To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.
Mystery religions were popular in Paul’s day. Only elite insiders were privy to the secrets of their chosen deities. I liken it to an exclusive club for religious pretenders. And since Paul was talking to a predominantly Gentile group of believers, he spoke in terms they could understand.
The one true God has a gloriously rich mystery which He chose to “make known among the Gentiles.”
In Old Testament times, before Christ’s victory over death, the Holy Spirit occasionally came upon chosen individuals to empower them for God’s specific purposes. At no time had God indwelled all of His followers, and certainly not the Gentiles. The Lord taking up residence in believers was unthinkable, a mystery hidden from the ancients, but revealed in the age of grace.
The God who was once unapproachable except through prayer, whose face could never be looked upon, and whose name was never actually spoken — now inhabited Jesus’ followers. People once considered unholy, unclean, and unrighteous were now cleansed by the shed blood of Jesus and made fitting vessels for the spirit of Christ to reside.
In 1986, I was asked to emcee an appearance by President Ronald Reagan at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center. Before I could stand on the stage with the President, I had to be carefully vetted. That meant filling out forms, a background check, and an interview with a secret service agent. Ultimately, the U.S. government was satisfied that I was fit for the task.
Think of what it took for you and me to gain the enormous privilege and honor of a close personal 24/7 relationship with the heavenly Father. Because of sin, we could have never passed the vetting requirements, no matter how hard we tried. Only Jesus’ sacrificial death could satisfy God’s demands.
Christ in you. It is a thought that is so lofty and so amazing that it is difficult to fully comprehend. But because Christ is in us, we have His continual help preparing us for glory.
What does Paul mean by the “hope of glory? In Chapter 3 at verse 4 in Colossians, the Apostle declares: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
We share glory with Christ (Romans 8:18). If we die before His return, we will be raised in glory (1 Corinthians 15:43). Glory is eternal (2 Timothy 2:10), yet to be revealed (1 Peter 5:1), and when the Chief Shepherd appears we “…will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:4)
Here in Alabama, we know a lot about winning championships, at least in football. That national championship trophy is something to behold. Our world places a lot of emphasis on winning. And the bigger the prize, the greater the glory. However, the glory is temporary and it fades.
Christians are in line for the greatest prize and glory of all — the eternal reward won for us by Christ. Nothing can compare with God’s permanent and unfading glory through Jesus. Glory is our inheritance, our future, our eternal home, and our forever state of being with God.
For additional info on this topic, check out this article: Will We Know Our Loved Ones in Heaven?
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September). Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
There’s an old hymn called I Surrender All, which is what Jesus meant when He said His followers must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him.
When I was young, I called myself a Christian, but I never thought of myself as a disciple. I figured that disciples were Jesus’ earliest followers. And I never thought Christianity required giving up anything.
Well, as was the case with many of my early notions about Christianity, I was wrong. Disciples are for today and there is self-denial involved in following Christ.
I learned that calling yourself a Christian does not mean you ARE a Christian. I also discovered that Christianity is not handed down or inherited from our parents. The Weirich family surname was a given. Their Christian faith was not. That’s a choice only I could make.
There’s more to becoming a Christian than just believing. “Even the demons believe…” (James 2:18) James made that statement in the context of works that give evidence of faith. Those works are the self-denial and taking up the cross to which Jesus refers.
To be a Christian is to be surrendered and committed to Christ, believing not only in Him but willingly following His guidance for life, which comes through His word and the indwelling Holy Spirit. It’s not a part-time job for extra Brownie points with God, but a full-time commitment to live for the One who saved you.
So what does it mean to deny self? Self-denial is an act of love. The greatest example of self-denial is Christ giving His life for us. His motivation was love. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
It took marriage and having children for me to understand the power of love in acts of self-denial. Those feelings of self-denial rooted in the power of love can lead to a willingness to trade places with a suffering child. Have you ever heard a mother say, “I would trade places with her if I could,” in reference to her sick child. I believe people who make those statements are just saying it because it sounds good, but it’s something they sincerely mean.
