Pastor's Blog

Pastor's Blog

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Preaching notes June 7, 2020 Col. 1:24-2:5

Faith in Christ and Love for the Saints
"Hidden Treasure"
Colossians 1:24-2:5

Introduction: The Largest Buried Treasure Find in America
·         The largest buried treasure find in America, known as the Saddle Ridge hoard, was discovered in February 2013. A couple who owned the property were walking their dog in the morning. They spotted what appeared to be a rusted portion of a can and decided to unearth it. The rusted and deformed can was unusually heavy as if it were filled with iron or lead. The can was so heavy that while taking it back to their house, the lid of the can cracked open and revealed glistening gold coins! Not the sort of thing that you stumble across on the average day!
·         After that first can, the couple went back to the site to dig up the land in search of more cans filled with coins. Eventually, they unearthed a total of eight cans throughout their property on Saddle Ridge. After their discovery, the couple protected their find by hiding it in an old ice chest, then burying it under a pile of wood.

·         The face value of the coins totaled $27,980, but was assessed to be worth $10 million. In total, the hoard contains $27,460 in twenty-dollar coins, $500 in ten-dollar coins, and $20 in five-dollar coins, all dating from 1847 to 1894. The collection is the largest known discovery of buried gold coins that has ever been recovered in the US. The origin of the largest buried treasure find in America remain a mystery to this day. (Source: Neil Patrick; “The Saddle Ridge Hoard – is the largest known discovery of buried gold coins that has ever been recovered in the US,” The Vintage News, 7-28-16)

·         Who would not want to find a hidden treasure?  Not everyone would want to go arrowhead hunting with me -- I can sometimes be so slow in an effort to be thorough, and because I just believe that there is treasure everywhere and I am missing it. It was kind of the same thing growing up, wanting to be an archaeologist: find fossils or buried civilizations.
·         Don't you believe that there's so much treasure out there, undiscovered, and hidden... Just like the gold in the cans, not too far away from gold rush country.  And I have been told the last two months to take my money out of the banks and stick it in my backyard - it would be safer. I would not be the first to do that.
·         There is of course a problem with "hidden treasure." It's not the 'treasure' part, I am enthralled! It is the 'hidden' part. Where is it hiding? That's the million-dollar, oops - $10 million question. A person could hunt all their life and never discover such a treasure. And that would describe 99.999% of the people in our world. If we just knew where to look.
·         In our passage today Paul uses language of: hidden, treasure, mysteries, struggling and striving for, disclosing secrets and of discovering.  Once again - a person could look all their life and never find such treasure, be so close and never find it. Our world does this all the time. As human beings, we are always looking to win the lottery. Always looking for security, salvation, purpose, things of great value... And unless you look in the right place, know where it is hidden, you won't find it. Paul says it's hidden in Christ, we are stewards of the mysteries of God, it is our calling to disclose the location of this greatest treasure to a world that is seeking. We labor "in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

                Just as we said last week, Paul addresses the Church/Christians immersed in a culture that believed salvation was hidden. That it must be revealed. Heretically, they said that it was not fully revealed in Christ and that you must be let in on 'secret knowledge and wisdom.' This is Gnosticism, which was just beginning to flourish at the end of Paul's life and would last a long to come.

Paul says we now know where to look...
25I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness-- 26the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.
·         Nothing remains a mystery once it has been explained.  This is Paul's calling - to explain the mystery of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. 

  • Like Jeremiah, who said the Word of God was like a burning fire in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9), Paul felt compelled to carry out his ministry. To the Corinthians he wrote, "For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" 1 Corinthians 9:16.
·         Colossians 1:23 - "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."
·         Remember that Paul has never met the Colossian Church face to face.  He knew Epaphras who came to a saving knowledge of Christ under his ministry in Ephesus, but Paul had never been to Colossae.  Often Paul had to speak about his calling when he needed to establish his authority and credibility as a teacher. That was his aim in this passage too. Colossians was written in part to address heresies that challenged that young Church. Essentially Paul had to defend his authority to speak for God or the false teachers would have dismissed what he wrote is merely his own opinion. Having begun the letter with the statement of his apostolic authority (1:1), Paul now gives a detailed look at the divine character of his ministry.
  • Every time he said, "I am an Apostle," he was saying, "I am a sent one from God" (that is what Apostle means). He says, "...I, Paul, am made a minister." In other words, he didn't choose to become a minister, God made him a minister. That fact gave him credibility and punch in speaking to the Colossians.

