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Tonight, the finishing touches are being put on the section of this letter that has to do with practical teaching and commands for daily living. But before closing the door on that section and moving on, it’s important to zoom out and see the wider picture.
Otherwise it’s so easy to take those commands for godly living out of context. And when they’re taken out of context they have a way of becoming burdensome pretty quickly.
Be honest now. Remember the word of God spoken to you a few weeks ago from chapter 3. Do not lie to one another. (3:9) and don’t lie to yourself. It’s ok. You can admit it, you find some of the commands here in Colossians to be burdensome. They don’t all come easily. you want to rebel against some of them. Some of them you may want to do but can’t seem to find the strength to actually do them. … Ask me how I know.
People need more than pure authority, more than baseless dictates. The functional, if not explicit motto of the average man is “It’s my life, I’ll do what I want.”
And that’s just it, people do what they want. You are ruled by your desires. Insincere obedience, never lasts. Just look at all these governors and their dictates. It’s a recipe for lawlessness. The people won’t comply, at least not for long. It’s sad to watch. That’s why the church reminds you every week that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. Someone who gives out of compulsion or guilt is just going to end up disillusioned and bitter. It’s no different when your king tells you, you must forgive one another. If your hearts not in it, you’re going to end up disillusioned and bitter. and its going to be a sad sight to see.
Your heart must be motivated to obedience. Self manufactured will-power is the worst, most ineffectual, shortest lasting fuel for godly living. That’s like putting diesel in a Tesla. The results aren’t going to get you far. And you’re going to ruin a beautiful creation.
That’s why when God commands right living, he also supplies the proper fuel so you can do it joyfully and endure hardships along the way. The Lord desires you to be happy in your faithfulness. And He Himself is more than happy to give your heart reasons to rejoice and obey. They are the context of God’s story and your part in it. And Paul is determined that you know and understand that context and not separate your goals for godly living from it.
He is sure that knowing and understanding the context of your lives within God’s story will powerfully cause you to grow and produce Godly, glorious, joyful living. Hence the title of tonight’s sermon: The Truth Sets You Free
Paul is so concerned for the church, that you would know the will of God and knowing him, have strength and security. Look back through this letter and see the importance of knowing and understanding God’s will (that is to say, who God is, what he does and why he does it.)
That’s what he’s talking about when he says know the will of God, not whether or not you should live in this city or another or whether you should major in mechanical engineering or philosophy. It’s about knowing the character of God.
He starts off by giving thanks to God for the fruit that is accompanying the gospel throughout the world.
“as it is also among you” he writes, “since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth” knowing the grace of God in truth sets you free to grow great big tasty fruit.
Chapter 1, verse 9: for this reason we also since the day we heard it do not cease to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding
Why? because the more the knowledge of God’s grace fills you, the bigger the bounty of fruit it produces in your life.
He’s not saying you need to go get a PHD. the aim is not full knowledge but being filled with knowledge, that the simple knowledge of God would fill you up, would saturate your mind, would overflow into every nook and cranny of your mind and heart.
1:21 and you who were once alienated, (you were strangers, you were foreigners and enemies) enemies in your mind by wicked works
You were enemies of God in your mind. So something in your mind was or is still keeping you at odds with God.
Verse 26, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations but now has been revealed to his saints… so we’re talking about revealing a mystery, making it known. Verse 27,
to them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery
there’s something to be known. there’s a mystery to find out, to be revealed to your mind. so what do they do? Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
How do they present men perfect in Christ? by preaching, warning, and teaching, that is by opening their eyes to see and understand and know the truth of God’s grace. The truth sets you free.
Chapter 2 starts with this: for I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you
Why would he want them to know unless that knowledge is going to have an effect on their lives?
he continues… that your hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love and it attaining to all the riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God.
there are great riches for you in understanding. There is assurance of your hope to be had. There is assurance of being loved, assurance of being forgiven. It’s there for you in understanding the good news of Jesus, the God/Man, the hero of sinners.
Then twice Paul warns the church not to be deceived or cheater by persuasive words.
How is it that you can be cheated? How is it that you can come to ruin? by believing things that aren’t true, by not having the truth, not understanding and not setting your mind on the heart of God, on God’s will. The truth sets you free. Wander from it at your own peril.
Chapter 3 verse 2: set your mind on things above not on things on the Earth… Set your mind… your mind has got to be focused and attached and locked onto your brave young savior, the spotless one who humbled himself to the point of death on a cross. It’s those times in your life when your mind is set on things above, that fruit grows. A mind set on Jesus is fertile ground. The kind of ground that produces beautiful plump and juicy fruit, fruit that satisfies the soul!
and on and on he goes. your heart cannot love what your mind does not know.
this is why it’s so important to Paulthat the church knows the heart of God.
