Red Village Church

Hope Reserved in Heaven – Colossians 1: 1-14

Okay, hello everybody. My name is Jay Tuck. I’m the post-millennial elder. I feel like we have more fun. But all right, that’s enough eschatology talk. We’re done.

Let’s get into it. So our text today is from the first chapter of Colossians. We’re going to be going through the first 14 verses of the first chapter of Colossians. Actually, mostly through verses 13 to 14. So I had this date on the calendar to preach and Aaron said, well, do you just want to take the next text in Revelation? And I politely declined saying I was not going to touch that with a 10-foot pole.

We’re going to leave Revelation to the professionals. But since we have been dealing with eschatology at the end of all things, I actually thought this was a nice text that worked out nicely, especially that phrase where he said, Paul talks about the hope laid up for you in heaven. So I’m not sure how you’ve been responding to this little mini-series on Revelation, but especially a couple weeks ago when Aaron was talking about just the finality of the judgment and the end of time and the books opening up, I just felt a little overwhelmed and just kind of paralyzed. Like, all right, well, it’s going there. Like, that is where we’re going and nothing’s going to change that. Like, that train is coming and if there’s nothing we can do about that, then what are we supposed to be doing in the meantime?

Like, you know, what do I do? Just lay down and die and wait for that or sit around and watch TV and read novels and just hope everything all works out? But we know that’s not right. That’s not how the Bible talks about life and we know it because of texts like this morning. So we’ll read it and get going and pray and hopefully you’ll see what I mean. So from Colossians chapter 1, starting in verse 1.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

So let’s pray.

Father in heaven, thank you for your good word to us this morning and thank you for the hope laid out for us in heaven. I pray for your help today to lay hold of that, let it transform us, pray that you would be honored today in the preaching of your word and that you would help the saints. In Jesus’ name, amen.

I thought if I stopped talking that ringing would stop. I’m gonna go full Puritan in a minute, no sound, just belting it out. So okay, so last week I taught at the breakfast club, we had a little breakfast club we’re doing once a month or so for the kids, and I was talking about homework. So mainly writing, so talking about homework and about writing papers.

Took a little survey of the kids, I was like what’s the longest paper you guys have ever had to write? And the longest was three pages. And I was like, oh kids, you have pain in your future.

And I told them, I was like hey, I’m preaching next week. And when you’re, you gotta preach, it’s kind of like having to write a medium-length research paper, but you know, you get that feeling like, oh I got this paper due coming up and I haven’t really started it, and the day’s getting closer and closer. So I told them I was gonna cheat because I was gonna have them write the sermon for me. So that’s what we did in breakfast clubs, we just went through the text like we would in any normal Bible study, and I told the kids, I was like see, the Bible is easy. This is gonna be a complete piece of cake. And then yesterday I was like, what have I done?

So shout out to the kids for trying to help me out, and any complaints about sermon prep can be sent to their parents. So I actually preached on this text almost 13 years ago. I think it was like my second sermon ever, and I was 33, and we only had two kids, and I had more hair, and we’d just come back from a vacation, vacation at Disney World, which was like being trapped on the surface of the Sun with It’s a Small World playing over and over again.

And I was just finishing first year, this incredibly stressful fellowship at UW here, and now it’s been 13 years, and I was just thinking a lot happens in 13 years. So instead of a toddler and a baby, we’ve got three little mini-adults. The school we helped start to help these kids have a classical Christian education, we just bought a building like three blocks away, praise God, go check it out.

And then RVC, we’ve just been kind of plugging along and like slowly getting a little bigger, and we’ve got our own building here, and life just keeps kind of moving along, which doesn’t have much directly to do with the sermon, but I just want, just if you guys find something good to do, just kind of stick with it, and you’ll be surprised what can happen in with some time. So Julia told me I should just copy-paste and use that old sermon, which I did not do, but I went back afterwards last night, and I was like, no, it wasn’t horrible, but we’ll see if we do better today. All right, anyway, on to the sermon.

So you guys have probably heard the phrase, so-and-so is so heavenly-minded that they’re no earthly good. So it’s kind of slight, you can make it something that’s pietistic, saying that they’re not actually a good person. So what I’m gonna try today is I want to try to turn that phrase on its head. So I think if we were all more heavenly-minded, we’d find that our earthly good would improve immensely. So we’re just gonna walk our way through the text, and then make some applications at the end, starting at verse 3. Paul says we always thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when we pray for you, since we’ve heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love you have for all the saints.

