>>Paul here is giving thanks.
Paul was a great man of God.
He was an apostle.
He says in verse 1, he is an apostle "by the will of God."
He did not just fill out an application and become one.
God chose him for that office...
And Paul held a very high office and he had great authority...
And yet he was a man of a thankful heart.
And Paul is giving thanks.
Thatís what he says in verse 3: we always thank God.
He gives thanks to the proper source.
He says: we always give thanks to God.
And itís not just any god.
You mention God today and all kinds of notions arise.
There are some people who worship gods of stone.
There are some people who worship gods of wood.
There are some people who worship new age gods.
But all of those gods really are not gods at all.
But Paul wants us to understand heís not talking about just any god or concept of god.
He said, "I give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
And I tell you, thatís the only God, and no one who denies Jesus Christ can truthfully say, "I know God."
We always thank God, he says, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.
And in the verses that I read for you Paul basically expresses thanks for three things.
>First of all, he expresses thanks for the Colossian Christians...
The Christians to whom he is writing in the city of Colosse.
He called them in verse 2: the holy and faithful brothers.
They are holy and faithful brothers.
They were men and women who loved God...
And who had come to know him through the ministry of Timothy and of this man Epaphras.
And the first thing Paul says, "I give thanks for you."
Now he was especially thankful for three things in their life.
>First of all, he was thankful for their faith.
Look in verse 4: because we have heard of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul was thankful for their faith.
What is faith?
Faith in simple terms, faith is to believe in something or to commit yourself to something.
If you have faith in something you believe in it.
Youíve committed yourself to it.
But in the Christian context faith is never used in general terms, but it is always used in specific terms.
It is not just faith in anything that counts.
Sometimes folks say, "Well it doesnít really matter what you believe as long as you are sincere."
I tell you, it matters a great deal what you believe.
As a matter of fact, faith is only as good as the object of that faith.
And as Christians it is not that we have faith in ourselves.
As a matter of fact, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth...
And he said that God had allowed him and his companions to go through deep, deep trouble.
He says they were pressed out of measure.
They were above strength and they abandoned all hope because, he said...
"God allowed us to be crushed that we would not trust in ourselves."
We live in a day when I hear more about self-esteem than I do about Coca-Cola.
Weíve about self-esteemed ourselves to death...
And we need to understand that in the flesh there is no good thing.
Not anything good about it.
It is not faith in ourselves.
It is not faith in a church.
It is not faith even in a doctrine or many doctrines.
>But look what he says there in verse 4: because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus.
Thereís the object of our faith.
It means that we believe in him.
It means that we are committed to him.
There are a lot of people that are committed to a lot of things...
But as a Christian it means that we are committed to the person of Jesus Christ.
That concept is pictured in different ways in the New Testament.
For example, in the 16th chapter of Acts there in that Philippian jail experience...
Paul said to the Philippian jailer, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."
Believe on him.
The picture here is that Jesus Christ is the foundation and we believe on him.
I do not believe on a platform or a pedestal.
I believe on him.
I do not believe on a denomination or a philosophy.
I believe on him.
Thatís what faith is.
Jesus Christ is the foundation.
We believe on him.
>In Acts 20:21, Paul says that we are to repent of sin and exercise faith toward Jesus Christ.
Faith toward him.
And that expression "toward" is a picture word in the New Testament.
It is a picture of someone going home.
It is a picture of someone who has lost their way...
But finally they have found out the way and theyíve gone home.
And so what that means is that Jesus Christ is the home.
He is the dwelling place in which we live.
Thatís what faith is.
He is the foundation and I believe on him.
He is the dwelling place and I have faith toward him.
Paul said to the folks at Mars Hill, "In him (Jesus) do we move and have our being."
We are in him.
That was Paulís favorite expression, being in Christ, in the Lord, in him, in Christ Jesus.
Over 130 times he uses that terminology because nothing meant more to him than to be in Christ.
In Colossians it is faith in Christ Jesus.
It is a picture of an anchor that has found a lodging place...
And the storms may blow and the waves may billow...
But our anchor holds because itís in a solid, unmovable, unshakable Lord Jesus Christ.
Thatís what faith is.
It is to believe on him as our foundation.
It is to believe toward him as our dwelling place.
And it is to believe in him as the anchor of our soul.
Paul said, "I thank God for your faith."
>Secondly he says there in verse 4: and of the love you have for all the saints.
Paul said, "I am thankful that not only are you a faith congregation, you are a loved congregation."
And may I say to you, genuine faith always expresses itself in love.
If you are a mean and hateful person, do not expect to go to heaven.
Youíre not going.
Did you hear that?
