Paul's Prayer for the Colossians (Colossians Sermon 1 of 21)
August 26, 2007 | Andy Davis
What is the state of your heart this morning? It's on my mind. I'm not speaking about your physical heart, I think you know that. It's not that we don't care about that. Your cardiovascular system is obviously important, but I'm talking about your spiritual heart. I'm talking about your relationship with Jesus Christ. Are you on fire for Christ this morning? Are you hot toward Him? Zealous for Him? Do you have a yearning for His glory? You want to see His Kingdom advance? You yearn to be with Him, but your happy to be here serving Him as long as the Lord would have you be here. Do you have that sense of mission in your life? Do you want to see God glorified through everything you say and do? Does that characterize you? Are you hot toward Christ this morning, or are you cold and distant from him?
You have to be honest, that you kind of shrug toward the things I just mentioned. That you really don't care that much about the lost, not like you should. You know you should, but you really don't. That you're not really excited to read the word of God, you don't get much out of it. Going to church is more of a chore than anything. Your personal devotional lives have really never been worse. Are you cold toward Christ today? Now that's the question, and you may ask, "How can I know? How can I know the state of my own heart? What diagnostic tool can I use?" Well, what's so amazing is that we look this morning at Colossians 1:1-14, we find that the exact same diagnostic tool that the Lord uses to show us our heart is the same remedy that it uses to heal it, and it is prayer. John Bunyan who wrote "Pilgrims Progress" said this, I've never forgotten it, "Prayer drives out sin, or sin drives out prayer." That's profound, isn't it? And it's true. It's hard to be zealous and hot in your prayer life while you're living in sin. It's hard to live in sin when you're hot and zealous in your prayer life. They're enemies, the two of them. Therefore, you can look at your prayer life.
I’m reading a book right now called, "When I Don't Desire God" by John Piper, and all of us if we're truthful have to say there are times that we really don't feel like we desire God very much, we don't desire the things of God, we don't care that much. Well, this a good book for us. And he's got a chapter on prayer, and this is what it says, "What a person prays for shows the spiritual condition of their heart." He said, "If we do not pray for spiritual things like the glory of Christ, and the hallowing of God's name, and the salvation of sinners, and the holiness of our hearts, and the advance of the gospel, and contrition for sin, and the fullness of the spirit in the coming of the kingdom, and the joy of knowing Christ, then it is probably because we do not desire these things. And what a devastating indictment of our hearts that is." Well, I read those words and I was devastated by them. I thought I don't desire these things the way I should, I don't pray for them the way I should, "Oh God, kindle inside me a yearning for your glory. Kindle it inside me."
I've been accustomed to praying while kneeling. I found that those are some of my greatest rest times. I was having sweet times of repose in the presence of the Lord, don't know where the half-hour went. Do you know what I'm talking about? Those early morning quiet times transported into some different place called sleep. And I'm saying this is not what God intended, I can't do this. And so I got up and I started to pace back and forth, and I took this list of things: “Glory of Christ, hallowing of God's name, the salvation of sinners, the holiness of our hearts, the advance of the gospel, contrition for sin, the fullness of the Spirit, the coming of the Kingdom, the joy of knowing Christ,” I prayed over each one of them. I said, "Oh God make me want them. Make me hungry and thirsty for each one." And then it extended to you as well. "Oh God make them hungry for it, make them yearn for it," because you know something, we're not going to do anything for God, anything that lasts if these things are not kindled within our hearts first. If we don't want them, we won't sacrifice for them. And if we don't sacrifice, my friends, it won't happen. J.I. Packer said this, he said, "I believe that prayer is the measure of the man and therefore how we pray is the most important question we can ever face." How are you praying? What's the nature of your prayer life? What are you praying for?
