Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 June 10, 2018
“A Prayer for Colosse—and for Us”
Today is a happy day for our 2018 Cornerstone/Patricia B. Scott Scholarship winners—three of whom are with us today with their families, and the fourth wanted to be (we’ll meet that winner later this summer). It is a happy day for our church, our Session, and for my family and me. We rejoice together before God in this happy occasion.
Today we also continue in our sermon series through Colossians. Though we’ve not yet arrived at the heart of the matter in this letter—though we draw closer every week—we have today, providentially, a word from God that speaks well both generally to all here and specifically to our winners. Let us now hear well, by God’s grace, His inerrant, powerful Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Our text today, simply, is a prayer of Paul for the Colossian Christian households. Paul’s petitions for them, ca. A. D. 60-62, are the Lord’s own petitions for us. Remember that Jesus, ascended to Heaven and reigning from there, ever lives to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25), and remember also that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with sighs and groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26). Hence, in Paul’s prayer, let’s hear God petitions within Himself for us.
The prayer’s first petition is this: that the Lord’s redeemed in Christ be filled with the knowledge of His will. We are to know this will of God both generally (discipleship, obedience, etc.) and particularly (vocation, station, relationships, etc.)—and God by His Spirit reveals these in ever-increasing measure to the growing Christian. More than this, we are to know God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (or intelligence). Both of these must come from on high; though God calls us to use our reasoning ability and our information gained over time, we simply cannot deduce fully God’s will in the same way that we may deduce the solution to a mathematical problem. May the Lord indeed give us the knowledge of His will.
The second petition of this prayer is that God’s covenant people in Christ walk in a manner worthy of Him. There are several facets to this. First, we would, by the Lord’s gracious work in us, please Him in every way. Among other ways, we please the Lord when we obey Him in His moral instruction found in Scripture—and we please Him as well when we repent before Him of our disobedience when it occurs. We also please the Lord when we show our devotion to Him—when we read the Bible, when we pray to the Lord, and when we attend public worship, among other.
We also walk worthy of the Lord when we bear fruit (or produce results, the Greek karpophoreo [karpoforew] will admit of either sense) in every good work. As we discharge our callings and Scriptural duties in this world, God brings forth the increase—the fruit, if you will, that redounds to His glory. Be careful, though, in two senses concerning this fruit-bearing. If fruit from your life seems little or absent, then despair not. God will bear fruit through your life in the right amount and in His time. Only let us be faithful in our callings. If, however, fruit abounds from your life, then glorify God, and not self. We bear nothing unless we abide in Him Who is the true Vine, Jesus Christ (John 15:1 ff.). Also, if fruit abounds, above all else, do not forget the Lord—for this incurs God’s disfavor (Deuteronomy 8:11-20).
We also walk worthy of the Lord when we increase in the knowledge of God. This happens along two lines. First, we increase in the content—in the information—we know about Him as we study Scripture and the disciplines related thereunto. Second, we increase in the experiential knowledge we have of the Lord as we spend time over the months and years walking with Him and sitting in His presence. May we indeed walk in a manner worthy of our great God.
The third petition of this prayer is that we be strengthened with all power—and that according to His glorious might. After all, the Lord is infinitely powerful, and He exerts that power on our behalf according to His infinitely wise counsel. We need be strengthened with power from God for three things. First, we need God’s power for endurance—which is the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances as they arise and linger. Second, we need God’s power for patience, which is a state of emotional calm in the face of provocation or misfortune and without complaint or irritation—which, as we all know, is much easier said than done. Third, we need God’s power for joy. The joy of the Lord, which is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10), is deep-set and founded upon right relation to Jesus. In particular, this joy is not founded upon changing circumstance. Happiness and joy often coincide, but they often split under adverse circumstance—for happiness flees during adversity, but joy abides and often deepens despite adversity. May we indeed be strengthened by God with all power at His disposal.
I wish I could tell you that every day will be as happy as today, that every good venture your heart desires will succeed wildly, and that every soul you meet will encourage you as ardently as we do today. These are not true, however—or, at very least, they do not hold all the time. Some days will be less happy than today. Some noble ventures will not succeed—at least not to the degree or in the way that you hope. Some souls will treat you indifferently, and others will discourage you. Life will not always be summer sunshine—as it appears to be day.
When the difficulties come, remember God’s good design for you. He designs that you be filled with the knowledge of His will—generally to be His and to walk with Him, and particularly in things like career, marriage and children, where to live, and the like. He also designs that you walk in a manner worthy of Him: pleasing Him by obedience, repentance, and devotion; bearing fruit by His grace and for His glory; and knowing Him better all the time. God also designs that you be strengthened with all power for endurance, patience, and deep-set joy.
Know, then, for a surety, dear scholarship winners, that God is for you, and, if He be for you, who can be against you (cf. Romans 8:31)? Know that your families are for you. They longed for you long before you were made and born, they cared for you from the earliest, and they applaud and encourage you today. Know that your respective churches are for you. They came alongside your families to instruct you and to nurture you in the Christian faith—just as perhaps they did for your parents, and grandparents, and the like before you. Know also that this church loves you and is for you. We are delighted to have a small part in God’s grand design for your lives—and know that each of you remains in our prayers as you step out into God’s providential next for you.
Let us go then, scholarship winners and others alike, under the merciful favor of God—to glorify Him wherever we are in whatever we do.