Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Colossae. More specifically, today’s reading is found in verses eighteen through twenty-five of the third chapter. When you come to this particular portion of the third chapter of the epistle you will find language that should be familiar to you if you’ve read the epistle to the Ephesians. If you turn and direct your attention back to the fifth chapter of the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian saints you will find that he provided very specific instructions to a very specific group of people. As you read the final set of verses within the fifth chapter you will find the apostle Paul not only writing and speaking to husbands instructing them in the way they are to act and behave toward their wives, but the apostle also writes to wives concerning their behavior toward their husbands. What’s more, is the apostle Paul also wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus and addressed the relationship children are to have with and to their parents. What’s more, is the apostle Paul would go on to write and speak directly to servants and those who find themselves in the service of another. In all reality, this reality and concept of being in service to another is not a native reality to us who are the saints of God. Furthermore, I would dare say that you cannot call yourself a saint of God, nor even a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ if you cannot life your life in the service of others. It is true that in this epistle the apostle Paul addressed actual physical servants, however, I am convinced that just as their was a mystery that lie buried beneath the surface of husbands living their wives, so also there is a deeper mystery that lies beneath the surface of the relationship children have with and toward their parents. I am convinced that there is deep mystery that exists within the reality of servants obeying their masters and watching carefully over their service unto them.
I have to admit that I absolutely love these two passages of Scripture—both that which is found in the epistle which was written to the saints at Ephesus, as well as the epistle which was written to the saints which were at Colossae—foe that which the apostle is writing about goes much deeper than the relationship that exists between a husband and wife. That which the apostle Paul writes within this passages of scripture goes much deeper than simply that relationship which exists within the realm of covenant, for marriage is in fact a covenant between two individuals before God, as well as a covenant with God. That which we find in this passage of Scripture goes much deeper than the relationship children are to have with their parents—that which more often than not was born and birthed out of and from a place of covenant. One thing that makes this passage truly unique is when you consider it in light of children who grow up in single parent homes, or children who grow up in abusive homes, or even children who grow up in homes which are plagued with drug and alcohol addiction. These words do not exclude those children who are growing up in foster homes, or even those children who have been adopted as a result of various circumstances within the lives of their original parents. What’s more, is that this reality touches that marriage where the husband is a follower of Jesus Christ, while the wife presently is not. These words touch the reality of what marriage where the wife is living her life in service to God whereas the husband is not. These words touch the reality of marriages where abuse and infidelity are found to be present and manifested. In all reality, how do you reconcile such words with such realities which are common in our society today? How do you explain such realities given the tremendous dangers which countless marriages, families and homes face in this culture and society? How do you reconcile such words with the tremendous civil unrest that is found within many homes, and the various trials and troubles which continually face relationships between husbands and wives, as well as relationships between children and their parents?
In all reality, I am convinced that what we find in these words truly has nothing to do with the particular relationship itself as much as it has to do with the individual(s) within the relationship. What I mean by that is that we cannot answer for the actions, the behaviors or the responses of another. When you read the sacred text of Scripture you must come face to face with the reality that you are called to be accountable for your actions and your actions alone. With that being said, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand the tremendous responsibility we have within our own hearts and lives that in all reality takes precedent over everything else. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the epistles which he wrote unto the saints which were at Rome. When you begin reading the twelfth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Rome you will find this chapter opening and beginning with words which we are all familiar with: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that the present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:1-4). Within this particular passage of Scripture we are first confronted with the tremendous reality to present our bodies as living sacrifices, which are holy and acceptable unto God—an act which is our reasonable service. It is imperative that we begin here, for we must recognize that our body—yea, and even our very lives themselves—do not belong to us, nor are we entitled to any type of ownership over them. Lest you consider this reality to be far-fetched, I would present you with the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the sixth chapter of the first epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth: “What? Know hey not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Pay close attention to the words which are found in this particular chapter within the first epistle written unto the saints which were at Corinth, for with tremendous authority, conviction, passion and power the apostle Paul declares that our lives are not our own. With tremendous authority and conviction the apostle Paul writes unto the saints at Corinth that not only was their body not their own, but even their very spirit was not their own. When we read the words which the apostle Paul writes to the saints which were at Rome concerning the presenting of our bodies as living sacrifices, we must recognize and understand that the only way to truly perform this very act within our lives is to recognize and understand that our bodies are not our own. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—do you fully understand, and do you accept the fact that your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and that as such your body does not belong to you? Do you fully accept the reality that you are not entitled to any claim, nor any ownership over your body in the least bit? We do ourselves a great disservice and play a very dangerous game when we believe the lie and the deception that our bodies somehow belong to us and that we have claim over them. The tremendous danger that exists within and around this way of thinking is that if we believe that our bodies belong to us and that we are entitled to exercise dominion and authority over it to do with it what we will, we cannot and will not present it before and unto the Lord as a living sacrifice, which is holy and acceptable. WHEN WILL YOU REALIZE THAT IT DOESN’T BELONG TO YOU? As I am sitting here this morning I am directly confronted with the overwhelming reality that exists within this very question, for I am wonderfully convinced that this question is directly connected how we treat our bodies in this world. I can’t help but be directly confronted with the reality that the Spirit of the living God is speaking unto His saints and the people of God in this generation and bringing them face to face with the reality that their bodies do not belong to them. What’s more, is that with that being said, we must recognize and understand that we can and will only bring unto the Lord that which we do not believe belongs to us in the first place, and that which belongs to Him and Him alone.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the Lord spoke unto Moses while he was atop the mountain during those forty days and forty nights receiving the Law. If you turn back to the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find a truly unique passage concerning the males which were found among the camp of the children of Israel. Consider if you will the words which are found in this particular chapter beginning with the fourteenth verse: “Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year. Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (Thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou comest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty) And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labour, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labour out of the field. Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning. The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God” (Exodus 34:14-19). Pay close attention to the words which the Lord spoke unto Moses in this particular passage concerning no man appearing before Him empty-handed, for it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the reality that we are to never appear before the Lord empty-handed. In other words, each and every time we appear before the Lord we are to bring something with which we will sacrifice and offer unto Him. The question I can’t help but be confronted with is whether or not we truly accept the reality that there is absolutely nothing we have—including our very bodies and lives—which belong to us. Absolutely everything we have within ourselves belong to the Lord, and the sooner were realize and accept that reality, the sooner we can adhere to and follow the words which the apostle Paul wrote concerning presenting our bodies as living sacrifices.
