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Colossians 2.1-5

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"RISING TO THE CHALLENGE"

(A Message in Colossians)

Westgate Chapel 8/26/03                                 Colossians 2:1-5

PROPOSITION:  The Church of Jesus in America is on the precipice of unprecedented persecution and will survive only if she has a long range perspective, if she has a growing relationship with Christ, and if she stays in impenetrable battle formation. 

i. introduction

-     RISING above the noise of business as usual in post world war England, circa 1932, the solitary voice of Winston Churchill was heard calling the nation to abandon her self-absorption and arm herself against  the threat of Hitler's Germany.

-     NOBODY listened.

-     THEY were so intent on their own peace and prosperity that they chose to believe that Hitler had no sinister intentions....even though he was running his factories 24 hours a day making war machinery.

-     THEY accused Churchill of fabricating the coming conflict just to further his own political ambitions.

-     THEY said that he was trying to make trouble.

-     THAT he was too enamored with conspiracy theories.

-     FOR seven years he begged and pleaded with parliament, the king, and the nation to get ready for war.

-     AND for seven years not  one soul paid any attention to the old man.

-     UNTIL that dark night of Nazi barbarism finally fell on Austria, then Czechoslovakia, then Poland....and by the time England was awakened to the terror it was almost too late.

-     WE are facing a time like that in America right now.

-     ONLY the enemy isn't the Al Queda, or Muslim Fundamentalists, or Hamas.

-     OUR enemies are the powers of darkness coming in frontal assault against the Gospel and the Church of Jesus right here in the United States...attacking in the form of the growing tide of hatred against the Truth.

-     WHEN I interviewed Chuck Colson six years ago on KCIS....Chuck is the former special counsel to President Nixon.....he said that the American Christian is going to face unprecedented persecution.

-     DAVID Wilkerson warns of growing hostility against the Church of Jesus in America.

-     MOST of us take that as an alarmist reaction to what we think is just a passing public sentiment.

-     BUT Chuck Colson quotes a Gallup poll where the American public was given a list of people they would most fear having as neighbors. 50% said they would be afraid having Fundamentalist Christians next door.

-     SAN Diego County Supervisors passed an ordinance that forbids prayer groups from meeting in private homes because it is in violation of R1 zoning law in the county.

-     MUCH of the Education Reform legislation is tailored as a vehicle for the indoctrination of our children in the humanistic agenda.

*     It is designed to prepare our children as citizens of the global village....with values determined not by the Bible but by terms like "cultural diversity."

*     Dr. William Pierce, professor of Teacher Training at Harvard University....speaking at the Childhood Education International Association said,

      "Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill because he comes to school with certain allegiances towards our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It is up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well, by creating the international child of the future."

-     GLOBALISM is one of the war cries of our enemy. He is getting everyone ready to accept a one world government.....the coming New World Order.

-     TELEVISION programs portray Christians as irrational fanatics.

-     GOVERNMENT is suspicious at best, hostile at worst towards what they view as the "dangerous religious right" who take the Bible literally, are preoccupied with Jesus, believe in prophecy, and meet in homes for Bible study and prayer.

-     THE recent move to remove “under God” from our pledge of allegiance, and the ten commandments from a courthouse in Alabama, is further evidence of the battle we are in against the forces of darkness.

-     THERE is an anti-God, anti-Bible, anti-Christ, anti-Christian agenda that is coming at us faster with every passing week.

-     READ the signs of the times and wake up Church of Jesus!

-     PERSECUTION is right around the corner.

ii. YOU NEED A kingdom PERSPECTIVE

-     BUT this shouldn't be a surprise to the Christian today.

-     LISTEN to some of the warnings in Scripture about the last days:

*     "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days." (II Timothy 3:1)

*     "Because of the increase of wickedness the love of most will grow cold...." (Matthew 24:12)

*     "If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive....." (Matthew 24:22)

*     "Watch out that no one deceives you." (Matthew 24:4)

*     "Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking but the Holy Spirit." (Mark 13:11)

*     "All men will hate you because of Me....but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Mark 13:13)

-     FROM the inception of the Church of Jesus, almost two thousand years ago, the enemy has been opposing the work of God in us.

-     AND it only makes sense that as his time runs out, he is going to step up the intensity and frequency of his attacks against the Christian and the Church of Jesus.

-     PAUL was no stranger to opposition.

