A lot of people really struggle with different ways to get closer to God. See if you’ve ever met anyone like this:
Have you ever met anyone who said, “I want to get closer to God but I believe there are lots of different ways to get closer? One way is good for this person and another way is good for that person. One of the problems I have with Christianity is there is only one way and I struggle with that.”
Have you ever met anybody who said, “I think the way to get closer to God is by getting closer to His messengers? I think that angels are the way to get closer to God.”
Have you ever met anybody who said, “I think the way to get closer to God is by a list of rules? If I get the right list of rules and keep them and do pretty well, better than most people, I feel like I would be getting closer to God.”
Have you ever met anyone who said, “Religion is what you give up. If I give up enough things, don’t do enough things then God will really love me. It’s obvious if I don’t do enough things.”
All those things I’ve just described, all those ways of getting closer to God may sound very contemporary. They may sound like ways that people try to get closer to God in our society but I just described the ways that people were trying to get close to God in a city called Colossae two thousand years ago. Actually 1950 years ago. This city and its problems almost exactly parallel our society today. There’s a lesson here – there’s nothing new under the sun. If anybody says, “I’ve come up with a new way to get closer to God,” if you hear anybody say that on a tape, on the radio – it’s been tried before. Almost all of them were tried in the first hundred years of the church. Satan threw everything he could, every false teaching he could at the church at the very beginning. I think one of the reasons God allowed Satan to throw all those false teachings at the church at the beginning was because He wanted us to have the answers. People like Paul would write to these churches and say, “Here are the answers.”
Today we call that New Age, when someone takes all those different ideas and tries to compile them all into one thing and throws a little humanism in with other things. Back then they had a different name for it. They called it Gnosticism. In fact in Colossae it was Gnosticism – which means “knowledge” in the Greek language mixed with a bunch of other things. People who write about this call it the Colossian false teaching or the Colossian heresy.
If we start a study in this book we’re going to find answers. Answers for yourself about getting closer to God, answers for people who talk to you about getting closer to God. We’re going to walk through this book, verse by verse and see what God has to say about us. See how He can begin to transform our lives. Both Gnosticism in the days of the Colossians and New Age today grow out of the same questions in people lives. Questions like “How can we believe in a good God in an evil world?” “If God is all powerful why doesn’t He take away all sin?” He will some day but why doesn’t He do it right now. “Is Jesus only one way among many ways?”
These are the kind of questions people have running through their minds. As you start to look at what God had to say to these people it doesn’t take long to realize “He has something to say to me.”
If you’ve read through Ephesians you notice there’s some parallels between the two books. They sound somewhat similar. Some of the same things are talked about. It’s interesting to study the two books side by side. They’re both about Christ and the church but they take a different emphasis. Ephesians talks about the body, the church of which Christ is the head. Colossians reverses that. Colossians talks about Christ who is the head of the body. It really emphasizes Jesus and who He is. If you want to get to know Jesus better, one of the best books to look at is the book of Colossians. That’s one of my prayers for all of us as we study this book together that God will help us to get to know Jesus just a little bit better.
Colossians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God and Timothy our brother to the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.”
Paul is the writer. He wrote a third of the books of the New Testament, many of the letters. He’s an apostle. That’s a word that has the same root as “missionary”. God sent him where no one had gone before to share the Good News. He was one of those few chosen by Jesus to be the original carriers of the Good News. He wrote this letter from prison. We’re going to read later about the chains he was in. As you’re reading this letter, remember he’s not sitting on some bright hillside writing. He’s not sitting at his house with the computer going getting ready to go get a cup of coffee when he doesn’t know what to write next. He’s in a prison cell. God used that opportunity to remind him of the Colossian need and he writes to them.
Timothy is named 24 times in he New Testament. In six of Paul’s letters you find his name right at the beginning – Paul and Timothy – they just go right alongside of each other. Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith. He won him to Christ. He taught him how to be a pastor. He sent him to be a pastor eventually at Ephesus. But much of the time he was there to support Paul.
