Tag Archives: jesus

Temptation


The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book and training series "Prayer School" For more information or to book a Prayer School training seminar write to the Matthew 5:5 Society here and subscribe to the blog for regular updates and release dates as they become available.
Chapter 7:  Temptation

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. [Matthew 6:13]

By this point in our prayer we are just about ready to wrap it up.  We have already prayed for blessing, praised God’s sovereignty, asked for guidance and offered our assistance in bringing about God’s will and purpose in the world, made requests for our personal needs, asked for and offered forgiveness of our sins.  But before we sign off there is one more thing we need to address; that is the spiritual warfare that is going on all around us trying to get us to backslide, causing harm to both ourselves and others and negatively damaging God’s reputation in the world.

Now is the time for us to pray for God’s help in battling temptation and protecting us from everything that can harm us moving forward.

In December 2017 Pope Francis gave an interview to TV2000, an Italian Catholic TV channel in which he stated that the phrase “lead us not into temptation” was a poor translation of the 4th century Latin that most modern day biblical translations are based on.  Noting that the Latin is itself a translation of ancient Greek, which is also a translation from the Aramaic that Jesus and his original followers would have spoken, Francis suggested that God as our loving father does not test his children by throwing us into temptation as the traditional translation would lead us to believe.  Rather, according to the Pope, a better translation would be to say, “let us not fall into temptation”, which suggests that God can and will protect us from it.

Although I agree with Pope Francis on this point I was taught the prayer in the traditional way and just as I personally preferred to say trespasses instead of debts or sin in Chapter 6, I prefer to say “lead us not” here.  It is nothing more than a personal preference of phraseology, the intended meaning is the same.  I firmly believe, along with Pope Francis that God is not the one leading us to be tempted, rather he is protecting us from our temptations.

It has also been my experience that many people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the presence of evil in the world.  Or rather, if they do it is something that is to be bemoaned and lamented about but not much resisted.  “It is what it is”, or “what can you do?” are the phrases most often heard in the face of unexplained hurt, pain and destruction.  We are quick to praise God for our good fortune but no one, it seems is willing to blame the demonic forces of evil for what is clearly their doing.  It is as if we all live in the fictional world of Harry Potter where Satan is the cosmic Lord Voldemort, he who must not be named, because to acknowledge his name is to give him legitimacy and power.   Or more to the point to acknowledge evil is to admit it exists and to somehow reduce the sovereignty of God to the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  We live in a fallen world.  The presence of evil in the world is our doing, we invited it in and let it have dominion over us [Genesis 3].  Jesus refers to Satan as “the prince of this world” [John 12:31] and says that he has come to “seek and save the lost” [Luke 19:10].  Jesus’ main purpose in coming into the world was to save us from Satan.  And that is what we are requesting when we pray for him to “deliver us from evil.”  The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is in one sense a motivational speech given to soldiers as they ready themselves for battle.  But the battle they are preparing for is not a traditional assault on a physical enemy but one against spiritual forces of doubt, sin and psychological destruction.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. [Ephesians 6:12]

So, as we get ready to wrap up our prayer now is the time to pause yet again and pray specifically for God’s help in avoiding the many pitfalls that Satan will place in our path.  Pray that God will help us steer clear of the things we know we are weak to defend against as well as anything new he can cook up.  If we are prone to watching pornography when we are lonely, pray that God will bring people into our lives at just the right moment to distract us from our loneliness.  If we are prone to making bad decisions with money pray that God will give us wisdom to discern between our spending options. And finally pray that God will protect us from the effects of evil in the world over which we have little or no control.  Protect us from the Gang Bangers who frequent the crack den down the street or the tyrannical boss who wields his power like a megalomaniac.

