Monday, August 22, 2016

Colossians Week 3 - We Are Here for the Church

Welcome back as we go into our third week of the book of Colossians. And has we’ve been moving through this book, we have talked about how we’re trying to see the big picture of what the Spirit we revealing through Paul to the people. 
So the first week we looked at the first 14 verses and talked about how Paul was emphasizing to his audience that they are a part of this world-wide Church that was established by Jesus. And this Church is not only global, but it has no language barriers, no national borders, and it is connected through who Jesus is, and through the work of prayer. Because of this, we talked about how we as, the Alliance Church, need to be engaged in prayer for the world-wide Church, just like Paul was in prayer for the Colossians Church.
Then, in week two, we talked about verses 15-23. It is here that we saw how Paul put on the breaks of talking about the Church, and instead revealed to us that we must know Jesus on an intimate level. In order for us to be connected to the world-wide Church, we need to know the One who established it. We need to know the God of the Bible, we need to know the Savior, we need to know Jesus. 
But like we said last week, it’s not just about knowing things about Jesus. We need to know the person of Jesus. We don’t need to know him sole as a historical figure who has some good teachings, rather, we need to know the living God who came to earth, wrapped himself in human flesh, lived a perfect life while here, died an undeserved death, raised back to life, and now offers the free gift of eternal life to anyone who would accept their sinfulness and his gift of cleanings.
To know things about Jesus, and to know Jesus on a personal level, is the difference between hell and heaven. Church, we need to stop worrying about knowing all the things, and begin to focus on knowing Jesus in an intimate relationship.

That brings us to this week and the next section of Colossians that we’re going to looking at. So if you have your Bibles, please open up to the book of Colossians chapter 1 verse 24.
Now one thing to understand about the Bible, if you don’t already know it, is that the chapters and verses that we use to find things were never apart of the original manuscript. In fact, the chapters were not put into the Bible until the 1200s, and the verses were not put in until the 1500s.
So, when we read through Scripture, sometimes the chapters and verses do not necessarily correspond to the thought of the writers. And that’s what we can see here. So we will follow the writer’s thought, rather than the chapters and verses.

Now, let’s read Colossians chapter 1, starting in verse 24.

24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Let’s stop right there. What is Paul saying here? Well first off, that he is working for the good of Jesus’ Church. He says that he has become a servant, that he fills himself up with the afflictions that come with serving the Church. That he is revealing the mystery of the Gospel that has been prophesied, and hinted to for thousands of years through the Jewish Scriptures.

What does that mean for us? What is the Spirit then saying to you and me? Paul just got done talking to us about knowing Jesus on a personal and intimate level. 
He moves from that into letting us know that he is a servant. And a servant that desires to serve the Church. And with serving the Church there comes afflictions, but also joy in showing people the truth of the Gospel and of Jesus.

Why would he go from wanting us to know Jesus intimately, to talking about service?

Because to know Jesus intimately, is to serve him. But what’s interesting is, he connects knowing Jesus intimately, with serving the Church. He says, “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” 
He connects the two. Knowing Jesus intimately, leads to serving his Church. Having you ever connected the two? Last week I asked the question, Do you know Jesus intimately? And, do you want to?
If we don’t know Jesus intimately, one reason might be is that we are not serving his Church, his people. 
To know Jesus is to serve his people, the Church. Wait what? So does that mean I need to teach a Sunday school class? Or make food for the kids? Or serve on a board, or something else?
Does Paul say any of that? No, instead he says, “I fill up in my flesh…afflictions,” in other words, “I am suffering for you.” To serve the people of God, is to sacrifice for them, to hurt for them. Last week we talked about the God who cares deeply for his people. So deeply that he weeps for them.  Do we weep for God’s people too? 
See, a part of serving God’s people is to realize that the Church isn’t about us. The Church is not for us. We are here for the Church.
Now here me clearly on this, we are here for the people of God which is the Church. The question needs to not be, “What can I get out of the Church,” or, “What can the Church give me?” Rather, we need to have this question be our mindset, “What can I give out to the Church?”

When we get upset at a gathering of the Church. When we focus more on the music, the preaching, the teaching, the chairs, the carpet, the paint, or whatever it is; we are saying that the Church is here for us. But the reality is, God has intended us to be here for the Church, his people.

If we are not suffering for the people of God, then we don’t truly know the God that we say we follow.

John the Apostle,  in his first letter, says this, “11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:11-12)

To know God is to love his people, to love his people is to serve them. This means that we need to realize that the Church is not here for us, but rather we are here for the Church. 

So how do we do this? How do we serve the Church? How do we be here for the Church, rather than have the Church here for us? Let’s keep reading in verse 28.

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
2:1 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

Paul tells us that to serve the Church means to, “strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”
Do you know what strenuously means? It means to do things with as little effort as possible.
No that’s completely wrong. To do things strenuously means to be in labor for something. It means to do something eagerly, energetically, enthusiastically. It means to work at it, and not give up. How can we know God without ever putting our full strength behind serving his people? The answer? We can’t. We will never know God the way he desires us to know him, without strenuously working to serve his Church.
We will never know God, while we still have it in our minds that the Church is here for us, rather than what God wants us to know, which is that we are brought to the Church to be here for the people of God.

And what is the goal in serving the Church strenuously? Paul says in verse 2 of chapter 2, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ…”

We are to strenuously working that everyone that is apart of God’s Church is encouraged, united, and that they too may know Jesus more intimately.

Think about that. If all of God’s people, woke up to the reality that they are here for the Church, rather than the Church being here for them, how would that change us?
How would working strenuously to encourage people, change people’s view of the Church? How would working strenuously to be united, change how the Church deals with problems that arise? How would working strenuously to help others know Jesus more intimately, change how we deal with other people’s flaws?
Now, does that mean I need to teach a Sunday school class? Feed kids? Help set up things? Work on a board?
How about instead of asking those questions, we ask a simpler one? Where can I serve, using what God has given me, that I can work strenuously to encourage, help untie God’s people, and point others into a deeper relationship with Jesus?

Not all of us can be up in front, nor should we. Not all of us can serve food, nor should we. Not all of us can help set up, nor should we. But all of us, no matter what our age, have things that we can offer to others to encourage, unite, and point them back to Jesus. 

So today, I want you to write down three places you can find to serve God’s people. Three places that you can work strenuously to encourage, untie and point people back to Jesus.
Now here’s the thing. Don’t take the easy way out. Don’t say, “Well I’ll pray.” Don’t make that your first choice, if you have the physical ability to do something. Taking something that’s easy, and doesn’t take effort is the exact opposite of what strenuously means. But on the other hand, if you can’t physically do anything else, and prayer is all you can do, then work at it with all the energy God supplies. 
But let’s never take the easy one, the one that doesn’t require us to work at it, because that is not what we’re being called to do.

We as the Church, need to realize that the Church is not here for us, but rather we are here for the Church. We are to give 100% to God’s people looking for 0% in return. If each Christian had this 100 to 0 mentality, every person in the Church would feel encourage, united, and wanting a more intimate relationship with God. Because everyone would be looking out for everyone.

Paul wants us to know Jesus intimately, we can’t do that without serving his Church. And why is that? Because as Paul was talking about husbands and wives to the Ephesians Church, he made this statement, “25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

If Jesus gave all for the Church, how can we do anything less, than to wake up to God’s reality that the we are to be here for the Church, and leave the lie behind that the Church is here for us.

Are you ready to step into the strenuous work that God brought you to the Church for, so that you can know God intimately? Or are you satisfied with others serving you, and a surface level knowledge of the Creator of the Universe?

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