Heresy is not the invention of today's generation. In fact, the New Testament is riddled with stories about religious leaders who strayed from proper theology. Just like today, churches were tempted to modify their theology in order to suit their own preferences.
Heresy is like legalism, mysticism, and piety. Well, today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll is teaching from Colossians, Chapter 1, in a brand new teaching series called, Jesus Christ, Our All in All. Chuck titled this first message in the series, A Letter for Then and Now, and we begin with prayer. Thank you Father for the privilege of serving you and for naming you as our God. We live in a world that's lost its way and there are many this day, though they don't look like it, who are awash.
They go to bed at night struggling with guilt and shame and disappointment in their lives, not knowing why life isn't unfolding as it should. So many are fearful as they're getting older of dying and not knowing much about where they'll be going and therefore we're in a world of hurt and we who know Christ are so blessed to have answers that relate to peace of heart, freedom from fear, an absence of panic, a knowledge of the future, and the joy of obedience. Thank you for accepting us just as we are and I pray for those who have never met the Savior that before they leave they will have begun a relationship and will carry them through the rest of their lives. Thank you our Father for this opportunity to call you our Father in the name of Jesus. We ask this.
Everybody sit. Amen. 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 insightworld.org slash studies. And now the message from Chuck called A Letter for Then and Now. 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.
He even tells us the recipients. I'm writing verse 2 to the city, the Christians in the city of Colossae. You are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.
Isn't that gracious of him to start like that? And then he levels them with this wonderful blessing. May God our Father give you grace, chorus, and peace.
Shalom. I love the way he starts the letter. You know why? Because it is so warm and gracious. Isn't it good he doesn't put his hands on his hips and say, now that I have your attention Colossians, what's this nonsense you're involved in? I just heard about it from Epaphras and I'm up to here with it.
That helps nobody. He starts by saying, you faithful friends in Colossae, set apart to God's glory. May you know his grace and his peace. And since we are brothers and sisters in the same family, we have Christ in common with each other. By the way, in our fast-paced world, it's easy to miss a gracious opening.
We got an agenda and we want to get to the point. And so our emails start with Joe. I've been concerned about so-and-so. How about, hey Joe, how are you? I've been thinking about you lately, man. I've heard times are tough and I'm praying for you. I care about you. In fact, you realize, Joe, God's preparing you for something great. How gracious. We can learn a lesson from the way Paul begins a letter. We could all do better with a little warmth.
How great to have as your opening line. Let me encourage you with something and then tell them as you've been thinking of them, you've been praying for them. In fact, that's exactly what Paul does. Look at his commitment to prayer in verse 3. We always pray for you.
Isn't that amazing? He didn't even know them. You could pray for people you don't know. You see them on the television. You see them in the workplace. You see them in the church.
Paul's praying for the Colossians and I'm not sure he could name any of them unless Epaphras had introduced him. Secondhand, he says, we always are praying for you. We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me encourage you to open your conversation with something like that. I really give thanks for you. I'm really grateful. I'm really grateful for you.
It's just so disarming. Now you got your pen ready. I'm gonna have you mark three words.
Here we go. For what did he pray? Verse 4. We have heard of your faith. Mark your faith.
We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and now mark this, your love for all God's people which come from, here it is, your confident hope, your faith, your love, your hope. Now you might think as you are hearing this, Chuck, how did you see that? Well, I read and this one of benefits of reading several times.
I didn't see it the first time through. I marked it in yellow so I wouldn't miss it the next time, but when I read it the second, third, fourth time, I began to see, oh, faith, that's the foundation of their salvation. For by grace you have been saved through faith, not of yourselves, it's the gift of God lest anyone should boast.
It's not a works. And as a result of having faith in the Lord Jesus, your heart is warmed and massaged to love God's people. One of the great benefits of coming to know Christ is what it does to your response to others. You're not as critical. You're not as negative. You don't answer out loud, but haven't you been in settings where every time a name is mentioned somebody says something bad about them?
What an unhappy setting. When faith is at work in your life, it affects your love for those folks. And you really use the word love. Paul, I love you Epaphras.
I really love you. And then as he's praying for them, he says, I'm praying for your confident hope or about your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. These were people who anticipated the great future. That by the way is another wonderful benefit of knowing Christ. You have a future.
You have a future. Not long ago, Cynthia was not feeling well at all. And the result was we took her to the hospital and we admitted her. And thankfully there was nothing really that seriously wrong. We were relieved to know that, but we were there for three days. And it gave me a chance to walk along the hallway of a hospital.
Could have been any hospital, but happened to be this one. And I decided I would just every once in a while glance. And I saw the hollow eyes of heartbroken people. I wondered how many of them feared the end of the road. They're hopeless.
They're hopeless. When you know Christ, you don't fear the end. The end reveals what it's all been about. That's where there will be rewards. That's where there will be a home. That's where there will be eternal blessings. No more tears, no more sadness, no more sorrow, no more death, no more disease, no more disability.