God the father wants nothing more than to be our protector, our ever-present help in times of trouble [Psalm 46].  But like the prodigal father he will never impose his protection on us, we need to remember to ask for it.  Take a minute now and ask for his protection.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. [Matthew 6:13]

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Confession and Forgiveness


The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book and training series "Prayer School" For more information or to book a Prayer School training seminar write to the Matthew 5:5 Society here and subscribe to the blog for regular updates and release dates as they become available.
Chapter 6 – Confession and Forgiveness

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. [Matthew 6:12]

Depending on your translation this verse could read either, debts, sins or trespasses.  I originally learned it as trespasses and still say it that way today, but the sentiment is the same no matter how you say it.

The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Sin separates us from God’s glory. It’s been that way since the very beginning.  Ever since the original sin God and mankind have been separated.  At times God has broken down the barriers and come to his people but mankind has had to create elaborate rituals designed to cleanse sinfulness from himself before he can approach God.  The entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament was designed to provide this cleansing and remind mankind of his sin and unworthiness to approach God.

Jesus, as the final sacrifice blows that whole system up but not before giving us a hint of how we can maintain our intimacy with God long after he is gone here in his prayer.  Forgiveness of our sins is available to all of us, all we have to do is be willing to give forgiveness as freely as we have receive it.

But you can’t receive forgiveness if you don’t first confess.  And you can’t offer forgiveness if you don’t first examine the motives behind the wrong act.

This is very hard.

As we go through the list of wrongs that we have both committed and endured we must think about the people we have hurt and those who have hurt us.  While we don’t have to forgive their actions, we must be willing to look beyond the act itself and see the person behind it.  In the case of our own forgiveness we must examine our motives and resolve to find better ways to express our needs and desires without causing harm to anyone else.  And in the case of the wrongs committed against us we need to look deeper at the motivations of the perpetrator before we can forgive the person.

We can still hold people accountable for their choices, as we will likely be held accountable for our own.  We can expect to be asked to pay some form of restitution before we can fully restore a relationship so asking for restitution in return is generally acceptable but that cannot prevent us from freely forgiving the person who committed the act.

Forgiveness is not tied to restitution.  Even between us and God, when we ask for forgiveness God may still require us to do something before we are fully welcomed back into community and that’s okay.  We are still freely forgiven simply by confessing our sin and offering the same kind of forgiveness to those who have wronged us.

At this point in the prayer we break it down into it’s two component phrases and pause while we list off both our sins for which we need forgiveness and the wrongs which have been perpetrated against us.  If you find it too difficult to forgive the act that was done to you, focus instead on the person who committed it.  We may never be able to excuse some of the wrongs we have endured but we also can’t carry a grudge against a fellow image bearer of the divine.  God’s loving nature demands that we see the humanity in everyone, even those who commit unspeakable crimes.

It’s been said “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  When we start by examining the person forgiveness gets a little easier.  It’s also been said “There but for the grace of God, go I.”  When we start by examining the person, we sometimes start to see ourselves in a different light.

This is perhaps the hardest part of the entire prayer.  Confession and forgiveness requires a level of self-examination beyond anything we’ve done so far.  Don’t skimp on this aspect of prayer.  We are all sinners in need of a relationship with the savior.  The more honest we are with ourselves at this stage, the deeper that relationship will be.

 

 

 

If God is For Us…


Pacifist Lamentations Volume 4

It’s been a while since I wrote a Pacifist Lament.  This one has been on my mind for a few weeks.  I stems from some bad preaching I heard recently on Romans 8:31.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Taken out of context, as this verse often is, it could seem that Paul is saying that with God on our side we are invincible.  And while that may be true, it leads to a violent interpretation of what we are capable of when God is “for” us.  Sadly, Romans 8:31 has been mis-quoted in this way from the barricades of revolution and war for hundreds of years.

“God is on our side!  Therefore; let us go and slay our enemies!”

But taken in context of the entirety of Romans 8, we begin to form a very different picture of what it means to have God “for” us.

