Saturday, January 19, 2019
It is about 3:30 pm, and I just got back from the most wonderful visit with Kathie, my daughter Victoria, her husband Cory, and my beautiful granddaughter turning eight months old Monday! Evelyn, my granddaughter, remembered me instantly after having not seen me in 41 days! She just lit up when she saw me hugging and kissing her nana, and reached for her papa right away. I’d laid awake last night contemplating that moment, and I certainly was not disappointed! They were all awake at 3 in the morning to make the trip to be here by 11:00, and I’m so grateful for the effort! Thank you, Cory, Victoria, Kathie, and Evelyn for such sacrifice and effort – even with the predictions of heavy rain (in Kentucky) and snow all day back to Virginia.
This morning in my devotional time, I was struck by Colossians 1:22-23. The New American Standard version says, “Yet He has now reconciled you in his fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach – if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and which I, Paul, was made a minister.” Note that for our reconciliation to God to happen, Christ first had to come in the flesh and give His own life. The result is that when we repent, Christ then can present us before God as holy and blameless – beyond reproach. Yet there is a condition, the reason the next verse begins with “if.” Our ultimate salvation depends on whether we “continue in the faith.” The Greek word for continue means “to stay the course – to be constant or persevere!” This means we mustn’t deviate from the faith, meaning we are “firmly established and steadfast.” King James’ Version translates it “grounded and settled,” Both translations are accurate – it means our mind and purpose cannot be moved! As a matter of fact, that’s the next thing mentioned in this long criteria for our being presented holy and blameless before the Father, “not be moved away.” The Greek word here denotes a change of one’s place or condition, moving from one place to another. Specifically, the text says, “not moved away from the hope of the gospel,” which connotes not falling away, or wavering.
“So it is clear while God promises “I will never forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), it is also clear in this passage that we can allow ourselves to be moved away from that place where we no longer are blameless and holy before God. With the word ‘if,’ the text is definitely placing a condition that we “continue in the faith, firmly established and steadfast, not moved (fallen away, wavering) from the hope of the gospel!” Obviously, this is a tall order, which is why we have been sent the Holy Spirit, to set us free from the law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2). “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh,” Paul says in Galatians 5, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Sometimes I feel as though the Holy Spirit doesn’t fully indwell me because I don’t “feel” Him. But Paul places the emphasis not on any specific manifestations of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13), but on these specific fruits of the Spirit, which is evident in us as we live our daily lives. Even in the midst of hardships and persecution, we are not to move from the path but remain unwavering, steadfast – and joyful (James 1:2). For this is our test, and we must remain faithful, for it will produce endurance.
Jesus Himself said, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great (Matthew 5:12). Jesus, in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), makes it very clear, it is very easy for one who accepts the gospel to fall away when confronted with affliction or persecution (v. 21), or for “the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches ‘to choke the Word,’” and you become unfruitful (v. 22). The key is, are we bearing fruit (v. 23)? This is my challenge, but it is imperative the Spirit does it in and through me, for others must look and see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control rather than the deeds of the flesh, which “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Gal. 15:19-21).
“Those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). The King James uses the word “do” rather than “practice.” In fact, the word in Greek is one of habitually practicing. We must search our hearts and repent of any of these habitual behaviors, give them to God leaving them at the cross, and trusting the Holy Spirit within us to deliver us from that pattern of sin we just confessed. That life of holiness, evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit in your life, is evidence that the Holy Spirit really does dwell within us – not the way we may “feel,” nor evidential outpourings or manifestations. Yet Jesus Himself said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit, but apart from Me you can do nothing.” We cannot do it ourselves!