by Steve McCranie | Jan 25, 2015
One of the most glorious pictures of our Lord Jesus is found in the first chapter of Colossians. Here, in these few words, Jesus is revealed as God Himself. He is the imprint, the exact representation, the perfect image of the invisible God. Jesus is presented as the Preeminent One, the “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15).
But what does that mean? What are the specific implications of these verses? And what impact does it have for me today?
Theologically or Devotionally?
Do you mean theologically? Or do you mean devotionally? Let me explain.
Sometimes, actually most of the time, I tend to look at things from a theological vantage point and not a devotional one. For example, when I view a passage of Scripture theologically I am wanting to know what it says and what it means. I want to define the original words and terms in the passage and I want to make sure I understand them in their proper contextual meaning. I then want to make sure my understanding of the truths of a passage fits within the framework of the other truths expressed elsewhere in Scripture on the same subject. It’s pretty much an intellectual study whereby I cognitively hope to comprehend new truths or understand old truths in a new way. And when I am done, I now intellectually know something new. Or I know something I already knew— better. Either way, it’s academic at best. Why? Because I may, or may not, be changed by what I have just learned. God’s Word may remain stuck in my mind as just theology and never be allowed to move down into the core of my being, into my soul, my heart, to the place where I live and feel and believe and trust. It remains lodged in my head, and not my heart. After all, theology is defined as “the study of God.” And the operative word is study. Academic. Mental. Sterile. Non-emotional. Simply the acquiring of knowledge and data and facts.
Is there Something I’m Missing?
But when I view a passage devotionally, I’m asking a whole new set of questions of God and the text. And those questions have to do with me personally. They may sound something like this:
“I believe that Jesus is God. But how can I become more like Him by just knowing that fact? Is there something I’m missing?”
“I understand the “just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). But I’m not sure what faith really looks like. And how can I have more faith? (Luke 17:5). How can I be more like my Lord and trust in Him like He trusted in His Father? Is there something I’m missing?”
“I acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the third Person in the Trinity. I got that. But Who is He and how does He live in my life? How can I please Him and how can I keep from grieving Him? (Eph. 4:30). How do I turn my life over to the Holy Spirit and how do I let Him live through me? Is there something I’m missing?”
These are the “so what?” questions, the “how does that help me get through today?” questions, the never-ending “why?” questions. They are the questions we all asked in Algebra class in High School but never got an answer. “Uh, teacher. Why do I have to study this stuff? I’m never gonna have to use it. Geez. What’s the big deal?”
The Doctrine of the Trinity. Important? Yes. But why?
The Doctrine of Man. Important? Very much so. But why?
The Doctrine of the Atonement. Important? Absolutely. But why?
The Doctrine of the Church. Important. You bet. But why?
While I don’t, in any way, want to downplay the vital importance of understanding correct doctrine and theology (1 Tim. 4:16), I do want to point us to the opposite side of the continuum. I want to focus on the devotional meaning of the passage. I want for us to experience, deep down in the depth of our soul, where we live and breathe, what this says about our Lord and what that means for each of us on a day-to-day basis.
One and the Same
So, let’s put on our devotional hats and dig deep into Colossians. And pray, before we even being, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into a fuller understanding of Christ and we will see Him, maybe for the first time, in living color and not just in black and white.
Colossians 1:15 – He (Jesus) is the image (or, exact representation, the imprint, likeness, icon) of the invisible God (or, that which cannot be seen by the physical eye), the firstborn (or, preeminent) over all creation (or, that which is formed, created from nothing).
Let that single verse sink in for a moment. Then read it again. Slowly. Out loud. Can you begin to feel what our Lord is saying about Himself?
Jesus said that He, Christ, the One who walked on the water (Matt. 14:22-33), who broke bread with His disciples in the upper room (Matt. 26:26), who held little children in His arms (Mark 10:16)— He, Jesus, is the exact representation, the perfect replica, He is the “image of the invisible God.” He is the exact likeness of His Father, and our Father— God. He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). How? Because “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus is the “express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). In other words, all that God is, Jesus is, and all that Jesus is, God is.
But what does that mean for me today? How does that fact help me love Him more?