In the first half of Romans 8, Paul lays out a detailed analysis of what happens to us when we believe that Jesus dwells in us and is transforming us from the inside out. Put simply, we have become so deeply like Jesus that we have become children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus himself and co-heirs to the kingdom.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. [Romans 8:16-17]

Provided we suffer with him, not provided we go out and fight for him!  Paul goes on to talk about how all believers will be treated and “glorified” with Christ.  We will suffer in this world, but we can count it all as nothing in comparison to what awaits us.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. [Romans 8:18-19]

And then we get to the big question that is so often taken out of context – If God is for us, who can be against us?

God for us is an expression of love.  Deepest, most profound and all-encompassing LOVE.

If God is for us.  If God, who in his very nature is love, expresses that love toward us.  If God has made us part of his family.  Who can do or say anything that will negate or make any negative impact on that?

No one can stand against that!

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8:37-39]

More than a conqueror!  This is not a violent image.  This is not about dominance.  This is about transcendence.

We can remain above and outside of violence!  Nothing that is done too us can have any impact on our salvation.  We therefore transcend violence and remain passive, continuing to love our enemies and work toward reconciliation even in the face of our own death.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  God is for us!

L C Sheil writes regularly about, spirituality, life and business coaching.  He is the founder and director of The Matthew 5:5 Society (formerly The Meekonomics Project) where he coaches ministry and business leaders to Live Life to the Fullest in Complete Submission to the Will of God. 

Mr. Sheil has authored two books and is available for public speaking and one on one coaching in the areas of work life balance,  finding and living your core values  and financial literacy.  Write to The Matthew 5:5 Society here for more information or follow L C Sheil on twitter and instagram.  

 

The Community


The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book and training series "Prayer School" For more information or to book a Prayer School training seminar write to the Matthew 5:5 Society here and subscribe to the blog for regular updates and release dates as they become available.

Prayer School – Part Two

This then is how you should pray:

Our father in heaven, [Matthew 6:9a]

The opening line of the Lord’s Prayer makes it crystal clear that prayer is not to be done in a narcissistic manner.  The very first word of the prayer points to and acknowledges the fact that the spiritual life is not a life of isolation but a life that must be lived out in community.

When we pray to God as our father we are simultaneously acknowledging that He is my father, your father and the father of all who call upon His name.    It is at this point, after we have spent time in meditation preparing our hearts for prayer and getting close to God that we begin by recognizing His sovereignty over our lives, the lives of the people in our community and the lives of all those who call Him father.

When we begin our prayer this way there are three phases to these opening moments.

Our father in heaven, thank you for blessing me.

Around the beginning of this century, as the tech bubble burst, the phrase Ponzi Scheme hit mainstream media and was used to describe the world’s largest energy conglomerate and terrorists flew airplanes into two of the world’s tallest office towers, there was a movement within some religious circles to re-examine an obscure prayer from deep inside the genealogical records of Israel.  The prayer of Jabez, as it is known, appears in 1 Chronicles 4:10:

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

I first learned of this prayer and this movement at a particularly low point in my life.  By praying specifically for God to bless me, enlarge my territory, (which in modern terms would be to pray for prosperity), for protection and comfort, my mind was also drawn to instances when God was already doing this for me.

It’s okay to pray for your needs.   It’s even okay to pray for the desires of your heart.  God granted Jabez his request because he asked.  Some commentators have also suggested that the last line in the Hebrew suggests that not only will Jabez be free from experiencing pain but also from causing pain to anyone else.  Therefore; God granted his request because it contained some other centeredness.

Our father in heaven, thank you for blessing them.

The term intercessory prayer is used to describe a prayer meant to intercede in the lives of others.  When you say to someone in your community that you will pray for them what you are really saying is that you will leverage your time in conversation with God to intercede on their behalf.

I always begin this portion of pray by thanking God for bringing certain people into my life and for the blessing that they have been to me.  I then ask specifically for the fulfillment of whatever needs they have, those that they have brought to my attention and those that they have kept private.

