Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Colossae. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fifteen through twenty-three of the first chapter. When you come to this portion of the first chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote unto the saints at Colossae you will find him shifting gears from what he had previously been writing in the prior verses. As you begin reading this epistle you will find the apostle Paul—not once, but twice—writing unto these saints how he continually gave thanks to God and prayed unto the God and Father of their Lord Jesus Christ without ceasing. The apostle Paul speaks of hearing about the love they had for the saints, as well as the faith they had in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it was that report which propelled and thrust him into the secret closet of prayer for these saints. What’s more, is that when you touch the apostle’s second reference concerning his prayer(s) for the saints you will find him praying concerning a heightened awareness of their inheritance and the reality that is found in the person of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul prayed that these saints would truly understand their inheritance and that which Christ has made available in them, through them and for them. It is absolutely incredible the tremendous love and affection the apostle Paul had—not only for he saints within this particular congregation, but also for the saints everywhere within and among all the churches. I find it absolutely incredible reading the words which the apostle Paul speaks concerning the inheritance the saints have in Christ, for it was his desire that they understand exactly what is and what had been made available unto them through the person of Jesus Christ. It is quite clear that the apostle Paul did not want these saints ignorant concerning that which was afforded and that which was provided for them in and through the person of Jesus Christ.
When we come to this latter portion of the first chapter we find the apostle Paul transitioning from writing concerning the inheritance the saints have in the person of Jesus Christ to actually writing about Christ Himself. It wasn’t enough for the apostle Paul to merely write about what Christ had done for the saints, for it was also befitting the apostle also present the reality of who Christ was. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand it’s that it can be so incredibly easy to get caught up and focus on that which Christ has provided and that which Christ has afforded us and yet completely lose sight of and miss out on the reality of who Christ truly is. It is possible that we can spend so much time fixing our eyes on what has been provided for us that we completely neglect and even ignore the person from whom those realities and blessings flow. When we read the words of the apostle Paul in these particular verses we find the apostle Paul setting forth to transfer the gaze of these saints from merely looking at the provision of Christ. What’s more, is the fact that the apostle Paul sought to bring these saints to the place beyond the inheritance to the image of the One from whom the inheritance flows. It would be absolutely and incredible my easy for ya to become so transfixed on the inheritance that we completely lose sight of the image of the One from whom the inheritance flows. In all reality, I would dare say that it is precisely because of the image of Christ that the inheritance is even made available and made possible for us as the saints of God. MOVING BEYOND THE INHERITANCE TO THE IMAGE! INHERITANCE FLOWS FROM THE PLACE OF IMAGE! Tell me—what good is receiving and partaking of the inheritance that is found in the person of Jesus Christ that we fail to even look upon and see the image from which the inheritance flows?
If you begin reading with and from the twelfth verse you will find the apostle Paul writing unto these saints which were at Colossae giving thanks unto the Father, which made them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. As you continue reading you will find the apostle go on to write concerning the Father how he delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son. It was in this eternally Son whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins. Within these few verses we not only write how the Father delivered us from the power of darkness, but we also read how the Father translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son. Furthermore we read blow it is through the eternal Son that we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins. What we must also realize is that it is precisely because of what we find and read in these verses that what the apostle Paul wrote in the preceding verses can even be made possible. Beginning with verse nine of this same chapter we read how the apostle Paul desired and prayed that these saints might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. The apostle Paul prayed that these saints might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and would increase in the knowledge of God. The apostle Paul desired and prayed that these saints would be strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto All Patti ace and long-suffering with joyfulness. It’s actually quite interesting when reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul first writing and speaking of the inheritance which the saints have in Christ, and then transitioning to the place where he writes about the image of the One from whom the inheritance flows. In all reality, I am convinced that we cannot truly and fully understands the inheritance which is found in Christ without first understanding the image of Christ Himself. Far too many times we look solely to the inheritance that is found in Christ and we completely neglect and ignore the image of Christ. We do ourselves a great disservice when we choose to focus solely on the inheritance that is found to be in Christ without recognizing and understanding the tremendous power of the inheritance that is in Christ.