As we come to Colossians 1:1-14, we're coming to an expert prayer warrior. We're coming to the apostle Paul. Other than Jesus maybe the greatest prayer warrior in history. And we're going to have the privilege this morning of sitting at his feet and saying, "Teach us to pray, teach us to pray." And if we are humble enough to admit we don't really know how to pray, then we're just quoting scripture, aren't we? Romans 8 says, "We don't know what we ought to pray for." We can go beyond that and say we don't know how we ought to pray. We don't know how long we ought to pray. We just don't know prayer. God kindle inside us a zeal for the glory of God. And sitting at the apostle Paul's feet learning how to pray, I think this not just the diagnostic tool, but this is the remedy. This is how we do it. This is how we have a fire ignited within us.
I love going to Williamsburg, colonial Williamsburg. I don't know if you've ever been there. My favorite shop to go in is the blacksmith shop. I just love it. I don't know why. It's just there's sweaty men working and making stuff, it's just the mechanical engineer in me, and they get something out of it. Now, others like the baking shop, and they say you get stuff out of the bakery too, very good things. That's true, you can buy them, but I like to see a hinge or a nail or something. And it starts with this black chunk of iron, cold. If you turned out all the lights if it were nighttime it would emit no light at all. A mystery happens when you take that and stick it into the bed of coals, and you get that big bellows, and you just blow an air on the coals, and if it's in there long enough, it'll go yellow, and then it'll go red, and then it'll go white, and it'll go blue, it'll get hot. Are you hot toward Christ? Then get in the coals if you're not. Prayer is the coals that heat you up. And it's a mystery how it happens. I don't know why a chunk of black iron emits light. Albert Einstein wrote a paper in 1905 telling us how, I don't get it? Okay, I admit. I read some of it, I don't get it.
He can win his Nobel Prize in 1921 for it, I don't get it. All I know is it works. When you stick that cold black iron in the coals, it gets heated up and it emits light to everything around it, and so it is with prayer. Are you emitting the light of Christ? Are you shining for Christ? If not, get in the prayer closet, and pray like this. Now, we get to Colossians 1, and this is going to be a series in Colossians. I'm going to take a minute, break off from the idea of prayer, and just give you an introduction to the book of Colossians, let's try to understand it. First of all, the author of the letter is the Apostle Paul. The Apostle to the Gentiles, he writes in verse 1 and 2, Colossians 1:1-2. "Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae, grace and peace to you from God our Father."
Now, Paul is writing to a church he doesn't know personally. He's never been there, he didn't plant that church. Unlike Philippians and Ephesians, those other works, he worked there he never visited there, as far as we can tell. We learned that from Colossians 2:1. Now Colossae, had been in the past a very, very significant city, very important city in the time of the book of Queen Esther Ahasuerus, the Persian Empire. It was very important. Trade routes went through there. But by the time the Romans took over, they had diverted the trade routes and Colossae was shrinking into relative insignificance, compared to Laodicea and Hierapolis some of the other cities. So in more of minor place, but still there. Predominantly a Gentile city. It was in Asia Minor modern Turkey. About a hundred miles east of Ephesus. That's where it was.
But, despite the fact that it was Predominantly Gentile, there was a sizeable Jewish population. And in this predominant Gentile culture with the sizable Jewish population, you have the sources of some of the Theological conflict that that Church was facing. In that region there started to be a heresy, which was growing up and as far as we could tell had not yet infected the Church at Colossae. But the man who planted the Church, Epaphras, seems to have come now to Paul and said, "We are facing some problems, we need your help." What is the nature of this heresy? Well, the old Pagan way of life, the old Pagan Gentile way of life, had with it along with it, a love for Pagan or Greek philosophy. A yearning for Pagan or Greek philosophy.
But at the same time, you have this Jewish background, this Jewish community. And they're feeding in from their side, Jewish legalism and asceticism from the Law of Moses. And so the way it worked was, this philosophy came in and told them some false things about the physical universe. They said that God is spirit, that's true, and that he created a spiritual realm, but not the physical realm because he would never have anything to do with anything physical. The physical world, the physical universe we live in, came from these evil spirit emanations from the true God called Demiurges, and they made the physical world. The physical world is evil and you need to get saved from it. The way you get saved from it is by advancing in knowledge, having specialized knowledge and by Jewish legalism and asceticism. That together will help you get out of this world and be saved. Jesus Christ, was an emanation from the Father, but he wasn't truly God, nor was he truly physical or truly human. It totally denies the incarnation.
