C’mon, People Now, Pray For Your Brother (Colossians 4:2-18)

Many of you have participated in Team Building activities. An employer takes employees out of the workplace, often on a retreat, to help them break down personal barriers, eliminate distractions, and have some fun.

I’m most familiar with a trust-building activity called The Trust Fall.

One member of the team is selected and stands on a raised platform, from which they fall backwards, relying on the support of their team to catch them. 

Before you volunteer, you need to Google Trust Fall Fails:

In some cases, the folks don’t catch the faller.

In others, the faller unexpectedly falls forward, instead of backwards.

I got to thinking about Team Building because here at the end of his letter to the church at Colossae, the apostle Paul introduces his ‘team.’ He identifies no less than ten individuals involved with him in spreading the Gospel and planting churches.

Do you think they participated in week-end retreats complete with Trust Falls?

No, they didn’t. However, we do get insight into one activity that was essential for them. Paul encourages the Colossians to “continue earnestly in prayer” (v2) for themselves, and to “[pray] also for us” (v3).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Continue In Prayer For Yourselves At Home, and #2 Commit To Praying For Your Servants At Large.

#1 – Continue In Prayer For Yourselves (v2, 5-6)

Most of you are familiar with Charles Spurgeon. He was the pastor of the congregation of the New Park Street Chapel (later called the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London for 38 years. Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000. Thousands came to faith in Jesus.

Spurgeon never took credit for the success of his ministry. Instead, he always pointed to the hundreds of people who came before services and prayed. He said any success he had came from God in answer to their prayers. Spurgeon was fond of calling these prayer gatherings the church’s “boiler room.”

Steam was the power source of the day. Boiler rooms were the powerhouses.

Spurgeon saw the corporate praying of his people as the true source of spiritual power.

When Paul encouraged the Colossians to “continue in prayer,” I think he meant something more than each individual believer’s personal prayer life. He was addressing the entire church – the gathering of believers. They should continue praying together.

We tend to think more individually than corporately. But we will see some reasons throughout these verses to believe that Paul had corporate prayer in mind.

Colossians 4:2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;

“Continue earnestly” is one word. It can mean to devote yourselves. It’s also (according to the Strong’s Concordance) a plural word. He was telling the church, in its gatherings, to devote time to prayer.

“Vigilante” has lots of possible meanings. One is to be mindful that you can slack-off if you’re not careful. That is certainly true of both corporate and individual praying.

“With thanksgiving” can certainly mean we should be thankful in all things. But might it not also mean we should be thankful that we can, in fact, approach God anytime in prayer – knowing He hears us? We ought to take full advantage of it – especially when gathered together.

Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.

Paul was comparing those “inside” the church – those in Christ – with nonbelievers “outside” the church. So again it seems he had the corporate church in mind more than individual believers.

Having said that, we know that each of us is the church in the sense we are its members; we are its living stones. Individually, concerning “those who are outside,” you are to “walk in wisdom.” “Wisdom” is the practical application of the truth in God’s Word, the Bible. I “walk in wisdom” when I apply Christian principles out in the ‘real’ world.

Concerning “those who are outside” I am to be “redeeming the time.” It’s from a word that means to buy out. Have you ever bought-out an item from a store? Bought every one they had? You do it when something is valuable to you and you just can’t pass it up.

That’s the idea – only Paul was applying it to opportunities to affect people’s lives for Jesus. We should see every opportunity as something valuable that we just cannot pass up.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

The wording suggests that you can create a ‘taste’ in the lives of the nonbelievers you encounter.

“Grace” is God’s undeserved and unmerited favor. It is the heart of God and thus the heart of the Gospel. It is captured perfectly in John 3:16,

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

If you are not yet a believer, you have a problem. It’s probably not what you think it is – it is not your spouse or your boss or your addiction. It’s sin. You are a sinner and need saving. Jesus came and took your place on the Cross to offer you the forgiveness of sin and a new spiritual life. Salvation is God’s free gift to those who will simply receive it.

“Salt” both preserves food from corruption and makes it savory for consumption. It is a reminder to let nothing corrupt come from out of my mouth but only that which is wholesome and spiritually savory.

“That you may know how to answer each one.” First of all this tells you that when you walk in wisdom people will be curious. They will ask you questions.

Second of all notice that Paul didn’t say “everyone” but “each one.” It reminds us that the people we encounter are unique individuals for whom Jesus died.

If I’m right about Paul addressing the church as a whole, then it means part of our individual spiritual success to those “outside” in the ‘real’ world is dependent upon our being a praying church. They go hand-in-hand.

Is it biblical to think so highly of corporate prayer?

It is. In the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts, the early church faced a problem with the distribution of gifts to widows. When it was brought to the attention of the apostles, they uttered the well-known decree,

Act 6:3  Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;
Act 6:4  but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

We tend to interpret this as the pastors private prayer & study time. We think of the apostles as cloistered away, praying and studying for the greater part of the day. Many pastors follow this model.

The actual words themselves are about corporate ministry. The last part of Acts 6:4 should be translated, “we will give ourselves continually to THE prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Why emphasize THE prayer? One commentator put it this way:

That little word “the” that appears before prayer indicates that this doesn’t mean prayer in general. It highlights something specific and important. The syntax of the sentence creates the possibility that the ministry of prayer and the word are twin ideas.

Twin ideas, meaning these were both areas of public serving – not personal preparation.

Let me say that whatever we do to serve corporate prayer, it must be done with grace – not force. We do not want to force anyone to pray against their will.

We therefore encourage corporate prayer in non-threatening ways:

About once a month, we take the Prayer Offering. It gives folks in the corporate setting opportunity to participate in a ministry of prayer – if they so choose.

We have a weekly prayer meeting, First Watch, on Saturday nights, where we pray for the cards and whatever else.

We have pretty good response to corporate prayer at our Mid-Week service.

Every Sunday, at service end, we set aside time for prayer. It may not be corporate in the sense of praying out loud, but it is in a group setting; and we have guys up front to pray with you.

Annually, we’ve hosted a special prayer event.

I’ll leave it up to you to measure your participation.

#2 – Commit To Praying For Your Servants At Large (v3-4 & 7-18)

You’re in jail for preaching the Gospel. What do you ask believers to pray for?

Colossians 4:3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,

Paul didn’t ask them to pray that his prison ‘door’ would be left ‘open’ so he could escape; or even that God would ‘open’ his prison ‘door’ through regular legal channels so he might be released. No, Paul was only interested in God opening spiritual doors of ministry while he was in prison.

Paul called what he was requesting “a door for the word” to be preached while he remained captive.

You might be in a place at home or at work or at school where you feel confined – almost as if it is a ‘prison’ to you. Well, first of all, it isn’t prison! But even if it was, your priority ought to be that a “door” would “open for the word” rather than your prison door being opened.

Paul called his message “the mystery of Christ.” He was revealing the previously concealed truth that the church on the earth was Jesus Christ’s spiritual body and that it was entered by faith alone through grace alone without any ethnic distinctions and without the necessity of first converting to Judaism.

Colossians 4:4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

Paul was a brilliant guy. He was a Jew with impeccable heritage but also enjoyed Roman citizenship. He was a Scripture scholar but also well-read in Greek wisdom and philosophy. He was called by Jesus personally to be an apostle. He performed miracles in the name of Jesus. He established churches. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he wrote Scripture.

Yet here he was, soliciting prayer, depending on God.

Dropping down to verse seven, Paul identifies a bunch of other guys the Colossians could pray for.

Colossians 4:7 Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me.

He is named five times in the New Testament. He was given the responsibility of delivering or co-delivering three of Paul’s letters – Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. After Paul was released from prison Tychicus went with him to Crete and probably replaced Titus as pastor there. He is with Paul again during his second imprisonment but is sent to Ephesus just before the apostle is martyred.

The three phrases that describe him ought to describe each of us. Do they?

Colossians 4:8 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts,

Here’s a good definition of how to minister to others: “know [their] circumstances and comfort [their] hearts” in the Lord. Hear – really hear – what others are saying. Then offer real “comfort” – which can be sympathy but is most often an exhortation for them to be strong in the Lord and endure trouble by looking forward to Heaven.

Colossians 4:9 with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.

Onesimus was previously the unsaved slave of a Christian master, Philemon, in the city of Colossae. After he had wronged his master he ran away to Rome. There, by God’s providence, he encountered Paul and was led to faith in Jesus Christ. Upon hearing his story, Paul told Onesimus that he knew his master, Philemon. He sent Onesimus back with Tychicus carrying another letter that we have in our Bibles – the letter to Philemon, in which Paul appealed to his friend to receive Onesimus as a brother.

Colossians 4:10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him),

Aristarchus was a Jew who had been converted to Jesus during Paul’s brief ministry in the city of Thessalonica.
He began traveling with Paul and was one of two who were almost martyred by the angry mob of silversmiths in the city of Ephesus.

He is described here as a “fellow prisoner.” Whether he was currently a prisoner in Rome or had been one previously, Paul considered this high praise.

Too often the modern attitude concerning church is, “What can it do for me?” Ask not what your church can do for you, but ask what you can do in your church.

“Mark the cousin of Barnabas” is the famous Jon-Mark of the Book of Acts who deserted Paul and Barnabas on the mission field. Paul and Jon-Mark had reconciled and the apostle considered Jon-Mark a trusted faithful servant. There is an obvious lesson there about being ready to forgive and about seeking reconciliation.

Colossians 4:11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.

“Jesus” was his Hebrew name; “Justus” was his Greek name. At this point Paul felt it important to identify Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus as being “of the circumcision.” It meant that they were Jews who had converted to Jesus. Two facts are then given:

They were the only such completed Jews who were working with Paul.

They were a great source of “comfort” to him in his work.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
Colossians 4:13 For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.

Epaphras had been led to Christ by Paul in Ephesus and had returned home to Colossae to share the Gospel. It seems he also founded the churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis.

“Laboring fervently” is an athletic metaphor. Epaphras approached prayer the way a professional athlete approaches their sport – with preparation, training, effort, etc.

The subject of his praying was other believers, not so much himself.

His objective for them was that they would submit to “the will of God” and thereby find themselves being perfected as God worked in them to “complete” the work He had begun at their conversion.

Epaphras prayed with “zeal.” He would rather pray than anything else.

One commentator said that it might be better to pray for a person for half and hour than to counsel them for hours.

Colossians 4:14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.

Doctors may not have been as revered in first century Rome as they are today.
Luke likely was the slave of Theophillus, for whom he was commissioned to write the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.

Whether revered or not, Luke reminds us that no matter your career you are first-and-foremost committed to serving in the church. Your career belongs to Jesus.

Demas is mentioned three times in the Bible and there is a sad digression each time:

First, he is called “Demas… my fellow laborer” and is linked with three godly men – Mark, Aristarchus, and Luke (Philemon 24).
Next, he is simply called Demas here in our verse with no word of identification or commendation.
Finally, it is said of him, “for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” (Second Timothy 4:10).

Colossians 4:15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.
Colossians 4:16 Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

The church over in Laodicea met in the home of Nymphas. Some Bibles translate the name in a feminine form, Nympha; thus we cannot be certain if this was a man or a woman.

The church initially met daily in the Temple at Jerusalem and in private homes. As Christianity spread, the Gospel was preached in synagogue meetings and in private homes. If a building was available, it was rented or utilized – like the school of Tyrannus in Acts 19. About the third century, when Christianity ceased being officially persecuted by the government, the church started meeting more conveniently in buildings.

Today there is a home-church movement that is antagonistic to buildings and owning property. Hey, I’m OK with home churches, until they get legalistic and say it is the only way to meet.

The “epistle from Laodicea” is most likely the letter we call Ephesians. It was meant to be read in all the churches and just happened to be at Laodicea at the time.

What we learn is that all the letters to any of the churches were for every assembly of God’s people.

“Read” means read aloud. Another clue that we’re talking about the church, gathered together.

Colossians 4:17 And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

Archippus was most likely Philemon’s son and the current pastor of the church at Colossae.

Colossians 4:18 This salutation by my own hand – Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.

It’s believed by scholars that Paul dictated his letters to a secretary called an amaneusis. He would always sign them to verify authenticity.

“Remember my chains.” How do you read that? I see Paul reminding them of the joy of sacrifice and suffering for the sake of Jesus.

“Grace be with you” is more than a quick end to the letter. It is a reminder that having begun in grace we must continue the Christian life by God’s grace.

“Amen.” So ended the sermon that day in Colossae.

I’ll end our time with a boiler room quote from Spurgeon:

Brethren, we shall never see much change for the better in our churches in general till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.

Your Submission, Should You Decide to Accept It (Colossians 3:17-4:1)

“Cosplay” is short for costume play. It is a performance art in which participants called cosplayers wear self-made costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character. If you’re familiar with the Comic-con conventions, you’ve seen cosplayers in their natural element.

Then there’s LARPing. It stands for, Live Action Role Playing. The participants in a LARP physically portray characters in a fictional setting, improvising their characters’ speech and movements.

I’ve missed the last few Hanford Christmas parades. Does that group that dresses-up in Star Trek costumes, with their shuttlecraft, still participate?

In last week’s study, we were told to “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him“ (3:10). We are to put on Christ as if we were choosing our costume.

Cosplay and LARPing fall far short of our 24/7 choices to walk with Jesus appropriately dressed as the new man.

Paul is going to show us what it looks like when we’ve got on the new man. He’ll do it by describing the live action roles we are to play in our homes.

Reading this passage, and its counterpart in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, one overruling trait emerges. It is submission – specifically, mutual submission.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You See What Submission Looks Like With Those In Your Family, and #2 You See What Submission Looks Like With Those Outside Your Family.

#1 – You See What Submission Looks Like With Those In Your Family (3:17-21)

James Hibberd is the TV editor for The Hollywood Reporter. Commenting on television families, he said,

We have moved from what’s most ideal to what’s most entertaining. During the golden age of television, the focus was on these families that everyone would like to have. With the advent of reality television, we introduced the dysfunctional family in the 1990’s.

He probably chose the 1990’s because one of televisions greatest dysfunctional families, The Simpsons, debut in December 1989.

We had a few dysfunctional families before them, notably the Bunker’s in the 1970’s All in the Family.

And don’t forget the 1950’s The Honeymooners, in which Ralph Cramden was always lovingly threatening to physically abuse his wife.

We are so familiar with the dysfunctional family that it has become the new normal. We need to quit thinking that way.

Paul gives us an episode in the lives of the functional family. This is what your family could be, if everyone in it were playing their biblical role submitted to Jesus.

I know what you husbands are thinking. You’ve read ahead and see that the text says wives should submit – not husbands.

That’s not really accurate, guys. The overall context demands mutual submission. And the parallel passage in Ephesians is prefaced by, “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (5:21).

One language scholar pointed out the following:

The commands given to husbands call for a response on their part that will make it easy for wives to submit; that is, husbands are to love their wives as “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.” Furthermore, they are to love their wives “as their own bodies,” even as they would love themselves.

Let me say once again that we are looking at the functional family – the ideal Christian home. We are seeing what is possible when we have on the new man and assume our roles with submission to Jesus, and to one another.

Colossians 3:17  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

This obviously speaks to your mutual submission to Jesus. But it can also serve as a sort of self-exam:

Your “words,” and your “deeds” – can you say that they are done “in the name of the Lord Jesus?”
Do you speak, and do you act, “giving thanks to God the Father through Him?”

It doesn’t matter what you spouse said and did; or your children. This verse is for each of us individually, to measure ourselves.

Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

The word “submit” would be the same word used to describe relationships in the military. It means to be in order under.

People join the military and, once enlisted, they have put themselves under its order of rankings. They learn and perform their roles and responsibilities.

