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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached Life BPC 1045am Svc, 2012-01-01

Text: Colossians 1:9-11 

This morning we begin our series of messages on the theme “Walk worthy of the Lord” by studying the Bible passage where this theme comes from – Colossians 1:9-11. This was written by Paul about AD 63 when he was imprisoned in Rome for 2 years, waiting to be tried by Caesar. The occasion for writing was news that Paul had received that some people within the church at Colosse were introducing a new doctrine which exalted knowledge above everything else. They claimed that as long as a person had this special knowledge, it does not matter how he lived – he can do whatever he likes. This special knowledge had very little to do with Christ. It was actually a strange mixture of Judaism and paganism which greatly reduced the importance of Christ.

Therefore in his writing to the Colossians, Paul expounded some important doctrines to them, and especially the doctrine of the supremacy and all-sufficiency of Christ. And because those who taught the new doctrine were living as they liked without any care whether it was pleasing to God or not, Paul was also concerned that the Christians should live lives that are worthy of the Lord.

So he encouraged them toward Christian living. He also prayed for them, and praised them for their spiritual growth. This is what we see right at the beginning of the epistle. After the usual greeting in the first 2 verses, Paul gave thanks to God for the faith, love and hope that the Colossian Christians had as a result of their commitment to Christ. But he did not want them to be contented with that. In the verses that follow after this, Paul indicates that they must aspire after greater things. They had not yet attained to all that they should be. There was still plenty of room for improvement.

What Paul wrote here for the Colossians is very applicable to all of us today. As Christians, we must always aspire after greater things for the Lord. Many of us have grown through the ministry of the church and learnt how to serve the Lord well, in the various ministries of and mission outreaches of the church. But it would not be good at all just to remain where we are now.

Like the Colossians, we have not yet attained to all that God wants us to be, and we should aspire toward greater things in our spiritual life. It is important for us to keep on progressing spiritually and not stagnate, or come to a ‘plateau’. Let us not think that we have already ‘arrived.’ We must move up to the higher ground that God wants us to move up to. And this is what we see in vv.9-11 as Paul expressed his aspirations for the Colossian Christians. If you look at v.9 you will notice that these spiritual aspirations became the subject of Paul’s prayers for them. Let us make them our own aspirations and pray that God may enable us to reach them: The first aspiration is

I. To Be Filled with the Knowledge of God’s Will (v.9)

Will you pray that in this New Year you will learn much more from God, and be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding? Well, you really should pray for this, because it is the foundation of all Christian character and conduct. This knowledge of God’s will comes through God’s Word. And it consists not only of the many written commandments of God as given in the Scriptures, but (as v.9 says) it also consists of wisdom and spiritual understanding to deal with all kinds of situations in life – whether comfort or crisis, sickness or health.

In order to do this you need to cultivate the good habit of feeding yourself with God’s Word regularly. Please remember that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) The more that you read and meditate on God’s Word, the more you will be able to figure out what the will of God is in any situation, and the more thoroughly equipped you will be unto every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).

Two years ago I conducted a course on the Ten Commandments in our night lectures over 15 weeks – that is 30 hours of lectures. You may wonder, “How can there be so much to teach on just ten commandments?” Well as I studied them, I found that there are many practical issues and situations in life that are dealt with by these ten commanements, and my course notes came up to 120 pages!

This goes to show how vast the knowledge of God’s will can be when we actually set ourselves to study it carefully. It affects every part of your life: The way you worship and serve God, and the way you relate to your fellow man. It affects your choice of a life-partner, your marriage and family life, and the way you carry out your responsibilities at work. It affects your attitudes to the things on earth – the pursuit of material wealth and health, fame and fortune. The knowledge of God’s will affects every choice and decision that you make in life.

Let me ask you this: Do you have an adequate working knowledge God’s will? Listen carefully: I am not asking how well you know your Bible. I am asking, “Do you know it well enough to apply it in every situation in life?” If you can’t answer “Yes”, then you must not be satisfied with what you know of God’s will at present. You must aspire to have a fuller and deeper knowledge of it by studying the Word of God well and maintaining a close walk with the Lord through prayer.

I want you to note that according to v.9 Paul did not just desire the Colossian Christians to have knowledge of God’s will, but to in fact, be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. That is what you should aspire to have – not just the barest minimum you can have, but the fullness of this knowledge! Do you remember how our Lord Jesus turned water into the best quality wine at a wedding in Cana? It happened only after the six stone waterpots were filled right to the brim with water. Now, we are just like those stone waterpots – in order to be vessels that are meet for the Master’s use, we must be filled. Filled with what? The knowledge of His will. This knowledge ought to fill our whole being: our daily thoughts, our attitudes, our plans and desires, and even our prayers – all these things must be focused on one thing: God’s will. That is why we constantly pray – “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” in the Lord’s Prayer.