Some of you are “Timothy”. Your name may not be listed first in a letter. But I think it’s not bad to have your name listed second in six of the New Testament letters. What a great ministry he had. It may not be as noticeable to us. One of the problems with modern day America is we think it has to be noticeable to be important. But there are very, very great ministries that God has and He’s using you where no one may be noticing. Maybe you’re always listed second, third or fifth on the list. But not with God. Do you think Timothy is second on God’s list? Absolutely not. It’s a reminder of how God can use somebody like this in an incredibly great way. They wrote this letter to a place called Colossae.
Colossae is located about a hundred miles inland from Ephesus. That’s going to be important because it tells us how the Good News first got to this place called Colossae. It’s located near a couple of other well known towns like Hierapolis and Laodicea. That’s one of the seven churches that was written to in the book of Revelation. These were pretty small towns – Hierapolis and Laodicea. Colossae, in between the two (they were about ten miles apart) was a tiny little town. But they had some needs and God wanted to meet those needs so He wrote a letter to them.
Notice something that may look small but it’s very important in these first few verses. Verse 2 “To the holy and faithful brothers (and look at these two things that are side by side) in Christ at Colossae.” In the original Greek it actually says “in Christ in Colossae.” There’s something very significant there. They’re in Christ and they’re in Colossae.
We are in Christ and we’re in the world. In fact, there’s not a believer who hasn’t faced this dynamic of both being in Christ and being in the world.
The believers were both in Christ and in Colossae.
They’re beside one another purposefully. In the language the New Testament is written in, those two things are right beside each other to show the contrast, to show how they fit beside each other. It’s a vivid contrast, this insignificant little town Colossae – “in Colossae” – is right beside the most significant relationship anyone could ever have – the fact that we’re in Christ. It’s the vivid contrast of the people who are holy separated unto God and a town that was very unholy, where some very pagan and idolatrous things were going on in this town called Colossae.
I want to share a couple of ideas of how this thing might work – in Christ and in Colossae.
The first is sometimes how we view this relationship between the two. Sometimes we think here’s Christ and here’s the world and they’re on two sides and I’m the believer in the middle. What I’m trying to do in my life is relate to both. I’m trying to relate to Christ, I’m trying to be a believer. But I’m also trying to relate to the world. If you get into this position you feel like you’re constantly being pulled apart. You come to church on Sunday and say, “Yes, I want to do that! I want to be in Christ. That’s what I want to be.” Then you go to work on Monday and you’ve got to do “this” and you’ve got to do “that”. You say, “I wish I could have just stayed ‘in Christ’. But now I’m going to have to jump over here to ‘Colossae’. I’ve got to jump into the world again and I’ve got to do these things.” You’re jumping back and forth constantly; you’re in the middle and you feel like you’re being pulled both ways.
That’s not what Paul’s talking about when he talks about being both in Christ and in Colossae. There’s a different way. Let me show you a different picture. This is the view of what God really intends for our lives.
We are in Christ. We are believers in Jesus Christ and God has put us as believers in Christ in the middle of the world to be an influence, to make a difference. But it doesn’t change our identity. We’re not trying to be two things at once. We’re His. But we’re also in the world. When we take on this second picture, you and I as believers in Christ start to influence the world around us. More and more people in the world, more believers start to come into Christ. So the middle circle gets bigger and bigger. Instead of being pulled apart we feel like people are being pulled in to hear the Good News about Christ.
Right here at the beginning Paul reminds us of that dynamic we face. Then throughout this letter he’s going to talk about how we can live out this thing of having Jesus Christ right at the center of our lives.
Before we talk about how Christ can be at the center, let me remind you of
Why Paul wrote this letter. The Colossian heresy involved several things. It involved false thinking, false works, false worship and false sacrifice. You can look in chapter 2 at why they struggled in their faith. It’s interesting. Instead of starting with the false and talking about how bad it was, Paul starts with the truth and talks about how good it is. Two very different things. He could have started with chapter 2 and said this is why this is wrong, that was wrong… but he doesn’t. He starts with who Jesus Christ is. Then after laying out all about who Christ is, then he’s ready to go on and attack why this false teaching is wrong.
