Study 8- Faith speaks to the world – Colossians 4:1-7

Discussion question: At the end of our series, why would you say you have faith in Christ?

Context

Faith in Christ is about a certainty of God’s universal plans. These plans include all who call on the name of the Lord to be saved. The plans, according to the bible, are not simply for those who believe. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. In that simple statement, we are reminded that what’s true is true, even if you don’t believe it.

But for all who have believed and received Christ, to them (you) have been given the right to be called children of God. Faith saves. Faith goes all in. Faith is always at work. Faith opens our mouths to speak with God. Finally, but not least importantly, faith is for everyone.

Read Colossians 4:2-6

Observation

Q1. Discuss the attitude toward prayer that Paul has in Verse 2.

He instructs the church to be devoted to prayer: this implies dependence on God and a mindset that prioritises prayer – that prayer really is important.

He instructs them to pray being watchful – alert to the needs around them. If you are not watchful, then you are asleep at the wheel. What follows is Paul’s direction for the mission, and he starts with the need for prayer.

He instructs them to pray with thankfulness: this comes part and parcel with faith. We believe in a Sovereign God who has set us free already. The work of God is not dependent on us and often what we need is an attitude of thankfulness for all that God is doing in the world.

You may want to consider the Great Commission at some point in this study in order to see that Paul is doing exactly what Jesus commands us all to do. Matthew 28:18-20

Q2. Discuss what Paul requests in Verses 3 and 4. How can we apply this request as a church?

As a missionary of Christ, Paul asks for prayer for himself. For the Sovereignty of God to create opportunities (open doors) so that the gospel (the mystery of Christ) can be heard – despite the chains that Paul is wearing. He asks not only to proclaim the message but to do it clearly. He is asking for missionary support through prayer.

We have partners in the gospel through our CMS and BCA missionaries as well as two local missions with MIC and CAHSM. As well as these, we have many ministries that are set up to proclaim the gospel in our area. And it would be great to remember our weekly ministry of the word in our church services. Prayer for clarity from our preachers would be wonderful.

Q3. What advice does Paul have for the church in Verses 5 and 6?

Wisdom toward outsiders: there’s no formula or recipe for interacting with those outside the church but the direction of wisdom.

Make the most of every opportunity: being watchful in prayer and watchful in conversations.

Full of grace: work at filtering out anger, bitterness, envy and quarrelling. Give people grace and space. If Christ will work in somebody, he will do it.

Seasoned with salt: I suggest this means making your conversation attractive, interesting or tasty. A blunt bashing of the bible is rarely helpful.

So that you may know how to answer everybody: like our prayers, our conversations need to be eventful and meaningful – driven toward proclaiming the gospel or leading people to the community who have faith in Christ.

Meaning

The bible directs us to be alert and proactive in mission. There are those who need our prayer and covet our support. A church who is on board for Jesus must be on board for the mission and be thoughtful about it. And we go beyond praying for others. We pay careful attention to our own conversations and interactions with the world. You never know when God will open a door for you to speak to someone with wisdom, grace, salt and light.

Application

Application A) Devote yourself to prayer. We looked at prayer together last week but again we are commissioned to be prayers. Where and when are all a matter of wisdom. But a Christian who does not pray is like a human who does not breath. The content of our prayer must be for the mission. Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. We don’t do this alone. We do that as a local and global church and by the will and power of the Holy Spirit.

Application B) Practice the gospel. Being ready to speak about your faith starts with practice. Telling another Christian what it means to have faith is useful training and encouraging. Do you know how to guide someone into faith? What would you do if asked to explain what a Christian is?

Application C) God in 60 seconds. Showing my age, there is a movie with Nicholas Cage called Gone in 60 Seconds – it is about car stealing. We can adapt this title for personal mission and work out ways we can “steal” conversations and direct them toward God. How can you turn current affair statements toward God? Likewise with pop-culture or anything. Can you take a normal conversation and naturally steer it toward faith in Christ? 

Example,
“Politicians are only in it for themselves.”
“Well, I know one leader who is totally trustworthy”
“Oh yeah? Who?”
“Jesus… have you ever thought seriously about him?”

This example may be a little artificial but the point is to look for open doors and do it proactively.

Study 7 – Faith Speaks to God – Luke 18:1-8

Discussion question: What should we be praying for?

Context

We’re going to discuss prayer this week. A religious person may pray in earnest and intensity, with words that only a prayer would use in order for God to hear them. A person with faith in Christ, however, comes to God on the basis that they are right with God – not arrogantly, but humbly admitting their sin and thankful that mercy is given and received through Christ.

We’ll look at Jesus’ words in Luke 18 about speaking to God. As you read together, take particular note of Jesus’ words in Verse 8.

Read Luke 18:1-8

Observation

Q1. What is the purpose of Jesus’ parable according to Verse 1?

For disciples of Jesus to always pray and not give up.

Q2. Describe the characters in His parable.

The judge: has authority to bring about justice or deny it – he neither fears God nor cares what people thought. Does this mean that he is not swayed by people nor God to do what he wants. He has power but does not care. Thinks of the woman as a bother.

