Thursday, April 24, 2008

Jesus, Lord of Creation

Jesus, Lord of Creation
Colossians 1:15-17
The Remedy for Spiritual Amnesia

Scripture Introduction:

Tonight we will continue in our series on Colossians. Our text this evening will be Colossians 1:15-24, if you have your Bibles feel free to turn there. Have you ever had an experience with God and then fifteen minutes later revert back to how you were before that experience? Perhaps after sitting under the preaching of the Word you get really fired up. You are resolved. You are passionate. You want to take on hell with a water pistol. Then you get a flat tire. You go home to arguing parents. You crawl into a lonely bed (which, obviously, should remain “lonely” until you are married). Your passion seems to slip out just like your morning burrito. You forget.

Paul is dealing with people very similar. Remember they are being encouraged by a group of people telling them that Jesus is not quite enough. They need a little more. If you want a more full Christianity, and if you want to be freed from the fear of these spirits that are haunting you then do these things. The Colossian church starts believing them. They forget. What does Paul do to encourage those of us afflicted with spiritual amnesia? Look with me in Colossians 1:15-24

Read Colossians 1:15-24

Sermon Introduction:

One of my favorite characters in the Old Testament is a man named Josiah. The Lord used this guy in amazing ways. National revival came through King Josiah. His relationship with God seemed to be about as vibrant as possible for those who lived before Jesus. I love Josiah. But Josiah also had spiritual amnesia. He was just like us. Only Josiah died from spiritual amnesia. You could read this story in 2 Chronicles. It’s a rather short story that tells us of the death of Josiah. A faithful man. Followed God consistently. He loved the Lord. But he hated Egyptians.

One time in particular Neco, the king of Egypt is traveling through Judah on his way to fight a guy named Carchemish. Josiah goes out to meet Neco. Meaning, he wanted to flex a little muscle and drive Neco back. We have no idea why, but we can figure that Josiah did not much care for the Egyptians. Remember that whole Moses and slavery thing? Neco gets in Josiah’s face and says, “Listen man, God sent me on this mission. You better let me go. Or God’s going to destroy you”. You would think a man of God deeply grounded in faith like Josiah would heed such a warning. Nope. Josiah suffers from spiritual amnesia. He forgets two things: who is in charge and what life is all about. Josiah apparently had “fight a dude named Neco” on his agenda that day. God was not going to mess it up. So Josiah disguises himself and trots down to the plain of Megiddo. And I love the simplicity of Scripture here. “And the archers shot King Josiah. And the king said to his servants, ‘Take me away for I am badly wounded.’”

Aren’t we all a little like Josiah here? We, as King Josiah, are all too often prone to forget what it’s all about and who is in charge. Josiah did it, the Colossians did it, and we do it. It seems to be our human condition; we forget. Our day planner probably does not read “fight a dude named Neco” but I wonder if our lives are not sometimes a little worse than Josiah’s in this regard. Most of Josiah’s was spent for the glory of God. Even though it ended rather stupidly and tragically, his life was not wasted. I wonder, is it possible that many of us are really close to that line between a wasted and an unwasted life? I fear that if we do not remind ourselves daily that it’s all about Jesus, that we might develop patterns of forgetting what it’s all about and who is in charge. Forgetting one day cost Josiah his life. I wonder what are we in danger of?

There is really only one remedy for spiritual amnesia. Post-It notes. Little things that we put in our lives and in front of our face that remind us of this central truth: it’s all about Jesus. Our text here in Colossians is one of those Post-It notes, we will camp out tonight on verses 15-17. A reminder of who is in charge and what life is really about. The Post-It note in Colossians 1:15-17 will remind us that it really is all about Jesus, and it will also plead with us to reflect this truth in the way that we live our lives.

Is it all about Jesus? If it is it means that we must give absolute allegiance to him and we must radically depend upon Him. But is it all about Jesus?

I. It is all about Jesus

That question is extremely important. All of these big theological truths in verses 15-20 touch our hand in verse 13, 14 and 21-23. It becomes personal. Remember what Paul has said in verse 13-14. He is encouraging the Colossians, saying how he prays for them and then he moves into this mighty working of God on their behalf. He says that God, “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption the forgiveness of sins.” Then Paul tells us about this beloved Son. And this is important. If verses 15-20 are not true then who really cares about 13-14 and 21-23?

Who really cares about being transferred into the Kingdom of an impotent God? Who would really care that Jesus rescued us out of darkness if it’s not certain that He can keep us? Can we really be certain of this redemption if Jesus is not in control? If it is not all about Jesus, then are we not being a little ripped off by being in his kingdom? What if its all about me and not Jesus? Then He was really mean to “rescue me”. What does it mean to have a hope in the gospel if its not enough to totally save me? What is hope if it is not our reconciliation to the supreme exalted sovereign God of the universe? Verse 15-20 matters.

If what this text is saying tonight is not true then live however you want. Seriously. Go ahead. It’s not all about Jesus, it’s about you, or maybe somebody else. So live how you want. You are no longer accountable. But if it is true then this truth will demand your absolute attention and obedience. If it really is all about Jesus and your life is lived contrary to that truth then you run a pretty significant risk.

I am not going to go in depth trying to prove to you that it is all about Jesus. The Bible really does not give a ton of evidence to that; it merely states that it is so. Our intent tonight is to open up the Scripture for you and say, “This is what God says”. God says that it is all about Jesus. Paul gives us four truths to show that it is all about Jesus. Here are four truths that we can stick on a Post-It note. They are reminders that it is all about Jesus.

Jesus is God made flesh

You will notice in verse 15 that Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God”. This is another way of saying that Jesus is God made flesh, or human. This is the same thing that the author of Hebrews says in chapter 1 and the same thing that John says in the first chapter of his gospel account. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. This tells us two things. One, God is invisible. Nobody can see God. He is not something you can touch. He is not someone that you can see. At least not normally. Until Jesus, who we will see later is Himself God, took upon Himself human flesh and became the image of God.

The term image is a somewhat difficult one. It can mean one of two things. Typically it has a tad bit of both meanings but is dominated by one or the other. When you think of an image what do you think of? Probably a picture. A Roman would have probably thought of a depiction of their Roman leader on a coin. If you take out a quarter you see an image of George Washington. This is not George Washington. I would be a fool to claim that I have George Washington in my pocket. The quarter only symbolizes Ol’ George. It merely represents our first president. I would venture to say, though, that if George where living with us today and somebody showed him a quarter, he would say, “yep, looks like me”. Not necessarily perfect, but it looks like it’s prototype. It looks like George.