Paul's Calling
·         As Paul looks at his ministry, the first thing he wants to talk about is its source... who is the AUTHOR behind the AUTHORity?
·         Paul's conversion story is told in Acts 9, and summarized here in Acts 26:13-18
13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
·         Romans 15:15-16a: Throughout Paul's writings, he makes it clear that he was put into the ministry by God. In Romans 15 he says, "Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles...." In other words, "The reason I'm so bold in writing to you Gentiles is that the Lord has made me a servant to you. I'm only carrying out my ministry and doing that which God has called me to do."
·         Becoming a minister of Jesus Christ was not what Saul of Tarsus planned to do with his life. On the contrary, he appeared headed for the upper echelons of Judaism. His credentials were impressive.
·         Philippians 3:5-6
circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
·         Acts 22:3
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.
·         Galatians 1:14
14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
·         Instead of great honor - he has become a servant.

Paul's understanding of what it means to be a servant / be commissioned
  • The word "commission" in the Greek is oikonomia (nomos = law or rule; oikos = house). Literally, then, it means "to rule a house," or "to be a steward of somebody else's possessions." A steward didn't own anything, he just managed something for somebody else. In those days, a homeowner with a large estate would have a steward who would manage his whole house. He would take care of everything--employment, wages, supplies--and make sure everything was carried out. It was a very great responsibility.
  • I love the Bible translation that says, he/we are "stewards of the mysteries of God."

We all have responsibilities - a calling
·         1 Peter 4:10-11--Peter writes, "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Every Christian has received a spiritual gift, so every Christian should be ministering. As a steward, you hold that gift; but it isn't your own. You are to use it and manage it for God's glory. According to verse 11, if you have a speaking gift, you're to "speak as the oracles of God.". If you have a serving gift, you're to serve "as of the ability which God giveth." Why? "...that God in all things may be glorified...." The source of all ministry is God. We don't choose it. So you had better examine your own heart to see what God has called you to do.

Colossians 1:24  "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."
  • He is dealing with a heresy in Colossae that taught that Christ's life and death had to be supplemented by acquiring secret knowledge and human works. So, he's certainly not going to say that we have to suffer to add to the atoning work of Christ. In fact, the word translated "afflictions" here (thlipsis in Greek) is never used to describe the atoning suffering of Christ.
  • In verse 24 when Paul says, "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you," he was referring directly to his imprisonment. From references that Paul makes in chapter 4 of this Epistle about his situation (verses 10, 18), we can ascertain, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Paul was a prisoner at this time.

Paul's understanding of Imprisonment
  • Even though Paul was imprisoned at Rome, he never saw himself as a prisoner of Rome. He constantly referred to being a prisoner of Jesus Christ. For example, in Philemon he says, "Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ..." (verse 1a), "...Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ" (verse 9b), "...there greet you Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus" (verse 23). So Paul saw himself not as a prisoner of the Romans or of any man. He saw himself as a prisoner of Christ.

Colossians 1:28 "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ."
·         "Perfect"  Who or how can we be perfect?  Let's think of better word for this or use a better translation of the word: think of it as mature.
·         Time is running out. If you have a nine-year-old daughter you have only 4,730,400 more minutes before she turns 18 and is, for all legal purposes, and adult. What are you doing to prepare her for maturity? Another minute is slipping away. Will you be able to present as a mature adult by the time she reaches her 18th birthday? Paul is a specific goal in proclaiming him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom. It was so that he might present his spiritual children perfect in Christ. The time of presenting them to Jesus would be at his return. Their perfection in Christ was to be completely mature in their faith and character. They would be equipped to handle life as Jesus would, to respond to life as Jesus would, to apply Jesus to the problems to see life through Jesus' eyes. That is perfection in Christ.

