More on How People Change

This post accompanies the message from 6/8/2014.

There is a book called How People Change by Paul Tripp that lays out a model for change in a person's life. I'll present you the super-cliff notes version in hopes that you'll buy the book for yourself and skip the poor recaps and go straight to the source!

1. Heat - everyone experiences heat in their life as a result of pressure, your own sin, others' sin, or the stress of life.

2. Thorns - this heat produces thorns, sinful responses to the difficulties of life. These are actions and attitudes that are poor ways of responding.

3. Cross - when we apply the truths of the gospel to our lives we are confronted by a holy yet loving God. This leads to repentance in mind then in deed.

4. Fruit - Fruit are the good responses that come when we understand and apply the truths of the gospel to our own lives.

There is a lot to this simple metaphor, but hopefully it will get you started on the path to discovering even more.

Online Bible Resources

Here are a few simple resources online to help you read and understand the Bible.

There are tons more resources online, but that should get you started. You have to be careful about what sources you trust online, but there is good stuff out there to be found. When in doubt, ask a Community Group leader or pastor. Hopefully, this is helpful to you.

Christian Environmentalism

Modern Attitudes toward care for the environment tend towards one of two conclusions.

A materialistic view (no spiritual or eternal realities, no God) of our universe is a belief in a particular future ending of the world. The sun burns out and all life on planet earth slowly dies. Although a great many people in our society believe this is the actual state of affairs for our world, yet they cannot seem to live out the full implications of this view. Namely: “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” Most find that to be incredibly un-satisfying. We feel that we should care for the environment. It carries the weight of a moral imperative. It seems so self-evident. It is wrong not to care for the environment.

But wallowing in paralysis at the absolute meaninglessness of all of life and creation is not, nor has it ever been, the American way. Perhaps it suits a certain kind of philosophically-minded Frenchmen following in the footsteps of Albert Camus, but for the American we don’t need to base our action and activity on our worldview. We sign an uneasy truce with it and do what we believe to be right regardless of strong reasons or motivations to do so.

But think deeply about this for a second. In a materialistic, amoral universe could there be anything that is inherently “good” or “bad” for the earth? There are things that lead to the flourishing of life, but you have to remember that inside this worldview life is a cosmic mistake that lasts the blink of an eye and is forgotten by a Universe that never had a mind to remember it in the first place.

If it seems overbearing to argue that the lack of existence of a God makes all moral distinctions meaningless I can only reply that thinking about the Earth on a geologic timescale sort of invites that argument doesn’t it?

Consider the dinosaurs wiped out by a cataclysmic disaster. They perished, yet life continued to flourish. It could equally be said that should man make the earth uninhabitable for himself by his actions, then he simply reaps what he sows, ceases to exist, yet life will continue on without him, probably the better for it. Appealing to inherent morality just doesn’t work on that big of a timescale.

This sort of moral feeling regarding the right care of the earth coupled with absolutely no philosophical underpinnings whatsoever eventually led to the dominant reasoning behind the modern environmental movement, namely, earth as deified: Gaia. If you think that is silly, you have only to think back to the cartoon Captain Planet to be assured that it was a philosophy of environmentalism sufficiently persuasive to be taught to children through mass media.

Earth as personified. Earth as god. Gaia. If the Earth is itself a being then our moral feelings toward it are completely justified. In fact they are required. While this may sound like a philosophy for hippies who name their kids things like River or Oak in fact it is the dominant way of thinking among common Americans. Every time a person throws something in the recycling bin so that it is good for The Environment they are appealing to a personified earth (named The Environment) and the fact that things are either good for it or bad for it.

The Personified Environment way of rationalizing moral feelings toward the care of the Earth in the 20th Century had one enormous drawback for Christians. They reacted to it. In what should be unsurprising to any alert student of history, instead of Christians leading the way by developing theological foundations for the issues that people cared most about, they found themselves treading water, gasping for survival and often simply reacting to the oceanic currents of thought around them. In other words, when Environmentalism (as a movement) became entangled with Earth Worship they threw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of insisting on the biblical understanding of man’s role in creation, Christians often jettisoned the environmental impulse as a bunch of hippy-dippy tree-huggers (they were) who were focusing on the wrong things (they weren’t).

Christians on the wrong side of the environmental issue often found themselves in league with large agri-business and corporations who cared about profit to the neglect of human flourishing. Not exactly a witness to Christ-like character. One is tempted to think of Jesus turning over the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple who were more concerned with commerce than right worship.

