1993 Dept. of Education study estimated that 40 million people in the U.S. 15 and older couldn’t read past a 3rd grade level.
I am in no way making fun of these people. But I want to make a simple point. When you don’t know the basics, everything is hard. Life is a constant struggle for those adults in America who struggle to read or write, because they are lacking the basics.
I think many Christians are in this same situation spiritually. They either don’t really understand the basics, or they have practically forgotten about them in the way they live their daily lives. And Christianity is a constant struggle for them because they don’t have the basics.
In many ways, Colossians calls us back to the basics. Because, like we saw last week, we are prone to get off on all kinds of other things. And miss the main things. Last week we were challenged to a Christ-centered life. Christ has absolute supremacy and complete sufficiency. He is the main point, so get back to a Christ-centered life.
Our text in Colossians 1 today gives a peek into a Christ-centered life. What would be some characteristics of a Christ-centered life? Or, what are some basics that we need to make sure we focus on? We’ll see three in our text today.
Three characteristics of a Christ-centered life:
1. Praise God for your hope.
· you might want to mark this in your Bibles: “praying always … for all the saints” is parenthetical; not unimportant, but like a parentheses in the thought
· We give thanks to God (praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints) because of the hope laid up for you in heaven
· We are thanking God for you … by the way we are praying for you, since we heard that you trusted Christ, and heard that you love one another … and so, when we pray for you, we are thanking God for the hope that is laid up for you in heaven
The main thing Paul is praising God for is their hope. The first characteristic of a Christ-centered life: praise God for your hope. You see, hope is one of those things that defines a Christian. Your washing machine pipes burst just like your unsaved neighbor. Your day at work may go poorly just like your unsaved coworker. Your child may get the chicken pox just like your unsaved friend’s child. Sometimes it looks like there isn’t that much difference. But that is when we need to praise God for our hope. Because despite the outward appearances, there is something radically different. You have a hope laid up for you in heaven.
· What is hope?
confidence in what you have not seen based on the Word of God; confidence in your forgiveness; confidence in the power of the cross; confidence of eternity with God; confidence that God is working all things together for your good and His glory; confidence of your inheritance in heaven; confidence that there are eternally significant things to live for
· What is the opposite of hope?
despair, depression, doubt, discouragement: worry about what will happen; fear of what will happen; depression because you think nothing good will ever happen
· “hope which is laid up for you in heaven”
If we get the blessings of Christ in this life but then go to hell, what good is that? We need hope for this life and for eternity. So Paul says you have “hope which is laid up for you in heaven.” Confidence because you know that God is not only doing good things here, He is going to keep doing great things forever. You are going to be lavished with grace forever.
Transition: so here is a characteristic of Christ-centered living. When your circumstances start to weigh on you, praise God for your hope. Now look at what Paul says next READ 5-6
2. If you are going to have a Christ-centered life, you have to remember the gospel
· The gospel is bearing fruit in the world; it is literally “growing,” it is spreading and its influence is powerful. Because of what the Bible teaches about the end times, we do not believe that things are getting better; I am not expecting the gospel to slowly overtake the world until virtually everyone believes, like a postmillenialist would believe. But the gospel is still, 2000 years later, powerfully bearing fruit in the world. I just read a report this week from a missionary in Japan about three ladies who were saved in that incredibly spiritually cold country. I read from another missionary who baptized 10 adults last month in New Guinea, still one of the most backward countries in the world. Another missionary has 100 students enrolled in a Bible College and seminary in Manila in the Philippines. The gospel is at work all around the world. It is exciting to be involved in ministry, to be seeking to witness and share about Christ, because the powerful gospel is at work in the world today.
· But Paul also points out that the gospel’s work isn’t done in our lives. He says that the gospel is continuing to bear fruit in their lives. Our salvation is not yet complete – we have only partially experienced all that the gospel will do in our lives. It is still at work in you and it will continue to bear fruit in you and increase in your life until you are finally glorified.
· I think practically this just reminds us not to forget the gospel. Those key truths are just as important for us today as the day we first accepted Christ. Our experience with the gospel did not end at conversion. The basic truths of the gospel are still the most important truths for our lives. If we lived in the daily reality of gospel truths, what would our lives look like? If we recognized God as creator and ruler of the world; if we saw our sin in all of its horror; if we tasted the wonder of Christ; if we stood in awe of forgiveness; if we humbled ourselves completely beneath the cross; if we simply lived in the reality of those basic gospel truths every day, what kind of Christians would we be! Here’s the second characteristic of Christ-centered living. Remember the gospel.
· This is also an encouragement to get the gospel out there to people. It is full of power, God’s power. It is still powerful today. So just get it out there. Share it.
