Sunday, July 26, 2009

Colossians 1:3-8: Invitation to Christ-centered life

Focus and undivided attention. That is what you need to be successful whether in rifle marksmanship, basketball, balancing your checkbook, or cultivating a relationship. That kind of centered attention is what Paul invites the Colossians to do in today’s passage. And that center for the Colossian believers, and for us, is Christ.

Pray & Read: Colossians 1:3-8
Contextual Notes: Paul wrote Colossians while a capital prisoner under house arrest awaiting trial in Rome. The Colossians’ pastor named Epaphras had traveled from Asia Minor to Italy to meet with Paul and tell him about issues that put the Christ’s centrality at the Colossian church in jeopardy. Paul’s letter is a powerful statement of the centrality of Jesus Christ written to a church a little confused about his primacy. Today we look at the first full paragraph of this letter to see Paul invite the Colossians to a Christ-centered life.

Key Truth: Paul wrote Colossians 1:3-8 to invite the Colossian Christians to a Christ-centered life, a Christ-centered church, and to be a Christ-centered disciple.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about Christ-centered living.

Sermon Points:
  1. Invitation to a Christ-centered life (Col 1:3-5)
  2. Invitation to a Christ-centered Church (Col 1:6)
  3. Invitation to be a Christ-centered disciple (Col 1:7-8)
Exposition: Note well,
1. INVITATION TO A CHRIST-CENTERED LIFE (1:3-5).
a. Faith, Hope, Love- 1 Corinthians 13:13
b. Word- of truth, the gospel – stored up in heaven
c. Thanksgiving prayer- Paul is thankful as he prays for these believers that they are living a Christ-centered life.
d. ILLUSTRATION: Like the great tree of Psalm 1, Paul describes living in Christ with the gospel word as the root, the eternal hope as the trunk, faith the branches, and love the fruit of the Christian life. In verse 6 he gives the image of “producing fruit and growing” (NIV), and the image returns in Colossians 2:6-7.
e. APPLICATION: What about you? Have the people at your workplace heard of your faith in Christ Jesus? Or do they hear little beyond your complaining? Is your church family seeing the love you have for the saints? Or have you reached the age or the attitude that the church is here to serve you? A Christ-centered life doesn’t assume the people are here to serve you. A self-centered life does. Which one are you?

2. INVITATION TO A CHRIST-CENTERED CHURCH (1:6).
a. We have a global faith! It’s critical that you realize what God is doing these days around the globe. Here are a few highlights According to the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, CA:
• 5,600 new churches are opening every week worldwide.
• The Church in Africa is increasing by 20,000 per day on the average; the southern part of that continent was 3% Christian in 1900 and is nearly 60% Christian today.
• Worldwide, Christianity is growing at the rate of 115,000 new believers every day.
• More Muslims in Iran have come to Christ since 1980 than in the previous 1,000 years combined.
• In 1900, Korea had no Protestant church; it was deemed “impossible to penetrate.” Today Korea is 35% Christian with 7,000 churches in the city of Seoul alone.
• In Islamic (Muslim) Indonesia, the percentage of Christians is so high the government won’t print the statistic—which is probably nearing 15% of the population.
• God is creatively sending Chinese believers to reach Tibetans, Hondurans to reach North African Muslims, and Navajos to reach Laplanders. There are currently more than 60,000 non-Western missionaries from over 1,000 non-Western mission agencies. Many of these are serving in places which are hostile to Western missionaries. The political country of India is actually a composite of at least 3,000 “nations” or people groups—the ethne we’re to reach.[1]
  • In 1974, approximately one-half of the world's population was beyond the reach of the church, living in unreached people groups.
  • Today, just one-third of Earth's inhabitants live in unreached people groups. "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”[2]
  • We have had a great imbalance in our missionary sending worldwide. In 1994, only 1 in 10 missionaries worldwide worked among unreached people groups. But mission agencies like the International Mission Board began to see the imbalance. Today worldwide, 1 in 4 work among the unreached peoples.
  • It took 18 centuries for dedicated believers to grow from 0% of the world’s population to 2.5% in 1900, only 70 years to grow from 2.5 to 5% in 1970, and just the last 30 years to grow from 5 to 11.2% of the world population. In A.D. 100, there were 360 nonbelievers for every active Christian. Now, for the first time in history, there is one believer for every nine people worldwide who aren’t believers.[3]
  • But of 16,000 people groups worldwide, there are still 6,631 unreached people groups where a child born today will live her entire life without ever hearing about the eternal hope found in Christ Jesus and die in her sins and spend eternity in a Christ-less Hell unless someone goes to tell her. Globally, 2 out of every five people living right now will never hear about Jesus in their lifetime if no one goes to tell them. Who will tell them? Will it be you?
b. APPLICATION: This train is gaining speed, but it still has a long way to go. What is your part in it?
i. Perhaps God is calling you to mobilize missions in this church. The Men on Mission and Women’s Missionary Union need your involvement.
ii. Your calling may be to save lives through the pregnancy care center here in town, and that includes the eternal destinies of the men and women as well as unborn children’s lives.
iii. Your calling may be with Campers on Mission, a statewide ministry which our church is deeply involved in. Our team will be ministering next weekend down east NC.
iv. Our youth are headed to West Virginia on a mission trip in a week, and we need to begin mobilizing for an international trip to Liberia within two years.
v. And what of our church? Have we adopted an unreached people yet for prayer and church planting? Is God is calling us to that?
vi. And what is God calling you to? Missions is not an option for you. It’s not for the professionals. It is your calling. God has a job for you, and it has to do with reaching the remaining 6,631 unreached people groups left on this planet.
vii. Participating with the Lord in growing his church is part of living a Christ-centered life in a Christ-centered church.

3. INVITATION TO BE A CHRIST-CENTERED DISCIPLE (1:7-8)
a. Epaphras: The faithful pastor of the Colossian church. Paul calls him a dear fellow servant and a faithful minister of Christ. He was also a prayer warrior (Col 4:12). Epaphras was a disciple of Jesus Christ and he was deeply involved with discipling those whom he oversaw. He poured his life into them as Paul did with him.

b. APPLICATION: Mature Christian woman, whom are you mentoring? Church leader, whom are you discipling? The Great Commission is about making disciples. Where are yours? Who are you spending time with and training in the faith? It is the way the church grows its leaders. Young Christian, that yearning in your heart to know how to grow as a Christian over a lifetime is a good one. It is a yearning for a mentor, for a disciple-maker. Have you asked a mature Christian to help you learn how to pray, how to read your Bible, how to talk to people about Christ? Epaphras discipled his church. Paul discipled him. Into whom are you pouring your life?

Invitation: To a Christ-centered life, to a Christ-centered church, to a Christ-centered discipleship.