Dear Colossae Week 7: The Ending
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. As mentioned in previous weeks, Colossae was mostly under Roman rule. This meant that the Roman philosophies and household standards heavily influenced how the Colossians lived. Greece and Rome imprisoned Paul for preaching the Gospel, which went against the way that they taught.
One of the biggest ways that Paul addressed this was comparing the Roman household to the new Christian household in Christ Jesus. He completely flipped everything that they knew and turned it on its head. Does our society also look completely different than how the Kingdom of God works?
Dear Colossae, dear Church of Christ, these letters were written to encourage you. Please read them well.
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We are finishing up our current series called “Dear Colossae” this weekend, and if you’re new or if you missed a couple of weeks, I always like to sort of just give a real quick summary so you feel like you’re a part because the last thing I want you to do is walk in here at the end of a series and feel like, “Aw, man. I walked in on the last time.”
So, let me tell you what we’ve been doing. We’ve been going through the entire epistle that Paul wrote to the Colossians. We’ve sort of been doing it line-by-line, reading the verses and making some commentary on it. So, we’re at the end of that. If, for some reason, you really enjoy the sermon this weekend, and I hope that you do, you can go online or you can go onto the mobile app and you can watch the other messages that sort of preface this one. But we’re going to conclude this weekend.
So, if you remember last weekend, we came right out of Colossians 3. I mentioned that Colossians 3:1-4 are really hinges in this epistle where Paul says, “If we’ve been raised with Christ, we need to seek the things that are above,” and, “We’ve died. Our life is hidden with Christ in God,” and, “Christ who is our life shall appear, so should we also appear with Him in glory.” That’s sort of the crux of the message here. Paul’s talked about the Gospel. He’s talked about how important it is. He talked about Epaphras sharing the Gospel with him and how it’s growing and how they don’t need to get sort of perverted in the Gospel. It’s not “Jesus plus.” It’s not don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t touch this and taste. It really is the simple message of the Gospel, and that’s why Paul says, “So, if you’ve been risen with Christ, don’t get all bogged down with all that stuff. Keep your eyes up there.”
And then, in Colossians 3:5, he talks about putting off some things. In Colossians 3:12, he talks about putting on some things. He’s talking about the community. The “yous” there are plural. As a community, we sort of represent Christ in the local city that we live, as the Colossians do. And he ended in Colossians 3:17, where we ended last weekend, was, “Whatever we do as a congregation, whatever the Colossians do as a congregation, they should do it all for the glory of God.”
So, that leaves us with 25 verses left in the epistle, and I want to sort of explain how that breaks down in the last part of the epistle. I’m probably going to do a little bit more teaching today, but I think it’s going to be really cool. I think you’re going to enjoy the ending of the epistle. In Colossians 3:18-4:1, if I were able to redo the chapter divisions in the Bible, 4:1 would not be 4:1. It would be 3:19 and 4:1 would start in 4:2, but they didn’t ask me to do that. So, there you have it. I do encourage you, if you really, really, really want to read the Bible, get a Bible that doesn’t have chapter and verse markers and read it along with the other one so that you can see the flow rather than seeing the chapters and verses. Because, a lot of times, getting chapters and verses can mess things up.
But what Paul does is he moves from talking to the community, which is all of us, and he’s doing all these things, living this out and representing Christ as a community, he says, “Now, let’s drill down into the household.” Many of you all will remember, just a month ago, I did the sister passage here in Ephesians in a series called “The Walk.” I think it was Week Six of The Walk. You can go back and watch that. So, I’m not going to spend a lot of time in what we call the household code, how wives and husbands, children and fathers and all that. I’m not going to spend a lot of time there at all today because I just covered that about a month ago. So, if you want to hear more about that, you can go and watch that video. But that’s what Paul does in Colossians 3:18-4:1.
In Colossians 4:2-6, Paul sort of summarizes — and we’re going to sort of hone in one this today. He summarizes what he’s basically said throughout the entire epistle in four verses, and it’s really powerful. We’re going to learn a lot. And then, at the end here, he does a personal ending to the letter. In each of the services so far — Saturday at 6:00 and the one at 9:00 — everybody’s been like, “Wow. I didn’t know all that was at the ending of the epistle.” As a general rule, when we read epistles — just a general rule — when we get to all the name-calling, and this person and that person, whatever, it’s usually time that we just sort of blow through that and move onto the next book that we’re going to read.