If you ever get involved in a place where you feel like you’re being drawn astray then the first thing to go back to is the truth. Sometimes you get so involved in studying a lie that you forget the truth. Paul says, let’s talk about the truth first. In fact, this entire letter (this letter to the Colossians) you might consider a follow up letter to some new believers. Chances are the church at Colossae was about five years old at the time church history tells us. Everyone in the church was a fairly new believer. Paul writes back this follow up letter to encourage them in their faith, to show them how Christ can make a real difference in their lives.
Paul talks in Colossians 1 some of the things we all have to understand in order to live a life that is both worthy and pleasing.
In the middle of this section he talks about “We pray this so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way.” That’s his dream. That’s the dream of this letter. That’s the dream of God for us by giving this letter to us. That He wants us at the end of our lives to be able to look back and say, “My life didn’t live up to my expectation. It began in some incredible way to live up to God’s expectations for my life.”
That scares some of you. You think God’s expectations are so high you could never reach them. God knows you better than you know yourself. He knows how to enable us to live a life that is worthy of Him. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to look back on life and say, “That life that I lived? It was worth living.” Not just that it was fun – although it’s good to have fun. Not just it was exciting – although it’s good for excitement to happen, but “I lived a life that was worth living.”
Then he says it’s also a life that is pleasing. I love that picture! That you and I can live lives where God looks down from heaven and smiles. It brings Him joy to watch His children live out faith. That kind of life is what He wants for us.
The thing to remember about this is that God doesn’t look down on me and get disappointed with me all the time and say, “They’re messing up again! They’re not being pleasing to Me now!” That’s not the direction of this letter. That’s not the direction of the New Testament. What God really wants to say to us is, “Here’s how. You’re already saved. I already love you. I can’t love you any more than I already do. But now that I’ve shown My love to you, now that you’re in My family, I want to show you how to live the best life. I want to show you how to live a life that makes Me smile.” So we live a life that’s pleasing to the Lord and worthy of the Lord
Not to get Him to love us but because He loves us. And that love spills over into our lives.
Paul’s going to show us some things about how that works. Some practical things about how we can live this kind of life that is pleasing to the Lord.
Verses 3, 4, 5. We have to understand a process.
- Understanding Faith, Hope and Love
1 Corinthians 13 is probably the most familiar place where these three are mentioned. But there are five or six places in the Bible where these three things are mentioned alongside each other. In 1 Corinthians 13 the Bible talks to us about the priority of faith, hope and love when it says, “Love is the greatest of these.” Here in Colossians 1 Paul talks to us about the process. Listen for the process. Which one comes first? How do they fit together?
“We thank God when we pray for you because we’ve heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints, the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven that you’ve already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel.”
The process begins with hope. Faith and love spring up from the hope that is in you.
And hope draws us to faith and faith leads us to love in a whole new way.
Does hope come from faith or does faith come from hope? Sometimes you can be a little nitpicky about these things but he’s pretty clear here. Faith and love both spring from hope in our lives. I talk to a lot of people about how they come to faith in Christ. They say something like this, “I had all these problems, these needs in my life. It’s because of those that I came to Christ.” Almost like they’re embarrassed that it was their need that brought them to Jesus Christ. Like it should have been just pure altruism that brought you to Jesus Christ. There is not a person in this room who if we sat down and talked honestly would not tell you that the thing that brought them to Jesus Christ was their need. That’s what brings us to Jesus. We’ve got a need and when you have a need you’re looking for something to meet that need.
You’re driving down the interstate and you have a need – a restaurant or a rest stop, either way –a need. You are looking for a sign. You’re getting hungry. You’re getting desperate. You’re looking for a sign. When you see that sign, a sign that says, “12 miles down the road” what happens in you? Hope! That hope brings about a faith. You think, “In 12 miles there’s going to be a restaurant there. I saw the sign. It’s going to be there!”
