Friday, April 29, 2011

Fully Qualified for the Father’s Inheritance

Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Colossians 1:11)

Paul has prayed for the believers at Colosse that they may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work, knowing God more and more, being strengthened with all strength by the power of God’s glory, joyfully enduring difficult times and difficult people. Now he prays that they may always be giving thanks to God, the Father.

Enduring difficult circumstances. Dealing patiently with difficult people. With joy, no less. Now he prays that we may always be giving thanks! No matter what may be happening in our lives, no matter how thick the darkness around us may seem, there is always something much greater going on inside us by which we prevail.

First, notice to whom we are giving thanks. Not some impersonal deity, but to the Father. In Paul’s earlier prayer, which was a prayer of thanksgiving*, he gave thanks “to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” for the faith, hope and love at work in the Colossian believers. Now he presses in on that relationship and how it pertains to us.

The essence of fatherhood is inheritance. When we have a father, we receive a name, a family, an identity. Through faith in Jesus the Messiah, we are “accepted in the Beloved” and have “obtained an inheritance” (Ephesians 1). His Father becomes our Father, His name becomes our name, His identity becomes our identity. We do not qualify ourselves for this — we cannot — but God has done it for us, through His Son. Jesus is fully qualified, and through faith, we are joined with Him, In this way, we are fully qualified in Him and can now take part in the inheritance with Him. We are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). Everything He inherits, we now inherit, too.

In Ephesians, Paul prayed that we would know the “riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:19). “Saints in the light,” is how he puts it here in Colossians. Because we are in Jesus, we are “in the light,” for that is what He is, light. John calls Him the True Light who gives light to everyone who comes into the world (John 1:9). The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot comprehend it, cannot overtake it, cannot put it out (John 1:5).

James, also, has something to tell us about the Father and light and inheritance. He says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

The inheritance Father has for us is nothing but good. It is full of life and light and carries with it the blessing and power of heaven. Darkness cannot overcome it, and when we learn how to walk in the reality and power of it, the will of God will be done wherever we walk on earth, just as it is in heaven.

It is a wonderful inheritance and all who entrust themselves to King Jesus the Messiah are fully qualified to take part in it. So, with David we can sing:
O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
 You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
 Yes, I have a good inheritance.
(Psalm 16:5-6)
*For more about the pastoral prayers and prayers of thanksgiving in the New Testament, see Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles.



The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Putting Up with Joy


Continuing in Paul’s pastoral prayer* for believers …
For all patience and longsuffering with joy. (Colossians 1:11)

Paul prayed for the believers at Colosse that they would be always strengthened with all might, and he had a particular purpose in mind: “for all patience and longsuffering with joy.”

The Greek word for “patience” is hypomone, a compound of hypo, “under,” and meno, to “stay.” Strong’s Concordance gives its meaning as, figuratively, to undergo, to bear (as in trials), to persevere, abide, endure. Patience is the ability to persevere and endure in difficult circumstances.

In the Bible, this kind of patience is associated with hope, which is positive expectation or joyful anticipation. It is not giving up in the face of adversity or resigning yourself to it, but remaining on course, no matter what. It comes from having your expectation set on God and His promises.

The word for “longsuffering” is macrothymia, another compound word, from macro, “long,” and thymos, passion. “Longsuffering” is the opposite of “short-tempered.” We find macrothymia a number of times in the Septuagint (an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, usually noted as LXX). For example:
But You, O LORD, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering [macrothymia] and abundant in mercy and truth.
(Psalm 86:15)

The LORD is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger [macrothymia], and abounding in mercy.
(Psalm 103:8)

He who is slow to wrath [macrothymia] has great understanding,
But he who is impulsive exalts folly.
(Proverbs 14:29)

