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Janet's Corner

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Heart Spilling Over with Thanksgiving

Captivate our Hearts, Lord…

A Heart Spilling over with Thanksgiving:

Colossians 1:1-8

 

What do you do with your mail when it comes? Do you have a sorting process? Some goes in the recycle, some is shredded, some is read right away, some is avoided as long as possible. We look at the return address or the signature inside to put some value or priority on the letter. Well, Paul, begins with his signature so to speak, as he writes this letter to the Colossians. He identifies himself and the people to whom he is writing right off the bat. And it is a letter of value written thousands of years ago, but words that have lasting value even to us today. It’s a letter we need to put in the read pile. Paul has had a visitor in Rome while in jail. His name is Epaphras, the man who brought the good news of the gospel to three cities which were actually in a triangle of land in Asia. Both the city of Hierapolis and Laodicea were cities which had overshadowed Colossae on the trade route at this point. (map)Yet Paul chose to address this letter to the Colossians and have them pass it on to the other two cities to read for themselves. This area was fertile ground for religious speculations and heresies. All kind of philosophies were influencing this area, as well as a large Jewish community and a Christian church. There was a constant infusion of new ideas and teachings from Eastern religions. It was becoming a real mixing pot of philosophy and traditions. The people were taking a little bit of Eastern religion, Judaism and Christianity and following a man made religion fitted just to them. The word used for this is synergism. Does it sound like today? The New Age movement does just that – taking a little from eastern religions, mysticism, astrology and some more traditional philosophies or religions and comes up with something that fits the individual person. So the words of scripture that we will study will be applicable to us today.  

In Colossians 2: 2 Paul states, “My purpose 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.”

How will Paul encourage their hearts and unite them in love, as he has purposed to do? Paul wants them to recognize fully the truth about Christ - to know without a shadow of doubt that Jesus is preeminent (above all) and all sufficient.

 

They will give us a grounding in our faith and an awareness of how the world’s ways or man’s traditions can lead us away from Christ. (2:8) Allowing God to captivate our hearts according to His word, is really the defense against the philosophy and empty deception of the world and the traditions of men leading us away from Christ.  Plumb line is what we need. A plumb line is something used in wallpapering or carpentry work to keep things straight – even, not off center. It can be used in two ways. First, to hang something straight and secondly, to see if the piece was hung straight. To correct a crooked piece of wallpaper is much harder than hanging it straight in the first place! A building that is not plumb, will eventually collapse. We need to be able to discern the truth or error with the Word of God as our plumb line, building straight and strong from the beginning.

 

Vs 1-2:  Paul begins with his signature – an apostle –a man commissioned by God with authority and power - and then a greeting of grace and peace to the Colossians who are identified as holy and faithful brothers and saints in Christ Jesus. Their standing before God is clear to Paul. They are set apart for the kingdom of God.

As we read verses 3-8, Paul’s heart seems to be captivated with the work of God in others’ lives and his heart spills over with thanksgiving.

Paul identifies the reason for knowing of their faith in Jesus Christ and its effects on him and others. It was Epaphras (vs 7-8) that had brought the gospel to Colossians and told Paul all about them as he visited him while he was under house arrest.

And Paul begins to express his heart spilling over with thanksgiving because of what he has heard - remember he has never visited Colossae.

Paul’s heart was spilling over with thanksgiving because….

1.     The Colossians heard the word of truth, the gospel. The gospel had come to them: vs 5b   Faith comes from hearing the word of God. Epaphras – the faithful minister or servant of Christ. (1:7,4,12) The gospel is good news and Jesus is central to this word of truth. He has solved the problem of sin through his death, burial and resurrection. Some in Colossae were trying to remove Jesus from his place of preeminence. To do this would be to destroy the gospel. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life…Jesus is significant and unique. The gospel is the word of truth which brings us eternal life. And we must have people to deliver the truth in all its glory!!!

Are you able to deliver the gospel? Is the truth written on your heart so you can share it with someone else?

Do you have a heart of thanksgiving for the one who shared the gospel with you…have you expressed your thanks to them?

