Colossians 1:3-14

Few commitments we make require that we totally change the way we live. The only commitments that require a total change of life are commitments that require us to change our person.

Joining a civic organization does not require us to change our person. We adjust schedules, rearrange our time, made some financial adjustments, assume new responsibilities, but we do not change persons. The truth: the civic organization did not accept us into membership to be a different person.

Following a career path in an organization or a corporation does not require us to change our person. We reorder priorities, we adjust commitments and relationships, we assume new responsibilities, we develop abilities, we even acquire new knowledge and understanding, but we do not change persons. The truth: the organization or corporation does not want us to change persons. It expects us to hone and develop strengths and abilities, but it wants us to be the person they hired.

Entering into a healthy marriage does not require us to change our person. We grow in our ability to be loving and kind. We develop relationship skills. We develop communication skills. We move in the direction of selflessness instead of the direction of selfishness. But if a person marries us expecting us to change persons after marriage, that marriage quickly enters serious jeopardy.

One of life's most difficult challenges is changing your person. It is extremely difficult for an angry person to become a merciful person, for an inconsiderate person to become a kind person, for a jealous person to become a compassionate person, or for a person who lives for self to become a person who lives for others. For such changes to occur, there must be profound motivations and an incredible source of strength. The motivation and the strength must be bigger than the person.

Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ requires the commitment to change your person. That transition does not occur instantaneously or simply. It is a lifelong process that allows God to lead the way.

  1. From the beginning of Christianity, being a Christian required the desire to change the person.
    1. Consider people who were not Jews, who had little or no contact with Judaism, but who became Christians.
      1. Before the close of the first century, there were more Christians who were not Jewish than there were Jewish Christians.
      2. For those people to become Christians, that meant:
        1. They had to leave the gods they knew and worshipped.
        2. They had to accept and establish a relationship with a God they never knew.
        3. They had to accept and learn about a new Savior.
        4. They had to accept and learn about a new set of ethics (rights and wrongs).
        5. They had to accept and learn about a new system of values and priorities.
        6. They had to accept and respect scriptures they had never known.
        7. They had to learn an entirely new way to live which included a new way to treat people.
        8. They had to learn and understand entirely new reasons for living life.
    2. The Colossian Christians were primarily non-Jewish Christians who were not the ideal example of people who had changed the persons they were.
      1. The primary spiritual influence in their lives was not Jesus Christ (2:8-15).
      2. The basic criteria for measuring spirituality was not the teachings of Jesus Christ (2:16-23).
      3. The focus of their lives was not on the godly things revealed through Jesus Christ (3:1-4)
      4. They had not stopped living by their pre-Christian behavior (3:5-11).
      5. They had not learned how to treat each other properly (3:12-17).
      6. Their basic relationships needed some fundamental adjustments (3:18-4:1).
    3. Why would they do that? Why would they commit themselves to such enormous change?
    4. I would like for us to read together Colossians 1:3-12.
      We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bondservant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit. For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
    5. Let's ask the question again: why would they commit to changing self as a person?

  2. I call your attention to two emphases in this segment of Paul's letter.
    1. In beginning the letter Paul emphasized two things.
      1. First, he emphasized his gratitude for these Christians.
        1. He was specific.
          1. I heard about your faith in Jesus Christ, and I am grateful (1:4).
          2. I heard about your love for Christians, and I am grateful (1:4).
          3. I am thankful that you have claimed the hope of heaven that is rightfully yours (1:5)
        2. I realize that it was appropriate to begin a letter in that manner with statements of appreciation and gratitude.
          1. The impressive thing to me is not that Paul opened his letter in this way, but that he chose the focus he did.
          2. If elders or preachers wrote a letter to a congregation that was not the example they should be, that did not rely on Jesus Christ for their source of spirituality, that used to the wrong criteria for measuring what was spiritual, and that was behaving poorly,
            1. If we began that letter with compliments on their faith, love, and hope,
            2. We would be soundly criticized by many Christians "for not having the courage to deal with their situation."
      2. Second, Paul focused them immediately on the gospel.
        1. Their understanding of "the gospel" was distinctly different from our common definition of the gospel in the church today.
        2. Our definition commonly incorporates a strong emphasis on the church, on an institutional concept, and on the benefits of that institution.
        3. Their understanding of the gospel did not focus on the church as a institution.
          1. The gospel produced Christians.
          2. Christians were the church.
          3. The gospel focused on what God did for people, not on God working through an institution.
        4. Their understanding of the gospel focused on these truths:
          1. God loved sinful people and sent His son to rescue them from evil.
          2. That Son loved sinful people so much that he died to atone for their evil.
          3. God raised that Son from death to prove that His power could raise Christians from the dead.
        5. The gospel produced hope.
          1. In the truth that God loved sinful people enough to send us His Son, there is hope.
          2. In the truth that this Son died to atone for our evil, there is hope.
          3. In the truth that God raised His Son from the dead, there is hope.
      3. That hope was the motivation for changing their person.
        1. The gospel came to them and brought them hope.
        2. Christianity was growing throughout the world because it brought hope.
        3. The gospel moved people to change themselves because the gospel revealed to them the grace of God.
          1. Deity was not an enemy that existed to bring you harm because "the gods are unhappy."
          2. The true God is filled with grace, and He wants to help you.

  3. Paul's second major emphasis was on the strength that was available to them.
    1. First, Paul said, "I am praying for you."
      1. Paul's connection with this God was obvious.
      2. For Paul who had a special connection with God to pray for them was extremely significant.
        1. The way to receive the favorable consideration from a person more significant than you was for a friend who knew that person to intercede for you.
        2. It still is--there is nothing as powerful as knowing someone who can "put in a good word for you" to "the right person."
        3. For Paul to "put in a good word" for them to this God who was full of grace was most meaningful to them.
      3. And what was it that Paul asked God to do for them?
        1. He asked that they be filled with the knowledge of God's will (an ignorance of or a misunderstanding about God's will is spiritually devastating).
        2. But knowing God's will was not enough--Paul asked God to give them knowledge of that will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
          1. To know God's will means nothing if you do not understand His will.
          2. To understand God's will means nothing if you do not have the wisdom to use His will in your life.
        3. He prayed their behavior would be worthy of the Lord.
          1. In a world filled with idolatry and evil, they were God's representatives.
          2. People's concept of this "new" God would be formed by the way Christians lived.
          3. There were a lot of ways to live that misrepresented God.
          4. Paul wanted their behavior to represent God in an accurate, worthy manner.
        4. He prayed that the way they lived would please God in every aspect of life by "bearing fruit" through doing good works and growing in knowledge of God (literally, "real knowledge").
        5. He prayed that they would be strengthened with all power by the might of this God who forgave evil and raised from the dead.
          1. Strengthened by God's power to do what?
          2. To be steadfast--"hang in there."
          3. To be patient--to endure.
          4. To live joyously as the new person.
        6. He prayed that as they lived and behaved in these ways they would be filled with gratitude toward the God who qualified them to share in the eternal inheritance.
      4. He wanted them to clearly understand three things about God.
        1. God rescued them from the authority and control of darkness.
        2. God transferred them into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
        3. God made it possible for them to be redeemed and forgiven by Jesus Christ.

I want to conclude by asking you these questions. Who looks at your life and feels moved to pray a "thank you, God" prayer for your faith in God, your love of Christians, and your hope of heaven? Who looks at the way you behave and better understands the God you serve? Who understands that the commitment to be a Christian is the commitment to change your person to look more and more like Jesus?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 14 May 2000
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