Essentials Part 8 - Continue
We are at the end of our series on discipleship - the Essentials of discipleship. And this week is perhaps one of the most important weeks in the series - because it’s about continuing with Jesus.
Because so often in life, we start things…and then we give up. We’re so excited at the start, and then as time goes on we kinda lose interest.
This is something that can’t happen with our relationship with Jesus.
And to help us to see what that means, and kinda in order to wrap up the series, we’re looking at Colossians 1, which we read out earlier. And, if you remember last week we looked at running a race - today we’re going to continue in a similar vein as we look at continuing in discipleship.
And to set the scene, I want you to think of someone whom you aim to please. Maybe it’s your boss, maybe it’s your husband or wife…I know I’m playing catch up after last week when I said I was better than Kate at navigating a maze. It appears fact doesn’t seem to matter when you slander your wife.
And so I’m doing whatever I can to please my wonderful darling wife.
At the same time, as I’m the assistant here, I’m also doing whatever I can to make Paul happy. I wouldn’t want to let him down and of course all of you too…the point is there are people we try to please....Maybe it’s your parents, your spouse, your children.
What about God?
[Are we trying to please God?]
And when you think about people you know, isn’t it frustrating when people have awesome potential in them and they aren’t living up to that potential?
This is what Paul is saying to us in this part of his letter to the Colossians. Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is that their lives reach the potential that Christ has granted them so that they become true disciples who walk in a manner pleasing to God.
And that’s what we should be wanting for ourselves, but not just for ourselves - for each other too. When we pursue it for ourselves, that’s being a disciple, when we pursue it for others too, that’s being a disciple maker.
So, the big question is – since we know about what discipleship is… How can we keep it up? How can we continue well on our journey of discipleship?
Now, I know it’s obvious when you look at me that I like my sports. I’m very athletic as you can tell, and despite my natural athleticism, you all know that I can’t stand Football? If you also can’t stand football, think of another team sport.
But in many ways, discipleship is like being in a team. And in the football world, what happens at different intervals in the year is that players can transfer to another team.
And when we come to Christ - when we enter into this journey of discipleship, we too, have been transferred… transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. That’s the call that we looked at at the start of the series.
But how well do we appreciate this?
Paul says this in Colossians 1:13-14...
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
So we’ve been transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved son through the work of that son, Jesus Christ. In other words, Paul is reminding the Colossians what is already the case. They HAVE BEEN transferred. They are no longer in the dominion of darkness.
And it’s the same for us, if we have given our lives to Jesus Christ then we are already in the kingdom of God – we are disciples NOW.
Don’t forget what we said last week…Jesus doesn’t want converts, he wants disciples who learn from their teacher and want to please their teacher - walking in a manner that is pleasing to God...
So when we give our lives to Jesus, we become disciples. We have been transferred from the domain of darkness, where we once lived and are now citizens of the Kingdom of God.
Think about it in terms of football...
Neymar, the Brazillian footballer (no relation) transfers to Paris Saint Germain, from Barcelona, for a record breaking £198 million pounds, which is a transfer fee that none of us could pay – certainly not on a minister’s salary. But imagine if, rather than joining his new team, continued to train for his old team? It would be scandalous, especially the amount that was paid.
If you’ve been transferred to a new team, you train and play for your new team. The old team is in the past.
If you remember what Paul wrote which we saw last week, he said, he forgets what is behind and he focuses on what’s ahead.
And so it was with us – because we are born in sin…and as a result we were members of the darkness team, we were enemies of God, yet God in his grace sent his son Jesus Christ to pay the price for our sin on the cross, essentially paying the transfer fee from what Paul calls the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God through his death and resurrection.
Now in Neymar’s case, you could say he deserved the amount he was paid, because he WAS THAT good. In our case, we AREN’T that good. We are nowhere near THAT good for Jesus to pay the price to transfer us from the domain of darkness and into his kingdom. Thankfully, he paid it anyway because of his grace.
But now that we are on this new team, we play for this new team, we train with this new team, we should be all about this new team. And so there’s work to be done. There’s a game to play, there’s an opponent to beat, there are goals to be scored – but while that is happening, there is also constant training to be done.
And this is how we CONTINUE in our discipleship...
Paul prays in verse 9:
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,
And why does Paul pray this – verse 10:
10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,
So if we are to be able to please God by the way we walk – or the way we live. If we are to bear fruit, if we are to increase in the knowledge of God we must first be filled with the knowledge of his will, which is what Paul prays for the Colossians.