Eventually, these kind of teachings became known as Gnosticism. And it was starting there in Colossians, so the Apostle Paul has to write and refute it. And he does so, gloriously, by focusing on the greatness and the supremacy of Jesus Christ, who is God in human form. The deity of Christ, and the physical humanity of Christ are strongly highlighted in the book of Colossians. It's the greatness of Christ, but also the greatness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the knowledge that we need. We need the knowledge of the gospel, not some secret club handshake type knowledge where if you have that then you're in and if you don't have it you're out. No, the knowledge is out and available, it's the knowledge of God though the gospel of Jesus Christ. That's the remedy.
So he gives them good solid teaching but apparently he does far more than that. He also prays fervently for them. And in these verses, verses three through 14, he gives us a glimpse into his prayer life. We're going to look at three aspects this morning. First of all, the light of Paul's prayer life, which is thankfulness of grace verses 3 through 8. Secondly, we're going to see the goal of Paul's prayer life, which is that they would have a lifestyle of abundant fruitfulness. Fruitfulness, in the gospel verses nine through 12. And then the ground of Paul's prayer life which is Christ worker redemption. Also verse 12 up through verse 14.
II. The Delight of Paul’s Prayer Life (verses 1-8)
Let's look at the first and that is the delight of Paul's prayer life, and that is thankfulness for grace. Look at verse 3, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.” He begins with thanks giving.
Thanklessness a Great Sin; Thankfulness a great grace
Thankfulness is a great grace, thanklessness is a great sin. It is sinful to be thankless. Now essential to our world view is the idea that God created all things. Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth." All things come from God. Therefore, it says in Romans 11:36, "From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever and ever! Amen." All things belong to God. Therefore, a thankless spirit is really a slap in God's face. And in Romans, Chapter 1, when Paul is uncovering the perversity of the human heart, how sinful we are, he discusses many things: Idolatry, sexual immorality, he lists a bunch of sins at the end of chapter 1 of Romans. He goes into great detail. But right at the very beginning of that listing, at the beginning of the discussion of the depravity of the human heart, is the issue of thanklessness. It's really quite striking. In Romans 1:21 it says, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."
Why is thanklessness such a great sin that it's mentioned so prominently? Because God deserves to be thanked and praised and glorified for everything that He did, and we are spiritually sick if we don't do it. And so he's pointing at thanklessness. Therefore, when God does a work in your heart, you know what's going to happen? You're going to be thankful, genuinely thankful, toward Christ and toward God for all that He's done. And what a sweet grace that is. I love Psalm 103. Some of you that may be your favorite Psalm. Verse 1 through 5 it says, "Praise the Lord, oh my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the LORD, oh my soul, and forget not all of his benefits - who forgives all your sins. Who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles." Oh, how sweet are those words. How rich should our lives of thankfulness be. Thankfulness is glorifying to God, isn't it? To go to God and just say thank you for all that He's done. It is a delightful disposition of the soul.
I love to be around thankful people. I don't like being around people who are not thankful, thankless people, because they don't keep their thanklessness just to that, of course. It goes over into complaining, doesn't it? What's even sadder is when you see it in your own heart. I yearn to be a thankful person, genuinely thankful to God for all that He's done. But also thankfulness is essential to the advancement of the gospel. Without it, the gospel will not advance. Listen to this, Psalm 105:1, it says, "Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done." Do you see the link there between thankfulness and making known among the nations what God has done? It is out of the outpouring of a thankful heart that we preach the gospel. Thankfulness is essential. Paul starts there, and he mentions it prominently throughout this letter. Look at verse 11 and 12 in the section that we're working on this morning. It says in verse 11, "Joyfully giving thanks," and verse 12, "Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." He mentions it there.
