Christ above all

24august‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.’ Colossians 3.1

One of the lovely mysteries of our faith is that Christ dwells in two places at once!  He dwells in our hearts in close and intimate union with us, as well as dwelling in heaven at the right hand of God.

It is really helpful for us to keep this dual location in mind.  When we sense something of the presence of Christ with us, it really is him.  He promised to be with us always, dwelling within us, so it’s natural for us to be aware of him sharing our lives in some way.  However, when we experience his presence, we are also experiencing the one who is seated at the right hand of God.  This is Jesus, enthroned in heaven amidst majesty and glory, unfettered by the chains that bind us and surrounded by everything that the Kingdom of God can bring to our lives.

When you turn to Jesus, you are being invited to draw close and embrace him as he sits at the right hand of God, far above every power that exerts an influence over you.  There is nothing too hard for him and nothing he cannot do for those he loves – so why not turn to him now?

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Looking Up

‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.’ Colossians 3.1

After assuring us that we have been raised with Christ, Paul goes on to instruct our hearts to make this leap; that we should seek the things that are ‘above where Christ is’.  This stunning invitation has so many implications.

First, it encourages us that we have access to everything that is above.  It would be cruel to invite us to aim for what is not available, like showing a child a present only to tell them that they could not actually have it.

Secondly, the range of what is available is truly amazing.  What is your current need – strength in temptation, improved self-esteem, forgiveness, a miracle in some area of your life?  You have access to all you need because you have been raised with Christ.  It is not so much that you have to implore Jesus to give things to you, but that you have been invited into his presence where all you need is freely available.  What you need is ‘above’, and you now live in that place ‘above’.

Prayer is not begging for something that God might be unwilling to give you, but rather beginning to look in wonder at what is there for you.  Let this begin to sink in, and as you ‘set your heart on things above’, give thanks for all that is available for you.

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Being raised up

‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.’ Colossians 3.1

This verse functions rather like a magnet as it has the potential to draw us to a different place from where we started!  Over the next three days we are going to focus on it, taking each phrase in turn.

These words from Paul begin a new chapter by stating an incredible truth – we have been raised with Christ.  The Christian life is not about a list of rules, regulations and things we should not do – although some regard it this way – but instead is all about who we are, and a call to take this seriously.  It starts here with this inspiring truth; ‘you have been raised with Christ’.

This is true for every single Christian.  What identifies us as Christians is not first and foremost our behaviour, but this truth that we have been raised with Christ.  We are alive to Jesus, with full access to him, and the same relationship with his heavenly father as he enjoyed.

The tendency is often to think of ourselves as impoverished, down-trodden, and frankly not much good.  Yet God cries out through Paul’s words that this is not true – we are alive with Jesus and he is with us now.

Take these words and slowly repeat them to yourself: “I am raised with Christ”.  As you keep saying them, find your focus lifted from the concerns of life around you and raised to the place of his presence.

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The invitation to us

“I say to you that many will come…” Matthew 8.1121august

The story of the Centurion who turned down Jesus’ offer to come to his house is an inspiring story of faith.  However, at the end Jesus said something rather strange that seems to inject a note of foreboding into what was a beautiful story.  He spoke of many people coming to take their place at a feast, whilst others were thrown out into the darkness.

Strange though these words may seem, they are really very encouraging to us because they tell us that no matter who we are or whatever our background, we can come to God and be welcomed at his feast.

So often we question whether the things of God are really meant for us.  Is intimacy with God for me? Am I likely to enjoy friendship with Jesus?  The answer is yes!  God is there for you if you want him.  You don’t have to be specially selected or hand-picked – if you want him, you can come to him.

Like any open door, the only requirement is to actually go through it; to regard it as an invitation for you to enjoy the life with God that he wants for you, and to have a relationship with him that is every bit as good as you long to have.

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Choosing to walk in God’s footsteps

20august“You have not walked in the ways of your father…” 2 Chronicles 21.12

Throughout the books of Chronicles, the accounts of the various kings of Israel and Judah read like a report of walking up hills and down valleys: one king walked in the ways of God, another did not!  It’s tempting to think that this is all about the history of a distant land and has very little relevance for us today.  However it is also our story.

If we are honest, many of us would say that our life with God is rather similar to those kings of Israel and Judah – a varied walk, sometimes walking with him and on other occasions walking in the opposite direction.  Again, it comes down to us making choices.  We can choose whether or not to walk in the ways of God, just as yesterday we looked at how we can choose whether or not to fear the Lord.

This is wonderful news because it means that whatever you face today, you can make a choice to walk in the ways of God.  Just because you did not walk in his ways yesterday does not mean that you cannot live differently today.  You get to choose where to put your feet.  Of course, this is really about an underlying attitude of mind rather that a literal interpretation of exactly where you will walk, but the truth is that you are going to follow in someone’s footsteps today – so whose will you choose?

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Choosing to fear the Lord

‘they . . . did not choose to fear the Lord.’ Proverbs 1.29

Throughout the book of Proverbs, we often find the writer contrasting those who follow the way of God and those who do not.  This verse comes into that context as it speaks of the danger of not following God, or as the verse puts it – choosing not to fear the Lord.

