Wednesday, June 29, 2016, 5:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Colossians 1:15-29 (ESV). He is Preeminent (vv. 15-20) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. “He,” in this passage of scripture, is referring to Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (v. 14). He is God, he was with God in the beginning, and all things which were made were made by him, i.e. he is our creator. He is completely sovereign and supreme over all which he created, including he is over all kings, kingdoms, rulers and governments on this earth. He is also the one who determines who is going to rule what countries, too. He sets (establishes) rulers in their places (See: Ro. 13:1; Jn. 19:11; Dn. 2:21; 4:17). He even gives us rulers who are evil, because they serve his ultimate purposes for our lives, oftentimes to draw us to (or closer to) God. So, if you are one who plans to vote (in America) in this election, then know that, no matter how you vote, God is still going to be the one who establishes rulers in their places, and he will be the one ultimately to decide who ends up ruling over us. As well, I believe there is no real difference between the political right and the political left. I believe they are just two sides of the same whole, and they are both headed the same direction, which is to the rule of the beast (See: Rev. 13) and the one world government and one world religion. This is the direction the world is headed, and it is going there fast. But just know that God/Jesus is in control over all things, and that all which takes place will serve his purposes, mainly to draw people to faith in Jesus Christ and to revive his adulterous church, I believe. Jesus Christ is also head over the church, his body. Now the church is not a building. It is not a business of human origin, nor is it a corporation under the headship of any human government. That does describe the institutional church, but that is not the true church. We don’t “go” to church. We “are” the church, although we do go to gatherings of the church. So, attending church merely means we are gathering together with fellow believers in Jesus Christ for the study of the Word, for fellowship, for prayer and for communion, no matter the location or the day. Yet, many who profess the name of Jesus have turned the church into something God did not intend. They made it into a human business, marketed just like any other business, and with the government (in America) as head in place of Christ. So, God is calling his true church to separate themselves from what is not of him so that he is her only head for, I believe, the institutional church is under the judgment of God. Reconciled to God (vv. 21-23) And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. To be reconciled means to be reunited with God. When God first created humans, they had not yet sinned, so they enjoyed perfect fellowship with God. Yet, when they did sin, that separated them from God, and thus all humans have been born into sin and are separate from God, and we come up short of attaining God’s divine approval (See Ro. 3:23). So, God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ to the earth to die on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that when he died, our sins died with him and were buried with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over Satan, sin, hell and death for you and for me. Through his death and resurrection, he provided the way for us to be reconciled (reunited) with God. Through faith in Jesus Christ we can be reunited with God and can have eternal life with God both now and forevermore. Amen! What that means for us, though, is so much more than just being forgiven of our sins and having the hope of heaven when we die. When Jesus died, he put our sin to death on a cross so that when we come to him in faith we might also die to sin and be resurrected with him to newness of life. Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Being reconciled to God means we don’t live like we lived before. Instead of walking in the flesh and doing evil deeds, we are now empowered by God to walk according to the Spirit, and to no longer gratify the evil desires of our flesh. Jesus reconciled us to God so that we might live holy lives, pleasing to God – all in the power and working of his Spirit now living within us, and not in our own flesh. So, how is this accomplished? Well, for one, we can’t just pray a prayer and then be congratulated that we are now free from all punishment and that heaven is our eternal destination. It doesn’t work like that. Coming to faith in Jesus Christ means we die with Christ to sin and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” We walk by faith, and not by sight. And, that faith is continuous, not a one-time experience which guarantees heaven no matter what. In John 3:16 we read that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes (believing) in him might not perish but have eternal life. That word “believe” is present tense, which means we must believe today and tomorrow and the next day and so on and so forth until the day we die, or we are taken up to heaven. Mature in Christ (vv. 24-29) Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. We were not born just to die. We were born to live. In other words, we are not born of the Spirit of God just so we can go to heaven one day. We were born from above in order that we might glorify God with our lives, that we may live in him and him in us. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ we are crucified with Christ so that we (our flesh) no longer live, but now Christ lives in us, and the life we now live, we live by faith in Jesus Christ, who gave his life up for us. Christ in us, via the Holy Spirit, encourages, strengthens, and empowers us to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God. As we submit to the cross each day, and surrender our wills to the will of God for our lives, we continually give over lordship of our lives to Jesus Christ so that he can live out his life through us. And, this is why Jesus died, that he might cleanse our hearts from sin, come in to dwell within us, and to live his life out through us, not just to give us an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die. A saved life should be a Christ-filled life submitted to the cross of Christ, and surrendered to Christ’s Lordship. Jesus also did not die so that we would remain spiritual infants all our lives. He died that we might mature in Christ – in faith, love, and in purpose. We are to continue in the faith, “stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.” We are to grow in Christ through sitting at his feet each day, listening to him speak his words to our hearts, and via obeying what his word teaches us. Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). If we continue to live sinful lifestyles, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the misdeeds of the flesh, we will live eternally with God (See: Ro. 8:1-14; cf. Lu. 9:23-25). So, if you are counting on a prayer you prayed one day to get to heaven, think again. We must continue in Christ, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel, and we must daily be putting to death the deeds of the flesh and putting on Christ and his armor. This is not to say we must live in sinless perfection, but lack of perfection should never be used as an excuse for continued and willful sin against God. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, so let his Spirit today crucify you with Christ in death to sin, and resurrect you to newness of life in Christ, now lived to his righteousness. 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.