Monday, April 10, 2017

"Paul's Prayer for the Church" (Colossians 1:9-14)

The following article was first delivered as a sermon on Sunday, April 9th. You can listen to the audio of this sermon here.

If you could wish anything for a new Christian believer, what would it be? What would you want for them, hope for them,…pray for them?

Perhaps you would pray that they would find a solid, Bible-believing church? Or that they might have a strong prayer life or good devotional times? Perhaps you’d pray that they would grow in holiness as they set out on the Christian life? Perhaps you would pray that they would live by the Spirit and not by the flesh? Or that they would grow in sanctification? ALL of those would be good things. 

In Colossians 1:9-14, we are going to be treated to a kind of “master class” (if you will) on what the Apostle Paul once prayed for a brand new church and a brand new group of disciples that have just come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

And BOY OH BOY do they need prayer! Times are exciting; energy is up; enthusiasm at a high point, and yet suddenly it seems before the Colossian church can even have its first potluck together, Satan is already out and about plaguing these new believers with insidious lies and false teaching. These false teachings had a handful of problems as we mentioned last week. First, the false teaching encouraged the believers to strictly observe OT laws and ceremonies - drawing them back into the Old Covenant.

Secondly, it laid an emphasis on a special, secretive knowledge that left the Colossians wanting more than Christ, more than the Gospel. Thirdly, the false teaching involved even the worship of angels —teaching which suggested angels are mediators between us and God. And FINALLY, at its most corrosive, the teaching denied the deity of Christ —and as we will see next week on Easter, this false teaching will call forth one of the greatest declarations of Christ’s deity found in scripture, the incredible Christ Hymn of Colossians 1:15-20.

So, Paul prays for the Colossians. But this is a prayer for us as well! Like the Colossians, we live in a day of false teaching, too. In fact, the list of false teaching plaguing to contemporary church goes on and on. For example:
  • that Jesus Christ was not God, that He was not resurrected from the dead, that He is not Lord over all. 
  • that Salvation is found in all the world’s religions, rather than solely in Jesus Christ. 
  • that the Bible contains not the very words of God and is not the only infallible rule for faith and life.
  • that people are not created in the image of God, and that they were not created male nor female. In fact, it is this false teaching that has led to the death of 57 millions babies since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 and has led to the absolute confusion of the modern transgendered movement. 
  • The list goes on and on…

And so Paul prays for the church, and his prayer is a beautifully constructed tapestry of intercession, which makes a perfect model for the fabric of our own prayers. His example tells us how to pray for two of the most dire needs in the church today — the first KNOWLEDGE and then RIGHT CONDUCT in our lives as Christians. So let me invite you to pay close attention to the scriptures today as Paul prays for the church…

1. Paul Prays that God will fill us with a Knowledge of His will.
“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;…” (Colossians 1:9; NKJV)
Here we see Paul’s primary petition for this new church…and we see his primary petition for us! And what is that petition? We see it’s a petition for knowledge. But note, not just any knowledge…he prays that we will be filled with a knowledge of — whose will? Yes! God’s will.

How so? Well, Paul uses the Greek word ‘pleroo' translated as “filled.” ‘Pleroo' means to be “completely filled.” It means to be “totally controlled”. In other words, Paul prays that we will have not just an inner impression or a shallow feeling of what God wants for us through His word, but rather that we’ll have a deep and thorough and pervasive knowledge of the will of God.

From the apostle Paul’s perspective, a deep, growing knowledge of Christ and God’s will is of the greatest importance for our spiritual lives. In fact, it is dangerous to lack this knowledge!

Time and again, the Bible warns of the danger of a lack of knowledge. Proverbs 19:2 says that “it is not good for a person to be without knowledge.” We note that it was for lack of knowledge that Israel went into exile (Isa. 5:13), and God says in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” First Corinthians 14:20 warns us, “Do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature.” Ephesians 4:13–14 tells us that lack of knowledge produces “children tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:18 describes unbelievers as “being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them.”

Now, it’s just any old garden-variety knowledge that God is concerned with. Notice back in Colossians 1:9 that Paul prays that we “will be filled with knowledge of God’s will…<NOTE>…in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” You see, God’s intent is not that you and I will become a kind of storehouse repository of biblical facts and minutiae. God’s intent is that we will know depth fully His revealed truths, particularly as revealed in the word of God! That we will be able, by the Spirit’s empowering presence in our lives, to accumulate and organize principles from scripture and then apply those biblical principles to our daily lives. 

Now, let’s ask the question: How do you do this? How may you be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding?

First, you must pray for this filling as Paul is doing. Pray it for yourselves and your brothers and sisters in this church.

Second, you must desire this knowledge of God’s will. In Hosea 6:3, we find this imprecation of the great prophet, “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.” Dear friends, we must desire the knowledge of God’s will.