The other meaning of image is the actual manifestation of something. This one is a little harder to grasp. This use of the term image means that the image actually carries with it the presence of the object it represents. In this case I could actually say, I have George Washington in my pocket. Seems a little ludicrous. This is really difficult for us to grasp because we do not think quite the way that the ancients do. As difficult as it is, though, this is the dominate meaning of icon, or image, here in this text. It is saying that Jesus not only actually represents God, he is God in flesh. He is the invisible God made visible. Paul then is declaring that Jesus is God.

Jesus is the Lord over Creation

Next it appears like Paul contradicts what he just said. “He is the firstborn of all creation”. Your NIV will make it a tad less confusing by saying, “He is the firstborn over all creation”. They probably get a little closer to the original meaning, if not the original text. This little statement has been used by false teachers for centuries. Even though the context will not allow it, many people take this verse to be teaching that Jesus is not God, but only a part of creation. He is the first one that God created. Just like a mother has a firstborn son, so God has a firstborn Son named Jesus. As the heretic Arius says, “There was a time when He was not”. (He of course being Jesus).

In their defense that is what this verse sounds like. It does sound like Jesus is the firstborn of creation. The first being that God created. And it could be translated that way. However, a rule of translation is that whenever a word can mean one or more thing, its definition is controlled by the context. The word here can mean two things. First, the original meaning is that Jesus is the “first one to be born”. The other meaning, and this one developed over time in the Jewish and Roman culture, is that of privilege and priority. Again the context dictates our meaning. If we translate it as Jesus being the first one to be born that seems to contradict everything else Paul is saying here. Paul is attempting to show Jesus as outside of, and supreme to creation. Not the first being created. Therefore, it is best for us to consider this as Paul saying that Jesus is the one who receives the inheritance, the privilege of Creation. In others words He is Lord over all creation. Paul will develop this a little more in verse 16, as will we in a few minutes.

Jesus is the Pre-existent God

Skip down to verse 17. After Paul has expounded on what he means by Jesus being the Lord over creation he says that Jesus is “before all things”. The way that this sentence is constructed is a little difficult to pick up in the English. It means He Himself is the before all things. That does not make much sense in English so we take out that second “he”. But let me quickly try to show you the significance of this. In Exodus 3 when God calls Moses from a burning bush, Moses asks, “what is your name”. If you are going to send me to the people of Israel, who shall I say sent me? God’s answer? “Just tell them I am”. It is God’s way of saying, “I am the self-existent One”. I simply am. People then began calling God the I Am, in the Old Testament. Now fast forward a few thousand years to a carpenter in Galilee. He has been teaching some things that the religious leaders of the day disagree with. They get into a spat about whose Father is Abraham. The religious leaders accuse the carpenter of being led by a demon. He responds, “No, I am not, but you are”. He then discusses how His Father will glorify Him. You can pick up the story in verse 56, it’s the carpenter speaking, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, ‘I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him…” Now why the stone throwing? Because Jesus was asserting the same thing that Paul is here in this text. That Jesus is the I AM. The Pre-existent, self-sustaining One. There has never been a time when he was not.

Jesus is the sustainer of the universe

In High School I used to listen to a song by Westside Connection (yes, I am embarrassed to admit that) entitled Money Makes the World Go Round. As you an imagine Westside Connection does not have good theology. It is not money that makes the world go ‘round. It is Jesus. Jesus makes the world go ‘round. Why is the earth still spinning? Jesus. What keeps Venus from colliding into Mercury? Jesus. What keeps our sun from fizzling out? Jesus. What keeps me alive until the day I am destined to die? Jesus. What keeps you alive? Jesus. Jesus makes the world go ‘round.

By, Through, and For

If you are like me then these four things are pretty cool, but it does not quite feel personal enough. How does this truth invade your heart and change your life? These are all really nice things to know, but what does it mean for our life?

Look back with me at verse 16. As we do that, I want to put yourself in the shoes of the Colossians. Once we can relate to them, I think this text will come alive for us. I want you to look down really quick. Some of you have wood underneath you. Probably most of you. On that wood are cracks. Do you remember the elementary school rhyme? Step on a crack you’ll break your mother’s back. Imagine that your life is governed by this. Some of you just cost your family huge doctor bills. You have just ticked off the god of cracks. Now you have to figure out a way to appease him, and maybe talk him out of breaking poor mama’s back.

That may be tough to relate to. Perhaps this is not. You live your life in constant fear that something bigger than you is out to get you. When is my family going to run out of money and we have to eat pickles for a week? When will my parents get divorced and who will I live with? When are my friends going to die? When am I going to die? When are my parents going to die? If I do this, maybe God will provide some money. If I do this, maybe God will save my parents from splitting up. If I do this, maybe God will keep me from dying. If I do this, maybe God will spare my parents. Did I do something to create this? Can I do something to stop it? Satan seems so mean. Satan is really tempting me to sin. It seems like I cannot master this sin. It seems like Satan is more powerful than God. How do we stop Satan from causing a flood in our region? What about those starving children in Africa? What is God’s great purpose there? Our economy is sinking. Who is in charge here and what is this all about?

We’ve just been struck by spiritual amnesia. Now listen to Paul’s remedy in verse 16. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him”.

Did you catch the scope of that? Listen to that verse as one that is scared of angelic beings. These thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities, are all more than likely a hierarchy of angels. Paul is saying, it doesn’t matter who your boogeyangel is, Jesus created it. Whether it’s a good angel or a bad angel He created it. Whether it’s a tornado or a hurricane he created it. Whether its your best friend or your worst enemy He created them. NOTHING. Catch that, nothing falls outside the realm of His Creation. It does not mean that He created them bad. In the case of the devils and the fallen angels. He did not create them bad, but he knew they would be bad. And he still created them. He still created man knowing how screwed up we would be.

I want you to notice three prepositions. Those little words that we skip over but they pack a huge punch. They dictate the meaning of nouns. In this verse it says that everything was created by Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus.

Created By Jesus

This means that everything was created by the means of Jesus. It means that he is the architect. God said, let’s build a house. Jesus says, okay “here are the plans”. What does this truth mean? When the stars come out tonight I want you to pick a star out of the heavens. Look at it for a little while and ask this question. Why is that there? I do not mean, “Why does it exist”. I mean why is it there and not over there. Why is it as many miles away from the earth that it is? It is because Jesus put it there. When he formed the universe he decided that is where it should go. Africa is where it is because Jesus formed it that way. The Mississipi River flows right beside Hannibal because Jesus thought that was a good idea.

This has far more reaching significance. Why do I have big ears? Because Jesus thought that would be a good idea. I am not sure why He thought that was a good idea but He did. Why do you live where you do? Because Jesus decided to plant you here. You were created by Jesus. He thought you were a good idea. He meant to create you. You were not an accident in the mind of God. No matter what your parents intended or did not intend. God meant for you to be here.

