As I look back on my 28 years of ministry, you ask me what keeps me going? There are two things, seeing people come to know Jesus for the first time and equally, seeing people grow to be more like Jesus. We are not joking when we say our vision is "to see lives transformed through Jesus Christ to the Glory of God."
If you ask me what grieves me as a pastor it is seeing Christians being taken captive by a false Christianity and seeing Christians not appreciate that Christ is enough.
This letter speaks to this issue. Notice how everyone is mentioned in the 1st two verses of Colossians 1
No one is mentioned just by name. Jesus is not just a first-century crucified Jew, He is Jesus the Christ - the anointed King whom God has given the nations as his inheritance. God is not just God but God our Father, when Jesus is your King then God is your Dad. Paul is not some reformed Christian terrorist, he is the apostle of Christ, sent by Jesus to make Jesus known to all nations. Timothy is our brother because when God is your father and Jesus is your king then we are brothers and sisters to each other.
You can define yourself by your feelings, or your friends, or your braun or your beauty or your brains or you can define yourself by God - the only opinion that will be turning heads for eternity.
The Colossians are not even just defined by their address. Colossae is about 500 km from Gallipoli. They are God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. Older translations said 'Saints', you don’t have to wait till after you’re dead before the bible will call you saints.
Come to Jesus and everything changes:
You are not Mark a teacher from Kings Park or Jean a truck driver from Doonside or Karen a mother of 3 from Woodcroft or Dan a student at Penrith. You are God’s holy people, brothers and sisters under grace and at peace with God.
Archaeologists dug up the catacombs in Rome where Christians were buried in the early centuries and they constantly came across two words that were written down ‘In Christo’...buried in Christ not just buried in the ground and ‘Parchay’… Peace.
Union with Christ means we have peace with God, the war is over. So it’s not surprising that Paul tells the Colossians how thankful he is to God for them. Look at Colossians 1:3-4
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people (NIV)
He thanks God for their faith in Jesus and their love for God’s people. So why does God get the credit when it’s the Colossians who choose to believe and love?
40 times Paul says thanks in his letters and
39 times he thanks God for their faith and love.
Peter Fitzsimons, the sports writer, always complains when a Christian athlete thanks God for their success. It’s because it’s God alone who saves and it’s God who transforms us for his glory.
To those who were told that they were shallow Christians, Paul says don’t forget the KISS principle - Keep It Simple Stupid. What counts is faith working itself out in love.
Years ago someone said "I’m visiting MBM while my minister is on Long Service Leave" What is wrong with that? They don't love God’s people. We gather not just to hear a sermon but to love God’s people. Your attendance at Bible study and Sunday gatherings is a statement about who you love. The mark of a true Christian is not measured by experience but by trusting Jesus and loving his people. This is the mark of a true Christian and a healthy church.
We pray for the non-Christian until they come to Christ. Paul begins his prayers when he hears of their faith and love, because becoming a Christian was the easy bit and hanging in there is the much harder bit. Colossians 1:9
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives (NIV)
Let's take a prayer check:
Do you pray for those at church? Thanking God for their faith and love and asking God to grow those in our church family. Or do you spend more time focused on the lack of love of the saints or gossiping about the sins of others. Paul never ever takes their faith and love for granted and he never forgets who transformed their lives.
Notice what underpins the faith and love in Colossians 1:5
There is no way you would ever trust Jesus and love others if your life ended in death or in hell. We live with the end in mind, and instead of each sin storing up anger on the day of God‘s judgment, what is stored up is your certain hope of salvation. That message of hope came to us in the gospel - the news of Jesus is a message of hope where heaven is your home.
Many people have taken their lives at the Gap – in the Eastern suburbs. Lifeline have put up two signs. Each one says ‘There is hope!’ I wonder how many suicides that has stopped, just the promise of hope.
Our salvation is safely stored in heaven, under lock and key. Friends, for those of you who have no hope beyond the grave, know this: There is hope. Our world is hopeless. Our world constantly teaches us that we come from nothing and we will end up as nothing and you are just an accident. That is all!