The woman: is a widow and has at least one adversary. She feels victimised and turns to the judge for help. He is perhaps her only help since she persists in pleading with him. She wants justice. This seems like a reasonable request. She is persistent. 

Q3. What motivates the judge to answer this woman’s pleas?

Her persistence and his assumption that she will attack him. He maybe thinks she’s a little crazy. 

Q4. How does Jesus’ parable point to God?

Jesus’ parable is a point made about God out of contrast rather than simile. If the judge will give in and grant justice because of her persistence, how much more would God respond who is all about justice with care.

Q5. What do we learn about God from this account?

He has power to bring justice. The disciples are described as God’s chosen ones. He is swift to respond to the prayers of injustice. 

Q6. What does Luke 18:1-8 teach us about the content and habit of our prayer?

The issue of injustice is paramount. The prayers in mind here are not a wish list for self but cries of injustice. The account ends with Jesus questioning whether he will find many faithful prayers on the earth when he comes. If we stop praying, this would be a sign that we are not desperate enough with regard to righteousness and injustice.

Q7. What kind of justice do you think Jesus is referring to in Verse 7?

Salvation. Justice with mercy. Justice alone would mean an end to us all as only God is righteous. But when Jesus uses the phrase ‘chosen ones’, he points to the grace and mercy of God. Christians will cry for justice while clinging to the cross of Christ.

Meaning

While this passage is not enough on it’s own for a thorough study on prayer, it highlights the link between prayer and faith. God’s chosen people ought to be confident to cry to God for help. The ultimate injustice is that the ungodly grow in strength and this world continues to turn its back on God. We, who live for the kingdom, can come to God only with the knowledge that they are chosen in Christ. When the Son of Man did come, he was led to the cross by an unfaithful world. 

Application

Application A) Crying out for justice. There are many injustices in this world. Yes, we can pray for many and all of them. The ultimate injustice, however, is a world who does not fear God. With this in mind, consider the Lord’s Prayer as a model for crying out for justice. 

Application B) Praying day and night. Whether you can make a habit of scheduled prayer, or pursue an attitude of turning everything into prayer, the bottom line is that prayer consists of a dependence on God. The widow did not give up because she had no other hope. Do you feel the same way with our prayers to God? When our prayers consist of things about us and our desires and wishes, then God becomes not much more than a genie. But when our prayers consist of knowing God’s plans for the world, then praying for justice will include our knowledge of what God has done at the cross. We have no other hope.

Application C) Being found faithful. Jesus most likely referred to his first coming in Verse 8 but the point still carries for us who await the second coming. Are you keen for Christ to return? If faith in Christ means going all in, then we are and want to be ready for him to return. Prayer is faith speaking. It consists of talking to God about what he has made clear to us through the gospel. Faith directs our prayers to pray in line with God’s eternal purposes and to trust Him with the details. Praying the Lord’s Prayer daily is not a bad place to start.

Study 6 – Faith Directs Our Work – Colossians 3.22-4.1

Discussion question: Name the topics and passages linked to those topics that we’ve covered in this series. Try to show understanding in your recollection! Eg, Week 1 = What faith looks like (Hebrews 11:1).

Context

God is our maker and judge. Since we are unworthy to stand before him (I heard it said recently, “although we live in His world, we spit in His face”)…since we’re unworthy, He has saved us by his mercy through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. We believe this and that is called knowledge. We commit to this and are confident of this, that could be called faith. But faith is not simply stated, it is lived.

Faith does things. It grants us eternal life. It drives our thoughts, speech and actions. It runs alongside love – both fueled by the hope that we share in the resurrection. It teaches our heart to love God’s kingdom because it is the only sound investment that we can ever make. So, love, action, future, power and possessions are all affected by our faith. It’s important to make sure that our faith is in Jesus Christ and not in ourselves.

Let’s remember: Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). There is one last area of life that is changed  by us because we are confident of God’s presence and our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Read Colossians 3:22-4:1

Observation

Structure

This section exists in a broader section starting with Colossians 3:1 and going to 4:6. Note especially Verses 3:1, 12, and 15. We have been elevated with Christ, as God’s chosen (and special people) and so must allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. This is a way of describing how the love and good deeds flow from our faith – because we are now God’s people. Verses 18-21 fit in this context, not as a list of do’s and don’ts but that our relationships on earth can be enriched because of the rule of peace!

Now…

  • Verse 22-23 – A directive to slaves (that’s probably you)
  • Verses 24-25 – The reason and motivation
  • Verse 4:1 – A directive to masters (that could be you)

Verse 22-23 – A directive to slaves (that’s probably you)

“Slaves…” As we read the bible we must have in mind that slavery was common and it was not usually a sign of forced labour and slave trade. Consider how we too are slaves if we are employed by somebody else. Why would you want to be employed except that you need the money (cause you aren’t a millionaire) and you have debt to pay, bread to buy and a tomorrow to invest in. You therefore sign a contract with your boss that covers how long you’ll work for, how many hours, what your wage is and what your duty involves etc. You are bound to that contract. I am not saying that we are therefore slaves in exactly the same way but the overlap is so huge that it is simple to just admit that this passage is for us if we are under an employment contract.

