Neil Ward: “Mature in Christ #3: Walk In Him”

Reference: Colossians 2:6-7

This is number #3 in our series “Mature in Christ”, and as you’ve seen in the theme our focus this morning is “Walking in Him”; or, “Walk in Him”.

Some people go to the gym to get fit; personally, I’ve felt that like that was self-torture (although I have been to the gym, myself)! But walking is one of those things most lacking, today. We’re too busy; it’s too easy to hop in the car. We lack the exertion of physical effort. We’re too often seated, rather than active. Slowly we become passive – with all the negative health consequences that come with it.

We’re going to have a look at this morning’s passage in Colossians 2:6-7. The command is to walk “as you received” Him. Let’s put this into the context of chapter 2.

“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”

(Colossians 2:1-7, NASB)

We all need to rediscover walking. The simple joys and pleasures it brings with it; the benefits to our bodies that it brings; and we need to get out there and do it. But this message is not about the physical exercise of walking and its benefits. It’s about the necessity of walking in your spiritual life and making sure you overcome spiritual apathy and the danger of falling for whatever latest fad and deception is being offered in the spiritual realm.

Now the Colossians had started well. But false teaching was creeping in, and Paul was writing this letter to show them how to avoid and overcome such false ideas. These two verses conclude the argument that began in chapter 1 verse 15 where he said of Jesus, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

The false teachers had been saying that Jesus is not enough; you need Jesus plus. Now let’s pause here. Any time you’re told you need Jesus plus something else, there’s a problem. Because you’re saying Jesus isn’t sufficient. The false teaching that was afflicting the Colossian believers was that they needed Jesus, plus “special knowledge” (I’m not going into the background and details of that in this message, but it’s worth looking into). They said that you need an initiation that only these teachers could give – like the foundation of many of today’s cults.

Paul rejoiced in the Colossians’ unity and their steadfast faith because these proved that they had not given ground to the heresy yet. But he wanted to ensure that they wouldn’t give in, and believe the lies of these false teachers. So he says to them, “walk in Him, as you received Him; therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so, walk in Him.”

They started well; they’d heard the gospel through Epaphras, and received Jesus as Lord and Saviour. So he says that little phrase, “you received Him as Lord and Saviour”…

Listen to the rest of this sermon here:

Neil Ward, Foothills Church of Christ, Sunday 20 August 2017

As in the Day

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5)

This was the assessment of the Lord concerning mankind prior to the world wide flood in the days of Noah. By the grace of God Noah and his family were saved to accomplish God’s plan and purpose. The people of Noah’s day were warned by Noah’s testimony as he built the ark. Those who ignored his testimony went on as before and were drowned in the flood.

Jesus warned that His second coming will be in similar circumstances (Matthew 24:37f; Luke 17:26f). In these days God’s warning of impending judgment and the outpouring of His wrath against sin is through the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Christ as revealed in the Bible. Those who do not heed His words will carry on as before and be unprepared for His judgment. Those who receive it will be saved from wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9; Romans 5:9).

In the days of the Tribulation the Lord’s witnesses will be 144,000 Jews who will preach the Gospel to all nations and ethnic groups in all languages. Those who carry on as before and ignore the warning are destined to endure God’s wrath. Those who receive it will be delivered through it or from it by bodily death.

Jesus also gave the illustration of the city of Sodom (Luke 17:28f). Lot had been less than faithful in warning the people that their wickedness would bring an outpouring of God’s wrath. The judgment of God fell upon those people also.

Denying either of these historical events is to call Jesus a liar and renders one carrying on as before and unprepared for the wrath to come. His words are clear; when every intention of the thoughts of the heart of mankind is evil, then we can expect God to again judge the earth.

God is presently allowing Satan to test the hearts of nations and of individuals to reveal openly whether they are truly His or not. He is giving us an opportunity to see the world as it would be without His righteousness and without Him. Perhaps some will turn to Him and call for mercy.