He who is slow to anger [macrothymia] is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
(Proverbs 16:32)
Here we can see the nature of macrothymia, as well as some of its benefits.
  • It is the nature of God to be slow to anger.
  • It flows with His compassion, mercy and grace.
  • It demonstrates wisdom and creates understanding.
  • The one who “rules his spirit” will accomplish greater things than the one who “flies off the handle.”
Patience is about persevering through difficult circumstances; longsuffering is about graciously “putting up with” difficult people. It is part of the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Elsewhere, Paul says,
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2)
Longsuffering is part of what it means to walk worthy of our calling in the Lord (which is what Paul’s prayer in Colossians is about) and reflects humility and gentleness. It bears with one another in love and promotes the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Enduring adversity and bearing with difficult people is hard enough by itself, but Paul adds a kicker: we need to do it “with joy.” Now we can see why we need to be always strengthened with the power of Almighty God. And here is why we need the promises of God and the hope (positive expectation, joyful anticipation) they bring. And this is why longsuffering comes after love, joy and peace in the fruit of the Spirit. When we are filled with the love, joy and peace of God, and let them come forth in our lives, enduring adversity and bearing patiently with others will follow naturally.

*For more about the pastoral prayers found in the New Testament, see Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles



The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Resurrection and the End of the Age


In the time of Jesus, the Jewish expectation was that the resurrection would be an end time event. For example, when Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus had died, He said to Lazarus’ sister Martha, “You brother will rise again.” Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:23-24).

In eschatological terms (eschatology is the study of “last things,” that is, what happens at the end of the age), the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah is an end time event, the beginning of the last days. Paul calls it the firstfruits.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
Firstfruits is the first portion of a harvest. In the Bible, the firstfruits were offered to God. If they were acceptable, they were holy and blessed by God, and they prophesied that the full harvest would also be acceptable, holy and blessed. Paul explains the principle in his letter to the believers at Rome: “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches” (Romans 11:16; although he uses it here in a different context, the principle is the same).

When God raised Jesus the Messiah from the dead, Jesus became the firstfruits of the resurrection. The surprise is that the resurrection that was expected at the end of the age has broken into the middle of history, and it is the guarantee that all who trust in Jesus will also be physically raised from the dead. The firstfruits secures the blessing of the full harvest.

There is also another firstfruits that Paul writes about, and it has the same significance regarding the resurrection and the end of the age.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:18-23)
Fifty days after the resurrection of the Son of God, the Spirit of God came to dwell in the people of God. We celebrate this event seven weeks after Resurrection Sunday, on the day called Pentecost. The Holy Spirit indwelling those who belong to Jesus is another assurance that we will experience the “redemption of our body,” when even our bodies are delivered death unto life. All creation groans together, waiting for this resurrection, that it may be itself fully delivered from the bondage of corruption.

The end of the age has broken into history and the eternal age of God’s kingdom has entered into the world. This is why John can say, “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8). And we are living in the transition, in the light and power of Jesus’ resurrection.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Resurrection Life Now!

Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. (John 5:25-27)

There is life for all who hear the voice of the Son of God, Jesus. This life is now! Notice that Jesus said, “The time is coming and now is.” So what is it that happens now? The dead hear and live. They were dead but now they live, because they hear the voice of the Son of God. This is resurrection life. But there is also another resurrection coming. Jesus continued,

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:28-30)
There is an hour yet to come, distinct from the hour that now is (in John 5:25). In the hour yet to come, those who are in the graves will come forth. To speak of graves is to speak of physical bodies. The resurrection of those in John 5:25-27, the resurrection that is now, is that of the spirit: those who were spiritually dead and made spiritually alive when they hear the voice of Jesus. The resurrection of those in John 5:28-30, the resurrection that is yet to come, is that of the body: those who are physically dead will be made physically alive.

In that second resurrection, all will hear the voice of the Son of God. Some, those who have done good, will come forth to the resurrection of life. These are the ones who have been part of the first resurrection. They have done what is good. When Jesus was asked, “What shall we do that we may work the works of God, He answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:28-29). Those who believe in Him have done what is good. They have heard the voice of Jesus is this now time. But there are also others, who have not done good but evil. They will come forth to a resurrection of condemnation. In the book of Revelation, John speaks of both groups.
Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)
The first resurrection is those who have heard the voice of Jesus and believe in Him in the now time. They have been made alive together with Him, raised up and seated together in the heavenlies in Him (Ephesians 2:4-7). Where is Jesus seated? At the right hand of God, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21). We are seated where He is, in the place of ruling and reigning with Him.