I’d like to submit to you that there are no surplus worlds in Scripture at all. Every one of those words are important and you’re going to see how even a mundane ending of a letter is incredibly powerful if we will pay attention and work through it. So, that’s what we’re going to do today. That’s how we’re going to end up the series, and then I have one final thing I want to say at the very end, and we’ll get out of here. I think we’ll have really had a good understanding of the book of Colossians.
So, once again, Paul says in Colossians 3:17, “Do everything to the glory of God,” then he explains the household code.
And then in Colossians 4:2, he says, in summary, as he’s summarizing everything up, he says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer,”
Now, I want to just take a minute here and talk about this, because I think this is a time as a pastor that it’s important for us to just take a minute and talk about prayer. Barna, Pew and those groups, they will do surveys and find out that the average Christian, somebody who attends church on some regular basis — that’s not a CEO, Christmas and Easter Only. It’s someone who actually attends on some regular basis. But when you do, they’re saying somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes a week people spend in prayer. I’m not here to make you feel guilty or give you a hard time, I’m just saying as Paul’s concluding everything, it’s interesting that where he concludes and starts that conclusion is, “Hey, make sure you continue...” — not just continue, but “steadfastly in prayer.”
He says, “Being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
And we’re going to see, as these four verses sort of flow together, we’re going to understand a lot more of this prayer and this watching in it with thanksgiving as we sort of go through the passage. But what Paul is really saying — we’ll see as we go through this — is, “Hey, listen, I want you all to make sure that you’re praying because being a community that proclaims the Gospel and lives the Gospel is really important.”
So, this idea of being watchful in prayer is paying attention to the things that God opens up for, us the opportunities that God opens up for us, and he says to do it with thanksgiving. Can I just make a little theological note? If you don’t pray with thanksgiving, your prayers usually become very selfish. When you pray with thanksgiving, you start to pray and thank God more than you would in another way. So, make sure in your prayers you give thanks to the Lord for the things that you have and for the things that are going on in your life because He is worth of all of those things.
So, he says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
“At the same time as you guys are doing that, as you’re praying and being watchful in thanksgiving and all of those great things, pray for us too. Keep us in mind because we want you to be praying the same things for us that you’re praying for you because you understand how important the Gospel is.”
“That God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison.”
Paul says, “Hey, listen, I know you guys are going to be praying.”
And we’re going to see here in just a minute, as he sums this up, how important the Gospel is in reaching outsiders. This whole four verses, it’s so important that we sort of get deep within our soul and our spirit. He says, “Listen, pray, be thankful, be watchful in it. And, while you’re doing that, pray for us, too, that God will open up a door so that we, too, can share Jesus with the people.”
We’ve been doing this thing called a “textual interaction” in this series where we sort of jump just for a moment to just talk about us for a second outside of the text. I want you to notice something here. Paul’s prayer is not for personal issues but for the Gospel. He could’ve said, “Hey, you know, the food is really bad here in prison. Could you guys pray that maybe they’ll open up an Applebee’s down the street or a Chili’s? Get some queso, some salsa and maybe some fajitas because the food’s really bad?” He could’ve said, “Hey, maybe I could get some nicer guards.” He could’ve said, “Hey, how about God does the prison shaking thing? You know? The jailhouse rock before Elvis ever showed up and blast us out?”
He could’ve said all those things. But look at what Paul asks for prayer. I mean, I can only speak for me. I’m not saying you would be this way. If I was in prison, I’d be going, “Hey, guys, could y’all pray that I get out of prison?”
If it was Chip-ossians, it would’ve been, “Could you get me out?”
Somebody said last night, “I thought it was called collisions.”
I’m like, “Hang out in church long enough. You’ll have some of them.”
But, anyway, he’s praying and he says, “Hey, of all the things I could ask you to pray for, I’m asking you to pray that I’ll have an opportunity to share Jesus with somebody.”
