- IntroductionGood morning and welcome to Dishman Baptist Church.This may be the single most important message that I’ve preached since coming to Dishman. Now I realize that I’ve only been here a little over six months but this message is so very critical to where we are as a church and what some of our next steps will be to continue to develop into the church that God needs us to be here in Spokane Valley.There are thousands of books and resources that seek to define and describe the marks of an effective pastoral ministry. In fact, earlier in the book we’ve been studying Paul’s letter to the Colossians he gives us a picture of or a job description for a pastor and those sermons are up on our website if you want to go back and listen to them again.There aren’t so many about the general ministry opportunities for the lay person - and by that term I mean the church membership. You are all lay members of the church. And there are plenty of books, conferences and ministries that address specific areas of ministry - children’s, youth, small groups, etc. - but what about the general every day way that a person can serve the church. While we always need more - and we could use some more volunteers in children’s, the nursery, welcome ministry and small group leadership - there are only so many openings every week for people to be involved in ministry.Well, Paul is going to lay out for us this morning a way that every Christian can be involved in the ministry of the church - he’s going to give us the marks of an effective lay ministry.Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains, so that I may make it known as I should. Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.This is Paul’s conclusion to the body of the letter in which he has been addressing the concerns that had driven Epaphras to seek him out. And just as he should in a good conclusion he is going to refer back to many points that he has written throughout the book of Colossians. Really this is his summary statement that answers the question of “What should we do as a church in light of the circumstances we find ourselves in?” It is probably a good thing that Colossians is so vague regarding the exact heresies or false teachings that are invading the church there - because it keeps us from dismissing the book and saying “well we’re not facing those issues here so we this is nice literature and good reading Paul but there’s not real impact for us.”In light of our current day the questions we would ask is “what should we as a church do in light of...” declining numbers in the Southern Baptist Convention? The current debate surrounding the role of women in the church? The intrusion of social gospel beliefs into the church? The continued drift of the culture - although that is a peripheral situation in view in the letter. Paul is going to answer the Colossians questions and our questions today with two simple strategies - first pray and then evangelize. Pray and Preach. Seek God’s grace and then spread His Gospel. The order to this is significant. In Acts 6 when the Apostles were addressing an issue in the church they laid out their philosophy of ministry inBut we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”This is the correct order in which we should seek to perform any sort of ministry - whether it is to the entire church or to our next door neighbor. We should seek to pray and then speak.PrayerColossians 4:2-4;Prayer ChargedNow let me be clear - prayer is the duty of every Christian. Christ expresses as much in Matthew 6 when in the span of four verses he says“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him. “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy.Notice - whenever you pray, when you pray, when you pray and pray like this - prayer is an expected part of the Christian life. But we also know there is a difference between the dutiful expression of an expectation and the devoted expression. The dutiful husband or wife knows that they are supposed to go out to dinner with their significant other from time to time and so they do - but they spend most of dinner staring at their cell phone or the tv in the restaurant. The dutiful parent knows that their kids have to eat and so they take them out or cook for them at home but again spend most of the meal focused on something else rather than spending time with their child. Just as there is a significant difference between dutiful relationships and devoted relationships - there is a difference between dutiful prayer and devoted prayer.Paul tells the Colossians to “Devote yourselves to prayer”. What are you devoted to? Are you a devoted father or mother? Are you a devoted employee - going above and beyond to see your company succeed? Maybe you’re a devoted sports fan and you get physically ill when you either miss a game or your team loses. How many of you can honestly say that you are devoted to prayer? That you persevere in prayer to the point of distraction? Eight times in the New Testament this particular verb is used and six of them are connected either to prayer or the apostles teachings.They all were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.In Acts 2:42 and 46They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts,I’ve already cited Acts 6:4 but also in Romans 12:12Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.and then in our verse that we’re studying here the ideal of being devoted in prayer is key. We should be devoted to seeking the Lord and His will through prayer above all else. Andrew Murray, the 19th Century pastor in South Africa and major proponent of prayer once said “Do you not see how all depends upon God and prayer? As long as He lives and loves and hears and works, as long as there are souls with hearts closed to the word, as long as there is work to be done in carrying the Word - Pray without ceasing. Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching your prayers with thanksgiving. These words are for every Christian.”This is a command to endure in personal prayer because we recognize that through prayer is our only conduit to receive and experience the power of God in our lives and our ministries - whether that ministry is making a home, driving a truck, running a machine at a manufacturing plant, teaching students, herding inmates or working at the building where the church meets. The only way we can hope for any success, the only way that we can achieve what it is that God has for us to achieve is to be devoted - doggedly devoted, passionately persevering, consistently committed - to praying for God’s glory in whatever situation we find ourselves.Another 18th century saint is a great example of the power of prayer that is available to us still today. George Muller ran an orphanage in Bristol England. Greatest of all Muller's undertakings was the erection and maintenance of the great orphanages at Bristol. He began the undertaking with only two shillings (50 cents) in his pocket; but in answer to prayer and without making his needs known to human beings, he received the means necessary to erect the great buildings and to feed the orphans day by day for sixty years. In all that time the children did not have to go without a meal, and Mr. Muller said that if they ever had to go without a meal he would take it as evidence that the Lord did not will the work to continue. Sometimes the meal time was almost at hand and they did not know where the food would come from, but the Lord always sent it in due time, during the twenty thousand or more days that Mr. Muller had charge of the homes. In the time period that he ran the orphanage he raised over $7,000,000 and provided for more than 10,000 orphans.He made this comment regarding devotion in prayer
[I]n order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer, is, to continue praying; for the less we read the Word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray.Paul tells us that we are to remain alert in prayer with thanksgiving. Many of you may immediately think of the disciples and their failure to remain alert with Christ on the Mount of Olives on the night He was betrayed. There is that sense here that we should certainly stay conscious for our prayers but there’s also the idea that we need to guard our hearts and our minds as we pray. That we should remain watchful over our spirits and attempt to pray with thanksgiving and purpose.Many of you have heard of the prayer acronym ACTS - maybe you were taught this in Sunday School, AWANA or a life group along the road of your Christian life. A- Adoration, C- Confession, T - Thanksgiving and then S - Supplication or bringing our needs before God. But often this is how we treat this prayerAdoration we often rush through adoration (God you’re amazing), confession (You know I sin, I know I sin, do we really have to talk about it?) and thanksgiving (thanks for everything), to get to supplication (what have/can You do for me now? God I need this....or that....or oh yeah this one other thing that really would revolutionize my life right now.) We end up sounding more like that kid going through the grocery or department store asking for everything they see and we miss out on the true attitude we should have.Valley of Vision prayer? The Throne.
True prayer often involves struggling and grappling with God, proving to Him the deepest concern of one’s heart. Prayer is to be a persistent, courageous struggle from which the believer may come away limping.Now am I saying that we should never bring our requests to God - No.Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.But if all we ever do is bring our requests to God without ever seeking the God that meets every need then we are seeking the wrong God.By telling the Colossians to be alert with thanksgiving Paul is ending the letter right where he began - he is bringing us full circle.We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,Paul starts off the letter by giving thanks to God and ends the letter by telling the Colossians and us to do the same. But more than the action of thanksgiving is the object of our prayers and the motive behind our prayers.The only enduring motive for prayer is that God is worthy to be sought.Prayer RequestedPaul moves on to make a request of the Colossians. Pray also for us - for release? Is the door that Paul refers to here in Scripture the door to the prison cell that he is in? Paul has experienced release from prison before - in Acts 16 he is miraculously released from the prison of Philippi by an earthquake. He also would have been aware of Peter’s release by angels in Jerusalem chronicled in Acts 12. In Philippians 1, Paul tells that church that it is his expectation is that “this will lead to my salvation through your prayers and help from the Spirit of Christ” and that he will be released through the power of Christ. Here Paul is requesting prayer so that a door may