Sermon Transcript


You may remember from your 5th grade math class some symbols that you learned early on when you were learning to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  One was the equal symbol, you know, two horizontal lines that were parallel to each other when you said that one thing was equal to something else.  Then there was the “not equal to” sign.  It was those two parallel lines with a slash between them.  You remember that one?  And then there was the “greater than” and the “less than” symbol.  You remember those?  Have I left anybody behind yet?  I feel like some of you are, like, “Math was not my strong suit.”  It wasn’t mine either.  But there were some basic symbols there.  I think of those symbols today as we begin a brand new study of Paul’s letter to the Colossians because the theme of the book of Colossians as I read it is Jesus is greater than.



A little historical context that is important to understand related to the letter to the Colossians.  Colossae was a small town amongst a triangle of cities in what is today the western coast of Turkey, modern Turkey.  The other two cities that were nearby were Laodicea, famous for its medical center, and Hierapolis, which was famous for its hot springs.  Thing of Hot Springs, Arkansas when you think of Hierapolis.  People would go there for the warm natural baths and waters there.  When Jesus wrote a letter to the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3, He called them a lukewarm church.  Now, they understood that in very palpable terms because they would get their hot water from Hierapolis and their cold water would start from Colossae.  But by the time it arrived, it was lukewarm.  And that mixture of that now kind of warm bathwater and lukewarm water was a picture of the Laodicean church that had grown lukewarm.  But Colossae among the three was a city of no significance.  The apostle Paul never visited Colossae.  He didn’t plant the church at Colossae.  The best scholarship is that a guy named Epaphras started the church in Colossae, and he was probably a student of the apostle Paul when Paul planted the church in Ephesus.  He was there for three years, and he started a theological school there where he taught for five days a week.  And Epaphras might have been one of his students.  I would have loved to have gone to that school where the apostle Paul was teaching about Christ and Him crucified and risen again.



Epaphras took that teaching, we believe, and put it into practice.  He didn’t just fill up notebooks and fill up his head with theological knowledge.  He let it drip down into his hands and his feet.  And he said, “Here am I, Lord.  Send me.”  And he went off to Colossae—from human standards, an insignificant city, a small city—and he started a church.  And the church there was small.



The other thing to know is that the book of Colossians—this letter that Paul wrote that is part of our New Testament canon—is one of four what we call prison epistles.  Paul wrote the letters to Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon while he was under house arrest in Rome.  The book of Acts tells us that Paul’s adversaries, his enemies, had him arrested.  They considered him to be an agitator among the Jews, and they had him arrested.  And he was defending his faith and defending himself before two governors, Felix and Festus.  We read about this in the book of Acts.  And Paul just kind of sneaked in to his defense that he was a Roman citizen.  A Roman citizen.  He appealed to Caesar.  Off to Rome Paul goes.  But it took two years for him to get an audience with Caesar.  And while he was in Rome he was under house arrest.  This is Paul’s first imprisonment.  Not in a dungy, dreary, Roman prison.  That was his second imprisonment that led to his beheading.  But his first imprisonment was under house arrest.  Still adverse circumstances.  His liberties had been taken away.  He was given some liberty to meet with people.  But while he was under house arrest in Rome for two full years, that’s when Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians and to Philemon.



He wrote this letter to the Colossians from a Roman prison to address false teaching in this little bitty church in this insignificant city, false teaching that made Jesus less than who He really is.  And you say, “Well, why would Paul take the time to do that?”  He didn’t plant this church.  He never visited this church.  He didn’t know these people face to face.  Oh, maybe one of his students went there and he was helping them out.  Two things strike me here.  The first is, remember, Paul is in prison.  He is in really, really difficult circumstances.  But he is doing everything he can to still advance the gospel.



It reminds me of something that Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of Billy Graham, once said.  I loved her philosophy of life and her spunk.  She says this- “I always try to live this way.  Make the best of all that comes and the least of all that goes.”  Isn’t that a great philosophy?  “Make the best of all that comes and the least of all that goes.”  I see the apostle Paul doing that in there four prison epistles.  Because he had every reason to walk into that house imprisonment and just be all pouty and over in the corner and “woe is me” and “look at my circumstances” and just wringing his hands.  But Paul would have none of that.  He made the most of all that came, the least of all that went.  And it’s a lesson to us.  I don’t know what circumstances you're in this morning.  You may be here this morning, and you are facing the most adverse set of circumstances you’ve ever faced.  You didn’t choose the circumstances any more than Paul chose to be in prison in Rome under house arrest for two full years.  Make the most of all that comes, the least of all that goes.