Furthermore, when Jesus was on the earth he was living on His creation. That means that the Cross that he hung on, he planted the tree there. He made the rocks. The tree that grew the thorns that the soldiers placed on his head, he made that. He invented thorns. The spit that touched his brow, he created. The crowd that shouted crucify him, he gave them vocal chords. He knitted Judas Iscariot together in his mother’s womb. Nails, his idea. The whips that would rip the flesh off his idea, who do you think made the cows to make the leather? Where do you think the sheep came for to make sheep bones to whip his back? Who invented pain? Who created love? Jesus. The cross was there because he planted it. He is the architect.

Created Through Jesus

Jesus does not just have really good ideas. He is the agent by which they were created. He is the builder. Who hung the stars in their place? Jesus. He thought it’d be a good idea to put Jupiter where he did, so he made it and placed it there. He not only thought people would be a good idea to create, he was active in their creation. This is why his fingerprints are left all over creation. You can see his handiwork in all of creation. Oh, certainly, we’ve really messed it up. We’ve tried dusting it over. But it’s still there. You can see it in the old man and woman holding hands. Jesus is watching and saying, “yep, I invented the sensations in your hand that would make that so pleasurable and comforting that old people do it”. You can see it in the bitter cold which says, “just a reminder, I could make it colder, you are dependent on me”. The sunset. The birds. Other people. It’s there. Fingerprints of Jesus, because he built it.

Created For Jesus

Why? Why did he do all of this? Why make the moth? Why plant a tree that he would be nailed to? Why create humans that would mock him and spit on him? Why create people that would sin against him and rebel from his authority? Why even come up with a plan of redemption? Why? Why even create angels that you knew would fall? Why even create the devil? For Jesus. What are you serious? John Piper expounds on this in a beautifully poetic way:

All that came into being exists for Christ—that is, it exists to display the greatness of Christ. Nothing—nothing!—in the universe exists for its own sake. Everything from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the mountains, from smallest particle to the biggest star, from the most boring school subject to the most fascinating science, from the ugliest cockroach to the most beautiful human, from the greatest saint to the most wicked genocidal dictator—everything that exists, exists to make the greatness of Christ more fully known—including you, and the person you have the hardest time liking.

What does this mean? What does it mean for us that Jesus is the architect, the builder, and the goal and aim of all of life? Two things.

II. Because it is all about Jesus; we must live lives of radical allegiance to Jesus

It is really not wise to rebel from your creator. Seriously. Imagine yourself sitting on the sun. That is pretty difficult to do because you would be burnt up even a few million miles away from it. Totally consumed. Ok, God invented that! Jesus built it. It has his fingerprints and his signature. I seriously would not mess with the God that created the sun.

The Colossians would have understood this concept better than we. As Will Metzger explains:

In the ancient Middle East there existed…sovereign [kings] of the land. These rulers held absolute sway over their subjects. It was a [kings choice whether or not] to initiate a treaty with his subjects. This was no [two-way] agreement negotiated between two equal parties; rather, it was a sovereignly imposed law. He bound his subjects to himself, in effect owning them. In return, not because he was in any way obligated to but purely out of his self-determined will, he pledged himself to protect, defend and show mercy to his subjects. If they kept covenant with their [sovereign] king, all was well—they would experience blessing from his mercy. If they broke covenant, they would be liable to his righteous indignation, his terrible curse. God is our [sovereign] king.

Just as those in the ancient Middle East were accountable to their sovereign king, so are we accountable to the sovereign Lord of the universe. We owe our absolute allegiance to him. Yet, how often do we forget this and live lives contrary to this truth. We forget who is in charge and continue living lives that are marked by allegiance to self rather than to our Lord. We forget that it’s all about Jesus, and not about me. Regardless of our failure this is our standard. This is what we should strive towards, absolute allegiance to Jesus.

What does that mean? What does that look like? Simply this, does Jesus have it all? The way I talk…what I say, what I don’t say. The music I listen to. The music I don’t listen to. My career. My marriage. The television I watch or don’t watch. What I do when I hang out with friends…or what I don’t do. Are all of these lived in radical obedience and dependence on the gospel of Jesus Christ?

If you are anything like me then the answer is no. We struggle from spiritual amnesia. We forget who is in charge and what it is all about, and our lives begin to reflect absolute allegiance to something else. We slip and we fall. That is why we must consider the other side of the coin as well:

III. Because it is all about Jesus; we must live lives of radical dependence on Jesus

This is what Paul wants them to really catch. We ought to strive to have absolute allegiance to Jesus, that is without question. But Paul knows something about the human condition. We mess up. And what do we do whenever we mess up? The Colossians were living lives of fear. They knew that they were not perfect enough to appease all of these angelic beings—much less God Himself. Their relationship with God began looking like their relationship to all these angelic beings; afraid to mess up, and when you do, you must quickly and passionately attempt to make self-atonement for your screw up.

Remember this section is not divorced from verses 13-14 or 21-23. This King Jesus is our Reconciler and our Redemption. He has done it. That is why Paul is so astounded that the Colossians seem to be making room for this heresy that denies the sufficiency of Christ. They are suffering form spiritual amnesia. They are forgetting that Jesus’ work is fully sufficient to atone for their screw ups. When we fail in our absolute allegiance, the gospel message is that Jesus Christ took our punishment for that and gives in its place his absolute allegiance to the Father. He gives to us what He demands. That is the gospel. We must not move from this. Notice what Paul says in verse 23, after giving us all the good news and the promises he says this, “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard…”

So I ask,

Are you disobediently fearful? Do you trust the gospel and the power of Christ enough to live like its real? If this really is true, isn’t Jesus also in control over our evangelism? Doesn’t this mean that the gospel really is the power of God to save? If He can hang the star can’t he change the heart of a gospel hardened sinner? Ought we not to live and believe and act as if that is true? Do we pray like that is true? Do we plead with God to save souls? Do we preach the gospel like its real? Do we take the gospel to the nations or do we try to doctor it up and be patient until someone is “ready to accept it”?

Is your heart crippled by doubts and fears? What will tomorrow bring? Why did this happen? What if it happens again? How can I know that I’m going to live tomorrow? Living a life of trying to preserve comfort, safety, and your life on earth will be wasted. It wasn’t meant for you to save it…it’s meant for Jesus to save it, redeem it, and have it.

In the midst of our difficulties and sufferings…In the middle of our struggle with spiritual amnesia I encourage you with Jesus the Lord of Creation. If Jesus has the power to hang a star he help me in need! And if Jesus decides not to help me in need…not only does he have that right, but I am sure He has a reason. Therefore, brothers and sisters I encourage you live lives of radical obedience and absolute allegiance to Jesus Christ, and tonight when the stars come out, look up. And remember why that star is there. And remind yourself that the One that hung that star is your Redeemer and your King.