be opened certainly but the door is the door that opens for the Gospel to walk through into people’s hearts.Following his first missionary journey Paul reports about the doors that were opened among the GentilesAfter they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported everything God had done with them and that he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.In 1 Corinthians 16:9 writing to that church regarding his ministry in Ephesus Paul writesbecause a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me—yet many oppose me.In Revelation, Jesus in His letter to the church in Philadelphia, writesI know your works. Look, I have placed before you an open door that no one can close because you have but little power; yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Note this: I will make those from the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and they will know that I have loved you.And so here Paul implores the Colossians to pray for an open door for him to continue to speak the mystery of Christ as he ought. The mystery, as we have discovered earlier in Colossians was the truth of the Gospel and the revelation of Jesus Christ. That He came not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. Recall that Paul discussed this in Colossians 1I have become its servant, according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.And it was Paul’s life mission to make this mystery known.For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because I am compelled to preach—and woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!Paul was compelled to preach by Christ - but he also relied on the prayers of those faithful believers in the churches that he had planted to provide him the spiritual energy to continue his mission.Charles Spurgeon once saidLet me have your prayers, and I can do anything! Let me be without my people’s prayers, and I can do nothingWe must never forget the importance of upholding one another in prayer - that’s why we’ve established the prayer and praise board out in the lobby so that we can have a visual image of what people’s needs are as we seek to build one another up. But here Paul is highlighting a specific need for prayer, a specific desire that should also be found in each one of us. He asks the church to pray for him so that he might be bold in evangelism, in preaching the Gospel. This prayer isn’t new - it dates back to the founding of the church. After one of their encounters with the Sanhedrin in the book of Acts the Apostles prayed thisAnd now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand for healing, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”We must be on our knees and carrying one another to the Lord in prayer for boldness in evangelism because the clock is ticking - not only as we approach Christ’s return but in some cases it is ticking on our ability to freely share Christ without fear in our own country.EvangelismColossians 4:5-6;Tick Tock, Tick TockPaul cautions the Colossians to act wisely toward outsiders. Wisdom has played an important role in what Paul has written to the Colossians. It is referred to 6 times in the book. Of the previous five references before our text this morning four of them hold wisdom in a positive light.For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,This request is that we would be filled with wisdom and spiritual understanding as we apprehend the things of GodWe proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.Paul tells the Colossians that he exercises wisdom in his teaching of all men so that they may be presented mature in Christ.In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.All treasures of wisdom are to be found in Christ and when His Word dwells in us richly we are able to utilize that wisdom to reach out to others within the Christian community.Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.In this mornings passage Paul broadens the need for wisdom into the realm of evangelism as we seek to proclaim the same mystery that Paul proclaimed to the unbelieving world. He tells us to walk wisely toward outsiders.In a parallel passage in the letter to the Ephesians Paul phrases it this wayPay careful attention, then, to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil.And there are challenges in our world today. Not only do we have to contend with the natural animosity of the human heart towards the Gospel but our culture is becoming increasingly dark and closed off to the Gospel. What challenges are there in culture that would point to our time being limited?This is from an article by the ACLU “On certain college campuses, administrators have created “Free Speech Zones” — spaces where people are allowed to speak, protest, or gather signatures for causes they believe in. While it may sound like these zones are designed to promote speech, they actually do the opposite by confining political expression to designated areas, often in out-of-the-way locations on campus. The interesting thing here is that the ACLU is actually fighting against these as well because they limit the ability of students to protest or campaign for their desired cause. The other thing that these zones does is limit evangelistic opportunities to set spaces. It will be interesting, as this battle continues to see whether that limitation remains in place as others are relaxed. Whether our culture will continue to limit certain kinds of speech