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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Don't be a Casual 5K Christian!



2 weeks ago we were in Proverbs 4 and there we saw that the heart is two things:

It is simultaneously, easily influenced and, it is highly influential. In other words, what goes into the heart shapes the heart, and because we move at the impulse of our hearts, it produces fruit in accordance with what went in to begin with.


We heard Solomon and God imploring us to guard our hearts at all costs. And we saw the emphasis on the Word of God, as that main commodity that God has designed as a protection – as a security fence – for our hearts. Predominantly, last time was about spiritual diets.


On Friday just gone Joshua Cheptegei broke the world record for the fastest 5,000m on foot.

He ran the distance in 12 minutes and 35 seconds. Some of us run 5,000m on a regular basis too. I ran it yesterday in 27 minutes and 30 seconds. Which means that if Cheptegei and I had set off at the same time, when I got to the half way point of my run, Cheptegei would have already been over the finish line for more than one whole minute. I don’t pretend to be a fast runner, but by any measure in the world, Joshua Cheptegei’s 5,000m time is unbelievably fast. There are undoubtedly a lot of factors that make Cheptegei faster than me over 5,000m, but it is not a small factor that his diet is significantly better than mine.

He does not have a casual 5K runner’s diet.

He does not east millionaire’s shortbread the day before he races. He has a carefully measured, expertly considered, highly honed, elite athlete, diet. And he is 100% disciplined about it every single day. He simply could not run the way he did on Friday unless he paid close attention to his diet.


You are not a casual 5K Christian! You are an elite athlete 5K Christian. That is what God has designed for you to be. No one who enters the games does so without exercising self-control (1 Cor 9:25). The heart needs a self-controlled, carefully measured, considered diet otherwise it cannot run this Christian race to the finish line. No casual 5K Christian makes it over this finish line. Christ has not saved us to be casual runners, he’s saved us to be elite athletes.


The fact is, absolutely nobody watches me on my 5K morning runs or cheers me when I cross the finish line. But when Cheptegei runs, the stadium is full. Flabby, casual, 5K Christians do not testify to anything extraordinary. But God’s holiness is extraordinary. Jesus’ selfless love is extraordinary. The Holy Spirit’s power is extraordinary. So, God saves people to be elite athlete Christians who make waves in the world they live in.


How does that happen? That’s why we’re in Colossians 1 this morning.


The Colossian believers had started well. Paul had received a good report about their faith and their love for God’s people. But they were in real danger of being influenced in their hearts by winds of doctrine and philosophies. Paul is at pains that they should be motivated to live lives worthy of the Lord and to seek with every fibre of their beings, to please him in every way (verse 10). And he shows here, what that kind of life looks like, by highlighting 4 dimensions of healthy Christianity that please the Lord.


Those four dimensions are in the second half of verse 10 and they finish at the end of verse 12.

But en-route to these 4 dimensions of life, he shows us the dynamic that is working behind them.

In Paul’s mind, there’s something valuable to understanding how that type of living comes into being. He’s not content to merely say it must come about, he wants to show us how it comes about. And so, I conclude it’s good for us to know too.


The flow in Paul’s mind is like this and it has three parts:

Christians need to be able to discern God’s will for their daily lives. That’s in the second half of verse 9. And that’s part 1.


In order to know the will of God, the heart of a believer needs two things: both wisdom and understanding. That’s in the last part of verse 9. And, that’s part 2.


And finally, that kind of wisdom and understanding which lead to knowing the will of God, can’t happen without supernatural power – that comes from the Spirit of God. That’s the last word in verse 9 and that is part 3 of the flow in Paul’s mind that brings us to a life lived that is worthy of the Lord.


What I want us to do, is to unpack each of these 3 parts this morning because they are so important for underpinning one final step which we’ll come to briefly at the end.

And then I hope that next time, we’ll be able to look at the 4 dimensions of the worthy life.

It will be obvious that the order of the flow we’ve just outlined is backwards. We’ve come at it from the finish line proceeding to the starting blocks, but we’ll unpack them in their natural order now.


The starting place is the Holy Spirit.

Nothing of significance happens in the Christian life without the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Nothing. The place in the New Testament that confirms that notion most fully, is Romans 8.

According to Romans 8 the rule – or the law or I would like to say, the power – the power of the Spirit (who is life) has set us free in Christ Jesus from the rule – or power (Rom 3:9) - of sin and death. So, there are two rules at work in humanity – an individual is either under the power of sin or under the power of the Spirit of God. Either the rule of death or the rule of life, holds sway.

Nothing of lively, spiritual, God-pleasing worth can be done by a person, unless the power of the Holy Spirit is resident in their heart.


Last time we made the case for the Word of God dwelling in the heart richly, and now we’re making the case for the Spirit dwelling in the heart. Last time we said that what flows out of the heart depends on the Word of God and now we’re saying the 4 dimensions of a life that’s pleasing to God, flow out of a heart that’s indwelt by the Spirit of God. Is this double talk?

Well, no it’s not.

And it’s not, because the Spirit uses the Word.

And it’s not, because the word is impotent without the Spirit’s power.


The Word of God is the Spirit of God’s principle tool. And we know that because Ephesians 6 says so. The sword of the Spirit is what? It’s the Word of God. The Word is the instrument in the hand of the Spirit. How does it get into the hand of the Spirit?

Answer: Eye-gate and Ear-gate.

