STEP 1 – DEFINING THE PROBLEM
We continue this morning on our short journey through sections of the book of Colossians. Remember the Paul wrote this letter from prison. He had never been to Colossae and he didn’t personally know these people but he had heard about their faith and he wanted to offer them both encouragement and words of wisdom. Last week he talked about what it means to be truly happy. If you want to be happy then it is helpful to start doing two things. First, help others as God has called you to do. Get your mind off you own problems by helping someone else. Second, remember that Jesus has prepared a place for you in his eternal kingdom if you put your faith in him. If you keep those two things in mind then you will be on the road to true happiness.
Today, we are going to glean something else from Paul’s letter. We’re going to learn about faith. The key verses in the passage for this topic are verses 21 to 23. With my military background I tend to look at life as a series of missions and what I see in Colossians 1:21-23 is a mission analysis. It starts off by defining the problem. Verse 21 (NIV) says, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.
Once you were alienated from God. Do you think that’s true? Do you think that people are naturally far from God? They are. That’s not the way it initially was at creation but when sin entered into the world, it separated us from God.
A lot of people don’t get that. They think that just because they don’t sin very much or because they do more good things than bad things, they’re okay with God. It’s almost as if they make a list of all the good things they do and all the bad things they do and as long as the list of good things is longer than the list of bad things, they believe that’s all that God requires. Is that true? A lot of people might think so but that’s not what the Bible says.
What level of behaviour does God require from us if we want to be right with him? God requires only one thing. He requires perfection. That’s a pretty high standard. If you were perfect, you could be right with God but how many people here this morning are perfect? How many of you have never made a mistake? How many of you have never hurt anyone or never said a bad word about anything or never got mad at someone for no good reason? None of us is perfect. Romans 3:23 (NIV) says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” What that means is that on our own, it is impossible to please God. As Paul writes to the Church at Colossae, “Once you were alienated from God.” It’s true.
STEP 2 – GOD PROVIDES THE SOLUTION
That’s the first step, defining the problem. Paul outlines the second step in Colossians 1:22 (NIV) where he gives us the solution:
But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
The problem is that we are far from God. Why? Because we are not perfect. So, what did God do? God sent his son Jesus. What’s the difference between Jesus and the rest of the people who have ever walked the earth? He was perfect. He never hurt anyone. He never said a bad word out of turn. He sometimes got mad at people but never without a good reason. And that’s not a sin.
Jesus was perfect and because Jesus was perfect, he and he alone was worthy to give himself as the price of our sins. Like it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV), “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” What this tell us is that, because of Jesus, we can be right with God. Because of Jesus and what he did for us on the cross of Calvary, we can stand in God’s presence as people who are holy and faultless and innocent.
Note this. Are we responsible for any of that? Is there anything that we can do that enable us to get closer to God? Did we do anything to earn our way into God’s presence? No! It says that it is God makes peace with us. We don’t make peace with God. He makes peace with us. God took the initiative and still does. It also says that God lets us stand in his presence as his people. We can’t do it on our own. We can’t do anything to get ourselves into the kingdom. It is God who makes peace. It is God who lets us stand. God does this because only God can do it. God does everything.
Do you know what that is called? It’s called grace. Grace is giving something to someone that the person neither deserves nor merits. That’s grace. That’s what God has done for us. God sent his son. God made peace with us. He lets us stand in his presence. We didn’t do it because we couldn’t. Because we couldn’t do it for ourselves, God did it for us.
STEP 3 – OUR RESPONSE
Step one – define the problem. We were far from God. Step two – find a solution. God provided the solution in Jesus Christ who died for our sins. Let’s go to step three. We know the problem. We know the solution. Now comes the interesting part for us because this is the part where we actually get to do something. We couldn’t do anything to save ourselves but we can do something to respond to what God did for us.
… if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
How do we respond to God’s solution to our problem? We do it through faith. Faith is our response to God. It’s what God wants from us. It’s the only thing that God requires.
Faith in what? Faith in a rabbit’s foot? How about faith in a horoscope? Or maybe faith in the government? People put faith in all kinds of things. A friend of mine told me the story of a little road trip he went on with his friend a couple of years ago. They were heading to Burlington and his friend wanted to take his car. It was an older car but he insisted that it would not be a problem. He had faith in his car.
That seemed reasonable enough but on the way back home the car broke down in London and they had to get it towed all the way back home to Cottam. Do you think it’s a good idea to put your faith in technology? How about electronics or mechanics? Guess what? All of that stuff breaks down or wears out and it usually happens at the most inconvenient time. It’s like the power windows in your car. They don’t often break but when they do, you usually discover it when it starts raining cats and dogs as you’re going down the 401 at 120 kph.