If you are a mean and hateful person, do not expect to go to heaven.
Youíre not going because real faith always expresses itself in love.
Now Christians love everybody.
Saved people...lost people...makes no difference.
We love everybody.
But there is a special love that we have for other believers.
Thatís why he said, "the love you have for all the saints."
There is a special love that we have with other believers.
I want to say to you that I am closer to my Christian family than I am to most of my physical family...
Not including these over here because all of those are saved.
But most of my family I do not feel the kinship with them that I feel with you because that love is based on flesh.
This love is based on faith.
Itís a better love.
This love is not "eros" that Greek word that means physical love.
That does not even appear in the New Testament.
It is not even that word "philos", which means brotherly love or family love or the love of a friend.
And that is in the New Testament.
But the word that is used here for love is the word "agape", which means divine love.
Paul says, "Iím thankful not because you have physical love for each other or brotherly love for each other...
But divine love for each other."
>Let me tell you three things about divine love.
First of all itís commanded.
He says, "And this is my commandment, that you love one another."
He said that at least three times.
He said it in John 13:34, and he said it in John 15:12, and again in John 15:17.
And then it had made such an impression on the apostle John that when he wrote the book of I John...
He reminded them, his readers, of what Jesus had said...
"This is my commandment that you love one another."
So it appears at least four times in the New Testament.
Jesus commands us to have a divine love toward one another as believers in him.
>Not only is it a commanded love, the Bible also tells us that it is an identifying love.
In John 13:35, Jesus said: By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Jesus never said, "The world will know that you are my disciples...
Because you build a building and put a cross on top."
Jesus never said "the world will know you are my disciples...
Because you have finely robed choirs and eloquent pastors."
Jesus never said, "the world will know you are my disciples because of stained glass windows or padded pews."
Jesus said, all men will know that you are my disciples by your love for one another.
Itís an identifying love.
Itís the badge of identification that we wear, the love we have for one another.
And if itís not there then we donít belong to him.
Simple as that.
Jesus never dealt in complex issues that we could not understand.
Jesus made it very obvious.
If weíd have faith weíll have love.
If we have love we are identified as belonging to him.
If we donít have love we donít identify with him.
>But this love is not only a commanded love and an identifying love...
It is a furnished love, and thank God for that.
Itís not something that I have to muster up.
Itís a love that God himself provides.
In Romans 5:5, Paul says that the Holy Spirit of God, "has poured out his love into our hearts."
It is not my affection for you.
It is Jesus loving you through me that heís talking about.
Thatís this love heís talking about.
Itís divine love.
And Iím not a divine person, but I am indwelt by a divine person.
The love that Paul is talking about is not a love that we produce.
It is love that is produced for us and through us by the Holy Spirit, and that is how verse 8 is explained.
Who also told us of your love in the spirit, Paul said, Iím thankful for you. Iím thankful for your faith...
Iím thankful for your love.
>And then thirdly he says in verse 5, Iím thankful for your hope.
And arenít those the three great particles of that cluster of Christian grace?
Faith, hope and love.
Sometimes they are listed faith, love and hope.
Or sometimes faith, hope and love.
But faith is always first.
Hope...what is hope?
We use the word "hope" so pitifully.
We use the word "hope" to describe something that is hopeless.
We go into a hospital room and see someone who is brain dead and breathing only by a machine...
And we say, "Oh thereís still hope".
No thereís not.
Hope does not mean hopeless.
Hope is not some faint wish for the impossible.
Hope is something that is absolutely sure and certain.
It is not wishfully thinking for pie in the sky by and by.
It is a guaranteed reality.
Hope...hope is a present reality.
Itís a part of our life right now.
Did you ever read in the book of I Thessalonians 4:13?
Paul said, For I would not have you to be ignorant brethren concerning those who are asleep.
And that doesnít mean those who are snoring.
But it means those who are dead.
I donít want you to be uninformed.
They had written Paul a letter.
"Paul, you told us that if we would turn from sin and trust Jesus Christ...
We would have eternal life and that Jesus was coming back soon.
Thatís what you told us, and then you were out of town.
And now here we are and folks around us who are saved are dying.
Paul, you didnít tell us any Christians would ever die.
What about these who have died in Christ?"
And so Paul says, "I donít want you to be ignorant or uninformed or misled about those who are asleep...
That you sorrow not even as others who have no hope."
Sorrow not as others who have no hope.
You know what that means?
It means that hope is a present reality because it allows me to endure sorrow.
>Some of you had a very sad holiday because those with whom you used to celebrate are not here any longer.
And yet in the midst of sadness there is hope.
The Bible doesnít say to saved people not to sorrow.
It says "sorrow not as those who have no hope."