while allowing others freedom to be expressed. Are you out taking advantage of your opportunities to share your faith? Are you being diligent as you seek to spread the Gospel and fulfill not just the Great Commandment but the Great Commission as well?Because let’s face it, in many sectors of society, Christian speech is being labeled as hate speech and the Gospel’s proclamation that everyone is a sinner is the most hateful statement that you can make. This is especially true this month as the nation celebrates “pride” month. There are so many companies that are lined up to support this month’s theme and to proclaim their support for the continued perversion of our society. And to speak up against it or to appear as not supporting it is just hateful. Now this is not a political statement but the president has been lambasted in the press and on social media for telling embassies that they may not fly the pride flag. Now I wouldn’t want them to do this but imagine the equal outrage if they tried to fly the Christian flag. And our hope is not in politics or in politicians - our hope is in Christ.Last weekend MaClean Bible Church pastor David Platt prayed for the president and a correspondent from The Blaze posted a video of the prayer on his Facebook page with the caption “REAL Christians pray for everyone”. He was censored by Facebook and his post was taken down with the following reason given “Your post goes against our community standards on hate speech.” A post about praying for everyone is now considered hate speech? Are you out witnessing and sharing your faith? The days are numbered.Culture’s animosity toward anything Christian. We could see this train’s pace take off if Equality Act passes Congress. This is an act that seeks to amend the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to include LGBTQ and to encode results of discrimination against them. How does this affect here at Dishman - well again we do not put our faith in government or a political party. We put our faith in Christ and we seek to proclaim Him. This amendment is a step to making it illegal for us to preach that homosexuality is a sin and that it can be repented of.But each of us is compelled, or should be compelled, to share the Gospel with an unbelieving world.Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.To quote Charles SpurgeonThe fact is, brethren, we must have conversion work here. We cannot go on as some churches do without converts. We cannot, we will not, we must not, we dare not. Souls must be converted here, and if there be not many born to Christ, may the Lord grant to me that I may sleep in the tomb and be heard of no more. Better indeed for us to die than to live, if souls be not saved.And Christ knew that He was sending us out into a world that would not be tolerant of our message - they weren’t tolerant of His.“Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.The ESV translates shrewd here as wise - so we are to be wise but also to be innocent in our relations to an unbelieving world that would as soon devour us as listen to what we are called to proclaim.We are not to be jerks as we take the beautiful message of Christ out to the world.Instead we are to be both winsome and gracious.Always Be Winsome and GraciousSo it is interesting to our modern ears that Paul uses the metaphor of salt with these Christians. We don’t see salt or being salty as a good characteristic to have. In the Navy the crudest sailors would earn the honorific of salty. Writers like Louis L’Lamour and others (I know I’m dating myself here) told of men who were worth their salt - meaning they were the toughest of the tough. So why salt?Salt served as both a preservation and purification.Our efforts as we speak to a society that is bereft of Christ is to preserve the people - meaning to stop the rot that happens within their soul as sin eats away at them. The picture of leprosy helps here. The leprous man or woman’s body parts are literally being eaten away by bacteria resulting in the breakdown of the body. The related nerve damage can result in the person not feeling when they’ve been cut, burned or bitten. The body becomes dead - just as the sin sick heart is dead and cannot feel. The speech of a Christian can act as salt or as a preservative to the sinful heart not only stopping the decay but reversing the effects as the Holy Spirit works through our speech to purify the life of the individual.This is the core of the admonition from Paul to have to Word of Christ dwell in us richly so that we are prepared and ready to give a response to those who we are brought into contact with and given the privilege of witnessing to.but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.Our speech should always be gracious with one another but the focus here is on the outside world and being gracious to them as we seek to bring the message of Christ and the reconciliation that He has provided to a world that desperately needs to hear it.Paul has challenged us this morning to pray and then to preach. We should seek to do both evangelistically with the hopes that we might save some.ConclusionSome action steps:Prayer ministry - in the church and in the home.Who is your one?Get yourself a fishing hole.If you can’t go down in the well - hold the rope for those who do.Experience the Gospel personally.
1 Corinthians 16:9CSB
1 Corinthians 9:16CSB
1 Peter 3:15CSB
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