Colossians 1:3-14 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. 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 was very pastoral in his prayers on behalf of the people he was ministering to. He had an end in mind when he prayed over people. There was a pastoral purpose in his blessing. He wanted to pray not only for the furtherance of God’s kingdom, but for the furtherance of each individual Christ-follower. In this particular prayer I see at least three things he prayed for in the lives of the people who were part of the Colossian church. He prayed for them to have:
(All on one slide, please. Can you make it so they slide onto the screen as I mention each one?)
Let’s move through these one by one and see if what Paul prayed for those in the Colossian church might be what we also stand in need of today.
Spiritual Intelligence-In verse 9 Paul said he was praying that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Paul was aware that some false teachers had infiltrated the church and that they were using words like “knowledge,” “wisdom,” and “understanding” in their sketchy teaching. These were the kinds of words Paul and other apostles were using in their teaching. To the discerning believer it was obvious what Satan was trying to do and how he was trying to twist things and confuse the minds of these young believers by even using the spiritual vocabulary of the day. Paul was strategically making them aware that they needed spiritual intelligence to discern truth.
Do you know that Satan has a way with words? Did you know he even speaks “Christianese,” you know, the phrases we toss around as believers that make sense to us but not to unbelievers; phrases like:
“Get saved” and “Ask Jesus into Your Heart” We know what those phrases mean and all that is tucked inside of them about having our sins forgiven, about having the life of God be born in our spirits, but to unbelievers those phrases can be confusing, right?
Or how about this one:
“I Covet Your Prayers” Now, you and I get it, but to the unbeliever, they might be thinking, “But wouldn’t that be breaking one of the Ten Commandments?” Just sayin’.
One we use a lot even around here is:
“Love Offering” I can only imagine what is going through an unsaved/unchurched person’s mind when they think of a love offering.
What about this one?
“Unspoken Request”-Ummm, isn’t that an oxymoron?
Or how about this one? “Hedge of Protection” We tell people we will pray for a hedge of protection around them. What would that mean to someone who is new in the faith? Wouldn’t that need a little explaining? As I recalled that phrase I recalled something one of the funniest men alive said about a “hedge of protection.” So, to make my point about how the devil can speak our language, even our Christianese and really just for fun, I want you to watch this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Le33lZaMOI
Yes, I digressed, but it is funny, right? The point is, Satan can even use our Christian phrases and experiences and twist them to bring confusion into our lives. That was happening in the Colossian church.
Listen, we have the same problem today. Many groups, groups that are cults, will identify with us through the use of shared language. Muslims will say, “We believe in God too.” “We believe there is only one God as well.” True, but their god didn’t have a son who was also God who died for the sins of the world. Jehovah’s Witness will talk about the Bible, but it is their version of the Bible, one that has knocked Jesus down from deity status saying He was a created being. They also don’t accept the Trinity, that God is three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mormons also talk about Jesus, but they believe He worked His way up to Godhood and that we can do the same. I could go on, but you get the point.
Just because someone uses spiritual lingo which includes every spiritual television personality, doesn’t mean they are teaching truth. Paul didn’t want people to be misled. He prayed for them to have spiritual intelligence. Look again at what Paul prayed for in verse 9. He wanted them to know God’s will through spiritual wisdom and understanding.
They didn’t just need to know what God’s will was, but they needed to understand how that could play out in their individual lives. I believe the more we study God’s Word, and the more we seek to submit to the Holy Spirit, we will have more and more insight into the will of God for our circumstances and for each one of us personally.
Spiritual intelligence, however, doesn’t come just through osmosis. It comes through the process of seeking God’s truth and interacting with the presence of the Holy Spirit on a regular basis. It is the result of the prayer, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.” It grows as we step out in faith to do the things that please God. It deepens as we study and learn the Word of God. It flows into our lives and understanding as we are in accountable relationships with other believers.
Are you more spiritually intelligent today than you were when you first trusted in Christ?
Are you more discerning and wise regarding the truth of God’s Word?
Do you think in spiritual terms or in earthly concepts?
Do you attempt to see your circumstances from God’s perspective?
Have you come to the place of spiritual understanding that you are now able to instruct other people in the Christian faith?
These are the things Paul prayed for the Colossian church. These are the things God desires for your life and mine also.
The second thing Paul prayed for is found in verse 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 . . .
Knowing about God and discerning truth in spiritual matters, having a personal and growing faith, all of that is well and good and necessary, but if it doesn’t translate into obedience and a life that bears fruit we have missed the will of God for our lives.
Let’s talk first about personal fruit. Each of us should seek not only to possess the wisdom and knowledge of Christ, but also we are to possess and reproduce the character of Christ. Be real for a minute. Turn and tell somebody to “Get real.” That’s right. We are getting real up in here. How much Christ-like fruit is being harvested in your life? If the fruit of the spirit is (on one slide, please) love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5) on a scale of 1-10 how much are you bearing that kind of fruit in your life?