Third, we must always depend upon the Holy Spirit. Why is that? It’s because it is through the Spirit that we know the things God has revealed to us. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 2:10-12,
“But God has revealed [the things of God] to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10-12). 
My friends, if you are in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit of God indwelling you, teaching you, and guiding you…

Finally, dear friends, if you would know the will of God, you must study the scriptures. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17; NKJV)
You see, the scriptures of God are enabled by God to meet all the needs of your Christian life, your ministry, your needs as a follower of Christ. 

Well, perhaps you say, “Oh mercy, here goes a preacher goes again hammering away about the value of God’s word, pushing me once again to read it, to study it, to meditate upon it…oh my, how many times have I heard this song and dance!?

My friends, I make NO APOLOGY for convicting you of the necessity of devoting yourself to the study of God’s word every day. There are far too many irresolute preachers in pulpits today that seem to be ashamed of God’s word and who mainly purvey a kind fortune-cookie theology week. after. week…to the great detriment of their congregations, who starve for the unadulterated word of God.

Those who flock to such pulpits will find that in the day of trial, when the hot rays of a bleaching tribulation sets in, that the platitudes and shallow teachings will but add fuel to the fires that overtake them.

David writes in Psalm 1…

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalm 1:1-3; NKJV)

As a young Christian, the great preacher Harry Ironside visited an old, dying man named Andrew Fraser, who could barely speak above a whisper. After a few words of introduction, Fraser said to Ironside, “Young man, you are trying to become a preacher of Christ, are you not?”

Ironside replied, “Yes, I am.”

“Well,” the older saint whispered, “sit down a little, and let us talk together about the Word of God.” Fraser proceeded to open his well-worn Bible, and until his strength was gone, simply, sweetly, and earnestly he opened up truth after truth as he turned from one passage to another, in a way that Ironside’s own spirit had never entered into them.

Before Ironside realized it, tears were running down his face, and he asked Fraser, “where did you get these things? Could you tell me where I could find a book that would open them up to me? Did you learn them at college or seminary?”

Ironside said later that he would never forget Fraser’s answer. “My dear young man, I learned these things on my knees on the mud floor of a little sod cottage in the north of Ireland. There with my open Bible before me, I used to kneel for hours at a time, and ask the Spirit of God to reveal Christ to my soul and to open the Word to my heart, and He taught me more on my knees on that mud floor that I ever could have learned in all the seminaries or colleges in the world.”

A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t. My friends, do you treasure the revealed will of God? Do you delight in the very words of God? Do you meditate on them both in day and night? I pray that you do. This brings me to my second and briefer point...

2. Pauls prays that we will walk and conduct our lives according to God’s will
“…that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:10-14; NKJV)
If I were to summarize Paul here, he’s saying “what’s the use of this knowledge of God’s will if you don’t DO something with it?” You see my friends, Paul sees an absolute connection between knowledge of God’s will and your conduct.

A profound knowledge of God should profoundly affect our walk in Christ. In fact, the ultimate evidence of knowing God’s will is living in a manner that is pleasing to God.  How are you doing with this? How’s your Christian walk? How did you do this week? James tells us in his great letter to not just be HEARERS of God’s word but be DOERS of God’s word too!

My friends, don’t be discouraged. Maybe you are struggling to walk worthily right now. The good news is that God has not left us to our own resources, our own strength to walking the worthy walk. Paul wrote to the Galatians…
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20; NKJV)
In other words, Christ dwells in us in the person of the Holy Spirit. He will help us walk worthily. As Pauls says, because of God’s strengthening presence by the Spirit in our lives…

v. 10 We can walk in a worthy manner…bearing good fruit…and increasing in the knowledge of God

v. 11 Because of the Spirit and the knowledge of God’s will we are strengthened in all might and power. We can face trials with patience and joy.

v. 12 By the Spirit we can give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.

My friends, don’t be discouraged - God is with you! And I am praying Paul’s pray for you, for me, for our church. 

Of course, you might ask, “How can you be sure that any of this will come to pass?”

May answer to you comes in verses 13-14, to bring out text to a close. This is ALL possible because God has redeemed you in Jesus Christ!
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14; NKJV)
It is all possible because God the great Father of Mercies has…delivered us…conveyed us into His kingdom…redeemed us…and forgiven us” in order to do it all!

It was not due to anything we have done. It is all a work of our heavenly father who is constructing a masterpiece in you. Thus Paul prays that we will give thanks to God…constantly.

Dear friends, pray for the both the knowledge an conduct of your fellow believers this week. If our church is growing in the knowledge of Christ and His will, and walking worthily of Him, we will do great things for the Master. Let us commit ourselves to Paul’s prayer for the church this week.