At the end of our study of Colossians, Paul recognizes by name 10 friends who were important contributors to the spread of the Gospel. By outlining the characteristics and contributions of each one, this message helps us find ourselves in one or more of these men. We are reminded of how we should want to be remembered, not by worldly standard or accomplishment, but by our commitment to Christ, His message, and His people.
Ten to Remember Just When You Thought There was Nothing Left that Mattered
The Transformed Tongue and How to Maintain It
Tossing Out the Employee Handbook: God's Standard for Leaders and Employers
Parenting's Dirty Dozen: How to Exasperate Your Child
Marriage and the 'S' Word: How Knowing Jesus Changes Everything
How the Head Affects the Body: Demonstrating the Faith We Declare
Moving From Reasonable Faith to Necessary Response
I can remember growing up. I'll date myself a little bit with this. Before the days of Barney, The Wiggles, Teletubbies, Dora the Explorer, and even before Sesame Street, there was a little lady named Miss Lois who had a show called Romper Room. Now, I remember Miss Lois at the end of every show would sit there and look through her little magic mirror and would note all of the faithful Romper Room observers who endured with her throughout that program and did the different crafts, skits, exercises, and games.
I grew up as a bitter child toward Miss Lois and my parents for naming me Todd because that was not a popular enough name to ever make the list in any of my known times of sitting before that tired lady's effort to entertain me in my Romper Room state. I remember how disappointed I was that I never heard her say, "I see Jane. I see Mark. I see Mike. I see Michael." I'm like, "Let's work a little T in there."
"I see Tom. I see Tyler."
"Todd! Do you see me? I'm here every day faithfully! I'm a Romper Room groupie, and you don't know me!" I can remember as a kid seriously what a big deal it was. My brother… There was a Mike about every fourth week who she saw. "He ain't even here! What do you mean you see Mike?" There was no Todd. How I thought about how I wanted to be noticed and acknowledged.
This is the great news we're going to talk about today. As you sit and faithfully serve the King, there is going to be a day when he looks not through his magic mirror but through the lens of truth, and you can be certain and assured that he will not miss you and that your name will be acknowledged and your name will be called and you will be remembered.
I want to do this again. I want you to see the list of names that we are already in the middle of acknowledging and remembering that make what's going on here that causes celebration in a community not far from here just seven short days ago to stop and take pause and take note. It was great!
My wife was walking into the park a little bit late taking care of all of the kids before she got up there, and there was a group of folks who stopped her walking into Curtis Park and said, "Lady, stop! I know you want to take your kid for a nice walk, but there is some crazy revival happening in that park!"
She said, "Really? I'll probably go check it out and see if I can't find something there that's worth celebrating," so she made her way into the middle of those crazy people who sang songs publicly and stood there and said, "Let me just tell you something. In the midst of a world that doesn't think this is a really cool thing to do, I want you to know you can count me with Jesus, and my life is of no account except for Christ and what he has done for me."
What a bold thing that is to do publicly! I want you to know there are some ignorant folks who mean well but they're so caught up in the pattern of communication that we have in the West where we raise and venerate individuals (the superhero evangelical, the folks we think of in Christendom). We think of Billy Graham. In India, you think of Ramesh Richard, and in Latin America, you think of Luis Palau. In Western America, certainly in certain denominations, you think of the imperial wizard pastor that leads this large megachurch.
I understand how folks identify football teams by quarterbacks and by coaches and sometimes by owners, but the reality is, if you're going to be successful, it's not because you have a coach, a quarterback, or an owner who is an all-American or all-pro or a superstar. It's going to be because you function and play well as a team.
I want you to know there is a team, and I want you to see that list again as it rolls behind me of individuals who are effectively a part of this work and this mission. To anybody who would say, "Isn't that So-and-so's church over there?" if they grab any one of those names up there, the answer is, "That's exactly whose church that is." You have to watch that list for a long time to see my name show up. I am thrilled that my name is there. I have to tell you something.
I love being on that list and I love being around that list because I experience the benefit of doing my part as effectively as I can, but I also experience the incredible joy and blessing of over a thousand other folks who are saying, "You can count on me. I am connected here underneath the head, which is God, which is Jesus Christ, and this is the body of which I am a part, and I am throwing in, and I am going to be a part of what God is going to do here, and I'm going to do my part and not feel guilty that I can't do somebody else's part. I'm just going to do my part and effectively participate."
Here's what we learn from this. We learn that everyone matters and nothing we do for God's kingdom will go unnoticed. Paul is right there in Rome in prison getting ready to testify about why he has done what he has done and the uproar it has caused throughout the Roman world. He's there to testify before Caesar about who Christ is and to explain why he has had such a radical change in his life.
He says, "I'm not doing it alone, and I'm going to acknowledge the guys who are doing it here with me and are back in the places I've been on my three different journeys throughout the Roman provinces talking about what Christ has done." Colossians 4:7-18 reminds us that everyone matters and nothing we do for God's kingdom will go unnoticed.
