Colossians 4. 2-6 Mystery of Evangelism

January 22, 2012 Series: Colossians

Topic: New Testament Passage: Colossians 4:2–4:6

 

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  At the same time, pray also for us, 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— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  And all God’s people said = THIS IS GOD’S WORD.  Prayer.

We are coming to a close on the letter to the Colossians.  Paul’s stated mission for this letter, and his entire ministry, is to help bring everyone to maturity in Christ.   The gospel came to Colossae when a Colossian named Epaphras heard Paul preach Jesus at Ephesus, he believed, and later he returned to his hometown to preach Jesus throughout the Lycus Valley.  Five years later, we find Epaphras seeking out Paul, in prison, to tell him about false teachers disrupting Colossian’s young faith—telling them they are not spiritual enough—they need something more than Jesus.  Paul writes this letter to remind believers that faith in Jesus Christ is all they need.  There are many false saviors and one true one.  We’ve learned that one’s faith is not “matured” through things like legalism, asceticism, or any other man-made spiritual-sounding –ism. Being “spiritual” does not mean we go from being irreligious to religious—on the contrary, it means going from dead to Christ alive in Him. Faith is then matured as the mystery of Christ is more deeply understood and applied to the “non-spiritual” work of marriage, family, and work.  

V. 2 Interaction with God:  Now Paul closes his letter reminding the Jesus-loving Christians of their responsibility to not only KNOW Jesus, but make Jesus KNOWN to the world.  And though the gospel goes forth from pastors and pulpits, for most of us, we will preach gospel-centered sermons with our character, our conversations, our marriages, our families, and even our work—these are the tools for God’s mission.  Being irreligious or religious is easy.  Living a life radically re-shaped by Jesus is hard work.  In our age of distraction, other priorities—even important and good ones—compete for our attention. Temptations and opportunities to live for ourselves abound.  Worldly philosophies distract us and the false promises of sin attract us. The urgency of living here and now seems all too often to trump the urgency of living for Christ.  How is it possible to be godly man, spouse, parent, and employee?  How is possible NOT to take a taste of the newest flavor-of-the month philosophy or idea?

Prayer.  A steadfast devotion to be in Christ and on mission is made possible by the Holy Spirit through PRAYER. *God has revealed to me a powerful gut wrenching truth—that I have failed to lead the church in prayer.  I seems that, for better or worse, a family and a “family of families” are shaped by the attitudes and actions of leadership—both its strengths and weaknesses.   And because a church cannot mature passed the spiritual maturity of its leaders.—my weak prayer life has hindered our spiritual growth. Everyone needs to know, especially men, that a pathetic commitment to prayer is not simply unfortunate, it is sinful, and requires repentance.  Missional apathy, Spiritual deadness, or an immature faith in an individual, a family, or a church, is caused with a lack of meaningful communication with God.

Paul charges the Colossians to pray continually and steadfastly.  It has been said that Martin Luther, the great reformer, had a “genius for prayer.”  Historical records show that Luther prayed for four hours a day.  He was a pastor who set a solid example for his flock of the value and necessity of prayer.  He said, “As a shoemaker makes a shoe, and a tailor makes a coat, so ought a Christian to pray. Prayer is the daily business of a Christian.”  Christians pray, not because it is easy, but because it is necessary.  Luther described prayer as: the hardest work of all—a labor above all labors, since he who prays must wage almighty warfare against doubt and murmuring excited by faintheartedness and unworthiness we will within us.”   Prayer is hard work and we are lazy.  We use a lot of excuses to justify why we don’t work in prayer: discomfort, busyness, exhaustion, bad examples, our personality, etc.  In truth, they are all cover ups for pride and unbelief—we think too much of ourselves and too little of God.

