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A Letter for Then and Now, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
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March 14, 2022 7:05 am

A Letter for Then and Now, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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March 14, 2022 7:05 am

Jesus Christ, Our All in All: A Study of Colossians

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When you engage in a conversation with someone who promotes cultic beliefs, it takes tremendous wisdom to call out the heresy. And that's because heretics are skilled at twisting the truth, and they find clever ways to disguise their beliefs.

In fact, much of what they say sounds quite orthodox. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll presents a brand new teaching series through Paul's letter to the Colossians. And on this first program, Chuck helps us understand the critical importance of theological purity and how to expose heresy. He titled today's study, A Letter for Then and Now. Colossians is one of the letters Paul wrote while he was under arrest, chained to a Roman soldier in Rome awaiting trial. That's why it's called a prison letter. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon are all prison letters.

That's why he says at the end, remember my chains. As you pray for me, remember I'm chained. Now, Colossians 1, 1 through 8. This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.

We are writing to God's holy people in the city of Colossae, who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. May God our Father give you grace and peace. We always pray for you and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and your love for all of God's people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the good news. The same good news that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God's wonderful grace. You learned about the good news from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ's faithful servant and is helping us on your behalf. He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.

You're listening to Insight for Living. To search the scriptures with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to slash studies. And now the message from Chuck called A Letter for Then and Now. I'm constantly impressed with the relevance of the Bible. Isn't it amazing that something written in the first century would speak volumes and specifically to the needs of the 21st century. There's a writer that calls this operating between two worlds and that's where we are. We look at the truth recorded in this first century and we realize it may have been written then, but it has everything to do with how we live now.

In fact, let me tell you this. I've learned over the years of ministry that it's never my task to make the Bible relevant. My job is not to convince you of the relevance of the scriptures.

It's to deliver the message and get out of the way and you realize how it has spoken directly to some need you may live with. As a matter of fact, you can be sure of at least three benefits from your time spent in the Bible. Number one, you will encounter the truth. You won't have to wonder because the Bible never lies. It will never lead you astray.

It will never give you false information. You will get the truth and only the truth from the scriptures. Now that means secondly, you will also be made aware of what is not the truth. You will come across sections as we will in this letter to the Colossians that would represent heresy.

Even though there were people in that first century who taught with persuasive abilities and with a great appeal to the intellect saying, Go here. Don't go there. Believe this.

Don't believe that. So Paul writes to say that that's not the truth. You need to be aware that that's camouflaging the lies. The better you get to know your Bible, the more you will understand truth and, I might add, the quicker you will be able to decipher heresy, that which isn't the truth, which brings up the third benefit. You will gain discernment to know the difference.

As you grow up, you discern right from wrong, truth from error. The better you get to know your way through the scriptures, the more discerning you will become. You hear that knock on your front door and you open the door and someone is there to tell you about their religion. And they're having a class over here where people are coming and they would like to invite you. And of course, they're going to be quoting verses from the Bible.

More heresies are promoted from verses out of the Bible than any other method. You will discern as you talk further with them and have the intelligence to address things that deal with their religion. You will realize this is not the truth.

You will have the discernment. Now, let's stay with all that for the next few minutes. Let me do a brief analogy between then and now. I've left room on your outline for you to write these things down if you want to, and only that.

But this might come to your mind later and you may want to use it. Let's start with embracing truth. Embracing truth written back then equips us to defend the faith now. Show me someone who really knows his or her way around the Bible and I will introduce you to the same person who is able to defend the faith.

Not in an argumentative way, not in an ugly manner, but in a calm, intelligent and deliberate fashion. Just simply reveal the truth and expose the error. When you embrace the truth written then, you will be better equipped to defend the faith now.

Here's the second. Acknowledging heresies back then reminds us of similar heresies going on today. As you see those things emerge and you find your friends falling captive to them or under the sway of them or beginning to support that false ministry, you will be concerned because you realize that's just like the heresy we saw right here in the letter to the Colossians. See, that's on Paul's heart and part of the reason he wrote the people of Colossae.

And now that brings us to the third. Maintaining discernment. Maintaining discernment from truth written back then keeps us alert to false teaching now. Maintaining discernment from truth written back then, in this case first century Colossians, keeps us alert to false teaching now.

Let me put it this way. The better your discernment, the quicker you can spot a phony. The better you know the pattern of a five dollar bill, the quicker you are able to spot a counterfeit five dollar bill. I came across a humorous story. It's a true story but it's funny and it illustrates how false religions do not conduct themselves.

Let me read this to you. It's about the Italian sailing team that were racing in the America's club. The race that particular year was held in Australia. Okay? On one of the days off, the Italian racing team decided to rent a jeep and go into the Outback in Australia to enjoy the scenery and to see if they could get a glimpse for the first time of a kangaroo or two.

They had never seen a kangaroo. The team had been completely outfitted by the Italian designer Gucci. Okay?

