Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The End Game
Over the course of our study through this letter we’ve allowed Paul to set us straight in terms of how to approach God—not through intermediaries or an altered state of consciousness—and not through the adherence to the Jewish Law. Instead we can go directly to Jesus Christ as the “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). Paul wanted the Colossians to: “10 …walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light” (Col 1:10-12).
Being able to “walk worthy” and “bear fruit” involves getting to know God’s character and allowing His Holy Spirit to transform us from the way we were to the person God has designed for us to be.
This, we saw in Chapter 3, involves the realization that we are already members of God’s household; His kingdom and we should act like it. Being mindful of the old nature and it’s tendencies towards unchecked passion, unchecked anger, and selfishness, we purpose to take each thought word and action that conforms to that old nature and nail it to the cross (Col 3:5), and determine to “put away” things like anger, malice, wrath, slander and lying. We treat that old nature like a dead arm, which needs to be “put off” (Col 3:9) and treated as a foreign object, not a part of us anymore.
Instead we need to “put on” a new character: the character of Christ. This happens both inside and outside the church. It is a character of self-sacrificing, other-centered affection which empathizes with the needs and sorrows of others, actively looks for ways to help others fall in love with Jesus and be benefited in their walk with Him—even if it means we get nothing in return, or even get anger back for our kindness.
In the church it means we create an environment rich in the gospel, rich in worship, rich in thanksgiving, and doing everything as an official representative of the King of Kings. Outside the church we practice that character at home, and at work—when it comes to working with those who have responsibility over you: be submissive, not strident—cooperative, not catty. Be receptive to instruction, not rebellious, and serve enthusiastically, not reluctantly.
When it comes to having responsibility over others: be loving, not lording, instructive, not punitive, a servant-leader rather than a slave-driver.
We also talked about how at first, this new character can feel more like wearing a costume and playing a part in a play—but that the more we practice it the more we realize this is the real you God has been designing and forming all along.
So what is the end game? What is the purpose for which God does all of this? I believe that the purpose is to use us in the furtherance of the gospel—to spread the love of Christ to as many people as possible. We see this more clearly as Paul lines up on the runway and begins to land his letter.
In Chapter 4, verses 2 – 6 we see this purpose come into focus and the final admonition—the capstone to the creation of the new character.
There are three aspects to this purpose that we see in these verses: pray diligently for open doors, act out the gospel with skill, and speak with grace and passion about your love for the Lord.
Paul says we need to be devoted to prayer, mindful about your prayers and thankful in your prayers.
Devoted means: “to persist in adherence to a thing; to be intently engaged in, attend constantly to” (Mounce). Plain and simple: do you pray for your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors that they would come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior? I think this is something we can all improve in. Paul tells to be devoted because often times we throw up a prayer or two then quit when nothing happens. The three aspects of devotion are key here: persistence, intensity, and constancy. Keep at it, focus on it, and constantly think about it. Think of each prayer as an artillery shell from God—softening up the battlefield of the mind to the gospel.
“Stay alert” means literally to “be awake.” The idea of the Greek word here is like if you were out in the forest camping and you heard rustling in the underbrush and grew concerned that a coyote or panther might be lurking about. You’d constantly scan the edges of the clearing in the firelight trying to make sure nothing was going to hurt you or your family. It carries with it an urgency to keep a calamity from happening. I think most of us would admit that prayer time can very easily equal sleep time. But I think Paul is talking about more than just keeping your eyelids open; I think he’s talking about keeping your mind alert and wakeful in what you are praying. Listen to the Holy Spirit to give you insight into your prayers, think about the person or situation—what circumstances might lead them to being open to the gospel? What people might they run into or radio programs or songs that would soften their hearts? What circumstances might God bring about to bring them into His family?
Also keep alert for God answering your prayers! And when those answers come—give God thanks. As we’ve seen through Chapter 3, thanksgiving is a vital part of the Christian’s character. God has a marvelous plan and it’s wonderful that we get to be a part of it.
