Dear Colossae Week 2: Prayer Meeting

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

The book of Colossians. It was a letter written during one of Paul the Apostle’s many trips to prison for declaring Jesus as Lord. And not just any Lord. A Lord who has died and risen again. The letter’s addressed to a community of people that Paul had never met, who made up a church community that he did not start. So, here’s some insight. This letter dates back to as early as the mid-50s A.D. Change was in the air in the empire.  A new Caesar had just been coronated and he called himself lord. People had high hopes for the empire. But was Caesar really the true lord?

Meanwhile, in a small town called Colossae, there was a church that was started by a friend of Paul’s named Epaphras and was struggling with living out their faith in the midst of first century Rome. As Paul was in prison at the time, Epaphras visited him to update him that the Colossians were doing well overall, but had some cultural pressures tempting them to run away from Jesus. And so, Paul felt the need to write a letter to the whole community. But could his letters still apply to us today?

Dear Colossae, dear Church of Christ, these letters were written to encourage you. Please read them well.

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. I think most of us would agree that if we had something that we were going to have to do in a week or two, if we could prepare for it, we would be better served than not preparing for it. I think of what we do every year with the back-to-school initiative. We’re convinced that if we can give children a backpack full of the age-appropriate school supplies, all the things that they will need to be successful in school, we believe that gives them a better chance of success than if they don’t have the things that they need. We believe preparation works.

I think of my dad. He’s not in this service. He’ll come at the 11:45 service, so I may not tell this story there. But I’m going to tell you all this. Okay? My dad, many years ago, decided to walk the Appalachian Trail, which I thought was just ridiculous. I mean, I’m the spiritual one in the family. Anyway, what he did is — my dad, he grew up and he was a Boy Scout. He’d always be prepared. So, he’d go out on the weekends — because he’s a dentist and he’d work during the week. On the weekends, he’d put this backpack on, ankle weights and go walk five or six miles in preparation for walking this trail.

I would sit back and I was like, “Dad, listen. I might not be the sharpest tool in the drawer, but let me tell you something: When you’re walking up a mountain, walking flat in Florida, no matter what backpack you’ve got on, ain’t going to prepare you for this.”

I think they lasted like three hours before they came back. So, the Appalachian Trail was like — I don’t even know what it was called. It wasn’t the Appalachian trail. But, anyway, still, I get the point that we want to be prepared for the things that we do.

Paul is going to, in the five verses we’re going to look at this week — isn’t that great? We got eight verses last week and five this week. At this rate, we’ll finish Colossians in 2025. Anyway, that being said, we’re going to look at five verses today. I think we’re going to see that Paul believes passionately that Christians need to be prepared to live out the Gospel lifestyle. And I think the way he goes about it and some of the things that he says are going to be challenging, I think they’re going to be interesting for us to see. But I do think we’ll leave differently than when we came in.

So, that being said, we’re in a series called “Dear Colossae.” We’re looking at the entire epistle of the Colossians. I committed a long time ago as a pastor that I want to go through at least one book or one epistle every single year with the church. And I’m hoping in like three, four or five years we can do more than that because, you know, sometimes it’s challenging to get people to focus on a text all the way through. But I’m working at it. I’m doing everything that I can to make that a reality here.

So, one day we’re going to trudge through Leviticus, baby. Yeah. Some pots and pans for Jesus, baby. So, anyway, that being said, let me bring everybody back up to speed on what we’re trying to do in this series. If you were here last week, you’ll probably go, “Oh, yeah. Okay. I remember that.”

If you’re new, it’ll be good for you. If you forgot, it’ll be good for all of us. I just like to do a quick summary here. The big ideas that we’re trying to accomplish in this series as we go through the epistle to the Colossians is we want to read it in a unique and interactive way. I’m teaching this in a way where we’re doing some textual interactives as we go through the epistle. I’m trying to do that so it remains fun and challenging and it keeps our attention. Because, listen, I get it. I know I joke about it or whatever, but listen, it is. We live in a generation where if things aren’t sort of happening fairly quickly, it’s easy to get distracted. So, I want to make sure that I do this in a way that’s fun and challenging and interactive.

