Category Archives: Colossians

Colossians 3:22-4:6; Micah 6: The Good Worker

How GRATEFUL you are depends on THE SIZE OF THE GIFT. Imagine you got back from a holiday, and your friend, who’d been collecting your mail, said, “There was a bill that needed paying. So I paid it for you.” If it was a $40 phone bill, you’d be GRATEFUL. And if it was a $1000 car insurance bill, you’d be REALLY grateful. But imagine if it was your annual mortgage statement, with $500,000 still owing. And he’d paid THAT. You’d be SO grateful, words alone wouldn’t be enough. You’d want to show it with ACTIONS. With some sort of grand gesture that was fitting for a gift as big as THAT. The bigger the GIFT, the greater the THANKS.

A great gift

Today we’re thinking about the Christian at WORK. And there’s lots of PRACTICAL DETAILS. About our attitudes, and actions, and words, and priorities. And we can get lost in all the detail. And it can become another TO DO list. Another list of laws to keep. And we can end up feeling beaten up and guilty. As if it’s all about what WE NEED TO DO. So I want to start by reminding us who we’re working for. And what he’s DONE for us. God’s CREATED us. And he’s king over EVERYTHING. He’s CHOSEN us, and given us JESUS. He’s SAVED us, and made us his CHILDREN, and given us ETERNAL LIFE. A great gift! And that gift deserves the BIGGEST RESPONSE we can GIVE. A response of everything we’ve got/ in every part of our lives. INCLUDING at work.

And both our Bible passages –Micah and Colossians –BEGIN WITH GOD.  In Colossians, we started reading from Ch 3 v 22. But the section begins back in v1. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Think about what God’s done. And think about who you now are. We’ve been raised to LIFE, and given a new identity. And then it continues, with all the practical details of how we RESPOND. V5 – put to death therefore whatever belongs to the earthly nature.

Or v12 “Therefore, as God’s CHOSEN PEOPLE, HOLY AND DEARLY LOVED, clothe yourselves with COMPASSION” etc. In other words, begin with WHO YOU ARE according to God, and then RESPOND to him APPROPRIATELY.

Or v17 And WHATEVER you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the NAME OF THE LORD JESUS, GIVING THANKS to God the Father through him.

In other words, Do the things that PROMOTE the name of the Lord Jesus, and that further his cause and his kingdom. And do them because you’re THANKFUL TO GOD.

And that INCLUDES the verses we read earlier. About slaves and masters. And about praying, and being wise with outsiders, and taking opportunities to talk about Jesus. All of which we’ll think about later in the context of WORK.

Then there’s the Micah 6 passage. It begins with God, too. So put your finger in Colossians 3, and flip over to Micah. God’s angry with his people Judah. He’s brought them into the Promised Land, but they’ve disobeyed him. And so he’s bringing charges against them (v1-2).

But before he gets to the charges, he reminds them of everything he’s done for them. V3. “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me.  4 I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. 5 My people, remember what Balak king of Moab counselled and what Balaam son of Beor answered

He SAVED them from Egypt. He GUIDED them with leaders. He’s PROTECTED them from curses. They owe him their LIVES. V5, he calls them to REMEMBER. Remember from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.” Remember. Set your MINDS on what God’s done for you. And then you’ll know his RIGHTEOUS ACTS.

And “righteous acts” mean more than just good works. “Righteous” means acting according to his contractual obligations – doing what he’s PROMISED to do. God made a COVENANT with Israel. He promised to be the God, and they’d be his people. He promised to RESCUE them. And LEAD them. And PROTECT them. And FORGIVE their SIN. And PROVIDE for them.  And he KEPT HIS WORD. 100%. Always acted according to what he’d PROMISED to do. So those are his righteous acts, because he acted according to the contract.

A grateful response

That’s the GIFT we’re to be grateful for. That’s the GOD who’s done EVERYTHING for us. So the question is how do you show your gratitude in a ways that’s FITTING? What can you OFFER a God like that? In verses 6 and 7, we hear from one of the accused. “How can we respond to a gift like THAT? What’s the best we can offer?” 6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil?

Or perhaps even the ULTIMATE sacrifice. Shall I offer MY FIRSTBORN for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

Sacrificing his oldest CHILD! Even though God’s FORBIDDEN it. But even THAT won’t satisfy God’s demands. So what’s the ANSWER? In v8 Micah responds. You don’t need to GUESS. V8. He has SHOWED you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

When God made a covenant with his people. There were TWO SIDES to the agreement. God would do certain things. And he’d expect certain things of his PEOPLE. God kept HIS side – that’s the righteous acts of the LORD, in v5. And he expects his people to keep THEIR side. It’s their RESPONSE to his good gifts.

And what does he expect? Firstly, ACT JUSTLY. Justice gives to everyone EQUALLY. A level playing field. There’s no advantage in being attractive, or educated, or rich. Sexual orientation, or language background, or disability, or race, or age won’t stop you treating someone fairly. And God wants ACTION, not just WORDS or THOUGHTS. And that’s where your colours will REALLY show. Because it’s easy to SAY you’ll treat someone a certain way. But DOING can be a lot harder. And cost a lot more, not just in money, but in time and complications and emotions.

Secondly, God expects us to LOVE MERCY. It’s the Hebrew word HESED, or “loving-kindness”, or “covenant faithfulness”. God wants to see a society where people are COMMITTED to one another. We’re they’re genuine, and consistent, and true. Where honesty and reliability and trustworthiness are VALUED. God’s shown US kindness, or covenant faithfulness. And he expects us to show the SAME. And we’re to LOVE it. VALUE it. ENCOURAGE it. MODEL it. CELEBRATE it.

And as we look back through the history books, we see that, time and again, it’s CHRISTIANS who lead the way in these two qualities in our society. In ACTING JUSTLY. And LOVING MERCY. It’s been Christians who are first to look after, and defend the sick, and the aged, and the handicapped, and the poor, the imprisoned, the foreigner, and the children. Because THEY TOO are made in God’s image, and valuable. Justice treats them EQUALLY. And MERCY is committed to their well-being and flourishing, whether they can contribute or reciprocate, or not.

The THIRD response is to WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD. Which means to go through life listening to God, rather than yourself or the world around you. It’s trusting HIS WAY, instead of yours. His guidance, his correction, his priorities. He’s your God, and you’re his child. In other words, live within your covenant relationship with God. Live it out as you walk through life. Humility is the ATTITUDE TO GOD/ that will SHOW ITSELF in the ACTIONS TO OTHERS of acting justly and loving mercy.

That sort of response is for ALL of your life. But you can see it’s PARTICULARLY applicable in your WORK LIFE. Because that’s what God focusses on in v9-12. His people WEREN’T acting justly, or loving mercy, or walking humbly before God in their business practices. V10.

10 Am I still to forget, O wicked house, your ILL-GOTTEN TREASURES and the SHORT EPHAH, which is accursed?  11 Shall I acquit a man with DISHONEST SCALES, with a bag of FALSE WEIGHTS?  12 Her rich men are VIOLENT; her people are LIARS and their tongues speak deceitfully.

God cares about how we work. He cares about short-changing people. Or charging more billable hours than you work. Or arriving late, or leaving early. Or being too creative in describing the benefits of a product. Or quoting high for a job because you know there’s no competition. Or quoting low to get the contract, then making up the difference with “unexpected” additions. Or putting pressure on clients or competitors with heavy-handed bullying tactics.

God hasn’t treated YOU that way. So don’t treat OTHERS like that. Respond to him by acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly before him. THOSE are the religious offerings God wants to see before he sees religious offerings like sacrifices or church attendance or donations or prayers. Fulfil your contractual requirements in business as God fulfils his to you. Let YOUR righteous acts reflect GOD’S righteous acts.

That’s MICAH. Flip back to Colossians, and we’ll spend a few moments thinking about work in THAT world – specifically, SLAVES.

It’s probably helpful to say a few words about SLAVERY. Slavery in the Roman world was quite different from slavery in America. It’s estimated that up to a third of people in Italy were slaves. They worked in households, but also in businesses and shops, as teachers and doctors, in mines and on farms. Many of them CHOSE to enter slavery to pay off debts. In lots of ways it wasn’t THAT different from working life TODAY.

So it’s people like THIS who are commanded (v22) Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 WHATEVER you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,

God is WATCHING. Even when masters AREN’T. And he wants to see CONSISTENT service. In EVERYTHING – the yucky parts of the job as well as the enjoyable parts. Obey at the END of the day just as much as the START of the day. And be RELIABLE. TRUSTWORTHY. KEEP working, even when the boss isn’t checking up on you. Or even if HE’S gone home early. And be SINCERE. CONSISTENT. Don’t be ONE thing when people are watching, and ANOTHER when NO ONE’S watching. Sincerity of heart is about being the same thing INSIDE as you are OUTSIDE.

You see MOTIVATION is important. (The REASON you work hard). Don’t do it to win the BOSS’S favour, or for promotion or a pay rise. Do it with REVERENCE TO THE LORD. In RESPONSE to him. In GRATITUDE for who he is, and what he’s done for you, and for who you are.

It’s the same motivation if you’re a BOSS. Ch 4 v1 says Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

You value God’s fair treatment of YOU, and so you REFLECT that in how you treat those UNDER you.

And it’s a BIG response, because he’s a big GOD. He wants EVERYTHING. So, v23, WHATEVER you do, work at it with all your heart. The little things and the big things. The things that nobody notices, as well as the things that get you noticed. Because GOD notices. “With all your heart” is more literally translated “from your soul”. Be INTERNALLY motivated, rather than EXTERNALLY motivated. Don’t be motivated by competition, or performance review, or fear of missing out or retrenchment. Work hard, in reverence for the Lord, because YOU’VE BEEN RAISED with Christ. You have a new HEART, and a new SPIRIT, and a new PURPOSE and a new MASTER.

And even though you get a wage at the end of the week. There’s a far GREATER reward that’s coming. A far better remuneration. V24. since you know that you will receive an INHERITANCE from the Lord as a REWARD. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The WAGES for being a Christian aren’t great. But the retirement benefits are OUT OF THIS WORLD. Our future inheritance. It’s how the chapter began. With a reminder of what God’s promised us in the future. 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and YOUR LIFE IS NOW HIDDEN WITH CHRIST IN GOD. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then YOU ALSO WILL APPEAR WITH HIM IN GLORY.

That’s the inheritance we’re working for NOW.

V25 adds another future motivation for our work now. REWARD is certain, and so is JUDGMENT. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. That certainty works in TWO WAYS for the slave. It encourages him to work to PLEASE God, who’ll hold him accountable for his OWN actions. But it will also helps him deal with injustices at work. To trust that the unjust oppressor will ALSO receive judgment. We can REST in God’s justice. Romans 12:19 says Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

It’s a temptation for the Christian worker to behave dishonestly, because the BOSS is treating him badly. But NO, we’re to work honestly, because we’re not, ultimately, working for our employer, we’re working for GOD.

It doesn’t mean the Christian shouldn’t seek equity and fairness in wages or conditions. Just that we’re not to take personal revenge. Use the right means of seeking justice. It might bring equity, or it may NOT. But after doing what WE can, we should leave the ULTIMATE justice to God, who’ll audit EVERY set of accounts in the end. And that gives us comfort and hope. And motivates us to just keep working HONESTLY. To act justly and to love mercy.

Prayer and proclamation

In v2 of ch 4, it seems like we move onto a different topic. But I reckon it’s still relevant to this topic of work. V2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Great attitudes to have every day at work. Devoted to PRAYER. Seeking God’s guidance and strength for each decision you make. It’s what walking humbling before God LOOKS LIKE. And be WATCHFUL AND THANKFUL. Watchful for opportunities to show justice and mercy. Watchful for God’s leading. And thankful for him. For everything he’s GIVEN you, and GIVES you each day. If more of us took those attitudes to work, we’d be a lot HAPPIER, and we’d get a lot more SATISFACTION from our work.

In v3-4, Paul wants prayer for HIS work, TOO. That God would open a door for his message. And, v4, that he’d be CLEAR in how he SPOKE the message. And that should be OUR prayer as well – whatever job we do. (Open doors, and clear speaking). V5, we should be WISE in the way we act toward outsiders. It’s literally, “WALK IN WISDOM”. A whole series of wise decisions as you walk through the day, in your conversations and priorities and tasks. And as you deal with colleagues, or supervisors, or those under you, or with clients or customers.

And IN PARTICULAR, be wise in how you use your TIME. “Make the most of every opportunity”. In particular, the opportunities of CONVERSATIONS. V6. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Work is a great opportunity to MEET people. And to TALK to people. You spend more time with your work colleagues than you do with your own family! Those conversations can be an open door for the message about Jesus. Or they can CLOSE doors, and HARDEN people to him.

So your words need to be FULL OF GRACE. There’s no point winning an argument, but you’re such a bully that there’s no chance for MORE conversations. Better to LOSE the ARGUMENT, and be GRACIOUS. But it’s not about just agreeing with everyone, and not standing up for what you believe in. To make the MOST of opportunities, we have to SAY SOMETHING. Gracious YES, but also FULL OF SALT. Which is the idea of being DIFFERENT, and FLAVOURSOME, and INTERESTING.

And if we’re WISE, and GRACIOUS – if we LISTEN to people, and add value with our words, then we’ll have someone helpful to say to EACH ONE. It’s not “everyone” in a GENERAL sense. It’s EACH INDIVIDUAL one. Because every person’s DIFFERENT. And what’s wise to say to ONE person won’t suit ANOTHER person. Which is where being devoted to prayer, and being WATCHFUL comes in. Because it’s GOD who gives opportunities, and wisdom and grace and answers.

And it’s GOD we’re working for. In RESPONSE to his gracious gifts to us. And it’s in the name of Jesus that we’re DOING it all. So that HIS kingdom will grow. For HIS glory.

Colossians 2:6-23: Fully Satisfied

Kyle MacDonald is a young Canadian who, in 1995, began with a red paperclip, and decided, as a social experiment, to see if he could swap his way to a house.

Over 12 months, and through 14 trades, he actually achieved his goal. He traded his way up from a red paperclip to a house on Main Street, Kipling, Saskatchewan, in Canada.

At the time, publicity built as one trade followed another, and he received crazy offers of all sorts of things, from all over the world.

At the end of the process, when Kyle moved into his free house, the town threw him a wild housewarming party, and 11 of the 14 people who’d traded were able to be there.

For the record, here’s how the trading went. A red paper clip for a pen in the shape of a fish for a doorknob for a Coleman gas stove for an electric generator for a beer keg and Budweiser sign for a snowmobile for a trip to Yahk, British Columbia for a 3 tonne delivery van for a recording contract for accommodation in a house for a year in Phoenix for an afternoon with Alice Cooper for a Kiss snowglobe for a movie role with Corbin Bernsen … for a house!

At some point I’m sure you all said, “Don’t trade! It’s not WORTH it! What you’ve got is great!” Personally I would have loved the snowmobile. And I know Judy wouldn’t trade the afternoon with Alice Cooper for ANYTHING. Same with Dave Hammond and the Kiss snowglobe. Or Ben Zamor and the recording contract.

“Don’t trade! It’s not WORTH it! What you’ve got is great!”

And while Kyle’s project was a bit of fun, and a social experiment. There’s a SERIOUS side to it as well. For many people, it’s a picture of their life. Because they go through life with the SAME BASIC GOAL. TRYING TO TRADE UP. Better job, better car, better house, better clothes, better guitar, better wife. From one thing to the next to the next. Never satisfied. Never content.

And it’s the same with RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. You’ve only got to go along to the Mind Body Spirit Festival at Darling Harbour. Or tune in to Oprah most days, and you’ll see that people are HUNGRY FOR SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE. The bookshops are full of books on New Age spirituality.

Even CHRISTIANITY is affected. Whether it’s meditation workshops in the hills, or classical choral concerts in medieval cathedrals. Some Christians go for chanting and candles and traditional Latin services, others for stadium-sized concert-style church with electric guitars, thousands of people and slick production. And still others for prophetic ministry, or healing, or deliverance.

People are searching for a richer, deeper experience of God. Always looking to trade what they’ve GOT, for the next big thing. The next powerful technique to a fuller experience of God.

And normal Bible-believing Christians can sometimes think they can’t compete. When their message is that the Christian life is simply about trusting Jesus, following him obediently with the power of his Spirit, enduring difficulties, persecution and sickness patiently, and hoping confidently for eternity.

But Paul’s message for us, and for the Colossians he was writing to, is DON’T TRADE. The same thing we might have thought about Kyle Macdonald. “Don’t trade! Stick with what you’ve got! You can’t do better!”

He says, “What you’ve got in Christ is great. There’s nothing better. If it’s FULLNESS you’re after, then Christ is it!” You can see his whole argument summarized there from v8. In fact, it’s probably the key verses in the WHOLE LETTER. Ch 2 v8.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through HOLLOW AND DECEPTIVE philosophy, which depends on HUMAN tradition and the basic principles of THIS WORLD rather than on Christ. 9 For in Christ all the FULLNESS of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given FULLNESS in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

Human inventions are HOLLOW and EMPTY. They look substantial on the OUTSIDE, but they’re full of empty promises. But when God made you his own, when he gave you Christ, you got FULLNESS. Because everything that makes God God – it’s all stuffed into who Jesus is. That’s pretty full!

And you’ve got all THAT if you’re IN Christ. If you’re connected to JESUS, then you’re connected to GOD HIMSELF.

And human ideas just can’t compete. That’s Paul’s message. That’s the contrast. Empty vs FULL.

Same with MEDICAL SCIENCE. Human inventions can’t compete with what God’s made. Medical inventions are EXTRAORDINARY. Bionic ears, artificial heart and lungs. Kidney dialysis machines. Genetic engineering is pushing the boundaries of growing new ears and skin and spinal cords.

But as clever as human inventions are. They’re NOTHING compared to the ORIGINAL. Compared to what God’s designed and made. Artificial ears, or eyes or intelligence are a pale, weak imitation of the real thing. Of ears that can appreciate a symphony orchestra or a buzzing bee. Eyes that can automatically adjust and focus better than the most expensive camera. The human brain that’s better than any computer at real, independent intelligence.

No one would EVER trade a healthy REAL organ for a MAN-Made one.

And it should be the same with KNOWING GOD. Human inventions are NOTHING compared to God-made. But people make up all sorts of ways to get to God. That’s what RELIGION is. But they’re all pale imitations of God’s way. In fact they don’t even WORK.

God’s way isn’t about us at all. Which is why it WORKS. It’s about HIM getting to US, rather than US working towards HIM. It’s about GOD bridging the gap in his Son, Jesus, in whom all the fullness of God-ness lives! Stick with the way God designed, rather than settling for the man-made substitute.

That’s Paul’s message, and his FIRST point is to encourage the Colossians to think back to when they were first baptised. The enthusiasm they felt THEN is the way they’re to CONTINUE. V6.

