Get Focused: Look Up

Colossians 3.1-17

Key verse: Keep seeking the things above … Keep thinking about things above

Know who you are in Christ

The transformation: put to death, put off, put on
Vv 1-4 are theological foundation for the following practical verses.

Focus on things above because:
-you died to the old order
-you are already raised with Christ so that you may participate in his resurrection life.

The lives of Christians are to be different: interest, minds, aims, ambitions, outlook.

This doesn’t come automatically – it must be sought diligently: keep seeking … keep thinking …

"your life is hidden with Christ in God"
Presently, I don’t see who you really are – you don’t even see who your really are – you are hidden; I am hidden. These things are done, they are already accomplished, but they have yet to be fully revealed.

"When Christ appears", at the Second Coming, when we see Christ and he is revealed and we see clearly all that he is, we will see who we are,
"you too will be revealed in glory with him."

But until that time, keep looking up, keep focused on things above, don’t get distracted by things below. And as you focus on things above, v.10 says that you are "being renewed in knowledge according of the image of" Christ. You will see Christ more and more clearly, you will know Christ more  and more and therefore, you will be renewed, you will be more and more like Him.

Not a list to achieve but a description of the Christian life. List is not exhaustive (things the Colossian Church needed to hear)

One body (v.15): “one another”
Do not lie to one another
Bearing with one another
Forgiving one another
Teaching and exhorting one another

Particular to believers and their relationship within the Christian community, but in now way suggest that Christians could be less when interacting with those outside the Church.

v.14 love, perfect bond
v.15 called as one body to this peace

The descriptions to follow are more than just individual character traits, it is about how we live together in the world. It is about being a living organism, bound together in Christ and how that effects the way we live together.

Put to death … (v.5)
Put to death: transformation of will, new attitude of mind, shift of center of personality from self to Christ:

Fornication: any unlawful sexual intercourse; extramarital sexual relationships
Impurity: moral uncleanness
Shameful passion: passion leading to sexual excesses
Evil desire: longing, sin that controls
Greed: (more general term) covetousness, desire to have more, usually material things; closer relationship with idolatry

Put off … (v.8)

Anger, Rage: wrath, outburst of temper (destructive of relationships)
Malice: slander, abusive language
Slander: defamation, blasphemy, lies, gossip
Abusive language: (more general term) foul talk, obscene language

You used to be this way, but no longer. God has transformed you. He has transformed you inwardly, let that be revealed in your outward actions.

Sin is not a popular topic. But sin is sin. Sin, as biblically defined, will be sin. God has expectations for his people. And God says sin will be punished and this passage talks about the wrath of God coming to the sons (7 daughters) of disobedience: those who disobey his word. In the OT, we read of Israel, who is God’s people, they were his chosen people, but God in his holiness, could not allow his people to live unholy lives. And that is the same today. God’s ultimate wrath is being withheld until the day of His coming. A righteous God cannot stand idly by and watch people act unrighteously. We would call that a double standard. But this same God is the God who acquits, who has made a way for forgiveness.

Put on … (v.12)
clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ Rom 13.14
Put to death, put off, put on – decisive act leading to a settled attitude. Make your mind up. “Just do it”

Fruit of Spirit: kindness, gentleness, patience

Mercy: compassion. This is demonstrated in God and his saving action toward us.
Kindness: goodness, generosity. Concrete actions. God’s gracious attitude toward the sinner, to save, to lead to repentance.
Humility: lowliness, concern for welfare of others. Esteem others
Gentleness: humility, meekness, considerate of others. Willingness to waive one’s rights
Patience: longsuffering, endure wrongs of others. Put up with the exasperating behavior of others rather than flying into rage or desiring vengeance.

Also …
bear with one another; forgive one another (mutual; reciprocal). Unceasing, unwearying (70×7 in Mt 18). May have legitimate cause for complaint, but must forgive.
love; peace
thankfulness
teaching and exhorting one another; worship in singing

For Further Prayer and Reflection
Philippians 2.5; Romans 12.2; Matthew 18.22; Galatians 5.16-25; Ephesians 4.17-5.20

Get Focused 5: Are You a Christian? Then Act Like It!

