Picture yourself right now lying on a tropical beach, the gentle sound of waves and the sea gulls in the background, the palm branches waving in the light breeze above you – “this is the life!” On this cold winter day, I would love to be there right now. But here we are and I would like to encourage you to discover something even more satisfying and long lasting than a tropical beach in January – life in Christ!
We are going to journey together over the next several weeks to discover or RE-discover the life that God has for us. It’s so easy over time to get distracted in life with busy-ness and work and family events that we overlook the most important things and so I believe that by listening to this book of Colossians, we will discover again our center, what matters, and reorient our lives to the REAL LIFE.
Colossians is a letter and it was written by the Apostle Paul to members of a new congregation in the city of Colossae. Where in the world was Colossae? Today we can find Colossae in modern Turkey in the Lycus river valley. Towering above the city was Cadmus mountain. Colossae was the main city in the valley for five hundred years before Paul wrote this letter. Their main industry was textile and they were especially famous for their purple dyed wool.
Like most cities of that time, many Greek and Egyptian gods were worshipped. But there was also a large Jewish presence there. However, a new believer by the name of Epaphras began sharing the gospel in Colossae and it wasn’t long before a fellowship of believers was started which soon became a congregation. And then there was another Christian leader by the name of Philemon who was also sharing the gospel and building up the church there.
Eventually, Pastor Epaphras decided to travel to Rome to visit the Apostle Paul who is in prison there. Paul had never been to Colossae but he would be a great encouragement to them and Epaphras needed encouragement too. And so Paul writes this short letter to encourage the believers there so that they keep their focus and not get distracted by the things around them but keep their eyes on what is really important. They are to live the life God intended for them.
And so Paul writes his letter to these believers with these words (1:3-9): “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing-- as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.”
You can picture Pastor Epaphras telling Paul all about his congregation and how it all started and how exciting it is to see so many new believers. He tells stories of this person and that person. But he also tells all about the immorality and dangers in his town. He shares about some individuals who are compromising and need to get back to the Lord.
We have our story too! Our congregation has a story going back to the 1950’s. Some of you can even remember those early days. I look back in the records and see that Grace had two services every Sunday which packed the sanctuary. It was booming! You can recall the many special events, potlucks, celebrations, soup suppers, and so many great memories. It’s so good to remember and rejoice.
But as an individual, you have your own story of your walk with God – your faith story. It’s important to go back in your memories to recall your Sunday School years, confirmation, youth group and so on. Some of you can remember when you were closer to God than you are today. Maybe you remember a time when you were excited to serve, to hear God’s Word, to grow.
Give thanks for the faith God planted in your heart! Give thanks for the love God planted in your heart! I hope that your faith and love today is stronger than ever in your life. That would be awesome. But let’s be honest – many of us have backslidden and we need to return.
That is what this message is all about. God sees your faith and your love but something has stunted your growth. Something has held you back. You’re not yet living the REAL life God has for you.
Listen to these words (1:9-14) “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him:
• bearing fruit in every good work and
• increasing in the knowledge of God;
• being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;
• giving thanks to the Father,
What is it to be a Christian? To be baptized, confirmed, and attend the church of your choice? This is the definition for many. Yes, being a child of God begins with faith in Christ alone, in trusting Him for forgiveness and help. But that is only the very first step!
Becoming a believer is like being born. There is a lot of living to do for a newborn. The baby doesn’t stay an infant his whole life! He needs milk, solid food, exercise, teaching and learning so that he can really live! We want our kids to grow up into functional adults.
And so here we find the characteristics of real life: bearing good fruit by doing good, growing in knowledge of God, being strengthened by God’s spiritual power, and an attitude of thanks and praise. This is the REAL and fulfilling life!
This life begins with bearing fruit in every good work. (1:10) For the believer in Christ, bearing fruit comes totally natural because God’s Spirit equips you to do it. It’s not your hard work and effort but we simply submit and follow the lead of God as he opens doors.
Just think of an apple tree. How hard does it work at producing apples? Does it ache and groan that it has to blossom and then grow each of those apples? Does it even have to think about producing apples year after year? As long as the tree has sun, rain, and warm weather fruit will come and fruit will grow. And then those apples will drop and you can collect them and be blessed by the fruit.
You were made in the same way to be a blessing to others around you in the unique way God made you. God WILL produce in you - the fruit of the Spirit to bless the people around you. And you WILL have opportunities every day to be a blessing. “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10)
But for that fruit to continue to bring blessing there is a second characteristic of real living: increasing in knowledge of God. The tree cannot grow and produce without input – sun, rain, warmth. You need the input of God’s Word in your life. You cannot go week after week without spiritual food!