The second resurrection will come at the end of the age, when all will be raised physically from the dead. John says,
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:12-15)
Those who are not part of the first resurrection will be part of the second death, and vice versa. All who hear the voice of the Son of God in this present time have life now and will not see death. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

Resurrection life is now. It has already begun with the resurrection of King Jesus from the dead. God has already made us alive together with Him, and at the end of the age, even our bodies shall be raised again to new life.

Do you believe this?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Powers Have Been Broken

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
Now this, “He ascended” — what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. (Ephesians 4:8-10)

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:13-15)
Today is Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. It is also called the Great Sabbath, in recognition of the day that the body of Jesus Messiah rested in the grave. But there was more going on than that. Though the body of Jesus lay in the tomb, His spirit descended into the place of the dead, where He asserted the victory of the cross. This is known, particularly in the Church of the East, as the “harrowing of hell.”

The works of the devil have been destroyed. Even the power of death has been broken. That which held the souls of men captive has now itself been brought into captivity. Those who were formerly held captive, who died in faith before the Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us, have been delivered from Hades (the place of the dead) into the splendor of heaven.

Jesus has disarmed the principalities and powers — broken their power! — and paraded them around in public spectacle as defeated foes. The victory has been announced and the end of the age has already begun. “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).


(See also The Triumphal Procession)

Friday, April 22, 2011

How Chastisement Became Peace

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
    He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
    And by His stripes we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:5)
For the past few days, I have been captured by this verse, particularly the line about “chastisement” and “peace,” and how one was exchanged for the other.

This passage, from Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12, is about the “Suffering Servant.” It is a portrait of the Messiah, a prophecy of what He would do — and of what would be done to Him. It is a picture of the Passion, of Good Friday and the Cross.

What happened there that day was a very peculiar thing. To onlookers, it might have appeared that He was suffering on His own behalf, because of His own sins: “Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4). However, the opposite was true, as the “but” that begins verse 5 indicates: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” The Innocent One suffered for the guilty, the Righteous One for the unrighteous.
  • The transgressions were ours; the mortal wound belonged to us, but He was pierced instead.
  • Ours were the iniquities, so also the crushing, disfiguring bruises, but He took them upon Himself.
  • The stripes that fell on His back should rightfully have been laid on ours, but He let them be on His so we could be healed.
In a word, He took what belonged to us and gave us what belonged to Him. The world’s idea of justice was turned upside down so that the world could be put right.

Consider, now, how chastisement became peace. The Hebrew word for “chastise” is musar. It may be corporal or verbal; it may be instruction, discipline, rebuke or punishment. A chastisement by words indicates that the purpose is to instruct, but what Isaiah speaks of is a chastisement of wounds, of bruises, of stripes, and the purpose is for peace.

The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom. It is much more than the absence of conflict or the ceasing of hostilities. It is wholeness, what was once missing now restored, what was once broken now healed.

Jesus, the Son of God become flesh, had no lack. Nothing missing, nothing broken. The lack was ours — a broken relationship with God, with creation, with each other, even with our own selves. The chastisement should have been on us, but He let it come upon Himself so we could have His peace, His shalom, His wholeness.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Strengthened with All Might

Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power. (Colossians 1:11)

Paul prays for the believers at Colosse to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, so that they may have a walk worthy of the Lord.

THIS IS NOT SOMETHING WE CAN IN OUR OWN STRENGTH — WE NEED THE POWER OF GOD!

That is what Paul is talking about here. In the Greek text, the word for “strengthened” is in the present tense. That is, it is an ongoing activity. It is also a passive participle. That is, it is not something we do for ourselves but something that happens to or is done for us. The sense here, then, is “always being strengthened.”

