The following post is the manuscript of a Sunday teaching I delivered on June 21, 2020.
Back in the gold rush days of the wild wild west, there was a man who heard about the riches that were being ‘found’ and struck in mining for gold out on the western frontier. This man invited R. Darby out to Colorado. He found a very rich vein. He convinced all of his friends to invest. About the time the investments were repaid the vein ran out. He continued to dig to find the vein again until he was again deeply in debt.
Discouraged he sold the claim and equipment to a junk dealer in Denver for a few hundred dollars. The junk dealer hired a geologist to examine the mine and was told that if they dug three feet further they would find the same vein of gold. The junk dealer became the richest man in Colorado. R Darby gave up too early. I think that many times we are guilty of giving up too soon.
A thought that Paul begins back in Colossians 2 comes to completion is brought to its fullness in today’s passage. The substance of Jesus changes our life so that our life embodies that of Jesus.
Paul says the Colossians believers are to devote themselves in prayer. Devotion in prayer is a disciplined practice over time. “Prayer is pouring out hearts out to God,” according to the New City Catechism.
Paul calls these believers to prayer because it will align their hearts with God’s heart. Paul wants them to devote themselves to prayer and to do so by guarding that prayer life in thanksgiving.
When you guard your prayer with thanksgiving you will persevere in prayer.
Application: Create a list of requests and put them on the fridge, or in a journal then mark when they were answered so that you can celebrate. Doing this will help you celebrate answered prayers.
As they guard their prayers with thanksgiving, Paul makes an ask of this church–that they would pray for him also. The heart of Paul is that those who are outside of God’s family be united with Christ.
Paul has done this through going into difficult places and starting new churches. Paul wants to verbally share the “mystery of Christ.” Let’s understand this word usage goes back to the mystery that has been made known back in chapter 1. God planned to include all people into his family through a Messiah.
The “word” or “message” that Paul wants to make known — the Jesus who was unjustly crucified was raised from the dead and in his name, there is both forgiveness and hope of everlasting life. The goal is not simply to make others aware of this news but to share in such a way that the Gentiles are brought into the new fictive fellowship of both Jews and Gentiles.
What was once given to Abraham as intended to be a blessing to the nations (Gen 12) is underway Paul’s mission. We are going to talk about this on the mid-week podcast…it was always God’s plan to include every “people group” in his family.
This is a difficult task. This is why Paul asks for prayer. Paul is in chains for speaking this message. Paul confronts the idols and culture of the day and says that they must turn to Jesus rather than lesser powers. In both Paul and Jesus, we see one speak to a pluralistic society and another speaks to a religious entrenchment and both face consequences for this proclamation. It seems paradoxical.
In verse four, Paul wants these believers to pray for clarity. Paul’s proclamation will be disorienting. Those who are following Jesus—we can agree that Paul is in the right—in the middle of the story–apart from the word of God this would have been less clear. It may have even been confusing…Paul is in jail. This would have been shameful in an honor focused culture. Even his actions and situations would direct people to the right understanding of God. How can he be right when he is in jail?
Cynicism – being cynical by believing people are motivated by self interest – runs rampant because there is a lack of clarity and trust has broken down. It’s disorientation. Who do you trust? Even if my circumstances aren’t ideal—Jesus is still to be trusted. Praying to this end.
Prayer leads to a passion for outsiders. Passion for outsiders prioritize the gracious good news of Jesus. Conduct and content matter.
V. 5 – Here we see the final goal of what Paul has been building. “Be wise” – the emphasis is on morality reshaped by Jesus. It describes living in God’s world in God’s way. Discern how does the character and priorities of Jesus necessitate you act. We have the Holy Spirit. We need prayer because prayer helps us talk with the Holy Spirit in difficult moments throughout the day.
The embodied faith of the Colossians Church will give an accurate representation to those who have yet to surrender to following Jesus in their everyday lives.
“Early Christians were a minority group in a largely hostile world, and ill-judged attempts to assert their faith or impose it on others were not likely to be productive.”
There is a line between the church and the world. The second piece of recommendation in their relations with outsiders is to “make the most of every opportunity.”
The early Christian Ambrosiaster said it this way: “Paul, therefore, tells us that we should discuss religion at the right time and place and in great humility, and keep quiet if one of these people is shouting at us in public. We should behave one way toward the powerful, another way toward the middle class, another way toward those lower down the social scale, and yet another way to those who are gentle and another way to those who are irritable. Letting them be is redeeming the time, because if you give way to someone who attacks the Lord’s words or who rages because he is free to do so, you turn the insults of this unhappy experience into gain.”
We recorded a whole series on how to talk about your faith.
V. 6 – Commentator Scot McKnight says this, “Walking wisely and maximizing one’s life for the gospel is now clarified further and counters all-too-easy-to-develop zeal, arrogance, polemics, arguments, and hot-headed diatribes with outsiders: Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
We have plenty of examples of talking past each other, of shouting each other down, of using a red herring in discussion to avoid humiliation.
This is the way you should answer….”The how” – we don’t know what others standing before God is. Paul wants their speech to be gracious–kind, considerate, forgiving, and patient (as he said earlier). Paul’s intent here is not simply civility but knowing to respond to outsiders with good news. This is the saltiness…responding differently than the world.
When you have the temptation to fight….to scream…to yell…to say to hell with you and the world…just give me Jesus…we forsake the most important part of Jesus’ ministry. No one is too far gone. Do not give up.
If you are reading this and you haven’t been a follower of Jesus…its never too late to start the journey. If you’ve been on a journey and you aren’t sure you’re ready to go back down the path of following Jesus, don’t give up. Even when it’s difficult and you find the church or the world frustrating…you may merely be three feet from gold.