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Aug 20, 2017

What's Our Goal?

What

Passage: Colossians 2:1-8

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Colossians

Keywords: aim, christ, encouragement, goal, love, objectives, worship

Summary:

This passage looks at Paul's goal for an entire city-church and how that should shape what we aim to do week after week as the church.

Detail:

What’s Our Goal?

Colossians 2:1-10

August 20, 2017

Anyone know what happened 35 years ago TODAY, 1982 (besides the U.S. Marines landing in Beirut, Lebanon]?

  • The most wonderful woman in my world vowed her life to me as I vowed mine to her. 6 children, a dozen apartments & houses, 3 countries, 5 churches and a few gray hairs later, we’re more in love, stronger in character, wiser and happier than we’ve ever been.  It’s all because God has been good, she has been gracious and I haven’t been too goofy.   Thank you for praying and loving and living with us to this point.  Now on to the next 35!  (You don’t think I’ll make it to 95?  Oh ye of little faith! J)

A good part of being successful in marriage…or anything for that matter…is knowing what you are shooting for.  In most aspects of life, we need to know what is the GOAL.  If we aim for the wrong thing, we’ll probably be very disappointed with the result.

ILL:

  • Soccer team: the goal?  Not the big bucks.  Not the cheering crowd. Not the most miles run in a game.  It’s to get that white & black ball into the opposing team’s net as many times as possible in 90 minutes of play.
  • I’ve never been a real hunter. In fact, about the biggest game I’ve hunted has been ground squirrels.  But even when I was a kid, I knew that IF I was going to be a satisfied hunter, I had to aim for the little varmints.  Aiming for the apples on the tree next to those critters wasn’t going to get me a gopher…no matter how much I liked apples!
  • I’ve found the same to be true in marriage. As much as I like to be happy, if I set out every day to chase happiness, I’m going to be rather disappointed.  But if my aim is to learn to love Sandy afresh, to serve her best I can, to protect and honor and cherish her another day, I can testify that if I’m successful at hitting those targets, happiness will usually follow.  HAPPY WIFE…HAPPY LIFE!  Aiming to make someone else happy in life usually brings happiness as a by-product in my life. 

So what’s that got to do with today’s passage of scripture?  Well, in the NIV of Colossians 2:1-10 that we’re in today, the translators have inserted a little English word that isn’t actually in the original Greek.  It’s that little word “goal” in verse 2:2-3—Paul writes to this city-church in Colossi, “My goal is that they[/you] may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they/you may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they/you may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

            The translators are translating a little adverbial conjunction “that” (Gk: hina) to mean “in order that” or “with the goal that” what he goes on to explain. 

            Studying this little passage this week reminded me of a conversation I had a while back with someone about church.  They were commenting how they were feeling somewhat disconnected from people in their church.  And they asked me, in essence, “What do you think should be the goal of doing church on Sundays?”  That’s not the question Paul is specifically answering here in our passage today.  But it has a lot to do with what he says in this text.  So as a starter question today, here’s what I want you to do.

            Before I give you my answer, I’d like you to think together about that question.  Some of our time together today will be spend being the Body of Christ to each other today—thinking together, praying together, talking and ministering together as different parts of Christ’s Body, the church, today. 

To facilitate some of that, I want us to get in groups of 5 or 6 people this morning.  [Explain HOW and WHY we do this at Mosaic.] 

  • Not intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable. You don’t have to say a word if you don’t want to.  Silence can still be golden…even on Sunday mornings. J  Nor do you have to monopolize the whole time and fill it with your own opinion. God probably has as much to say to you through others today as through me.
  • You’ll only remember about 10% of what I say today but you will probably remember most of what the Holy Spirit says TO you as well as what YOU say TO others.
  • Chewing your own food is always preferable to pre-processed baby food! If you don’t believe me, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0WgC0_oA-8, 0-17 sec.

It is possible to have many very good but different reasons for gathering as God’s people together on a Sunday like this.  It’s possible for us do have 100 different goals or reasons for showing up.  The problem comes when our goals, our reasons, don’t match God’s purposes for His church gathered.  The problem comes when cultural expectations crowd out biblical expectations

            So talk for a few minutes about what you think God wants us to have as goals when we come together as His family, the church, specifically in weekly gatherings like this on Sundays? 

[Listen to ANSWERS.]

I think that our view of what “churchis is far too SMALL.  Too many of us, when someone asks us, “What’s your church like?” get stuck thinking about what happens in a particular building at a particular day and time of the week, usually Sunday morning. 

