We Have Not Ceased to Pray For You
November 24, 2019 Speaker: Jim Davis
Topic: Default Passage: Colossians 1:9–1:17
We are going to be in Colossians chapter 1 this morning. Paul is in Prison, but can still correspond with other churches. We are jumping in at verse 9 where Paul has been telling the church how thankful he is to hear about their belief in the gospel and that they have and continue to pray for that church. Now, Paul goes deeper and tells us how he prays for this church.
Church planting has been a world I have run in for some time now. I have never been a lead church planter, but I have been a part of church plants, I have come alongside church planters, and I have been a part of a replant of sorts.
Some of you know what it is like to be in this very early season in the life of a church. Some of you remember that season here at OGC. There is often a feeling of all hands on deck. You never feel like you have all the resources you need. You feel the fragility of it all every week. And in those seasons, you tend to be acutely aware that if God doesn’t make this thing happen, it won’t happen. It’s no less true in every other season in the life of the church, but you just feel it more in those early days. Paul felt this for the new church in Colossae.
We have hopes in this new season at OGC. Curt Heffelfinger calls this our season of influence. We are working on our annual report and it’s hugely encouraging to look back on this past year. We have joined Acts29, we are growing, we have new vision and values, and a strategic plan. We are about to release a new podcast and exploring truly unique ways to partner with large Christian institutions like RTS and The Gospel Coalition.
But, all this means NOTHING if it isn’t built on the right foundation. We could have the best strategic plan in the world, but if our foundation is flawed, we are no less fragile than many of the church plants we support. And in this prayer of Paul’s, we see three things that are going to be at the core of every healthy church. Paul is essentially praying for three things: 1) that they would see the King, 2) that they would know the King, and 3) that they would be transformed by the King.
- That they would see the King 13, 16-17
Ok, admittedly, I’m starting underneath the text here. But there is so much that is assumed in the text that isn’t assumed in our culture. I really need to credit Tim Keller for most of this point. The idea, though, of a king is so foreign to us that we have to begin here. Look at verse 13: He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son…. - Col. 1:13
This verse says we are now a part of a new kingdom and if we are a part of a kingdom, that means there is a king. But every July 4th we all basically celebrate the fact that for almost 250 years, we haven’t had to deal with a king. We all blow stuff up to celebrate the fact that we put our foot down and started our own country where we make the rules, not a king. And you better believe that this affects the way we view a heavenly King. For us, the idea of having a king isn’t one we easily relate to.
That there is a Heavenly King is obviously hotly debated. But Paul is saying there is a King who created everything holds it together and assumed in his prayer is that we would see this clearly. Look at verses 16-17: 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. - Colossians 1:16, 17
Not seeing that there is order, but not having all the information creates confusion. Here’s an example. Once I was walking in Italy and all the bells of all the churches began to ring all at the same time. I have never experienced anything like it. They weren’t striking the hour, they were just ringing as hard and fast as they could. There was this order between all the churches, but it was confusing to me because I didn’t have all the facts. Only later did I learn that the Pope had just died.
We see this kind of confusion both in the visible world and the invisible world. First, the visible. When you look at the universe on the largest of scales and the smallest of scales, when you look through the telescope or the microscope, you see order. First, you see physical order. All our science is based on the idea of the uniformity of nature. We have laws of physics that depend on this order. We know that things freeze at certain temperatures and melt at another or become gaseous at another. And we know that what we observe today in the same conditions will happen the same way tomorrow. We know that if we weigh in on a scale at one weight one day that the next we won’t suddenly be 20 pounds lighter. That is uniformity of nature.
This is the reason we can fly a plane. We have constant rules of aerodynamics that will operate the same tomorrow as today. The same with hydrodynamics. And this has posed problems for atheist philosophers, scientists, and sociologists. They have to answer the question, “If the universe is the result of an accidental collision of molecules, why would there be order?”
David Hume, a very well-known 18th century non-Christian philosopher went so far to say this: “I’ll tell one thing. The orderliness of the universe is so inexplicable, you certainly can’t disprove God. Nobody can be sure there is no God when you have this [order].” And when David Hume said this he was being honest about his confusion. Because when you observe something without all the facts, it can be confusing.
