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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

A Life Worthy of Jesus


 

“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his willthrough all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:9-10


The main issue in Colossae is that there are people within the congregation who are not what they say they are. They have an appearance of godliness but they deny the power of godliness, as Paul says elsewhere. Instead they are seeking to take others in the church captive by ‘hollow and deceptive philosophies’ which depend on two things: one, human traditions, and two, spiritual forces.


And in Paul’s mind, those kinds of people and those kinds of philosophies are like the effects of strong winds on a small sailing boat out in the middle of the ocean. Small boats, when they get assaulted by strong winds begin to rock and sway and roll from side to side. And with enough rolling they begin to take on water. And really strong winds can rock a boat so much that it sinks. Paul is concerned that the Colossians might be rocked so violently by what he calls the ‘winds of teaching’ (Ephesians 4:14) that they may begin to take on water, and even sink.


And what he has in mind by sinking is a type of wandering away from the truth that ‘disqualifies’ someone from their heavenly inheritance. Which I think I can say with some confidence because Paul says in chapter 2, verse 18, ‘don’t let anyone who delights in the worship of angelsdisqualify you’.


I’m saying the word ‘disqualify’ there means ‘a failure to inherit heaven’, and the reason I’m saying that is because in verse 12 of chapter 1 – where we are this morning – Paul tells the Colossians that the Father has ‘qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light’. So being disqualified in chapter 2 is losing what is being gained here in verse 12.

Paul wants the Colossians to be armed to contend with the falsehood in their midst so that, they won’t be disqualified in the end.

To put it into boating language, he wants them to have weight or ballast in the hull of their boats that is substantial enough to counter to strong winds that are coming against them, so that they won’t blow over and be sunk, or as Paul would say, be disqualified.


The boat of our lives has to be able to do two main things. It has to be able move forward. That’s what sail boats do. They go from A to B. Our Christian lives go from cross to crown. That was what Paul was commending the Colossians for last week. The evidence was that they were moving towards the goal, and that evidence was the fruit of faith and love in their lives.

But our lives also need to be able to weather bad storms – storms of falsehood and unbelief. They need to have weighty ballast in them - that keeps the boat upright.


This morning though, we’re still focused on moving forward. Verses 9-14 are about growth and fruitfulness and endurance. The section after this is about ballast. The next section is designed to put weight in the boat of our lives. And we’ll go there next time. But this morning we’re about increasing fruitfulness.


Paul already told them that he was thankful to God for their fruitfulness. But he’s not content that that fruitfulness should be the sum of all their fruitfulness. Paul wants to see more. And he wants to see more, because that’s what God wants to see.

Paul is focused on one main thing and it’s in verse 10: he wants them, and us, to ‘live lives…that are pleasing to God in every way’.


Now, thoughtful people – ones who go deeper than the surface veneer this world has to offer - often ask themselves what is my purpose in life? Why am here? What should I be doing with the time I’ve got left? That is usually called a ‘midlife crisis’.

The reason it’s called that is, that the question – what should I be doing with my life? – most often lands on people in the middle of their lives, as they begin to realise that they are getting older, and death is no longer that unimaginably great distance away any more.


For most people, an answer to that question brings about a fruitless journey of attempted self-discovery. But Paul is very pleased to tell us Christians precisely what our purpose is.

And it’s not to accumulate wealth and possessions!

It’s exactly what he says it in verse 10.

It is to ‘please the Lord in every way’. Which is the same thing as the other thing he says in verse 10 – namely, to ‘live a life worthy of the Lord Jesus’. These are the same thing; the same purpose.

Living a life worthy of Jesus is, living a life that is pleasing to God in every way. So, we need to understand what living a life worthy of the Lord Jesus means.

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This is important. If you love Jesus, and God is telling you this is your purpose, you’d better understand what he’s talking about when he says ‘a life worthy of him’, lest we fall short of it.

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The word worthy means, ‘corresponding to value’. So, if something is of value, something else that is worthy of that thing, is something that corresponds to its value. Or we might say, something that shows the real and true value of the other thing off. So, that would mean that Paul is calling us to live lives that show off the true value of Jesus.


And I think the fact that Paul has that in mind, is totally obvious by the contents of verses that occur just two verses after this one.

There Paul lists 5 staggeringly great things that Jesus has done for us that prove how valuable he really is. Here they are, starting in verse 12:

1. He has qualified us to share in his inheritance.

2. He has rescued us from a dominion of darkness.

3. He has brought us into the kingdom of his own dear son whom he loves.

4. He has redeemed us – that is, he has bought us back.

5. And, he has forgiven our sins.


Let’s just think about each of those for a moment.

