Gospel Impact

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 11/25/2018

This morning we wrap up our Colossians series. I’ve had this thought. If we could master this one book of the Bible, revival would break out. If we deeply internalized all that Paul is saying about Christ Jesus in chapter one… If we diligently guarded against the danger, he spells out in chapter two … If we were to conscientiously let Christ “be our life”, putting off the old, putting on the new, letting Christ reign in relationships, all in chapter three… it would generate such a holy, and beautiful disturbance, people would speak of it for generations.
Colossians 4 is all about winning friends and influencing people for Christ. One of the first classes I ever took in Bible College was “Dynamics of Personal Evangelism.” A requirement of the course was to share my faith a dozen times by the end of the semester and write a report about it. That totally freaked me out! I’d just moved to Lincoln. I was living on campus, in a dorm, surrounded by Christians. I was so young in my faith and lacked confidence. But you know what? It happened. I spoke to a janitor in downtown Lincoln late one night, a computer repairman, an old high school friend. I was making it a lot harder than it needed to be. How can we effectively share our faith?

My single favorite go-to passage for sharing my faith is Colossians 4:2-6, “Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains, 4 so that I may make it known as I should. 5 Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” What are some of the principles from these verses we can latch unto?

(1) The Principle of Prayer. In Colossians 4:2 Paul says, “Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it [prayer] with thanksgiving.” This is such a loaded verse. Not only is Paul telling us to pray, but to pray with a sense of anticipation and gratitude. Anticipation, because God is already at work in people’s lives. Gratitude, because something is going to happen when you pray.

D.A. Carson writes, "Many of us devote most of our praying, in private and in public, to personal matters largely removed from gospel interests: our mortgages, physical safety, good health, employment for ourselves or someone else. Doubtless these and countless other concerns are legitimate subjects for prayer. After all, we serve a God who invites us to cast all our cares on him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). But where is our gospel focus?" – (D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers). What a great question! Where is our gospel focus?

Back in college I started making a list of all the places in Scripture where we’re taught to pray for people far from God. The most familiar of all the places is the very first line of the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is heaven.” Just how does God’s Kingdom come? It grows/expands into people’s hearts! Why would Jesus ask us to pray for his Kingdom to come if such prayers have no effect whatsoever?

In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 Paul says, “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Did you catch that? We’re to pray for everyone. We’re also to pray for Kings or people in authority! If there is hope for politicians, there is definitely hope for everyone else! But the clincher is Paul’s statement that God wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. In the Greek the word everyone means everyone. Some theologians want us to believe that everyone just means some people, but everyone means everyone. How would it change your prayers if you believed it to be God’s will that everyone be saved and know the truth? Thy Kingdom come Lord!

(2) Principle of Opportunity. In Colossians 4:3 Paul says, “Pray also for us that God may open a door to us…” A big headline from this past week was the 26-year-old man who kayaked into the off-limits Bay of Bengal to tell one of the remotest tribes still in existence today, about the love of Jesus. His first contact didn’t go so well. They pierced his waterproof Bible with an arrow. The second day didn’t go well either. As he shouted, “My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you” they killed him.

Friends describe John as courageous, selfless, and compassionate. He sounds like the kind of guy we’d all benefit from having known. But this is where the principle of opportunity comes into play. Is it God who is opening the door? Or am I trying to force the door open? The only way we can really know is to pray. We must recognize that God is a God of timing. As much as the world needed Christ Jesus, God didn’t just send forth his Son at just any time. Instead, the Bible tells us that God sent forth his Son in the “fullness of time”. There was a sense of timing to God’s purpose and plan.

Right now, there is easily a half-dozen people Lara & I are building relationships with, and our hope is to share Christ. Some of these people know I’m a pastor. That’s not necessarily an advantage! Several folks if anything remotely spiritual pops up, they go into full retreat. One guy just walks away immediately—he doesn’t do it consciously, it’s not anything personal, he’s just really turned off by religion! It’s important that we let God open a door, and that we not force something on our terms. Patience isn’t just a virtue, it’s a strategy! But if God opens that door, you and I had better step through it with boldness!

(3) Principle of Substance. Just what is the opportunity we’re praying for? Paul tells us in Colossians 4:3-4, “pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains, so that I may make it known as I should.” What we’re doing is praying for an opportunity to present God’s Word, to make Jesus known, to share the Mystery, “Christ in you the hope of glory.”

