I told you two weeks ago, when we looked at Christ-centered work, that I thought this was the climax of Colossians. The supremacy and centrality of Christ in every area of life, even our work. I was wrong. As I dug into our text today, Colossians 4:2-6 I was amazed to find how clearly Paul takes it even farther to every area of our life. So I gladly tell you that I was wrong, and this is such a fun text as God through His word touches every area of our lives with the centrality of Christ.
· In Mark 3 we have an incident where Jesus is teaching on the shore of the sea of Galilee, and a huge crowd gathers. And Jesus asked the disciples to have a boat “right there ready for him” [devoted to Him] in case the crowd should surge forward and press him into the water. Have a boat devoted to me meant “have the boat right there behind me, ready for use.”
· In Acts 10 an angel comes to Cornelius and tells him to go send for Peter who is going to bring him the gospel message. And Cornelius calls a couple of his servants and a soldier from “those who were in constant attendance upon him”, lit. “those who were devoted to Him.” He called a couple servants and a soldier from the group that was always right there available, ready for his orders.
- This is the idea of always being ready to give yourself to prayer. Always being ready to turn to prayer. It is like the President’s top advisor or a baseball manager’s treasured assistant. The President is always turning toward His top adviser, the manager is always consulting his primary assistant, so we are always giving ourselves to prayer.
Keeping alert NIV: “Being watchful” in prayer. I Peter 5:8 is clear: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert [same word]. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” ILLUST: Mountain lion warning in Anaheim this week. But it is pretty unlikely that a mountain lion is prowling about seeking a human to attack. This is the kind of alertness that would be needed if you truly had a predator seeking someone to attack. Every sound in the brush catches your attention; every movement catches your eye. That kind of watchfulness.
And since you are devoted to prayer, every sound in the brush you turn to prayer. Every movement, every danger, every question you are turning immediately to prayer. “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it.” In Ephesians 6:18-20, the verses that parallel these in that sister epistle, Paul specifically says “be on the alert … for all the saints.” You aren’t just watching out for yourself and turning constantly to prayer – we watch out for one another and constantly turn to prayer for one another.
And do this “with thanksgiving.” Paul seldom mentions prayer without mentioning thanksgiving. Yes, you are alert and watchful but that doesn’t make you a nervous, paranoid mess. Your heart is full of thankfulness for the wisdom, grace, protection, strength from a loving and perfect God. So “devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”
TRANSITION: Now Paul will turn to a certain kind of request that we should be constantly praying. That we should be devoted to.
“Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ.”
Paul was in prison, and if this is the Roman imprisonment described in Acts 28 he had open opportunity for people to come and see him. But he felt hindered in the ministry of the gospel. He was apparently frustrated or at least burdened by the lack of opportunities to tell others about Christ. He saw the problem as closed doors, and he knew that he was dependent upon God to open up those closed doors. He was dependent upon God to open up those doors of opportunity, so he turns to prayer.
· This is very significant, because we may well feel frustrated or at least burdened by the lack of opportunities that we have to share truth about Christ. Workplace regulations make it very difficult; living in a bedroom community where most people commute considerable distances to work; living in an area of the United States where recreation and pleasure are a high priority; yards with high fences and a lack of a sense of neighborhood; few community events that bring people together. What do we do? Pray for God to open doors of opportunity. If our frustration or burden isn’t turning us to the God who can do something about it, we are blowing it. Pray for open doors of opportunity to speak the mystery of Christ.
You might think “On one hand I want opportunities like that, but in another way I don’t. I’m not sure what to say or how to handle different situations or what to do about objections or questions people might ask.” Notice that Paul, probably the greatest evangelist ever, toward the end of his ministry says “pray for me, that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.” If anybody had all of the answers, knew everything to say, etc. it was Paul! He says – No! I need you to pray that God will help me make the gospel clear. That ought to be an encouragement to all of us. God can give clarity; God can give assistance; God can help. Even Paul was dependent upon help from God to talk about Christ like he should.