Friday, April 11, 2008

How Does a Beggar Glorify a Rich Man

How a Beggar Glorifies a Rich Man
Colossians 1:9-14 (Part 2)
Giving Thanks for the Work of God

Scripture Introduction:

Last week I quoted a church historian that said of many Christians that, “below the surface of their lives are guilt-ridden and insecure…[and] draw the assurance of their acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.” Is this not the plight of many of us? As most Christians we believe that God loves us. We might have a hard time and question that, but typically we know that God loves us. The question on many of our hearts, however, is not whether or not God loves us. The question on many of our hearts is whether or not God likes us. We know he loves us, but does he like us? Is He pleased with us?

Often our questions get deeper and darker; especially during times of spiritual drought and unconfessed sin. Rather than wondering whether God likes us we drive the question a little deeper. Does God accept me? As most Christians we believe that God is holy and cannot look upon sin. This gives us a theological problem when we consider the fact of our continuing sin. If God cannot look at sin, and I am sinful, then how can He accept me? We all understand that Jesus took our sin, but what do we do with the sin after we become Christians? Does God still forget about those? Are we really accepted by God, even if we continue to be screw-ups? These questions, I believe, are underlying Paul’s prayer for the Colossians.

Colossians 1:9-14

Sermon Introduction:

Paul is praying that the Colossians may give thanks for the work of God in their life. This, of course, is always our goal, to give praise and thanksgiving to God. To glorify Him in all that we do. This is the foundation of Paul’s prayer; his hope that the church at Colossae may join in the myriad of saints in the eternal praise of God. But how are we to do that? What does it mean to give thanks to God? How do you do that?

Is it a simple thank you? Is it something to the effect of, “look what God has done for you, now what are you going to give him”? Perhaps we can best come to answer by giving an analogy. Imagine a beggar. He has no cash. His clothes are tattered and torn. His breath is smelly. His hair is unkempt. His biggest hope is to get a few coins to get a coffee or a beer to drown out his pain. Every afternoon around 3:00 he waits outside a successful law firm, hoping to get a few coins from the wealthy employees. One day a young businessman exits the law firm. It has been a relatively tough day and his mind is wandering and his heart is betting a little excited about his plans for the evening. Suddenly, he is awakened from his day-slumber. He notices the man. The beggar. The tattered clothes. He reaches in his pocket for a few quarters, but something hits him. Perhaps it was a Sunday school lesson from his childhood, maybe it was the Mexican he had for lunch. He decides to really bless this beggar. Rather than giving this man a few dollars to get him through the night. The man decides to lavish riches upon the beggar. He stoops down to the old man, and asks him if he would like to go for a ride. Of course, the beggar is a little reluctant, but with a little pleading he follows the man. What happens next is almost unbelievable. The rich lawyer goes to the closest 5th Avenue store and buys the beggar an expensive suit. They get a haircut. He takes the man to get a shower. He takes him out for a really nice dinner. Then at the end of the night he gives the beggar a key chain. On the key chain is a key to his new car, his new house, and to the building of his new office. He has taken the beggar off the street and set him in the lap of luxury. Now, how does the beggar give gratitude to the rich man? If we can speak this away, how would the beggar glorify the rich man? How would he magnify the works of the rich man? What could the beggar do to make the rich man shine the brightest?
Our answer to that question, will dictate whether or not we understand thanksgiving and gratitude towards God. What we see in Paul’s prayer is that the Colossians (as well as us) ought to give thanks to God for the great work that he has done. We are like the beggar. And God is like the rich man. There are a few differences and we will iron those out as we move through the text. Asking how a beggar glorifies a rich man is like asking, how a helpless redeemed sinner glorifies God.

Tonight Paul is going to pray that the Colossians might give thanks, and in this prayer he is going to show the reason why they ought to give thanks. The big thing, and we will flesh out what this means, is that God has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints of light. What on earth does that even mean?

First we must consider the historical situation that the Colossians church was in. Remember the group of heretics that were preaching fullness outside of Christ. These same people were also trying to discourage and disqualify the Colossians. It was a form of spiritual elitism. A good example of this would have been the time that a guy informed me that I was not saved because I had yet to receive the Ghost. What he meant by this is that because I had not yet been slain in the spirit or because I do not speak in tongues, then it is evident that I am not actually saved. In his view because I did not have this spiritual experience I was disqualified from a place in heaven. We see a similar thing in Colossians 2:18, “let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind…” These people had a special spiritual experience and they went around disqualifying everyone that did not have it. This caused those in Colossae, to question their faith.

In light of this we note a key word that Paul uses in his prayer. When you are studying a letter written by Paul, be certain to pay especially close attention to his introduction and his prayers. It will typically give a few hints as to what the letter is about and why it is written. Here we pick up on two really key themes. Those two key themes are the work of God in qualifying us, and that which He has qualified us for—the inheritance.

What is this inheritance? There are a few things mentioned in Scripture, such as the ruling of angels, inheriting the earth, a glorified body, partakers in the kingdom of God, to name a few. But more than anything we find that the hope of glory, the inheritance is God Himself. The language is similar in 2:3, where Paul says, “God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” The concept of inheritance is all throughout the New Testament, and our author, Paul, uses it more than any other author. For him the inheritance is entry into the Kingdom of God and all that this entails. If we know Paul and understand his great passion is to know and be known by Jesus Christ then we can be certain that entry in the kingdom has something to do with enjoyment of the King.

What he is saying then is that the Colossians have gotten their entry ticket. They have been qualified by God. He has qualified them. Just as our story with the beggar we have done nothing to earn it. All we have done is play the part of beggar. He has graciously decided to bestow upon us all of these gifts. He has decided to qualify us, make us acceptable, for the kingdom of God.

If you are in Jesus Christ then you are qualified. Period. This is objective truth. This is truth outside yourself. This is true whether you feel it or not. As Sam Storms has said:

Whatever feelings of inadequacy or sense of shame or depths of despair may have crippled you till now, God has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light! If you found yourself saying, "I'm not up to the task. I'm a miserable failure. I'm a hell-deserving wretch. I don't deserve to stand in God's presence. The only thing I should inherit is death," God now says to those who are in Christ: "Qualified! Forgiven! Adequate in Jesus! Righteous in my Son! Come and receive and enjoy your inheritance together with all the saints in the life-giving, soul-cleansing light of my kingdom!"

Now because of this work of God we ought to give thanks. We ought to give thanks to the one that has qualified us and has given us a part in the inheritance. Tonight we will look at two things. What has God done to qualify us? How do we give Him thanks?