Colossians 3.1-17

Let heaven fill your thoughts!
Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the
things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep
thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died
and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ (who is your
life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him.
(Colossians 1.1-4)

“Keep seeking the things above …” and “Keep thinking about things above …”
I love these phrases that Paul uses. "Keep seeking" and "keep
thinking." There’s a persistence that’s necessary in following Jesus,
isn’t there? What’s your focus? Who’s the center of your life? How
committed are you to following God, no matter what?

What does a Christ-centered life look like? I believe a life centered
on Christ has at least three characteristics (this is not an exhaustive
list) … 

  • Desire to know God 
  • Desire to honor God 
  • Desire to obey God
     

Read Matthew 6.19-21,24, 33

“If you have been raised with Christ …”
What is your current relationship with God? Perhaps you may have made a
commitment to serve Christ many years ago, or maybe you were baptized
as a young child. That’s wonderful, but what is the state of your
relationship with God today. We must renew our relationship/commitment
to God every day!

“You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God …”
Our life is in Christ. I think of Galatians 2.20: I myself no longer
live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by
trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Paul talks about the change here in Colossians, using the language of
the "old man" and the "new man" (3.9-10). IOW, when we commit to
following Christ, we are made new. I think of Jesus’ language of being
"born again" or "born from above": unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3.3).

And, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5.17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Here in Colossians, I hear Paul saying, "Are you a Christian? Then act like it!" It matters how we live, and it matters how we treat people!

What is our reputation in the Valley?
What do you think people think or feel when they see our church
buildings or hear the name of our churches? Reputation is so important.
It’s part of our witness! Think about that as God’s Word challenges us
to get rid of bad behavior and practice good behavior.

I am very grateful to those of you who exemplify the good behavior
described in the Scriptures, behaviors that give witness to the life of
Christ.

However, quite frankly, many of the bad behaviors listed by Paul are
also taking place among our ranks! Some may want to blame the
exploratory process we’re in, but the reality is, these bad behaviors
are not anything new. They’ve been part of the "DNA" for decades.
(Incidentally, spiritual transformation is the only thing that can
change our "spiritual DNA").

I believe the process we’re in is simply providing an ample opportunity
for bad behavior to come to light (stress always reveals the cracks in
our character).

That said, the process is going at least as well as I expected it to
go. No one said it would be easy. No one said there wouldn’t be loss
(there’s always loss when there’s movement, regardless of whether the
movement is good or bad).

BUT if we do the right thing (whatever that is) for the right reasons,
we will be "pruned" (to use the language of John 15) and mobilized for
missional life (and fruitfulness) in the Valley. That’s what is (most)
important, taking the next faithful steps!

I can honestly say that it does NOT matter to me what YOU decide (in charge conference, early next year) as long as you fully engage
in this exploratory process. You need to be praying for one another,
especially the Exploratory Team, discussing your concerns with team
members and with me, giving AND receiving.

My ONLY fear is that there will be people who show up to vote (at the
end) who have skipped out on the process of engaging God and one
another in, perhaps, the most important decision impacting the future
of our mission in the Juniata Valley. I know the process is long and
painful, but you owe it to yourself, to each other, to the Juniata
Valley, to future generations, and most of all, you owe it to God, to
give this process your ALL! (IOW, the process is important.)

There was something I said a year and a half ago (toward the beginning
of this process): While God certainly cares WHAT we decide, I believe
God is even more concerned about HOW we come to our decision. IOW, it’s
not just the destination (end point) that God is interested in; it’s
the journey. How we get there is important, too!

Get rid of bad behavior (sin)!
So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual
immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is
idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on the
sons of disobedience. You also lived your lives in this way at one
time, when you used to live among them. But now, put off all such
things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your
mouth. Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man
with its practices and have been clothed with the new man that is being
renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it.
Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised,
barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.
(Colossians 3.5-11)

Put to death … (worldly things) 

  • Sexual immorality 
  • Impurity 
  • Shameful passion 
  • Evil desire 
  • Greed (idolatry)

“You also lived your lives in this way at one time …” (3.6)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3.23). 1 John 3.4-6 says, Those
who sin are opposed to the law of God, for all sin opposes the law of
God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, for there is
no sin in him. So if we continue to live in him, we won’t sin either.
But those who keep on sinning have never known him or understood who he
is.