Be Watchful
We cannot disconnect prayer from everything Paul has already said—there is a purpose in the prayer.  Paul tells us HOW to work hard at prayer: to be watchful and thankful.  What or who are we watching?  As Paul commanded Timothy several times, we must watch ourselves.  Jesus said the same to his disciples.  On the night he was arrested, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus charged his disciples to be alert, to stay awake, and to keep watch.  He did not want them to watch for those who he knew were coming to arrest, rather, he wanted them to fight unbelief.  He told them that, “the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” and easily gives into temptation.  When we don’t do the hard work of prayer, when we don’t stay awake with Christ, our enemy lulls us to sleep.  Before you know it, our eyes are off of Christ and like his disciples, when things get hard, chaotic, or surprising we run in fear, hide in shame, or even reject Jesus publicly.  Prayer is a grace that helps us remain laser-focused on Jesus as Supreme and Satisfying.  Prayer protects us from the temptation to find ultimate satisfaction, security, and hope in something other than Him.  

A prayer-less life is a life devoid of faith.  Prayer does not make you more faithful, but living by faith makes us more prayerful.  It is a relationship that doesn’t really need the other person to continue. We can organize our lives to so that they are safe and comfortable enough that dependence on God isn’t felt.  We tell God we do not need him by refusing to live sacrificially, to give generously, or to love graciously. Doing those things are hard, and if you really do them, you find that you’re forced to your knees, compelled to spend time with God.  God’s command to live by faith is really an invitation to commune with Him; and we do that through prayer.  This kind of need for God is birthed out of desperation for God’s wisdom, provision, strength, courage, and help. Those who are prayerful genuinely see themselves as desperate for help; they know they are broken; they see they are dying; they find no hope in their flesh; they understand they are in a spiritual war with an enemy that never sleeps.  At what point is our failure to regularly commune with God through prayer sinful

Be Thankful

Paul tells us that, part of being watchful is being thankful.  It is hard for us to be “thankful” in prayer because we have a wrong view of gratitude.  When God answers our prayer, the way we want, that is when we should be grateful. Or we view gratitude like the “magic attitude” to getting what you want from God.  A lack of gratitude is a doorway to idolatry. Thankfulness in prayer is the MEMORY of GOD’s GRACE put to wordsEven more than an act of praise, it is a means of protection form idolatry.  In the Old Testament, God constantly told Israel to remember where they had been, to remember what God had done to redeem them, to remember how he had promised to bless them.  More than anything, as we speak thankfulness, we stop focusing on what he has NOT done, and we remember all that God has graciously done despite our faithlessness, our brokenness, our falling short. 

v. 3-4 Interaction with Gospel Workers  As we remember all that God has done for us personally, Paul charges the Colossians also to remember the mission of God and what He still wants to do for others. At the same time, pray also for us, 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— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.  

Open Doors to declare the Mystery

The mission of God is the responsibility of all Christians.  Some are on the front lines and others are in the bunker—but everyone can battle together in with prayer.  When was the last time you prayed for a pastor,  a missionary, or a new church plant?  If have been in “church” culture for any amount of time, you probably have heard some pray that a “door be opened”.  Most of the time the phrase is employed in order to move God’s hand of provision or clarity in decision-making.  But, in the Bible, it is always used to describe a new gospel work in the world.  For the most part, our prayers are self-centered and the mission of God is cast aside as that thing that “professional” Christians do.  Life is too hard or too busy to think about the ongoing “mission”.  Maybe when God answers my prayer for THIS I’ll be ready to think about THAT.  Paul asks for doors to be open while in prison.  He does not ask for the prison doors to be opened, for God to make “being a Christian” easier.  He asks God to open doors within the prison he finds himself in. The mission of God is very inconvenient sometimes but it isn’t optional.

Clarity of Words

Paul’s ultimate hope is simply he will get opportunity to preach Jesus; and when he does, that he will speak clearly to as to honor Him.  I want that to be my prayer….I say want for a reason. With all the sermons available in culture today, I can’t tell you how much pressure it is to be a pastor.  There is a temptation to come up with the cleverest way, funniest joke, most shocking statement, etc. And the mission of God need not be complicated with clever marketing and stupid gimmicks. Please pray for your pastors.  Pray that we will preach with boldness, passion, and clarity.  The best sermons are simple, straightforward, and all about Jesus.  As Paul has proved in this letter, there is no power in preaching morality, religiosity, or spirituality.  There is power in the truth of Jesus Christ, perfect live, atoning death, and life-giving resurrection.  2Corinthians 4.1-6  Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