The word for “strengthened” is dynamis. So is the word translated here as “might.” Dynamis is the ability to get things done. It is, of course, where we get the word “dynamite,” but don’t let that fool you. This power can be very constructive and life-changing in a positive way. “With all power empowered” is the literal reading here. Or as Young’s Literal Translation puts it, “In all might being made mighty.”

With all power empowered? This can come only from God. It is “according to His glorious power.” That is, it corresponds to the power of His glory. The word for “power” here is different; it is kratos, which speaks of manifested power, power in its fullness and dominion. It is most appropriately used of God. In this passage, it speaks of “His glorious power,” or the power of His glory. Where and how has the power of His glory been manifested in all its fullness and dominion? In the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah from the dead.
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Roman 6:4)
That is the highest, most world-changing manifestation of God’s glory and power. And it is the same glory and power God wants to display in you and me, not just in the sweet by and by but in the here and now, where it is so desperately needed. Elsewhere, Paul prayers for believers that we may have the intimate, experiential knowledge of
what is the exceeding greatness of His power [dynamis] toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power [kratos] which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power [dynamis] and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Ephesians 1:19-22)
At the end of that book, Paul concludes,
Finally, my brethren, be strong [dynamis] in the Lord and in the power [kratos] of His might. (Ephesians 6:10)
Notice, again, that “be strong” (or empowered, or strengthened) is a present passive, a continuous action that happens to or in us. We are made strong “in the Lord.” It is His power and His might at work. Our part is simply to yield to that work in us.

A walk worthy of the Lord is a walk made in His strength, always being empowered with all power by the magnificent power that manifests His glory and dominion — His resurrection power! It is an amazing strength, and possible for you and me to be always and fully strengthened with it. Or else Paul, praying by the Holy Spirit, would not have prayed it.

*For more about the pastoral prayers found in the New Testament, see Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles



The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Knowing God More and More

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding … and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10)

In verse 9, Paul speaks of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will. In verse 10, he shifts focus to increasing in the knowledge of God Himself. The Greek word for “knowledge” is both cases is epignosis, a depth or fullness of knowledge. Not merely head knowledge, an accumulation of facts or even of how facts work together. Not theoretical knowledge, but experiential knowledge. Not the kind of knowledge that puffs up, but knowledge that is according to love, which builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Paul speaks of “increasing” in this knowledge. Actually in the Greek text, this word is in the passive voice. That is, it is not something we do to ourselves but something that is done to us. We do not increase ourselves in the knowledge of God; we are increased in the knowledge of God. Only God can do that for us, and He does it by the work of the Holy Spirit.
For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:11-16)
Notice also that this increase is in the present tense; it speaks of continuous action. God’s plan is that we are always being increased by Him in the knowledge of Him, continually knowing Him more and more. It is a growth process. Peter says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

This is personal, intimate, revelation knowledge of God — He reveals Himself to us in personal, intimate relationship! Through Jesus, through the Spirit, through the Word. He fills us with the knowledge of His will, revealing His desire, revealing His heart. Every response we make to that revelation in faith, and the obedience of faith, will be pleasing to Him and will bear the fruit and good works He desires. A walk worthy of the Lord is all about walking with the Lord. The more we walk with Him, the more we will know Him. He will not hold back but will reveal Himself freely to us as we walk along with Him.

*For more about the pastoral prayers found in the New Testament, see Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles.



The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Every Good Work

… being fruitful in every good work. (Colossians 1:10)

Yesterday we talked about a life of fruitfulness, what it means to be fruitful. Now let’s talk about “every good work.” In Ephesians, Paul tells us that salvation and grace and faith are the gift of God.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10).
“Good works” are not the cause or basis of salvation but the result or benefit of salvation. They come from God, because we are His workmanship, His “doing.” They come through Jesus the Messiah, because of the new life we have in Him and the life He lives in us.

