Rooted in Christ Week 4
"The Ministry"

Pastor Terry Inman

04-24-16

 

Mondays are not always the best time to talk to Pastors. There is hopefully a Sunday afterglow but it is often mixed with something akin to an emotional hangover. Preaching is hard work. Pastoring is hard work. Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t love it.

At a time when this veteran Apostle, should be thinking about a secure retirement on a Mediterranean beach, he is under house arrest in Rome. He is writing letters to churches while awaiting trial. As he lifts his pen to the parchment you may hear the clang of the chain that tethered him to his Roman guard. Today we study Colossians 1.24 thru 2.7 NIV

 

Paul expresses his thoughts on, The Ministry, the suffering, the preaching, the praying, and the pastoring. It’s glorious but not glamorous!

 

Now this is not a message just for professional ministers like Pastors, evangelists, or missionaries. This is a word for all of us. We are all called to be ministers. Paul’s label is, “servants of the gospel”. (GR:diakonos) translated as minister is “one who serves”.

 

“He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service…” (Eph. 4.11 NIV)

First lets talk about the ministry of suffering. Paul beings with this: “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Col. 1.24 NIV)

 

It seems incredulous that Paul would reference suffering as part of the ministry in light of his previous thoughts on the Supremacy of Christ.

 

Apparently some were struggling with how this great Apostle could undergo so much hardship. “I ask you, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.” (Eph. 3.13 NIV)

We think of Apostles as leaders who have spiritual authority, perform miracles and influence spiritual movements. This is true. But suffering was also a reality for these powerful ministries.

 

We have been honored to know and serve along side Rolland and Heidi Bakker in Africa. I doubt that they would label themselves Apostles but they are certainly impacting nations with thousands of churches, schools and children’s centers. Miracles are common for them; but so is suffering!

 

They have both faced critical illnesses. Their lives have been threatened. Leaders have betrayed them. On several occasions when we visited in Mozambique we listened, prayed and encouraged them as they faced overwhelming trials.

 Paul views suffering as a part of the “ministry”. Some misunderstand this passage to support the idea that “suffering” is a way to pay for our sins or earn God’s favor. They misinterpret this expression,

I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions”

 

What Jesus accomplished on the cross was a totally adequate sacrifice.

Some of the gnostic teachers advocated extreme ascetic practices including self-abuse and self-denial as a means to overcoming evil. This is still practiced in some places, where beating, wounding and cross bearing is part of annual commemorations of the crucifixion.

 

Paul refutes these misguided attempts to appease God. But he suggests that suffering and sorrow can be redemptive. He considered it a joy to literally “catch up” on the ministry of suffering in his own life.

 

No one enjoys pain, but for Paul it was joy to consider his hardships as identifying with the “afflictions of Christ”. No matter what we go through we will always be way behind what Jesus suffered.

 

Suffering can be a way to identify with and experience Him. Paul was actually called to preach the gospel and to suffer for the name of Christ.

 

He said, I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings”. Phil 3.10 NIV

 

Paul says something here about the purpose of suffering. “I rejoice in what was suffered for you” It can benefit other people. His calling to preach the good news to the gentiles certainly benefited them. His letters of teaching and encouragement from prison left an imprint on them and all followers of Jesus though-out the ages.

 

One of the things I have learned in 44 years of ministry is that our weakness, afflictions, disappointments, opposition, and personal losses can be a maturing, equipping and comforting tool to benefit others. People watch and learn from how we deal with adversity.  

 

Next Paul talks about the ministry of Preaching. He was “commissioned” or entrusted to proclaim the gospel. He says, “I have become its (the church) servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness” (Col. 1. 25 NIV)

 

Here Paul talks about his mission, his message, his methods, and his ultimate purpose. Paul was “commissioned” to serve the church with a full presentation of God’s word. We call this the “full gospel”.