“That I may make it clear,”
“I don’t want to add to it. I don’t want to convolute things. I don’t want to, “Oh, well there’s no way you could be a Christian because you don’t do that, don’t do this and don’t do this.” He goes, “No. I don’t want to muddy this thing. I want to make sure that it’s clear that when I get an opportunity to share Jesus, I don’t mess it up. I don’t do the, ‘Oh, and one and plus that and the other.’ It’s very clear that Jesus Christ came, died on a cross and rose again on the third day. Are you in? For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that if you believe in Him you can have eternal life. I don’t want to confuse that thing. I don’t want to make that thing all muddy. I want to make sure that when the opportunity comes for me to share Jesus, that I make it clear.”
“Which is how I ought to speak.”
There’s a burden here, to Paul. It’s not just, “I hope to,” “that maybe.” No. He’s saying, “That I ought to speak.” Check this out as we jump just for a moment here and just make a note here on this text in a textual interaction. Paul is bound more to preaching the Gospel than he is to his current chains. He’s like, “Hey, listen, when you guys are praying, you’re watching, being thankful and doing what you’re supposed to be doing, man, pray for us, too, that even though I’m in prison, all I want is some opportunities to share Jesus. And when I do it, make sure that it’s clear because it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.” He says, “So, as y’all are praying and you’re watchful and all that, pray for us.”
And as you’re doing all that stuff, “Walk in wisdom towards outsiders,”
Let’s camp out here for a minute and just listen. Sometimes when you just — Scripture is Scripture. You’ve just got to let it do its thing. You’ve just got to look at it and go, “Yeah. That’s where it’s at.”
Let’s just be — just take a moment. And I’m not asking you to put yourself under some guilt trip or anything like that. I’m just asking you to let Scripture interpret you. How often in our lives are we really, cognizantly thinking about how to make sure that we are intentional and appropriate and we’re walking in absolute wisdom towards those that are outside of the Church? Because I would submit that most of us don’t really think about walking in wisdom towards the outsiders. We just sort of do our thing. You know? Like the opportunity arises and we’re like, “Yeah. That’s right. Let me tell you about turn or burn. That’s the answer right there.”
You know? That’s not using wisdom. Okay? He says, “Walk in wisdom. Listen, you’re praying and you’re being watchful. You’re paying attention in your prayers because God’s going to give opportunity for you. This is what it’s all about. God planted the Church. He planted the Church there in Colossae. How did you get in. Through the Gospel? So, how are you going to get other people in? Through the Gospel. Let’s make sure that we don’t confuse it and get it all wrangled, messed up and added to and ‘don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t this and don’t that.’ Make sure it’s simple. Make sure you understand that it’s a person. The Gospel is not a rule or regulation book. It’s a person. It’s about a man named Jesus.”
He says, “So, when you’re praying, pray for us that we have those opportunities because that’s what I’m supposed to do. And make sure that you walk in wisdom towards outsiders.”
Listen: “Making the best use of the time.”
In other words, Paul’s like, “Hey, we all got time. Are we making the best use of that time by walking in wisdom towards outsiders? Or are we caught up in our own world, caught up in our own pursuits?”
I mean, seriously for a minute, just listen. If you’re listening via the mobile app at some point or the internet, listen to me. Here’s the reality: If this world is not all that there is — if this world is just a very, very, very small, like one piece of sand on the beach to eternity, if there really is a Jesus, if there really is a heaven and there really is a hell, if there really is the things that Scripture says, then we would be burdened. Like Paul says, “I ought to do these things.” There would be a burden of making sure that as we pray, that we are thinking about how we conduct ourselves towards the outsiders, and we’re making the best opportunity and use of the time that we have.
In Greek, there’s two words for time. There’s chrónos, which is basically like a watch, a clock. And then there’s kairos, which is an appointed time. If you’ve ever been married, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve chosen the wrong kairos to say the things to your wife. Right? That’s the wrong time. Okay? Not the time, just the wrong time. It wasn’t the appropriate timing of the situation. But what Paul is saying here is to make the best use of the time of the opportunities that you have. And this is really cool. “Best use of the time” can be translated out of the original language to “buy up every opportunity.” In other words, we are to be buying up every opportunity that we can to share the Gospel with those that are on the outside.
