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Thursday
Jan192012

Occupy Your Calling - Colossians 3:22 - 4:1

The relationship between those who labor and those who control labor or the laborer have been problematic ever since sin entered the world.  But the existence of sin and abuse does not relieve us from doing what honors Christ and acknowledges His lordship over all.  This fact is highlighted in Colossians 22 - 4:1 where the Apostle Paul deals with this very practical and timely issue.

Verse 22 tells us what the duties of the laborer are.  These duties are:  obedience, diligence and loyalty.  Whenever the Scriptures command us to be obedient to other humans, the obedience is always regulated by our first and primary obedience to the Lord  Nevertheless, the duty of obedience is commanded even to those who are difficult.  (I Peter 2:18 uses the word "froward" or crooked.)  But mere formal obedience is not all that is required because even when the boss is not around, we are to be diligent and loyal or of a "single heart."  Purposeful obstruction and inefficiency are not Christ honoring and even bring shame to the name of Christ that we bear.

Verse 23 ans 24 tell us what the theology of labor is.  The underlying reasons for the obedience are because we labor not ultimately for other humans, but we labor as unto Christ Himself.  The text says we are to labor "heartily" or literally, "out of our soul."  So what is your heart's conviction regarding your calling?  Legitimate labor, regardless of what it is, is not drudgery or unworthy of us because when we labor well we also do so in light of reward.  Our labors are never pointless when we do so with the conviction that its significance is based upon who Christ is, not upon the size of our paycheck, or the opinions of others.

The first half of chapter 4, verse 1 tells us what the duties of capital are.  Capital, or the control of labor also has duties.  These duties are to pay justly,   and to pay fairly.  To pay justly means to pay rightly and what is due.  This applies to both employees and suppliers.  Do not withhold payment to either one and pay what is agreed.  God is very angry with those who fail in this regard.  (Lev. 19:13, Jer. 22:13)  Paying what is fair, or as the text says, "equally" is more difficult to apply.  We should not understand the term "equally" to mean that everyone should be payed the same regardless of skill, talents, experience or loyalty.  In fact, this would be contradictory to what the term means.  It means to pay in "proper proportion."  The longtime loyal and skilled worker should be compensated more than the newly hired and inexperienced employee because the compensation is "in proper proportion."

The second half of verse 1 tells us what the theology of capital is.  There are two reasons given for performing these duties.  They are the knowledge of the nature of authority and the knowledge of accountability.  Everyone who has the ability, authority and resources to employ others is in that place because of God's grace.  His business is a stewardship.  (I Sam. 2:7, 8)  And because it is a stewardship, an accounting is going to come due.  Even the master of slaves is himself under the heavenly Master and should therefore treat those under him in anticipation of having to answer the Lord of All.

So in whatever condition you find yourself, whether capital or labor, occupy your calling to the glory of Christ your Master.

All For Him,

Doug Schlegel

Wednesday
Jan112012

Family Matters - Colossians 3:18 - 21

In Colossians 3:18 - 21, the family is presented to us in its perfect ideal.  The circumstance of each family may vary from the ideal, but the principles are universal regardless of the individual providential circumstances we may find ourselves in.  Also, when applying the instruction from God's Word, especially in the family context, we need to remember that we will often be in conflict with the broader culture and that this conflict is not a recent development, but has always been the case; it certainly was the case in the 1st century Roman Empire.  The issue before us in the conflict is not traditional values versus non-traditional, or patriarchy versus matriarchy versus "nothing-archy."  It is a question of faithfulness or unfaithfulness; acceptance or rejection of biblical commands; submission to or rebellion against the Divine revelation.  Every one in the family has responsibility and duty:  wives, husbands, children and parents.

Regarding wives, the text says, "submit yourselves to your own husbands."  When we hear or read the word "submit" our natural reaction is to stiffen our necks and resist.  It is often viewed as demeaning and even dangerous.  But this reflects a defective view of submission.  Submission is an inescapable concept.  Everyone submits to someone - even the most ardent anarchist submits to the brute force of someone stronger than they are.  The question is not whether we submit or not, it is to whom we should submit and why.  And rather than being demeaning, submitting to just and regulated authority is dignified, even as the Colonel submits to the authority of the General, even though the Colonel has a powerful and dignified position.  But if that is not convincing, as noted in our text, the relationship between a husband and wife ought to reflect the relationship between Christ and His church...and our Savior Himself submitted to the Father (I Cor. 15:, 27, 28).

Regarding husbands, the text says, "love your wives...be not bitter against them."  If we are really dealing with the implications of this passage, this command should cause as much struggle as the previous one because the standard is still our Savior who gave Himself for us.  And loving is not merely feeling good toward the object of your love (although goodwill is part of it), love is shown in prizing, cherishing and valuing the object as something precious.  The loving husband, following Christ's example, is willing to devote his time, energies and any other needful thing to the point of his own life, for the benefit of this cherished treasure - his wife.  This is such a high standard that there is a danger, and that is why husbands are warned against bitterness.  True love of your wife must include the condition of your heart.  It should not be a grim duty, rather, looking to Christ's love for a very unlovable people, He willingly laid down His life for us (Heb. 12:2, 3).  How much more so should husbands lay down their lives for their wives?