Another way of saying it is you’ve got to make lemons out of lemonades, right?  Or lemonades out of lemons or something like that.  I like what Ruth Bell Graham said better.  But you get the idea.  You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose your attitude.  You can choose how you respond in those circumstances.



And I want us to keep that historical context in mind as we work our way through this marvelous New Testament book called the book of Colossians.  Paul refused to become self-focused, even when people…even when a guy named Onesimus—a runaway slave who came to faith in Jesus Christ—approached Paul and asked him for some help.  Paul didn’t say, “I’ve got enough troubles of my own, dude.  Go away.”  No, Paul took the time to write a letter to a guy named Philemon on behalf of this runaway slaved named Onesimus.  And it’s just a reminder to us again.  Make the most of all that comes, the least of all that goes.  Make the most of every opportunity to advance the gospel.



Now, Paul had heard that some false teachers came to this church in Colossae.  And it bothered him enough that he wrote this letter to correct their false teaching.  In the scholarly work around the book of Colossians it’s known as the Colossian heresy.  And we don’t know exactly what the Colossian heresy is.  You kind of have to reverse engineer the letter to kind of get an idea of what he was trying to address.  Why was he saying this?  What was the false teaching behind the correction here?  And we can come up with three or four things that might have been a problem in the church at Colossae, this Colossian heresy.



First of all, it had to do with worldly philosophy.  You see, there were some false teachers who came in and said, “You know, I like that Jesus guy you’re talking about.  But really, if you want to be spiritual and be at a higher plane, it’s Jesus plus our worldly philosophy.”  Notice in chapter 2 and verse 8 Paul says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit according to human traditions.”  That phrase “no one takes you captive” is the picture of the kidnapping of a child.  A pretty powerful picture.  And what Paul is saying is don’t let anybody kidnap your thoughts.  Don’t let anybody kidnap your thoughts with worldly philosophy and empty deceit that is born of human tradition.  There’s a lot of that still going on today.  That was probably part of the Colossian heresy.



Secondly, pagan mysticism was part of this Colossian heresy.  You read on there in verse 8.  “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition,”—now, listen to this—“according to the elemental spirits of the world.”  This is a description of all that is demonic.  It takes us into the world of witchcraft and astrology.  There were some people saying, “Oh, Jesus is great.  Jesus…well, He’s really not enough.  You’ve got to have Jesus plus…” this pagan mysticism that they were introducing.



There was a third group and a third element to this false teaching that had to do with Jewish legalism.  Look in verse 16.  Paul says, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”  You ever been in a church where they talk about Jesus, but then they’ve got their list, too, of do’s and don’ts.  Don’t drink, dance or chew or go with girls who do.  You know, that kind of thing.  You ever grow up in a church like that?  And they put this religious strait jacket on you.  Jesus isn’t enough.  You’ve got to have Jesus plus my rules, my rules of spirituality.  It’s called legalism.  And the Jewish legalism of the 1st century was introduced by a group of what we call Judaizers.  These are people who have said, “Okay, you can have your Jesus, but it’s Jesus plus the mosaic law.  You’ve got to live under the law.”  Today we create a law of ourselves.  And it’s our list of do’s and don’ts that measure your spiritual piety and mine.  Run far from a place like that.  



And then finally, pious asceticism.  That’s the word in the text.  Look in verse 23.  “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”  What is asceticism?  It’s extreme self-denial.  Now, Jesus said, “If you want to be one of My disciples, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.”  But there is an extreme self-denial that brings about a severity to your flesh that may even so separate you from the world around you, you check yourself into a monastery or something like that.  I mean, there have been times in church history where extreme self-denial and asceticism…you know, it was Jesus plus this.  All the Jesus followers deny this way.



And Paul hears this, and he writes this letter to the Colossians.  And what he is basically saying to them is Jesus is greater than world philosophy.  He is greater than pagan mysticism.  He is greater than Jewish legalism.  He is greater than pious asceticism.  He is greater than all of that.  He is sufficient.  He’s complete.  Jesus is all you need.  He is enough.  And anytime we add something to Jesus and add something to the gospel, what we’re saying is He is less than…not greater than, but less than who He really is as He emerges from the pages of scripture.