And here’s the next one. This is really good. Look at this: “Let your speech always be gracious,”
Okay. Let’s take a moment here. I know it’s not the 10:15. It’s the people at 11:45 and at 9:00 and Saturday at 6:00. I know none of you all are there. Okay? I know that. I know that. But I just want to say, just so that I’ve at least said it to everybody, because I know it doesn’t really apply to anybody in here, but Paul says towards the outsiders we’re to have gracious speech. Which, let’s admit it, the Church hasn’t always had gracious speech towards those on the outside. Paul says, “This is the way we should conduct ourselves. You’re supposed to be intentional about the things that you do. You’re supposed to have wisdom. You’re supposed to be doing these things. This is who we are. We are God’s team to tell people about Jesus.”
He says, “Let your speech be gracious, seasoned with salt,”
It’s funny because I’ve heard preachers go, “Now, this is when you can get them. You start of gracious and then you get that salt on their wound and tell them, ‘You’re going to burn.’”
No. That’s not what this is talking about. This is what we can all idiomatic statement. I’ll give you an example. If you were having a baked potato that was bland and you seasoned it with salt, it would taste a little bit better. What Paul is saying is that we should be using gracious words towards those that are on the outside, and the way that we say it should make it interesting, should make it insightful, should make it less than boring. There could be humor involved. In other words, we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that we’re praying for all the opportunities, because we’re watching for them and we’re thankful that God includes us in them, and we’re praying for Paul so that he can do the same thing. But we’re going to talk in wisdom towards the outsiders, we’re going to make sure that we buy up every opportunity, and we’re going to make sure that we’re gracious and we’re seasoning what we’re saying so that...”
“So that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
In other words, if we’re doing this thing right where we’re walking in wisdom, we’re thinking about with intention what we’re doing on those that are on the outside for lost loved ones, lost family members, lost coworkers, or people out at Lakewood Ranch or wherever it may be, we’re thinking about that and we’re thinking about how we can buy up every opportunity that we have so that we can use gracious words that are seasoned with salt, and the reason is so that we know how we ought to answer every person.
In other words, it’s tailored to the person in which we’re speaking. We’re not coming up and giving them the nine steps that we tell every single person like some rhetoric that we’ve got. No. What we’re doing is we’re actually focused on people in such a way that we can answer them specifically to the things that they have need of.
So, let me just sort of rewind here what this is saying. It says that we speak with civility. That’s a lost art today, but we should be people that speak to the outsiders with civility. We’re not supposed to be boring. You know? It’s not, “Yeah. Come to my church. It’ll change your life.” “I don’t want any of that.” Or, “Yeah, man. Jesus did some really good things in my life.” Like, “Yeah, that’s not quite what Paul’s saying.” He’s saying that we need to make sure that we’re gracious, but it doesn’t need to be boring. And he says, “And it’s tailored. It’s specifically tailored to the person that we’re talking to.”
And just in those four verses, he’s basically said everything that he’s said up to this point. The Gospel’s come and it’s changed your life and you want to continue in that. Keep looking to Jesus and all those great things. Don’t get caught up on all the crazy stuff and rules and regulations because that never saved anybody. It didn’t get you in. It’s not the Gospel. Make sure that we live this thing out because here’s what it’s all about: We should be praying and watching for opportunities to share the Gospel and being thankful in them and making sure that we are intentional in the way that we respond to those that are on the outside.
People ask me all the time, “Why do y’all put up everywhere, ‘We want to be intentional neighbors that reflect Christ?’” I’m like, “That’s because it’s a biblical thing. Being intentional is biblical. Being neighborly, that’s the best way to reach people. It’s to get to know them, get in their world and show them that you care.”
That’s what Paul’s saying. Walk in wisdom towards the outsiders. Then he makes the turn here. The turn that he makes is towards the ending of the letter. And a lot of times, if you’re reading this stuff, you’ll sort of blow through it, but I want to show you how cool these endings are. There’s not a surplus of words.
