>January 3: Colossians 2

>This summer at Christ Church, we did a sermon series which claimed that the Christian life is “not about morality.” Colossians 2 makes a similar claim. Morality—manmade religion—does have “an appearance of wisdom” (2:23), but the engine of true Christian living is not in rules and regulations (2:16, 21), but in understanding—in the deepest reaches of our souls—the power and wonder of the gospel of grace. Paul wants to make sure we GET this.

He doesn’t present a timid, limp-wristed account of the gospel. He hits the truth head on in all its offensive glory. You were spiritually dead, unclean sinners in desperate need of God’s forgiving grace (2:13). God gave you that grace, resurrecting you with Christ, nailing your sin to the cross, setting aside your guilt before him, and subjecting every spiritual power to victorious Jesus (2:13-15). “Don’t you get it?” Paul seems to say, “everything has been subjected to Christ, especially you whom he made alive by his grace. Christ is your gracious, loving Master. Why, then, would you enslave yourselves to manmade rules and regulations that seem wise, but are really the cruelest of tyrants? Why would you give yourselves to anyone but Christ???”

Every moment of every day, I choose whom I will serve. Will I serve manmade religiosity or will I serve Christ? Religiosity doesn’t keep me from sin (2:23), but since it looks wise I am often tempted to yield to it rather than Jesus. I want to follow the rules in hopes that everyone will see my good works and glorify me! But God’s call to us is so much more beautiful, so much more compelling than any of our (supposedly) pious religious observance. Our call is so much higher: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him” (2:6).

We have received Christ the Colossal: the One who holds all wisdom and knowledge (2:3), the One whose authority is over every other (2:10, 15), the One in whom all divinity dwells (2:7). This Colossal Christ is ours to walk in and follow. I need to reflect in awe at the immensity of that truth, and be knit in love to my brothers and sisters (2:3), established in the faith, and abounding in thanksgiving (2:7) for my loving, gracious Lord.

>January 2: Psalm 1

>Psalm 1 is the first psalm on purpose. It is a sort of introduction to all that will be said in the psalms from here on out. A person is blessed when they meditate day and night upon God’s law, cursed if they flaunt it. Yet, if all of us are honest with ourselves, we all flaunt God’s law (at least some of the time) and few of us delight in it. What do we do with this sort of discussion in the Psalms, then? Is he saying we earn salvation? Do we just brush over the law parts as Christians?

No. When we see “law” in the Psalms, and in the OT, we remember 2 things. First, God’s law was given to those whom he had graciously called to be a “a holy nation.” So, to those who called upon the Lord in OT Israel, the law revealed the will of the gracious One who miraculously delivered them from Egypt. God’s covenant with Israel was founded upon grace. Those who love the Lord desire to walk in his ways in worship—these are the ones who delight in God’s law.
Second, as Christians, we remember the glorious truth of the gospel, that Christ—and Christ alone—obeyed every last stipulation of the law FOR US! The law convicts us of sin, but in Christ it cannot condemn us. Through faith, Christ’s perfect fulfillment of the law has been freely given to us. We delight in the law because it’s been totally fulfilled in our Lord Jesus. Jesus is like a tree planted by streams that yields abundant fruit for everyone who puts their trust in him. In the gospel, we enjoy the harvest of Christ’s righteousness!
I read this and see all the ways I fail to meditate day and night. Thinking on the things of God is hard work, and I am a lazy bum. But rather than be discouraged at my failures, I remember again Christ’s perfect, saving obedience for me. I remember that in him, I am a child of the God of the universe. And I remember that, in order to behave like a son of my Father, I need to meditate on his law, day and night. If I really want to act like his child, I need to remember his commands to me; but I never remember them without first remembering the glorious grace of the gospel of Christ.

>January 1: Colossians 1

>Day one! I am excited to begin our journey through Scripture together with you. Here is today’s reading. Please know that I am praying Paul’s prayer from vv.9-14 for you all this morning.