Secondly, it should remind us that if you're not doing your part, you're missing out on part of what God wants to get done. There are a number whose names weren't on that list because you're still on what is called the regular attender list, meaning you've been here sometimes for months maybe even serving (often, a number of you are) but not in a way that you've said, "I'm going to throw in (this is my home) in an intentional way where I can be counted on, where I can share in the joys of being a part of this community," like Scott and Laura DeBow shared with you in the Watermark News today.
If you're not doing your part, you're missing out on part of what God wants to get done. There are two things God wants to get done. He wants to use every single person who was ever created for his glory. Secondly, he wants to make sure you're rewarded for your good works. Let me just give you some really good news.
Hebrews, chapter 6, verse 10, lays this truth out for us. "For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints." Because Paul was being conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, he didn't take the fact that he was the most celebrated believer of his day as a way of saying, "Let me just tell you what's going on. Forget the machine that's behind me. Forget the friends who partner with me. Forget the team down at the park. I'm the quarterback."
Paul took a moment and listed out 10 different individuals who were a part of his life who made the work the Holy Spirit was doing to increase the fame of Jesus Christ possible. Do you guys know this? Do you know Jesus has absolutely zero problem motivating you to be faithful in responding to him out of your best interest? This is the greatness of God and the genius of God.
He calls us to acknowledge him for his glory. He is revealing his glory to the world because he is good, not because he's insecure and needs worship but because he knows the more his fame and renown goes out and the more people know him for who he is and what he has done through his character and his nature the more you will respond to it and the better it will be for you when you live in relationship with him.
God is revealing his glory around the world not because he wants to be acknowledged for his own insecurity's sake but because he knows when you see the goodness of who he is you'll want to participate with him and it will be well with you. When you respond rightly to him, your life is going to be in a condition that can only be described by the word blessed in Scripture, which means extremely happy.
How does all of this relate to what we're doing today? We're going to go back and wrap up a book that you thought we were done with because we didn't cover the last 11 verses because the last 11 verses were just a roll call of names and what relevance does that have to us? I want to show you today that I guarantee you in these verses that appear irrelevant to you you're going to find yourself. Hopefully, in the midst of this…
I love taking sections of Scripture that nobody really likes to mess with and show you how relevant it can be if you just sit over them and study them and reflect on them and ask God to do a work with them in your heart so that in seeing even sometimes lists of people there is encouragement you might be encouraged to go other places where the fruit is a little more lower hanging and dive in with us.
What you're going to see is a list of names. If we threw up a list of names and that list of names was before you and it started with a guy by the name of Tychicus and it had other names on there like Onesimus and Aristarchus and Mark and Justus and Epaphras and Luke and Demas and Nympha and Archippus, you're going to go, "What in the world? What Romper Room is that lady seeing?"
You recognize a few. You see Mark, and you see Luke. You know those guys because you've read or been around the Gospels, and they're two guys who wrote the Gospels. What about those other eight yahoos? Who are they? What if I told you those same 10 names up there could also be communicated to you like this? A reliable envoy, messenger or agent, a runaway slave, a real friend, a restored failure, a receptive Jew, a regional leader, a ready doctor, a regretful example, a resident host, or a responsible recipient.
Why do I share this? I share this because at the end of this little book called Colossians, which we have creatively tried to go through by calling it CSI: The Colossian Scene Investigated, we've done 15 weeks which took us up to Colossians 4, verse 6, and we stopped, and we've moved on to other things. You thought, "No wonder Wagner didn't handle verses 7 through 18." Not because it's doctrinally awkward but because it's practically poor, or so we thought.
Let me show you how wrong we are. I hope you have your Bible. Turn with me to Colossians, chapter 4. I want to show you Paul was not a guy who believed he did things by himself. He was no superhero evangelist who operated in isolation. Paul believed ministry happened best in team and was well aware that he was a part of a team.
We know Paul wrote 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament. Or did he? I want to tell you he didn't. Paul wrote five of those books in the New Testament. He wrote Romans, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus by himself, or at least that's the way he chose to represent it, but the other eight books he was a co-author of. He was the Lennon of the McCartney.
First Corinthians he wrote with a guy named Sosthenes. Second Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon he wrote with Timothy. Galatians… He said, "I wrote this with just a band of brothers," in his salutation. He wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians with Silas and Timothy. Like I said, with the book of Colossians you're going to see he believed he was a part of a work that he wrote specifically with Timothy but others were involved. Who were those others? You're going to see their names again now in the context of Scripture.
We're going to work our way through. We see right here at the very end in this last chapter what we would expect to be relevant to our lives. "Devote yourself to prayer. Keep alert. Watch and pray always with an attitude of thanksgiving. Make sure when you speak you speak well letting forth the mystery of Christ with your speech always with a bit of grace to it and seasoned with salt, it would say, as it were." On and on Paul would go. Then, you get to verse 7, and you start to go, "What in the world does this have to do with me?" Let's read it together. Verse 7:
"As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts; and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number. They will inform you about the whole situation here.
Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas's cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him); and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.
Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas. Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. Say to Archippus, 'Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.' I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you."