If I may say so, it’s an awesome thing to see the military in action when everyone is in order and under their proper command.

Break ranks, however, and the enemy floods in to destroy.

Ladies, when you marry, you are enlisting in marriage and are voluntarily putting yourself under the authority of “your own husband.”

Did you know that? If not… It doesn’t matter. It’s still true.

Which is one reason why you ought not marry a nonbeliever. Marriage can be hard enough without the added burden of being unequally yoked. Don’t do any ‘missionary dating,’ thinking you’re going to save the person.

This “is fitting in the Lord.” That means it has been God’s plan from the beginning.

It was God’s plan both before and after Adam and Eve sinned. Adam was created first, then Eve. He was to be her head; she was to be his helper.
After they sinned the roles remained the same. It’s the way the home was designed by God.

Whenever the word “submit” is used I think people tend to hear words like “inferior.” The woman is not inferior to the man; the man is not superior to the woman. It’s a matter of assuming your proper roles in the home.

A good wife, a submissive wife, may have more competency than her husband in lots of areas. They both recognize that, and they should set up the management of the home in various ways that show that.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that you are not required by God to submit to sinful behavior. Submission doesn’t mean it’s OK to be physically abused.

Submission does not mean putting the will of the husband before the Lord’s will.

It does mean that you are called upon to help your Christian husband. It does mean you are to look beyond him and his failings to your Lord and do what pleases Jesus.

Bottom line: The Christian home was designed by God to have a husband as the head and a wife as his helper. When things aren’t sinful but still not going smoothly, ladies you are to look past your earthly head to the Lord and do what pleases Him.

What pleases Him is to have a disposition to follow a husband’s authority, and an inclination to yield to his leadership.

Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.

You may not see the word ‘submit’ here but it is more than implied. Jesus commands husbands to love their wives. It’s an order.

The “love” commanded here is to be continuous and at all times and in all situations. Here are words that describe the kind of “love” that is being commanded: sacrificial, giving, holy, redemptive, nourishing, cherishing, forgiving, cleansing, and sanctifying.

You recognize that as the love Jesus has for you – even though you don’t deserve it.

Love like that has nothing to do with whether or not your wife is submitting to you. You look past her to the Lord and love her this way for Him.

While we were yet sinners He died for us. He looked past us to His Father. He did it as a man, not as God. He did it by the enablement of the Holy Spirit. So can we; remember, we’ve put Him on as our costume.

“Do not be bitter toward them.” I would suggest that bitterness results from thinking your wife is failing in her role:

First – Maybe she is. We’ve already addressed that. Your response is not to be conditioned on her failings.

Second – and more commonly – maybe your leadership is the underlying problem.

One author expressed it like this:

The first [thing I want to say] about the meaning of a wife’s biblical submission; namely, it is a happy response to a husband’s biblical leadership or, as Ephesians 5:23 calls it, headship. And the point of starting here is that, when men are doing what God calls men to do in a relationship and they are doing it rightly, biblically, most women love it and are happy to respond to it supportively.

Poor leadership in any context will result in conflict. Always look to yourself first.

Just when you think you might have some of this figured out, kids come along and for the next several decades you’ve got them to deal with.

Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
The “children” in this situation are young children, not yet legal adults or married.

The word “obey” can be translated, to hearken at the door. It describes a knock at your door that causes you to immediately stop what you’re doing and go open it.

Children are to obey parents “in all things.” Everything. Their friends, their music, their interests. Everything.

They “obey” because “this is well pleasing to the Lord.” It may not seem pleasant to them. They do it for the Lord. By obeying their parents they are submitting to the Lord.

Youth is not an excuse to disobey. The Holy Spirit doesn’t make distinctions when it comes to age. The Bible is full of examples of young people serving the Lord by His enabling:

Daniel did. Taken captive by the Babylonians, even as a young man, a teenager, he determined in his heart to please the Lord.

So did Samuel. He heard the Lord’s voice at a very young age.

This presupposes that you are evangelizing your kids. You are introducing them to the Lord and to the things of the Lord. Get them saved from the youngest possible age. Salvation is job one for you as a Christian parent.

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

“Fathers” can be translated parents. This certainly applies to both parents, but in the context of the father being the head of the wife it falls on the husband especially to be certain the children in the home are not being provoked.

“Provoke” means to stimulate to anger or frustration. It would include, but not be limited to, things like making unreasonable demands, or not listening to your children, or being inconsistent dealing with them.

It would certainly include all of the ridiculous threats you overhear in the grocery store.

It really means that you need to invest a great deal of time and energy getting to know and understand each of your children as a unique individual whom God has given to you to nurture and grow.

Paul was concerned that children would become “discouraged.” It means to lose heart. Don’t do things that would discourage your kids. Their life is going to be tough enough without you discouraging them. Sacrifice yourself for their sake. It’s what you signed-on for.

You know what will really discourage kids? Divorce. Going forward, from wherever you are in life now, hate divorce the way God does.

Jesus isn’t asking you to do anything He hasn’t done Himself. He submitted to His earthly parents. In The Gospel of Luke we’re told Jesus, “went down [from Jerusalem] with [Joseph and Mary] and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them” (2:51).

God in human flesh subjected Himself to two average, ordinary, inexperienced parents.

As an adult, Jesus always submitted to His heavenly Father. He looked past the people and the problems to His Father and lived to please Him.

That, then, is the functional family. Truth is, every family IS a little, or a lot, dysfunctional, because we still choose to keep on the old man, rather than putting on the new man.

And that’s where it gets confusing. One, or both of you, or the kids, are walking in the flesh. Your response ought to be to continue in your role as the new man… But how? And for how long??

The “how” is in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The “how long” is that there is no other way; at least, no other biblical way.

If you have problems in your home, it’s from a lack of submission to Jesus, and mutually to each other. There’s no other ‘fix’ except to repent, and submit.

What if you’re a Christian woman married to a nonbelieving husband? I’m sure you’ve memorized First Peter 3:1-6. It begins with submission:

1Peter 3:1  Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,

Proper, godly submission is always God’s counsel. It will look different in different homes; but it remains the only spiritual solution.

Start where we started this section – with verse seventeen. Examine yourself, then submit to the Lord, and to one another.

#2 – You See What Submission Looks Like With Those Outside Your Family (3:22-4:1)

In the context of this letter Paul never leaves the house. When he discussed “servants” and “masters” he was talking about household slaves.

About half the population of the Roman Empire were slaves. You were either born of slave parents, or sold yourself into slavery to pay debts, or you were captured during a military conquest and enslaved.

For our purposes we can apply these principles to the workplace.

You notice immediately that Paul spent way more time on this subject than on the family. It might be because one of the men who delivered this letter to the church at Colossae was Onesimus. He was a slave who had run away from his master, Philemon.

The church at Colossae met in the home of Philemon. Everyone would know the situation with Onesimus.

As providence would have it, Onesimus encountered the apostle Paul and was saved by the message of the Gospel. Paul found out Onesimus was a runaway; Onesimus found out that Paul knew Philemon.

So Paul sent him back with this letter, and also wrote the letter to Philemon we have in our Bible. In it Paul urged Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother in the Lord.

Colossians 3:22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.

Since we know the story of Onesimus it is better to see these as involuntary “slaves” rather than voluntary “bondservants.” If such conduct was required by slaves, how much more should we, as free employees, do for our earthly employers?

“Masters according to the flesh” would include owners and their foremen. For us it’s our boss or bosses, our supervisors, etc.

Does the Bible condone slavery? No. One scholar put it like this:

Commanding Christians to free their slaves would not have been legal, nor would it have worked as, by state law, some of those slaves would still not have been free. Christians were commanded to love others as Christ loved us. That meant that people could no longer be treated as slaves, but Christians would then become the servants of all, as Christ was.

What follows is a checklist. Think of it as a job review.

“Not with eyeservice” means not just when others are looking but all the time. It means to not keep your eye only on the clock.
“As men-pleasers” means you’re not scheming to fool your employer into thinking you are a harder worker than you really are. You just work hard. Show-up early; leave late.
“In sincerity of heart” speaks to your motives for working hard. It is the right thing to do.
“Fearing God” is a reminder that your work speaks to others of your relationship with the Lord. They see what kind of Lord He is by what kind of worker you are.

Colossians 3:23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,

You look past “men,” including your masters (bosses). You are working for Jesus and thus should do everything “heartily.” It means not just working hard but doing so with a right attitude, with ‘hearty good will.’

Colossians 3:24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

This was really something precious to hear if you were a slave. Slaves had no earthly inheritance to look forward to. But in Heaven God was storing-up for them a great “inheritance” – a mansion of their own, for example, as well as rewards for their faithful service on the earth.

Imagine hearing this as a slave for the first time. You’d leave the Sunday night service, which was your only break in the week, and know that from then onward everything you did was “to serve the Lord” and not your earthly master. It’s liberating.

Colossians 3:25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

This is a very interesting and informative verse. Paul was saying that God will show no “partiality” to slaves at the Reward Seat in Heaven.

In other words, He won’t be inclined to reward a slave more because he or she had such a terrible life on the earth. He will reward everyone on the basis of their faithfulness.

Wow. It hammers home the point that I am to look past my circumstances and the people in them to the Lord and serve Him.

Colossians 4:1 Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Bosses have a ‘Boss’ in Heaven. They, too, must always be looking to the Lord to do “what is just and fair.”

At home or at work it comes down to this:

In your house, can you say with real confidence that you are submitted to the Lord and serving in your role?
On your job, can you say with real confidence that you are submitted to the Lord and serving in your role?
For that matter, in your church can you say with real confidence that you are submitted to the Lord and serving in your role?

The American family is dysfunctional; and, for the most part, we celebrate its breakdown as if it were a comedy.

Put on your costume… Live-Play your role. Let’s show the world the Lord Who loves them so much that He submitted to the Cross.

The Fashion Of The Christ (Colossians 3:5-17)

Does anyone remember that Donald Trump has a line of clothing?

I’m not talking about all the stuff that has his slogan, Make America Great, on it.

Trump has a line of clothing – notably dress shirts and ties. You might remember that he was in the annual Christmas commercial for Macy’s that promoted their celebrity lines of merchandise. The one I pulled up on YouTube featured Martha Stewart, Usher, Sean Combs, Emeril Lagasse, Jessica Simpson, and Trump, all busy decorating a Macy’s store for the holidays.

Speaking of neckties: I happen to prefer Jerry Garcia to Trump. It’s not a political statement; it’s a fashion statement.

If you watch any awards shows, you know that they always ask each of the stars on the red carpet one question: “Who are you wearing?” Typical answers are Versace, Armani, and Vera Wang.

After reading our verses in Colossians we will want to ask ourselves, “Who am I wearing?” The apostle Paul will use clothing as an illustration. In verses nine and ten, he will instruct us to “put off the old man,” and to “put on the new man,” as if they were wardrobe decisions.

We’ll first read about putting off the “old man” line of clothing. I call it the Adam line.
Then we’ll read about putting on the clothing of the “new man.” It’s the Jesus line of clothing.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Make Sure You Are Not Wearing Adam, and #2 Make Sure You Are Wearing Jesus.

#1 – Make Sure You’re Not Wearing Adam (v5-11)

I’ve heard; I’ve been told; that there is something online called, The People of WalMart. It’s a website of user submitted photos of people ridiculously, hilariously, inappropriately dressed while shopping at their local superstore.

Those people made a wardrobe decision before they went out walking in the world.

So do we as Christians. In our case, spiritually speaking, we decide “who” to wear – Adam, or Jesus.

Colossians 3:5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Your “members which are on the earth” – that’s your unredeemed physical body. Paul was describing not just the physical body, but what he will call your “old man” in verse nine. We commonly refer to it as the “flesh.”

You are born with a sin nature. After you are saved, there is something that resides in your unredeemed physical body that yearns to sin. We read in Galatians 5:17, “the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”

“Put to death” is the word mortify. The best definition of the word in this context is ‘to regard as impotent.’

Paul is reminding you that you can always regard the old man, the flesh, as impotent. It has no power over you unless you yield to it. It’s your choice.

One author put it like this: “The will of the believer must respond negatively to the impulses of the [old man] to use the physical parts of the human body for illicit purposes” (Wayne Gromacki).

Paul listed some things in the wardrobe of your flesh:

“Fornication” is a catch-all word for any sexual immorality. It would describe anything outside of the boundaries God has set in His Word for human sexuality, which is for one biological man and one biological woman to become one in a monogamous, heterosexual covenant of companionship called marriage.

“Uncleanness” is lust marked by entertaining improper sexual thoughts.

“Passion” is the desire to use another person to satisfy your own lusts. While people try to argue that things like prostitution and pornography are ‘victimless crimes,’ God points out that the passion of the heart to use and abuse others is itself horrible.

“Evil desire” is the physical craving that results from these things.

These sensual thoughts and traits are just as prevalent in the “old man” today as they ever were. Most advertising appeals to the sensual. Those ad guys aren’t dumb. Neither are the companies paying them billions of dollars to get our business.

“Covetousness” is more than just wanting more. It is wanting what others have. It is labelled “idolatry” because ultimately it is a dissatisfaction with what God has given you. The more you desire what God has not given you the more it crowds-out your love for the Lord Himself.

Colossians 3:6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,

Not “these things” alone; they are merely symptoms of the disease, which is sin.

“Wrath” isn’t uncontrolled anger. It is God’s measured response in dealing with sin. God told Adam and Eve that they would bring death upon themselves and their offspring if they chose badly.

The descendants of Adam are “the sons of disobedience” and will earn the wages of sin, which is death – physical death followed by conscious eternal torment in Hell.

Colossians 3:7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.

The Colossians had a personal testimony that included these behaviors. So do many of you.

Testimonies can be effective tools, but generally we want to forget what we have been saved from and rejoice in what we’ve been saved to.

Colossians 3:8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.

“Put off” formally introduces us to the clothing illustration. You can put off these thoughts and traits just as you would filthy, stained clothing.

“All these” indicates anything that is characteristic of the old man. A few more wardrobe choices follow:

“Anger” refers to the inward attitude of wanting to lash out at someone.

“Wrath” is an actual outburst that acts upon your anger.

“Malice” is having ill will towards another person. It is wishing the worst for them.

“Blasphemy” can be against man or God. It reveals itself against man as slander and gossip and backbiting. It would certainly include any abusive speech towards another person.

“Filthy language” encompasses foul speech, coarse or rude humor, profanity, and obscenities.

Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to one another…

A “lie” is any misrepresentation of the truth. Your tone of voice, your gestures, the look on your face, can all alter the meaning of your words.

Colossians 3:9 … since you have put off the old man with his deeds,
Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,

When he said “you have put off the old man,” and you “have put on the new man,” Paul was referring to things that were done for you by the Lord the moment you were saved. The “old man” was rendered impotent and you received a new nature, a divine nature, the “new man.”

Now, on a practical basis, you are able to be “renewed in knowledge.”

It describes the process of daily, progressive change – called sanctification.

The ultimate goal for you is to be transformed “to the image of Him who created him.” God formed man in His image. That image was deformed at the fall when Adam and Eve sinned. Through salvation and sanctification it is being “renewed” until ultimately we are glorified and in Heaven.

In the mean time Jesus is your standard. He is the epitome of what it means to be human. He is Who you want to look like.

Colossians 3:11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

“Greeks” was another word for Gentiles, and “Jews” referred, of course, to God’s chosen nation.

There are obviously Gentiles and Jews; and God, in the Bible, keeps them distinct in terms of His prophetic plan. So what are we to make of this and the comparisons that follow?

One way to look at this list is to see it as promising equal access. Jesus is just as available to Gentiles as He is Jews.

“Circumcised or uncircumcised” refers to religious distinctions. Jesus is the only way to God; but, again, He is available to all.

