Branson Bible Church
Duplicate test 11.21.2021
  • Praise To The Lord The Almighty
      • Psalm 150:1–2ESV

      • Psalm 150:6ESV

  • 10,000 Reasons
      • Psalm 103:1–5ESV

  • Majesty
      • Colossians 2:6–7ESV

  • Pray: Father of glory, we direct our thanks to you because you alone, the Triune God of the Bible, are the source of our existence, of our salvation, of our purpose and fulfillment in life, and of our hope of eternal blessing. Humble us before your majesty with grateful hearts. Amen.
    Colossians 1:3–8 ESV
    We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
    I want to encourage you today by way of expressing, from the text of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, how thankful I am to God for what He is doing among us. And the goal of that encouragement is to unite us further in prayer and ministry together for the continued growth of the gospel in us and out from us.
    Now the first thing I should point out, especially since we as a church family have had our heads marinating in Luke’s Gospel on a weekly basis, is that there are some contextual distinctives for what I’m trying to share this morning that we should note about Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

    Contextual Distinctives: Paul’s Letter to the Colossians

    I mention these because they matter first to rightly handling God’s word, and because they impact the stated purpose of grateful encouragement to you. For example, I have a couple of benefits that the Apostle Paul did not have at the time of writing this letter.
    I am free to share this with you in person. - Paul was likely imprisoned in Rome when he wrote this (Col 4:3), so we count Colossians among the Prison Epistles (and the letter sent with it to Philemon about Onesimus, and a letter to the Ephesians [which shares quite a lot in common with Colossians], and another letter written to the Philippian church from imprisonment.) - So I’m grateful that I can share my thankful heart for you in person.
    I also know you personally. - Paul writes this letter, along with Timothy, to the Colossian believers (to be read also by those at Laodicea, 4:16), whom he has not personally met face to face (Col. 2:1), but word of their faith has come to Paul and co-workers through Epaphras. - V. 4 “heard of your faith,” and vv. 7-8 Epaphras our “beloved fellow servant” and “faithful minister of Christ” … “has made known to us your love in the Spirit.”
    - Add to this that Paul didn’t personally preach the gospel to them and plant the church in Colossae, but Epaphras did: “just as you learned it from Epaphras,” v. 7, which likely took place during Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus (see Acts 19:10).
    - While I similarly had very little to do with being present when God saved most of you, I am truly blessed to get to serve with you now and bear witness with my own eyes to what God is doing in you and through you.
    Allow me to add a third benefit and fourth distinction:
    I can use Paul’s letter as a template (inspired by the Holy Spirit and included in the cannon of NT Scriptures) to know with certainty where to direct my gratitude, what to base it on, how to communicate it, and how it ought to encourage you. (Praise God for the Bible so that we can know his will.)
    Paul had not only heard glad tidings from Epaphras, but also about invading heresy in the Colossian church. This heresy seems to be a two-headed monster: there’s a strange form of mysticism that centers on having further “spiritual experiences” that supposedly help you know God in a more enlightened way, and then there’s also an element of Jewish legalism calling people to follow OT regulations and observances. Paul cuts off both heads by declaring that they have already received Jesus, who is the supreme and sufficient head of His church, so they can live godly lives in Jesus without phony spiritualism or legalism.
    Along these lines (this fourth distinctive), here’s my first note of encouragement for you:
    With a grateful heart, be encouraged that Jesus is indeed supreme and sufficient. (1:15-20)
    (read Col 1:15-20)
    Colossians 1:15–20 ESV
    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
    Jesus is supreme and sufficient as Lord of the created universe, and he is supreme and sufficient as Lord of His people, the church. - He was active with the Father and Spirit in creating, and he is active in sustaining. He was before all of their existence and reigns over all of it.
    This same Lord is sufficient to be the head of the church, because he came to earth as the perfect manifestation and representation of God, making peace with God... and reconciliation to God... possible by the blood of his cross, and he rose from the dead to be the first (and supreme) of many who will be resurrected to eternal life through him.
    That’s a pretty good reason to be thankful, and it is the reason not to be pulled away from finding sufficiency in Him alone. Jesus… is… enough.
    (Let’s return now to verse three.)
    What we read there from Paul is a…

