Thursday, March 9, 2017

Colossians Week 7 - Experiencing God's Fullness Through Our Relationships

Today we’re going to continue our study in the book of Colossians, where we will be picking it up in chapter 3 verse 18. So if you have your Bibles you can begin to open up to Colossians chapter 3 verse 18.
Now, we are coming ever closer to the end of our study through the book of Colossians with only three sections left. And after today, only two to go. In the two previous sections that we have covered we’ve been following Paul as he has been focusing on the fullness of Jesus. This fullness that we have discussed is knowing God intimately. We have talked about how we are to know God intimately, and how this is the goal of Christianity. 
Everything we do, is to get us to a place were we are living our daily lives in the fullness of God. It is a place where we experience God’s presence, his love, and his peace. Paul as told us that we come into this fullness only through Jesus’ death, and resurrection. And when we realize that this fullness of knowing God intimately is for us now, then we can start to live in it day-to-day, rather than thinking it can only be experienced when we die. 
From this understanding that the fullness of God is to be experienced now, rather than later, Paul tells us that there are things that we can do to help us experience God’s fullness. in verses 1-17 of chapter 3, we discover that our heart or our feeling self, and our mind or our thinking self, need to be focused on God. So our thoughts and our feelings need to be solely focused on God, and not the things of this earth that would draw us away.
In this process of getting our mind and heart on God, we found that it isn’t about hearing what we need to do or not do, rather it is listening to God and allowing him to tell us what is right and what is wrong.
We found that our relationship with God is based on him. Not on a pastor, not on a teacher, but on the God who saved us and brought us into his fullness. So, now we need to discover, with God, what we should and should not do. Should I go here or not? Should I dress like this or not? Should I do this or should I do that? All of which are answered in the context of our relationship with God. Are there black and white boundaries? Of course, yet at the same time there are the grey area inside those boundaries, and it’s within those boundaries that we are talking about.
And in doing so, as we live out our relationship with God, discovering new things in it, Paul reminded us that we are to be patient and graceful toward other people as God leads them. We need to allow God to work in their lives as they grow in their relationship with him. 
And it’s with this understanding that Paul moves us into the next section of his writings to the Colossians Church.

To understand the thought process of Paul, let me read the last verse from our last section which is verse 17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
“18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. 22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
4:1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.”

Paul takes us from understanding that we are to experience God’s fullness now, and that this fullness is experienced through our personal relationship with him. We are also to allow others to experience their relationships with God, so that they too can experience his fullness.

But here’s the kicker to all of it, our relationship with God, and the experience of his fullness does not exclude the relationships we have with people. See, we can easily make our relationship with God so personal, that we lose sight of the fullness of God. If we focus on our own understanding of the Bible and we make doctrine king, we can have a tendency to make service a peasant. If this happens, then that we have put our personal interests ahead of our relational responsibilities. When we make touching a book more important that touching a life, we have closed ourselves off to the needs that God has give us to meet. When we believe the idea that the purity of the saint is more important that the dirt of the sinner, and therefore the association we have with them, we miss the Jesus who touched the leprosy of people.  If we truly desire to experience the fullness of God then we must realize that it can only be experienced in relationship with God and with people.

Jesus says in Mark 12:29-31, that the two greatest commandments are these: to love God and to love people. We have been talking about how God is leading us, as the Alliance Church of Quartzsite to Love, Lift, Locate, Life. This leading of God is based in Scripture and here we see it again. Paul is piggybacking onto Jesus’ two greatest commandments. Paul is saying, Jesus brought us into his fullness through his death and resurrection and do you know how you can experience it? By letting the do’s and don’ts come out of your personal relationship with God, and how you conduct your relationships with people. 

The two cannot be separated. Just as Jesus said, the most important command is this, and the second is this. Jesus forever connected the two for us to experience the fullness. We were created to love God, being in relationships with him, and to love people being in relationship with them.

Now Paul gives us 3 relationships in this passage: First Paul gives us the husband wife relationship. Telling us that wives are to submit, which is a sign of respect, and husbands are to love. The second is, children are to obey, which is a sign of respect, and Father’s are not to embitter or discourage their children. Interesting that it is the Father-Children relationship that is singled out, but as we have said before, we’re focusing on the over arching idea here, rather than the verse-by-verse scrutiny that we could do. Finally we have the slave or servant who is to obey, which again is a sign of respect, and the master to be just and merciful to his slaves.

Knowing all this, what is Paul trying to say overall? What is the overall idea, in the thought process of our relationships being a part of our experiencing God’s fullness?

In each relationship, one party in making sure the other one is having their need fulfilled. A wife needs to know she is loved. A husband needs to know he is respected. Parents need to know that they’re children will trust them. Children need to be encouraged. Masters need to be respected and their servants need to know that the master is treating them well.
To experience God’s fullness is to have an intimate relationship with him that pours over to the people around us. This means that we are working for the good of the people around us. In our relationship with God, we look to recognize the need in our relationships. If we are a husband, we are looking to fulfill our wives need of love. If we are a business owner, we are looking to fulfill the need of taking care of our employees. Not matter what the relationship we are looking to fulfill the need of the opposite party.
To experience God’s fulness is to realize that our relationship with him extends to the people around us. We are not supposed to be some monk, who isolates themselves form people. Instead, the only true way to experience the fullness of God, the way he has intended us to experience it, is by waking up to the fact that we are in this together.

Why is it that our relationship with people is so important? Because God created us to realize that we created with a need that is found in relationship. Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helper for him.” God created Eve because Adam was created to need a companion, to need relationship. Adam was created to be in relationship with a human, this is because God is a relational God. It is found in the revealing that God is three in one, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as Jesus reveals in Matthew 28:19.
So then, why did God create the Church? Jesus says in his prayer in John 17: 21, “Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” God created the Church to show the world that he is real, through people who are experiencing his fullness with each other.

The people sitting around you are not there just to take up space, but so that you will be able to experience God through meeting their need, and them meeting yours.

This is why the writer John says in his 1st letter to the Church, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

Our relationships with people are interconnected with experiencing the fullness of God. We cannot hope to know God deeper, if we are not willing to know his people. But if we are to experience the fullness of God now, all we must do is seek to fulfill what Paul is saying in these verses. 
We are to make sure that the needs of people that we are in relationship with are being met. I need to make sure my wife is having her love need met. I need to make sure that my children have their encouragement need met. I need to make sure my parents have their respect need met. I need to make sure my boss is having his respect need met. Because as I seek to meet the needs of the relationships around me, I seek to make my relationship with God stronger, because the desire to meet these needs comes out of my desire to build me relationship with God himself.
What would this body of believers at the Alliance church look like if each of us sought to meet the needs of the other believers around us, for no other reason except to please God?
I want to be a part of a group of believers that cared for each other like that.

So this is my challenge for you this week: Ask God, to open your eyes to the people around you. Then make a list, like the one in section we talked about today. A list of the needs that people need from you. Are you a father? Are you a business owner? Are you a teacher, a husband, wife, sister, brother? What do the people on the opposite end of your relationship need from you?

Let us go and experience God, through the relationships he has given us.