“Barbarian, Scythian” refers to cultures. While there are wide and sometimes wild cultural differences among the people groups of the earth, Jesus is the universal Savior of them all.

“Slave nor free” relates broadly to overall social status. It may not be easy for a rich man to trust in Jesus, but the Lord will save any who does.

“Christ is all and in all.” No matter who you are or where you are, Jesus saves.

Those of you who are older and can look back at pictures of yourselves from previous decades. Do you really want to put back on some of those outfits? Those hairdos? Can you say, “Leisure suit?” “Angel Flights?” What were we thinking.

That is Paul’s point only on a far more spiritual basis. Don’t allow your flesh to dictate your wardrobe.

#2 – Make Sure You Are Wearing Jesus (v12-16)

Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

You are to put off the Adam line, but you’re not left naked. The Jesus line of clothes is introduced.

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved…

We understand election to be the sovereign act of God in grace whereby He chose in Christ for salvation all those whom He foreknew would accept Him.

Jesus’ death on the Cross is sufficient to save any and all men. The Holy Spirit is in the world to apply His death on the Cross to human hearts.

As God’s grace takes the initiative to free the human will, you can choose to receive or to reject God’s gift of eternal life. Thus, salvation is all of God, by grace through faith, and not at all of works.

Those who receive the gift are those God foreknew would accept Him – they are “elect” in Him.

They are also “holy.” It’s the same word translated earlier in the letter as “saints.” It describes every Christian as permanently set apart to God as His unique possession.

A Christian is also “beloved.” It means that God has fixed His love upon you. God the Father loves you as much as He loves His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

When my eyes open each day and I contemplate walking with the Lord I ought to remember that I am elect, holy, and beloved. I am saved; I am secure; and I can be certain God loves me as much as He loves Jesus.

I want to be dressed appropriately.

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;

Getting dressed for a daily walk with Jesus starts with putting on “tender mercies.” This is concern for the needs of others. It is putting others first. It is what Jesus did in eternity past when He determined to come to earth as a man to save us.

The next item, “kindness,” is putting those tender mercies into action. At some point your compassion must reveal itself in actual help to those in need. While it may include physical and material help, the greatest need in a person’s life is a personal relationship with Jesus.

While you are looking upon others with tender mercies and helping them with kindness, you are to be thinking of yourself with “humility.” The expression, “but for grace, there go I,” perfectly captures the concept of true, biblical humility.

If you’re going to try to serve others, you’re going to be treated like a servant. You’re going to get messy.
Treated like a servant, you tend to either passively withdraw or aggressively attack. “Meekness” rejects those fleshly responses and keeps you on task.

Thus the next thing Paul listed, “longsufferring.” It is putting up with people who try your patience.

Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

“Bearing with one another” is the practical side of longsuffering. You don’t just suffer long, shaking your head and talking under your breath. No, you actually bear with them and encourage them.

Paul was a realist. He understood the difficulties people presented. He knew that there would be offenses between Christians. The word “complaint” means something worthy of blame. It is a real offense.

What should you do when a real offense occurs? “Forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another…”

If you are offended or wronged, then the solution is not retaliation; it is not slander; it is not separation. It is to seek biblical forgiveness. It begins by keeping the matter as private as possible and going to the offender with the desire to be reconciled for the Lord’s sake.

“Christ forgave you.” You and I have been forgiven much by God. We can forgive the comparatively little that is done against us.

There is one final wardrobe item that holds everything together and in place.

Colossians 3:14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

Literally Paul said “put on the love.” It is love that is uniquely possible because it it is implanted in you by God. It is God’s love flowing through you to others.

In Paul’s day the men wore what was called a girdle. We would call it a belt. Think of love as a belt – a utility belt. I can reach into it for any of the characteristics listed whenever I need them.
And there are tons of other characteristics that are to be found as I explore God’s love.

Love is “the bond of perfection.” It binds us together on earth as we are being perfected by God for Heaven.

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body…

Remember, we’re looking at this as if “the peace of God” were something you were wearing, that could be seen by others. How can I wear the peace of God in such a turbulent world?

The word “rule” can be translated umpire. What does an umpire do? He makes the call.

You are out walking in the world and you find yourself in some difficulty. Your circumstances are turbulent. You can react with agitation or fear or stress or worry or any of a number of fleshly traits.

Or you can appeal to the umpire to make the right call:

His call might be to end your suffering.

More often, His call is to give you grace to endure your suffering.

Either way – it’s His “call,” and you can therefore be at peace.

We were “called in one body.” My personal “peace” or lack of it affects everyone else. If I am stressed, worried, annoyed, fearful, etc., etc., then the whole body of Christ I am part of feels the effects. Letting “peace… rule” in my heart is healthy for others.

Colossians 3:15 …and be thankful.

It literally reads, and thankful continually become. It sounds like thankfulness is something to be discovered when everything in me doesn’t see a reason to be.

How? Anyone who has suffered great loss knows. Be heavenly minded. Look forward to what awaits you.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

We immediately think of the “word of Christ” as the Bible.

The Colossians had no Bible, other than some limited access to the Old Testament and whatever letters from the apostles that were being circulated.

It was more of a reminder of what God had already accomplished in them through the Gospel. However much or little word they had, they should let it “dwell” in them.

I think we can put it this way: It’s one thing for a believer to be in the word; Paul was talking about the word being in you – making a difference, e.g., in your spiritual wardrobe choices.

The word “richly” describes a treasure to be highly prized and appreciated. Elsewhere we read that God has put His treasure – the Gospel – in our frail earthen vessels.

“In all wisdom” reminds us that while the Gospel seems foolish to the nonbeliever, it is the wisdom of God to save whosoever will believe.

We’re to teach and admonish one another:

“Teaching” is the presentation of truth.

“Admonishing” is the specific application of truth by warning or correcting others who are deviating from it.

I find what Paul said next curious. He put all this in the context of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

You’d think he’d have said that “teaching” and “admonishing” was to be accomplished by expository teaching. Instead he described what sounds more like a musical.

That’s because Paul wasn’t describing a church service; he was describing the church serving.

The “elect,” “holy,” “beloved” members who comprise the church on the earth should go about edifying one another, and evangelizing the lost, as if we were in a musical.

It doesn’t mean we actually sing to one another; or even that we occasionally break out in song.

It means we should realize we’re a part of a gracious musical masterpiece, orchestrated by our Lord, but being enacted on the earth by His body – by you and I.

Many of you are seeing The Lion King. It features fantastic costuming.

Not as fantastic as ours as we put on the new man.

Hid & Go Seek (Colossians 3:1-4)

“So, Mr. Incredible… Do you have a secret identity?”

Without hesitating, he answered, “Every superhero has a secret identity. I don’t know a single one who doesn’t.”

Tony Stark would be one. The genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist proudly announced to the world, “I am Iron Man.”

Certain secret identities are just stupid. Do the thick glasses really convince anyone that Clark Kent isn’t Superman?

I got to thinking about secret identities because of a couple of things in our verses. Look at verse three:

Colossians 3:3  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

That word, “hidden…” There’s something about me, as a believer in Christ, that is “hidden” from the world.

Next, look at verse four:

Colossians 3:4  When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

That word, “appear…” Sometime in the future, Jesus is going to “appear,” but in a way the world has not yet seen Him.

When Jesus returns, I’m going to “appear,” too, but in a way I don’t “appear” now.

Those of us who are in Christ have a secret, hidden, identity that the world doesn’t see now, but will see in the future. One day, we will be unveiled in glory.

Are we superheroes? No… But we are supernatural.

What else would you call a group of enhanced individuals – filled with God the Holy Spirit?

Today we’re going to discuss our being hidden in Jesus Christ; and our being unveiled by Jesus Christ.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Jesus Has Hidden You In Himself, and #2 Jesus Will Unveil You With Himself.

#1 – Jesus Has Hidden You In Himself (v1-3)

If you have valuables at home, here are three of the best hiding places for them:

If you’re hiding cash, take apart the spring bar that holds your toilet paper. Roll up a stack of bills, stash them inside and reassemble the bar.

Put small containers of valuables in a tub of cat litter and then pour the cat litter back into the tub.
Any common household item that has a cavity will work as a secret compartment. Think vacuum cleaners, children’s toys, etc. (Just be sure family members know about it so your valuables don’t get donated or tossed!)

Where do burglars look first?

Under your mattress.
In your freezer.
In your medicine cabinet.

We hide valuables; the things we treasure. God has hidden you in Jesus. Whatever else that means, it means this: He considers you His treasure.

And He considers you His treasure right now – not just in the future when He is done working in you.

Colossians 3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

Paul was stating a reality, not a possibility. He didn’t mean that in the future you will be raised from the dead. That’s true, of course, but the verb tense here indicates an action completed in your past.

You have already been raised with Christ. You “were raised with Christ” the moment you were saved. This is how God sees you.

The result of this new position is that you can live here as if you were already seated there.

Let me give you an example. At my age I hear a lot of talk about retirement. Some people have a definite goal and a solid plan for getting there. A good plan usually involves sacrificing now to benefit later. If you know where you want to retire, you likely buy some property there – maybe even start building on it in your spare time.

The closer you get to retirement the more you pour into your goal and the more you think about and anticipate what it will be like.

You begin to live here as if you are seated there already.

When I realize I am raised with Jesus, I find myself “seek[ing] those things which are above.” In the Greek language it reads, keep on seeking. It is a continuous, daily activity.

Listen to folks planning to retire and you’ll overhear them saying that something they’ve found would be perfect for their cabin in the mountains, or their place at the coast. They are always seeking things to furnish the house they’d rather be living in, and that they planned to retire in.

Heaven should permeate our thoughts. “What does this have to do with Heaven?” is a question that should be a kind of litmus test of attitudes and activities.

Paul said there were “things above,” in Heaven. What are some of them that make earth seem pale and dim?

First of all, you’ve been promised a sweet retirement home. It’s a mansion being custom built for you by the Lord (John 14). No matter where you would like to retire on earth it cannot begin to compare to what is awaiting you in Heaven.

Your home is part of a great heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. It’s described for you in the closing chapters of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It’s made mostly of precious jewels, gems, and minerals. No water shortage there as a great spring flows through it. It’s a “pure river of water of life” that nourishes “the tree of life” that yields incredible fruit.

In Heaven and for eternity you will have a glorified and perfect body that is free from any possibility of sin or sorrow or death.

Next you’ve been promised an inheritance “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you” (First Peter 1:4). Anything that God has deposited for me in Heaven is safe and secure. Anything you might add to your heavenly inheritance by serving the Lord is just as safe and secure.

Then there are the people who have preceded you to Heaven – loved ones who loved the Lord and are awaiting a reunion with you. You’ll know them fully, as they were intended to be by God, and they will know you.

The last thing I’ll mention is the most precious of all. It’s Jesus Himself. You’ll get to see Him, know Him, be with Him forever.

How can you be certain of these “things above”? You can be certain because “Christ is [there], sitting at the right hand of God.”

The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is your guarantee.

The “right hand of God” is the seat of authority and power. Read through the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ and you’ll see just how much authority and just how much power your Lord has and wields.

That, then, is how we were “raised.”

Ours is a spiritual resurrection in Jesus Christ that has us seated in heavenly places. It only makes sense to live now in the anticipation of what awaits me then.

Why do we not always live the way we were “raised”? The world, the flesh, and the devil conspire to divert our attention off of Heaven and on to material things. I forget I am seated in Heaven and instead of investing my time, treasure, and talent where it is safe and secure, I squander it on earthly pursuits.

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;

Only one life, twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Colossians 3:2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

We are to “set [our] minds” by a place – by Heaven. The “things above” that we just discussed in verse one are the real standards by which to “set” our lives. The “things on the earth” must not be allowed to take priority.

Seriously – What are you investing in? Is it Heaven – or is it here?

Money isn’t the only metric, but it is one that will tell you a lot about whether you are investing here or in Heaven. Survey the New Testament and you’ll find that your giving is to be willing, regular, joyful, and sacrificial.

It either is; or it isn’t. One commentator put it this way: “Handle your money in such a way as to show that God, and not money, is your treasure.”

Colossians 3:3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When you are born-again, you “die” to certain things, notably to sin and to the Law. Listen to how Paul described it in the Book of Romans.

Romans 6:6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
Romans 6:7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

At the Cross you “died” with Jesus and became “freed from sin.” You were set free from both the penalty and the power of sin. As long as you are on the earth in your unredeemed physical body you must deal with the presence of sin. But you can deal with it as though you were dead.

Can a dead person sin? If you believe you are dead to sin, you’ll look at sin in a different light.

Also at the Cross you also “became “dead to the Law.”
Romans 7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ…

It means that instead of trying to live according to the principles of God’s outward Law you are enabled to live by the power of His inward love.

Then Paul said “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Albert Barnes says that this word “hidden” is used of buried treasure. We’ve seen the things that are safe and secure that are awaiting you in Heaven – your mansion, the New Jerusalem, your new body, your inheritance.

What this phrase is telling us is that Jesus also has something to look forward to in Heaven.

He has you to look forward to! You are His treasure.

The Lord can’t wait, to use an earthly expression, to bring you to Heaven and show you off to His Father.

This is also a strong statement about your security as a believer. If your “life is hidden with Christ” then your salvation is secure. It is an unassailable hiding place.

The assurance of salvation is thought, by many, to be a license to sin. They reason that if I am saved no matter what then I have no incentive for holy, godly living. So they inject some doubt about whether or not you are truly saved as a method to motivate you.

Paul thought otherwise. He thought and taught that the more you understood your security in Jesus Christ, the more you’d live in a manner pleasing to Him.

You may as well live now as if you are already in Heaven. Your home is waiting for you there.

Your city and citizenship are there. Your wealth is being stored up there. Those you love who love the Lord will forever be there.

If your mind is not fully set on the things above, hit reset.

#2 – Jesus Will Unveil You With Himself (v4)

Extreme Makeover ran on ABC for four years. Each episode featured two people whose looks were changed in an effort to transform their lives. It was accomplished through the skills of doctors, a plastic surgeon, an eye surgeon and a cosmetic dentist, along with a team of hair and make-up artists, stylists and personal trainers, known as the “Extreme Team.”

At the end of each episode, the participants returned to their friends and families to reveal their new looks to their loved ones, who were not allowed to see the incremental changes during the process.

We will experience the most extreme makeover of all time: Our glorified resurrection bodies. That unveiling will be spectacular.

Colossians 3:4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

“Christ… is our life” can be taken many ways:
“Christ… is our life” reminds us that we have eternal life in Jesus Christ.
“Christ… is our life” reminds us that we have Jesus living in us by the Holy Spirit and can now live life in His power.
“Christ… is our life” reminds us that we are living forward to the time we find ourselves in Heaven and in eternity.
“Christ… is our life” reminds us that nothing and no one else can satisfy us. Everything and everyone must be subordinate to Him in order for us to live to the fullest.

As much as I would like to talk about the rapture, that is not the appearing of Jesus that Paul was referring to. He was looking past the rapture to the Second Coming of Jesus.

We know it’s the Second Coming because that is when we “also will appear with Him in glory.” It’s a return to earth, not a removal from earth.

I think this would be a good time to describe what happens when a believer dies. The Bible tells us there are three different possible states of existence:

We begin life in our current human bodies.
We will in the future, at the return of Jesus, be resurrected or raptured and have glorified human bodies.
For believers who die prior to Jesus coming to raise the dead, there is an intermediate state between death and the resurrection, during which time we look forward to the resurrection of our body.

We read in Second Corinthians that when a believer dies, they are absent from the body, but immediately, consciously present with the Lord.

It is further affirmed by Jesus’ comments to the thief on the Cross, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:43).

