Summary: With what God has entrusted to us, are we faithful not only as individuals but as a church toward God. Are we willing to faithfully pursue Him and walk with Him no matter what! God put the church in the world; Satan tries to put the world in the church. Be faithful!
Opening illustration: I wonder what Christ or even the apostle Paul would say if they were to visit our churches today. What a beehive of activity! Committees, programs, entertainment without end. But worship is often downplayed, services are cut back, prayer meetings are eliminated. Some call these improvements, but are they really changes for the better?
There’s a story about a woman who became seriously ill and was taken to the hospital. In the evening her husband asked how she was doing, and he was told that she was improving. For several days her doctor gave the same report. Then one day she unexpectedly died. When the man saw the doctor, he asked, “Well, what did she die of—improvements?”
I know of a church that died of “improvements.” The first was to hire a minister with unbiblical ideas. Then the prayer meeting was changed into a literary debating society. Finally, the minister stopped praying from the pulpit. The church is now dead. I suggest that someone put a tombstone in front of it with these words: “Died of Improvements.”
There’s always room for the right kind of improvements in our churches. But let’s make sure they are guided by the life-changing principles of God’s Word, not the deadening philosophies of this world. (Illustration by M.R. De Haan, Our Daily Bread)
Let us turn to Colossians 2 and see what Paul lays down for the faithful church of Christ …
Introduction: Paul is going through a struggle for these Christians whom he has never seen but has loved. He associates the Laodicaeans with the Colossians, and speaks of all those who had never seen his face. He is thinking of that group of three towns in the Lycus valley, Laodicaea, Hierapolis, and Colosse stood close together. Laodicaea and Hierapolis stood in full view of each other on either side of the valley, with the river lycus flowing between them, six miles apart; and Colosse was 12 miles further up the river. In fact Laodicaea was a wealthy center for trade and commerce, but later Christ would criticize the believers there for their lukewarm commitment (Revelation 3:14-21). The fact that Paul wanted this letter to be passed on to the Laodicaean church indicates that false teaching may have spread there as well. It is the group of Christians in that area of three towns of which Paul is thinking, and which is picturing in his mind. Paul is calling and challenging these Churches to be faithful to God.
What are the marks of the faithful church?
1. The love factor (vs. 1-2)
Paul prayed that these Christians might be joined together, knit together, and kept together. Solitary Christians are apt to be weak Christians, for in this sphere as in all others "union is strength." If Christian people are not truly knit together, the cause of Christ may suffer, for through the severances caused by division the enemy can keep thrusting his darts which must be parried alone. That is why the apostle elsewhere urges believers earnestly to strive "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). One of the greatest powers that Satan wields today is due to disunion among the genuine people of God. It is true alike of the Christian home, congregation, and denomination that this wedge of discord can become one of the enemy's most powerful weapons. On the other hand, where the brethren are able to "dwell together in unity," there the Lord commands His blessing (Psalm 133:3).
This unity, however, is only possible "in love." It is the love of God to us that unites us to Him and it will be the love of God in us that unites us to our brethren. Indeed, there is no power like love to bind Christians together. We may not see eye to eye on all aspects of the truth we hold; we may not all use the same methods of worship and service; but if we love one another God dwells in us and among us, and He can add His own seal of blessing to the work done for Him. Let every evangelical Christian be fully assured that, in so far as he is striving, praying, and laboring for the union of God's people in love, he will be doing one of the most influential and blessed pieces of work for his Master and, at the same time, one of the greatest possible pieces of disservice to the kingdom of Satan. Contrariwise, the Christian man or Christian church practicing separateness and exclusiveness because of non-essential differences of opinion or policy is one of the best allies of Satan and one of his most effective workers.
Illustration: Often there is a story told about the six young men that were to run a hundred-yard dash. They lined up, waited for the starting gun and then they were off running. About halfway down the track, the young man in front stumbled and fell. Almost immediately, the other five men stopped and helped him up. When they had dusted him off and decided that he was all right, they then decided to finish the race. None of the judges could tell who won the blue ribbon for none of them could see through their tears of joy. No one in the stands that day would ever forget this incident or how proud they were for each of the persons that participated in these Special Olympics. Yes, these young men who cared more about their fallen friend than winning a race, were people that some have the nerve to call retarded. Maybe they understand things better than we do. They give us a parable of what God wants from the church.