Remember, Colossae was a small church, a tiny little church in an insignificant city.  And it reminds me of an old saying that doesn’t apply here.  You ever heard this one- don’t sweat the small stuff?  Listen, when it comes to false teaching, you better sweat the small stuff, because a little of false teaching in a small church in an insignificant city was a threat to the entire body of Christ.  That’s why Paul wrote this letter.



Now, he begins in verse 1 with some familiar greetings, but I want to point out something here that is really quite significant.  It says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”  A whole lot that we could say there, but I just want to focus on that phrase “in Christ at Colossae.”  Say that with me, “in Christ at Colossae.”  This phrase describes the simultaneous and dual spiritual realities of every believer in Jesus Christ.  We are simultaneously in Christ and, in our case, at Virginia Beach.  There is a reality to us that we are seated in the heavenlies with Christ while we are here on this earth at the same time.  In other words, we are citizens of this earth in a particular place and have a responsibility and a particular physical locale, but we are also citizens of heaven.  And a little bit later in chapter 3, Paul is going to say to the Colossians, “Set your affections on things above, not on things on this earth.”  Whether you're at Colossae or at Virginia Beach or at Los Angeles or at Chicago or at New York or at Rooster Puke, USA, where you are at there is a tendency to become so earthly focused, so bogged down in where we’re at that we forget in whom we really are.  We are in Christ and at the location at the same time.  And if you’re not careful, your affections will be so of this world that you’re not living like a citizen in heaven.



You know, the patriarchs of old, including Abraham, they saw themselves as pilgrims and strangers in this world.  If you're a believer in Jesus Christ, if you are in Christ, let me tell you what should be happening.  This world feels less and less and less and less like your home because we’re just pilgrims and strangers.  We’re just passing through.  We’re on a foreign mission field.  You ever been on a vacation or maybe traveling somewhere in a foreign land where the culture is different?  And, you know, you enjoy the change of culture and the different food, different people, different place, how they do things differently, but it just doesn’t feel like home, does it.  Old Dorothy was right.  There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home, right?  But our home is not this world.  It’s a temporary place for us as believers in Jesus Christ.  We’re just passing through.  We’re pilgrims and strangers.  We’re on a mission, a foreign mission.  We are in Christ and at Colossae at the same time.  I love how Paul drops that into his introductory remarks.



He goes on to say, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.”  Paul prayed for them.  He’d never met them.  He didn’t plant this church.  He had no skin in the game, as it were.  Maybe the extension through a student of his named Epaphras, but he prayed for them.  And he says, “We always thank God…since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.  Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.”  I love how Paul can link together phrases and concepts and theological ideas.  You know, it seems like a run-on sentence in English, but he just layers his thoughts in there.



And in these verses I just read, I find six terms that are important for us to get a hold of here.  Six terms that form two triads.  Now, the first of those triads are the terms faith, hope and love.  Do you see them there in the text?  This is a familiar triad of the apostle Paul.  In fact, you find it in other New Testament letters that he penned, including 1 Thessalonians 1:3 where he talks about their work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Love that triad- faith, hope and love.  Paul also used it in his letter to (0:19:00.1) the Corinthians.  Remember, 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter?  You find that triad in there as well.  And at the end of the chapter he says, “So now faith, hope and love abide, these three,” he says, “but the greatest of these is love.”



I was thinking this week of a way to kind of understand these three terms, this triad, in a way that made more sense to me.  And I thought of an agricultural analogy.  I’m just one generation removed from the farm, so Farmer Jones showed up this morning.  And I want you to think of faith as the plant, hope as the root, and love as the fruit.  You see the picture there?  Faith as the plant, hope as the root, and love as the fruit.  In other words, faith springs forth from hope, and love is the visible (0:20:00.0) proof of faith.



Now, we could go on from love and talk about not only love, but joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  Remember those nine Christ-like characteristics known as the fruit of the Spirit.  The supreme one in the list and the supreme ethic in the Christian life is love.  But love is the visible proof of faith.  Paul saw evidence of all three of these in the Colossians.  And he says, “Way to go.  Praise God.  The reputation that you have is that you're full of faith, hope and love.”  My question for us this morning is, if Paul wrote a letter to us, would he just know us by reputation that this is a place that is characterized by faith, hope and love?  I hope that he would.



