Remember the seemingly impossible commands of Colossians 3 that tell us “Wives, submit to your husbands… Husbands, love your wives and don’t be bitter towards them… Children, obey your parents…, etc.”? Ever consider the idea that God did NOT give us these instructions as a way of communicating things we should do to make Him happy with us, but rather as a way of communicating the things that should come easily & naturally when our focus is on Him? In this sermon, Pastor Steve discusses the second half of Colossians 3 and the importance of understanding this passage within its larger context.
Was Colossians 3 meant to be an instruction manual for how to live a Christian life, or a caution against placing too much value in behavior patterns? In this sermon, Pastor Steve discusses Colossians 3 and the importance of understanding scripture within the context it was written.
Pastor Steve Schroeder discusses Colossians 1 and how our perceptions of God match up with the awesome reality of who He truly is.
Understanding Biblical Meditation
The basic meaning of meditation is “focused thinking.” It is often used in reference to thinking on spiritual things, but the act of meditation is not solely limited to the spiritual. In its most common application ‘meditation’ is what I choose to think about every day. The concept of meditation is not limited to the depth or frivolity of what you are thinking about. You can be thinking about your fantasy team or about the ultimate meaning of life and yet both are accomplishing mediation. The distinction between a single thought and meditation is what you do with that thought. For instance, you can have a thought about God, but if you continue to think about Him then you have just crossed into meditation. The emphasis of spiritual meditation for the Christian should be a relationally based approach with God that connects with every part of our life (Joshua 1:8, 1 Timothy 4:13-16, Psalm 119, Psalm 1). Jesus wants to be your best friend, your Savior, and your Lord. Each one of these words describes the functionality of that particular relationship.
You should not be forced to slavishly (def. like a slave) think about God. You would not take that approach with your loved ones. When you think of someone who loves you it is easy to think of things that they have done to show you that they love you. You enjoy thinking about them because they have obviously demonstrated that they love you. You should take opportunity to enjoy thinking about Jesus and what He has done the same way you do for someone you love.
The idea that spiritual people are somehow only thinking about scripture is not totally accurate. A better way to think is to train our thoughts to go back to God through Scripture. For instance, if you notice any part of God’s creation and choose to think about God’s glory (Romans 1:20, Psalm 19:1), you are accomplishing biblical meditation. Training your mind to go back to thoughts of God is part of the purpose in Colossians 3:1-4.
Based on a correct definition, what do you ‘meditate’ on every day? (e.g. work, money, TV show)
Are there things that can help you think about God? (Isaiah 40:14,22,&26; Romans 1:20)
How has God demonstrated that He loves you? (John 3:16, Genesis 1:1, Romans 8:28-29)
How are the things above different from the things on earth? (Colossians 3:1-4, John 14:2, 1 Corinthians 2:9)
Biblical Priority of Meditation
God wants us to think about the truths of His Word. In Joshua 1:8 God is speaking of the Scriptures when He says “this book of the law.” God is speaking to Joshua and instructing him how to be a godly leader. In that discussion God tells Joshua to meditate on “this Book of the law.” That meditation is a huge part of Joshua’s obligation if He is to see God give him success.
We know that God wants us to keep our lives centered on His Word. God gave us His Word to teach us about Him. It is accurate to say that God wants us to focus on our relationship with Him using what we have learned from the Bible. One of the most beautiful aspects of the Bible is how God understands human emotions, your emotions. Christ suffered through betrayal and complete rejection. God’s understanding is demonstrated throughout all of Scripture and it is most obvious in the book of Psalms. When reading the book of Psalms it is easy to see that God cares about all of the different human emotions. He cares about the anger that we feel. That is why God says “Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). He demonstrates that He knows and cares how we feel. God cares about all of the emotions that we have; fear, joy, hurt, etc. What we learn through the Scriptures is how God wants us to respond when we have these emotions. One of the best ways for you to respond is to focus on God, meditate, while you are experiencing that emotion. This type of meditation does not guarantee that you will not sin, but it does help you think through what God would want you to do. This is part of the relational aspect of knowing God. It is relational because you are intentionally interacting with God as you are going through life.
According to Joshua 1:8 what comes before obedience?
How does Christ emphasize our relationship with God and others? (John 17:3,20-21)
What are some examples of Christ understanding us according to Hebrews 2:18 & 4:15?
How does Psalm 69:1-13 teach you that God understands the pain you deal with?
How can you work at intentionally interacting with God through meditation?
We are to meditate on Christ.