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,

“Receiving Christ Jesus the Lord” is probably talking about their baptism. Their public identification of belonging to Christ. Paul’s saying, “You recognised the value of Christ THEN. Make sure you continue the way you began!”

Elyse ran her school cross country carnival a few months ago. And I told her it didn’t matter if she wasn’t winning at the START. Because lots of people would go too fast too soon. And they’d run out of puff. And give up. Elyse needed to run consistently. To keep going the way she started. And it WORKED! She WON!

Paul’s warning is that we’re to keep going the way we started. Don’t run out of puff. Keep moving forward with the enthusiasm you had at the beginning. Don’t give up on what you BELIEVED AT FIRST. Keep that same GRATITUDE, that same TRUST. That same OBEDIENCE.

The same Jesus who SAVED you THEN is the one you need to FOLLOW TODAY and TOMORROW. You took him as your SAVIOUR, keep obeying him as your LORD.

It would be crazy to do DIFFERENT. (To let go of the One who’d saved you once you’re saved.) Like a rescued swimmer. The lifesaver drags him up onto his rescue board. The swimmer gets his breath back, then says to the lifesaver. “Thanks, I’ll take it from here.” He pushes the lifesaver off the board, then tries to steer his own way in to the beach. That’s just foolish.

And Paul says anyone who takes on Jesus as SAVIOUR can’t decide halfway through they want to finish the job themselves. We’re to CONTINUE to LIVE IN Christ, just as we RECEIVED him.

To live in Christ. In Greek it’s WALK in Christ. Paul goes on to describe what that walking LOOKS LIKE. Verse 7.

(Col 2:7 NIV)  ROOTED and BUILT UP in him, STRENGTHENED in the faith as you were TAUGHT, and overflowing with THANKFULNESS.

Four words that describe walking in Christ. ROOTED, BUILT UP, STRENGTHENED and thankfulness.

ROOTED. It’s in a past tense. Something that happened ONCE. When the Christian was planted into Christ. When they trusted Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin. And for their future innocent verdict before God.

Then there’s BUILT UP – like a house that’s growing strong out of solid foundations. It’s in the PRESENT tense. Walking IN Christ is about BEING built up in him. Growing AS A PROCESS in your dependence and trust and obedience to him. Growing in your IMITATION of him.

Then there’s the THIRD term: strengthened in the faith. That’s THE INSTRUMENT healthy, mature Christians use to be built up in Christ. It’s about learning about your faith. Reading books, listening, singing, praying. Hearing how OTHER Christians are walking in Christ.

Being built up in Christ is about growing your FAITH-strength. And it’s just like PHYSICAL strength training. It grows with resistance training. It’s as faith is EXERCISED that it GROWS STRONG. As you step out into uncomfortable situations, as you begin that conversation, as you risk the friendship by introducing Jesus. As you give sacrificially. As you forgive the hurtful relationship and genuinely love that difficult person. And trust Jesus for the rest.

As you DO those things, you’re STRENGTHENED. And you’re BUILT UP IN HIM.

So, what does that all mean, PRACTICALLY? To be walking in Christ, rooted and built up in him?

I think it’s helpful to think of the CONTRAST. What are the OTHER THINGS people root their lives in? What foundations they build their lives on. And how well they compare.

There’s WORK, or FAMILY, or SECURITY, or HEALTH. Let’s try THOSE four on for size.

A man throws himself into HIS CAREER. He rises up the corporate ladder. Finds success in all sorts of ways. He thinks he’s got it all. But he arrives home late one night to an empty house. His wife has taken the kids and gone. And WORK as his life’s foundation suddenly seems shaky.

Someone else learns the LESSON from that man, so he takes a LOWER PAYING job. Shorter hours, less pay. And throws himself into his FAMILY. He does EVERYTHING for them. Nothing else matters more. But eventually the kids grow up, or rebel, or his marriage grows cold. And there’s nothing he can do about it. And FAMILY as his life’s foundation suddenly seems shaky.

Man number THREE observes the mistakes of the FIRST two. And decides they’ve been MUCH too short-sighted. So he throws his efforts into his future security – a comfortable retirement. He builds his investment portfolio, spreading the risk. He’s financially independent and SET… Until the global financial crisis hits, then his financial advisor defrauds him, and runs off to Bermuda with his wife. And SECURITY suddenly doesn’t seem so SECURE.

Then man number FOUR watches all of these mistakes. And decides that career, family and security are all passing. But as long as you’ve got your HEALTH, you’re happy. After all – what else IS THERE? And so he throws himself into healthy eating, exercise, vitamins, organic, massages, manicures, and regular medical checkups. He doesn’t work too hard, or stress too much. After all – that affects YOUR HEALTH.

Until one day one of those regular checkups reveals a shadow on an X-ray. The surgeon shakes his head – there’s nothing he can do. And suddenly HEALTH doesn’t seem so secure as a foundation to base your life on.

NONE of those things are worth rooting your life in. None are a foundation solid enough to build on.

In contrast, when you walk in Christ – when you root your life in him, and build it up in him. There’s STRENGTH and SECURITY. WHATEVER happens to health and work and finances and family. Jesus is the head over every power and authority. Over life and death and sin and judgment. And God has joined you to HIM. That’s a solid foundation!

And, as Paul finishes the idea in v7 – he adds OVERFLOWING THANKFULNESS. Gratitude for WHO you are, WHERE you are, and what you’ve been GIVEN.

And I’ve seen how that works for many of you here today. When all those other pillars of life fall over. You keep walking with Jesus. Secure, trusting, because his promises are sure.

When family splits up, when jobs are lost, when sickness takes those you love, or brings you to your knees yourself. You keep your eyes on Jesus, and walk through the dark valleys holding his hand. And you can look at them with a profound sense of THANKFULNESS. Because you’ve tasted that God is GOOD, and he’s RELIABLE. When everything else shatters. And you come through it all STRONGER and MORE CONTENT. Which seems CRAZY to people who don’t know Jesus.

Robert and Maureen spoke to me about it during the week. After all they’ve been through in the last year. Sickness, separation, death, travel and upheaval. That despite it all, there’s so much to be THANKFUL for. And that they’re trusting Jesus even more, rooted and built up in him.

They’re the signs of a full Christian life. Of the life God intends for his people. Not some OTHER HUMAN philosophy. That LOOKS impressive, but can’t deliver.

For Paul and the Colossians, that empty promise was, probably, JEWISHNESS. Best guess is – the same sort of Jews who’d invaded the Galatian church in Galatians 2, and the Antioch church in Acts 15. And the basic message in each of those places was that it was GOOD to follow Jesus. But BETTER to throw in Jewish law-keeping AS WELL. Like eating certain food, or getting circumcised.

b) already circumcised (11-12)

Which is why Paul brings up circumcision in v11.

(Col 2:11 NIV)  In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,

Don’t worry about the PHYSICAL act. That’s what the false teachers want to focus on. WAY more important is the SPIRITUAL circumcision Jesus did. When he cut away your old dead, sinful self. And gave you a new heart. And a new ability to follow and please God. Christians are ALREADY circumcised, so don’t listen to them, says Paul. He expands on the idea down in v13.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the UNCIRCUMCISION OF YOUR SINFUL NATURE, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,

And then Paul paints a beautiful picture of what forgiveness of sins is like. It’s like God took the law. All of God’s regulations and “do’s” and “don’t’s”. The whole list the Jewish false teachers were holding up as the manual for how to get REALLY FULL of God. And he CANCELLED it. No longer valid. Out of date. Powerless. Like a driver’s license that’s expired. Useless.

And he cancelled it by nailing it to Jesus’ cross.

Just like the list of charges Jesus was punished for was nailed above his head. That’s the OT law that’s nailed there. YOU’VE broken every single one of them. But I’m going to charge JESUS with them. And HE’S going to die, instead. Verse 14.

(Col 2:14 NIV)  having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against US and that stood opposed to US; he took it away, nailing it to THE CROSS.

Which means, that if you’re a Christian, those charges are POWERLESS to accuse you. Justice has been satisfied.

It was God’s amazing, profound victory. It looked like defeat. But rather than making a spectacle of JESUS, the cross made a public spectacle of HIS ENEMIES. Verse 15.

(Col 2:15 NIV)  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The picture is of a defeated, foreign king. All the powers and authorities of the world. Being paraded through the streets for everyone to laugh at. An army THIS CLOSE to victory. But then it was snatched from under their noses. And now they’re the butt of everyone’s jokes.

And Paul’s point is that Christians are the ones on the winning side. We’re the victorious ones. We’ve got everything. Don’t trade.

3. Therefore don’t feel inferior (16-23)

And that leads into the next part of Paul’s argument. In v16. Notice the “THEREFORE”. Here’s the practical bit. What all the theology mean. V16

16 Therefore DO NOT LET ANYONE JUDGE YOU by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

Since you’re victorious in Christ, THEREFORE DON’T FEEL INFERIOR. Other people reckon they’ve got the inside running on spirituality, or the victorious Christian life. And that you don’t measure up.

For Paul it was JEWISH legalism. For us, it might be drinking alcohol. Or working on a Sunday. Or speaking in tongues. Or reading a certain version of the Bible. Or attending Bible studies. Or even daily Bible reading.

The moment they become rules you HAVE to keep, rather than one way of pleasing God, they’ve lost ANY benefit.

But Paul’s point is that all of these things are nothing compared to the real thing. For the Jewish law, they’re like SHADOWS compared to the full life of walking in Christ. Verse 17.

(Col 2:17 NIV)  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Don’t settle for the entrée, the OLD way of doing things, because it’s nothing compared to the main course. It’s what I do at parties. I fill up on dip. And when the beautiful hot food comes out, I’m too full to fit much in. Don’t trade the new in for the old.

The old PHYSICAL rules, by themselves, are useless because they only affect physical things. They concentrate on things of this age. They don’t affect what lasts.

It’s the SPIRITUAL things. Things to do with God, and godliness, which are important. True holiness, true life – full life – is found when we learn to walk in Christ. To sink our roots deep down into him. To follow in his footsteps.

We’ve already GOT IT ALL. We just need to WALK in it. Appreciate what we HAVE. Lean on him. Trust him. And overflow with thankfulness.

Colossians 1:3-14: The Place of Prayer: Six Steps To Encouragement 6

We’ve been looking at SIX STEPS TO ENCOURAGEMENT. Today we come to the SIXTH step. PRAYER. Which should really be THE FIRST step – at least when it comes to the PROCESS of encouraging. Because it’s only GOD who can change people through us. It’s vital we connect with HIM. That we ask for HIS help, HIS wisdom. For HIS PURPOSES to be worked out in us.

Prayer is both the SIMPLEST thing in the world, and also the MOST DIFFICULT. I know that’s true FOR ME. It’s often the LAST thing we turn to, rather than the FIRST.

But if Jesus found it necessary to pray, then who are we to think we don’t need it?

We’re going to look at an example of Paul’s prayers this morning. Colossians ch 1. It’s great because it helps us see the big picture. It helps us see things from God’s perspective. Helps us see how the few simple sentences we mumble to another person can have eternal and heavenly consequences.

We might wonder whether the VOTE of one person can do much. But this passage teaches us that the ENCOURAGING WORDS of one person can have a GREAT impact as God answers our prayers!

Look for, and give thanks for, the work of God’s words in people’s lives.
First thing this passage teaches us is to LOOK for, and GIVE THANKS for the work of God’s words in people’s lives. There from v3.
3 We ALWAYS THANK GOD, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your FAITH in Christ Jesus and of the LOVE you have for all the saints- 5 the faith and love that spring from the HOPE that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.

He’s thanking God – because God’s DOING something in the Colossians. Epaphras (in v7) might have been the PERSON who preached the gospel to them – but it’s GOD who’s producing the FRUIT in their lives. So he doesn’t thank Epaphras.

The Colossians HEARD it, they UNDERSTOOD it. And God gave them FAITH to TRUST it. He gave them LOVE to share with people around them. He gave them HOPE to fuel their perseverance and their witness.

Paul looking for the work of God in people’s lives, so he can be thankful to God. It would have taken a lot more effort for Paul to find out information than it does FOR US. But he chases up Epaphras, his mate who founded the church to find out SPECIFICS.

Paul hadn’t even MET these Christians. See there in v4 – he’s only HEARD about their faith. But he prays for them ALWAYS. Not constantly. But EVERY TIME he prays. You’ve got to be ORGANISED to do that.

How well do YOU know specific things about people to pray for? To give THANKS for? We don’t need to know everyone’s intimate secrets. But church should be an open, honest place where we’ve got a rough idea about how people are going. About what their struggles are. Where God’s doing good work. Where we can THANK him.

But some of us don’t even know EACH OTHER’S NAMES. It shouldn’t BE like that.

Home groups are designed so you can get to know each other better. And provide a more comfortable setting to share some of those details.

If you’re NOT in one, JOIN one. It’s GOOD for you. It’s good for US ALL.

Ian’s starting up a new one next term. See him.

But if you’re already in one, don’t sit back, resting on your laurels. When it comes time to SHARE in those groups – be prepared to SHARE. Share some SPECIFIC details. Make yourself vulnerable. Specific GOOD things to THANK God for. Specific CHALLENGES you want God to WORK IN.

That’s when Home Groups will start working the way they’re SUPPOSED to. When they move from being simply a BIBLE study group. When people openly share their lives with each other. That’s when the SUPPORT and the GROWTH and the ACCOUNTABILITY begin.

But that’s only the FIRST step – the people you know HERE AT CHURCH. How well are you doing at seeking out information, and praying for people OUTSIDE your immediate circle? YOUR family, YOUR church, YOUR work?

How wide is your vision when it comes to prayer? Does it stretch to the other side of Sydney, other denominations, the other side of the world? Does it stretch beyond the urgent and immediate to the IMPORTANT? The BIG things?

A couple of years ago Gordon ran a prayer seminar, and one of the models for prayer he talked about was to imagine your life as a series of concentric circles.

The INSIDE circle represents YOU. Personal issues, interactions you have, people you’re meeting – both requests and thanks for answered prayer. You start off praying there. The NEXT circle out represents your FAMILY. Then you move out to your CHURCH, then your community or your city. Then finally you pray for your WORLD. For Christians on other countries, for missionaries. Even for people you’ve never MET.

And so, as you work your way out, you’re able to pray for a whole RANGE of concerns. Close and distant. Small things and large. Immediate and more long-term.

If you only stick to the first or the second circle. Your view of the world is unbalanced. Your view of God’s WORK is unbalanced. The world ISN’T centred on you. And God’s on about much bigger concerns than just your close circles.

Recognising that actually gives us GREATER confidence in praying for our close circles. Because we can see God working on a much bigger scale. We catch a better glimpse of his power and his love. That’s what Paul reminds the Colossians there in v6. The gospel’s not just at work in THEM. ALL OVER THE WORLD the gospel’s bearing fruit!

But it takes a bit of organisation to be INFORMED about concerns outside your immediate circle.

Perhaps it takes a church MISSIONS group who can regularly provide information on missionaries around the world. Perhaps organise activities to raise money for them. Keep us up to date with prayer points. Things to PRAISE God for as well as requests. I reckon that would be GREAT for a couple of people to take on. See me if you’re interested.

Individually, you can be subscribing to magazines, reading books. Or even checking websites regularly that inform you of God’s concerns across the world.

Learn from the example of Paul. Look for, and give thanks for, the work of God’s words in people’s lives. And look BROADLY. So your view of GOD can be just as big.

2. Pray for people to be filled with a knowledge of God’s will
Point Two. When you’ve recognised what God IS doing in people, your prayer for him to do it MORE will be more CONFIDENT. Look at how Paul turns from thanks to petition in v9. It’s really only a prayer for ONE THING. Have a look at it.
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and ASKING GOD TO FILL YOU WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL THROUGH ALL SPIRITUAL WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING.

Is this just a prayer that the Colossians would know what job to do, or who to marry? It’s not a bad thing to limit God’s will to those sorts of guidance questions. And it’s wonderful when God DOES guide in those ways. But it’s not the main way the Bible speaks about God’s WILL.

Like in Ps 40:8
8 I desire to do your WILL, O my God; your LAW is within my heart.”

God’s WILL is his REVEALED will. His LAW. His decrees. We already HAVE his blueprint for how he wants us to live our life. All that we need to follow God’s WILL is there in the Bible.

Paul’s prayer is that these people would be so filled with God’s WORD, that it would be bubbling out in the way they speak and think and act. That the pattern of God’s actions and attitudes down through history would be stamped onto their lives. Whatever they did. And wherever they were.

In other words, that they’d be speaking WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT to each other.

Whatever we do when we meet together, we should NEVER outgrow spending serious time and energy and attention studying and reading and applying God’s word together.

It’s how we learn God’s WILL. And it’s how we can learn what God’s words are that we can speak to each other in encouragement.

And so, Paul’s prayer is that God would FILL THE COLOSSIANS WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL with all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

It’s a prayer WE need to pray. For OURSELVES, just as much as for OTHERS. Not only that we would KNOW our Bibles – that’s the THEORETICAL.

And that we’d know how to SPEAK it to each other. By listening first, and then speaking with wisdom and courage. Like we learned last week.

But also that God would give us a glimpse into his DESIRES – A glimpse into his character that lies BEHIND his commands. A HEART knowledge.

To be filled with the knowledge of God’s will is to know something of The LOVE that drives God to want to see the gospel spread. The HOLINESS that mourns our sin and weakness and rebellion. A glimpse into his PATIENCE that wants to keep giving people another chance, long after OUR patience wears out. A peek at the JOY he feels when his people lovingly and faithfully follow his ways.

But to pray that God would fill us with the knowledge of his will with all spiritual wisdom and understanding isn’t just about HEAD knowledge. And it isn’t just about HEART knowledge. It’s a prayer that God would show us how to APPLY that truth in the hundreds of specific situations we all face each week – that’s a PRACTICAL knowledge.

So that you live worthy of the Lord, and please him,
Situations that take WISDOM so we can respond in ways that bring HONOUR to God. You can see that’s the POINT of Paul’s prayer because of how he goes on to describe what this will LEAD to. The GOAL he has in mind. Look there in v10.
10 And we pray this (that they’d know the will of God) in order that you may LIVE A LIFE WORTHY OF THE LORD and may PLEASE HIM IN EVERY WAY: etc

We need to know God’s will not so much so we can steer the right path through life. But so we can live a life that MEASURES UP and PLEASES him WHEREVER THE PATH TAKES US.

To drive LEGALLY, and WITH PATIENCE in whatever car we choose to buy. To work HARD and HONESTLY in whatever job we’re in. To get on with our neighbours in whatever suburb we live in.

To live a life that’s WORTHY of the Lord. I don’t think we grasp the WEIGHT of that – the weight of living under an EXPECTATION.