So note that in Paul’s mind, God is the source of our faith, and our love, and the fruit that it bears. Otherwise, why would Paul be thanking God for it? So you’ll kind of note throughout the text that we, the saints, the Christians he’s talking to, are seemingly pretty passive. But for lack of a better term, I would call it an active passivity. So Paul talks like the gospel is the agent happening to them, kind of out of their control, but it’s a little bit more complicated than that. So first, he thanks God for their faith in Christ.

He thanks God for the love that they have for one another. He talks about the gospel as the actor in the drama. It is bearing fruit and increasing. Well, down in verse 12, he thanks God for qualifying us to share in the inheritance of the saints in lame, and for delivering us from the domain of darkness, and transferring us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. So we also see that any sort of spiritual growth comes from God. Paul prays for them in verse 9, that they may be filled with the knowledge of his will, and all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.

So he could have just told them, hey, you guys, you got to get to know God better. You’ve got to be more God-honoring the way you walk. You’ve got to bear fruit. But he knows that the fountain, the fountain and the source of all spiritual life is from God himself. Like God has got to move. So we can come up with the best plans, we can come up with the best programs, we can work really hard at organizing the best little church that we can be.

But if God’s not the source and the fuel for the fire, if God doesn’t bless the work, it’s all for naught. So you can call it whatever you want. You can call it Calvinism, you can call it having a high view of God’s sovereignty. As long as you call it reality, God has got to do something in us and for us, or everything is for naught and our work is in vain. So we’ll also note that this action of God doesn’t make his people passive. God uses human means to spread his gospel.

Look at verse 7. He says, just as you learned it from Epaphras, our fellow servant. So on the one hand, you have what Paul, we have Paul thanking God for their faith. We have the gospel which came to you. The gospel is being active and bearing fruit and increasing. And yet the way this gospel came to them was via a human messenger, namely this Epaphras fellow.

And shout out to this guy. So there are a lot of famous people in the Bible. You know, Moses and Paul. And then there’s us. Nobody’s going to know who we are in a hundred years. But you have famous saints throughout history.

And then you got random guys like this who get like just kind of a random naming kind of in passing. And I always kind of like those guys. So he’s only mentioned in one other place. In Philemon, Paul says, Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus sends greetings to you. So this guy basically starts this church. It’s a church that gets a letter in the Bible.

He runs around with Paul. He ends up in prison. Nobody knows who this guy is. So I want you guys to all do something. 2,000 years from now, when we are in the heavenly state, when you’re chatting, you know, after you’re done chatting with C.S. Lewis and John Edwards or whoever, this guy is going to be going up to so many people.

Hey, my name’s Epaphras. And he’s going to kind of stare blankly. And then he’s going to be like, I’m in the Bible. I preached to the Colossians. I was in prison with Paul. But you’re going to know who he is.

So he’s going to get a big kick out of it. So Epaphras, don’t forget Epaphras. So God works through means. God spreads his gospel through people. So you’re here if you’re a Christian. You’re here because somebody explained to Christianity to you, you know, a faithful parent or a pastor or somebody gave you a book or gospel tracts or you read a Bible that was, you know, maintained, translated, published by people, or maybe it was a combination of all those things.

God uses people to spread his gospel. So are you a person? Great. You’re qualified to help spread the gospel. So next we see that Paul clearly thinks human prayers are of value. Verse 9, again, he says, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will and all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

So Paul clearly thinks that anything good happening in this church is going to be happening because of God’s activity. But he doesn’t just say, hey, surah, surah, whatever will be, will be. God is sovereign. If God wants to move, great. If not, great. No, he prays for them.

God’s complete and total control over all things at all times shouldn’t make us less prayerful. It should make us more prayerful. Those who know that God’s movement and power are the only absolute necessity for anything good to happen in this world ought to be the most prayerful. The heavenly minded does the most earthly good. So what fools we are for neglecting our prayers. And when I was writing this, I was like, I better take a break and go pray, which I did.

And then more obviously, I think the effect of God’s work in us does not make us passive. So the end of Paul’s prayers, God’s will for us, is that we, in verse 10, would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. So if Paul’s praying towards that end, that means that in his mind, you walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, you living in a way that pleases God, you bearing fruit in good work comes from God, which means our prayers ought to reflect that. We see this principle illustrated beautifully at the end of this chapter. If you look down at verses 28 and 29, it’s not our main text, but Paul says, him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

I toil, I struggle, his energy that he’s working within me. So these were the verses that Tim Kadespa had on his prayer letters, and whenever I would get them, I’d say, oh, great verses. So nobody could look at the life of Paul and say he didn’t toil, or they didn’t work, or they didn’t bear good fruit in keeping with a life of repentance, that he did no earthly good. Yet in his mind, it’s God working in and through him. So a lot of you are probably familiar with the verses from Colossians, the book before this, in chapter 2, where Paul says, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. You work out your own salvation.