The apostle Paul said he had a desire “to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23). Death meant he would immediately see Jesus.

But if you die, you are not in your glorified body until Jesus returns to resurrect you. Paul described it as being “unclothed.”

What is this “unclothed,” intermediate state like? The information isn’t plentiful, but we do have an example of saints in this intermediate state.

On the mount of transfiguration, two Old Testament saints appeared with the Lord. They were Moses & Elijah. Now those guys, along with all the Old Testament saints, have not yet been resurrected. They still don’t have their glorified bodies.

Nevertheless, the disciples saw them, and immediately recognized them. That tells us they had substance.

It’s possible that you have a temporary body in the intermediate state. I think it more likely that your spirit has substance as it awaits the resurrection.

Jesus is coming to resurrect the dead in Christ and to rapture those who are alive and remain.

If you’ve died prior to His coming you will be raised into a glorified body.
If you are alive at His coming you will be changed and transformed into your glorified body.

We’re in Heaven for the duration of the seven-year Great Tribulation. At its close, in earth’s darkest hour, we return with Jesus at His Second Coming.

Yes, it is the unveiling of Jesus to the world; and it will be glorious. It’s our unveiling also. We “appear with Him in glory.”

Listen carefully to this. It is Second Thessalonians 1:10 in the Amplified Version.

“When He comes to be glorified in His saints [on that day He will be made more glorious in His consecrated people], and [He will] be marveled at and admired [in His glory reflected] in all who have believed…”

Jesus will be revealed in all His glory, but part of that revelation will be in His glory being reflected in you and I in our glorified state as we return with Him.

The angels in Heaven, and the people on the earth who survive the Tribulation, will see the radical physical and spiritual transformation that has occurred in us.  

It will be a climactic unveiling after which we will forever be on display as illustrations of what the power and grace of God have accomplished in those who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

All this is currently hidden from view. We are “hidden with Christ in God” in the sense that no one sees our future glory.

They will:

We are promised that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

We are promised that “He also predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

We are promised that “and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him (First John 3:2).

Superheroes usually save the world, if not the galaxy. When Jesus returns in glory, and us with Him, it will be world-saving.

The Lord Himself once said that, “unless those days [of the Great Tribulation] were shortened [by His return] no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:22).

O hope of glory, our Christ will return!
We will be raptured, with glory transformed;
Glorified with Him, Himself to enjoy,
In His full likeness we then will be formed.

O hope of glory, our Christ will return!
Waiting and watching, we faithfully serve,
Running the race, pressing on toward the goal
That we the Kingdom’s reward might deserve.

You’ve Been Ordered To Abundant Ship (Colossians 2:6-23)

The Swiss Army knife is advertised as the ultimate multi-tool. Whether you need a magnifying glass to read fine print, or a metal saw to cut through iron, the Swiss Army knife has your back.

The model we are most familiar with, the Swiss Champ, features 33 separate tools.

There’s a model that features 81 separate tools, including a digital clock in the handle. They promote it as “the ultimate companion for indoor and outdoor life.”

Then there’s the Giant, manufactured by Wenger. The Giant is the world’s largest Swiss Army knife, packing 141 functions into 87 implements. It is 9” wide and weighs 32 ounces. It sells for $8,500.00 on Amazon.

Theoretically, carrying a Swiss Army knife, you are ready for anything you might encounter in your daily life.

What if I told you that if you are “in Christ,” you are spiritually ready for anything you might encounter in your daily life?

The apostle Paul thought so. In verse ten you read, “and you are complete in Him.” That word, “complete,” is a nautical word, used to describe a ship totally fitted and supplied for its voyage.

You are totally fitted and supplied for your voyage home, to Heaven. You simply need to draw from your supply by faith in Jesus.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Be Confident That You Are Complete In Christ, and #2 Don’t Become Convinced That You Are Incomplete In Christ.

#1 – Be Confident That You Are Complete In Christ (2:6-15)

I said that the word “complete” was used of a ship fully supplied. All illustrations fall short.

It’s Thanksgiving weekend, so let’s discuss the provisions on the Mayflower. One historical record I read said this:

The passengers and crew ate different things at different stages of the voyage. In the beginning, when there was fresh food and calm seas, they most likely ate stews made of meat and vegetables.

When the storms came, no one could light cooking fires. Then, people ate hard biscuits, dried meat and fish, and drank ale or water if there was any left.

Because the journey was longer than expected, food supplies were very low when the ship anchored.
During the months when the passengers lived on the ship while they built their houses, many people died of malnutrition.

We think of a fully supplied ship as running low, or out, of supplies over the course of its journey. But our voyage home never lacks for spiritual supply. It can’t, because the supply comes from our being in Christ.

Colossians 2:6  As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord…

How do you “receive” Jesus? God the Holy Spirit frees your will to respond to God’s gracious offer of salvation. Then you simply believe, by faith.

Colossians 2:6  As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,

You believed God to save you for eternity. Now believe Him to supply you for the voyage home.

Paul first describes Jesus as our Supplier. He used three illustrations. The first is walking. You’re to believe that the Lord is with you every step of the day. Think Footsteps in the Sand. The first supply, then – and it’s huge – is Jesus Himself.

Colossians 2:7  rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

“Rooted” refers to a tree’s roots. You are rooted in Jesus and thus every spiritual nutrient, all spiritual life, is available to you.

From agriculture Paul moved to architecture when he said, “built up in Him.”  He’s an unshakeable, immovable foundation.

Then Paul said, “established in the faith, as you have been taught.”  Now honestly, they hadn’t been taught that much – not as far as doctrine. But they had been taught to continue by faith – trusting in God’s supply.

Paul told them to be “abounding in it with thanksgiving.”
Since you are “abounding” with spiritual resources, you can always be thankful, in all things.

Colossians 2:8  Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

This verse, and these false teachings, will be expounded upon in verses sixteen through twenty-three. “Cheat” is the word spoil used of plundering. These false teachings would cut them off from their abundant spiritual supply.

Colossians 2:9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

“Godhead” means deity and encompasses what the Bible teaches about God.

There is only one God. But the Bible also says clearly that there was a man, Jesus Christ, who claimed equality with God, and there is Someone called the Holy Spirit who is also equal with God.

The Father is God; Jesus Christ is God; the Holy Spirit is God.

Paul said the “fullness of the Godhead” dwells in Jesus bodily. He isn’t just super-spiritual. He isn’t just tapping into divine power sources. He isn’t just a great teacher or an insightful philosopher. He was and He is fully God.

This fullness of God “dwells” in Jesus “bodily.” Jesus did not surrender His deity in the incarnation, nor did He surrender His humanity in the resurrection.

Colossians 2:10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

You are fully supplied by virtue of being “in” Jesus. All that He has as resources are yours.

He is “the head of all principality and power.” These are supernatural beings, and can be benevolent or malevolent, depending on the context.

Here Paul meant to remind you that Jesus is in charge; He is the “Head,” having all authority.
You never need think He is unaware of you and your needs, or that His resources are insufficient. Think “abundant,” not “abandoned.”

Some of our abundant spiritual supplies are listed.

Colossians 2:11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,

If you are a Christian, then you “were,” past tense, “circumcised.” The moment you trusted Jesus as your Savior He circumcised you. Not physically, but spiritually. It was a spiritual “circumcision made without hands.”

He does it by “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh.” You get saved and you find that within you still dwells the “flesh.” The “flesh” is your unredeemed human body with its propensity to sin by gratifying itself.

Your flesh has already been circumcised; it’s already been cut away.
You therefore do not need to yield to its influences and desires. You can always say “No” to your flesh.

Next on the supply list is baptism:

Colossians 2:12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

We immediately think of water baptism, but there are many ‘baptisms’ listed in the New Testament that do not involve water.

Paul was talking about a spiritual baptism that occurs the moment you are saved. It means that God sees you as if you, too, were “buried” and “raised” with Jesus from the dead.

You appropriate this truth “through faith in the working of God.” You simply believe it.

What this provides you for your journey is the understanding that you have new life in Jesus Christ.
It’s not just that you can say “No” to sin, as great as that is. You can also say “Yes” to God and surrender to Him moment-by-moment.

Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,

Paul was writing to Gentiles. Their condition before the Gospel was hopeless. They suffered from the proverbial double-whammy:

They were first of all “dead in… trespasses.” They were physically alive but spiritually dead. It is the condition of every human born into the world.

Secondly Gentiles found themselves in “the uncircumcision of [their] flesh.” This is a reference to physical circumcision. Gentiles as a group came to be called “the uncircumcision” because they were not a part of God’s chosen people. Before the resurrection of Jesus, if you wanted to approach God you needed to convert to becoming a Jew.

Ah, but Jesus rose from the dead and changed all that. In Him Gentiles now find forgiveness of their trespasses without converting to Judaism.

Not only that, “He has made [Gentiles] alive together with Him.” The word Paul used means you are “quickened.” It’s a reference to the fact that when you get saved God the Holy Sprit takes up residence in your heart.

Colossians 2:14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Paul called God’s Law “the handwriting of requirements.” The words literally mean, a certificate of debt. When you read God’s Law, summarized by the Ten Commandments, you find yourself owing God a debt. If you are honest you’ll see that it is a debt you can never hope to pay.

Paul said God’s Law was “against” you. Staying with the image of a debt, this means it has gone to collection. “Contrary” means the debt collector calls upon you to pay it in full.

The debt of sin was death. You were a sinner and God’s Law demanded death – your death. But the moment you are saved you discover that Jesus did three things for you:

He “wiped out” the debt. It means He erased it by paying it for you.

He has “taken it out of the way.” He has permanently separated you from any further obligation to keep God’s law.

He “nailed it to the cross,” meaning it was all fully and finally accomplished when He substituted Himself in death for you on the cross at Calvary.

How is this a provision for your voyage? You no longer labor under God’s Law, trying to keep it. No, instead you find that your love for God encourages you to walk with Him in a manner that is pleasing to Him as your heavenly Father.

The last supply Paul listed is in verse fifteen:

Colossians 2:15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

The context here is the Cross, making it clear that Paul meant the vast array of evil and malicious spirits who make war against the people of God.

Jesus made “a public spectacle” of them on the Cross.

This is the stinger. The abundant supply we are promised for our voyage home often involves our suffering and our endurance. It mostly is God giving sufficient grace for Him to show His strength in our weakness.

A.W. Tozer said, “The Cross is the suffering the Christian endures as a consequence of his following Christ in perfect obedience. Christ chose the Cross by choosing the path that led to it; and it is so with His followers. In the way of obedience stands the Cross, and we take the Cross when we enter that way.”

Choose obedience, knowing it means the Cross, but then be confident in God’s abundant spiritual supply.

#2 – Don’t Become Convinced That You Are Incomplete In Christ (2:16-23)

On our voyage, we can indeed behave as though our supplies are rationed, or that we are unable to light a fire. We can suffer spiritual malnutrition.

It happens when we let false teachings interfere with our abundant supply.

Colossians 2:16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,

The first century church was plagued by a false teaching that a Gentile believer must, in addition to receiving Jesus, convert to Judaism.

“Food” refers to the particular prohibitions of the Old Testament dietary laws.
There were fewer laws regarding “drink,” but there were some involving prohibitions on alcohol, e.g., for priests and Nazirites.
“Festival” is the requirement that all males make a pilgrimage to the Temple at Jerusalem during the major feasts.
“New moon” means they wanted everyone to observe the Jewish ceremonial calendar generally.
“Sabbath days” would include all the scriptural and extra-scriptural teaching about resting from sundown Friday through sundown Saturday.

Colossians 2:17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

The purpose of all these things was to prepare you for the coming of Jesus Christ. They all prefigured and typified Him. He is the “substance” that they all pointed towards. Now that He has come we are out of their shadow and in His light. Don’t go back to the shadows.

Colossians 2:18 Let no one cheat you of your reward…

Don’t give in to their judgements and thereby lose your joy now, and your future “reward” in Heaven.

Colossians 2:18 …taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

“False humility” happens when you let people know how early you rise and how much time you spend in prayer and how often you fast.

“Worship of angels” seems to refer to the thinking that you cannot approach God directly but must go through a mediator, like an “angel,” who is close to God. Today this would apply to praying to Mary or to deceased saints.

“Intruding into those things… not seen” is the claim to having special visions or revelations from God. While we believe the Bible teaches there is the gift of prophecy and that we can still have dreams and visions, they must always be measured by what is already written in the Bible.

“Vainly puffed up by [your] fleshly mind” relates to those who are proud of their intellect, or who think knowledge makes someone more spiritual.

These four things could be loosely summarized by the word mysticism.

Colossians 2:19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.

In a normal, healthy, growing body the head directs everything. Disconnect the head and the body will deteriorate.

All these practices thus far listed, and those to come, put distance between you and the Lord. They disconnect you. They introduce something that stands between you and the Lord – a technique, a mediator, a set of rules, etc.

Colossians 2:20 Therefore, if you died with Christ…

“If” means since. Paul was stating a fact. You “died with Christ.”

When you become a Christian, the moment you are born-again God sees you as if what happened to Jesus happened to you.

There are a lot of advantages to being dead:

You wouldn’t have to be worried about paying your taxes if you were dead.

Any pending litigation against you would cease.

OK, you’re not physically dead so those things still apply. But you are spiritually dead and resurrected. Therefore you can live in the material world from a spiritual perspective, in the power of a resurrected life. And that is what Paul next described.

Colossians 2:20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations –
Colossians 2:21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”

What Paul destroys in these verses scholars call asceticism. Think monastery.

Asceticism involves rigorous self-denial on the physical level in order to achieve a spiritual result.

Bottom line: You are already “dead” and don’t need to do any of them!

Paul’s conclusion regarding ascetic practices is in verse twenty-two:

Colossians 2:22 which all concern things which perish with the using – according to the commandments and doctrines of men?

“Perish with the using” is a good description of physical things like food and drink. Sin occurs when we abuse things, but spirituality cannot be achieved by their non-use.

Paul called things like this “the commandments and doctrines of men”:

“Doctrines” refers to what they believed.

“Commandments” refers to the specific rules and they established.

Colossians 2:23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

This might be a summary of this section:

“Self-imposed religion” sounds like what the Judaizers were promoting.

“False humility” marked and marks mysticism.

“Neglect of the body” sounds like asceticism.

None of these things have any “value against the indulgence of the flesh.” You can’t fight the “flesh” with flesh!

As one writer put it, “You don’t need laws on the outside because you have life on the inside.”

Another said this:

Most Christians make the mistake of trying to walk in order to be able to sit, but that is a reversal of the true order. Our natural reason says, If we do not walk, how can we ever reach the goal? What can we attain without effort? How can we get anywhere if we do not move? But Christianity is an [odd] business! If at the outset we try to do anything, we miss everything. For Christianity begins not with a big DO, but with a big DONE.

We’ve been talking about the Big Done. Whether you get saved today, or you have been “in Christ” for decades – you each have the same supply for your voyage.

How would you describe the seas you’re on?

Whether you are enjoying calm seas and making progress; or are stuck in the Doldrums, seemingly going nowhere; or are riding out a fierce storm… You are supplied.

Your Captain is constantly telling you to “Abundant Ship.”

Desperately Seeking Suffering (Colossians 1:24-2:5)

At the end of every wedding I officiate I get to say, “It is my privilege to present to you for the first time Mr. & Mrs.” so-and-so.

With most couples I’ve had little to do with getting them to the altar. My part in ‘presenting’ them is really very limited. Family and friends in each of their lives have gotten them to that point in their lives.

That started to change as I got older.

More couples started getting married with whom I’d had a lot of personal contact in my thirty-three years here in Hanford. Kids I’d held as babies, dedicating them to the Lord, were getting married.