The same thing is true with us as believers. When you came to Christ, you came because you saw in Him a hope that you didn’t have. We haven’t seen all that hope yet. We haven’t seen all the hope in heaven. We’ve seen some of it in this life. We haven’t seen all of it yet. But we come to Christ because we have a hope in Him. But this process doesn’t stop after you become a believer. It’s still true in our lives today as believers. Faith and love spring from hope.
Some of you try to have faith without any hope. You just live in the present everyday world and you try to trust God all you can but you don’t think about eternity. You don’t think about eternal things. You don’t think about the reward of God’s love. You’re trying to have faith but it’s without hope. It’s powerless and you wonder why.
We’re so earthly minded sometimes that it is easy to forget our hope for day after day after day and then our faith is weakened.
Paul goes on as he talks about this faith and hope and love to say something that several people on the research team asked about. He says, “We heard of your faith in Jesus Christ and the love that you have for all the saints…” Note the word “saints”. Does that mean they had some catholic thing back there where there was already a certain number of people in sainthood and they loved these special people? Is that what he’s talking about?
No. The Bible word for “saints” and the word we have in church for saints are two different things. In Catholic churches “saints” means an honored person who died and who met certain criteria and the pope conferred sainthood upon this person. In Protestant churches “saint” usually means somebody who’s too old to sin any more. That kind of a person. Neither of them are the Bible’s truth about saints. The Bible calls everybody who’s a believer in Christ “saints”. Some of you think, I’m not a saint. Saints aren’t perfect people. Saints aren’t certified people. Saints are saved people, people who know Christ. One of the miracles of God taught to us in the Bible is that we are saints. We’re holy. We’re set apart for God’s purpose. Don’t forget that tomorrow.
A couple questions about this hope since it’s so important. When does it happen?
The verse says that “…this faith and love springs up from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you’ve already heard about.” The first several times I read these verses and I read, “stored up for you in heaven” I think future. That’s the hope that is waiting for me someday in heaven. But the way this is written in the original Greek language doesn’t really lead you to think that way. There’s another more likely meaning behind this. The hope that’s stored up for you in heaven is talking about hope right now stored up for you in heaven. It’s the picture of the fact that God has things waiting for you if you just come and have faith and believe. And the minute we believe the riches start to be poured out upon our lives. I like that picture. That’s why that hope can start to change our lives right now. That’s when it happens.
And if this hope is so important…
Where does it come from? How do I get it? Colossians is very clear about that. Verse 5 “…the faith and the love that spring from the hope and are stored up for you in heaven and what you’ve already heard about in the word of truth (that’s where you’ve heard about the hope) the gospel.” That’s where hope comes from. Hope comes from the gospel. Hope comes from the Good News.
That leads to the next thing that Paul wants to talk about as he talks about how you and I can live with Christ as the center of our lives. He starts to talk about the power of the Good News that’s happened in our lives.
II. The Power of the Good News
There’s only one Good News. It’s the Good News of Jesus Christ. He tells them all about what had happened to them because of Christ. Verse 6 “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing just as it’s been doing among you since the day that you heard it and you understood God’s grace and all its truths. You learned it from Epaphras our dear fellow servant who was a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf. And he told us about your love in the Spirit.” The gospel.
Let’s list some things Paul wished for us:
- It is true. He says, “you heard about this gospel of truth.” It’s the gospel of truth. When you look at all the other religions of the world and their attempts to reach God and their ideas about God you could take every other attempt to reach God besides the revealed truth about God and title it “Guesses about God” because that’s what other religions are. But the gospel, the Good News, is the truth about God. That’s why it’s such Good News. It’s the one truth about God.
- It is universal. It’s worldwide. Ýou’ve heard about it and its being told all over the world. Don’t ever buy into the idea that the Good News about Christ is just for the western culture, just for the American culture. That’s going around today: let’s be accepting of everybody and say everybody can have their own religion depending on whatever culture they happen to grow up in. Remember the Good News did not come to the western culture to begin with. It came to the Near Eastern culture. It didn’t come to white people. It came to Asian people. The gospel, the good news of Christ, is for the entire world. That’s why it’s such Good News. There’s not a person, a culture, that doesn’t need the Good News of Christ. That’s the power of the gospel.