It’s something Prince Harry and Prince William have had to live with. Living a life that’s WORTHY of a WINDSOR – worthy of ROYALTY. And occasionally, naturally, they haven’t been able to measure up. And they’ve been caught doing what OTHER NORMAL people do. Go to nightclubs, get drunk and get up to mischief.

But it’s not the sort of life that’s WORTHY OF ROYALTY.

Does it weigh heavily on YOU that you live a life that’s WORTHY of the Lord. That’s FITTING. Are you conscious that your thoughts and actions and words needs to be measuring up? So that they might be PLEASING to God?

Paul goes on to describe what that sort of worthy and pleasing life LOOKS LIKE. Four characteristics.

bearing fruit in every good work,
Have a look there in v10. First, a life that’s WORTHY of the Lord BEARS FRUIT in the form of GOOD WORKS. Christians do good works. Attitudes and actions of love for all the saints – that’s up in v4. Or v6, all over the world the GOSPEL is bearing fruit and growing. That’s the good work of SHARING JESUS with the people you meet.

growing in the knowledge of God
The second way we please God is there at the end of v11. That we would be growing in the knowledge of God.

It seems like there’s a cycle going on here. Paul prays that they’d grow in the knowledge of God’s will so they can live a worthy life and bear fruit, which means they’ll be growing in the knowledge of God.

God’s WILL for you is to know HIM better. Not just through his WORD, but through obeying him, you learn BY EXPERIENCE about his goodness, and his faithfulness, and his love and his mercy.

Being strengthened with all power so that you may have great endurance and patience
The third aspect of a pleasing life is there in v11.
strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,

Knowing God’s will leads to having POWER. But it’s not the power to defeat armies. Claim mighty victories. Win gold medals. A pleasing life is one that is strengthened by God’s power to ENDURE with PATIENCE. That looks with HOPE to the reward God’s promised. As you stick it out in the tough times.
It takes a STRONG man to endure ridicule and suffering without retaliating. A REAL man.

It takes a STRONG woman to deal with negative comments and criticism and suffering without complaining or becoming bitter or taking sides.

God’s will is for you to be STRENGTHENED so you might have great patience and endurance.

Do you pray that for yourself? Do you pray it for OTHERS?

Joyfully giving thanks
Paul’s fourth descriptor is there in v12. Joyfully giving thanks.
11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have GREAT ENDURANCE AND PATIENCE, and JOYFULLY 12 GIVING THANKS TO THE FATHER,

How does joyful thanks go with great endurance and patience? How can you ENDURE a TRYING SITUATION at the same time as being joyful and thankful?

The ONLY way you can do it is if you’re trusting in a God who’s SOVEREIGN. Who IS in control. Who’s dealt with your PAST, who’s got your PRESENT in his hand, and who’s PROMISED you a secure future.

You can see that’s what Paul’s got in mind as he goes on
joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light (That’s our FUTURE). 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness (that’s our PAST) and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (that’s our PRESENT).

That’s God’s WILL for us. We need to be filled with a knowledge of that will. That’s the perspective we need. That insight into God’s plans. We need it to speak God’s words of encouragement to each other. So we need to be PRAYING it for each other.

Mercedes Ruehl is a great stage and screen actress. She’s one of the few actresses to win a Tony Award for the stage, and an Oscar Award for the screen in the same year (for Lost in Yonkers and The Fisher King).

She tells the story of how she was first captivated by acting. She was in primary school in the 1950’s, and her family was in New York visiting relatives. As they drove through Times Square, on the spur of the moment her parents decided to see if they could get tickets to The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
“I remember waiting in the car,” says Ruehl, “while my mother ran up to the box office. The only tickets left were for box seats. Box seats! Right beside the stage.
“As we watched the play, I couldn’t take my eyes off its star, Tammy Grimes. She must have felt my adoration, because at one point she looked up and held my eyes. It was probably for no more than one second, but it seemed like ten seconds. I always felt that was my OFFICIAL INVITATION TO BE AN ACTRESS. With her gaze I WAS TOUCHED LIKE A KNIGHT ON BOTH SHOULDERS WITH A SWORD.”

God’s gaze is on us. His purpose for us, his WILL for us, is to live a life worthy of his calling. To bear fruit. To be strengthened. To joyfully give thanks. To share in our inheritance in the kingdom of lights.
And he’s given us HIS official invitation to JOIN him in working towards that purpose in OTHERS. As we PRAY for people to KNOW that will, and as we speak his words to BRING it ABOUT.

Colossians 1:1-14: Praying with Paul 3: Knowing God’s Will

How easy is it to know GOD’S WILL for your life?  Is it God’s will for you to live in Blacktown or Balmoral? Is it God’s will for you to be a teacher or a tradesman? To drive a pushbike or a Porsche?  Is it God’s will to marry MARY or MARTHA? To have TWO kids or TEN? To buy a BOAT for the HOLIDAYS, or BRACES for the KIDS?

Or what about God’s will for us AS A CHURCH? We were just talking about a number of decisions at Leadership Team this week. How many home groups to have, and who’d lead them. Whether to approve certain people to help look after the children. And what sorts of challenges we could run with as part of our challenge to “Get Up and Grow!” What is God’s will in all of those decisions?

I went to another meeting last week where interested people were looking at the options for Scripture teaching in Evans High. And we wanted to know what God’s WILL was in THAT situation.

And it’s only that we’d PRAY as we make those decisions. Which we certainly did. Pray that God would show us his WILL. Guide us to do the RIGHT thing. The BEST thing.

I’m sure there have been times when YOU’VE prayed to know what God’s will. Perhaps even for some of these decisions.

And Paul ALSO prays that people would know what God’s WILL is. Here in Colossians 1. But perhaps not in the way you might be expecting. What we’ll discover / is that God’s more interested in the SORT OF LIFE YOU’RE LIVING than the car you drive, or the suburb you live in, or the career you choose.

His will is more to do with HOW you drive, rather than what CAR you drive. How HARD you work and how HONEST you are / rather than what the particular job IS. And his will is more about what sort of things you DO TO GROW HIS KINGDOM in your suburb, rather than what suburb it is.

You see, TO KNOW GOD’S WILL is something we especially need in Australian Christianity today. We need insight and wisdom into God’s will because we’re swamped with choices about how to live. Our churches and Christian bookshops are filled with new books and programs and techniques. Gimics and the latest fads. Each promising to be the answer to success and power and revival and growth. For individuals, or for churches.

So many claims, so many promises, so many opinions. But what does GOD want for his people? We need to pray that we would know God’s will.

Let’s turn to HIS word, and in particular to THIS PRAYER, and let it shape us. Shape our prayers. And our desires and goals. Shape our LIVES.

1. Paul prays for those he has never met

But before we look at the prayer itself, I want you to notice a of things. The first is that Paul even prays for those he’s never met. Look there in v3.

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have HEARD of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints-

You see, Paul had never actually BEEN to Colossae. Never met the people there. The church had been planted by Epaphras. That’s down there in v7.

7 You LEARNED (THE GOSPEL) FROM EPAPHRAS, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and WHO ALSO TOLD US OF YOUR LOVE in the Spirit.

Paul had only HEARD about the Colossian church, but he still PRAYED for it.

Let me ask YOU / how much of YOUR praying is just concerned with your own immediate circle? YOUR family, YOUR church, YOUR work? The URGENT concerns of TODAY? How wide is your vision when it comes to prayer? Does it stretch to the other side of Sydney, the other side of the world? Does it stretch beyond the urgent and immediate to the IMPORTANT? The BIG things?

At last year’s “Improving Your Serve”, Gordon ran a prayer seminar, and one of the s for prayer he talked about was to imagine your life as a series of concentric circles.

The INSIDE circle represents YOU. Personal issues, interactions you have, people you’re meeting – both requests and thanks for answered prayer. You start off praying there. The NEXT circle out represents your FAMILY. Then you move out to your CHURCH, then your community or your city. Then finally you pray for your WORLD. For Christians on other countries, for missionaries. Even for people you’ve never MET.

And so, as you work your way out, you’re able to pray for a whole RANGE of concerns. Close and distant. Small things and large. Immediate and more long-term.

But it takes a bit of organisation to be INFORMED about concerns outside your immediate circle.

Perhaps it takes a church MISSIONS group who can regularly provide information on missionaries around the world. Perhaps organise activities to raise money for them. Keep us up to date with prayer points. Things to PRAISE God for as well as requests. I reckon that would be GREAT for a of people to take on. See me if you’re interested.

Individually, you can be subscribing to magazines, reading books. Or even checking websites regularly that inform you of God’s concerns across the world.

One excellent resource is a book called “Operation World”. It gives you information on the state of the Christian church in every country in the world. Specific needs as well as things to be thanking God for.

Learn from the example of Paul. Be praying for people you HAVEN’T met/ as well as those you HAVE.

  1. Paul links thanksgiving to petition

A second lesson we can learn is that PAUL LINKS THANKSGIVING TO PETITION. In other words, Paul hears that the Colossian church is doing WELL, so he THANKS God. But he doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t move on to other churches that are WORSE OFF. Straight away he moves on to asking God to show MORE of his work in their lives.

Have a look at what I mean. Verses 3-8. “We always THANK God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when we pray for you”. And then he goes on to list the things he’s thankful for. Their FAITH and LOVE and HOPE. How they’ve responded to the gospel.

And then, v9, he says,

9 FOR THIS REASON, since the day we heard about you, WE HAVE NOT STOPPED PRAYING FOR YOU

Why does Paul pray? Because things are going WELL. Because God is DOING things in and through the Colossians, Paul prays that he would do MORE. Paul prays for GOING CONCERNS.

Don’t just pray when there’s a desperate need. That’s what we’re tempted to do, isn’t it? But let PETITION flow out of THANKS.

  • Do you pray more when the church is about to split, or when there’ve been several conversions?
  • Do you pray more when your kids are growing in grace, or when they’re in danger from bad influences?
  • Do you pray more when you’re getting on WELL with your friends and friendships are deepening? Or when everyone’s turning on each other, and things are a mess?

Let your requests flow out of your thanks. It’s a way for our prayers to be God-focussed, rather than focussed on ourselves. Work hard at looking for how God IS working in the situations around you. Then give THANKS. And then pray for him to do MORE of it.

3. Paul prays for

  1. Knowledge of God’s will

Which is what Paul goes on to do. In v9. Let’s turn to the prayer itself. It’s really only a prayer for ONE THING. Have a look at it.

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and ASKING GOD TO FILL YOU WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL THROUGH ALL SPIRITUAL WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING.

Is this just a prayer that the Colossians would know what job to do, or who to marry? It’s not a bad thing to limit God’s will to those sorts of guidance questions. And it’s wonderful when God DOES guide in those ways. But it’s not the main way the Bible speaks about God’s WILL.

Like in Ps 40:8

8 I desire to do your WILL, O my God; your LAW is within my heart.”

God’s WILL is his REVEALED will. His LAW. His decrees. We already HAVE his blueprint for how he wants us to live our life. All that we need to follow God’s WILL/ is there in the Bible.

Paul’s prayer is that these people would be so filled with God’s WORD, that it would be bubbling out in the way they speak and think and act. That the pattern of God’s actions and attitudes down through history would be stamped onto their lives. Whatever they did. And wherever they were.

Whatever we do when we meet together, we should NEVER outgrow spending serious time and energy and attention/ studying and reading and applying God’s word together.

It’s how we learn God’s WILL.

But perhaps you’re saying “That’s all too general! I want some GUIDANCE! You’re saying “Just be GOOD. Do what the Bible says” Give me some SPECIFICS about God’s will!”

Alright, try these on for size. What is God’s will for a Christian being TEMPTED TO LIVE THE WAY THE WORLD DOES? 1 Thess 4:3-5

3 It is God’s WILL that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid ual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable,

What is God’s will for a COMPLAINING Christian?

1 Thess 5:16-18 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

What is God’s will for a Christian who’s being ridiculed and slandered?

1 Peter 2:15 For it is God’s will that by DOING GOOD you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

God’s will is that you’re NICE to them!

Or another example. If you thought the last one was different, this one will spin you out. What is God’s will for a Christian who’s being persecuted? Surely it’s that the persecution would stop! But not according to 1 Peter 4:19

19 So then, those who SUFFER ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and CONTINUE TO DO GOOD.

It may actually be God’s will for you to SUFFER for his sake. In which case, his will for you is to TRUST him. And keep doing GOOD, without retaliating.

Is THAT practical and specific enough for you! And that’s just a few verses that SPECIFICALLY MENTION God’s WILL. The WHOLE BIBLE is full of specific and practical commands for how to live.

And so, Paul’s prayer is that God would FILL THE COLOSSIANS WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL with all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

It’s a prayer WE need to pray. Not only that we would KNOW our Bibles – that’s the THEORETICAL. But also that God would give us a glimpse into his DESIRES – A glimpse into his character that lies BEHIND his commands. A HEART knowledge.

It’s a prayer that we would know something of The LOVE that drives God to want to see the gospel spread. The HOLINESS that mourns our sin and weakness and rebellion. A glimpse into his PATIENCE that wants to keep giving people another chance, long after OUR patience wears out. A peek at the JOY he feels when his people lovingly and faithfully follow his ways.

But to pray that God would fill us with the knowledge of his will with all spiritual wisdom and understanding isn’t just about HEAD knowledge. And it isn’t just about HEART knowledge. It’s a prayer that God would show us how to APPLY that truth in the hundreds of specific situations we all face each week – that’s a PRACTICAL knowledge.

  1. So that you live worthy of the Lord, and please him,

Situations that take WISDOM so we can respond in ways that bring HONOUR to God. You can see that’s the POINT of Paul’s prayer because of how he goes on to describe what this will LEAD to. The GOAL he has in mind. Look there in v10.

10 And we pray this (that they’d know the will of God) in order that you may LIVE A LIFE WORTHY OF THE LORD and may PLEASE HIM IN EVERY WAY: etc

We need to know God’s will not so much so we can steer the right path through life. But so we can live a life that MEASURES UP and PLEASES him WHEREVER THE PATH TAKES US.

To drive LEGALLY and WITH PATIENCE in whatever car we choose to buy. To work HARD and HONESTLY in whatever job we’re in. To get on with our neighbours in whatever suburb we live in.

To live a life that’s WORTHY of the Lord. I don’t think we grasp the WEIGHT of that – the weight of living under an EXPECTATION.

It’s something Prince Harry and Prince William have had to live with. Living a life that’s WORTHY of a WINDSOR – worthy of ROYALTY. And occasionally, ly, they haven’t been able to measure up. And they’ve been caught doing what OTHER NORMAL age boys do. Go to nightclubs, get drunk and get up to mischief.

But it’s not the sort of life that WORTHY OF ROYALTY.

Does it weigh heavily on YOU that you live a life that’s WORTHY of the Lord. That’s FITTING. Are you conscious that your thoughts and actions and words needs to be measuring up? So that they might be PLEASING to God?

Paul goes on to describe what that sort of worthy and pleasing life LOOKS LIKE. Four characteristics.

  1. bearing fruit in every good work,

Have a look there in v10. First, a life that’s WORTHY of the Lord BEARS FRUIT in the form of GOOD WORKS. Christians do good works.

Let me be clear. A CHRISTIAN can PLEASE God by doing good works. But you can’t BECOME a Christian by doing good works.

If God has forgiven your sin because of Jesus, then he looks with PLEASURE on your efforts to please him. But if you’re NOT a Christian, then it doesn’t matter HOW many good works you do, God will never look with pleasure on them. Because they’re done from a state of REBELLION.

Jesus put it this way (Jn 15:5)

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he WILL BEAR MUCH FRUIT; APART FROM ME you can do NOTHING. … 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, SHOWING YOURSELVES to be my disciples.

Good works are the EVIDENCE of a Christian, not the means of becoming one. They are the FRUIT of being with Christ, not the ROOT.

It’s a confusion LOTS of people fall for. Probably most Australians. But I don’t think it’s a mistake WE often make. The Pressie church has been well-taught that our salvation is by GRACE, rather than what we do.

But there’s still a danger for us. We’re more likely to go the OTHER way. To think we can’t please God AT ALL. That we’re nothing but filthy sinners. But here’s the startling truth. We CAN ACTUALLY PLEASE God.

As we faithfully and energetically work at the good works God has prepared for us, then it is actually possible to be PLEASING to God. Even though we sometimes stumble.

  1. growing in the knowledge of God

The next aspect of a life that’s pleasing to God is there at the end of v11. That we would be growing in the knowledge of God.

It seems like there’s a cycle going on here. Paul prays that they’d grow in the knowledge of God’s will so they can live a worthy life and bear fruit, which means they’ll be growing in the knowledge of God.

Paul’s saying that the Christian knows A LITTLE of God’s will, then obeys it. As he obeys it, he sees that it’s GOOD. That it WORKS – brings JOY. And so he’s able to know it BETTER. To know it from the INSIDE. By EXPERIENCE.

Romans 12:1-2 talks about TESTING and APPROVING what God’s will is.

It’s like an engineer product-testing a new car. Before the test drive, he knows the car – he’s read the reports, looked at the designs, seen the computer simulations. But it’s not until he DRIVES it, EXPERIENCES it – that he can test and approve what the car is like. He knows it a lot better.

  1. Being strengthened with all power so that you may have great endurance and patience

The third aspect of a pleasing life is there in v11.

strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,

Knowing God’s will leads to having POWER. But it’s not the power to defeat armies. Claim mighty victories. Win gold medals. A pleasing life is one that is strengthened by God’s power to ENDURE with PATIENCE. That looks with HOPE to the reward God’s promised. As you stick it out in the tough times.

Do you pray that for yourself? Do you pray it for OTHERS?

  1. Joyfully giving thanks

Paul’s fourth descriptor seems to clash a bit with number three. Have a look at it there in v12. I’ll read v 11 as well. See if you can work out the clash.

11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have GREAT ENDURANCE AND PATIENCE, and JOYFULLY 12 GIVING THANKS TO THE FATHER,

How does joyful thanks go with great endurance and patience? How can you ENDURE a TRYING SITUATION at the same time as being joyful and thankful?

The only way you can do it is if you’re trusting in a God who’s SOVEREIGN. Who IS in control. Who’s dealt with your PAST, who’s got your PRESENT in his hand, and who’s PROMISED you a secure future.

You can see that’s what Paul’s got in mind as he goes on

joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light (That’s our FUTURE). 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness (that’s our PAST) and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (that’s our PRESENT).

It’s that perspective that we need. That insight into God’s WILL for us. We need it to live with PURPOSE – the purpose of pleasing God in good works. We need it to live with POWER – the power to endure faithfully with patience. And we need it to live with ATTITUDE. An attitude of JOYFUL THANKS to the God who has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Amen.