It is my contention that currently most Americans sympathize with the Environmental movement (though it’s not like they are about to give up their SUV’s or anything), but that they don’t really know why. They don’t buy into the alternative theory of the hardcore environmentalists. Still, they inherently believe that the earth should be cared for, but they don’t think it should be worshipped to the complete forfeiture of human flourishing. They desire a middle way. They desire a comprehensive philosophy of the environment that recognizes the moral component of caring well for the Earth which at the same time refuses to deify the earth and so render it incompatible with use for human flourishing. Now that sounds an awful lot like what the Bible says about Creation.

Unsurprisingly, the Biblical account provides the philosophical and moral underpinnings for people’s deepest held convictions regarding this shared space we call the Earth. But characteristically, because it is in the Bible, almost nobody knows what it actually says…

So here are a few simple thoughts to get you started on a theology of Creation.

1. The moral component of Earth care is derived from God.
If you are looking for commandments in the Bible like “Large Agribusiness shalt not pervert the plants with genetic mutation…” prepare to be disappointed. Unless that is in a rarely read section of Leviticus, it’s just not in there. However the story of our world presented in the biblical narrative has one incredibly powerful thought regarding Creation (the Bible uses the term “Creation” to refer, not to God’s act of creating, but to the whole material and non-material cosmos as distinct from God). This world belongs to God. In one conveniently succinct Psalm it states, “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” (Psalm 24:1, NIV)

In the Biblical worldview, this Earth belongs to God. Human beings have a role to play in changing it, but the first and most dramatic point of the Biblical narrative reminds us: this world belongs to God, you are only a steward. God made it and he thinks it is “very good.” If your neighbor loans you a tool, you take special care of it, better than even your own things, because if you ruin it you will be held accountable. This Earth works the same way. It is God’s, not ours.

There is a moral component to care for the Earth, not because the Earth is a living being with a name as in Captain Planet, Avatar, etc. But rather because God made it.

2. People are responsible for their treatment of the Earth.
In the Introduction to the book of Genesis man and woman both are tasked with producing more people and creating culture by engaging with the Creation in such a way that it leads to human flourishing. Look at what it says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

Sometimes people have read the word “subdue” and thought that implied a license to do whatever suits humans. But we have already seen that what is happening here is delegated authority. Man is free to subdue the earth, to create culture by rearranging the basic elements of Creation to promote human flourishing (being fruitful and multiplying). But he is under the authority of God who declared his Creation “very good.” Power without accountability is tyranny, but delegated power within boundaries is authority.

In this scenario, man has the authority to use the Earth to create culture, to promote human flourishing (to be fruitful and multiply), but he does not have the authority to abuse it to achieve his own ends. In fact, in Genesis 3 when man rebels against the authority of God man’s rule over Creation is challenged by Creation itself.

3. There is a hierarchy to the created order.
While the world belongs to God, yet it exists for people. This allows the nuanced application of Earth care to daily life. It is not so much that we are against everything that is “un-natural” and for everything that is “natural.” Instead we are respectful of God’s good creation and mindful that the creation is intended to promote human flourishing.

Loving animals is a great thing. But most American’s don’t join PETA. Why? Because PETA starts with the truth, but they go too far. The truth is that animals are a part of God’s good creation and therefore like all of creation should be treated with dignity, value, and respect. But animals are also consecrated to a higher purpose, to serve mankind. A donkey plowing a field is not a bad thing even though the donkey may hate it. That is simply the lesser contributing to the flourishing of the greater.

The tricky part is for Christians to distinguish legitimate uses from abuses. Chicken is tasty, but should chickens be pumped full of steroids and kept in cages so small they can’t turn around their entire life? More robust debate from Christians is needed on these very points.

The hierarchy of the created order shows that as people are being responsible stewards plants and animals may be used to promote human flourishing. Man was not created to make the lives of animals better, but vice versa.

4. God will eventually restore this Earth fully.
After the account of the Fall of man a curious thing happens. The consequences of their actions are felt, not solely by Adam and Eve, nor solely by their descendants, but the consequences are felt by Creation itself. In Genesis 3 God states,

   “cursed is the ground because of you;

    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;

    and you shall eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your face

    you shall eat bread,

till you return to the ground,

    for out of it you were taken;

for you are dust,

    and to dust you shall return.””