That's our future. Paul, when he prays for these people of Colossae, remembers that they are people confident in their hope. In fact, he says in the last part of the sentence, or the last sentence, you have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the good news.
Isn't that great? Part of the package deal, if you'll let me use those words, part of the package you get when you trust Christ is that you get a hope, which you've never had before. You have the assurance. That's why when you attend the memorial service of a believer surrounded by a family of believers, you won't hear wailing. You'll hear tears.
You'll feel the grief of the loss. But all of us there at that memorial service know this isn't the end. This is the beginning of what life is all about in Christ.
And it gives you confidence to live this life. Now he wants to address the good news before he finishes his opening, so let's do that. The same good news came to you that came to you is going out all over the world.
Let me point something out you may have missed. We're not born knowing the good news. We're ignorant of the good news.
Getting older doesn't mean we get it. Someone has to tell it. That's why Paul said to the Romans in chapter 10, how will they know without someone to tell them? Someone told you the good news. My mother and dad told me, mainly my mother, told me the good news from the earliest years growing up. We had faithful preachers who declared the good news and I didn't have it. Even though I was raised in a family that loved God, I wasn't born with it. Your children are not automatically equipped. They don't get it by osmosis because you believe they're part of the belief system.
No, no, no. Each one of us must have the good news brought to us by someone. Something who brought the good news to you.
And can I throw in a little extra here? It's kind of nice if you just write them a note and say thank you. Thank you for introducing me to the most significant person I've ever known in my life. Thank you for telling me. Thank you for the good news.
The same good news that came to you is going out. Now, how did the Colossians know about the good news? They weren't born knowing about it.
They're in the little village of Colossi in the middle of Turkey. How would they know? Look at verse 7. Look at it. You learned about the good news from Epaphras, our brother, our beloved co-worker. Now, how did I know that? I read. Just, oh, I'm not sitting in my study and God goes, it was from Epaphras.
It doesn't happen like that. My desk is just like your desk. A little messier than yours is, quite likely. And I have a selectric typewriter.
Love it. And it's all part of the system of my study, but I have to read it. I read it out loud. I read it over and over and over and I come across, they learned about the good news from Epaphras.
How great. Now you know when he says the good news, verse 6, that came to you, it came from Epaphras. I think Epaphras is their pastor. Probably began being an evangelist in the city of Colossi. And they heard the good news that Christ died for their sins and was raised from the dead and they believed. And Paul said, good for you. I applaud that you have believed that you have had the faith to trust in Christ. Epaphras is the one who brought it to you. Now please notice, we don't get it to keep it, we get it to share it. See verse 6, the good news that came to you is going out all over the world. I love that.
You heard it from this man, you're now growing in it, but you know what's wonderful? You don't keep it. You don't keep it. If you're in the desert and you happen to find an oasis of water and you've got other people in the group that are all spread out, they're starving for a drink, you don't say, hey, Bill, let's don't say anything about the water. It's just between you and me, okay? This is for us. You go, hey, you guys, come over here. There's an oasis.
They're in water here. They all come over there and you tell them about it because you're going to share the good news. That's the way it is with Christ. It's a wonderful thing to be able in a daily easy flowing conversation to talk to someone about faith in Christ. Some of you haven't done that in years, maybe never.
I don't say it to shame you, I say it to exhort you. You got the good news thanks to somebody. Release it. Talk to the guy that works on your lawn about it. Discuss it with somebody that's putting gas in their tank at the same station. You see them regularly. Doors open, maybe sitting on an airplane. Now be careful, okay? Nobody wants to get blasted by the local self-appointed evangelist. Oh, I'm glad you're sitting there. I've got a Bible I want to read to you and you will sit and listen to the message of the gospel. Please be gracious. There are a number of ways to open the door for this and you know what I'm talking about.
Obviously, Epifras method was very effective. In fact, please observe not only is the gospel bearing fruit everywhere, look at the rest of the verse. It's changing lives just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God's wonderful grace.
So it's one of the greatest things about Christianity. Your life has changed. It changes you. You clean up your talk. You clean up your thoughts. You get more unselfish. You really feel compassion for people in need.
You're not as suspicious or negative or pessimistic. It's wonderful grace that's come to you. Verse 7, you learned about it from Epifras. He's Christ's faithful servant. He's helping us on your behalf. So he's telling Paul about them. He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.
How magnificent. Let me tell you, when you embrace the good news, you embrace the truth. And if there's something this world is short on, it's truth. In fact, we're so politically correct nowadays that you don't dare put a definite article in front of the word truth, lest you look like you're dogmatic or arrogant. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, the life. Right?
Sure he did. Don't be afraid of that. Don't be afraid of calling him the way and the truth and the life. You Colossians have had your life turned around because you've gotten a hold of the truth.
James Russell Lowell put it this way in his piece titled, The Present Crisis, dated 1844. Though the cause of evil prosper yet his truth alone is strong. Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne. I love that line. Yet that scaffold sways the future and beyond the dim unknown standeth God within the shadows, keeping watch above his own.
Isn't that great? Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne. So quit fussing about the wrong on the throne. Okay? Do your work on the scaffold.
