Todd offers three key factors in knowing the will of God. 1) Don't wait for trouble before you become passionate about prayer. 2) The truth of Christ should transform your life. 3) Get in the Word and be a student of the scriptures.
Don't Let Them Fool You, Just Keep Trusting Him
From Futile Speculation to Futile Regulation: The Foolishness of Life Apart from Christ
Experts Are Everywhere but Can They be Trusted: How to Respond to Philosophy's Challenge
Our Journey to Get the Stain of Spaghetti/Sin Out of Our Lives
Why The Light Has to be Left On
What You Lose If You Leave This Chance To Serve This King
Our Colossal Christ and What You Must Quit When You Know Him
The First Thing We Ought to Pray for and Pursue
Investigating the Colossal Claims and Obligations of the Gospel
Well, we're looking at a book that we're using this little catchphrase, this little title that is obviously out there in the public domain and public consciousness right now, CSI, that every time you see it, it will throw you to a place in God's Word that reminds you not just who you are, but where you came from and whose you are and what difference that should make.
We hope every time you're watching TV, whether you watch that show or not, and you see a commercial for it, it reminds you of what it is we are looking at. We are studying the book of Colossians. It's a book that will walk you through this truth that the people in the town of Colossae had received, and the transformation it should have brought about in their life.
It doesn't matter if you're in Colossae or if you're in Dallas, the question is…Are you in Christ? If you are in Christ, it should bring about a transformation in your life. What happened is there was a gentleman by the name of Epaphras who had been on a little region on the coast there in Asia Minor, a town called Ephesus. He bumped in to a guy named Paul.
This Paul was preaching a message, sharing a word from God and the evidences for it. This truth completely transformed Epaphras' life. He studied it. He looked at it to see if it was so. He considered it. He heard of the works and the miracles of what Christ had done, the fact that his tomb was empty, and all of the Roman Empire knew and was hearing about this man, Jesus, who lived and made claims, whose tomb was empty, though they had sealed it with the governor's seal.
This Jesus had a message that said, "If you believe in me, I will deliver you from this domain of darkness and bring you into a kingdom of light, and transformation will happen in your heart. You will be renewed into relationship with a God you had forsaken." Epaphras was so transformed by this message that he determined he could not keep it to himself.
He left his friend, Paul, in Ephesus, and went a hundred or so miles inland back to his hometown of Colossae. He shared the message of hope he had received with his friends, and a young church was born there. This young church was doing pretty well, but there were people in that community we find out who did not like this new message.
The message Epaphras brought was new and strange. It didn't match up with the old ideas they got from Athens that man attends to greatness through human thinking and reasoning. It didn't match up with the thinking the Jews had brought with them that you earn your way to God by works and obedience to the law and your own righteousness you attend to. This new faith was strange to them.
In Dallas today, the way this book relates to us as we study it, investigate it, tear it apart, and look for the clues that are there that bring about transformation… We're in Dallas, and our faith we claim to know is not knew and strange, but it's old and familiar. There are many people who will say, "You still stuck in this ancient idea that this Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago has something to do with your life?"
"Nah, I haven't seen Jesus bring about much transformation in the lives of those who have taken his name. I need something new, something encouraging, something transforming. Something that will stimulate me, and not wear me out like these tired Christians and these dead churches have represented to me for now my entire lifetime and decades before."
What we're going to look at it is what Paul wrote to this church in Colossae, and we're going to decipher what it has to do with those of us who are not in Colossae but are in Dallas, see if there's something there for us that we should respond to rightly. What happened is Epaphras, after he got this church started, left them and went to visit his buddy, Paul, who at this time was in Rome and was in prison.
Rome was not real excited about this new faith Paul was preaching because it was causing a stir in all the communities that the message was brought. It was bringing a stir because folks saw the love the saints, the people who believed the message of Christ had for one another, and there was a sense of awe.
While there was favor with the community, there were those whose practices and sometimes religions and often lifestyles were condemned, if you will, or threatened by this new faith and the transformation and the life change and worldview differences that were coming with it. They wanted Paul to stop stirring up trouble. They didn't care what Paul believed, but when it threatened the peace and unity of the Roman Empire, they wanted to shout at him.
Paul was in prison in Rome, and Epaphras went there to visit him. He told Paul about the church that through Epaphras' message had begun in this town of Colossae. Paul dove right in. He said, "I'm going to write them a note. I want to encourage them," because Paul is not one of those folks who waits for there to be real problems before he becomes real passionate about praying.
In other words, the initial success of the gospel in these folks didn't make Paul any less passionate about prayer. In fact, it made him more intense and more intentional. The reason for that is because Paul knew the hope of the message of Christ was alive in them. If they didn't lead lives that showed how this truth transforms and moves people out of darkness and into light, out of hopelessness into hope, then that message would not have any evidence and would not have any support and any life, and what is now modern-day Turkey would remain dark.