Jesus modeled this for us in John 17:6-26 when he prayed for his disciples.  He begins by thanking the father for them.

Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. [John 17:6]

He then goes on to describe the troubles they will experience because of him and requests that God give them protection and strength.

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. [John 17:11b]

By turning my focus outward, to my community I become both thankful for the intimacy of my interpersonal relationships and aware of my role in the lives of others.  I am now ready for the last phase of the opening of my prayer time.

Our father in heaven, thank you for blessing us.

The world-wide community of believers is a family.  God is our spiritual father and through our relationship to Him are all connected.  It is through this familial connection that I can thank God for the blessings in your life and intercede on your behalf, even when I don’t know you personally or have any knowledge of your specific needs.

Jesus modeled this too in John 17 when he prayed:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, [John 17:20-21a]

This also sets us up for a deeper prayer for God’s heavenly kingdom which comes later.  For now I simply pray thankfully for the world-wide community of believers and ask for blessing and intercession into the lives of my brothers and sisters whom I may never meet.  I pray for their safety, their health, their prosperity and the impact of their ministries on their local communities.

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So here in the opening phrase of The Lord’s Prayer we have thanked God for all that he has already given us, requested blessing and provision in our lives, thanked God for the people he has brought into our circle and interceded for their needs and thanked God for the world-wide family of believers and interceded for the needs of those half a world away whom we my never meet but with whom we share a connection few outside the faith will ever comprehend.

 

Preparing Our Hearts for Prayer


The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book and training series "Prayer School"  For more information or to book a Prayer School training seminar write to the Matthew 5:5 Society here and subscribe to the blog for regular updates and release dates as they become available.

Prayer School – Part One

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; [Psalm 46:10a]

God can do anything and the way in which he speaks to us, and hears us, is no exception.  But I have found, in my years of faithfully listening and speaking to God is that he operates best in the quiet and stillness of our minds.  Therefore, it is fitting that at the beginning of our discussion of prayer we begin by calming and quieting our minds.

All throughout scripture we see examples of people encountering God when they are alone with only their thoughts.  Moses was alone on the mountain when he encountered God in a burning bush.  Elijah heard the “still small voice” of God after a loud and violent storm had passed by.  David wrote most of his Psalms while alone and running from his enemies.  And who could forget the example of Jesus himself both at the beginning of his ministry, spending forty days alone in the wilderness, and on the night that he was arrested walking alone through the garden of gethsemane.

Prayer happens best when we are quiet and alone. Jesus even went so far as to command that we pray privately.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. [Matthew 6:6]

In recent years spiritual teachers, self-help gurus and psychologists have popularized the concept of “mindfulness”.  According to Wikipedia, mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment and can be honed through a period of meditation.  “Living in the moment” is then the process of taking that focused period of mediation and expanding it into the way we live our daily lives.

Mindfulness has been proven to be an effective form of therapy for those recovering from addictions, anxiety and trauma.  In my own experience, mindfulness has been very helpful as a form of therapy in dealing with my own life history but is not prayer.

Preparing our hearts for prayer is a bit like mindfulness meditation but instead of focusing our minds on the present moment we focus our minds on God.  As Paul wrote to the church in Colosse;

 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. [Colossians 3:2]

So, how do we prepare our hearts for prayer?

I like to start with a bible verse in mind that helps me to focus on God.  A couple of my favorites have already been mentioned, Psalm 46:10, Colossians 3:2 but here are a few others that work just as well and you may have others that work for you. Exodus 20:2-3, Isaiah 41:13, Isaiah 43:3, Psalm 23:1, Matthew 16:15-16.

It’s helpful if the verse can be broken into a couple of phrases.  Speak, or think, the first phrase as you inhale and the second phrase as you exhale.  Repeat this process as many times as it takes to calm your mind and focus on God.  For me it seems that the optimal number is four but if I am feeling extra stress or am otherwise  distracted it can take a bit longer.