Transition: Two characteristics we have seen: 1) praise God for your hope 2) remember the gospel. READ 9-10A
3. Fill yourself with the knowledge of His will
Admittedly, this is in the form of a prayer, not a command. Paul understands that ultimately it is only by God’s grace that any of us know and understand God’s will. But Paul is also teaching in telling them his prayer. Just like every area of sanctification, we have this seeming paradox that it is God’s work in our lives so we pray for it, but it is 100% our responsibility to do what he calls us to do, so we do it! To fill ourselves with the knowledge of His will. So certainly Paul wants them to see his prayer for them and pursue this for themselves.
REQUEST #1 “Be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding”
· Paul could have said “I want you to look for the knowledge of His will.” He could have said “I want you to have some of the knowledge of His will.” But he specifically chose the word “filled” - “I want you to be filled.”
· filled = not a little bit wet, not a few drops, but filled up with the knowledge of his will; full of it; you’ve got just about as much as you can possibly hold
· and Paul also uses the word here that means “full knowledge, complete knowledge”
· What is “the knowledge of His will”?
· many people, when they see “God’s will,” think immediately of the future; but does Paul really want them to be filled up with secret knowledge about what is coming in the future? Is he asking God to reveal the future to them?
· There is a much better way to understand this: Paul isn’t talking about secrets about future events. He is simply talking about God’s desires for their lives. What God wants for their lives.
· Of course we will find that in our Bible! Here’s God’s will for me – don’t worry, but let my requests be made known unto God. Here’s God’s will – don’t love the things of the world. Here’s God’s will – praise God for my hope. Here’s God’s will – love my neighbor as myself.
· Many Christians spend a lot of time worrying about God’s will for them in the future – something that God never promised to reveal to us. And they spend very little time paying attention to God’s will for today, which He has already revealed.
· Paul says, I don’t want you to be just moistened with what the Bible says, I don’t want you to have a few drops of what the Bible says, I want you to be filled up with what the Bible says that God wants from you! No surprise that in Chapter 3 Paul will say “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” – let the Bible move in and live in you! Be filled up with it!
· think of it like a gas tank on a car. We don’t need to keep our “knowledge of God’s will “ tank just above the Empty mark. We need to keep it at the Full mark. We need to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.
· how’s your knowledge of His will? Are you dripping the Bible into yourself, or pouring it in? Do you get a few drops each day; or do you keep your tank full of the knowledge of God’s will?
REQUEST #2 “So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please Him in all respects”
· Here we see the purpose for being filled with the complete knowledge of his will. Why do we need to keep our tank at the full mark? So that we walk worthy of Christ and please Him.
· example: this week California got a new governor – Gov. S’s kids were on national TV as they walked out of the capital to the platform where the governor took the oath of office. Lots of people watched as California’s first family walked down that corridor together. Now I think that one of those kids is about your age, Christopher. Let’s imagine that things go terribly in California in the next couple of years, and we decide it is time to get rid of Gov. S. We finally figure out that the real answer to California’s troubles is Mr. Jim Calvi. You are elected governor of California, and the Calvi family stands in that corridor with the national TV cameras on them and prepares to walk out to that platform for Governor Calvi to take the oath of office. And as the cameras come on there is Christopher, pulling a marker out of his pocket he scribbles “christopher was here” onto the marble wall. Then he trips his brother David, and pulls his sister’s hair. Marker is on the wall, David is on the floor, and Carolyn is screaming. Then Christopher starts making faces at the cameras. What do you think that people would think of the new governor and his children?
· Obviously I’m being silly, but we all know that there is a way to act that is appropriate for the governor’s children on television. And so, much more importantly, there is a way to live that is appropriate for God’s children. There is a way to live that is fitting for people who have been united with Christ. Robyn might lean over on inauguration day and say to the kids “I hope you’ll make your daddy proud today.” So Paul tells the Colossians “I pray that you will walk worthy of Christ.”
· I think the relationship between these two requests is pretty obvious:
· the first is essential for the second; it is how you find out how to walk worthy of the Lord; it is like a manual, “How the children of the king should live”; and you have to be “filled up” with what is in that manual!
So here are three characteristics of a Christ-centered life:
- Praise God for your hope
- Don’t forget the gospel
- Fill yourself with the knowledge of His will
Here’s a simple test of whether we are on track or not with Christ-centered living:
1. Are my circumstances the main thing I think about; do frustrations and worries and complaints fill my thoughts, or do I praise God for the eternal hope I have?
2. How much time do I spend thinking about the gospel? Do those basic truths delight me? Do I get excited just to think about Christ and the cross and salvation? Or has the gospel become old news to me?
3. Am I filling myself up with God’s will for me? Can you say with the Psalmist (119:103-105) “How sweet are your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”