You'll find out this church in Colossae did well for a while, it eventually let its lamp go out. Paul, however, at this early stage of the church was anxious to say, "Hey, I want to encourage you. I want to stay with it." It's like he saw a little fire was starting, and the light was coming from it and the warmth and encouragement that was going to come out of it, he didn't want to go out.
He was intensely concerned with it, though it wasn't yet some raging flame, he said, "Don't let that spark go out. I know that Judaizers, folks who are going to tell you that you have to approach God through works are going to threaten you. I know Athens and the thinking of the Greeks and the philosophies of this age will come and try to intimidate you, that you need to believe in something more than just this Jesus."
Paul said, "You hold firm to the faith which you have given." Too many of us won't do what Paul did, which is become real passionate about prayer without real problems. Most of us wait until health, wealth, or prosperity as we define it and like it are somehow interrupted or threatened, and then we become real passionate about prayer. We don't devote ourselves to prayer until there is something disrupting our life.
Let me give you an example of that. Three or four years ago, this little event happened in New York State and then also in Washington, DC where a couple of planes left the sky and flew into buildings and flew into structures that represented our strength in the world. All of a sudden, this country was now facing some real problems. Though it wasn't a country that was really living in Christ, it wanted to be in church. It was a country that found itself in trouble and wanted something to inspire hope and bring about some stability in their life.
What's really interesting about what happened on September 11, 2001, and the weeks following is you didn't see any of the people who put forth the philosophies of this age and the worldview of this age coming forth on CNN or Larry King or MSNBC or any of the network news shows or any of the talking heads.
Nobody showed up and said, "Look, I'm telling you, you guys are overreacting. We cannot say this is evil because there are some people who think what happened is good. What we need to all be concerned with is our own ideas and own ideals. What's true for you is fine, just don't make it have to be true for me. Let's live in society where we each kind of find our own way, determine on our own what is right and what is wrong and quit being so dogmatic about what is absolute truth."
You didn't find anybody who said that. You found folks who came right online and said, "Hey, look, this is evil. We have to deal with this because this cannot stand." Nobody said, "Now who are you to call that evil?" No. Folks wanted concrete reality. They wanted truth they could act on in order to suppress the darkness, diffuse the darkness, and bring hope back and stability that we could live in the freedoms that we identified as life to us.
What happens is too many times countries or individuals wait until there are real problems, and then they get real passionate about prayer. Even then, they're kind of in church looking for something that could inspire them, but they're never really in Christ. They're never really in truth. They're just in trouble.
Paul is going to give you a different example here. When you find and watch the prayers of Paul, Paul's prayers were never to fix people. We have this little ministry, which I'm so grateful for. We call it the Click & Pray prayer ministry. You go to our website, and you enter a prayer request. We distribute it to folks, anybody who wants to pray for folks who put things in there, and while I'm glad that it's a way for us to communicate about our threats to health, wealth, and prosperity, I tire a little bit of our lack of concern for the spiritual advancement of those who are around us.
It really becomes kind of a health blotter of us and our families. Or I lost my job. Or I'm in a financial crisis. That's when we get real passionate about prayer. I want to let you know something. There's nothing wrong with praying for God to intervene where we see our health slowly withering away. The reality is at some point at some time all of our health is going to get the better of us whether it's when we're 90 or 19. Certainly, it is more tragic when we're 19, but there's always a sense of loss when we're 90.
We're not going to ever pray ourselves to eternally good health. As I've said many times in here, all that good health is is the slowest possible means by which somebody might die. I don't want to discourage you from asking us to be passionate about praying for you, your family, and your friends who are in the midst of health issues. I want to tell you if we're only concerned about our health issues and aren't equally as concerned about spiritual advancement then we have to ask ourselves if we really understand primarily what God says prayer is for.
A way to pray specifically and strategically for folks and is right is to say, "God, I don't want that lesion on Carrie's brain to be true of what's all over her body. I don't want that tumor to be malignant." But if it is and even if it is, what we really pray for is the grace to endure this with a sense of hope that the world marvels at so they can see whether you are in health or in cancer, if you're in Christ you can do endure all things through Christ who strengthens you.
I want your gospel to go forth, and if my dying or my friend having this sickness is the means to which you're going to do it, I'm going to tell you, Lord, it's not the way I would have chosen, but it's the way I will glorify you. I only pray for the strength to humble myself underneath it. Lord, we pray in our limited human wisdom that you would curb our dishealth, but we pray more fervently that you would bring about a renewal in our hearts that the world could not deny your presence in."
What Paul is going to show you is even though this church wasn't in a real problem just yet, he was still real passionate. He models for them that they should be devoted to prayer at all times. Paul was a man, like all great men, who lived what he preached. The first 14 verses of his letter to this church start by saying, "Look, ever since we have heard of the gospel of Christ that was in you," back there in verse 3, "we have given thanks to God for what is there. The truth has sparked itself in your heart.