I. Because God has conquered our greatest foe we must give thanks

In some ways Paul has closed his prayer at verse 12. He is, expounding upon, fleshing out his prayer from verse 13 on. In verse 13-14 he is letting us know more about the Father’s work in qualifying us. Verse 15-20 will specifically deal with who Jesus is and His work. Verse 21-23 is going to make it personal and put us under the foot of the Cross and show what benefits we have received from this work. All of this is under the title of the Father who has qualified you. Paul’s desire in this first section and his hope even in his prayer, is to give the Colossians hope and assurance so that they might press on in their faith. He is reminding them here that they God has qualified them. But how? What has God done specifically to qualify them?

The first thing that God has done, and we see this in the first part of verse 13, is that God has conquered our greatest foe. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness…” This word for delivered is a beautiful word. It was used to describe a soldier going to a wounded comrade on the battlefield and snatching him to safety. It is a powerful and very active word. This is the thing that fairy tales are made of. This is the knight swooping through the air with arrows flying to save the princess. This is the parent going into a blazing building to save his helpless child. This is a rescue mission.

Again notice the part we play. We are the helpless child. We are the princess. We are the wounded comrade. Yet, all of those analogies do not quite cut it. We have sympathy for the helpless child. We see the beauty in the princess. We have loyalty to draw us to our wounded comrade. A better picture would be of a man whose daughter was being raped and murdered. After committing this atrocious act the perpetrator finds himself trapped in the house that he was trying to burn down to dispose of the evidence. Fully aware of what this man had just done, the husband flies into the burning house to save the murdering rapist that just killed his daughter. He has rescued this man.

We are appalled by that story and would probably rather see the murdering rapist burnt. We feel that this is a great injustice. At least until we realize that we are the murdering rapist. For, we have done far worse. We took part in killing God’s Son. I am aware theologically that God killed His Son. I am aware of that. But that death would not have been necessary had we not been there yelling crucify Him. It was our sin that held him that necessitated it. Yet, God still came and rescued us.

What did he deliver us from? What was our greatest foe? Paul says here that it was the domain of darkness. What is that? Domain is kind of like kingdom. It could be translated kingdom, but I think that might fall a little short. The domain is that which is under the power of a ruler. While you are in this domain you are under his rule. In this case the domain of darkness is that which is under Satan’s realm of influence. Scripture often speaks of the world as the domain of darkness. By world we would mean world system; that which is under the influence of the devil. Yet also factored into all of this is the flesh. Our flesh is fallen and serves its master joyously. Apart from Christ we serve our flesh. Our flesh serves the devil. And then God’s Law also stands before us to condemn us, and give us the rightful sentence of death. This domain of darkness is not including the Law. It is holy and good. But the Law stands to condemn all those in the domain of darkness.

The reality is that tonight you are either in one of two kingdoms. Either you are in the kingdom of his beloved Son, that we will look at in a moment, or you are in the domain of darkness. There is no middle ground. Do you realize what it means to be under the influence of Satan? We are not speaking here of demonic possession, although that is possible. What we are speaking of is being constantly influenced by Satan. All of your decisions, your heart that you are told to trust so much, everything is blinded by Satan. Even your ability to hear the gospel tonight is affected by this. If you walk out of here tonight without a passion and love for Jesus Christ it is because Satan is still blinding you. Listen to what Jonathan Edwards says of those that are in the domain of darkness:

"always exposed to destruction as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall...always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction...every moment liable to once without warning" Edwards goes on to write that we were all once in danger of spending eternity apart from God -- "God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost...The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. "

This is your state apart from Christ; in the domain of darkness. All of us that are in Christ this was at one point our state. As Paul says in his almost parallel letter to the Ephesians, “And you were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

In Colossians it says that God delivered us from this domain of darkness. In Ephesians Paul fleshes that out a little more. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ”. This is what God has done. He has qualified us by conquering our greatest foe. We will look at the specifics of how he did this at a different time. For now it is enough to say that he has done it! Scripture is proclaiming here that he has rescued us from the domain of darkness. He has come into the world and conquered the tight reign that the devil had. We are no longer under the power and influence of the devil. The grip of his influence has been broken. The chains of the flesh are now broken. Christian you are no longer in bondage to sin. You do not “have to sin”. You choose to. This is both freeing and saddening. It is liberating because we do not have to be conquered by any sin. But it is saddening and ought to cause us to weep because our sin now is far more deliberate. Still covered by the blood of Jesus, but still not pleasing to God. As the Puritan Thomas Watson said, “the sins of the wicked pierce Christ’s sides, the sins of the godly wound his heart.” Nonetheless, we have been rescued from the domain of darkness.

We ought to give thanks for God in this area. How? Again, how would a beggar show gratitude to a rich man. Does he try to pay him back? Is that how he makes him look glorious? Does he give him gifts? What about undying allegiance and devotion. Perhaps, that is part of it. But we are trying to say thank you to the rich man. Perhaps one way the beggar could say thanks would be to not squander his gifts on beer. It would be most unthankful for the beggar to go back to his old way of life. To sell his new house for drugs would be most unthankful. To pawn off his suit to buy beer would not be showing thanks. Another way he could not give thanks would be to live out on the street in front of his new house. The man has qualified him to live in the house. Yet, if the beggar is too proud and decides to still live on the street it will be a slap in the face. If he says I do not feel like I am qualified, therefore, I ought to get what I deserve, I will live on the street until I can pay for this house. That would not be saying thanks. The way for the beggar to show the most gratitude would be to live in the house, enjoy his new life, and not go back into the old way of living. To continue to be homeless while a man has bought you a house is not holy it is stupid. To continue to live on the streets when you have been delivered from that way of life is absolutely ignorant and is not displaying gratitude.

Therefore, how do we give God thanks for this? One way is to not continue living in sin. This is not an “earning salvation” type of thing. It is just simple common sense and it is biblical. If you have been redeemed from sin how can you live in it any longer? This is Paul’s simple admonishment in Romans 6:12-14, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been bought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”. Paul is saying here what we have been saying this whole time. Do not be a stupid beggar and stay on the street when God has given you a house to live in.


II. Because God has secured our greatest joy, we must give thanks

If we go back to our analogy of the murdering rapist saved in the fire, I think we will see how astonishing this point is. It was an amazing act of kindness to save the man. That is enough to blow your mind. But to take the man into your home, pay all of his doctor bills, and adopt him as your own son is unheard of. This is, on a much smaller scale, what God has done with us. Of course we can never have a fitting analogy because our sin against each other pales in comparison to our sin against our Creator. Our love will always be tainted. God’s love is not. But this helps us to at least get a picture of what God is doing here. Not only did he rescue us, but he also transferred us into his kingdom.

