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,
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,
If you turn your ear to wisdom (Proverbs 2:2), apply your heart to understanding (Prov. 2:2), call out for insight (Prov. 2:3), and cry aloud for understanding (Prov. 2:3), then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God (Prov. 2:5).
Why? Because the LORD gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (Prov. 2:6). Not only that, but the LORD holds victory in store for the upright, and is a shield to those whose walk is blameless (Prov. 2:7) for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones (Prov. 2:8).
Why is the Lord telling us this? Because only then will we understand what is right and just and fair – every good path (Prov. 2:9).
This matters much because such wisdom, knowledge, discretion, and understanding will protect and guard you (Prov. 2:10-11) from those who are wicked (Prov. 2:12) and those who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways (Prov. 2:12-13). The followers of the crooked path delight in doing wrong, rejoice in the perverseness of evil, and are devious in their ways (Prov. 2:12-15). If you follow such as these you will not return to the paths of life (Prov. 2:19).
Led Zeppelin sang it: “Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road [path] you’re on.”
My addendum: But you don’t know how long you have to make that change. Make the right choice. And do it now. Amen.
PS – Hopefully all of the posts that I’ve written on grace will clear me of any charges that I'm suggesting we "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps through our own efforts.” I'm just walking with you to discover and then to stay upon the right path... as we find it described in Proverbs 2.