Paul then gives them some specifics of how to pray for him:
3 – 4
Paul was in prison—in chains. But physical chains cannot contain the gospel. When Paul was brought before King Agrippa in Acts 26 he didn’t just defend himself, he preached to the point that the king said: “Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?” The open door Paul wants is so he can reveal (“bring to light” or “bring into a clear space”) what was hidden: that is, that God planned from the foundations of the world to send Jesus His own Son into the world to save mankind.
We need to pray for open doors as well for each other and ourselves. “Lord, bring me into situations where I can freely talk about the wonderful plan of God to bring salvation.” Look for those opportunities. Doors are not always open and I wouldn’t tell you to force them open. We are not God’s SWAT Team—breaking into people’s lives and commanding: “Step away from this age and put your hands where I can see them praising the Lord!”
The idea of “as I am required to speak” is the word: necessary, along the lines of “it is necessary to speak in order to bring about a desired outcome.” As we’ll see in verse 5, actions speak loudly, but there will come times when you should verbally speak the gospel, defend your faith, and tell people you belong to Jesus.
Our goal as Christians is to think, speak, and act like the Lord. Towards that end we work with the Holy Spirit to have our values and character transformed so that this occurs. We’ve talked a lot about our behavior inside the church and home—but it is also vital that we accurately represent what a Christian is to those outside of our close relationships:
“Act” here is the Greek word “to walk around.” As you live your life, as you do the normal everyday things required of us all—be mindful and aware that there are those outside the faith that are watching. They will see you stumble and make mistakes—and hopefully they will see you act in other-centered, self-sacrificing love as well—all the while deeply in love with Jesus.
Paul’s idea here is to act “with skill.” The word is translated here “wisely”. I don’t want us to be self-conscious all the time, but you can use the way you act to mirror the character of Christ. I think this idea incorporates all the ways we express who we are to those around us: what we do, what we say, and how we choose to live our lives. Is your life reflective of the values of Jesus?
The final idea of this verse is to “redeem” or “make the most of” the time. The idea here in the Greek is finding a bargain and snatching it up. I shop for GroupOns now and again. With some of them you have to act quickly or the item or opportunity will be sold out. Pray that God will open opportunities for you—and then snatch them up like a good bargain at the store.
The final thought in this section involves what we do when those opportunities brought about by our acting like the Lord present themselves.
I would say here: “Don’t have a cookie cutter approach to the gospel.” We can know tools like EE’s “The Hand” and “The Romans Road” but the real trick is to see each person as an individual with individual questions and needs that can be addressed specifically to them. Listen to their struggles and opinions, and then pray for help from the Holy Spirit to have the right words to speak. They might not even be Bible verses or anything—it might be your experience with the Lord, your story.
Mark 13:11 So when they arrest you and hand you over, don’t worry beforehand what you will say. On the contrary, whatever is given to you in that hour—say it. For it isn’t you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
This doesn’t mean go in unprepared, it just means leave room for the Spirit to guide what’s already in your mind and experience. Paul characterizes how we interact with others in two ways: grace and salt.
Having grace means to me that we should always be communicating the love of God and the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ rather than bringing judgment. It’s not our job to clean people up, it’s our job to introduce them to a relationship with Jesus, and then help that relationship grow. God is in charge of the transformation of their character—not you.
Having salt means to not just spew out a canned speech, but let the gospel be colorful, interesting, exciting, lively and different. Learn the basics of the gospel and be true doctrinally, of course—but tailor what you say to the person you are talking to. A person who really knows Jesus will act differently, like salt adds a discernable difference to the taste of food, so too the person with a relationship with Jesus will come across differently—with agape love.
I think in conclusion that we as disciples of Jesus need to be constantly aware that our lives should be always used in the Master’s service. Pray that the Lord will make you and place you in opportunities to be a witness—with your words, your actions, and your values. Be mindful and watchful for opportunities in relationships both at home, at work, and on the streets of your neighborhood. Always using prayer as the precursor and operator in everywhere the Lord takes you.