I also want to make sure that we understand that we can read and understand books in the Bible. So, I’m also not just doing it in a way to interact with you as a congregation, but I’m also trying to do things where when you are at home reading Scripture for yourself, you can go, “Hey, that’s right. We did this in church. Maybe this will help with me.” Because I really do want you to read Scripture at home. I want to make sure that we are reading with application in mind. One of the beefs I have with most Bible studies is they’re far more informational than they are transformational. I want to make sure that when we read Scripture, we’re reading it with, “Well, what is the take-home? What is something I can do in my life?”

And, ultimately, we want to make sure that everything that we do is to help us to be more like Christ. No matter what we do in this church, the ultimate aim of all the big ideas of everything that we do is that our church, and as individuals, we would be more like Christ.

So, last week, what we did is we talked about that Paul had written to the church at Colossae. He didn’t found the church. He’d never visited the church. Epaphras had done that and Epaphras had visited Paul in prison and told him about what was going on in Colossae. So, he writes to them and he’s able to write to them because he’s an apostle. He writes with Timothy, together. What he does is he thanks God for what’s going on, but he immediately goes to where Paul always goes. Whether you’re reading the Pauline epistles or the Petrine or the Johannine epistles — no matter what you’re reading, you’ll always find that their focus is to make sure that the local church is looking like Jesus and living out the Gospel life that they’re proclaiming to the people that they’re representing Christ to in that particular entity.

So, he tells them they’re in Christ at Colossae. They’re representing Christ in Colossae. And he thanks God for that and he thanks God that the Gospel has come to them. The Gospel. The understanding that Jesus Christ has died on a cross and risen on the third day and is going to return one day. Paul’s real concern, as it is in all of his epistles, as it is in all the epistles, is that the local church doesn’t fall away or doesn’t get distracted or doesn’t get hindered or doesn’t deviate from staying on message of the Gospel.

So, these epistles are not written to unchurched people. If you pull out Ephesians and you’re reading to your unchurched Christian friend saying, “Here’s what Paul...” — it’s not written to them. It’s written to you and me. And it’s not written to you and me to make us ethically better. It’s written to say, “Hey, listen. It’s so much more important to understand that the way we live and the things that we do can either take away or add to our proclamation of the Gospel in a local city that we live in. And so, all of these epistles are written for that purpose.

So, he talks about the Gospel has come, it’s increasing, it’s bearing fruit in all of the world, and it’s come to them because Epaphras has shared it with them. So, Paul’s concern is to get the church in Colossae to not deviate from the Gospel. You see that in Galatians. In Galatians 3:1, he says, “Who’s bewitched you that you’ve moved so quickly from the Gospel?” I mean, you can see how all of this works. Paul is really concerned that the Gospel doesn’t get contaminated because it — as he says in Romans 1:16, the Gospel, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day, that He died on a cross for you and me. That, in and of itself, is the power of God unto salvation. And it may seem like we need to add more to it, but we don’t need to add more to it. The Gospel in and of itself is that entity, and Paul is concerned that they’re being distracted after he’s heard from Epaphras.

So, as he’s mentioned all of those things and said all of these things about the Gospel and started off in Colossians 1:1-8, in Colossians 1:9 he says, “And so,” — all those things that I’ve just said, now I’m adding onto this. Everything has sort of been in context.

“And so, from the day we heard,” — me and Timothy — “we have not ceased to pray for you,”

Now, this is important. Listen. He could have said, “From the day we heard about you hearing the Gospel, what I’ve been doing is putting together a curriculum so that you can learn what you need to learn.” He could have said, “From the day I heard this, what we’ve done is we got some pastors that we’re going to send to teach you and inform you more about the Gospel.”

He could have said a number of things. But what he says is that from the day we heard it, we’ve not ceased to pray for you. Which is interesting because — and this was a moment I had. I mean, you guys have to hear this one time. I have to preach it four times and I have to put it together. So, you know, if you walk out of here going, “Ah, man. Chip got a little into me.” It’s like, dude, come on. I get into myself more than you all are getting into your self. I mean, I could do this four times.