He says, “Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts,”
In the first century, when a letter was written, specifically one like Colossians where Paul’s in prison — I mean, he can’t physically deliver the letter. He has someone who brings the letter to the church. And the person that would bring the letter to the church would have talked to Paul about the letter. They would teach the church about what’s being said, and when people had a question, “What does he mean here?” he would be able to give that answer and he’d be able to give that answer, and he’d be able to tell you what’s going on in Paul’s life. You may say, “Well, okay, that’s great.”
But it’s important because if you’re reading the end of Romans, which is like a powerful, powerful, powerful epistle in the New Testament — many people would say it’s the greatest New Testament epistle — at the end of Romans in Romans 16, we don’t have Tychicus that is bringing the letter that’s teaching the church that’s telling them what Paul said, but this is Romans. Like, of all the letters, you’re going to have the person that you’re going to send to teach this letter to the church, to teach these people what it’s saying, to read it to them, guess who is sent? Phoebe. A woman. See? That’s why you read the Bible. Man, it’ll mess you up. I mean, it just does. I think sometimes we don’t read the ending of it because this stuff just messes us up. So, Tychicus has come and you say, “Okay, that’s great.” But no. This is powerful. “I’ve got Tychicus. He’s going to tell you. He’s a great dude. He’s all this stuff.”
“And with him Onesimus,”
Now, if you don’t know anything about the Bible, you just go, “That’s a bad name. Who would name their kid Onesimus?” You know? Like, “Come here, Onesimus.” No. This is important because in Colossae, in the city, there was a gentleman named Philemon that lived there. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus that had stolen some things from him and had bolted. In that world, that wasn’t a good thing. But Onesimus had found Jesus, and Paul sends Onesimus back to Colossae, with Tychicus, with the letter to the Colossians and with a letter individually written not for the church, but to a person named Philemon, telling Philemon, “Hey, listen, Onesimus, he’s good. He’s a good dude. He’s useful, man. If he stole something from you or did something, just put it on my account. I’ll take care of it. What I want you to do is I want you to accept him as a brother.” Paul’s smart. Look what he does here. He says, “So, Tychicus is coming with Onesimus.”
He says, “Our faithful and beloved brother, which is one of you.”
So, now, when they read this publicly, the whole church is going to go, “Hey, Onesimus is a good dude. He’s a good dude.” So, if Philemon comes in and goes, “He’s a scoundrel,” the church is going to go, “No. He’s a good dude.” And then he wrote to Philemon. Paul knows what he’s doing here because this is what the Gospel can do in people’s lives. It can change people’s lives. You can go from being a scoundrel to someone who is a faithful and beloved brother, one of the part of the body of Christ. These are powerful words that are not just thrown in at the end to just sort of fill up some page so that we have something to read. They’re powerful.
He says, “They [Tychicus and Onesimus] will tell you of everything that’s taken place here.”
There’s a lot to say. I mean, they’ve got a lot to tell you about what’s happened in their lives and what’s happened around here. They’re going to tell you that stuff.
He says, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions — if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus.”
And you say, “Well, pfft.” This is great stuff. In the book of Acts, if we only had Acts, we would know that Paul and Barnabas did missionary work together. But they took on this dude. His name was John Mark. Evidently, John Mark wasn’t as full in as Paul would have liked for him to be. So, he told him, “You can’t continue with us because you’re not full in.”
Well, Barnabas and Paul get into a spat over John Mark and Barnabas and Paul split up. Barnabas goes doing his thing and Paul goes doing his thing. If we didn’t have anything but Acts, we would go, “Man, why was Barnabas so defensive of this guy?” Well, now we know. He’s his cousin.
And Paul says, “(Concerning whom you have received instructions —)”
This is John Mark. Evidently, he’s told the church, “Hey, this is a guy that’s done something,” but, evidently, something’s changed because he says:
“(If he comes to you, welcome him),”
In other words, there’s been restoration. There’s been forgiveness. This is a beautiful concept. I mean, this is who we are. This is the Church. We forgive. We wash feet. We do these things.
He goes on to say, “These are the only men of the circumcision [Aristarchus, Mark, Barnabas and Jesus who’s called Justus] among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.”
