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May 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Colossians 4:7-18 – Chuck Smith Jr. , May 2, 2010

Colossians 4:7-18

INTRO: We come to end of letter where we run into all these names
These short lists resemble the lists we’ve been putting together here at Reflexion
the purpose is to connect with each other

This is the human face of the church
The real-life people for whom this letter was relevant
We are given a snapshot of the past – our most distant brothers and sisters
A typical mix of people:

  • some stand out for the work they did
  • others are recommended to the Colossians
  • one is mentioned because of encouragement he needs
  • one is mentioned by name only – Demas (cf. 2 Tim. 4:10)

A few of these people were with Paul, a few were there in Colossae, and a few were going back and forth
The purpose of these greetings was to solidify the relationships that existed between all these people
3:14, “love is uniting bond of perfection”

Henry D. Thoreau suggested that railroad created in North America a greater concern for punctuality
Nature of technology: invent a labor-saving device to improve life that, in turn, creates more labor
A model of modern “management” was to  an run organization with machine-like efficiency
If marriage was machine, it would be so much easier to improve
Just trouble-shoot any problems and then repair or replace the parts that are not working
A modern model of church: A corporate machine that can be designed, constructed, and maintained
It produced well-informed disciples

This passage takes us back to something more primal
This church was a self-sustaining eco-system, a life form, an organism

We get an important insight into their church in, v. 15, “church … in her house”
There were no church buildings until the third century – Christians met in homes
ekklesia – refers to the meeting, not the meeting place
From the start, when group of disciples were drawn to Jesus,
the church formed as people came together around common center
They shared an interest in knowing Jesus, worshiping God, growing
They were a spiritual community that traveled together through life

We could break down this passage into distinct units in several way
Bud, this isn’t the literary part of Paul’s letter
it is informal, free-flowing, and most of all personal
Notice in vv. 7-9, three times Paul tells them that Tychicus and Onesimus would inform them regarding his personal affairs

Rather than break down the passage, it needs to be read in this more personal way
We need to see it as human and living

Because the church is human, its flaws shouldn’t surprise us
What surprises me, however, is God’s willingness to use churches as they are
Almost every harsh criticism leveled against the church is true
Besides that, many churches are seriously whacked out
Yet people keep finding God in them and growing in them
and going the right direction with their lives in spite of their church life

God formed the church the same way he formed Adam
He began by sculpting an inert and lifeless body
Then he breathed his own divine life into it, “and man became a living soul”
The company of Jesus’ skittish disciples was the inert “church body”
They met together, they prayed, they waited in anticipation
And then one day, when together in same place, it happened (Acts 2:1-4)

First, a sound – “a noise”
Then a sight – “there appeared to them”
Then a miracle – God breathed into them the breath of life

This is the mystery of the church:
That when it sits before God in prayer, the kingdom of God comes
A life enters it – other than its own

I did a “night dive” once in Hawaii to see Manta Rays up close
divers get in circle around powerful flood lamps that are aimed upward
the light illuminates plankton and krill in the water
and suddenly the Manta Rays come, spreading their huge wings over our heads
All we had to do was show up to witness it
This is the church – we show up, turn on the light of God’s word, and the kingdom of heaven enters

There were only two times when Jesus used the word “church”
The second time, he follows it with, “For where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst” (Mt. 18:20)
That is the extraordinary life of Christ within the human church container

Lk. 12:32, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom”
And it doesn’t matter that the church is little, or poor, or simple

Now this chapter becomes really important
it’s a scene from real life – people in the give and take of relationships
it shows us the landing pad for the kingdom of God
And we are eager to discover who they were and what they were doing
because we want to be touch the life of God

Who are these people?
Or first we might notice who they were not:
“Greet Maximus, our wealthy brother and beloved donor”
Those who hosted churches in their homes were well off,
but some of the others mentioned were prisoners and a slave
1 Co. 1:26, “For consider your calling [brothers & sisters], that there were not man wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble”

Do you think their lives were less troubled than ours?
Less confusing, less difficult?
Or do you think they were better Christians? More moral?
They needed the virtue and vice lists at least as much as we do
Paul had to tell Colossians not to lie to each other
and he told the Ephesians, “He who steals must steal no longer”

Sadly, things can work against the church
it can get distracted – drawn into wrong battlefields, the wrong causes
But it doesn’t require genius, power, wealth, or even moral people
it just needs its members to keep turning their attention back to center
And Jesus is what this whole letter has been about!

CONC: God wants to do something in human societies
And he wants his signature to be all over it
For it to be so improbable, so impossible that it is obviously his doing and there can be no other explanation
That’s why, even though he may reveal his glory through a supernova or volcano,
he doesn’t use those big things to enter cultures
Instead, he uses a community of human beings
a few of us may rise above average, while most of us are average or below average

. . . but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the thigs which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (1 Co. 1:27-30)

For the last few nights we’ve been treated-clear skies the cycle of the full moon
In the middle of the night, the moon has been shining as intense as a flood light
I would look at it and think, “That’s not even its own light”

The church doesn’t have to be brilliant,
it simply has to be a reflective surface

The last word of the letter is, “Grace be with you,” which is where he began (1:2)
The whole thing is wrapped in grace
and that explains how it is possible that we can be church
that God’s divine life can be experienced among us
and that the intensity of his divine light can shine from us

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