Fullness of life - Colossians 1:9-14

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the evening service on 19th October 2008.

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If you are a keen user of the Internet then you will know that there is one button on your Internet search browser that instantly reveals the desires of your heart. It’s called the History button. It only takes one click and within a few seconds your entire search history over the last week is displayed for all to see. This is a useful function. We are all driven by desire. We are all motivated by what interests us and our interests move us to take action. It’s hard if you ask someone directly what really drives them in life, what are they really living for? People don’t always know the answer when you ask them directly or they may be blind to the reality of their current obsessions. So other ways which expose the desires of the human heart in a more indirect way are very useful. The History button is one of those ways. Look through all those websites and you can usually tell what preoccupies the mind of the person using the computer. You may like to do this when you get home. For me it would be a mixture of bible websites, BBC news and golf swing analysis websites.

Another direct way of uncovering the desires of a human heart, another way of revealing what really makes us tick is to examine our prayer life. You see, what we pray for, what we desire from God is a very good indication for what currently motivates us day by day.

Let me ask you to do a little test for me. I promise nothing will appear on the big screen but I want you to compare what you have prayed for over the last seven days with what Paul prays for in verse 9.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

How do your prayers match? My primary reason for conducting this test is not to make you feel guilty. I wouldn’t be surprised if you do feel a little guilty at this point. I did when I carried out the test. My main purpose is to work out why the prayers of contemporary Christians are so often out of line with the prayers we read in the Bible. What’s the reason? What we pray for is connected with what we live for. The desires of our hearts, our passions in life, shape the sentences we speak to heaven.

There is Paul. He has never met these people. Never visited them. The church was founded by a local lad called Epaphras but ever since Paul heard how they were getting on he hasn’t stopped praying that God the Father would fill them up completely with the knowledge of his will.  What motivates a man to pray like this? He tells us in verse 10. “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way.”

Do you see the connection? Do you see the link between the heart of the man and the prayers of the man? What really drives Paul? What gets him out of his bed in the morning? What does he day dream about? What consumes his passions? His life is focused on God. He is consumed by God. God is an the centre of his world. So his default position is not what can God give to me but how can I live for God and please him in every way.

Two driving passions in Paul’s life that he mentions in verse 10. Together they are a very powerful motivation to behave in a certain way.

First, he wants to life a life worthy of the Lord. Or in other words, he has a passionate concern for the honour of the Lord Jesus’ name. Jesus is the Lord in Colossians. He is obsessed with the reputation of Jesus. He knows that his behaviour as a Christian has an impact on what people think of Jesus. The reason is because as a Christian he bears the name of Christ. Therefore, his actions either bring shame on God or enhance his reputation. We know from human behaviour that people will go to great lengths to clear their name. The wrongly convicted criminal can spend thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours in a passionate pursuit to clean up a tarnished reputation. If only we had such a passionate concern for the honour of God’s name? Then we would want to lead a life worthy of the Lord. Every time you drive your car. Every time you lose your temper with family. Every time you play sport. We bear the name of Christ. This desire would affect our prayers.

Paul also says he wants to please God in every way. This concern for God’s honour does not spring from a heart of fear but from a heart of love. Why do we bear the name of the Heavenly Family? Because we are children by adoption. We have a wonderful God who we want to please. Paul lives every day for the smile of God. Do we?

If we want to pray like Paul then we need to make God the centre of our world. The reason many of our prayers are not like his is because we think God is there to provide for us rather than us living each day with a concern for the honour of God’s name.

This is our challenge. It is not easy for us. It is a daily battle to keep God at the centre and one of the ways to check how we are doing on this is to hit the prayer button and see what gets listed from the last few days.

One of ambitions should be to pray like Paul so let’s try and understand exactly what he says in verse 9.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

There is a connection between what he says in verse 9 and what he has just been writing about in the first 8 verses. He says, ‘for this reason…’ What’s the obvious question we need to ask? What reason? Verse 3, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.” Verse 6, “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all it’s truth.” He’s heard of their growth in Christian maturity. What’s the connection? For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will.

I was very taken by this. This is not an emergency prayer. We know there is danger for these Christians. The temptation to move away from what they have already learned about Jesus to follow the deceptions of those who taught a different gospel. But Paul does not pray verse 9 as an emergency. He has been praying it ever since he heard about the Colossian’s faith in Christ and their love for all the saints. This is a prayer for all Christians. No matter how we are doing we all need to be filled to the brim with the knowledge of God the Father’s will.

I deliberately refer to God the Father’s will because this is how Paul uses the word God in this letter. The word can mean different things depending on where it is used. Can refer to the Godhead (all three together) or as a reference to the divinity that the three members of the Trinity share. Here it refers to God the Father and what Paul is praying for is that these Christians are filled to the brim with the knowledge of the Father’s will.

What does this mean? Christians in our generation are obsessed with God’s particular will for the individual. Where should I live? Who should I marry? Which job should I do? But in verse 9 Paul is speaking about God the Father’s general will for all Christians. What does God the Father want for everyone who follows his Son? He longs for every believer to be completely filled with this knowledge.