I recall hearing a father whose son had died in a wreck say, “Oh, if God had only taken me instead of him.”
Self-denial for Christ is not an overwhelming burden for followers of Christ. These are acts of love we give for the head of our forever family.
Any pursuit in life that is worthwhile requires commitment and sacrifice. No telling how many hours I spent in the practice room trying to master the trombone. But I didn’t hate the sacrifice because I loved playing the instrument and wanted to be the best I could be.
Our passions in life drive us, through pain and sacrifice, toward something better. All the more for Christ as we serve Him. He is, after all, worthy of our best.
Have you ever considered why they call plays depicting the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, Passion Plays? His passion is us — and proven in His act of sacrificial love.
So when Christ said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,” He wasn’t asking us to do anything He wasn’t prepared to do for us.
Saving faith isn’t just believing. It’s believing with surrender to the person and the will of Christ.
For more on this topic, check out this article: With Christian Freedom Comes Responsibility
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
From 1972 to 1974, I was the program director at WSGN in Birmingham, Alabama. One night, I was awakened by a phone call. A disc jockey was calling to tell me he had been arrested and thrown in jail. “Come bail me out so I don’t miss my air shift,” he said.
The following morning, my alarm went off as usual. As I prepared for work, I told my wife about a strange dream about a disc jockey who needed me to bail him out of jail.
Upon arrival at the radio station, I was greeted by the news director. “Did you hear what happened?” Then he told me that one of our air personalities was in jail. Oops. That wasn’t just a dream. It was the real deal.
Soon after, the DJ was released, and he came to see me. “What did you do to end up in jail?” I asked.
“I was in a hurry to leave the house so I didn’t fasten my pants. Then a policeman pulled me over for speeding and told me to get out of my car. When I stepped out my pants fell down around my ankles.”
He was arrested and charged with — indecent exposure.
Days later the news director again was the bearer of bad news. “I saw (so-and-so) at the courthouse today. He was standing before the judge for sentencing. And guess what he was wearing?”
“I don’t have a clue.”
“He was wearing a WSGN station t-shirt.”
When he showed up for work, I was there to greet him. “As a radio personality you are a representative of this radio station. Your behavior is an embarrassment. And standing in front of the judge, wearing a station t-shirt is unacceptable! What on earth were you thinking?”
“I thought the judge would let me off if he knew where I worked.”
In today’s focus text, Jesus instructs His disciples to show “…yourselves to be my disciples.” We are to represent Him in the best possible light. Our conduct and good works should demonstrate we belong to Christ.
The “fruit” of which Jesus speaks is our work and deeds that result from being rightly connected to Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” His power (as the vine) runs through us (the branches) to produce fruit that benefits those who come in contact with us.
Separate the branch from the vine and it dies and accomplishes nothing. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” But when the branch remains on the vine, it produces fruit as intended by God.
The fruit you produce is not designed solely for your enjoyment. When God blesses you with resources, talents, or abilities, He wants you to use them to impact the lives of others. And He wants it done in a way that represents Him well.
Jesus in you, and you in Jesus — results in righteous works and behavior that blesses others and glorifies God.
By the way, in the story about the DJ, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you (as Paul Harvey used to say) “the rest of the story.” Years later, after working at other radio stations in other cities, I returned to Birmingham. Someone asked me if I remembered this fellow.
I responded, “Of course, how could I ever forget?”
“He gave His life to Christ, and now — he’s a preacher.”
No longer was he serving up rock-and-roll on the radio… he was now serving “The Rock of Ages” on a Christian radio station.
Christians are fruit trees for Christ, the Lord’s representatives on earth. Does your fruit bring glory to the Father? Are you flying solo, or are you in Christ and serving to bear fruit for His glory?
For more on this topic, check out this article: What is Required of Those Who Follow Christ
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 4 (October – December) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.