Biblically speaking, when God thinks about His church in Spokane, He thinks about ALL his children in this city ALL week long—those coming together for fellowship on Sundays and those staying away for whatever reason.  He see His “church” in the factories, warehouses, offices, hospitals and schools all through the week, interacting, praying with each other, encouraging each other, sharing spiritual truths with each other.

            Church, scripturally speaking, is wherever the Spirit of Christ & His people meet.  Whenever 2 or 3 of God’s kids are gathered together “in Jesus name,” that is the church gathered. That means whenever we are together talking about Jesus, serving others in His name, praising Him, worshipping Him, seeking Him, and doing what He would want to do and be doing if He were here in human flesh. 

            That’s why we may feel closer to Christians at our workplace or in our apartment building than we do to most people here on a Sunday.  We’re spending far more time with them and we are hopefully talking about more things on the heart of Jesus than we ever get time to do even here. 

            I think part of the reason why so many Christians in America today are “disappointed with the church” and move from one local church to another is that their definition of church is faulty and inadequate.  We’re looking for some little corner of God’s family in this city to meet ALL our needs and expectations about “church.”  God didn’t give to any one local church all the gifts and experiences we all need.  He gave it to his whole church—His family in this city. 

            So our goal should not be to experience everything of Christ in one 60 or 90 minute period in one place for our entire week.  If that is your goal, you’ll probably never be truly content with “the church.” 

            But if your goal is to experience the life of Jesus Christ in the community of God’s people through shared worship, shared prayer, shared ministry, shared engagement with God’s word and shared conversation about God and life all week long, wherever you can, then you might actually be happy most Sundays with what this or other local churches do on that day of the week. 

            This passage in Colossians 2 is all about Paul’s heart for some people he’s never met personally.  Together with the ancient city of Hierapolis and Laodicea, they were called the “tri-cities” area of the now Turkish Lycus Valley

Interestingly, history records that within a few short years of this letter to Colossi from Paul, the city was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake.  Perhaps the urgency Paul felt to write to these fellow believers he had never met was prompted by the Holy Spirit’s knowledge that this church didn’t have very long to grow.  Many of them undoubtedly died in the earthquake that shortly destroyed their town. 

APP:  That’s a good reminder that when the Holy Spirit prompts us to do something, we best not delay.

STORY:  High school friend and fellow cellist; my freshman year of college.

APP:  It’s also a reminder that the very best thing we can do for anyone at any stage of their life, but particularly when living in uncertain times or when their days are numbered, is to give spiritual guidance, counsel and challenge whenever we have opportunity.  Spiritually dead people need Jesus more than even medical care. Spiritually hungry and thirsty people need The Bread of Life and the Water of Life more than food and water (John 4 & 6).

So before we look back into the text here at a couple of things, I want each of you to write out 2 goals you have for God’s people in Spokane, His church.  [60 seconds]

Now, let’s compare that with what Paul’s goals were for a whole city-church of brothers and sisters he’d never met. 

So here are your next discussion questions for Col. 2:2-4.

  1. WHAT are Paul’s goals for fellow believers in Colossi?
  2. HOW does he say they can achieve those goals?

COLOSSIANS 2:2-4
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.

Let’s list out Paul’s goals for the church:

1.) Vs. 2—“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart….”

2.) Vs. 2— ”My goal is that they may be…united in love….”

3.)  Vs. 2—“…in order that they might know…Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 

4.)  Vs. 4—“I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” 

#1.)  Vs. 2—“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart….”

This word “encourage” in the Greek can mean “to comfort, encourage or strengthen.” 

Is that your goal this morning?  When you decided to come gather with God’s people, was it your prayer, “Lord, please show me who needs some encouragement or comfort or strengthening today.  And then show me how to do that in their life”

Trust me, I know what it is like to come together with God’s people and just feel like you desperately need someone to encourage YOU. 

ILL:  Going to chapel every day in language school.  I felt completely undone, completely stupid, completely drained, completely useless and empty and weak every day.  I remember hoping each day that the speaker would have something to encourage me, not just challenge me to do something better or more. 

            Some of you are feeling like that today.  Well, you’ve come to the right place…NOT me or this building or even the people around you…but GOD himself.  2 Cor. 1:3ff reminds us that we serve the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

            Where does comfort come from, according to God’s Word?  First, it comes, as we just read, directly from God.  He’s the first being we need to look to and cry out to for strength, comfort and encouragement.