Notice that here the curse is actually leveled at the Creation. Man has failed in his responsibility as the one to tend and to guard the Garden and now his relationship to it will be beset by difficulty.

But in Romans 8 the Bible presents a way forward. Jesus Christ came not to take disembodied souls to heaven when they die, but to create for himself a redeemed humanity who truly fulfill the vocation of the first Adam. That’s why “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19-21) Jesus restores people and Creation (here personified) can’t wait for restored people to be what they were always supposed to be: God’s wise stewards of Creation.

What to Do:
Then there is the small matter of what you can do about it. I think the best way to come at this is through one principle and a couple of random applications of that principle. One or two of my applications will make some of you so mad you will write me hate mail. But I’ll do my best to stick to the research and avoid being pedantic.

The principle is this: When in doubt ask whether this contributes to human flourishing?

Does this genetically modified food produce yields that are so high that it helps prevent mass starvation? Yes. Does this genetically modified food contribute to my flourishing? Probably not. You see right there that there is nuanced application of the principle. It allows you to be principled without being a jerk. That is the beauty of a principle.

Does this Ford F-250 make this a better or worse place for people to flourish? Does my recycling promote human flourishing?  What about the clothes that I buy or the food that I produce myself? Again in all these cases the principle of human flourishing provides a guideline to think these things through.

Now here are a couple of specific application points about this principle that I chose because a.) I care about them and b.) you may not know about them. They will probably make some of you angry. That’s good. Denial’s not a river in Egypt and if you’re ever going to come out of it you’ll have to have your bubble popped sometime.

1. Live in a City.
It is well documented (see Green Metropolis by David Owen for the full treatment of this) that city dwellers use less gasoline, electricity, and water than people who do not live in cities. They destroy a fraction of the land to create living space as do people in suburbs. They travel by foot and bike far more often. And the ecological disaster that is parking lots is only fractionally accounted for by urbanites. They also live in highly energy efficient buildings (apartment buildings). If you want to limit your ecological impact you must live in a city.

2. Promote Laws that reveal the true costs of driving.
This past year congress passed legislation that in effect penalized mass-transit users in relation to car drivers in the tax code. This kind of backward thinking should be outrageous. Even if you are neutral or superstitiously unconvinced on the carbon issue the 1.) amount of land paved for roads and parking 2.) traffic congestion caused by cars 3.) wasted family time in said traffic congestions and 4.) American dependence on foreign oil makes policies like this ridiculous.

The thing that makes the most sense is to tax driving more effectively in such a way that the proceeds go directly to fund mass-transit options which (in a spectacular bonus for Christians) also benefits the poor. 

3. Start ignoring labels like “Liberal” and “Conservative.”
This could be its own article, but for Christians to toe the party line on everything means they will have a Kingdom impact on nothing. Why should your political or personal views be at all affected by a political party? If you claim to be a Christian then allow the teachings of the Bible to shape and to guide your thoughts. If you do this you will eventually come to believe one thing:

No political party perfectly represents you

Now that I’ve lived in the South and in the Northeast please allow me to be even blunter with you. If you agree with a political party on everything you are not heeding the words of Scripture. If your thoughts are more shaped by Rush Limbaugh (you know who you are) or Harper’s Magazine (you know who you are) than by the Word of God then your faith has been hijacked to achieve someone else’s political ends.

Ditch the labels and pick up the Word. Allow God’s concern for the poor to run through your veins and shape your thinking on food policy. Allow God’s approbation of His Creation to stir you to protect it when it is being abused. Allow God’s self-sacrifice to motivate you to make the lifestyle changes you know are honoring him.

Being “liberal” or “conservative” just isn’t enough of an identity to shape your thinking. It is more likely a tool used by people in power to keep you incorporated into their voting bloc. So do us all a favor and ditch the labels.

The Simplicity of Easter

This post accompanies the sermon from 4/20/14 on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

He is risen.

He conquered death. Ever wonder what is beyond death? Instead of reading books about 4 year olds who died and had visions, look to Jesus. He tasted death fully. He died. But he didn't have any visions of heaven, he came back to life! Let that sink in for a moment. The hope of Easter is not that you will "go to heaven when you die." That is true and it is a great thing, but the real hope of Easter is that you will come back from the dead. This is so counter-intuitive that Jimmy Carter used to pray every night before he went to bed, "Lord, help me believe in the resurrection."

