Tuesday, January 29, 2008

May I Have A Word?

Colossians 1:21-23

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Colossians 1:21-23)*

Many Christians have a favorite book of the Bible. A few have a favorite chapter or a favorite story. Quite a few have a favorite verse. Me, I have a favorite word, and it’s in this section.

It’s not a big word—three letters. Matter of fact, it’s a word you almost skip over most of the time. Unless it’s Paul wielding the pen.

Then the tiny word “but” becomes life-changing.

He whipped it out in his letter to Titus in what is, IMO, the most powerful description of salvation in the Bible. He used it in Romans as the linchpin in the most important argument in all of his letters. And he uses it here.

In each case, he starts by elaborating just how hopeless we were before Christ came into the picture. Here in Colossians he reminds us, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (Colossians 1:21). In Titus, we “were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3)

And in Romans, Paul spends almost three chapters proving why everybody on earth is hopeless and heading for hell—the immoral Gentiles, the good Gentiles, even the good Jews.

Then he whips out the word.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known” (Romans 3:21). “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us...” (Titus 3:4-5). “But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. (Colossians 1:22)

See why I love the word? It’s the introductory word for God’s grace. It sets in stark contrast my hopeless condition before Christ and my hope-filled future with Christ.

And it’s a word you can pull out anytime you need it. When you’re feeling bad about your past, the things you did then that you’re ashamed of now, instead of hiding them, you can lay them out on the table, face up, name them, and then proclaim proudly, “This is what happened when I was in control of my past, BUT Christ has control of my future.”

When circumstances look bleak, you can say, “My life right now sucks, BUT with Jesus my prospects are guaranteed to be outstanding.”

You can even use it to share your faith with others. “Here’s what my life was like without Jesus, BUT here’s what it looks like with Him.”

Pretty cool word, huh?

*All Scriptures from the New International Version.

5 comments:

Dave said...

Pastor Steve once again you nailed it. I have found myself saying "but" lately when I start to think about past events, (before I accepted Jesus) I use "but" to force myself not to beat up my spirit over things that I have done. Because Jesus forgave me, I should also forgive myself. A lot easier said then done though.

wev123 said...

I agree this word "but" is a great word. It is powerful and can change the whole outlook of things. When I read it I think wow now I'm going to see a change in attitude or way of thinking. Used in a positive manner of course.

Joshua said...

BUT... Hmmm I think in this context the word "but" is a great thing. It ties together all the warm and fuzzy feelings we get when we think of what Lord Jesus has done for us, but it can lead to something not so great. An excuse! Here is an example:
I know I should not cheat on my taxes BUT everyone else is doing it. I know I should go to church on Sunday BUT the Superbowl pregame coverage starts at 9. I know I should spend some time reading the Bible tonight BUT I am to tired.
So the word BUT can lead to excuses or examples of some not so good things. In no way am I taking anything from Paul when he was empowered by the Holy Spirit and writing to all the Churches. All I am saying is we have to be careful on how WE use the word BUT. I can give you an example of how the word but got me in some trouble.
I recently got laid off from work. Then got temporarily denied for my unemployment. All kinds of trying and stressful things followed like a tornado. Testing my faith. Had me questioning What did I do? So I did what I normally would do. I said God you were driving BUT... I know a better way. So I Kicked Jesus out of the driver seat and said OK you had your turn it is my turn to straighten this mess out. Well, that wasn't the best idea because God knew what He was doing. So He moved over and I turned around off the back road God had put me on and started to drive back towards what was familiar. Where I could read the signs and there was street lights.
Don't ya just get mad at the friend who has all the back road paths to every where. Like the highway and the main roads don't exist to them. They take you down these long dark empty roads that seem to go forever and you are lost looking around going where is this guy taking me.
And then WHAM you pop out on the road you know. Well, that is what happened when I turned around. Things got worse I got stuck in traffic, there was a police ID check, a school bus that had to stop at every house on my path. SO I turned back to my beloved friend in the passenger seat and said I am sorry now I know why I was on that back road. It was the only way. Your way seemed to be not right at first BUT... you were right. So I moved out of the driver seat and let Him take me were He wanted me to be. And then WHAM he showed me why He took this path to get me where I am. He already knew that I was going to try and take control. His intentions were to show me a different path I never tried to take in the past. Ask Him for help and have Him show me the way. On this whole drive I realized a comforting truth;
God is going to put things in my path, He is going to do some things that seem unfair at the time, He is going to let me screw up BUT He not going to do anything to me that I can not handle and He is going to come after me and reveal to me the back road trail.
So as we were going down this bumpy, dusty dirt road He turned to me and He said to me Josh you turned your back on me, you questioned my intentions for your life, You took control and did not follow my direction BUT... I had to show and teach you this lesson and I forgive you. To sum it up we are going to slip, sometimes fall flat on our faces BUT... Gods intentions will be revealed to us in their own due time and He loves us more than we could comprehend!!!

BUT... we have to LOVE HIM BACK and follow his direction as confused as we may feel along the way. When He is in control, there is nothing that can make us fall!!

BTW my situation is slowing getting better and it is due to some of the people God has placed in my life to catch me when I fall. I am thankful to Him for that and I am thankful to those of you that are in my corner and doing what you can to help me and my family. More than they know. More then I knew God had already answered my prayers before I even made them BUT that is why He is driving from now on!!!

Josh

Yvonne said...

I'm just so glad I have God on my side!

Amanda S. said...

Everyone has already said basically what I would have said about the word "but", so I'm going to type about another word that makes it big in my "christian" dictionary...."therefore"....

I like that word, because it shows me the next step. For example, Romans 5:1 "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

I don't know if ya'll would agree or not, but Paul seems to like this word too. Other places I've found that have been underlined in my Bible are (and I'll let you look them up! My Bible is NIV, btw) Romans 12:1, Romans 14:13, Romans 15:17-18, I Corinthians 15:58, II Corinthians 5:17.

OK, there are tons more, but I'll stop there! But maybe when you read these verses, you'll get the idea that I'm having a hard time getting across.

Just to see if we can get a discussion going....do ya'll have any other favorite words?