-     THE moment that Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, the opposition began.

*     At first the Christians in Jerusalem had a hard time accepting him.

*     Just about every town he went to tried to stone him and throw him out.

*     Religionists tried to shut him down and corrupt his message of grace.

*     Demon-possessed detractors tried to heckle him and stop him from preaching the Gospel.

*     Alexander the silversmith tried to kill him.

*     The Sanhedrin tried to silence him.

*     Demons tried to drown him in the Mediterranean.

*     The Roman Empire tried to chain him down.

-     BUT all that the opposition served to do was to give Paul a kingdom of God perspective.

-     LISTEN to him in Colossians 2:1,

      "I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally."

-     THE opposition in Colosse was in the form of the false teachers within and the hostile pagan culture from without.

-     THE church was under tremendous attack.

-     CHRISTIANS were suffering.

*     Disowned by their families.

*     Cut off from their culture.

*     Some had even laid their lives down for the Gospel.

*     Those who stayed faithful were being told that salvation was only for a small elite who were intelligent enough to understand deep spiritual truths.

-     AND in the middle of this persecution, Paul wants them to know in Colosse, in Laodicea, in nearby Hieropolis......and all those who have not met him personally.....how much he is struggling for them.

-     WHO are those who have not met him personally? Most of the believers in that area....AND you and me.

-     PAUL faced all that he did for YOU.....so that you would have the pure Gospel handed down to you.

-     NOTHING slowed him down from the objectives of the kingdom of God. Nothing deterred him from that goal.

-     AND he did it for people he had never met and would never meet.

-     HE faced the persecution with a kingdom perspective.

-     HE was living his life for the generations that would follow the trail that he was blazing.

-     WHY was it so important to Paul that they...and we know about his struggle?

-     BECAUSE when we face persecution, we need a kingdom perspective.....for the sake of people who follow us, people we may never meet.

-     THE Bible and history books are full of men and women who faced persecution that way.

*     Stephen...whose death impacted Paul for the rest of his life.

*     Polycarp, pastor of the church in Ephesus who was burned alive for refusing to declare “Caesar is Lord.”

*     Martin Luther.

*     Hudson Taylor.

*     Pentecostal church planters in the 1930's and 40's.

*     Our own missionaries in India.

*     Our young people who meet at the flag pole on public school grounds to pray.

*     College students who have the courage to speak truth in their classrooms.

-     THIS is not the time to wimp out, Church.

-     THIS is the time to rise to the challenge and live and speak truth to a dark and dying nation.....for the sake of people we may never meet.

-     LET the enemy belittle us in the press.

-     LET the enemy try to undermine our children's faith.

-     LET the enemy try to corrupt the values of the Bible that made this nation great once.

-     LET them mock Christ.

-     LET them try to legislate prayer out of our homes...they succeeded in our schools.

-     LET them arrest us for believing God's Word.

-     LET them confiscate our properties and lands through government seizure.

-     AND when it comes....and Colson and Wilkerson say it will.... may we be willing to rise to the challenge and struggle on for those in Everett, and Lynnwood, and Tacoma, and Snohomish and even those who have not net us personally.

-     GOD give us a kingdom perspective like Paul.

iii. YOU need a growing relationship with christ

-     HOW do we meet the challenge of persecution?

-     HOW do we get ready?

-     HOW do we live in those kinds of circumstances?

-     PAUL gives us a second principle for doing that in Colossians 2:2-3,

      "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

-     THE bottom line of these two verses is simply this: YOU NEED A GROWING RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST!

-     KNOWING Christ is the central theme of these two verses.

-     PAUL uses the words "riches" and "treasure" to describe what it is to know Christ....like gold that is to be mined from a lode without end.

-     THIS is what makes the world so angry at the Gospel and us....Verse 3 says that "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" are found in Christ.

-     WISDOM is the supernatural ability to apply "FIRST" principles to any situation and live accordingly in Truth.

*     They can say all they want that education is the answer to AIDS and teen pregnancy....but wisdom from above says otherwise.

*     They can swear that evolutionary theory is not a religion....but wisdom says otherwise.

*     They can scream at you that abortion is a woman's right to her own body, that what is in her womb is just tissue....but wisdom says otherwise.

*     The world can tell you that the only way to handle your guilt is to try and put it behind you, to talk yourself into feeling better about yourself....but wisdom says that only Jesus paid the price for your forgiveness.