He defeated the power of sin. Sin has a hold on you every second of every day. You are tempted every day and turn your heart, soul, mind, and strength to Not God every day. That is, unless you are dead. While Jesus was alive as a man he was tempted by Satan. Now that he is resurrected there is not even temptation or testing. When you are identified with Christ you have died to the power of sin. It's not that you will never sin, but rather, the absolute strangle-hold of sin upon your life has been broken by Jesus.

He defeated Satan. The great tempter, the destroyer, the accuser. When this world is all you know, and you hear the words from the  prince of this world whispered into your ear they seem to carry real weight. But Jesus defeated Satan. He is a vanquished foe. He is a casualty of war lashing out before he finally bleeds out. And those who are identified with King Jesus have nothing to fear from this great enemy.

He absorbed the wrath of God. Standing in the presence of a holy God is a sure way to utter ruin and disaster. This is the mystery the burning bush represents. How can a holy God dwell in the midst of a sinful people, yet they are not consumed? The answer is pointed too in the entire Scriptures beginning to end. God himself will pay the penalty of covenant breaking. Your unfaithfulness is overcome by his faithfulness. Your failures are overcome by his victory. Your stain is washed white by his blood. He was humiliated so that you would stand honored in the presence of God. And how do you know that God approved of this sacrifice? How do you know that his death was enough? Because God raised him from the dead.

He is vindicated. He is risen. He is risen indeed.

Virtue, Value, & Vision across Cultures

This post accompanies the sermon A Life Worth Living from 4/13/14 on Colossians 3:12-17.

This is completely unscientific, so feel free to disagree, but this is the way I read the situation.

Virtue: Prudence, Justice, Temperance, Courage
Value: Honor
Vision: Plato's Republic, Greek Heroes

Virtue: Artistry & Tyranny
Value: Worldliness
Vision: Ubermensch in Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Virtue: Resilient, Self-Reliant, Hard-working, (maybe) Intelligent
Value: Happiness (replaced Freedom in the last 60 years)
Vision: John Adams, Thomas Menino

How God's Wrath Starts Now

This post accompanies the sermon on Colossians 3:5-11 on 4/6/14.

In the sermon this week we talked a little bit about God's wrath and how love demands anger in certain circumstances. In particular we said:

The more you love someone they angrier you get when someone hurts them or when they hurt themselves.

But the concept of the wrath of God in the Bible goes beyond what we might normally think of as "end of life accountability" and intrudes into our present existence. The Bible teaches that people can "receive in themselves the due penalty for sin." In other words, God gives people over to experience the painful consequences of sin in order that they may learn to turn away from it.

While it may be incredibly unpopular to say, STI's are one example of this phenomenon. They are so prevalent in our culture that we cannot imagine a world without them. However, if you pause for a moment and imagine a world in which everyone follows the biblical teaching on sexuality they would be virtually non-existent. This is not to say that STI's are God's specific punishment on people who are immoral, or that everyone who has an STI is an immoral person (of course not). But it is to say that God permits the effects of sinful behavior to be felt by people who engage in it so as to learn the foolishness of sin.

It is in this way, and others, that the wrath of God is experienced in the here-and-now in a way which is intended to help people turn from sin and turn to Christ.

Why you are the most influential person in your life

This post accompanies the sermon on Colossians 3:1-4 on 3/30/14.

Author and former pastor Paul Tripp has a saying:

No one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you more than you do.

He is saying, essentially, that you have a constant internal monologue or script running in the background of your life. And you can change what you say, but it has to be intentional. The default mode of the human heart is un-faith. The natural state of the human heart is to NOT believe that Christ is powerful, or that he cares. It is to assume that we have to figure things out ourselves or else our world will crash.

But to change this internal monologue you have to speak the truths of the gospel, strategically and intentionally, to yourself. Instead of wringing your hands saying "I don't know what we're going to do. I don't know what we're going to do." You must interrupt that and tell yourself, "God knows what He is going to do. And if Christ died for me when I was a sinner, he won't abandon me now."

This way of thinking is incredibly powerful in the life of a Christian. I wanted to preach on it, but I am constrained to say what the text says, not what I want it to say. That's why you get it here...

Why Do Elemental Spirits Lead to Regulations?

This post accompanies the sermon on Colossians 2:16-23 on 3/23/14.