Of that great city, Nineveh, the Lord said, “Their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). Jonah was sent to warn them. With reluctance he went saying, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). Unlike in the days of Noah and the days of Lot the Ninevites had a change of heart and pleaded for God’s mercy. They believed the warning and acted upon it through prayer and fasting believing that God might show them mercy. God will always respond to genuine calls for mercy.

It is not difficult to see that our world is at the threshold. Those who know the truth have the privilege and responsibility of warning others. We don’t know whether the world, our nation or our neighbour will respond in the way the people in Noah’s and Lot’s days did or in the way that Nineveh did so let us persevere in sharing the Gospel of grace and see what the Lord does in the hearts of people and nations.

Giving Myself Away

“From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering” Exodus 25:2

Contrary to the world’s conception of giving, the above is the biblical base for giving. The world’s conception of giving in the church is derived from people who falsely profess to be Christian and who reject teaching from the Bible for their own material gain.

The Apostle Paul affirms the Old Testament teaching in 2 Corinthians 8 in reference to the churches in Macedonia, “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing” (v 3). The reason behind their willing giving is given by Paul, “They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (v 5).

Key here is that they first gave themselves to the Lord. This is where we may fall short and fail the test of faith by placing limitations on how much we will give to the Lord. In my first year of learning to walk with the Lord I came across the following and I believe it depicts accurately what Christian giving really is. It was written in the front cover of the Bible of teenager Elizabeth Alden Scott on August 3, 1925.

“My Covenant

Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, all my desires, hopes and ambitions (whether they be fleshly or soulish), and accept thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to thee, to be thine forever.

I hand over to thy keeping all of my friendships, my love. All the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart.

Fill me and seal me with thy Holy Spirit. Work out thy whole will in my life, at any cost, now and forever.

‘To me to live is Christ and to die is gain’ Philippians 1:21

Why don’t you reread her covenant and pause to speak with the Lord Jesus. Tell him whether you will accept or reject this covenant as your own. Your carefully and prayerfully considered response from your heart will be a defining moment for now and eternity.

Of course, having made such a covenant you can expect the Lord Jesus to take you on a path to test your heart as to the genuineness of your desire. Then He will lead you to fulfilment. As for anyone walking with Jesus life will be anything other than what is expected. As He did with Israel (Exodus 24+), the Lord will deal with our heart relationship with Him first, not our behaviour. Behaviour is shaped by our heart, never the other way around.

Elizabeth (Betty) Scott Stam and husband, John, missionaries with China Inland Mission, were murdered in China by Communist revolutionary soldiers on 8th December 1934 when she was just 28 years old. Her baby girl was rescued. For more of her life story click the link below.

Biography: Elisabeth (Betty) Alden Scott Stam

Declaration of Ownership

“God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them” Exodus 2:25

As in child birth, pain often precedes pleasure and joy. The birth of the nation of Israel would be no different and it has similarities with the nation’s rebirth at the end of the Great Tribulation.

In the last three verses of Exodus two we find Israel groaning under the weight of bondage as slaves in Egypt. In their pain and suffering they cried out to the Lord. God had been with them all along but now that the people were crying out for deliverance He would act.

First we note that He heard the cries of Israel for deliverance to the point of acting (v 24). But on what basis would He act? In the same verse we are given the answer; “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” It isn’t that God had forgotten His covenant. This and the preceding chapter are evidence of that but He is now going to act in a special way with regard to that covenant.

When we read that “God looked upon the children of Israel,” it isn’t that He had been distracted elsewhere but that He was taking into account their present situation and their crying out for deliverance. He would now act.

Finally, in these verses, we note that God acknowledged Israel and was concerned for them. The idea here is that of a relationship, that of a father for his son (4:22). God is declaring His ownership of Israel. As such He will act to deliver Israel. He affirms this again in 3:7 where He refers to Israel as “My people.”

This is a beautiful picture of Israel’s future. The closing days of the Great Tribulation will see Israel again crying out to God for deliverance. On that occasion the Lord Jesus Himself will appear for the same reason that He gave attention to Israel as recorded in Exodus two, “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” He will then deliver believing Israel and believing Gentiles and establish His earthly kingdom.