Now one of the reasons Paul was writing this was because the Colossians were being heavily influenced by false teachers. And so these influences were pulling the Colossians in many directions, which prompts Paul to explicitly say, “Colossians, the only knowledge that is worth knowing is the knowledge of God and his will. Know that and you’ll walk in a manner worthy of the Lord fully pleasing him.”
In other words - we can easily get distracted in our journey of discipleship and we can start taking our eyes OFF Jesus and onto other things, even onto good things…but we need to keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus - that’s HIS WILL for us. It’s our training. You can’t join a football team and not be expected to train. You can’t skip the training during the week and expect to play on match day.
It’s the same with disciples of Jesus. We are disciples now – we’ve been transferred into God’s kingdom right here, right now, so we have to train, otherwise we will not play well. We’re not going to bear fruit. We’re going to fail as disciples.
We need this filling of the knowledge of God with all Spiritual wisdom and understating right now IF we are to walk in a manner worthy of God, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Back to pleasing my wife.... If I want to please Kate and make her happy, I need to know what MAKES her happy and what makes her sad so that I can do the things that make her happy and stay away from the things that make her sad. It requires me to KNOW her - and I get to KNOW her by spending time with her.
The more I spend time with her the more I want to strangle her. No, the more I spend time with her, the more I know what she likes and what she doesn’t like.
And it’s the same with God – if we want to please God we need to know him. Knowing God is the key to all of this.
But knowing him is a process. It’s not a one-off thing – it’s ongoing.
So if you think of a footballer, or any sports person, they don’t just train once and that does them. They train again and again and again. They aren’t getting paid all that money just to play on match day. For all sportspeople, training is continuous.
Which is why Paul in verse 9 says, they have not ceased to pray for the Colossians asking them for this filling. Paul and Timothy are continually praying for this.
Discipleship is a continuous process. And it’s a process not just to make disciples, not just to engage with culture…In fact that’s kinda secondary....The main focus of our lives as disciples is GETTING TO KNOW OUR SAVIOUR.
In school, we HAD to play rugby or hockey, and I never even tried to play. I never bothered playing because I wasn’t interested in the game. I just stood around talking to whoever was beside me who also wasn’t interested in the game. Normally another geek like me.
Was I a member of the team? Yes. Would I have a share in the cup had the team won and it was a cup game? Yes. But I wasn’t playing my part.
I never scored any goals because I didn’t want to score goals and because I wasn’t interested in the game I never did anything to make myself any better. I never trained – and so I was never any good.
What that means for you and I today is this - To score goals you must want to score goals.
We are disciples RIGHT now, but we need to be interested in the game – we need a desire for this knowledge of God for ourselves and for others – the same desire that Paul had for the Colossians.
We need to want to bear fruit. And so we need this filling that Paul writes about. We need to be up front scoring goals – bearing fruit – not standing near the goal line waiting for the match to finish. We must WANT to play well.
Unfortunately wanting it is not enough.
But here’s more good news. We are not on our own in this – we have a manager and a coach to help us.
Last week we looked at how we can coach and mentor each other. Today we’re going to look at how Jesus coaches us.
Back to the sporting analogy - Footballers have a coach and a manager. Now maybe I’ve got this wrong, but in my head the manager manages the team, formation, subs and so on. And the coach is the one who assists in training.
Now the manager is often an ex-player - someone who has been there and done that. He knows what it’s like to play football. He knows what the players are feeling. He knows what they are going through on the pitch.
And here’s the thing – we have Jesus Christ, who has been there before us, who has lived a life on this earth, who has struggled like we struggle and who has discipled like we should disciple. He has BEEN there and DONE It and he KNOWS what it’s like.
So, be encouraged that Jesus Christ is the ultimate example in this life. He is our guide. He has gone before us and he knows our struggles, he knows our weaknesses and where we need improvement. And he also knows our strengths - in fact he IS our strength.
So Jesus is like our manager...
[Jesus is our manager]
But we also have a coach – the Holy Spirit...
[The Holy Spirit is our coach]
...who helps us in all of this – who assists in our training, because we can’t do this on our own.
And it’s only through the Holy Spirit that we can bear fruit, it’s only through the empowering of the Holy Spirit that we can walk in a manner pleasing to God. It’s only through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we can increase in the knowledge of God. It’s only through him that we can impact our environments with the kingdom of God.