“Every good work” is one of Paul’s favorite phrases; we find it a number of times in his letters. The author of Hebrews also uses it, and in a way that sounds very much like Paul.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. (Titus 3:1-2)

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 12:20-21)
The grace of God supplies us, equips, prepares us, establishes us and makes us complete in every good work. He even supplies for us in our finances (which is the context of 2 Corinthians 9), so that we may always have all we need, plus abundance so we have something to give for “every good work.” He supplies the seed and even multiplies it to “increase the fruit of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11; see Seed is for Sowing). From beginning to end, it is God at work in us, to bless us and make us a blessing to others and a praise to Him.

“Every good work” does not mean that we are always doing everything all the time. After all, we do have to sleep! What it does mean, though, is that no matter what times and circumstances we find ourselves in, there is always something we can offer, some good we can do, some fruit we can bring forth to bless others. As we pay attention to where God has placed us, what He has supplied and how the Holy Spirit is working in us, and we yield ourselves, God will lead us.

*For more about the pastoral prayers found in the New Testament, see Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles.



The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Life of Fruitfulness

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask … that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10)

In verse 6, Paul gave thanks to God that the gospel was bearing fruit and being increased all over the world, and that it had come to the Colossians. (The Greek word for “being increased” is not in the Greek text from which the NKJV version, above, was translated, but it does appear in some older manuscripts.) It echoes the mandate God first gave the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).

Now in verse 10, Paul picks up on that theme again in his pastoral prayer. He asks that these believers in Jesus may now be fruitful in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God. (Actually, the verb for “increase” is in the passive form, i.e., “being increased” — but that is for another day.)

God has always been interested in fruitfulness. It is part of the series of blessings in Deuteronomy 28: “Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks” (Deuteronomy 28:4). It is part of the happiness and prosperity of those who meditate on the instruction of the Lord.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
(Psalm1:3)
Then there is the teaching Jesus gave to the disciples on the night of the Last Supper, about the vine and the branches:
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. (John 15:5, 8, 16).
In Galatians, Paul talks about the “fruit of the Spirit,” in contrast to the “works of the flesh.”
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
This fruit cannot be produced by keeping laws or observing rules; it is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring forth this fruit, which is the character of Jesus. Fruit is the overflow of the life of the vine, the life of Jesus at work in us. Our part is to yield to this life and the fruit will come.

(For more on fruitfulness, see The Fruit of the Righteous ~ A Tree of Life, Don’t Strain, Abide and Transformed by the Holy Spirit.)

*For more about the pastoral prayers found in the New Testament, see Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles.



The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Lord’s Prayer and Postmillennialism


In a recent chat online, I posted that I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Eschatology is the doctrine of “last things,” i.e., what happens at the end of things. Postmillennialism is basically the view that when Jesus returns, the Church will have been successful in the mission He gave to disciple all nations, teaching and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). Someone asked me if this has led me to pray the Lord’s prayer less than Christians did a millennium or two ago. Here is how I answered:
I pray the Lord’s prayer more now that I ever have in my life, and I pray it more aggressively. Wherever I see something out of alignment with heaven, I pray, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God be done here as in heaven!”

When I pray over someone who is sick, it is, “Kingdom of God, come into this body! Will of God, be done in this body as it is being done in heaven” (because there ain’t no sickness in heaven).

When I hear about the troubles in the world, say in Libya, I pray, “Kingdom of God, come into Libya! Will of God, be done in Libya as it is in heaven.”

My conviction is that the kingdom of God is forcefully advancing in the world, ever since the days of John the Baptist, and forceful men lay hold of it (see A Kingdom Forcefully Advancing). And my confidence is that the kingdom of God will increasingly saturate the earth and the will of God will increasingly be done on earth as it is in heaven. And I am convinced that when we pray the way Jesus taught us to pray, God hears and answers.

I am postmillennial because I believe God intends to answer the Lord’s Prayer. And because I believe that the Great Commission, to make disciples of all nations (not just in all nations) will be fulfilled, because all authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth. That does not cause me to slack off but to move forward with greater passion and assurance.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Am I Seated in Heaven?


When I was at Bible college, there was an evangelistic tract we used quite extensively that was titled, “Am I Going to Heaven?” It was about what happens to us when we die. We thought of heaven as someday and out there.