They grew-up in this church, sat under the teaching, served under the leadership. When I presented them there was a great deal more personal involvement and investment.

When Geno married Kelly – well that was huge from the standpoint of presentation. As his parents, Pam and I had a great deal to do with getting him to that point in his life. When I for the first time presented “Mr. & Mrs. Gene Pensiero,” it was a most heartfelt presentation indeed.

Presenting, or being presented, is the context of the verses before us today:

Colossians 1:28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

Paul believed that in Heaven he would have a hand in ‘presenting’ the believers he had evangelized and/or edified. He thought of himself as having a personal involvement in getting believers to their face-to-face meeting with the Lord.

We should think more about both being presented to the Lord and presenting others to the Lord in that glorious future day in Heaven:

If you are in Christ, a lot of people were involved in bringing you to Jesus and a lot more are involved helping you to grow.

As you grow in the Lord, you become a person who will present others with some level of personal involvement.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 You Are Going To Be Presented By Those Who Serve You, and #2 You Are Going To Be Presenting Those You Serve.

#1 – You Are Going To Be Presented By Those Who Serve You (v24-28)

Are you expecting a baby, or have you recently given birth? Congratulations.

Better start saving lots of money.  The estimated cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 is $233,610.00.

Our verses describe what it “costs” to present a believer to God. It’s not measure by dollars, but by discipleship.  

Colossians 1:24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,

Paul was in prison in Rome on account of his preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. Still he could say “now,” right now, “I rejoice” in the midst of “my sufferings” because they were “for you.” His preaching had the effect of bringing to them the knowledge of eternal life and that greatly outweighed any amount of personal suffering he must endure for it.

Nothing was “lacking” as far as Jesus’ work on the Cross. As He dismissed His Spirit, He proclaimed, “It is finished.”

After His resurrection, His followers were charged with bringing the Gospel to the world. Believers are likened to His “body” on the earth. He is in Heaven, but we remain on earth and, as His body, it’s as if He never left. Men still afflict Him through us, and in that way we “fill up,” or complete, His afflictions.

Colossians 1:25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God,

The word “minister” is the Greek word diakonos from where we get the word “deacon.” It can refer to an office in the church or simply describe a Christian in his or her service to others.

Every believer is a minister – a deacon – because every believer is called to be a servant.

Paul was a minister whose formal calling was “the stewardship from God… given to [him].”
A steward is the chief servant in a household and is responsible for the overall management and administration of its affairs.

Paul’s stewardship was to “fulfill the Word of God.” The phrasing reminds us that we must remain grounded solidly upon God’s Word. We must find the basis for our ministering in the Bible and nowhere else.

More than that, the word “stewardship” can be translated, dispensation. I’ll let commentator Robert Gromacki explain what a “dispensation” is:

God has administered His redemptive program in different ways within the various ages of biblical history. He dealt with Adam differently when sin occurred than before his fall. After the Mosaic Law was given, the people of Israel had more responsibilities before God than prior to that event. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ likewise have changed the means of divine government in this age. These various periods can be called “dispensations.”

What exactly is the current dispensation?
Colossians 1:26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.

In the New Testament a “mystery” is something previously concealed and unknown which is now clearly revealed.

This particular “mystery” was hidden “from ages and from generations.”

“Ages” refers to the periods of history prior to the first century.

“Generations” refers to all the people who lived in those periods.

Something amazing, which was hidden, has “now has been revealed to His saints,” and it is this:

Colossians 1:27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

“Gentiles” is a word that identifies anyone not a Hebrew.
The mystery isn’t simply that non-Jews could be saved. That was predicted in many places in the Old Testament.

What was a mystery, however, was that God would save Gentiles apart from Israel, apart from her program.

From the time of Abraham until the first century if you wanted to know God and have a relationship with Him you had to either be a Jew or convert to Judaism. Paul was going around preaching Jesus Christ to Gentiles with no requirement that they first convert to becoming Jews.

What a rich and glorious truth this is. You come to God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ apart from any works of righteousness and certainly apart from any and all religion, rites, and rules.

When you come to Christ, you have “Christ in you.” You have the presence of Jesus via the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.

Under the previous dispensation, that of the Mosaic Law, God dwelt where?
In the Holy of Holies, above the Mercy Seat that was on the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle.

Today He dwells in the bodies of believers; we are His Temple on the earth – both individually and corporately.

Still more: You have “the hope of glory.” The blessed hope of the church is the return of Jesus to resurrect the dead and rapture the living to take us home to Heaven to the place He’s been away preparing for us.

All of this, what we call the church and the church age where Jew and Gentile alike are born-again by grace through faith in Jesus, is the “mystery” revealed to each and every “saint.”

Colossians 1:28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

One commentator said the word “preach” refers to both our lips and our lives. All of us have lives and lips that should be dedicated to serving the Lord at all times.

Notice Paul said “Him we preach.” We preach a Person. To put it negatively, we do not preach a program or a system. Even if we are systematic in our understanding of doctrine and how things in the Bible ‘fit’ together, it is to be subordinate to the Person and work of Jesus.

It’s an important distinction because we are so given to want to reduce things to something we can easily understand.

We are also to be “warning every man.” This involves, first of all, evangelism. People need to be warned that they are sinners headed deserving of death and of judgment after death.

Believers, too, need to be warned from time to time to continue in the faith and to live set apart, holy lives on earth.

“Teaching every man in all wisdom.” The Amplified Bible translates “wisdom” as “comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God.” I like that. We need more than definitions and details. We need insight into the ways of the Lord – not just His works.

Paul’s goal was to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” On earth you are daily, as you cooperate with God, being perfected. In Heaven, when you stand before the Lord, you will be “perfect.”

We are reading Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae. It’s our letter, too. Paul was writing to us. He was suffering imprisonment and every other affliction for you and I every bit as much as he was for the Colossians.

Someone suffered for you to bring you the Gospel. In fact, a lot of people did:

“For you” God raised-up and gifted saints throughout history – including Paul.

“For you” God raised-up family members or friends or co-workers who were willing to suffer at some level to let you know they were believers in Jesus Christ.

Everyone is fascinated with their ancestry right now, or so it seems. It’s fine; I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with it.

Maybe you’re tracing your roots through your family tree. Well, spiritually speaking, you were “born-again” as a result of spiritual ancestors sharing the Gospel with others. What a fascinating tree that would be to trace, in terms of who was used to get the Gospel to you.

They are your presenters in the future glorious day when you appear before Jesus.

#2 – You Are Going To Be Presenting Those You Serve (1:29-2:5)

Ever read all the credits at the end of a feature film? It’s incredible how many people are recognized. The credits for the extended version of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, are twenty-seven minutes long.

I used to chuckle at some of the services listed in the closing credits that seem so insignificant. They list caterers, bookkeepers, assistants and assistants to the assistants. One day it struck me that every one of those names was there because they contributed, however slightly, to the overall project.

You are I are God’s closing credits in the lives of others. In some lives you’re like a director or a producer. In others you’re an assistant to an assistant; or a janitor. But your contribution, however slight, is significant.

Colossians 1:29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

The work of a presenter requires “labor” and “striving.” They are athletic terms:

“Labor” is a term that describes the training of the athlete behind the scenes and before the contest. Think Rocky (now Creed) or any extreme training sequence.

“Striving” is the word we get agonizing from. It refers to the intensity of the athletic contest itself.

These words indicate a joyful, voluntary serving – but one that is nevertheless filled with physical and mental weariness, toil, and even exhaustion.

It’s become fashionable, Christian chic, to talk about things like “burn-out” and our need for sabbaticals and such in our serving the Lord.

I want you for a moment to imagine yourself telling the apostle Paul you are feeling a little “burnt-out” in your ministry.

Remember you’d be looking at a man who had surrendered everything to serve his Lord, whose body had hundreds of lashes, and had been in many imprisonments and in multiple shipwrecks. A man who had deep mental exhaustions thinking about the welfare of the people of God. Someone who wished he could be cursed to Hell if it would mean the salvation of his people, the Jews.

Now go ahead and tell him how tired you are.

Paul is an extreme example but still an example. We must be willing to labor and strive in order to serve others. Physical and mental weariness, toil, and even exhaustion are to be expected at times.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul told them that Epaphroditis was “sick almost unto death,” but nevertheless went on serving (2:27).

Paul is quick to add that you are not left to your own strength to accomplish any of this.
“His working,” Paul said, “works in me mightily.” You surrender and suffer, but God supplies the power. You are stronger in Him as you are weaker in yourself.

Griffith Thomas wrote, “Sacrificial disciples are needed to proclaim the sacrificial work of our Lord.”

Many saints suffered for you and for me so we would hear the Gospel and be saved. Can we do any less – especially as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit as we await the blessed hope of the appearing of Jesus at any moment?

Colossians 2:1 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh,

“Conflict” is not what you think. It is the Greek word agon. The Greeks referred to the athletic arena as the agon. It was the place people assembled to watch the games. It came to refer to the contest itself.

Paul was engaged in a “great conflict” for believers in the sense that he was in the arena of the Christian life exercising all of his spiritual, mental, and physical energy to serve others. Like a great athlete in the arena, he brought his “A” game – Apostle.

“Laodicea” was about eleven miles from Colossae. It seems this letter was for them, too. At this point they were doing well, standing firm. The church in Laodicea, sadly, is famous for Jesus telling us in the Revelation they had become “lukewarm” and were about to be vomited out of His mouth. It didn’t take long for them to backslide.

The world is a dangerous place for believers. Our pilgrimage homeward to Heaven is fraught with peril. We have, however, both guidance and companionship along the way in the form of God’s Word, God’s indwelling Spirit, and God’s earthly people.

Colossians 2:2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,
“Encouraged” is from the word that means to come alongside. It can also be roughly translated with heart. The idea is to always come alongside believers with the desire to strengthen their heart for the Lord.

Paul said, “being knit together in love.” When you knit something you pull together the separate strands and unite them into something that has both beauty and purpose. Believers are to have unity as something beautiful and with great purpose. It is possible to do so because of the “love” that God has shown us and that we can therefore show towards each other.

“Attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding.” Paul exerted all his energies toward getting believers to understand the implications of the Gospel. The more they understood God’s Word, the greater their “assurance.”

Assurance of what? Assurance of their initial salvation; of their on-going sanctification; and of their ultimate glorification in Heaven. Those assurances are “riches” indeed.
In an uncertain world, you can be assured that He who began a good work in you will complete it.

“To the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ…” The “mystery” being revealed was the church of Jesus Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike, as a new and amazing work of God that occurred after Israel officially rejected Jesus as their Messiah. Thus Paul exerted all his energies toward establishing and edifying local churches.

Colossians 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

There are “hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge” to be discovered – but not by adopting worldly or cultic practices. They are discovered daily as you spend time with the Lord. And they can be discovered by all believers – not just a privileged few.

Colossians 2:4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.

Caution is always required because there always are those wanting to “deceive” you.
One of the means by which they deceive are “persuasive words.” It’s a phrase that can be translated fast talk.

Don’t automatically ‘buy-into’ what you hear. You must take what you hear back to God’s Word and measure it. There is nothing wrong with a healthy skepticism. What men and women say about the Word of God is not the Word of God and it needs to be tested.

Colossians 2:5 For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.

I was touched by that phrase, “with you in spirit.” We like to tell folks we are praying for them. That’s great – especially if we really are praying for them, and not just using it as a catch-phrase.

To say, “I’m with you in spirit,” seems more powerful, more intimate, more meaningful. It’s a 24/7 kind of commitment. We should try it on each other.

The church at Colossae was in “good order” with steadfast “faith in Christ.” Paul could “rejoice.”
It’s an old film, not that popular, but you may be familiar with Mr. Holland’s Opus.

Richard Dreyfus was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Mr. Holland. He’s a composer who takes a teaching position at a high school thinking it will give him more time to compose his life’s work.

Quite the opposite happens as he gets involved helping his students. Life seemingly passes him by. Then, at his retirement, in a moving scene, hundreds of people he has encouraged over the years stand-up.

They are his opus – his life’s composition.

What are you wanting to produce through your efforts in life? On top of the list ought to be disciples you will have a hand in presenting to God.

Many will present you; how many will you present?

What We Have Here Is The Firstborn To Communicate (Colossians 1:15-23)

It’s common for churches to incorporate their city in their name. We do it – we are “Calvary Chapel of Hanford” (which we shorten to “Calvary Hanford”).

In some cases, however, it would be better to not reference your city:

Half Way Baptist Church (Half Way, Missouri).
Boring United Methodist Church (Boring, Maryland).
Little Hope Baptist Church (Little Hope, Texas).

Some church names are just bad choices:

James Bond United Community Church is in Toronto.
Holy City Faith and Deliverance Ministries Center of Love, in Brooklyn.
First Church of the Last Chance World on Fire Revival and Military Academy, in Dade City, Florida.

Thirty-three local churches are mentioned in the New Testament. They are mostly described as the church of or in a certain city, e.g. those Jesus wrote to in the Revelation – Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia.

Reading through the letter to the Hebrews you encounter what sounds like a church name. It’s found in Hebrews 12:23, “the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in Heaven…”

That’s a mouthful, for sure. We could shorten it to the Church of the Firstborn. It wasn’t the name of any one local church; it’s more a description of all churches.

It begs the question – Who is the firstborn? Turns out, it’s Jesus. Look in our text at verses fifteen and eighteen:

Col 1:15  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Col 1:18  And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

As hipster-pastors like to say, we’re going to “unpack” the word firstborn. I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 The Firstborn Creator Sustains The Universe For You, and #2 The Firstborn Conquerer Secured Heaven For You.

#1 – The Firstborn Creator Sustains The Universe For You (v15-17)

You might be the firstborn son or daughter in your family, but you’re not necessarily the firstborn.

How can the firstborn not be the firstborn? Listen to how the Bible describes the two sons of the Old Testament patriarch Joseph, named Manasseh and Ephraim:

Gen 41:51  Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh…
Gen 41:52  And the name of the second he called Ephraim…

Manasseh was the son born first. But listen to what Jeremiah said: “And Ephraim is My firstborn” (31:9).

Manasseh and Ephraim had been adopted by Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel. When Jacob gave his blessing to his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh, he chose to bless the younger Ephraim first, despite Joseph’s protests. In doing so, Jacob noted that Ephraim would be greater than Manasseh.

How is the son born second the firstborn? He is when the word is used to speak of preeminence and priority, and not birth order.

Another example: David was the youngest of the seven living sons of Jesse when the prophet Samuel came to anoint the next king of Israel. Samuel passed over the son born first, and each of David’s older brothers, and identified him as the one God had chosen.

God later says of David, “Also I will make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:27).

Firstborn doesn’t always mean born first.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

The Colossians may have had coins in their pockets and purses. If so, this word “image” could have been illustrated by those coins. It was the word that described the head of the Roman ruler that was minted on the coins. It was an exact likeness that represented the ruler depicted.

God is an “invisible” Spirit and cannot be seen.

In the Old Testament when someone ‘saw’ God it was because He manifested Himself in a way that was visible to them. Theologians call those appearances theophanies.

Jesus Christ is the exact likeness Who perfectly represents “the invisible God.” What is God like? Look at Jesus and you will see.

He once told His disciples, “he that has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Jesus doesn’t merely reflect God. He’s not simply godly, or god-like. He is the exact, perfect representation of God.

He is “the firstborn over all creation.” False teachers and cults twist the word “firstborn” to mean that Jesus was the first to be created by God. But we’ve already seen that isn’t what the word means.

If that isn’t enough, Paul will clarify what he means when he, in verse sixteen, says,

Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

“By Him” is literally translated, “in Him.” It means that both the plan to create and the power to create resided in Jesus.