What I was struck with as I was reading this is, once again — and I had read this book a long time ago about the prayers in the epistles. I remember how it shaped my life many years ago and all of that. I started thinking, man, it’s so interesting because, for Paul, the thing that was so important to him — and this is the textual interaction here — is that he realizes that Gospel living is going to require spiritual development. It’s going to require that. Just like we talked about preparation and being prepared for things, he realizes that that’s going to happen. But, for him, prayer is the catalyst.

And I started thinking. So, what I did this week is I went on to a bunch of church websites. I tried to figure out how I could grow in Christ based on what I was seeing. And everything was instructional. Everything was learn this, learn this, learn. And I stopped and go, “No. To Paul, prayer was the catalyst for spiritual growth.” Prayer was. And I started thinking, “Man, we’re known for preaching as a church, we’re known for all the things that we’re against, we’re known for the things that we do and all this. But, man, is there really any church that’s known for the way they pray?”

And I started thinking, man — I had to have that moment as the pastor. I’m not putting that on you at all. I mean, remember, our name is Grace Community Church, not Guilt Community Church. I’m not guilting anybody. I’m just saying I, personally, had to look in the mirror and go, “Wow. Man, that’s right. Prayer is the catalyst to Paul for the things that he wants to see in the Christians’ lives.”

So, he says, “And so, from the day we heard,” — Timothy and I — “we have not ceased to pray for you, asking...” — in our prayers — “...that you may be filled...”

Okay. This word “filled” is really important. I wouldn’t expect anybody, in reading through Colossians, if you’re reading through Colossians right now, to catch this. But I do want you to start thinking this way when you read your Bible. This word “filled” is used in Colossians 1:9, 19, 24 and 25, Colossians 2:2, 9 and 10, Colossians 4:12 and 17. He uses it a lot for a small little epistle. And so, why is he so excited about this word? Why is “filled” so important? Because he realizes we’re going to be filled with something. They’re being filled with all kinds of bad religious practices, bad understandings of culture and all of this stuff. He wants to make sure they’re filled with the right things.

So, he prays and he says, “I’m asking, when we pray, that you will be filled with the knowledge of his will...” — listen. This is so important — “...in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,”

He does not say, “Asking that you would be filled with knowledge of His will in wisdom and understanding.” He says, “In spiritual wisdom and understanding.” He’s also not praying — in the way this is put together — that they’ll be filled with the knowledge of His will. He thinks they’re going to understand the knowledge of His will. In all the Bible, there’s no such thing as finding God’s will. It’s just not even found. You can go back. We just told you on the app that you can go back and watch sermon series’. Blueprint Myth was a series that we did on God’s will. There’s no finding God’s will. The problem is doing God’s will. Psalm 143:10 says, “Lord, teach me to do Your will.”

It’s not that I don’t know what to do, it’s that I just don’t do it. Okay? Paul says, “I want you to be filled with the knowledge of His will.” In what?

“In all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

This is a huge word because what we’re going to see here is that Gospel living is going to require spiritual wisdom and knowledge. Now, listen, if you don’t hear anything else that I say for the rest of the sermon, lean in here and listen to this. This is so important. Paul realizes that if we’re going to live the Gospel out in the world that we live in, if we’re going to be people that proclaim the Gospel and stay on message with the Gospel, and we’re going to live this thing out, we’re going to have to know the knowledge of God’s will in a spiritual way, not in just a normal way.

And let me try to explain that. We have wisdom literature in the Old Testament. It’s called wisdom literature for a reason. It’s called wisdom literature because it’s wisdom that we wouldn’t know if God wouldn’t have told us. That’s why we talk about revelation — not the book of Revelation. We talk about how Scripture is revelation. God is saying things to you and me that we would not know no matter how smart we were, no matter how wise we were, no matter how well-read we were. We would never, ever, ever, in our own wisdom and our own understanding have a God that washes feet. But He does. We would never, ever, ever intuit that we should love enemies. We’d go, “Well, maybe for a little while. But, eventually, you’ve got to get them.”

You know? We would never say, “Turn the other cheek. Maybe once, but definitely not that forgiving 70 times 7 deal. That’s just not going to work.” And Paul realizes that and he says, “Hey, listen, if you don’t have the download of what God wants for your life in a spiritual way, what we’re going to do is we’re going to try to figure out God’s plan in our own wisdom and our own understanding, and what we’ll do is we’ll nuance it.”

