Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: spiritual maturity

Flashback Favorite - How to avoid the sin cycle

I’m reposting this one based upon a conversation I had recently. Even though our family no longer lives in West Virginia, there’s still a lot of truth to be found in this observation.

How to avoid the sin cycle
originally posted on November 3, 2016

Do you know which plant grows best in West Virginia?

Weeds.  The weeds grow best in West Virginia.

We get a lot of snow and rain here, and the ground is rather fertile.  However, if a piece of land is cleared, the grass and flowers in the area do not take it over.  The weeds do, and quickly.

There’s a spiritual lesson in there, if we’re open to seeing it.  It’s not enough for Christians to just clear out the “bad” portions of our lives.  Clearing out sinful actions, bad habits, and distractions does take monumental effort.  Taking steps to avoid going back to those old ways will be a significant challenge.  But if we forget to take the next step, we’ll wear ourselves out, only to be caught in a sick cycle of clearing out the weeds and then letting them creep back in and take over…only to have to clear out the weeds (again) to then let them creep back in (again) and take over (again)…and again…and again…

Paul knew this, too.  He wanted Timothy to instruct the believers in Ephesus on how to avoid being stuck in this perpetual cycle.  Take a look at what “next step” Paul says they should take after avoiding the things that will distract us from God and His purpose:

1 Timothy 4:7
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness,

When we clear out the ungodly distractions in our lives, we MUST refill the time and use the effort we would previously spend on those distractions.  If we want grass and flowers to grow in our cleared-out land, then we must plant them immediately after doing the work of clearing out the garbage weeds.  It is at that moment that the ground (and our lives) are most willing to accept the change in direction.  If we wait to fill the void – the world will gladly fill it for us…

Paul knows it’s not enough to just avoid the irreverent and silly myths out there.  So, he tells Timothy to replace any time previously spent on those things with a specific plan that has a Godly focus.  His focus is to be on the things that have a “God-like-ness”, the things that point himself and others toward the God of the Universe.

Paul’s use of the phrase train yourself is no accident, either.  The Greek phrase means to exercise vigorously.  Given the city’s prominence in Greek culture, this is clearly a reference to the effort and dedication a Greek athlete would put toward his training to compete in the Ancient Olympic Games. 

Lastly, notice how Timothy had to choose to do the training.  No one else could do the work for him.  No one else is going to develop his relationship with God.  No one else can focus Timothy’s thoughts on God’s words and direction for his life.  As he chooses to plant the seeds of godliness, the growth that comes will fill up the area that was previously overrun with any irreverent and silly ideas.  Timothy’s training will become the long term investment that will keep him out of the sin cycle.

There’s a life lesson in there, if we are open to seeing it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

First day jitters and the start of a new life

Remember that first day at a new school?  Those feelings of being nervous, curious, not quite sure what was going to happen?  Or how about your first day in a new job?  Probably had flashbacks to being the new kid in school…

Being a rookie, at anything, is rough.  Everywhere you look, you see people who look like they’ve been successful for years.  You definitely don’t want to interrupt the way things seem to naturally flow, and you certainly don’t want to be in the way.  It’s easy to allow the doubt to creep in and cloud our thinking – Do I really belong?  Will they think I’m stupid or ignorant?  Will I mess this up?  Will I even know that I messed something up?  How many times can I mess up before they don’t want me around anymore?

Whenever we venture out into something new, no matter what it is, there’s always one thing we’re hoping for: someone kind enough to help us out and show us around.

We all have vivid memories of that first person to befriend us when we were feeling more lost than we cared to admit.  Their willingness to reach out to the newbie made it easier for us to find our place and figure out the rhythm to our new settings.

Honestly, the Christian life isn’t any different.  Being a newbie is a little scary.  We’re unsure of what to say or what to do next.  Everyone around looks like a spiritual veteran, like they’re a half-step away from perfection…and we’re just sitting here, surprised that God let someone like us into His family.

So, how is this supposed to work for a newbie Christian?  Since Jesus brought us into the family, why doesn’t He immediately take away all the junk and bad habits left over from our previous life?

Tucked away in John’s account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, there is a six word command where Jesus clues us in:

John 11:41-44
So they removed the stone.  Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You heard me.  I know that You always hear Me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe You sent Me.”

After He said this He shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.”