Here’s Paul talking about Jewish brothers that are believers that have been a comfort to him. You know, it’s funny because — it’s not funny. It’s terrible. But if you go back and read some of the 1920, 1930, 1910 German theological works, they will hint to you that Paul was anti-Semitic. But, of course, they just didn’t read the end of Colossians here where Paul is obviously not, in any way, shape or form, anti-Semitic. He’s working with Jewish brothers and he says they’re a comfort to him. So, these are important words. They may just feel like they’re throwaway words to you, but they’re very important in what they’re saying.
He says, “Epaphras, who is one of you,” — this is the guy that lead the church in Colossae to Christianity — “a servant of Christ Jesus, greet you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.”
Now, I know all of you all pray this way, but we should be praying and struggling for people in their faith that they stand mature and complete in the will of God. Oftentimes, that’s not our prayers. But one of the commentaries, I loved what the guy said. He said, “So, Epaphras has moved. He’s not at Colossae anymore. He’s moved on somewhere else, but he’s still praying for that church. How many pastors have left several churches that continue to pray and struggle in prayer for the people that they lead to the Lord or the people that they shepherded 10 years ago or 15 years ago?”
I mean, it’s just a great reminder. These word are not throwaway words. So, Epaphras, he’s praying for you and struggling for you.
He says, “For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.”
In other words, this is a man that’s got after it for the Kingdom of God.
He says, “Luke the beloved physician greets you...”
Luke’s a doctor. Thank God we have Colossians. He’s a doctor. So, not only did he go with Paul, he could also help Paul and doctor Paul.
“As does Demas.”
We’ll come back to Demas in a minute. This is important.
“Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.”
This is where when you’re reading the Bible and you’ve been sort of churched your whole life and you find out that there’s a woman who has a church in her house, it’s like, “Dun dun dun!” And you go, “What do I do with that?”
Well, you know what the textual people have done? We have 57,000 manuscripts. A lot of them have changed Nympha to Nymphus and have changed her to him so that they could get the woman out of the church. We see that in the textual changes that have gone on that scribes have gone, “We don’t want to have a church in a woman’s house. We can’t do that.”
Well, that’s why it’s great that you read these things because, at the very least, you have a church that’s meeting in a woman’s house that she ultimately has control over the house. Possibly, she’s the pastor of that church. Man, the Bible will mess you up when you read it. I’m telling you. That’s why we don’t read these things at the end. You know? We’re like, “Yeah. I don’t know what to do with that right there. I need to jump over to 1 Timothy 2 and tell them women to be silent.”
You know? That’s what we like to do. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Sort of hard to prophesy if you have to keep your mouth shut. Anyways, Nympha and the church in her house. You women should be thankful that I am as pro-woman as I am, because I am. I mean, I’ll tell you right now, if it weren’t for my wife, I’d be rolling around in the rocks, drooling out of my mouth. Thank God for women.
“And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read to the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.”
This is important. We see that the local letters were circulated within the churches, and so the letters that were actually speaking to all of the churches were the ones that were catalogued because here we have a letter that was to the Laodiceans. We don’t have it. So, obviously, it wasn’t Scripture. If it would’ve been Scripture, we would’ve had it. So, Paul wrote other things. We just don’t have those things because, as they circulated these things, the church came to realize, “Man, this is speaking to us. There’s something special about these letters.”
“And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.’”
Any good pastor at any good church is going to want to make sure that every person in their church is fulfilling the ministry that God has for them. And let me just take a moment here to tell you you have a ministry in the Kingdom of God whether you feel like you do or you feel like you don’t or whatever. I’m just telling you everybody in here has something to do for the Kingdom of God. You have something to do. And your contribution to the church is vital because, without you, we’re missing a part of the things that we need for the whole. So, he says that.
Then he concludes with, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.”
The reason he says that is because when he would start to write with his own hand, his words would be a lot bigger because an amanuensis could write really small on the paper that was expensive. So, when Paul would sign it at the end, that’s why he says, at the end of Galatians, “Look at how large the letters I’m writing with.”
That’s why he’s saying that because it was like you’d know Paul wrote it. It’s also a sign that this is his book.
He says, “Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”
Great, great epistle. There’s no question about it. Let’s do a couple of real quick, practical take-homes from what we’ve looked at today, and then I’ve got one final thing I want to say and we’ll get out of here.
