About 9:55AM (5 minutes before the church service begins) this past Sunday, my mind, body, and soul began to stir. Not the kind of joyfilled urgency I sometimes sense on the Lord's Day, but rather a knot of doubt, confusion, anger, and the removal of all sense of peace. As the worship music started, I couldn't direct my heart to the Lord. I was overly critical of every thing going around: the music, the people, my son, etc. Then during the greeting time I spoke an unkind word toward someone (later I apologized). At that moment, I left the worship space to think, pray, and get away.
Even after coming back into the sanctuary, I still had a difficult time focusing on the Lord and having a sense of love toward the people of God. I shared with the congregation before preaching of this sense of "being out of sorts" and had a moment of silence before preaching. I made it through the sermon. It wasn't the epitome of fine preaching but sufficient.
That night the person I apologized too commented that it would be just the sort of thing Satan would do. My text was Colossians 1:15-23. I was attempting to show that through Christ the entire cosmos of God's making (heaven, earth, all that is visible and invisible) was reconciled through the Cross of Christ on Calvary. One reason the cosmos could be reconciled is that all of God's enemies (Satan and sin in particular) were overthrown and defeated. And as my friend noted, Satan "doesn't like people being told he's been defeated."
Would you pray for me this week that I would rest in and live out of Christ's victory over Satan and all evil powers (Colossians 2:15)? Satan wants to thwart God's work, but may we press on in faithfulness and in the power of the Holy Spirit!
One area in the sermon where I was confused (and therefore so was the presentation of it) is the conditional sentence found in Colossians 1:22-23. Maybe this was Satan or maybe this was just poor preparation. Thus, oftentimes after sermons, I keep studying the text to understand what was missed. Here's a short explanation of the difficult if/then clause:
The text reads in the NIV: 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, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
Craig Blomberg explains (in Pentecost to Patmos, 291), "...reconciliation with God is guaranteed granted the Colossians perseverance (Col. 1:21-23). Verse 23a is a first class condition and does not introduce any doubts into the "if-clause." (italics in original) Paul is assuming it to be true that the Colossians will persevere in the faith (this is what a 1st class conditional sentence in Greek syntax indicates). The promise of Christ's reconciliation is based on persevering faith, which Paul assumes to be true of the believers in Colossae. It becomes a promise to all believers as well. N.T. Wright argues from his commentary on Colossians and Philemon (footnoted in Blomberg): "From God's point of view, genuine faith is assured of continuing to the end. From the human point of view, Christians discover whether their faith is of the genuine sort only by patient perseverance."
One warning I made in the sermon that I'll echo again is this: we must persevere in the faith. Perseverance is not humans adorning themselves with good deeds or righteous actions. Perseverance is persistent faith in Christ alone to bring us Home. That is why in 1 John 5:13 the apostle tells us: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. Belief in Christ assures eternal life. If we lack spiritual fruit in our life, we must address the root (unbelief). Going out and doing good deeds and acting nicer is not perseverance; that is like looking at a fruitless apple tree and going out and buying apples at the store and duct-taping them onto the branches. Real faith is faith alone in Christ alone; this is saving faith. And by the grace of God saving faith results in spiritual fruit.