Now, the faith, hope and love that Paul spoke of was not garden variety.  First he had heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Let’s dig a little bit deeper here.  He’s not talking about faith in faith.  He’s not talking about faith in yourself or faith in human nature or human capacity like Oprah and her other new age gurus like to talk about.  No, we’re talking about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Bertrand Russell famously said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.”  And it’s true.  We’re talking about a faith that is rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Faith, biblical faith aims at the purpose of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.  The writer of Hebrews says without faith it is impossible to please God.  Again, not faith in faith, but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The faith that saves, the faith that pleases God must always have an object.  And that object is the person, the words, and the work of Jesus Christ.  As Christians we are saved by faith.  We live by faith.  We walk by faith in Jesus who is both Lord and Christ.  And Paul says to the Colossians, “I’ve heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus.”



But faith, like a plant, is rooted in hope.  We all need hope, don’t we?  There is nothing more devastating than to have lost hope or to be in a world that is spinning into chaos because the world has lost its grip on any measure of hope.  Hal Lindsey once said, “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope.”  Anybody here lost hope?  If you're a believer in Jesus Christ, you don’t never have to lost hope because your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, like a plant, is rooted in hope.



But what is hope?  We use that word rather casually.  We say things like, “I hope tomorrow is a better day than today.  I hope I get the job that I interviewed for yesterday.  I hope my kids turn out well.”  That’s not hope.  That’s just called wishful thinking.  But when the Bible uses the word “hope,” biblical hope is the confident expectation that God will perform exactly what He promised.  It’s the confident expectation that God will do exactly what He says He will do.  Furthermore, the Christian’s hope is in the victory Christ won for us through His cross and His resurrection.  And that victory was over sin and death.  That’s where our hope is.  Our faith, like a plant, is rooted in this hope.



And Paul says that they had faith, and the subsequent fruit of their faith was love.  But they had hope that was laid up for them in heaven.  Do you see that phrase there?  What does he mean by that?  A hope that is laid up for you in heaven.  Is Paul talking about heaven in the sense of that place that we go after death?  Well, if he is, then I think that’s probably very limiting, because what that often leads to is a “sweet by and by” kind of faith.  But not the kind of faith and the kind of hope that can help us in the nasty here and now when I’m facing some adverse circumstances.  Yeah, one day.  I’ve got a hope that one day it’s all gonna work out when I get to heaven, a place with no tears and all that.  And that’s fine.  That’s a hope that helps us hang on for a while, doesn’t it?



But I think there’s a hint that he might have something closer in proximity in view here, because the word “heaven” in the original language…and you’ve got to dig a little bit deeper.  You’ll discover that the word “heaven” here is actually a plural.  And a better translation is “because of the hope laid up for you in the heavens,” or the heavenlies.



Now, the word “heavenlies” is a term that Paul uses six times in another prison epistle that he wrote to the Ephesians.  And six times in that letter when he used the word “heavenlies,” he was always speaking of the invisible spiritual kingdom that surrounds us on all sides, right here in the here and now.  He wasn’t talking about heaven, that place we go to after death.  No, he was talking about that place between heaven and earth known as the heavenlies.  This is a place, yes, of spiritual conflict.  Daniel 9, we got a glimpse of what was happening in the heavenly realms when there was spiritual conflict and spiritual war going on.  But it’s also that place where the spiritual kingdom that God is building is right there, right next to us.



My point is simply this.  That when you’re going through a difficult time in the nasty here and now, the hope that we have in Jesus Christ, the hope that is laid up for us in the heavens is closer to us than we ever thought and more accessible than we ever thought.  It’s that spiritual kingdom that He’s building right here, right now, and we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven as we think about it.



And so we have faith; we have hope.  And then there’s love.  Love completes the first triad.  Love is the fruit of a faith in Jesus Christ that is rooted in the promises made and kept by Him.  Let me say that again.  Love is the fruit of a faith in Jesus Christ that is rooted in the hope.  And what is that hope?  Promises made and kept by Jesus Christ.  The highest and most supreme ethic in the Christian life is love.  And we know that from 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul argues that everything minus love equals nothing.  Right?  He argues that in that great love chapter.  Even Jesus elevated the ethic of love when He said this to His disciples in the upper room.  He says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.”  You say, well, what’s so new about that?  Well, sometimes some things become so old and so passé to us that you’ve got to reintroduce it.  And the old becomes new again.  “I’ve got something new for you guys.  How about you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also love one another.”  And then He said this, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Wow.



