Saturday, November 19, 2016

Living a Life Worthy of Christ -- Colossians 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters[a] in Christ in Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant.[b]He is a faithful minister of Christ on your[c] behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s[d]will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled[e] you[f] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

          I’ve been thinking about some of the things I have learned lately through Social Media.

Facebook is about the only contact I have with some of my old high school buddies.
I know that these folks were Christians when we were in high school.  I know that they are still Christians because they mention on their Facebook page their going to church, and they profess their faith in Christ through social media.
But I grew up with these people. 
I know their dark side.
I remember what they did on weekends. 
I recall some of the things they did back in 1972. 
And as I read what they put on Facebook, I’m pretty sure they have not changed one bit.
The folks I knew in high school who were lazy, or promiscuous, or dishonest, or racist back in the 1970s are still that way today.  It shows in what they post on Facebook.
I am convinced that when they say they are Christians, they are indeed Christian – but many of them have not grown spiritually at all.

I think about my old high school buddies when I read this first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. 
Paul has heard that this church is struggling to keep its faith pure of outside influences.  This group of people in the city of Colossai have not grown in Christ.  They have not matured. 
Paul is writing to rebuke them, but he doesn’t do this harshly.  He starts by praising the Colossians for the good that is in their church, because they are Christian and there is some good in what they do.  But then he zeroes in on what he wants of them.  In verse ten he tells them it is time to “live a life worthy of Christ.”

          “Live a life worthy of Christ…” --  Easier said than done.

          How do we do that?
          Paul wrote his letter in the Greek language and what we read in English as a phrase is actually a single word.  “Live a life” is the single word that actually means “walk.”  (peripatesai)
          In fact, some English translations render it this way.  The King James Version, for example, says, “Walk worthy of the Lord.” 

          We can’t just talk the talk – we have to walk the walk.
Most of us who are health and are able to walk physically do so on two legs.  Paul suggests that if we are to walk worthy of the Lord in a spiritual sense, we need to do so on two spiritual legs.

          Take a look at what he says in his letter, in verse 10:  “We pray 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.”

          One leg is bearing good fruit and the other is knowledge of God.
          Or put another way -   One leg is action, the other education.

          Think about education.  Time and again, the Bible affirms the value of knowledge and understanding.
          Proverbs 1, verse 7, says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”

          One of the things that has always been a part of the Presbyterian Church is that we have valued education, knowledge and understanding.
Years ago I served a church that had been established in 1779.  It is the oldest Presbyterian Church in Tennessee and it had a great history. Shortly after that church was organized, the pastor and elders opened the first school in the community.  A short time after that, the pastor opened the first college in the area. 
That’s the way it was all over this country.  Many of the first schools were started by ministers and churches. 
This tradition continues today.  We value education and knowledge.  Our own congregation demonstrates this with a college scholarship program.
We also do it through the ministry of our Small Blessings Child Care.
          We believe that knowledge is important.  When we learn about Calculus, we are not just studying numbers -- we are learning about the principles by which God operates the universe.  When we study astronomy, we are learning about the universe God created.
          St. Paul once told his student Timothy, “Study to show yourself approved unto God.” (II Tim 2:15, King James)
          You want to live -- or walk -- in a manner worthy of Christ? 
Use your mind. 
Grow in knowledge and understanding.
          Learn all you can about God’s world, and God’s Word.

          The other leg we need for our spiritual walk is “action” -- taking what you learn from God and putting it into the actions of your day to day living.
          In the words of Jesus and the Apostles, this was called “bearing fruit.”
          You can grow a good plant of some sort, but if you are a farmer, you expect that plant to produce some decent fruit of some sort.  Otherwise it is worthless. 

God has planted us.  He expects us to produce decent fruit in our lives.

          Much of my life has been spent in South Carolina, and most people in that area take advantage of the wonderful soil and climate and plant these wonderful gardens.  I would plant corn and peanuts and potatoes and okra and squash, and all sorts of things.  And they would grow.  They would produce great crops.  “Bear fruit” as the Bible would say.  Once in a while, I would plant something that failed -- and that failed miserably.
          Green beans for example.
          One year I planted lots of green beans.  But between the unusually dry weather, and all the deer that would come into the yard, I harvested one green bean.
          I don’t mean I had one plant filled with good green beans.  I mean I had one single green string bean.
          You have to be on a pretty strict diet for a single bean to be worth anything.

          God expects us to produce some decent fruit in our life.  He expects us to do great things that are worthy.  We don’t earn God’s love or salvation that way -- we receive that freely by God’s grace.  But having experienced God’s love and salvation, we ought to respond by living, walking, a life worthy of Christ -- we ought to want to produce a life that “bears good fruit.”
          Are you producing fruit in your life?
                    Do you show love to others – including the ones who treat us so badly?
                             Do you give generously to others?
Do you give your time to service in the community?
          You don’t have to build a college or hospital in order to bear fruit.  Bearing fruit is in the day-to-day way you live your life.  It’s in the simple things.

Do you know the biggest problem people out there have with those of us in here?  Non-Christians often have little respect for Christians because they look at us – they see what we post on social media, or how we live our lives, and they don’t see us living a life worthy of Christ. 

We talk the talk, but we don’t walk the walk.

We talk about love, but we have no love for others.
We talk about generosity, but we give little or nothing to help the poor.
It is time for us to walk the walk of a life worthy of Christ.

And now unto God the Father,
God the Son,
And God the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, power, dominion and glory, today and forever, Amen.
Copyright 2016. 
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved

Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.