- It is growing. Paul says you’ve heard about it and now it’s bearing fruit and it’s growing. There is something that’s effective about the gospel of Christ. Everyone you tell the Good News isn’t going to accept it, are they? There’s going to be people who reject it. But it’s like planting seeds. There are a certain number of them that will grow inevitably. You can look around the world today and see the same thing. It’s bearing fruit and it’s growing. You can look around this room and see the same thing. The gospel’s bearing fruit and growing. You can look into your own heart and see it. It’s bearing fruit and growing.
Then he adds one last thing that’s very personal to us.
- It is delivered by people. This true, universal, growing, effective Good News of God the way He delivers it is by people. In fact he names the person who delivered it to them. You heard it he says from a guy named Epaphras.
Who was this guy? There are a few clues about him in the Bible. Colossae was about 100 miles from Ephesus. Paul had never been to Colossae when he wrote this letter. As far as we know he never went there. But he’d been to Ephesus. And he spent three years there telling the Good News about Christ and teaching people in a school there about who Jesus was.
Epaphras most likely was one of those people in that school that he taught. After Paul left people went out from that school and went back to their hometowns to tell the Good News about Christ. Epaphras was one of those people. He went back to his town and he told Colossae about who Christ was. And he started a church and people started to grow in that church. Apparently what happened is as the church began to grow Epaphras heard about Paul’s imprisonment over in Rome and both because of the problems in the church and his concern for Paul he goes to visit Paul. He tells him about some problems in the church. He tells him about some things that are going on. Then instead of Epaphras going back he stayed to minister to Paul while he was in chains. That’s who this guy was. He’s one of those people who you just come across for a moment in the Bible. But he’s a man who changed his city for Christ. He changed an entire city for Jesus Christ. He planted the first church there. He told them the Good News about who Jesus really was.
Aren’t you glad that Epaphras didn’t go home and think, “If only Paul could come to Colossae. If only I could get him here. There were such great things that happened over there in Ephesus. If I could just get him in for a special meeting kind of thing. We’d have him in. He’d teach everybody and the same thing could happen here.” Aren’t you glad that didn’t happen? He went back and said, “God’s given me some Good News to share. I may not be able to do as well as Paul but I’ve got something to share and I’m going to share it.” And he changed a city for Christ.
I’ll bet some of you have thought from time to time about some places like your work. “Wouldn’t it be great if Billy Graham could come by someday? He could just set down with everybody at work and have a Bible study with Billy Graham. Wouldn’t that be cool? He could tell them all these things. If I led a Bible study there would be questions I didn’t know the answer to and I’d be embarrassed.” One of the reasons Billy Graham or me or other people know the answer to more questions than you do is because we’ve been in those Bible studies where people asked us those questions and we didn’t know the answer and that’s embarrassing. It really motivates you to go get the answer. You don’t need Billy Graham or me or someone else to come to your family or where you work. God’s sending you there. That’s really the excitement of what’s happening in this church. Just like Epaphras went back to Colossae and shared the Good News you need to go back to your work and share the Good News. I’ll bet there’s a dozen in here tonight that God’s going to use this message to say, “You need to start a Bible study at work.” That’s why God brought you here tonight. And it’s going to start to change the place where you work.
The Bible says, “He’s told us about your love in the Spirit.” Love in the Spirit is love that’s empowered by the Holy Spirit. The interesting thing about that is this is the only time the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the entire book of Colossians. It’s not that the Holy Spirit’s not important it’s just that the book emphasizes more the person of Christ than the person of the Spirit.
In verse 6 there’s a sort of definition for what the gospel is. What is this Good News of Christ? There’s a synonym given. Verse 6 “All over the world the gospel has been bearing fruit. Just as it’s been doing among you since you heard of it (the gospel) and you understood it (God’s grace).” It’s synonymous. Good News – God’s grace.