    Grateful Prayer to God

    The Apostles follow the model that Jesus taught, which is to direct our prayers to the Father. We can do so because we have gained access through Jesus, God the Son, the second person of the Godhead. And we pray in the Spirit, the third member of the Godhead, because God the Holy Spirit initiates spiritual life and continually indwells every believer.
    But Paul here, as in most of his letters, expresses a deep gratitude to God for his work in the lives of these growing believers. - By telling people we thank God for them, we keep both ourselves our hearers humble. We encourage them, while making sure that credit is directed where credit is due, and so we challenge them and ourselves to remain dependent on God and to keep him as the focus of our endeavors.
    This morning I’m telling you that I thank God for you then because I can do so sincerely, and because I know that it will encourage you to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, and to do so more and more.
    So…
    Be encouraged that we are thanking God for one another. (1:3-5, 1:12-14, 2:6-7, 3:12-17, 4:2)
    This little letter to Colossae is covered with thanksgiving: There’s thankfulness to God for what he is doing in the lives of others (1:3-5), and thankfulness to God for the transforming work of salvation in our own lives (1:12-14).
    And then there are the passages we read together between songs this morning: Thankfulness is a natural overflow of a life that depends on God to helps us be deeply rooted in him and fruitful for him in our ongoing Christian walk (2:6-7), and that grateful grounding helps guard us from false teaching (2:8ff.).
    We thank God for the unity he breeds in us as we strive side by side to clothe ourselves in the character qualities of our holy God (3:12-15). We thank God for the opportunity to invest ourselves in the hard work of speaking the truth of God’s word into one another’s lives, both formally and informally (3:16 - notice that even our songs are meant to teach biblical truth that changes our lives). And we thank God for the privilege of glorifying him by conforming every word and deed, every aspect life and ministry, to the Lordship of Christ (3:17).
    Finally, we thank God for the privilege of prayer:
    Colossians 4:2 ESV
    Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
    We are thankful that we can approach God directly (because of Jesus, our mediator/intercessor), thankful that he hears us and cares (1 Peter 5:7), thankful that he answers according to his divine wisdom and power, thankful that he desires to grant us what we pray according to his will, and thankful that he sovereignly uses our prayers to spiritually strengthen, protect, and equip others for ministry when we hold them up in prayer (see Eph. 6:18 and verses leading up to it).
    Speaking of the command to continue steadfastly in prayer, and continuing our theme of grateful encouragement…
    Be encouraged that we are praying for one another. (1:9-14)
    Like the Apostle Paul prays for the Colossian believers, we can be thankful for the way we pray for one another and be challenged to do so more and more and to sharpen the focus of those prayers:
    (read Col. 1:9-14 with comment as we go along)
    Colossians 1:9–14 ESV
    And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
    (v. 9) Paul prays for… The believers to be filled with full knowledge of God’s will (which Paul certainly believes comes from the word of God) … in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. In Colossians we see that such spirituality cannot be separated from God’s revealed will (not mystical experiences), nor is it simply a head knowledge of rules and regulations to follow. - God, give us a deeper understanding of who you are and what you want from us, and wisdom and discernment to apply it to the situations of our lives.
    (v. 10) So as to walk worthy (a walk that is fully pleasing to God) and bearing fruit in every good work (witnessing, giving & sharing, serving, teaching, encouraging, challenging, rebuking)... and increasing in the knowledge of God. For those of us who love studying God’s truth to know God, it might be easy to overlook that some of the true insight into God’s character and desire for us comes as we actually obey what he has told us to do, and then we see him more fully in becoming like him.
    (v. 11) And Paul prays for spiritual strength to persevere, to patiently endure trial while maintaining joy in God. The Christian life is not only a glorious adventure with our Lord, it is also a long and tough journey (with the obstacles of our own sin nature and the arrows of persecution). Persevering with our Lord on this road, and to do so with joy in him, requires dependence on his strength. We must abide in him to be our supreme aim and to be sufficient for our need, to be the supreme goal of our ministry and to be sufficient to accomplish the ministry.
    Finally, and again, this prayer is wrapped with gratitude to God for the transformation he wrought for us and in us by the work of Jesus. (vv. 12-14)
    So just as Paul and Epaphras do…
    Colossians 4:12 ESV
    Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.
    We must continue in prayer for one another to stand mature and fully assured in the will of God.
    With all that helpful and solid foundation, what do we find that Paul says he is specifically thankful for? (back in vv. 4ff.)