Not to make too much out of a minor detail, but I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t unwrap Lazarus from his burial cloths.  Lazarus didn’t unwrap Lazarus.  Instead, Jesus instructed those closest to the resurrected man to “Unwrap him and let him go.”

Jesus had just brought a man back from the grave, but He gave others the responsibility of helping Lazarus remove the remnants of his old life.  This wasn’t going to be a task Lazarus could do on his own.  He needed someone who was willing to reach in close and help deal with the dirty death-rags left over from his previous life. 

Let’s be clear:
If you were a world-class jerk when you met Jesus and accepted His offer of eternal life, you’re still going to have a lot of jerk-ness that needs to be dealt with, even after being saved. 

Anyone who tells you that you should be immediately perfect after encountering Jesus hasn’t read their New Testament in a while.  Instead of placing perfection-level expectations on a brand-new Christian, us veterans need to be willing to get our hands dirty.  We need to show them around, help them see the rhythm and flow of living a Christ-centered life.

Also note that Jesus didn’t tell Lazarus to go ask someone to help him remove his burial cloths.  Us veterans shouldn’t wait for a newbie to come up and ask for assistance.  We approach them, help them, and then smile as we watch them go in their new, life-long adventure.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Resolutions about maturity

It’s that time of year again…time to make resolutions to be better at something.  We know the big ones – get in shape, eat better, learn a new skill – and we know that we should do these things and they have lasting, positive benefits to our lives.  But why is it, that by sometime in February, we’ve given up on working towards them? 

When we’re honest – we recognize that we give up on these resolutions because we don’t value the end product highly enough.  We aren’t diligent in pursuing it, and we become lazy.  This doesn’t mean that we do not understand or fully trust the benefits of exercise, a good diet, or learning something new…it just shows that we value them less than other competing priorities in our lives.

Did you know that the same thing happens to us spiritually?  Other things crowd into our lives and we sometimes don’t value our growth as a Christ-follower or our relationship with God like we should.  We can become spiritually lazy.  It’s not a new problem for Christians, either.

After starting a discussion of Christ’s superiority as our high priest and reviewing some of the great benefits available to a believer who partners with Jesus, the author pauses to say:

Hebrews 5:11-14
We have a great deal to say about this, and it’s difficult to explain, since you have become slow to understand.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation.  You need milk, not solid food.  Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature – for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.

Looking at this passage, it is clear that this letter was written to people who have already accepted Christ as the substitutionary payment for their sins.  The solid food is the teaching that deals with righteousness, or right-living, before God.  Because these “big babies” haven’t progressed to solid food, they cannot grasp the implications of the Greater Message of future partnership with the Greater Messenger.

Hebrews 6:1
Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity

If you could travel into a mother’s womb and speak with the prenatal child, I’m sure he would be very confused as to why he was growing arms and legs and a mouth.  He has no real, tangible need for them so long as he remains in the womb.  However, we would desperately explain that while he sees little use for them in his present stage in life, they will become vitally important for the way he interacts with the world of his next stage of life.

The entire New Testament, except for John’s Gospel, speaks to us like we are the child still in the womb.  The vast majority of the New Testament is written to believers and contains encouragement to put in the effort now to grow towards maturity…because the level of maturity we develop here and now will directly impact how we interact with the world of our next stage of life.

Hebrews 6:11-12
Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope, so that you won’t become lazy, but imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance.

Keep at it.  Keep going towards maturity.  Not everyone does, but those who trust Jesus’ offer of partnership and patiently wait for it, they will obtain it.

That’s a resolution worth keeping, one with results that echo into eternity.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Coming out of the detour

Seven months ago, life took a serious detour…a detour that would change the course of my family’s history from that point forward.

My company offered voluntary severance packages.  At least this time, anyway.  The previous two layoffs were not voluntary, and we all had the feeling that any future ones wouldn’t be voluntary, either.  The company’s offer this time was quite generous, but the catch (for our family, at least) was that for my line of work, we’d have to move…out of state…to find the next job.  We had built a good life in West Virginia for the last 13 years, fully expecting to raise our family in one town, one church, one house, and with the same group of friends all the way through high school. 

God had blessed us tremendously in West Virginia, but the more we talked about it, prayed about it, and mulled it over…we knew it was time to go.  So, I raised my hand and volunteered.