2.     The Colossians believed the gospel. Vs. 4,6

Have you noticed all the signs or plaques that just say “BELIEVE?” Believe what? That might be a useful tool to stimulate talks about faith in Jesus. The Colossians had heard and believed the gospel –they didn’t just shrug their shoulders at another idea, but they committed themselves to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They leaned their whole weight upon Jesus for their salvation. In verse 6 Paul states they heard it and understood God’s grace in all it’s truth…have you? Have you understood the gift that is extended to you through the gospel – a gift that you don’t deserve, but is given to you through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? None of us deserve to be forgiven for our sin, but Jesus extends his grace by paying the penalty for our sin, so our sins are wiped away! Remember that forgiveness of sin is at the heart of the gospel. Sin is what comes between God and man. They had heard about the hope of heaven and believed in the one and only provider of that hope! What kind of hope?  The sure hope – not just wishful thinking. The Message calls it green hope - the living hope of eternal life through Jesus. They believed in Jesus. Have you? Has the hearing of God’s word and the work of the Holy Spirit convincing you that you need a Savior, bringing you to faith in Jesus? Are you rejoicing in the hope of heaven because of what Jesus has done for you?

And as a result is your heart spilling over with thanksgiving toward God – have you expressed thanksgiving for the miracle of faith and grace in your own life? “You have been saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourself, so that no man can boast, but it is a gift of God.” It is even a work of God that he breaks through our darkness toward him and we believe in Him. What a miracle! How about expressing you appreciation to the one who led you to Christ – even if it was years ago…

          3. The Colossians had learned the gospel. Vs 7

They have been discipled in the word of truth. That word  “learn” in the Greek doesn’t just refer to the act of mentally acquiring knowledge, but of disicpling. “Not just listening to a teacher but living with the teacher and learning by listening, looking and living,” as Warren Weirsbe says. It’s learning by living. We might call it mentoring today.

Have you let your heart spill over with thanksgiving, appreciation, or gratitude toward the people who have been this kind of mentor in your life?

I found my self reflecting on those people yesterday – and the thought of their influence in my life brought such joy to my heart…who are those people in your life?

                               

          4. The Colossians are bearing the fruit of their faith. Vs 6, 4  Paul hears of their faith and love and hope expressed through their lives –the faith and love that had sprung up from the hope of heaven. Paul knew that something had radically changed in their lives – they had believed in Christ and were loving others. Loving others is a trademark of all Christians. We are naturally selfish people – out to get what we need for us. Others will know Christians by their love, Jesus says.  Love is sandwiched between faith and hope in these verses. We can have the hope of heaven and be of no earthly good – living with our heads in the clouds – speaking another language others don’t even understand. Or we can be so convinced of our faith that we can be arrogant and even violent to advance the gospel. Love is the meat of our testimony. Love is what must carry faith and hope. Look at I Corinthians 13 if you want to refresh your memory about what love is like. When do you hear that passage read most often? At weddings, right? That scripture is not just to be applied to a marriage relationship, but our relationships with everyone. Others will know us by our love. Our love will point them to the one in whom we believe – JESUS!

The hope of heaven – Just two weeks ago, a man in our congregation who experienced the reality of this hope as he passed from this world to heaven itself, left a living testimony of faith in Christ and love for all the saints. I heard over and over again that this man had great faith in Jesus. I heard over and over again how, even though he was suffering himself, he was more interested in others, giving them hope and love and encouraging their faith.  I believe, this is the kind of testimony Paul heard about and is so thankful for in the lives of the Colossians.

The gospel is growing and bearing fruit - not just in them, but all over the world! The gospel is compared to a seed planted in your heart that is watered, whose soil is cultivated, so that the seed will take root and grow, withstanding the storms of life and bearing fruit. How are the fruit of hope, love and faith growing in your life? Developing well? Suffering from drought? Destroyed by the last storm? Or is it budding and growing?

How do you water and cultivate your heart so it is receptive to the word of God? Thanksgiving is one way. Yesterday I just took some time to give thanks to Jesus for my life and his gracious provision. Have you done that lately?

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name.” - Hebrews 13:15

Hearing about the faith of the Colossians, Paul’s heart spilled over with thanksgiving. He expresses his thanksgiving to God the Father, not just the Colossians. Imagine here is Paul sitting in jail and he is thinking of others as he takes time to write this letter. Despite his circumstances, he can be thankful for the work of God in others’ lives! What an example of his words in Philippians – “rejoice in the Lord always!!!”

 

Has God captivated your heart with thanksgiving for the fruit of the gospel in others’ lives and your own? Enough that it is spilling over in words to God and to others?

Give us thankful spirits, Lord.