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The only way to become who you are truly meant to be is to surrender your heart and life to Jesus. He is the creator of your heart, and only he knows completely who you are, and what you are meant to be. Looking inside of you, or following your heart, will not be enough. Adolf Hitler had a clear vision of who he was and what he was meant to be. He followed his heart with strength purpose and authenticity; and he was totally evil. Only Jesus can help us to be fully ourselves without becoming monsters.

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Download Colossians Part 12

Colossians #12. Colossians 1:27-29

27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:27-29

Last time we examined the mystery of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We found that it is not so much that we live our lives for God, but rather that Jesus Christ lives his life through ours. Our part is, in one sense, to get out of the way, and to not hinder the Life that Jesus wants to live through us. Now, in verse 28, Paul clarifies and expounds on this.

First, Paul says that he proclaims Christ, warning all people. The Greek word here  could be translated several ways: admonish, reprove,  caution. The idea is speaking to someone with idea of correcting a problem, or warning about some danger.

In our day and age, preachers and teachers seldom warn or admonish. The most popular preachers at the biggest churches, the ones you see on TV and on the internet, generally avoid telling people things that they don’t want to hear. They frequently have interesting messages that tend to affirm people and make them feel good, and they stay away from controversial or difficult topics.

But Paul is not just telling people what they want to hear. He isn’t agreeing with the culture, or affirming their basic self-centeredness. He is confronting them with the truth of Jesus, and the first part of the message of Jesus is that all human beings must repent.

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17, ESV)

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15, ESV)

31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32, ESV)

45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:45-47, ESV)

Repentance is a central part of the message of Jesus Christ himself. Therefore, part of the job of Christian leaders is to warn those who are not repentant. Many verses all over the New Testament tell us that leaders must correct, rebuke and warn. This is an integral part of what it means to proclaim Jesus Christ and his message. The grace and truth of Jesus confront us with our need to change. I believe that many, many of those who call themselves pastors and preachers in this day and age have been failing to warn and admonish. Warning and admonishing is not necessarily an effective church growth policy. People can misunderstand, and leave. Sometimes people understand perfectly, but they are still offended by the warnings, and they still leave. Yet, this is what Christian leaders are called to do. We are not called to create large churches, we are called to proclaim the message of Jesus.

Paul also engages in teaching. I have recently mentioned the importance of that ministry, so I won’t go into that again here. He adds that he warns and teaches “with all wisdom.” The word “all” here means, “all sorts.” In other words, all truth ultimately comes from God and agrees with the Revelation of scripture. Paul uses any and all means to communicate the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ to the world. When he was in Athens, he quoted from Greek poets. When he preached to Jews, he used the wisdom of the Old Testament. I often use analogies and illustrations and stories when I teach, or even movies or songs. All of this is appropriate, since God is the source of everything that is actually true and good. Don’t be afraid if you feel like God touches you through a “secular” song or movie, or book. All wisdom that is actually true and wise comes ultimately from our God, and all of it can be used to help us in our relationship with Jesus. I do want to make sure and add, however, that the ultimate revelation from God is the Bible alone. Confucius had some God-given wisdom, as did Aristotle and Socrates. But they also wrote things that were wrong. We cannot accept every single thing that they say. Instead, we should evaluate it against what we find in scripture. All wisdom and truth must be judged against the Bible. The Bible is the final standard for God’s Truth. It should be our first source, and the source that judges all others.

Paul says that purpose of this warning and teaching is “that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” I want to bring out some shades of meaning from the Greek here. When Paul says he want to “present” everyone, there is the idea that people being presented are firmly in a certain condition. They are standing, or existing, in a state of maturity in Christ. Picture a graduation ceremony. Each graduate has completed the course of study, and is ready to move forward.

The word “mature” is the Greek word telos, and the idea behind it is that some thing or person is fulfilling its purpose. A hammer being used to pound nails is accomplishing its telos. It isn’t just what we call maturity, it is the idea that a person is finally being and doing what they were made to be and do. That’s what it means to be mature in Christ.

I want to make sure we don’t misunderstand this. The text makes it clear that the purpose for which we exist is fulfilled only in Christ. You see, these days, we are all about being “who we were meant to be.” But the scripture makes it clear here that the only way to be who you are meant to be is to submit to Jesus Christ. He is the one who created you in the first place. He is the one who has the master plan for each person, and how each person’s role relates to everyone else’s role.

