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Taking Our Turn at the Plate from Colossians 1:23-2:3 October 4, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Colossians, Crucifixion, Religion, Sermons, Suffering.
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Taking Our Turn at the Plate
Colossians 1:23-2:3

As we began our study of Colossians, we found that Paul was praying specifically for the believers in Colosse that the Lord would increase their knowledge of His Father’s will. He knew that they must understand their calling in Christ if they are going to live in this world in a way that is pleasing to God.

After his prayer, he then explained in detail the Father’s plan:

1. His Son would create the universe.
2. Sin would corrupt the universe, especially and specifically mankind.
3. But Jesus would reconcile men to Himself through His death on the cross;
4. …then through His resurrection He gives life to His people, the church.
5. Finally, Paul explained that faith in Christ is necessary to entry into the body of Christ. We find in verses 23b that Paul’s life was given to bringing men and women to faith through the gospel of Christ.

That is what Paul is speaking of in verse 24 when he says, “I…fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” He means it is time to take his turn at bat (verse 24). You see, Paul wrote this epistle from a prison cell. He was suffering bodily in prison but he did not consider this as unusual. After all, Christ suffered death for our sake. Why should it then be thought unusual for a follower of Christ to also suffer for the body of Christ?

What might be consider unusual is that Paul rejoiced in his physical suffering. He said, “In this prison in suffer but I rejoice.” Was Paul nuts? How can he rejoice in suffering? I think his short answer would be, “My suffering is purposeful.”

Now in this, Paul was also like Christ. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that “…Jesus…for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame…” The point of both Hebrews 12 and of this verse in Colossians is that Christ’s suffering had a purpose and because it had a purpose, there was joy even with suffering.

I. We, like Paul, can also rejoice in physical suffering if it results from a spiritual purpose (1:23-27). There are many possible purposes for suffering. Sometimes it causes us to grow in our faith. That is actually the point of Hebrews 12. Suffering can come because God wants to be glorified. When Jesus was asked about the man born blind, He said this man did not sin nor did his parents’ sin but this blindness is to the glory of God. He then healed them man as a sign that He was the Messiah. There are situations where sin is obviously to blame for suffering and there is suffering that goes beyond any explanation. That was Job’s situation. But Paul’s suffering was different. His suffering was the result of his spiritual purpose.

Have you ever asked yourself this question, what in life is worth dying for? How would you answer that question? If we were to go through the congregation this morning, we would have a limited number of answers. God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, family, country, these are the things that would be mentioned most often. Would you mention the church, the body of Christ, the people for whom Jesus Christ died? Paul would have the church right at the top of his list.

I realize that this is first of all applicable to those of us who are preachers and leaders and teachers. I, as pastor, must be willing to suffer for the sake of God’s people. The deacons also bear that same responsibility. The Sunday School teachers, the nursery workers, the Kid’s Klub leaders on Wednesday night, and the pre-school nursery workers all bear this stewardship, this responsibility in a specific way.

A. Yet, the spiritual purpose of every believer, like Christ’s, should be centered on His people, on His body, on His church (1:24-25a). Let me give you some bibilical reasons. (1) The Great Commission and the promises of the Holy Spirit’s power in witnessing and the presence of God wherever we go are given to all of us for the purpose of building Christ’s church. (2) It is the church that is given the responsibility in the book of Hebrews to pay attention to the faith of fellow believers to see if there is something lacking and a need for help in the lives of another believer. (3) It is the church that is given spiritual gifts for the purpose of edifying and building one another up. So all of us, like Christ should center on His people, on His church.

B. Our method is to fully reveal the mystery of Christ (1:25b-27). This is why the passage we looked at last week is so important. Everyone of us needs to understand what God is doing in this world so that we can do our part in sharing the gospel with the unsaved and in building and encouraging one another in the faith. We need to understand this mystery that Jesus is the divine Creator but that sin has damaged His creation. He came to the world as a man to die for our sin and to give His church, His people life through His resurrection but we can only access forgiveness of sin and eternal life through faith in Christ. This mystery is the gospel of Christ. The riches and the hope of glory that Paul writes about in this epistle is Christ, our Creator and our Lord and Savior. This gospel is a called a mystery because it was not fully revealed until Christ came.

