Notes and audio available. Select the desired message then click the green type.

Sermon Ross Woodhouse 20200216

LIVING TO PLEASE GOD

Can I do a quick review of last week? I shared two motivations for this series: Truth and Assurance, based on two observations. One of the greatest dangers we as Christians face today is the thinking that Christ, his truth and the word are irrelevant. The Bible would teach us that we must be convinced that there is one truth and his name is Jesus. To know what truth is we look to him and what he says.

A colleague of mine said a few weeks ago what voice does the Christian church have anymore? We are now a minority; Jesus is a swear word or just another guru…I beg to differ…

I went away from Monday’s lunch so encouraged. There was a young Maori dad present who has left behind a life of drugs etc, to follow Jesus and said to me, “I am not interested in all that stuff anymore…” he paused, in tears, and then said, “I just love Jesus!”

And secondly, it seems hardly a week goes by without a significant national or global calamity of some kind. But we need to never be in doubt who is in control. Nothing that happens in this world happens without Christ’s knowledge, this is the assurance we have.  Jesus is all sufficient and all supreme, and this is Paul’s main message to the church then and today.

We looked at verses 1-8 that are Paul thanking God for the church – we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you – because they were known for their love, their faith, their hope and for their understanding of God’s grace.

Thinking about today’s passage now: scripture has many prayers and models of prayer we can learn from, apply and personalize into our lives and church context. After all what better way to pray than to pray following God’s word. But as we pray what are we praying? That’s the angle I want to take today in working through these verses.

 

Colossians 1:9-14 says –

“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.”

 

I wonder if this is something many of us did when our kids were young? Having a growth chart with pen marks somewhere on a wall or doorway, where you would measure your kids’ heights every few months. They, you and their siblings would see how much they had grown. In our case I was reminded why the grocery bill was going up! As a parent, it’s awesome when our kids grow old enough to learn what pleases you and then they do it. “Dad, I put the rubbish out for you” “Mum, I baked you a special cake for your birthday” You know that they’re growing because they want to do things to please you.

Have you ever thought about what spiritual growth looks like as God’s children? Is growing in God important to you? How might we think it is measured? At its heart spiritual growth is learning how God wants us to live, and then for us to please him by living that way.

 

So as we examine this prayer let us realize that…

Growing in God is Knowing How He Wants Us To Live (v.9)

The first things I want us to look at is how important prayer was for Paul and Paul’s habit of praying. “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.” (v.9)

The fact that the church was doing so well spiritually did not lull Paul and Timothy into slackening off in their prayer efforts for the Colossians: quite the reverse actually, it led to even more intense prayer.

His prayer for the church was unceasing – ‘we don’t stop praying for you’ – it was regular, intensive and focussed and, is the engine room of any church, it is where the main business of the church is done. There’s an important lesson, as good as things appear to be going, our prayer life as a church must continue to ramp up! Paul here, and in considering other writing teaches us four things: *

 

  1. Pray regularly. It is not intended prayer be a bland side-line thing, but something that permeates our Christian lives. Spiritual fortitude depends on regularity in prayer.”[1]I can imagine that Paul would have been constantly praying for churches and its people, perhaps as he stitched his tents.
  2. Pray with praise and thanks to God in and for all circumstances.
  3. Pray for others. Certainly pray when we become aware of pressing issues/crises (e.g. our prayer chain). But we want to be confident that someone is praying for us[2], consistently because intercession is more than waiting for a problem…it’s anticipation.
  4. Pray for growth. Growth in the knowledge of God.

 

How he wants us to live is bathed in prayer.

As I said earlier, even though the church was doing well, Paul and Timothy ramped up their prayer for the church. Name a move of God or a revival that never began with prayer. Prayer behind us and prayer in front of us. Prayer!

 “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.” (The second part of v.9) *

 

How he wants us to live is full of the knowledge of his will.

Illustration – Tell me how much more water I can fit into this partially filled jug? That difference can be filled with God or something else. What inevitably happens when we’re half full of God and half full of the world and it’s thinking, is we end up living CCL’s. “Clunky Christian Lives”. Kind of like riding a bike on half-flat tyres.  A little read of Revelation tells us what happens to half-pie Christians. We want to avoid that.

I think we can easily fill our minds with ‘stuff’ that distract and subtract from Jesus, that prevents the filling of the knowledge of God – and only we know what those things are. I’m not sure we can ask God to “fill us” when we’re filling ourselves with stuff, or exposing ourselves to stuff that’s not, God. It’s the human inclination to be satisfied, contented, happy. But ultimately we can only be completely fulfilled in Christ. We help be the answer to our prayer here, by pushing the delete button on what gets in the way of Jesus…. sometimes literally!!

For example, a young man came to me many years ago struggling with pornography, “I don’t know what to do, I’m looking at this stuff morning, lunch and afternoon tea. What do I do?” Remove any and every avenue…and we’ll set up your devices so that if you were to look up something your wife would receive a message. Woh!