You read that and you go, "Why did I just take up four minutes of my devotional time with the Lord today to read about a bunch of folks who have absolutely no relevance to my life?" I want to show you something. These guys have great relevance to your life. Wherever you are today you're going to find somebody in that list of 10 who you can relate to, be encouraged by, or in some way spurred on to love and good deeds by. Let's dive in. Here's the very first one.
1._ Tychicus. A reliable envoy_. Tychicus is what I'm going to represent to you as a reliable envoy. He is a guy who was with Paul and who Paul trusted so much that when it became time at the end of one of his missionary journeys in order to go to some churches that had been founded where Paul had gone to talk about the hope of Jesus Christ to all of the listening world, he shared with them (these non-Jewish people) about Jews in Jerusalem who had embraced Jesus Christ.
Because they embraced Jesus Christ, they became isolated from others who would not do business with them any more, and they suffered a great deal, and they were often beginning to live an impoverished state. What he did was he grabbed a number of men and pulled them together.
He said, "I'm going to take the money these churches have raised as I've shared with them about their fellow brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, and we're going to send money to them. I don't want them to just get cash. I want them to get all of the cash we raised. I don't want somebody who is going to skim off the top or stay at five-star inns along the way so it depletes the resources but somebody who will get all of the cash there and also somebody who, when he gets there, will represent the heart of the people who gave it."
Acts, chapter 20, and 1 Corinthians 16:1-9 talk about how Paul chose this guy from Asia, Tychicus, to be one of the men who delivered that particular message of provision. Also, he chose him a little bit later to deliver a book called Ephesians to a group of folks in this little region where Colossae was, where Ephesus was, and another book called Philemon.
Paul said, "Just as important as money is to these folks in Jerusalem, the truth of God revealed through me by the graciousness of his Holy Spirit needs to be revealed in this region of Ephesus and Colossae and, specifically, to my buddy, Philemon, and his home." He was trusted again now not just with the message of provision but with the message of hope.
Because Tychicus was a faithful brother, a reliable envoy, a messenger or agent, 2,000 years later we just got through spending 15 weeks learning about how we ought to live in light of who Jesus Christ is because this guy was faithful in getting that message from Paul's prison cell in Rome to the folks it was intended for.
God in his magnificent grace determined to preserve it, but we couldn't have gotten it preserved for 2,000 years if it wasn't first persevered through this faithful servant who carried it over two seas and over 200-plus miles on land walking by foot in order that he might deliver a message of hope. What Paul says about this guy in Colossians, chapter 4, verse 7, is, "Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information."
Paul says, "I'm not going to waste time in my letter telling you about how I'm doing. Tychicus will tell you all about my personal state when he gets there that he might encourage your hearts, but this brother is coming, and I want you to know he is a faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord," it says in Colossians 4, verse 7. What a great way to be remembered!
Here's the question I want you to get from Tychicus as you read this. What do you want on your tombstone? It seems kind of obvious. This is a guy who was called by Paul fellow faithful brother and servant. Paul said, "If you want to remember me, in all of my life, all of my workings, all of my writings, and all of my doings… I want you to describe me this way. First Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 1 says, 'Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.'
At the end of my days, I don't want to be well-bred, well-read, well-traveled, or well-fed. I don't want to be successful. I don't want to be remembered in business journals. I don't want to be remembered in hall of fames. I want people who speak of me to speak of me as a servant of Jesus Christ and as a faithful steward of all that God has given me related to the truth of who he is."
Paul says, "That's the highest commendation I could ever receive," and when he was remembering his buddy, Tychicus, he said, "That's who this guy is." Let me ask you a question. At the end of your story, when not Paul but the preeminent one, Jesus Christ, writes your name, what is he going to put next to it?
I have to tell you that you don't want "successful in business." You don't want him to say, "This person lived comfortably and kept his family out of poverty." You don't want to hear him say, "This guy had more toys than anybody else and the best seats, and his friends got to go to the best games."
You want to hear him say… All of that other stuff frankly doesn't matter a bit. You can have it as long as it's had in the context of being called a fellow faithful servant. That's what you want. That's what we want our legacy to be, every single one of us, and as you read this little story and I see Tychicus' name down there, I go, "What is he going to say when he finally looks through that lens of eternity and says, 'Todd Wagner'?"
What is he going to say? The teams he coached? He won more games than he lost? He taught his kids to be good athletes? His kids got good grades in school? He sent his kids to a good college and provided well for his family? He said a few good things publicly? No. I don't care what he says as long as he says, "Well done with the lot in life I've given you, faithful servant." I'd love to hear it.
2._ Onesimus. A runaway slave. That is right. This is a guy who took off from his master. Let me just say this. Don't think Kunta Kinte. Don't think of _Roots when you think slavery. It was a little bit different of a system there in the social strata, still not God's ideal and best, and if you're wondering why the Bible does not specifically prohibit slavery and come right out and condemn it, we addressed that about week 13 or 14 working through Colossians.