There are two specific references within Scripture which I can’t help but be reminded of when I consider the reality of looking beyond the inheritance, of looking beyond the provision, and looking beyond the blessing which is found in the person of Jesus Christ. The first reference is found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews—specifically in the twelfth chapter of the epistle. Consider if you will the words which the author of the epistle to the Hebrews wrote in this particular chapter beginning with the first verse: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:1-3). Within this particular set of verses the author of this epistle to the Hebrews sets forth to encourage their audience to fix their eyes on Jesus Christ who was the author and finisher of their faith. Since the saints were surrounded and ecompassed by a great cloud of witnesses which had essentially run the race before them, they were to now fix their eyes on Jesus Christ who was in all reality the author and finisher (or perfecter) of their faith. In other words, the author of this epistle sought to encourage the saints to fix their eyes upon Jesus Christ when they themselves were running the race which was before them. I feel compelled right now to write that there are a number of men and women who may seek to run the race which is before them, and yet while they are running that race they have their focus and their attention on the wrong reality. I am utterly and completely convinced that if we are going to run the race which is before us, it is absolutely imperative that we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ and Him alone.
I can’t help but be reminded of specific references found within the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews which describe the reality of the race which is in fact set before us. In fact, when writing unto the Hebrews the author of the epistle described those who had already run the race and where they did in fact fix their eyes and fix their gaze. Consider if you will the words which the author of this epistle wrote concerning Abraham: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10). Consider also if you will the words which the author of this epistle writes in this chapter beginning with the thirteenth verse: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 12:13-16). Consider also that which the author of this epistle wrote concerning Moses who was one who ran his race centuries earlier: “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the Son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 12:24-27).
It is quite clear from the references found in these particular verses that those who went before us upon the earth ran their race with all perseverance and patience. What’s more, is that when you read the words which the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote, you will find that when those saints which went before us ran the race which was set before them, they did so by keeping their eyes fixed and focused on something altogether different and other than themselves. When writing and speaking of Abraham the author writes how he looked for a city which had foundations, and a city whose builder and maker is God. When reading the words written in verses thirteen through sixteen we find that those who went before us did not receive the promises, but saw them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. This very reality suggests and reveals that those who say such things are declaring quite clearly and plainly that they are seeking a country—that they are seeking something entirely different than that which this earth has to offer. These saints which ran before us desired a better country, which was a heavenly country, and as a result of their focus, God is not ashamed to be called their God. Even when speaking of Moses, the author of this epistle wrote that Moses those to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. What’s more, is that Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. The author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote that Moses had respect unto the recompense of the reward, thus suggesting and revealing that not only was he not satisfied with the things of this world, but he was also looking for something that was far beyond what was present before him here on the earth. We dare not miss or lose sight of the significance of these realities, for we have all been called to run the race which has been set before us. The underlying truth is not whether or not we are in fact running the face, but whether or not our eyes are fixed on the correct reality which is before us.
The more I consider this reality of running the race which is before us I can’t help but be reminded of specific references within Scripture concerning our engaging ourselves in that which is before us in the here and the now. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle which was written unto the Philippian saints: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:12-16). With these words the apostle Paul clearly states and declares that he was doing one thing within his life—there was one single thing which he pursued within his life which took precedent over everything else. That which the apostle Paul did was forgetting those things which were behind, and reached forth unto those things which were before. What’s more, is the apostle Paul pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. For the apostle Paul there was always a pressing, there was also a pressing toward, there was always a reaching forth unto those things which were before him—those things which I might add were not found to be present here within or here upon the earth. In fact, when writing unto Timothy who was his spiritual son in the faith the apostle Paul would go on to write these words: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). These words the apostle Paul wrote after declaring unto Timothy his readiness to be offered, and that the time of his departure was at hand. In other words, the apostle Paul knew that the time of his departure was at hand, and he when he came to the end of his life he confidently and boldly declared to Timothy that he not only fought the good fight, but he also finished his course, and kept the faith. Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves is not whether or not we are running the race which is before us, but whether we are running this race, whether we are running this race well, and whether are running this race with our eyes on the correct prize.
