Get Focused 1: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Read Colossians 1.1-14 in the New English Translation (NET).

Today, we begin a new series called, “Get Focused!” I believe that’s the message from the New Testament book of Colossians. The Christians in the city of Colossae, influenced by their culture, added non-Christian beliefs to their faith and practice. Paul writes a letter in response to heresy.

From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy my brother …

Paul, as a young Jew, persecuted Christians in what he considered service to God. But he met the One he was persecuting on the way to Damascus. Following that transforming experience, he responded to Christ’s call to be an apostle, and spent the rest of his life serving Christ and spreading the gospel throughout the world.

to the saints, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, at Colossae. Grace and peace to you from God our Father!

Paul never visited Colossae, but he had friends (Epaphras and Philemon) there. He addresses this letter to “the saints,” “faithful brothers and sisters in Christ,” which reminds me of the words I hope to hear from Jesus one day — “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Colossae was an important city in Paul’s day. It was very diverse, including people from all backgrounds. It was also a syncretistic city where people tended blends all types of faiths and beliefs.

Faith, Hope, and Love
We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints. Your faith and love have arisen from the hope laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard about in the message of truth, the gospel that has come to you.

Faith – basis of everything, including love, hope
“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.” (Hebrews 11.1)

Love — practical expression of faith

Hope — in Christ alone
We have hope while we’re in this world, but our hope is not in this world, it is in Christ alone! Faith and love flow out of our hope!

Looking Back
Just as in the entire world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing …

"Bearing fruit," it seems to me, refers to both spiritual growth and numerical growth. I believe this gospel is still bearing fruit worldwide. Although the growth appears to be minimal in the Eurpean and North American part of the world, it is growing at a phenominal rate in the Global South.

… so it has also been bearing fruit and growing among you from the first day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.

I am struck by the importance of hearing in this passage. One day this week I was praying (unrelated to this sermon), and after the words came out of my mouth, I had to stop and think about what I had just said: "God, I don’t just want to be a doer!”

Now that’s not something I usually pray (especially as a pastor). I tend to downplay the hearing and uplift the doing (be doers, not hearers only).

But hearing is important! “Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the World of God!” (Romans 10.17). Hearing leads to fruit, to action, to doing.

You learned the gospel from Epaphras, our dear fellow slave—a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf—who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

Where did you learn the gospel? Who taught it to you or showed it to you?
I learned the gospel from my family and my church. And along the way there were some key people who modeled for me what living for Christ looked like. I’m grateful for having witnessed a passionate spirituality!

How did the gospel come to this region (central PA)?
Methodism can be traced in central Pennsylvania to an unknown circuit rider who made his way to a small cabin in Adams county in the late 1700s. But it was tough in the early days, due to the American Revolutionary War. Colonists were suspicious of the circuit riders because of John Wesley’s support of the British. But after the war, Methodism began to flourish in this region. In 1788, the first Methodist preaching took place in the area (the ministry here was part of the "Huntingdon Circuit"). The gospel came to this region at great price!

Looking Forward
What is the next faithful step? Where do we go from here?

Paul’s prayer for the Christ-followers at Colossae: For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you, have not ceased praying for you and asking God …

Know, Be, Do
In Paul’s prayer, knowing, being, and doing are interwoven masterfully throughout. We must know God, be Christ-like, and live our faith in the world.

to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects bearing fruit in every good deed growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.

Good news …
(God) delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

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