Colossians 2:7, If you can look there it says, "Rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." Is that you? Does that characterize you? Overflowing with thankfulness? Oh, speak your thanks today. Let your husband or your wife hear it. Your children, let them hear it. Your friends, dorm-mates, let them hear how thankful you are to God. Even non-Christians, just say this, “I'm thankful to God.” Why are you thankful to God? “Because he saved me, forgave all my sins, because I'm going to heaven when I die. I'm thankful for that.” There's such a richness to that life of thankfulness.
And then again, Colossians 3:15-17, look at those verses. It says, "Let the peace of Christ dwell in your hearts since as members of one body you're called to the peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." 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." Okay, Paul. We get it. Three times in four verses. “Be thankful, with gratitude, giving thanks.” It's so clear. Therefore, a sweet disposition of the soul, that's how Paul begins. His prayer life is characterized by thankfulness.
Whom Paul Thanks: God the Father
Now, who does he thank? Look at verse 3. Go back to Colossians 1:3. He thanks God the Father. "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. when we pray for you." Paul thanks God, the father, for all things. Now, this shouldn't disturb you at all. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will not feel jealous if you give God, the Father, all thanks. Jesus is completely Father-centered in His ministry. It was the Father that sent the Son into the world to save the world. Christ came to reveal the Father to us. "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father," Jesus says. He came to do his Father's will. "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me," said Jesus, the Father. He died to bring us to the Father. No one comes to the Father except through me. Therefore, it is right for Paul to thank the Father for the Colossians salvation.
Now, note, this is an important theological principle. It's one of the most important when it comes to thanksgiving. What you thank God for, and that you're thanking God for those things, shows your theology. Paul, look what he thanks God for. Look at verse 3 he says, "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you because we have heard of your faith…" Wow, is that profound. “We thank God for your faith in Jesus Christ.” Now, I've mentioned this before, but on Christmas morning when somebody gives you a gift and the tag's right there on the cover, and it comes from your wife and your mother's there, and you open it up and it's a beautiful Christmas sweater that your wife knit over the last seven months of her life. Be sure you thank your wife and not your mother for that sweater. That would be a bad moment in your marriage.
You need to give thanks to the one who gave you the gift. And who you thank shows who you think it's from. We give thanks, Colossians, because of your faith in Christ Jesus. Some of us have a weird theology this way. We think God sent His son, Jesus died on the cross, shed His blood, did all that, that's His part. Our part is faith, we have to believe in it, that's our half. Jesus did His half and we do our half by faith. Wrong! We give thanks to God because He gave you the faith to believe in Jesus. He is the giver of faith and thanks be to God for it! You know what that means? If you've got an unsaved relative or somebody you care about, you've come to the right place when you get down on your knees and say, "Oh God, give them faith." He is sovereign over that. It says in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are you saved through faith, and this not of yourselves." The word "of" means "origin", “it doesn't come from yourself,” “it is a gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Paul gives thanks for the Colossians faith that is so rich and so deep.
What Paul Thanks God For: Grace
So it leads us right into what Paul thanks God for. He thanks God for grace. He thanks God for the fullness of the Gospel and its effect on the Colossians. Hasn't been God been good to us? Hasn't He been richly good to us? Doesn't He deserve to be thanked for all of His rich gifts of grace? Look at verses 3 through 6, "We always thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when we pray for you because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints. The faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in Heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the Gospel that has come to you." He thanks God for grace in the life of the Colossians.
There's fourfold evidence of grace here. First of all, he thanks God for their faith in Jesus Christ. They came to the point where they realized they couldn't save themselves. They needed a savior and his name is Jesus. Jesus came and died on the cross, He shed His blood, He is the Son of God and He died in our place that we might have eternal life. They believed in that. Faith in Christ Jesus, evidence of the grace of God. They believed those things, that Jesus is the son of God and died for them.