 

The full gospel is more than words. He says, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power” (1 Cor. 2.4 NIV)

 

Keep in mind Paul was not preaching from the bible as we now have it. When he talks about the “full word of God” he is referring to revelation given by Jesus Christ His apostles. He describes the word as a “mystery”, a term popular with the Gnostics teachers. To them “mystery” was secret enlightenment known only to the spiritually elite.

 

This word or “mystery”Paul says, has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1. 26-27 NIV)

 

The unknown mystery Paul is talking about is now fully revealed in all his people (the saints) both Jews and Gentiles. This unveiled mystery, enriched with all God’s magnificence is, “Christ in you the Hope of Glory”!

This is the ultimate gift. Christ in us! This is the most personalized the presence of God ever gets in this life. This was top-secret all along but now fully revealed in Jesus Christ’s death resurrection and exaltation.

Christ alive in us now gives us hope for a glorious future forever!

 

That’s the message. Paul also talks about the method in his preaching. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. (Col. 1.28)

 

There are three words here that describe how disciples are formed.

Proclaim is simply sharing the gospel. It is speaking or informing.

Admonish is stronger it means to caution, warn or even reprove.

Teaching is more than the dissemination of information. It involves learning. Learning is measured by change. We call this transformation.

 

Paul says this kind of teaching is done with “all wisdom”. The goal is spiritual maturity. “so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”    

Perfect means complete. It is to come of age fully developed in Christ.

 

Again the Gnostics had their pseudo-wisdom. So let me share with you Paul’s understanding of true spiritual wisdom. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. (1 Cor. 2.13 NIV)

 

Paul says, “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (Col. 1. 29 NIV) Ministry is a struggle. It is hard work. But it’s His “work”. He says, “l labor with all His energy” This word also means efficiency. His power makes our ministry effective.

 

From here Paul moves briefly into the ministry of prayer or intercession. This is the key to effective ministry. He says, “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.” (Col. 2.1NIV)

 

Even though Paul hadn’t been there he had a deep love for them and concern for their spiritual growth. He says, “I am struggling for you”. We get the word “agonize” from this. It was used in the Greek language for strenuous exertion. He was contending for their faith. This is intercession.

 

Growing up in church I heard people call it “the burden of the Lord”.  They would pray with passion and intensity until the burden lifted.

 

The ministry of Intercession is spiritual warfare. It is a struggle in the heavens for the souls of men and women. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6.12 NIV)

 

Intercession is intervention. It’s not conventional--it’s spiritual. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Cor 10.4 NIV) Paul knew he was taking on “doctrines of demons” in Colossae. This was a supernatural fight that he would win on his knees!

 

Finally Paul concludes with a look at the ministry of Pastoring. He simply wants to encourage these believers who are being confronted with false teaching. Pastoring is feeding, leading and caring for the flock. We can all do that. It’s not the work of just a few professionals.

 

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. (Col. 2. 2-4 NIV)

 

We become targets of the wolves when we are scattered or isolated. Paul wanted his words to encourage them and unite them. Together we grow in Christ. Pastors get the most fulfillment out of seeing people grow!

 

People who get attracted to cults are not looking for truth they are looking for love. They want to belong. They are initially offered fellowship but then it turns to manipulation and domination.

 

Paul says, “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.” (Col. 2. 4-5 NIV)

This word “orderly” doesn’t do the passage justice. It is a military term. He is commending them to keep a solid front, to band together and resist the encroachment of the enemy.

 

Paul wraps up this section with the theme of this letter. “So then, 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)

 

We have received Jesus Christ. We have been given new spiritual life. “Christ is you” the Hope of Glory. So how do we continue to grow—through the ministry of suffering, preaching, praying and pastoring.

 

We put down deep roots in Christ. That’s the start. Then we are built up. We are discipled in the word. It is proclaimed, we are admonished, we are transformed and we are presented mature in Christ.

 

“Strengthening” is a continual process. It is often assisted through suffering. Paul’s final dashboard of spiritual growth is this: “we are overflowing with thankfulness”. Show me someone full of gratitude and I will show you a solid fruitful tree in the kingdom of God!