We’ll say, “Well, that doesn’t work. I’m not going to live that way because if I live that way, it would...”

So, listen to me. This is why it’s so important. In the wisdom literature, we have Proverbs 3. Most Christians that have been around church for just a little while know Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct or make straight your paths.”

And we’re like, “Yeah. Right. Trust God. He’s going to do it.”

Okay. But there’s a key phrase there. “Lean not to your own understanding.” In other words, we’re going to read Scripture and we’re going to read things that we go, “Well, that doesn’t really fit,” because our own wisdom and understanding is going to lead us to conclude that won’t work or that’s surely not what it meant, because if it meant this, it might require this.

That’s like when we read Hebrews 10 and it says, “They gladly accepted the plundering of their property,” we read that and go, “I don’t know why they were doing that. That’s crazy. I mean, who in the world would do something like that?”

Well, because they understood, and whoever wrote Hebrews says, “They accepted the plundering of their property because they knew that they had something better.”

So, let me try to explain here how this — and this is critical. Please hear this. When God delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt — most of us know that story. Remember? They were in Egypt. They cried out to God and God raised up Charlton Heston. Remember that story? I mean, I hope you’d remember that story. So, he raises up Moses and Moses delivers the children of Israel out of Egypt. They didn’t do anything. They didn’t earn it. They didn’t deserve it. They were saved out of Egypt by God.

What’s the next thing God does? He takes them to the wilderness. Why does He take them to the wilderness? Why? Because He has to show them something before He gets them to Sinai. What He has to show them is this: Their wisdom and their understanding would have said, “There’s no way that hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of Hebrew slaves could live in the wilderness. You can’t do it. It’s impossible. It is impossible to live in the wilderness. It won’t work in any way, shape or form. I know we’re following Moses. I know we’re following God. It will not work.”

God wants to show them that in the wilderness there’s still provision and there’s still abundance. What He does is He provides manna every day. So, what do they do in their wisdom and understanding? They look out and see manna and they’re told they only need to take what they need for the day. Well, they go, “I’m not going to do that. I need more because there’s no guarantee that tomorrow that’s going to be there.”

That’s human wisdom and understanding. So, what do they do? They start putting some underneath their clothes and go in their tent and they’ve got piles of it. They’re like, “Alright. We’ve got enough. So, if it doesn’t come tomorrow, we’ve got stuff for tomorrow. We have planned. We’re great. We know what we’re doing.”

Well, overnight, the worms take into the manna and they can’t eat it. Why? Because God’s going, “You’ve got to learn a spiritual truth here. I’m never going to get you to love God and love people — which is the first three commandments and the last six. I’m never going to get you to live that life unless you believe that I can provide for you in ways that no other entity, or your own wisdom and your own understanding, would understand.”

You’ll never — because you’ll go, “What about me?” You’ll never be able to put God first and others first unless you know that God is a God of provision. And see, that’s why God took them to the wilderness because He says, “You’ve got to learn. Your own wisdom and your own understanding will always take what I’ve said and you will try to figure out how to make it work for you in this world.”

That’s not the way it works in any way, shape or form. So, Paul says, “I pray that you will get a download of God’s will with a spiritual wisdom and understanding so as...” — listen — “...to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him.”

That word “walk” should jump off the page to you all because we just spent a lot of time talking about “The Walk.” You should say, “Oh, that walk. That walk’s everywhere in Scripture. That thing appears everywhere.”

So, to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him. This does not say that if you get everything right God’s going to go, “Oh, you finally got it right. Now you’re worthy of heaven and you’ve done all that stuff.”

That’s not what He’s saying. That’s not what Paul’s saying here. He’s saying that if we have a download of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, and we understand that and we live that out, we now start to walk in a manner that looks like who Jesus is, that’s worthy of the Lord. Not making you worthy of the Lord. It’s worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him because He wants Jesus to be represented in Colossae. It’s like manner worthy of the Lord is like taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Taking the Lord’s name in vain is not a cuss word. Maybe you grew up in a church where that’s what it was. I don’t even know where we got that from. It’s like if just magically, out of the air, taking the Lord in vain. “Oh, that’s the cuss word.” Where did you get that from? I mean, that’s not what it’s talking about at all, in any way, shape or form. It’s talking about don’t ascribe, don’t take the name of Yahweh and say you are a Yahweh follower and then not live up to what that looks like. You’re taking the name in vain by doing that.

