Philemon was a guy who wanted to seek revenge on a former slave, for some crime done against him. The Apostle Paul sent Philemon a letter, along with the former slave, Onesimus, himself. Paul was asking Philemon to extend the kind of forgiveness to Onesimus that Jesus Christ himself had extended to Philemon (are you still following?). And on top of all this, Paul himself is the one who brought Philemon to faith in God, and brought Omesimus to faith in God also. So Paul is asking Philemon to forgive Onesimus based on the debt he owes back to Paul, “his very life”. I don’t know if we know how to forgive in our western culture, like Paul is asking Philemon to forgive. And even beyond this little book, Paul is asking you and I to learn to forgive like this, so that our witness to the world is like that of Jesus Christ. (click here for video).
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Nearing the end of his life, the Apostle Paul is thanking friends for walking with him in faith while in prison for sharing the gospel. The gospel is many things. It is sharing the love of Jesus with the world. The word evangelism is getting a bad rap these days. Maybe it’s the word evangelical, which is diving the country, depending on which way you’re looking at it. But the Apostle Paul still wants you to share your faith in Jesus with others. So, the gospel is relational, the gospel is tenacious, and the gospel includes suffering. We don’t like to embrace suffering, as much as we can help it, but even Jesus himself suffered for representing God. How are you representing God through your life today? Does it align with how people in the Bible shared the gospel? If so, good. If not, why not? (click here to view the video)
Paul is in prison, and writes about how we can encourage one another in the faith. He gives us admonition to be ready to answer anyone for the faith you believe. He recommends that our speech always be seasoned with salt, rather than vinegar. He asks the faith community to pray that God would open doors for the gospel to be shared. I think this “praying for open doors” is a ways of saying we all can look for opportunities to share our faith in God. The clear vision of Paul was that the gospel is relationships and that gospel is life saving in relationships, and that in relationships God is opening doors for His Kingdom to grow and flourish. How are you praying for open doors and open hearts in the lives of your friends? Keep the main thing the main thing, and keep sharing your love for Jesus in this dark world. You never know what God can do.
Pastor Reid Olson of Crossroads Church of Greeley teaches on Colossians 2:16-23, where the Apostle Paul warns the small home church on Colossae to walk by faith in Jesus, rather than be bound by all the Jewish laws and regulations of faith.
Rules and regulations don’t save you from your sin. Rules don’t have the power to save or to heal. Only a life found in Christ can bring healing and restoration from a broken life of sin. Do you find yourself bound by rules in religion, and restricted by the attempt to “keep all the rules” for God? If so, you can find more freedom in letting Jesus have influence in your life and submit to his leading. You can receive this power of God today by letting Jesus enter your life and surrendering to Him alone.
See, in our day, as in theirs, it is easy to learn about religion and play all the right games with church. This game is not what Paul had in mind. He was empowering his people to no longer live in the darkness of the world, rather to live in the light of God. Jesus has redeemed us to be light in this dark world, and it has nothing to do with us, it’s all Jesus. This portion of Paul’s letter makes a stand that he wants people to grow up in God, and be joyful in thanksgiving, so that we truly live into our real identity in Christ. Maybe these words are foreign to you, if you don’t understand where your identity lies. Maybe you need to realize that in Jesus, you are a new person; transformed for God’s good work in the world. This is what Paul is talking about.
Paul the Apostle wrote a letter to a group of faith people he didn’t know, in a city where he wouldn’t visit, and wanted to encourage them in their faith. He wanted them to remember their purpose in Jesus, not getting caught up in superstitious practices of mysticism and emotional faith. Paul wants us to know, in our present culture, that we don’t need to fall victim to relativism of truth. Today, everyone’s truth is relative to their social culture and “their perspective” while missing the person of Jesus Christ. This truth comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is displayed in transformation of the soul while bearing fruit in spiritual maturity of faith. Don’t be dismayed by the distractions in the world, the politics that lead us into angry arguments, or taking sides on issues that divide people. Place your faith in Jesus Christ and trust that Jesus is enough for complete salvation. Our purpose is to share this Gospel with others. Don’t forget your purpose.
Now the spirit of fear is real, but it’s false, in the sense that God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God did not give us that spirit of fear, or timidity. Young Timothy was pastor of a church and needed encouragement to be bold in his faith. Where do you need to be more bold in your faith in God, rather than being defeated by a spirit of fear? Is your mind captured by fear of something, someone, some loss, or rejection? God hasn’t given you that fear. You can overcome fear by naming it, acknowledge it, take away its power by claiming it for God, and then trust God for the results. You live in a world where fear runs rampant around you, but fear is a liar. You can claim your life for God and give your fear to Jesus.