So in what do we put our faith? Again, God is specific about faith. We have to put our faith in Jesus Christ. That’s our response to God’s solution to our problem. And when we put our faith in Jesus, God’s solution to the problem becomes active in our lives.
Here’s the thing about faith. Ultimately, it is the foundation upon which we must live our lives. There is nothing more important in life than faith. That’s because it is the one thing that can never be taken away from you. Your car can be repossessed. The bank can foreclose on your mortgage. A pickpocket can steal your wallet with all of your money and ID. Your cell phone can run out of batteries. Your spouse can decide to leave you. Your boss can fire you. Your kids can disown you and your parents can cut you out of their wills. But no one and nothing can ever take away your faith. In John 10:27-28 (NIV) Jesus talked about the faith relationship that he wants to have with us. He said:
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Once you have Jesus in your heart, he’s there forever. Oh, you can ignore him. And you can deny him. And you can pretend he’s not there. You can even act like it. But you’re just fooling yourself. Once you put your faith in Jesus, he will always be there. The faith that he gives you is indestructible.
But here’s something you have to understand about faith. Paul said that you have to stay deeply rooted and firm in your faith. Why is that? Let’s turn to the parable of the sower in Luke 8. In that parable, the sower spread seeds all over his land. Some of it lands on the path and is eaten by birds. Some falls amongst thornbushes and is chocked out. Some also falls on good soil and produces a crop. Finally, some seeds falls on rocky soil where it starts to grow but when the weather gets dry in the heat of the summer, the young plants don’t have enough water because they have shallow roots and so they wither and dry up. Jesus explains how this relates to faith in Luke 8:13 (NIV) where he says:
Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
Deep roots. Paul says that we must stay deeply rooted and firm in our faith. Jesus tells us why. It’s because life will not always be easy. In fact, there will be times when life gets up and smacks you in the side of the head. Your biggest and brightest plans can fall apart. Your greatest hopes and dreams can be crushed. When those times come, if your faith is not deeply rooted then you will be more likely to forget about your faith and it will wither like those plants that were growing in rocky soil. Jesus says that as soon as life gets hard, they give up. Don’t be like that.
It is in the tough times when it is so important to have a deeply rooted faith. Faith, you see, has two key affects upon your life. The first one is your salvation. Through faith in Jesus Christ, you are saved and your place in the kingdom is reserved for eternity. That’s clear and that can never be taken away from you. That’s the first effect of faith and that’s the one that almost always comes first to mind for most people.
The other effect of faith is not upon your eternal life but upon your earthly life. It impacts the way you live right now. People who live with faith live differently. Study after study indicate that people who live with faith live fuller, happier lives. One of the most popular criticisms of atheists against people of any faith is that while people of faith may concentrate on “pie in the sky when you die,” secular people focus on improving life in the here and now. Interestingly that’s not quite the reality. In fact, it seems that the opposite is actually true.
When Dr. Arthur Brooks, an economist by profession, was with the American Enterprise Institute he did lots of research in the impact of faith on the way that people life their lives. He discovered that people who are serious about their faith are more likely to give to charities – even non-religious ones. They are more likely to volunteer to serve those same charities. They are more likely to assist family and friends, donate blood, give food and money to homeless people and return change when the cashier gives them too much. People of faith are markedly happier than their secular neighbours and are twice as likely to express optimism about the future.
That’s all positive stuff. But why is this so? Perhaps it’s because people of faith can tap into a power and a wisdom that is beyond ourselves. We have a wider range of resources from which we can draw in times of need.
Faith has a profound impact on the way we live our lives and the way we see the world. And the deeper the roots of faith, the greater will be its impact on our lives.
How deep are the roots of your faith? Are they deep enough? I love a big storm outside as long as I’m inside. I am in awe by the power of God’s creation. After a big storm, it’s interesting to go outside and see the damage. It’s not unusual to see trees uprooted. Can you figure out which trees fall over? The more shallow the roots the more likely it is that a tree is uprooted in a windstorm. When you are hit by the storms of life, are your faith roots deep enough to withstand the winds and the rain?
We all want deep roots. In fact, we need deep roots. But the time to put down deep roots of faith is not when the storm clouds hit. It is during the calm that we grow our roots deep so that when the winds blow, you can stand firm.
Do you want to put down deep roots of faith? One of the best places to start is by studying the people in the Bible who already did it, who went through tough times and continued to stand firmly in the faith.
Paul was an amazing man. Remember where he was when he wrote this letter to the Colossians. He was in a prison. They weren’t prisons like we think of prisons. They didn’t get three square meals a day, a comfortable bed and indoor plumbing. There was no outside prisoner advocacy groups looking after inmates. In a Roman prison sometimes you got fed, sometimes you didn’t. Sometimes you got water, sometimes you didn’t. Sometimes the guards culled the rats, other times they chewed your toes while you tried to sleep at night. Roman prisons were horrible places. Lots of troubled winds blew through them. But Paul stood firm because he had a deeply rooted faith.