Colossians 1:1-14: Being who you are

IDENTITY AND PURPOSE: Knowing WHO YOU ARE, and knowing WHAT YOU’RE DOING.

There’s a saying that if you AIM AT NOTHING, you’ll HIT IT EVERY TIME. Whether you’re big business, or churches, or just ambitious individuals.

Big business, for example, spends millions getting their corporate identity clear. What they’re on about, and where they fit in the market-place. PURPOSE STATEMENTS. What is our major focus? Why do we exist?

ANZ wants us to think they UNDERSTAND us. Their motto? “We know what you’re thinking.”

Woolworths are “the fresh food people”

Coles are working hard to make sure “down, down, Prices are down.”

Even TINY businesses are doing it. Like BC electrical contractors in Melbourne. Only 5 people in the company, but they’ve got a mission TOO. “To provide you, the customer, with peace of mind when it comes to all electrical requirements.” And they’ve got a vision too. “Our vision: to exceed client’s expectations using quality electricians,”

It’s important to know WHO YOU ARE, and WHERE YOU’RE HEADED. IDENTITY and PURPOSE.

Or what about us as a church? What’s OUR identity? Who ARE we? And what’s our PURPOSE? What are we HERE for? Where do we want to GO?

You need to know THAT/ before you can work out how to GET there.

SOME churches have the motto, “Growing followers of Jesus.” Who are they? They’re followers of Jesus who are GROWING. And what are they HERE for? To GROW MORE followers of Jesus.

Other churches use the slogan, CONNECT, GROW, SERVE. Perhaps doesn’t say so much about IDENTITY. But certainly explains PURPOSE. Their goal is to CONNECT to people, then GROW them in Jesus, and then to train and encourage them to SERVE.

IDENTITY and PURPOSE.

Obviously, for the Christian, the place to look for these things is the Bible. The Apostle Paul was someone who knew WHO HE WAS, WHERE he was going, and WHY he was going there. The focus of his life was the Lord Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who provided his identity and his purpose. And it’s dripping out of every sentence of this letter to the Colossians.

JESUS IS THE ANSWER TO EVERY QUESTION. THE SOLUTION TO EVERY PROBLEM. THE DESTINATION OF EVERY JOURNEY. LIFE IS BECAUSE OF JESUS.

That’s Paul’s message. That’s Paul’s LIFE. And he wants to hammer it home in this letter to the Colossians, because they’re being tempted by EMPTY promises. False ideas about how to live a rich, full and free life. Promises that DIDN’T include Jesus. Promises that, ultimately, were nothing more than empty lies.

But we’ll see more about those promises in the coming weeks.

And right from the very first verse, Paul shows us this focus. He defines WHO HE IS. His whole identity is tied up in Jesus. Look at v1.

(Col 1:1 NIV)  “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”

Paul’s an APOSTLE. – someone APPOINTED TO A SPECIAL TASK. In this case, God had appointed Paul to tell people about Jesus. That was his IDENTITY – who he was. And his PURPOSE – what he was doing.

Who he was, and what he did, was BECAUSE OF GOD’S WILL.

But it wasn’t just Paul. For him, EVERY Christian finds his identity in Jesus. Look at how he describes the Colossians. Verse 2

(Col 1:2 NIV)  To the holy and faithful brothers IN CHRIST at Colosse:

To be IN CHRIST is to be CONNECTED to Christ. Living within the sphere of his Lordship. Everything done in PARTNERSHIP with Jesus.

To be IN CHRIST means it’s Christ who shapes your thinking, your actions, your attitudes. It’s Christ who determines your goals. Who shapes your identity.

(pause) And notice what that LOOKS LIKE in the Colossians. verse 4.

(Col 1:4-5 NIV) … we have heard of your FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS and of the LOVE you have for all the saints– {5} the faith and love that spring from the HOPE that is stored up for you in heaven…

Faith, Love, and Hope. The three great Christian virtues. Faith in Christ Jesus. Love for Christians. Hope stored up in heaven.

Their PRESENT is sorted out – Living right with GOD (trusting Jesus). And they’re living right with PEOPLE (loving the saints). And their FUTURE is sorted out TOO. Solid inheritance stored away

And Paul’s THANKING GOD because the Colossians have it ALL.

It’s what he does at the start of lots of his letters. Gives us a look at his prayer diary. And as we look at the things he prays for, we learn a lot about who Paul is, and why he does what he does.

1. Paul was committed to prayer:

The first obvious point is that Paul was COMMITTED TO PRAYER. And he begins with THANKSGIVING. Look at v3.

(Col 1:3 NIV)  We ALWAYS THANK God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,

THANKSGIVING recognises our true position. That GOD is the one who does things. He’s Lord, and not us. He’s the driver, we’re the passenger. And so God is the one who deserves thanks.

And that’s HUMBLING.

Many MEN find it hard to PRAY WITH THEIR WIVES. Much easier for us to DO stuff. Or FIX stuff. I think part of the reason is that praying is A SIGN OF WEAKNESS. And we don’t like to admit weakness. Like not asking for directions. Prayer is a HUMBLING experience. It’s admitting that you need help.

But that’s the REALITY! We ARE helpless. God IS in control.

Identity and purpose start with a correct understanding of WHO WE ARE. And prayer helps us to do that.

2. Paul is committed to the Gospel

The second thing we learn about Paul is that he’s COMMITTED TO THE GOSPEL.

a. The gospel is the Word of Truth

First, the gospel is the word of TRUTH. See it there at the end of v5.

that you have already heard about in THE WORD OF TRUTH, THE GOSPEL

We can be confident that what God has done in Jesus IS TRUE. It’s good news that’s REAL and HISTORICAL and RELIABLE.

The gospel doesn’t need a SALES PITCH. We don’t need to disguise it behind a clever campaign. It’s TRUE!

b. the gospel is effective.

The second thing we learn about the gospel is that IT WORKS! It’s powerful and effective. Vs 6.

(Col 1:6 NIV)  ….  All over the world this gospel is BEARING FRUIT AND GROWING,

There’s a mulberry tree in the car park where my previous church meets. When it was full of fruit, the branches hung down low, heavy and full. The ground was covered with mushy purple fruit. The air was full of the sweet aroma of mulberries.

That’s the picture of the gospel. It’s bearing fruit and growing. All over the world, people can smell the sweet aroma of the good news about Jesus.

People hear the good news about sins forgiven. About a relationship restored with God. About a new attitude and victory over sin. About security and an eternal inheritance. Their eyes are opened, their hearts are softened. They recognise Jesus and they recognise themselves. And it CHANGES people.

And I can see how the gospel has changed people HERE. Changing attitudes, Giving a new joy, a new confidence. New contentment, new purpose.

And Paul is thanking God SPECIFICALLY for how the good news has worked at Colossae. The sweet fruit of this great message has been faith in Jesus, and love for all the saints.

c. the gospel is about Grace

The third thing we learn about the gospel is that it’s about GRACE. Verse 6. “Since the day you heard it and understood GOD’S GRACE in all its truth.”

Grace. God’s free!, undeserved! gift!

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense (G.R.A.C.E.)

It’s how Paul said “Hello” back in v2. “Grace and peace to you” Normally we just skip over those words. But they’re a great greeting.

In other words, “May you experience God’s grace. May you UNDERSTAND God’s grace. May you GROW in God’s grace. May you REFLECT God’s grace. May you LIVE in God’s grace” – Grace to you.

And to understand God’s grace is what the Colossians did when they accepted the gospel. That’s the faith that trusts God’s gift. That recognises there’s nothing to add.

A number of years ago some people stayed with us. And as they were leaving, they offered us money in return for our hospitality. We wanted to give them our home as a GIFT, and so we said no.

But after they left, we found the money under the pillow. They wouldn’t accept our free gift. They felt they had to contribute something to their visit.

Grace is God’s free offer of salvation. FAITH is accepting the gift just as it is. Most people think that by slipping some money under the pillow, they can make SURE of eternal life. That’s UN-faith, not FAITH. There’s nothing we can slip God to make us acceptable.

The Colossians understood God’s grace in all its fulness. They realised it was useless to try to ADD anything to God’s free gift.

Paul’s PURPOSE and IDENTITY were bound up in that wonderful truth. The truth there was nothing of his own which counted as credit before God. He was God’s child solely because of God’s grace.

A strong sense of God’s grace helps me not to doubt WHO I AM – whether I’m really good enough to be a Christian. It’s confidence in God’s grace which enables me to know WHERE I’M GOING.

Do you understand God’s grace in its fulness?

3. Paul was committed to knowing God’s will

(pause) Paul’s prayer now moves from thanksgiving, to PRAYING FOR the church. God’s ALREADY done a lot for them. BECAUSE OF THAT, he’s going to give them much more. Verse 9.

(Col 1:9 NIV)  FOR THIS REASON (because of what God’s already done), since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and ASKING God to fill you with the KNOWLEDGE of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

They’ve already understood God’s grace. In other words, they understand THE GOSPEL. But now Paul prays for something different. He prays that they will be filled with the knowledge of GOD’S WILL. That they’ll know WHAT IT IS THAT GOD WANTS FOR THEM NOW.

The key to rich and real Christian living is A RIGHT KNOWLEDGE OF GOD’S WILL. In the face of louder and brighter promises all around us, knowing God’s goals for you will keep you on target. Keep you seeking the RIGHT things. And running from the WRONG things.

By knowledge of God’s will, we’re not talking about some super-spiritual insight. Knowledge of God’s will is simply an intelligent grasp of what God wants for daily living. It’s there for everyone to see. Because God’s TOLD us. It’s IN HIS WORD. There in v10. Once you KNOW it, you’ll

live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father.

Do you want to know God’s will for your life? What job to take. Who to marry. Where to live. What car to drive. What dress to buy. What shoes go with it.

Do you worry about whether you’re living in God’s plan? Perhaps you’re putting out the fleece like Gideon? Or waiting for a special sign, like Paul on the Damascus Road?

God MIGHT show you like this – but I doubt it!

God’s will for us (straight from v10 there) is that whatever ELSE we do,

1. we will live a life worthy of God

2. which is pleasing to Him,

3. bearing fruit in good works,

4. growing in the knowledge of Him.

5. strengthened to patiently endure

6. and joyfully giving thanks

God’s will is that our lives are WORTHY of him. Measuring up to his standard. That he not have any reason to be ashamed we’re his. And that involves living to PLEASE GOD. Not other people. Not ourselves. Not our appetites. Pleasing GOD.

And that’ll involve bearing fruit. Fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

And fruit OF THE GOSPEL. Other people whose lives are changed because of our testimony.

And God’s will for us is that we’ll grow in the knowledge of God. Of God HIMSELF. Not more facts about him. Not digesting great big books about him. But knowing HIM. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time knew all ABOUT God. But they didn’t KNOW him. Don’t let that be YOU.

And God wants you to be GROWING. Not static. Not stagnant. Stagnant water is DEAD water. You can’t ride a bike that’s STATIONARY. Same with the Christian life. There’s got to be PROGRESS, or you fall over.

And that’s part of the NEXT request. That we be STRENGTHENED WITH GOD’S POWER. Not power to defeat armies, or achieve business or relationship success. But power to patiently endure.

Which says it must be God’s will for there to be things in your life that REQUIRE endurance. God’s will for you ISN’T for everything to go smoothly. But that you patiently ENDURE it, with your eyes fixed on HIM.

And as you DO that, you GIVE THANKS for it. For it ALL. Because the TOUGH times will train you to rely on God. To hope for heaven.

And so you grow in your knowledge of God and his purposes. You learn that he’s faithful in tough times. Learn that he doesn’t desert you. Learn that he’s a Rock you can stand on. Learn that he’s the comforter who gives peace that the world can’t understand.

That’s what it means to grow in your knowledge of him. And that’s what God’s will is for you.

4. Paul had a strong motivation

The 4th thing we learn is that Paul had A STRONG MOTIVATION IN LIFE. Two powerful energisers. One looking BACK. And one looking FORWARD.

Sometimes very long coal trains will have an engine pulling from the front. And an engine pushing from the back.

It’s the same for PAUL. Something BEHIND him PUSHING him. And something IN FRONT PULLING him.

a) What God has already done.

Look at v13. It’s what God’s already done. Where we already are.

 (Col 1:13-14 NIV)  “For he HAS RESCUED US from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, {14} in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

That’s ALREADY DONE.

Do you remember the story of BRANT WEBB and TODD RUSSELL? Survivors of the Beaconsfield Mine disaster.

When they were finally rescued, when they emerged from the darkness of the mine into the bright glare of the TV lights, they said it was LIKE BEING RAISED FROM THE GRAVE TO LIFE! And now they’d got a second chance at life.

I can’t begin to imagine what they went through. But if it was me, my whole attitude to life would be different! My life would change! I’d been given a fresh start – a re-birth! If I’d been brought from a kingdom of darkness into a kingdom of glorious light, my whole orientation to life would change.

And that’s what God has done for us in Jesus. What he’s saved us FROM. From darkness – from aimlessness and judgment. And what he’s saved us TO. Brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. Into the LIGHT. Into purpose and direction. Into forgiveness and meaning.

If you’ve come to Jesus, then that’s what God’s done for YOU. If you HAVEN’T, then that’s what he’s OFFERING you. Brought from darkness into light. From sin and guilt to forgiveness and freedom. From aimlessness to purpose.

And as we focus on what God’s done. And as we give him THANKS for it. We’re MOTIVATED to live our lives in GRATEFUL RESPONSE. To live WORTHY of that.

 

b) What God will do in the future

(pause) Paul’s second motivation was for what God will do IN THE FUTURE. Look at verse 12, Paul describes OUR INHERITANCE.

(Col 1:12 NIV)  “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you TO SHARE IN THE INHERITANCE OF THE SAINTS IN THE KINGDOM OF LIGHT.”

For those of us who know Jesus, there’s an inheritance coming. It’s not a reward, or wages, or a superannuation payout. They’re all things you WORK for. That you EARN AND DESERVE.

But an inheritance is DIFFERENT. It’s based solely on your position. On your family relationship. If we are God’s children, then he has our family inheritance waiting for us in heaven!

It’s grace like THAT that affects your behaviour NOW. And I think that’s how we’re to understand verse 4 and 5.

(Col 1:4-5 NIV)  because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints– {5} the faith and love that SPRING FROM THE HOPE THAT IS STORED UP FOR YOU IN HEAVEN

Hope PRODUCES faith and love. Or, to put it the other way round. Faith and love are BECAUSE of hope.

By recognising that what’s kept in heaven for us is TOTALLY UNDESERVED, we trust Jesus even more completely. He’s the one who earned it for us.

And by recognising the GRACE of the reward, we are much more likely to treat others with the same graciousness. And so we love our brothers with the love that God showed us.

Faith and love inspired by hope.

(pause) Paul’s prayer shows us the Christian life. Shows us IDENTITY and PURPOSE. Who are we? We’re IN Christ. We’ve been rescued from darkness and brought into the kingdom of light.

And what are we HERE for? What’s our PURPOSE? To live according to God’s will. To be growing in love and faith and hope, bearing fruit in every good work. To be joyfully giving thanks. To be living WORTHY of God, and pleasing to him. To be strengthened with all power so we can patiently endure.

That’s what we’re HERE for.

Now we just need to come up with a catchy, punchy slogan that sums all that up.

Colossians 1:15-23: Check the Foundations!!!

Crack in the wallWe’ve been thinking a lot about FOUNDATIONS in the last few months. We want to buy a house, so we’ve looked at lots of houses for sale. And many of them look LOVELY. They have beautiful bedrooms ,and expensive kitchens, and renovated bathrooms, and big entertaining areas, and fancy paintjobs, and lovely polished floorboards.

But there are OTHER things that matter MORE to us. We look for cracks in the walls, we check the brickwork for signs of movement. We look for gaps between the skirting boards and the floorboards. We check to see if kitchen benches have dropped. Because those things are tell-tale signs that there’s PROBLEMS WITH THE FOUNDATIONS.

And, if I can, I’ll crawl around under the house. It’s dirty and cramped, and not as much fun as checking out the colour scheme. But it’s MUCH MORE IMPORTANT. Because that’s where you can CHECK THE FOUNDATIONS.

We’re looking for a SOLID house, rather than a FANCY one.

Because EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON THE FOUNDATIONS. You can build as much fancy stuff as you like ON TOP. But if the foundations aren’t solid, then the whole house can fall down. And the fancy decorations are worth NOTHING.

And that’s what Paul’s doing here. He’s reminding the Colossians to CHECK THEIR FOUNDATIONS. If the Christian life is like a house, then they need to make sure THE FOUNDATIONS are solid. And not to be tempted to add a FANCY EXTENSION. To get distracted by experiences and false promises. By quick fix short cuts to holiness or powerful experience. Not to fall for the mistake of making GOOD things into IDOLS. False gods that REPLACE the complete sufficiency and completeness and beauty of Jesus.

He wants them to be sure of JESUS. Because he’s the foundation of their faith.

And so that’s what we’re doing today. Crawling around under the house. To check our foundations.

1. Jesus and Creation (15-17)

a) Image of God ie firstborn over creation – (Gen 1:26-27)

Last week we saw how Jesus was the FOUNDATION FOR OUR SALVATION. There in v14. How God rescued us from darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. That’s Jesus. And how Jesus has REDEEMED us, so that our SINS ARE FORGIVEN.

And in v15 it continues. He’s not just the foundation of our salvation. He’s the foundation for CREATION ITSELF. v15 begins

(Col 1:15 NIV) He is the image of the invisible God,

the FIRSTBORN over all creation.

For by him (or IN him) ALL THINGS WERE CREATED.

Those three tiny phrases sum up a HUGE amount of information about Jesus. About his relationship to GOD, as well as his relationship to CREATION. And about his nature BEFORE he came to earth (from all eternity), as well as his HUMAN nature.

At face value there’s CONTRADICTIONS there. He’s both BEFORE and OUTSIDE of creation. (“By him all things were created”).

But he’s also the FIRSTBORN OVER ALL CREATION. He’s PART of creation – Supreme in priority and rank.

And it’s hard to get our heads around his relationship to GOD. He’s the visible, earthly IMAGE of the invisible God. There’s a DIFFERENCE between him and God. But he’s also the instrument of God’s creation. That makes him THE SAME as God in some ways.

And those contradictions are all wrapped up in THE INCARNATION. In the earthly Jesus. God becoming man. When the INFINITE, ETERNAL Son of God lay aside something of that nature, and wrap himself in time-bound, fragile human flesh. Jesus, the God-man. Not less God than God. Not less man than man. But BOTH.

And it’s as MAN that Jesus is the IMAGE of the invisible God. It’s the same word for IMAGE that’s used in Genesis Ch 1. Talking about how God made MANKIND in the beginning. “And God said, ‘Let us make man in OUR OWN IMAGE”.