These circumstances have a parallel with salvation now. When a person is sick and tired of the corruption of this world, bondage to sin and death, they will cry out to God for deliverance. Jesus promises to respond. He said, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine [teaching], whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). When a person desires to hear the truth Jesus will ensure they hear it and know that it is true but it is up to the person as to whether they will receive it and trust Jesus and His word.

It is the delight of the child of God to know that Jesus Christ declares His ownership of them and in due course will do so publicly. Of greatest importance is that He will declare His redeemed to the Father.

Neil Ward: “Mature in Christ #2: Growing Up in Christ”

Reference: Colossians 1:9-12

We started last week a new series, entitled “Mature in Christ”. We are looking at the goal and the objective of our Christian living. We looked last week and we found that Paul’s comments to the end of chapter 1 is that his goal is to present every man mature, teleos is the word: perfect, or completed in Christ. And as we looked at that, the issue was that the standard is not relative human maturity, the standard is Jesus himself. Just as Peter tells us, God said “Be holy as I am holy”. The goal of maturity is to be like Christ, and to be presented before Christ complete, lacking in nothing.

Listen to the rest of this sermon here:

Neil Ward, Foothills Church of Christ, Sunday 23 July 2017

God’s Faithfulness

‘God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.’ So He called his name Israel” Genesis 35:10

More than twenty years had passed since Jacob left his father and mother in fear for his life from his twin brother, Esau. In that time his experiences with his uncle, Laban, and his meeting with the Lord on the return journey prior to meeting Esau had made him a much changed man.

Before he left the promised land the Lord appeared to him at Bethel and affirmed that the covenant He had made with Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob in all three aspects; land, descendants and a blessing to the nations (Genesis 28:13-14).

At a time when Jacob was unsettled in his relationship with Laban and began to fear him, the Lord called him back to his father, Isaac. Interestingly it was again fear that disposed Jacob to have a listening ear toward God. That remains a provocation for people to have an ear toward God still. At this time the Lord reminded Jacob of their previous meeting and Jacob’s vow (Genesis 28:20-22; 31:13).

The incident at Shechem (Genesis 34) again stirred up fear in Jacob which apparently disposed him again to have an ear toward the Lord. By commanding Jacob to return to Bethel, the Lord was again reminding him of his vow (Genesis 35:1).

Jacob obeyed all that the Lord said and again the Lord affirmed that the covenant that he had made with Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob and his descendants. The message to Jacob and to us is that God is faithful to His word no matter how circumstances may appear.

The seal of this affirmation came from the Lord in the new name given to Jacob. First mention of the change of name was given by the Lord after the night long encounter Jacob had with Him (Genesis 32:28) but it was not applied until Jacob had fully returned, built an altar to the Lord and removed all association with false gods. At this time the Lord now called him Israel (Genesis 35:10) and affirmed the three key aspects of the covenant made with Abraham. This name became the name for all Israel’s descendants and remains so to this day and forevermore.

The name means, “Prince with God” and that is what Israel is and shall always be (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-37). The very name, Israel, shouts the faithfulness of God to His word.

Neil Ward: “Mature in Christ #1: Pursuing the Right Goal”

Reference: Colossians 1:28-29

It is a great joy when a child is born. Whether as parents, grandparents, or extended family, there is nothing sweeter than having a new little life. But can you imagine if that little baby, stayed a little baby forever? It’s kind of cute for a time, but parents soon find out that the baby stage isn’t all cute. It has its challenges: sleepless nights, changing nappies… because a baby is just the beginning. A baby is meant to grow into an adult who begins to act and function in a mature and responsible way.

The same is true in our Christian lives – we aren’t just meant to be born and stay babies. We’re meant to grow; we’re meant to mature…

Listen to the rest of this sermon here:

Neil Ward, Foothills Church of Christ, Sunday 16 July 2017