Simply this, God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in the person of Jesus. It was His choice, mind you, and not something we earned or deserved ourselves. Remember, He didn’t have to reveal Himself to us at all. It was a profound gift of grace that He wants to have anything to do with us since we’ve all “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). So when you see Jesus, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:9). If you want to know what the Father is like, look to Jesus. They’re one and the same. “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). So when you’re alone, discouraged, and faced with your dark night of the soul and wonder aloud, Is God loving?— ask yourself this, Is Jesus loving? Yes. Then so is God. Or, will God forgive me for all I’ve done wrong? Would Jesus? Yes. Then so would God. Why? Because they are one and the same. When you see Jesus, you see the Father (John 14:9). When Jesus forgives, the Father forgives. When you pray to Jesus, you are, in effect, praying to the Father. They’re exactly the same. Jesus is the exact representation, the perfect replica, the express image, of the Father (Heb. 1:3).
So rejoice! For as much as you love and know and understand Jesus, you also know and love and understand the Father, the “invisible God” (Col. 1:15) the Great, I Am” (Ex. 3:14).
But the verse continues by saying that Jesus is “the firstborn over all creation.” What does that mean? What does being the firstborn imply?
First, the word does not mean, in this context, being chronologically born first as we would understand it today. It doesn’t mean Jesus was the first one born to a family of other brothers and sisters. No, the word refers to position or rank. It means preeminence. It denotes an exalted position, one “high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1). It means a place of priority and sovereignty. In other words, Jesus is the firstborn, the preeminent, the One having priority. Jesus has the position and rank of sovereignty over all that was created or that ever will be created. He’s Number One. There’s no one greater than Jesus. Ever. Anywhere. At any time. There’s no one worthy of more honor, more glory, more praise, or more love. And Jesus, the “firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15)— that’s over the heavens and the earth, the sun, moon, and stars, the angelic realm, all life, you and me, everything!— this Jesus has chosen to reveal Himself to us, to fallen humanity, and to call us His friends (John 15:15). That fact alone should take your breath away. It does mine.
Why would Jesus, the exalted One, choose to stoop down and reveal Himself to something of so little worth and value as me? Or you, for that matter? Why would He do that? What does He gain? Where’s the payoff for Him?
And then He goes a step further and calls us His friends (John 15:15). Really? Jesus considers me His friend. Why? Being a friend of someone opens one up to the threat of betrayal and hurt and rejection. We’ve all suffered that from our own friends, haven’t we? So why would Jesus expose Himself to me, or you, like that? He’s sovereign and knows all things. Nothing gets past Him. He knows what I am and what I’m capable of and what a terrible, fickle and unfaithful friend I could prove to be (John 2:25). And He knows about you too. What type of friend are you committed to be to Him?
Jesus, who is the exact image of God the Father, has chosen to become a man like me in order that I may become like Him. He put on flesh so I may someday put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:54). He took my nature and replaced it with His nature so I would become the “image of the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). Just think, what Jesus was to the Father, the “express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3), He wants to be with me and you (Rom. 8:29). He offers us sonship, to be joint heirs with Him as the firstborn, the One who inherits all from the Father (Rom. 8:16-17). And He did all this for us for no other reason than the “good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5,9). Or, to put it bluntly, because He wanted to.
But as overwhelming as all this may seem, there’s something even more amazing.
Christ Has Longings
Jesus, as God Himself, doesn’t have needs. How could He? For to have needs would imply that He is lacking something that must be supplied by someone else. For Jesus to have needs or longings or desires means He was incapable of being all-powerful and all-sufficient. Somehow, He comes up lacking. And God cannot lack anything.
But Jesus does say in His Word that He has a desire. And the object of that desire should again, take your breath away. Why? Because the object of Christ’s desires and longings is— you. That’s right, Jesus longs for those He loves and those He redeemed. Look at what Jesus said in His last prayer before the cross:
“Father, I desire (or, will, wish, purpose, seek, crave) that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, (why) that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
Did you read His words? Do you see what the longing, the desire, the craving of our Lord is? It’s for you and me to be with Him in heaven, where He is. And why would He want us with Him? Jesus said, “that they may behold My glory” (John 17:24). Jesus wants us, His friends, to come to His home that He is preparing for us (John 14:2) to behold His glory given Him by His Father. That’s an honor reserved for only the closest of family. And Jesus offers it to you and me.
