If I gave you $100,000 that you had to spend this week and it had to be spent on yourself, what would you buy? How many of you would mostly buy things or possessions with it? How many of you would use it to provide experiences for yourself?
If you were given a full week to do whatever you wanted, wherever you wanted to be, with whoever you wanted to be with – without any work or other responsibilities, what would you do with those 168 hours?
If we were all given this kind of money and this kind of time, we wouldn’t all spend our money or our time in the same way. And the reason is simple – we don’t all value the same things. There are things that you highly value that just aren’t that valuable to me. And there are things that are super valuable to me that you don’t find valuable at all.
It is fine for us to value most things differently. You might value possessions more than I do, while I tend to put a higher value on experiences.
But what if there is one thing that should have the same value in all of our lives, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, political party, vocation, or marital status? And what if this is THE thing that holds us together as individuals and as a diverse community here at Epic?
This is the idea behind the series we’re launching today, called One Thing Over Everything: Seeing Jesus in Colossians.
Since we’re going to spend our entire summer in the book of Colossians, we should probably know a few things about this letter. It was written by Paul, but Paul includes Timothy in his intro. This could be because of how closely they worked together or because Timothy would eventually carry out the work Paul had been doing. This letter was most likely written between AD 60-62, while Paul was in prison in Rome. Colossae is located in modern-day Turkey.
One of the interesting things about Paul’s letter to the Colossians is that he’s never been to Colossae. He did not start this church, like he had done in so many of the other places his letters were addressed to. The church at Colossae was started by Epaphras. He most likely had traveled to Ephesus during the time Paul was preaching there. Epaphras put his faith in Jesus and he came back to his native town, Colossae. Back home, he began to share his faith with others and started this church. Epaphras is now with Paul in Rome and he shares what’s happening in the Colossian church. And this is why Paul wrote the letter we call Colossians in our Bible.
What did Epaphras share with Paul that led to this writing? It’s clear that he shared lots of positive things about what was happening in the church. But he also shared some things that were very concerning. Scholars differ on exactly what was happening in this church, but here’s what is clear: there were people who were bringing in false teachings to the church. Here were a few of them: pressure to obey the laws of the Torah – observe special days, eat the Jewish diet, and circumcision was necessary. Another thing they were doing was worshipping angels as a way of overcoming evil spiritual powers. And maybe the biggest thing is that some were teaching that Jesus alone wasn’t sufficient. Some were questioning his deity and the message of the gospel.
As we get into what Paul wrote in Colossians, we’ll soon see that he carries a great burden to show the superiority and the centrality of Jesus. What’s the relevance for us? There are so many competing things in our hearts and in our world. We live among people and narratives in this world who are seeking to persuade us about what should be ultimate.
Colossians 1:1-14 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people – the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Paul begins this letter like he does so many others – by expressing gratitude. Expressing gratitude is a great way to start your day and it’s a great way to start conversations, even those conversations that will include great challenge.
Remember, Paul has never been to Colossae. Everything he knows about them, he has heard from Epaphras. And what really stands out is their faith and their love. And these are not separate things.
Genuine spiritual growth will always include an increase in love.
In verse 5, Paul says this faith and love come from your hope…which you’ve already heard in the TRUE message of the gospel. Early on, he’s communicating that they don’t need a new teaching or a new gospel. And then he says this same gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is sufficient at all times, in all places, for all people.
Just as you see Paul doing throughout Scripture, we are always seeking to contextualize the gospel for specific people, in certain places, in the current time we happen to be living in. When I preach, I’m preaching specifically to our community who lives here in San Francisco. I’m so happy that people around the U.S. and around the world benefit from what God’s doing here through Epic, but our aim is to contextualize the gospel for San Franciscans. However, we are not offering a new gospel. The gospel message always has been and always will be:
Gospel = By grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone
Paul points them back to what they’ve already heard from Epaphras. And then he tells them how he’s been praying for them. The first thing he says is that he has not stopped praying for them.
Will you consistently pray for Epic Church and all Christians in San Francisco?
What does he pray for them? He’s praying that the Spirit of God will fill them with the knowledge of God’s will. Why? So that they will live a life worthy of the Lord.
Jesus is worthy of your entire life, the whole thing. The best job isn’t worthy of your entire life. Even the best relationships aren’t worth your whole life. The most beautiful place on earth isn’t. Success isn’t. Power isn’t. Wealth isn’t. Jesus is. He’s worth everything. What does Paul include as he prays for us to live a life worthy of Jesus? That we will please Jesus in every way. This is why our vision statement is what it is here at Epic:
The vision of Epic Church is to see an increasing number of people in San Francisco orient their entire lives around Jesus.
In a world that increasingly asks us to please everyone around us, let’s make it our aim to please Jesus over anyone else.
Then he mentions this one: Bearing fruit in every good work. What if this is how we began to measure the success of our lives – bearing fruit in every good work? If you’re up for that, I’ve got great news for you: Jesus created you for good works and He’s got a plan to help you bear fruit.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Next he mentions growing in the knowledge of God.
What practices do you have to increase your knowledge of God?
How do we find the strength to live a life worthy of Jesus? Verse 11 tells us that we can be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might. This phrase includes three Greek words for strength and I want to show them to you.
“being strengthened” = dynamoumenoi
“power” = dynamei
“might” = kratos (power that overcomes resistance, used only of God)
We cannot live a life that fully pleases Jesus in our own strength, but we have the power of God living in us through the Holy Spirit.
How do you qualify to enter the kingdom of Jesus?
Some people came into the Colossian church and started teaching that there were all these things you had to do to perform your way into good standing with God. Notice what Paul says in verse 12 – the Father has qualified you. He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus is worthy of your entire life. Will you live a life that is worthy of Jesus?
Are you relying on your own strength or on His?
Have you been rescued by Jesus and allowed Him to qualify you for His kingdom?