TRANSITION: Now I want us to go on to verses 5-6, but they are closely connected to verses 2-4. There is a key word that draws them together: “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders (the unsaved, who are not in Christ, united with Christ), making the most of the opportunity.” Remember that Paul just said “I’m in prison, and I am burdened by the lack of opportunities I have for contact with unsaved people. But you aren’t in prison, you do have opportunities.” He tells them three important things about their opportunities with unsaved people. Three important things about our contact with unsaved people:
1. Be wise. Live wisely in front of unsaved people. How many unbelievers have been turned off to Christianity by the poor testimony of a coworker who claimed to be a Christian but didn’t live wisely. But didn’t realize that unbelievers were watching. A Christian coworker that just lived for themselves and lived unwisely, and blew their testimony for Christ. Paul says “I’m in prison, I don’t have many opportunities, but some of you have plenty and you are blowing them because you aren’t living wisely. You aren’t paying any attention.”
2. Make the most of your opportunities: make the best use of them, take full opportunity. Some translations say “redeeming the time,” which is a very good translation. But don’t misunderstand that. He isn’t saying “don’t waste your time.” He is saying don’t waste any opportunities. Live like Christ any time you are around unbelievers. What do your coworkers see in you? What do your neighbors overhear in your backyard? How do people see you treat your kids in the grocery store? Making the most of the opportunity may mean taking your chances to share the gospel. But it may mean just living Christ like because you know unbelievers are watching. Don’t miss the grocery store opportunities, the neighborhood opportunities, the work opportunities.
3. Speak with grace. See Eph. 4:29 “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment.” Speech with grace is speech that helps, it encourages, it benefits others. Seasoned with salt. Though many people talk about how salt is a preservative, in Matthew 5:13 when Jesus talks about being like salt, he talks about taste, not preservation. Salt makes something taste right; you have to have the right amount of salt so that it is appealing. Mark 9 he is talking about relationships (41-42f.) when he says “have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another;” So here, let your speech be “seasoned with salt.” Let it be appropriate – let it taste good! Like a cook who has to know the right amount of salt for a dish to make it taste right. Too little and it is bland; too much and it is nasty. It takes skill to properly salt food, and we need that skill in our relationships, “opportunities with outsiders,” our speech. Go back to the workplace, and think of how many times Christians have blown opportunities because their speech wasn’t Christlike; their speech wasn’t gracious; their speech didn’t benefit others; their speech didn’t taste good for other people.
To summarize, seems like the end (verses 5-6) recognizes our tendency to be in passive mode, and miss good opportunities to live the right example or speak as we should for Christ. We aren’t even thinking about the fact that we are around people who are outside of Christ, and so we are careless in our actions or thoughtless in our words, and we aren’t being wise, we aren’t making the most of our opportunities for the gospel.
Verse 2 applies to all of this. We should be devoted to prayer, because we need God’s grace to open the doors of opportunity, to help us speak clearly when we can speak the gospel, and to help us live wisely in front of unbelievers.
Does it amaze you how once again this points toward a life that is fully Christ-centered! Paul talked about Christ-centered marriages; Christ-centered parenting; Christ-centered work. And I told you two weeks ago, when we looked at Christ-centered work, that I thought this was the climax. But Paul goes past that to the grocery store and the little league game and every place in which you come in any contact with unbelievers. And he says you should always be watching, always alert for opportunities in action or word to show off or speak about Christ. Don’t miss any opportunities, anytime, anywhere, to live for the fame of Christ. Every single area of life has been covered, and we have been shown how every area can and must be Christ-centered.
You’ll leave here today and go eat lunch. Christ-centered? Sure – you’re with your family and Paul gave clear directions about that in 3:18-21. Go to a restaurant – an opportunity to live wisely for Christ in front of unbelievers. Come to the fellowship at our house tonight – check 3:12-16 for direction on how to be Christ-centered. Get up and head to work – the end of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4. Doing the laundry? Try the end of chapter 3. Headed to the little league game that night? More opportunities to take for Christ. Off to Wendy’s for a frosty after the game? Same thing. Stop by the grocery store? Yep? Help your neighbor get his boat hitched to his truck? Another opportunity. Every area of life can and must be Christ-centered.
That’s how big and all-encompassing the Christian worldview is. This makes sense out of all of life. This gives purpose to all of life. Everything is eternally significant! This is how great Christ is! Everything in all of our life revolves around Him! Now let’s live like it.