We'd be happy to get that little CD in your hand, but to not regress, let me just say this. Here's a guy who was a runaway slave who left Philemon and took off. In this little book written called Philemon that Paul also sent when he sent the letter to the church at Colossae, this is what it says in verse 10. "I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, who formerly was useless to you…"
In other words, here's Paul in prison and they find this runaway slave, and he is now thrown in jail. While he is there in jail, he bumps up against Paul, and Paul begot him. He brings him into the faith. He said, "Prior to this, Onesimus was useless to you. Why? Because he flat took off and wasn't there to do anything for you. Frankly, he was useful to me, but now because he has come to Christ, he is returning to be useful to you and he's useful to me."
"I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart, whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel…" In other words, "So that you would give your servant to me to minister to me while I'm suffering in Rome." "…but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will."
Paul had a ministry impact on Philemon, so he is writing a letter to Philemon telling him, "In the sovereignty of God, I've bumped into one of your runaway slaves, and I am sending him back to you to ask your forgiveness for the fact that he has treated you the way he has, but I want you to know he's not coming back as a runaway fugitive; he's coming back as a brother in Christ."
He says, "For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord." What he's saying here is, "This runaway slave whose life was nothing but a fugitive's life who had nothing more than waiting to be caught and have a death sentence delivered upon him… By the grace of God his story had changed."
Now, he who was formerly useless to others and useless to the kingdom was about to come back and serve his master with a new heart and serve his employer, if you will, with a new face and serve his ultimate King in a way that would make his life valuable. Here's the question you get from Onesimus.
What is in your past that you think Jesus cannot overcome that you have to keep running away from? Meaning there is something possibly in your way (a felony, a sin that has not yet even been exposed so you haven't been charged with it yet, a habit that is still managed by you that you're running from the reality of its control in your heart) that if you could run into Jesus Christ he could do such a work in that you could go right back out into the world, bring it into the light, and face who you were while you were imprisoned by it.
Instead of being useless because you were a façade and a shell and a fake, there could be such redemption in your life that you could become not only useful to those you are supposed to be around but useful to the eternal King and not somebody who is scared you're going to get caught. In this litany of people Paul says were around him who Paul knows were a part of God's grace working through him, you find a runaway slave, somebody with a death sentence.
Philemon had absolute sovereignty over him to bring him home, to torture him, and to put him away. Yet, the grace of God intervened in such a way that he no longer had to run from his choices and his past but now could become useful where he had, in fact, before abdicated his responsibility. That can be your story if you bump into the same Jesus that Onesimus did.
3._ Aristarchus. A real friend. This is a guy who was there when the going got tough. Let me show you. Back in Acts, chapter 19, verses 23 and following, Paul was on a missionary journey that took him into a town called _Ephesus, and this is what happened when he was there. "About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way."
By the way, this is what the early church was called, people of the Way, because followers of Christ said, "There is no other way to have peace with God or to experience in this life the peace of God except through Jesus Christ. He is the way. There is no plurality of opportunity." Truth is narrow spiritually just like it is in the world we live in as it relates to gravity and math and other hard sciences. This is truth. This is error.
Jesus said, "Call me a liar, if you want. Call me a lunatic, if you want. Say I'm just a legend made up by men, if you want, but I'm telling you I'm Lord, and I'm telling you that I say, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.'" People who believed that his words were backed up by his works and ultimately affirmed through his resurrection walked around telling people,
"This is the way to make your way back to God. This is the way to find forgiveness for your sins, not the way all of the other monotheistic and pluralistic religions of the world say it is, not through reincarnation, not through karma, not through meditation, not through legalistic actions and behavior, not through a resume you put together, but through Jesus Christ and him alone." So said 60-some people a week ago before you publicly. "You count me with Christ and his death, burial, and resurrection, and that's what makes me right before God," (people of the Way).
"For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis…" Artemis was a god who was basically part of the fertility rites and rituals of the day. Artemis was the major industry in Ephesus, just like you might say the Clydesdales and the Gateway Arch are in St. Louis or the Alamo is in San Antonio, a place you would go to because of that specific thing (the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Empire State Building in New York). Folks go there.
Paul was walking around saying, "Let me just tell you that you should not worship this goddess Artemis or any other god or goddess, because there is no hope in them. There is no life in them. There is only life in the true God revealed through Jesus Christ." Watch this. It says, "…Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen; these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades…"
People made little Artemises or Dianas (the same thing depending on the region that spoke of her). They're little trinkets. Artemis was basically a multi-breasted chick. She needed to wear about 30 or 40 bras. They would carve that without the clothes on, and people would put this multi-breasted fertile woman in their home and worship it.
They would use that little idol as a reminder of how they were going to get blessing in their lives. These guys made these little trinkets that folks would buy and use to bring them blessing. It says that Demetrius said, "'Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all.
Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence.' When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!' The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia."
They were swept up and carved up because they stood with Paul and didn't separate themselves from Paul. They said, "Right now we've worked up this whole community into a stir," and they were going to say, "Here we go! We're going to get thrown right in the middle of it." We're going to find out that when Paul heard about this he wanted to go into the assembly, but the disciples would not let him because he was the most well known of all of the people of the Way.
