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Living in His Sufficiency
By Charles F. Stanley
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2010 Charles F. Stanley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLesson 1
Where Do We Go for What's Missing?
In This Lesson
Learning: What do I find missing in my life?
Growing: How can I be sure that God will meet me in my needs?
When you experience a crisis in your life, where do you turn first? When you recognize that something's missing in your life—when you have a lack of provision, security, hope, love, safety, comfort, or self-identity—from whom or what do you seek supply?
The answer to these questions for a Christian must be a resounding, "Lord Jesus!" To turn to any person, group, organization, or entity other than Christ for one's total provision and supply in life—both external and internal—is to deny, to some degree, the sufficiency of God.
* What do you feel is missing in your life at the moment? How does this missing element compare to your relationship with Christ?
* How might your day-to-day life look different if you truly believed that Jesus meets all of your needs?
In the first century, false teachers made claims to new believers that Jesus Christ might be sufficient for some of their needs—perhaps even many or most of their needs—but that other traditional customs and beliefs were necessary in addition to Christ for a person to experience a total supply of all things. They taught that while He might be sufficient for a person's spiritual salvation, Jesus could not fulfill all practical, emotional, material, or social needs.
The apostle Paul soundly rejected the claims of these false teachers in his letter to the Colossians, which is entirely devoted to Paul's claim that Christ is 100 percent sufficient to meet all human needs, now and forever.
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. —Col. 1:9, 10
"But what," you may ask, "does this have to do with me today? Paul was writing to people who lived in the ancient past, not the modern world." The same arguments that were made to the believers in the early church are being made to Christians and non-Christians today! The sufficiency of Christ is attacked from many sides, at times directly and boldly, and at times indirectly and with great subtlety. In my work as a pastor, I have encountered countless church-going believers who have fallen prey to arguments that Jesus is not sufficient to meet all of their needs. The main reason seems to be this: They do not fully know the Lord. Very specifically:
* They do not know the fullness of His deity.
* They do not have an intimate and ongoing, daily relationship with Him, which means they do not truly know Him—they only know about Him.
* What does it mean to know the fullness of Christ's deity?
* Why is it important to understand the deity of Christ? How can this understanding change your world view this week?
* Are you one who knows Jesus, or just knows about Him?
The fact is, if we don't fully know Christ Jesus, we cannot know His sufficiency. And if we do not believe He is sufficient, and have an ability to access His sufficiency, we are vulnerable to arguments that can lead us astray-away from Christ and away from the perfection to which Christ calls us. On the other hand, if we have a deep understanding of all that He has provided for us and all that He makes available to us, we have a solid foundation on which to grow and develop in every area of our lives.
Today and Tomorrow
Today: A solid foundation, one established on the eternal principles of God's Word, must become my desire in order to live a meaningful, satisfying, and victorious life.
Tomorrow: I will remember that God became a man and endured all that I endure.
Chapter TwoLesson 2
Who Is Jesus ... Really?
In This Lesson
Learning: Was Jesus just a good man?
Growing: What is it that I truly know about God apart from Jesus?
Jesus made a tremendous claim about Himself in John 14:6 when He said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
Countless people in our world refute this claim made by Christ, saying, "There are many paths to God. There are many religions, but as long as they all point in the same direction, they are to a great extent equal." Others are indignant at His claim, saying in effect, "How dare He think He is the only way to the Father." Still others try to discredit the claim of Jesus, saying that He didn't really mean what is written or that He didn't really say what John wrote. Genuine Christian believers through the ages, however, have staked their lives on this claim that Jesus made about Himself.
Our belief about Jesus Christ determines several important aspects of our faith:
* The relationship we believe we have with God
* How we respond to Jesus Christ
* How we live our lives in relationship to other people
* The power of our faith
* How do you respond to what Jesus said about Himself? What emotions does His statement cause you to feel?
* Why did Jesus say that He is the only way to God? Why does the world reject this teaching? What is your response to it?
