Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 16, 2013
Dear friends in Christ.
For nearly nine years now I’ve had the privilege of sharing God’s Word with you each and every week. I’ve had the opportunity to encourage you in your faith, comfort you in your sorrows, convict you of sin, and assure you of the Lord’s forgiveness which is yours through Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior. But how do I say good bye to you, whom I have known as a family for so many years now! I considered re-preaching the first sermon I preached as Pastor here—a sermon that was designed to encourage each and every one of us to fix our faith on Jesus, to cling to him and to rely on him for all that we need. I considered preaching a sermon that didn’t exactly follow the idea of a farewell sermon, but continued in our catecatical series reminding us of how we receive the forgiveness of sins, and assuring us that we have been forgiven through faith in our Savior who lived, died, and rose again for each and every one of us. Yet, every time I thought about this day, my thoughts kept coming back to Paul’s words in Colossians 1. So, this morning, I would like to invite you to open your Bibles with me one more time. I would like to invite you to open your Bibles with me to Colossians 1, and we’ll take a look at the encouragement in faith, the assurance of forgiveness, and the thanksgiving that the Apostle Paul proclaims to the Colossians as he prays for them in our lesson today.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. 3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit." (Colossians 1:1–8, NIV84)
As Paul opens his letter, he greets the believers with thanksgiving and prayer. Thanksgiving because they had heard the Word of God and believed it; prayer that they would continue to be built up and strengthened in their faith. As he writes, he reminds them that through their faith in Christ they were well known for the love that they so openly displayed for all believers—love which sprung out of the hope that they had in eternal life through Christ; love that just naturally flowed out because they wanted to tell others about the hope of heaven that they had. But even as Paul wrote, troubles had begun to spring up. False teachers had come into the city and begun teaching the Colossians things that they had never heard before. Teaching them that Jesus death on the cross wasn’t complete and that the Colossians would have to live by strict rules about the kinds of foods they could eat, and what they could drink. Other teachers came into town telling them that they had to deny themselves of certain things. Still other teachers came telling them that Jesus wasn’t the only spiritual being that deserved worship, but that the angels deserved worship as well. So, Paul writes to them, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (Colossians 1:9).
Because of all the confusing ideas that were being preached in Colosse, Paul prayed for them, asking that their faith would be increased, that God would fill them with the knowledge of his will. Paul prayed for them so that they would be able to discern between God’s Word and the false teachers. He prayed for them so that as they heard the Word of God, their faith in Christ would increase and be strengthened so that they would be able to withstand the attacks upon their faith from these false teachers.
Well, dear friends, this is my prayer for you as well. In the same way that Paul is praying for the Colossian I pray that God would strengthen you in your faith and fill you with the knowledge of his will. I pray that you would continue to read and study your Bibles so that your faith in him as your Lord and Savior would continue to grow and to mature. I pray that you do not give up meeting together, but regularly gather for worship so that you might encourage and be encouraged by the presence of all your friends, relatives, neighbors, and even those whom you do not know so well, each and every week; because this world is still full of false teaches. This world is still filled with people who lead a life of sincerity wrapped in the garb of spirituality rather than that of faith in Christ. Take for example how so many churches in our word preach a message of love and tolerance; a message that encourages us in the knowledge that God is love and through which we can easily make love into a god. Take for example the sincere love between two men or two women who have lovingly dedicated themselves to each other in marriage according to the laws of our State. Though they may be sincere in their love for each other, and they may be sincere in their belief that a God who is love, must love us for who we are, and want us to be happy in our love for another, even another of the same sex; though they may be sincere in their belief, this is still something that runs contrary to what the Lord teaches in his Word. Though we all know couples who sincerely believe that it is better for them to live together before marriage, or instead of marriage, because they sincerely believe that it is better to practice at commitment than it is to break a commitment, this is also a false teaching that goes against what God teaches in his Word. Though we may even know people who are convinced that it really doesn’t matter what they believe, as long as they sincerely believe it, this too is a false teaching that is contrary to God’s Word.
These are all false teachings that go against God’s Word. Just because a person sincerely believes something, the sincerity of their belief doesn’t necessarily make it right or true. For example, a Buddhist can sincerely believe in Buddha. A Jehovah’s Witness can sincerely believe that the only God is God the Father or Jehovah God. A Mormon can sincerely believe that by his actions he will one day become a god. But if these do not believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross to take away the sins of the world, they will never see heaven. The same is true about those who sincerely believe that living together is fine or that homosexual relationships are acceptable to God. Unless they heed God’s Word, change their ways, and leave their lives of sin, they will be surprised how sincerely they will feel eternal separation from God.
Thus, I pray for each and every one of you that the Lord would increase your faith so that you would seek to live for the Lord your God. I pray that your spiritual lives would resemble that of body builder Arnold Strong—better known by his stage name, Arnold Schwarzenegger—rather than your spiritual lives resembling that of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi! For at the peak of his physical fitness, Arnold Schwarzenegger lived a life of constant body building, while at the peak of his political power, Mahatma Gandhi lived a life of poverty, fasting, hunger strikes. While Schwarzenegger increased, Gandhi decreased. While Schwarzenegger gained a trimmed and toned physique along with strength and massive muscles, Gandhi gained a wasted physique, a sickly appearance, atrophied muscles along with a great wealth of physical weakness. This is why I pray for you that you would live for the Lord—for when you live for the Lord, your faith increases. When you live for the Lord, your faith becomes part of your life. When you live for the Lord reading and studying the Word becomes something that you long to do. When you live for the Lord, gathering for worship is one of your prime objectives. When you live for the Lord, your goal is to serve him in whatever way is pleasing in his sight.
This is the point the Apostle Paul was trying to get across to the Colossians when he wrote, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:9–14, NIV84)
My friends, this is my prayer for you as well! I pray that you live a life worthy of the Lord in all things. Not because I want you to. Not because you feel like you have to. I pray this for you because it is the Lord who “qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” I pray this for you because it is the Lord who “rescued you from the dominion of darkness and brought you into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” I pray this for you because it is the Lord who have given you, “redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” I pray this for you because it is the Lord Jesus Christ himself, God’s only begotten Son, our Lord gave up his glory in heaven to come down to earth and live among us. He, the sinless Son of God lived among us sinners for thirty some years. He lived with us, ate with us and taught us. He went to the cross for us. The sinless for the sinner went to suffer and die so that we sinners would be made sinless in the eyes of God. This is my prayer for you that you would always live for Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior, who died and rose again to free you from all of your sins.
In other words, if you are trapped in any sin, confess it to the Lord and receive his forgiveness. If you are living in a way that is contrary to the teachings of God’s Word, change your ways and leave your life of sin. If you think that sincerity of belief is greater than belief in the things God has taught us, take time to study his Word. If you have lived the life of Gandhi, fasting and keeping yourself from the Word of the Lord and his Worship, come and join the feast. Change your life and live the life of Schwarzenegger, building yourself in your faith as you begin a new your life for the Lord.
This is my prayer for you that as you live your Christian lives, you present yourselves in such a way so that the world may know you as a Christian. Thus, in this way, you will find yourselves fixing your faith on Jesus, your Savior, clinging to him and relying on him in every need. In this way you will live in the forgiveness of sins that is yours through faith in Jesus Christ who came to this world to live for us, die for us and rise again from the dead so that we could live with him forever. In this way you will continue to grow your faith and your knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is my prayer for each and every one of you.
Pastor David M. Shilling
Grace EvangelicalLutheran Church--Le Sueur, MN