The hunt for the next job started immediately, even though I would stay on at work through the end of February.  At first, friends and family were happy for us and wished us well.  But as the months drug on, and the few leads I had didn’t pan out…the well-wishes turned to raised eyebrows and mumbled “hang in theres”.  No one deserted us, but their growing concern was thinly-veiled. 

We felt like we were constantly saying goodbye, but never leaving.  It became increasingly more difficult for all of us to tell people, “No news yet.  Don’t know where God will take us.”  It was wearing on me to stay vigilant over the budget and try to get the house ready to sell, while counting down the number of remaining severance checks.  I actually turned down a job offer from a good friend, because we knew it wasn’t where God wanted us next.  A few week later, the day after my next best lead went up in smoke, it happened – we got an offer on the house.

We had a solid offer on our current home and no home to go to.  Zero job prospects at that moment, and we had 10 weeks to get out of the house.  I panicked.  I didn’t sleep that night.  There was a lightning storm raging outside, but it wouldn’t have mattered…the storm inside was twice as intense. 

I don’t specifically remember accusing God of abandoning me, but that’s how I felt.  After hours of pouring my heart out to God…finally emptied out…I gave up, and gave in…

“Whatever job you want, Lord.  Whatever place you want, just show me where.  I don’t care what it is, I just need to know where to take my family next.”

I’m not kidding when I say that I woke up the next morning and found that the exact job I had been looking for…freshly posted and in the state we were most interested in – North Carolina.  I didn’t know anyone at that company.  I had no contacts or strings to pull.  Just a blind internet-submitted application and resume.  They called me three days later, and, within two weeks, I had accepted their generous offer.

To call this a coincidence would be naïve.  This whole detour journey has been a God-thing.  There’s no other way to describe it.  Even my non-Christian friends marvel at how well “everything just lined up so perfectly”.  Not that there weren’t frustrations and difficulties along the way, but this isn’t a normal, natural story.  It’s SUPERnatural, without a doubt.

We’ve closed on our house in West Virginia, and by the time this is posted, we’ll have closed on our new home in North Carolina.  We’ve come out of the unexpected detour for the better in a lot of ways…but best of all, we’ve had our faith grow and mature in ways that will echo through the future of our family.  The next chapter is just beginning…and I can’t wait to see what God wants to write.

As for this blog, I intend to continue with the once-a-week schedule until the dust settles here a little.  I’d love to get back to the twice-a-week format, but we’ll see how God leads.

For right now, though, the back end of Psalm 31 describes just how ridiculously blessed we are.  I get a little choked up each time I read it.

Psalm 31:19-24
How great is Your goodness
that You have stored up for those who fear You,
and accomplished in the sight of everyone
for those who take refuge in You.

You hide them in the protection of Your presence;
You conceal them in a shelter
from the schemes of men,
from quarrelsome tongues.

May the Lord be praised,
for He has wonderfully shown His faithful love to me
in a city under siege.
In my alarm I had said,
“I am cut off from Your sight.”
But You heard the sound of my pleading
when I cried to You for help.

Love the Lord, all His faithful ones.
The Lord protects the loyal,
but fully repays the arrogant.
Be strong and courageous,
all you who put your hope in the Lord.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

How to avoid the sin cycle

Do you know which plant grows best in West Virginia?

Weeds.  The weeds grow best in West Virginia.

We get a lot of snow and rain here, and the ground is rather fertile.  However, if a piece of land is cleared, the grass and flowers in the area do not take it over.  The weeds do, and quickly.

There’s a spiritual lesson in there, if we’re open to seeing it.  It’s not enough for Christians to just clear out the “bad” portions of our lives.  Clearing out sinful actions, bad habits, and distractions does take monumental effort.  Taking steps to avoid going back to those old ways will be a significant challenge.  But if we forget to take the next step, we’ll wear ourselves out, only to be caught in a sick cycle of clearing out the weeds and then letting them creep back in and take over…only to have to clear out the weeds (again) to then let them creep back in (again) and take over (again)…and again…and again…

Paul knew this, too.  He wanted Timothy to instruct the believers in Ephesus on how to avoid being stuck in this perpetual cycle.  Take a look at what “next step” Paul says they should take after avoiding the things that will distract us from God and His purpose:

1 Timothy 4:7
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness,

When we clear out the ungodly distractions in our lives, we MUST refill the time and use the effort we would previously spend on those distractions.  If we want grass and flowers to grow in our cleared-out land, then we must plant them immediately after doing the work of clearing out the garbage weeds.  It is at that moment that the ground (and our lives) are most willing to accept the change in direction.  If we wait to fill the void – the world will gladly fill it for us…

Paul knows it’s not enough to just avoid the irreverent and silly myths out there.  So, he tells Timothy to replace any time previously spent on those things with a specific plan that has a Godly focus.  His focus is to be on the things that have a “God-like-ness”, the things that point himself and others toward the God of the Universe.