Rather then than being under the rule and influence of Satan we are under the rule and influence of the loving King Jesus. We will learn much more about this beloved Son in the coming weeks. For now let us see the benefits of being transferred into His kingdom. He gives us redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

It is one thing to rescue someone, it is quite another to restore someone. That is what Christ is doing here. In fact that is what Christ has done. He has secured our redemption. Redemption carries with it the idea of being delivered from slavery. In order to redeem someone a price must be paid. At this point the KJV adds the words “through his blood”. Those words are more than likely not in the original and should not be added here. Nonetheless, the theology behind it is accurate. We have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Jesus blood bought us back. It paid the ransom. It is true that we were in bondage to Satan. And there is one sense in which he secured our redemption from that. But more than anything the redemption price was paid to God. It was His Law that stood against us. And Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law and paid the penalty of the Law with his blood thus securing our redemption. We are forgiven our sins.

As we began the sermon we again quoted the church historian. I will quote him once more. Referring to most Christians he says that, “below the surface of their lives are guilt-ridden and insecure…[and] draw the assurance of their acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.”

First let’s discuss this in light of our call to give thanks. Would the beggar be showing his gratitude by living a life with a somber face as if nothing had ever changed? Would the best way for him to show gratitude and glorify the rich man not be to enjoy the rich man’s gifts, and all the while giving the rich man credit for every ounce of joy that comes his way? If he is miserable in a new house, then is it any different than him being miserable on the street? Christ has secured our greatest joy—union with Himself. If we are not living in that and enjoying that then are we really giving thanks? So, our admonishment tonight is to enjoy what Christ has purchased. Live like we are saved. What does that mean?Live like you are free. Enjoy your salvation. It frees you to love. It frees you to give. It frees you to worship. It frees you serve. It frees you from the grip of guilt. It frees you from the bondage of sin. It frees you to live life as it was meant to live. It frees you from being distracted by the cares of the world and allows you to enjoy some of the blessings God gives us, like sunsets. Like babies. Like friends. Like love. Live like you have been saved.

It also frees you to mourn. It frees you to have hope in the midst of trials. It frees you to suffer for a cause. It frees you to give your life to something meaningful. It frees you to spill your blood for the great cause of proclaiming Christ to the nations. It frees you to do that which gives the greatest joy, making Christ the only boast of this generation. Live like you have a new King.

And some of you are probably sitting there thinking, but I don’t feel saved. I don’t feel forgiven. I don’t fell joyful. I don’t feel like I’m free from the bondage of sin. I don’t feel like enjoying a sunset. I don’t feel free.

This is the difference between subjective and objective. Notice what the church historian said defined most Christians, where they drew their assurance…”by their past, their performance, their level of sinning, and their feelings of guilt or lack thereof.” All of those are subjective. It is something that is inward, something that is happening to you. It is shifting. It changes. Therefore your assurance changes. Your security changes. Your feelings change. Your relationship with God changes. How you are doing with Jesus changes. Notice what is missing from their definition and the way Paul talks about this. Look at what is missing from Colossians 1:9-14. “You” or “we” in an active voice, that is what is missing. The Father has qualified you. The Father is active, we are passive. It has happened to us. It is something that is outside of us. Notice that He has delivered us. Again, “he” is active. “Us” is passive. He has transferred us. It is in Jesus that we have redemption. Again we are passive, He is active. What does that mean? It means that if you are in union with Jesus Christ, then all of these things are true of you:

“as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12)

“in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back” (Isa. 38:17)

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isa. 43:25)

“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1)

“If the Son has set you free you are free indeed”. (Jn. 8:36)

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13)

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15)

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13-14)

All of these are true whether you feel them or not. If you are in Christ Jesus you are forgiven, you are clean, you have been redeemed, you have been delivered, you have been transferred. All of this is true, whether you feel it or not! Therefore, live by faith in objective truth and not subjective truth. I close with a poem by William Cowper:

Sin enslaved my many years,
And led me bound and blind;
Till at length a thousand fears
Came swarming o’er my mind.

“Where,” said I, in deep distress,
“Will these sinful pleasures end?
How shall I secure my peace,
And make the Lord my friend?”

Friends and ministers said much
The gospel to enforce;
But my blindness still was such,
I chose a legal course:

Much I fasted, watch’d and strove,
Scarce would shew my face abroad,
Fear’d almost to speak or move,
A stranger still to God.

Thus afraid to trust His grace,
Long time did I rebel;
Till despairing of my case,
Down at His feet I fell:

Then my stubborn heart He broke,
And subdued me to His sway;
By a simple word He spoke,
“Thy sins are done away.”

Monday, April 7, 2008

Enjoying What Christ Purchased: The Benefit of the Knowledge of God's Will

Colossians 1:9-14

Scripture Introduction:

Do you ever get frustrated with trying to be a good Christian? Do you get a little down in the dumps because of your inability to follow Jesus as you ought to? Does your struggle with sin ever cause you to feel a sense of despair? I know it does me. Does your experience of Christianity sometimes feel the exact opposite of the abundant life that Jesus promised? Does it ever feel like rather than having a vibrant relationship with God you are barely trying to keep your head above the water? When you hear of the faith of the Colossians that can be “heard”, an active, lived out, visible type of faith, does that cause frustration? Do you ever think, heck, I am just trying to keep from denying Jesus altogether? Maybe you would not go that far, but certainly you would not define your relationship with Jesus as where it needs to be. Would we all not say that we ought to be reading our Bibles more, praying more, sharing Jesus with others, loving God more, loving others more.

What about trying to know God’s will for your life? All of those really tough decisions, what does God have to say about them? Does it sometimes feel like a Ouija board might be a better option to finding out what you should do with your life than prayer? Do you feel hopeless trying to understand God’s Word? Oh, the frustrations of the Christian life.

What about those dark times of the soul? I am certain that you have had those times when you wonder if you are even saved; those times when God seems a million miles away; those times when you are overcome with sin; those times when sin looks so good, yet its eating you alive, but you cannot seem to get rid of it, then you are plagued with guilt. As Church historian Richard Lovelace explored the centuries of Christians he found a theme in the lives of many great men and women that “below the surface of their lives [they] are guilt-ridden and insecure”.

Tonight we are going to discuss this very thing; how to live a Christian life that is above mediocre. We will discuss a few things that will help you to rise above these difficulties and live a Christian life that is a little more passionate, vibrant, and exciting. Rather than living our Christian lives in defeat, tonight we are going to discover how to live them in victory. Tonight we are going to talk about living a more full Christianity.

Before we begin, I need you to be open and honest with me. I need to ask a few questions.