Our desire to know the will of God should be so intense that we think about it, dream about it, talk with others about it and most of all, that we ultimately do it. Please remember this: The knowledge of God’s will by itself is not useful until it is applied in daily living. It must induce change in our character and conduct until they are fully conformed to God’s will. That’s the very purpose for having this knowledge. Thus, we see in v.10 that the second aspiration that Paul had for the Colossians is that they would“Walk worthy of the Lord, unto all pleasing.”

II. To Walk Worthy of The Lord Unto All Pleasing (v.10)

Do you remember what I said earlier about some people in the Colossian church who were introducing a new doctrine that knowledge is all that matters? Well Paul’s answer to that is found right here in v.10: knowledge is not all that matters. In fact knowledge is of no use until it is applied and translated into Christian living. You will never become a skilled mechanic merely by reading up books on car engines. Neither can you become a master chef merely by reading up recipe books. Knowledge must be applied and put into practice if it is to be of any value or use to anyone.

Now let us analyse v.10 more closely. What did Paul mean by saying, “walk worthy of the Lord”? The word “walk” here is a figure of speech for one’s conduct. Your manner of life, the things you say and do at home and at work – all these things comprise your “walk.”

Let us go on to see what kind of walk we should have. Verse 10 says it must be “worthy of the Lord”. What does this mean? It certainly does not mean that we are to make ourselves worthy or deserving of God’s love and favour by living a good life. No one can ever do that. What makes God’s love so great is that it is given to those who are unworthy of it! What walking worthy of the Lord means is that we should live in a manner that is fitting and consistent with who the Lord is and with what He has done to love us who are unworthy of His love. It means that it isn’t right to just aim at having a reasonably good conduct. The Lord surely deserves a much better response from us than that: Our conduct should not only be good, but worthy of the Lord Himself! This requires the utmost best from us.

Let me illustrate this: Last Wednesday the North Koreans staged a grand state funeral for its late president Kim Jong Il. As I watched the video-clip of this in the news I remembered what I had to go through 30 years ago as a soldier in National Service when the late President Sheares died. My whole battalion was involved in his state funeral along Orchard Road. For 4 full days all that we did in camp was to practise and practise doing the slow march and the special footdrill of paying respects while the gun carriage carrying the president’s body passes by. And we had to do it all flawlessly and silently with precision timing. We also had to get our boots shined until we could see our face in it, and our no.3 uniforms starched until there were stiff like cardboard. And we were told that if anyone of us were not up to the mark on the day of the funeral, there would be unmentionable consequences. Thank God that everything went well.

Now, why did we go through all that for someone who died? Because the person who died happened to be a president, the head of state who is deemed by all Singaporeans to be worthy of nothing less than the best! The same principle applies to our daily living. Since we belong to the Lord, our manner of life must be worthy of Him. It cannot be anything less than the very best, because God being who He is, is worthy of nothing less than that.

Think of how highly exalted God is to be praised by all the hosts of heaven as the One who is ‘worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and blessing’ (Revelation4:12). Should we His people not honour Him with the best conduct, one that befits His supreme greatness? Dear friends, do you know what a great honour it is to be in God’s kingdom and to be called sons of God? Think about it. Not everybody has this honour. We must therefore conduct ourselves in a manner that befits that honour! If we don’t do this, we end up “walking unworthy of the Lord.” That would bring shame instead of honour to our God.

In Philippians 3:18 Paul described some people who did this: “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ” Why are those who walk unworthy of the Lord, called enemies of the cross of Christ? Because they provide unbelievers with the best reason why they should not turn to Christ and be saved! They would say,  “If this is what I will be when I become a Christian I’d rather not be a Christian!” An unworthy walk makes you a stumbling block to others. It prevents them from coming to Christ. How awful it is to become the cause of the loss of someone’s salvation! If that is the result, let none of us walk in a manner that is unworthy of the Lord.

Now what kind of walk is worthy of the Lord? Look at v.10 again and you will see that the phrase ‘worthy of the Lord’ is qualified immediately with the phrase “unto all pleasing.” This does not mean that we are to please all men by our conduct. The word “all” here does not refer to men but to things that please the Lord. This phrase tells us that our manner of life is worthy of God only when it pleases Him in all things. Do you know why God created all things? Revelation 4:11 gives the answer “Thou art worthy O Lord to receive glory and honour aned power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.”

Therefore God must be pleased with what He sees in your life, if your life is to be worthy of Him. There will be times when you have to make a difficult choice between pleasing God and pleasing men. Walking worthy of the Lord may then cause you to lose the esteem of people around you, and become unpopular. Your friends may desert you, and everyone may be upset with you. But you know in your heart that God is pleased, and that is all that really matters to you.

More often however, you have to choose between pleasing God and pleasing yourself. Perhaps you have a habit that you know God is not pleased with. But you refuse to give it up because it pleases you! So whom should you please – God or yourself? Verse 10 says that you should walk worthy of theLord unto all pleasing.