I can’t help but be be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth in the first epistle which was written unto them. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto these saints beginning with the twenty-fourth verse of the ninth chapter: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainty; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it unto subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Within these verses the apostle Paul emphatically declares that there are countless men and women who run the race, and they all run the race together. Despite the fact that many run the race, there is only one that receives the prize—at least from an earthly, natural and physical standpoint. The apostle Paul uses this reality to encourage and instruct us to run the race in order that we might obtain, for we are not called to simply run the race for the sake of running the race. We are called to run the race in order that we might obtain, and order that we might receive the prize of the high calling of God which is found in Christ Jesus. Within this passage the apostle Paul not only speaks of running the race which is set before us, but the apostle Paul also writes concerning the fight which is also before us. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that in this life—in the here and now and the already but not yet—not only are we engaged in a fight, but we are also running a race. The race which we have been called to run we are to run in order that we might receive and obtain the prize, and we must never quit this race which is set before us. If we are going to run this race we must run the race in order that we might receive and obtain the prize of the high calling of God which is in Christ Jesus. What’s more, is that in this life we are called and have been called to fight the good fight of faith—a fight that cannot and will not end in the earlier rounds with a knock out. When we speak of fighting the good fight of faith we must recognize and understand that this fight is going to go all twelve rounds, and we must therefore have the endurance, the patience, the strength, the stamina, and the fortitude to last all twelve rounds. The fight we have been called to engage ourselves us is a knock out, drag out fight where the winner does in fact take all. The question is whether or not we are going to run the race and complete the race, and whether or not we are going to fight the good fight and last throughout the entire fight. There have been far too many men and women who have started the race, and yet for one reason or another they have ceased running and have found it more beneficial for themselves to quit the race rather than continue. What’s more, is that there have been countless men and women who have begun the fight and have perhaps lasted a few founds, yet for one reason or another they have stopped fighting and engaging themselves.
Concerning the race which has been set before us, and concerning the fight which we have been called to engage ourselves in we must recognize and understand that it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we fix our eyes correctly. In all reality, I am convinced that it is not enough simply to run the race, nor is it even enough to fight the good fight of faith alone, for we must also correctly and properly fix our eyes on that which is before us. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews wrote that since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses we are to not only lay aside every weight, but also to lay aside the sin which doth to easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is set before us. Furthermore, concerning our running this race we are to do so while looking unto Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. Thus, when we consider this race which we are to run, we are to run it and run it well by laying aside every weight, by laying aside the sin which so easily besets us, running with patience, and looking unto Jesus who is this author and finisher of our faith. In other words, if we are going to run the race which is set before us, we must do so with Jesus Christ being found squarely before us at the end of the finish line. IT is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that while we are to run the race which is set before us, we are to do so knowing that at the end of the race—at the finish line—there is not only a crown of righteousness that is set before us, but there is also something and someone that is far greater than any crown we could be given. I am reminded of the end of the movie Paul: Apostle of Christ, for when you come to the end of the movie, after the apostle Paul was beheaded, you find the movie immediately transitioning to a scene in heaven, thus suggesting the apostle Paul’s departure from this life into the celestial and eternal reality of heaven. What we first witness when the apostle Paul passes from this life to the next is his being approached by saints which have gone before—saints which would include Stephen whose stoning he oversaw and cast approval on, and even a little girl whom the movie suggests the apostle Paul murdered and killed in his “zeal” for the Lord. This scene would transition from certain saints which went before the apostle to a figure which begins to emerge in the distance and on the horizon—a figure which is none other than Jesus the Christ. The look of awe, wonder, shock, joy and relief of finally after so many years seeing Christ whom he had faithfully served and walked with since the day of his conversion is one that I will never forget, for this particular scene in the movie further helps to illustrate the tremendous reality that it is not a crown that we run the race for, nor is it a crown we fight the good fight of faith for, for it is Jesus Christ and Him alone who is the ultimate prize and inheritance in heaven. .