I continue to be convinced of the reality that we can and we will only bring before the Lord that which we believe belongs to Him in the first place. We cannot and will not bring unto the Lord that which we do not believe belongs to Him in the first place. I am reminded of the words which our Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers—words which are recorded for us in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Consider if you will the words which are recorded in this gospel beginning with the twenty-fourth verse of the chapter: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28). I am also reminded of the words which our Lord spoke earlier on in His life and ministry, which are recorded for us in the tenth chapter of the very same gospel. I present you with the words which Matthew recorded in the tenth chapter beginning with the thirty-fourth verse: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth me after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loveth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39). We must come face to face with the incredible truth that is contained within the words which Jesus spoke on each of these occasions, for these words directly confront the danger that exists when we seek to hold on to our lives rather than offering them up as a living sacrifice which is holy and acceptable in the sight of the living God. There is a strong connection that exists between the words which the apostle Paul wrote concerning the presenting of our bodies as living sacrifices and Jesus’ words to deny ourselves, take up our cross, to follow after Him, and to lose our lives.
WHEN WILL YOU REALIZE THAT WHAT YOU HAVE DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU? WHEN YOU CEASE TRYING TO HOLD ON TO THAT WHICH I AM CALLING YOU TO LOOSE AND LET GO OF? As I am sitting here right now I am directly confronted with the reality that we spend a considerable amount of time holding on to that which we have been called to bring before and offer unto the living God. The question we must ask and be confronted with when considering this is why. Why do we choose to hold on to that which we have been called to loose and let go? The answer is actually quite simple, for we choose to hold on to that which we first believe belongs to us, and that which we believe we are entitled to. Think about it—in the Old Testament under the Old Covenant, men and women were called to bring their gifts and their offerings before the Lord and unto His servants the priests at the tabernacle which stood among them. The truth of the matter is that men and women could and would only bring unto the Lord that which they recognize and understood did not belong to them. I am utterly and completely convinced that we must come face to face with the reality that there is absolutely nothing we have that belongs to us. This includes even our own bodies, which the apostle Paul teaches us are the Temple of the Holy Spirit and are not our own, but were bought with a price. We can and will only present our bodies as living sacrifices if we first believe and accept the reality that even our own bodies do not belong to us, but rather belong to the living God. The apostle Paul could write such words unto the saints which were at Rome, for he knew and understood that our bodies did not belong to us and that we had absolutely no claim over them. We play a very dangerous game when we think and falsely believe the lie that our bodies belong to us, and that we are somehow entitled to exercise authority and dominion over them to do with them as we please. Oh how misguided and deceived we truly are when we think that our bodies somehow belong to us, and that we are entitled to do with them as we will. The apostle Paul wrote and instructed the saints of God to present their bodies as living sacrifices which were holy and acceptable in the sight of the God because he knew that such was an offering which was acceptable in the sight of God. We reach a tremendous place within our hearts and lives when can present our bodies—when we can present all of ourselves unto the Lord as living sacrifices and hold nothing back—and do so willingly and voluntarily. We find ourselves in an absolutely tremendous place within our lives when we can truly present our bodies as living sacrifices holy and acceptable unto the Lord and make no attempt to hold anything back.
I am convinced that it is only when we recognize that our bodies and even that our lives do not belong to us that we can present them as living sacrifices holy and acceptable in the sight of the living God. It is only when we truly recognize that our bodies do not belong to us that we can present them as a living sacrifice before the Lord which can be used for His service and His intended purposes. What’s more, is that it is only when we recognize and understand that our bodies and our lives are not our own that we can live in the reality of not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. It is only when we recognize and accept the fact that our bodies and our lives do not belong to us that we can think soberly and rightly concerning ourselves, and even those around us. In fact, I would dare say that the words we find and the words we read in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints at Rome can only be made possible when we truly let go of and choose not to hold on to our bodies and lives. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul writes unto the saints which were at Rome beginning with the ninth verse: “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in Prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21). What’s more is that I can’t help but also be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter of the epistle which he wrote unto the Philippian congregation:
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any Bowles and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, or one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:1-8).