In Colossians 2:20-21 there is a direct link between the elemental spirits of the world and the Christians submitting to regulations that they need not follow: "Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch." Why would placating the elemental spirits lead to regulations?

For ancient peoples the elemental spirits (greek, stoichea) probably represented spiritual beings which stood behind the powers of the present world age. They could have been a reference to the planets and sun and moon, but this is uncertain. These forces had to be placated so that you would not run afoul of them. In other words, submit to their regulations, or else. These regulations appear to have been ascetic in nature.  The truth is that the commentaries are mostly speculating about this. However, based on what we know of Roman Culture, Jewish and Essene culture, and proto-gnoticism we can be sure that we are in the right ball-park.

But if you ask how this affects someone today there are two answers. First, Christians should not engage in astrology for fun. The planets do not represent deities who rule the fate of mankind. In the words of Deuteronomy they are demons who are not really gods at all. In other words demonic beings gain their power when humans worship them instead of the True God.

Secondly, and more practically for most, If a basic power of this world-say money, beauty, sex, or political connection-still hold power over the life of a person they will always be tempted to follow rules and regulations in order not to be harmed by that power. For instance for a Christian to say, "I will not have sex with my wife because sex is powerful and I must not engage in it so that it won't master me." Is, in effect, saying that it still does have mastery over you. So for a Christian who has died to this world, strict regulations to keep you from offending the powers of this world are out of line with your death and new life in Christ.

Original Writings of St. Patrick

This post accompanies the special sermon from St. Patrick Sunday on 3/16/14.

There are two extant texts that are original to St. Patrick. They are his Letter to Coroticus and his Confessions. They are the earliest pieces of Irish literature that we posses.  The modern reader is often touched by just how strikingly human it is. This is because Patrick was enslaved during the years when he would have mastered and polished his Latin and his Oratory. So because he didn't do this, his only recourse is to write directly from the heart in an unpolished manner (which he personally laments).  I personally, find them strikingly unique in terms of their tone, style, and appeal for ancient literature. Read below and enjoy!

Letter to Coroticus


Excerpt from the Confession
This is because there is no other God, nor will there ever be, nor was there ever, except God the Father. He is the one who was not begotten, the one without a beginning, the one from whom all beginnings come, the one who holds all things in being – this is our teaching. And his son, Jesus Christ, whom we testify has always been, since before the beginning of this age, with the father in a spiritual way. He was begotten in an indescribable way before every beginning. Everything we can see, and everything beyond our sight, was made through him. He became a human being; and, having overcome death, was welcomed to the heavens to the Father. The Father gave him all power over every being, both heavenly and earthly and beneath the earth. Let every tongue confess that Jesus Christ, in whom we believe and whom we await to come back to us in the near future, is Lord and God.

The Relationship between Power and Worship


Included here for your reading pleasure is an article from The Atlantic Magazine entitled The Market as God which explores the religious language employed of the Markets. While I don't agree with or endorse any of the conclusions of the article, it is still a fascinating piece exposing the worship of powerful forces beyond our control. We may call the ancients silly for worshipping what they perceived to be powerful deities, but we worship our own powerful deities just in a more cosmopolitan way.

The Market as God: living in the new dispensation


The Mystery of Colossians 1


This post accompanies the sermon on 3/2/2014 entitled Christ-centered Leadership.

What is this mystery that Paul speaks of in Colossians 1:26, 1:27, and 2:2? It is not a secret available to only some, as now it has been revealed to all the saints. In fact, the meaning of the world "mystery" in this context seems to mean something that cannot be discovered by human intellect, but which must be revealed by God. So what was revealed by God?

To understand you need to know that Jews in Jesus day were looking forward to the Day of the Lord; when God would rescue Israel, hold everyone accountable for their misdeeds, and raise the righteous to eternal life. And Paul was waiting for this Day like everyone else.

To Paul the mystery is that God’s rescue of the Jewish people is not a literal day, but an age, during which an ingathering of all the nations (the Greek word ethne translated "Gentiles" literally means "nations") would take place. And God’s glory is displayed in gentiles through “Christ in you.” So the Day of the Lord is the world age we currently live in. It is an expression of God's patience precisely so that all the elect may come to faith in Christ.

But how can gentile and Jew alike be included in the people of God? Not by good works. Not by obeying the Jewish law. But by trusting in the finished work of Christ, believing that they are NOT good enough to earn God’s favor, but relying on Christ to be included in the people of God by faith.