When Paul heard about…hadn’t been there, didn’t know these people.  Just the reputation they had, the church in Colossae, was they had a love for all the saints, not to mention everybody in the world that may not be saints in the theological sense.  That is, in Christ through faith in Him.  But you walked into that church, and one of the first things you noticed was, man, these people really do love each other.  What a reputation to have.  Some churches have the reputation of all they do is fight.  The church of Corinth was that way.  Paul had to address that in his first letter to the Corinthians because there were skirmishes and battles and all kinds of conflict going on.  Not in Colossae.  He says, “What I heard about you is your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and your hope and that yours is a church that really could be described as an oasis of love.”  Don’t you want to go to a church like that where faith is real, where hope is vibrant and it helps you in everyday life, and where the love amongst the brothers and sisters in Christ is real?



That’s the first triad.  Let me move on to the second triad.  Remember, there are six terms here.  Faith, hope and love.  The second triad, get this, gospel, grace and truth.  You go back to those verses 3-6 and you’ll find he drops in the word “gospel.”  He drops in the word “grace,” and he mentions truth two times.



Again, let’s use our agricultural analogy.  We said that faith is the plant, hope is the root, and love is the fruit.  Gospel is the soil, grace is the water, and truth—are you ready for this—it’s the fertilizer and weed control.  Now, let’s talk a little bit about the gospel.



The rich soil into which our hope must be rooted is nothing less than the gospel, the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.  J.D. Greer is the new and current president of the Southern Baptist Convention.  He’s also the founding pastor and lead pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.  And he just came out with a brand new book titled Above All.  And in his book he urges us to elevate the gospel above all programs, above all preferences, above all politics, and above all priorities that we think are priorities in the church.  He’s making the case for the church to get back to the one thing, the gospel, the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.



Paul said of the Colossians here, “Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel which came to you.”  Gospel means “good news,” doesn’t it?  You and I, as believers in Jesus Christ we are stewards.  We are caretakers of the gospel in our generation.  Let’s not mess with that.  Let’s not fumble that.  Let’s not get sidetracked by sacred cow programs that have been in place for 65 years but aren’t producing a result.  The program is not above the gospel.  Or our preferences, our petty little preferences about music style and the color of the carpeting and other silly things like that.  Don’t let that be above the gospel.



Even our politics.  It’s interesting.  J.D. warns about us becoming so affiliated with one political party that we close ourselves off to half the country who will not listen to us.  And that doesn’t mean that we don’t speak out on certain moral and cultural issues.  Absolutely.  But we still have to leave room for a gospel conversation with everybody.  And above all other priorities.  I’m amazed when I look inside churches today at their mission statements and their vision statements, just the misconstrued priorities in a church.  Jesus told us to do one thing- make disciples of all nations, and do it as you’re going.  The fishing expedition that used to be the church—“I’ll make you fishers of men”—have become a project as keepers of the aquarium.  And Jesus says, “Go.  Get out of your comfortable seats and make disciples of all nations.”  That’ll happen when we elevate the gospel above all things.



And then as we carry that gospel into the world, let’s make sure that grace and truth are very close to one another.  I said the soil is the gospel, grace is the water—our agricultural analogy here—and truth is the fertilizer and weed control.  Now, I’m not a master landscaper, but I like a nice yard.  I like a nice clean flower bed.  Sometimes I have to have people come do that for me because I have a very brown thumb, I learned.  And my wife will say she does, too.  And when we have weed problems, you know, we need some extra help.  But I always like a nice yard.  Here’s what I’ve learned about getting a nice green, lush yard.  You’ve got to water it, and you’ve got to fertilize it.  And your fertilizer has to have some weed control in it.  Pretty simple, isn’t it?  But I don’t always read the directions.  I get a bag of fertilizer with some weed control, and I spread it out there.  And, you know, a week later my grass is all brown.  Why?  Because I forgot to read the directions that says water it in frequently.  You just spread fertilizer on your yard, you’re going to burn the grass.



Truth is the same way.  If you don’t water in the truth with the grace of God, you know what you’ll do?  You’ll scorch the soul.  So we need grace and truth.  When John was introducing Jesus Christ through his gospel, he said, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  That’s Christmas, right?  And then he goes on to say, “And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  You know what people said about Jesus?  He’s so full of grace even as He told us the truth.  Even as He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by Me.”  Even as He said, “Truth will set you free.”  Jesus was never afraid to be the truth, but also to tell us the truth.  But He always did so with grace.