Again, why? Because He wanted to. Because He felt like it. Because it made Him happy. Because He could. Just think, we are “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) for no other reason than Christ wanted us to be with Him where He is (John 17:24).
That’s how much we are loved and chosen in Him.
What Do I Do Now?
So, tell me what problems you have that compare to this blessing? Tell me what you lack in this life compared to what you already possess in Him? You are the Almighty, Sovereign, Eternal God’s friend (John 15:15). You are His chosen child (Rom. 8:16-17), His special possession (1 Cor. 16:19-20). You have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Himself (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
That’s who you are. And we have only looked at one verse, Colossians 1:15. Take a look at what else is in store for us:
Colossians 1:16-17 – For by (or, through) Him (Jesus) all things (or, the whole, in totality, all without exception, the entire, absolutely all, each and every one) were created (or, to produce from nothing) that are in (or, at, with the primary idea of rest) 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.
But we’ll look at these verses next time.
by Steve McCranie | Oct 27, 2014
Message from Malachi
A Prophetic Warning to the Church
What Side of the Fence Are You On?
“But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings;
And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.”
After three chapters of blistering rebuke towards the people and priests of Malachi’s day, the Lord now begins to wind down the book of Malachi and the Old Testament in general with a question and a choice. The question is simple: Where will you stand on the great day of judgment, on the great Day of the Lord? And the choice is simpler still: What are you prepared to do about it right now?
The Day of the Lord
Four times in the last eight verses of Malachi we find that great and powerful day referenced (Mal. 3:17; 4:1, 3, 5). The Day of the Lord is a day of judgment, of wrath, and of great calamity and describes some horrific events that take place at, or near, the close of history. Zephaniah describes it as “a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Zeph. 1:15). But it’s also a time of great rejoicing when God fulfills His promise to true, believing Israel and ushers in His Kingdom. It’s a time when “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26) and a time when God will forgive their sins and restore to Israel the land He promised to Abraham. In other words, the Day of the Lord is the time when God will punish evil, disobedience and unbelief but also a time when He will fulfill all His promises to those who are “called by His Name” (Isa. 43:7).
It will be a day of great dread and fear or a day of great joy and rejoicing— and all that depends on what side of the fence you’re on when the Day appears.
After God encourages His faithful remnant by reminding them “they shall be Mine on the day that I make them My jewels (or, special treasure)” (Mal. 3:17), God then begins to unpack exactly what the Day of the Lord will be like for those on both sides of the fence.
That Side: The Lost and Unbelieving— the Crowd
For those on the lost, unregenerate, unbelieving side of the fence, the Day of the Lord is described as a scorching, consuming fire, much like a furnace or great oven. So intense is God’s judgment fire that it “will leave them neither root nor branch” (Mal. 4:1), no present and no future. It’s a frightening picture of the total destruction of those who speak harshly against the Lord (Mal. 3:13) and defile and despise His Name (Mal. 1:6-7). Jesus speaks of it as a “furnace of fire where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:42). Paul says that day will come “as a thief in the night” (1 The. 5:2) and Peter concludes by stating, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Get the picture? Intense fire, scorching heat, wailing and gnashing of teeth, a massive furnace, a red-hot oven, great noise, consuming flames, total destruction.
And those on that side of the fence? What does God say about them? He calls them the “proud, yes, all who do wickedly” and describes them as “stubble or chaff” (Mal 4:1). They are the short dry stumps of grain left in a field after harvesting, highly combustible, ready to be thrown, discarded, consumed in the great fire of His judgment. It’s not a pretty picture for those on that side of God’s fence.
This Side: Those Who Love and Fear the Lord— the Remnant
Note what the Lord says to those on this side of His fence, to those who fear Him and offer to Him “an offering in righteousness” (Mal. 3:3).
“But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves” (Mal. 4:2). They will rejoice when they see the wicked judged and God’s Name held high and glorified. They will sing for joy when the righteous are brought into the Kingdom and they hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21). And they shall praise His Name when God exalts His people over the wicked who have oppressed and persecuted them for so long. The Day of the Lord will be a day of great rejoicing, a day of singing and dancing, for those on this side of God’s fence.