How do you feel right now about this message? Are you pumped? Are you excited to know some of the keys to living a life that is pleasing to God? Do you have your pen and paper ready so that you can take notes to help you live a more abundant Christian life? Do you want the fullness of Christianity? Any guesses as to what these “keys” to living the Christian life are? Anyone want to take a guess at them? I am sure that you have heard them before.

Before we get into our text let me propose something to you. Together we have just preached a 21st century version of the Colossian heresy. It sounds different. Our advice sounds smarter and more spiritual, but on the surface it is really quite similar. Is that a little bit scary to you? Maybe you are a little confused and do not see the difference between the gospel and what I just said as our introduction. That should cause you to be a little concerned. Very few people would bite on these lies if they were not appealing and at least had a hint of truth. So how do you know? What will help you “make it”? What Paul prayed for the Colossian church in 1:9-14 (really it’s hard to discern where his prayer stops) is still a needed prayer for us in 21st century New London.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Sermon Introduction:

Paul’s prayer is not some canned prayer that he prays without thinking of his audience. This prayer is specific for the church at Colossae. Though it may be very similar to what he prays for other churches, the context will not permit us to divorce this prayer from the Colossians. Yet, at the same time, as we have experienced ourselves, we too need this prayer. We need that which Paul pleads with God for. The way I read this text is this way:

Request #1: Filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding

Fruit of Request #1:
Walking in a manner worthy of the Lord
which results in being fully pleasing to Him
Bearing fruit in every good work
Increasing in the knowledge of God

Request #2: That you may be strengthened with all power (which comes from God)

Fruit of Request #2:

The overall goal and ground of this prayer:
Thanksgiving to the Father for His glorious work through Jesus Christ

As we look at this we see two major things that Paul believes that the Colossians need, in order to remain faithful to Jesus in the midst of persecution, and to endure through this false teaching. Paul’s goal is always to see the churches to which he ministers be faithful to Jesus; Colossae is no different. These two things are the requests. Being filled with the knowledge of his will and being strengthened with power.

Many of you said that you were excited about a sermon that answers some of those penetrating questions that we asked earlier. Perhaps some of you felt your bubble burst as you realized that it was closer to a teaching of heresy. Yet, certainly heresy would not answer the deep questions of our soul better than the truth of Jesus. The good news is this; we are going to answer those questions tonight.

I fear, however, that if we jump right into looking at this text and making it practical and answering those questions, that you might go astray. I have yet to make it clear the difference between the Colossian heresy and the gospel.

The difference is in the way they are proposing to build a Christian. Or to steal an analogy from Paul, the way they propose to build a building. The Colossian heresy sees the gospel as the bottom rung. It is very important; they may even call it the foundation. Yet, they begin to build a building with their own bricks, their own mortar, their own putty; they use their hammer, and their nails. The gospel is there for the foundation. We build the house. It is as if they are saying, “Epaphras did a good job in getting you started. He laid a pretty good foundation. Now, let us help you build a really beautiful house. We will tell you now how to build a good house. Listen to us, we will lead you.”

Building a building the way that Paul did, the way that all those who treasure the gospel ought to is much different. Rather than seeing the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, given and crucified for sinners…Very God Himself, that came down and gave His life to die on a tree to condemn sin in the flesh, and would later rise from the grave to secure not only the forgiveness of our sins but also give us the gift of new life. This gospel, the glorious gospel that is preached and proclaimed by such men; this gospel that was bearing fruit throughout the world; this gospel that is penetrating the lives of those at Colossae; this gospel that is preached by such men as Epaphras; this gospel…rather than seeing it as a foundation, those that preach and proclaim the biblical gospel, those that live a biblical gospel, do not see it as merely a foundation. Those that live and breath the gospel see the insearchable riches of Jesus Christ in every brick that is laid in the building. Those that believe the gospel see the blood of Christ sealing one brick on top of another brick. Those that proclaim such a beautiful gospel see the glory of God in every ounce of mortar. The gospel permeates everything and does not serve as a mere foundation. The gospel IS the building, and it is built from the storehouse of God’s treasures.

What that means is this. The Colossians are promising a fullness to be added on top of Christ and His glorious gospel. That is their answer to your questions. All of these hoops and loops that you have to jump through to live the abundant Christian life. This teaching is still penetrating our churches today. 7 steps to living this way…8 ways to do this…the key to the Christian life…follow these steps, like prayer, bible reading, meditation, forgiveness, etc. etc. and you will live the abundant Christian life. The biblical gospel says this, your fullness if found in Jesus Christ alone. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Is it really that simple? If so, why do we not experience it? If it really is already purchased in Christ, and we already possess it, that seems to be what Paul is saying, then why do we not experience it? Why does our Christian life seem to be one frustration after another frustration? The truth that we will proclaim tonight is this, the reason that we are often living in frustration is because we do not believe the gospel. We do not draw from the treasures that Christ possessed.

Jerry Bridges in his excellent work, The Gospel for Real Life tells the story of a slave. The Southern plantation owner that owned him left him a $50,000 inheritance. In those days that would be equivalent to about $500,000. The lawyer for the estate notified the slave of his inheritance. The money was deposited in a local bank, and the slave was told that he could draw from this $50,000 inheritance at any time. Weeks went by and the slave never came in to even get a dime. Finally, the banker calls upon him and reminds him of this $50,000. To this the former slave requested some of his inheritance. In a humble and polite manner, he says, “Sir, do you reckon I could get 50 cents to buy me a bag of corn meal”. He had never handled money so he had no comprehension of his wealth. He died having only drawn .50 from a $50,000 bank account.

Brothers and sisters we are like that slave. We live our lives as if the gospel is only good enough for withdrawing a bag of cornmeal. The truth is that Christ has purchased far more than $50,000. The unsearchable riches of Christ that are given to us, are just that…unsearchable; vast beyond number. So extensive that no man can comprehend it. The glories and beauty of Christ will take all of eternity to unfold and it has been given to us. And this not simply in the future. This is for today. We can draw from this account any day. Tonight we will look at these two things that Paul prayers for us, and see how this has been purchased by Christ.

I. Fruit-Producing Knowledge
The first thing Paul prays is that the Colossians might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. That is really a rather big statement. There are 5 packed words in this phrase that I see, so lets try to unpack them briefly. First to unpack is the word filled. It simply means to be permeated with, not merely tasting but basking in, soaking up, and overflowing in the knowledge of his will. Not being satisfied with only a drink of knowledge but with every drink you desire another. But what type of knowledge is this talking about? Is it mere head knowledge? The second thing for us to see is that this knowledge that Paul speaks of is not simple head knowledge but knowledge which springs forth into affection. You have heard me say it before that if your theology (or knowledge) does not break forth into doxology (or praise) then either your theology is wrong or you do not grasp it. The type of knowledge that Paul is speaking of here is the type of knowledge which causes your soul to break-dance. It’s knowledge which produces affection and action.

