Rooted in Christ Week 1
"You have a Prayer"
Pastor Terry Inman
We have a prolific orange tree in our back yard. It is still loaded with oranges, along with blossoms and buds for the next crop! The more we prune it, the higher and fuller the lush green foliage grows.
It really likes where it’s planted. It’s deeply rooted in good soil—it gets plenty of water and sun. It is abundantly fruitful. We have fresh oranges for our healthy morning smoothies almost year around.
Our dear friends Dr. Sam and Linda Huddleston were in our back yard last week. Linda said, “Wow look how big those oranges are. Are they juicy and sweet”? We bagged a sack full and sent it home with her to find out.
A tree has to be rooted, to be fruited! Jesus said, “a tree is recognized by its fruit.” (Matt. 12.33 NIV) Today we begin a six-week study of the Apostle Paul’s brief letter to the Colossians. Our title for this series “ROOTED in CHRIST” comes from Paul’s theme scripture in chapter 2.
Paul writes, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Col. 2.6-7 NIV)
Last week several people prayed with us to make Christ Jesus their Lord.
As I said, last Sunday, a Lord is the owner, the master, the CEO our spiritual life. So in the next few weeks we learn more about how to live in Him, put down some deeper roots, and grow stronger in our faith!
Now for some brief background—Colossae was located in the Lycus River Valley in the Roman province of Asia in what is now Turkey.
It was a hundred miles inland from the port of Ephesus. It was part of a triangle of cites about ten miles apart. Hierapolis to the north meant “hot water” because of a “sulfur hot springs”. Colossae was known for “cold water” coming from mountain springs and in the middle was Laodicea.
Laodicea was known for its agricultural aqueduct where the hot sulfur water from Hierapolis would often mix with the cold water from Colossae delivering putrid and tepid water that would make you want to spit!
Laodicea was the last of the seven churches that received angelic messages in opening chapters of the Book of Revelations. Many theologians believe these letters are also directed to the church through out the ages. Unfortunately Laodicea doesn’t get that great of a review.
John, who received the Revelation, uses the nature of the region to make a prophetic statement. “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3.16 NIV)
The Colossians, next door, may have also been an intended recipient of this regional warning. They had their own share of religious mixture. Among other false teachings some in Colossae disputed Jesus’ claim to be “God in the flesh”. They taught that he was some kind of lesser demi-god.
Much of this powerful letter is setting the record straight on who Jesus is and what He does. Shortly after Paul’s writing from a Roman prison, a devastating earthquake reduced Colossae to a small insignificant village.
The best way to survive the shaking in our culture is to put down deep roots in the solid soil of the Lord Jesus Christ, the son of the living God!
We have no record of Paul ever in Colossae, but Epaphras, a companion of Paul, visited him in Rome with some not so good news about disturbing doctrines that were threating the growth and vitality of this church.
A full discussion of what Paul calls, “hollow and deceptive philosophy”
is very complex and extensive but it would suffice to say it was a syncretistic mix of religion and culture that included Jewish legalism, and Greek paganism in a mask of Christian faith.
It was somewhat like groups today that label themselves Christian but have widely divergent non-biblical doctrines and practices that were typically added on by some leader’s claimed angelic revelations.
The bible says, there are “angels of light” and “doctrines of demons” that are assigned to distort the scriptures and the truth of Jesus Christ.
Most heresies begin subtlety when our simple relationship with Jesus Christ turns into religious rituals and mystical non-biblical teachings.
Paul takes the high road in this letter. He is very complementary and compassionate toward these believers. He doesn’t go into debates and disputes he simply and clearly articulates the supremacy and sole sufficiency of Jesus Christ!
In Colossians we get a full-length portrait of Christ. Paul presents him as God’s Son, the central object of the Christian’s faith. He is The Redeemer, the total image of God, the Lord of creation, the head of the church and the reconciler of the whole universe—and that’s just the first chapter!
So lets dig into this incredible letter and get our roots down deep—not in religion, tradition or philosophy but into the real person of Jesus Christ!
I labeled today’s message “You have a Prayer” because that’s how Paul begins this letter. After a brief but warm salutation he tells his readers he is thanking God for them and praying for them.
Paul identifies himself as an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. The meaning of apostolos is “one sent” an authorized spokesman for God, an ambassador empowered to act as his representative.
Notice Paul indicates that he carries this commission not by man’s promotion but by “God’s will”. Paul also mentions Timothy as a brother.
Paul refers to his recipients as “Holy” (dedicated and devoted) and faithful (loyal believers). I love that because he starts right off affirming them for what he wants them to become. Fully ROOTED in CHRIST.
He also affectingly refers to them as “brothers”. Despite their differences of culture, social status, and racial background, the Colossian believers were bound together by a common bond of love. They are family. Growing up in church everyone was a sister or brother even people you didn’t like.
Paul believed in these brothers! It didn’t matter that they were from a small town and facing the threat of aggressive false religions, he knew they would remain faithful if he could just encourage them to stay rooted!
The normal greeting embracing both the Hebrew and Greek culture of the followers of Jesus was “Grace” and “peace” to you from God our Father.
Then he prays for them—First a prayer of thanksgiving then a prayer of petition. Paul expresses his heartfelt gratitude for their faith and love.
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 the saints—
Paul starts right off in his prayer establishing the credibility of the Lord Jesus Christ as God’s son! He knows it is the Father’s gift of His son that is ultimately responsible for the grace given to the believers of Colossae.
Paul then adds, the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. (Col. 1.3-6 NIV)
This complements last Sunday’s Easter message, “Enduring Hope”. Peter wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
This is the same thought Paul slips into his prayer of thanks. Our “faith in Christ” and our “love for the saints” spring from this secure hope.
Paul ends the love chapter in 1Cor. 13.13 with this, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” All three of these virtues imamate from God and each reinforce the other.
Love is the greatest because God is Love. John says, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (John 4.9 NIV)
Even though there is room for correction in Colossae this is what they have going for them. Their “faith” is literally “rooted” in Christ and the fruit is evident in their “love” for each other.
Paul wrote something similar to the Galatians. “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Gal. 5.6 NIV)
John would certainly agree. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”(1 John 4.7-8 NIV)
When I see believers struggling with love especially for a brother or a sister, I question the depth of their faith. If we are deeply “Rooted in Christ” we will produce the same fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
(Gal. 5.22-23 NIV)
Our hope in Christ is the solid ground for our faith, and love springs up from our faith! It’s all ROOTED in CHRIST!
Like my orange tree this kind of fruit is so abundant. There is plenty to share. Paul continues with this praise right in the middle of his prayer.
“All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing,
just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” (Col. 1.6 NIV)
This says two things about the nature of the good news. It bears fruit and it also grows. An apple is not just fruit to be consumed but it also bears the seed for the next tree. You can count the seeds in an apple—but you can’t count the trees in one seed.
The truth of God’s Grace in Jesus Christ grows on people! Epaphras a relatively obscure person in scripture is credited with planting a seed that was bearing fruit and growing in Colossae. The good news was winning over the bad news.
Paul says. “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. (Col 1.8-7 NIV)
These folks in Colossae were faced with some serious false doctrine. But faith in Christ and love for the saints would win the day. There’s a strange mix of teaching out there these days, so stay rooted in Christ and you will bear good fruit. You have a prayer!