Secondly, love for all the saints again in verse 4. That's evidence of the grace of God when you truly love the brothers and sisters in Christ. Some are easier to love than others. I guess the goal of sanctification is to be one of those. Alright, that we would be a delight to be around and thankfulness is a big part of it but either way, Jesus said, "By this will all men know that you are my disciples if you love one another." Love for the saints, great evidence of the grace of God. And also verse five, "Hope in Heaven". If you stop one of these Colossians and ask them, "What're you excited about in the future?" If they're thinking properly, if they've had a good quiet time that morning and their prayer life's where it needs to be, you know what they're going to tell you? They're going to say, "I'm looking forward to Heaven. I'm looking forward living in the new Heaven and the new Earth. I'm looking forward to seeing Jesus face to face. That's where my hopes are set. I'm looking forward to the world to come." Hope in Heaven and then growing fruitfulness, and we'll talk more about that in a minute.
But these things are evidences of the grace of God in the life of the Colossian Christians and Paul gives thanks for each one of them. Now the second aspect of Paul's prayer life is the goal of his prayer life. We've seen already the delight of Paul's prayer life, thankfulness for these things. Paul enjoyed thanking God for them. By the way, if you don't enjoy your prayer life, start here, start by just thanking God for things. Just see how far you can go. Can you last five minutes? Can you go 10 minutes? How about 15? Can you thank God for 20 minutes for things He's done in your life? And the more it goes friends, the more it's going to go, and happier you're going to get.
III. The Goal of Paul’s Prayer Life: A Lifestyle of Persistent Faithfulness (verses 9-12)
That's the delight of Paul's prayer life. But secondly, we see the goal of Paul's prayer life. He wants something for these Colossian Christians. What is his goal? His goal is that they would be persistently fruitful in Christ. A lifestyle of persistent fruitfulness. Look at verses nine through 12, "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we do this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father…"
How Paul Prays: Constancy
We see how Paul prays here, and he prays with constancy. He's saying we always thank God and we never stop praying for you. You remember the parable that Jesus told to the persistent widow? Remember this woman? She's got a case against one of her neighbors, she's yearning for justice, and she goes to this unjust judge who couldn't care less. He doesn't care about God or anybody. And so she persistently goes day after day until finally the judge says, "I've got to get rid of this lady and the only way that I can do it is by granting her her request." What an odd parable of Jesus to use the unjust judge to show us something about God. It's a how much more argument.
If that's what the unjust judge is like in the face of such persistent, how much more your loving Father? But the whole parable is introduced in Luke 18:1 with these words, Luke wrote this, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and never give up." Paul didn't give up. He just kept praying for people daily. You get a sense almost of hourly prayer for people, and he doesn't even know them, he's just heard about them. And so he's praying for these Colossian Christians. The constancy. We see also a specificity. He's specific in his prayer life. He's praying specifically for things. And they're spiritual things. We struggle with that. It's either God bless the world or it's grandma's big toe problem and she's been struggling with it. Okay? Look I'm not saying that God doesn't care about grandma's big toe. He does. He made it. He's actually... We're going to find out... I'm not going to talk about it this way next week, But we're going to find out he's actually holding her big toe together. Okay? If God didn't care about her big toe, he wouldn't be holding it together. Alright? He cares about her big toe. But please lift your eyes, lift your eyes to the glories. Pray about something worth praying for and pray specifically. And if you don't know what to pray for, can I urge just by way of application take Colossians 1:9-12 and pray it back to God this afternoon for someone you know. Put their name in.
“I pray that so and so would grow in the grace of the knowledge of God. That they would be strengthened with all might. That they would know his will for all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” You can pray these kinds of things. And so we see that. We see the purpose in his prayer life. Verse 10, "We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord, pleasing him in every way". He has a purpose in his prayer. Why do you pray? Do you have a sense of purpose in your prayer? When you go into your room and close the door and pray to your father unseen, do you know what you're doing? You know what it is you want? What are you asking for? What is your purpose in prayer? That's how Paul prays.
What Does Paul Pray For?
Now what does he pray for? Six things quickly. First of all, spiritual knowledge. Verse nine, "Asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding". Do you know what God wants? Do you know what His will is for you and for the church in the world? For your church, for your pastor, for people you love and care about, do you know God's will?
