Colossians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. (NIV)
This is a fairly standard opening for Paul’s letters to churches. He begins by introducing himself to his readers. He notes that he is an apostle, that is, one who was sent. He had a mission. He knew God, through Jesus Christ, had a purpose for his life. He identified himself as one who was following the Messiah, Jesus, and was through Him living in the will of God.
His co-author, Timothy, was a young man that Paul had taken under his wing to help him grow and become a servant of God who would lead the people of God. Timothy may have been Paul’s scribe for this letter. He may have acted as Paul’s secretary.
Grace and Peace to you was his standard blessing. However, just because it was his custom to start his letters with these words doesn’t mean they are unimportant.
Grace and peace come from God. Most people in the world are searching for peace, but true peace is only found as we surrender to God our Father and Creator. It is as we live in a relationship with Him, accepting his forgiveness and the grace He offers, that we can know the true peace that He wants us to experience.
When we seek peace in our own way, we will end up finding that true peace, peace with God and one another, eludes us. It is only by God’s grace that we can know the peace we were intended to experience when God created us.
Eve was searching for ‘something more’ than she knew when she listened to the serpent and did what she knew God had forbidden. We follow in her footsteps when we seek to meet our own needs without, or apart from, God. (Slide 4) The life of the Spirit is about allowing God to meet our needs in His way as we walk with Him.
I pray for you, that you may experience the grace and peace that can only come from walking with God.
The Colossian church, would have been those who had accepted Jesus as the Messiah, as Savior and Lord, in the city of Colosse located in a region of Asia Minor called Phrygia. This congregation most likely began when some of their number (possibly including Epaphras – see verse 7) returned from a visit to Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. There were Jews from Phrygia in attendance when Peter preached his first sermon after the disciples had been filled with the Holy Spirit, about 50 days after the Passover when Jesus was crucified and rose again. (See Acts chapter 2.)
Paul continues in the body of his letter.
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. 7 You learned it 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. (NIV)
Thanksgiving, gratitude, should be one of the most notable characteristics of those of us who have received the gift of life from God. He provides for us. He is the source of all good things. Paul, although he was most likely in prison when he wrote this letter, was grateful to God for many things, not the least of which was the faithfulness of the followers of Jesus Christ.
Paul was especially thankful for the faith and love that he had heard the Christians in Colosse were known for; faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and love for all the saints, that is, those who were living in a relationship with God.
This faith and love spring from the hope that is stored up for us. We know we have eternal life and heaven to anticipate. This hope leads us to hold on to our faith in God through Jesus, and to demonstrate love toward others. We are free to love when we know we are loved by God. Until we are trusting God to love us and save us, we live to get love from others. Much of what we think of as love is more often than not, an attempt to get love from others. When we know that we are loved by God, we can truly love others unselfishly.
The gospel, or good news, is that God loves us. He sent His Son to purchase our salvation. This is the source of the hope we have of heaven. It is never based on what we do, our good works, but on what God has done for us.
When we accept this good news, we have hope. From this hope our faith grows and our ability to love others. We heard about it (the hope stored up for us) in the word of truth, the gospel.
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. 10 And we pray this in order that you may 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, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 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.
Paul’s prayer for the Colossian Christians (and for us by extension):
That God would fill us with the knowledge of His will…
So that … we may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened by God’s glorious might
So that … we might have great endurance and patience, and joyfully give thanks to the Father, who transferred us from the dominion of darkness to the Kingdom of the Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
How can we bear fruit as a congregation? How can we bear fruit as individuals?
We are saved for good works, not by good works, but if we are not doing good works there is a problem.
Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast.10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Are we doing the good works that God prepared in advance for us to do? What are these works? Could it be loving God and other people? Making disciples? We are to reproduce! Not just having babies, but having babies who are born again. Winning people to Christ. Loving people into the kingdom of God.
We have an opportunity to start over, to start from scratch. What does God want us to do to win people to Christ? We need to ask ourselves if we are following Christ and allowing Him to use us to love people into the kingdom of God.
I am not talking about developing programs. The problem with programs is that they become a means for us to work for Christ, instead of us allowing Christ to work through us. Most of the programs in churches were started by people who were walking with God, following the Spirit. Then those people who started those programs moved on or died. What was left was a program that good people kept running because that was what they were taught it meant to do God’s work.
The problem is, we are not called to do God’s work. We are called to allow God to work through us. Do you see the difference? It is the difference between following Christ and following people who follow Christ. It is the difference between doing what we think God wants us to do and asking Him to bless it, and asking Him to bless us by working through us to accomplish His work.
Yesterday I shared at the Men’s Breakfast about The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. Anybody read it? If you take what he says seriously, it will change your life.
1 Chronicles 4:9 Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, "Because I bore him in pain."10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, "Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!" So God granted him what he requested. (NKJV)
This is the prayer each of us need to pray. Ask God to bless us and enlarge our territory; ask that His hand would be upon us and that He would keep us from evil.
Asking God to bless us is not asking God to do what we want Him to do, but it is asking that He would do for us what He wants to do. Asking Him to enlarge our territory is to ask Him to enlarge our influence in the world for Him.
As your pastor, I am praying that God would increase what He is doing in and through me. I am calling you to do the same.
God is waiting for us to ask Him to use us for His glory. He is waiting for us to ask Him to increase the fruit He wants to bear in our life and ministry.
How will God use you to bear fruit for the kingdom of God that He wants to bring forth? I do not know. But I am anxious to find out what God is going to do as we each commit ourselves to pray that God would use us for the good works He has created us to do.
This will mean we give up our plans and seek God for His plan.
Christianity is about surrendering to the Lord. He loves us and He is waiting for us to submit to His leadership in our lives, to accomplish His mission and His purpose through us.
What great things is God going to accomplish through us as we take a stand for Him throughout 2018? I am looking forward to seeing the great things that God is doing through us.