One of my favorite times during my day is when I join my husband in our time in the Word. We each curl up with our Bibles, independently engaging with Scripture for deeper revelation of the God we serve. Please don't think we see ourselves as doctrinal experts or somehow singled out by the God of the Universe to be the recipients of knowledge otherwise undisclosed. On the contrary; we simply delight in those light-bulb moments when we discover something new in a verse or passage that we've read multiple times before, and we come to the realization that God just shined His light on a new precept that aids in the growth and maturity of our faith. What follows is the excitement of sharing that with each other, and with those who "have ears to hear".
So, I'm afraid you're in for another "spotlight moment" as I share where the Lord led me today. As sometimes happens, I began in the Book of John [which is where I've been focusing my study the last few weeks], but ended up in the short book of Colossians. To be honest, I don't know how or why God led me there, or how the two are connected. But once in Paul's letter to the church at Colossae, I was struck that he emphasized that his letter should be read to the church at Laodicea also. He mentions it several times. Of course, I instantly recognized that Laodicea is pictured as the "church of the End Times", or the state of the church right before Jesus returns -- and I probably don't need to remind you, that He is not particularly pleased with it. So, I wanted to see what Paul had to say in the four-chapter epistle to the Colossians, which he wanted the Laodicean church to be especially aware of.
Would I recognize the warnings to Colossae and Laodicea as relevant to the Body of Christ today? I warn you ... today's post is heavy with Scripture, but I think it is worth our time to consider that what Paul meant to be read to the physical church of Laodicea in the First Century is also meant for the spiritual Laodicean church in the Twenty-First Century. May we take note of our true spiritual condition!
• Colossians 1:9-14. Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. 10 We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God; 11 by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience; 12 and by giving thanks with joy to the Father. He made it so you could take part in the inheritance, in light granted to God’s holy people. 13 He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. 14 He set us free through the Son and forgave our sins.
This is what is pleasing to the Lord: to be filled with the knowledge of God's will and possessing His wisdom and understanding so that we bear fruit in the works we do for Him. It pleases Him when we increase in the knowledge of God; when we walk in His power and authority; when we are patient and endure with joy; when we thank our Father for moving us into the Kingdom of Light; and we thank Jesus for redeeming us and forgiving us! According to Revelation 3:14-22, the Laodicean church didn't even come close to what Paul described as pleasing to the Lord. In fact, Jesus says He knows their works and they make Him sick; He wants to spew them out of His mouth [vomit]!
So, I ask you, as we examine where the church has gone in our lifetime, do you think Jesus is happy with the fruit we've borne for His Kingdom? Have we represented Him well? Does abortion, gay marriage, transgenderism, and child trafficking speak of Him [or our effectiveness in influencing the world]? Is all of that what the Light of the world looks like? Paul intended for his words to call the church of his day to account for their faith and their actions. (And yes, faith should include action)! We must take a good hard look at ourselves in our day!
• Colossians 1:15-16. He Son is the image of the invisible God, the one who is first over all creation, 16 Because all things were created by him: both in the heavens and on the earth, the things that are visible and the things that are invisible. Whether they are thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities, all things were created through him and for him.
I believe this passage has great power in what it reveals, but I also believe it has been lost on this generation. It represents the wisdom and spiritual understanding that Paul says pleases the Lord, and which the First Century believers were willing to pursue. It reveals a bigger picture of the spiritual realms and Christ's position in regards to them [which I do not think the 21st Century Church grasps or understands; the same fault is found in the Church at Laodicea]. The central point of this passage is that Christ is over all things ... whether in Third Heaven (thrones), Second Heaven (powers; also called dominions], or First Heaven (rulers and authorities). These are all orders of angels in the Celestial spheres, and they can be Godly angels or fallen angels, loyal to Satan. The modern Church's refusal to acknowledge that that these are spiritual beings [in either obedience or opposition to Christ] leaves the Body of Christ ignorant of their own power and defenseless against the power of the dark side. Failure to understand this precept, denies the Pre-eminence of Christ over them all!
• Colossians 1:26, 2:2-3. In these selected verses, Paul refers to "the mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now revealed to his saints", and again, "that [your] hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge".