Not a New Argument
The apostle Paul wrote the Book of Colossians to counter the arguments that were being circulated by a number of false teachers who claimed that Jesus was a good man but that belief in Him was not required or sufficient for salvation. These were teachers who advocated that other doctrines and cults had their place as equals to Christianity. In response to these false teachers, Paul said, "Don't let anyone delude you. Don't be misled!"
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. —Col. 2:8
* What are "the tradition of men" and "the basic principles of the world" today?
* How could a person be cheated by them?
Paul further responded to these false teachers by presenting two main arguments:
1. The false teachers have a wrong understanding about the deity of Jesus Christ. They do not understand that He truly was God incarnate, or God "in the flesh."
2. The false teachers have a wrong understanding about the blood of Jesus Christ and what His death on the Cross really meant. They do not understand the atonement that was made by Christ for the sins of all mankind.
Certainly it is not fully possible for any of us, in our finite human state, to comprehend the fullness of our infinite God. None of us are fully capable of comprehending the glory of the Trinity or the majesty of Jesus Christ. To a certain extent, all that we know about God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are things that we know in part. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known" (1 Cor. 13:12).
Even so, there are some truths that we can know with certainty about God because Jesus Christ made those things very plain to us and explained them not only in words, but by the actions of His life. Paul made a concise and powerful statement about Jesus in the opening verses of his letter to the Colossians, which summarizes his teaching about who Jesus really was and is. These are facts about God that Paul knew with certainty:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. —Col. 1:15-20
* Can you, like Paul, say that you know these things with certainty?
* What does it mean that Jesus is "the image of the invisible God"? The "firstborn over all creation"?
The Image of the Invisible God
Paul makes as his first statement about Jesus Christ that He is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). The Hebrew people had long held to the belief that God was Spirit—invisible to man and clothed in brilliant light. Just as a person cannot look directly into the sun at high noon, so a person is incapable of looking fully and directly at the glory of God.
The Jews also believed, however, that God manifested Himself in humanlike form from time to time for the purposes of communicating eternal truth to mankind or to give certain prophets very specific direction or assistance. There are a number of instances in the Old Testament of "the Lord" having physical characteristics—a form that many Bible scholars term "the pre-incarnate Christ." For example, Jacob wrestled with Him; and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, three Hebrew captives in Babylon, walked with Him in a burning furnace. God put on a flesh-like appearance, but God the Father is not flesh.
Who is Jesus? Jesus is the incarnate Son of God. If you truly grasp this truth of God's Word, you can never think of Jesus again as just a good man. Jesus was and is God in fleshly form. All others who have claimed to be a "god" have been blemished, flawed, or tainted by sin in some way ... but not Jesus. He was perfect, without sin. He was the "only begotten Son" of God (John 3:16). In His flesh, Jesus was fully man. In His Spirit—His nature, His character, His inner being—He was fully God. He was God clothed in human flesh, walking on this earth and showing us by His life—His words and deeds—the nature and will of God the Father.
For it pleased the Father that in Him [Jesus Christ] all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself. —Col. 1:19, 20
For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. —Col. 2:9
Why Did God Reveal Himself as Jesus?
Why did Jesus come to this earth? What was the purpose of God revealing Himself in this way? One of the foremost reasons was so that we might truly know Him. God desired for mankind to know Him in a more intimate way—to know His heartbeat, mind, plans and purposes, nature and character. Read what the writer to the Hebrews said:
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power. —Hebrews 1:1-3
Jesus came to show us what God is like. He came to explain God to us. He came as the "express image" of God to speak to us God's words and to show us how God thinks, feels, and loves. So many people today say they know God, but they don't want anything to do with Jesus. That simply is not possible! Jesus was and is God. God cannot be known directly apart from Jesus. If you look at this world to know God apart from Christ, you're left with natural laws alone—and friend, nature does not give us a full or accurate picture of God because we live in a fallen world that has been greatly impacted by man's sinful nature. How can a person know about the love of God, the mercy of God, the joy of knowing God apart from Jesus Christ? It isn't possible. Jesus came to show us the Father in a way that we could fully understand. As a child once said, "Jesus is God with a face and arms."