Now we want this flicker of flame to grow up into a roaring fire of faithfulness that the whole world has to take note of. The truth that is in you is truth that is transforming everywhere it's being preached. So don't think for a second that you just heard some heresy or some idea in Ephesus that was just the new Greek philosophy of the day. What you heard was the truth of God that is eternal. Everywhere the truth of God is preached, transformation happens, unlike heresies and local philosophies which are different everywhere you go."
You look around our world today, and you'll find there are cultures that embrace different ideas of how you approach God, where man came from, where man is going, how to deal with evil, and what the source of evil is. There are all different types of worldviews that are out there. They are constantly changing, and they always ultimately lead, when you follow them to their logical end, to despair and hopelessness.
Whereas the message the Colossians had received was a message of truth that was universally the same everywhere it was being taught. It universally brought life and hope, not harm and destruction. He said, "You must hold onto this. It is precisely because I am so thankful for it that I will so passionately fight to preserve it, I will so passionately pray that God might grow it in your life."
Let me, in fact, suggest to you that we ought to pray the most when things are going the best. C.S. Lewis, many of us know because he wrote a series of children's books, The Chronicles of Narnia, which included The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and other books like that that you have read. He was really well known as a Christian apologist. Not one who apologizes for what he believes, but that word means one who defends the faith, gives a rational defense for what he believes.
C.S. Lewis was an English professor at Oxford University. When he wrote letters to friends, his letters looked different than our letters to friends. He used to typically cite references to great works of literature. There is one work of literature called Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. Pilgrim's Progress is a book that is an allegory of the Christian life.
If you have never read Pilgrim's Progress, put it on your reading list right now. It is one of those books you ought to read a lot and read often. A great book to read to kids. There are great children's translations of this book. What it is there is a character in this book called Pilgrim. It's his progress from the City of Darkness to the Celestial City, celestial meaning heavenly, to the heavenly home that he has.
He comes to find out that somebody comes alongside who gives him good news. It takes the burden that is on his back off. Even after that burden has been lifted off his back, there is a journey towards the celestial home. He goes through a lot of different places and meets a lot of different people who try and distract him from becoming immediately effective with the transforming truth he has received.
Though he is secure in where he will be one day, he gets, at times, ineffective on his journey. One of the places Christian (that's his name), this pilgrim, struggles is on a place called the pit of despair. The whole book is full of references like this. There is the pit of despair, the mire of worldliness, Mr. No-good, Mr. Malice, and on and on. These are different places and characters in the book.
One of the places he struggles the most is on the plain of Ease. Listen to this letter C.S. Lewis wrote his friend. "I especially need your prayers because I am…" And here comes his English Literature professorship. "…(like the pilgrim in Bunyan) travelling across a plain called Ease! Everything without, and many things within, are marvelously well at present."
What he is saying is, "Because of that, I am predisposed to be self-dependent and wander away from that which will ultimately give me hope and give me strength to endure all environments and circumstances and patience to love all men. That is the life I choose to live, so pray for me while everything without and much within is well. This plain called Ease could cause me to drift from the rock of hope and truth and strength."
Paul says, "While things are good in Colossae, I want to pray for you, and I want to see that little ember of faith grow to be great. I want that small thing that represents a huge stake in this world to not grow cold." Look with me at verse 9. He starts by saying right here, "For this reason also…" What's this reason? This reason is the truth that you have heard. That you are in Christ and Christ is the means through which all life and fulfillment and joy and happiness come.
Paul said, "Look. The words that you heard from me…" He wrote to another little church that was meeting in Corinth. He said, "The words I spoke to you were not persuasive words, but they were in demonstration of the spirit and of power so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men but on the power of God."
In other words, he is saying, "These are not just good ideas suggested by bright men, this is not just good reasoning, this is God's revelation to a dark and desperate world. You have something better than all the wisdom of Athens. Since we've heard that wisdom is in you, we pray you would hold fast to it, because much is at stake.
He says, "I pray this, that you might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." I'll tell you something amazing. Where Paul starts to pray they would excel as a people is typically the last place that followers of Christ understand how to do it. The two ideas that are right there. The very first thing he says, "I fervently pray is that you would know how to discern God's will and live in the spirit."
There's a guy named Bruce Wilkinson, who many of you know because of his book, The Prayer of Jabez and Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. A man greatly used of God through his preparation, study, and ministries. He talked to a bunch of seminary graduates, interviewed a large number of them all across the country.
He asked them, "Now that you've finished your training in a way that the world now often confuses with finishing seminary being fit to lead a group of followers of Christ…" Seminary is fantastic, a great place to go if you want to learn some things if you go to the right school, but that doesn't alone qualify you for ministry.
Especially when you hear what Wilkinson found when he asked these guys and said, "What is it you wish you had a better understanding of now that you've completed your so-called classical training and in a way have been fit now to be employed by these places that will shepherd people?"
What's amazing is the two top-ranking issues and questions seminary graduates in this country had a few years back when Wilkinson talked to them was, first, "How do you discern the will of God?" This is supposed to be the folks who are shepherding and leading others. And, secondly, "What does it mean to live in the Spirit?"