Once you have calmed your mind and focused your attention on God you’re ready to pray and open I dialogue with him.  Speak to him as you would a wise friend and listening to what he says.

 

 

Three Dimensional Ministry


Recently, while meditating on Matthew 9:35-38 something quite unexpectedly jumped off the page.

I spent a week at the beginning of this month sitting with these 4 verses at first because I wanted to get inspired and hear what God has to say about evangelism, after all the workers are few as the passage says and we must ask the Lord to send us out.

Here’s the passage as it reads in the NIV:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” [Matthew 9:35-38]

Did you see what I saw?

I’ll narrow it down.  It’s right at the beginning in verse 35.

Jesus’ ministry was three dimensional. He went through the land teaching, proclaiming and healing.  Some translations render proclaiming as preaching, but the general meaning remains the same.  Throughout seven days of deep meditation on this passage I came to realize that effective evangelism should always contain these three elements.

Teaching

A little over two years ago I wrote a post that that broke down my mission as a writer which said that I am a disciple of Christ – always learning, always growing and always teaching.  While Jesus didn’t need to learn or grow, at least not by the time he started his ministry he was a teacher first and foremost.  He taught what it truly meant to not just follow but to fulfill the law and how to live a just and moral life.

Proclaiming (Preaching)

While teaching digs in to meaning and application and invites debate to further understanding, proclamation does not.  Proclamation is a take it or leave it a statement of fact.  Where proclamation says, “it’s raining”, teaching says rain is necessary for the healthy development of crops and invites debate regarding how much rain is too little or too much for optimal growth.  When Jesus preached he left no room for debate.  That offended many, especially when his preaching flew in the face of tradition and challenged the norms of society.

Just two chapters before this we learn that both his teaching and preaching were regarded by the people as somewhat of a curiosity because he spoke as “one who had authority”.  In other words, he knew what he was talking about.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. [Matthew 7:27,28]

Healing

Teaching and preaching are worthless unless they are accompanied by action.   People who are hungry, people who are sick and people who are oppressed by an evil system of government don’t need to be taught morality or preached to about correct doctrine.  They need food, medicine and political advocacy.

Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” [Mark 2:9-12]

Three dimensional ministry must therefore have a practical component.  Saint Teresa of Avila said:

Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

What’s your three dimensional ministry?  How are you discipling others through teaching, preaching and healing?  Let me know in the comments or via email.

PS – On a personal note, I just learned on the weekend that my High-school English teacher passed away of breast cancer.  She was only in her mid 50s.  As a 20 something teacher on her first assignment she was the first person to see in me a potential for writing.  She encouraged me to journal and hone my voice, that journal evolved into this blog.  It’s been more than 30 years since I was her student, and, in that time, I have written almost every day and completed 2 books.  I skipped my High-school reunion, so I never got a chance to thank her or to show her what that simple encouragement, which she’d likely forgot, has wrought.  RIP Mrs. Favro; a good teacher never fully knows how they quietly shape the future and bring context to the past.

The First Christmas Carol


The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 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 and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. [Colossians 1:15-20]

The early church didn’t celebrate Christmas.  At least not as a special feast day or as the modern-day retail orgy of capitalistic idolatry that we call Christ’s birthday today.  But the early church did recognize that the event of Christ’s birth was a significant event in human history and they celebrated it regularly with the reverent awe and jubilation that it deserves.

Last week, as I was getting ready to celebrate Christmas I had a chance encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness co-worker of mine.  The office Holiday Luncheon as we call it so as not to offend anyone, was held at the restaurant across the street and after I’d had my fill and stayed a respectful amount of time I decided to return to the office to finish up a bit of work before heading home for the night.  As I came back in I noticed that this individual was sitting at the reception desk.  It’s not unusually to see certain admin staff taking a turn at reception when the regular people are away, and I immediately recognized that she must be covering while most of us were at lunch.  As I walked past I casually asked if she had had a chance to get out and enjoy a bit of time with the rest of us.