And that’s how Adam and Eve were made. As perfect image-bearers of God. Given the job to rule creation, under God’s authority.

But when they sinned, that perfection was ruined. When they ate the fruit the snake offered them. They thought they were improving on what God had made. Mankind Mark 2. But instead they RUINED the image. Instead of ruling creation UNDER God, they chose to rule creation IN PLACE of God.

And that’s why this world is the mess that it is. And why the WHOLE CREATION needed REDEMPTION.

And so God needed A SECOND EDITION. But not really an improved model. Mankind like he was designed in the first place. GENUINE man. A man who’d TRULY be the image of God. And that was Jesus.

He was the image of God mankind was MEANT to be. Doing the JOB mankind was meant to do. Ruling Creation under his Father, as his PERFECT image-bearer.

And that’s what “firstborn over all creation” is saying. He’s the NUMBER ONE SON. It’s the firstborn son who has the delegated authority. The family seal. The birth-right. Who inherits the family business. Who has the AUTHORITY and the RIGHTS over Creation.

He’s PART of Creation, and he PERFECTLY ACHIEVES God’s PURPOSE for created humanity.

And that means God’s plans to redeem that created world through Jesus. They’re not to be seen as a HOSTILE TAKEOVER or INVASION.

Jesus isn’t a foreign dictator. Whose authority is imposed from outside. He’s the rightful king from WITHIN creation/ OVER creation. Jesus comes as Lord of the Physical world, claiming his rightful possession. Restoring EVERYTHING.

b) Source, Instrument, Goal and Glue of Creation

That’s the EARTHLY Jesus WITHIN creation. Then v16 jumps back in time. Actually to BEFORE TIME. To explain Jesus OUTSIDE of Creation.

(He’s the perfect man. Born into time and space.) But he’s also the ETERNAL GOD who’s existed BEFORE time and space. And so he’s an AGENT in creating the universe.

Jesus is the SOURCE of creation. He’s the INSTRUMENT of creation. He’s the GOAL of creation. And he’s the GLUE of creation. In other words, he’s the FOUNDATION of EVERYTHING. Verse 16 &17.

(Col 1:16-17 NIV) For BY HIM (or IN him) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; ALL THINGS WERE CREATED BY HIM (or THROUGH him) AND FOR HIM (or TO him). {17} He is BEFORE all things, and in him ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER.

Wow! There’s LOTS there. Firstly, Jesus is the SOURCE of creation. The beginning. It’s literally “everything has been made IN him”. He’s BEFORE everything it says down in v17.

He’s the spring at the head of the river. It all flows out of him. Everything that God made, was made as A LOGICAL CONSEQUENCE of Jesus, and his position as firstborn.

Secondly, he’s the INSTRUMENT of creation. It’s a pretty similar idea. The last part of v16 says God created everything THROUGH him. BY MEANS OF him.

What might that mean? John Ch 1 talks about Jesus as the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

So the Son of God. Who was there in the beginning. Is ‘The Word”. He’s the way God REVEALS himself. EXPRESSES himself. That’s what “a word’ is. Communication.

Genesis 1 describes how God CREATES by his word. “Let there be light. And there was. … Let there be animals and plants. And there was.”

As God spoke, he revealed what he was like. And in some way that we can’t understand, that’s the Son of God who’s doing that.

God creates by means of his Son.

And it’s not just the OBVIOUS things God created through Jesus. (Rivers and mountains and people and animals) ALL things – in HEAVEN as well as on earth. INVISIBLE things as well as visible. That’s demons and angels. Even SATAN. EVERYTHING.

Jesus is behind it all, and the CAUSE of it all.

The third idea is that Jesus is the GOAL of creation. Its TARGET, its destination. “God created all things FOR him.” The actual word is “INTO”. All things were created INTO Him.

That means everything exists for the purpose of serving Jesus. Everything finds its IDENTITY and CULMINATION in relation to Jesus. He’s the TARGET everything is aimed at. The FINISH LINE everything moves towards.

And the fourth thing Paul teaches here about Jesus and creation/ is that all things are ESTABLISHED in him. “In him all things hold together.” If you like, he’s the glue that holds everything together. It’s his RULE which prevents everything from falling into chaos.

He’s the BACKING BOARD that all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle REST on. Each piece has a relationship with him, and thus with each other. And each piece fits with each other piece because of its relation to the backboard.

So, as far as Jesus and creation go, He’s the source, the instrument, the goal, and the glue of creation. The foundation of EVERYTHING. And that’s why he’s the firstborn over creation. The one with God’s authority.

2. Jesus and New Creation (18-20)

And now Paul turns his attention to the church. EXACTLY THE SAME JESUS who’s done all of this in CREATION/ is the one who rules YOU in the CHURCH. The NEW creation. Same one.

Paul’s saying, “Why are you looking to ADD something? The house is SOLID. Check the foundations. Jesus is solid as a rock, and the ruler of EVERYTHING.” Verse 18.

(Col 1:18 NIV) And he is the HEAD of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the FIRSTBORN from among the dead , so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

The “he” is emphasised. “And he – THIS ONE, the one who’s firstborn over creation – he’s head of the church. He’s YOUR head too.”

You see, the church is God’s NEW creation. Jesus came as the NEW MAN. The one who is GOD’S IMAGE. And he’s started a WHOLE NEW CREATION. A whole new mankind. And that’s the church. Jesus, the firstborn over CREATION, is also firstborn FROM THE DEAD.

Everything about Jesus and the OLD CREATION/ is ALSO true about the NEW CREATION. He’s the source, the instrument, the goal, and the glue.

First, he’s the SOURCE of the church. Verse 18 says he’s the HEAD, the church is the BODY.

And he’s the INSTRUMENT OF CREATION of the church. It was created through him. He’s the BEGINNING. Verse 18 tells us how. He’s the firstborn (not of creation this time), but FIRST-BORN FROM THE DEAD. He’s DEFEATED death, so others can trample all over the beaten corpse as they move past it into LIFE.

His resurrection is the guarantee that there’s more to come. He’s the first of many. He’s created this NEW Creation by his resurrection.

And he’s the GOAL of the church. Verse 18 finishes. “So that in everything he might have the supremacy”. We exist for him. To serve him. He’s our supreme head.

Paul goes on to show what that means. Verse 19 and 20. He’s supreme over the church because he’s God, and because he’s reconciled God and us.

(Col 1:19-20 NIV)  For God was pleased to have ALL HIS FULLNESS DWELL IN HIM, {20} and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood , shed on the cross.

First, Jesus carries all the fullness of God. He’s not God MINUS something. He’s GOD. Whatever GOD is, JESUS is. The fullness of the infinite God is found in a finite human body.

And when it comes to reuniting God and creation, notice it doesn’t just say SOME PEOPLE. It doesn’t even just say ALL people. It says EVERYTHING’S been reconciled. Everything on heaven and earth. People, but also animals, plants, mountains, clouds, stars, galaxies, and angels.

Jesus is the firstborn over CREATION. He’s the king from WITHIN creation who restores the WHOLE CREATION.

Jesus’ work on the cross is much bigger than just fixing our relationship with God. It’s about fixing THE WHOLE CREATION.

Sin’s wrecked all of this too. Animals and mountains and waves and weather and health and bacteria and politics and music. Romans 8 describes all creation groaning. Waiting for God to restore it. And he BEGAN the process when he raised Jesus from the dead.

Everything’s been restored, at least in principle, to the way God intended it. The way he designed it. The way they were in the garden of Eden.

There’s a new Science Fiction movie out at the moment called Elysium. In the future, the world’s environment is ruined, so the wealthy elite have ABANDONED it, in favour of a space station in orbit. There, life is PERFECT. Perfect weather, perfect food, perfect health.

And that’s the future many people think God’s got planned for Christians. To just abandon THIS rotten place for a perfect SPIRITUAL home in heaven.

But that’s not the teaching of the Bible. Jesus is the EARTHLY firstborn over creation, who bears God’s image perfectly, who reconciles EVERYTHING to God, through his shed blood. He CREATED everything, now he RESTORES it. RE-creates it.

And that’s what ETERNITY will look like. A perfect PHYSICAL heaven and earth, because JESUS is physical and earthly. And so are WE.

Of course the world doesn’t LOOK that way yet. But God’s WORKING on it. It’s a work in progress. It’s begun, but not finished yet. Not until Jesus returns to FINISH the job.

How’s he doing that? Wait for it! Don’t look around anywhere ELSE! By the power of his Spirit, he’s doing it IN, and THROUGH, THE CHURCH. The church is God’s LIGHTHOUSE OF NEW CREATION. Shining its light out into the old creation.

It’s a salty, tasty, appetiser of what’s coming. Like a dozen fresh oysters. It’s a bright colourful crystal that’s growing outwards in perfectly symmetrical patterns. Making everything it comes in contact with/ NEW and CHANGED and RESTORED.

All things are reconciled in principle. And they’re being put right little by little as the church lives in the world. As they live with Jesus as their head. New creation renewing the old creation all around it.

The declaration’s been made. Reconciliation is achieved. But the messengers are still delivering the message.

Like when Japan surrendered at the end of World War 2. Reconciliation had been achieved. The war was over. But the message took a while to get through to everyone. And some soldiers didn’t get the message for months or even years. But the fact that not everyone recognised the war was over, didn’t change the fact.

And it’s the same with God. Reconciliation’s been won with all things. The declaration was made when Jesus rose from the dead The message is still going out. And some people are refusing to recognise it.

But in principle, the reconciliation’s been won.

Notice too, what it ISN’T saying. It’s not teaching UNIVERSALISM. That is, that ALL PEOPLE will be saved. Down in verse 23 Paul says that this reconciliation still depends on faith in the work of Jesus. “You’re reconciled to God IF YOU CONTINUE IN YOUR FAITH, established and firm.”

If you have FAITH, then you become part of the new creation. But if you don’t, then you’re still alienated. Separated from God.

And that’s something Paul warns the Colossians about. Make sure that’s not you. You used to be alienated from God. At war. If you don’t have faith, that’s where you’ll stay.

What’s this mean for us

So what does all this mean for us?

This Jesus Paul’s been describing. THIS JESUS is head of our church. It’s not me. It’s not my church. It’s not the elder’s church. And that means we don’t act like it is. And if I do start acting like that – tell me.

The Pope says that HE’S the head of the church. But he’s not either. Ultimately you’re not answerable to anyone but Jesus. Your aim in life is not to please anyone else accept Jesus. Don’t do a job, or take on a ministry, because I’LL be pleased, or anyone else. Do it for Jesus.

And because it’s Jesus’ church, he’ll CREATE it. The future of this church is in his hands. We don’t have to worry about money, or resources, or people, or direction, or conversions, or property, or direction. He’s the head, the supreme ruler. If we follow him, then he will build his church – his new creation – just the way he wants it.

But not just the church. These truths about Jesus have something to say about SOCIETY. The world tries to tell us the church is living in the dark ages. Behind the times. But the reality is we’re at the FOREFRONT of change. We’re the CUTTING EDGE. We’re God’s NEW CREATION.

It’s not genetic technologies that are re-inventing mankind, or politics, or education, or social welfare. They’re just tinkering around the edges. It’s God, THROUGH HIS CHURCH, by the power of His Spirit, who’s making HIS CREATION NEW.

As we proclaim the gospel of reconciliation to every creature under heaven. Reconciliation that means holiness in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

And these truths about Jesus mean something PERSONAL, TOO. If Jesus is the TRUE image of God. TRUE man. Then we’re never fully human until we’re like Jesus. And each day, as we follow Jesus, we’re learning what it means to be fully human. We’re learning what we were designed to be like.

What LOVE is meant to be. And justice. And compassion. And patience. And humility. And Strength. And humanity.

Because Jesus was the PERFECT man. Perfectly representing all those qualities.

Becoming like Jesus isn’t about becoming more and more spiritual, and less and less human or earthly. To become like Jesus is to become MORE human. REAL human. To become all that God DESIGNED you for.

But listen carefully. That’s not about becoming all that YOU want to be. Or becoming all that THE WORLD says is successful.

Some churches reckon they can teach you how to be healthy, wealthy and wise. Achieve YOUR dreams. Become the best that you can be! That’s what God wants.

But that’s not ultimate humanity. What does ultimate humanity look like? It looks like Jesus. It looks like a slave. A servant. A cross. A foot-washer. A sacrifice.

“Growing followers of Jesus”. I reckon it’s a great motto for a church. Who are we? First and foremost? We’re followers of Jesus. Become more human as we become more like him. Because we’re growing as followers.

But it also describes our mission. What are we on about as a church? Our job is to grow God’s NEW creation. To grow people who will be followers of Jesus.

We’re God’s new creation. Pushing back the boundaries of his OLD creation. Pushing back sin and brokenness and rebellion. Bringing people into that new creation. A new creation with Jesus as our goal, our source, and the glue that joins us together.

We’re a SOLID house with Jesus as our foundation. Not a FANCY house, but a SOLID one.

That would be a good description for us as a church, wouldn’t it? I’d take that EVERY TIME. Ashfield Presbyterian Church. Not fancy. But SOLID!

If there’s one thing to take away this morning, it’s THIS. The same Jesus who rules CREATION, rules and guides his church. His body. His NEW creation. And that’s great news!

Colossians 1:24-2:5: Portrait Of a Servant

Suffering and servanthood. They’re words that roll off the tongue pretty easily. We all know they’re jargon words for Christians.

But I wonder whether we REALLY know what they mean?

We say we want to do MINISTRY. And there’s a certain CREDIBILITY in Christian circles to say you’re in ministry. MINISTRY means a high profile job that gets lots of recognition. Ministers of the church are popular, and important, and appreciated and respected … Right?!

But minister just means SERVANT. And, when push comes to shove, when ministry calls for work that’s awkward or uncomfortable or scary or difficult. When it takes hours and hours of time. And nobody notices. Often our first reaction is to look around for someone ELSE to do the MINISTRY.

James Fraser knew what it meant to be A SERVANT. He began work as a missionary to the Lisu people in Burma in 1911. He was 25. He was an accomplished musician and a Science graduate of London University. His whole life in front of him. But he gave it all up for the sake of his Master.

And he worked among the Lisu people for 14 years before his first furlough. Fourteen years of back-breaking, lung-busting walks through high mountain passes to isolated villages. Sleeping on hard bamboo beds. Bouts of malaria or typhoid fever.

But he endured it all GLADLY. For the sake of his Saviour and his people. What spurred him on was the exhilaration of overwhelmingly warm welcomes, and generous gifts. Evening was time for God’s Word. The villagers would sit at his feet, and he would patiently teach them. And he’d teach them to sing.

He died in Yunnan Province in 1938 of cerebral malaria, leaving behind a wife and three children. He was 52.

Servanthood and suffering. James Fraser knew what those words meant.

And Paul knew what they meant too. At the start of v25, he calls himself a SERVANT of the church. And as he goes on to describe what that involves, there’s no glory and glamour and recognition. Paul describes how he SUFFERED for the sake of the church. A servant of the church who was prepared to struggle and labour and endure pain.

And it’s a portrait we need to take a close look at. Because SERVANTHOOD is what ministry IS ALL ABOUT.

A friend of mine used to be a youth worker. And one of his jobs was to train new youth leaders. He told me about a sophisticated new training technique he developed. It was a training weekend called something like, “Principles of Christ-centred Leadership!” (Sounds impressive doesn’t it?)

He’d take the young people, prospective new youth leaders, to a campsite maintained by the church. No doubt they expected a seminar, or series of lectures on the theory of youth leadership, or perhaps some planning sessions.

But for the whole weekend, this group of potential youth leaders DUG OUT THE NEW SEPTIC PIT.

“Principles of Christ-centred Leadership!”

The lesson they learned pretty quickly was that Christian leadership is about GETTING YOUR HANDS DIRTY. Often nobody notices. Christian leadership is primarily about working LONG, and working FAITHFULLY. It’s got nothing to do with fame or recognition or respect!

Leadership is SERVANTHOOD. That’s Paul’s message.

1. The servant’s lot (24)

And the reason is because Christian leaders follow JESUS, the SERVANT KING.

And because JESUS suffered. That’s the lot of Christian leaders, too. See how it worked for Paul? There in v24?

(Col 1:24 NIV)  Now I rejoice in WHAT WAS SUFFERED FOR YOU, and I FILL UP IN MY FLESH WHAT IS STILL LACKING IN REGARD TO CHRIST’S AFFLICTIONS, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

Notice there’s a sense in which Paul’s sufferings are CONNECTED to Jesus’ sufferings. He says his sufferings FILL UP what’s LACKING in Christ’s sufferings. They’re THE LOGICAL OUTWORKING. The END RESULT.

Jesus certainly PROMISED anyone who followed him would suffer. Jn 15:18.

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ IF THEY PERSECUTED ME, THEY WILL PERSECUTE YOU ALSO.

In fact, it’s what Jesus promised PAUL HIMSELF would receive. Jesus said to Ananias in Acts 9:15-16

“Go! This man (Paul) is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. {16} I WILL SHOW HIM HOW MUCH HE MUST SUFFER FOR MY NAME.”

So Paul expected it. He puts the connection a little differently over in 2 Cor 1:5.

For just as THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST FLOW OVER INTO OUR LIVES, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

That’s the way we should understand v24. Not that there’s something DEFICIENT in Christ’s death – that it doesn’t save us – and that Paul has to ADD something to his salvation.

But that servants of the SUFFERING servant will ALSO suffer. They CONTINUE Jesus’ sufferings. Or COMPLETE them. The logical consequence. Christ’s sufferings FLOW OVER into the lives of his followers.

That same passage in Acts 9 draws the connection between Christ’s sufferings and those of his followers even MORE tightly. Jesus says to Saul, who’s persecuting THE CHURCH, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute ME?”

The church is Jesus’ BODY. There’s a connection. When his BODY, the church, suffers, Jesus SUFFERS TOO. The persecution Paul and the other Christians experience is persecution that Jesus HIMSELF suffers. It’s COMPLETING Christ’s sufferings.

(pause) But Paul doesn’t just suffer. He REJOICES in suffering. Most of us men are terrible patients. We moan and groan when we get so much as a sore throat. But not Paul. He REJOICED!

Which doesn’t mean he ENJOYED it. But that he could see the PURPOSE in it. He could see it was FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHURCH. He says it twice.

Now I rejoice in what was suffered FOR YOU. And I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, FOR THE SAKE OF his body, which is the church.

If you look down through the rest of the paragraph, you can see what that PURPOSE IS. His sufferings are in the process of TELLING THEM ABOUT Jesus. Paul REJOICES in suffering because it’s DURING HIS SUFFERING THAT THE GOSPEL HAS BEEN PROCLAIMED. Pain is a small price to pay for gospel fruit. And so he rejoices.