I’m not telling you now to go out and start cussing, I’m just saying that’s not what it is. I know how you all are. You’ll be like, “Oh, Pastor Chip said I can cuss now, left and right.” It’s like — I didn’t. Just flow with me here. Okay?

So, we’re going to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him. What’s Paul after? Paul’s after a Church that looks like Jesus in the city that they live so that people, when they hear the Gospel, also see the Gospel being lived and become followers of Christ themselves. And anything that gets put into the Gospel — cultural, political, religious, which we do very well in the American Church. All of that compromises the Gospel. And that’s what Paul’s after in these epistles. Don’t compromise the Gospel. The Gospel is what saves people.

So, “To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: Bearing fruit in every good work,” — that’s interesting. The first thing that Paul thinks of when he thinks of someone who is a developed Christian is someone who’s doing good works. That’s the first thing he thinks of. Most people think Paul and James are like antithetical to one another. They’re not at all. We butcher Scripture so bad. But what’s really interesting here is that he’s saying the implication would be it’s possible to do good works that don’t bear fruit. See, good works that aren’t leading to the Gospel and leading to the proclamation of Jesus are not good works just in and of themselves. It’s the good works that we do that need to bear fruit of the Gospel.

“Bearing fruit” and “increasing” are the same words that he just used a few verses above about the Gospel, that it’s bearing fruit and increasing in all the world as it is among you. So, the Gospel doing its thing is also doing its thing here.

“Bearing fruit in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God,”

Hear me. Lean in here. This does not say, “Increasing in the knowledge about God.” It says, “Increasing in the knowledge of God.” I know a lot about Abraham Lincoln. I studied. I taught at Knox. I taught the master’s class. We read the Federalist Papers. We talked about the Gettysburg Address. I know a lot about Abraham Lincoln. I don’t know him at all. He’s not saying, “Increasing in your knowledge about God.”

“Oh, let me tell you all the doctrinal positions I know. Let me tell you all the Scripture.”

That’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying, “Increasing in your knowledge of God.” It’s a relationship. It’s not a check mark. It’s not a knowledge base. It’s not how much we know. It’s not how many Scriptures we’ve memorized. It’s do we know God? It’s a relationship.

“Bearing fruit in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power...” — because he knows if you’re out doing good works you’re going to need to be strengthened.

Because what does Paul say to the Galatians in Galatians 6? He says, “Don’t grow weary in well-doing,” because he knows that’s a possibility.

“...being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy...”

In other words, we should be people that endure because we’re strengthened because we’re increasing in our knowledge of God and because we’re out doing the works that God’s called us to do. We should have full endurance to stay on task and patience with joy. I’m just going to ask a question here. Would you say — and we’re not trying to be critical or snarky or anything. Let’s just talk about Christianity in general. Would you say that Christians are known for their endurance and patience with joy?

So, conviction moment. Not guilt. Just a conviction moment. Just like, “Okay, God. Uncle. I get it.”

Okay? I mean, read Scripture. It’s crazy stuff in there. I mean, it’ll mess you up. That’s why I think most people don’t want to read the Scripture. It’s like, “I don’t want to get messed up today. I like my world just the way it is.”

Anyway, he goes on to say, “And giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you...”

Please hear me. Somebody needs to hear this this morning. Maybe you need to hear it watching via the internet and the mobile app. You’re not qualified because of some thing that you’ve done to do what God has called us to do. He’s the one who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints and light. He’s qualified you. You’re qualified.

“I don’t feel qualified.”

You’re qualified. God said you’re qualified. Everybody argues with God. “I don’t feel qualified. I stutter. I do this,” or whatever. God’s like, “No. Come on. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go.”

“And giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of saints in light. For he has delivered us...” — that’s Exodus language here — “...from the domain of darkness...” — which is why you should be here on Wednesday night because you can’t really understand the New Testament if you don’t understand the Old Testament. It’s an incomplete book.

“For he has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption,” — we’ve been purchased — “for the forgiveness of sins.”