STEP 4 – EVALUATION
There’s one more step. Step one – identify the problem. We are far from God. Step two – God’s solution. He sent his Son to take away our sin and make it possible for us to be at peace with him. Step three – our response to God’s solution for our problem. We respond with faith in Jesus Christ and we seek to grow in faith so that can stand firm in the storms of life. So, what’s step four in this mission analysis? Step four is evaluation.
We evaluate he firmness of our faith by looking at the results. Paul talks about one of the key results in the second half of Colossians 1:23 (NIV) which says, “… and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” The important word in this sentence is “hope”. People of faith have hope. No matter what life throws at them, they continue to live with hope. Listen to what it says in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Did you hear that? When faith is deeply rooted, you might suffer but you will not be crushed. You might be confused but you never give up. You might get knocked down but you always get back up again.
Why? Because of hope. People who have no hope live defeated lives. But people of hope live in victory. No matter what life throws at them, they know that they are not alone. No matter how tough things get, they know that God will give them strength. No matter how low they may feel, they know that God will lift them up. Victory. People of hope live with victory and they will never be defeated.
That doesn’t mean that faith makes life easy. It doesn’t. Faithful people are just as likely to go through storms as atheists but they also have this resource called hope that makes it easier to bear with the storms. When we go through those times we still have faith that God is with us and that he will supply all of our needs through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Do want to live with that kind of hope? Then put your faith in Jesus Christ. Allow the roots of faith to grow deep and you will discover the hope that will well up inside of you and allow you to live in victory.
My prayer is that all of us will find that faith and the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ so that we can live the victorious life in him.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Father God, we offer our praise to you in morning and in the evening, in our homes and at work, everywhere, without hesitation or reservation! When difficult times arise, you are our refuge and strength. Thank you for the assurance that we are never alone. We can depend on you when our own resources come to an end. You are worthy of praise and adoration and we will honour you with our thoughts, words and actions, acknowledging who you are and what you have done for us.
Holy and Living God, the dog days of summer are upon us. The air is hot. The ground thirsts for nourishment. Send your refreshing rains upon us as you have sent your Spirit. As the crops remain dry, we become concerned for the farmers and their production. Bless them with timely rain and supportive communities.
We continue to pray for the people of Ukraine as they continue to battle Russian aggression. In the midst of that struggle we give thanks that construction on the Kyiv House has begun and we look forward to meeting new friends and providing a safe community for them as they settle into a new country.
We remember those who are away for summer vacation. May this be a relaxing time for them and they rest and re-energize, preparing for another season of activities in just a few short weeks as Labour Day approaches. We also think about students who are preparing to journey off to school in September. May these adventures take them closer to fulfilling your purposes on their lives.
Lord of Love, thank you for the assurance that, as we grow to know your Word, peace and grace will increase in our lives. That is your promise and your promises never fail. Thank you for the many other promises that you have given. Enable us to walk in them fully, trusting in your great mercy, so that through them, and by them, we may become more like you. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
July 17, 2022 / Pentecost 6 / Proper 11
Amos 8:1-12; Psalm 15; Luke 10:38-42; Colossians 1:15-28
CALL TO WORSHIP
God stands in the assembly of heaven
giving judgement and grace.
God stands in the midst of our worship
offering peace and challenge.
Rise up, O God, and reveal yourself to us.
Rise up, O people and meet your God.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
We seek your inspiration, O God, as we come to worship. You are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the One who was and is and is to come. Open our minds to your Word in Jesus Christ. Open our spirits to a fresh inflowing of your love. We can neither completely know nor understand you for you are beyond our imagination and thought. Still, you come and touch us in the deepest recesses of our beings bringing hope and peace and wonder. Come, Holy Spirit, Come. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of Mercy, your spirit flows with us bringing conviction, judgement and forgiveness. How much we are in need of each. Takes the brokenness from our lives and remakes us into vessels of beauty. Enable us to come to you free of worry and anxiety. Like Martha, help us to do what needs to be done. Like Mary, keep our minds fixed on what is truly important. Forgive us for not keeping our eyes upon Jesus. When we wander, bring us home to experience, once again, the wonder of your amazing love. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Jesus saw the wrong that people did and corrected them with love and patience. God continues to be faithful in mercy and grace. Confessing our sins is the first step to forgiveness. Thanks be to God that we are blessed by such a great gift and can come before our Maker as whole and blessed people.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
The cost of our discipleship is small, O God, compared with the benefits of the life of faith. We give our gifts freely and gladly asking for the insight to use them wisely for Jesus’ purpose and ministry. Amen.
God is the Potter and we are the clay. May we live with God’s hand upon us, allowing ourselves to be moulded by the Master Designer and Artist of all Creation.