Atheistic, well educated, and well meaning people can see that there is order and that something is keeping everything together, but they can’t explain how. So, many scientists of many different world views would say that the order of the universe is a huge problem for atheism. But Christians don’t have that problem. We know from this passage and others that there is a King who created and holds all things together. That’s just physical order. The order we see. But what about a different order that we can’t see?
What about moral order? Modern secular people say there is no creator God, and therefore, there is only the visible. There is no invisible. When you don’t acknowledge a Cosmic King it brings confusion to things like morality. Years ago I was eating with a
student at one of the most prestigious universities in the world (so he was a very smart guy). But he didn’t believe in any kind of God. He was trying to deny the moral order and said that some things are right of you, but not for me and some things are right for me, but not you. There really is not a moral design so you can’t try and universalize what you feel. And as he was talking I began to eat from his plate. He didn’t say much when I started eating his tater tots, but then I picked up his burger and started eating it. I know it’s a very Italian lunch. Then he said, “what in the world are you doing?” I said, “if there is no moral order and this seems right to me, then who are you to question it...unless there is in fact a moral order?”
Here is another example of the confusion we experience when we can’t connect our moral order to the universal King. Do you know that if a pregnant woman decides she wants to have an abortion, that’s fine, that is allowed in our laws. But if she were to drive her car and someone hit her and that accident caused the baby to die, that’s bad. The driver of the other car can be charged with manslaughter. Does the baby have value or not? That’s not really a situation by situation answer. The less we see that there is a King who has ordered the visible and invisible, the more confusion we experience.
Is it random that our planet just happens to be in this perfect small part of space where we are nestled up to a star, not too close where we would burn up or even be sucked in, but not too far where we would freeze or even fly off orbit? Is it random that against all the laws of thermodynamics more complicated life has come to be? Is it random that we love? Is it random that we care about people and causes beyond ourselves? No, it’s all part of the way the King has ordered and maintained it.
If we don’t see that there is a Cosmic King, the result will be confusion. But Paul doesn’t just see the King, he wants us to know the King.
- They they would Know The King
This King isn’t just a King to be acknowledged, but a King to be known. And to the degree that we know Him, to that degree we will experience the order He intended for us. Look at verse 9: 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 understanding. - Colossians 1:9
This word ‘knowledge’ here isn’t just knowing about something, but knowing someone. Having a personal acquaintance. Now, some of you might be wondering why Paul would pray for these people to know King Jesus when they are already believers. Because this King desires more than just an introduction, he desires a relationship where you grow in your knowledge of the other person.
The decision to know King Jesus isn’t a decision that you make one time and don’t ever have to think about again. It’s not like the decision to plant a tree in your yard. That’s a decision you make one time and walk away from. But a relationship is different. A relationship requires work. It’s like the decision a man makes to marry his wife. There was a day when that decision was formally, publicly, and permanently made, but you work the rest of your life to know that person more and more so your marriage can flourish.
That’s what Paul is praying for. That we would be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual understanding. That we would know our King more and more over the rest of our lives. And I need to answer two crucial questions at this point. First, how you can have a relationship with the King and, second,` what kind of relationship is that exactly?
How do we know Him? How do we have a relationship with the King? It’s a good question, because there is one big problem for humanity. Deep down, we want to be king. We want to do things the way we want to do them. We want to call the shots. We want to be king of our life. There is an order to the universe and every time we break that order we declare ourselves king. We declare ourselves king when we lie. We declare ourselves king when we follow our sexual desires rather than honor His design and purposes. We declare ourselves king when we are a jerk to our family members instead of loving them the way our king demands.
And do you know what it is called when there is a rightful king and you declare yourself king in His place? High treason. It’s funny that every 4th of July, we celebrate the fact that the leaders of our nation committed high treason against the king of England. And we justify it by pointing to his shortcomings as a king. But we all need to realize that we have all committed high treason against the Perfect King of the universe. The sentence for high treason against an earthly king is death, but the sentence for high treason against an eternal king is eternal death. And you might think, “Wow, that just escalated quickly. I mean we were just talking about lying and now we are at eternal death. How does that work?”