Meditation on Christ is key to being a disciple of Christ. Christ-focused meditation is a critical part of abiding in Christ (John 15). Abiding in Christ actively pursuing the renewing your mind (Romans 12:2). This is where it is important to remember that mediation is so much more than merely memorizing. Meditation looks at the why’s and the who’s of Scripture and not just at the how’s or what’s. A disciple wants to understand. This means that a disciple keeps learning. A key example of this is Peter. Peter was learning and growing before, during, and after Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Peter was both commended and corrected by Christ for things he said to Christ. When Peter denied Christ three times it was Christ who went after Peter. Christ restored the relationship through love and forgiveness. Even after Christ’s death Peter was confronted for behaving in an unloving way (Galatians 2:11-14). The point is that Peter was continually learning as a disciple of Christ.
These verses can be difficult to fully comprehend. The easiest way to understand this passage is to look at the entirety of the description and not to break it up. This passage describes the best of mankind and the best of creation. Everything in nature that could be described by this passage only fits part of it accurately. Also, the entire chapter of Phillipians 4 is talking of Christ and the peace that He brings to our lives. Looking at this passage in context means that if we focus our thoughts on Christ we will have peace. The emphasis of verse 9 points us towards imitating Christ.
At this point it is important to remember that the biblical point of creation is (both man and nature) to reveal the Creator (Romans 1:19-20, Psalm 19:1). The immediate and larger context of these verses point directly to Jesus Christ. Based upon the passage itself and the surrounding contexts, the primary thrust of this passage is to focus our thoughts on Christ Himself. Meditating on Christ will provide the peace that God promises in the surrounding verses.
What does it mean to look at the why’s and the who’s of Scripture?
What are the biblical implications of continued learning (Colossians 3:1-4, Romans 12:2)
Philippians 4:6-7 speaks of doing what? How do verses 8-9 provide a wonderful follow-up to verses 6-7?
What has Christ done for you and how can meditation on those things bring peace?
Thinking & Pondering
You are constantly thinking about something. Your thought process is the one thing that no one else will ever have control over. When you choose to think about something it is because you want to or feel a need to. God commands us to think about Him and His Word (Philippians 4:8-9, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Joshua 1:8, Romans 12:1-2). If we were merely automatons (robots) then God would have no need to command us to think about Him and His Word. This means that you have the ability to choose what you are currently thinking about. Based upon the truth of Scripture you are responsible for what you are thinking about (Matthew 15:19). You may not have control over what thought enters your mind, but you have direct control over what you continue to think about. God cares just as much about what you are thinking as he does about what you are doing. Christ makes that very clear in the Sermon on the Mount. The law showed our inability to get to God (Romans 7:7-8), and Christ taught that God’s primary purpose for law was to impact our hearts (Matthew 5-7).
God knows that if we think in accordance with His Word we will understand how He wants us to live. Applying that understanding to your life will enable you to obey God. This means that the thought process, “It doesn’t matter what I think because all that matters is what I do” is completely wrong. If you are to truly understand the teachings of Christ you must be willing to train your thought life to be in agreement with Scripture. Your thought life is your responsibility. Your friends, your culture, and even your family cannot control your thought life. You choose what to think about and how long to think about it. If you are meditating on the truths of God’s Word it is more challenging to have an impure thought life. If you are meditating on God’s word you will look more like Christ.
What have you been thinking about God’s Word this week? If not, why?
How do you know if your thought process is correct? (Hebrews 4:12)
What is necessary in order to accomplish God’s purpose for obedience? (Romans 10:4 & 12:2)
Read part of Psalm 119 and find 3-5 verses that point you to understanding and enjoying God’s Word.
From multi-tasking to mono-tasking
You can only accomplish one thing at a time. The excuse that “I don’t have time” only reflects your priorities. Even if you don’t like what you are doing, you are still choosing to live that way. You have to make the choice that you are going to meditate on God regardless of what is happening around you. In order to truly seek God you have to break away from everything else that is happening. The world will not die if you don’t take care of it for a few minutes. Your involvement in whatever is happening is never more important than your personal relationship with God. The real problem is prioritizing your relationship with God out of your lives. Just like every other relationship it takes time, effort, and self sacrifice to make it grow and develop. Meditation is the foundation of that relationship.