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. So there’s no contradiction in these things in Paul’s mind. So Paul thanks God for what he’s thankful for in the Colossians here, which means God is doing the work. But again, we are not passive vessels in God’s great story. God’s activity makes us active, so make sure our prayers reflect that. Verse 3, let’s keep going.

Our text, don’t worry, we’re going to start going a little faster. Paul mentions two things he thanks God for when he prays for the Colossians, their faith in Christ and their love for the saints. So we already talked about God as the source of faith. So now let’s talk about this love that these Colossians have for one another. It is interesting that Paul chooses love as the one other thing he mentions here. So he could have picked a lot of other things.

He could have said, we thank God when we pray for you because of your faith in Christ, and your zeal for the glory of God. Or we thank God because of your faith in Christ and your magnificent, comprehensive repentance from sin. Or your well-ordered lives, or your good works, or any number of things. But he doesn’t. It’s their love for the fellow saints that he draws attention to. There’s nothing like the love of the saints.

My favorite part about our church is you guys. It’s not the building. Look at these lights. It’s not the building. Am I the only one? People do seem to care about each other here.

And that’s been the way it’s been for a while. So you can’t fake it. You can’t half-bake it. For the Spirit of the Lord is the devil can’t take it. I will stop rhyming now. It’s a real thing.

It’s a precious treasure and something that we should be cultivating. So that does not mean, obviously, that Christians can’t and don’t drive each other insane sometimes. Some of my best friends drive me the craziest. So usually it’s a sin issue or sin issues. Or sometimes it’s a personality conflict. It’s usually a complete waste of emotional energy.

But just make sure that if some other Christian is kind of giving you a heartburn, that it’s, where is it coming from? Is it coming because you have a love for the saints? You have a love for God’s church?

So whatever they’re doing or saying is harming the Bride of Christ. Make sure it’s not your own bitterness or covetousness or selfish ambition. But make sure it’s coming out of the place of love. So next, what is the root of this faith and this love? It’s the hope of heaven. Or in other words, it’s the gospel.

Paul says he always thanks God for them for their faith and their love. Verse 5, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this, your hope in heaven, of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel. So the fuel for their love is this hope laid up in heaven, which Paul calls the word of truth or the gospel. So what is the gospel? So if you’ve attended a membership class or you’ve been hanging out here any length of time, you know I spend an inordinate amount of time defining terms.

And that’s because it’s obviously important. It might be the most important word that we have. It’s always in danger of being misused or diluted. As D.A. Carson said, one generation believes the gospel, the next generation assumes the gospel, the next generation denies the gospel. Don’t dilute the term gospel.

So just generically and historically, the gospel just means good news, like the announcement of a military victory or the birth of the heir to the throne or of a wedding. So I usually distill the gospel into this. Simply put, the reigning God saves. The reigning God saves. If the world lies in darkness and God can’t or won’t do anything about it, we’re cooked. We don’t have good news.

If he can’t or won’t do anything about it, he’s not reigning. We don’t have good news. Our existence is fundamentally futile. But if God reigns and God is going to put all things right, that is objectively good news, but it might not be good news for you. What if you’re part of the darkness? What if you are God’s enemy?

For the gospel to be good news, we need an announcement that God reigns, he will destroy evil, and somehow we’re not going to get caught up in that recompense. So in our text, we have Paul telling the Colossians that they’ve heard the good news, they’ve believed the good news, and then he talks about the effect they’re believing this good news has in verses 6 and following that in verse 12. Again, he mentions the good news being their hope laid up in heaven.

So the gospel is the good news of the kingdom of the Son of God, but remember, it’s not enough for us. It’s not enough for there to be a kingdom of the Son of God. We need to not be in conflict with that kingdom. So there’s more to the good news. It’s deliverance from the domain of darkness. The kingdom of the Son and the domain of darkness are in conflict, and for the gospel to be good news to us, we need to switch sides, or the reign and rule of Jesus is going to be bad news for us.

We need to be transferred from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom. That’s exactly what Paul says is happening here. We are unqualified to be citizens in the kingdom of heaven. In verse 12, Paul says that the Father has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints. So what is the barrier? What is the problem?