First of all, we would do well to really listen to the tenderness, care and the value that Paul has for the community. I think a lot of people think that Paul was sort of this tough dude that never wanted to hang out with anybody and just sort of did his own thing. Just go back and read the ending of Colossians. Read it. Look at the tenderness. I mean, everybody’s got a part to play. Luke, Demas, this guy and that guy and everybody else. I mean, everybody’s got — he sees the value of the community. He sees the value of this, of us meeting together. The big take-away, I’d say, is the local church, in its proper functioning, matters tremendously to Paul. I just would ask all of us to take a moment sometime — right now, maybe five minutes from now, maybe in your car on the way home or sometime this week — and ask yourself the question: “How much does the local church matter to me? How much does it matter? Does it really matter to me?”
And this is what I would say. I can sort of expose something here. I find very few people that move away, ever, are concerned with anything other than the better job that they’re getting or the place that they’re moving. They never think, “Hey, should I go find a church first, before I move, to make sure that I’m getting grounded and I’m being moved on and that I’m learning?”
We don’t even think about that. Okay? To Paul, he would stand up here and rebuke that thinking. He would say, “Man, you don’t understand. This is the most important thing in life is what we’re doing right here in influencing the community for Jesus because eternity matters. Right?
Second, following Christ isn’t always easy. I just want a real quick mention here of this. I just want you to see this. Paul says there’s a guy named Demas. We wouldn’t know anything about Demas. I mean, that would be it. Demas. Well, he must’ve been somewhat important because when Paul thought of Luke — and Luke was very important to Paul — the next guy he thinks of is Demas. So, Demas is probably an important guy. Part of the band of brothers. Part of the Kingdom of God. Part of doing all this stuff. Part of doing the ministry. Involved. We wouldn’t know anything other about Demas than that. That’s all we could say about Demas if we knew. We could say, “Yeah. He’s involved. He’s important. If he’s after Luke, he’s got to be important.”
Except we find his name one more time in probably the last letter Paul ever wrote. Here’s what he says: “For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” Paul doesn’t say he’s not a Christian anymore. He just says, “He’s deserted me.”
Paul’s probably in prison. Well, he is in prison. He’s probably going to die soon, or everybody feels that way. Demas might have felt like, “Man, if I hang out too close to this guy, it might be me next. This is a little uncomfortable, so I’m going to go back home. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Paul says, “Hey, man. You loved the world more than you loved the Kingdom of God at this point.”
He doesn’t say he’s not a Christian. He just says, “He’s deserted me.” What I would say is this: There’s going to be times and seasons in your Christian life where you feel the tug. It’s a struggle. What I can tell you is you don’t want to go home to Thessalonica during those times. You want to dig in here. You want to get people praying for you. You want to press forward because that’s what we do as Christians. I can tell you this: You need other people in your life to press forward because Christianity’s not always easy.
Third, it’s interesting that Paul doesn’t ask them when he’s saying, “Hey, pray for us.” He doesn’t say, “Pray for the lost.” He just says, “Pray for an opportunity to share the Gospel.” Because, see, Paul knows — and we’re slick. We’ll pray, “God, we pray for the lost, God. We pray that You bring them home and everything.” And then we feel like we’re done. Like, we’re never going to share Jesus with anybody because we just prayed for the lost. No, no, no, no. Paul doesn’t pray for the lost. Paul says, “Pray for an opportunity to share the Gospel. You’ve got a part to play. It’s not just praying for the lost. It’s actually going out and telling people about Jesus.”
You know? Somebody feels anointed. I’ve got one person going, “Yeah. Alright.” But listen here. This is a little bit sobering. David Garland is a professor at Baylor. He wrote a commentary on Colossians. This is what he says:
“If Christians felt the same urgency to reach others with the Gospel as they do about securing their own welfare in this world, our churches would see amazing results.”
I’m just going to leave that one there. Now, lean in here. Lean in here because I’m concluding here. Lean in here. If you didn’t listen to anything I said, and slept through the entire series and are thinking right now about chips with salsa and queso at Chili’s — that’s where you’re at. You’re like, “I haven’t listened to a thing.” Okay, this is the time where the ADHD comes back. “Squirrel. Chip. Colossians.” Okay? You’re there. I’m asking you please listen to this one thing. If you haven’t listened to nothing I said, just this one thing. Listen here and give me your attention here.