These are the sorts of decisions and radical departures from habitual sin we must make in order to be filled. He asks the question over the next chapter “why as though you still belonged to it do you still submit to its rules?” (Colossians 2:20) “It” being a superficial/false version of genuine faith in Christ. “It” being something that wasn’t putting Jesus first.[3]

When Paul prays for filling with the ‘knowledge of God’s will’ he is not talking about being smarter about God, whether to accept a job offer or who to marry. This is moral knowledge. Knowledge of God’s character. Knowledge obtained by consistent application of God’s word. Knowledge obtained by looking only to the person of Christ who embodies God’s will.  Knowledge that guards our hearts, minds and spirits from going spiritually skew-wiff!

I have a very poor sense of direction, particularly when I’m in a foreign place. Thankfully these days we have things like Google maps that help us, helped a lot when we were in Australia recently, and even then when I didn’t listen properly I took a few wrong turns. If I don’t know where I’m going, or how to get there, where am I going?[4]

How do I know what to do in my marriage if I don’t know what God’s standards are? How do I know what attitude to serve with if I don’t know what the Bible says? How do I know what to do with my resources if I don’t understand what God expects of me? (Psalm 119:11)[5]

Behind the reason for Paul’s prayer is the danger that Christians not grounded in the word will unknowingly and unconsciously allow the values and practices of our culture to dilute faith. And that is precisely why we pray for knowledge of God’s will. Then God gives us the knowledge we need, to convict, change and conform us to a closer more meaningful relationship with himself. Because it is only in response to the knowledge of God that we can live in a manner that honours him.

Now all of that leads us to verses 10 – 14. When we know God’s truth, and we know God’s principles, and we have committed to applying them into our lives, there’s going to be amazing results (fruit). Because Knowing how God wants us to live leads us to being able to please God in all things…

 

Growing in God is Pleasing Him In All Things.

Here, in verses 10-14, are four crucial benefits of applied knowledge and action

  • Bearing fruit in every good work[6]
  • Growing in the knowledge of God
  • Being strengthened with all power
  • Joyfully giving thanks

 

a. Bearing fruit in every good work

We are saved for good works, not by good works, but good works are the fruit of being genuinely saved and on track with Jesus (Ephesians 2). Paul gave thanks to God for the Colossians not just for learning the truth from Epaphras (1:7) but because that led to concrete results.  True spirit-filled faith doesn’t decide which areas of life I will be faithful and God-honouring in, and then build walls around other areas. All the walls are down. We’re all in or not. Hot or cold. Choose you this day! True spirit-filled faith changes the way we think, live and act toward others; “pleasing him (God) in every way”. 

Whereas people who are enemies of God in their minds (1:21) have consigned themselves to an ignorance of the truth and are part of a society where immorality and other evil behavior are normal and commonplace – and that includes in the church.

We’re not here to fit in, but to stand out.[7] We must be cautious of complacency. To be “holy … without blemish and free from accusation” (1:22) in our society requires a spiritual resilience and knowledge, “endurance and patience” (1:11) that sustains us in going against the tide. True, spirit-filled faith changes the way we live and treat others.  Only true Christian existence can produce fruit. And fruit is something that God expects from every Christian[8].

Some practical examples…

  1. being exemplary employers/ employees. Standing out, being above reproach
  2. responding in a godly manner in hostile situations
  3. not being offended when the truth is being spoken to us
  4. denying ourselves for others
  5. even when we know it might hurt us, tell the truth

 

What we notice about every one of these is they are the complete opposite to the way we might like to react and they are the opposite to the way the world reacts, that’s the point!

 

b. Growing in the knowledge of God

I covered this earlier so just a brief comment: I get terribly sea sick. There are a few people here who might like to see me on a fishing boat or a cruise, but I’m not sure I’ll take the risk. However, a quality vessel will have adequate and well-calculated ballast for the conditions. Ballast stabilizes the ship. James describes best what a Christian without “ballast” looks like: “a wave blown here and there, tossed about by the wind…doubting, unstable”. Knowledge of God is ballast! We set ourselves up for shipwreck and spiritual crises in the absence of growing in the knowledge of God in the word of God.

For Christians to grow in the knowledge of God, our homes, children’s church, church, home groups must be a rigorous biblical training ground. Why? Because the need for truth and a moral compass from being scripturally saturated in God’s word could not be greater. We must fill up in our tank of love for God, love for his word, filling of his Spirit…that’s our ballast!

 

c. Being strengthened with all power

You’ll note in Paul’s prayer this power is connected to endurance and patience[9]. Two qualities we need to navigate this world in which we live. We need God’s power to endure in our circumstances and for patience towards others. Power that comes from the gospel (Romans 1:16-17), power that comes by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13[10]). Every Christian will meet with adversity of some kind, it is only by God’s power we can work effectively through any suffering, crisis, grief and trial. These will require endurance and patience, clinging to Christ in tough times. Paul puts it best in verse 29, “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me”.