Now you might ask, “How can I do this?” I am not a teacher like Paul. Let me give you a simple plan of action. Tell people you are a Christian. They will expect more of you but they need to know that you are a Christian and that you are not ashamed of being a Christian. They need to be watching you, scrutinizing your life. Secondly, invite them to church, to Sunday School, to Great Night services, to anything that you might think is appropriate for them. Then tell them why you became a Christian. If it was fear of hell that drove you to Christ, tell it. If it was the guilt of sin, tell it. If it was frustration with the emptiness of your life, tell it. Whatever or whoever it was that motivated you to trust Christ, let people know about it. Then tell them the mystery of Christ. Tell them that Jesus came to save them from sin and give them new life through His death and resurrection. Finally, invite them to put their faith in Christ alone.

Is it possible that some will not like it? Absolutely! May there be some unforeseen consequences for you? Yes! But the bringing of people into the family of Christ is the greatest task in the world. It is why Jesus suffered and died, to bring people to himself.

II. Not only is it worth any suffering that we might experience, we can, like Paul, continue despite exhaustion (1:28-29). Paul makes it clear that the life of a believer focused on the Body of Christ is not easy but that its purpose is makes the weariness worth while.

A. Our purpose is the presentation of completed believers (vs. 28b). Let me explain what I mean. A game is complete when the game is won. That is what the word “perfect” here means, complete. In baseball a complete game is when a pitcher goes from start to finish. Paul says that his goal is, and certainly this should be our goal also, that every believer to whom we minister should finish the game. We are not responsible to win the game; that is Christ’s responsibility; we are, however, responsible to finish.

B. Our method is public proclaim Christ through warnings and wise teaching (vs. 28a). Now every believer is responsible for his or her own growth in Christ but we as fellow believers can help them to complete the game. Although only the pitcher can throw to the batter, he has fielders behind him and bench players and coaches, all there to help the pitcher to win the game. In the same way, we are responsible to help. Some things we can do personally, others we can do as a church. Verse 28 describes for us what we as a church should do. We need to warn one another and teach one another of the truth of Jesus Christ. That is the one truth that Satan cannot stand, that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Redeemer of all who trust in Him. We must warn against those who deny this truth and teach the truth of Christ as the Scriptures teach it.

III. This responsibility to spread the gospel and faithfully proclaim the truth of Christ, however, extends beyond the walls of Grace Bible Church and even beyond the Lansing area. We can even struggle hard and should struggle hard for saints unknown to us (2:1-3). Now there are many ways that we can do this. One of the key ways is by sending out missionaries. Paul mentions two specific purposes of such work.

A. Our purposes are brotherly love and full confidence in Christ (2:2-3). If we are a family in Christ, one body, then it is imperative that we promote true brotherly love. That is why we support missionaries who plant churches and baptize believers. That is why we support missionaries who are faithful to teach the truth of Christ because it is that truth that promotes love among the brethren and that gives us confidence as we look forward to our eternal future.

These are not just nice things to have but these are characteristics that result from a full knowledge of the gospel of Christ. Paul was thankful that these things were true of the Colossians and he desired that they would be true of all believers. He knew, however, that brotherly love and a confident faith did not just happen but were rooted and grounded in the truth concerning Jesus Christ.

B. Our method is to come to their aid, to encourage them (2:2a). Again there are various ways to encourage one another but Paul is talking about encouraging people who we do not know and perhaps will never meet in this life. He says, I pray for them, I write to them, if there is anything more that they need, whatever it may be, I will strive, I will struggle, I will make it a priority, to meet that need of encouragement.

As you can see, this is a team effort and everyone one of us is in the game. Are you going to follow the example of Christ and of Paul and give yourself to spreading the gospel and encouraging those who believe in the truth of Christ and helping them to complete their game? Are you going to witness and pray and give and warn and teach or enable others to teach the truth of Christ? We only have one life in which to do these things. Let us give our life to Christ as He would have us to, by giving our life to His Body, to His Church.

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