So there is a sense in which our hope is a present reality.
>But also it is a future reality.
Look what he says there in verse 5: the hope which is stored up for you in heaven.
You see most of the time the word "hope" is used in the Bible...
Though it does have a present reality, it speaks of future things.
For example, in the book of Titus.
Titus chapter 2: for the grace of God hath appeared teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, that we should look forward to that blessed hope, even the appearing of our God and Savior Jesus Christ."
The blessed hope.
That is that Jesus is coming again.
When he shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found...
Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.
Thatís hope, friends...thatís hope.
This world is not our home.
This is a world of bloodshed.
This is a world of war.
This is a world of crime and violence.
But I have hope for a better place than that...
And itís not going to be produced by Democrats or Republicans or Congress or the President.
It will be produced by Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our hope.
>But not only is there hope in his coming, that blessed hope...
There is hope in an eternal home in heaven.
He says there in verse 5: it is stored up.
That means itís in the storehouse...itís put away.
Itís reserved for us.
God has something for us thatís so wonderful.
We cannot even imagine it.
In our wildest fanciful dreams we cannot even imagine how wonderful heaven is going to be.
The old, old song says: We read of a place thatís called heaven up there by the beautiful sea.
The angels so sweetly are singing, Ďhow beautiful heaven must be.í
We canít even imagine it.
>Thereís an old song, Bro. Clarence, in Stamps Baxter.
It says it was written by Elsie, Jack and Jim...thatís all it says.
Have no idea who Elsie, Jack and Jim were.
But the song says: Iím going to a city where the streets of gold are laid, Iím going to a city where the roses never fade.
Here they bloom but for a season, soon their beauty is decayed.
But Iím going to a city where the roses never fade.
That doesnít mean too much to this Pepsi crowd.
But I tell you, the closer I get to the Geritol gang, it means more to me.
Thatís hope, friends.
Thatís what our life is about in Christ.
Those things are not determined by what happens at Wall Street.
Those things are not determined by who is in the White House.
Those things are not determined by what country is fighting another country.
Thatís all produced by Jesus.
Paul says, "I thank God for you because of your faith and your hope and your love."
>Secondly he says, "I thank God for the gospel."
Oh, what a message the gospel is.
What is the gospel?
Paul in I Corinthians 15 said: I declare unto you the gospel, how that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised again the third day.
Thatís the gospel.
The word "gospel" means good news.
We do not normally think of somebodyís dying as good news...
Unless itís somebody we just couldnít stand.
And if thereís somebody we hate so much weíre probably not even saved to start with.
We do not normally think of somebodyís death as being good news.
Thatís bad news.
But Jesus died and Paul said, "thatís good news".
The Son of God, the Prince of Glory, the creator of the universe died...
And he did not die of old age.
He died because he was brutally tortured and brutalized and abused and murdered.
He died for us...thatís the gospel...thatís the good news.
How could that be good news?
Because he died for us.
He died as my substitute.
He died for my sake in my stead.
He died for me...he took my sin upon him.
He took my condemnation upon himself.
He took the judgment that was rightfully mine upon him.
Thank God for him...thank God for Jesus.
>Paul says several things about the gospel.
He says first of all, itís true.
Look there in verse 5: for the hope which is stored up for you in heaven, and that you have already heard about in the word of truth.
The gospel is true, friends.
Itís not a lie...itís the truth.
Now there are a lot of men who preach lies.
There are a lot of women who preach lies.
But I want to say to you the gospel is true.
>Secondly, not only is it true, itís unchanging.
He says there in verse 5: that you have already heard about.
You see there had come into Colosse a group of false teachers and they were attacking the gospel.
They were saying that it is not enough to repent of sin and have faith in Jesus...
Who died and was buried and was raised again.
They were attacking the gospel.
And Paul had no tolerance whatsoever for anyone who preached a false gospel.
He wrote to the church at Galatia in chapter 1: if an angel from heaven or another man or anybody else preaches any other gospel than that which I have preached...
Let him be cursed with a curse.
Friends, there is not another gospel.
There is not another Messiah.
Jesus is the only Savior.
And anyone who proclaims any gospel of works, anyone who claims the gospel of religion...
Anyone who proclaims any gospel of self-advancement...
Paul says, let them be cursed with a curse, because the gospel is an unchanging gospel.
The same gospel that was preached when I was saved...
Is the same gospel that was preached by the apostle Paul and Simon Peter...
And every Christian evangelist throughout all the history of the Christian faith.
Buildings change...this is a lovely building.
People didnít used to build buildings like this.
There was a day when everybody built long buildings.
Stretch the congregation twelve miles back shotgun...