Meditate with Scriptural accuracy
Focus on God’s truth: In a world of constant change, God does not change (Malachi 3:6) and His Word does not change (Matthew 5:18). In a world of evolving and expanding knowledge, the knowledge and wisdom of God’s Word is complete and therefore can never be improved or expanded. Meditating on God’s truth brings stability to the believer. The believer does not have to be swayed or be shaken. Meditation must be holistic in understanding. What you meditate on must be in complete agreement with all of Scripture. If anything you are thinking disagrees with any part of Scripture it is incorrect and untrue. God’s Word is given by Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and is perfect in every way (Psalm 18:30, Heb. 4:12-13, Isaiah 55:10-11). Since God has given us His Word we can trust that all of it is given exactly as he wanted us to hear it. The individual words and phrases are arranged on purpose by God. Because of this unchanging truth my meditation must agree with all of what God has written. This is a very important point, because if we do not intentionally work at this our meditation may lead us to conclusions that God speaks against (Galatians 3:1-3). Pouring our meditation through the rest of Scripture allows all of our conclusions to be Spirit led and biblically accurate.
How can you train your mind to meditate on God (Psalm 63:6)
How do you know that God is just the same today as he was 20 years ago? (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 8:24-25)
How does God’s Word give you confidence and comfort (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
How can your life be pure and how can you have confidence in decision making? (Psalm 119:9 & 105)
Meditation, emotion, and God’s Word
God’s Word is absolute truth. The way you feel does not change the truth. Everyone is challenged when their emotions disagree with their understanding of truth. This is a normal part of life. That is why God says to ‘count it joy when you meet trials’ (James 1:3). Unfortunately many people put their faith in what they feel and see instead of what God says to be true. This leads to dramatic error. Even though God gave you emotions and they are beneficial to you, they were never intended to guide your belief in God’s truth. You believe God’s truth by faith, because it is true, regardless of what your emotions may or may not be telling you.
God’s Word must be held as the final authority of my life; not emotions, not logic, not experience. This point is a fatal blow to what our society has been teaching for years. Society says that life, logic and experience are the best teachers, and the basis of what you do right now is your logic and experience. While this may work well in some areas of life it does not work at all in interpreting God’s truth. Let me clarify that logic and experience can help in demonstrating God’s truth, but they can never dictate or create truth. God’s truth existed before your experience and without your logic, and it will continue to exist after your experience and your logic are gone. If experience or logic disagree with God’s truth then you are the one who is in error. The only way to recover from this sin is to acknowledge that you are wrong and that God is right. Just like salvation from sin this can only be done through faith. Remember, you believe God because He is true, both in salvation and for the rest of your life.
How can you ‘count it joy’ when trials are in your life? (James 1:3)
How can you believe God’s Word when everything else in your life brings you to a different conclusion? (Hebrews 11:1)
How can God’s Word change the way you think about experience? (Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:1-4, Psalm 119:97-100)
What are some ways that you can meditate on God through His Word? (His works, nature, etc.)
The Object of Faith
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.” This passage from Hebrews 11 gives us God’s definition and purpose for faith. While understanding a given definition seems easy enough, the difficulty comes when we apply that definition to our lives. Having faith that God is going to take me to heaven seems easy enough for most Christians. Having faith that my flat tire came from God is a little harder (Romans 8:26-29). The difficulty of every situation is putting my faith where it should be. Properly placed faith enables you to be peaceful (i.e. calm, not hostile) and Christ-focused in every situation.
The right faith stems from a proper understanding of who God is. If God is all-powerful and is all-knowing then He is in control of my circumstances. His plan is not limited by my decisions (Peter’s denial of Christ). That means that regardless of human actions God is still in control of the situation (John 19:1-16). We tend to think that God does control (or direct) all of the little things that happen, but somehow He needs us to help Him with the bigger things in our lives; or the other way around. This sounds logical when I am looking at life from my perspective. When we look at all the people around the world it is important to remember that God is orchestrating each of their lives and He is in control of every situation for every person (Hebrews 1:3). To go a step further we must remember that God directs every animal and fish to accomplish what He wants (Matthew 17:27). Now you must go a little further; outside our world, literally. God is also in control of everything that happens in the galaxy. He knows the stars by name (Isaiah 40:26). The heavens demonstrate (or declare) His glory (Psalm 19). He holds everything together (Hebrews 1:3).
Thinking about the bigness of God correctly enables you to look accurately at life. Every problem that you have is small to God, every single one. Even your death is small to God. Death is only the ending of your time, and the beginning of everything else. The only reason that anything in your life is important to God is because He loves you and cares about you. He chooses to make you important to Himself (John 3:16). This type of faith makes life more peaceful.
How do you know your faith is right? (2 Peter 1:3-4, Romans 15:8)
What do you know of God? God is . . .