Paul starts right out by praying that they would understand what it is to be filled with the knowledge of his will and to live in spiritual wisdom and understanding. That they would be filled with the Spirit, if you will. We're going to show you today and explain to you what that looks like to be filled with the knowledge of his will and talk a little bit about what it means also to be filled with the Spirit.
Paul prays that would happen right out of the chute. You want to know something? Watermark as a community of faith may not be in trouble today. There may not be real problems. We have issues that are going on, but I will tell you we should make sure that this is the first thing as a body we're pretty square on.
"This is how to discern what the revealed will of God is and how to discern his will in places that it is not expressly answered and committed in Scripture. This is what it means to do it in spiritual wisdom and in power of Christ and the presence of his Spirit in our life." Because the world has a tendency to want to fill itself with some other things. It wants to fill itself with comforts and things that will distract them from the pressures of the day. We want to often live as if life in the here and now is all there is.
We want to constantly confuse the abundance of things with the abundant life. We think if we're going to have the abundant life, we have to pursue a lot of things. Jesus says, "That is not God's will. That's not God's answer." Turn with me to John 6, if you have your Bible. I hope you do. I hope you bring it. Go to John 6. I want to walk you through two places here where right away Jesus starts to talk about the will of God.
I'll share first, if you're a guest who is here today, if you're still trying to figure out if this Jesus who lived and died and was resurrected 2,000 years ago has any relevance to your life, if you want to know what the revealed will of God is, it's first that you do the hard work to figure out if the claims of Christ were so.
In John, chapter 6, I want you to look at verse 26 with me. Because what's going to happen here is you're going to pick it up where Jesus is being pursued by a large group of people. Now the people were pursuing him because he had just filled them with an abundance of food. The feeding of the 5,000, as we've come to know this little miracle that just took place, had happened just a day or so before.
Then Christ went away, and the masses sought after him and wanted more to do with this Jesus because he had given them a sort of ease. They didn't need to work for daily provision and sustenance. You could just hang out with this Jesus and…Boom!...abundant food. They said, "We like this. We'll hang out with this cat." This is what they found.
Jesus said to them, "Look. I say to you you're following after me for the wrong reasons. You seek me not because you saw signs that should show you I am who I claim to be but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. You like the temporary sense of satisfaction and warmth to your being that you get when you're filled with things."
He says, "Look, don't follow after me and work hard to be around me for the food which perishes, that you pass and need three times a day, but you work to follow after me because I'm going to give you a different kind of food that when you eat it, it will forever satisfy, a food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on him the Father, God, has set his seal."
In other words, "I have the goods to give you what you look for. The treasure is here. God has put his hand on me as the Messiah, the Chosen One who has come as the visible image of the invisible God, as the one who, though I have eternally been God, now have taken on the form of flesh to identify with you and to show you what a life lived in the Spirit and in faith with God would look like, though that I existed in the form of God, I no longer regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.
But I empty myself of my eternal right to create my own glory by my own will, and I walk as a man and humble myself before the Father, even as you do. The Father has put his hand on me as God-come-man in order that you might see I am more than just a man. I am very God of very God who is perfect in all he does, says, and thinks, in order that I might be a perfect sacrifice, in order that I might satisfy the perfect holiness of God so you might be restored into relationship with him. The works I do, I do that you might see that my words should be trusted."
All of this is here, what Jesus is saying. He goes on. "They said to him, 'Therefore, what shall we do so that we may work the works of God, if that's what you say we ought to be about?'" Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you want to work the works of God? Do you want to know what the will of God is that you do? That you believe in him whom he has sent."
When Paul prays for the folks in Colossae, and he says, "I pray that you will be filled with the knowledge of his will," if you are here today in Dallas and you don't know what God's will is for you, first of all, it would be that you would be an individual who believes in Jesus whom he has sent to be a means through which you would experience forgiveness, redemption, hope, and life.
Jesus says this: "So they said to Him, 'What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe in You?'" They forgot the sign he just did and the number of signs he had done before them, but they say to him, "What work do You perform?""Show us this seal. Why should we listen to you as our ancestors listened to Moses?" They say,
"Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.' Jesus then said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.'"
"He gave you bread then through Moses his servant. Moses his servant said there would be a prophet who was greater than I that would come. I am that prophet. Just like God gave you bread out of heaven then to your people, as he led you out of oppression and the prison that was the oppressive leadership of Pharaoh and a domain of darkness that had you in bondage as slaves, I, too, will lead you in an exodus, not out of Pharaoh's domain of darkness but out of the Prince of Darkness' rule in your life.
Just like that prophet gave you bread from heaven that you could eat and be satisfied and sustained until you got to the place of promise…" Watch this. "…I will lead you out of the domain of darkness, and I am the Bread of Life which you must eat in order to get you to the place of promise."