This is extremely significant. Many people think their purpose is to pursue whatever they feel deeply. But the human heart is deceptive and changeable. We do not clearly see our own failings, and we so easily lie to ourselves to pursue whatever it is we want. Sometimes the things we want change drastically as we grow older. Sometimes, perhaps, we want the same thing consistently, but what we want is wrong. As far as I know history, Adolf Hitler was “true to himself.” He was honest about what he wanted, and he pursued what he thought was his destiny with strength, purpose and authenticity. Even so, he was thoroughly evil. Hitler is an extreme example, but it is true that a great wave of unhappiness is in the world as a result of people trying to “be true to themselves.”

The only way to really “be true to yourself” is to follow Jesus. He is the creator of your heart. Only he can lead you, only he can truly fulfill the purpose of your life. You don’t accomplish your purpose by getting to know yourself better, you do it by fully surrendering yourself to Christ.

Paul’s own telos, his purpose, is to help others grow in Christ. His next statement is also very important, because it shows us something about how to live and grow in Christ. After looking at the Greek, here is how I would paraphrase verse 29:

For this goal I wear myself out, agonizingly struggling with the tremendous energy that God himself energizes powerfully in me.

You see two pieces here. Paul is toiling, but he is using not his own strength. The energy with which he toils is power that comes from God himself.

There’s an old phrase that some people find clever: “Are you working hard, or hardly working?” Actually, in Christ, it is both. Paul works hard, but, it is God who works though him. Next time you hear that phrase, let it remind you of the truth that if you let him, the Lord will work through you. Paul teaches the same thing to the Philippians:

12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (NLT, Philippians 2:12-13)

He tells us to work hard to show the results of our salvation. That sounds like it is all up to us. But then he adds that it is God who works in us, both to give us the desire, and the power to please him. We work hard, and yet, at the same time, it is God working hard in us and through us. Paul works hard, but it is God’s energy within him that does the work.

I think the key to all this is to be willing. Part of being willing is making our bodies and minds available to God.  For example, one part that is essential for us if we are to mature in Christ is to read the Bible. If you aren’t a reader, listening to the Bible is just as good. God will not take over your body, make you walk over to the shelf, take down the bible and open it up. You have to do that part. Or, you have to call up the audio Bible on your phone and start it playing. But then, once you read or listen, what you get out of it is up to God. This may surprise you, but the Bible is very clear that results are God’s business, not ours. You need to put the bible into your mind and heart by reading or listening. But the second part – the growing and learning and changing – that is what God himself will do, in his own way, and own time.

I don’t remember every meal I’ve eaten during the past month, but even so, those meals nourished my body. In the same way, the scripture I’ve read during the past month has nourished my soul. Sometimes, I can feel my soul being built up as I read. Sometimes I can’t. But I give God my time and willingness, and he provides the growth in his time and way. I read the Bible almost every day. Many days, what I read does not stay in my conscious mind for very long. But after 35 years or so of regular Bible reading, God has implanted his word deep in my soul, and he uses it to bear fruit on many occasions. How it bears fruit, and when, is up to him. My part is to give him my time, my eyes and my mind. In fact, here is some of what I’ve read during the past month:

4 [Jesus said] Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. (NLT, John 15:4-5)

That little piece, which I read a few weeks ago, is bearing fruit right now in this sermon. And it isn’t the first time I’ve read it, nor the first time it has helped me and others. It reinforces what Paul says in our text for today. Our first task is to make sure we are closely connected to Jesus.  Next, we make our voices and hands and minds available to him. Finally, we leave the results up to him.

So it is with everything. Jesus want to love and bless and my family through me. I have to give him my time and my words, but the way those things bring blessings to them are up to Jesus. I have to be willing to spend time with other people Jesus has put in my life. I need to be willing to speak, or help them in practical ways. But even as I give my time and my physical actions, it is  God who uses those things to bless others. I have been saying “I,” but truthfully, this is for all of us. It isn’t just for preachers: Paul made that clear in the Philippians verse I quoted above, and Jesus made it clear in the John 15 verse I just gave you. This is how we live. We use our voices and minds, and hearts and bodies, but it is God working in and through us at the same time.

Later on in Colossians, Paul says these things:

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV, Colossians 3:17)

3 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (ESV, Colossians 3:23-24)

We work, but God works through us. One of the biggest benefits here is that we can have peace by trusting that the results are up to God. I had to study to prepare this sermon. I had to put in a fair amount of time. I had to use my mind, studying the Greek, and remembering other verses that relate to this text. I read some things written by other believers. I used my abilities as a writer to organize these thoughts, and put them down, to the best of my ability, so that others can understand what this scripture means. In a little while, I will record a spoken version of what I have written. The whole process often takes in excess of 30 hours. But now that I am done, I trust that the Lord will do what he wants with it. If it touches your heart in any way, it is because God is working with his energy. Yes, I had to give my energy to God for this, but any positive effect is God’s responsibility. I can relax and trust that He will indeed bless someone through this. I’ve done my best, out of gratitude toward Jesus. He will take it from here.