The message of Jesus came to the Colossians offering certain hope. It came carrying truth in a world of lies and carrying grace in a world of law - where performance counts and it came carrying a promise that will take you from here to eternity. Look at Colossians 1:6-8
In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. (NIV)
Paul is thankful that what God is doing through his gospel at Colossae he is doing all over the world. Jesus said: Go and make disciples-learner of all nations. Jesus is getting what he wants. The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world and still is
80 million Chinese who converted in the last 25 years is further proof and
10 kids saved in July holiday club.
You may never bear children but you can be involved in bearing children of God. It is truly an international gospel but it comes one by one. In the Colossian's case it was Epaphras who heard it from Paul and then went to his own people and told them. Epaphras taught it and they heard it and they believed it for that Paul never stops thanking God
Will you go to your own?
Epaphras, who is one of you is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. (NIV)
I’m so looking forward to meeting Epaphras in heaven!
We now have 10 overseas ministry partners to teach the message of hope. Have you prayed in your personal prayer time and in your Growth Groups for at least one overseas ministry partner? A healthy Christian and a healthy church understands that the kingdom of God is bigger than MBM. Moving now to Colossians 1:9
Notice what he prays for these Colossian Christians. He wants others to grow in knowledge of his will – through spiritual wisdom and understanding. When I say that, what picture comes to mind? You could think God will give each person special insight by his Spirit-some vision, some special word, except when you keep reading in Colossians, the spiritual wisdom is about who Jesus is, that he is the firstborn of creation, the firstborn of the dead, so that in everything he might be first.
What has Jesus come to do? He has come to pay our debts, and to disarm Satan from accusing us. You will know whether you have grown in your knowledge of God’s will by the outcome found in Colossians 1:10
so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, (NIV)
Different phrases pointing to the fact that it’s not just about being saved, it’s about living a life worthy of the Lord and pleasing him in every way and bearing fruit in every good work. Again you don’t have to guess what pleasing God looks like, He tells you it’s open for all. Unlike the false teachers, Paul spirituality is very practical as we see in Chapter 3 of Colossians
rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips... as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another(NIV)
This is a prayer for power for the Christian, Colossians 1:11-12a
being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, (NIV)
Here Paul’s focus is not on the power to heal and cast out demons or the power to hang in on a tough marriage, or the power to stay godly as you battle with same-sex attraction or the power to honour parents who still treat you like a 4 year old or the power to forgive someone who profoundly shamed you. It’s the power to ask for help, as 11 of you have done as you struggle with Porn and want to be part of the conquer group.
The difference between Patience and Perseverance is: you persevere in hard situations but you are patient with difficult people. The goal is not just surviving with bitterness but thriving with joy all to please God. I think of one dear sister in Christ whose mother said ‘I wish you were never born’ or one brother whose father said ‘I have to make myself be with you’ Yet they both hang in with joy.
Brendan Reilly was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer. He writes ‘It seems like God has more for us to learn about these issues and we are bracing ourselves for what this journey will look like. The meditation I have been leading people through over the past weeks is from Genesis 28:15. It has been a great comfort for me in rough waters. Three amazing promises from God;
Please pray for healing and hope and that we will cling to those 3 wonderful promises from our good and loving Heavenly Father.’ What else would you expect from someone who has been rescued from the kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of the Son. This is wonderfully pictured in Colossians 1:12-14
It's dripping with Exodus language. You have been rescued, He has qualified for heaven, you have been transferred from the kingdom of Satan to God Sons, free and forgiven, free from power and penalty of sin. The Hope is sure, the language so confident. For we are in the Son's kingdom.
Thankless people trample on what Christ has done, thankless Christians always deny God his praise.
Edward Spencer was a student at Northwestern University in 1860, when a ship was wrecked off the shores of Lake Michigan. He repeatedly dashed into the raging surf to rescue passengers and he saved 18 people, one by one, finally collapsing in utter exhaustion. He was so badly injured that he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Did you know…Not one of those rescued ever came back and even said thank you.
When was the last time you thanked God for transforming you and others to faith and love which springs on hope stored?