Put off … 

  • Anger 
  • Rage 
  • Malice (ill-will) 
  • Slander (“blasphemia”): Spreading negative info, defamation of character 
  • Abusive language

"Splatterers"
John Ortberg once described “splatterers,” people who bottle up things
and then “splatter” everyone with it. Eugene Peterson, in his
paraphrase, The Message, calls it “vomit from the heart.” Mark 7.14-23. Next time it’s directed toward you maybe you’ll get that graphic image! 🙂

Get rid of divisions …
Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised,
barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.

(3.11) We could continue the list: In the church, there is neither
American, or, say, Chinese, Democrat or Republican, resident of
Petersburg or Alexandria, etc.

Practice good behavior!
There are unhealthy/sinful ways of interacting/communicating, and there are healthy ways of communicating.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe
yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and
patience …
(3.12)

Put on (“clothe yourselves”) … 

  • A heart of mercy (compassion) 
  • Kindness 
  • Humility 
  • Gentleness 
  • Patience

Forgive one another!
Paul emphasizes forgiveness in this passage: bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone
happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has
forgiven you, so you also forgive others
(see also Matthew 18.21-22). Finally, I think Matthew 6.12 contains perhaps the most dangerous prayer one can pray: Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.

It matters how we treat each other!
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting
one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual
songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in
word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to
God the Father through him.
(3.16-17)

It matters how we treat each other — what we say and how we say it. Let us treat each other in ways that honor God!

Get Focused: Check the Warning Label

Colossians 2.6 – 2.23

Intro: Warning Labels
I get in my car and there are three warnings posted on my visor: high rollover risk; airbag; and seatbelt.

Other places we see warning labels:
prescription drugs
Surgeon General’s Warning: Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy.
On coffee: Caution: Hot!

Many warning labels today are to prevent people from suing. This makes way for some interesting warning labels. These were found at http://rinkworks.com/said/warnings.shtml

~"Caution: The contents of this bottle should not be fed to fish." — On a bottle of shampoo for dogs.
~"Recycled flush water unsafe for drinking." — On a toilet at a public sports facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
~"Do not drive with sunshield in place." — On a cardboard sunshield that keeps the sun off the dashboard.
~"Do not use for drying pets." — In the manual for a microwave oven.
~"Do not use as ear plugs." — On a package of silly putty.
~"Caution: Remove infant before folding for storage." — On a portable stroller.
~"Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly." — On a child sized Superman costume.

Scripture as Warning
2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness"

Paul’s letters contain encouragement and they contain warning. They contain some correction of course for the specific body of believers.
Remember Epaphras went to Paul because he knew that correction was needed.

Ps 23 “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me”
The rod, was like a club, which he used to fend off wild beasts or predators (instrument of authority). The staff or crook, which we more often see in our pictures of Christ, is used to guide and control the sheep (instrument of comfort).

The shepherd is entrusted with great responsibility for the flock. In Ezekiel 34, the shepherds have failed and God says, “I … will hold them accountable for my flock.”

Epaphras has a responsibility to correct the course of the Colossians and Paul writes with authority to assist and to uplift Epaphras teaching.

The Correction
Key verse of this passage and maybe the whole book of Colossians:
"continue to live your lives in him, 7rooted and built up in him and firm in your faith just as you were taught"

They were taught the truth. Continue in it, Paul exhorts, using 3 metaphors:
Rooted, from horticulture
Built up, from architecture
Firm, from law

The Warning
8Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

The Philosophy
16Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days—17these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ!

18 … the worship of angels …

21“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” 22These are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are on human commands and teachings.

Paul goes on to say (v.9f) that the fullness of God lives in Christ, and that the Colossians are in Christ, so that fullness dwells in them. They are complete. The false teachers were saying they were not complete. That there was something lacking. That they needed to do something else to be complete. But Paul says through Christ salvation is a done deal.

12Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead.

Even though you were dead in your sins, he made you alive with him. Your sins are forgiven.

14He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.

An IOU was nailed to the cross. A debt that we could never repay, was paid through the work of Christ on the cross.

15Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

There is nothing that has power over you, because you are in Christ. Christ is the victor; he has disarmed the powers of Satan, the powers of hell. They still exist, they have not been removed from this world, so they may be hostile toward humankind.
Romans 8.38-39 "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

But you who are in Christ, continue to live your lives in him, 7rooted and built up in him and firm in your faith just as you were taught,

Stay in the Word
Wesley’s theology was influenced by Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience, known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.
~Scripture is always primary

~Reason: thinking can be faulty
Romans 12.2 be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Colossians 3.2 Keep thinking about things above …

~Tradition – Is tradition based on Scripture? Not “we’ve always done it that way” – why do we do it that way? Not because of mere human tradition: v.8 deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions

~Experience – Does experience line up with Scripture?
John 8.44 Satan, a liar
44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Rev 12.9 Satan, a deceiver
9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

2 Cor 11.14 Satan, an angel of light

Stay Connected to the Body
2 Peter 1.20
20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

19He has not held fast to the head from whom the whole body, supported and knit together through its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

Remember from 1.1 that the letter is from Paul and Timothy and in 1:3 “Each time we pray for you …”

  • Stay Connected to Christ: stay free in Christ
  • Stay in the Word
  • Stay connected to the body

Get Focused 4: Check the Warning Label

We see warning labels all over the place. There’s a warning label on
boxes of cigarettes: "SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung
Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy." On
coffee cups, you’ll notice the warning, “Caution: Hot!” You might see
signs occasionally, exclaiming, “Flammable!” or "High Voltage!" On
homes, you might see signs warning, “Beware of Dog.” What other warning
labels come to mind?

Now, some warning labels are just plain silly. Here’s a list I read recently … 

  • "Do not use in shower." — on a hair dryer. 
  • "Do not eat toner." — On a toner cartridge for a laser printer. 
  • "May irritate eyes." – on a can of self-defense pepper spray. 
  • "Do not use for drying pets." — In the manual for a microwave oven. 
  • "For use on animals only." — On an electric cattle prod. 
  • "Caution: Remove infant before folding for storage." — On a portable stroller. 
  • "Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly." — On a child sized Superman costume.

Incidentally, Christianity probably ought to come with a warning label,
something like: "Following Christ is dangerous. You are joining a
revolution that requires complete devotion, obedience, and action. And
remember, it is not about you; it’s about loving, serving, and honoring
God, and loving and serving others." Or something like that.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
(2 Timothy 3.16, NKJV)

So, let’s look at some warnings in Colossians 2.6-23.

Get focused (and stay focused) on Christ!
Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live
your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and firm in your faith
just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
(Colossians 2.6-8)

Don’t get distracted!
Even though reason, tradition, and experience are all important, they
must not be valued on the same plane as Scripture. I think of the so
called "Wesleyan Quadrilateral" (Scripture, reason, tradition, and
experience) in which Scripture is primary (for Wesley, anyway)! The others may help shape us and
our understandings, but God’s Word must always take precedence over the
other influences!

In Colossians 2, we hear Paul warning us to watch out for distractions of reason, tradition, and experience.

Reason
Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty,
deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the
elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him
all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form …
(Colossians 2.8-10)

Reason, the mind God gave us, is important. But we must be careful not
to be carried away by human arguments that may sound good, but in the
end, lead us away from God.

Tradition
Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink,
or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days—these are only
the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ!
(Colossians 2.16-17)

Tradition can be good. Learning how those who’ve gone before us lived
can be valuable. But we must guard against doing what we’ve always done
simply because that’s the way we’ve always done it.

Experience
Let no one who delights in humility and the worship of angels pass
judgment on you. That person goes on at great lengths about what he has
supposedly seen, but he is puffed up with empty notions by his fleshly
mind. He has not held fast to the head from whom the whole body,
supported and knit together through its ligaments and sinews, grows
with a growth that is from God. If you have died with Christ to the
elemental spirits of the world, why do you submit to them as though you
lived in the world? “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” These
are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are on human
commands and teachings. Even though they have the appearance of wisdom
with their self-imposed worship and false humility achieved by an
unsparing treatment of the body—a wisdom with no true value—they in
reality result in fleshly indulgence.
(Colossians 2.18-23)

Experience is important, too. But our experience must be affirmed and
given witness to by the community of which we are a part. We seek
guidance in community; we hold one another accountable, and we
willingly submit to one another, in community.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation (2 Peter 2.20).