The Question: What Are You Prepared to Do About It?
That’s right, what are you going to do? What’s your plan, your next move? The Lord has revealed two great groups of people (Mal. 3:18), two separate and distinct paths (Matt. 7:13-14), two options, two destinations, and only one choice. What will you choose?
Joshua told the people in his day to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15). And the words of Malachi are telling each of us to do the same: Choose. Choose whom we will serve? Choose what side of God’s fence we want to live on. Choose heaven or hell, life or death, blessing or cursing— just choose. Why? Because all eternity rests on that very choice. So choose wisely.
And to help us choose correctly, the Lord ends the Old Testament with these words of warning and encouragement. First, the look back into His Word: “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb (or, Mt. Sinai) for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments” (Mal. 4:4). Remember the Word of God, the Law, the promises, the prophecies, the foretelling of the Messiah, the blessings and the warnings, remember all God has done for you and how much He loves you (Mal. 1:1). Stop what you’re doing, turn around, look back and remember. This is the same God who says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change” (Mal. 3:6). He has loved you then, He loves you now. Remember.
Then, look forward to the day of His promise, to the day of the coming of His Son, Jesus. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6). Before the Day of the Lord dawned it was promised that Elijah would first come and preach a message of repentance to prepare the way for the Messiah (Isa. 40:3). That day has already come. The promise has already been fulfilled. John the Baptist, according to Jesus, was the very fulfillment of that promise and, for those who “have ears to hear,” was the “Elijah who was to come” (Matt. 11:14-15) And who was this Messiah? His name is Jesus.
So now, it’s your choice. Do you remain on that side of the fence, the easy side, the sinful side, laughing along with those who arrogantly reject the sacrifice of Christ and strive to be a god in their own eyes? Do you throw your lot in with them? Are you part of the massive throng— blind, yet so proud, traveling aimlessly on the wide path that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13)? Is the cross of Christ, the only way to escape the curse, foolishness to you (1 Cor. 1:18)? If so, Malachi has clearly told you what your future holds, and it’s not a pretty sight. Actually, it’s dreadful, gruesome, and terrifying. Or, are you one of the elect, the chosen, the few, the faithful remnant, the blessed beneficiaries of an incredible inheritance in Christ (Rom. 8:17) that is beyond description (Eph. 3:20-21)?
Which one are you? Which side of the fence are you on? And how will you describe the coming Day of the Lord?
Will it be a time of great blessing, of continuous rejoicing and singing, a time of childlike wonder and awe? Or will you, like so many others, try to run and hide, foolishly thinking you can somehow escape the burning, scorching, all consuming red-hot fire of His judgment? Will you be one of those that cry out to the very mountains and rocks to “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:16-17).
Which side of the fence are you on? And what are you prepared to do about it?
Choose quickly. Because time is short and He’s coming soon (Rev. 22:12). The clock is ticking. Time is running out. Choose today.
Come Lord Jesus.
by Steve McCranie | Oct 26, 2014
The book of Malachi ends with the description of two groups of people that will respond differently when the day of the Lord comes. One, those who fear the Lord and long for His appearing, will see the “Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings” (Mal. 4:2). The other group, those who do not know or love the Lord, that Day will be a day of “burning like an oven” (Mal. 4:1).
Question for us is this: Which group are you in? And what are you prepared to do about it?
To find the answer to these eternal questions, keep listening.
The following is a study on Malachi 4:1-6.
Download this episode (right click and save)
This is the video played at the end of the sermon. Be blessed and encouraged in Him.
by Steve McCranie | Oct 17, 2014
Message from Malachi
A Prophetic Warning to the Church
Are You Part of the Remnant?
“”Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them.”
In the last part of Malachi 3 God shows us a clear distinction between two groups of people: those who complain and speak harshly about the Lord (Mal. 3:13-15) and those who fear the Lord (Mal. 3:16). And the difference between the two groups is profound. So profound, that the Lord took a book of remembrance and recorded the words of those who feared Him, those who held Him and His name in reverence, respect and awe (Mal. 3:16).