            Secondly, God’s word indicates that comfort may come to us from other sources too.  All these passages I’ll point you to right now use the same Greek word used here in Colossians 2. 

a.) The Word of God provides encouragement/strength/comfort--Romans 15:4-- For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

b.) Teachings/exhortations/prophecies that correspond to the Word of God--I Cor. 14:31-- For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.

c.) The FAITH of others--1 Thessalonians 3:7-- Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith.  Just being around other people who are at the moment stronger in faith has a strengthening effect.  Sometimes we just need other people to “believe for us.”  When we are “in Christ,” in His body, the church, the faith of others it what will sometimes sustain us. 

ILL:  If you break your arm, you’ll have to spend some time with it in a cast.  The rest of your body will have to compensate for it.  But the rest of your body will go on pumping blood, digesting food, coordinating muscle movement, swallowing, sneezing and seeing.  The rest of the body…as long as you stay connected to it… will go on living “for you,” taking care of you until you are healthy enough to take care of yourself and them too. 

d.) This is what Paul talks about in 2 Cor. 7:6 when he says, But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.  Paul goes from being “downcast” to being joyful, all because of the love and concern of other believers. Expressions of love bring strength to all of us who are “in Christ.”  

So let’s talk about that for a moment. 

Q:  How has God comforted you in suffering (of any kind)?  How has the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort strengthened, encouraged and helped you press on through trials and suffering?

APP:  For most of us, when we’re discouraged, we need encouraging relationships—God and people.  That’s not to say that they are responsible for pulling us out of the pits.  But it is to say that most of us can’t climb out of the pits of discouragement or hardship or weakness all on our own.  We NEED the hands, shoulders, listening ears and praying hearts of people around us. 

The sad reality is, too many people don’t have relationships that are strong enough, transparent enough, honest enough, consistent enough with brothers and sisters in Jesus to be experiencing regular, encouraging, life-giving spiritual relationships.  God is always there and wants us to cry out to Him.  But often His answer may be the presence and prayer and perceptive ear of a fellow believing friend.

ILL:  For years, I’ve tried to be in at least one or two group of men with whom I can bare my soul and walk through trials together.  Participants have ebbed and flowed.  Some have stayed for the duration.  Some have left the faith.  Others have gotten sidetracked into false doctrine. Some are younger than me.  Some are older. 

            I’ve initiated both groups but, at times, others have kept them going.  They’ve been one of the most consistent and helpful “encouragements/comforts/strengthens” to my life.  But they have taken initiative, discipline, sacrifice, consistency and commitment

            Friends, we can’t have the kind of encouragement talked about in God’s word without the kind of dedication and commitment talked about there too.  They flow together like water in a pipe or life-giving blood in a vein.  Directed, focused, consistent supplies of water or blood keep everything living and flourishing. 

We might not get any further than this today.  But it would be a travesty of Bible study to note that this is one of the goals God has for the church and just skip right over it.  I’m not naïve enough to believe that every need of every heart here today can be met in the next few minutes.  But I’m also tired of hearing God’s people complain about not getting beyond surface interactions yet never really doing anything to change it. 

So here’s my suggestion for the next 3 minutes.  Turn to just one other person (preferably not a family member), give your first name and then BOTH of you share about some area/issue/incident of your life where you could use more strength, some encouragement or some comfort.  Then follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in ministering to that person.  As God’s presence to them this morning, you may want to prayer either out loud or silently for God to supply the needed strength, comfort or encouragement.  You may want to write it down and pray about it throughout the week too. You may feel led to give a word of encouragement or counsel or share a Scripture verse with them.  Follow God’s prompting and BE His encouraging, comforting or strengthening presence today.

Now let’s talk about the next phrase of Paul’s passion for churches.  Vs. 2--  My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love….”

Some versions translate this “knit together in love.”  Paul uses it again in 2:19 when he is speaking about legalists who add requirements to the simple Gospel of God.

“They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.”

The “love” Paul speaks of here is agape love—self-sacrificing, doing what is in the best interest of the beloved.  It is not a love that seeks to get what it wants from the one loved but to give what truly benefits and blesses the beloved. 

Verse 19 is telling us what happens when people “loose connection with the head,” i.e. Christ.  We stop supporting each other in our faith.  We stop “holding together” like joints, sinews and ligaments. 

