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Apr 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Sermon Notes – April 25, 2010

Colossians 4:2-6

INTRO: I received one of the best emails ever
A guy involved in ministry – got divorced and then went off the deep end
One morning, miserable, he remembered a sermon of mine that had meant something to him
So he looked for me on Google
The first hit, he said, was a negative one that included a printed transcript of a talk I had given
He told me:

I read that over and over again. God really used it. I started to sense God breathing life back into my being, particularly spiritually. I started to desire the things of God again. . . .my life took a great change in direction. It was Jesus, the person. . . God has been pleased to reveal Himself like I never imagined possible.

The Internet has multiplied a media defect: the illusion of credibility
So now we have Christians spying on Christians and publishing their critiques (and ninety percent of it is nonsense)
Neither the church nor the world needs this kind of Christianity

In verse 5, Paul will tell the Colossians to “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders”
The “outsiders” don’t care about our doctrines
They’re more curious regarding what faith in God does for us
If it really helps – if we face our struggles differently
They’re curious about the kind of people we are, whether we’re real or hypocrites

Why do some people seem resentful when they talk about “all the hypocrites in church”?
Some have been preached at and condemned by Christians who then behave as badly or worse
But I think there are others who secretly hope there’s really something to it
So they watch people who talk it, and when they see contradiction, they’re disappointed
Then they despair, “So, there’s nothing to it after all”

If anyone is interested, they want to know, Is it real?
And for us that translates into, Are we real? (Not perfect, but real)
What we have working against us include:

  1. Ugly religion
  2. So many well-known Christian leaders who have proved to be in it for money, power, or whatever else they could gain
  3. There’s so much unreality we have to contend with
    a.  we’ve been sold products & political promises by actors (now commercials feel the need to say, “these are not paid actors”)
    b.  In 1960s, term was coined in Johnson’s presidency: credibility gap – the gap has never been bridged (possible exception: Jimmy Carter)
    c.  When we don’t know who to believe, who’s telling truth, we may decide it’s in our best interest not to believe anyone
      At least not until their actions prove them to be true

There is a kind of Christian that the church and the world need (and, as the statement implies, there is a kind of Christian the church and world already have too many of)
Paul’s summation reveals how we can approach being the kind of Christian the world needs

Verse 2, Prayer is central

Paul only says three things about prayer, so these things must be important

  1. “Devote . . .” he assumes they know what this means and how to do it
    a.  the same word in Mk. 3:9 is used of a boat: “stand ready”
    b.  and in Acts 10:7, of a servant, who “waited continually on” his master
  2. “Keeping alert” – maintain attentiveness
    a.  When you pray, is there ever a risk that you might fall into a trance?
    Acts 22:17-18, “It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, and I saw Him”
    b.  Our normal state of consciousness is only aware of physical things – visions occur in heightened states
      (1)  heightened state: we are aware of what our senses tell us, and more
    c.  To listen with our whole person and to listen with the intent to respond is the essence of contemplative prayer
  3. “Giving thanks” – a readiness to worship, to develop a worship “reflex”

Verses 3-4, The Word has to get out

Paul tells them, in effect, “And when you are in prayer, remember me” – and he has three requests

  1. For an open door
    Power of the word, 1:5-6 – all it needs is an open door
    Paul was “imprisoned” (bound), but “the word of God is not imprisoned” (2 Tim. 2:9)
    Perhaps he hoped to optimize his imprisonment or else he believed than an open door for word would also open door of his cell
  2. That we may speak – (laleo, “communicate”)
    “Mystery” – what people don’t yet know about God – Jesus
  3. Make it clear – a mystery
    Too bad more Xians don’t have this concern
    God has “manifested” the mystery, 1:26, so it is wrong to present it to others in such a way that it remains a mystery
    We broadcast it, but in a language no one understands
    Paul knew believers could understand him, but the word presented challenges for others
    The “ought” that he saw hanging over his life was the necessity of making the word comprehensible

Verses 5-6, Regarding outsiders: walk it before you talk it

  1. Walk in wisdom
    Like Paul, their mission also involved speech communication, but they needed to preach it first with their lives
    You’ve got to have wisdom to be able to follow Paul’s example, 1 Co. 9:19-23
  2. Making the most of every opportunity – or “redeeming the time”
    Redeem: to “buy back” – i.e., from any wrong use and put it to God’s service
    The word for time is kairos, a slice of time that has a special quality to it
    God meets us in time
    Paul would have us awaken to the spiritual potential that is hidden in each moment
  3. Let your speech . . .
    The gospel should always be on the scene to address the tough questions and deepest needs
    Like medicine – to heal wounded souls
    Like a signal to point the way
    They needed to put a grace filter over their mouths
    Sadly, the message of grace is often presented in a graceless way
    However, to slander, belittle, or insult others is always the wrong answer

Salting their conversations meant that they would find right answer for “each person”
respond to each according to their own need and situation
To not always giving everyone the same spiel – that is “unseasoned,” flat and tasteless
Or to read from a script, quote same verses, or repeat the doctrines of salvation by rote
Help people hear God say their name

Is Paul saying, “Do PR for God,” “Put on a good face whenever you’re in public”?
No – that’s exactly why he puts “walk” before “talk”
The person who lives it, who is real, is the person that is worth listening to
That person has bridged the credibility gap

CONC: The whole letter leads up to this passage–it has been Paul’s target
Or, if I were to put this as a question:

Now that we are enlightened to Jesus as our true center, and our hearts are stirred to step into a richer, fuller experience of God, and we want to do something good and make a difference in the world, what can the reader do right now to get started?

And what do you hear Paul telling us?

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