Jesus is huge in this passage. I like what one pastor says: Jesus is colossal in Colossians. Look at what Paul writes about Jesus in chapter 1: he’s the firstborn of all creation (15); all things were made through and for him (16); the universe holds together in him (17); he is the head of the church, the heir (firstborn) of all creation, and the one in whom dwells all the fullness of divinity (18-19). If you think Jesus is important, you are wrong: Jesus is ALL that’s important.
But the highest peak of the mountain range of Christ and his work is not simply that Jesus is God. Not that he made all things or rules all things. For Paul, the pinnacle of Christ’s person and work is that he makes “peace by the blood of his cross” (20). Jesus is preeminent as Creator and King of all things, but he is especially preeminent as crucified, reconciling, peace-making Savior.
This Scripture presents me with a difficult question today: what is preeminent in my mind, heart, and life? Where do I seek greatness? All too often, I am prone to seek it in work, family, money. I want others to see how brilliant I am, how capable I am, how together I am. But this sin of pride and self-sufficiency in my heart is opposed to the gospel as Paul presents it here. Jesus made all things, possesses all power, holds everything in the universe together. Yet, it is the weakness and humiliation of the cross that represented Christ’s finest hour. In sin, I think greatness comes from my exaltation; in the gospel, I see it comes in humility. In God’s kingdom, humility is greatness.

>What have you done in the past?

>I think I was ten years old. My dad came in my room one night and told me, “I think you should start reading the Bible. Read one chapter a night. I think it’d be good for you.” It was a short conversation, but that’s how I started my daily devotions. One chapter at night before I went to bed. I easily did that consistently for 8 years—what else did I have to do before I went to bed at night?

Since then, I’ve done a variety of different plans and schedules for my devotions. Some were successful, some not. I’m curious to learn what you all have done in your devotional time in the past? Have you tried to follow a plan? Have you been successful? What have you most benefitted from in your devotional times in the past? What (if anything) has led you to fall off consistently doing your devotions? If you have one, what’s your devotional story?

>The Plan

>As I said in the last post, our goal here will not be to read a certain amount of Scripture, but to read the Bible consistently and to let it get into our lives. That said, we will have the opportunity this year to read almost half of the entire Bible. These are the books we plan on diving into (in no particular order):

  • Psalms
  • Mark
  • Colossians
  • Genesis
  • Hebrews
  • Exodus
  • Proverbs
  • Galatians
  • Jonah
  • Matthew
  • Song of Songs
  • Daniel
  • Philippians
  • Isaiah
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Ephesians
  • Revelation
This is not necessarily the order of reading we will follow. And, I am not going to publish the entire year-long plan right now. One thing that can be intimidating about reading the Bible is looking at how much you have to read at the start of the year and thinking there is no way you’ll make it. So, to prevent that, I will simply publish the plan one month at a time. I have attempted to structure the plan so that we are completing at least one book/month (to help us all feel a sense of progress and accomplishment). But again, my hope is that we will all grow in applying the Word, not simply in the amount we can read.
One thing that will hopefully help us, is every Friday we will take a day off for prayer and reflection. That will allow us the chance to catch up on the reading if we need it and again not make us feel as if this is a burden.

A few days before the New Year, I will publish our January reading schedule. Can’t wait to get in the Word with you all!

>The Purpose of This Blog

>There are a million different Bible reading plans out there, and sometimes it can be confusing which one we ought to follow. And then when we finally pick the one we want to follow, it is inevitably a challenge to trudge through some of the more difficult parts of Scripture (think Leviticus). I don’t know about you, but it has happened to me many times that  I start a Bible reading plan in January and have fallen off the wagon (big time) by March; sometimes late February.

The purpose of this blog is simple: to get as many people at Christ Church reading the Bible as consistently as possible. Of course, we will all miss a day or two, here or there: late nights and rough mornings are a devotional plan’s worst enemies. But my hope is that—by reading Scripture in community—we will be able to encourage each other, to share with each other what God is teaching us through His Word, and that we will all learn better how to read and apply Scripture to our lives.

I will give out our reading plan in an upcoming post. At first, we will be modest in our goals, reading only one chapter a day and switching between Psalms and another book every other day. Then, about halfway through the year, we will begin reading 2 chapters per day. The purpose of this approach is to begin the year by simply trying to make Bible reading habitual. Then, Lord willing, once it’s habitual, we will be able to increase the amount of reading. Most of the time, our reading will consist of no more than 5 minutes a day.

But, our goal is not to get through a certain amount of Scripture over the course of the year. The goal will be to grow in our understanding of God’s Word AND apply that Word to our lives as much and as consistently as possible.

Each day, I will give the morning’s reading, give a few thoughts on its meaning (especially how it connects to Christ and his gospel), and then describe one way I see the Holy Spirit applying that truth to my life. My hope is that this will start a conversation about the way God’s Word gets into our lives and that the Word will then bear fruit in each of us and in our church.

If you have ideas, thoughts, questions or suggestions, I am all ears! I can’t wait to dive into God’s Word with you all!