Good morning Raintree. If you’re a guest, my name is Ryan, and I’m the Lead Pastor here. I hope you made it here safely and warm. When I left this morning around 5:30am, my truck dash said it was 3 degrees outside…When I got to the church and stepped out of my truck, and the wind hit my face, I just had to look online to see what the wind chill was…it said -12 degrees… It was only at that moment that I realized something…we moved to Missouri! I will no longer joke about how moderate the winter is in Missouri. It definitely never gets this cold in Texas.
Relevance of Colossians
Today we’re beginning our in-depth look at the book of Colossians. We’re calling this series “Crown the King.” The Bible is relevant no matter what, but Colossians is particularly relevant in the 21st century for multiple reasons, which we’ll see over the next few months. But, let me mention two reasons briefly.
- We live in a world where absolute truth isn’t a high priority. Many are pushing for unity as the highest virtue. Unity, even over truth. Catholicism and Protestantism, even Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, many are pushing the idea that we all serve and worship the same God. Colossians clears this up. Colossians teaches you can’t have true unity without truth.
- We live in an age of pragmatism, meaning whatever works works. Whether or not it’s true doesn’t really matter, as long as it makes you happy or works for you. If Mormonism works, great! If atheism works, great! Any of the great moral teachers of mankind, including Jesus, they work if they make your life happy and meaningful. Well, I’ll be the first to say that if our faith isn’t true, then I don’t want any part of it, no matter how much meaning it brings to my life. But, it is true. Jesus is not “on par” with Buddha, or Muhammed, or Ghandi. He’s not just a great moral teacher. He’s God. Colossians, maybe more than any other book in the Bible, dispels this confusion.
Purpose of Colossians
But, not only is it true, but it does “work,” in the sense that it brings joy and meaning and purpose to life, the only joy, meaning, and purpose based on reality. This is why Paul does not only give us this great explanation on who, exactly, Jesus is, in chapters 1-2 of Colossians, but he also spends time explaining the effect Jesus has on our relationships with other people in chapters 3-4. The truth about Jesus affects every part of our lives. That might be helpful for you to remember: the first two chapters- Who Jesus is. Chapters three and four- How the truth about Jesus affects our lives and, specifically, our relationships with people.
Now Paul is writing to the church at Colossae because the man who founded the church, his name was Epaphras, went to all the way to Paul in Rome where he was imprisoned, 1000 miles, to get his input about the problems that were happening in his home church.
Epaphras, apparently, gave a mixed report to Paul. Many good things were happening, but there were also problems. The problems seemed to be twofold: Greek philosophy had creeped in which involved the worship of many gods as well as this idea that you need more than Jesus, you need this extra-spiritual experience. And the other side of the problem was legalism, which also included the idea that Jesus wasn’t actually enough, but legalism added different things to the Gospel: you have to do certain things to earn salvation. This problem came from Jewish believers who didn’t want to completely leave out the law of Moses in this new Christian faith.
So the whole theme of Colossians, then, revolves around this question: Is He really enough? Is he really all we need? Is he really the King? Paul answers thoroughly in Colossians.
Introduction to Text
The text we’re looking at today is more introductory to the main thrust of the book, but we are going to see how Paul prays for the Colossians. When we pray for each other, it is likely that we most often pray defensively, meaning that we pray for people who are struggling in some way—they’re in the hospital, or they’ve lost a loved one, they’re having surgery. And this is incredibly important to pray like this, especially right now with so many things going on in the lives of Raintree members. By the way, our prayer list is at the Grow Station in the entryway, and those are updated every single week, and we’re now making even more of an effort to really update those. But, in the midst of praying for those who are struggling, we sometimes forget that those who are doing o.k. need prayer too! In fact, we all need prayer. Today we’re going to see how Christians can pray for Christians. We’re going to make our way through the text with some explanation, and then see how we can pray for each other.
Greeting: vv. 1-2
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”
So Paul starts by stating his name. He’s stating his authority, that he’s not only a messenger of God but an official representative, with Timothy, who was also with him. Grace and peace- this is pretty typical of Paul’s greetings. Now before Paul gets into the main reasons he’s writing the letter, to teach and encourage them, he spends the rest of our text today doing two things: expressing his thankfulness to God for them, and then explaining how he’s been praying for them. Paul’s thankfulness we see in vv. 3-8. Read with me.