The phrase, the ‘fear of the Lord’, could probably be described as a sense of awe about God.  It is about grasping the implication of who God really is.  We like to think that we know who he is, but the reality is that there are many moments when we also ‘do not choose to fear the Lord’.

Anxiety has a tendency to rear its head in all our lives, and the more we dwell on whatever is making us anxious, the worse it becomes.  There is an option – and that is to choose to fear the Lord.  We can make a deliberate choice not to fix our attention on whatever is causing the anxiety, but on God’s power and incredible love for us.  As we fix our attention on these things, the anxiety lessens.

It all comes down to a simple choice: when fear and anxiety come knocking, will you open the door to them?  Or instead will you choose to open a different door that is all about standing in awe of God, fixing your eyes on him and recognising his presence with you.

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Jesus is utterly faithful to you

‘…a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God…’ Hebrews 2.17

Yesterday we looked at how Jesus is faithful in his service to God.  This may not be a great surprise to you since it is not difficult to think of the Father and Son existing and working in mutual harmony.  What might seem more surprising is that Jesus is also faithful to us.

Consider for a moment just what an amazing statement this is!  Why would Jesus, our God who became man, want to be faithful to us?  It certainly can’t be because of our faithfulness to him.  Although there are times when we are faithful, sadly there are many other occasions when we prove ourselves unreliable – doing things we know we should avoid or neglecting to do things that we should.  If Jesus was faithful to us in proportion to our faithfulness to him, then we would probably be in trouble!

What does this mean in practice?  It means that you do not need to come to God on the basis of what you have done.  He doesn’t love you or answer your prayers because you deserve it, but because he is who he is.  Of course, we all want to be as faithful as possible in our walk with God, but hopefully this is because we delight in him, rather than because we are trying to earn his favour.

It must be a real tragedy for God when we think that we cannot come to him unless we are good enough, or that we have to be faithful to earn his favour.  Actually the truth is that we need him all the more when we feel undeserving or that we have let him down.  It is then that we can turn to God with confidence, knowing that he is utterly faithful to us.

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Faithful Service

‘…a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God…’ Hebrews 2.17

Another beautiful aspect of this verse is the way that Jesus is described as being faithful to God.

Jesus was sent to show us what Father God is really like, to bring about a full reconciliation between God and us, and to continue his ministry amongst us through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The writer to the Hebrews says that Jesus is faithful in all that he does.  In other words, Jesus has done, and is still doing, all that he was given to do.  He has fully revealed to us the nature of God, has done everything necessary to reconcile us to God and is utterly faithful to God in the work that he still does amongst us.

It is so easy to start asking questions: “Do I really matter to God?”  “Am I the sort of person that he would touch?”  This verse says that it is not about us.  It is about the faithfulness of Jesus as he serves his Father.  God sent Jesus for the whole world, which means for every person in the world – including you.  Jesus has been faithful to God, so there is no way that he would exclude you or leave you out of what he came to do.

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A tap that can’t be turned off

‘…a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God…’ Hebrews 2.17

This phrase describes Jesus, so for a few days we are going to unpack what it says about him – beginning with the word ‘merciful’.

Our understanding of mercy tends to be linked to kind actions; either the things we do for others or their kindness to us.  However there is no guarantee that people will be merciful towards us – they may or they may not!  Yet the mercy of Jesus is quite different.

There can be no question about whether or not Jesus will show mercy because his suffering and death demonstrate the full nature and extent of his love for us.  He freely chose to lay down his life for his sheep (John 10.11).  So it follows that if Jesus has already done this, then surely there is no longer any need to wonder how committed he is to us?  It’s not a matter of us feeling anxious in case we don’t deserve his mercy today, since Jesus died for us before we had any opportunity to demonstrate whether we deserved it or not.

As you go through this day, there may well be occasions when you want to call out for mercy, either for yourself or for others.  Do so without wondering whether you deserve it – you probably don’t!  Yet there is no way that the tap of Jesus’ mercy can be turned off, any more than the flow of love that streams from the cross can be stopped.  So go ahead and call out for mercy with confidence!

 

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Acknowledging the truth

15august‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever;’ Psalm 89.1

What is truth?  This is the question that Pilate asked Jesus.  We may well glibly say that Jesus is the truth – but what do we mean by it?  Do we actually believe it?

So many people have a tendency to regard their experiences to be the truth, especially in regards to their faith.  However, this isn’t always helpful.  If you feel that God didn’t come to your aid yesterday, then you may well wonder why he should help you today.  Likewise, if you feel that God hasn’t healed you so far, then perhaps deep down you don’t hold out much hope of him healing you today.

It requires a really conscious decision to honestly hold what you may perceive as disappointments, and yet choose to focus again on the reality of the wonder of the person of Jesus.  However once you have made this choice to turn and rejoice in Jesus, even in the midst of your negative experiences, then you have really started to worship.

Psalm 89 begins with a real affirmation of the wonder and promises of God, but after a while the author reveals the desperate state of the nation – the people felt abandoned and rejected by God.  Yet despite this, the wonder of the psalm is that the author never took his eyes off the wonder of God.

Whatever state you may be in, or however desperate you may feel, make a conscious decision to turn your focus back to Jesus.  At this point you are truly worshipping and honouring God.

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