Tuesday, June 28, 2016, 6:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Colossians 1:1-14 (ESV). By the Will of God (vv. 1-2) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. By the will of God, all of us who are in Christ Jesus by faith are called of God to specific tasks (assignments, roles, responsibilities, and/or parts of the body). The Holy Spirit has given each one of us spiritual gifts to be used for the edification (improvement, instruction) and encouragement (inspiration, motivation) of the body of believers in Jesus Christ. We are also called to be holy (set apart from the world, because we are becoming like Christ). And, we are called to be the Lord’s servants and witnesses, his light to the world, and to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. So, each and every one of us, as parts of the Lord’s body, are to be Jesus to the world and to the church in life, in speech and in action. The Word of Truth (vv. 3-8) We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. For us to truly believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, and as Savior of our lives, the Father in heaven must first of all draw us to Christ. In one way or another he makes it possible for us to hear about Jesus Christ and to hear the message of the gospel of our salvation. We must first of all be confronted with the knowledge that we are sinners, and that we need the Savior to save us from our sins and to give us new lives in Christ Jesus, our Lord. We are taught, in Christ Jesus, that coming to faith in Jesus Christ means dying with Christ to sin, and being resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See Eph. 4:17-24). We may not hear those exact words, but basically we should be given the understanding that receiving Jesus Christ is much more than just escaping hell and the promise of heaven when we die. We ought to be told that believing in Jesus means our lives are radically transformed of the Spirit of God in delivering us out of darkness and in bringing us into God’s wonderful light (truth, righteousness). When we are crucified with Christ, by faith, in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, to be lived to his righteousness, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives to dwell within us both as a guarantee of the promise of eternal life with God and as God within us empowering, counseling, leading and guiding us in the way we should go. We can now walk (conduct our lives) according to the Spirit, and we no longer live our lives (in lifestyle) according to our sinful flesh. We are not perfect, but daily, by the Spirit, we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh and we are putting on Christ and his armor. The Holy Spirit within us empowers and strengthens us to live godly and holy lives pleasing to our Lord. Because Jesus loves us, and because of his love now living within us, we are able to love others with God’s love, and to demonstrate that love by our actions. Fully Pleasing to Him (vv. 9-14) And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Don’t we all need prayer? The more we follow Jesus Christ with our lives in obedience to his will and purposes for our lives, the more our enemy Satan comes against us, so we need to lift one another up in prayer, praying that God will give us courage and strength to remain steadfast in our walks of faith and to not give way to fear, discouragement, or temptation to sin. We need to pray for one another to know God’s will, and to understand his word and how it applies to our lives, because there are so many deceivers and liars who would try to lead us astray, and who will try to pull us away from our pure devotion to Jesus Christ so that we will follow after them instead. So many people who profess to know Christ don’t even know what his word teaches, or if they do, many of them are not following it, but they are going their own way, so we need to pray they will be doers of the word and not hearers only. We need to know God’s will so that we can live holy lives pleasing to him, but we can’t know his will if we are not feasting on his word daily, drinking it in, and applying it to our lives in the power and strength of God’s Holy Spirit living within us. We also can’t know God’s will if we refuse the truths of his Word because they don’t fit with our lifestyles. We have to want to know God’s will, and then we have to obey what we know. If Jesus is just someone we profess to know, or if he is just someone we somewhat acknowledge now and then, or on Sundays during church gatherings, but during the week we live just like the world, then we are not going to walk (conduct our lives) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him. If our lives mainly consist of work and TV, movies, video games, novels, social media, and the like, but we give little thought to how God wants us to live our lives each and every day, then that is not living in a manner worthy of the Lord, and it does not please him. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are delivered out of darkness and we are transferred to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. This is not just an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die, though. This means we no longer walk in darkness. We no longer live for ourselves, but we live for the one who saved us from our sins. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. His grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Tit. 2:11-14). When God forgives our sins, he delivers us out from the control sin and Satan had over our lives, and he sets us free to now become servants of his righteousness. May we be ones who walk the talk and who live what we say we believe, and not be hypocrites. Amen! Near the Cross Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane Jesus, keep me near the cross; There a precious fountain, Free to all, a healing stream, Flows from Calvary's mountain. Near the cross, a trembling soul, Love and mercy found me; There the bright and morning star Sheds its beams around me. Near the cross! O Lamb of God, Bring its scenes before me; Help me walk from day to day With its shadow o'er me. Near the cross I'll watch and wait, Hoping, trusting ever, Till I reach the golden strand Just beyond the river. In the cross, in the cross, Be my glory ever, Till my raptured soul shall find Rest beyond the river.