Why can’t we simply be ushered into Christ’s kingdom for the hope of heaven? Well, it must be our sin, because that’s what Paul says needs to happen, starting in verse 13. He’s delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of heaven, his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. That is the gospel. Knowing that the reigning God saves is the hope laid up in heaven. God reigns.

It’s your sin that makes that a problem. So when Aaron was preaching about the final judgment, like I said, I was kind of, I was feeling, I was feeling the terror of the end of all things and having to give an account. It was kind of stressing. So the source of that terror, the source of that stress is our sin. It’s not cute. It’s not understandable.

We’re not going to have plausible deniability. It’s rebellion against our maker and our king. We need it removed for the gospel to be good news. And that’s what it is, because that’s what God does. Do not be found. Do not be found that day outside of Christ.

You need your sins forgiven. So what needs to happen? So how can this gospel of the kingdom, this hope of heaven benefit you? Well, first you need to hear about it.

Just like these Colossians, Paul says that they learned it from Epaphras, who he calls a faithful minister of Christ on their behalf. You need to hear the good news. You hear it from somebody like me, or from a friend, or from your parents, or a book, or the Bible. You need to hear it.

You don’t just need to hear it. You need to understand it. You heard the word of truth, the gospel, which bears fruit among you, verse 6, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth. So if you don’t understand it, you can’t just stop at hearing it. If you don’t understand it, you’ve got to gain that. Either talking to somebody.

I assure you, every Christian you would love to explain the gospel to you more fully. And if it sounds like a bunch of gobbledygook coming from that person, just move on to the next person because maybe they’re not very good at it. So you need to hear. You need to understand. But this understanding and the knowledge are not like a one-time thing. Like, okay, knowledge, check.

Understanding, check. I’m good. We need to grow in our knowledge. We need to grow in our understanding. We don’t just need to become Christians. We need to stay Christians and grow up in the faith.

Look at verse 9. Paul says, and so from the day we heard, and he’s already heard of their belief, their faith, their love for one another. He does not think they’re done.

From the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. So you need to hear the gospel, you need to understand the gospel, and you need to keep moving in your understanding and growth. You don’t stop. And then, in that understanding, you need to walk in it. You need to walk in it. In verse 10, he says he’s praying for them to be filled with the knowledge of God in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.

So you notice there’s like a little cycle here. You got to increase in the knowledge of God so you can bear good fruit and increase in knowledge so you can bear good fruit and increase in knowledge. So true spirituality is like this, you know, perpetual motion machine, but there are no actual perpetual motion machines. Machines need energy. So in this case, this energy is coming from God. We’re bearing fruit, we’re increasing in knowledge.

How? Verse 11, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might. So again, it’s all of God. His activity does not make us passive, it makes us active. So you need to hear, you need to understand, you need to walk in it, and then you need to have this process have its effect, namely joyful endurance and patience with gratitude. So the strengthening from God is, like he says in verse 11, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father.

But emotions are kind of tricky. Do you know, you can have wrong emotions. You can. People with real nasty attitudes, they’re having wrong emotions. Joy and gratitude are the fruit of a walk with Christ. Emotions can be wrong, but if you’re sitting there and you’re thinking like, all right, I’m gonna fess up.

I’m not a very joyful person. I’m not brimming with gratitude all day, every day, and I’m just about out of patience. So let me just offer a suggestion, if you’re like that, and everybody’s kind of like that.

So don’t look at the fruit and be like, well, I gotta get that fruit. I gotta get that fruit. Look at the root.

Look and see where it’s supposed to be coming from. So I used to pray a lot, and some of you guys probably do this all the time. You know, I would pray that God would give me peace because I’d be stressed, because I’m kind of wired to expect something’s going to go wrong. No matter what, like the worst case scenario is definitely what’s going to happen, like in my mind at all times.

And I know, I know I’m not the only person in this room like this. So I’m having an emotion. I’m having anxiety. I’m having worry, and my helpmate will lambast me every once in a while, and she would say, hey, these awful things that you keep telling yourself are going to happen, they almost never actually happen. So you are kind of like a false prophet. You’re saying this is going to happen, and it never happens, and then you keep listening to yourself for some reason, even though you’re always wrong.

What a woman! I think she got that from David Polissen or somebody. It was one of those guys, yeah, David Polissen. So what does the Bible think about false prophets? Not highly. So again, I used to pray that God would give me peace, and I think about Isaiah 26.3, wonderful verse, which says, you keep him in perfect peace whose mind has stayed on you because he trusts in you.