V. 5 Interaction with the world

But I also want Paul’s desires as a preacher, opportunity and clarity, to be the prayer for your life.  We will not all be called to be preachers.  But we all preach sermons with our lives and our words to the world.  The best sermon is one in which you are a Jesus-centered neighbor, spouse, parent, and citizen.  Paul reminds the Colossians to: Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

A Walk & Talk Toward
As Paul charges the Colossian to act and speak in particular ways.  We must not divorce this from his charge to pray.  We must pray, not only to understand what God expects from us, but also to be empowered to meet those expectations. He says, WALK in WISDOM and WALK TOWARD outsiders.  Walking in the wisdom of God looks different than the wisdom of the world.  You can be wise person of the world, have a lot of common sense, be successful, respected, powerful, and famous—and not be biblical.  Our walk, which includes our faith, our love, our hope, our marriages, our families, and our jobs will give a clear or perverted witness of Christ to non-believers.  For better or worse, they will see the difference does Jesus makes in your life.  And, according to Paul, we walk TOWARD. There are not just spectators watching, we are to engage people IN our WALK—be on mission. There is supposed to be evangelistic intentionality throughout our daily-life in the world.  WE build relationships in the world not to “save” them by preaching, but simply to expose them to our God-glorifying living.   

Gracious Speech
And as we walk in the world, Paul does not expect we will be giving judgments and declarations, but answers to questions.  The difference that Christ makes in our lives will make people curious.  If no one is asking you questions about your life in Christ, perhaps you are not living like Him?  When we seek out opportunities to speak God’s truth, we must be intentional how we speak.  Paul says, And as you liv and love in the world, e, Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

I do believe the power to transform a heart lies with the Holy Spirit AND that it comes by the Word of God.  At the same time, that doesn’t give us the right to be rude, boring, or flippant in what we say.   First, whenever we talk with, to, or about a friend, a neighbor, a group, whether rich, poor, old, young, educated, uneducated, friend, or enemy, WHETHER OUR FLESH considers them WORTHY of a conversation or not—God does.  Our language, therefore, must be GRACIOUS. Just as our righteous words are meaningless when coupled with an unrighteous life, so a righteous life is meaningless with ungracious words—WORDS must build up always. In other words, we must always aim to speak words of life, even to those who don’t speak them to us.  This is the heart of Christ who the Bible says: committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly1Peter 2.22-23

Salty Words
That does not mean we cannot be critical or bold, only that we must be discerning in the moment. Paul says that gracious speech includes the use “salty” language.  In today’s culture, that could be taken to men language laced with profanity—like a salty sailor that has been around a while.  Salt has several purposes, ice roads, preserve meat, kill slugs.  SALT is a mineral that brings out the other flavors in a meal—it makes it more rich. I do believe that our language needs to have some “flavor” to it—winsome. But salt doesn’t the same every time, it doesn’t work in the same amounts or even on the same foods. Grace comes from the perfect amount of salt on the right meal.  Ephesians 4.29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  We can over-spiritualize this point – let your speech have some flavor to it—don’t be boring, weird, or speak language.  We want words that are flavorful, not bland, and not shocking.  We need to contextualize what you say so that it makes sense, but also so that it is received the right way.  As one commentator said, we must work hard to speak the right word at the right time to the right person

Conclusion

This is only accomplished through prayer—we need to lean more on the Spirit so that our words are measured with just the right amount of Salt.  Jesus always did this for those he spoke with—he did not speak to each of us the same way.  He did this for us.  He called us by name, he spoke to us in a way that was powerful, and alluring, and perfect.  His words were exactly what we needed, perfectly timed, tailored to us, loving, curious, and sensible.  They were hard truths, but they were inviting and honest. And this is what he said…you are a sinner, I love you.   You’re hurt.  I love you. You’re weird.  I love you. You’re mean.  I love you.  Your wrong.  I love you.  You’re broken.  I love you.  You’re lost.  I love you.  Your forgiven.  I love you.  If you are a Christian, you are preaching Christ to someone through your life and your words.  Pray that He will live through you, in all that you do, that you might represent him honorably, not for you glory, but for His. 

 

Benediction -1Samuel 12.20-24