Jesus is laying down a metaphor here. He gave them bread to eat and said, "Don't take the bread only from me that satisfies you temporally. Take the bread that will satisfy you eternally. the manna from heaven which God gives to you." Later, tonight at Raise the Mark, we will take the bread, and Jesus showed us after giving thanks, he broke the bread and he said, "As often as you eat the bread you should remember it is my body broken for you and you do this in remembrance of me."
Tonight, God, the Master Teacher, gives us an illustration and reminder of the fact that it is the body of Christ that was broken. We trust in his broken body. We don't eat the body of Christ, but by faith we receive it and ingest it into our hearts and souls and, therefore, are satisfied and forgiven and trust our King who has now delivered us from the domain of darkness. Watch what Jesus says right here. After they said, "Lord, give us this bread," he looked them right in the eyes. "You want the bread that always will satisfy?"
"I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
You want to know, first of all, what the revealed will of God is that Paul wants you to be filled with? It's the revealed will of God that God wants you to be filled with, which is a knowledge of who Jesus Christ is and that he alone is the bread which satisfies. It is a metaphor which speaks to a need you have greater than the need you have three times a day.
If you are here today and you hunger and you wonder where the hope that is in us who have said we have found life and satisfaction and meaning and security and peace is coming from? Our answer to you is it is Jesus. You have to do the hard work to investigate whether or not this is the Jesus you should trust in.
You study it to see if it is so. You look to see if you should believe in his resurrection. You look to see if he has preserved for us a word that is more sure even than the miracles of the people 2,000 years ago saw when he lived. We have a whole ministry here for folks who are at this point in trying to discern the will of God. We call it Explorer ministry.
If you want to explore the claims of the faith, come on. Because if it is true, it is universally true and no amount of scrutiny can affect it. If it's also true, guess what else should happen. When you study it, you should find it to be solid and worthy of your faith, but you will also find when it is ingested, it brings you to life, a life the world will look at and go, "That life there is divine. It is full of hope and light."
This is the second part of what Paul has in mind, and probably primarily what he had in mind when he prayed for those folks at Colossae, that they would be filled with the knowledge of his will. Here are a couple of things I want to share with you. When you talk about God's will, God's will really exists in two different planes.
There is what is called the providential will of God, or the sovereign will of God, that which he has said in his omnipotence and his great power, "This is the way it will be. You cannot effect it. This will be accomplished. My name will be glorified. I will do what I will do, and no man or power can stand against it." God's providential will is fixed.
Within his providential will, God has what is called his permissive will, which is saying, "Because I have created people in my own image, part of the image and glory and greatness of God and the perfection of God is that God is love." Loving creatures are not robots. In order to love, you must have the ability to not love. That means you have to have the freedom to choose.
Because God made us as free creatures that will not affect his providential will but have the freedom to reject his will in our life, he has said, "I am going to give you my revealed will that you might choose to respond to it because I am a good God who pursues you and who, when you trust not in your own understanding, but trust in me, I will make your path straight. I will lead you to life and what is right and what will bring you hope and not lead you to darkness and despair, isolation, and destruction."
He said, "I'm going to reveal my will to you that you have the permission to reject or accept." Paul said, "I pray those of you who have come to the place that you understand that God is fixed eternally in the heavens, and God has created us and we are all accountable to him, when you have come to the place that you have believed in him who he has sent and found life with him that you would then submit yourself not just to the belief in Jesus but to live in his ways and to follow him in mind, in thought, in attitude, and in deed, to deny yourself and follow in his way."
First Thessalonians 4:3 says, "Here's some revealed will of God. This is the first level of the revealed will of God. It can be found in the Scriptures." Second Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is God-breathed, or inspired by God. It alone…is the idea…is profitable for teaching, showing you what is right and what is wrong. It alone is able to reprove you and show you that you have not lived as you should, for correction, to show you how to make what is wrong right, for training in righteousness, that every man and woman who reads it would be adequate, equipped for every good work."
If you want to know how to live an adequate life that is ready for everything where you can endure and have hope, you go to God's Word and you live in submission in accordance with it. You can't do right if you don't know right. In order to figure out what right is, don't appeal to reason but go to God's revelation. You want to know what right and truth is, and every word of God is true the Scripture says, then you have to get in the book.
You have to say, "I can't tell people I am concerned for truth if I don't read God's Word, if I'm not a student of the Scripture. Then I take the redeemed mind God has given me and I avail it to the Scriptures so I don't distort the Scriptures so they can somehow avoid the radical demands of the text. I am diligent to show myself approved as a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed, who can rightly divide the Word of Truth. So I can rightly live according to the will of God."
There are a couple of places that specifically say, "This is God's will." We know that all Scripture is profitable for teaching, but here's one that says this is the will of God, that you become more like Christ, more holy, that you live a life that is more glorious, more dignified, that as you abstain from sexual immorality, you might say that you leave destructive practices.
Another chapter later in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, he says, "But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. [We urge you to] Live in peace with one another."