You have to feed the gates of the soul with the Word of God; the Spirit does not bring the Word out of a vacuum. He instructs you to bring it and place it in His hand and then He does the cutting, and the thrusting, and the lopping, and the piercing.


So, the Holy Spirit got zero mentions in Proverbs 4, but He was absolutely essential to that message. And here in Colossians, the emphasis is all on the Spirit with no mentions of the Word whatsoever, but make no mistake, the Word of God is absolutely essential here also.


How does the Spirit illuminate our lives with the Word? There’s no better place to answer that question than Ephesians 1: Paul keeps asking God to give the Ephesians the Spirit.

What is the Spirit the spirit of?

He’s the Spirit of ‘wisdom and revelation’.

Revelation of what?

Revelation of himself.

Where is that contained?

In the Word of God about himself.

And what is the result of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the life of the Ephesian believer?

Answer: Enlightenment.


The ‘eyes of the heart’ – what a phrase that is! The eyes of the heart are enlightened. Enlightened means that darkness is driven away and you can see. So, the Spirit of God – the Spirit of wisdom and revelation brings light to the eyes of your heart to see.

But see what?

In order that you may see the riches of his glory – that’s what Ephesians 1 says. You can put all the Word you can get your hands on every day of your life into your life, but unless the Holy Spirit illuminates the Word, you won’t have the foggiest what it’s saying. That means, even right now – at this moment – we need the illuminating power of the Spirit to shed light on this word in Colossians or else we see nothing of the glory that is hidden in these sentences!


Now, assuming we’re doing Proverbs 4, and putting the Word consistently and intentionally into our hearts through our eyes and ears. And, assuming the Spirit of illumination and revelation is resident in our hearts. What is the result? Verse 9 says, wisdom and understanding is produced.


Wisdom is the quality of having good judgment. And knowledge is the acquisition of information.

If you could supply someone with all the knowledge there is to be obtained in their given field, the only thing you would want to add to that, is the good judgement and sense to use it and to use it in the right way. The Spirit of God takes the Word and with illuminating power brings about in a person, not only the true knowledge contained in his Word, but also the judgement to be able to use that knowledge.

What are the right things to say?

What are the right things to do?

What are the right things listen to?

What are the right ways to respond?

What are the right ways to live?


This happens in the life of the believer in at least two ways.

The first way is that the word is supplied each day to the heart and mind, and the Spirit illuminates it and by the Word, the heart and the mind is informed with details about the way God wants us to live. Specific information for specific circumstances, combined with spiritual judgement supplied by the Spirit.


The second is, that the Word of God, functioning on a principle level, gives us broad categories for the details of life that the bible doesn’t directly address. The Spirit takes those categories and supplies spiritual judgement so we have a right sense about what is a Godly response.


The first way always takes priority. Sense is always hazier than the directives of God’s Word.

But the bible would be an impossibly long book for human beings if it addressed every detail of life. So, there are principled categories for living which the Spirit also grants wisdom for.


That brings us to the will of God.

Colossians 1:9 is using the will of God in the sense of his will of command, not his will of decree.

That is to say, God has a kind of will that is providential and secret in nature.

And, He has a kind of will that is precise and revealed in nature.

It’s the second kind that Paul has in mind. God has a will for the way we should live. And, when we conform to that will, we are living lives that are pleasing to him and which are worthy of Jesus.

Romans 12 says, the ability to ‘test and approve’ God’s will comes from a ‘renewed mind’ (that’s the spirit’s work) and that renewed mind doesn’t ‘conform to the world’ (that’s your work).

The Christian has to be able to test and approve God’s will because in everyday life, there simply isn’t the time to get the bible out and check to see what it has to say about the situations you're running in to.

The Word has to dwell in us richly. The Spirit will grant illumination so that we are equipped to be able to respond to the circumstances of life with both wisdom and knowledge.

When those responses correspond with the Word of God, we are then – in that moment - carrying out the will of God’s command. And that is the life that pleases God and is worthy of Jesus who shed his blood to bring that kind of living about in you.


Now notice this.

All of this is Paul’s prayer.

We continually ask God’.

What does he continually ask God for?

He asks for a filling up of their knowledge of God’s will. That means that knowing God’s will is essential enough to these Christian’s lives and the glory of God, that Paul would pray for it continually. It also means that the knowledge of God’s will is seldom full. Paul is praying that it be full. And, he’s praying it all the time. He’s desperate that the Colossian believers be full of the knowledge of God’s will. The fact that he prays for it highlights the significance and the role of the Holy Spirit in producing this knowledge.

So, what should all this mean for us?

It means we should be alerted to the role of the Holy Spirit in our right understanding of God’s will and our living it out.


It should alert us that the bible is not a take-it or leave-it appendage in our Christian lives, but the most essential habit we can give ourselves to as Christians.


It should alert us to the essential need for prayer – for ourselves and others – that God would powerfully illuminate His Word to us. And, every time we pick up the bible, we should be reminded it is a spiritual book and we need supernatural power to see the glories in it that are life-shaping.


And, it should alert us to the power of competing philosophies.

Everything is born out of a philosophy.

Everything.

Any philosophy that is not spiritual is spiritually dangerous– remember that.

The philosophies of this world travel along the beams of content – seemingly harmless content - that stream into our lives in a thousand different ways every day.

Beware of them.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on the elemental spiritual forces of this world and not on Christ’. (Colossians 2:8).


May the Lord bless this word to our hearts.

Amen.

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