Colossians 1:1-14. What would you pray for?
Colossians 1:1-14 What would you pray for? Summer Hill Church 15 January 2020 1. The main thing a. recovery i. this little letter of Paul in the New Testament is one of my favourite books in the Bible (1) It has been quite foundational in the way I think about living the Christian life. It’s full of deep insights and gems. ii. we last preached through this in 2013, and so I pulled out my talk from then and read this… (1) Been quite a year (a) there have been some huge things this year in Australia - like a new PM, and The Ashes (i) and the fires! (2) We prayed for rain and the fires back in 2013, as we pray for rain again and those still fighting the fires across our state (a) and with the slight improvement in conditions our eyes and our prayers turn forwards (3) we look to some rest and recovery and time to prepare for what we know, and history teaches us, will happen again (a) because as humans we need hope. (i) facing the appalling things happening across our state we grasp at the small things as signs of the future b. hope i. we’ve seen communities band together to help. (1) the imagery of people helping injured animals has been heart-wrenching, yet really - we see one or two animals saved when what I heard on Friday is that the estimate is that we have lost over a billion wildlife. (a) yet it does give hope doesn’t it. Some way forward in the difficulties around us. ii. and while of a different character and quality, the Christian is a person of hope (1) in Ephesians 1 Paul uses a description of being a Christian that doesn’t trip off our lips (a) in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:12 iii. I think we would have said “put our faith in Christ” or “Believed in Christ” (1) but hope is a little unusual (a) the NT uses hope as an indication of clear expectation, not as possible positive outcome. iv. what do you expect to happen in life. What is that you expect from your walk with God (1) a couple of weeks ago I suggested that we all want a touch of divine power - of an encounter with an all powerful God - but that the outcome of that was not always what we expected (a) and we saw in that prayer from 2 Thess that our hope is knowing God (2) and this is where our prayer in Col 1 picks up (a) what does it mean to know God - if that’s our goal, then what does it really look like. What does it mean? 2. Letters to my friends a. A man on a mission from God (1) It’s always hard just plucking prayers out of the Bible, because everything has a context and can only be properly understood in context. (a) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, v1 (i) we have this apostle, Paul 1) all that apostle means is that he has been sent - as he says “by the will of God” (ii) so Paul is on a mission from God, and he is writing, because of this mission, because he is from God (b) and he’s writing as Christ’s apostle - his ambassador b. A small town in Turkey i. and he’s writing to this little town Colossae in modern day Turkey. (1) it was a major trading centre in Asia minor 3 hundred years before, but had shrunk by this time (a) but there was a Christian community there, a church. (i) a church that Paul had never visited, but had heard from one of his colleagues, Epaphras (2) so he’s writing to people he didn’t actually know about what really matters (a) there’s no personal information colouring what he’s saying (i) and he starts off by thanking God. 3. What do you thank God for? a. To God, for you i. we have just had our third grandchild this week. First granddaughter, and we are proud as punch (1) so up to now we have had 2 boisterous grandsons 4 and 2 yrs old. And what it has done has reminded me just how unnatural it is for us to say thank you (a) I remember with our 3 children and to my shame myself, just how easy it is to not say thank you. (2) and I think as adults we get the social norm of showing gratitude, mostly. ii. but we nearly always say thank you to the person for what they have done for us. And that’s good. We should do that. (1) Paul here takes a different direction (a) We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, v3 (2) - he gives thanks to God, for them (a) how often have we just given thanks to God for what we see in other people. - not for what they have done for us, but for something far more profound b. Faith, love, hope (1) because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. vv4–5 ii. he gives thanks because he has heard of their faith - their trust in Christ, and for their love - the way they have put that faith into practice. (1) what he is grateful to God for is that they are taking their faith seriously. (a) and where does this come from? From Hope (i) faith and love spring from hope! There it is again. (b) this hope is a sure and certain hope - because their hope is in God, and God has it laid up in advance for us in heaven! (i) now this hope - this heavenly hope - is the gospel. (c) it’s the promise, the sure and certain promise, of life in reconciled relationship with God. c. The object of hope i. this is what they are hoping in (1) that’s the object of their hope. The good news of Jesus (a) and just as it did back in Paul’s day, that gospel message still changes lives, and communities, (b) offers hope to the hopeless, release for those who are captives in the prison cell of rebellion to God. (i) and the gospel grows as it affects relationships, as it affects attitudes, as it affects our minds and actions ii. and this is why Paul prays. 4. Paul’s prayer, a model for us a. Why pray? i. Paul knows that the gospel is growing amongst them (1) since he has heard of their love and faith springing from their hope ii. he knows that the gospel is bearing fruit and so he prays. (1) in good times it is so easy to not pray, but Paul here shows us what to pray for b. What to pray for i. The ancient world was full of needs. Every bit as needy as us, and in many ways far more needy. (1) life could be pretty appalling and short! (a) disease, starvation, slavery, war, violence - all was rife (2) and yes, we are encouraged to pray for all the things we are concerned about ii. but what concerns Paul her the most??? (1) 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, v9 iii. he prays, he hasn’t stopped praying, that God would fill them with a knowledge of his will (1) That’s not our main agenda in our prayers I wouldn’t mind betting. To be desperate to know God’s will better, to be filled with the knowledge of God and his will. iv. Yet if we think about it a bit, if we dig down inside, wouldn’t we like that? (1) Wouldn’t we like to know God better - to have that touch with the divine. to feel like we really know him and his will for us? (2) and that’s what this prayer is all about