He goes on to say in verse 14 that you should "…admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak…" You want to know what a true divine life looks like? A glorious life? You're patient with all men. You're an individual who doesn't repay evil for evil but always seeks that which is good for one another. For all people that's the divine life. That follows in the way of Jesus Christ, a life that rejoices always, even in sickness, lack of wealth, lack of prosperity.
That you pray without ceasing, not just when there's trouble, but all the time. That you're meditating on the Word and mind of God. That in everything you give thanks. All of this is God's will for you. What he's saying is, "Look, if you've met the truth that is Jesus, then you need to respond to the truth which is his revealed will in order that others might know that this Jesus who is true brings about the fruit of truth which is a blessing to all who are around it."
First thing out of the chute that Paul prays. Get to know the revealed will of God, not just in God's Word. Let me give you the second layer of that, because there's much in God's Word that we don't have a chapter and verse we can go to. In other words, there aren't things that are explicitly addressed. Who to vote for. You can't open your Bible and find out you should vote this way or this way with a candidate's name, but there are principles which will inform you.
If folks don't believe in the dignity of life, if folks don't believe in the sanctity of marriage, they're not people you want to put in a position to represent you to make laws the country will be held accountable for. In our government system, God has said all government is accountable to God and put there by God.
God allows this nation in a representative form of government that is of the people, for the people, by the people, to influence those who represent us who make the laws that we are ultimately bound by. If we have an unjust leadership and laws in this land that rebuke the revealed will of God, then God will one day hold the government into account. If we have put men in office who have rebelled against God, then we are accountable for that. We have an incredible stewardship and responsibility to use our one voice to influence who will rule over us.
Having done all that we can do, if we live in a wicked land, God will just at least ask us how we did in seeing what we could do to make righteousness prevail and justice be established. You can't go to chapter and verse of the Bible and find out the name of the guy to vote for, you can't figure out the name of the car you're supposed to drive, the area you're supposed to live in, what kind of soft drink you should choose, the name of the person you should date, but you have to be so affected by the Word of God, so transformed by it, have your mind so shaped and governed by the revealed Word of God that it can influence and help you as you make decisions.
This is what Paul is saying, "I hope you know the will of God, that you believe in him and who he has sent. I hope you know the revealed will of God that this is right and true." In all the areas that he said, this is the way you should live. I hope you take the principles where God has been explicit in addressing what you should do, and you are so conformed to his image that you show what is good and acceptable and perfect by living principally with the attitude of Christ.
Too many of us pray, "O God, show me what I am to do." God, a lot of times, is saying, "Look…" There's a big difference, in other words, by being transformed by the Word of God and praying for revelation that tells you what to do. What God wants you to become is a student of his Word so that being transformed by his Word you can know how God would act in situations that his Word doesn't specifically address. That's what it means to be a mature man.
There are some things children are told. Right and wrong. Let's get it absolutely right. The principles of right and wrong as they're embedded in your heart and spirit of truth is in you will then guide you in all other things. Too many of us are lazy. We don't study God's Word and do the work of transformation.
Being a person who asked for revelation and who relies on God's Word like a Magic 8-Ball or a Ouija Board where they just want to open it up and go, "All right. What should I do? The first word I read in here has more n's and o's in it. That means no. More y's and s's in that paragraph, that means yes."
You laugh, but I find folks all the time who are just saying, "I don't know God's Word from Adam. I don't know how to rightly divide it. I don't know how to apply it to my life, but I'm going to read until I find something I think gives me direction on this and God will somehow speak to me through it and reveal his Word to me in that way."
Paul says don't be that kind of person. Revealed will of God expressly in chapter and verse, revealed will of God as you live principally, as you take God's Word and have it so transform your heart that you live principally as he would have you live in attitude and action. Then as you get a little deeper, very quickly, I'll tell you the third level, and most of what we do that comes out of our mouth or what we think or what we say, is immediate.
Paul's pleading, the Spirit's will is that you would be so transformed by his Word that the things that you do kind of reflexively would speak of what is divine. Jesus, in Matthew 12:33, says, "The good tree produces good fruit. The bad tree produces bad fruit." He goes, "A good man, out of the good treasure that is in his heart, brings forth good truth. But the evil man out of the evil treasures in his heart will bring forth that which is evil."
This is the idea. Let God firmly root you in his Word. That's why it says in Colossians a little bit later, "Be firmly grounded and rooted in Christ." You sink your roots deep into his Word and you ask the Spirit of God to lead you towards Christ-exalting truth and to work in you truth‑embracing humility so the reflex of your tongue is not coarse jesting and vulgarity but is words of life and blessing and edification. So the reflex of your spirit is not anger or lust but is love and forgiveness and purity.