The issue isn’t the type of sin we commit, the issue is who we are sinning against. If you hit me today, what would happen? Maybe you might have some charges pressed against you. Maybe you’ll get a right hook back. But, let’s be honest, you’ll be back home in time for dinner and sleeping in your own bed. But what happens if you hit the Governor? Same offense, but this time the person offended is more important so the consequences increase. You are going to do some time. What then, would happen if you somehow gained access to the President of the United States and hit him? You might never see the light of day again. The more important the person offended, the more significant the penalty. So what is the consequence when the person offended is the Designer of the Universe?
So there is this huge barrier we have put up between us and our King. And the way that barrier is removed is what makes Christianity different than all other world views and religions. And it comes down to one word in verse 12: qualified. giving thanks to the
Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. - Colossians 1:12
This word ‘qualified’ makes what Paul is saying different than every other worldview that has ever existed. Every other worldview has some system by which you, through your devotion and good works qualify yourself to approach and know God. Islam has the Five Pillars, Judaism has the Mosaic Law, Hindus are qualified through life after life of good works. But I’m guessing those systems aren’t really tempting to many of us. We are surrounded by a different system of qualification. We are surrounded by agnostic secularism that believes there is probably some sort of God and we just need to do more right than wrong to appease that God, to qualify ourselves for heaven with him.
But logic tears this idea down pretty fast and pretty hard. Think about it this way, if someone was brought into a court for treason and admits to treason, but appeals to his work with the homeless to get off. Would that appeal work? No! It holds no weight. You can do a million good works, but the crime still stands.
But, in Christianity God qualifies us! God isn’t giving us a list of things things we can accomplish to qualify ourselves. God also isn’t removing all the criteria to be qualified and letting all of us in no matter what. It’s important to not go to that extreme. God is laying out the list of things we are supposed to do and doing it Himself.
How? The answer is in these two unbelievably important two words ‘in whom.’ Look at verses 13 and 14. 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.... And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. - Colossians 1:13,14
These could be the two most important words in our passage. These two words answer both how we know the King and what kind of relationship we have with him. I know probably most of you in this room have heard people talk about having a relationship with Christ. Do you know exactly what kind of a relationship that is? It’s called a federal relationship. He is your federal head. It means that he is now our representative. It might be a new term for you, but it isn’t a new idea to you. Let me give you a few examples (again, ones I largely stole from Keller).
If you are in a labor union, you elect a negotiator. That negotiator represents you to the powers that be. If the negotiator is savvy, you get a savvy contract and everyone benefits. If the negotiator is an idiot, you get a lousy contract and everyone is hurt. In this situation, you are in a federal relationship with that negotiator. So, the qualities of that negotiatory come on you.
Or marriage, in general, if a husband and wife both have their names on the same house, if they both have their names on the same bank account, then the debts of one accrue to the other and the prosperity of one accrues to the other. This is another example of federal headship.
I overheard two women talking about a week ago and one was complaining that she had to work. She was dogging her husband because she didn’t like her job and her friend said, “Listen, you ain't married rich and you gonna have to work. It ain't his fault, it’s your fault you ain’t married rich.” I was thinking, “That’s a federal relationship!”
Here is a third, if you are going to court and have a defense attorney, that defense attorney is in a federal relationship with you. If he does a good job, then the benefits of his talent and hard work fall on you. If he does a bad job, you’re screwed. That’s the law.
In a federal relationship, whatever is true of your federal head, is true of you. You get the benefits or drawbacks of that person.This is why we have all these phrases in the Bible like ‘crucified with Christ,’ ‘seated with Christ,’ ‘raised with Christ’ and so on. If you believe in Jesus, you enter into a federal relationship with him and God looks at you as if you were Him! That’s how we are qualified. By the merits of Jesus Christ, our federal head. Our King, the perfect man who never sinned. But do you know what makes this federal relationship possible? The King paid the sentence of high treason for us. He paid the debt so it could be possible that we could know him.
