Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Colossians Week 1 - Strengthening the Bond of Love with Prayer

As I get the opportunity to share with you, we will dive into Scripture, being led through a book of the Bible, just like the writer was led by the Holy Spirit when he was writing it.
The book that we will be studying is the book of Colossians. And instead of taking a piece of Scripture and looking at it, we’re going to start at the beginning of the book of Colossians and move, verse by verse, section by section chapter by chapter, until we come to and end.
So are you ready to navigate through the book of Colossians?

If you have your Bibles, please open up to the book of Colossians, which is at the back of the Bible between the books of Philippians and 1st Thessalonians.
As you open up to the book of Colossians chapter 1 verse 1, let me give you a little background on the book.
First off, it was written by the Apostle Paul between 60 and 62 AD. At this writing Paul was a prisoner in the city of Rome, because he was accused of starting riots in Jerusalem. Paul used his right as a Rome citizen to appeal his case to the Roman Emperor, and because of that, was waiting in custody until the Emperor had and an opportunity to hear his case. While Paul was in Roman custody he spent his time teaching the people that would come to him, and writing letters to the churches to teach and strength them.
This is where Colossians was written, in Roman custody waiting to appeal the charges brought against him. So what does Paul start off his letter to this Church in Colossae? Let’s read together, starting in verse 1 of Colossians chapter 1.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father. 3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you.
In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

So Paul starts off his letter by saying who its from, and addresses it to the Church in Colossae. This Church is one that was founded by a man who had come to a saving relationship with Jesus during Paul’s final missionary journey in Asia Minor. Paul had never met with this Church, yet, he understood and wanted them to understand that, though they had never met, they were all brothers and sisters in Jesus. 
This is the unity that Jesus talks about in John 17. Paul’s telling them the same thing, we are united as one Church, because of Jesus. Right now all over the world, we are joining together with other brothers and sisters in Jesus. Even though we have never met. Even though we are from different social, economic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, we are united in Jesus and we are one Church.
Paul connects these believers in Colossae to the Church all over the world that is expressed in many different ways. We here at the Alliance Church are a lot like the Church at Colossae. We are an expression of Jesus’ Church that is around the world. But we are still connected. We are connected to our brothers and sisters in the baptists churches. We are connected to our brothers and sisters in the Assembly of God, at the Isaiah Project, and at the Community Bible. We are connected to the Church in Africa, in Iraq, in Brazil, in China, and every where else Christian believers meet together.
We are even connected through history with the Church of Colossae, and them with us. 
Paul understood this, and began his letter with this affirmation. Therefore, we too must come to this understanding as well. That we are not alone doing are own thing, but that we are connected with every other believer that is worshiping around the world, and who has worshiped throughout history.
But as Paul ends his greeting, he gives us a little insight into how we are connected to each other. 
Let’s keep reading.

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

Paul tells us that there are two things that connect us to each other. 
The first is prayer. Paul says that since he first heard about the Church at Colossae, he has been praying for them. Paul’s been praying for their knowledge of God’s will to grow. He prays for them to have wisdom in what the Spirit gives. Paul prays that they would live lives worthy of Jesus, lives that will please him. He prays that they would produce good work. Paul prays that they would have God’s strength to endure hardship and have patience while going through them.
He praises God that they are apart of God’s Church. That they have been saved and are no longer enemies of God, but are his sons and daughters. 
And in praising God for the believers being apart of God’s Church, he tells us that the second thing that connects us is Jesus work on the cross. By these believers putting their trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they have been brought from death to life. From darkness to light. And from a dominion headed for hell, into a kingdom in eternity. 

By giving us these two connections, Paul confirms that the acceptance of Jesus’ work on the cross is a primary teaching of Christianity. By accepting what Jesus did on the cross you are accepting that there is this thing called sin in our lives. Sin are the things that God says are wrong. And when we do those things that God says is wrong, then we sin. By sinning we become imperfect and make ourselves an enemy of God. And because we’re an enemy of God, we are destined to be destroyed as an enemy.
But God doesn’t want that. He created us to be recipients of his love. So instead, he took out all that destruction that we deserve and put it on Jesus, who gladly took our place. And by taking our place, Jesus reaches out to us and tells us that all we have to do is accept this free gift of new life. We are no longer enemies of God, but his sons and daughters.
Paul is saying to the church at Colossae, that if they are people who have accepted this gift that Jesus offers through his death on the cross, and they are joined to every other Christian through out the world and history. 

Paul also reveals to us, that prayer is something that the Church needs to be engaging in. Not just for our own people around us, but for those believers across the world, and those that will follow us in history.
Through Paul’s words, we should be challenged to join with our brothers and sisters across this world by praying for them. 

Right now in North Korea there is a Church that makes up about 1.5% of the population. If these believers are caught practicing their beliefs, they will at the least be arrested and sent to labor camps where they will work long hours without food, water or rest. Recently a Pastor named Han Chung-Ryeol, who worked with border churches between China and North Korea was brutally murdered. They are now without a pastorate aid them in their spiritual walk, and their access to food and other supplies.

In the African nation of Sierra Leone, there is supposed to be freedom of religion. But with Islam on the rise, and occult religions very active, it is not uncommon for a Christian to have their homes burned down, be killed with stones, or even poisoned.

We could go on and on about the difficulties that the Church around the world faces, and if you’re interested in knowing more, groups like the Voice of the Martyrs can give you more information. But this is what we need to realize: we need to follow the example that we have from Paul in his opening to the Colossians We need to step up in praying for our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

We see this very same attitude of prayer from Jesus in his final prayer in John 17.  But even though we have two examples that show us that we need to be praying for the world-wide Church, we tend to think that it’s useless. And the thought passes by our mind, “What is really the point?” 

And in this passage of Scripture, in Colossians 1:1-14, we see that the point of praying for the world-wide Church at the very minimum is to be connected with them. The point is to join, as a spiritual body in ways that none of us could ever fully comprehend, with each other. It is a way for us to get our head out of our own problems, and onto the world stage. It is a way for us to stop bickering over secondary doctrines and teachings, and refocus us onto the unity of God’s Church. 

So how can we do this? Because, I don’t know about you, but knowing what to pray for is hard. I want to challenge you to visit persecution.com, as God leads you, find one church in another country that you can become a prayer partner for. You may never meet anyone from there, this side o heaven, and they might not even know that you are praying for them, but begin connecting with them through the work of the Holy Spirit, by praying.

We are called by God to lift each other up in prayer, as Christians around the world. We are given examples of this in Scripture, and to not do so is to disregard Jesus’ call for unity in his Church. Prayer connects us together in ways that we may never know this side of heaven, but without it, we tend to lose sight of God’s bigger work in the world. 

The question then is: are you willing to join with the other believers here at the Alliance Church to pray for our brothers and sisters around world, strengthening the bond of love with them. Or are we going to continue to be only interested in our own world here in Quartzsite and our little Alliance Church? 

Because I see God moving us into the direction of being a Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and ends of the earth focused church. Will you join me?

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