That takes a while, folks, but that's what Paul is praying for right here in the very beginning. "I pray…" Verse 9. See all this right here? "I pray that you would be so transformed that the world would see in you a difference. That the fullness of the will of God would be in your life." One last thing. Proverbs 2:1 says if you put God's Word in your head as a treasure… It says if you seek it and treasure his commandments within you… Proverbs 2:9 then says,
" [At that point] you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you, To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things; From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness…"
You will be delivered, because you have a new Lord who loves you, from the domain of darkness to the domain of light. You will no longer walk in darkness because truth has delivered you from darkness into light. The world can look at you and say, "There is light there. Let us move towards it." That's a better way to live than the radical Islamic people live where they are abusive to women, where they deny them their dignity as individuals, than to kill and destroy innocent people to force them to believe certain things.
Whether you are a follower of Christ or not, you are wise to vote for those who firmly believe in the Judeo-Christian ethic. Here's why. This country has, by far, prospered people with every belief more than any other country that has ever existed and certainly exists today. That is not true of Islamic states or Hinduistic states or Communistic states who will murder and kill you if you say you disagree with what they believe, because ours is a faith rooted and grounded in love.
As I said already, love does not force anybody to do anything. We give you the freedom to reject the tenets of truth, but we're going to call you and have laws here that say this is right and this wrong. You don't have to believe what we believe, but we will live in the light. We will stand against that which is wrong.
If you don't want that worldview to prevail, there are lots of countries where you don't have the freedom to choose what you believe, and they will kill you if tell somebody not to believe it. That is why you are wise to vote for those who believe in this worldview, even if you don't believe it yourself, because it alone is the means through which you will have the freedom you so desire.
It is also the place you will find life-giving instruction, because freedom can never exist in a free-for-all. It will bring about chaos and anarchy. There is a standard of morality and rails to run on that will bring us life. Last week I showed you a video about the Mouk people in New Guinea that when they heard the truth of the redemption that Jesus Christ brings they celebrated.
But if all they did was celebrate that they were forgiven and did not move to the express revealed will of God that brought about light to them and stopped the deceit of the women, the beating of women, and the oppressive, selfish indulgence of the powerful men in that village, then their forgiveness they have found in this Christ will not bring blessing to New Guinea, because all they will have been is folks who have believed in some ideal, but that ideal did not transform their ideas and their living.
If, on the other hand, they responded rightly to Christ and then pursued the knowledge of his will, they will become a testimony to the villages around them. Watch this:
Male: The rejoicing went on for quite awhile, and here I am, listening to these testimonies and watching all this rejoicing. And the thought comes to my mind of what a pastor shared with me back home. He said, "Mark, the first thing I do is encourage new believers to share this good news of the gospel with others."
So right in the middle of all this rejoicing, I asked some of the guys, "When are you going to go and tell other villages about this good news?" Well this one guy, Mendo, speaks up and says, "Yeah, we'll go. But we don't have a clue as how to go about it." Everyone is saying, "Yeah, we'll go." Real enthused. So I said, "That's all I want to know. I'll show you how."
It was so refreshing to be around these new believers. Their faith was so simple. For example, not long after I was teaching in the book of Acts, and I get down to verse 31. "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together…" Just as I had finished reading, this massive earthquake hits, and I ran out into the open shouting for them to get out for fear something would follow them, and you know, they just sat there.
I remember another man because he had this big smile on his face, and he was just looking around. They weren't concerned in the least. Their attitude was, "Yep. That's our God. He is just showing us how he shook the church back then, and he is showing us his power right now."
With the new honesty that existed among the people, a lot of relationships could now be mended that the old deceit had kept broken. Husbands began to show more love and concern for their wives. They stopped deceiving them. And wife-beating became a thing of the past. Before, the men had spent a lot of time in the men huts, often doing things leading to trouble.
Now they began to spend more time with their wives. They began to take more responsibility for the children. These were good things. Big changes. And, of course, they were talking of taking this good message to the other villages. In that first week after they became believers, these three guys showed up from a neighboring village and asked us if we would come and teach them.
Male: These guys have light in their eyes, but our eyes are just darkness. When we look into each other's eyes, we see nothing but darkness. But when we look into the eyes of these ones that have been taught, we see light. We want that light.
Male: Well, that really got the believers from the first village excited. So I began to get different ones of them to help me teach. They were pretty scared at first, but they did very well, and with time they gained confidence.
I remember one of our teachers. He said, "You know, I really don't have to go. I could stay here, but I feel God wants me to go, and that is enough." And so they go. We have 15 trained literacy teachers and 42 Bible teachers.
[End of Video]
You see, what happened is this village was so transformed. Think about this, wife-beating became a thing of the past. You know what this city is looking for? Men who were distant from their wives and who just live undivorced contrary to the will of God instead of living lives of oneness and other-mindedness and in mutual submission, honoring one another in love, cherishing and honoring and valuing their wives.
When that becomes a thing of the past that we just live undivorced lives but start to have lives that celebrate real oneness and we are a people whose marriages are different, who raise our kids different, who work different, and forgive different, don't repay evil, then the world is going to look at us and say, "We want what you have."