Notice here that “delivered” is past tense. So if you’re a follower of Christ and you’re wondering have you been delivered, you have been delivered. You’ve been delivered. Okay? No question about that. You’ve been delivered. And it’s Exodus language. In other words, it’s picking up this idea of where we know back in the Old Testament they were in Egypt. This is literally, historically true. They came through the Red Sea. They went to the wilderness. They went to Sinai and all of those great things. We, as Christians, are on another Exodus. We have been delivered from the slave market of Egypt, which for us would be sin. And we are in the wilderness. We’re pilgrims and strangers, Peter says in his epistle. We’re walking through this world that’s not our world because we’re citizens of heaven, no longer citizens here. Even though we try to fuse that and try to figure out how that works. It doesn’t work. We’re citizens of heaven. That’s why Jesus said to Pilate, “You don’t understand. My kingdom is nothing like your kingdom. It doesn’t work like the way you think it works at all, in any way, shape or form. You can’t put them together. It doesn’t work that way. My kingdom’s different.”

We’re in a kingdom. We’re kingdom people walking through this world on our way to the real promised land where heaven and earth will one day come back together. And as pilgrims and strangers here in this world — because we have no country, we have no place — we are citizens of heaven and we are to represent Jesus in everything that we do. And the temptation will always be to put other stuff with the Gospel and try to figure out how that works. That’s what our own wisdom and understanding will do. Spiritual wisdom and understanding will understand that, “Hey, listen, this is what God wants and this is who He wants me to be. He’s given me the power by the Holy Spirit that lives within me to live these things out, so it’s important for me to do that.”

That is what Paul is trying to teach us, which is why I’m taking such a long time to get through Colossians 1 because it’s so important that we understand these concepts. So, let’s talk some practical application here and we’ll get out of here.

First. I think this is true for everybody. At least I hope it is. There should be a clarion call we hear concerning the importance of prayer in our lives after working through this passage. There should just be a moment where we go, “Man.” The diagnostic question that I think would be the question is, “Do I fully realize the importance Paul put on prayer?” I mean, you read his epistles. He’ll just, in the middle of an epistle, break out in prayer. He’ll say, “I’m going to pray that you’ll understand these things. I’m going to pray for you this here.”

Somehow I think we’ve missed, to some degree, the importance of a life of prayer. For Paul, spiritual development didn’t come in any other way, although there may have been things that supplemented it. But the primary way spiritual development came, the primary way Christ was birthed in His congregation in his mind was through prayer. And I think we all should walk out of here with a little bit of a challenge and a little bit of a thought of, “Let’s look at my prayer life. Let’s look at this.”

Not in a way to make you feel guilty. Look, nobody’s going to come to your house. I’m not sending a staff member to go, “Hey, how many minutes did you spend today in prayer?”

That’s not what we’re after here. I just want us to see that, hey, spending time with God in prayer, there’s a realness to that. I think we should all hear that because Paul’s very clear that prayer is the way he sees this thing going down.

Secondly, understanding what true spiritual development looks like in us is a must to living a Gospel-centric life in this world. Everybody in here, if I were to get a 3x5 index card and say, “What does it mean to be a spiritually mature Christian?”

I doubt, very seriously, that any of those cards would read identical. They probably would be all over the board. Well, if we don’t know what spiritual development or spiritual maturity looks like, and we think that this is what it looks like, well, that’s what we’re going to go after. And I think Paul lays out things that are a little contrary to the way we would think it. The first thing he says is, “Bearing fruit in every good work.”

I don’t know that most Christians would start out when we say, “Okay. How are we going to grow in the Lord? How are we going to become more like Jesus? How are we going to get more of a download of God’s knowledge of His will in our life? What’s that going to look like walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, that looks Jesus, that’s fully pleasing to Him? What’s the first thing that you should do to do that?”

Well, you probably would say, “Sit around and study. Get in a small group.”

Paul says, “No. Go bear fruit in every good work.”

“So, you’re starting off with getting after it?”