Colossians 1:29- "To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. 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. My purpose is that...
·         Paul knew how to rejoice in suffering, may be better than anyone else, any other author in the Bible. He writes about us suffering in 2 Corinthians chapter 11 (verses 23-27), when he is talking about false apostles:
"I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked."
·         Obviously, Paul was acquainted with suffering. He can urge us to rejoice in our sufferings because he learned to rejoice in his. We don't rejoice because we are suffering; no one enjoys suffering. But, we rejoice that we have hope through Christ in the midst of our struggles. He elaborates on the value of rejoicing when we suffer in Romans 5:3-4, "we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
·         The apostle James also teaches us about the positive aspects of suffering as believers, "consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance" (James 1:2-3). For most of us, our first response to trials and sufferings is not joy. We may be tempted to complain, or to become angry, or to grow fearful, or to "protest." That would be the natural way to respond, but Christians can respond differently because we know that God is on our side and that he is our vindicator
·         James says to rejoice in trials because they produce perseverance. But they can produce a lot of other things before perseverance shows itself strong. They can pull us into self-pity, pride, fear, rebellion, selfishness, jealousy, and other negative conditions.
·         Part of our Christian walk involves being conformed to the image of Christ Romans (8:29), and that is a journey that isn't always easy. As we go through that lifelong process, we will face challenges and sufferings is Christ, Paul, and others have faced. God does not allow suffering in our lives simply so we will suffer and learn to be tough. He uses it to strengthen us in our relationships with him and to bring forth Godly character qualities that may not be formed in us any other way. And when we learn how to remain stable in the midst of the storms of life, it is a great witness to unbelievers.

Illustration: Drought Uncovers Treasure
·         The summer drought of 2007 allowed scientists and archaeologists in Florida to look through a window into the state's past and uncover hidden treasures just below the surface of Lake Okeechobee. Okeechobee is the nation's second largest lake. Because of the drought, the lake hit its lowest level on record. In some areas the shoreline receded more than a mile, creating areas of dry lakebed where historical artifacts have been uncovered, with some dating back 500 years or more.
·         Pottery shards, arrowheads, weaving tools, and pendants now lay on top of the dry ground, providing clues about the Native Americans that lived in the area hundreds of years ago. Evidence of the Florida tourism and fishing industries also lurk nearby, including a fishing trawler from 1904 that probably sank during a hurricane in 1928 and evidence of paddleboats that once ferried tourists around the area.
·         All these items have rested just beneath the surface of the water for many years. It took a drought to bring them out into the light of day again. Spiritual droughts are not fun, to say the least. But the trials and moments of doubt that come during personal drought can reveal many things about us. ("Beneath the Water: A Window to History," Jeffrey Kofman, ABC News, 9-13-07)

Hidden Treasure: Suffering can be a hidden treasure
·         Notice what Paul writes about Jesus in Colossians 2:3. He says that in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." The treasures hidden in him are endless, so no matter how spiritually mature a person may be or how long they have walked with him, there is always more to learn and experience. Whenever you need wisdom in a situation, anytime you need to know something, the answer is hidden in Christ. It is not hidden because God does not want you to find it; it is hidden because God wants you to seek it. He knows you will find the wisdom and knowledge you are diligently searching for, as well as other surprising and wonderful things. The process of seeking God offers many rewards - more than simply the immediate answers you may be looking for. Discovering the treasures hidden in Christ is not difficult. You pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal them to you, and you take the time and effort to diligently study God's Word. You remain committed to God and his word, no matter how long it takes to receive your answer.
·         Throughout Scripture, we read about valuable things that are hidden. For example Jesus says in Matthew 13:44, "the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field." The Bible also teaches us that hidden things are meant to be discovered. In Mark 4:22, Jesus says to the crowd listening to him teach beside the Sea of Galilee, "for whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open." One of the things God does is reveal to us what we cannot see with our natural eyes. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
·         These verses should encourage you to search for all the treasures God has for you to discover and understand. While there will always be certain spiritual mysteries that are a part of walking with God, he does not permanently hide from you anything you need to know. He may lead you on a journey to discover through his word, but if you seek it, you will find it. He promises in Jeremiah 29:13: "you will seek me and find me because you seek with all your heart."

