The Voice of the One Who Speaks

Luke 13:15 – The Lord replied: You Hypocrites! Don’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from its stall and lead it out to get a drink? (CEB)

Often times the disturbed shout of our religious convictions drowns out the level clarity of God speaking today (Luke 13:10-17). When our cult of rules and laws overshadows our culture of compassion and love, our image of God becomes distorted and broken; our expression of God, emotional terror and crippling judgment.

Referring to the Sinai Narrative (Deut. 4:10-24), Hebrews 12:18-24 explains that Christians have not drawn near to a mountain that can be groped for in terrifying darkness, a consuming fire, a destructive blast of wind, the deafening sound of a trumpet and the voice of instantaneously spoken thought that made the ones who heard it beg for the end of God’s spoken logic. They have escaped the place of fear and death, where the people could not be in God’s presence because of sin. This mountain of horror separated rather than united the two parties (Ex. 19:12-13). Rather, they have drawn near to Mount Zion, the city of the Living God (Eph. 2:19; Phil. 3:20), Jerusalem above the sky (Gal. 4:19-31), to myriads of angels in festival gathering, to the visible and invisible Church, to God the Judge of All, to Jesus the Reconciler and Mediator of the New Will and Testament (1Tim. 2:5), and to sprinkled blood that speaks more than the blood sacrifice of Abel’s animals.

Today (Heb. 12:25-29), see to it that you don’t drown out the voice of the One who is speaking. If the people didn’t escape when they ignored Moses who warned them on earth (Acts 7:53), how much more will we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from above the sky? His voice shook the earth then, but now He has made a promise: Still once more I will shake not only the earth but heaven also (Ex. 19:18; Hag. 2:6) and the things pertaining to missing the mark will be removed. In the first covenant, God’s voice was terrifying. Today God speaks through His Son (Heb. 1:2). But soon He must speak from above the sky one more time! Therefore, since we are receiving a realm that is unshaken, let’s grab a hold (and not let go) of God’s grace. It is the presence of God’s very essence that burns away sin (Deut. 4:24); not for killing, but cleansing. If we are not enveloped by grace, we are afraid of His presence (like the Israelites at Sinai) and are separated from God by our own religious convictions.

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Mortification

Colossians 3:1 – You used to live this way, when you were alive to these things. (CEB)

Paul declares that we have literally entered into Co-Resurrection; we have entered into a mystical/organic union with Christ and not simply an ideological religion (Col. 2:20-23), a new life enlivened by the Resurrection Life of Christ. We have been raised with Christ, where He has made entrance for us back into God (vs.1). In this place we are empowered to continually think about the reality of the upward things, not the circumstantial earthly things (vs.2). You died with Christ, and your life is hidden in a place of security and intimacy with Christ in God (vs.3). Assurance of life and the Life Supply are in this place, for we are a real part of Him (vs.4).

The Killing Power of the Cross has put to death the ideological religions of our darkened hearts. Our mental and physical sexual perversions, the lust and abuse of all things that is a product of the diseased and distorted human condition, our excessive need for waste (kakos, in the Greek), our incessant need to be dissatisfied with what we have and our unquenchable appetite for more are all expressions of self-medicating, unhealthy religions of self-love (vs.5). God’s worldview moves against this idolatry and, therefore, the people attached to it (vs.6)! You used to live out of weak religious ideology before you died with Christ (vs.7). You were driven by Anger [which] is desire with grief – Aristotle (4th century B.C.) and the physical eruption of anger, a worthless and wicked character, verbal abuses and purposely offensive speech in an attempt to lead another to death (vs.8-9a).

You have stripped clean off the old decaying person that housed these things and dropped it once and for all as a mode of life (9b). You have put on like a fresh garment the new humanity, which is being continually refreshed in the image of the One who created it (vs.10). In this image the barriers between humanity and God have been torn down; rather than a wall there is a refreshed relationship between humanity and God, and a refreshing within humanity itself. Though humanity is various and many, there is only life lived by Christ in Co-Resurrection (vs.11) …looking forward to full responsiveness to grace. – Gregory of Nazianzus (4th century)

Concrete Faith

Colossians 2:6 – So live in Christ Jesus the Lord in the same way you received him. (CEB)

How did we receive Christ? Was it not by grace through faith (Gal. 3:1-5; Eph. 2:8-10)? So then, as you have received, so walk! [Augustine (4th/5th century) – What we have to do…is to abide firmly in him through the simplicity and assurance of this faith, so that he may open up to us…the treasure that is hidden in him.]