1. There are qualifications needed to share in God’s inheritance and Jesus has, quite simply, supplied all the qualifications we need – he has made us holy when we were not.

2. Where we used to live was a kingdom dominated by the darkness of sin and Satan – without hope and without God; an empty way of life - and Jesus rescued us from it, even whilst we loved it there – he rescued us.

3. God has delivered us over from that kingdom into a kingdom that belongs to his own beloved son who is glorious light – like a light shining out of darkness, he has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. We have been made co-heirs with Christ and partakers with him of his Kingdom.

4. He has redeemed us – that is he has bought us back from our totally lost condition. And he did it with nothing other than his own blood. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. You were bought at an immense price.

5. In his death, all our sins of God-belittling preference are eternally and completely cancelled. They are removed from God, as far as the east is from the west. So that it can be said, He has cast them all into the sea of his forgetfulness.

There is nothing in all the world more precious than these things. There is nothing more precious than Jesus who won them all for us.

Is he valuable? He is the essence of value. Though the devil should offer all the kingdoms of the world, they are as nothing in comparison with our precious Lord Jesus.

And Paul is saying, live lives worthy of that value, because that is what pleases God.

And you’re just left thinking, ‘That just sounds impossible Paul. I can’t do that – his value exceeds all my very best natural abilities’.


Which is precisely why Paul kicks this passage off in verse 9 with one thing, prayer. You can’t do this.

On your own that is. But Paul is confident that you can do this with God’s help. That’s why he has not ‘stopped praying’ for them. He knows what they need. He knows we need God to do something to make this kind of living happen.

So, he’s on his knees asking for it. That’s what we need to be like for each other. We need to live lives worthy of the infinite value of Jesus. And therefore, we need to know that that can only happen by help granted from on high.


Now what’s the divine help he’s asking for? Verse 9, it is that God will ‘fill them with the knowledge of his will, through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives’.

The specific thing Paul is continually asking God for, on their behalf - and, I suggest we need to be asking God for on behalf of each other and ourselves - is the ability to be able to fathom God’s will for our lives.


The question we need to ask ourselves is how does that happen?

Does God tell us his will in dreams at night? Does he reveal it to us in visions during the day?

Well in certain unique circumstances he might use those kinds of mechanisms, but that’s not the main way he reveals his will to us. The main way he reveals his will to us is by his word, the bible.


And I think we can be pretty confident that’s what Paul has in mind here. Notice, he says in verse 9, that he and Timothy continually ask God to fillthem with the knowledge of his will. Now, if you look at verse 25, where Paul is explaining to them his God-given commission, note what he says: ‘I have become it’s [that is the church’s] servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in it’s fulness’.

So, Paul’s specific God-given work is to provide to the church the fulness of something – just like he’s asking for in verse 9. And the fulness he’s talking about in verse 25 is the fulness of the Word of God.

So, in verse 9, he wants them to have the fulness of the knowledge of his will, which is found in his Word.


Now the natural question is, ‘well Paul if you said your commission was to give the fulness of the word and that is what you’re doing, then why all this praying? – we’ve got the fulness, we don’t need to ask God for what you, Paul, have already given us’.

That’s a sensible question. And there’s a sensible answer too, contained in verse 9. It is this, according to Paul, the knowledge of God’s will which is revealed in his Word requires keys to unlock. The keys, Paul says are ‘wisdom and understanding’.

But that wisdom and understanding is not the product of is a good education, first and foremost; or a university degree, or a promotion at work, or intellectual prowess. Being able to read and reason is important, but it’s not of the essence.

The wisdom and understanding that is required to unlock the will of God in the Word of God, is the power of the Holy Spirit of God. And you can’t learn that, or buy it, or create it, or work for it. It has to be given, which is why it has to be prayed for. Even right now.

Why is that the case?

If we can read, we can surely understand what the words mean, right? And then all we need to do, is apply our will to what we read.

If you treat the bible that way, your life will empathically not reflect God’s will for you. The reason why that is the case is because we need something to be kindled in us that only the Holy Spirit can kindle. And it’s clear from verse 8 what it is.

There we are told the love that the Colossians had for each other was not ordinary love, it was ‘love in the Spirit’.

The Spirit powerfully works in our souls to love what we do not naturally love. And what God’s will is for our lives is not natural, it is supernatural.

Which means that by nature we don’t love his will for us; our wills won’t gladly do what we don’t love to do. And God will not accept it unless it is done gladly.