A synonym for gospel in verse 6 is the phrase Good News
The same thing. The Good News is God’s grace. God’s grace is Good News. The Good News that’s come into our lives is that God has graciously forgiven our sin because of Jesus Christ. If anyone ever asks you for a quick definition of gospel – what does it mean? Say “God’s grace”. God’s gift to our lives. That’s the Good News.
Then he prays for them. And as he prays for them he prays about God’s will being done in their lives. As he prays about God’s will you can see that it’s a very purposeful thing.
III. The purpose of God’s will in our lives.
As you read these verses, these prayers that you and I would know God’s will, that believers would know and understand God’s will it starts to open up how we discover God’s will. A new sense of confidence in God’s will. A growing sense of confidence in knowing God’s will.
Look at this sense of confidence in verse 9 “For this reason since the day we heard about you we have not stopped praying for you.” “Not stopped praying for you” means that Paul was praying all the time throughout the day, anytime he thought of them, anytime they came to his mind he’d pray for these people. “…Not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
What is God’s will? Most of us when we think about discovering God’s will what we really want is God’s answer. We want to know, here’s the situation; give me the answer. And I’d like it by tonight because I’m really worried about this. Am I going to move or not move? Tell me the city. I’m ready. Marry him/her or not marry him/her? I hope it’s yes but if there’s something I don’t know now’s the time to tell me. Let me know right now. Lay all the cards on the table. That is a part of God’s will but there’s another part of God’s will that comes before that. This is the secret. This is the key. There’s another whole area of God’s will that comes before laying those particular cards on the table that we miss. And because we miss that we miss out on understanding God’s will.
Sometimes we try to skip from what God wants us to be and try to go straight to “God, what do You want me to do?” We try to skip character and we want the answer for the circumstances. We want God to give us an itinerary rather than integrity. We try to skip right by that being part, that doing part and try to go straight to, “Just give me the answer for this situation. If God doesn’t give me the answer maybe I’ll try something else.” Horoscope hot line or something because I want an answer.
Paul teaches us in these verses the highest kind of knowledge.
The highest kind of knowledge is the knowledge of what God wants. Not just God’s answer for a particular situation but what does God want for my life? He uses three words. They’re very key. He uses the word “knowledge” and the word “wisdom” and the word “understanding”.
Remember that word “Gnostic” I told you about earlier? Those people who tried to have greater knowledge than anybody else. That’s where the word comes from, the Greek word Gnostic. Paul uses the word “Gnostic” here but he puts a beginning on it. It sort of means super knowledge. If they say you can have knowledge, here’s where real knowledge, genuine knowledge comes from. He’s talking about spiritual intelligence.
There’s all kinds of intelligence. Some people are intelligent about computers. Others are intelligent about statistics. He’s talking about spiritual intelligence, an intelligence we all can have. That’s knowledge.
Then he talks about “wisdom” and the word that’s used here means the ability to have God’s insight into human life. How does God look at things? What’s God’s perspective? What does God have as a principle for this situation. That’s the word “wisdom” that’s used here. We use the word “wisdom” in a different way. But the particular word that’s used here focuses in on that.
Then he talks about understanding. “All spiritual wisdom and understanding.” The word “understanding” means the application of that wisdom, that principle in real life situations. One person has called this a clear vision of what needs to be done. That’s what we want. We want the cards on the table. “God, give me a clear vision of what needs to be done and I’ll do it.”
But we forget the first two steps. Knowledge – Wisdom – Understanding. They fit together. Understanding. – I need spiritual understanding. That means I say, “God, I need Your insight on this. I can’t figure this out on my own.” If the only time you say that to God is when you’re really desperate, you’ve tried all the ways, all the tricks that you usually use then we miss out on a lot of God’s will. But if I can start every day saying, “God, I need some spiritual understanding here. I know I’m going to think this is the way to do things but I really need Your understanding.”
It starts with a real desire and that desire is followed up by the second thing.