I want to pick up the story of the young man from Monday’s lunch. His youngest daughter was born with a heart murmur, requiring surgery and then heavy sedation for a couple of weeks. The family didn’t know if she would make it, but they prayed and trusted God. That’s not all. He believed God had even placed it there, for a purpose…so He could be shared with others.

Endurance and patience by the power of God, because we ‘know’ God is, we know we’re called by God.[11]

 

d. Through joyfully giving thanks.

Why would we joyfully give thanks to God? Because he has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:12b-14).

There’s a lot in here, to have an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness toward God. Let me start with this: until we are assured and utterly convinced that God’s grace in Jesus is enough, and what Christ has done for us is enough and fully sufficient, we’ll find it difficult to be thankful[12].

Do we find that we effortlessly criticize and complain about people and things? Is that our default response?

(refer back to the jug illustration) A spirit full of thankfulness of Jesus makes no space for ingratitude. Time spent in God’s word and prayer equips us to recognize discontent and ingratitude, and turn it around. Paul says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). Pleasing God, is joyfully giving thanks!

Thanksgiving is not intended to be something that we squeeze into our lives in the margins like that last tiny item we barely have room for in the suitcase – “get in there”.  The way we are to live life is with gratitude and thanksgiving, crowding out complaining etc.[13]

Helen Keller, who became blind and deaf at a very early age, wrote in her autobiography: “For three things I thank God every day of my life: thanks that He granted[14] me knowledge of his works; deep thanks that He has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to — a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.” Her claim was that so much had been given to her that she had no time to think about what had been denied her.[15]

*A thankful and grateful heart keeps us mindful that our lives depend entirely on God, not on ourselves. The main reason we cannot be thankful or have gratitude, is because we’re not free. Not free from what I think my rights are. Not free what I think I deserve. Not free from my unforgiveness, and attitudes towards others when the biggest problem is me. “Sin cripples; God’s grace in Christ frees”[16]

Did you notice there were at least two reasons in the prayer that should seal the gratitude of every Christian? He has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light…and he has rescued us, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. If Christ is your Saviour, he has qualified, you and rescued you.

Qualified – imagine if I turned up to Porritt Stadium next Saturday and the New Zealand athletics coach told m I had qualified for the team, and all I did initially was commit to the team. How absurd. Yet here, when I say yes to Jesus, he makes me ‘fit’, he qualifies me for eternity with him[17]. He does that, not me.

We have been qualified to receive a personal inheritance, something that belongs to us as individuals. What is it? Peter says it is an inheritance than can never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:4). It is eternal life; it is God living in me now, by his Spirit. It is the earth, yes the earth (see Matthew 5:5)[18]. Jesus will return one day and take over the earth and we will reign with him in glory.

When do I receive it? You have! Right now we are living in the inheritance.[19] When you come to Christ, you immediately inherit eternal life, the whole earth, and all the promises. Marvellous!

Rescued – you have been rescued, delivered, forgiven. Rescued from what? The power of darkness. In Romans 16, Paul said Satan is under our feet. That’s a tremendous reality! In Christ’s death, at the cross, Satan was defeated, he (Christ) has rescued us from the “clutches of the power of darkness”[20] And once rescued church, we need never fear that power, rather we give thanks!

What hope do you and I have apart from Christ? Apart from his grace? Answer: no hope.

Let me sum up like this. When we look at what Christ has done, how can we can do less than worship him, give him thanks, and live to please him?

 

Conclusion

Lord we ask that you would fill us with the knowledge of your will, through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  We pray this in order that we may live a life worthy of you Lord, and please you in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of you God, being strengthened with all power according to your glorious might so that we may have great endurance and patience,  joyfully giving thanks to you Father, because you have qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  

“For you have rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son you love, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Thank you Lord!

 

[1] Col, NIV, Comms

[2] We need to be assured we are cared for, prayed for, and supported.

[3] There are still things we belong to or that have made their home in us, we need to repent of, get rid of, they are rubbish…in order to be free to pursue Christ.

[4] Where are we headed if what is guiding us isn’t the word of God?

[5] I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

[6] Col. NIV Comms

[7] Not melded into the world, not conformed to the world, but distinct. Tolerance, and inclusiveness are not to be confused with compromising the truth of our calling.

[8] See John 15

[9] See 1:11

[10] May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

[11] See Rom. 15:13

[12] Or even develop gratitude

[13] We fill up on the one to crowd out the other! “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfil your vows to the Most High” (Psalm 50:14). It was Jesus habit – see Matt. 11:25; 26:26; John 6:11; 11:41. Paul mentions those who don’t thank God in Rom. 1:21

[14] Swapped for vouchsafed

[15] Adapted from Col. NIV Comm

[16] Col. NIV Comms

[17] He gives me a position “on the team”

[18] Blessed are the meek for they shall…inherit the earth.

[19] If you have committed your life to Christ

[20] We were once destined to hell and separation from God for eternity. https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/2134/what-makes-christians-most-thankful