“All things” means everything in time and space, including all things “that are in Heaven and that are on the earth, visible and invisible.” All of creation.

The Creator of all things must have existed prior to all things and cannot Himself have been created. You are either the Creator or you are created. The two are mutually exclusive.

Then Paul specifically mentions that Jesus is the Creator of all spiritual beings. It was an especially important point to make to the Colossians because the false teachers had reduced Jesus to some sort of created spirit-being.

Colossians 1:17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

This is a much more powerful statement than you might first realize. It doesn’t read, “He was before all things,” but says, “He is before all things.” It is the way you would refer to God, the One Who has existed eternally. It’s similar to Jesus referring to Himself in the Gospels by saying, “I AM.” He was taking upon Himself the name of the eternal God and declaring that He had always existed.

“In Him all things consist” means that it is Jesus who is holding everything together. He is preserving the universe.

Physicists look into the atom and conclude there must be some invisible force that holds everything together. Some call it “the strong force”; it is also referred to as “nuclear glue.”

It’s the Lord. He’s the reason “all things consist” to this day.

Beyond the incredible importance of the doctrine of His deity, all of this is quite precious on a devotional level. In the next set of verses, Paul immediately discusses the church.
He more than implies that Jesus created all things, and sustains the universe, so He can have a relationship with you.

Am I making too much of Jesus creating the universe with us in mind? If anything, I’m making too little of it.

I came across this quote by Dr. Hugh Ross:

What several decades of research has revealed about Earth’s location within the vastness of the cosmos can be summed up in this statement: The ideal place for any kind of life as we know it turns out to be a solar system like ours, within a galaxy like the Milky Way, within a supercluster of galaxies like the Virgo supercluster, within a super-supercluster like the Laniakea super-supercluser. In other words we happen to live in the best… the one and only, neighborhood that allows not only for physical life’s existence but also for it’s enduring survival.

SyFy writers, agnostics, and atheists assume that the vastness of the universe presents greater possibilities for alien life. Just the opposite is true. The more we find out about the universe, the more improbable it becomes that life could occur anywhere but right here on earth.

Jesus created and sustains the universe so He can have a relationship with you. It’s a backdrop, a stage, in order for Him to woo you to Himself.

It’s not arrogant on our part to think we are unique. It’s extravagant on the part of Jesus – to communicate how much God loves us.

#2 – The Firstborn Conquerer Secured Heaven For You (v18-23)

What is the Church of the Firstborn? In one sense, it is a new creation within creation. It is something beautiful and marvelous. It is all those who have believed on Jesus by grace through faith, therefore being transformed into something the universe has never before seen: Man as the dwelling place of God.

Colossians 1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

Let’s tackle the word “firstborn” again first, in this second context.

When Jesus was on the earth, He raised many a person from the dead. But those resurrections were really restorations. Those people lived to die another day.

When the Lord rose from the dead it was something entirely new and different. He rose in an eternal, glorified, incorruptible physical body.

He conquered death and Hell for us. “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (the Revelation 1:18).

He was the first to be resurrected, but multitudes more will follow. All whom He has redeemed and who have received forgiveness will be raised incorruptible as well.
It is in that very amazing sense that Jesus is “firstborn from the dead.” He is “the beginning” of this new creation, the church. What happens between the Day of Pentecost and the day the Lord returns to resurrect the dead and rapture the living is absolutely unique. The church is a mystery revealed in the New Testament.

How unique? Our relationship to Jesus is like that of a “Head” to its “body.”

Jesus is in Heaven. We are on the earth. But if we acknowledge Him as our Head, and follow His leading and guiding, than we collectively act upon the earth exactly as Jesus would act if He were here.

Pastor Don McClure uses as an e-mail signature, “Jesus has come and never left.” Jesus ascended into Heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God. But He has never left because He left us – His body – on the earth to continue the work. And He fills us with His Spirit to accomplish it.

“That in all things He may have the preeminence.”

The word “may,” or might, means Jesus became something He was not previously. He was God for eternity and in His death and resurrection He became the “head of the body, the church.”

The word “preeminence” is only found here in all the New Testament. It means to have first place.

With a nod to Abbot & Costello, “Who” is not on first; Jesus is.

Colossians 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,

What God “pleased” was that “in Him,” referring to Jesus Christ, “all the fullness should dwell.”

“Fullness” refers to all of God’s divine attributes. The word “dwell” means to be at home permanently. Paul’s sweeping statement does not allow for any other interpretation than this: In Jesus Christ the sum-total of divine attributes resides permanently.

Or, in short, Jesus Christ the human being is at once fully God.

Colossians 1:20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

Look to the end of the verse first. It was “through the blood of the cross” that Jesus was able to “reconcile” and make “peace.”

It goes back to the beginning. When Adam and Eve sinned God discussed what was necessary for them and their descendants to be reconciled. Blood had to be shed. By “blood” we mean death.

But not just any death. No mere man could die for the sins of the human race:

First of all, no mere man could live a life to God’s perfect standards.
And second of all, even if one could, he would only be able to die for himself and not for anyone else.

Only God in human flesh could reconcile the human race with God.

Paul tells us that reconciliation applies to “all things… whether things on earth or things in Heaven.” The entire creation was thrown into turmoil when Adam and Eve sinned. The entire creation is reconciled by Jesus in the sense that by His sacrifice on the cross God the Father is able to fulfill His stated plans for the universe.

Notice that “peace” is a result of reconciliation. It is foolish to talk about lasting political peace or personal peace apart from Jesus Christ. History is moving towards the Great Tribulation. We must factor-in prophecy when developing our worldview.

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled
Colossians 1:22 in the body of His flesh through death…

Paul was addressing believers in a church. Before they met Jesus they were “alienated” from God. The word means foreigner or stranger. It describes everyone in their natural birth. We are born earthly, not heavenly.
We are citizens of a fallen planet, descendants of a fallen race. We are aliens when it comes to citizenship in Heaven.

Our hostility is revealed both in our “mind” and by our “wicked works.”

By our “mind” is meant the fact that we think selfish, evil thoughts. If that’s too harsh for you it also means that our thinking is earthbound, fleshly, worldly, and material even though the universe is essentially spiritual.
By our “wicked works” is meant the fact we act selfishly and for our own benefit. If that’s too harsh for you it also means that we are not loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

“Yet now He has reconciled [us] in the body of His flesh through death.” It’s the only possible solution. And it’s been accomplished by Jesus Christ because God “pleased” it.

God has never been your enemy. He has been at work in eternity and in history to reconcile you so you may be at peace with Him.

Five great Bible words that describe what God “pleased” for you:

In justification you stand before God guilty and condemned but God “pleased” to declare you righteous.
In redemption you stand before God as a slave but God “pleased” to grant you freedom.
In forgiveness you stand before God as a debtor but God “pleased” to pay your debt and forgive you.
In reconciliation you stand before God an enemy but God “pleased” to make peace with you.
And in adoption you stand before God a stranger but God “pleased” to make you a son.

One day all of this will be fully, finally realized in Heaven. In fact, Jesus will personally present you in Heaven.

Colossians 1:22 … to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight…

The ultimate purpose of God the Father, what He “pleased,” was for His Son to one day “present you” before Him in Heaven.

The word “present” means to stand beside. The Lord, Jesus Christ, will stand beside you and present you to the Father.

It sort of reminds me of bringing home your fiancee to meet your parents – except without any of the drama or doubt as to what they might think of your choice. The Father can’t wait to meet you in Heaven.

How will you look to Him?

You will be “holy.” Inwardly, internally, you will be perfect. No sin. No intrusive thoughts. No fears. No doubts. No ‘nothing’ that plagues us so much now.

You will be “blameless.” It can mean without blemish. Outwardly, externally, you will be perfect. You will have been raised from the dead in a glorified body, or raptured off of the earth in one.

You will be “above reproach.” Upwardly, eternally, though you will have free-will, there will be no possibility of future sin or selfishness. You will enjoy perfect, unbroken fellowship and communion with God and with every other saved individual.

Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Read casually this seems to say you can easily cancel-out everything God has done and desires yet to do by falling short in your obedience.

Read carefully, however, it reinforces your security in Jesus Christ and underlines the truth that He that has begun a good work in you will complete it.

Paul was using an analogy that we don’t immediately see, but that those in Colossae would have seen. If we understand it we will have a better idea what he intended.

Colossae was in a region known for severe and devastating earthquakes that would level the buildings reducing them to rubble.
Think Coalinga 1983. So Paul used the analogy of a building that could not be destroyed by an earthquake.

The words “grounded,” “steadfast,” and “moved away” are all architectural terms:

“Grounded” refers to the foundation of a structure.
“Steadfast” refers to the structure itself.
“Moved away” can be rendered shifting or shaken.

The analogy is of a house built on a solid foundation that would endure the very worst earthquake.

We’ll come back to the analogy in a moment. First let’s understand what the rest of the words in this verse mean.

The “hope of the Gospel” is the message of eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

The method God had determined to communicate the Gospel was that it be “preached to every creature under Heaven.”
That doesn’t mean it had already been preached to every creature – only that preaching is God’s way of getting the message out to the world.

So here is what Paul was saying. The simple Gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul preached was like a house that was built on a rock-solid foundation and could not be shaken. It didn’t need any ‘additions’ or a ‘second story.’

All that a Christian need do is “continue” in “the faith,” in the doctrine of the apostles, that he or she had “heard” and received when they were saved.

The Colossians should, therefore, “continue” in the sound doctrine they had already “heard” and not be shaken by any teaching that they were falling short of spiritual truth.

So should you! Whatever city name attaches to your local church, you are safe and secure in the Church of the Firstborn because Jesus conquered sin and death to give you eternal life.

Take a Walk on the Worthy Side (Colossians 1:9-14)

It takes more than make-up to be a Walker.

“Walkers” are the zombies on the hit series, The Walking Dead.

They’re never called zombies. They have been called Biters, Creepers, Dead Ones, Floaters, Geeks, Lamebrains, Lurkers, Monsters, Roamers, Rotters, and Skin Eaters. Mostly they’re called Walkers.

As I said, you can’t just walk-on set with make-up and be a Walker. The casting process involves actors going through special training. The show’s special effects guy said,

Well, you know, every season we hold auditions for future Walkers, and we have affectionately termed it Zombie School. So they will come to Zombie School and they will audition for me. I usually do 20 or 30 people per class and I spend an entire day auditioning people, putting them through some exercises in terms of how fast they walk, what their character is, [and] what their personality is.

Pardon the segue, but Christians are Walkers.

Think about it: The most common description of our relationship with Jesus on the earth is that of a walk.

But not just any walk. Listen to these verses:

Eph 4:1  I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called…

Php 1:27  Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…

1Th 2:12  that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Look in our text for today, at verse ten: “that you may walk worthy of the Lord…”

Christians are a particular kind of Walker – a worthy Walker. Let’s shorten that and call ourselves Worthies. It can be our own CalvaryHanford term of endearment.

Our first thought when we read that we should walk worthy is that we must prove our worth; that being worthy is something to be earned over time.

That’s not the sense I get here in Colossians:

For one thing, this was Paul’s prayer for them. These were things he was asking God to perform in and through them.

For another thing, Paul was praying for them to walk worthy right now – not in some far away future after graduating “Worthy School.”

How can we be considered Worthies right now? I’ll organize my answer to that question around two points: #1 You’re A Worthy By Receiving God’s Filling, and #2 You’re A Worthy By Remaining Fixated On God.

#1 – You’re A Worthy By Receiving God’s Filling (v9-12a)

Basic definition of a zombie is a corpse that still functions, and feeds on human flesh.

I don’t want to draw the comparison too much, but basically all human beings, in our natural birth, are considered the walking dead.

We read in the Bible that we are born dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

When you are born-again, you remain in your rotting body of flesh, but in the knowledge that one day your spirit will be resurrected or raptured in a new, glorified body, fit for eternity.

If you are among the walking dead – someone who is not “in Christ” – then God the Holy Spirit is working in your heart right now to reveal your need for saving by Jesus Christ. Our prayer is that you would call upon Him, and be saved.

Verses nine through twelve tell us how Paul prayed for those in Christ in the city of Colossae. If you want to do a great personal Bible study, identify and read all the prayers of Paul.

At one point in his ministry, Paul told us to imitate him as he imitated Jesus (First Corinthians 11:1). His prayers are a good place to start.

Col 1:9  For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

Epaphras had travelled from Colossae to visit Paul who was under house arrest in Rome. Epaphras gave Paul a report about the believers. That’s what he means when he says “since the day we heard it.”

Paul didn’t pray for the usual things or in the usual manner. He “[asked] that [they] may be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will.”

It is accomplished by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Now Paul doesn’t explicitly mention the Spirit, that’s true. But I think we can see that is Who He intended – for two reasons:

Number One – Can you “fill” yourself? No, you cannot. “May be filled” puts the responsibility upon God. It is something He does to you.

Number Two – The very language and imagery of being filled always takes our minds back to the Day of Pentecost, when Jesus gave the church the promise of the Holy Spirit to fill and go on in-filling us.

Reading the New Testament, you get the idea that the writers believed that if you were in Christ, you were filled with His Spirit, and continuously experienced fresh in-fillings. The Spirit doesn’t always need to be mentioned; He is implied.

Being “filled with the knowledge of God’s will” is therefore not something to be discovered after a long, protracted spiritual search. No, it is something immediately available to you, thanks to your in-filling by the Holy Spirit.

Paul qualified God’s will by saying it is “all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” The word “spiritual” qualifies both “wisdom” and “understanding.” Meaning sometimes this knowledge and understanding will seem contrary to that of the world around us.

“Wisdom” refers to what we believe as Christians.

“Understanding” refers to how we can behave as Christians.

Simply put, Paul prayed that all believers yield themselves to the indwelling Spirit, applying God’s wisdom to their lives, and conducting themselves accordingly.

God’s “will” in this context is not a mystery to be discovered. It is already revealed to you in His Word. It is His instruction on being a man or a woman of God; on being a husband or wife; a father or mother; an employer or an employee. It doesn’t involve guesswork – only yielding in obedience.

Colossians 1:10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him…

“Worthy” is a word I can stumble over. In so many ways I am not “worthy” of the name ‘Christian.’ No matter how long I walk with the Lord, I will continue to fall short of sinless perfection.

But that is not how Paul is using the word. He’s telling you that your being filled by God is what makes it possible for you to walk worthy right now, i.e., in every circumstance and situation. You were declared righteous, and now you are a Worthy as you simply yield to His will.

“Fully pleasing Him” is another way of understanding “walk worthy.” Adam Clarke commented, “Do every thing in the best manner, in the most proper time, and in a becoming spirit.”

Another commentator said, “To walk in Christ is to live a life patterned after His and empowered by His Spirit.” You begin doing that the moment you are saved.

Do it right now – at home, at work, at play, in church.

Let’s use our conversations with others as an example. No matter what the other person says, since I’m filled with the Spirit, I can respond in a manner that would please Jesus, and be worthy of a walk with Him.

Or I can be like one of the zombies – a “Biter,” i.e, a backbiter, seeking to devour them.

I can’t stress enough that we see these exhortations as immediate responses – not things that I might one day achieve on my own after years of spiritual discipline. I can always choose to “please Him” instead of myself.

Paul next mentions four ways we walk worthy. If I’m filled with, and yielded to, the Spirit, these four things will be evident in my conduct.

Colossians 1:10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Language scholars say that what Paul wrote in the original language was that you produce “fruit” in, or during, “every good work.”

Paul draws upon another illustration of what it means to be in Christ. He is like a vine, and we the branches. We bear fruit for Him not through effort, but through obedience.