Yes he has things to teach the church he has things for the church to do he has things from the church to stop doing because they’re filthy but he’s not just saying “quit doing that, you idiot.” “don’t you know better?” of course you know you shouldn’t do that but the real power comes in knowing God and who he is, in understanding the context of your life.
There’s this dizzying chasm between you and the one you call God. On That side stands the Almighty, The builder of Mountains, the architect of galaxies, the life-giver, immortal, and eternal; the pure and beautiful king of kings, right in judgment and wise in counsel. On this side you have little filthy people that rebell against him and lift up their voices in utter contempt saying, “I’m not going to do what you tell me to do. It’s in my life. I’ll do what I want…. and what I want is to hate my neighbor what I want is to lie and cheat and steal so that I can get some sort of cheap momentary pleasure that fades away and after I have it, I hate myself. that’s what I want. and you know what? I’m willing to betray the king of kings I’m willing to betray my maker to get my filthy little desires, my cheap thrills.” That’s the context of the gospel. that’s the bad news that sets up the good news.
the good news is that He wasn’t pleased to leave you in such a pitiful state, awaiting the burning wrath of the just and almighty God. Instead, it pleased him to humiliate himself, to bring you peace. Not by just wiping the slate clean but by taking all those convictions and saying yes, it’s true. I don’t deny it. these are heinous crimes you’ve committed and they deserve death and that punishment can not be neglected. But, In order to bring you peace, i will take your punishment on myself. And he was crushed.
He was crushed for our sins. our sins! Mine too! He was crushed for your sins. That’s the context. thats your context. that’s the truth that sets you free to live in newness of life.
If you have trouble keeping the commands and find yourself being resistant to the commands, if you find it hard to respect your husband, to love your wife, to obey your parents, to obey your masters, if you find it difficult to not lie to one another, to put off anger and filthy language, if you find it difficult from time to time to put on tender mercies, to be kind, to be humble, to have patience in hard times, if you find it hard to forgive, the answer is not, to muster up all your will-power and just do it.
The answer is to know God’s will. To go back and latch onto Him. To look at Him to fix your eyes upon him until he fills you with the knowledge of His will.
So tonight the text says Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:2-6)
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it
being dedicated, being committed, devoted, always praying.
You know that prayer is powerful. and you have your marching orders to continue earnestly in prayer. So why is it that so few do? Why is it so easy and so common to skip or not even have in place a time of prayer?
Why aren’t you happy to go to a prayer meeting? Why isn’t prayer part of your social interactions?
Well, what is prayer? Is it not the voicing of gratitude? the voicing of fear? The voicing of desires and emotions and petitions? Is it not the confession of sins and the raising of praise? Is it not revealing yourself to God and looking to him to see what he will reveal of himself to you?
This is the kind of communication prayer is. It’s also the kind of communication that only takes place with someone that knows you. Really knows you well. Someone who loves you, cares about you, wants the best for you, is going to listen to what you have to say, and is able and desirous to help you.
Children, … any children out there listening? Who do you call to come look when you’ve made something awesome? Who do ask, when you need new shoes or when you really want something? Who do you go to when you need help, like really need help? Who do you run to when you’re in pain?
You run to your parents don’t you? You go to your mom, you go to your father. Do you know why? Because your father, He cares for you. He knows you so well and he loves you. He’s so big and strong and has a strange way of always knowing what to do and getting things done.
Does that sound like God?
What do you know about God that makes you shout “yes” to that question?
What scriptures do you know that reveal God as the One to run to in prayer? What experiences have you had with God that prove to you that he wants to listen, that he wants to save and is mighty to do it? These are important questions to ask yourself because they will provide you with the fuel for a robust and powerful and sweet prayer life, … that is, if you have answers for them.
the more you know that he’s able to help you, the more you know of his wisdom and Power, the more you know about his desire to save, his desire to love, his desire to have communion with his people, … the more you’re just going to naturally pray. You’re not going to need to manufacture some false self-motivation or manipulate yourself to pray. it’s going to be like talking to your parents or your best friend or your spouse, whoever that person is with whom you have the best relationship.
You don’t need to be reminded to get in touch with that person. You don’t even think about it, you just go to that person automatically. When you’re happy, when you’re confused, when you have questions or need help. You just pick up the phone and call.