Today, if I were to write a tract, I think I would call it, “Am I seated in Heaven?” Heaven is not just about when we die; we begin to participate in the life of heaven here and now. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:7). The Greek word for “again” can just as well mean “from above,” that is, from heaven.

Paul tells us that our citizenship is now in heaven (Philippians 3:20). In another place, he tells us that we have made alive together with Christ, raised together with Christ and seated together with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:5-6). This is not a future promise but a done deal and a present reality. We are meant to live from now on out of that reality.

The answer to both questions is the same and comes about the same way. In John 3, where Jesus speaks of being born “from above,” it says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (v. 16).

In Ephesians 2, where Paul talks about being made alive, raised up and seated together with Christ, he says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (vv. 8-10).

In other words, it is by faith, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son. That is how we enter into the kingdom of God, which is here and now as well as there and then.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Life Pleasing

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask … that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him. (Colossians 1:9-10)

In speaking of walking worthy of the Lord and fully pleasing to Him, Paul certainly has Lord Jesus in mind, for we read in Colossians 1:19, “For it pleased the Father that in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of should dwell.” Jesus’ modus operandi was all about pleasing the Father:

  • “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19).
  • “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30).
  • “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” ” (John 8:29).
But perhaps Paul was thinking also of Enoch. The book of Genesis tells us about him:
Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:21-24)
Enoch walked with God all the days of his life. He did not die but was simply taken by God. This was very unusual and, unsurprisingly, a theology developed around it. The author of Hebrews sums it up this way:
By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)
Enoch walked with God and had this testimony: He pleased God. Certainly, this was a walk worthy of the Lord — and with the Lord — but how did Enoch please God? It was by faith, as the author of Hebrews explains:
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Enoch believed God and because of that, God was pleased with him. In the Bible, faith is about believing what God has said. Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, rightness with God (Genesis 15:6). Hebrews 11 is full of Old Testament saints who pleased God by believing God.
It is by faith that Lord Jesus pleased the Father, believing everything He heard the Father say and do, then saying and doing it in agreement with the Father’s will. That is how Jesus operated in His divinity and His humanity, and that is how we live a life that is fully pleasing to God. By believing whatever He says and does, then speaking and living in agreement with it.

*For more about the pastoral prayers found in the New Testament, see Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles



The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Walk Worthy

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Colossians 1:9-12)

Paul’s prayer is that believers may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, so that they may “walk worthy of the Lord.” By “walk,” Paul means how you live your life. Walking is a process, one step after another, “picking ’em up and putting ’em down.” There is a consistent pattern to a proper walk, or else we will stagger, limp along or stumble altogether. A walk worthy of the Lord is a life that is appropriate and fitting for our relationship and who we are in Jesus the Messiah. What does such a life look like? In this letter, Paul lists five characteristics.

  • Fully pleasing to the Lord.
  • Always bearing fruit in every good work.
  • Always being increased in the knowledge of God.
  • Always being strengthened with all might (Colossians 1:11)
  • Always giving thanks to the Father (Colossians 1:11).
Notice that there is a fullness and a constancy to these things. It is a strong and steady walk Paul is talking about, but it is important to understand that we do not do this in our own strength or even in our own understanding. Remember that this is a prayer, something Paul is asking of God, and his primary request is that believers “be filled” with the knowledge of God’s will “in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” “Be filled” is passive, not active. We cannot fill ourselves with the knowledge of God’s will, for who knows the mind of God except God? No, God is the one who must fill us; our part is simply to let Him, to look to Him and to yield to Him in everything. “In all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” Paul says. This is the wisdom of God and the understanding that is imparted to us by the Spirit of God into our spirits. As we yield to this fullness that comes from God, we will find all we need for the life God calls us to live.

*For more about the pastoral prayers found in the New Testament, see Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles.



The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Seed is for Sowing

Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. (2 Corinthians 9:10-11)
The Bible has a lot to tell us about seeds and sowing, more than I can do justice to in this short blog, but here are a few that have somehow come to mind. (For more, see Sowing and Reaping.)
Faith is like a seed. Jesus said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

The kingdom of God is like a seed. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).