"Also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater." Let me just tell you it was a theater that sat 20,000 people in Ephesus that still exists today. Let me say that again. It sat 20,000 people. It still exists today. You can go sit in this exact theater where this craziness was going on.
It says, "So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together." They just knew there was a party. Cars were being flipped. Things were being set on fire. Everybody was in the streets yelling. Guess who they threw up there in the middle of them. Aristarchus and Gaius. They wouldn't let Paul go in there, but Paul's buddies got right in there.
You find out a little bit later another Jew stood up (Alexander) and he tried to speak. He said, "Don't be too hard on us Jews! It's Aristarchus and Gaius who are about this problem, but not us Jews." When they heard they were Jews and monotheist, too, the people for two hours sat there and shouted, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" For two hours, 20,000 people would scream it and then turn to their buddy and go, "Why are we doing this?"
Paul wanted to get in that circle and fight it out, but where were his buddies? They were already there. Even though others said, "Paul, don't go," his buddies were right there. You'll find out this same buddy, Aristarchus, a little bit later when Paul was being betrayed by his fellow Jews and was going to be sent to Rome to appear before Caesar, stepped up and said, "I'll get on that boat with you. I'll travel with you. I'll encourage you. I'll be a character witness. I'll testify to what you did and didn't say." He was there in the midst of all of the tough stuff. He was a reliable and real friend.
Here's the question you get from Aristarchus. Are you ready? Who in your life counts you as one of God's greatest blessings, somebody who is always there in the difficulty of life when it's not popular to be associated with? In fact, when there's some loss because of their stand for something that is right and true, you'll get right by them and go, "Don't pick on that brother! He's not some radical freak extremist. He is in love trying to communicate to you the truth and hope of the world."
Who is going to be there when your world falls apart? Somebody who describes you specifically as somebody who will be there when their world falls apart and says, "You're one of God's greatest blessings." This is what Paul said about Aristarchus. "He was with me in the difficult times, a real friend."
4._ Mark. A restored failure_. Be encouraged by this. Watch this. Acts 13, verse 5: " When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper." **A little bit later in verse 13," Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem."**
"Wait a minute! I thought you were talking about Mark." I am. Watch this. A little bit later in Acts 15, Paul goes back home. He's done with his first little missionary jaunt. He's about to go back out again. His buddy, Barnabas, who was an encourager to him and who stood up for Paul when nobody else would stand up for Paul, said, "This guy can be trusted. He really does love the Lord. God has done an effective and gracious work in his life. He's a transformed man. We should trust him. We should lean on him. We should let him be the voice God wants him to be."
Paul and Barnabas became this powerful force. When they went on their first missionary journey, they took Barnabas' cousin, John Mark, and when it was time to go back out on the second journey, Paul said, "I'm not taking that scallywag. He bailed out on me on the first trip. He's not fit for game. He's not ready for battle, and I'm not going to waste my time with him." Listen to what it says.
"After some days Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.' Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along…"
He didn't make the cut. He was off the team because he "…had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord." What happened was these two good friends couldn't agree on this failure, this Mama's boy who, when things got tough out there in the field, went home.
Paul said, "I'm not taking him ever again." Barnabas, the encourager, said, "Listen, Paul. I can remember a time when folks weren't really thrilled about you, when I stood up for you, and I met with you and labored with you and helped you grow to where it went from being Barnabas and Paul to all of a sudden Paul and Barnabas. I'm going to invest my life in my young cousin here who did make a mistake when he was with us on that first little journey, but haven't you made a mistake before? Don't you wish somebody would have stuck with you? I'm sticking with him!"
Paul said, "I don't care what you do. Get your little hind end in a boat and sail to Cyprus for all I care," and Barnabas said, "I'll do it." God used that little conflict to take the gospel two different places, but let me show you what else happened. The very last three or four or five sentences that Paul ever wrote in his life can be found in 2 Timothy, chapter 4, verse 11. Look at this. He writes to Timothy, his son in the faith, his closest friend, "Only Luke is with me." **"Come and see me. Bring the parchments." Then, he says,"Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service."**
He mentions Mark right here in the salutation to Colossians. Something happened in between Acts 15 on the second missionary journey to the third missionary journey to Paul's trial in Jerusalem to his journey to Rome where he came back across this restored young man who went from being a weak, AWOL follower of God to this strong, useful servant of Christ.
Here's my question for you. What difficult choice is part of your history that you are making ancient history by your sustained faithfulness today? Some of you feel like you're already done. God has written you off. You've made a decision. You've made a choice. You have a history that God will never be able to use you again because folks are going to tell you, "That's part of your story? We don't want anything to do with you." Let me just tell you something. I don't care what your story is.
