but the image of the Spirit being poured out sounds abundant, and then he adds the word richly, which just accentuates the lavish abundance even further! The good news just got even better.

As we keep reading, it might feel like we’ve just won the lottery (actually it’s even better than that). First Paul speaks of being justified by His grace. To be justified meant to be pardoned or cleared from guilt; to absolve or acquit from guilt and merited punishment, and to accept as righteous on account of the merits of the Savior or by the application of Christ’s atonement to the offender (Webster’s 1828). What it boils down to is that we get something we didn’t deserve. We get Christ’s righteousness in exchange for our dead, sinful lives. It’s extravagant grace. And it makes no sense.

So God declares us righteous and then raises us as His heirs. Again, this makes no sense! We become children of the King. This is the hope we have, that He has promised us an inheritance of eternal life (See also 1 John 2:25, Heb 6:17-18, 1 Cor 1:22, Eph 4:30, Eph 1:11-14).

He closes with the call to good works again. He presents quite the case for why we should be devoted to good works. It only makes sense given the gravity of all Christ has done for us! They will know we belong to Him by our fruit (good works). The works are simply the evidence of our faith. It reveals our devotion to Him. And these things are excellent (because they bring glory to God) and profitable (because they bring others to God). May we be careful to devote ourselves to good works.

Titus: Who is Grace?

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Titus 2:11-3:2 –  11 For (T)the grace of God (U)has appeared, bringing salvation (V)for all people,12 training us to renounce ungodliness and (W)worldly passions, and (X)to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in (Y)the present age, 13 (Z)waiting for our blessed (AA)hope, the (AB)appearing of the glory of our great (AC)God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 (AD)who gave himself for us to (AE)redeem us from all lawlessness and (AF)to purify for himself (AG)a people for his own possession who are (AH)zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and (AI)rebuke with all authority. (AJ)Let no one disregard you. Remind them (A)to be submissive to rulers and authorities, (B)to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, (C)to speak evil of no one, (D)to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and (E)to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Grace Came

 I love the beginning of verse 11 – “for the grace of God has appeared….” Paul says this right after telling the bondservants to “adorn the doctrine of God.” You can follow his train of thought as he masterfully explains that we should live our lives in such a way that reflects our Savior for it was by God’s grace that we are saved! “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). The grace of God has appeared, and that grace is Christ. When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son.

Isn’t it just beautiful? I learned that the word appeared is the Greek word epiphaneo meaning clearly known, fully visible. It is a picture of the rising sun as it bursts forth at dawn. Christ is the Light that shines in the darkness! The word grace in the Greek is charis and means the unmerited, merciful, kindness and favor of God. This grace that came was self-motivated (had no other motive but itself), ever-acting (never ending action), stooping (from the Hebrew word for grace, chen, meaning to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior), and pardoning (brings forgiveness).

Grace is Here

Grace came, and it is here to train us. It trains us to put away/deny and to put on/pursue. We are to put away/deny 1) ungodliness (anything contrary to the knowledge, fear, and love of God. and 2) worldly passions (fleshly desires and lusts). We are to put on/pursue 1) self-controlled lives (our inward, bridled strength), 2) upright lives (outward display of our inward character), and 3) godly lives (upward focus).

Grace is Coming Back

As we live out our self-controlled, upright, godly lives, we await a blessed hope! We have the assurance that Christ will return for us. It is an expectant, trusting wait. He came first for the cross in humility, and at His second coming He will come for the crown as the honored King!

The Work of Grace

By God’s grace, He sent His Son who gave Himself for us to redeem us and purify us. This is the work of grace – redemption and sanctification. He redeemed us and purified us for His own possession. We have been set apart for the King. We are reserved for God. We are His possession. We belong to God.

Reminders

Paul finishes this section with some reminders for Titus. He instructs him to teach about submission to authority, and in this case, to rulers. To avoid fights, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people. It’s as if he wants the believers to stand out as different from those around them. After all, they are the redeemed who have been set apart for the service of the King. And this King will be coming again! So in the meantime, let them reflect their Savior.

What is the meaning of this?

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Light shines

Let me begin by saying, I hate blogs. Ok, hate is maybe too strong of a word. I never thought I would end up as another blogger out in cyberspace. I didn’t understand why all of these blogger people put out all their thoughts for everyone to read.

Was it because they’re all just obsessed with themselves? (No, I’ve learned this isn’t true…at least not for everyone.) Was it because they thought they were so smart or witty or important than people would actually read what they had to say? (Again, no, most blogger people I know don’t view themselves this way.) Was it just to have an outlet for their creativity or a catalog of their thoughts? (Perhaps that yes, this is getting closer to the real reason.)

I recently learned that a majority of blogger people do this because God has given them a message and this is the quickest and easiest way to share it with everyone else. This probably isn’t much of a revelation to some of you out there because you already got it. I guess I’m just the slow one. 🙂

For years I’ve wrestled with the idea that one day I would be writing books. What kind of books, you ask? The kind with words. I don’t know! Just books. I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. And why did I have this idea, or rather dream, in my mind? I guess it’s because of the reason I mentioned for all of those blogger people doing what they’re doing. God gives us a ministry, and so we figure out how we’re supposed to be obedient with that gift.

So THAT is the reason for this blogger person to be added to the countless other blogger people out there.

And why “Heart Soil”? Well I’m glad you asked. 🙂 A good friend of mine came up with the idea. Psalm 97:11 says,

“Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God’s people, / Joy-seeds are planted in good heart-soil.”

(It’s the Message which I personally don’t like but it actually made sense this time…sorry for all you Message lovers, I’m just more a fan of ESV or NLT even.)

More than anything I want to know God and handle His word correctly. As I search the Scriptures, I get too excited not to share! I want you to know the truth I’m finding. And since I’m a Farmer, I get to use the analogy of sowing His word in “good heart-soil”.

Planting seeds in the souls of God’s people sounds like a good plan to me. Too many seeds get planted in our hearts which aren’t of Him, and I’m ready to help dig those out and plant His truth.