This second group, this faithful minority about whom God has written in the book of remembrance, is the remnant of God. Are you part of that remnant?
A remnant is defined as a “small, remaining quantity of something.” And that something could be food, or materials, or people— almost anything.
Biblically speaking, Noah and his sons were a remnant saved from the great flood. They were a “small, remaining quantity” of the population of the earth (Gen. 6). Lot and his family were a remnant saved from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19). God told Elijah He had reserved a remnant, “seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18). These are just a few examples of the remnant of God.
In Scripture, the faithful in Israel are also called a remnant. Paul, quoting Isaiah 10, says: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved” (Rom. 9:27). This means a small portion of believing Jews will be taken, by the sovereign grace of God, from the great multitude that makes up Israel and be saved— literally, a “small, remaining quantity” of Jews will come to faith in their Messiah, in their Christ. This again is the remnant of God.
But for us, the church, there is also a remnant that will be saved and redeemed. That’s right, just a remnant. Why? Because Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Note, that’s not everyone who says— but everyone who does.
Who is the Remnant?
They are the ones who “count the costs” of following Jesus and give all to Him (Luke 14:28). They are those who “deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him” (Matt. 16:245). The remnant are those who consider everything in this world rubbish, except knowing and gaining Christ (Phil. 3:8). They are the ones who are singly focused on Jesus, totally devoted to Him, and do not want to know anything but “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
Are you part of the remnant?
The remnant is the seed that sprouted some 30, 60, 100 fold and not the seed that fell on the path or in the shallow, weed-infested soil (Matt. 13:1-9). The remnant endures to the end (Matt. 24:13; 1 John 2:19). The remnant bears the spiritual fruit of God (John 15:1-8) and also bears the brand marks of Christ (Gal. 6:17). The remnant proudly proclaim, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
Are you part of the remnant? Or are you simply a member of a church?
There is, like the distinction God made in Malachi 3, a huge and profound difference between the two. One is the wide road that leads to destruction and the other is the narrow gate that leads to life. And Jesus said, “there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).
Choose Today Whom You Shall Serve
Which road are you on? Both have signs, bright flashing billboards that say, “This Way to Christ!” But only one leads to true salvation.
Are you part of the mass, the unbelieving crowd, the deceived multitude of those who “have a form of godliness but no power”? (2 Tim. 3:5). Or, are you part of the remnant of God? Are you a child of His, “and if children, then heirs— heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).
Which are you? Because the answer to this simple question is the difference between eternal life or eternal death. It’s not something to trifle with, to ignore, or to blow off. You must “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Jos. 24:15). And you must “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?— unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Cor. 13:5).
Why? Because all eternity is at stake!
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Jos. 24:15).
by Steve McCranie | Sep 11, 2014
The following is George Muller’s take on Matthew 6:33. These are words I need to memorize and recite daily.
“Where anxiety begins, faith ends. When faith begins, anxiety ends.”
And remember the words of Jesus:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).
What “things”? we ask. By “things” the Lord was talking about all the stuff we worry and fret and give ourselves ulcers about: money (Matt. 6:24), our house (Matt. 6:25), what we will eat and what we will wear (Matt. 6:31), the future (Matt. 6:34). Makes little sense to worry about things the Lord promises to take care of, doesn’t it?
If we are “children of God” and “joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17)— then worry is a sin, a form of blasphemy. Worry is assuming a responsibility that God did not intend for us to have. And worry, is the opposite of faith.
I don’t want to live in the clutches of fruitless worry any longer. Do you? If not, come join with me in believing the truth of Matthew 6:33.
by Steve McCranie | Jul 27, 2014
Embedded in chapter 14 of Zechariah, in the middle of the Lord telling His people about how He will “fight against the nations” that fought against Jerusalem, we possibly find a cryptic description of the effects of a neutron bomb. It reads:
Their flesh shall dissolve (or, rot, waste away) while they stand on their feet,
Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets,
And their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths (Zech. 14:12).
How can that be? And what does that mean for us today? Is this really the effects of a neutron bomb?
Keep listening to find out more.
The following is a study on Zechariah 14:1-15.
To download the notes from this message, click – HERE
Download this episode (right click and save)