The second characteristic of a Worthy is, “increasing in the knowledge of God.” “Knowledge” was a buzz-word being used by the false teachers. They were telling the Colossians that they were deficient in the ‘true’ knowledge of God. In order to attain this ‘knowledge’ they must jump through religious hoops of various kinds.

Did Paul mean that there was secret knowledge to be discovered? John Gill wrote,

It may be observed by the apostle’s asking for them, that all our knowledge, and the increase of it, and all our fruitfulness in good works, are all from the Lord.

In other words, the “knowledge” we need is always available to us. It usually presents itself in God’s Word.
If you didn’t have direct teaching about how to treat others, you could figure it out by yielding to the Spirit to produce in and through you a What Would Jesus Do disposition.

The third characteristic of a Worthy is,

Col 1:11  strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power…

“Strengthened” is in the tense of being strengthened. “Might” is the word we get our word dynamite from.

Paul is saying that at “all” times you can be strengthened by God’s dynamic power to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. It’s not a future hope; it’s a present possibility.

“According to His glorious power” means that when you behave this way, people will understand it can only be by the “glorious power” of God working in you and through you.

It is most evident during your afflictions and trials:

Col 1:11  strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;

Patience” literally translates, remaining under. We use the word endure. “Long-suffering” translates, long-tempered. It means self-restraint.

“Patience” has to do with circumstances and “long-suffering” involves people:

The fruit produced by God in and through us by His glorious power is to remain patient. We are empowered to endure our circumstances.

The fruit produced by God in and through us by His glorious power is to be long-suffering. We are empowered to be long-tempered with other people.

Here’s the clincher: All of this is done “with joy.”

Usually I’m asking for prayer to get out of my circumstances, not to endure them with joy. Or I am wanting God to change people, not for me to be long-suffering with them and have joy doing so.

The fourth characteristic of a Worthy,

Col 1:12  giving thanks to the Father…

Billy Graham wrote,

Thanksgiving for the Apostle Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but a daily reality that changed his life and made him a joyful person in every situation. Thanksgiving – the giving of thanks – to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. We must not allow a spirit of ingratitude to harden our heart and chill our relationship with God and with others.

In part two of this morning’s study, we’ll see some blessings we can always be thankful for. We can, in everything, be thankful.

God’s filling makes all this a present, moment-by-moment possibility. We’re not some day going to be given a certificate that says “Worthy.” We don’t earn it; we receive it.

And by “receive” I mean you realize God is in you, to empower you to obey Him and bring forth fruit.

#2 – You’re A Worthy By Remaining Fixated On God (v12b-14)

We associate “fixated” with an unhealthy obsession. But it’s a good word to describe the mindset of a Worthy.

We should be “fixated” in the sense of always willfully directing our eyes towards the Lord.

Later in this letter Paul will again strongly suggest we fixate on the Lord:

Col 3:1  [Since] you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Col 3:2  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
Fixated on Heaven, I’ll walk worthy on the earth.

Col 1:12  giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.

This verse is a promise to each and every saint. It is not something to be earned but something you received the moment you were saved. When God saved you, when you believed on Jesus Christ, you were “qualified… to be [a partaker] of the inheritance of the saints…”

Paul was not talking about your individual rewards, earned by deeds done for Christ. He was talking about the eternal inheritance of each and every believer. He was talking about things like the promise of a new, glorious, resurrection body; of a mansion in Heaven; of spending eternity with the Lord in the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem.

If you’ve ever bought a home or a car with a loan you had to be qualified for it. The moment you were saved God “qualified” you.

You cannot become disqualified when it comes to partaking of “the inheritance of the saints.” It’s secure for you, in Heaven.

Whatever earth holds for you (and it can be brutal), Heaven awaits with its beauty and blessing. That’s why you can always “[give] thanks to the Father.”

At the end of verse twelve Paul uses the phrase “in the light,” which dovetails into verse thirteen,

Col 1:13  He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,

You have been once-for-all “delivered… from the power of darkness and conveyed… [into the light]…, the kingdom of the Son of His love.”

Like every other human being you were born under the “power,” or authority, of “darkness.” You were born with a sin nature and you sinned.

When you get saved you are “delivered” from darkness and “conveyed” to a new authority:

“Delivered” has the idea of being rescued.

“Conveyed” means removed in the sense of being relocated.

You’ve been rescued and relocated to the authority of the Son of God whose kingdom is one of “light” ruled by the “Son” Whom the Father loves.

Calling Jesus the “Son,” by the way, is a challenge to the false teachers. They minimized the person of Jesus to that of a created being. Calling Him the “Son” puts Him in a unique relationship to the Father. It puts Him not only above all other created beings but makes Him equal in nature, power, and authority with God.

John Walvoord wrote, “There is a glorious kingdom ahead of us, the glory that is going to be ours in the predicted millennial kingdom and throughout eternity as we are with Christ. In view of these things, God has called us to a walk that is in keeping with our destiny… We “walk worthy” of God because we are saved, because we are a child of the King by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

When you are struggling everyday to be joyful in your patience with circumstances and your long-suffering with people, you can fixate on what God did for you yesterday and what is waiting for you tomorrow:

‘Yesterday,’ on some wonderful day, He saved you. You were rescued from the darkness of this world.
‘Tomorrow,’ when He comes for you to resurrect or rapture you, you will see the Son He loves, and Whom you love, and remain together for all eternity.

Col 1:14  in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

If the previous blessings mostly describe yesterday and tomorrow, verse fourteen is for today.
Because we’ve been redeemed by the death of Jesus as our Substitute, we enjoy “the forgiveness of sins.”

If you’re like me, you feel anything but worthy. In fact, there seems to be a growing sense of just how sinful you remain. It’s not uncommon as you get older in the Lord, as you walk further with Him, that you start to recognize very subtle attitudes as springing from your flesh.

It’s wonderful to realize that you enjoy God’s forgiveness as an ever-present blessing. You’re not worthy, not in practice; but you are a Worthy in your position.

I’ll close with this, from a hymn:

Living for Jesus a life that is true
Striving to please Him in all that I do
Yielding allegiance, glad hearted and free
This is the pathway of blessing for me

Heigh Hope! Heigh Hope! It’s Home to Heaven We Go! (Colossians 1:3-8)

Let’s start with the word counter-intuitive.

Something is counter-intuitive if it goes against what you believe would be logical, or if it goes against common sense.

For example: A placebo is a substance or treatment with no therapeutic value. Often in testing medications, one group gets the meds, while the other gets a placebo.

Sometimes those who receive the placebo nevertheless believe they are improving. This is called the placebo-effect.

What if you were told outright that your meds were a placebo; would there still be a placebo-effect?

A “Yes” answer would be counter-intuitive, but it’s the right answer. This was shown in a 2010 study involving people with IBS. The researchers wrote, “Our study suggests that openly described [placebos] when delivered with a plausible rationale can produce positive responses.”

Here’s a more colorful example from the world of Pixar. Doc Hudson’s counter-intuitive advice to Lightning McQueen regarding dirt track oval racing was, “If you’re going hard enough left, you’ll find yourself turning right.”

Frustrated, Lightning sarcastically replied, “Oh, right. That makes perfect sense. Turn right to go left. Yes, thank you! Or should I say, NO THANK YOU!!! Because in Opposite World, maybe that really means thank you.”

He promptly ignored Doc’s advice, turned left to go left, and crashed on the first turn.

What if I told you that the way to being a more loving and effective Christian on earth was to think more about Heaven?

It seems so counter-intuitive that men have created an often used sarcastic slogan, saying that you can be “so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.”

The apostle Paul makes an incredible counter-intuitive statement in verses four and five, when he says, “we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven.”

It was precisely “because of” their “hope” in “Heaven” that the Colossians were doing earthly good by growing in their “faith” toward Jesus, and in their “love for all the saints.”

One commentator put it this way:

The important thing is to notice that hope produces faith, and faith in turn grows into love. Hope is the root, faith is the plant, and love is the fruit. Thus, hope is foundational.

Truth be told, we don’t think of Heaven enough. We need to do it more. Paul will go on to say, “[Since] then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (3:1-2).

The “hope awaiting” us in Heaven will be our focus today – and it should remain that way every day until we are home there.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 It’s Healthy For You To Think About The Hope That Is Awaiting You In Heaven, and #2 It’s Helpful For You To Think About The Hope That Is awaiting You In Heaven

#1 – It’s Healthy For You To Think About The Hope That Is Awaiting You In Heaven (v3-5)

Have you read Ulysses by James Joyce? If so, you might remember it once contained the longest sentence in English Literature – 4,391 words.

Joyce’s record was surpassed in 2001. Jonathan Coe’s The Rotters Club contains a sentence with 13,955 words.

Ephesians 1:3-14 is probably the longest sentence in the Bible. In our translations, it is broken down into a few sentences; but not so in the original.

Our text today, what we call verses three through eight – You guessed it: One long sentence.

Col 1:3  We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

The language-guys say that “always” describes the giving of thanks, not “praying.”

Whenever Paul did pray for the believers in Colossae, which I’m sure was often, he gave “thanks” to God because of the radical changes that God had effected in their lives after they heard and received the Gospel.

No matter your needs and your circumstances, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ you can be thankful in them because of what God has done for you. He’s saved you! It makes all the difference in the world and in the world to come.

The particular words used for his praying could be translated “prayed around,” as if to indicate Paul’s prayers surrounded them. I like that. Your prayers for people surround them in the spiritual realm.

Col 1:4  since we heard…

Epaphras had gone to see Paul, who was under house arrest in Rome. That’s how he heard about them.

There were some problems with false teachers in Colossae, and Epaphras needed counsel on how to deal with them. We’ll get to them later in the letter.

Col 1:4  since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints;
Col 1:5  because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,

Faith and love spring forth from “hope.” One commentator put it this way:

The preposition “because, or “on account of,” can only be taken as pointing to faith and love as in some sense a response to hope. In some way, hope produces faith and love.

This “hope” is not just a feeling of expectation. It is the objective reality of what is securely in store for you in the future:

Jesus Himself – the resurrected and glorified Lord – awaits you in the future. You’ll see Him face-to-face.
More than that, you will “awake in His likeness” – meaning that the work that He began in you at your salvation will culminate in you being glorified as He is. You’ll have a perfect body; a perfect mind. There will be no propensity to sin in your glorified body.

The Carpenter-King is building you a house; and it’s a mansion. It’s in the Golden City, the New Jerusalem. You can read its description in the last chapters of the Bible.

Somewhere in Heaven your rewards for serving the Lord on the earth are being stored.

You’ll be reunited with believing loved ones. You’ll never cry again.

We could go on-and-on. The point Paul was making is this: The hope that awaits us in Heaven is immensely practical for our time on earth. It awakens faith, and it inspires love.

It’s counter-intuitive. It seems like hope in Heaven is an escapism that would cause withdrawal from our responsibilities on earth. But Paul says it’s just the opposite. The more we set our minds on things in Heaven, the more it will result in practical faith and love.

In a more affluent, free, modern society, it can be really hard to focus on Heaven. It’s there more like a reward at the end. As a result, we get distracted by life, rarely thinking of after-life. If what Paul is saying is true (and it is), if we’re not fixated on Heaven, our faith in Jesus and love for the saints is falling short.

What does faith that is awakened by hope act like? Paul exampled it as a longing in the heart to see Jesus; a strong desire to be with Him.

Always keep in mind that Paul was a “to live is Christ, but to die is gain” sort of believer. He had a healthy desire to depart this life and be with the Lord; He said it was far better.

The Colossians, because of their hope, must have had similar faith. If you were around the Colossians, you got the distinct impression that they couldn’t wait to see Jesus.

What does love for all the saints act like when it is inspired by hope? Paul demonstrated this, too, in how he ministered to folks who were suffering.

When members of that church were dying, Paul directed their thoughts to the hope of the Lord’s coming to resurrect and rapture the church. He told them to sorrow, but not as those without this ultimate hope.

I want to say this carefully, and respectfully. We too often want to give believers hope on earth. We don’t like their affliction; we object to their suffering, so we encourage them, either directly or indirectly, that God is going to take it away – that things will return to normal. But that can be a false hope.

Sometimes God heals; most times, He does not. If I love the saints, I will seek to elevate their gaze to Heaven, assuring them that their “light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (Second Corinthians 4:17).

Paul said, “of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel.” There were in the church false teachers who were convincing the Colossians that there were things they lacked – spiritual things.

But that wasn’t true. “Heard” is heard before. It’s a very deliberate choice of verb tense. It undermines any heretical notion that the believers were deficient in their walk with the Lord. In other words, they had in the past “heard” the Gospel. There was no further, secret, knowledge to be achieved.

Paul was not alone among the apostles in calling attention to hope. The apostle Peter said,

1Pe 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4  to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

You’ve been born-again and you have a “living hope” in your inheritance in Heaven.

Then Peter said, “rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:13).

These guys were future-oriented. Hope was a lot more foundational to their writing and preaching than we normally think.

I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t Paul, in First Corinthians 13:13, say, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.“

Yes; but think about it for a moment. He says, “Now abide faith, hope, and love.” In the future – in Heaven – that will change:

When you get to Heaven, you won’t have hope, because all the things you hoped for will be realized.

When you get to Heaven, you won’t have faith, because all the things you couldn’t see will all be seen.

Hope and faith will be fulfilled. Love, however, will be the very air you breathe in Heaven.

Today, right now and for the rest of your life on earth, hope in Heaven and what awaits you there ought to guide your life. To the extent it does, you will grow in faith in Jesus, and in love for all the saints.

Thus hope is a true indicator of your spiritual health.

#2 – It’s Helpful For You To Think About The Hope That Is Awaiting You In Heaven (v6-8)

Lightning McQueen spent quite a bit of time ignoring Doc’s advice. He kept turning left to go left, crashing arch time. He finally got it, and became quite the dirt-track racer.

There’s a lot you can do to grow in the Lord. I Googled “How do I grow in Jesus,” and this was the first list I encountered:

Go to God in prayer daily.
Read God’s Words daily.
Obey God moment by moment.
Witness for Christ by your life and words.
Trust God for every detail of your life.
Allow the Holy Spirit to control and empower your daily life and witness.

Those are all good things. I’d add that you should be active in your local church. We tend to be individualistic in our approach to growth, when it’s clear in the New Testament that we are meant to meet together:

If you are in Christ, you are a living stone, meant to be strategically placed by Jesus into the building of His spiritual temple on the earth.

If you are in Christ, you are a member of His body on the earth; and just as with the members of your own human body, there needs to be connection, and co-ordination.

I couldn’t find any list that mentioned “the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven” as crucial to growing in Jesus – which is weird, because it clearly was foundational to faith and love in the apostles’ doctrine.

In verse five, Paul mentioned the Gospel. What is the Gospel? Paul defined it when he wrote to the church at Corinth saying,

1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,
1 Corinthians 15:2 by which also you are saved…
1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
1 Corinthians 15:4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

You’re a sinner. There’s nothing you can do that will make you right before God. You need a Savior. Jesus came as God in human flesh to die as your Substitute on the Cross. He rose from the dead validating His ability to save you for eternity.

Col 1:6  which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;

Paul took them back to the day they got saved. An ordinary man, Epaphras, returned from Ephesus having been changed, radically changed, by the “the grace of God in truth”; i.e., He had believed the “truth” that salvation was God’s gift of “grace.”

He began to tell his family and friends what had happened to him and in him. Other people in Colossae began to get saved. The Gospel of God’s grace thus was “bringing forth fruit.”

But not just locally, in Colossae. Epaphras had brought it to that city, but others were spreading the good news to every city in the known “world.” Wherever the message was sent by God it was sufficient to save people.