I’ve got to vent for a minute! A lot of gospel ministry has little to do with presenting Christ, and a whole lot to do with “self-presentation.” We’re so infatuated with people seeing our selfie we never help them see the facie of Jesus. When evangelizing, I see it all the time, we’re overly concerned with how we look, with our style, with our vibe. Honestly, if I go to another conference and hear some pastor talk about his tattoos, skinny jeans, or gym membership I’m going to scream. Or, we’re overly concerned with how clever, or cute, or intelligent, or profound, or funny, or dramatic we sound. We waste so much time trying to be “relevant, cool, likeable.” One of the greatest travesties of our time is the cult of personality.

John the Baptist had the greatest evangelism advice ever. He said, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world… He must become greater I must become less.” Now I’m sorry if I’m the first person to ever say this… but its true. As good of a person you may be… as loving a person… as forgiving… as kind… as patient… as enduring… as wise… as interesting of a person you believe yourself to be… you can’t hold a candle to Jesus. John the Baptist nails it. “Less about me. More about Jesus.” If you talk too much about yourself, you’ll bore people. Talk about Jesus!

I love that passage in John 12:20-21 that says, “Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.” That’s the whole thing right there! Not to form a cult of personality around ourselves, but get people right to Jesus.

Now let me say this. We don’t have the luxury of walking people up to a living human being and saying, “Behold, here is Jesus, the Lamb of God.” To help people see Jesus, we actually have to take them into the Word of God, into Scriptures. If we’re to help a person see Jesus there has to be real substance, real content to our evangelism. There is no clearer portrait of God, given to men, than Jesus. He is the image of the invisible God, and the exact representation of God’s being. But the pages of Scripture are the only reliable record we have telling us who Jesus is, what he actually said, what he actually did! When people say, “We would like to see Jesus” it necessarily becomes time for a Bible study. Take people through Colossians 1. Take them through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Read Scripture with people. Invite them to church this Christmas. I promise to always share God’s Word, so people see Jesus as clearly as possible!

(4) Principle of Authenticity. In Colossians 4:5, Paul says, “Act wisely toward outsiders.” I think we can make two mistakes in evangelism. The first mistake is making too much of ourselves. If you think you can live such a perfectly authentic life, people will come to Christ in droves, you are assuming an impossible burden. Jesus lived such a life, but men loved darkness. Jesus was despised and rejected by men. But neither should we assume our example doesn’t matter! Nothing arouses people’s curiosity more than letting Christ be your life. Nothing arouses people’s curiosity more than the real faith, real love, and real hope. In Colossians 1:10 Paul prays that we would “walk worthy of the Lord,” and be “fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work.” In Colossians 3:17 we were instructed, “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” We need to be intentional, and humble!

(5) Principle of Urgency. In Colossians 4:5 Paul speaks of, “making the most of the time.” At the top of my Facebook “About Me” page, I put one of my favorite quotes of all time. It’s a quote I hope someone will put on my gravestone. A guy by the name of C.T. Studd said, “Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last." There are so many things I really enjoy doing. But there are so few things that last. When it comes to eternal matters, we already have a tendency to procrastinate. But any of our lives can pass in an instant. Enjoy life but get about the work of the gospel!

(6) Principle of Conversation. In Colossians 4:6 Paul says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” Isn’t that a great verse! Let me translate. First, don’t be a jerk about spiritual matters—be gracious, be respectful. Second, don’t be a flake about spiritual matters—don’t be an emotionally unintelligent fruitcake, don’t speak Christianese—be salty, be clear, be insightful, be intentional. Third, don’t be ignorant about spiritual matters—find out people’s questions and help them find real answers.

A few weeks back I met a fellow chainsaw carver! He’s one of those guys who fears God, but doesn’t care for the church, and doesn’t care for most Christians. So I asked him about this, and he told me that whenever he asks Christians questions they never explain anything, they just keep saying the same thing, “you just gotta believe…” When we tell people this, it makes zero sense. It’s like were telling them to believe for belief’s sake. In Colossians 1:9 Paul prays for people “to be filled with all wisdom, knowledge, and spiritual understanding.” In Colossians 2:2-3 Paul explains how he wants the Colossians and Laodiceans to “have all the riches of complete understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” This chainsaw carver is an ordinary dude—but I spent all the time he needed carefully, reasonably, answering his questions, giving understanding.

(7) Principle of Imitation. Read Colossians 4:7-18.