Paul’s use of the phrase train yourself is no accident, either.  The Greek phrase means to exercise vigorously.  Given the city’s prominence in Greek culture, this is clearly a reference to the effort and dedication a Greek athlete would put toward his training to compete in the Ancient Olympic Games. 

Lastly, notice how Timothy had to choose to do the training.  No one else could do the work for him.  No one else is going to develop his relationship with God.  No one else can focus Timothy’s thoughts on God’s words and direction for his life.  As he chooses to plant the seeds of godliness, the growth that comes will fill up the area that was previously overrun with any irreverent and silly ideas.  Timothy’s training will become the long term investment that will keep him out of the sin cycle.

There’s a life lesson in there, if we are open to seeing it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

His origin story isn't what you would expect

We love a good origin story, don’t we?  A movie does well in the box office and instead of providing us with what happens next, Hollywood is ready to film a “prequel”.  We want to watch these backstory accounts because they help us get to know a character better, and they explain a character’s motivation and influences, for better or worse. 

We want to hear how someone “came from nothing” and bettered himself.  We want to know how she “beat the system”.  Stories like that give us hope that, somehow, some of us will “make it” and be successful.  But it’s the impossible-odds stories that really make us sit on the edge of our seat and silently wonder: I’m not sure I could have done what they did.  That much effort, for that long?  To risk like that?

We have the same tendency to revere mature Christians like that.  From a distance, they look like peaceful giants; yet we have a sneaky suspicion they could pray for thunder on a clear day and God would answer with a downpour.

However, when we drum up the courage to ask them about their faith’s origin story, how they learned to trust Jesus as much as they do…their answer has very little to do with themselves.  Instead, their focus is much like Paul explained to Timothy:

1 Timothy 1:12-16
I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry – one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. 

Notice how all of Paul’s “I’s” and “me’s” point back to Jesus.  Everything that Paul has done as a missionary found its start in Jesus:

thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord…[He] has strengthened…He considered…[He] appointed…

The only portion of his origin that Paul contributed was his actions as a blasphemer (someone who either credited God’s work to Satan or wrote it off as simply evil), a persecutor (someone who actively sought to harm and kill Christ followers), and his own arrogance (being full of pride and insolence).

As Paul continues, he will marvel at this contrast and Jesus’ acceptance.  For reasons unclear to the human eye, Jesus was willing to accept someone with that monstrous of a history…and then strengthen him, because Jesus considered that Paul would be trustworthy for, of all things, ministry!

A modern day equivalent to Paul’s origin story would be the leader of ISIS becoming a missionary for Jesus.  Can you even imagine it?  Paul knew that Jesus was entirely responsible for his backstory, and he wanted Timothy to share that with the believers in Ephesus.

Since the Ephesian believers only saw Paul during the missionary and letter-writing phase of his life, they could have been tempted to believe that Paul had always walked closely with God or that being a Christian came easy for Him.  However, Paul dispels that notion and doesn’t gloss over who he was without Christ.

So if we’re tempted to think the mature Christians we know have had it easy, or that they survived because of how strong or good or caring they naturally are…just ask them about their origins.  And then listen for all the ways Jesus moved in their life.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

 

The motivation for everything

This might be a strange thought, but not every Christian will live out a Christ-focused life in the same way.  Even if we recognize this truth, we often have specific expectations (typically patterned after our own journey) of what “mature Christian behavior” should look like.  The truth of the matter is that it would be rather shallow of us to expect everyone to be “as spiritual” or be “as holy” in the identical manner that God is currently leading us in.  Maybe someone is behind us in development.  Maybe, just maybe…someone else could be ahead of us.

Think about our own families – our parents poured themselves into us and our siblings.  However, due to our varying ages and on-going development, the same efforts of our parents ended up producing very different adult people.  The expectations of behavior placed on the oldest child were often not even subjects that were being taught to the younger children.  Rarely was the same life lesson taught in the same manner to each child.  The specifics of these life-living lessons were tailored to where the child was at the particular moment.