What he asks us to do, or think or say, he wants us to do because we are glad to make much of Jesus by doing, or thinking or saying them! So, that’s why we need the Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts to loveHis word then, and that is absolutely essential for our ‘knowledge of his will’. Knowing means embracing, whole heartedly.


So, here’s where we’ve got to. The purpose of our lives is to live them here in such a way that the worth of Jesus’ precious precious work is shown.

When we live like that it ‘pleases God in every way’.

The way we discern how to live in a way that is worthy of Jesus, is by fathoming the will of God for our lives. And we find that ‘will’ revealed in his word.

But as we take his word up in our hands, we need keys to unlock it which we don’t have by nature. We need wisdom and knowledge from the third person of the trinity – the Holy Spirit of God - to understand the will of God for our lives.

And since that is the case, we need to pray. We need to admit our total inability to embrace with gladness what he has said in his word.

So, prayer and bible go hand in hand here, and are absolutely central and crucial to living a life that is pleasing to the Lord. Without them, we cannot know the will of God, and so we cannot please him.

So, ‘make prayer and the word the staples of your life’, is Paul’s first imperative to the Colossian believers and to us.

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Now Paul is very instructive in all his letters and he’s no different here. He goes further now and spells out for the Colossians four headline ways in which their lives should please God. We have four headlines which appear to line up from fruit to root. Here they are, starting at verse 10:

1. Bearing fruit in every good work.

2. Growing in the knowledge of God

3. Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.

4. And, giving joyful thanks to the Father.

Paul’s thinking is that these four things that please God should be a part of every believer’s life, and pervade their lives. In fact, these things should be the most defining features of our lives, because they are what please God.

So, I would suggest we learn these four easy to remember headlines.

Good works;

the knowledge of God;

patient endurance;

and thanksgiving.

If we have these in increasing measure, our lives will be pleasing to God.

So, let’s finish up by considering these four things for just a few minutes. And let’s consider them in terms of Jesus, because that’s who we’ve got to live worthy of.

And I’m going to work backwards through them – from root to fruit. So, starting with thanksgiving.


The Lord Jesus was a thankful son during his time on earth, and nowhere epitomises his thankfulness more than when he shared the bread and wine with his disciples. He knew that those elements represented his own body broken for them and his own blood shed for them, and yet before he shared the elements with them he thanked his father for them.

Now if he could give thanks for the emblems of the horrible death he was about to pass through as the sinless Son of God, then how thankful ought we to be that he has qualified us, brought us into his kingdom, rescued us from darkness, redeemed our lives from the pit, and forgiven our many sins by that same death. Oh yes, we must be thankful, and not just thankful – because you can give thanks begrudgingly. That’s not what pleases God. What pleases him is joyful, delighted, free thanksgiving that rises up from the heart. According to 2 Corinthians 4:15, this kind of thanksgiving ‘overflows to the glory of God’.


Second, we need the full strength of the power of the might of God in us to endure in this faith of ours and to have the patience to keep going to the very end. Paul sees the opposition they are facing as very dangerous to their faith, and very powerful, and he doesn’t want them to succumb. But to endure they will need great strength. ‘Consider him, the writer to the Hebrews says, who endured such opposition from sinners, that you will not grow weary and lose heart’ (Hebrews 12:3). Jesus suffered faith and hope destroying opposition, and he endured. When Jesus was in the garden and he told his disciples to pray that they might not fall into temptation, he was telling them to pray for the power to endure in the same way that he was about to endure. So, we need that power to walk in the footsteps of our saviour and endure.


Third, grow in the knowledge of God. Jesus said, ‘Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me’ (John 17:25). Jesus prized knowing his Father intimately. We need to grow in that kind of knowledge. And Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:3 that Paul brought to us recently are very illuminating, ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life throughour knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness’.


Fourth, and last, bearing fruit in every good work. Jesus’ last word hung out on the cross ‘it is finished’ speaks of his completed work. Up to that point he had been working, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day and I too am working’. And by his work we are designated ‘God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’. So, by finishing his work he created us to do good work, God designed for us to do. We do good work like Jesus did good work, until we die, like he died.


These are the things that please him; these are the ways our lives should look. Always giving thanks, always patiently enduring, always growing in our knowledge of God, and always producing good works prepared in advance for us to do.


For our lives to be characterised by these traits with increasing measure, we need to devote ourselves to two things, the word and prayer; asking the Holy spirit to illuminate God’s will to us and empower us to live in it.

And all the more as we see the day of the Lord approaching.

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