Question: How do you think a spiritually alive person learns what to desire and how to obtain it? (cf. Colossians 1:9-14 and Philippians 1:9-11)
Answer: Here are some bullet points of what the texts above reveal…
We must pray non-stop, asking God to fill us with the knowledge of God’s will – through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
We must pray that we may live a life worthy of the gospel – of our Lord – and that we may please him in every way.
We must pray that we will bear fruit in every good work and that we may grow in the knowledge of God – strengthened with all power…with God’s might.
We must pray that we will have great endurance and patience.
We must pray that our love abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. This will enable us to discern what is best. It will enable us to be pure and blameless until Christ returns. It will fill us with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. This will glorify God and be a praise offering to him.
And yet, God will not give us such wisdom, knowledge, discernment, depth of insight, etc., just because we want it…just because we ask for it. To be sure, we can’t obtain such things without him, but we will not receive these gifts and graces without active participation on our part.
I believe this is what it means to “let the words of Christ dwell in us richly” (Col. 3:16). This is surely what Jesus meant when he said that we are to abide or remain in him and he and his words will abide or remain in us (John 15).
God fills us with his Spirit (Eph. 5:18) as we pursue him for all we’re worth in prayer and digging deeply into his Word (i.e., more than a two minute devotional). We must study God’s Word, meditate upon it, share it, teach it to others, and obey it. This is how God’s Word abides in us and dwells in us richly.
This is how the Holy Spirit conforms us into the likeness of Christ. It’s how he transforms us – through the
renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). It’s how we begin the process of offering our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord (Rom. 12:1)…of growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).
To restate the prayers of Paul from Colossians and Philippians, it’s how we are enabled (including even given the desire to be enabled) to live lives worthy of the gospel, lives that will please God, lives that will bear fruit in every good work, lives that will be pure and blameless until Christ returns.
Sanctification – or growing in holiness or Christlikeness – will happen in no other way. Nothing truly worth having or achieving happens easily and without effort and intentionality…including this. But the reward will be far greater than we can even imagine.
Grace and Truth,
Acts 14:22 – strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
I have been the Minister of Discipleship at Southside UMC since 1999. During that time I have discovered that as each year goes by, I learn new things about ministry and more and more of what’s really important versus what’s merely urgent. (They are not usually the same things.). But there are some constants that keep me grounded and focused. These “constants” are the heart and soul of what I pray my ministry is all about.
Today’s scripture emphasizes another area of my ministry that I also regard as its heart and soul. Acts 14:22 says that after Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel and won a large number to Christ, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch to “strengthen the disciples and to encourage them to remain true to the faith.” Why? Because “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that the path of discipleship is narrow and hard. It is not for the weak-of-heart, nor for the half-hearted. There are obstacles around every turn, as Christian discovered in Pilgrim’s Progress. And we know this much is true: many who begin do not make it to the end.
That is why a ministry of “strengthening and encouraging” is so vital. We need to be constantly built up in our faith and reminded of the joy set before us that makes all of the trials and tribulations worth our effort.
I count it as a singular blessing and privilege to be able to minister to fellow travelers as we walk this pilgrim’s path together. To be allowed to help strengthen and encourage followers of Christ to persevere on their journey is a calling for which I thank God with all of my heart.
But you don’t have to be ordained clergy to serve others in this way. Every Christian is called to come along side his or her brother or sister in Christ and aid them in their pursuit of the Celestial City (which is reason #102 why you should read Pilgrim’s Progress). To act as an agent or ambassador of God’s grace in the life of another is a holy honor indeed.
So let me encourage you to open your eyes. Look for those people in your life whose gait has slowed of late and whose feet appear to be stumbling more than usual. Walk along side them and build them back up in the faith. Remind them of their gracious and sovereign Lord who daily calls them home and who promises that their arduous labor will not only be worth it for them, but will also bear glorious and everlasting fruit for others.
Grace and Truth,
Looks like a great new curriculum from the partnership of The Gospel Coalition and The Good Book Company
Well, let me finish up by connecting the Kingdom of God to Holy Communion. In verse 23, Matthew writes…Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
What does Matthew say Jesus is preaching here? The “good news” of the Kingdom. The phrase “good news” is where we get our word “gospel.” And the Kingdom of God ultimately cannot be understood apart from the good news or gospel of Jesus Christ.
The good news is what God has done… through his Son… to reconcile sinful, lost and broken people to himself. God sent Jesus, as his name implies, to save us from our sin. The Kingdom can’t be properly understood apart from this.
God’s Kingdom ultimately turns all other kingdoms upside-down and not only offers us salvation through Christ, but also sets patterns, attitudes, and behaviors for the citizens of the Kingdom.
With the coming of Jesus came the beginnings of the Kingdom of God. But the Kingdom won’t be fully consummated and enjoyed until Christ returns and we’re gathered to him. Theologians call this living between the “already” and the “not yet.” The Kingdom is present in our midst, and yet, it’s not all that it will one day be.
This “not yet” aspect of the Kingdom is perhaps why Jesus, while he was still with his disciples at the Passover meal, told them…
Luke 22:15-18 – …”I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you.  For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
Part of our understanding of the Lord’s Supper, which we’ll be celebrating in just a few minutes, includes not only looking back to what Christ has done for us (which, of course, it does include). But it also emphasizes looking forward… forward to that day when we’ll be dining with our King at the heavenly banquet that he’s prepared for us.
And so… today… as you come to receive his body and his blood, by all means give thanks to your Savior for what he’s done on your behalf. Of course, thank him for his outpouring of grace in your life in the here and now. But come also with the hopeful and grateful expectation of the fulfillment of his Kingdom, when we will eat and drink with our Lord and King.
Thanks be to God.
Grace and Truth,