And here is the beauty and brilliance of it. The King of the universe remains loving and just. No other worldview can say that about their deity. There is an old story (I have no idea where it comes from), I doubt it’s true, but it shows us the beauty of this really clearly. There was a king back in the middle ages and he was known throughout the land for being the wisest, most just and most loving king around. One day he found out that someone had been taking money from his treasury. So he addressed his kingdom and said, “Listen, if anyone needs something, come to me and I will help them, but stealing will not be tolerated. 10 lashes if this happens again.” The next day someone told the king that more money was missing. So he went to the kingdom again and appealed to them to allow him to help if there is need, but no stealing could be permitted. The penalty was then raised to 20 lashes. The third day the same thing happened and the penalty was raised to 30 lashes. Finally on the fourth day the culprit was caught and it was the king’s wife.
So all throughout the kingdom, people waited to see if he was going to be loving and let her go or just and punish her. If he let her go, how could he continue to enforce the law. If he punished his own wife with 30 lashes though, who could ever love and respect this ruthless king again. So, he came out and announced that his wife would receive the punishment due: 30 lashes. So all the people came out and she was tied up to a pole and just as the whip went back the king stood in front of his wife facing her. The man with the whip obviously confused, paused and the king shouted at him, “You give this woman the punishment she deserves.” And every lash was given to the woman, but absorbed by the back of her husband, her federal head.
That is how we can know our King and that is the kind of relationship we have with Him.
We stand faultless in front of Him because of our federal head, Jesus. In the same way King Jesus holds the universe together, when we know Him, he holds our lives together by knowing Him. And this kind of relationship can’t help but transform us.
III. Be Transformed By The King
Paul’s hope is that from seeing the King and knowing the King that we would be transformed by the King. Verses 10 and 11: 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… - Colossians 1:10,11
Our King wants obedience. He wants us to change. But more than He wants our obedience, He wants our heart. Another way of saying this is that He wants our obedience by capturing our hearts. He doesn't just work on changing the outside, He transforms us on the inside.
I remember back when I was dating Angela. We were staying with my parents and my brother asked me to get him a drink. I was like, “Get your own drink.” Then I begrudgingly went and got him a drink. But a few minutes later Angela doesn’t even ask for a drink, but mentions the fact that she is thirsty and I immediately ran to get her something to drink. What’s the difference? My giving my brother a drink was just concession which unfortunately so many people think Christianity is. But our king doesn’t just want our concession, He wants our heart.
God wants a relationship with us where there is so much admiration and desire for Him that making Him happy makes you happy. This is what Paul is praying for. That’s the kind of transformation God wants for us! That has to be true of us if this church is going to be a blessing to this city.
At the core of the Christian message are three words: Jesus is King. And I am on record having said that well before Kanye produced his newest album (which I do like a lot).
And if Jesus is King of our lives and transforming our lives, two things will be true. First, we will endure the trials of this world.
I had lunch some time ago with some missionaries from a very sensitive part of the world where almost everyone is Muslim. They were telling me about a man who through some crazy set of events and dreams became a Christian. Eventually word got out and his father-in-law came to him with a gun and took the man’s wife and child away permanently. They are gone until the man decides to return to Islam.
How can you get through something like that? Nothing less than knowing the King
Himself will do. Because the love that comes from knowing Him brings us into the order He wants for us. And this order will bring a peace and calm that can get us through any chaos this world might bring.
Secondly, as we are being transformed, evangelism will very naturally happen. We love Jesus, we are transformed into His image, and as we are transformed, God uses us to transform others. We can’t expect that just knowing the right facts or theology or Bible verses is going to win someone into the Kingdom. God, by His grace, may choose to make that work on occasion, but His design is simply that He would transform our heart and that that transformation would change others.
So, here is the question we have to answer: have you submitted to Jesus as your King? When I became a Christian, someone presented me with Bill Bright’s two thrones. Many of you have seen this. There is one throne with me on it and then there is another with Jesus on it. Really, it’s just a way of asking who is king of your life? If you’re king of your life, that won’t go well because you can’t really control anything. But, if the One who does control everything is King of your life, you enter into a relationship that brings eternal order and peace.
If we see the King, know the King, and are transformed by the King, we will have joy in this life and be a church that makes an impact for the King.