“I don’t celebrate Christmas”, was her immediate and matter of fact response.

In this day and age, it is not uncommon to encounter people who do not celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ.  We live in a multi-cultural society.  At the last census only 67.3% Canadians self- identified as Christians with less than half of those attending services more than 3 times per month.  But a large percentage of people who do not identify as Christians still celebrate Christmas in one form or another.  My next-door neighbour is a Hindu, born and raised in India.  His seven-year-old son knows all about Santa Claus and was all too happy to explain to my wife in detail everything he had put into his letter to the North Pole.  Apparently, Santa doesn’t care if you know anything about Jesus, only if you’re good.

Christmas isn’t just for Christians anymore and hasn’t been for quite some time.

So, when my co-worker, who is descended from Irish protestants and married to a man French Roman Catholic origin stated flatly that she doesn’t celebrate Christmas I was a bit taken aback.  But then I remembered why.  Jehovah’s Witnesses and a few other pseudo-Christian groups do not celebrate Christmas on December 25 because there is no historically credible way of pinpointing the exact moment of Christ’s birth.

December 25 was chosen as the date by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 336 A.D. in part, to combat the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.  Prior to Constantine some Christians had estimated the date to fall any where between December 6 and January 6 (the day many Coptic and Orthodox Christians still recognize today), citing historical records of the Roman census and, the reason why Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem in the first place.

Still others, notably the Jehovah’s Witness and a few other fringe groups, contend that the day was more likely in the spring or summer since Shepherds would not have been tending flocks out in the fields in the winter.  Personally, I think that argument is weak, winter in the middle east is still warm enough to tend flocks outside even if it might have been rare.

Anyway, the fact is, whether you celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th, January 6th or some other time the historical event is still the fulcrum on which history turns.  The earliest Christians knew that and celebrated it just as much as we do today.

Which brings me back to the earliest Christmas Carol.

Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse opens with a poem that could have easily been set to music.  To our modern eyes it might not look much like a poem because when it is translated to English it loses much of it’s poetic feeling, but I assure you was originally a poem and likely a song.

This poem tells us four things about the birth of Jesus.  What it accomplished and how it changes history.

1 – Jesus brings God to us

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [Colossians 1:15]

He is God incarnate!  If you want to see God and understand what he is like look to Jesus.  If you want to follow God and do his will do what Jesus taught.  Everything up to this point, all the laws and the prophets are mere shadows of what has been revealed to us in the person of Jesus.  Put another way, if the Old Testament conflicts with anything Jesus taught, throw it out, Jesus is the true image of God.

Jesus brings us to life

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. [Colossians 1:16]

All things were created through him.  We exist because he made us for himself and all things were created through him.  The law brings death and condemnation.  We have life because of Jesus.

Jesus brings life to us

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [Colossians 1:17]

He sustains us.  He breaths life into us.  There is a popular contemporary Gospel song that I hear on the radio from time to time that repeats the refrain, “It’s your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.”

Jesus brings us to God

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. [Colossians 1:19-20]

The ministry of reconciliation brings us back into perfect unity with God.  This unity is a common theme in Paul’s writing.  It comes up again in 2 Corinthians 5 where he says,

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. [2 Corinthians 5:18-20]

Ever since Genesis 3 and the so called, fall of man the path of history is a story of mankind’s failed attempts through rules and regulations to reconcile with God.  It wasn’t until God came in human form and showed us his love for us, a father’s unfailing love, that reconciliation became possible.

It is a Christmas, or when ever you choose to acknowledge the historical reality of Christ’s birth, that we can truly celebrate that Jesus came to bring God to us, bring us to life, bring life to us and to bring us to God.  That is the gospel, and that is what we acknowledge when we celebrate Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.