If that’s not the way prayer is with you, and you always forget to pray, fall asleep in your prayers or never know what to say, instead of beating yourself up about it and using guilt to fuel your next attempts, go back and focus on knowing God.
That’s what Paul does for us in this letter.
starting in verse 12 he reminds the Colossians that the Father has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
you’ve been welcomed into the family with all the rights and privileges of a beloved son. Who are you that He would do such a thing for you? What a noble, what an Honorable, what a gracious and caring Father you have! who has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love
and how did he do such a marvelous thing? What price was paid for your guilty soul? It is written, “we have redemption through His blood.”
and here as soon as Paul begins to talk about his beloved Jesus, He can’t help but get carried away and swept up in praise of how majestic his savior is.
Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Do you want to see God? Look to Jesus. He is the Father’s precious one, above all, the most important. the most splendid, the creator of the Earth, the oceans, the rolling hils, they all own him their existence and all sing his praise. The Stars in the sky, the clouds, the sun, the moon, he holds them in place. This Jesus He knows your frame, your inner workings, your conscience and sub conscience mind.
It’s all made for him, for his good pleasure, for him to enjoy and rule over. Every Breath You Take is by the will of God that sustains you.
A billion Blades of grass on a thousand rolling hills lift their voice in praise of their maker. By his will alone they grow up and by his will alone they fade away. It’s all for him, the timeless king of glory, The Honorable one and it is He who gives you life and it is He who provides for you daily. There is no greater being, no greater power, no greater thought than the thought of Jesus.
Jesus, by whom peace was made.
Chapter 1 verses 19-22 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight
you were enemies. you rejected his claims on our life
but it pleased the father. Oh what words! He was not coerced into saving you. He was not manipulated by you, not persuaded, not convinced, not blackmailed, not bribed into leaving behind his glory to come and become lowly and subject himself to shame and pain and betrayal. No no no! It pleased the father to take such drastic steps to set you free from sin and bring you into his love! No regret, no doubt. It pleased the father to bring you to peace through the blood of Jesus.
How much more, is He willing and pleased to listen to your prayers and be your hero when you call out to him and say, “Lord, I have no idea how I’m going to homeschool my kids. Have mercy! give me strength. I need you.”
How much more, is He willing and pleased to listen to your prayers and be your hero when you call out to him and say, “God help me, I can’t control my tongue. I just want to strangle him.”
chapter 2 verse 11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ
circumcision is the cutting off of sin from your heart. Do you not know that this was accomplished for you in Jesus? He who knew no sin was made to be sin for you. He took on, He embodied, he became the chief of sinners as it were, and stood in your shoes, in your skin and became your sin in order to be crushed and cut off in your place.
All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. … And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living (Isaiah 53 6,8)
That is the bloody circumcision of Christ. He was cut off that you might be grafted in.
Knowing that, your heart can not help but be stirred up to run to the Father in prayer all the day long asking him to keep you clean, to guard your heart, to deliver you from the evil one and to continue to cut away all sinful growths in your body.
He was cut off that you might be grafted in.Knowing that, do you think He is going to give up on you now? Certainly not!He will complete the good work He began in you.
The Lord is willing to go to great lengths to make you clean. That is his will, it’s what he wants. Will he not do it for you when you ask him? Will he not delight to do that for you? Will he not be overjoyed to have you come to him in prayer asking him to cut away the sinful desires in your children? in your co-workers?
2:13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses
Praise His Name!
What joy of joys?! what day of days?! when He forgave you, when he took that long black list of your convictions and exchanged it for his own spotless righteousness. and breathed into you the breath of life; and you became a living being. a truly living being.
When you remember this, it’s only natural to be quick in confessing your sins, and constantly giving thanks in every circumstance, for you were dead and now you live, you were blind but now you see, you were lame but now you have a race to run and strong legs with which to run it!
If things are rough, if your sins are trying to drown you, if you’re tired of fighting, if you’re empty, if you’re prone to feeling weak and unable to do what you ought to, if guilt has you down, basically if you’re alive today in this world, you need these texts, you need to be filled with this knowledge, the knowledge of His will. Theres no need to constantly be on empty going around putting 5 bucks in the tank every other day. Fuel up. Top it off and top it off each day. The truth sets you free and propels you onwards and upwards, it puts heavenly wind in your sails and awakens the joy of your salvation!
There are so many more of these texts, right her in this short letter. Two more hours wouldn’t be enough time to go through them all. So go search them out yourself or better yet grab your spouse and kids and go search them out together. Post what you find and hashtag it, #TheTruthSetsMeFree and share in what areas the knowledge of God is setting you free.