Stay with this. They wore Gucci jackets, they carried Gucci bags, and they all had been given Gucci watches. Here they are in the jeep, in the Outback, trucking along. As they're driving there, all of a sudden a kangaroo pops up in front of them and they run into it, knock it flat, is apparently dead.

They think, oh no, no. So the team members all jump out to take a look. Somebody said in the group, you know, at least we could take a picture. The driver suggested, well before we take a picture, let me put my jacket on the kangaroo and I also put my bag over his shoulder and put my watch on him. So he looked like he's a Gucci guy.

Okay? So they do this, unfortunately, just as they got all of that on, the kangaroo hopped up and rented to the woods. Wearing the jacket, carrying the bag, having to watch. Unfortunately, the driver's keys and wallet with his American Express card were in the jacket. Kids are just here, fellow kangaroos, as they look at him and they say, hey Ralph, where'd you get that Gucci jacket and that bag and what time is it?

And by the way, you got keys to a Land Rover and an American Express card. Who are you trying to kid? It's a kangaroo, okay? A five-year-old would know it's a kangaroo. He's not a Gucci salesman. He's not a member of the Italian racing team.

It's obvious there's no business wearing all that nonsense as he runs back in the woods. If you think false religions are going to be that obvious, you're going to be taken in by them overnight. They don't operate like that. In fact, let me show you something.

No extra charge. Second Corinthians, look at Second Corinthians Chapter 11. Now these verses will grab your attention. Second Corinthians 11, back a few letters, okay? Verse 13.

Look at what Paul writes. These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as kangaroos wearing Gucci clothes. No, they disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. Look at that. They wear robes like apostles, like bishops wear robes. They wear the collar. They got a pulpit.

They got people listening. Look at what he says further. I'm not surprised even Satan disguises himself as a kangaroo in Gucci outfits. No, as an angel of light.

Look at that. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Pay attention to verses like that or you'll be taken in by the persuasive charisma of those representing that which is false. Don't be afraid of calling the false false. Don't be afraid of identifying heresy as heresy. Paul certainly isn't. Back to the letters of the Colossians.

Let's look at this. Paul's letter is addressed to people who live in the little community known as Colossae near Laodicea, not far from Hierapolis, in the center, south central section of what we know today as Turkey, known then as Asia or Asia Minor. Little village. Paul had never been to Colossae. It's not even mentioned in the book of Acts in the travels of Paul.

It's a letter that goes to a little church, but Paul is concerned about them because they're getting invaded by the Gnostics. We'll learn about them later. Those who said, you want to believe that low-level intelligent stuff?

Let me take you to a level that will make you think. You'll see a whole new vista of truth. The people of Colossae are surrounded by that kind of heresy and Paul writes them to address this kind of thing. There's not only massive religious confusion in Colossae. Does that sound like today? There is not only empty philosophy represented by those of false teaching. Is that true today?

You better believe it. There was mysticism just like today. There was legalism just like today and the truth was being ignored just like today. That's this letter we're getting ready to study.

You talk about relevant. In fact, I prepared you a chart. Look on the other side of your outline, will you? This is called a horizontal chart. You read from left to right. The details of it as it relates to the particulars are on the left in the shaded area. The writer is Paul.

The date is around A.D. 60, 62. The theme is the supremacy and the sufficiency of Christ. Why would that be the theme? Because if Christ is supreme and sufficient, you don't need anything else and don't be afraid to think that. When you have Christ, you have God's all in all.

Now his concerns have to do with empty philosophies and Judaism legalism and Eastern mysticism and pious asceticism. And he says to them, don't be taken in by it. Look at the second chapter right here on the second section. See it there? Under Jesus Christ, our Lord, since Christ is our Lord, don't let anyone don't let anyone don't let anyone don't let it.

What am I doing there? I'm taking it right out of the letter. Look at Chapter two, verse four.

Don't let anyone deceive you. Chapter two, verse four. Verse eight, don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies. Verse 16, don't let anyone condemn you.

Then it sounds like the same thing, but it's different in the Greek. The next verse, verse 18, don't let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial and the worship of angels. And while I'm at it, says the apostle, verse 20, you have died with Christ who has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world? You will always have people who tell you you need to give up this or stop doing that or in order to be spiritual, you must start doing this.

You must always do that. And the list will go on and it's called legalism. That's nothing new.

It's been going on since the first century and even before then. And asceticism, you will be told to look pious, to conduct yourself in a way that has that hound dog look if you're really spiritual. Slump your shoulders. You know, that's the way pastors look. You kind of learn to walk like that.

Put your head down like this. It's called asceticism and you give up all the nice things because you are really spiritual. That's nonsense. It's nonsense. You'll get the backbone to say that when you study the letter to the Colossians.

It'll free you because the truth is designed to set you free. There's your chart. Hang on to it. We'll return to it from time to time. Now, let's get at it.