Thankfulness: vv. 3-8
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
Now this may sound a bit flattering, especially come from Paul. If I read these words and they were about me, I might be a little puffed up. But, don’t miss to whom he’s thankful. He’s not thankful to the Colossians for their faith. He’s thankful to God for their faith! Faith is a gift from God. The word for faith here means to be completely persuaded that something is true and to trust in it. It’s not just belief or some sort of intellectual thing alone. In fact, in the New Testament, obedience is equated with belief. So Paul is thankful for the saving faith that the Colossians had- Faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation. But look at what else Paul was thankful for: the love that the Colossians had for all God’s people. Children of God love fellow children of God.
Apparently the Colossians church didn’t have cliques. Cliques are groups of people that keep to themselves and likely don’t let anyone in, whether by choice or just unintentionally. Raintree has a really strong core group of people who’ve been here through the thick and thin. This is great, but it’s also something to be aware of especially as we have more and more guests coming in each week. Of course we’re all going to have people in the church we know better than others; we’re not going to know everyone the same. BUT, we must remember we’re called to love ALL children of God. Not just love them emotionally, but with sacrificial service to each other. We may not feel sentimental all the time toward all Christians. God doesn’t expect that; but he does expect us to serve one another in love. So after Paul expresses his thankfulness for them, he then tells them what he’s been praying for them:
Prayerfulness: vv. 9-14
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
What is Paul’s prayer for the Colossians? It wasn’t some generic prayer asking God that the Colossians would just have peace, and know that God loves them. It wasn’t that the Colossian church would grow numerically. He didn’t pray that they would get along better for the sake of getting along. What did he pray? Three things:
- That they walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
Now this doesn’t mean walking or living in such a way that you are deserving of God’s favor, even without Christ. That’s impossible. What he means is the worthy walk of the Christian life that shows the grace we have already received in Christ. It reflects the Gospel, that we could not live worthily, so Christ lived worthily and died on our behalf and rose again. That life manifests itself in a desire to please God, v.10.
This is one of the many unique things about the Gospel. We are different from the world in that we don’t want to do good things for the sake of good things. Our ultimate goal in any ambition to do good is to please God! We’re not just do-gooders. We were made to glorify God with what we do! We were made to live our lives for His pleasure! I think this is the meaning of Psalm 37:4- “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” That’s not talking about a new car or winning the lottery. When we delight ourselves in the Lord, our desires become His desires! What pleases God begins to please us! 2 Corinthians 5:9- “We make it our aim to please him.”
So this is one of the things that Paul prayed for them. But how does this happen- do we wake up one day and magically walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel, we just suddenly live differently? What’s the key for pleasing God? This answer is in the second thing that Paul prayed for the Colossians. He prayed…
- That they would be filled with the knowledge of God.
Now I want to spend a good amount of time on this one. The second part of verse 9: “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.” Knowledge, wisdom, understanding. We see that this knowledge and wisdom is what will help live our lives worthy of the Gospel! Vs. 10, “SO THAT you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work.” You don’t live more like Christ, you don’t please him in every way, you don’t live worthy of Christ without being filled with knowledge and wisdom! Now this whole “filled” thing should be understood as being controlled. This same word is used multiple times in the Gospels and in Acts to mean controlled by: The disciples were filled with sorrow; The crowd was filled with fear; The Pharisees were filled with rage. In Acts, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. In each of these instances, they were controlled by what filled them.
Knowledge is a big deal in the Scriptures. Paul repeatedly emphasizes knowledge. Now, this knowledge is not only information stored in the brain, but is a submissive knowledge of God’s will. Now let me step back for a moment:
We live in a world that worships knowledge. Have you ever noticed that in public discourse, on Facebook, or just talking with people, someone with a Doctorate, in whatever field, suddenly completely trumps any opinion you have. That’s why I’m getting a doctorate, so none of you can be allowed to disagree with me. But, education, in our culture, it is supreme! Secular culture in the United States puts education as literally the most important facet of society. Now obviously it’s incredibly important, but, it seems almost to be worshipped.
So, here’s one problem within Christian culture, and I’m talking mainstream Christian culture. It’s almost as if we have overcorrected this obsession with knowledge and education by marginalizing the importance of knowledge, in particular, knowledge of the Bible. “It’s not about what you know; it’s about living your life for Jesus!” But that’s just it: This passage makes clear that you can’t live for Him without knowledge and understanding and wisdom from Him. You can’t! Biblical illiteracy, though, plagues our churches.
According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name five of the 10 Commandments. 82% of Americans think that “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better- by 1 percent. A few more Barna polls: 12 percent of adults, in this particular poll, believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. 50 percent of high school seniors thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of those who responded said that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.