Like fruit pickers. By the end of a long day in the hot sun. Their backs ache, their hands are raw, they’re hot and exhausted. But they’ve got baskets and baskets of plump ripe fruit. It’s all WORTH IT! And they can CELEBRATE at the end of the season.

What’s OUR attitude to suffering for the gospel? Let me suggest it’s the wrong way of looking at things. Because Paul didn’t LIKE suffering. He wasn’t a MASOCHIST. But he rejoiced DESPITE suffering. He rejoiced BECAUSE OF HIS ATTITUDE TO THE CHURCH. It was because the gospel was producing such great fruit IN THE CHURCH, that Paul rejoiced.

So a better question is “What’s our attitude TO THE CHURCH?” Do we VALUE this group of God’s people enough to go through pain to live out the gospel?

Teaching Sunday School can be tough. You miss out on the second part of church. You miss out on catching up with people. But our kids are VALUABLE. Do you value God’s people enough?

Turning up to a mid-week Home Group can be a struggle. The week seems to fly past in a blur. And you’re TIRED. But meeting together to build each other up, and to pray – it’s IMPORTANT. For YOU, and for the others in your group. Do you VALUE God’s people ENOUGH?

Inviting people over for lunch or dinner can be difficult. There’s the inconvenience, and having to clean the bathroom. There’s knowing what to cook, and the awkward silences in conversation. But encouraging each other is IMPORTANT. Do you VALUE God’s people enough?

The Council Community Christmas Carols are coming up. And our Christmas Guest services. And helping out, or inviting someone, puts you WAY out of your comfort zone. Conversations about Jesus with people you’ve never met? Bunches of noisy kids? Awkward rejections to invitations?

MUCH EASIER to just stay home. But building bridges into our community is IMPORTANT. Do you VALUE God’s people enough? Paul did – enough to REJOICE in suffering for them.

2. The servant’s commission (25-27)

To proclaim the word of God

Next point. The servant’s COMMISSION. His job description. Paul could endure persecution for declaring the gospel because God’s COMMISSIONED him to DO it. See there in v25?

(Col 1:25-27 NIV)  I have become its servant by the COMMISSION GOD GAVE ME to present to you the word of God in its fullness.

The Word of God in its fullness: It could be teaching the Bible IN GENERAL. But remember they only had the Old Testament at that stage. What REALLY excited Paul was what God had MOST RECENTLY communicated. A message ALL ABOUT JESUS. See down there in v27?

(Col 1:25-28 NIV)  …to present to you the word of God in its fullness– {26} the mystery that has been kept hidden etc… THE GLORIOUS RICHES OF THIS MYSTERY, WHICH IS CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory. {28} WE PROCLAIM HIM, admonishing and teaching everyone

Paul’s job is to make the mystery known. To shout the secret from the rooftops. And the centre of that mystery is Jesus.

But Paul doesn’t just say to present the Word of God. His job is to present it IN ALL ITS FULNESS. A more literal way of translating the phrase is that Paul’s commission is “to FULFIL the word of God”. To make it COMPLETE. To FINISH it.

Because that’s what you do with a secret – a mystery. A secret is MADE to be revealed. A secret is fulfilled, or made complete, only when it’s exposed. And that’s what Paul’s job is.

And perhaps there’s a little dig at the false teaching Paul’s up against in Colossae. They talked about fullness TOO. And they said it wasn’t enough to JUST have Jesus. They said you needed to ADD to him to be REALLY spiritual. You needed to keep certain rules. Follow certain practices. Then you’d REALLY be full.

But Paul said back in v19 that all the FULLNESS OF GOD dwelt in Jesus. And HERE he says THE FULLNESS of God’s MESSAGE is JESUS. Nothing more, nothing less.

And a few verses on, in 2:2, Paul says his job is to make known the mystery of Christ, IN WHOM ARE HIDDEN ALL THE TREASURES OF WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE.

Fullness!

But Paul goes on. The mystery is not just Christ. But CHRIST IN YOU. So, what might THAT mean?

The mystery – something hidden in the Old Testament, but now revealed with Jesus’ ministry – was that God’s salvation plans were FOR THE WHOLE WORLD. For GENTILES like the Colossians/ as well as Jews. See it there in at the start of the verse? God’s used Paul

TO MAKE KNOWN AMONG THE GENTILES the glorious riches of this mystery

The Jews had always EXPECTED God to send the Messiah. A JEWISH Messiah. And they’d always expected that he’d send his Holy Spirit to fill every believer. Every Jewish believer. The prophets had promised those things. But what HADN’T been so obvious was that these promises were FOR GENTILES TOO!

The mystery revealed – that Christ would dwell in GENTILES, through his Holy Spirit! It was incredible news!

And look at the next phrase. “Christ in you- THE HOPE OF GLORY”. We get Jesus with us NOW. But it’s only a TASTE. An ENTRÉE. The main course is still coming. God promises that ETERNITY will be DWELLING AMONG HIS PEOPLE. In Rev 21 he promises

“NOW THE DWELLING OF GOD IS WITH MEN, AND HE WILL LIVE WITH THEM. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

And a bit further on he says (v6)

To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I WILL BE HIS GOD AND HE WILL BE MY SON.

None of the separation and frustration and disconnection we experience NOW with God. Christ in us, his Holy Spirit, is a TASTE of the connection we’ll have with God forever. But more than a TASTE, it’s a DOWN-PAYMENT. A GUARANTEE of God’s ownership of us, and that one day he’ll take us to himself.

That’s the hope of glory Paul was proclaiming to the GENTILES. The glorious riches FOR THEM TOO.

3. The servant’s effort (1:29)

What?

And a message like that. A Saviour like that. Is worth everything you can give. Paul proclaimed it with every breath he could muster. v 29. (next point, the servant’s EFFORT)

(Col 1:29 NIV)  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

Paul was no super-Christian! Things weren’t EASY for him. He LABOURED and STRUGGLED. Which is an encouragement and a challenge. It ENCOURAGES me when I find the Christian life tough work. When I feel like I’d rather just pamper myself, rather just sit in a chair and read a book. Than be a servant to other people.

EVEN PAUL needed to keep struggling. So it’s okay for ME to admit that it’s HARD WORK. Struggling is just what SERVANTS DO.

But it’s also A CHALLENGE. Because often we take tough times as some sort of guidance that God wants us to move on.

  • “Home group’s not as easy as it used to be. God must want me to STOP.”
  • “I don’t get on with people at church. God must want me to move churches.”
  • Evangelism is too uncomfortable. It’s obviously not my gift. I’ll leave it to someone else.

But that’s the reality for anyone who follows Jesus. He was the servant who suffered. Who STRUGGLED. So we should expect the same.

And the amazing thing Paul found/ was that as he obediently and steadfastly stuck at it, even when he felt like giving up, God worked THROUGH his efforts. He BUILT ON Paul’s own struggles with HIS ENERGY and POWER.

To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me

I enjoy watching the Tour de France. And the best sprinter in the field for the last couple of years – the one with the most powerful legs – has been Peter Sagan. He somehow even manages to pull wheelies after riding up mountains in the French Alps.

How did he do it? Strong legs. And big gears. And incredible fitness. But it’s HIS TEAM MATES who lead him to the line. They act as a wind break for the final few kms. They EXHAUST themselves, with Sagan sitting at the back of the train of riders, taking it easy. First the front rider moves aside, and lets the riders behind come through, then another rider and another. Until finally, with 100m to go, the timing practiced to perfection, the second last rider peels out of the way, leaving Sagan with a clear run, a final lung-busting sprint to the finish line.

His team mates don’t GIVE Sagan any power. It takes all his own energy to cross the line. But it’s as he’s pedalling with all his might, that the effect of the wind break from his team becomes noticeable. The greater his speed, the more they cut through the air for him.

And it’s the same with the cooperation, the partnership between us and God. The more Paul strives, the greater God’s power empowers him.

There’s a terrible slogan out there among Christians, “Let go, and let God”. In other words, just relax and God will do his work through you. Like a limp rag doll. Or a marionette. It’s the Thunderbirds school of Christian discipleship!

But it’s utter nonsense!

WORK HARD at what God gives you to do, because your eyes are on the end. Your eyes are on serving Jesus. On serving His church.

Study hard. Use your brain. Persevere with patience. Keep giving when no one says thank you. Keep serving when no one notices. Keep praying when there seems to be no answer. Keep loving when there’s no love in return.

Keep LABOURING. And God’s strength will EMPOWER you.

It’s your hard work that’s EVIDENCE OF YOUR FAITH in God’s empowering strength.

4. The servant’s goal. 1:28b; 2:2-5

And as Paul labored, his eyes were ON THE END. Where he was headed with all his labouring. The servant’s GOAL. Look at the second half of v 28.

(Col 1:28 NIV)  We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, SO THAT WE MAY PRESENT EVERYONE PERFECT IN CHRIST.

Paul’s goal was to present EVERYONE PERFECT, or MATURE in Christ. It wasn’t about SELF-improvement, or promotion. It was all about THE MATURITY OF THOSE HE WAS TEACHING. And then in Ch 2 v 2, he describes what that looks like.

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, {3} in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

a. Knit together by love

Lots there, but let me pick up two things.

Maturity is seen in people who are UNITED IN LOVE. The Greek has the sense of being “knit together by love”. It’s a servant-heart for other people. That puts them first. It’s LOVE which knits people together.

That’s a sign of maturity. And it’s the goal Paul was heading towards. How are WE going? Are we being knit together by love? Or are we UNRAVELLING?

How can YOU show love? In PRACTICAL ways? By actions and words. By thoughtfulness. By “wasting some time” with people. By writing a card. Or making a phone call. Or lending a helping hand. Or offering to pray.

That’s the way you can do your bit in knitting us all together.

b. Knowing Christ:

Secondly, maturity is seen by KNOWING CHRIST. (The end of v2). The full riches of complete understanding. Knowing the mystery of Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. That’s FULLNESS! Knowing his love, his mercy, his compassion, his justice, his righteousness, his lordship. Don’t settle for anything LESS. Don’t try to add anything MORE.

Read the Gospels over and over. Let the character of Jesus FILL you. Pray for his Spirit to give you a LOVE for him. A desire to be LIKE him. A SATISFACTION in loving and following him.

(pause) Be careful when you PRAY like that, though. When you pray for a greater experience of Christ. (A greater SATISFACTION in him). Because the way God often TEACHES us those things is to FORCE US TO LEAN ON HIM. To DEPEND on him when we can’t stand on our own.

He does it by removing OTHER things we take satisfaction in. Like health, or friends, or employment, or stability.

Or he can do it WHILE we SERVE THE CHURCH. Like Paul. SUFFERING for the sake of his church.

It’s during SUFFERING we can EXPERIENCE Christ’s love, his mercy, his compassion, his justice, his righteousness, and his lordship.

When we put ourselves out again and again in service for Christ and his church. That’s when we begin to EXPERIENCE his energy working powerfully within us. And the PEACE his Spirit gives. And the HOPE. The hope of glory.

That’s FULLNESS. That’s MATURITY. That’s the picture of the church that Paul’s aiming for. It’s a church like this that Paul is prepared to suffer for. In fact, that he REJOICES in suffering for.

Paul valued the church SO MUCH that he’d put up with almost anything. How much do YOU value the church? How much do YOU value these people that God’s joined you together with? How much will you give for them?

James Fraser, the Chinese missionary, VALUED his people. And he was willing to give up nearly EVERYTHING for their sake. And DID. But listen to how he described his people in his autobiography. And his experience of SERVING them. And see if his description matches your experience of God’s people.

“You who pity me, and think I’m losing father and mother and houses and lands, don’t know that I’ve already received the ‘hundred-fold’ in mothers, brothers and sisters. On those Lisu mountains, I had typhoid fever among them, and there I was, far away from medical aid, or even friends of my own colour.

 

I was delirious for a time, and in between delirium I would come to, and find my Lisu fathers and mothers kneeling on each side of me, holding my hands, and weeping and praying. For one mother’s love I have gained a hundred, for one brother or sister’s – many hundreds”.

No wonder James Fraser valued the people of God so highly. He valued them enough to suffer.

No wonder PAUL valued the people of God so much.

How much do YOU value God’s people?

Colossians 2:6-23: Wot U R!

Every so often Daniel comes to me and says. “Ripped off!” Straight away I know it’s happened again. He’s been trading Pokemon cards. And part of the fun is to swap. Apparently. So you can build up your collection. But the trick is to make a FAIR swap. And if you don’t, then you’ve been ripped off! Bad trade!

Daniel starts with a good card, and trades it for something worse. It looked good. But when he thinks about it, he realises that what he HAD was better. And he wishes he could trade back.

We’ve told Daniel so many times. “Don’t trade! What you’ve got is great!” But it’s almost impossible for him to resist. “Perhaps there’s something better.” “Maybe THIS TIME it’ll work.” And so his wandering eye leads him into trouble.

And Paul’s message is the same. Don’t trade. What you’ve got in Christ is great. There’s nothing better.

He’s warning us to keep away from OTHER WAYS of doing things. Ways which seem to be useful, or helpful, or even godly and wise.

But I don’t want to spend much time SPECULATING about them. Mainly because it’s hard to work out exactly what it is that Paul’s warning us about. In fact, not even the bible scholars can agree!

But the other reason we’re not going to focus on what’s FALSE, is because that’s exactly what Paul’s warning us against. “Don’t get distracted from the main game. You already HAVE everything you need in Christ, so don’t go looking over the back fence. Even if it IS just to know what to keep away FROM.”

So let’s spend some time looking at WHAT WE ARE.

What’s Paul’s argument? His big idea in these verses? One of the best tricks is to look at the words that CONNECT the verses. And in this case there’s three that jump out.

Verse 6. THEREFORE, continue the way you started.

Verse 9 &10. BECAUSE you’re already full.

Verse 16. THEREFORE, don’t feel inferior. (repeat)

1. Therefore continue the way you started (6-8)

The first thing Paul does is encourage us to CONTINUE the way we STARTED. Verse 6

(Col 2:6 NIV)  So then, just as you RECEIVED Christ Jesus as Lord, CONTINUE to live in him,

(It’s literally to WALK in him)

I watched Lachlan in his school cross country carnival a few weeks ago. And when the gun went off, about forty boys sprinted off across the grass. It was 2 kms, and most people were running like it was only 100 m.

Within 50 m Lachlan was back to about 20th. Because I’d told him not to start too fast. For a moment I thought I’d given him the wrong advice. But sure enough, by the first corner, most of the boys in front had slowed down, or even started walking.

And Lachlan was able to work his way up through the field.

Paul’s warning is that we’re to keep going the way we started. Don’t run out of puff. Keep moving forward with the enthusiasm you had at the beginning. Don’t give up on what it is that you BELIEVED at first.

How DID the Colossians start? This is where the little “therefore” comes in. “THEREFORE, continue the way you started”. Paul’s just finished describing Jesus. The image of God, the fulness of God, the firstborn, the head of the body, the mystery revealed.

And how the Colossians have received THIS SAME JESUS. “So then, just as you received (this) Christ Jesus as Lord…”

Paul’s saying. Since you’ve received Jesus – the one who’s God, and whose your Messiah, (your Saviour), and your Lord, CONTINUE TO WALK THAT WAY.

What does THAT look like? Paul goes on to describe it. Verse 7.

(Col 2:7 NIV)  ROOTED and BUILT UP in him, strengthened in the faith as you were TAUGHT, and overflowing with thankfulness.

They were TAUGHT who Jesus was. Taught the Christian faith. And Paul uses three words to describe how that faith will show itself in their lives.

ROOTED, BUILT UP, AND STRENGTHENED.

1. Rooted.

Walking in Christ means growing deep roots like a tree down into him. Into Jesus.

It’s not about growing out and away. Broadening your experiences. New books, conferences, ways of life. New shortcuts to Christian maturity.

That’s what Paul warns about in v 8.

(Col 2:8 NIV)  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

It’s ways of doing things which LOOK like they’ll work. But ultimately they’re HOLLOW. Empty. Worthless. Because they’re based on human tradition, rather than on what Jesus TAUGHT, or WHO Jesus WAS.

How can we tell the difference? By making sure our roots are deep in Jesus.

I’m dipping my toe into a great book by Richard Foster. The subtitle is “Celebrating the great traditions of Christian faith”. And it looks at what different parts of the Christian church have focussed on over the centuries. Ways of WALKING IN CHRIST. Ways of ROOTING DOWN DEEP into him.

Not because they’re HUMAN traditions. But because they’re IMITATING what Jesus himself did. We walk IN CHRIST, when we walk as Jesus did. When we practise the disciplines that JESUS HIMSELF practised.

What am I talking about? Foster identifies 6 traditions. And each one is concentrated on by a branch of the Christian church. And some of them might trouble us, becase they’re not what we’re used to. Not what our particular brand of Christian normally does. But that doesn’t make them wrong.

What’s so special about Foster’s book, is that he doesn’t go looking OUTSIDE of scripture, or looking for something NEW. He looks at Jesus. And he looks at what the church has done over the centuries. At the faith that’s been taught.

They’re the two conditions Paul sets. (walk in Christ, and strengthened in the faith you were taught) And so that keeps Foster from taking us captive with deceptive or hollow philosophies.

Here’s the titles of his 6 chapters.

1. The contemplative tradition. Discovering the PRAYER-FILLED life.

2. The holiness tradition. Discovering the VIRTUOUS life.

3. The charismatic tradition. Discovering the SPIRIT-EMPOWERED life.

4. The social justice tradition. Discovering the COMPASSIONATE life.

5. The evangelical tradition. Discovering the WORD-CENTRED life.

6. The incarnational tradition. Discovering the SACRAMENTAL life. (By that he means making ALL of your life Christian. Making everything you do WORSHIP)

5 and 6 are probably the ones that we relate most closely to. But we certainly need to learn how to do the others better.

The Pentecostals and some Catholic groups can teach us something about PRAYER. Various groups can teach us about getting serious about LIVING A HOLY LIFE. Once again the Pentecostals can teach us something about RECOGNISING AND USING the gifts of the Spirit. And the Salvo’s can teach us about taking our social responsibilities seriously.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re not looking around us because it seems like a good idea. We do it because we recognise that that’s the way Jesus walked. And we want to follow HIM more closely.

Do you want to continue to walk in Christ? To grow deep into him? Then immerse yourself in the Gospels. To follow Jesus around just like the disciples. To eavesdrop on his prayers. His conversations with the needy. Be amazed at his open-ness to the Holy Spirit.

It’s what Psalm 1 talks about. Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. {3} He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

That’s being rooted in Christ.

2. Built up/ strengthened.

The second picture Paul uses is “built up”. Like a building on a strong foundation. And it’s the foundation that’s the key. And for us, that’s Christ. We’re to be built up, or strengthened, or edified IN HIM.

And that’s a job for all of us. It’s what the church does. In 1 Cor 14 Paul talks about spiritual gifts. Verse 26.