Here is what Paul meant for the churches at Colossae and Laodicea to understand: there is no longer any mystery or impediment to understanding God. He has revealed Himself through Christ (whom many in the First Century Church encountered in the flesh, and those in this century meet through Christ in us). Christ has opened the door for us, and because we know Him, we can have full understanding and knowledge of God, because He is God! The treasures that the knowledge of Him give us are no longer hidden, but available to those who are willing to seek Him and receive His revelations. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of men [kings] to search it out [Proverbs 25:2].
And if we don't make the effort to gain a full understanding of God, then it should not surprise us that God says, My people perish for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). God continues His thoughts in Hosea: Because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. Let's be clear in our understanding -- when people reject HIS knowledge in favor of their man-made knowledge and religion, then God sees us as unfit to carry His message forward as His priest [which is the state of the End-Times Laodicean Church]. That church has forgotten "the law", which means the precepts and teachings of Christ. They are in danger of being forgotten by God.
Can you see that the End-Times Church of Laodicea was no longer walking in those "riches of full understanding and knowledge"? They were focused on the riches brought to them by their identity as a world banking center, producer of luxurious woolen garments, and their prosperous drug industry connected to the medical school there. Sound familiar? They were focused on money, prosperity, and drugs, and apparently had lost the power and passion of their first love. Jesus accused them of thinking, "‘I’m rich, and I’ve grown wealthy, and I don’t need a thing.' Could His indictment, "You don’t realize that you are miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked" be applied to the Church today?
• And finally, Colossians 2:8-15, 20-23. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities[b] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.... If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
I think Paul makes it quite clear that our faith is more than a philosophy. It is a life! It is not based on having knowledge of abstract principles [such as "God is love"], but it is a personal knowledge coming from real, physical experiences of the love of God through an intimate [and active] relationship with Jesus. That "experiential knowledge" of God's precepts surpasses "the elemental spirits of the world", which are meant only for this sphere. They are meant only for elementary education (as children on milk) and intended to prepare us for higher learning. Yet how many Christians today have stopped growing, satisfied in the elemental [or basic] understandings of their faith?
Notice that in verse 20, Paul reminds the churches of Colossae and Laodicea that in Christ, they have died to these "elemental spirits of the world". He means the worldly knowledge is to be replaced with spiritual knowledge gained through a life spent experiencing Jesus and God -- not "according to human precepts and teachings"; nor through "self-made religion and ascesticism"(a doctrine that adheres to strict regulation as the means to achieving a higher spiritual state). If we are honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that the modern church is steeped in man-made religion and traditions, developed to control the flesh (including our minds and our actions/works for the Kingdom) and to appear spiritual. But the only way to greater spiritual knowledge is to commit to growing in wisdom through experiencing God and Christ in the spirit -- not in a "head knowledge" that limits the power and jurisdiction of God to transform mankind.
There is a remnant in the Body of Christ today who understands what Jesus meant when He said, "Those who believe in Me will do the works that I do; and even greater works than these will he do"... (John 14:12). We know what it means to walk in the power of Christ in us, and through the Holy Spirit, to defeat demons, heal the sick, call on the heavenly host to battle on our behalf. We know what is is to go before the throne of God and meet with His magnificent Presence. We know the very real power of prayer and fasting to take the fight to the Enemy at a higher level. We know all this because we have experienced it! We do not allow the restrictions of religious regulations or traditions [established in the preceding centuries] to stop us from fulfilling John 14:12.
We know that the Bible reveals the falling away and the apostasy that precedes the moment God's cup of wrath is full to the brim. We recognize the signs. And we rejoice in our assignments to continually represent Him and His Kingdom; serving Him and our fellow man, so that no man can say we did not share the Good News of our glorious riches and heavenly inheritance coming from our relationship with Christ. We testify to the modern Church that we will be conquerors! It is time for all who profess faith in our Lord to leave the traditions and teachings of man behind, and walk in both true experiential knowledge of Christ and spiritual wisdom. We heed the instructions of Jesus to the Church of Laodicea and we look forward to ruling and reigning with Him in the Millennial Kingdom! Come, Lord Jesus!
Revelation 3:21-22 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with Me on My throne, as I also conquered and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.