Closing Up Colossians: A Prayer for Fullness in Christ

April 9, 2018 by Trent Hunter 0 comments

Posted in: Sermon Follow-Up

One of the commands in the book of Colossians is that we would “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful I it with thanksgiving” (4:3). We’ve heard God’s voice in the book of Colossians. Now, let’s pray a concluding prayer through the book.

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For the saints (1:1–2) and faithful brothers and sisters at Heritage Bible Church—a prayer.

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give thanks (1:3–9) to you for the faith and love you work in our hearts because the hope you have laid up for us in heaven. This hope is ours because of the gospel which we have heard and which we have believed. The gospel which came to us by those who opened their mouth to teach it, like Epaphras did when he came home to Colossae. A church was born in that place and a church was born in this place. This gospel is indeed growing in us here at Hudson and Old Spartanburg, and it is growing throughout the whole world. We are ever-thankful for your ever-growing, hope-giving, love-compelling, and faith-fueling gospel.

And so we ask of you to fill us up! Fill us up so we might fully please you (1:9–14). Fill us up so we might bear fruit for you. Fill us with wisdom and your will so we might walk worthy of you. This kind of life is not natural to us. At the same time, we acknowledge that we are beset by many challenges, large and small, self-inflicted and trouble from others. For this we need endurance and we need patience. This is a profound spiritual work that we are asking for. But we know that you are glorious in might and so we ask you to strengthen us with your power. But more than strength for endurance, strengthen us for joy. This is a bold prayer, but we know we can pray it because of what you have already done for us: you have qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. You delivered us from the darkness we loved and you transferred us into the kingdom of the Son whom you love. You forgave us of our sins in order that we might please you with our lives. Be pleased with your lives.  

Father, for this we need vision. Only a full vision of Christ will yield a fully pleasing life. So make Jesus Christ preeminent (1:15–20) in the spiritual vision our church. Fill us with a vision of Christ preeminent in creation, for he existed before all things and all things were made through him and for him. But not only is he the builder, architect, and owner of the creation, but of a whole new creation. He rose from the dead, the Son of God incarnate, in order to raise a new people for a new world. Fill us with a vision of Christ preeminent in his new creation, full deity and full humanity for our full redemption. 

Christ’s preeminence is highlighted by who he reconciles and to what extent he reconciles them. His reconciliation is a total package reconciliation (1:21–23). Nothing is missing. We were alienated from you, but through him you will present us above reproach. We were hostile toward you, but through him you will present us holy. We were doing evil deeds, but he died so that we would be blameless. The work of your Son was complete to save us completely from complete ruin. What’s left for us to do? Only to hold onto him, to keep believing in him, never to shift from our great hope in him.

Christ is indeed preeminent, even when it doesn’t look like it. How is Christ preeminent when his apostle, for example, was in chains? Is this a delusion? Profound thoughts, but pretend? No. Christ suffered for his church, and Christ called his apostle and us to suffer for the sake of his church. Pain and prayer and proclamation go together. And we proclaim him by warning and teaching everyone in order that every member might be made mature in him. This is the heart of gospel ministry (1:24–29). For this we toil as elders and for this you supply the energy we need. 

As an elder among elders, I pray that the saints at Heritage would know our struggle for them. And may this struggle result in their encouragement, in the knitting of their hearts together in love, and in the full assurance of all that is theirs in Jesus. There is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from him, and indeed he is a treasure whose riches will dazzle us for all eternity. This is what we want (2:1–7): may they know our struggle, may they know Christ, and may they know better. From everywhere it seems come plausible sounding arguments that nevertheless steal this treasure from us. The worst kind are the kind we think up ourselves.

Oh make us to walk in Christ, and because make us to watch out for these lies! Root us and ground us in him so that we will not shift. Give us hearts of thankfulness that overflow from fullness in this treasure. Give us spiritual strength to see and resist every empty lie that would take this treasure and take us captive. If we have Christ, what could we possibly be missing (2:17–15)? Surely nothing! If we are filled with Christ we are filled with the very presence of God, for the whole fullness of deity dwelled in him bodily and Christ fills us. We have undergone spiritual surgery in the circumcision of our hearts and we have been raised to new life, dramatized beautifully in the sign of baptism. If we are filled with Christ we have the full forgiveness of sins. They are cancelled forever, for they were nailed to his cross. If we are filled with Christ we share in your full triumph over every enemy and force. He took our shame and put Satan to open shame. There is no spiritual power or life to be found apart from him. Let us not be deceived. Let us not be taken captive. For we are missing nothing. 

We know what we have in Jesus, Father, but we need to be reminded repeatedly and specifically. For, until Jesus’ new creation work is complete, there is a pull in our heart and in this world away from this gospel. Human visions of Christ and maturity in him threaten to embed themselves like ticks in the skin of your church. One nasty infection is legalism, or the problem of add-on Christianity (2:16–23). Oh the havoc that this wreaks on the souls of so many. At least as dangerous as licentiousness, but cloaked in the clothing of Christ. A poison that, once it enters the body, famishes God’s people. Rules and regulations that God has not laid on his people, laid on his people by his people, but never for his people. Only for pride. A peer-pressurized environment follows where we begin to imagine what it takes to please others rather than God, and where we lose confidence in God’s Word because apparently there are things we need to do or not do that he has hidden for us in the minds and teachings of men. You have warned us about this, not so that we may proudly claim invulnerability, but because we are indeed ever vulnerable. Show us our sin in this. Make us to be self-suspicious.