(1 Cor 14:26 NIV)  What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the STRENGTHENING (or BUILDING UP) of the church.

And the result is that as we focus on Jesus. As we encourage each other to obey him in our lives. As we remember his saving acts for us. It’s YOUR responsibility towards ME. It’s MY responsibility towards YOU. To strengthen and build EACH OTHER up.

And the result of THAT is that we OVERFLOW WITH THANKFULNESS.

Head affects heart. Theory affects practice. Being strengthened in the faith produces thankfulness.

Thankful people are contented people. Satisfied people. And satisfied people are happy with where they are, and what they’ve got. And that’s what Paul wants. People who aren’t searching for the next big thing. But who overflow with thankfulness to Christ because they’re living full lives IN HIM.

2. Because you’re already full (9-15)

a) already full (9-10)

And full lives is what Paul moves on to next. Verse 9 and 10. He contrasts the hollow or empty traditions with FULLNESS. Completeness. That’s only found in Christ. Verse 9.

(Col 2:9-10 NIV)  For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, {10} and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

Why shouldn’t we fall for empty promises and hollow ideas? Because we’re already FULL. Because Jesus is the fulness of God. Whatever God is, Jesus is. There’s nothing in God, that’s not in Jesus.

And we already have Jesus in us. That’s full to the brim! It’s literally, “You have, in him, been filled, or completed”

Once you received Christ, you were made full. Right at that very moment. The finished product. No more add-ons, or extensions.

You’ve been restored to a relationship with your Creator. You’ve been redeemed. You’re on your way to glory. You’re part of the new creation. Each day, you’re being made more like Jesus.

b) already circumcised (11-12)

And Paul gives us more reasons not to be taken captive. More reasons not to settle for hollow when we’re already full. Verse 11 and 12.

Human traditions like CIRCUMCISION are empty and worthless, because Christians are ALREADY circumcised. The old, empty, and worthless bits have already been cut off. Verse 11.

(Col 2:11 NIV)  In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,

When we became Christians we moved from OLD creation to NEW creation. We swapped camps. From the world that’s perishing, and falling apart, and doomed for destruction. To the world that God’s making new. That God’s got a future planned for.

Paul describes it in ANOTHER way using baptism. Baptism was a sign of a person’s entry into God’s family. And in v 12 Paul’s saying, “Look at THAT sign. Think back. That SHOWS that you’ve moved from one camp to the other. Don’t go back!” Verse 12

(Col 2:12 NIV)  HAVING BEEN BURIED WITH HIM IN BAPTISM – (in which also you were) raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the .

Paul’s not saying that baptism MAKES someone a Christian. He’s saying that baptism is A PHYSICAL SIGN of something that happens spiritually. “Look at the sign!” he’s saying. The sign just represents OUTSIDE what happens INSIDE.

c) already free from the law’s demands (13-15)

And then he goes on, in v13, to remind the Colossians what DID happen to them on the inside. What God did when they became Christians. Verse 13.

(Col 2:13 NIV)  When you were in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,

He made us alive. By forgiving our sins.

And then Paul paints a beautiful picture of what forgiveness of sins is like. It’s like God took the law. All of God’s regulations and “do’s” and “don’t’s”. The sheet with all the accusations against us.

And nailed it to Jesus’ cross.

Here’s all the charges that Jesus is being punished for. YOU’VE broken every single one of them. But I’m going to charge JESUS with them. And HE’S going to die, instead. Verse 14.

(Col 2:14 NIV)  having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against US and that stood opposed to US; he took it away, nailing it to THE CROSS.

It was God’s amazing, profound victory. It looked like defeat. But rather than making a spectacle of Jesus, the cross made a public spectacle of his enemies. Verse 15.

(Col 2:15 NIV)  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The picture is of a defeated, foreign king. Being paraded through the streets for everyone to laugh at. His army was THIS CLOSE to victory. All the powers and authorities of the world. But then it was ed from under their noses. And now they’re the butt of everyone’s jokes.

And Paul’s point/ is that Christians are the ones on the winning side. We’re the victorious ones. We’ve got everything. Don’t trade.

3. Therefore don’t feel inferior (16-23)

And that leads into the next part of Paul’s argument. Notice the “THEREFORE”. Since you’re victorious in Christ, THEREFORE don’t feel inferior. Other people reckon they’ve got the inside running on spirituality, or the victorious Christian life.

One group might say, “Just keep all the Old Testament festivals. Eat the right things. Drink the right things. Always at the right times. And anyone who doesn’t isn’t really a Christian”. Verse 16.

(Col 2:16 NIV)  Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

Paul’s point is that all of these things are nothing compared to the real thing. They’re like shadows. Verse 17.

(Col 2:17 NIV)  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

“The things to come” is the new age. The new creation. That Jesus began. And that we’re a part of. It’s what we’re living in now.

But the feasts and festivals are part of the old way.

It’s like going to the footy. And cheering the Under 6’s who’re playing before the main game. And as soon as the main game starts, you get up and leave.

Don’t settle for the entrée, the old way of doing things, because it’s nothing compared to the main course.

It’s what I do at parties. I fill up on dip. And when the beautiful hot food comes out, I’m too full to fit much in. Don’t trade the new in for the old.

And Paul mentions ANOTHER mistake. Verse 18. If it’s not legalists, it might be mystics. People who see visions, or who go on journeys with angels. “Do what I do, and then you’ll be ”.

Paul argues, in v19, rather than leading people TOWARD Christ, they’re not even connected to him themselves. Instead it’s only THE TRUE CHURCH, who walk in Christ, who are joined to him. Verse 19.

(Col 2:19 NIV)  He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Paul sums up in v20-23. Since you died to the old creation, don’t go back there. Whenever you let the world’s rules affect you, it’s like you’re living back there.

My friend Naomi studies at the PTC. Young . 24. And she received a marriage proposal the other day. That in itself isn’t unusual. But here’s the bit that is! The groom was someone she’d never met. And the proposal itself wasn’t even from the groom.

She was asked if she would be interested in an arranged marriage. She’s an Aussie, but an Egyptian student had agreed to find a wife for his friend. Naomi fitted the criteria. So, in all seriousness, he asked her if she was interested.

She said something like, “We’re not living in Egypt. So don’t act like we are!” I’m sure it’s a comment many 2nd generation Greek s have made to their strict fathers. Or Arabic, or Italian.

Paul’s point is. You died to the old country. So don’t act like you’re still there. Rules that only focus on PHYSICAL things are perishing. Just like the physical things THEMSELVES. Verse 20.

(Col 2:20-22 NIV)  Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: {21} “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? {22} These are all destined to perish with use., because they are based on human commands and teachings.

Physical rules, by themselves, are useless because they only affect physical things. They concentrate on things of this age. They don’t affect what’s lasting.

It’s the spiritual things. Things to do with God, and godliness, which are important. Genuine holiness isn’t to be had simply by keeping ritual, or ticking off lists of tasks, or meeting earthly or human expectations.

True holiness, true life – full life – is found when we learn to walk in Christ. To sink our roots deep down into him. To follow in his footsteps.

Walking in Christ is about discovering the PRAYER-FILLED life. Walking in Christ is about discovering the VIRTUOUS life.

Walking in Christ is about discovering the SPIRIT-EMPOWERED life. Walking in Christ is about discovering the COMPASSIONATE life. Walking in Christ is about discovering the WORD-CENTRED life. Walking in Christ is about discovering the SACRAMENTAL life. Letting ALL of life be lived in submission to Jesus.

(Col 2:6-7 NIV)  So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, {7} rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Colossians 3:1-17: A Whole New “You”

Biggest Loser. One of the most popular shows on TV. There’s conflict and tantrums and tears and hugs. But perhaps the BEST bits are when people COMPLETELY TURN THEIR LIVES AROUND. Not just the way they LOOK, but their HEALTH, their life expectancy, and the way they think about themselves. New opportunities open up for activities, jobs, clothes, and relationships. And their whole LIFESTYLE changes. It’s almost like being BORN AGAIN.

 

And, while most contestants are able to KEEP the weight off. Others STRUGGLE. And put all the weight back ON again. Because they go straight back to their old ways of thinking, their old methods of dealing with life, and their old patterns of eating.

 

It’s just as important to change the INSIDE as it is THE OUTSIDE.

 

A new “you” demands a new ATTITUDE. A new set of desires, and behaviours. It demands a complete re-orientation of life. Old eating habits are KILLED, and new ones put on instead.

 

When your whole ATTITUDE to food changes. You don’t just eat a carrot, and wish it was chocolate. Or hoe into an apple and imagine it was a Big Mac. But when you DESIRE healthy food. When you SET YOUR MIND on a healthy life-style. It’s a whole new you.

 

It’s the new THIN you. You’ve killed the old fat you. There’s no way you’re going back THERE again. And so your desires and thought-processes change to reflect that.

 

And it’s the same idea Paul’s getting across here. As a Christian, you’re not the same person you used to be. You’re not EARTHLY anymore. So kill the bits that are still earthly. Get rid of them.

 

Get rid of them, because your new life is hidden with Christ in God. So seek the things that are there. THINK ABOUT the things that are there.

 

Paul’s logic goes like this- “SINCE this is who you are… THEREFORE kill this… and THEREFORE put on this”. Since, therefore and therefore.

 

1. Since

First up, “SINCE”. Right there at the start of v1. Describing something about your PAST, about your PRESENT. And about your FUTURE.

 

a) you HAVE died (3) and been raised with Christ (1) in the PAST

Firstly, IN THE PAST. Every Christian’s had his own death and resurrection experience. In verse 3 Paul says we’ve DIED. And then in verse 1. That we’ve been RAISED WITH CHRIST. Look there in v3.

3 FOR YOU DIED, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

 

It’s about dying to EARTHLY things. Putting to death your OLD attitudes and priorities.

 

And it’s not something you can do YOURSELF. Just turning over a new leaf. Back over in Ch 2 v11, Paul says it’s something only Jesus can do.

11 In him (that’s through or BY JESUS) you were also circumcised, IN THE PUTTING OFF OF THE SINFUL NATURE, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with THE CIRCUMCISION DONE BY CHRIST,

 

Jesus circumcised you, or put you to death. Different image, same idea. Dying to earthly things, or cutting off the sinful nature. Jesus did it.

 

And at the same time, there was A RESURRECTION as well. A new life BEGINNING. V1 of Ch 3. “You have been RAISED with Christ.”

 

And, once again, that’s something only GOD can do. Just like he’s the only One who can give ANYTHING life. Back over in Ch 2 again. V12.

12 having been BURIED with him in baptism and RAISED WITH HIM THROUGH YOUR FAITH IN THE POWER OF GOD, WHO RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD.

 

Or v13.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, GOD MADE YOU ALIVE WITH CHRIST.

 

God DOES it. And he DOES it to those who TRUST him. Gives them NEW LIFE.

 

And that’s where the illustration of Weight Loss breaks down. Because that’s all about HUMAN self-control and will-power. But that’s not the way it works when you become a Christian. It’s GOD who puts you to death, and raises you again. God who makes you BORN AGAIN. A definitive, unchangeable, gracious act. Nothing to do with whether we deserve it or not. Nothing to do with our will-power or goodness. But all to do with his grace and power.

 

b) your life IS hidden with Christ (3) in the PRESENT

It happened in the PAST. And it affects us NOW IN THE PRESENT. Notice, in v 3 Paul talks about the present. He says that our life is NOW HIDDEN WITH CHRIST. It’s because we’ve been RAISED with him. And that, in some sense, that’s where we are NOW.

 

There’s a couple of ideas here. First, hidden with Christ means our eternal life is SECURE. It’s been put out of the way, where no one can touch it. Like a travel wallet that’s got your passport and cash. It’s HIDDEN to keep valuable things SAFE.

 

And that’s a great encouragement as we go about our life NOW. Life that’s so full of uncertainties and up and downs. But our life doesn’t depend on our performance. Simply about trusting the One who performed FOR us. Which is a huge relief.

 

Our life is HIDDEN with Christ.

 

But there’s another idea. There’s a sense in which the reality of who we really are, and what we’ll become is hidden. Not fully disclosed… YET.

 

We may not look any different from the rest of the people we bump into each day, but WE ARE. And that’s a reality that hidden. We’re ALIVE, while everyone else is dead. We’re connected to God- the source of life. They’re independent of him. OUR LIFE IS HIDDEN WITH CHRIST IN HIM.

 

Like the difference between potted flowers and cut flowers. They LOOK the same. For a while. But eventually the difference becomes obvious. Only ONE is connected to the source of life. Connected by roots to the soil. And THAT ONE GROWS, while the OTHER one WITHERS.

 

Same with US. If we’re IN Christ. What we’re BECOMING is hidden. One day that will be revealed too. Our new perfected selves. Our new identity and destination. It’s a future worth looking forward to.

 

c) you WILL appear with him in glory (4) in the FUTURE

And that’s what Paul talks about in v 4. The future. “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”

 

At the moment it’s HIDDEN, but one day it will APPEAR. And our glory on that day will be part of the glory Jesus receives.

 

Life now is “in between”. In between “having been made alive”, and “that new life being revealed”.

 

Christ HAS defeated sin, But we still sin. He’s defeated SICKNESS and DEATH. But we still get sick and die. He’s King, but people don’t RECOGNISE that.

 

It’s a glory we’re still HOPING for CONFIDENTLY. And one day, we’ll SEE it.

 

So that’s the picture Paul’s painted of the Christian. It’s the “since”. The past, present and future of the Christian.

 

2. Therefore

a) Put to death earthly things (5-9)

Now, he moves onto the “therefore”. Since this is what you are – that you’re being renewed in the image of your creator. Since you’re hoping for your glory to be revealed. THEREFORE put to death earthly things. Verse 5. Whatever belongs to the earthly nature.

 

It’s like all the rubbish in your life. All the grubby, embarrassing corners of your life you don’t let anyone see. Those SINS you’re ashamed of. They’re WILD ANIMALS you’ve kept in cages out the back. Out where no one looks.

 

You know it’s wrong to keep them. But you don’t want to get rid of them. Even though they’re dangerous. Because they still FASCINATE you.

 

Every so often you love to sneak out the back, watch them prowl around, pacing their cages. You love to throw them some raw meat, and watch them rip it to shreds. You know it’s wrong, but you can’t drag yourself away.

 

Paul says, stop trying to keep them in cages. That’s what the Old Testament law tried to do. Tried to keep sin in a box. To contain it. Keep it measurable and finite and controllable. But the law doesn’t work. It can’t deal with the root cause of the wild animals.

 

Drastic action is called for. Put them to death.

 

Look at the list. Verse 5. Sexual immorality, impurity and lust, evil desires and greed. Put them to death. STARVE them. Don’t entertain them, don’t cherish them, for a moment.

 

Kill the wild animals. No mercy.

 

And then in verse 8, Paul moves onto a DIFFERENT sort of list. Doesn’t really seem to measure up. Many churches would be SHOCKED if any of the wild animals from v5 appeared. But they seem perfectly happy for the dangerous creatures in v8 to wander all over the place.

“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other”

 

Paul’s not saying, “Don’t let these things SURFACE”. He’s saying, “Get rid of them! They’re ALREADY wandering around! Call in the pest exterminators. There’s a plague!”

 

The “do not lie to each other” is a soft translation. It’s really “STOP lying to each other”. And notice the “to EACH OTHER”. These were things that were happening IN THE CHURCH!

 

Anger. The continuous state of smouldering or seething hatred against a brother.

Rage. When this state breaks out into angry words or actions against a brother.

Malice. Actions or words, or even AN ATTITUDE, intended to cause hurt to a brother.

Slander. Words which put a brother down.

Filthy language. Words which contaminate speaker and hearer. Either by their meaning, or their intent.

Lying. Deliberately misleading a brother for your own benefit. Leading them astray.

 

It may not seem to be such a colourful list as v5. But Paul doesn’t distinguish. They’re ALL dangerous animals. ALL need to be put to death.

 

Anger. Rage. Malice. Slander. Filthy language. Lying. Put them to death. Kill the wild animals. No mercy.

 

3. Therefore

Phwuh! Take a deep breath! Enough of the heavy stuff. How are you feeling?

 

Well, Paul’s not just about putting OFF, or putting to DEATH. He’s also about putting ON. It’s his second “therefore”.

 

Since you’ve been raised. Since you’re God’s chosen people. Therefore (3 things)

SEEK heavenly things (1)

THINK ABOUT heavenly things (2)

PUT ON the new self (10)

 

a) seek heavenly things

Paul’s point is that if our new life is already in heaven with Christ, then our THOUGHTS AND DESIRES need to be there too. Verse 1. SET YOUR HEARTS on things above.

 

It’s literally “SEEK the things above”. That makes it a bit more ACTIVE than just “set your hearts on”. We’re to actively SEEK OUT the things of heaven. Not just dream about it, but make it happen.

 

Like someone who’s lost weight. It’s no good looking back. Just THINKING about exercising. Or THINKING about eating properly. Do THAT, and pretty soon you’ll end up back where you began. SEEK OUT the new way of living. A way of living that’ll keep you where you want to be.

 

And it’s the same with the Christian life. Good intentions mean nothing. Seek out the things of Christ. The things that focus your thoughts, and your actions on him. SEEK OUT Christ himself.

 

b) think about heavenly things

And it’s our THOUGHTS Paul mentions next. Verse 2. Part of what it means to seek the things of heaven, is to SET YOUR MINDS on them. To THINK about them.

 

Fill your minds with good things. That’s what Paul says in Phil 4. Verse 8.

(Phil 4:8 NIV)  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

 

Gee, we fill our minds with some rubbish, don’t we? All in the name of entertainment, or relaxation. We think we DESERVE it. A hard day at work, and time for some mindless entertainment. Newspapers, magazines, TV, hire a video.

 

But there’s so much GOOD stuff we could be filling our minds with. If we’ve been raised with Christ, then we need to be SEEKING OUT things of heaven. We need to be FILLING OUR MINDS with the things of heaven. Books, tapes, Christian conversations. Make the effort.

 

Download some Bible talks. They’re all over the internet. Listen to one on the train, or in the car. Turn off the tele for half an hour, and listen to one. Listen to one while you iron, or cook dinner, or ride the exercise bike.

 

Set your minds on things above.

 

It’s amazing how often I’ll think, “Oh no, bible study again.” Or church, or a camp, or a meeting. I’m too tired to concentrate. I just need an easy night.” But then it turns out to be great, and I’m glad I went.

 

Because the funny thing is it’s THE THINGS OF HEAVEN that refresh you. That RELAX you. That ENERGISE you. That ENCOURAGE you.

 

Because that’s the way we were designed. Just like SUNFLOWERS are designed to turn towards the sun. So we’re designed to turn towards the things of heaven. That’s where our LIFE is.