Christ came to take away the veil of mystery from God's plan and purpose for mankind. If Jesus was not the Son of God—if He was not God, not deity—then He is not sufficient. But because Jesus is, indeed, God the Son, He is completely sufficient—for what need could we possibly have that God cannot meet, what lack could we possibly experience that God cannot fill, what problem could we possibly have that God cannot solve? God, who is all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving, and who is ever-present and eternal—God who knows the beginning from the ending and who controls and governs all things—is entirely sufficient. And Jesus is God.
Today and Tomorrow
Today: Jesus came to make God approachable and understandable to the human heart and mind.
Tomorrow: I will ask the Lord to keep me ever thankful for Jesus' work on the Cross, which reconciled me to Him.
Chapter ThreeLesson 3
All We Need for Reconciliation with God
In This Lesson
Learning: Why do I need to be reconciled to God?
Growing: Is there anything I can do to affect my position before Him?
Jesus not only came to show us what God the Father is like, but to reconcile us to God the Father. He accomplished this through His death on the Cross, making it possible for all who believe in Christ Jesus to be saved from eternal death. To become reconciled to God we need only believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and to accept what He did on the Cross as being on our behalf. Jesus Christ is totally sufficient for our salvation.
There are those in various religions and even Christian denominations who claim that for a person to be fully reconciled to God, he must complete various rituals or fulfill certain types of works or obligations. But God's Word proclaims strongly that no amount of works, effort, or goodness on our part can bring about our salvation. In fact, no one and no thing other than Jesus Christ is the Savior. And furthermore, Jesus Christ is fully sufficient to be the Savior-nothing "in addition" to believing in Christ Jesus is necessary for a person to be born again spiritually, to receive God's forgiveness, and to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.
A Full and Complete Reconciliation
What does it mean to be reconciled to someone, and in particular, to God?
First, the word reconciliation implies that a relationship has been broken and is in need of mending. We each are born into a state of estrangement or distance from God. With certainty, God loves us, He created us for Himself, and He desires to be reconciled with us-and this is true every second of our lives. But we each are born with the sin nature that is the inheritance of all human beings after the fall of Adam and Eve. This sin nature separates us from God since God can have no association with it. We also are given a free will by God from our birth so that we can choose to retain our old sin nature or turn to God, receive His forgiveness, and receive a new nature-one that is not rooted in sin.
When Jesus died on the Cross as our eternal, definitive, substitutionary sacrifice for sin, He made it possible for those who accept what Jesus did to have their sin nature changed and thus, be made acceptable for close intimacy with God the Father. Our part in bringing about reconciliation is to say to Him, "Father, I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I accept what He did on the Cross as being for my sins. Please forgive me, change my sin nature, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit so I can live my life in a way that is totally pleasing to You."
Have you accepted the reconciliation that Jesus Christ makes possible? If not, I encourage you to do so today.
Reconciliation Brings Change
Believing in Jesus Christ brings about newness in a person. The old sin nature is no more. A new nature that desires the goodness and righteousness of God takes its place. We are no longer the spiritual sons of Adam, but we are the spiritual sons of God the Father. The change is not something we are required to work up on our own. It is not something we must strive to do. Rather, it is the work of Jesus Christ in our lives. He is the One who changes us, from the inside out.
Paul wrote very specifically about reconciliation and newness of spiritual life to the Colossians:
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. -1:19-22
* What does a life alienated from God look like?
* How does that life contrast with one "above reproach"?
I want to call your attention to four words and phrases in the passage from Colossians:
1. Peace. So many people believe that God is in some kind of cosmic tug-of-war with mankind. God wants one thing, men and women want another, and God is acting as a harsh judge to whip mankind into shape. When you read the Bible closely, however, you will discover a wonderful truth: Jesus came to war against the devil and against evil, but He came to bring peace to the hearts of all who would believe in Him—not just a truce, but a lasting rest in our relationship so that we are no longer at odds with God. When we accept Jesus as Savior and receive His Holy Spirit into our lives, we are made one with Christ and therefore, we are one with the Father. We begin to want what God wants and to desire what God desires.
Excerpted from Living in His Sufficiency by Charles F. Stanley Copyright © 2010 by Charles F. Stanley. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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