You might be wondering why I chose to include so many different references within Scripture in order to help us understand that which we read in verses eighteen through twenty-five, yet if we are truly going to understand how wives can submit themselves to their husbands, how husbands can love their wives, how children can obey their parents, and how servants can obey their masters. I absolutely love the words which the apostle Paul presents us with in the fifth chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesians, for the apostle Paul appeals to the relationship Christ has with His bride in order to paint the picture of how husbands should act towards and love their wives. Beginning with the twenty-second verse of the fifth chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints we find the following words which are parallel to that which we find in the epistle written unto the saints which were at Colossae: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man every yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherished it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ephesians 5:22-33).
What I so love about that which we find in this particular passage of Scripture is that the apostle Paul brings everything back to Jesus the Christ who is the head of the body. When it came to the preaching of the epistle Paul we understand that he determined to preach nothing save Christ, and Christ crucified, and Christ risen from the grave, and Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, and soon to come back for a glorious church that is without spot or wrinkle. When I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fifth chapter of the epistle unto the Ephesian saints I absolutely love that he brought everything back to the person of Christ, and the relationship which Jesus has with the church, which is not only His body, but also His bide. When we speak of the Church we must understand it—not only as the body of Christ, but we must also understand it as the bride of Christ. The apostle Paul wrote and spoke of the husband being the head of the wife, and then immediately transitioned to the reality that Christ is in fact the head of the church. What’s more, is that immediately after the apostle Paul declared that Christ is the head of the church, he went on to write concerning Christ that He is the saviour of the body. Furthermore, the apostle Paul declared that as the church is subject unto Christ, so also wives should be to their own husbands in every thing. Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous significance in this reality, for everything has its root and its foundation in our relationship with Christ, and Christ’s relationship with us. What we read concerning husbands loving their wives, and wives submitting unto their husbands is centered upon the relationship that exists between Jesus Christ and the Church which is His body and bride. In all reality, I would dare say that if we are truly going to love our wives as Christ loved the church we must properly understand the relationship that exists between Christ and His church. What’s more, is that we must know our own role and our own place within the body, for no one who fails to understand their role and relationship within the body can properly interact with those around them. I don’t care if this touches the covenant relationship of marriage, or the place of employment, or friendships, or anything else that is present within our lives. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand our role and our place within the body. The apostle Paul wrote that the church is subject to Christ, and used that reality to express to wives that they are to be subject to Christ. The apostle Paul wrote that Christ loved His church, and gave Himself for it, and then used that reality to speak to husbands concerning how they are to treat and act toward their wives.
When you read the words which the apostle Paul writes to the saints which are at Colossae you will notice something present in this epistle that was not present in the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus. Consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular chapter beginning with the twenty-third verse: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respecter of persons” (Colossians 3:23-25). Did you catch the difference between the two epistles? When writing to the saints which were at Colossae the apostle Paul instructed and encouraged them that whatever they did, they were to do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men. This reality is found in the tenth chapter of the first epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth, for within this epistle the apostle Paul wrote “whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). In the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Ephesus we find the apostle Paul writing unto them saying, “doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free” (Ephesians 6:6-8). Please don’t miss the significance of what is written and recorded in this particular passage of Scripture, for what the apostle is suggesting is that whatever we find ourselves doing we are to do it as unto the Lord rather than as unto men. Perhaps one of the greatest dangers we face within our lives is attempting to do what we do for men rather than as for or unto the living God. The apostle Paul emphatically wrote and declared that we are to do everything within our lives for the glory of God, and yet the underlying question that I am finding myself asking is whether or not we are truly following this reality. When we enter into our place of employment, and when we engage ourselves on our jobs—do we do it as unto the Lord? When we engage ourselves in relationships—do we do it as unto the Lord? When we engage ourselves with our spouse—do we do it as unto the Lord and not as unto the other person? When we engage ourselves with our children—do we do it as unto the Lord, or do we do it as unto men? The apostle Paul was very clear that whatever we do [this word “whatever” suggests and implies absolutely everything we do] we are to do for the glory and the honor of the Lord and not for anyone else. Imagine what your work would look like if you engaged yourself on your job as doing everything unto the Lord rather than unto men. Imagine how your relationships would change and would be radically altered and transformed if you did everything in your relationships as unto the Lord and not unto men. Imagine what would happen in your marriage if you engaged yourself in your marriage as unto the Lord and not as unto men alone? The single greatest challenge we face within our lives is to do everything, to say everything, and to live our entire lives for the sole purpose of glorifying the Lord and Him alone. Does your life bring glory to the Lord, and do you glorify Him in everything you do—regardless of what it is you find yourself doing each day?