One of the questions we always ask in suffering/struggling is the purpose of it. I don't think every struggle is for the sake of a lesson to be learned. But I think struggles put us in a unique place to learn.  And struggling certainly causes us to go back to our "purpose."  Is it worth it?  What purpose does this serve?
2My 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, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5For 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.
·         If this is some form of purpose statement, Paul leaves any personal agenda out of it.  The purpose is not about him...

·         Professor David Ng, much like the apostle Paul, sought to remind the church of its central purpose when he wrote Youth in the Community of Disciples. Concerned that the church had become distracted from its essential identity as the body of Jesus Christ and its central task of proclaiming Christ, he wrote that the purpose of the church is not to be a place of entertainment where persons, and especially young people, come to be spectators while worship leaders and Bible teachers "put on a show," using whatever gimmicks and novelties they can pull out of their bag of tricks so that everyone has fun. The church is not some theological theme park where frantic leaders, fearful of ever boring or frustrating their customers, employ an ever-escalating array of techniques.
·         Ng also wrote that the purpose of the church is not maintenance—to be a safe place, a refuge for its members—until Christ comes again. This vision of the church as perpetual purgatory requires nothing of its members except that they wait and not stir things up, lest they become more anxiety ridden than they already are. The key purpose of this kind of church is to keep the status quo. Abhorrent of disruption, change, or even growth, the church focuses on itself by keeping its members comfortable without challenges. Keeping its members in this continuous holding pattern, the church simply tries to survive.
·         Furthermore, Ng wrote, the purpose of the church is not fellowship where the entire energy of the congregation is focused on its social relationships, so that each person feels as if he or she belongs. Certainly, he argues, fellowship is an important dimension of the church, but it is not the church's central purpose. Fellowship-focused churches act as little more than social organizations that exist for their own members, rather than for the worship of God as the body of Christ. With a tendency to be insular—and more often than not exclusive—the congregation whose primary purpose is fellowship tends toward a more therapeutic focus; the emphasis is one's comfort within the larger group, rather than whether one is living one's life faithfully.
·         Finally, Ng also wrote that the purpose of the church is not protection, where the community, terrified of the world beyond its walls, invests all its energies in constructing a safe place where its members can dutifully worship, study, and enact their sacred rituals. These congregations ultimately forbid any interaction with outsiders until the strangers have been duly tested and assimilated. For Ng, the real purpose of the church is clear—to be the community of disciples of Jesus Christ and as such, to proclaim Christ. We do not proclaim entertainment or fun or fellowship or maintenance or protection. The apostle Paul would agree with Ng. The church of Jesus Christ does not exist for us. We exist for one reason: to proclaim Christ the firstborn of all creation!

Our purpose - is greater than our purpose.
·         Our purpose is not about us. The church of Jesus Christ does not exist for us. We exist for one reason: to proclaim Christ the firstborn of all creation!
·         Regarding that purpose, Amy reminded me this week of Peter's great sermon in Acts chapter 2. Immediately after the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples, the opportunity arose for them to start fulfilling their purpose of proclaiming...
Revealing the Mystery: Acts 2 - Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’[c]
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
Here it comes... the mystery explained...
 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
    Because he is at my right hand,
    I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence.’[e]
29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet.”’
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

This is what we remember in Communion
·         I will probably say more at this transition point...

1 Corinthians 10:16-17
16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

·         The unity of the church is a unity in Christ. The Lord’s Supper seals that unity to us in that we all feed on Christ, and thus are all together made partakers of the same body.