ILL:  What does it feel like when you tear a ligament?  Not very fun. It’s painful and it takes a while to heal.  The head is what tells us we need some stretching exercises that prepare us for workouts or runs.  Without the head saying, “Hey, not so fast. Don’t move that way or you’ll tear something,” we end up not only straining relationship muscles but tearing ourselves away from usefulness and connectivity with the rest of the Body of Christ.

APP:  You would think by now we would be wise to Satan’s overused tool of separating us from loving connection with the rest of the Body of Christ.  But this seems to be one of the most easily used tools of Satan to isolate and render ineffective the people of God.  Rather than press into more fellowship, rather than spend more time with God’s family, people who view church as a place that is supposed to heap love on them get disillusioned and walk farther away.  That doesn’t make sense!

“Knit together in love” means I must come to the Body of Christ with a goal, a heart, a mindset to LOVE OTHERS UNCONDITIONALLY regardless of how little I may feel in the moment they are loving me.  Being Christ’s body to each other means our goal in every connection with other believers is to pour out more unconditional love.  Sure, we may have to talk about tough things.  We may have to address hurts and feelings of being slighted or ignored.  But if we’re still connected to Christ, it will be done with a heart to build up the other person in love, not tear them apart in anger or because we’re offended.

This is one reason why the Lord Jesus taught us to pray, “…and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”  We’re a people who offend often and in many ways.  Without constantly choosing forgiveness, we will isolate and roots of bitterness will creep in.  

APP:  So let’s make that our prayer right now.  Let’s clear the deck of the harmful debris of offenses and hurts by asking God for His heart of forgiveness and then telling God, “I choose today to forgive ___________ for ____________.” 

[Time of prayer.]  [Repeat several times…“Our Father, which art in heaven…Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”]

            That is part of “being knit together in love.”  But it is only the preparation partEngaging in loving action is the next partLove unexpressed is not agape love.  It’s just nice thoughts towards others that never go beyond our head. 

            And frankly, Sunday morning is probably not the optimal place for us to live out this love.  We can do it but there are some challenges to loving deeply and self-sacrificially at a “church service.”  Just what are some of the challenges to being “knit together in love” on a Sunday-only encounter? 

[Responses.]

            On the other hand, how CAN we love each other in a Sunday worship setting?

[Responses.]

  • Show up! Imagine how encouraging it would be if every child of God in Spokane showed up every Sunday!
  • Engage in a conversation that seeks to show love, compassion, kindness, interest in someone else.
  • Give someone a hug who may not get a hug from someone else all week long.
  • Give a warm smile.
  • Pray for/with someone.
  • Teach, learn, obey God’s word.
  • Share coffee, lunch

That’s a pretty limited list.  But the rest of life and love is open to us throughout an entire week:  doing dishes, doing someone’s yard work, taking someone to a doctor’s appointment, babysitting, fixing a meal, texting a kind word, calling to ask how they are doing, sharing a Bible study together, etc. 

            One more thought on this.  Life’s difficulties, tragedies, trials, hard spots and tough times are some of THE BEST opportunities to really unite us “in love.” 

ILLBrief scare on Wednesday with the news of a missing Blackhawk helicopter and crew from son David’s base at Wheeler Field in Hawaii.  First new of it came to us through friends who knew he is flying out of there.  As I thought of how different Wednesday could have unfolded if it had been him, I knew that there would have been an outpouring of love from the body of Christ…all over the world.  God’s people care. How thankful we are we didn’t have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death to know that.   

Most of life’s burdens are more hidden, aren’t they?  They aren’t splashed across the news headlines. In order for people to know we could use some lov’en, we have to be willing to share how we’re feeling with others.  People can’t read our minds or emotions.  We have to tell them. 

So when a brother/sister in Christ asks, “How you doing?” we need to learn to practice honesty and tell them when we’re struggling.  And when we ask that question, we need to be ready to take some time to minister grace and love if the person really isn’t “fine.”  

And if someone doesn’t pick up on our need, we need to avoid self-pity.  It may just be Jesus calling you to himself directly, asking you to seek encouragement directly from Him.

1.) Vs. 2—“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart….”

2.) Vs. 2— ”My goal is that they may be…united in love….”

3.)  Vs. 2—“…in order that they might know…Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 

CLOSE:

  • It all must start with experiencing Jesus Christ as your own Lord & Savior. (Call to faith in Christ.)
  • What is God asking you to change about your goals for being involved with His Bride, the church?