Wisdom – the desire for God’s insight and perspective into human life. Then I get a clear vision of what needs to be done. When I sit down with people and talk about trying to discover God’s will, what I find again and again is we try to skip the second part. We try to skip the part that says I sit down and take a look at God’s word, I get to know Him better, and let Him start to give me a clearer vision of who He is and who He wants me to be.
There’s something psychological about this that fits in with how God works in our lives. The truth is God can’t get you to do something that you don’t want to do. You’re not going to want to do something that isn’t at the core of who you are. If God’s going to really get you on track with His will, when He wants to move you hear or there, if He’s really going to get you or I to do that, He’s going to have to start by changing who we are so when it’s time to make that move He can get us to make that move.
So God’s will is bigger than this decision about whether I should move or not. This decision about whether I should marry or not. This decision about which career direction I should take. That is part of God’s will. But expand it! God’s will is all about who He wants you to be. God’s will is all about how He wants to develop my life and your life. When you start to expand it like that you start to discover who He wants you to be and how He wants you to develop in life the most amazing thing starts to happen. All that stuff that you used to worry about starts to fall into place like you wouldn’t believe!
God often, with brand new believers, will say, “Here’s the answer”. Just like you with a brand new baby when it cries you say, “Here’s the answer!” When we grow up as a believer God starts to demand more of you. Instead of just doling out the answers, He starts to give us opportunities to grow. That’s what’s happening in some of your lives and you’re wondering why? It’s a sign of growth really. “Great!” you say. “I like the baby stage where I just kept getting the answers.” The problem with that is you don’t grow in relationship to Him. You and I, we can love a baby but they can’t love us back in the same kind of way. But when that child gets older they have a brand new capacity to love.
See what God’s doing? See how God’s will is bigger than we think sometime. Verse 9 “God wants to fill you.” Circle that in your Bible. It’s ok to write in your Bible. The thing that makes it holy is the fact that it’s yours and personal and it’s real in your life. He wants to fill you with the knowledge of His word.
God does not want to leave us in the dark. And if you feel like, “He’s not showing me. Why isn’t He showing me?” I’ve felt that way. We’ve all felt that way. These verses remind me that when I feel that way I need to go back and say, “What’s God trying to teach me and how does He want to develop me? What does He want me to be? If I feel like I’m in the dark I need to go back and say, “Who am I supposed to be?” and get that settled and then move ahead to “What do you want me to do in the situation?” It’s a deep truth. I’m still learning it. It’ll take a lifetime to learn. That’s why many times we keep hitting our heads against discovering God’s will. The most important thing to God is what it’s causing us to be. It doesn’t mean that where you live isn’t it important to Him. It doesn’t mean that who you marry isn’t important to Him. Those are important decisions. But what’s more important to Him is what He’s doing in your life and heart and who He’s bringing you to be.
As He works His will out in our lives some amazing things start to happen. He says, “This happens so you can live a life that is worthy and pleasing to the Lord.” Let’s list some things that are a part of this life that is worthy and pleasing to the Lord. He says when you live that kind of life!
- You are bearing fruit in every good work.
Great things are happening through your life. That doesn’t mean that you’re doing good works and some of them bear fruit and some of them don’t. What this verse means is every good thing that you do, every good choice that you make, every faith choice that you and I make is going to bear fruit. There’s a promise in this verse. Every time I make a choice of faith it will bear fruit in some way. Guaranteed. That’s great news. That’s part of living a life that’s pleasing to the Lord.
Bearing fruit, by the way, doesn’t come out of trying harder. It comes from trusting more. A branch cannot bear fruit by cutting itself off from the vine and going out on its own and really trying hard to bear the most fruit. A branch bears fruit by trusting more in the vine and then naturally the fruit comes. Don’t try. Trust!
- Then he says it’s also growing in the knowledge of God.
That’s part of living this life that’s worthy and pleasing to the Lord. I’m growing in the knowledge of God.
