Intro: Alice and the Cheshire Cat
Every now and then, it’s good to ask the question, why am I here? Paul had a pretty good sense of why he was here and what his purpose was in life, and I would like us to take some time this morning and listen and learn from him about why we’re here.
Col. 1:25-29 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness - the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Paul mentions three purposes that drove his life and ministry:
1. To present the Word of God in its fullness – Paul had a foundation upon which he built. It was that anchor which kept him securely planted in God’s will. It was his awesome respect for the Word of God – his unshakeable conviction that the God of all creation had spoken and revealed himself that gave Paul the confidence to speak so boldly and work so effectively. Here was Paul’s conviction about the Word:
• It is the power of God to change the world.
God was – and is – a God of promises. He is acting even now in the lives of men and women. And the Bible is the story of how God has involved himself in our lives and how, when we live in harmony and obedience to his will, he will continue to do amazing things among us. He can literally change the world with a word – his Word. When you read the Word, it is not filled with ancient stories and outdated morality – it is about how God is actively working in YOUR life.
• It is the source of life for the lost.
Not any amount of social agencies and 12-step programs are going to provide what this world needs most. The only hope for the people around us, lost in sin and struggling with life, is the good news of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
• It is the mystery of God’s will revealed.
Here is what Paul said to the Colossians: In his word, God has taken off the wraps and revealed his plan, his purpose, his vision for what he wants us, his church, to be.
Here is the mystery revealed – “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Please – hear what he said – he didn’t just say Christ is the mystery, but “Christ IN YOU” is the mystery revealed.
And if Christ is in us, what are we supposed to be? Carriers of faith – spreaders of the epidemic.
2. To make known among the Gentiles…
It’s one thing to have this incredible revelation securely in our possession, planted in our hearts. But that’s not God’s purpose for us, he wants us to give it away – to begin spreading it like a sower spreads seed. We are called to proclaim the gospel – that’s not the same as “preaching” – everyone can proclaim the good news.
Illust. – Archie Hines
Last week, as we were talking about the purpose of ministry – I said that the purpose of ministry is not just to meet needs (as important as that is) – it is ultimately to meet the ONE need – to bring people to God. All the good deeds in the world will only make us philanthropists – do-gooders. Ministry makes us instruments of service in the hand of God himself, spreading his kingdom wherever we go.
In the midst of ministry, your most important ministry is the ministry of reconciliation. Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
The thing is that, to do that, we can’t huddle in here and congratulate ourselves that we’re saved and lament that they’re not. We have to get out of our comfortable pews and into the world and into people’s lives where they are hurting. And if the Glenwood church isn’t filled with hurting and searching people who are here because we’re bringing them, then we aren’t where we should be during the week.
Jesus defined our reason for existing by defining his own – “the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Lk. 19:10). And there are a lot of lost people in this world who desperately need to be introduced to the Savior.
3. To present everyone perfect in Christ
Here in Colossians 1 is Paul’s version of that – “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ” (vs. 28).
Paul doesn’t use that word “perfect” lightly or flippantly. Just as Jesus said we must “be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect,” Paul is calling us to something bigger and deeper than we ever imagined.
That word “perfect” has several dimensions of meaning – the same Gk word can be translated “mature, complete, whole, finished” as well as “perfect.”
Paul’s primary meaning is the “perfection” one experiences when they are baptized into Christ and become a child of God. Only in the water of baptism are your sins washed away and your relationship with God reconciled. At that moment, you become perfect in Christ. And it’s not a momentary perfection like getting a two year old out of the bath tub and turning him loose in the backyard, only to retrieve him 10 minutes later covered with mud.
John speaks to that in 1 John 1:7-9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. It is an ongoing cleansing. Will we sin? Yes. Do we cease to be perfect in Christ? No – the blood of Jesus continually cleanses us from all sin.
Our perfection is not based upon our personal righteousness, but upon Christ’s absolute righteousness.
So, job #1 is to bring people to Christ, letting him perfect them in his blood that was shed on the cross – and in baptism where that blood washes them whiter than snow.
But for Paul, when he writes about “admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ” he also has in mind a message for the church.
Paul’s desire isn’t just to present individual Christians perfect in Christ, but the church perfect in Christ.
For Paul, maturity was inseparable from unity. If the church wasn’t united, it wasn’t mature. That’s why he so often used the imagery of the body. All of the parts of our body are interdependent – the body can only function when every part functions. And when parts of the body don’t function, the body is unhealthy and growth is stunted. And when parts of our body here don’t function, the church is unhealthy and immature.
Paul wasn’t a numbers guy. He didn’t count success with bodies baptized. Church growth wasn’t nearly as important as church health. If the church was healthy, it would be growing – it was inevitable. But he didn’t count heads and call it a success.
And so, here in Col. 1, he writes about “admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom.” He wants Christians to be growing up in Christ – maturing spiritually. If a church’s numbers are getting bigger, but people are still jealous and materialistic and selfish and unforgiving, then they aren’t maturing.
I want to see the Glenwood church grow – I would love to see us burst the seams of this building – but more than that I want to see Christians developing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives and growing in their service to God. That’s what it means to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” that Paul talks about over in Ephesians 4.
IV. Why are we here?
We need to know why we’re here and who we are. The Glenwood church isn’t defined by real estate. We meet in this building, but if this building were to burn to the ground tomorrow this church would still exist. If we only exist to have a weekly meeting where self-satisfied people get together to have their ticket punched and socialize a little bit, then we need to lock the doors and quit playing church, because we aren’t serving God.
Why are we here?
1) To glorify God in everything we do. From the moment you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep at night, is that a factor in everything you do? Are you constantly aware of God’s presence in and purpose for your life? Is “Christ in you, the hope of glory”?
2) To proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the city of Glenwood Springs and beyond. Proclaiming the gospel, through our lives and through our words, should permeate everything we do. It must be foundational to every program in the church, woven into every aspect of this congregation. It has to be the first question we ask when we decide what we are going to invest ourselves in – “how is this going to help us reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ?” Educational programs, outreach programs, small groups, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, children’s ministry, missions, benevolence, even building and grounds. Mission is not something we do just in foreign countries. Everyone of us has been commissioned to take the gospel to the people around us who are lost in sin and in need of a Savior. We are to use every available resource and pursue every possible opportunity.
3) To bring the body of Christ to maturity by using our gifts and talents to serve God and build up the church as we use whatever we have wherever we are. When you are doing your part, and you doing yours, and me doing mine – when we all do our part – then, Paul says, “the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, will grow and build itself up in love”(Eph. 4:16).
Posted on Sun, January 15, 2012
by John Roberts