c. The purpose of the prayer? i. Living your life… (1) and there is a purpose to this, it’s not just an intellectual exercise (a) 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, v10 (2) it has a practical outcome - to live a life worthy of the Lord, bearing fruit! (a) faith leads to love which springs from that sure and certain hope in the gospel of Christ (3) It’s not possible to know God properly simply through an intellectual understanding (a) See this picture (i) the people in the picture clearly don’t really understand the sign. (b) If you really understood the sign, you wouldn’t be sitting there (c) If you really understand God’s will, then you obey it! (i) It comes out in good works, in what Paul calls “the obedience that comes from faith” in Romans 1 (4) Jesus is Lord, and if that isn’t changing our life, then we don’t really believe it, it’s not true for us (a) and as we live out this knowledge of God, this spiritual understanding, then we know God better! (5) it’s what I call the Colossian growth cycle ii. The growth cycle (1) as you know God, (2) it changes your life, you’re able to live life worthy of the calling (3) and as your life changes then you’re able bear fruit more and more and so your life become more like the life God desires, (4) then you will grow in you knowledge of God because: (5) the knowledge of God is not just practical, it is practised (6) knowing God is not just being able to recite theology (a) but it’s about living out trust in a living Lord! (7) and to help us do this, Paul says we need power iii. The power of God! (1) but this is a strange sort of power (a) a little challenge for you - finish the sentence the way you want to (2) “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have...” v11 (3) if I said I was going to give you power most of us would think (a) power to get something or get something done. (4) military power, financial power, power for healing, (a) power for changing the world in some way (5) but do you notice what Paul says God’s power is used for in this context? (a) “so that you may have great endurance and patience,” v11 (6) now that feels just a bit anticlimactic doesn’t it? A bit of a letdown. (7) where should we see God’s strength at work? Perhaps in miraculous healing? Or something else stupendous? (a) but listen to what Paul is saying. all God’s strength and glorious might is that so we will endure. (i) To just keep going as a Christian. (8) to not give up, to remain faithful to God in a world that certainly ignores and at increasingly hates God. (a) we need his power at work in us, just to hang on, and in hanging on, to grow. (9) and in the midst of that difficulty and endurance and patience (which are fairly down words aren’t they) (a) that we may be joyful (i) and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. v12 (b) so Paul wants us to joyfully thank God (i) not because he will necessarily rescue us right now from whatever we are suffering (c) but because we will now share in his kingdom, the kingdom of light - such a glorious image! (d) he has now qualified us to share in that inheritance (i) along with the saints - the Jewish Christians iv. Who has become your Father (1) and so now, we who are gentiles, who are not Jewish by descent, would be able to call God Father (a) but as Paul says in Ephesians, something profound has happened. (i) remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:12 (b) we were without hope, but hope comes in Christ! (i) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13 (c) so joyfully giving thanks to our father for bringing us into the kingdom of light v. And is our rescuer (1) he is our rescuer (a) For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, v13 (2) In the AW and the Bible, darkness is a place of evil and danger (a) and God has acted now - he has rescued us from darkness. We haven’t rescued ourselves, he has rescued us. (3) and brought us all into the kingdom of God (a) the kingdom of the son whom he loves - Jesus Christ, his Son (i) in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. v14 (4) it is in Christ that we are bought out of our slavery, redeemed. (a) our slavery to our selfishness, our rebellion, and at times our outright hatred of God. (5) it’s all forgiven because in Christ we share in his death, he was punished for our ignorance of God. Instead of us dying eternally, he died for us (a) what a wonderful reality, a high point for Paul to end this prayer on. Hope for all of us in the darkness. Hope for the kingdom of light. (6) and that’s why Paul gives thanks, and why thanksgiving should be a dominant theme whenever we pray, because we have so much to be thankful for, 5. Knowing God Better a. Praying Paul’s prayer i. Paul’s prayer is for this little church in Asia minor 2000 years ago (1) and yet every single idea, every request applies to you and to me today ii. Knowing God, putting it into practice, therefore knowing God even better, (1) deeply grasping the reality that it’s God’s work in us, not our effort, that has taken us from darkness into light iii. and joyfully giving thanks for that. b. Praying God’s prayer i. and so in praying Paul’s prayer we are praying the thoughts of God for us. (1) it’s not just Paul who wants us to know God better, God wants it! (a) he is the one who will fill us with a knowledge of his will. By his Spirit through his word ii. If you’re not at that place in your understanding of God yet, that’s OK - but keep reading and talking and thinking about it. (1) And I challenge you to pray this prayer too. Ask God to fill you with a knowledge of his will (a) but it’s a powerful prayer to pray, because it’s a prayer God loves to answer. Come and talk to me or to Chris or to Lauren about it. iii. but if you are a believer, then the question is do we really desire what God desires for us (1) do we trust him enough to take him at his word, and really pray this for ourselves. (2) I think it would be good every day this week to pray this prayer, and just let it sink in, let it dwell in you and ask God (a) to fill you with a knowledge of his will everything that he wants for you, that he has already revealed in the Bible, but fill our hearts and minds with it spiritually, and with understanding (b) to lead a life worthy of the Lord - being truly obedient, and so coming to know God better as we live out his living word. (3) take the challenge, pray the prayer, live the life, and truly know God. I’m going to pray the prayer - slowly. Let it sink in. Let God speak to you and change you, and give thanks with joy because he has rescued you. PRAY We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 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, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.