We are rooted into a concrete foundation by the faith of Christ at work in humanity (collectively) and we are built on that foundation by the faith of Christ in us (individually). No one can seduce you and rob or plunder you of your full assurance here. No (so-called) wisdom and vain, purposeful delusions of quasi-religious speculations, which elevate the human ability to something more than it is, can fool you here. No human traditions based on the world’s religious attempts to reach up to God can betray you in this concrete faith of Christ (vs. 6-8).

God has come to humanity in the body of Jesus Christ, fulfilling what the human traditions and elemental principles of religion have attempted for so long to do. In Him you were filled up; He fills the void of which you attempt to fill with vain traditions and elemental principles. [John Wesley (18th century) – Christ is filled with God, and you are filled with Christ…the fullness of Christ overflows the church.]

In Christ you were not simply circumcised, but your whole body has been cut off, separated from the corruption of sin. You were buried with Him in baptism (Rom. 6:1-7) and raised up through faith in the power of God (Rom. 6:8-11). In this shared death and Resurrection Life God cancels the certificate of debt, nailing it to the Cross of Christ (vs. 9-14). Jesus has disarmed the human/religious impulses by publicly hanging them on The Tree, exposing them in His triumphal parade of Resurrection Life. Be grounded in the faithfulness of Christ, then!

Christological Hymnology

Colossians 1:23b – This message has been preached throughout all creation under heaven. (CEB)

Written about the same time as the Christ Hymn in his letter to the Philippians (2:5-11), Paul records in his letter to the Colossians, through Christological Hymnology (1:15-20), what the later church would use to remind itself of the Person of God in Christ. First, He is the image – the snapshot, the exact likeness (Phil. 2:6) – of the Invisible God; He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature (Heb. 1:3, 8). Yet, He is also first over all creation; He is the central figure, preeminent in position throughout the cosmos. This dual description speaks of the connection in God’s-self to God’s creation in Christ (vs. 15).

Secondly, all things – both in the heavens and on the earth, the cosmos; visible and invisible; thrones, powers, rulers, authorities – were originally formed by Him, manufactured through Him, and exist for Him (vs. 16). Before the formation of anything and everything, He existed; and He is the cohesion of all things in the universe. All creation moves in its designed order because of Him; He is the unifying force, the gravity that holds all things together (vs. 17). This being true, then, He is the head of the body, the church. He is the origin, the originating power of not only the resurrection from the dead, but also the Resurrection Life of the church. Christ, the center of all things; preeminent, for the reconciliation of creation (vs. 18).

And finally, in Christ the sum-total of God, by definition, is housed permanently (vs. 19). And God completely reconciled all creation to Himself through Christ; God brought peace through the blood of the Cross of Christ (vs. 20). The reparation of the rift, the healing of the alienation permeates throughout the cosmos – from the hole that held the instrument of death to the furthest rock in space, from the mortal coil of an individual to the collective life of the nations – in the Person of God in Jesus Christ.

Image of God Restored

Colossians 1:4 – We’ve done this since we’ve heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all God’s people. (CEB)

God’s worldview has always been that healing and wholeness would be found in grace through faith. That worldview continues in that, faith is evidenced not only in God’s love for us, but also God’s love in us through grace, as well. Paul gives thanks to God because of the Colossians’ faith in Christ, love for others, and hope for God’s Vision (vs. 3-5). They had fully recognized the Good News of God’s victorious grace in the battle over the distorted image of God in humanity (vs. 6). It had been restored in Christ, and so they lived, loved, and hoped in the Spirit (vs. 8).

This is not the end of God’s worldview, though! Notice that Paul intercedes on behalf of the Colossians, praying that they would go onward in this restored image (vs. 9a). He asked that they would be filled to overflowing with a thorough participation in the acquiring and life changing application of knowledge in God’s Vision; with the wisdom to recognize truth, and with an understanding of how to apply such truth to real life situations (vs. 9b). He prayed that they would live out the life of the restored image, producing more restoration in humanity, always increasing the knowledge of God in creation (vs. 10).