The kingdom of God is like one sowing seed. Again, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29).

In Galatians 6:7, Paul reminds us that what we sow is what we will reap. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, he reminds us that how we so is also how we will reap; if we sow sparingly (stingily, holding back) we will also reap sparingly, but if we sow bountifully (generously, freely, “with blessing”), we will also reap bountifully. In 2 Corinthians 9, particularly, Paul is actually talking about finances. He was preparing to receive an offering to help the believers at Jerusalem who were in distress, and he was encouraging the believers at Corinth to be generous with their “seed,” which is to say, their financial resources.

It is in this context, then, that Paul makes the statement that appears at the top of this post. It is a benediction*, a word of blessing, and it expresses what God wants to do for us and how He wants to work through us. He wants to give us all the bread we need, but He also wants to give us seed for sowing bountifully. Because sowing seed is as important for us as the bread we eat.

God not only supplies seed for us to sow, He also multiplies it and causes it to increase. It becomes a blessing to others and results in us being enriched, made wealthy, in everything and in every way so that we can be even more generous, to become even more of a blessing. That results in thanksgiving to God because of how we have let Him work through us. It is win-win-win: for those who are blessed by our sowing, for us doing the sowing and for God who receives the praise for what was sown.

You may only have one small seed to begin with. No matter. If you sow it in faith (because faith is like a seed), you will be proclaiming the kingdom of God (because the kingdom is like the seed and the one who sows seed). It will display the generosity of God and prophesy the prosperity of God.

*For more about the pastoral prayers found in the New Testament, see Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles.



The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Develop a Prosperous Tongue

Once again, the first of the month finds me at Psalm 1. A fresh month, a fresh opportunity to think about the prosperity God desires for you and me. It looks likes this:

He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
(Psalm 1:3)
There are two things necessary for experiencing this prosperity in our lives, one positive, and the other negative. The positive is found in verse 2:
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
Notice the word “But.” It is the hinge point that turns from the negative to the positive. The negative is found in the first verse and it is just as important as the positive.
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.
Now, the first line, of course, is positive, “Blessed is the man.” Or better, “Oh, the happinesses of the man!” But the next three lines set up the negative, about what the man who is blessed does not do.
  • He does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly.
  • He does not stand in the path of sinners.
  • He does not sit in the seat of the scornful.
The tendency here might be to think of those who are flamboyant in their ungodliness, or accentuated in their sinfulness or very loud and exceedingly abusive in their mockery. It is pretty much a given that we should not follow them and their ways. But it is the more subtle forms that we should really be watching out for. They can be much more dangerous to us, and the blessing and prosperity God has for us, because they can be so deceptive and yet seem so reasonable. They show up, for example, when we make decisions that leave no room for God, or God becomes merely an afterthought, even when we are trying to do something good. Then we are leaning on our own understanding and there is no dependable direction when we come to the crossroads (see Proverbs 3:5-6). They show up as pride and arrogance, the puffing up of ourselves and supposing that our own needs matter more than others. We have long been discipled in the subtle art of rationalization. Jesus nailed some these subtle forms in the Sermon of Heaven on Earth (my title, a. k. a., “Sermon on the Mount”), when He declares, “You have heard it said … but I say to you” (see Matthew 5:21-22, 21-32, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44).

Then there is the matter of what we do with our mouths. Not merely open mockery, which is easily detected and avoided, but the little ways we tear things down with our words, and especially how we belittle each other, and ourselves, by the things we give voice to. Our words are very powerful, and how we use them is very important.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
(Proverbs 18:21)

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. (James 3:8-12)

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:35-37).
No man can tame the tongue, it is attached to the heart and merely reveals what is in the heart in abundance. In other words, to deal with the tongue, you have to deal with the heart. How important it is, then, to continually meditate on the instruction of the Lord and let if fill your heart to overflowing. Then His words will inform your words, and when you speak, you will be speaking in alignment with the prosperity of God. Your faith will be activated and you will see that divine prosperity begin to come forth in your life.