Paul is praying for the Colossian Christians, that they would be strengthened in their minds to know, through spiritual understanding, the will of God. “God show it to them. Show them what you're doing in the world, what you will to do.” Because those things that God wills to do, he will do. And when we are praying in that direction, and acting and serving in that direction, we will be eternally fruitful. Amen? We have to begin by knowing what to invest in. And we do that by knowing God's will.
Secondly, walking worthy of Christ. Verse 10, "We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way". It's a lifestyle of Christ likeness, of walking daily with Jesus moment by moment. A life worthy of the Lord. Is your life worthy of Jesus? That's the question I have to ask. Is this action worthy of Jesus? What I just said to my friend, was that worthy of Jesus? He wants him to live a life worthy of the Lord. A lifestyle. Thirdly, growing fruitfulness. "Bearing fruit" it says, "In every good work." Fruit is the indispensable proof of the work of the grace of God in your life. If there's no fruit, there's no life. If there's life, you will bear fruit. Jesus told another parable about the owner of a field who went and found a fig tree and he said to the gardener "I've been coming for three years and this tree has never born any fruit. Cut it down. Why should it use up the soil?" And the gardener says "Please wait one more year. Let me dig around it. Let me fertilize it. Let me look after it. Let me give it my best care. And if in a year from now you come back and there's still no fruit, then let's cut it down".
Now God doesn't tell us when we're in our final year. He doesn't give us that warning. He just gives us the scripture and he tells us he wants us to bear fruit richly to God. And so Paul prays that for the Colossian Christians, that they might bear fruit in every good work. Now you may ask “what is fruit?” You may not know. Well, there are varieties that he gives us right here like for example, growing in the knowledge of God. That's fruit. That you might know Him. Know Him through His Word. Know Him through life experiences in which you see him be faithful. You're growing in your knowledge of God. Jesus said in John 17:3 "Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” “Just to know Him.” We're going to spend an eternity looking at his face and getting to know Him better. He will hold your attention that long. You'll be free from sin nature and you're never going to get bored learning about God. That's fruit, that you might grow in the knowledge of God.
Another fruit is powerful perseverance. Verse 11, "Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.” “That you don't give up." Great endurance. We need great endurance because we have a great foe, throwing up great obstacles to our progress in Christ. Isn't that true? Satan is powerful. The world, the flesh and the devil, we cannot face them alone. And they wear us out. You wonder why you may be cold in your heart toward God. It's not an accident. If it weren't for the world, the flesh, and the devil you'd still be as hot as the day you came to Christ. Hotter. It's because Satan opposes the work of grace in your soul that we struggle so much. And therefore you must have great endurance.
We've just had a wonderful time in Ryan Hutchinson's class and we're looking at Psalms and it talks in Psalm 150 about the mighty works of God, the displays of his power and history. And he made it very personal, which I loved, and we were talking ways that God has done great things for us. It was the fall of 1982 that I came to Christ. I was in my junior year at MIT and I gave my life to the Lord, and I said to the class up there, I said, "It's funny because we celebrate those numbers divisible five and 10 more than the others." This is my 25th anniversary of being a Christian this fall and I'm all excited. I should be just as excited when its 26 right, maybe even more so. But there it is, it's my 25th anniversary, you know what it is? You know what evidence of the great power of God in my life? I'm still a Christian. After 25 years I still love Jesus. After 25 years I still feel the need of him as my Savior. I still rely on his blood. I still look to the cross. I'm still hopeful for heaven. I can't wait to be there. After 25 years of satanic onslaught, I'm still here. And the longer I go in my Christian life, the less credit I give myself for that. Right now, I give myself a fat zero. Later today, I may bump up a little bit, alright. But as I should, I give myself no credit. Here I am evidence of the grace of God and His great power at work in my life.
Do you need great endurance? Yes, you do, because you have great foes. If you could see them with your eyes, you would faint in terror. But God is infinitely greater still. And you need great endurance and so Paul prays for that, "God give them endurance, don't let them give up, don't let them fail, let them keep praying, keep going to church, keep reading the Bible, keep confessing sin, keep evangelizing, even when no one comes to Christ, keep doing the work of the gospel. Oh God, don't let them give up." That's fruit, and then joyful Thanksgiving which we've already talked about. I get a picture of Paul as the ultimate in giving joyful thanks. He and Silas sitting in that Philippian jail, singing praise songs to Jesus after getting beaten for the gospel. Oh, how I yearn to be like that. I yearn on my worst day to sing my sweetest praise songs, to give thanks to God joyfully, no matter what is going on, that is fruit.
