To the Saints in Colossae

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

~ Colossians 1:1-2 (NKJV)

Paul begins his letter to the Church at Colossae in his customary manner. He addresses his position and authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ who is so by nothing less than the divine will of God. In this case, Paul adds to his greeting Timothy, his faithful protégé, who had been accompanying him on his missionary journeys. The Apostle has written an epistle to the saints, the Spirit wrought believers in Christ, who worship, live, serve and fellowship together in Colossae, the celebrated city of Phrygia, in Asia Minor.

To these beloved people, both men and women alike, Paul offers his introductory benediction: Grace and peace… These words are meant to summarize what it means to belong to Christ. To know the grace and peace that comes from God our Father is to know the Lord Jesus Christ. For in Christ alone, is there grace and peace with a holy, just and righteous God. Meditate on that phrase for a moment, “in Christ”, for it is in Him all the blessings and goodness of God dwell.

Christians today should do all they can to exhibit the grace and peace of God to others. How desperately this sin-darkened world needs to embrace saving grace and experience godly peace. If you yourself are “in Christ”, then you can be a divine instrument for spreading the grace and peace of God among your neighbors, friends and family. Let us, like the Apostle Paul, be eager to be in this holy service of sharing the grace and peace of the Lord that others may to come to taste of Jesus Christ, and know that He is good.

Where Our Minds Are

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.

~ Philippians 4:8

The old adage goes something like this: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” The thoughts of our mind ultimately become the destiny of our life. The thoughts we entertain, like the charts on a ship, set our lives on a particular course. And this course charted for us by our thoughts can be for better or worse depending on what thoughts we allow ourselves to cultivate and take root in our mind.

In our text today, the Apostle Paul exhorts the Christians at Philippi to constrain their thoughts, to discipline their minds, to focus, to think or meditate on such things that please the Lord and conform their thinking to such lofty ideals that bring about His honor and glory. He tells these believers, whatever is true, whatever is lovely or of good report, whatsoever has virtue or is praiseworthy, that it is in these things; it is here where our heart and mind should lie.

The inward topics our mind should dwell on should tend towards outward holiness and righteousness in our life, not away from it. The characteristics of truth, love and virtue are of a godly sort. These are the attributes of thought and attitudes of heart those who follow Christ should seek to develop because they will move us ultimately closer to Him.

Two of the most beneficial ways to train our minds to dwell on such noble things are Scripture reading and prayer. Through these two means of grace, our minds, which are by nature opposed to such thoughts, will, by God’s grace, slowly yet surely bend towards His goodness and glory. But like in our passage, Christians must be reminded of our duty in this regard.

So, are you actively seeking to conform your thoughts to such characteristics as Paul describes here in Philippians? Do you find your mind wandering into areas of unrighteousness which may lead to sinful patterns of life? Do you make diligent use of Scripture and prayer to help keep you on course towards holy and pure living? May we seek God’s help to do so.

~ apl

The Prayers of St. Paul – Pt. 3

Continue earnestly in prayer…

~ Colossians 4:2a (NKJV)

Maybe the most important lesson we receive from the Apostle Paul regarding prayer is the importance of a persistent prayer life. Many of the difficulties and trials that surround cultivating a wholesome life of prayer are quickly dissolved if we will but come to the Lord in an earnest, faithful and consistent manner. If practice ever made perfect, continuing earnestly in prayer, seeking the face of God continually, may best fit that old adage.

One of the trademarks of early Christians was their tenacious prayer life. We read, for example, in Acts 1:41 about the first disciples, how they “all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer“. Likewise, in Acts 2:42, the Church is described “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers“. And then later Paul would exhort the Thessalonians, “pray without ceasing“. These are but a few inspired examples of the significance placed on an on-going life filled with regular prayers.

The words the Apostle uses in Colossians 4:2 that we translate “continue earnestly” literally mean “to be devoted or constant…to give unremitting care to a thing…to persevere and not to faint“. So we can see the importance, not only of occasional prayers, but of a resolute, determined and unrelenting life never ceasing with prayer. I feel it is safe to say most believers do not have this kind of vibrant prayer life. Most of us struggle to even know what to pray for, more or less how to strive continually in prayer. My sincere hope is this brief devotion on the Apostle’s attitude towards prayer will help us to grow closer to God and continue earnestly in prayer.

~ apl

The Prayers of St. Paul – Pt. 2

Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me

~ Romans 15:30 (NKJV)

In this verse, taken from Romans 15, there are really two precepts on prayer that might be culled away. But for the purpose of this brief essay, I would like to only consider one with any real depth. The first principle is believers ought to strive together in prayer. The collective voice of Christ’s church is a powerful weapon against His enemies and a wonderful sound in the ear of God. Here, the Apostle Paul touches on this seeking other Christians to join him in prayer.

This leads me into the main point I hope we can take from this passage: The Apostle Paul strives in prayer for himself. Notice how he asks others to unite “with me in prayer to God for me” (emphasis mine). St. Paul knew the necessity of a prayer life which included supplication for himself. If you look at the verses which follow, you will read some of the specific items of concern both Paul and the others are praying about on his behalf. Paul prays on his own behalf to God “that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe” and “that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints” (vs.31). Likewise, he asks, “that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you” (vs.32). Paul prayed for himself so he might faithfully labor in the service of God and be spiritually strengthened to serve others.

The mighty apostle knew lifting up his own spiritual needs before the Lord was essential to fruitful and meaningful service in the name of Jesus Christ. It is never self-centered to pray for ourselves. And to the first point, neither is it to ask others to strive together with us in prayer. Yet, confessing our own sins and admitting our own needs before the Lord ourselves, is a vital step in walking with God, growing in grace, and being a true blessing to our fellow man.

~ apl

The Prayers of St. Paul – Pt. 1

I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with understanding.

~ 1 Corinthians 14:15b

I would like to take a few posts and survey some of the prayers and prayer methodology of the Apostle Paul. Paul is well-known for his fervent proclamation of the Gospel and his tireless defense of sound doctrine. But this dear saint was also a deeply devotional and passionately Spirit-filled man of prayer. With even a cursory reading of Paul’s epistles, one will find a treasure trove of guidance and instruction for their own prayer life. After studying Paul’s prayers, I might even say he is the quintessential New Testament example for believers today. My sincere hope is this series will be of spiritual profit to those who read it.

In 1 Corinthians, the 14th chapter, Paul lays out two guiding principles for his prayer life. Number one, he will pray with the spirit. Number two, he will pray with understanding. Any meaningful and moving prayer will always consist of these two elements. As for praying with the Spirit, it can be said there is no godly prayer without it. Prayers of our own making, prayers of our own strength, without the abiding and enabling help of God’s Holy Spirit are no prayers at all. We pray in the power of the Spirit or not at all. The person who seeks to bring their supplications before the Lord, must first seek and find the communion of the Holy Spirit to make their prayers pleasing and acceptable to God (Romans 8:26-27).

Second, Paul’s desire is to pray with understanding. The idea here is he will pray intelligently, with a working knowledge of how and what to pray for. This is accomplished through the ongoing cultivation of our over-all spiritual life. People learn to pray with more and more spiritual understanding as they grow in their faith and fellowship with Christ and by feasting on His Word. There are those who pray without understanding and you will find them praying in a frivolous and worldly manner. Paul’s principle of praying with the understanding is essential for growth in God and in a purposeful and fruitful prayer life.

If you find yourself struggling to know where to begin in your own prayer life, take these two fundamental principles of the Apostle Paul to heart. Prayer with the spirit and with understanding; they are so important and a prerequisite to finding fulfillment in prayer.

~ apl