In the OT suffering and persecution always accompany the Day of the Lord. That's why Paul rejoices in suffering, because it is a sign that the Old is passing away and the New Creation is dawning.

In the kingdom, God's patience is not for people to start acting right. Patience is for people to realize that they will never be good enough and to trust in Christ. This is the essence of the mystery.

The Christological Poem of Colossians 1

In Colossians 1:15-20 we have what appears to be a poem. In most English translations it is not noted as a poem, so what causes us to say this?

First there is a debate about it because the original Greek manuscripts were written in all capital letters with no spaces or punctuation. SOTHEAVERAGELETTERLOOKEDLIKETHISWHICHMAKESDECIPHERINGPOETRYAPRETTYTRICKYENDEAVOR. But most people agree that because of the parallelism, and the repetition it can be cautiously classified as a poem. One issue is that poems in other languages rarely translate well, so even if we

Here is the cool part. The ESV translates it in such a way that you can actually "see through" the English to the original greek pretty well. Below is my favorite structuring of the poem in English. Notice Sections I and IV correspond, and Sections II and III correspond:

I) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
       For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth,
          whether thrones
          or dominions
          or rulers
          or authorities
        all things were created through him and for him.
II)  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
III) And he is the head of the body, the church.
IV) 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 dewll
        and through him to reconcile to himself all things
           whether on earth
           or in heaven
       making peace by the blood of his cross.

All Spiritual Wisdom, All Spiritual Understanding


This post is related to the sermon from 2/16/14 on Colossians 1:9-14.

One thing that was not addressed in this week's sermon is the phrase in Colossians 1:9, "all spiritual wisdom and understanding."  What exactly does that mean and why is it there?

First of all, in greek, the modifying words "all spiritual" are applied to both nouns "wisdom" and "understanding."  So Paul promises they will be filled with "all spiritual wisdom and all spiritual understanding." Sometimes English translations gloss over details like these so that the end translation is readable and not clunky.

Many commentators believe (especially O'Brien) that the reason they are being told that they will be filled with all spiritual wisdom and all spiritual understanding is because false teachers had shown up in Colossae and begun teaching that the Christians needed to move on from the gospel and receive a further fullness of spiritual experience. So against this Paul urges that everything they need they can have. Any time someone comes along and says, "So you're a Christian? That's good but have you experienced ________ yet? You really aren't complete until you have experienced ___________" that person is standing in a long line of false teachers. As one pastor put it Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Or as I put it Jesus + Anything Else = False Gospel. (That other pastor was way catchier, I'm sure that's why they gave him a book deal.) 

Spiritual Wisdom is the ability to rely on the Spirit to make right decisions based on spiritual, rather than earthly, realities. Anyone can live with wisdom, but only Christians who have the Holy Spirit can see spiritual realities through the same eyes that God does.

Spiritual Understanding is the ability to comprehend the truths and mysteries concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is rightly understanding who God is, what his character is like, what he has accomplished, and the right human response to this. According to the Scriptures only Christians possess this because only Christians recognize Jesus as the one true Messiah who is the Lord of their lives and the whole cosmos. Without recognizing this how can one rightly understand God?

When Was Colossians Written?

This post is background information for the sermon from 2/9/2014 on Col. 1:1-8.


What we call the Book of Colossians was actually a letter written to the church in the city of Colossae. It was written by the Apostle Paul, also called Saint Paul, also called, simply, Paul. Colossae was located in the ancient province of Asia which is modern day Turkey and it was across the river from a sister city called Laodicea (10 miles).

The letter was most likely composed while Paul was imprisoned and probably while he was located in Ephesus which is relatively close to Colossae. Paul would often go to the influential city of a region to establish a beachhead for the church, and from there he would send out evangelists and church planters to the various smaller cities of the region. This seems to be what happened in Colossae. Paul was in Ephesus and his worker Epaphras brought the gospel to Colossae.

If, as seems likely, Paul was in Ephesus during the composition of the letter (I follow NT Wright in this suggestion), then it was composed between 52 and 55 AD.

This is truly remarkable, because within 20 years of the resurrection of Jesus we have a fully developed theology of his divinity and humanity. In other words, there was not enough time for people to pass away, for mythical accretions to accrue, or for additional tradition to develop. So where did people come up with the idea the Jesus was fully God and fully man?

The most compelling answer is that they got this idea from Jesus teaching and his actual, bodily resurrection from the dead.