Be missional!
Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him … (Colossians 2.6)

Living the life of Christ is a missional life!

“Christianity over the past 2000 years has moved from a tribe of
renegades to a religion of conformists. Follow Jesus into a
resurrection. To claim we believe is not enough. The call of Jesus is
one that demands action. Jesus said ‘Go!’ The modern church makes you
think he said, ‘Come, and listen.’” (Erwin McManus)

In an article called, “A Missional Church,” Ed Stetzer wrote, "What is
‘missional’"? He said, "The term ‘missional’ is simply the noun
‘missionary’ adapted into an adjective. … a "missionary" is someone who
acts like a missionary (for example, understands a culture, proclaims
the faithful Gospel in a way that people in culture can understand, and
uses parts of that culture to glorify God). A ‘missional church’ is a
church that acts like a missionary in its community."

A missional church is … 

  • Incarnational (deeply connected to the community) 
  • Indigenous (they’ve taken root in the soil and reflect, to some degree, the culture of their community) 
  • Intentional about their methodologies.

I also love what Reggie McNeal wrote: “Member values clash with
missionary values. Member values are all about church real estate,
church programming, who’s in and who’s out, member services, member
issues (translated: am I getting what I want out of this church?).
Missionary values are about the street, people’s needs, breaking down
barriers, community issues (translated: am I partnering with God’s work
in people?). One of these value sets will triumph over the other. They
do not coexist peacefully.”

These words are very timely for us, aren’t they? We’re in the process
of discerning God’s yearning for our ministry in this Valley. And
recently, our District Superintendent, Rev. Dave Norris, wrote in his
October District newsletter piece, regarding the concern about finances
and money that is surfacing in a number of our congregations,
especially in light of the projected increased heating costs we are
anticipating.

“It is increasingly apparent that some congregations will be forced to
consider closing because they cannot continue to meet the costs of
being in mission and ministry while maintaining a building. My
hope is that, if your congregation finds itself in that situation, you
will prayerfully consider how and where you might be able to continue
in ministry without your building. A stumbling block to ministry
in many of our congregations is their lack of mission and vision: very
simply, many have forgotten that they exist not for themselves, but for
God so that they can spread ‘scriptural holiness’ to those who have
either forgotten or never experienced the powerful presence of God’s
grace in their lives. Many, unfortunately, have come to believe
that their building is more important than the Lord God we are to
serve, and that Christ Jesus calls us to serve others, not
ourselves.  ‘Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild,
restless sea, … saying, Christian, follow me.’"

We are stewards of our experience with God
In him you also were circumcised—not, however, with a circumcision
performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that
is, through the circumcision done by Christ. Having been buried with
him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith
in the power of God who raised him from the dead. And even though you
were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your
flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all
your transgressions. He has destroyed what was against us, a
certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has
taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Disarming the rulers and
authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over
them by the cross.
(Colossians 2.11-15)

God has done amazing things for us! But God also wants to do amazing
things through us! We are now stewards of what God has done in us —
what we’ve experience. Now, we must pass it on to others so that they,
too, can experience God in a personal way!

Get Focused: Helping Others Get Focused

Colossians 1.24–29
Colossians 2.1-5

EQUIP
EQUIP is a ministry of John Maxwell which is designed to equip leaders abroad to do the work of Christ.

Bill Bright predicted that 1 billion people would come to know Christ in the first decade of the 21st Century (by 2010). This is creating a need in the church:
4,000 pastors needed each month
2 million churches needed
EQUIP needs 200 trainers in the next few months

Where there are stories of persecution, there are stories of people coming to know Christ.

In Iran, a University shows Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ” with 25 students giving their lives to Christ each night. It is overwhelming the Church. There are not enough leaders to sustain such growth.

Suffering of the Body of Christ
~When the Body of Christ suffers, Christ suffers. In Acts 9.4-5, when Saul is persecuting Christians, Jesus speaks that he is persecuting him:
"Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
    5"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.
   "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.