When you come to the fifteenth verse of the first chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Colossae you will find him writing concerning Christ, and how Christ is in fact the image of the invisible God. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto these saints beginning to read with verse fifteen of the first chapter: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by him I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:15-20). With these words the apostle Paul transitions away from the inheritance which is provided by the Father and is found in Christ to the image of Christ who is the image of the invisible God. THE INHERITANCE OF THE FATHER FOUND IN CHRIST WHO IS THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD! It’s actually interesting to consider that not only has Christ provided us with an inheritance, but He also provided us with an image as well—the image of God as seen in the person of Jesus Christ. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle John wrote in the first chapter of the gospel which he wrote describing the life and ministry of Jesus who is the Christ: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not…He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5, 11-14). With these words the apostle John not only declares of Christ that He was in the eternal Word which was with God in the beginning, and which is God, but the apostle John also declares that the glory which was displayed through Jesus who is the Christ was the same glory which was upon and with the Father.
IN order to add even more weight to this reality of Jesus Christ being the image of the invisible God, it is necessary and imperative that we understand from His own mouth how He saw Himself in light of the eternal Father who was in heaven. Consider if you will the words which Jesus Christ declared unto those who sought to kill Him because He declared that God was His Father: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth: and He will shew Him greater works that these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed form death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man” (John 5:19-27). Later on in the eighth chapter of the same gospel account we find the following words which were recorded by the apostle John: “Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go. Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me…Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also” (John 8:14-19). It is quite clear from the words which Jesus proclaimed and declared that He knew exactly who He was, for He knew that He came from the Father, and He knew that He was going to return to the Father. Jesus knew that He was the eternal Son of God, and that if any one truly saw and perceived Him, those same individuals would see the Father who is in heaven. IN all reality, Jesus Christ was Himself the perfect representation and manifestation of the Father within and upon the earth, and those who saw and beheld Him did in fact see His Father which was in heaven.
When I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of the epistle unto the Colossians, I can’t help but be completely struck with and by the reality of Jesus Christ being the image of the invisible God who is in heaven. I can’t help but be completely and utterly struck by the reality that Jesus Christ is not only the image of the invisible God who is in heaven, but Jesus Christ is the One whom we are to fix our eyes upon. It is only when we behold and look steadfastly upon Jesus the Christ that we can in all reality see the eternal Father who is in heaven. I am convinced that the single and sole reason why we as the saints of God would cease running the race which is before us is because we have removed our eyes from looking steadfastly upon Jesus who is the Christ. The only reason we would cease running the race which is before us is because we have ceased looking unto the One who is the author and perfecter of our faith. As I am sitting here today I can’t help but be incredibly challenged—not only to look beyond the inheritance to the image of the One from whom the inheritance flows, but also to ensure that our eyes are firmly fixed and fastened on the One who is the author of and perfecter of our faith. We have been called to run the race which has been set before us, and we have been called to fight the good fight of faith, and we must ensure that our eyes are properly fixed upon the One from whom the inheritance flows, and the One who is the image of the invisible God who is the eternal Father in heaven. I am incredibly challenged today—not merely to run the race which is before us, and not only to fight the good fight of faith, but to also fix me eyes upon the image of the eternal Father who is in heaven, and to keep my eyes firmly fixed and fastened on Him. It is only to the degree and measure that we fix and fasten our eyes on the true and living Christ that He becomes more real to us, and He becomes transfigured before our very eyes and we behold His glory. Oh that we would purpose and determine within ourselves that we are going to fasten our eyes firmly and steadfastly upon this Christ who is the image of gather invisible God, and who is the author and perfecter of our faith here on the earth.