Yeah. Because here’s what I know to be true: You can’t go to the empty tomb and not run away and tell people about it. You can’t. The women went to the empty tomb and they went and shared the Gospel for the first time to the men. You women, hear me. The first preachers of the Gospel in the New Testament were women. Come on. Come on. The Bible will mess you up. I’m telling you. Wait until we get to Colossians 4. Nympha. This lady, she has a house in her church. Really? Yeah. We’re going to get there. Remember Jezebel in Revelation? She was not rebuked for teaching. She was rebuked for teaching false doctrine. I’m telling you the Bible will mess you up, man.

So, bearing fruit in every good work. Next, increasing in the knowledge of God. I think we probably would have put, “We’ve got to increase in the knowledge of God before we go out and bear good fruit.”

I think that’s what we would say. No. Paul realizes that in doing the things — because he even says in Ephesians 2, the one that everybody quotes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, not of works. Amen. Hallelujah.”

But right in Colossians 1:10 he says, “But we’ve been prepared to do good works that we’re created in Christ Jesus to do.” He ain’t separating this out like we do. Paul’s saying, “Hey, look, if you’ve got the download and you’re out doing the things that God’s called you to do, and you’re staying true to the Gospel, what you’re going to do is, in that process, you’re going to be learning more of who your Heavenly Father is. That’s the way the process works. And then you need to be strengthened. We’d have put all this wrong. We’d go, “Hold on. I think we need to get knowledge. Then we need to have power and strength. Then maybe we’ll do this here.”

I mean, we’d have it all figured out the way we would do it. Paul doesn’t lay this out the way we would lay it out, in any way, shape or form. Bearing fruit in every good work. Increasing in the knowledge of God. Strengthened with power. You’re out there doing it. Now you need to get the power because you need to stay. You don’t need to get weary in well-doing. You need to be strengthened in power to have the endurance and the patience with joy to do the things that God has called you to do. Because, to Paul, Gospel proclamation is just something that’s going to happen in the local church. It’s just going to happen. You’re going to want to tell people about what Jesus has done in your life. You’re going to want to get involved in people’s lives because God got involved in your life. You’re not doing it to earn something. You’re not doing it to get His love. You’re not doing it — it’s just a result of what God has done in your life.

It’s just like — the best way I can explain it is if somebody showed up to your house today and said, “You won the Ed McMahon clearing house thing,” — I don’t even know if they do that anymore. Is that even happening? Probably not. But if they showed up and said, “You won. You’re a winner. Here’s the briefcase for a million dollars,” you could try to hold it back, you could try to push it down, you could try to act noble. But you’d be going, “Honey, you can’t believe this. Woo! We got a million dollars in a leather briefcase,” because it’s just the way we’re wired.

So, to act like it doesn’t work, because my third point here is make a note that walking in a manner worthy of the Lord does not allow for the false dichotomy between knowledge and behavior. I don’t know where we get this from. We get this idea: “Okay. Let me tell you all about what you should know about Jesus, but don’t worry about doing any of it. Just sit back and soak it in.”

There’s just nowhere in Scripture that that is even resembling the truth. The idea is that all of this stuff flows together. In fact, I put it this way: What Christ has done should never be separated from what He’s doing in and through us. It’s the same thing. If He’s done it, it’s happening in us. If He’s done it, it’s going through us. All of this is going on. I do understand the wisdom of understanding that I can’t work my way into heaven. We cover that around here on a regular basis. There ain’t nothing you can do. You can’t pray enough. You can’t give enough. You can’t First Friday enough. You can’t do any of that stuff enough to get God. He gave that to you. I mean, that’s His initiative by grace. But to act like this thing doesn’t get into our bones and make us want to go out and serve the Lord I think is doing an injustice to the biblical text. Fair enough?

Okay. Fourthly, Exodus isn’t just about the future. When I talk about the Exodus and I talk about we’re in this movement from here to here, what I don’t want us to do is somehow think that everything is backloaded. It’s not. Listen, I’m all about — all the longings and all the desires that you and me have as Christians are never going to be fully fulfilled until heaven and earth come back together one day when Jesus returns. That’s absolute fact. But that does not mean that God doesn’t want to do great things in your life now. Somehow, we always go to polarities. It’s like everybody goes to the polarity. The pendulum goes here and then it goes here. It’s like you’ve got people over here that go, “Oh, you know, we’re just going to trust God and His will. He’s sovereign. Yeah. We’ll pray that you get healed, but we’re not really sure. It’s just sort of God’s will.”