NB: slave trading is bad and the bible does not condone it.

“…obey your earthly masters in everything…” 1 Peter 2:18 expands on the word everything by saying that it is not dependant on whether your boss is good and considerate or harsh. In our society context, there is room to discuss and negotiate and even formerly complain about unfair work environments, but on a day to day basis, we are not acting on the condition of our boss but out of obedience to God.

“…not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour…” Our motivation for our work is not to please the boss first and foremost. We are being instructed to be a consistent worker – a legit employer – authentic.

“…but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” Ironic that in working for the Lord and not people, our human masters are likely to reap a very good benefit. And the duty is not clocked like a time keeper, it is a changed heart that is decidedly good at work. The drive is our reverence – our sober minded knowledge of the living God. That is, our faith will drive our work ethic.

“Whatever you do…” An all inclusive phrase. There’s no compartmentalising the things you do. The context is about slaves and masters but it embraces marriage, parenthood and ‘whatever you do.’

“…work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” There is a sense of determination here. Set your mind and heart to the thing that you are doing. If you have been required to do it, then do it well. But not for gaining favour from your boss but because you love and fear the Lord.

Verses 24-25 – The reason and motivation

“…since you know…” Here is where our series on faith makes sense. Because of what we know, about our Creator, our salvation, the resurrection, the Kingdom of God, eternity, Jesus our Lord and King – because of our FAITH…since we are confident in Jesus as Lord and our inheritance into eternal life….

“…you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” Our behaviour in this life, because of our faith, will prove our faith as healthy. The wider context of the whole New Testament tells us clearly that we are not saved because of what we do, and especially not simply because we are good little servants in this life. Being good does not save you. Therefore, it is because we have already been promised eternity that our reward is great. In other words, don’t work hard for the sake of your master but because you have already great reward from your heavenly Master.

“It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” He has bought you. You are his. It is the one time I am happy to use the word ‘slave’ in a positive sense. You are not working for a fortnightly pay check, but out of the knowledge that the kingdom is yours. Others will see you doing life for all sorts of reasons, but by faith, you know that your work is for the Lord. This passage is giving us the call to make Jesus your boss.

“Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favouritism.” This is a true statement with regard to judgment and we all fall short. By God’s grace, we will be saved because of the death and resurrection of Christ. This fact alone drives our work on earth to be loyal to the God who loves truth and commitment – two qualities a worker would be wise to stand by – do what you’ve promised to do and don’t take short cuts. This verse (V25) is putting flesh on Verse 23 – reverence for the Lord.

Verse 4:1 – A directive to masters (that could be you)

“Masters…you also have a Master in heaven.” The economy of business on earth never supersedes the authority of the kingdom of heaven. This verse is written for Christian masters to take heed. Any person who exercises authority in business full time or part time or in any areas of life, if you have authority, know that the Lord is your boss.

Meaning

Faith in God and the gospel is not compartmentalised to bits of our life but in all that we do. There is no realm of our existence that God gets and life takes over the rest. In everything that you do, do it as though God asked you to do it.

Application

Application A) An audience of One. When we try to ‘curry favour’ from people we are acting on the fuel of human praise. If it is human approval we crave, we will pick and choose what we do well and can be lead towards grumbling and other bad patterns. But if we look out into the audience of our life and see just one person watching – God has already awarded us the greatest treasure we can ever want. All the other occupied seats in the audience is background noise. In everything you do, do it like it’s for the Lord.

Application B) When your boss is wrong. Somehow, we need to balance the fact that a) we are not doing it to please our boss and b) we are working for our boss faithfully whether they are caring or harsh (or ?). Wisdom is needed to traverse this. Colossians 3 has explored the theme of relationships on this earth knowing that we are not invested solely in this earth – we seek first God’s Kingdom – receiving an inheritance from the Lord. The relationship we have with bosses is important. If possible, there may be a time to move on from that job. If possible, there may be scope to discuss things with your boss – or with HR. If possible, you could rise up and replace your boss (in a godly way). There may be times when an illegal or immoral thing is being asked of you. This is not the spirit of this passage. These are curveballs that people like to throw at passages like this. The principle remains: are you serving yourself or your King?

Application C) How Faith Works. This whole series has been designed to unpack every corner of our lives that faith impacts. If we are convinced in the resurrection and our own inheritance in the Kingdom of God, it ought to change us. It ought to change the way we use and view our possessions and how we view and use our time and energy. Just as there is no option to serve both God and money/possessions, there is no option to serve both God and step him aside on Monday morning when we get to work. Here’s the rub: do you compartmentalise your faith and life as if the two are separate – this series was aimed to convince you this is impossible. One person said to Jesus, “Lord I believe, help me with my unbelief.” This may be a good prayer to adopt.