************ Sermon on Colossians 4:2-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 23, 2020
"The Believer's Mouth"
Mission Emphasis Sunday
If you are new in Christ, if you have been raised with Christ, if you are born-again, you are going to be different. You will see a change in three different areas. First, you will be a changed person. You are going to put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self which is being renewed in the image of God (Col 3:1-17). Second, there will be a change in family relationships. Your family relationships will glorify God (Col 3:18-4:1). Third, there will be a change in your relationship to unbelievers (Col 4:2-6). This third area is our focus on this Mission Emphasis Sunday.
A change in yourself. A change in family relationships. A change in unbelieving relationships. All three areas involves a change in talk. The old self often talks in anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. The new self rids itself of such things as these (Col 3:8). The change in family relationships also involves a change in the tongue. Husbands and fathers no longer talk harshly to wives and children and servants; rather, their words are loving and kind. Children no longer have rebellious or disrespectful talk about their parents. Servants are eager to speak well of their master. The same kind of dramatic change in talk happens toward outsiders. They are called outsiders because they are outside of the church and outside of the kingdom and outside of the covenant. In other words, unbelievers, the lost, the unsaved. Our Bible reading says when you are saved your speech to and about outsiders first involves evangelistic prayer; and, second, it involves wisdom and grace.
I Evangelistic Prayer
A On this Mission Emphasis Sunday we are reminded that we pray for the lost and the mission to the lost.
(Col 4:2-4) Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (3) And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. (4) Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
We don't just pray; we devote ourselves to prayer. The root word in the Greek language means to be strong in prayer. To be steadfast, to endure. Now, this Greek root has a preposition put in front of it. Anytime you add a preposition to a Greek verb you intensify it. So now it means be super strong in prayer, super steadfast, super endurance. It means a strong commitment; one from which you don't bail out, give up, or quit.
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful." Watchful. You can't pray without watching. I am not saying pray with your eyes open -- we catch our grandkids doing that. I am saying pray without falling asleep. I remember doing that as a boy during the long prayer in church -- way longer than the prayers today -- falling asleep during those long, long prayers. Be watchful in prayer. An example of someone who didn't do this was Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane. Every time Jesus checked up on them he found them sleeping instead of praying.
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Paul uses the word "thankful" six times in his short letter to the Colossians. So giving thanks is very important to Paul. Giving thanks for what? Giving thanks for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the church's mission, the church's missionaries, the leaders of the church, the ministry of the church, the members of the church and their faith, the communion of saints, the conversion of the lost, the growth of the redeemed in grace and knowledge, the inheritance that awaits us.
B "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message ..." Paul asks for this while he is "in chains." Meaning what? At this point chains does not mean prison. It does mean being a prisoner. Paul is under house arrest. A soldier is with Paul 24-7. Guarding him, watching him, preventing him from leaving the house or city. Probably -- we aren't told this but it was the custom back then -- probably the soldier is physically tied to Paul.
Paul is in chains. Do you remember how Paul got into this position? It started with a riot in Jerusalem. Paul was arrested. The Jews plotted to kill Paul so he was moved to the safety of Caesarea. He defended himself before Felix and Festus and Agrippa. Not getting anywhere, Paul appealed to Caesar and was sent to Rome. Along the way he was shipwrecked by a storm, bit by a viper, and three months later arrived in Rome. For two years in Rome, Paul was allowed to live in his own rented house with a soldier to guard him (Acts 28:16).
Paul used his chains as a means to accomplish ministry. It is during this time that Paul wrote his letters from prison: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon.
Paul preached while a prisoner. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:31). To whom did he preach? The first thing Paul did as a prisoner in his own house was call together the leaders of the Jews and proclaim the Gospel to them. Paul started off his imprisonment with a Billy Graham type rally (Acts 28:17ff). Do you know who else he preached to? Think about it. Lots of soldiers were coming and going. What did everyone of them hear? They heard the Gospel. Servants and those passing by heard the Gospel. Some of them who heard and believed were part of Caesar's household (cf Phil 4:22).
All the time that Paul was in chains was a time of proclamation. Everything was an opportunity. Every time was an opportunity. He was always proclaiming. Every place became a pulpit.
Now, back to Paul's prayer: "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message ..." When doors open to the Gospel it is because God has opened those doors. It is God who opens hearts and minds. It is God who gives opportunity. It is God's business to open doors as we hear from Revelation:
(Rev 3:7-8) "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. (8) I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.When the Lord opens a door, it is open. So pray that God opens doors.
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message ..." Isn't it true that God was already answering Paul's prayer? Open doors? According to the plan of God the door was open: for Jews, for the interested, for runaway slaves, for soldiers and servants.