-     THIS wisdom doesn't come from head knowledge...it comes from a growing relationship with Jesus.

-     KNOWLEDGE is the ability to grasp specific truths about God, about Man and the true nature of things.

-     NOW, this too is not something gained by natural reasoning, but by the Holy Spirit.

-     SO pursuing Jesus brings two of the most important ingredients of all of life....wisdom and knowledge.

-     ALL wisdom and knowledge spring from Him....and come from seeking Him in His Word and in prayer and in worship and fasting and study and the other disciplines of the faith.

-     BUT there are two very interesting pre-conditions that Paul says must exist before you can grow in your knowledge of Christ....before you can receive this supernatural wisdom and knowledge.

-     VERSE 2 says,

      "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding.....namely, Christ."

-     THERE are two conditions that must pre-exist if in the battle we are going to receive growing wisdom and knowledge in Christ.

-     HERE they are:

*     Encouraged in heart.

*     United in love.

-     VERSES 2 and 3 promise a whole wealth of spiritual experience in Christ that can only be enjoyed if these two conditions exist.

*     Encouraged in heart.

*     United in love.

-     WHAT do they mean?

-     ENCOURAGED in heart means to be inspired, to be stimulated, to be incited, in your heart towards the Lord....which has faith as its root.

*     It is the opposite of indifference, dismay, dejection, fearfulness, hopelessness....which has unbelief as its root.

*     In I Samuel 30, when David had lost his family and the city of Ziklag to the Philistines.....he wept a while and then it says that he "encouraged himself in the Lord."

*     I Thessalonians 4 says that we are to "encourage one another."

-     SO the condition of encouragement in the Lord is crucial to receiving a growing knowledge of Christ.

-     THAT makes sense because unbelief and grumbling cancels faith.

-     THE second pre-condition to growing in the knowledge of Christ is UNITED IN LOVE.

*     UNITED.....joined into one.

*     IN LOVE....the word for love used here is agape, which means the giving of oneself without reservation, for the highest good of the object of your love, without any thought of  receiving a return.

-     NOW lets read verses 2 and 3 again.

      "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

-     THE natural tendency, when you and I are under pressure, is to be discouraged and grumbling, and unloving and even open to divisiveness.

-     WE can't allow that to happen.

-     IT is enough to be attacked from the outside.

-     IT is unthinkable to also have discouragement and division as well....that keep us from growing in our knowledge of Christ.

-     IF you and I want to experience the riches of God's wisdom and knowledge in Christ.....we must first be encouraged and united in love....PERIOD.

iv. you need to stay in rank with the body of christ

-     HERE is the third principle in our passage this morning that has to do with handling persecution.

-     VERSES 4&5,

      "I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is."

-     ORDERLY and FIRM are two military terms.

-     INSTEAD of being swayed by the fine-sounding arguments of the opposition....Paul rejoices that the believers in Colosse are:

*     Orderly......compact, tight in rank and formation, and resistant to the penetration of the enemy.

*     Firm in the faith.....unwavering, settled conviction. No waffling here. No trembling indecision.

-     THEY may be persecuted, burned at the stake, thrown to the lions...but these believers were not breaking rank.

-     YOU need to stay in rank with the Body of Christ.

-     DON'T go off on your own.

-     DON'T pull back.

-     DON'T retreat to lick your wounds...that is where the enemy lurks to take advantage of your weakness.

-     STAY in close rank.

-     GET out to prayer meetings.

-     GET into one of our Care Groups.

-     THERE may come a day when that is the only way we can gather.

-     WE really do need each other.

-     THE Christian life is not just a Jesus and me duet....it is all of us in this together, supporting one another, standing together in the battle.

v. conclusion

-     YOU may be facing persecution now...on the job, in your family.

-     AS believers we are certainly going to see more of it in the future.

-     I BELIEVE it will come suddenly, like an unleashed torrent.

-     THIS passage teaches us three things to remember about this kind of opposition:

*     LIVE with a long range perspective.

*     PURSUE a growing relationship with Christ.

*     STAY in rank with the Body of Christ.

-     DANIEL 11:32-35 foresees the persecution of our very day, and says of the Antichrist,

      "With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.  Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time."

-     WE must be ready. We must prepare our children to stand for Christ on their own.

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