Back to chapter one. We're going to go right through this letter. He begins with a warm greeting and I love it. I love it that he doesn't yell at him at the very start.

He's concerned about him, but he greets him in a gracious way. The letter is from Paul. By the way, don't you like it in the first century how they wrote letters? They told you right away who's writing it.

Ever gotten a letter from somebody and they like to write? So there's eight or ten pages. You've got to go all the way to the end. Who in the world wrote this thing? Yeah, I figured it's Frank.

But you didn't know it until you got to the end. In the New Testament, in the first century, he told you right on the front end. I'm Paul. The letter is from Paul.

He even tells us the recipients. You're writing verse two to the city, the Christians in the city of Colossae. You're not left with guesswork. When you read your Bible, don't try to make it mystical.

Don't make it difficult. Just like you'd read a novel, just like you'd read a history book, a biography, just read your Bible in that same manner. The letter is from Paul. Who is Paul? Well, he is chosen by the will of God to be an apostolos, one sent forth with a message.

God called him to be his own when he was on the road to Damascus. God set him apart to be one of those special messengers called an apostle. So he introduces himself and he defines his role as an apostle, an apostle of Christ Jesus. And also Timothy's there with him. So I would imagine Timothy has come to visit Paul while he's under arrest in Rome. So he includes Timothy. Probably Timothy knew some people from Colossae.

So he names him. Look at verse two. We are writing to God's holy people in the city of Colossae. Hagios. H-A-G-I-O-S. Hagios means set apart to God's glory. Translated, holy.

Isn't that great? You're set apart to God's glory right there where you live. Wherever you're from, they happen to be from Colossae, you're among God's holy people. You're set apart for God's glory. That'll do something when you think about your role in your neighborhood. You know what?

It doesn't mean you look holy. Don't start that. Oh. Oh.

Oh. You know, all that nonsense. That isn't holy.

That's nonsense. That calls attention to you. In fact, Jesus says when you pray or when you fast, don't look like you're doing without. Clean yourself up.

Fast, but don't brag about it. You're holy because that's who you are, not what you look like. They're holy people in the city of Colossae. Look at what else. You are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.

Isn't that gracious of him to start like that? I'm Paul the Apostle. I'm sitting along here with Timothy, and I'm writing to you who are set apart to God's glory.

You happen to live in Colossae. You're faithful. We have the same paternity, same daddy. He's called God the Father, which means we're brothers and sisters. And best of all, we're in Christ.

We are in Christ. Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other. When you tune a whole row of pianos, you have one tuning fork. You don't tune a piano and then tune the next one on the basis of the first piano.

You go back to the fork, and each one tuned to the same fork is in perfect tune with one another. We're in Christ. That's the one thing we have in common. And then he levels them with this wonderful blessing. May God our Father give you grace, chorus, and peace. Shalom. The word grace has Greek roots. The word peace has Hebrew roots. The Greek word is Irenae, but it really goes all the way back to the ancient days of the Hebrews, and it means personal well-being. May God our Father give you great grace, this spontaneous, unmerited favor, this sovereignly bestowed loving-kindness. May you know that, and may you operate in a realm of personal well-being. I love the way he starts the letter. You know why?

Because it is so warm and precious. He starts by saying, you faithful friends in Colossae, set apart to God's glory. May you know His grace and His peace. With his very first message in the brand new study in Colossians, you're listening to the Bible teaching of Chuck Swindoll, and this is Insight for Living.

To learn more about this ministry, visit us online at Well, earlier today, we heard Chuck reinforce his deeply felt conviction about the relevance of this ancient book. The timeliness of Colossians truly speaks for itself. In fact, Chuck said, it's not my job to make Colossians relevant for our audience. The Bible is relevant.

My job is to present the truth and get out of the way. And those convictions are evident in a helpful book Chuck's written for you. And as a complement to this new study, I'm pleased to point you to his Living Insights Commentary on Colossians.

This book, which also includes his commentary on Philippians and Philemon, belongs in your collection of Bible study tools. To purchase a copy right now, go online to slash offer. Or call us.

If you're listening in the United States, dial 1-800-772-8888. You often hear me say that Insight for Living is made possible not through the purchase of resources, but the voluntary contributions of our monthly companions and all those who give one-time donations. We're always pleased to add more monthly companions to our team because nothing will accelerate the mission of Insight for Living more effectively than the predictable, steady income from our monthly companions. Plus, as a monthly companion, your consistent giving is channeled directly into providing this daily program and the many other resources we provide.

In that way, God is using you to spread a fragrance of His grace to all who come our way. Well, here's the number to call us if you're listening in the United States. Dial 1-800-772-8888. Or sign up online at slash monthly companion. Join us again tomorrow when Chuck Squendall continues his brand new study in Paul's letter to the Colossians, right here on Insight for Living. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-22 22:58:50 / 2023-05-22 23:07:48 / 9

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