If you have some real scars in your past, sometimes literal for a few of you, if there is an abortion, if there is a murder, if there is theft, if there is habitual sin, if there is a divorce and you thought you were no longer able to serve on God's A-team, let me introduce you to Mark. He bumped into somebody who said,
"Mark, this is your story. This is part of your history. You can't change what you did to Paul and me when we needed you when you were with us, but what you can start to do is conduct your life in such a way today that all who know you will profess anybody who doesn't yoke with you to be fools because your life is so radically transformed." Let me tell you what I tell folks who have been through divorce specifically. Sometimes we feel like folks who have failed in their covenant commitment to another person are kind of blacklisted and no longer part of the A-team and no longer really useful to the Lord anymore.
They go, "I'm labeled now. I have this scarlet letter D on me. What is God going to do with me? I know I was a part of that failed relationship, but by the grace of God I've come to the place where I realize I was an enabling wife, that I didn't complete my husband, and I condoned what he did or I competed with him for headship and drove him off. I failed, and I've come to my senses, and I want to be the woman God wants me to be. My husband is long gone, and I let him go too long before I called him into account. There's nothing I can do to get him back."
Or on the other side you have a husband who didn't dwell there with his wife in complete faithfulness. He deserted her emotionally or physically or he was dominating when he was there and so abusive. It was his world, and she was just living in it. She finally got hardhearted and was gone, so now he has come to attention and is saying, "I've been an idiot for the last number of years, and I want to live my life in a way that would make her love me."
Do you know what, guys? Sometimes you've made the mistake, and she is gone, and she ain't coming back, so are you through? Here's what I commission you to do. You are asked to live your life in such a way that all who know your past ex would consider them a fool for not wanting to stay married to someone such as you.
You have to find folks who will walk with you through your history where you can 100 percent own the fact that you were AWOL in your responsibility. You don't make excuses. You say, "Let me tell you why this happened. Let me tell you why I left my assignment, but let me tell you who I am today." You don't tell people, "I'm going to change."
You just live your life differently until all of a sudden those who thought you were of no use to them or to God would look at you and go, "Let me tell you something. There is a story back there in their past when they weren't who they should have been, but all I know is the months, the years, and the decades I have known them, anybody who wouldn't have thrown with them 100 percent is a fool." That is all you can do.
I want you to know that right here at the end of this book there is a restored failure. If you have some failure in your past that is part of your history, you don't need to hide it. You become a trophy of grace. You don't celebrate your sin. You just tell folks, "What man intended for evil God can use for good. Let me tell you how he brought me out of that. Let me tell you where I am today. All I know is from the moment I had the encouragement of the body of Christ around me and I got my head and heart right with God, that stuff is ancient history with me. Now, folks look for me instead of running from me." That can be your story.
5._ Justus. A receptive Jew_. Acts, chapter 28, verses 17 through 29. When Paul with Aristarchus got to this little place in Rome where he was to appear before Caesar for his life because he had been called treasonous, it says, "After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, 'Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.'"
In other words, "When I was in Jerusalem, those guys, the Jews who hated me because I was calling people away, they thought, from Judaism, when I was just calling them to the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, hated me so they delivered me to the Romans." Paul said, "I didn't do anything wrong!" Now, he's in Rome talking to the Jews who are there about why he's there.
It says, "And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death. But when the Jews objected…""They said they were going to riot if they did not incarcerate me." "…I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation.""I hadn't done anything against Rome. I wasn't treasonous against Rome, but the Jews were saying I was going to cause, in effect, a treasonous event because they said they were going to cause a riot if they didn't, in fact, execute me."
"'For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.' They said to him, 'We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for concerning this sect…'"
These Jesus followers. "…it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere." Nobody likes it, especially amongst the Jews. "When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening."
We find in Acts Paul exhorted them. "Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word…" Here's gentle, gracious Paul saying, "Hey, Jews in Rome!"
"The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, 'Go to this people and say, "You will keep on hearing; but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing; but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear…"'"
"Even though I've shown you from Abraham and Moses and Elijah and the prophets and the works and words of Jesus Christ that he is the long-awaited Messiah, you don't get it! You will not understand and, therefore, return with your heart." He goes on to say, "And I would heal them if they would return to me."
Paul says, "Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.""They're going to dance with your date." It's always good to work in an Animal House reference when you can. "[When he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves.]"
They all took off. The Jews said, "I see why the Jews in Jerusalem didn't like you! We don't like you either!" This is what Paul says in Colossians, chapter 4. Remember when we read it. Paul said, after mentioning Aristarchus and John Mark, "… and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me."
Paul says, "Of the 10 who are still running with me, only three are Jews." Here's my question you can get a little application from on this receptive Jew. What cultural pressures are keeping you from following hard after Jesus Christ? Are you going to be a person who stands up when your culture says, "Do not align yourself fully with Christ"?
"Don't stand publicly in some park and get dipped in water that most folks if they had any sense wouldn't put their toe in and tell them that you love Christ boldly and publicly and be online and be on the record. Don't be a teacher who appropriately is willing as allowed by law to share your personal faith when students ask you about that. Don't be an individual at work who is going to make statements about morality and about one woman and one man in marriage and about the sanctity of life and the value and dignity of individuals young, old, unborn, and handicapped because that's politically not acceptable right now, and you're going to get run down."