    Evidence of Saving Faith & Gospel Growth

    Like Paul with the Colossians, I thank God for the evidence in this church family of genuine saving faith and of gospel growth.
    So just as Paul says in vv. 4-5, I want you to…
    Be encouraged that there is clear evidence among us of sincere faith and Christian love and assured hope of future glory. (vv. 4-5)
    We are not saved by faith in faith (generic ‘believe in something and we’ll all get there’). New Testament faith is placed specifically in Jesus. He is the one we are ‘putting our whole weight upon’ to grant forgiveness of sin and the righteousness we need to have a relationship with God. That is the word of truth (end of v. 5). That is the gospel. A supreme and sufficient Jesus is the only way to “understand the grace of God in truth.”
    And genuine faith is not just the moment we trust in Christ, but it is a commitment of our lives to Jesus, and in this way faith continues. Putting your whole weight upon the Lordship of Christ is a way of life. Faith is an ongoing dependent trusting and submissive obedience.
    I am so thankful to the Lord to find obvious evidence of faith in Christ Jesus among most of you.
    Secondly, genuine faith bears fruit, and Christian love (agape) is uniquely modeled after the gracious, selfless, and sacrificial love of Jesus.
    In spite of our ongoing battle in the Spirit with our old nature that is sinful, I am grateful for so much evidence among you of godly love for one another that is not conditioned upon reciprocation or right response, but upon the love and forgiveness that you have received in God’s love.
    And like Epaphras testified about the Colossian believers to Paul, I also testify that many of you live with an assurance of the hope of eternal glory in heaven. It is evident by the way you keep your eyes on Jesus and eternity rather than on what is temporary and fleeting. You invest your gifts and abilities, your possessions, your time and energy into that which is eternal: the word of God impacting the souls of people.
    Be encouraged that the true gospel of grace is bearing fruit and growing not only among us but also around the world. (v. 6)
    And that’s because it is God’s gospel; it is God’s grace. Our lives and our witness are only conduits of that truth. Epaphras and Paul are merely instruments in the hands of a mighty redeemer. You and I are humbled to get to be used of God by his grace and for his glory by declaring the truth of the gospel.
    That gospel of Jesus then is the seed which bears fruit (as God brings people to saving faith) and that grace of God grows in us to mature us in the faith.
    We must never feel proud, but we must always be humbled by God’s work in us and desire to of correct and conform our lives in greater faithfulness to the word of truth.
    We must pray for and send out workers to participate in global work so that God can and will cause the gospel of Jesus to bear fruit and grow in other parts of the world. (through the same processes we are experiencing, which is the NT design… and that is the next, and final, point)
    Be encouraged that teaching and discipleship ministry is worth it because it works. (v. 7)
    That middle word there for “learned it” from Epaphras comes from the same root as the word for disciple (mathetes). Epaphras spent time with them and trained them in truth. They invested themselves in that training, not to become followers of Epaphras, but of Jesus.
    Two things to notice here:
    What Paul couldn’t do, Epaphras did. God has not designed for one person to do all the ministry of the church. Everyone is a minister.
    To be trained in gospel growth, we should seek to be trained, to be accountable, and to train others.
    And this final point is essentially why I chose this text for today: One of the things I’m most excited about and grateful for in our church is the number of you who are getting involved in this very thing—partnership in ministry. You don’t leave it up to some pastor to do all the word ministry in people’s lives, or to do all the counseling and helping people in need. You know one person can’t do all that, so you invest yourselves in it the same way that the elders do. You don’t leave it up to the “church” to evangelize, because you are the church, and you know it. And you know that God has positioned you, as an arm or hand of the church, to witness to your neighbors and co-workers and classmates and family members.
    I thank God for you, remembering you in my prayers, because of the evidence of your faith and growth, and because of your faithfulness to actually be the church. May the Lord use this grateful encouragement to make us more dependent on Him and more faithful to His will.
    Pray: ***
    Closing Benediction:
    Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV
    Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
      • Colossians 1:3–8ESV

      • Colossians 4:2ESV

      • Colossians 4:12ESV

    • Jesus, Thank You
        • Hebrews 13:20–21ESV

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