Some among us may seek to be ultra-Biblical (2:16–17), holding rules and regulations over their brothers which Christ brought to an end as if his death was not sufficient. Give us spiritual strength to reject their judgments. Some among us may seek to be super-spiritual (2:18–19), insisting on special spiritual experience, from asceticism or the worship of angels. But while spiritual vitality is on offer, they forget the only source of nourishment for the body of Christ, which is, of course, Christ. Give us the spiritual strength to reject the disqualifying verdicts of self-appointed spiritual umpires, to remember that you have qualified us in Christ. Some among us may seek to be extra-pure (2:20–23) through the piling on of wise sounding rules about what we can and can’t touch, taste, or feel. But these don’t hold back sin. This is nothing more than self-made religion. We submit to Christ and not man. Protect us from those who would seek to bring spiritual maturity apart from spiritual means. Remind us to ask, “is this something for which Christ died, or is this something for which I or someone else wishes Christ died?”

But how exactly do we mature in Christ? There are wrong ways, but what is your way? How may we be more firmly rooted and grounded in him for a more faithful and fruitful walk for your pleasure? If maturity in Christ comes by the proclamation of Christ, and if the proclamation of Christ requires warning and teaching, then we need both warning and teaching. Indeed, we have been warned. Now, teach us what you have taught us in this letter. Where can we find the power for the life you require? Union with Christ is indeed power for life (3:1–4). Raised with him, now hidden with him, we will on day appear with him. This world is not our home and so we seek the things that are above. Union with Christ; power for life.

Union with Christ is power to put off (3:5–11) the earthly lusts of sexual sin and covetousness, and all cruelty, including anger, malice, and slander. And it is power us to put on (3:12–14) the radiant clothes appropriate for church, befitting the holy and beloved children of God, right even for the new creation—compassionate hearts, humility, patience, forgiveness, and holding them all together like a belt, love. As we grow in maturity, make us a genuinely Christ-centered community (3:15–17). Christ, the center of gravity in everything, ordering, balancing, and energizing our life. May the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. May the word of Christ dwell in us as we sing about him to one another with all kinds of songs and one heart full of thanksgiving. And may his name mark everything we do.

Power us for full maturity in our specific roles. May wives (3:18–19) submit eagerly, expectantly and respectfully to their husbands. And may their husbands be famous for their sacrificial, overt, and compelling love for their wives. May our children (3:20–21) obey their parents in everything, knowing that this is how you provide for them, protect them, and prepare them for life. May parents among us parent as seems fit but never provoke their children. Much ruin comes on account of non-existent or alternatively excessive or inconsistent disciple. And much ruin comes on account of unclear and unreachable expectations. And much ruin comes on account of hypocrisy, aloofness, and harshness. And may those under authority (3:22–4:1) fill their roles with sincerity and heart, and may those in authority lead as those who share the same Master in heaven. May we all find meaning in the mundane, for all our labor is seen and received by Christ.  

All of this is very difficult. All of this will require endurance. All of this you have commanded. And all of this you have empowered through the gospel. And that’s why we pray to you (4:2). For you are the God who cancels our sins, gives us new hearts, reconciles us to yourself, makes us new creations, and fills us with assurance and hope—all though union with Jesus Christ. We ask you in prayer: transform our lives as we treasure this truth, and transform our church as we treasure this truth together.

There are others to pray for as well. Father, you are the God who opens doors. Open a door for us (4:3–6). You opened a door to us and sent preachers of the gospel to proclaim Christ. Open a door for the gospel in our neighborhood and in our community and to the ends of the earth that we may proclaim Christ to all. Open a door and that we might speak clearly as we ought. As we live among our neighbors give us wisdom as we live and grace as we speak to commend the gospel we preach. Give us insight into the specific people we meet, and give us gracious and seasoned words so that we may know how to answer each one, for each one is precious. As we walk in wisdom, may we win some for Christ.

Finally, we rejoice in the gospel’s growth around the globe through partners and churches and friends (4:7–18). Encourage the Brooks family as they hear of how we are doing and encourage us as we hear reports from Gospel Hope Church. Encourage the Farmers and the Hansens on the field so many others in the same way. As they have time, may they tell us about how they are doing and all that you are doing in them and for them and around them. Many faithful, hard working servants like Epaphras come to mind: Matthew Hoskinson, Jonathan Matias, Tim Lovegrove, and others. May grace be with them, and may the gospel grow in Alexandria, in Menifee, in New York City, in Columbus, in Brighton, in Mauldin and in Moore and in Greer. Give energy. Give encouragement. Assure them fully in all the will of God and may they fulfill the ministry that they have received from the Lord.

Christ is our heritage. May he be preeminent here. And may we be ever thankful to you for him.

It’s in his name we pray, 

Amen.

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