Is this God worth trusting? Can you trust him enough to be joyful? (James 1:2)
The Opportunity of Faith
Belief in God’s blessing is another aspect of faith. God’s blessing is seen through trial (Hebrews 12) and sustenance (Matthew 6:25-26). Jacob is a good example of having faith in the blessing of God (Genesis 32). Jacob knew that he deserved to die because of the wrong he had done to his brother. He was dreading the meeting. Before his doomsday he met God (i.e. pre-incarnate Jesus Christ) while out walking in the forrest. He had enough faith to realize that without God’s blessing He didn’t stand a chance of living the next day. He then proceeded to demonstrate his faith through wrestling with God all through the night. I find it particularly amazing that God allowed Jacob to continue wrestling with Him. The creator of the universe could have ended that match at any point that He wanted to, but instead He chose to see Jacob’s faith. Jacob continued on in faith knowing that He needed God’s blessing. All Jacob wanted at this point was to live through the next day. God wants us to press on in faith trusting that He is going to take care of us through the greatest and smallest trials of life. Properly placed faith allowed Jacob to have the right humble frame of mind when He met his brother.
Faith in God and what He can do needs to be focused on who He is and what His eternal plan is for all the ages. That focus will help you understand the purpose of faith in your prayer. Faith in God and faith in prayer should be harmonious and not mutually exclusive. As you pray your faith is in the God you are praying to and not in what you want Him to do. This is critical if our faith is to grow through prayer. The right faith is in God’s response, not in how He answers.
That is the truth communicated about prayer in James 1. The man who asks in faith knows that whatever comes is God’s answer. The man who lacks faith is unstable because He doesn’t know what is or isn’t God’s response. You can see how weak faith would cause anyone to be insecure. When God provides wisdom he doesn’t regularly accomplish that through a lightening strike. He has promised to provide an answer and will do so to the person who is looking for any answer that God gives. The wisdom may even come from someone or something that is ungodly. Faith is looking for any direction or any answer and not for some specific miraculous sign. God can and has answered prayers for a fleece (Judges 6:37-40), but according to Judges a fleece is a sign of weak faith that needs to be strengthened. Strong faith, that which does not require a sign, is commended many times in Scripture. Strong faith sees any direction from God and runs with it as far as God allows.
Does logic play a part in faith? If so, what part? (Hebrews 11:1)
What kind of faith does God want you to have? (James 1:2-7)
How is an unstable man defined? (James 1:6-7) What does that look like practically?
What does a man of strong faith do? (James 1:2-6)
The Exercise of Faith
God wants you to pray and He wants to answer your prayers, but he never says that He will answer exactly according to your prayer. In James 4:3 he even says that he will not answer some prayer requests because He knows how you would use it. The funny thing is that you think if you can have a godly reason for asking then God must answer yes because you don’t fall into James 4:3.God is never required to answer yes to your specific prayers. God answers prayer according to His eternal and divine plan.
This should give you great confidence when God answers prayers with a ‘No.’ God’s ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are not given only in response to our current difficulty. God is also looking at what that answer is going to do 20, 50, or even 100 years from now. This is what God had to teach Jacob. It is hard to understand that when you are in the middle of something difficult and heartbreaking. While God chooses to care about you and what you are going through, He is not going to answer your prayer based upon how you feel or think. God never promises that His children will not have pain. He actually promises in Hebrews that all of His children will go through trials. Christ said in Matthew 5 that we are blessed when we are persecuted or lied about for doing what is right. Prayer was never meant to save me from my pain or difficulty (Matthew 26:39,42; 2 Corinthians 12:7). Even the examples of Christ and Paul show that prayer is designed to align your will and understanding with God’s will and understanding. ‘Setting your mind on things above’ through prayer is the best way to help us understand life’s circumstances in light of Colossians 3:1-4.
Proper faith is based in God alone, and not in how He directs your life. We know He cares and loves because of who He is. How He answers prayer is meant to show His plan for our lives. Faith (Hebrews 11:1) enables you to see His love in how He answers all your prayers. Christ’s redemptive work and His promises are the guarantee of His love. Because of that guarantee we know that all of God’s answers are for our good (Romans 8:26-32).
What makes you think that God has to answer your prayers with a “yes” answer?
How do you learn to trust God? (Hebrews 11:1, James 1:2-3)
How can you learn to trust God more? (Colossians 3:10, Romans 12:2)
How is God’s goodness seen when life is miserable? (Hebrews 11:1)