So I would always pray for peace. God give me peace, and I’d be like, no, no, no, I don’t feel very peaceful. I’m pretty anxious. It never really worked, and then a couple years ago, I kind of realized what was missing. This is not a promise with no conditions. This is a contingent promise.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind has stayed on you because he trusts in you. So the peace isn’t floating around like midair, like, I need some peace, I’m just gonna grab that. It’s attached to something. I don’t get the peace without having my mind stayed on God. I don’t get the peace without trusting God. So I was like, oh, I need to move my focus.

I need to trust God. That’s what I need to work on, and it’s kind of helped. So if you’re looking at this morning’s text, you’re thinking, well, I’m not joyful. I’m not grateful. I don’t have any patience. Don’t try to get the fruit without the root.

So if you don’t have that fruit, maybe you’re not being strengthened by God to grow in the knowledge of him. Maybe you’re neglecting the means of grace. Maybe you don’t have any Christian friends praying for you in this regard like Paul prayed for the Colossians. Maybe you’re not understanding as you ought. Maybe you’re understanding, but you’re quickly forgetting because you’re wasting your time on distraction and frivolity. Maybe you don’t understand because you don’t know the gospel.

Or maybe you do have basic knowledge. Maybe you’re growing in understanding. Maybe you’re seeking to be strengthened by God, and if that’s the case, keep plugging along, and you’ll be surprised at what happens over time. So you need to hear about the hope laid up in heaven. You need to understand it. You need to walk in it.

You need to let that walk have its effect. So finally, let me just mention a few more things by way of application. First, let the Bible teach you how to pray. So I’m not sure about you, but we’ve been reading through the Psalms a little bit at the beginning of services, and I was like, I don’t pray like that. Like, I’m not praying mostly like the vindication of God’s name in the world, or protection from enemies, or the triumph of God’s people. Or look at our text.

See how Paul prays. He’s praying thanksgiving for the work that God is doing in these saints. So do you pray for that? Are you brimming with gratitude for the good work you see going on in people around you? He prays for them that they may be filled with all spiritual wisdom and knowledge. He prays that they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

He prays that they would be strengthened with all power according to God’s glorious might. So is that how you guys are praying for each other, like in your small groups? Is that how you pray for your friends? Let the Bible teach you how to pray. Second, love the saints. Do not let the world cool shame you into not loving God’s church.

Yes, Christians often act like complete knuckleheads, but if you’re annoyed with the knuckleheads, let it be like a grieving parent who’s displeased with the foolish behavior of an adult child. Let it be like someone annoyed that one of their best friends who they love so much is going down a bad path. In other words, let your annoyance be from a desire for the good of God’s church, but mostly try to foster godly friendships in the church. I apologize for driving this joke into the ground that I’ve heard, but they say the greatest miracle Jesus ever pulled off, you guys know what it is? Having 12 friends in his 30s. All right, good.

Somebody… I love… I heard that. I was like, that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Get your hands dirty with people. Make sure you’re in a small group of some sort and love the saints.

It’s hard to make friends with people that you’re not hanging out with or that you don’t have a common project with all the time, so don’t neglect that stuff. So, love the saints. Third, walk in a manner pleasing to God. Let pleasing God be the standard for your life. If you don’t make pleasing God the standard for yourself and your household, you’re not going to make it. There’s way too much pressure coming at you from all angles for it to be otherwise.

That’s why you also need to love the saints. You need a crew if you want to walk in a manner pleasing to God. Fourth, make the gospel known. Make the gospel known. You were transferred to the kingdom of the Son through the help of normal people. There was nothing crazy about it.

People have some weird providential stories, maybe, but it was always people. Again, a parent, a friend, a minister, a gospel tract, a book, a bible. People gain knowledge through people.

You’re a person. You’re qualified, so pray and speak. And then finally, keep your hope in heaven. If you hope in yourself, if you hope in the world, that is a shifting foundation. Hope in heaven is the root for the fruit of everything we’ve talked about today, so make sure you are so heavenly minded that you do much earthly good.

Let’s pray.

Father in heaven, thank you for the kingdom of the Son of God. Thank you for setting him to break into the darkness and call people out to himself. Thank you for transferring us from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the beloved Son through the redemption we have in Christ, the forgiveness of our sins. I pray that you would help us grow in all knowledge and spiritual understanding. I pray that you would help us walk in a manner worthy of you. I pray that you would help us love the saints.

And Father, we pray that you would in-gather many people to yourself and that you would help us be proclaimers of the word, just like somebody did for us in the past. And I pray that you would help us see and rejoice in the fruit of that. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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