Why do we not feed our souls with God’s word? Many just don’t think it’s that important. Others simply forget. One of my legitimate fears is that during COVID, many believers who have had to stay at home on Sundays, will get comfortable with that and forget to come back. It’s in the forgetfulness of God that is one of the greatest temptations for a believer. The devil wins a battle if he can simply cause us to forget our walk with God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Did you hear what this Scripture does for you? It thoroughly equips you for every good work. It is not just head knowledge. It is living and active and actually enables us to do what God calls us to do each day.
I would encourage you, if you don’t do it already, to make it a habit to read at least a few verses of the Bible every day. That may seem radical. That may seem like it’s only for really religious people. But that is simply a lie. Putting God’s Word into your mind and soul every day is NORMAL for a believer. It should be as normal as having a cup of coffee every morning. I know that I would have a hard time waking up without that coffee. But even more crucial is having the spiritual food of God’s Word every day. That’s part of REAL living.
And that continues by growing TOGETHER. We have men’s Bible study, women’s bible study, adult class. Sometimes I wonder why so few are interested in growing? So few are hungry for this food? Maybe there simply hasn’t been a chance to really taste it – maybe you had a bad experience and believe it’s no good. Taste and see that the Lord is GOOD!
A third characteristic of the real life is experiencing REAL POWER FROM ABOVE. (11) “being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;”
If there is anything we need in this life, it’s power to get through it! Life is a struggle and a challenge. We have health issues, tragedies, deaths, conflicts, and so many problems. We’ve been through our share of it in the past year. And for that we need to be strengthened.
The wonderful thing is that we have an unlimited source of strength from God’s Holy Spirit who lives in every believer. It says here: “Being strengthened with all power.” The original word for power here is “dunamis” and it should sound familiar. It’s the origin of other words like dynamite, dynamo, and dynamic.
Dynamite has incredible power to destroy. Of course the Holy Spirit gives us power to destroy the oppression and bondage of the devil. Through Jesus he is totally defeated!
Dynamo – this is a generator of energy. This too is God’s Spirit within us. He is the one that will give us that boost when we really need it. Normally, we might collapse in exhaustion but God’s Holy Spirit lifts us up. Has that happened to you? Have you called upon him and he gave you the strength to keep going despite your weakness?
Dynamic – this is also all about energy. Not everyone has a dynamic personality, but I like to think of dynamics in music. Increasing the dynamics basically means playing or singing louder and more powerful. When a worship song touches us, we don’t sing like a mouse but we lift up our voices even if they are not in tune or are perfect. We cannot help but empower our voices when we are stirred up.
When do we need this power? When we are weak! When we are struggling. When we are down. When we have no desire to go on. And we can call upon God and he promises to provide. He will give you power to endure. He will give you power to rejoice even in trials. Life throws us a lot of curve balls but with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live the real life despite them.
There is one last characteristic of this REAL life and that is an attitude of thanks and praise: (1:12) “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” We have the power, are feeding our soul with God’s Word, and he is producing good fruit in us and our attitude all this time is one of worship. And just as fruit comes naturally from a fruit tree, so thanks and praise should come naturally from someone who is fruit producing, overcoming trials with God’s power, and encouraged by God’s Word.
The REAL life God has planned for you is NOT filled with complaints and bitterness. It’s not filled with grumbling and groaning. About a year ago I preached a sermon about grumbling and complaining and how we are such natural complainers. Why? Because we take the gifts of God for granted! We don’t recognize them as gifts but as rights. We expect and demand certain things.
We say: “I deserve three square meals a day. I have a right to a home of my own. Everyone should have a wife or a husband, children, grandchildren. Everyone should be blessed with good health. Everyone should have a good job, a cell phone, cable tv, a solid church that stands on the Bible, doctors who do right by you and have a gentle bedside manner. We should have leaders who don’t take away our constitutional rights.” We expect these things and many more because they are what we feel we deserve is normal. So when we don’t have any of these things, we grumble. “It’s my right! It’s what I ought to have!”
But such is not the case. Every meal is a gift from above. Every child is a gift from God. Every job is a gift from God. Every day of good health is a gift from heaven above. Every day you are NOT sick is a precious gift. Every day you CAN hear is a gift of God. Every day you CAN see perfectly is a gift from God. Every breath you take is the providence of God. Do you recognize your many gifts?
And as we look to Jesus, we know that there is no doubt – eternal life with God is already ours. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9.) If that’s the only gift any of us ever receive in life, we are more blessed than we can ever imagine!
So rejoice and give thanks to God. This is what REAL life as a believer is all about! It’s the GOOD life. It’s the life you were meant to live.
What is that good life like?
1. Bearing good fruit in blessing others around us
2. Knowing God more and more every day
3. Receiving power to go through life no matter what happens
4. And having an attitude of thanksgiving and praise for all his good gifts.
I pray that as we trust in Christ, this kind of life will be actually be lived out more and more in each of our lives.