IV. The Ground of Paul’s Prayer Life: Christ’s Work of Redemption (verses 12-14)
We've seen the focus and the purpose of Paul's prayer life. What is the ground of his prayer life? Well, Colossians 1:11-14 it says, "giving thanks to God the father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints 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". The ground of Paul's prayer life is Christ's work of redemption. He wouldn't be able to pray for them if Jesus hadn't done his infinitely greater work. It is on the basis of what Jesus did on the cross that any of us can pray fruitfully. And so we come to God on that basis alone. It is the ground under our feet, and it is a solid ground, it is not moving, it's an unshakable rock, it's going to last longer than the physical universe you see around you, and that is the work of Jesus Christ in redemption on the cross.
Qualified by the Father
And look at the words he uses. We have been “qualified” by the father to go to Heaven. Qualified. Now that's amazing. Are you qualified to fly a 747 jet? Can you imagine? "I just want you to know I've had no training, I've had no training and I've never actually sat in the cockpit of a 747 jet, but my name is Andy and I'm going to be your pilot today." What do you think the passengers are going to do as we are pulling away from the gate? They're running, clamoring for the exits. "You've never been in a cockpit before? You're not qualified to fly a 747." "Hi, my name is Andy and I'm going to be your brain surgeon today, I'm going to be working on your brain. I've never seen a brain live up close or anything like that, but I have an idea where the problem is in your brain. I at least have a general region anyway, I'll poke around there and see what we can do." Okay, am I qualified to do that? I am not qualified. I may be marginally qualified to preach this sermon, but I am not qualified to do brain surgery on you, okay. Let me tell you something. It is infinitely more amazing that we're qualified to go to Heaven, than that you would sit in the cockpit of a 747 and try to fly it.
How did we get qualified for Heaven? We, sinners, rebels, lawbreakers still, and we're qualified for Heaven, we're fit for it? In that great banquet hall, where there's going to be a beautiful banquet table spread with fine linen and excellent china, and heavy silverware, or whatever they're going to use in Heaven, and cut glass crystals or goblets and all that, and there's a name tag, a plate right there. If your name's not on that tag, you can't sit in that chair. And you look, there's your name at a place at the table with Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of Heaven. How did that happen? How did we get a place at the table? Jesus shed his blood for us, that's all. Not by works. Not by works, not because of anything that we've done. But because of his own purpose and grace, he has qualified us for Heaven. Oh how sweet is that? And that's the ground under Paul's feet as he prays for the Colossian Christians. "We're given a share," it says, in the inheritance, “a share.”
Given a Share in the Inheritance
The meek will inherit the Earth. You're going to get a title deed to some property that no one can take away from you. How about that? That's pretty sweet, isn't it? I bet you're hoping that it's right on the coast, like the Pacific coast, something like, looking good. Look, that's not for me. Jesus said, "Those places are not for me to give, they belong to the father and He will assign them to whom He assigns them." But he didn't deny that there were such places. It says in Daniel chapter 12 verse 13, these are the words to Daniel. He says. "As for you, Daniel [the angel said to him] go your way til the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance." Oh isn't that sweet? We are qualified for heaven, and we're given a share among the inheritance. We're given property and position of our own. And we're a member of the family of God, and will be there forever. Oh, meditate on these things. It's not just some family heirloom, or some broach, or some stock portfolio or some real estate, that you inherit from a dying relative, and then you pass it on when you die. No, this is an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you. That's the ground under Paul's feet.