Where can we find the Father’s will? Just imagine you were a Colossian Christian. Tychicus has brought the letter to you and that’s all you have. What would you do next?

What would the Colossians have done? They would have read the letter. What would they have discovered?

First, as they read the whole letter they would have discovered something wonderful about Jesus Christ. That he reveals perfectly the Father’s will.

1:19, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.”

1:28, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. 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. My purpose is that they 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.”

Look to Christ! He is everything we need. We know more of him because he is the revelation of the Father’s wishes.

Playing cards. Hold them close to chest. Begging for him to reveal his hand. Not at all. The cards are already on the table. What we need to do is look at them carefully.

Do you see what Paul is praying? It’s wonderfully Trinitarian! How do we know the Father’s will? We go to the place where we hear of Christ, in our case the Bible, and we are to be filled through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Through the wisdom and understanding that the Holy Spirit brings.

What else would the Colossians have discovered? In verses 10 to 14 of chapter 1 there is a mini summary of the Father’s will. You will find this if you look at Christ but in these verses there is a summary of what the Father’s will is for Christians, what it will look like in practice to live a life worthy of the Father and which will please him in every way.

He mentions four things. Verse 10, “…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 joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”

•    Bearing fruit
•    Growing knowledge
•    Being strengthened
•    Giving thanks

First of all, Paul says the Father’s will for a follower of Jesus is to bear fruit in every good work.

Easy to understand. Rooted in Christ. Trees bear fruit. Evidence that we are rooted. Just because someone says they are rooted doesn’t mean they are. Jesus says, you will know them by their fruit.

The once saved always saved conversation.

We are not saved by what we do. We are saved by faith alone. But we are never saved by a faith that is alone. True saving faith leads to maturity in Christ, a transformed character and a life of good deeds.

A heart concerned with the Father’s glory will pray for this change on a regular basis.

Secondly, Paul says the Father’s will for a Christian is to grow in the knowledge of the Father and this activity will please him.

Again this is very simple and makes sense. In relationships people are always pleased when we learn more about them.
It is a great delight for me to grow in my knowledge of Vicky. Her birthday. I made two school boy errors. No wife birthday card. No champagne. Vicky is pleased when I learn more about her.

So is the Father. When we sit with our Bibles open and learn in church, at home groups and at home. This sort of activity makes the Father pleased. Another way to think about what we do. Not simply it’s good for us and it will be good for other people. The Father is pleased with us. If we want to live a God centred life then this is something we should desire.

Thirdly, Paul says that the Father wants us to be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might. This is surely where it becomes really dramatic. Bring to mind all those ways in the Bible where God has displayed his power. The creating of the world, crossing the Red Sea, the miracles of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus. The Father wants the follows of Jesus to be strengthened with all power.

What for? Look again at verse 11. “…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.” Does it seem like an anti-climax to you?

Why are we given this almighty power – so we can keep on going when life is tough (endurance) and so we can control our temper when people are irritating (patience).

How are you doing as a Christian? Led any missions? Led many people to Christ? Written any books? This last week, have you endured and have you been patient more and more. Then God’s power has been working in you and the Father is pleased with you.

Fourthly, the Father wants Christians to be those who joyfully give thanks to him for all he has done for them. Let’s read these verses again and marvel at what Paul says has happened to the Christian.

Verse 12, “…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

You may have seen amidst all the doom and gloom over the economy, the ceremony in London to  congratulate the Olympic athletes. How do you get a place? You have to qualify. I used to be a very fast sprinter when I was seven but there is no chance of me running now. People need to qualify based on merit. But how does someone share in the kingdom of the Son? It’s completely different. No one qualifies on their achievements. The Father qualifies them.

You may be new to Christianity. Problem is not so much that people have a blank slate to be filled. It’s usually been filled with wrong ideas that need to be erased first. One of the most popular misunderstandings is that we qualify for heaven.

Nonsense! The Father has made us worthy to share in the inheritance of God’s people (these are the saints). Give thanks to him. Directed!

How? Paul tells us in verse 13 and 14. “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

You’ve probably noticed all the allusions to the Exodus story. There a people were rescued from a dark regime by the power of God, liberated from their slavery and given an inheritance, the promised land of Israel. 

Now Paul applies this language to the Father’s rescue of people from all around the world to share in the inheritance of eternal life. They have been rescued form the domination of darkness. A place of confusion, of wickedness and where the one who says he is light is no where to be found. And a people who are heading to a place of outer darkness.

The Father has rescued us from this reality and brought us into another kingdom. How does this work? We are now found in Christ. Christians have a new identity. When we have faith in him we become spiritually part of him. Rooted in him. In him we have everything. We have redemption. Bought at a price we are liberated. We have forgiveness of sins. All this should thrill our hearts.

What will you be praying for this week? At home, at home groups, at central meeting?

•    The Father would fill us with the knowledge of his will.
•    We would know more of Christ.
•    Bear fruit in every good work, grow in knowledge of God, be strengthen so we can be patient and endure, give thanks.
•    Why? This is a life worthy of the Lord and will please him.

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