For some of you that sounds pretty boring – growing in the knowledge of God. Like seminary class kind of thing. Many times we think that growing in the knowledge of God is just intellectual but this is talking about relational growth. Part of that is intellectually understanding more about who He is. But it’s relating to God in a brand new way. When you start to grow in the knowledge of God it is not boring. In fact, the knowledge of God and boredom are direct opposites. What could be more exciting than getting to know the God who made the universe? What could be more exciting that getting to know the most important person in the universe?
Ray Steadman said, “He is an exciting, captivating being filled with fresh ideas, concepts and possibilities of which you never could have dreamed.” When you and I grow in the knowledge of God, that’s what we’re growing in. We’re getting to know Him better. That is not boring. Don’t let anybody ever tell you it is.
That’s part of living this worthy and pleasing life.
- The third part is being strengthened with God’s power. That word “strengthen” means it’s continually happening. It didn’t happen once. It’s happening every day in my life. What do you think the sign would be of someone who’s being strengthened by God’s power? What would that look like? Someone who is allowing God’s power to strengthen their everyday life what would it look like? Miracles? If you were really being strengthened by God’s power does that mean you’d actually be able to go out and walk on water and feed 5000? Is that it? If you’re strengthened by God’s power does that mean you’d have a magnetism like no one else? That there’s just something about you as you walk down the street you almost glow and people would fall at your feet and ask who Jesus really is? Is that it?
Look at Colossians. The sign of some one who’s truly being strengthened by God’s power, the
incredible awesome power of God comes into my life and there’s two signs. It means I become a person of patience and a person of endurance. No bigger sign. It’s not walking on water. It’s not personal magnetism. It’s patience and endurance.
Those are two very interesting words in the Greek language.
“Patience” is a word that applies specifically to problems. Being patient with problems and circumstances in my life. Have you ever had to be patient with a problem? Have you ever had to wait on something to happen? When God’s power comes into your life it gives you the power to wait, to trust through a problem. The verse tells us that’s the most incredible display of God you can find.
Then He uses the word “endurance”. That’s a different word that applies in a different way. That word applies to problems. Endurance applies to people. He uses a different word on purpose here. Have you ever had to be patient with a person? Who hasn’t? When God gives you the power to be patient with a person… Sometimes we have our own tricks, our own ways to try to do it. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about when God gives you the power to be patient with a person. That is a display of His power.
We want the outward displays but the Bible says the inward displays are the most powerful of all. Charles Spurgeon said once, “By perseverance and patience the snail reached the ark.” Sometimes it’s one little slide at a time on your way to the will of God. Being patient with people and being patient with problems allows God’s power to be released in our lives. That’s an incredible truth.
- Giving thanks.
When I’m living a life that’s worthy and pleasing to God, I am giving thanks to Him. If you’re like me you have some days when your thanksgiving quotient is real low and you have some other days when you’re just filled with gratitude for what He’s done. The more I allow my heart to be filled with gratitude, the more I’m living that life that’s worthy and pleasing.
There’s a list of things that he gives of why you and I should give thanks. He’s qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints for the Father’s kingdom and light. The Lord’s Supper is one of the most powerful ways that we have to give thanks. Paul says that one reason we can give thanks is because we’re qualified. Our name is on the dotted line. That qualifies you to share in the inheritance of the saints in God’s kingdom. You’re not trying to attain that inheritance. You’re already qualified. There’s going to be degrees of reward in heaven the Bible tells us. We’re all going to be filled with joy and we’re all going to share in the inheritance if we’re His children. Does that change the way you think? If you knew that your name was on a will somewhere and the inheritance to you was going to be one hundred million dollars, if you knew that and it was in the vault. It was signed. It was just waiting on the right time to be released. If you knew that would that change the way you thought sometimes? Sometimes for good. Sometimes for bad in some people’s lives. But hopefully for good it would change the way we think about the opportunities in our lives. We can know it. We can know that our name is on the dotted line that we’ll spend eternity with Him in heaven. Let that change the way that we think!
In the next post we will continue through the rest of chapter 1.
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