Have to have binoculars to see who is back there.
Now everybody is in a fan shape.
I mean they are so close up if you slobber you spit all over them.
But thatís not what Christianity is about.
Itís not about buildings.
There are a lot of things that change.
Some of the songs we sing today our fathers did not sing.
Some of the songs they sang their fathers did not sing.
Music changes...building styles change...clothing apparel changes.
I was reading about some of the old fathers of the faith, old-time preachers...
And looking at some of the pictures and they had those high collars and those long coats and bow ties.
Women used to come to church, you know, wearing floor length dresses and wearing their bonnets.
Every once in a while weíll have one of those old time services.
I want us to have one soon and weíll all come dressed like they used to.
A lot of things change, but the gospel never changes.
>Itís true...itís unchanging...itís universal.
He says there in verse 6: that has come upon you all over the world.
The gospel is universal.
Itís for the black man in Africa and Ethiopia.
Itís for the red man in the plains.
Itís for the yellow man in China and in Mongolia and in Japan.
Itís for the white man.
Itís for the bronze and the brown and the tan and all in between.
Itís a universal gospel.
Itís come to the whole world.
>Now do you know that Paul wrote this letter only about 35 years after the death of Jesus?
And Paul said, 35 years after Jesus died, that the gospel had spread into the whole known world.
Now isnít that an amazing thing?
They didnít have any satellites...
They didnít know what wireless was...
They didnít have computers and televisions and boom images.
But they had people that were carrying the gospel.
Some of them rode camels...some of them rode horses...
Some of them walked.
But they had carried the gospel to the whole world because the gospel is universal.
Itís for everybody.
>Itís also a fruitful gospel.
Verse 5 says: all over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing.
The gospel is fruitful.
The scripture makes it very clear that this gospel that is true and unchanging and universal is also fruitful.
You see, gospel fruit is you...you are gospel fruit.
There was a day when you were lost and just as hell bound and hell deserving as any infidel walking...
And the gospel got you.
>Some years ago there was a nationwide campaign, an evangelistic appeal or program...
Called "I Found It", and everybody had bumper stickers.
I mean thatís the greatest way Christians have of telling the news.
Put it on a bumper sticker..."I Found It".
I want to tell you, folks, you didnít find the Lord...he found you.
He wasnít the one that was lost.
You were the one that was lost, and he was looking for you.
Heís been looking for men and women a long time.
He came into the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve had sinned.
Adam and Eve had sinned and by all rights God could have barbecued them right there in the garden...
And spent the rest of eternity playing with the horses and dogs and cats and other animals in the garden.
But he didnít do that.
God came into the Garden of Eden and said, "Man, where are you?"
And ever since then God has been looking for folks.
And if youíre here and not a believer, not only is God looking for you...
Heís about found you if youíll just give up and say, "Jesus, I come."
Oh, the power of this gospel...it is fruitful.
>And it is a personal gospel.
He says there in verse 6: that has come unto you.
You see, the gospel travels around the world.
It manages to find itself in the dialect and language of every person on the earth.
And yet even though the fact is that itís an old, old gospel and it has traveled thousands and millions of miles...
It still finds its way to your doorstep.
He says this gospel that is true and unchanging and universal and fruitful is personal.
It came to you.
There comes a day in your life when you have to decide about Jesus.
Either yes or no.
>One last thing.
Paul was thankful for them as believers.
He was thankful for the gospel.
And he says in verse 7 that he was thankful for a man by the name of Epaphras.
The Bible doesnít say much about him.
Heís only mentioned here in the book of Colossians with the exception of one other time in the book of Philemon.
But hardly anybody ever reads Philemon anyway.
I donít know what youíre gonna do when you get to heaven and Paul says, "Howíd you like my book of Philemon?"
Sort of like those who run into Nahum and Nahum says, "Howíd you like my book?"
What are you gonna tell him?
You havenít read it.
Paul was thankful for the ministry of Epaphras.
While not much is said about him, he says two things here about him.
>He says heís a "dear fellow servant".
The word "servant" means bondslave.
Heís a fellow slave to the Lord Jesus.
Thatís a good thing to be said about a man.
Donít know what he did for a living.
Donít know how much money he had.
Donít know what kind of clothes he wore.
Donít know what model chariot he rode around in.
But Paul said he was a dear fellow slave of Christ.
And he says he was a "faithful minister", faithful servant.
>God called us to be servants.
Weíre enslaved to him.
May we be faithful.
Paul said, "I thank God for you. For your faith, your love, your hope.
I thank God for that true, unchanging, universal, fruitful, personal gospel.
And thank God for men like Epaphras who are content to be fellow servants and faithful ministers."