Regarding children and parents, God-honoring authority and obedience to that authority, is always regulated by the Law of God in the Scriptures.  This is true for both the child and the parent.  And while a child is called to obedience, the wise parent is careful in issuing commands, and only commands that are according to God's revealed will, do not provoke the child, exasperate the child or crush his spirit, and are "age-appropriate".  Parents (and fathers in particular) have a unique and powerful influence on their children for good or ill.  So even in the midst of dealing with disobedience, the parent must always have the building-up of the child for the glory of God as his goal.

Can it be that these commands deal directly with our natural weaknesses?

 All For Him,

 Doug Schlegel

Wednesday
Jan042012

The Acceptable Year (Isaiah 61:1-3)

As the calendar turns, we look to Isaiah 61:1-3 and pause to celebrate the wonders of God's work of redemption in the past and more particularly in the present.  The text from Isaiah is also what our Savior quoted and fulfilled in the synagogue in Nazareth.  The words of the prophet really were the words of the Spirit of Christ speaking through the prophet about the coming Christ (I Peter 1:10-12) and that the coming Christ was anointed to preach, anointed to proclaim and anointed to appoint.

The Lord Jesus Christ was anointed to preach two things:  good tidings to the meek and the binding up of the brokenhearted.  In Isaiah's day, good news meant deliverance from the Assyrians and the Babylonians.  But that good news was merely a precursor to the greatest news - the deliverance from the bondage and penalty of sin.  Of course, if we do not see ourselves as needing good news, or in need of the binding up of our broken heart, then we will not hear the preached message of the Savior with anything approaching joy and thanksgiving.  (Psalm 34:18, 19)

But if we receive the message of good news, the Savior has proclaimed five blessings for us:  liberty to the captives, freedom to the prisoners, the acceptable year of the Lord, the day of vengeance of our God, and comfort to those who mourn.  Captives and prisoners have no power and are subject to the control of their masters, but in the message of good news, that which held us is overcome.  This liberation and blessing happens in a time that is acceptable to God, is according to His plan, and is accomplished in the pouring out of divine vengeance upon our sin-bearer.  This alone is a glorious truth, but the proclamation goes further in promising comfort to the liberated captives.  That is to say, we are not freed and then merely left to our own devices.  We are given all that we need and especially, we are given comfort.

The promised comfort is pictured as what we would call an "extreme make-over."  It is, beauty for ashes, oil of joy for mourning, and new clothes.  These are not outward and cosmetic changes.  Rather, they are substantive and internal.  They also speak to our condition apart from the gift of salvation in Christ.  In Him we are not only forgiven, but truly blessed.  Indeed, the promise of Exodus 15:17, 18 is fulfilled in us.  We are planted and made fruitful and strong according, again, to God's plan and for the purpose of His glory.  For the Christian, every day is truly a new year's day.

So, in this New Year celebrate not merely the relative position of the earth and sun to the rest of the galaxy, but celebrate the Christian New Year every day.  And celebrate your liberation from sin; celebrate your freedom from condemnation; celebrate your blessings in joy and gratitude.

 

All For Him,

 

Doug Schlegel

Tuesday
Jan032012

Who Are All These People? (Colossians 3:8-11)

Is the Christian life lived as though on a solitary island, or is it lived with and among others? Of course we live the Christian life as part of a greater whole. That is, whether we are talking about the local church, the universal church, or even our membership in the human race, we interact with others and we affect each other in ways that are not always positive. When we add sin to the mix, wounds become deeper, the pain becomes sharper, and reconciliation becomes harder.

As members of the Body of Christ, we live in the closest proximity to one another. We even have a unity and connection with those whom we have never met. So, how should we live our lives in such close relationship with others? As we continue our journey through Colossians, we will notice that from this point forward, the Apostle Paul's concern is how to live and behave toward one another in all of our various relationships. He begins with those things that we should do away with.

We are told to "put off the old man with his deeds." That is, just as we would discard stained or unsuitable clothing, we should discard these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication, lying. Just like the previous list (v. 5), this list shows a progression from the internal motivation to the outward actions. So, if we see in ourselves an angry disposition toward our brother or sister, then we are on the road to actively seeking revenge, engaging in gossip, and even lying and this is a dangerous road indeed. For we know from God's Word, that lying is the very work of the devil and God's just wrath rests on those who love and make a lie (Rev. 22:15). There is absolutely no place for any of these six behaviors in the life of the Christian or in the Church of Christ.

We are not only told to lay aside the old man with his deeds, we are also told to put on the new man. In particular, the Scriptures tell us that the new man is "renewed in knowledge." Let us remember though, that knowledge in the Scriptures never means a mere accumulation of facts. In fact, the text tells us what being renewed in knowledge means - it means to know who God our creator is and who our Redeemer is. In the Fall of Adam, the image of God in us was damaged. Our minds, our wills, and our passions were corrupted and twisted. But in the redemption we have in Christ, the image of God begins to be restored and will ultimately be completely restored.

So our relationships with others should reflect the new man, not the old man. And when this happens, we will experience the blessings of unity and peace because, in principle, we are one in Christ and those things that would otherwise divide us are abolished. Regardless of whether we are talking about ethnic divisions, cultural divisions, or social divisions, there is one race, one culture and one society in Christ. For as we read in the text, "Christ is all and in all." Let us then, put off the old man, and put on the new. (Ephesians 4:2-6)

All For Him,

Doug Schlegel

Sunday
Jan032010

Purpose of existence

How does question #1 in the Heidelberg Catechsim teach that our primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever?
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