And then you’ve got people over here going, “No. You’ve got to be healed. If you’re not healed, you lack faith.”

No, no. We should be praying for people with a passion that God can answer those prayers, understanding that God still is God and we can’t put His arm behind His back and make Him do something that He doesn’t want to do. But we should be people that believe that God wants to put marriages back together now, He wants to heal people now, He wants to make differences in people’s lives now. I mean, just look at Jesus. He’s constantly doing great things for people. Those people eventually died, but they still had miraculous things going on.

I say all of that to say this. Everything I’ve said today out of Colossians, just five verses, is this. I believe — and you don’t have to believe it. This is the beauty of Grace Community Church. You know how I am as a pastor. I really believe that there’s a lot of divergence and thoughts that we can all have as Christians. What brings us together is we believe Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and He died on a cross for us and is going to return one day. We believe those things to be true. That’s what brings us together, those simple truths of the Gospel.

But I believe, as your pastor, that we are just abundantly blessed to get to live in the time in which we’re living. Because I think if a church really decides that they want to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord today, I believe what God can accomplish through the local church, because of the craziness that’s going on in our world, is absolutely amazing. Like, I think there’s so many great things that can happen.

It’s funny. The right-brain people clapped. The left-brain people were like, “What?” It was like clap over here. It was crazy. It was a moment. It was like clapping here and no clapping. I’m like, “What happened here? Did my ear?”

It’s fine. No big deal. But what I’m saying is I really passionately believe that we have, especially here at our church, an opportunity to really, really, really make a difference in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and Bradenton for the Lord Jesus. I mean, I’m going to just share something with you here. I should be praying. It’s 11:15. It’s time to get out of here. But I want to share something with you.

As the bumper video was playing today, I looked out and there’s a few seats here and there, but let’s face it. It’s a little uncomfortable in here. I mean, it is. But I thought back, like, man, we had like 20 people when we started this church and now we have 4 services that are filled with people. You know? That’s just because God’s doing something special. Believe that. I’m not trying to manipulate you. I’m not trying to play mind games. I’m just saying, factually here, as your pastor, I look out and look at what God has done. No person, no man, no entity could do what God has done. You know? Baptizing 30 people, and the time before that, 40 people, and seeing the things that we see and people doing the things. God is at work.

I’m just saying let’s not miss this moment. I mean, the world is crazy out there. We’ve got the answer. Let’s not get bogged down in all the other stuff. We have the answer. And I believe passionately that’s what Paul is saying in all of these epistles. Don’t get distracted from the Gospel. Don’t get bogged down with the religious and cultural and all the political things. Stay true to the message that changes lives: That Jesus Christ came and died on a cross, He rose from the grave on the third day and one day He’s going to return. Let that be the power of God unto salvation, and not all the other things that we add to it.

Amen? Let’s pray. Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for what You’re doing here in our church. I thank You, Lord, for what You’re doing via the internet and the mobile app and the hundreds of people that watch this, sometimes thousands of people that watch these messages. Lord, I believe that You’re doing something that is far beyond a church or a person. I believe You’re doing something great in our midst. And I just pray, God, that You would burden us and speak to us to want to be a church that really represents Jesus. Not a cultural Jesus. Not a political Jesus. Not a religious Jesus. But the true, authentic Jesus of Scripture, to really look like Him and interact in the world in a way that we wash feet and turn the other cheek and love our enemies in ways that seem beyond our own wisdom and understanding, but, as Paul prays, that we would get downloaded the knowledge of His will in spiritual wisdom and understanding, that we would really understand that Your ways are higher than ours, but Your ways are the right ways.

Help us, Lord, to have the faith to step out and to trust You in ways that go beyond our own understanding and our own wisdom, so that, Lord, we can watch You do what only You can do. Lord, we pray that You would use us and this church to make a difference in this community.

So, Lord, I pray that as we leave here today, that You would watch over us and protect us, I pray that You would lead and guide us, and I pray that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. And help us, Lord, to never deviate from what You’ve called us to do as a church. We want to be a church that genuinely reaches the unchurched by being those intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.

We love You, we praise You and we honor You. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. See you soon. God bless everybody.

John Flowerree