I have a friend who is a Jew who on the day he came to understand that Jesus was the Christ his father in Middle America ripped his shirt and said, "My son has died." When this man trusted Christ, even now as young individuals who are part of Islamic families are hated, there is a death sentence often put against them…
This young man's dad, when he made a decision to follow Christ, ripped his shirt and said, "I have lost my son." He went to the family burial plot. He went ahead and purchased a tombstone for his son. He put his date of birth and his date of conversion on that tombstone and stuck it in the ground. They gathered around him in black and buried him, and he has not had fellowship with his family since then.
He knew Jesus was who he claimed to be, and though he continues to love and pray for his family and serve the Lord now in full-time service as a completed or Messianic Jew, he has lost much. He was a receptive Jew. Here's my question. Are you a receptive Gentile in a world where Gentiles who radically love Jesus Christ are not welcomed and thought well of, or is your culture intimidating you from being somebody who follows after truth?
6._ Epaphras. A regional leader_. Epaphras was a guy who heard Paul preach about Jesus Christ in Ephesus and was so moved by it that rather than follow Paul for a time he said, "I have to go home to Colossae and tell my brothers and sisters there about the hope I've just had." After that time, he went to tell Paul about the word of Jesus Christ that had taken root in Colossae. Paul had never been to this little town. Yet, he went to Rome to tell him that the message of Christ had not just stayed in Ephesus but had started to work its way through the region.
Here's my question of application for you with Epaphras. Who needs to hear the message of grace and hope in the world you live in? You see, you're not going to get me to come to your office or your family reunion. I'm not going to be there this summer when you're walking around your neighborhood, when you're coaching your teams, or when you go to the teams your sons and daughters play on, but there are going to be messages of truth here that you're going to take back to your classroom, to your places of employment, and to your vacation spots.
I want to know if you're going to be as Epaphras, a leader in the region of the world God in his sovereignty placed you in to faithfully declare the mercies and excellencies of Jesus Christ. Will you be remembered that way? Will you be known as somebody who labored and prayed for and begged that God would reveal himself to people who you know by name and love? That's the way Epaphras is remembered.
7._ Luke. A ready doctor_. What do we know about Luke? We know Luke traveled with Paul and stuck with him to the very end, 2 Timothy tells us. What can you learn from this ready doctor? We know this. We know Luke took his practical abilities here. This is the question you ask yourself. What practical abilities has the Lord given you that you need to be ready to share with others around you?
I was out there today, and I thought, "I love the fact that Randy Pettit can play the steel guitar." That is a practical ability, and it helps my worship. If it doesn't help yours, it helps mine. I love the fact that there are other folks up here with practical abilities. I love the fact that somebody who had the ability to clean a house… You read the story in your Watermark News today about Scott and Laura.
Somebody heard about what happened with their premature baby. Somebody had a home near the hospital who said, "Instead of driving all of the way from the hospital back out to your house that's away from there to get some rest, when you go to the hospital and you need to rest, you come take a nap at my house."
Somebody showed up at Scott and Laura DeBow's house who never knew them and said, "I have the skill of cleaning homes." They had never met them but were part of the body, so they took their practical ability, and Laura DeBow could not believe that somebody, simply because she asked for prayer, knocked on her door and said, "I'm here to clean your house."
You can fix a car. You can mow a lawn. You can lend a listening ear. You can write a note of encouragement. You can share counsel from God's Word. I walked up to a guy before this service who has been a ready doctor to me who is an MD. I said, "I want to thank you for being a ready doctor."
There's another guy who had a big old brown recluse spider bite. "My arm here was eaten all the way down. It had necrotic tissue all the way to my muscle. I go over to his house and say, 'We have to deal with this.' He goes, 'About a week ago, you idiot!' He went and got his little fishing kit, loaded me up, sliced me up at his kitchen table, wrapped me up, and sent me home. I said, 'Thank you for being a ready doctor.'"
I appreciate when people go, "I want to love you because you're part of the family." Be a friend and an individual who is going to say, "I have something God can use for you." Are you that? What practical ability do you have that because you love Christ is going to be used to love others around you?
8._ Demas. A regretful example. It's right there in the book of Colossians at the end. Demas is somebody who it says of in Philemon, verse 24, the book that was written about the same time Colossians was, "...as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers." What's interesting is weeks or days later when he wrote Colossians before he sent the two letters off, in Colossians, chapter 4, when Paul mentions Demas, he doesn't put him in the list of folks he calls _fellow workers.
It's just, "I tell you I'm here in jail with Epaphras, with Luke, the beloved physician. He sends you his greetings and also Demas. Let's just move on." It doesn't say anything about him, but a little bit later, Paul does mention Demas again. Again, at the very end of his life in 2 Timothy, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10, "Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica…"
Do you guys know that since we've started Watermark Community Church there have been folks who have thrown in with us and because they have loved this present world decided to not continue with us here and have gone on their way and have become another regretful example? Here's my question for you.