The third thing to consider is the “will” that is mentioned here. God’s will has in our day taken on a sort of mystical, crystal ball, definition. Paul’s readers would have had no trouble understanding what Paul means here. His prayer is not that the Colossians would be overflowing with an experiential knowledge of God’s plan for your life. Paul is not praying that the Colossians might know who to marry, where to get a job, where to shop for groceries, who to talk to, where to invest your money, etc. It certainly may lead to knowledge in these areas but that is not his primary intent. What Paul means by the “his will” in this text is the revealed will of God. Rather than spending their time trying to figure out the secret will of God it would be wise for us to spend our time trying to figure out how to root sin out of our lives and be obedient to that which God has already revealed. To sum up what we have so far what Paul is praying is that the Colossians might come to know through experience and affection the revealed will of God to an overflowing.

Yet, he continues and qualifies it. He says spiritual wisdom and understanding. These are our fourth and fifth phrases. Paul’s point here is simple. He is praying that this knowledge might also be the type that judges correctly in all spiritual matters. His prayer is that the knowledge of God’s revealed will, will help them to determine the best course of action. Not only that but that it will help them to have a worldview that is centered upon God’s revealed will. So then, what Paul is praying is that the Colossians might be overflowing with such an experiential knowledge of God’s revealed will that it might shape their worldview and cause them to make correct decisions. And as we will see in verse 10 is that this type of knowledge will produce things. There are two things for us to learn on this point.

A. We ought to vigorously pursue understanding theology

One of the reasons why we are often frustrated in our walk with Christ is because our theology is not very grounded. It is not that you need to know a ton of facts and remember the dates of things, or even that it is important to know such big terms as transubstantiation. Paul is not saying that you have to be a scholar that knows the original languages and could be able to write commentaries. This is not specifically what Paul is praying for. Yet, he does pray that they might be filled with good grounded theology.

There is an unbiblical “anti-intellectualism” that pervades Christianity today, and our community is not immune. Its cry is, “I don’t need all that theology, just give me Jesus.” It is championed by such men as the baseball prayer turned preacher that said, “If I had a million dollars I’d give $999,999 to the church and $1 to education.” This may sound very spiritual, but the truth is that it is creating what is called a false dichotomy. It is splitting up two things that are not to be split up. Did Jesus not say that we are to love God with our minds? Anti-intellectualism is a sin, because it is a refusal to pursue God and love Him with all of our minds.
Notice the results of Paul’s prayer that they be filled to overflowing with knowledge. It almost seems like Paul is saying that if they are desiring to please the Lord, if they want to bear fruit, and if they want to know Jesus more, then it will come through having a knowledge of God’s will; which means having good theology. Therefore, we ought to vigorously pursue understanding theology.

Going back to story of the wealthy slave that only used 50 cents of his inheritance, what would have helped him to enjoy his inheritance more? One thing would have been a better understanding of money. If he could understand the way that money works then he could have began to grasp his wealth: so it with us and Christ. We ought not to be satisfied with simply dipping into the well of the water of life. What Paul is praying for the Colossians is that they might be filled with this knowledge. Try not to think of it as if Paul is saying, filled up to the brim so that you’ll know everything and never need to ask another question. That is not what Paul has in mind. What he is praying is that they might be continually filled to overflowing with knowledge; constantly growing, constantly learning, and perpetually unfolding the glories of Christ.

How do you do this? Sitting under the preaching and teaching of the Word is something you are doing right now. That is a good thing. Also, reading good Christian books. I read a ton, if you need assistance in finding some good books, chances are that I will either have the book or know how to get it quickly. I can point you in the direction of some good books. In as much as it lies in his control a believer ought to be frequently reading to develop a better understanding of God. Listening to Christian books. Listening to sermons on your IPod. All of these are good ways to remain under the teaching of the Word.

Reading the Bible for yourself. Studying the Bible. Asking questions. Not being content with a cursory understanding but trying to penetrate to the core meaning of the texts. Do not let other people do the dirty work for you. Try to feed yourself a little. Try to even teach others. Get with a group of other believers and discuss difficult texts. Go to Bible studies. Start Bible studies. Do not be content with only having a little knowledge of God. It is imperative if we are to follow God and be faithful to Jesus that we have a growing knowledge of who God is.

B. Our vigorous pursuit of theology ought to result in action

There is another side to this though. You cannot simply pursue knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Simple intellectualism is no good either. Anti-intellectualism is a sin, but so is mere head knowledge. Scripture admonishes us to love God with our heart as well as our mind. If your theology does not break forth into affections and doxology then it is not grounded theology. Furthermore if your theology does not break out into affection which springs into action then it is simple emotionalism. You do not understand the truth nor is it actually the truth which is moving you.

The type of knowledge that Paul is praying for is the type of knowledge that causes you to act. Notice the “bearing fruit in every good work”. This is where I struggle. I can spend hours in my office reading books and soaking up knowledge. Yet, if that knowledge does not develop into affections and action then something is wrong with me. The study of theology is not the problem. This point is not to negate the first. Yet, we must apply that which we learn. We have to live out our theology.

Unfortunately, we are not going to have time to look at verse 11. Nor have we really exhausted these verses. Next time we will briefly revisit them, but will spend a majority of our time in verse 12-14. That is where we will turn now to sum up this section and introduce our sermon next week.

Understanding verse 12-14 will keep us from running off into do-goodism which will end in futility and even more discouragement. Do not take this sermon as if I am saying that the secret to the Christian life is to acquire knowledge. That is Gnosticism. The “mystery” of the Christian life is this, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”. Our union with Christ Jesus is the truth from which everything else flows.

What Paul is praying for is not that they might do something to attain something they do not already have. It is not as if Paul is praying that the Colossians might do some kind of work, be paid wages, add it to their account of knowledge, spend some knowledge, do some more work, etc. It is not a prayer that they might continually try to acquire more knowledge. That is not what he means.

The truth, and this is what Paul is saying in verse 12-14, is that Christ has already qualified us. Because of our union with Christ all that He has He graciously gives to us. Remember what 2:3 says, in Christ are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. So, what Paul is praying for the Colossians and how this applies to us, is that we might grow in our understanding of what Jesus has already purchased for us. Paul is praying that the slave might learn what it means to be free and have been given an inheritance.

Paul is proclaiming the gospel in verse 12-14. He is telling us of the work of Christ and what it means for those that are in union with Him. Verses 9-11 is his prayer that the Colossians might fully understand and live every day in light of what Christ has already done. May we understand the riches of Christ, and enjoy them to the glory of Christ.