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message ..." Paul asks for this when soon he will be on trial for his life. Paul doesn't ask the Colossians to pray for his release; he doesn't ask the Colossians to pray that his life be spared; he doesn't mention any personal needs. We know Paul was cold and needed his cloak (2 Tim 4:13). As he was writing his letters and preparing messages he missed his Old Testament scrolls (2 Tim 4:13). But he doesn't ask the Colossians to pray he get his cloak and his scrolls. In Paul's life and ministry the message of the Gospel comes first -- before Paul's wants and desires and needs and comforts.
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message ..." Almost every other translation more accurately reflects the Greek here and says "a door for the Word." A door for the Word. This emphasizes that what Paul preaches is not his thoughts or interesting stories or what is the latest political or social rage. What Paul preaches is the Word, the Word of God.
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message ..." We have wonderful ministry after wonderful ministry going on in our church:
-most important is worship and LiveStream and written copies of our sermons on the Internet
-but we also have Sunday School, Catechism, Bible Studies galore
-we have GEMS, Cadets, Youth Group, Young Adults, Friday Night Fellowship
-Vacation Bible School, TASC, Love Your Neighbor days
-we have men and women in prison ministry
-mission trips through RMS or Wycliffe or some other group
-we support missionaries around the world
What should be our prayer about all of this? "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message ..."
This should also be our individual prayer. Each one of us should be praying for open doors. I pray for open doors as I cycle. I pray for open doors as I visit members of my Rotary club in the hospital and during times of crisis. I pray for open doors with my neighbors. Dear congregation, the Lord gives you opportunity after opportunity: clients, employees, students, fellow workers, customers, sales people, your children and grandchildren. Pray for open doors for the Word.
And, isn't it true for us as a church and as individuals what was true for Paul? We have an open door. No man, no law, no government can forbid us the right to proclaim the Word of God. There is nothing and no one to stop us. As Paul writes in verse 5, "make the most of every opportunity." Every time you have an opportunity, every time we have an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel, use that opportunity. Life is so short. And your neighbor's soul is so valuable. So don't waste the opportunities God gives you.
When we look at Paul's ministry, we realize that sometimes God also closes doors. Paul wanted to go into Asia Minor but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow him to (Acts 16:6-7). As Paul was wondering what to do, he had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us" (Acts 16:9). That was from God. What was God doing? Sometimes God closes doors; sometimes God opens doors. In the case of Paul, God was opening a door to Macedonia, and closing a door to Asia Minor.
C Paul doesn't just pray for open doors. He also writes, "Pray that I may proclaim it clearly." What did Paul proclaim? The fullness of the Gospel, the whole counsel of God, the mystery of Christ. Justification and sanctification and glorification. Paul preached on God's eternal plan. Paul preached on the coming again of the Savior. Again, he preached the Word. Not entertaining stories. Not political agendas. Not social causes. But the Word of God. "Pray that I may proclaim it clearly." So it can be understood. So it doesn't lead astray. So it doesn't confuse. So people clearly realize they need to repent and believe and be ready.
II Wisdom and Grace
A Now, remember, we are talking about the Christian's speech to and about outsiders. First, it involves evangelistic prayer. Second, it requires wisdom and grace. Let's start with verse 5: "be wise in the way you act toward outsiders."
What we are talking about here is not the spoken word but the lived out word. Do you practice what you preach? Christians live in glass houses. Meaning, we are being watched. By our children and grandchildren. By our neighbors. By our clients, employees, students, fellow workers, customers, sales people, neighbors. They are watching if we live out our faith.
Quick: What is the number one thing that turns off unbelievers about the Christian religion? I'm afraid it is Christians. And quick: What is the number one thing that attracts unbelievers to the Christian religion? Same answer: Christians. The most important thing you say is not what you say, it is how you live. Because that gives credibility to what you say.
"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders." Which means you can be foolish in the way you act toward outsiders. So let me ask: How can a Christian be foolish? Let me remind you of the things I read earlier in our worship from Galatians 5: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Christians who live this way live foolishly. We also act foolishly when we are legalistic with outsiders. We act foolishly when outsiders see us pursuing treasure on earth rather than in heaven.
B "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders." And then Paul adds this:
(Col 4:6) Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Conversation full of grace. To put it negatively, conversation that is not bitter, vindictive, sarcastic, angry, cutting, hurtful, boastful. Not filthy talk, gossip, swearing, flattery. To put it positively, conversation that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy (cf Phil 4:8).
Seasoned with salt. Salt does a lot of things. Salt cleans out a wound and brings healing. Salt prevents corruption. Your speech should have a purifying, wholesome, cleansing influence.
Does your conversation attract or repel outsiders? Does it attract those who are unbelievers and outside of the Gospel and the church?
When you are a Christian there is a change in yourself. A change in family relationships. A change in unbelieving relationships. A change that means you take care of how you talk. A change that means you pray for open doors so you can witness. A change that means you live wisely and talk carefully.
When you take care of this, when we take care of this, the Spirit of God blesses our ministry to outsiders.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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