If the fruit of love isn’t growing well in our lives perhaps something is keeping it from developing to the full. If self-control isn’t sprouting in our daily walk with Christ, maybe there is a problem with our connection to Jesus, the Vine. You see, John 15 speaks about how Christ is the Vine and we are the branches. As we stay connected to Him, we bear fruit. If we aren’t growing the personal fruit of the Spirit which is Christ-likeness in our lives, John goes on to say that God the Father is the Gardener in our lives and that He cuts off dead branches and prunes branches that aren’t meeting their fruit-bearing potential.
Fruitful obedience begins inwardly as we submit to that pruning process and continues as we allow God to cut away the things in our hearts that don’t please Him. As we get rid of anger, greed, lust, and pride to name a few, we are able to better produce the right fruit, good fruit, lasting fruit and not puny, sour grapes in our lives.
Personal fruit is also reflected in our service to others. God has given you salvation for your own benefit, but He has given you spiritual gifts for the benefit of others. Each one of us needs to be serving the Lord in some capacity. Each one of us needs to find a way to use the talents and abilities God has given us to encourage others and draw them closer to Him. Whether you can fix someone’s plumbing, can read to a group of preschoolers, can teach a class on internet safety or car repair, or can visit people who are sick or pray daily for miracles in people’s lives . . . .whatever you can do to serve others becomes a fruit-bearing opportunity for you.
Go over CSI insert-Christine, I believe there is a slide for each project.
In John 15:16 Jesus told the disciples they had been chosen to bear fruit-fruit that would last. Lasting fruit is eternal fruit. What Paul is also saying in Colossians is that our obedience to Christ is tied to the mission Jesus has given believers. We are to make disciples of all people. Translation: We are to bear lasting fruit.
We are not only to be obedient to the mission to share the Gospel and make disciples, but we are also to be obedient to walk with Christ daily. Christians cannot separate what we learn from how we live. That is, we can’t take what we know about God and His desires for our lives and then live the way that seems best to us. What we know must impact how we live, and as it does, good fruit will be produced in and through our lives.
When I see my kids doing the things I have worked hard to teach them, it is a fruitful moment for me as a parent. Hannah was just about three when we were at the park with my brother and his wife and their son who was also three. As we were walking through the park the two kids were excitedly getting a bit too far ahead of us and Thom called to Hannah to ask her to come back and stick a bit closer with us. Our three-year-old daughter turned to her three-year-old cousin and said, “I must go back. My daddy called me.” I felt like I had just won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes! (My brother stopped dead in his tracks and said, “How did you do that?”) What a fruitful moment! To see a child respond at such a young age to the voice of her father and obey his voice was incredible. Her young obedience was witnessed with astonishment.
God wants us to be so sensitive to His voice, so willing to follow His voice that we will stop whatever we are doing when He calls whether it is sinful or is just not what He desires for us to be doing in the moment and that when we do the world will be astonished at our desire to obey. How many people could be convinced for Christ and won to Christ simply because they see other people following God whole-heartedly?
Paul prayed for the Colossian church to bear personal fruit and lasting fruit in their lives. The third thing he asked God for on their behalf was Spirit-filled Endurance.
On a consumer flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston in the summer of 1987, the pilot heard an unusual noise near the rear of the aircraft. Henry Dempsey turned the controls over to his copilot and went back to check it out. As he reached the tail section, the plane hit an air pocket, and Dempsey was tossed against the rear door. He quickly discovered the source of the mysterious noise. The rear door had not been properly latched prior to takeoff and it fell open. Dempsey was instantly sucked out of the jet.
The copilot, seeing the red light on the control panel that indicated an open door, radioed the nearest airport requesting permission to make an emergency landing. He reported that Dempsey had fallen out of the plane and requested that a helicopter be dispatched to search the area of the ocean.
After the plane had landed, the ground crew found Henry Dempsey holding onto the outdoor ladder of the aircraft. Somehow, he had caught the ladder and managed to hold on for 10 minutes as the plane flew 200mph at an altitude of 4,000 feet. What is more, as the plane made its approach and landed, Dempsey had kept his head from hitting the runway, a mere 12 inches away. According to news reports, it took several airport personnel more than a few minutes to pry the pilot’s fingers from the ladder.
That is a serious picture of endurance – the ability to hang on when it would have been easier to let go. (http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-endurance-resilient-virtue-romans-5)
We need some more believers with a determined grip on the things of God that they won’t let go no matter what life brings.
Revisit verse 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.
There are two ways to express endurance. The first way is to grit your teeth and bear something; you know, just get through it. When you do that, you are operating in your own power and by your own will.
And then there is endurance with character and maturity; endurance with patience and joy in the process. And here is the beautiful thing. We don’t have to endure alone or in our own strength and power! Paul said, “God help the members of the Colossian church to live well and end well through the power of your Spirit. Help them see this as a race to run even more than a prize to win. How we endure the trials of life is very important as Christians because again, our goal is not only to get to Heaven, but to take as many people with us as possible. People are watching our lives and when we endure hardship with the power of the Holy Spirit they will know life is better as a Child of God. They need to know that yes, we CAN do all things and get through all things and respond to all things with faith because Christ in us will provide the strength we need to endure and thrive as we hold onto God’s peace and joy.
Could you use any of these in your life today? Can you pray the prayer for yourself that God prayed for the Colossian church? Let’s ask God for these and more this morning.