22st Sunday of Pentecost October 9, 2016

INI

In Christ We Are Perfect, but Not yet Perfected

Colossians 1:9-14

Scripture Readings

Isaiah 12:1-6
Ephesians 4:22-28
Acts 16:16-31

Hymns

11, 324, 340, 45

Martin Luther’s prayer for growth:

Help us to grow in the knowledge of Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and to remain firm in the confession of His blessed Word. Give us the love to be of one mind and to serve one another in Christ. Then we will not be afraid of that which is disagreeable, nor the rage of the arsonist (Satan) whose torch is almost extinguished. Dear Father, guard us so that his craftiness may not take the place of our pure faith. Grant that our cross and sufferings may lead to a blessed and sure hope of the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ, for whom we wait daily. Amen

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Dear Fellow Redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son,

Did you hear what Paul said? He told the believing “saints” in Colosse that he was praying for them that they might be “filled.” But how can a saint, someone who is perfect, be “filled”?! We know that some people pray TO saints, but that’s not Paul’s prayer. He prays FOR the saints in Colosse. How can that be? After all, a saint has passed through the door of death to eternal life, dwells in the peaceful mansions of heaven. But the saint who still lives on this earth is constantly at war against the devil, the world, and his own sinful, fleshly nature.

In the verses leading up to our text, Paul writes of the certain HOPE of eternal peace and life with God is “laid up,” or waiting for us, in heaven. Right now, we still have to complete our plodding pilgrimage on planet earth. Right now, we have perfect forgiveness for all our sins through faith in Christ, still we are not without sin! We are children of our heavenly Father right now through faith in the Gospel of Christ, but we have not yet been “faithful unto death.” Neither had the saints in Colosse! That’s why Paul speaks of the COSMIC CHRIST throughout this wonderful letter! Paul says IN HIM WE ARE PERFECT, BUT NOT YET PERFECTED.

I.

Because the Colossians were not yet perfected, Paul prayed FOR them that they might be “filled with the full knowledge” of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. The Colossians were made saints when they were brought to faith’s knowledge of God’s forgiving grace toward sinners in Christ. But Paul knew that this knowledge must increase so that they learn to apply it “with all wisdom and understanding” in every area of their lives. If not, they would be weak witnesses for Christ, lacking in thanksgiving and joy, and in danger of losing their faith!

Every faithful pastor has this same concern for the people he serves in Christ. You and I, for example, are counted perfect in Christ, but we are not perfected. We all need to grow up in Christ through the faithful study of His Word. There are also “baby Christians” in every Christian congregation. No matter what their chronological age may be, or how established the congregation is, they do not let “the word of Christ dwell in them richly,” as Paul tells the Colossians in chapter 3. Instead, they plug the Word into their busy lives only when it is convenient.

Physical growth in children is a good thing, an exciting thing! But what about our growth as the spiritual children of our heavenly Father? In our church body, God richly provides us with the spiritual food we need to grow and develop in Christ. Yet every pastor I know must keep on praying and pleading: “Come on now! Eat! Come fill yourself with the one thing needful!

To use another illustration: Many of us have played baseball. But in 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers worked at it in order to make it to the World Series. If they simply played around with the baseball or ignored their coaches, they would not have made it to the World Series. Likewise, we sinners who have been given sainthood by the gracious God of heaven, have not been called to “play around” with this greatest of all blessings!

So we all should pray that we who are “saints,” “May be filled with the full knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” not so that we may crawl or play, but WALK, as Paul says, “worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, being fruitful in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.” (V. 10)

We are saints through faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet, are we not ashamed of the way we take His name in vain by cursing and swearing? Do we not strive in our hearts against the sinful lusts of our flesh—the adulterous thoughts, the covetous desires, and the self-centered way in which we deal with our families and friends?

Do we not want to be FULLY pleasing to our Savior and fruitful in EVERY good work—kinder and more loving, more devoted and able witnesses of Christ by word and deed? Do we not want to grow up in the knowledge of our God? Of course we do, or we are not believing saints at all! Well then, let us diligently pray for the grace and help we need to be “filled with the full knowledge of God’s gracious will” through His Word, that we may “walk worthy” of the Lord, and be “fruitful in every good work.”

II.

Being perfected is all about God’s grace and strength working in us! So Paul further promises that we shall also “be strengthened with all might according to His (God’s) glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (V. 11). What believing saint does not need patience and the ability to suffer long through the trials and troubles of our sinful world and sin’s corruption in our own bodies? But the Lord would strengthen us with “all might.” Why? So that we may endure with long suffering and patience and joy! Really? With joy?

Does Paul mean that you ought to laugh when you suffer a broken leg or lose your job? Of course not! Yet, even while suffering pain or emotional agony, the saints have a JOY that is above and beyond circumstance! Paul spoke from experience. In Acts 16 we find him and Silas in chains in a dark dungeon in Philippi, yet they are singing hymns to God!

In Philippians 4, where he again writes from prison, Paul encourages the saints in Philippi to “rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4). Later in the same chapter of Philippians Paul explains the source of his joy: “everywhere and in all things,” he writes, “I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:12-13)

Our joy in the midst of suffering and hardship is based on Jesus and His Gospel-Word. As Jesus once told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be FULL.” (John 15:11) Our own joy may be FILLED UP in the promises of Christ! We may even have Christ’s joy in the very midst of our greatest sorrows and losses!

Finally, Paul adds in vs. 12-14 of our text that this filling up with the full knowledge of God’s gracious will brings about an increase of thanksgiving on the part of the believing saints. To be thankful we have to THINK. You have to think of what you have, no matter what you may be suffering. What you HAVE is a Father Who has made you “qualified” Paul says, to participate in the inheritance of the saints “in light (v. 12) Paul is not only talking about heaven, but the blessedness we possess right now! In Christ we already have been made to possess the light, the life, and the safety of His kingdom! God Himself shines around us and in us through His Gospel!

But these words would mean nothing to you without the in-filling of the rest of Holy Scripture. The point is this: We want you to be filled with the full knowledge of God’s will; we want you to be filled up with the meaning of Scriptural expressions like “forgiveness,” “redemption,” “deliverance,” and so on (vs 13-14). We want you to be so filled up with them meaning of these terms that when you lose a loved one or a job, or suffer illness or some other trouble, you will still have a full sense of JOY! For you will have a full sense of Jesus continuing presence right next to you in His kingdom of light, providing for you and protecting you.

Without the knowledge of God’s will revealed in His Word, we do not grow in Christ. Without the sound teaching and encouragement of His Word, we remain babies. But we do want to grow up so that we may be “fully pleasing” to Him. We do want to grow so that we may stand patiently and joyfully in every time of trial or trouble, and be able to thank our Father more abundantly.

Our children whine and complain when life gets “tough” for them, but they will grow out of that. As Christians, we will too—if we mature. By the powerful working of God’s word, we too will get beyond the complaining and the whining that we do. We will become more and more thankful to the Father who has declared us perfect through Jesus Christ, but Who still wants to make us perfect in heaven for His eternal glory! Amen.

—Pastor Vance A. Fossum


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