Paul says that the regulations, “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” are of no value against the indulgences of the flesh. And what he is saying by contrast is that knowing the truth of the gospel is what has value against the indulgences of the flesh.
Do not keep trying harder. quit thinking, if only I was stronger, If only I was better… you can just kill yourself doing that. you’re just going to break down one day and start weeping and you’re going to say I’m so tired of being wrong and wicked all the time.
the guilt is going to consume you. Running on guilt is stupid. The answer is not to power through it, to grit your teeth and just do it. The answer is to fix your eyes on Jesus to set your mind on things above! Who is the father? Who is the Son, Who is the Spirit? What has he done for sinners? What has he promised you? Who is man that the Lord is mindful of him? and cares for him?
Knowing God’s will, knowing him, that is going to be the fuel that drives you continually and happily on in obedience, in committed prayer, and in wise and gracious speech.
When you’re filling up with the truth of the Good News, you’ll want to talk to him and say to him, “God there are people that I love and they hate you. I hated you once and you had mercy on me and when I came to you, you didn’t turn me away but brought me into your family. Do the same for my brother. I’m no better than he, have mercy on him too.”
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
What a strange request for a prisoner to make, that God would open a door for him, not the door to his cell min you, but a door, an opportunity to tell a thirsty soul about the Giver of living water. Paul knows who God is. Paul knows the heart of God, the will of God, what he’s done for sinners what he will do.
No wonder he doesn’t worry about being freed from prison. it’s meaningless in the context of who God is and what he’s done for sinners. retirement, health insurance, a 401K, job security, what he’s going to eat or what he’s going to wear or who respects him – it’s all garbage. It carries no weight. it’s of no importance. Knowing God and his grace, being found in him. Thats what matters. The truth sets Paul free to praise God whether rich or poor whether free or in chains.
Paul’s natural prayer is to ask God to open a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ. because that’s what has value. That’s how he was brought in from the outside and that’s how others can join the family of God.
This is Paul being wise towards outsiders. it’s the kind of wisdom that got him put in prison. That’s what it means to walk in wisdom toward outsiders. it doesn’t mean be super careful never to say anything that might offend or rustle their feathers. No! absolutely not. It means to live in the context of who God is, what he delights in, and what he’s done for you, It means speaking always about the grace of God and calling sinners to Jesus. It means walking with that aim, that focus, not focused on your future financial security. what rubbish!
The wisdom of God says there are outsiders. they are enemies just like you were an enemy of God. now if you’ve been delivered and brought into the kingdom of His beloved Son, follow the example of Christ who saved you and do everything to participate in his bringing people from outside, in. Be devoted to prayer. be vigilant in it. let thanksgiving to God ever be on your lips.
How else does that wisdom look like? well it looks like speech thats always with Grace, seasoned with salt.
This letter is a great example of speech that’s always graceful and seasoned with salt.
Salt is all the warnings against lawless behavior and all the commands to Godly living and all those self-probing questions. The grace is remembering who He is and what he’s done for sinners like you. The grace spurs you on to accept the salt and to grow further. Some of those warnings and admonitions are hard to swallow. But don’t you know that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down… in a most delightful way?! Oh and how much sugar there is! How Sweet the word of the Lord is. Sweeter than honey. But all honey and no salt is going to make people nauseas.
This letter is an excellent example of speech always with grace seasoned with salt. It’s grace grace grace. salt. a dash of grace, more salt. back to the grace again. And so it is throughout the scriptures.
Afterall, God Almighty, in thunder and lightning didn’t command you saying You shall have no other gods before me. That’s all salt. Where’s the context of a gracious loving God powerful to save? Oh that’s right. It’s there, you just tend to skip over it and run to the commands and then wonder why you have so little power to keep them. no, God spoke all these words, saying: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. “You shall have no other gods before Me. (ex 20 1-3)
All the sudden having other Gods, trusting in men, trusting in money, trusting in accomplishments, trusting in your progress, it all seems silly. That’s a God you can happily rely on and worship. You need no other God.
You see, the grace of God is the context out of which you can put off the old man and his wicked ways and put on Christ and live lives pleasing to him.
wherever you are, whoever you are, listen.
You have a maker and he has a claim on your life.
You have a maker and he is calling out to you. He bids you come. Keep did you come to him. He is the Lord, commander of heavenly armies merciful and full of grace, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon him. That is the truth. So repent and believe it. It was set you free free to trust and obey there is no other way. But to trust and obey.
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