In the spoken versions of all my messages, I begin with a prayer. The prayer is usually something like this:

Holy Spirit, Thank you for your Word. I pray right now that you will use me to help us understand your Word better. Use the scripture, and what I am about to say, to bless us, to change us, to draw us closer to you. If you need to, change what I am about to say. Or, change what people hear me saying so that we all hear your voice, and are brought closer to you. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

I pray that for each message. But really all of us should pray something like as we begin each day. We are here to be used by him, and the more we are his instruments, the more we fulfill His good purposes for us.

Why don’t you let him take it from here?

Engaging in the Mission of Jesus (but it isn’t a secret)

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Today, Jesus still involves his disciples (that is, all Christians) in his mission. I am not saying that you should quit your job. But I am saying that all of us should depend entirely upon the Lord in every way as we seek to be involved in his mission.


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Matthew #33 . 9:35-10:15

From the end of chapter 9 all the way through chapter 10, Matthew records how Jesus involved his disciples in his mission here on earth. During this period, Jesus was deeply involved in ministry to many people. It seems that he felt more than ever how important it was to train others to continue his mission after he had fulfilled his purposes here on earth.

Although all of chapter 10 properly belongs together, I think there is too much that may be valuable to skip over it quickly, therefore, we will only go through the end of verse 15 today.

The first, and possibly the most important thing to notice, is that Jesus involves his disciples in his mission. It is the mission of Jesus, but because they have trusted him and follow him, it now also becomes the mission of the disciples. At the end of chapter 9 we see Jesus teaching, preaching, healing, and driving out demons. In chapter 10 verse seven and eight, he tells the disciples to proclaim the kingdom, heal, and drive out demons. He wants them to do what he does. He wants them to get involved in the “family business.”

At this point in time, he has not yet released them to go into all the world. He still has work that he needs to do here on earth before that can happen. So he limits their mission to just the people of Israel. But he is preparing them for what will come. This is, in effect, a training mission.

Here, the mission was given just to the 12 disciples. Luke records that later on, Jesus sent out another, larger, group for essentially the same purposes (Luke 10).

Today, Jesus still involves his disciples in his mission. Biblically speaking, anyone who trusts Jesus is supposed to be a disciple. We don’t have “Christians,” and then “disciples.” All Christians are called to be disciples. And all Christians are called to be involved in the mission of Jesus. Though he involves us in his mission in many different ways, and it isn’t the same for every person, what is the same is that he wants us all involved in some way or another, with what he is doing in the world. Virtually every Christian in the New Testament understood this. Not all of them served Jesus full time. Not all of them left their homes to travel to other places. But all of them surrendered their lives to Jesus, and lived as if they were on a mission for him. He is calling you to do the same.

Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. (1Cor 6:19-20, HCSB)

For he who is called by the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called as a free man is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. (1Cor 7:22-23, HCSB)

For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10, HCSB)

The New Testament is quite clear. Trusting Jesus involves surrendering fully to him. We are not here on earth to please ourselves. Jesus does not set us free from sin and selfishness so that we can pursue our own ambitions in this life. Now that we belong to him, we are part of his mission. Now, I will say that in my own experience, pursuing the mission of Jesus with my life has been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. It hasn’t always been easy, but I can’t imagine living any other way. To put it another way, living for the mission of Jesus, though sometimes difficult, certainly has its rewards.

I don’t think we can simply imitate exactly everything that is here in this text. This was how Jesus wanted his disciples to be part of his mission at that particular time and place. As I have said, he calls us in different ways and in different circumstances. Paul writes about this to the Romans:

Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of one’s faith; if service, in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness. Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. (Rom 12:4-18, HCSB)

So our calling does not have to look exactly like this first training mission given to the 12 apostles. However, I do think there are some principles we can gain from the instructions that Jesus gave to them here in this text.