The grace of God was never far from the truth that made us realize we were included in that phrase that says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  When the woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus and the Pharisees had their rocks ready to stone her, Jesus wrote something in the ground that made them drop their stones and walk away.  You can speculate as to what that might be, but Jesus turned to her and says, “Well, now where are your accusers?”  And He told, “Fine.  Go and sin no more.  I don’t condemn you.”  He didn’t condone her sin.  He called it a sin.  “Go and sin no more.”  He told her the truth about her behavior.  “It’s sin.  And I’m going to spread some fertilizer and weed control.  I’m going to tell you the truth.  But I’m going to do it in a kind and gracious way to where the grace of God is not far from your sin if you’re willing to accept it.”



We live in a world today…and I don’t know how we got here, friends…where we’ve got this idea that if we disagree with somebody on any kind of an issue and we bring biblical truth to it, we’re haters.  Don’t hate on me that way.  Come on now.  The most loving thing I can do or any of us can do is tell somebody the truth.  And it’s not your version of the truth.  It’s not my version of the truth.  This is the truth.  And as long as we’re faithful and true to the Word of God…let’s speak the truth in love.  Let’s be caretakers and stewards of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the rich soil of the gospel.  But you’ve got to spread the fertilizer and the weed control and water it in with grace.



That’s why when we talk about our mission, our vision, our strategy here at Atlantic Shores, we have five G’s that make up our strategy.  Gather, grow, give, go…the fifth G is grace.  Because if we do all this gathering and growing and going and giving but we’re not a grace-filled community characterized by the supreme ethic of what it means to be a Christian—love—if we can’t speak the truth in love, the world will close us off.  It won’t listen to us.  But isn’t it wonderful how Paul writes this letter to the Colossians.  And he says, “I see faith, hope and love in you.  It’s what I hear about you.  And I want to remind you about the gospel.  And always make sure that in your gospel representation grace and truth are in balance here.”



The last thing he says to them, in verse 7 he says, “Just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.  He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.”  I put in your notes there this statement- when the gospel bears fruit…and Paul saw it bearing fruit in the lives in the church in Colossae.  And he said it was bearing fruit and increasing all around the world.  But I’m talking about your place.  It’s bearing fruit right here.  When the gospel bears fruit, it always comes by way of personal discipleship.  It came because a guy named Epaphras—again, probably one of Paul’s students—took the theology that he learned and didn’t just grow bloated in his knowledge.  He let it drip down to his hands and his feet.  And he said, “Here am I, Lord.  Send me.  Use me as a gospel representative.”  And he went to Colossae.  And what they learned from Epaphras was faith, hope and love.  What they saw in him was the gospel of grace and truth and the same time.  And may be that said of us as well.



Is the gospel bearing fruit in your life, friends?  I hope it is.  Maybe it’s never been born in you.  Maybe it’s never been planted in you.  Somebody came up to us at the end of our vacation Bible school.  And you may not know this, but we have something called the birthday room that kids would go to.  And it’s a certain time during the week after day one or two.  The kids are encouraged to go there to have a conversation about salvation and knowing Jesus.  And they have a very kid-friendly way of introducing that.  But apparently one of the young children went home and told their mom, “Mom, I went to the birthday room today.”  And the mom, who didn’t really understand the context of that said, “What do you mean, the birthday room?  You already had a birthday.”  And the little child, as only a child can say, says, “No, Mama.  The birthday room is where you meet Jesus.  Everybody should have two birthdays.”  Isn’t that great?  Because Jesus said, “You must be born again.”



And that’s the starting point of this gospel, this good news of our Lord Jesus Christ, bearing fruit in your life, in my life, in our church is we’ve got to get to the birthday room.  And maybe that speaks to some of you here today who have never trusted Jesus Christ as your savior.  I also wonder, who is the Epaphras in your life who introduced the gospel to you?  And to whom are you being an Epaphras?  Because the gospel always comes through a human instrument.  And God loves to use us that way.  And I encourage you to make yourself available and say, “Lord, here am I.  Send me.  I’m in Christ.  I’m at whatever place.  Use me to make a difference.”



“Every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

Romans 8:28 MSG