November 17, 2013
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
“Ever-present God, like the disciples on the storm-tossed sea, we sometimes ask if You still care about us. In those times when we need You most, help us to remember that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from Your love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.”
I have only ever met a very few number of people in my life who really, truly do not care about doing what is right. I also, must admit, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who never failed, even in their own standard, at acting appropriately all the time in every circumstance.
In other words – we all really do have standards we want to live up to; and nobody is able to do so perfectly.
That puts me in some pretty good company; it also, however, means that it puts me in some pretty lousy company, too. Striving to improve, without complaining about the losers all round us!
And, I believe, it describes what the gathering of God’s people ought to look like. Anybody here have as your personal goal to become worse and worse in your obedience to following Jesus Christ well? And, is there anyone in the room who can claim that you’ve got it nailed down? You see? We’re a bunch of hopeful, idealistic losers. And that’s OK.
A couple of thousand years ago there was an important town in what is now southern Turkey (about 125 miles east of Ephesus), where a church had been planted, but the people were all struggling with not living up to the standards they believed they should live up to as a church. The Apostle Paul did not start this church, but while he was in prison in Rome he got a letter from them asking for his help and instruction.
Paul’s reply is what we have in the Bible as his Epistle to the Colossians.
Last week we read a few verses from chapter 3, which was then followed by some instruction for how Christian households should treat each other, and how Christian servants and Christian “masters” should treat each other.
In Colossians 4:2-6, we read as Paul then gives his counsel to the church in general. Do you want to grow toward the goal of better godliness, better submission to Jesus as Lord and Savior, becoming better ambassadors of Christ to the world around you? Paul’s advice is to keep your eyes and your hearts open.
Listen to these words from Colossians 4:2-6…. —-
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Step 1 – for those who like to take notes here, there is only ONE step in this sermon! Devote yourselves to prayer.
For those who have been here with us the last few months, you know we’ve been concentrating on the Bible’s teachings about prayer. Here it is: Devote yourselves to prayer.
That means way more than simply remember to give thanks before you eat (or after you eat when really thought the food was super-good). It means more than remembering to pray for your loved ones as you drift off to sleep at the end of the day. It means more than changing your first words when you wake up from “Good Lord, it’s morning” to “Good morning, Lord”.
Devote yourselves to prayer does mean all of those things, but way more than even all of those things combined. Devote yourselves to prayer has something to do with living in constant prayer, continual communication with our Lord and Savior. It like what Brother Lawrence describes as “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.”
Yeah, but … how do you pray continually? Paul says, be watchful and thankful. With our eyes open, we will see what to pray for, whom to pray for, why to pray. We may still not know exactly WHAT to pray – there’s an injustice or an accident or a war; do I pray for a conviction or for forgiveness, do I pray for safety and good health or for the Lord to take him Home, do I pray for peace or for victory. It’s OK that we won’t always know what to say, so long as we keep our eyes open and give our concerns to God.
And be thankful. We’ve been down this path before – be thankful in all circumstances, live with an attitude of gratitude – and let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts!
The next two verses, 40% of this 5 verse paragraph, is Paul asking for prayers for himself. When you don’t know what else to pray for, pray for me! Here’s a couple of specific prayer requests:
1) That God may open a door – pray for opportunities
2) That I may proclaim the mystery of Christ with clarity – pray for my obedience
If you want to know how to pray for your pastor, these are great suggestions. Kathy and I would love to know that we are held to God for just these things, and whatever else, but at least these things.
Paul then goes back to being watchful in verse 5: Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
Wait – what? Yes, pray that I see my opportunities to faithfully share the Gospel, but you, too, keep your eyes open so that you don’t miss any opportunities to share your faith either!
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. By holding the door for others, by saying please and thank you, by smiling instead of scowling, and by telling someone who Jesus is in your life.
If you do not have a answer to that question, then you’ve got some thinking to do. Kathy and I, and any of our Elders, and a number of others, would be happy to talk that through with you. Step 1 is devote yourselves to prayer, so you can be better at knowing what you believe and then sharing your faith.
The last thing Paul gives us in this short paragraph is the summation of step 1: devote yourselves to prayer so that you can (verse 6) Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
We saw him tell us to keep our eyes open – this is where he says to keep our hearts open.
What does it mean to let your conversation be always full of grace? It does not take a theological degree, or any special training in biblical exegesis to understand that Paul says here to talk nice! Elsewhere he says to speak the truth with love. Jesus says in Luke 6, that at a minimum we do unto others as we would hope they would do unto us – but as followers of Christ, we ought to do much more!
And, by the way – this is impossible. Always full of grace? C’mon Paul! It is impossible, but the more we allow Jesus and the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts, the more possible it becomes to live in continual conversation with God and to therefore be more and more filled with God’s grace.
Why is it important to let our conversation be always full of grace? So that you may know how to answer everyone.
Answer what? At least to answer the questions of faith.
Did you notice I skipped a line? Listen again: Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Some people need a little salty seasoning to get through. Still, full of grace, but perhaps seasoned with salt. The truth is not always easy to hear, because it might tell me I’ve been wrong – so speak the truth in love. Be full of grace, but be ready to season that grace with a little salt, so the truth can be heard.
But first, and foremost, Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
As we move in this service of worship into our time of prayer, let us approach with prayers and petitions, filled with thanksgiving, and receive from God His gift of peace and protection for the week ahead.
Let’s agree to pray together….
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Faith Alive Resources; 2012; P. 275.