Sharing of Christ. Now let me give you three tips for absorbing and applying this letter. Okay?
Right quick. Number one, read the letter repeatedly. I invite you to read it at least once a week during this 10 week period. Okay?
Let's all get on board on that. Get yourself a Bible or a New Testament, find Colossians, put a little ribbon there or marker there and read it through. Just go right through these 95 verses. You can read it in about 12 minutes.
If you read slower, about 20 minutes. If you want to read it aloud, I suggest that as well. But read it through at least once a week. When I was at seminary, one of the men who impacted my life was a guest Bible lecturer named Dr. John Mitchell from Scotland. He had a wonderful way of rolling his arms and he would say, read your Bible. Men, read your Bible. So I began to read my Bible.
And I got along with him one time and I said to him, Dr. Mitchell, I got to tell you, you know the Bible better than anybody I've ever known. Ah, Chuck, I know it because I read it and I read it repeatedly. Repeatedly. I practice that repeatedly.
Not being Scottish. Read it repeatedly. Say, I've already read this. Yeah, I know it.
I don't care. Read it again. Because you missed a whole lot, like a great movie. You see it, you think, we need to see this again. And you see it again, you go, was that in it the first time I saw it? I didn't even see it.
You'll see things you never saw before. So read it repeatedly. Second, discuss its contents frequently. Okay? That's what people who are doing the project with you, maybe your mate, married partner, it may be a close friend, maybe a small group, you may want to do this in a group.
That'd be wonderful. But discuss the contents repeatedly, frequently. Go back over them. Here's the third and I think it is the most important of the three. Accept its warnings and exhortations personally. Accept its warnings and exhortations personally. We got time for this?
We do. Okay? Paul David Tripp wrote a book called Dangerous Calling. You need to read that book.
If you're anywhere near ministry to others, you need to read Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp. In it, he says this, when the Word of God is faithfully taught and empowered by the Spirit of God, people become different. Put your name in place of people. Chuck becomes different. Cynthia becomes different. Dick becomes different.
Shirley becomes different. Lusting people become pure. Fearful people become courageous. Thieves become givers. Demanding people become servants.
Angry people become peacemakers. Complainers become thankful and idolaters come to joyfully worship the one true God. The ultimate purpose of the Word of God is not theological information, but heart and life transformation. Get that down.
Get it fixed in your mind. My goal in teaching Colossians is not to make you theologically astute. You may gain a knowledge of theology, and that's great. That's not the goal.
It is to have you experience your heart being transformed. Biblical literacy and theological expertise, he continues, are not therefore the end of the Word, but a God-ordained means to an end, and the end is a radically transformed life, because the worship at the center of that life has been reclaimed. Boy, that's good. I promise you, you get serious about your intake of the Scriptures, you will not be the same person 10 weeks from now. You won't be. And people will notice.
Please don't call attention to any of the change. You will just change, because you'll learn truth to live by that will transform your life. Lord, thank you for your Word that lives and abides forever and it never returns empty. May this letter become a love letter to us. May we join the church at Colossae. May we realize that these statements are written to us, that we, through the patient, comforting truth of the Scriptures, glean hope and a reason to go on. May we become stable, confident, assured of the truth as you teach it to us in your letter to us.
Set apart the time we've had in a very special way in each of our lives. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Everybody, sin.
Amen. At Insight for Living, we're grateful to have access to decades of expositional Bible teaching, the kind that guides us verse by verse through books of the Bible. To learn more about this, visit us online at insightworld.org. What you're listening to right now is a brand new teaching series through Paul's New Testament letter to the Colossians, never before shared on this program. Chuck Swindoll titled his first message in this 10-part series, A Letter for Then and Now. As we begin this study, I'll point you to two excellent resources. You see, your learning begins by listening to these daily programs, but it needn't end there. Insight for Living has developed an interactive study tool that Chuck calls Searching the Scriptures, and there's a sequence of study notes prepared for every sermon you'll hear in this Colossians series, including the message you heard today.
Take a look and discover what's available to you by going to insight.org slash studies. Now, if it's a book you're looking for, well, then I'm pleased to remind you Chuck wrote a Living Insights commentary on Colossians. This book, which also includes his commentary on Philippians and Philemon, belongs in your library.
It's laid out in a format that's clear, easy to understand, and provides historical background so that you understand the context of Paul's letter. Plus, it's written in the engaging style that's become a hallmark of Chuck's teaching. To purchase a copy of the commentary on Colossians, go to insight.org slash offer, or call us. If you're listening in the United States, dial 1-800-772-8888. We rely on your support to make these daily Bible studies with Chuck possible, and if it's been a while since you've responded to the need or if you've never stepped forward with a contribution, we invite you to give a donation today online at insight.org. Or if it's easier, just give us a call. If you're listening in the US, dial 1-800-772-8888. Join us when Chuck Squendall continues his brand new study in Paul's letter to the Colossians, tomorrow on Insight for Living. The preceding message, a letter for then and now, was copyrighted in 2014 and 2022, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2022 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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