Jesus really can make a difference in you and I’s lives. He can make a difference. I just want to show you here. Just let this sink in. So, Jesus meet Paul on the Damascus road. Paul is a guy that’s persecuting the Church, throwing people in prison, can’t stand Christians. Meets Jesus. Jesus changes his life. Not only does Paul become the great apostle that plants all these churches, but writes most of the New Testament. Why? Because Jesus changed his life.
What about Epaphras? I mean, we don’t know much about Epaphras. What we know about Epaphras is that he’s the guy that shared the Gospel to the church at Colossae. He planted that church. He formed that church in Colossae. We know that he also went to Hierapolis and Laodicea and pastored them and loved on them. That’s what we know about Epaphras. He wasn’t some great man or we’d have known about it. He wasn’t some great leader or we’d have known about him. He wasn’t some high and mighty guy or we’d have known about him. He’s just a dude. He was a dude. Probably what happened is when Paul visited Ephesus, Epaphras was there and he heard the Gospel and it changed his life. And what did he do? He went and led a city to Jesus and went and pastored in Hierapolis and Laodicea, struggling in prayer for people to stand mature and complete in the will of God. How did a dude have that happen to him? Because he met Jesus and Jesus changed his life forever.
How about this guy here? Onesimus the slave steals bolts and comes back under the threat of what knows what could happen because Jesus has changed his life. See, this is what He does. That’s just who He is. I just want to encourage you, if you’re here and maybe you’re not even sure where you’re at with Jesus at this point, you’re not even sure about those things, let me tell you: Jesus loves you more than you could ever imagine. He wants so much to complete those things you’re looking for in your life. He is what you are looking for. That homing beacon that’s looking for all kinds of stuff, that’s the hole there that only God can fill in your life. That’s what you’re hearing. You’re looking at other things, but He’s the one that’s the answer.
If that’s you and you go, “You know what, man? I want it. How do I know?” Here’s what you know: Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose again on the third day?” If you’re like, “Man, I’m in,” okay. You can be in. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. You can be in. And what we want you to do is not just go, “I’m in.” We want you to come and find somebody with a lanyard, a name badge or a shirt and say, “I’m in. What do I need to do?” because we want to get you in a class, we want to get you baptized and we want to move things forward so that you can help you in your walk with the Lord.
So, if that’s you, please find somebody. Tackle me in the hallway. “Man, I want to know more.” That’s what we want. But then, for those of us who are Christians, we really need to think through what it means to really be the Church and to be a place that truly proclaims the Gospel and understand why we will always be a church that exists to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
Let me end with this. I hope this is encouraging to somebody who’s maybe struggling today. It’s by C.S. Lewis. He says, “No amount of falls are really ever going to undo us if we keep picking ourselves up each time. We shall, of course, be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home, but the bathrooms are all already and the towels are put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.”
And maybe that’s where you are today, going, “Man, that’s where I’m at.” I mean, I look at myself. That’s why He came. He didn’t come because of Church, Chip Bennett, a denomination. Ain’t nobody going to clean you up. The one who can clean you up, His name is Jesus. He says, “Come as you are.” He can make a difference in our lives.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the truth of Your Word. I thank You that we were able, as a church, to go through this wonderful epistle. I pray, Lord, that it would speak into our hearts and would resonate in our spirits for weeks and months to come. But, specifically, Lord, I pray for anybody today that doesn’t know the Lord, that they would move forward in that decision and find somebody and make that commitment to say, “I’m in.”
And then, for us, Lord, that are regular attenders here at Grace, I pray that, once again, we would let Your Word speak to us to realize how important the local church is to reaching the community, Lord, and help us to be those people that honor that commitment as we’ve read Your Word, studied Your Word and understand the impact of it.
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’d bring us back safely to when we meet again for Your glory and for Your honor. And Lord, I pray that You would continue to help us be the church that you’ve called us to be, and that is to make sure that we’re reaching the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.