It is never deficient but is always everywhere the power of God to salvation. It needs no aids, no helps, to prop it up. It’s simplicity is awesome.
In addition to what God does in you through the Gospel, He does things through you once you’re saved. Using Epaphras as an example Paul shows what God does through you and every other believer.

Col 1:7  as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf,

The word “learned” indicates he taught them what he knew. We dress this up by saying he discipled them.

Don’t think that discipleship is something you can’t do. Even an average ‘Joe’ like Epaphras could effect amazing changes in the lives of others. It’s the message, not the messenger, that is important.

Understand that Epaphras was just a guy who God changed through the Gospel. The Colossians were just like him and vice-versa. Thus his description is what the Gospel can do through each of us and every other believer.

It makes you a “fellow servant.” The particular words mean a joint slave. You are God’s slave but so is every other believer. Though we have different gifts and are called to various ministries we are all equal as slaves; we are jointly slaves in God’s great household of faith.

The Gospel makes you a “minister.” It is an interesting word. It’s where we get the word “deacon” from, but it is from two words that mean “through” and “dust.” The idea seems to be that you serve with such zeal and enthusiasm that you create dust as you move.

All of us are capable of kicking up dust in our serving. Epaphras did and was “faithful.” It’s a commendation, but it’s one we can all be happy about. You see, God doesn’t expect me to be great, or to accomplish great things. All He asks is that I be faithful and that is something definitely within my reach.

Any one of us. at any time, can be “faithful.” It isn’t hard to accomplish. If I’m not being faithful, it’s on me to recognize it and adjust.
Paul qualifies Epaphras’ serving by saying it was “on [their] behalf.” The Gospel had made Epaphras like His Master. It’s effect was to cause him to want to serve rather than be served.

One of the great effects of the grace of God is to overcome selfishness. When Christ rules rather than self, marriages, families, relationships, and everything else is redeemed and restored.

Col 1:8  who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.

One paraphrase translation puts it this way: “[Epaphras is] the one who told us how thoroughly love had been worked into your lives by the Spirit.”

Little by little, day-by-day, the indwelling Holy Spirit works in your life. His work in you is described elsewhere as producing the fruit of love.

I’m no gardener, but I know that things like soil and watering are important elements if I want my trees to produce fruit.

In the spiritual realm, Paul seems in this long sentence to be strongly suggesting that the hope which awaits us in Heaven is a crucial element – maybe THE crucial element – if we are to manifest the fruit of love.

Until you begin to focus on the hope which awaits you in Heaven, you’re going to be turning left to go left; and you simply won’t make any progress in your walk with the Lord.

Salvation Is An In-In Situation (Colossians 1:1-2)

In the movie, The Lion King, Simba, heir to the throne of his father King Mufasa, flees from the Pridelands when his father is murdered by Scar, Mufasa’s brother and Simba’s uncle.

Deep in the safety of the jungle Simba joins up with two characters, Timon and Pumba, whose philosophy of life is Hakuna Matata – “no worries.” Simba buys into this for many years enjoying a life not only with no worries but also no responsibilities.

Meanwhile under the dictatorship of Scar the Pridelands fall into ruin, famine and despair.

One day Rafiki the wise baboon tracks Simba down and offers to lead him to a place where he will meet his dead father. Intrigued, the young lion follows Rafiki through the twisted roots of ancient trees until he reaches a clearing. There, in the clear night sky, Simba remembers his own roots. He has a moving vision of his father, who laments, “You have forgotten who you are, and therefore, you have forgotten me.”

Simba rediscovers who he is: He is Mufasa’s boy, the son of the king.

Christians sometimes forget who they are. Or at least we act as if we have forgotten. We lose our joy; we’re not at peace; we try to live by rules rather than empowered by grace.

The mostly Gentile believers in the first century city of Colossae were forgetting who they were and, for that matter, whose they were.

A number of false teachings were challenging the supremacy and the simplicity of Jesus Christ in their lives and thus weakening their walks with the Lord. They needed to rediscover they were “in Christ” Who is preeminent and supreme over all creation and is the head of the church.

So do we from time to time. I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Rediscover Who You Are, & #2 Rediscover Whose You Are.

#1 – Rediscover Who You Are (v1-2a)

Identity theft is a reality in today’s world. If you’re not vigilant you’ll find yourself victimized.

Spiritual identity theft assaults Christians. False teachings about Jesus Christ undermine your identity “in Christ” as a believer and pretty soon you are struggling when you should be overcoming.

The believers in Colossae were being victimized. In chapter two the apostle Paul will urge them “let no one judge you” (v16) and “let no one cheat you of your reward” (v18).

We’ll discuss the particulars of the heresies when we get to chapter two. But whether it is the first or the twenty-first century, no matter the particulars, every false teaching chips away the supremacy of Jesus Christ and the simplicity of your relationship with Him.

False teachings always accuse you of lacking something in your walk:

The health and wealth heresy that has been prevalent for many years accuses you of missing out on perfect health and unlimited blessing because you lack faith. In essence, they promote faith in faith rather than faith in Jesus.

The Hebrew roots movement popular today promotes the teaching that Christ’s death on the cross did not end the Mosaic Covenant, but instead renewed it, expanded its message, and wrote it on the hearts of His true followers. They teach that the understanding of the New Testament can only come from a Hebrew perspective and that the teachings of the Apostle Paul are not understood clearly or taught correctly by Christian pastors today. They are similar to the first-century Judaizers.

I can’t say it is a movement, but what one author calls “retro-Christianity” has become popular. It’s the idea of “retrieving ideas and practices from the whole Christian past,” and applying them to our contemporary church life. While this isn’t always a bad thing, it can be taken too far, suggesting that we are not worshipping God properly unless we do it the way the Church Father’s did.

What we’ll learn in Colossians is that the only thing we are ever missing is our own identity as believers as it is undermined by these and other false teachings.

Verses one and two may be a greeting from Paul to the Colossians, but they contain everything you need in order to rediscover who you are and eliminate the nagging doubts that you are somehow lacking some important practice.

Colossians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

Paul had never been to Colossae but he had a lot to do with their being saved. While in Ephesus for three years we’re told in the Book of Acts that the Gospel Paul was preaching spread to all of Asia (19:10). It’s believed by scholars that one of Paul’s converts, either Tychicus or Epaphras (a.k.a., Ephaproditus) took the good news about salvation by grace through faith in Jesus to Colossae and thus the church was founded. Paul was their spiritual grandfather.

I always like to hear why and how a church was founded. A church ought to be the supernatural working of the Lord. Most are. Occasionally something gets started from a split or a disagreement and that, to me, is a sad foundation to build upon. For the most part churches have a story to tell in their founding of the wonderful love of God for His people.

Paul summarized his entire spiritual career when he said he was “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” The “apostles” were the guys Jesus tapped to establish the foundation of His church on the earth in the first century.

They were men who had seen the risen Christ and had been directly commissioned by Him. Their ministries were authenticated by miracles, signs, and wonders following their preaching of the Word.

We can make too much or too little of credentials in the church. The credentials we should be interested in are first and foremost a servant’s heart. Then faithfulness. Then gifting by God. Credentials added by men can be valuable, but they must remain secondary.

Paul was an apostle “of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” When Paul was Saul, he was on his way to Damascus to arrest and otherwise assault Christians.

Jesus appeared to him, knocked him down and blinded him. Saul was saved in that amazing encounter. Led by the hand into the city, he was prayed for by Ananias and received his sight as well as the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Paul knew exactly who he was. He was Jesus Christ’s apostle chosen to take the Gospel to the Jew first and then the Gentiles. No identity crisis, no identity theft, was troubling him.

We can and should be confident as we serve the Lord. Not arrogant, but confident. I mean, are we only 99% sure that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life? There’s a lot of wiggle room in 1% of uncertainty.

Paul mentioned “Timothy, our brother.” He was another convert of Paul’s but one that also often traveled with him. His missionary career started when Paul asked him, as an adult, to undergo the pain of physical circumcision.

Paul would argue against circumcision for Gentiles, so was this a contradiction? Are there two Gospels – one for Jews, and one for Gentiles?

No. Paul wanted to take Timothy with him to evangelize but since Timothy was part Jewish the Jews would be offended if he wasn’t circumcised. His uncircumcised state would keep them out of the synagogues where Paul liked to preach the one Gospel.

What an amazing support Timothy was to Paul throughout his ministry. It’s a great thing to be a support to the ministry. Every small thing contributes to the larger work.

Paul calls Timothy “our brother.” It is the beginning of his exhortation that they rediscover who they were. All of them – Paul, Timothy, the Colossians – were “brothers” in the Lord. The word means from the same womb. They were all born-again of the Spirit of God when they received Jesus Christ.

If you were a Colossian, the mere mention of Paul and Timothy was enough to encourage you. Think of it:

While you were yet a lost pagan idolater God was at work on the road to Damascus saving a man who would be the apostle responsible for getting you the Gospel.

He was already preparing Timothy with a godly upbringing to leave everything and travel with Paul.

Colossians 1:2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse…

Four things are told you about your identity. First, you are a “saint.” Think of the word “saint” as a synonym for the word “Christian.” Certain churches and certain beliefs have hijacked the word to apply to only super-spiritual folk. Too bad – because that is not true at all.

Every believer in Jesus Christ, from the moment of his or her spiritual birth, is a saint. It comes from a word that means “sanctify.”

You are called by God through the Gospel and you call upon the name of Jesus to save you and you are thus sanctified.

It means you have an acceptable spiritual position before God. It has nothing to do with achieving a level of holiness on earth that is beyond others.

Yes, you should grow and mature in your Christian walk. If you’re saved by grace, you’ll be changed by grace.

Spiritual growth is part of the larger doctrine of sanctification, as is your final glorification when you have a brand new body incapable of sin. But here we are talking about your standing, not your state.

Your standing as sanctified:

Is the result of the work of Jesus on the Cross.
Is perfect; it cannot improve or get any better.
Is the same as every other believer.
Is totally based upon the grace of God and not any work of yours.

You have just as much access to God as every other believer. You don’t need superior intellect or ability. You don’t need any secret words or methods. No rituals or rites, diets or days, can improve your access. You stand in a perfect relationship to God through Jesus.

Next Paul described them, and us, as “faithful brethren.” Since Paul was talking about their identity, their standing, he didn’t mean to suggest that a saint must be “faithful” in order to maintain his or her standing. He was still talking about belief – not behavior.

“Faithful” is an interesting word. One of its possible meanings, according to Thayer’s Greek Definitions, is one who trusts in God’s promises. The Greek scholar goes on to refine his statement by saying,

… one who has been convinced that Jesus has been raised from the dead [and] has become convinced that Jesus is the Messiah and author of salvation.

The sense I get from this is that since you already are convinced Jesus rose from the dead and are saved, you are capable of believing every other promise God has made you. It is a reminder that your life that began by grace through faith continues by grace through faith. There aren’t rules, rites, rituals, or regulations that you must discover, then maintain, in order to grow, or to be truly spiritual.

You’re not left to yourself to develop this kind of faithfulness over time. In the Book of Romans Paul says,

Romans 8:11 But if [since] the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

The Holy Spirit indwells you. You can, right now, believe any and every promise in God’s Word.

You are a “saint,” one of the “faithful brethren,” and you are “in Christ.” Today we mostly call believers “Christians,” or the more hip, “Christ-followers.” Paul’s favorite label was to describe a believer as being “in Christ.”

Being “in Christ” means that what is true of Jesus is now true of you also:

Jesus died; He was buried; He rose from the dead.
Because you are “in Christ,” you also died, were buried, and rose from the dead.

One YouTube pastor illustrated being “in Christ” using clear Tupperware containers. You need three of them, that will fit within each other:

One of the containers is you.
Another is God the Holy Spirit.
The third one is Jesus.

When you get saved, God the Holy Spirit comes to indwell you; put His container inside yours.

Simultaneously, you are described as being “in Christ,” so put your container with the Holy Spirit in the one marked Jesus. When God sees you, He sees you “in Christ,” thanks to all Jesus has done to save you.

Since you are “in Christ,” you are a new creation. You have salvation, acceptance, redemption, forgiveness of sin, an inheritance in Heaven, and every other thing promised to you by God and revealed in His Word. When God ‘sees’ you, He sees you in relationship to His Son and your Savior.

Fourthly, they were physically “in Colossae.”
Their identity as believers would be played-out on the streets and in the homes and marketplaces of that city in Asia Minor – what we now call Turkey.

Colossae was a city in decline. The main road had been re-routed to go through Laodicea. The city was still noted for producing a black wool made from the chalk deposits in the area. But it wasn’t the place to be anymore.

People were leaving, not settling, in California; I mean, in Colossae. As we’ll see at the end of the letter, Laodicea was the popular town in the region.

Every city, every town, has its own personality and potential problems. So does every home, and every workplace. Naming their physical location last reminded them that wherever they were, whether it be Colossae or Laodicea, who they were was sufficient for them.

Hanford, Lemoore, Armona, Laton, Riverdale, Corcoran, Avenal, Kingsburg, Huron…They’re all challenging in different ways to your walk with Jesus. But where you are is of no real consequence to who you are. You are a saint, one of the faithful brethren, and you are “in Christ.”

You should have the understanding that God has sovereignly placed you in your exact location in order to grow you, and for you to glow with Him in that dark place. God didn’t put you where you are to beat you down but to build you up.

In addition to being “in Christ,” and Him being in you, in chapter three of Colossians Paul claims, “your life is hidden with Christ in God” (v3). You could add a fourth Tupperware container – one you can’t see through – label it “God,” and put the others in there, depicting safety and security.

Rediscover who you are. You’re the King’s kid in the truest sense. As you rediscover who you are, you simultaneously…

#2 – Rediscover Whose You Are (v2b)

The last few words of verse two, which contain Paul’s usual greeting, describe what belongs to you everyday because you belong to God.

Colossians 1:2 … Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul was not talking about saving grace in this verse but about sustaining grace. He identified them as being “in Christ,” and it is as saved men and women that they have sustaining “grace… and peace from God.”

By that he means that God promises you sufficient grace every day for every situation you face.

The grace we’re talking about is described this way by J.I. Packer:

I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, One who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted for me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.

You also have “peace.” The Bible uses the word in two ways:

When saved, you have peace with God, or before God. Before you are saved you are at odds with God. Your sin separates you from Him. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

As a saved person, you can experience the peace of God for daily protection from the hostile pressures upon your mind and heart.

Leon Morris says, peace is “not simply the absence of strife, but the presence of positive blessings.”

Later in this letter Paul will tell them “let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (3:15). We’ll see that word “rule” means to govern or to arbitrate.

Arbitration occurs when you allow a third party to settle your dispute. When you are tempted to worry, doubt, fret, be frustrated, you can instead experience God’s peace by looking to Him as your arbitrator. He’ll always tell you to trust and obey.

Whose are you? “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Holy Spirit is present as well because He indwells you.

You are God’s. Can anything separate you from His love? Paul didn’t think so when he wrote to Rome:

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Romans 8:33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Romans 8:34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Romans 8:37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Romans 8:38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
Romans 8:39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There are a lot more potential pressures against you then you even realized. When life at home, at school, at work, and everywhere else, seems a crisis and a challenge, don’t forget things like “tribulation… distress… persecution… famine… nakedness… peril… sword… death… life… angels… principalities… powers… things present… things to come… height… depth… nor any other created thing.”

Everyday you face a veritable minefield of trouble in your walk. God promises you sufficient grace and complete peace as life explodes all around.

“What shall we say?” Simba said, Hakuna matata!

It sounds almost Christian – this worry-free philosophy. But he achieved it by forgetting who he was.

We receive it by remembering who and whose you are: You are “in Christ,” the Spirit is in you, and you are “hidden with Christ in God.”