As He did the church in Colossae, God has empowered us with all equipping, according to the power of Christ; with consistent endurance and inner strength to withstand difficult circumstances and difficult people (vs. 11). God has authorized us and has honored us with the ability to receive the authorization to this work (vs. 12). In fact, God has drawn us to Himself from obscurity to the rule and realm of the Son of His love (vs. 13). We have been freed from the bondage, and granted remission for the penalty, of the distorted image (vs. 14). Grace through faith is the introduction to God’s worldview, and the restored image of God in Christ is the Vision for all humanity, always increasing the knowledge of God in creation by grace!

The Work of Christ

Galatians 6:16 – May peace and mercy be on whoever follows this rule and on God’s Israel. (CEB)

If anyone does something wrong, you who are living life in the Spirit of the Resurrected Christ should apply first aid; mending what is broken by fitting it perfectly with your own experience of grace. Continuously remember your own stuff and make sure you do not give yourself a pass for your own issues (vs. 1). Carry with endurance the burdens that weigh one another down, for this is the unconditional love of Christ; an imitation of the ultimate Burden-Bearer (vs. 2). When you cannot count on yourself, but on Christ, then you will know in whom to trust (vs. 3). Do not compare yourselves to one another, but to God (vs. 4). And though we live in community, bearing one another’s burdens does not excuse us from individual responsibility (vs.5).

You have been taught in the community of God’s love, now live in it (vs. 6)! Stop being led astray! You cannot feed the spirit by living in the flesh. God is not ridiculed by the perversion of His own worldview – It’s a natural principle: how does one reap other than what they have sown (vs. 7)? Selfish desires of the flesh result in personal devastation. Walking by the Spirit, the Resurrection Life of Christ, results in eternal life for humanity (vs. 8). Do not grow weary with your actions of love toward one another; we will reap a harvest of it if we do not give up (vs. 9). We must be the expression of Christ on the earth – the church by definition (vs. 10).

Do not get this twisted! Your actions of love are not as a result of your flesh (as some ridiculously teach, for which many ignorantly praise themselves and others for), but they are the workings of the Spirit of the Resurrected Christ in you (vs.12-13). I praise the work of Christ’s flesh! As for the world, it has been crucified to me through Christ, and I to the world (14). Our own self-serving works of the flesh mean nothing. All that matters is the Resurrection Life of Christ lived out in all of you; the New Creation, community as God is community!!!
– Taken from The Pauline Corpus, by Mike Bass (©2013).

Freedom of Love

Galatians 5:1 – But with the freedom of Sarah has Christ set us free. Therefore, keep standing strong and don’t be enslaved to bondage again (Mike Bass’ Theosophical Translation).

Not in the slave woman, Hagar – Mt Sinai (Gal. 4:24-25) – but in the freedom of heavenly Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26, 28) has Christ set us free from slavery to sin and death; for the Law governs over sin and death (Rom. 8:2; 1Cor. 15:56). Yes! You have been called by the grace of God to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not falsely redefine this freedom, making it something that gives opportunity to the lust of your flesh but, rather, use it to serve one another through love (vs. 5:13) – the love of God’s Spirit.

Freedom is not a central base from which to launch opportunities to please the flesh, which serves only to take savagely, like wild animals, from one another (vs. 15). The whole Law is fulfilled in one word – Love. It is a direction of the will, a logical volition and not an emotional action or reaction; it is returning to God his unconditional love by loving others unconditionally (vs. 14). Walk in continuous and habitual progress by the leading of the Spirit and the longing lusts of the flesh will not come to completion in your life (vs. 16). The flesh and the Spirit
are mutually exclusive, so you cannot do whatever you want and say it’s God (vs. 17, 19-21, 26). But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under Law (vs. 18, 22-23); you are owned by Christ, led by the Spirit, killing the passions and desires of the flesh on the Cross of Christ (vs. 24-25)!!

Most of the Galatian church was Gentile (non-Jew). They were neck-deep in religion when God’s grace freed them. After experiencing Christ and the power of His Spirit, they began to bury themselves alive, again (vs. 5:1), under Mosaic Law. The Galatians were attempting to use the Law as basis for their (so-called) Christian life. Rather than freedom, they were enslaving themselves to bondage again. They were in a sense returning to the cults that they had previously served in a state of idolatry – Jerome (4th/5th century). Rather than being led by the Spirit, they were leading others in the sin and death of their own flesh. Sound familiar?