First, as we’ve already mentioned, Jesus asks them to imitate himself. He tells them to do what he has been doing. I’m not always a fan of the expression “what would Jesus do?” The truth is, none of us is Jesus, and it isn’t always appropriate to behave as if we were. Even so, I think what we can gain here is an important perspective about the mission he has for us. What I mean is, it isn’t our mission, it is the mission of Jesus. We aren’t here to do our own thing, not even to do our own thing for God. We are here to get involved in what Jesus is doing. So as we seek to live our lives in the mission of Jesus, the real question to ask God is not “what is your purpose for me?” Instead, I favor praying more like this: “Lord what are you doing? How do you want to involve me in that?” It may be a subtle difference, but the point is the focus should be on the Lord, and his mission, rather than a self-centered, individualized view of our own particular purpose in life. It isn’t supposed to be my purpose, it is supposed to be the Lord’s purpose.

A second thing I see from Jesus’ instructions to his disciples is that he calls them to rely entirely upon God’s provision. In verse eight, he says “you have received free of charge; give free of charge.” In other words, is telling them not to ask for a set fee for their ministry. They are not to say, “deliverance from demons is 100 denarii; regular healing is $85, healing from leprosy is $97.50.” In verse nine, Jesus tells them not to bring their own money or even to provide anything for themselves. But then he adds “for the worker is worthy of his food.” So if they aren’t to explicitly charge anything, and they aren’t to bring their own provisions, the only thing left is to trust God.

I have met a number of people, (strangely, many of them were quite wealthy), who insist that pastors and church workers should not be paid. They use verses like these to bolster their positions. That’s not what Jesus is saying here. He is telling his disciples not to demand a certain amount of money before they will minister. He’s telling them to go ahead and minister, and especially, to trust God to provide. But he implies that those who are blessed by his mission will in turn give to these ministers (“the worker is worthy of his food”). And I think that is the New Testament model. As Paul explains to the Corinthians, and to others, some people will devote their working lives exclusively to serving God, and God’s people should give money to support those full-time ministers (1 Corinthians 9:13-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; 2 Tim 2:6; Galatians 6:6). But those full time ministers should consider God as their primary resource, even their primary financial resource. In other words, as one of those called to full-time service, I think of God as the one who pays my salary. I rely on him. Now, I’m deeply grateful to those people who support my ministry financially, and I think of them as partners in the ministry. But if I look first and foremost to the Lord as the one who supports me, I won’t get upset when people fail to give, and I won’t treat those who give more with favoritism over those who give little or nothing. If I look at God as my primary resource, I won’t decide to engage in a ministry based upon whether or not I can live on what someone will pay me.

It goes beyond finances as well. It’s true, there are a few Christians called to full time service. But every Christian is supposed to be a disciple, and every disciple is called to participate in the mission of Jesus in one way or another (Ephesians 4:11-16; Romans 12:4-8 [quoted above]; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Most disciples do not make a living by working full-time in ministry. But we all still need to rely on the Lord to accomplish his purpose through us. We need to trust him for the energy; we need to surrender our time to him. We need to believe that he will do everything necessary to fulfill his mission through us, if we will simply give him our willingness. We need to look not at whether something appears feasible, but rather, at what the Lord is inviting us to do.

I am not saying that you should quit your job. But I am saying that all of us should depend entirely upon the Lord in every way as we seek to be involved in his mission.

There is one other point that I want to highlight today. In verses 11 through 14 Jesus describes how his disciples should relate to others as they fulfill his mission. What he tells them is not at all what most Christians have come to expect. In essence, he tells them to look for good people who are open to the message of the kingdom of God. If they receive that message, well and good. But if they do not receive the good news, the disciples are not to waste time with them. In fact, Jesus says that if people will not listen to them, they should “shake the dust off their feet,” when they leave. It was a custom for Jews to shake the dust off their feet as they left Gentile towns. It was a symbol for them that the Gentiles had rejected God, and that they (the Jews) had nothing more to do with them.

We don’t typically think of this attitude when we think about being involved in the mission of Jesus. But as we have already seen in our study of Matthew, Jesus did not come in order to be popular, or to make a lot of friends. His message offended many people, and he expected that to happen. He is sending his disciples with the same message, and it only makes sense to assume that the message will offend others as well. We should take care never to be unnecessarily offensive by how we behave or by how we go about the mission of Jesus. But if the message of Jesus is not received, that is not our problem. Our job is to participate in the mission of Jesus; the results are up to Jesus, not us.

So what is the Lord saying to you today? Have you fully engaged in the mission of Jesus? Have you surrendered your willingness to him? Do you need to learn to trust more? Is the Holy Spirit encouraging you today to rely upon Jesus truly and fully in everything? Do you need to be reminded today that the message of the kingdom of God is sometimes offensive, and not everyone will receive it?

Let the Holy Spirit speak to you now.