The most shocking part about this is not that Americans are biblically-illiterate, that’s going to be increasingly true. The shocking part, the scandal here is the increasing Biblical illiteracy among Christians! There’s only one answer to the question, why do so many Christians lack even a basic understanding of the Bible’s teachings: Because churches have marginalized the importance of biblical knowledge. We want short, catchy sayings more than we want biblical truth!
- “Christianity is not a religion; it’s a relationship.”
- “God will not give you more than you can handle.”
- “Work like it depends on us; pray like it depends on God.”
Why is knowledge unimportant to most of us, if we’re honest? Why do many not have a strong desire to learn and to read and to grow in knowledge? Maybe part of it is that we’ve never really grown in our knowledge of the Bible in the first place, so we don’t see the incredible value there is in it. Or maybe at least one of the reasons is because in today’s world, the incredible access we have to information keeps many of us from feeling like we need to know the Bible. We can just Google it!
Growing in Knowledge at Raintree
It is a serious issue if you’re a member of a church for years, and never really grow in knowledge simply by being part of that church. There are so many things I’m excited about for Raintree in 2016. I am excited about children’s and student’s ministry becoming more of a focus for us; I’m excited about our small groups being emphasized, and I’m excited about fun things we’re planning throughout the year, including next week’s Church Game Night, from 6-8pm. Bring your favorite game. BUT, I am most enthusiastic about our increasingly intentional focus on the Word of God in everything that we do!
Children, with God’s help, are going to learn the Word. Youth are learning the Word. Sunday mornings, our big gathering, always centered around the Word. Even our small groups are heavily centered around the Word. We have Bible-reading calendars available in the entryway at the Grow Station as a potential tool for helping you get into the Word on your own. Why such an emphasis on the Word?
Why, because we know God through His Word. Without His Word, we cannot know God! I don’t want you to feel guilty if you don’t know much about what the Bible teaches about God and life; that’s not my purpose this morning by any means. But I want us to feel challenged. Knowledge and wisdom and understanding matters, and it is what will bring about a life that pleases God.
We can’t know God without knowing the Bible, and we can’t please God on the basis of principles we don’t know! That’s why Paul spends the first two chapters of Colossians laying out doctrine and truth, and only then moves to practical life encouragements in chapters 3 and 4. Godliness is directly linked in Scripture to knowledge of Godly truth.
It’s funny how many times the first ten years I was a Christian that I asked the question, what is God’s will? I wanted to know what God wanted me to do so bad! Perhaps you do as well! Perhaps you desire to know God’s will. I don’t want to diminish the importance of seeking God’s will for big life decisions like college or marriage or children or jobs, but I want you to understand that God’s will is not a secret that we have to search for as if it’s hidden…It’s right here. He has revealed His will in His Word. The Bible won’t tell you what college to go to, but it tells you what God wants no matter what college you go to. It won’t tell you who to marry by name, but it will tell you what God wants no matter who you marry, and it gives guidelines for who to marry. It won’t tell you whether or not to change jobs, but it will tell you what He wants no matter what job you’re working. God is sovereign and He has a plan, but we stress sometimes so much about things that God may not be too worried about. Yes, the Holy Spirit moves and perhaps prompts, even though I’m air on the side of caution when using that type of language, “The Holy Spirit’s leading me, prompting me,” because it seems like sometimes we say that to get what we want, I digress, my point here is that the Holy Spirit speaks primarily through God’s Word. Again, there is no treasure hunt. It’s right here.
What happens when we’re growing in knowledge of God and His will revealed in His Word? We will begin to “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, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”
We don’t have to figure out for ourselves how to live for God and His glory, we grow in knowledge through submission to the Word. In other words, it’s not knowledge for knowledge sake, it’s knowledge for the sake of submitting to God Himself. God gives us His power to live for Him by the Holy Spirit, and then He even gives us the tool for living for Him. I love that in vs. 11- “according to His glorious might.” Ultimately, though, the culmination of biblical knowledge is the Gospel, which brings us to the third thing that Paul prays for the Colossians. He prays..
- That they be thankful for the Gospel.
He prays that they grow and grow in knowledge of God and who He is and what his will is for their lives, so that they can walk and live in a manner worthy of Christ, bearing fruit, making disciples, strengthened in Christ with joy AND, Vs. 12: “giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” Then he just breaks out in praise: Vs. 13-14: He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” For he has delivered us, rescued us, from the dominion of darkness, the same phrase Jesus used when He was arrested referring to the forces of Satan brought against Him, and transferred us into the kingdom of His Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
What I’d like to do to close today is ask three of our elders to come forward to help us as a church spend just a few minutes praying for each other. Vergil…