We say to them, "What we have is the revealed will of God that brings you out of darkness into life." First Peter 2:15 is that whole idea, "For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men." In other words, when you live your life in this way, men will come to you and say, "What do you have?"
The reason we aren't more often asked to give an offense and give an account for the hope that is within us is because we aren't doing the very first thing, which is the revealed will of God. We're not sanctifying ourself with Christ in our hearts. We're not being conformed into his image at the level and manner we are called to.
In other words, look at the second thing Paul prayed. Colossians 1:9, you see it right there. First of all, he said, that you might know the fullness of the will of God and that you would live in spiritual wisdom and understanding so that, now here it goes. Look at verse 10: "…so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…" There it is again, you increase in the knowledge of God.
You know this and as you live lives this way and mature in his Word, that even your reflex your heart is so transformed that there is light in your eyes, salt on your lips, love in your heart, and people will come and say, "We demand you explain to us how your lives are so different." The idea here is that our lives would be transformed by truth. Paul says this truth that you have is the only truth that transforms. Plato doesn't do it. Legalism doesn't do it. Jesus does it. So is it changing you? I pray it will so that the gospel would go forth.
Let me give you a new word that you have never heard before, because I was trying to think how to say this. It's basically this, if our belief doesn't bring about transformation, then our belief can be questioned. Or, I said it this way, if your credenda doesn't affect your agenda, then your faith is dead.
Credenda is a word that comes from the Latin, which means to believe. Let me give it you in English. If your creed doesn't affect your deeds, then your creed is a worthless sham. I mean that of you individually, because I'm going to tell you something. The truth of Jesus Christ is transforming lives. If your life is not transformed, then it isn't Jesus who isn't transforming. It's the fact that you're deluded into thinking that you believe. In other words, faith without works is dead.
In other words, we are saved by faith alone, but the faith which saves is never alone. It is always accompanied with the deeds and fruits of faith and hope, which is love and peace and patience and truth. He says, "I want you to live in a manner that is worthy so that others might know, and that you would be strengthened with power." Strengthened with power is the prayer of verse 11. "…according to His glorious might…"
In other words, this is it. That you will be filled with the knowledge of his will and spiritual wisdom and understanding. That you would know it's the Spirit of Christ that is going to bring about this transformation in you. According to his glorious might that it would work in your life. So you can maintain steadfastness, verse 11 says, which is a way of saying that you can endure environments or circumstances.
In a minute we're going to sing a song that says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." That doesn't mean I can dunk a basketball even if I'm 4'6". It means I can go through any environment, live in any circumstance, and still endure because I have hope, because I know this world is not all there is.
I can be patient with wicked and evil men because I know God has been patient with wicked and evil me. That you would be steadfast, endure, and patient. He goes on, that you would give thanks in everything, for a couple of reasons. First, because he has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his saints. He prays that right there in verse 12.
In other words, because you have been removed from the domain of darkness, you have been given a new inheritance, you are now children of the King, and now you live in the light. Your old lord is gone; your new Lord has come. Changing kingdoms means you change lords. You now have a new Father. "For He has delivered us…" Verse 13. "…from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son…" Verse 14. "…in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Now folks, he says in this little prayer, it doesn't matter if you're in Colossae or in Dallas. The question is…Are you in Christ? If you're in Christ, are you going into his Word that you might be filled with the knowledge of his will and all spiritual wisdom and understanding by his power. Are you people in Dallas who are in Christ who are asking his Spirit to lead you into Christ-embracing truth and work in you truth-embracing humility?
When that happens, the world will come and say, "Send us some missionaries. Explain to us the hope of you, his people." Don't wait for trouble to get passionate about prayer. There's a lot at stake right here. We must pray fervently that this is working in us.
Father, I thank you for my friends who are here, and as we look at the simple prayer of Paul, we find out that there are some concepts in here that aren't so simple. It's things that guys can go to seminary and still come out wondering, "What is it?" We see that because of the mercy of God revealed through Jesus Christ we are urged, therefore, to present our lives as living and holy sacrifices. It's our spiritual service of worship. It's our right response to you, Father.
Help us to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds as we look at your revealed Word and will that we might prove to the world which is good and acceptable and perfect, that those of us who are in Christ and, therefore, have escaped judgment can live in truth and in light and with the fruit of righteousness in a way that will make others come and say, "There is light in your eyes. There is love in your hands. There is tenderness in your voice. There is an overflow of all that reminds me of that which is good. Would you tell me the secret to the transforming power within you?" and we can say, "Though we are in Dallas, let us tell you it is because we are in Christ and that the hope of the gospel would, therefore, come to them in this city as well."
From a book that is 2,000 years old comes evidence that has been preserved about the greatest truth the world has ever known and how it can transform our lives. The book of Colossians walks through the radical change that happened to some in an ancient east Asian city, revealing the struggles they faced, the resistance they met, and the transformation they found as a result of the hope they had. Join Todd Wagner as he studies the Colossians scene to discern how their journey can reveal truths that can change us.