Rescued From the Kingdom of Darkness
And then he speaks of being rescued from a dominion of darkness, and brought into the kingdom of the son he loves. This is the greatest rescue in history. Jesus, by his power, has invaded Satan's realm, has bound up the strong man, and has plundered his house. Do you know what the plunder is? You and me. And a great multitude more than anyone can number from every tribe and language and people and nation. We have been rescued from the dominion of darkness. I was thinking in my mind, "What was the greatest rescue in history?" I guess, in one sense, I can't think of a greater one than what happened in Europe.
In April and May of 1945, the allied armies finally conquered Nazi Germany, and they liberated those death camps. You've seen those pictures of those living skeletons, the ones that were still alive, and how disgusting and awful that is. Those people were powerless. The SS units that guarded them were vicious, and strong, and filled with hate, would just gun them down for no reason at all. Those people were absolutely under the sway and the dominion and the boot of the Nazi. And they could not rescue themselves. But then this army comes, and turns them over, and rescues them. That's, I guess, in my mind, the greatest rescue. There's millions of people. The greatest rescue in history. But it is nothing compared to what Jesus did. Let me tell you why. After the army rescued those folks, many of them still died from their emaciation, couple of months later. Maybe even a few weeks later. They were rescued into a war-torn destroyed Europe, without much future. The army that invaded them didn't make them any promises, they just set them free. And then when they died, they had to stand before God on judgment day.
Transferred into the Kingdom of Light
What has Jesus done? He has rescued us from Satan's power. He's rescued us from sin. He's rescued us from death. He's rescued us from condemnation on judgment day. He has delivered us. He has redeemed us, by the price of his own blood, shed on the cross. He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness. If you are a Christian, you are free from Satan's power. You don't have to obey him. Why do you do it? That's another topic for another day. It's called "Insanity". That's why we do it. Bad habits. Okay? But you're rescued, you're free, you never need to sin again, ever. But you're brought into a kingdom, not into anarchy, friends. Not into everyone doing what they saw fit, what was right in their own eyes. That's Satan's lie. You're delivered from a dominion and brought into a kingdom. You're not rescued from the throne, you're rescued to the throne. The throne of God. And at last, we're done rebelling against the one who sits on it. We're done rebelling against the King. He has rescued us in the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the son he loves. Oh, give thanks for that.
You may be sitting listening to me this morning, and you've never been delivered from that dominion of darkness, you're still in sin. You're not a Christian. Oh be afraid, you're not ready to die. If you were to die, God would open up a book. And in it would be recorded, every careless word you've ever spoken, and everything else beside. And on the basis of that, He would judge you and send you to hell. Don't be sent to hell. Jesus went to hell for us. Trust in Him. Look to Christ, look to the cross, don't leave this place unregenerate. Why should you do that? Let God rescue you now through Christ and transfer you into the dominion, the kingdom, of the Son that He loves.
If that's already happened to you, let me speak to that coldness and deadness I referred to at the beginning of my sermon. Is that you? Does that describe you? It’s described me sometimes. Prayerlessness, coldness, don't care, waiting for the pastor to finish the sermon. Don’t really care about spiritual things, dead toward God. Be honest. Be honest and get into the prayer closet this afternoon. I mean, go home and pray and take Colossians 1, and say, "God, make this through me. Ignite my heart with these things. I don't want to be cold towards you anymore, God. I don't want to put on a hypocritical mask anymore. I want to be truly alive towards you. I want a prayer life that's strong and healthy. Oh God, move inside me."
Now, I'm going to close this time of preaching and hearing the word, and I'm going to ask if you feel like you would just like to pray before God, I'm going to invite you to come forward, and just kneel down here. It's not an invitation or... This is just a statement where you say, "I want to get close to God". Proximity. Now God isn't here, God is everywhere. But you need to draw close to God. You need to draw close to Him. Maybe that it'll help you to get up and come and kneel down before God, and say, "God, change my prayer life. Make me this kind of a person. I'm hungry and thirsty for you." I'm going to be praying down here. And when we get done, we get up and we'll go our way, but if God's been speaking to you today, and you need to know more about becoming a Christian, talk to me after the service is over. Don't leave this place without that conversation.
And If you feel like you've been dead toward God, get into your prayer closet and pray like this. Let's close in prayer.