~Suffering is a recurring theme in the books of the Bible following the Gospels.

~It is not in our nature to suffer
1 Peter 4.13 says, “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.”
Matthew 10.24 says, "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master." If Christ suffered, we will endure suffering.

~Can’t have the glory without the suffering.
Romans 8.17 "… if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."

~When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer.
1 Corinthians 12.26 says, "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."

Persecution in our World Today
Open Doors International is a ministry founded by Brother Andrews (author of God’s Smuggler).

The Mystery of Faith
~God gives each of us gifts, not for our own good, but the good of the body, the church.
25I became a servant of the church according to the stewardship from God—given to me for you … 26that is, the mystery …

~The mystery is for all, Jew and Gentile alike
27God wanted to make known to them the glorious riches of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Galatians 3.28-29

~The mystery of God in Christ
2 … they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

For Further Prayer and Reflection
Romans 8.18-39
Romans 5.1-11

Get Focused 3: Helping Others Get Focused

For this series, we’re using the New English Translation. It’s posted
online by chapter, so you can read today’s text by clicking on
Colossians 1.24–29 and Colossians 2.1-5.

God call servants
First, let’s talk about God’s call. Paul writes, “according to the
stewardship from God.” Clearly (from here and other writings), Paul
understood that he was called by God for a special task in the body of
Christ. We, too, are called to play a vital role in the church. Have
you acknowledged your call? Do you know what you are called to do in
this world?

Called to be servants
Paul calls himself a servant in 1.23 (servant of the gospel) and 1.25
(servant of the church). First and foremost, we are called to be
servants.

Servants are called to suffer
"I rejoice in my sufferings for you," Paul writes, "and I fill up in my
physical body—for the sake of his body, the church—what is lacking in
the sufferings of Christ." At first, I wrestled with that last part,
"what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ." But then I remembered
what Paul’s (then Saul) experience on the road to Damascus. Jesus asked
Saul why he was persecuting him. Then, Jesus’ words to
Ananias, whom Jesus was sending to Paul, were that God would show him
what things he must suffer for the kingdom. We participate in the
ongoing sufferings of Christ when we serve God in a world that is
anti-Christ.

Servants are called to proclaim
Paul says, "We proclaim him by instructing and teaching all people." He says this is his goal. So, let’s talk about our goal.

The Servants’ Goal — To form disciples of Jesus Christ

  • “so that we may present every person mature in Christ”
  • “that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be
    encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings
    in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely,
    Christ”

I love that we can see the Great Commission right here in Colossians.
Our goal is to form disciples of Jesus Christ, to lead others toward
maturity in Christ.

Today, we want to get very practical. The following "church ministry
plan" and my "personal ministry plan," you will see or hear again and
again. This is our (and my) goal. This is the direction we’re going in.

Our Church Ministry Plan

  • Embrace our call to be servants
  • Pray!
  • Gain willingness to risk, to suffer (we need courage)
  • Cultivate relationships (with brothers/sisters; with unreached friends)
  • Develop a missional focus to proclaim Christ
  • Grow disciples (ourselves and others)

Interestingly, Paul talks about how hard this work is. We, too,
need to realize that it’s going to be hard work: to turn things around,
to become missional again, to grow ourselves and others, to sow seeds
in the Valley, to follow God in a world that’s not as receptive to the
church as it once was.

My Personal Ministry Plan
The following is my understanding of the role of pastor. I’m going to do my best to follow these guidelines and priorities.

Read Acts 6.1-7 and Ephesians 4.11-13.

My goal is to spend 80% of my time doing these things …

     

  • Pray
  •  

  • Teach (preach, cast vision, proclaim, etc.)
  •  

  • Equip (self, leaders, servants)

and the remaining 20% of my time in other areas, such as …

     

  • Caregiving
  •  

  • Administration
  •  

  • Etc.

My job is to give away ministry. I will do this by equipping you
for the work of the ministry. As more and more people are equipped,
more and more ministry and outreach will happen in our Valley. More
seeds will be sown, and as a result, a greater harvest will be
experienced!

I am excited about what God is doing in, through, and among us! May God use us for his glory!