However, the principles of the family were the same among the children.  Many of the stories and traditions of the family were the same as previous generations – stories of love, and loyalty, and bravery and the events of previous years.  You could see the family traits in the people around you, but they all exhibited them in different ways.

The same holds true for the family of God.  There is a common tie that binds us together – the incredible story of God leaving the glory and perfection of Heaven to rescue us from our selfish, sin-soaked mess.  However, as His story becomes part of our story…His character is revealed through us in a variety of ways.

As Paul continues to explain to the Colossian believers how God’s family works together and encourages one another with the message about the Messiah, take note of the guiding principle for how that message is to affect their lives and maturity:

Colossians 3:16-17
Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Instead of laying out a 12 point plan for maturity, Paul wants the believers to recognize that everything is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Doing anything “in someone’s name” means that we are their representative or ambassador.  We know that our manners and conduct reflect back on Jesus, and we also know that we’ll eventually have to give an account for how well we represent Him.  Whatever you do in word or in deed – that phrase pretty much covers it all, doesn’t it?

Paul’s direction is broad enough that there’s no technicality for us to escape it.  The broad-ness also allows for a wide-variety of expressions.  Take, for example, that in these two verses Paul says we are to have gratitude and we are to give thanks.  While that is a specific direction, how exactly shall we give thanks?  We could give thanks through prayer, with tears, with spoken words, with silent reverence, with charitable actions, or many other ways. 

Too often we get hung up on measuring a Christian’s maturity by looking at the things he or she does.  However, God looks beyond those things and evaluates our maturity based upon our motivations.

Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Thwarted maturity

There is one word that strikes fear into the heart of every athlete.  As soon as the referee says this word, all their work, effort, and productivity comes to a screeching halt.  Having this word applied to you feels like a death sentence, and the stigma attached to it – especially when others find out – is equally crushing.

The last thing any athlete wants to hear is that they have been disqualified.  You can critique their form, give them low marks for execution, or even penalize them for their errors; but when an athlete is DQ’d, the competition, for them, is over.  To be disqualified is to be declared ineligible for the prize.

Earlier, Paul explained to the believers in Colossae that Jesus intends to take them from salvation to full maturity.  Our salvation is certain because it depends on Jesus.  However, Paul said that reaching maturity had some limiting factors based upon our choices and actions; there were conditions involved. 

Colossians 1:21-23
And you were once alienated and hostile in mind because of your evil actions.  But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him – if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith, and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard.

The word if shows that they can be disqualified from reaching full maturity.  A few paragraphs later, Paul explains how it can happen.

Colossians 2:18-19
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his fleshly mind.  He doesn’t hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God.

In Paul’s day, Jewish Occultism encouraged prayer to angels for protection, deliverance, or assistance.  They also believed that praying to the “right” angel was needed to thwart the advances of demons who were in charge of particular aliments of the body or problems in the home.  Additionally, the local Greek folk tradition placed significance on visionary experiences in connection with their spiritual practices.  Before we scoff at such primitive ideas, we need to remember that we come across similar teachings within Christianity when people are told to pray to their “guardian angel” or to a particular “saint” for protection.

Paul’s point is that these kinds of beliefs about angels and surface-level practices undermine Jesus’ authority in our lives.  Running to “angels” or “saints” or “visions” shows that we don’t think Jesus can handle what we’re dealing with at the moment.  How can we say that Jesus is the King of the Universe, but then look somewhere else for our well-being?

It’s these kinds of self-contradictions that shift us away from the full maturity Christ desires to develop in us.  We must remember it is not certain that, at the end of all things, we will be presented as holy, faultless, and blameless before Him.  If we are pronounced disqualified, then we are sure to miss out on some eternal rewards and opportunities to serve with Christ in eternity future.  

Unfortunately, it’s easy to get hung up on ascetic, good-looking practices that, in the end, pull us away from His plan for us.  However, we are not without help.  Jesus told His disciples to “Remain in Me” (John 15:4), not “remain in My angels” or “remain in visions”.  The One who was the start of our faith is the One who will mature it as well.  So let’s continue to trust Him and hold tight to Him.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

False "spiritual" paths

The path to maturity is riddled with detours.  Since our lives don’t travel a perfectly straight course, the detours sometimes look like the correct path.  Paul encouraged the Colossian believers to rely on Christ for both their salvation and maturity:

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

After showing them the path to maturity, Paul gives the Colossians a specific warning about the kinds of ideas that will try to sway them away from the truth.  These ideas, and their sources, need to be carefully considered.