What is right now in your life that is an attraction to this present world that is setting you up to be a degenerate like Demas? Folks, I encourage you to deal with it sharply. What in your life right now has you falling increasingly in love with this present world that is going to lead you to the place that you go from a fellow worker to just a person who is still here in our midst to saying, "I'm going to go back over here and party hearty." I don't just mean party. I mean, "I'm going to be focused on this world and not on the things of God."
Did Demas know Christ? We don't know. Did he need to repent? Whether he did or didn't, absolutely. There is a regretful example in there in Colossians. When you see this name, you go, "What is it?" You go studying the Scripture and you find out who he is, and there's an application for you.
9._ Nympha. A resident host_. Nympha was a woman who had a home. People needed a place to worship. It wasn't until the third century that specific dedicated buildings were built for bodies of Christ to gather together. Before that, they met in homes, and Nympha was one of those people who said, "I have a house! Why not meet here?"
Here's my question for you. What material blessing do you possess that you can use to love and welcome others into the celebration of life with Christ? You have a home. You have a lake house. You have a car. You have clothes. You have resources and money. You have a place for a small group to meet. You have a car the high school group could use.
You have resources you can steward. You have tickets you can share in order to let other folks come alongside of you in the midst of that experience of life and say, "While we're together gathering in the midst of this resource, may you further in the celebration of what it means to be around those who love Jesus Christ." Will you be a Nympha? I hope so.
10._ Archippus. A responsible recipient_. What is your special gift and how are you employing it? He exhorts Archippus at the very end of this book and says to him, "You take that gift God has given you and you use it." First Peter 4:10 says, "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
Here's my question to you. Do you know your gift? If you know Christ, if you're his servant, he has given you a gift. Have you discovered it and are you employing it? As he says to Archippus in the book of Colossians, he says, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it." You are accountable for what you have been given. Get with it!
Folks, what's so great about this is all I did was I went through and took each of these guys. I studied a little bit of their lives, and in a way that would help me remember who they are, went through that list. Here's that group of ours again for you. You can go right down through the list: a reliable envoy, a runaway slave, a real friend, a restored failure, a receptive Jew, a regional leader, a ready doctor, a regretful example, a resident host, and a responsible recipient.
Paul didn't do it in isolation. We learn from this section of Scripture that God says he doesn't want us operating alone. We live in the context of community and team. Peter Drucker, the great leadership expert, said it this way. "The purpose of a team is to make the strengths of each person effective and his or her weaknesses irrelevant."
That is a perfect description of the body of Jesus Christ, and it's a good thing that I'm not the person who is responsible for all of the different ministries this church is a part of, because I'm not wired to do it, but I'm wired to do what I do, and because others are being faithful, my weaknesses are irrelevant, and because others do what they do so I don't have to, my gifts are effective. Are yours?
Father, I pray this seemingly irrelevant section of Scripture can be used in our lives in such a way that we would determine that we are going to be remembered as a reliable envoy, as a ready servant, as a person who responds rightly to the gift we have been given, as a resident host, and never as a regretful example, as a leader in our region and in our place, as an individual who is ready to be what you have destined we would be in this particular moment in history.
Whether we be a woman or a man, whether we have a speckled past or have the grace of you in our lives from beginning to end, the challenge is the same today. Will we respond, as you would have us respond in this moment? Father, thank you that if we just take some time over your Word and don't let these names blow by but take a simple look at Scripture and see how they are used and mentioned all throughout, we see application for our lives.
We determine that when the final book is written and the pages are turned and the book is closed and you stand before us that our legacy will be one that we will not be well-traveled or well-bred or well-fed or well-resourced, but we will be well-spoken of by you who is greater than Paul and we'll be rewarded in a way that we will be remembered in far more than a little letter to a church in Colossae. We will be remembered before you forever as one of your faithful ones.
May that be our case forever! May we rise up and encourage each other toward that end and declare with our voices that we are going to be people whose lives shout faithfulness in response to you! Amen.
This is our opportunity. We're still writing what is going to be the salutation to the letter of this church. The lasting impression of this generation of Watermark and this community of faith… What is going to be on our end pages is being determined right now. You have a chance to go out and figure and decide if you're going to be an individual who will throw in and let the Spirit of God mightily work in you and through you or if you are going to be a regrettable example.
May it never be! May we shout to the north, the south, the east, and the west, as we leave here today and as we have a great week of worship! May we remember that we are a team! We are not a group of people who gather underneath some celebrated head and become increasingly critical masses. We are a body.
Peter Drucker, the great organizational observer and leader said the purpose of a team is to make the strengths of each person effective and to make the weaknesses of each person irrelevant. Folks, I'm going to tell you there's not a better description of the body of Christ. That is the way our head intended it. It is so great that Todd Wagner doesn't have to do the things that so many of you are gifted to do so I can be effective in my part and you can protect me from how weak I am in others and make it irrelevant because we are a body. Amen?
May we go and worship him well this week as people who determine to have our tombstones read, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" for the glory not of Watermark and not the glory of this body but the glory of our head. Now you go and you worship well with me this week. Have a great week of worship.
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.