This verse, by the way, shows what really pleases God. The unsaved mistakenly believe that God is pleased with their elaborate religious rituals and offerings. Some imagine that the only way to please God is by walking on coals of fire, or having their bodies pierced with metal spikes. Others bind themselves with strict vows of self-denial. But the truth is that what really pleases God is a life that is lived worthy of Him, a life of loving obedience to His Word.

Some of you may be giving a lot of your income and time to serve the Lord, but have you obeyed Him by loving your spouse and nurturing your child as God has commanded in His Word? 1 Samuel 15:22says “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?”

Some who are children may think that God is pleased because you attend Sunday School regularly and you have received prizes for doing well, but have you obeyed His command to obey your parents? If you want to please God as children, listen to what God’s Word says in Colossians 3:20 – “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord.”

 What really pleases God is not how well you know God’s will, but how well you do it. Such a life becomes a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God. And such a life is fruitful in every good work, as v.10 says. We notice that the good works are described here as fruit, and therefore it is the natural outcome of abiding in Him. We do not have to strain hard and force the fruits to appear. That can’t be done. But as long as we maintain our relationship with God and seek to do His will, we will bear the fruits, which is good works. We must be like the tree mentioned in Psalm 1 which is planted by rivers of water. It keeps bearing fruits because of the life it receives from the river.

This point is brought out very well in the last part of Colossians 1:10 which says “… increasing in the knowledge of God.” This is better translated as “… increasing by means of the knowledge of God.” This fits very nicely with the idea of fruitfulness that is found just before this phrase. And it tells us that the way for a person to increase or be fruitful is through knowing God personally. As Jesus said in John 15:5, – “He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.”

Dearly beloved, are you abiding in Christ? Do you make it a point to start each day with Him and seek His help to live for Him? This is what you need in order to walk worthy of Him. And that is why verse 11 of our text says that we need to be “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.”

III. To Be Strengthened With All Might According to His Glorious Power

This is the third and final aspiration we ought to have. We notice that the verse says that this strength will result in 3 things: Firstly, it will make us patient. Patience is the ability to keep on going even when everything inside you wants to quit. It enables us to keep believing in the promises of God even when it becomes difficult to believe them. Romans 4:20 shows us that Abraham “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” The only way you can do this is to be strengthened by the Lord. His strength will give you patience.

Secondly, God’s strength will enable you to be longsuffering. You will then be able to resist temptations well. Ephesians 6:10,11 says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” You can effectively resist any temptation to sin only when you are strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. With the Lord’s strength you can also endure trials well.

When Paul was troubled by a difficult trial which he called “a thorn in the flesh” the Lord did not take it away, but said to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”Thus Paul concluded, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christmay rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9). This is the only power that can bear us through all the storms of life. It makes us resilient. God’s strength enables us to get back on our feet and get going after each trial. And it can do even more than that.

The third thing that is mentioned in v.11 as resulting from being strengthened is joyfulness. It enabled Paul to sing joyful praises to God in the Philippian jail after being whipped and bound in stocks. Joyfulness is different from happiness.

Happiness depends on circumstances. When circumstances are favourable and people treat us well, we are happy. But when circumstances are not favourable and people treat us badly, we are not happy. Joyfulness is different from this because it is independent of circumstances and people.

At last Tuesday’s prayer meeting a dear sister testified that earlier this year, when her 9-year old daughter suffered heart failure and was in ICU at KK hospital, the hospital staff were impressed that she and her husband could remain so calm and were so different from the other parents of children in the ICU in their response to crisis. Do you want to know what is the secret of being able to be like this under all circumstances? “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) Only God’s strength can keep you joyful in the midst of the worst circumstances of life.

And when that supernatural strength enables us to be patient, longsuffering and joyful, all those who see it will realize how wonderful it is to know Jesus Christ and to have Him as one’s Lord and Saviour. This is how God is most glorified – not through giving us instant deliverance from trials, or a trouble-free life, or great health and wealth – but by the strength He gives us to triumph with patience, longsuffering and joyfulness in all circumstances of life!

So this is how you can walk worthy of the Lord consistently. Be strengthened with all might according to His glorious power, not your own power. Paradoxically, we have to be weak in order to be strong, as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:10 – “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” This strength is obviously not from within ourselves. Our source of strength is external, and yet, it is also internal. It isexternal in the sense that it comes from Christ, not ourselves! But it is also internal, because it comes from Christ who dwells in us and who is always with us.

In this first sermon of the new year we have learned not to think that we have arrived at an acceptable level in our Christian life, and have no need to go further than that. We must all have high spiritual aspirations. Aspire to be filled to the full with the knowledge of God’s will! Aspire to live in a manner worthy of the Lord Himself! And aspire to be strengthened with His great might! May the Lord help us.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25