And so we pray for a knowledge of Jesus Christ, through studying his word, prayer, a filling of the Holy Spirit. And since our training is also continuous – so we pray for this continually.
But training comes in two parts. There’s skill training, but there’s also stamina training.
Footballers train hard. They train so as to be able to go the distance – the full 90 minutes.
And that’s what Paul prays for the Colossians in verse 11 – that they are…
11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;
We need strengthened in our lives, to be able to run the race, to be able to go the full 90 minutes to be able to endure…because we need to continue in discipleship.
But it’s not only that, Paul’s emphasising in the original language the sense of enduring in the face of opposition.
And so it makes sense, that if you walk in a way that is pleasing to God and if you bear fruit, you WILL come up against opposition. And that’s why Paul is praying for this strength - because we need a strength beyond our own if we are to endure – and that strength comes from Jesus Christ – it’s only thorough Jesus’ glorious might that we will endure.
Think about it – footballers don’t just kick a ball into an empty goal. Footballers play against an opponent, they are being attacked all the time, and it’s the skilful ones that are the ones to watch and so they are the ones on which the opposing team concentrate their efforts. It’s the ones bearing fruit in the game who are attacked the most, because they are a threat to the opposition.
On the few occasions I played football nobody marked me. Nobody from the other team was watching me in case I got the ball, because, first of all, Nobody ever passed to me because I was useless, and secondly, If the ball DID happen to roll my way, the chances of me doing anything useful with that ball was slim. So I was never a threat to the opposition. And because I wasn’t a threat to the opposition, they left me alone – they never bothered with me.
But, if you bear fruit, if you walk in a manner worthy of God fully pleasing to him then you will face opposition because you are the one to watch. You’ll be a threat to the opposition so you’re going to face attack from the opposition.
Now in football there’s a chance that either team will win. Thankfully in our Christian life we already know the outcome of this match – Jesus Christ has already secured the victory for us
And we know who the opposition is… It’s your previous team - it’s the domain of darkness. Paul says it in verse 13 and he also says it in Ephesians 6:12 when he says:
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
So we need this strength in verse 11 more than anything if we are to be effective disciples for Jesus Christ. Don’t forget that Jesus himself warned us that we would face persecution for his name…we looked at the cost a few weeks ago, and when we step out in discipleship and that will happen.
But this brings us back to the community… Discipleship is a team sport – how well do we support one another? We aren’t individuals playing together, we are in a team.
Paul & Timothy were writing this letter to the Colossians together. They were praying together for this church.
So while we are disciples RIGHT now, we are also disciple-makers. We are in a team, we are there to support each other, we are there to train each other to share our skills and techniques with each other. We are there to be Christ to each other.
Paul and Timothy are discipling this church. They aren’t just concerned about their own walk with God, they are concerned about the Colossians’ walk with God.
On those occasions when I was standing at the goal line praying the match would finish, if the ball ever came near me all I heard was, “ALVES – WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GET THE BALL!!!” My teammates shouted at me. Now I wouldn’t say they encouraged me gently to play well, but because I was part of a team I had a part to play and my teammates made sure I knew that.
And so it should be with us too. This is a common theme running through this series… We need to come alongside others, support them, pray for them, encourage them in their faith, and, if necessary, we need to pull them up on things as well.
What that means for us is that the more we live our lives in a manner worthy of God, pleasing him, the more we’ll be in a better place to disciple others. We need to be disciples before we can make disciples.
So be encouraged.
You’ve made the cut. You’ve received the call. You’ve come through the qualifying stages and are now qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints – to share in the prize that awaits you (verse 12). You’ve been transferred into God’s team...
But we need to train, both skill and stamina training – we need to know God more and more and we need the strength to endure at it - and it’s ongoing training. But we need to continue to keep our eyes focused on Jesus throughout this.
And although we face an opposition, we are part of a team, helping and supporting one another with a manager who knows what we’re going through and a coach who helps us go through it.
So let’s ask and keep on asking for this filling of the knowledge of God’s will with ALL spiritual wisdom and understanding so that we are able to bear fruit and walk in a such a way that God is pleased with us, to endure right up to the end, supporting each other on the way...
Let’s continue on this journey of discipleship, with our eyes fixed on Jesus, so that one day Jesus can say – with you I am well pleased!