 

So, since you’ve been raised, seek the things of heaven. Think about the things of heaven. Like sunflowers turning towards the sun.

 

c) put on new self

The third thing Paul mentions is that we’re to “put on the new self”. Verse 10.

“You’ve put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator”

 

It’s literally “put on the new HUMANITY”. Put on the new MAN. “Self” sounds very individualistic – like turning over a new leaf, or trying to be a better person. But “to put on the new humanity” describes moving from one camp into another. From the old creation into the new. And so the old way of doing things doesn’t make sense anymore.

 

It’s like putting on the uniform. You don’t sit on the hill at Parramatta Park, right in the middle of the Parramatta Army, blue and gold everywhere, wearing your Sydney Roosters gear. Right people, wrong uniform.

 

Put on the RIGHT uniform for the RIGHT people.

 

And in v12 we get a little fashion parade of what the new uniform LOOK LIKE. The new outfit for God’s new humanity. Notice how much it’s about our relationships with EACH OTHER.

(Col 3:12-15 NIV)  Therefore, AS GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE, holy and dearly loved, CLOTHE YOURSELVES with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. {13} Bear with EACH OTHER and forgive whatever grievances you may have AGAINST ONE ANOTHER. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. {14} And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. {15} Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since AS MEMBERS OF ONE BODY you were called to peace.

 

Let me suggest that it’s easier NOT to do the list in v6 to 9, than it is to DO the list here.

 

It’s easy for me to look at Bill over there, and say, “No, I’m not angry at him. There’s no rage, or malice. I’ve never slandered, or lied to him. In fact, I hardly know him at all!”

 

And that’s the problem. If we don’t KNOW each other, how can we ever be expected to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, or patient with each other.

 

It’s easy to be patient with someone you only see for two hours a week. But to DEMONSTRATE these characteristics among God’s people, we need to spend time with each other. To get into each other’s lives enough to start really BUGGING each other.

 

A friend of mine jokes about his spiritual gift. He said he has the gift of PROVOCATION. He always knows just how to rub someone up the wrong way. He figured he was so good at it, it must be a gift!

 

But there’s an element of truth in what he says. People can’t demonstrate patience and forgiveness unless someone does something that REQUIRES patience and forgiveness as a response.

 

Of course I’m not saying that we go out of our way to be annoying. Just so someone can show forgiveness or patience. But lives need to be lived among each other. Do things together. And it doesn’t have to be super-spiritual things.

 

Help someone move house. Invite someone over to watch a World Cup rugby game. Come to the church picnics when we have them. Give up half a day for the Woodcroft Festival, or the Holiday Kids Club. The opportunities are there. Make the most of them.

 

Or make MORE opportunities. Drop in for a cuppa. Ask people around for meals. Write letters, or emails. Organise holidays together. Meet for a working bee at someone’s house.

 

 

But it’s not just about spending time getting under each other’s skin. There’s lots of groups who spend lots of time together. Sporting groups, bands, community groups.

 

If we’re not developing the characteristics of God’s people. The distinctives that make us different, then it’s a waste of time. So Paul reminds us about HOW we’re to develop these fruits. Verse 16.

(Col 3:16 NIV)  Let the WORD OF CHRIST DWELL IN YOU RICHLY as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

 

It’s the word of Christ that’s to be the focus. It’s the word ABOUT Christ. The gospel that’s to dwell in us. To dwell AMONG and AROUND and THROUGH us.

 

We’re to speak it, pray it, sing it, teach it, correct each other by it. We’re to LIVE it! We’re to remind each other of what we’ve been saved from. What we’ve been saved to. Who we’re now hidden with.

 

And if we’re doing that, then God’s going to use us. Use us to bring people from the old creation into the new. To be his change agents in the world.

 

Listen to the testimony of John Bunyan. He wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress”. But years earlier, he was converted because of the love a group of Christian women had FOR EACH OTHER. Loving and fruitful conversation. Talk that taught and corrected. Talk which centred on the word about Christ.

 

“One day the providence of God did cast me to Bedford, to work at my job, and in one of the streets of that town, I came where there were three or four women sitting in a door in the sun, and talking about the things of God and being now willing to hear them, I drew near to hear what they said … But I didn’t understand, for they were far above, out of my reach, for their talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature;

 

They talked how God had visited their soul with His love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted and supported against the temptations of the devil. Moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular, and told to each other how they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up under his assaults…

 

And I thought they spoke as if JOY did make them speak; they spoke with such pleasantness of godly language and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if THEY HAD FOUND A NEW WORLD…

 

At this I felt my own heart begin to shake, as mistrusting my condition… Thus, when I had heard, and considered, what they said, I left them and went about my employment again, but their talk and discourse went with me, also my heart would tarry with them, for I was greatly affected with their words…

 

Therefore I should often make it my business to be going again and again into their company of these poor people, for I could not stay away.

 

And before long he was converted.

 

That’s the sort of fellowship that changes lives. Real, patient, forgiving, loving relationships. Clothes that befit God’s new humanity.  …….. Dear God, make us a people just like that!

 

Colossians 3:18-4:1: Subversive Submission

Listen to these words from “A couple’s guide to communication”;

“The most consistent research finding about what’s different between the communication of strangers and married couples is that married people are RUDER to each other than they are to strangers. They INTERRUPT their spouses more, put their spouses DOWN more, and are less COMPLIMENTARY to each other”

It’s those who are closest to you who know the “real you”. It’s easy to bluff people you don’t see often. To put on a good front. But your family is completely different. You can’t fool THEM for very long.

And I reckon that’s why Paul puts this next section where he does in the letter.

We’re coming back to Colossians after a couple of months off. And we’re picking it up at v18 of Ch 3. Paul’s just finished talking about how the Christian is part of A WHOLE NEW HUMANITY. And how he needs to put off the old nature. And put on the new. About being clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. About how we’re to let God’s word dwell in us richly as we teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.

And he finishes in 3:17.

“And WHATEVER YOU DO, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The huge panorama of the Christian life. Work, politics, mission, the church.

But then, to make sure we don’t walk off with our heads in the clouds, and then trip over the next bump we walk on, he brings us crashing back to earth.

He moves to THE CHRISTIAN HOME. Because that’s where THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD. That’s where you see how SERIOUS someone is about change. Whether, or not, it’s all just talk.

And that’s why this section is so CHALLENGING for us. Because it gets to the heart of WHO WE ARE.

Paul’s message is that MUTUAL SUBMISSION are the clothes that God’s people are to wear. It’s their UNIFORM. He’s given us all the DETAIL. But now he puts it SIMPLY. Within our most BASIC relationships. Submit. Put the other person first. It’s that simple.

And do it, not because you’re WEAK, or SPINELESS. But because it’s really JESUS you’re serving. In whatever relationship you’re in, your submission TO EACH OTHER is because you’re submitting TO CHRIST.

Jesus said it himself. Following him means IMITATING him. Mark 8:34

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

The target for Jesus’ whole life was his death. And OUR focus is the same. To be denying self. Serving others. If it was good enough for OUR MASTER, why would we think it was beneath US to live serving others? A couple of chapters further on, Jesus says, (Mark 10:43)

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

And that’s what Paul’s on about. WHATEVER you do, do it in the NAME of Jesus – by his authority. In his power. And do it out of GRATITUDE to God for all he’s done for you.

And that denying self. That following Jesus. Is A SUBVERSIVE SUBMISSION. Submission that turns what the world says ON ITS HEAD. It’s counter-cultural. Upside down.

It looks like WEAKNESS. But it’s really the way of STRENGTH. The way of THE CROSS.

And it’s SUBVERSIVE. Because it’s Jesus’ way of challenging and changing and affecting the culture around you. Influencing a selfish world for Jesus.

And Paul teases out SIX DIFFERENT CATEGORIES of subversive submission.

1. Wives – offer your submission (3:18)

First category. Wives. You’re to offer your submission. Verse 18. A verse that’s been abused. And misunderstood. And taken out of context for centuries.

(Col 3:18 NIV)  Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

The world said wives had no choices. “Whatever your husband says, goes”. But Paul says, “Make it your CONSCIOUS DECISION to GIVE your submission. Not because you’re FORCED to, but because it’s service to Jesus.”

Submit sounds very passive. Just give in. But it’s more like “Offer your submission”.

When submission is given freely, it becomes an empowering thing, rather than something that DISempowers. Paul empowers wives by giving them the choice.

Submit to your husbands. Let go of control. Take the back seat. “Different” to the way YOU do it  isn’t necessarily “wrong” or even “second best.”

And not just in the decisions you make AS A COUPEL. What about offering your submission in front of OTHERS. When all the wives are having coffee, and bagging out their husbands for not mowing the lawn, or being inconsiderate in other ways. Why not STAND UP for yours. Why not say, “Actually, mine’s pretty good. He makes an effort to do this or this.”

There might be a deathly silence in the conversation. But it shouldn’t last more than a few seconds.

And if you’re thinking this is too hard, if you’re thinking your husband is not WORTH your submission. And it’s just too difficult. Don’t forget the second half of the verse. We almost miss it because the FIRST half catches our attention. “Submit … as is fitting IN THE LORD.”

The power to CHOOSE submission comes because you’re IN THE LORD. It’s part of what it means to be put on the new self that’s being renewed in the image of Jesus.

The way to be WALKING IN THE LORD. The sphere of living in a relationship with Jesus as your Lord. Is to SERVE HIM  by submitting to your husband.”

2. Husbands – offer your love (3:19)

What sometimes makes this such a difficult thing for wives to do is that husbands love to read this section, but they lose interest after one verse. They stop before they get to v19.

(Col 3:19 NIV)  Husbands, LOVE your wives and do not be harsh with them.

The world said husbands can do what they like with their wives. But Paul says make it your conscious decision to LOVE your wife. To be kind, gentle, forgiving, and compassionate. Not because you HAVE to, but because you’re serving Jesus.

The LOVING thing is NOT to take. But to GIVE. Not to focus on your RIGHTS, but on your RESPONSIBILITIES. The world says, “DEMAND your RIGHTS”. Jesus says “Concentrate on your RESPONSIBILITIES”.

The world says the STRONG husband demands things HIS way. That HE wears the pants in the family. But Jesus says the LOVING husband, the REAL man, listens to his wife. And puts her needs before his.

The REAL man puts the toilet seat down after he’s used it. He goes with his wife when she’s shopping for shoes. He talks about his feelings. He LISTENS, rather than tries to FIX everything straight away.

Husbands, LOVE your wives, and do not be HARSH with them. A wife will find it much easier to offer her submission to a husband like THAT.

3. Children – offer your obedience (3:20)

Next, Paul moves onto children. Verse 20. It’s one of the few places children are specifically addressed. Because the assumption is, tell PARENTS what children should do, then the parents will make them do it. But no! Children are PART of church, so they get a command from Paul too. They’re not just the FUTURE of the church. They’re PART of the church. Verse 20

(Col 3:20 NIV)  Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

The ability to make decisions is a sign of maturity. Of adulthood. But Paul’s telling children to make the decision to OFFER their obedience.

The world says that children are MADE to obey their parents. FORCED. Or else, the FLIP. Kids can do what they WANT. No one should put any limits. Let them go to bed when they want. Spend what they want. Eat what they want.

But neither of those extremes is Biblical, OR what’s best for kids. Paul says to children, “Offer your obedience because you WANT to. Not because you’re being FORCED, but because you’re serving Jesus”

Perhaps this has something to say about the way we discipline and correct our kids. Rather than, “If you don’t do this, watch out!” Perhaps we need to be emphasising “Jesus LOVES it when we do this, or don’t do that”. “You can make Jesus happy when you do what Mum or Dad says”.

Now I’m not, for a minute, suggesting this is always going to work. But I think it’s a useful emphasis to be pushing when we get the opportunity. Give kids the opportunity to OFFER obedience. Give them the chance to do it as service to Jesus.

It’s easy for us to be too harsh. Isn’t it? And once again many parents have loved v20, but forgotten v21. We’ve FORCED obedience, rather than allowing children to OFFER it.

4. Fathers – offer your understanding (3:21)

So in v21, Paul gives the other side of the coin. If children are going to offer obedience, parents need to show that they’re WORTHY of that offer. Verse 21

(Col 3:21 NIV)  Fathers, do not EMBITTER your children, or they will become discouraged.

I think what frustrates our kids most of all is when we DON’T LISTEN TO THEM. When we don’t UNDERSTAND them. When we’re so distracted, or think we know best. That we aren’t interested in hearing things from THEIR perspective.

I think that’s ONE way we can prevent embittering our children. Fathers, work hard at understanding your kids, so they don’t become discouraged.

Don’t make rules just for the sake of it. Put yourselves in their kids’ shoes.

Don’t be so unreasonable with your demands that your kids just give up trying to meet them. Or so quick with your criticisms, and slow with your compliments, that your kids give up trying to please us.

If you make a mistake, admit it and apologise. Kids will respect you MORE, not LESS.

The world says fathers should rule the house with a rod of iron. Paul says, “CONSIDER your children. Don’t make them bitter.” It’s not a sign of weakness.

Show your submission by considering their feelings. Offer your understanding. Do it because you’re serving Jesus”

5. Slaves- offer your obedience (3:22-25)

Next, Paul moves onto SLAVES.

Paul hasn’t suddenly moved from the home to the workplace. He’s simply moved to THE NEXT ROOM in the Christian household. And so I think the heading in the NIV is probably right. “Rules for the Christian household”.

While we find it hard to get our minds around slavery, – especially slaves with Christian masters – the very fact that Paul ADDRESSES slaves is extraordinary.

Slaves were part of the Colossian church, TOO. Probably sitting next to their masters who’d brought them. The amazing, life-transforming, power of the gospel was that it could even transform masters and slaves into brothers in Christ.

Two classes of people who wouldn’t have anything to do with each other, sat next to each other, in submission to God’s Word. They passed each other the cup and the bread of the Lord’s Supper. They prayed God’s blessing for each other as they shook hands. They gave each other a brotherly kiss.

And it’s THAT sort of peace the gospel STILL brings between people. Blacks and whites, Rich and working-class. Even American and Australian! The amazing transformation that the gospel can bring!

And so Paul is calling on the slaves, as members of God’s people – just like wives and children – to offer their submission as a conscious act of obedience to Christ. V22 and 23

(Col 3:22-23 NIV)  Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. {23} Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,

There’s a great word there. (opthalmo-doulos) It’s literally “eye-service”. Don’t give “eye-service” Paul says. In other words, don’t do things just for human approval.

And it’s relevant for all of us who work for someone else. Don’t work just when the boss is looking. Don’t work to OTHER’S EXPECTATIONS. None of the public service motto – “Just LOOK busy!” The Christian worker is not to be a “clock-watcher”.

Do things WHOLE-HEARTEDLY because you’re working for a DIFFERENT master.

It’s the sort of attitude that can transform our work. Even mundane jobs get a whole new meaning when we have the right perspective.

A journalist was interviewing workmen building St Paul’s Cathedral in London. It was designed by the famous architect, Sir Christopher Wren.

The journalist asked three men, “What are you doing here?”

The first replied, “I’m cutting stone for three shillings a day”

The second answered, “I’m putting in ten hours a day on this job”

And the third replied, “I’m helping Sir Christopher Wren build the greatest cathedral in Great Britain for the glory of God”.

Who do you think got the greatest satisfaction out of their job? The THIRD worker. Because he was working for something GREATER than the mundane tasks of bricks and mortar in front of him.

And it should be the same with US, TOO. WHATEVER our work. Because we’re serving a master who SEES EVERYTHING. Everything is eye-service for the Lord. Whatever we do, Jesus is watching.

A 6 year old girl was walking home from school. And a thunderstorm was brewing. Lightning arced across the sky. Her mum was worried that she’d be scared. So she went to meet her on the way.

But when she saw her, the girl was happily skipping along the footpath. Not a care in the world. Whenever the lightning would flash, she’d stop and smile.

When she saw her mum, she ran up and said, “All the way home, Jesus was taking my picture”.

And that’s the attitude we need to have. Wherever we are, Jesus is taking our picture. In every situation. Always work with THAT THOUGHT in mind.

Would we always be happy to SMILE while the flash went off?

The clock-watcher has one eye on 5 o’clock. But the Christian worker has one eye on judgement day. Because on that day there’ll be rewards and judgement. Bouquets and brickbats. Verse 23 –25.

(Col 3:23-25 NIV)  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, {24} since you know that YOU WILL RECEIVE AN INHERITANCE FROM THE LORD AS A REWARD. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. {25} ANYONE WHO DOES WRONG WILL BE REPAID FOR HIS WRONG, and there is no favoritism.

Pay-day’s coming. Not just next FORTNIGHT. THE HEAVENLY, ETERNAL payday. But for the lazy worker it mightn’t be what he’s expecting. For those of us who work, our responsibility is to our employer. It’s a judgement issue. A good day’s work for our EMPLOYER, is a good days work for the Lord Christ. Verse 24. “It is the Lord Christ we are serving.”

It’s an unusual title for Jesus. The Lord Christ. In fact, it only occurs TWICE in the whole bible. Once here, and once in Rom 16:18. And both times the reference is to SERVING the Lord Christ.

(Rom 16:18 NIV)  For such people are not SERVING our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.

(Col 3:24 NIV)  It is the Lord Christ you are SERVING.

Paul’s emphasising the TITLES of Jesus. Emphasising his POSITION OF AUTHORITY. He isn’t just Jesus. He is the Lord Jesus. THE Lord. The Lord of the Universe. That’s the one you’re serving.

And he’s Christ. Your Messiah. Your ANOINTED King. The one who died to save you. All you are and have is because of him. So serve the LORD CHRIST. Focus on THAT, rather than your earthly bosses. And your work will be MUCH more effective.

6. Masters – offer justice (4:1)

And then, once again, Paul moves to the flip-side. Wives, then husbands. Children, then fathers, Slaves, and now Masters. Chapter 4 v1.

(Col 4:1 NIV)  Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

The world says, slaves are to do all they can to look after their masters. But Paul says that masters are to PROVIDE for their slaves. To offer what’s just and fair. Why? Once again, the Christian is to respond because he serves Jesus. “Be a just Lord on earth, because you have a Lord in heaven”.

So there it is. Right through the Christian household. Serve each other. Offer subversive submission.

Ask yourself. How can you do that in your various relationships?

As a wife, how can you offer submission? As a husband, how can you offer love? As a child, how can you offer obedience? As a parent, how can you offer understanding? As a worker, how can you offer obedience and hard work? As a boss, how can you offer justice?

Whatever we do. Whoever we work for. Whoever is watching, or not watching. It’s the Lord Christ we’re serving.

Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, has this plaque above her sink. “Divine service rendered here three times daily”.

That’s the attitude God wants as we live as his servants – his slaves – in the world. Divine service rendered here.