Colossians 2:8
Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.

Philosophy is a love of wisdom.  Notice that Paul isn’t saying that all philosophy is bad.  Instead, he is warning the Colossians that they need to be fully aware of a philosophy’s foundation.  If the wisdom we love is not based upon Christ, then we are loving an empty idol. 

However, this false-philosophy idol isn’t necessarily powerless.  In fact, Paul says that those whose teachings are not based on Christ will try to take you captive.  The Greek word for captive is a strong term that means to carry away, just like thief steals loot.  The thief takes what is valuable away from its proper place and carries it off to where it doesn’t belong.  Similarly, a philosophy based on human tradition will also do to us…it will carry us off to beliefs that are not Christ-like.

There are many false teachings around today that claim to show us how to become more “spiritual”; however, the best remedy has always been to rely on God’s Word alone to know what is pleasing to God.  Throughout the pages of Scripture, God has revealed that a “spiritual” person is someone who is like Christ.  Do we trust God enough to let Him make us Christ-like?  Or do we feel like we need to add other influences?

When we feel the need to add other influences besides God, what we’re really saying comes down to one of three options:

We think God might miss something that will make us into the person we were made to be. 
We believe that some other philosophy will be an acceptable short-cut to where God would eventually take us.
We just really like this other idea, and we’ll convince ourselves that God agrees with it.

As we navigate the path we’re on, we need to be certain that our philosophy, traditions, and driving forces in our lives are based on Christ.  To have any other foundation shows that either we’re not carefully considering the path we’re on, or that we’d don’t fully trust God with our lives in the here and now.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

 

Just as you were taught

Contrary to what advertisers want you to believe, “newer” does not automatically mean “better”.  This applies to many areas of our life, including our spiritual maturity.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it seems like the American church is always on the lookout for the Next Big Thing.  Every couple of years, we jump at a slick package of formula-prayers, diets, or new techniques which claim to develop spiritual maturity.  Unfortunately, it seems like most people’s idea of spiritual maturity is nothing more than being good at convincing God to give us whatever we want at the moment.

As we continue through Paul’s letter to the believers in Colossae, we find that they were also being presented with a barrage of “new” ideas and techniques that would supposedly make them spiritually mature.  We’ll take a close look at each one as we come to them in this letter, but before Paul specifically addresses these other teachings, he gives the Colossians a broad statement about the true path to spiritual maturity:

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Notice how Paul lays out the path before the Colossian believers – they are to root themselves and build up themselves in Jesus – just as you were taught.  No new techniques, no additional rituals, no special sacrifice or vow.  They don’t need a “new way” because they’ve already been shown the way, and it was up to them to walk the path laid out before them.

Many years prior, God gave a similar warning to the nation of Israel:

Jeremiah 6:16
This is what the Lord says:
Stand by the roadways and look.  Ask about the ancient paths:
Which is the way to what is good?
Then take it and find rest for yourselves.

But they protested: We won’t!

The Israelites refused to listen to God’s timeless advice and directions for how they were to live as His people.  They still belonged to God, for they were God’s chosen people.  However, their refusal to acknowledge God’s rightful place as King made them rebellious children.  God had shown their forefathers the path for relationship with Him and for peace in the land, but instead

Jeremiah 6:19
…they have paid no attention to My word.  They have rejected My law.

The Israelites shunned God’s revelation and His previously revealed path.  For their choices, they were susceptible to attack, both spiritually and physically.  Keep in mind that this prophecy was given to the generation that was eventually led into captivity in Babylon.

Paul’s letter doesn’t give any direct evidence that the Colossians were rejecting God or a relationship with Him.  However, the temptation was certainly there as other philosophies and human traditions were pressing in to the Colossian church.  Paul gives these believers a good self-check reminder here – they need to actively consider the path they’re on.  Will their actions truly lead to spiritual maturity, or are they trying to manipulate God?  Are they walking in the paths just as you were taught, or are they trying something different just because it’s “new”?

Keep in mind that “new” doesn’t automatically mean wrong, either…but we must make sure it follows with what Paul said to the Colossians:

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Keep Pressing,
Ken