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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The True Treasure of Christ
Text:Colossians 2:1-5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:03/22/2015
Added:2015-07-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 

 

 
Pastor Ted Gray
03/22/2015 – a.m.
 
“The True Treasure of Christ”
Colossians 2:1-5

I’m sure that many of you remember the letter we received last year from a church in Milan, Italy. The pastor of the church had written to us saying, “Our church is using the Directory of the United Reformed Churches of North America to pray weekly for our Federation. …This week we will be praying for the leaders and people of your church. Please, convey our warm greetings to the people.”

We put that letter into The Messenger, our monthly church magazine, so that all of you could read it and be encouraged to know that there were people in a distant nation, whom we have never met before, who are praying for us.

In a sense it is that type of encouragement that the church Colossae had when they received this letter from the apostle Paul. As we have seen previously, it is quite possible that Paul had not visited the church personally. Epaphras had visited Paul and had, in turn, been used by God to begin the church at Colossae.

But now the church received a letter from the Apostle Paul in which he tells them how he was struggling for them even though he had not met them personally. In what way did he struggle? What does he mean when he writes in verse 1, “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you...”?  He was struggling for them in prayer.  Prayer is not an easy practice. We may repeat the same words easily enough, before a meal, or after reading the Scripture, or before bed, but true prayer, from the heart, is often a struggle.

We get an indication of that in the fourth chapter, verse 12, where Paul writes: Epaphras, who is one with you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God mature and fully assured.

True prayer takes work. Paul likens it to a great struggle, to wrestling, much as Jacob wrestled with God, there on the bank of the Jabbok River, before being blessed and receiving the name Israel.

After receiving the letter from the church in Milan, Italy, I wrote back to their pastor, Rev. Ferrari, to let them know how thankful we are for their prayers for us and how we would also be praying for them. Rev. Ferrari had given some prayer requests for them in his letter, for which we pray, but how else can we struggle in prayer when praying for Christians whom we have never seen?

Our prayers should always go beyond the circle of people we see. Prayer is needed for the persecuted church around the world. Prayer is necessary for the  home mission works of our federation and other faithful federations and denominations. Prayer is certainly essential for the mission works being established by missionaries in foreign lands. After all, what the Apostle says in verse 5 about his relationship to the church at Colossae is similar to our relationship with the church universal – although absent in body from them – we are present in spirit and should uphold the church universal in our prayers.  But again, what specifics should we pray for?  How do we go about praying for those we have not seen, yet uphold in prayer?

Be Encouraged in Heart

We see from this passage that Paul’s purpose in “struggling” –praying – for the church at Colossae – and Laodicea –  is that they would, first of all, be encouraged in heart (v. 2).

That is a prayer request that is universal in scope. I trust that we all pray for one another in our congregation, as well as for Christians whom we have never met such as those in Milan, Italy or those who are part of the persecuted church. But no matter who you pray for, you can be sure that a very fitting prayer request for them is that they are encouraged in their heart.

Life is full of trouble. Man is born to trouble, Job 5:7 says, as surely as sparks fly upward from a fire. And Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Sometimes we can tell from the expression on someone’s face, or from the news that we’ve heard of circumstances in their life, that they are discouraged, that they need prayers of encouragement.

But I’m always amazed what is behind the veneer of those who seem to have everything going their way. We have all known people who seem to have not a care in the world, or a problem in their life, but then once you really get to know them you find that they too have lives of sorrow. That their lives also reflect the biblical truth, that each heart knows its own bitterness (Proverbs 14:10), and that even in laughter the heart may ache (Proverbs 14:13).

Because discouragement is so universal, prayer for the encouragement of God’s people is always appropriate. Martin Luther pointed out that the devil’s favorite tactic is discouragement. Some of you might remember that in one of his many unique dreams he dreamt that the devil was having a yard sale. The devil had the tool of lust, the tool of greed, the tools of hatred, pride, covetousness, along with many other tools, all neatly lined up and priced for a quick sale.  

But way in the back was a tool that was covered up. And a sign with large letters said, “Not for sale.”  In this dream, someone asked the devil why the tool was not for sale and what it was used for. The devil replied, “That is the tool of discouragement. I will never sell that tool. With it I can make a mighty prophet like Elijah call it quits and ask the Lord to take him home. With that tool I can take the commitment of someone bold as a lion, like Peter, and have them deny his Lord over and over and over. I can use that tool of discouragement against any and every Christian. I’m never going to sell that tool, it is one of the most valuable that I have.”

In your prayers and mine whether we are praying for people we know in our families, or congregation, or community – or whether we are praying for people in Milan, Italy, or in the persecuted church – or others we have never personally met, pray that they may be encouraged in heart; pray for the Lord’s encouragement in their life.

United in Love

A second blessing that the apostle prayed for was that the church in Colossae would be united in love (v. 2). Just as the devil loves to discourage, so also he loves to divide. He realizes that when a church is united in love it can stand strong against false doctrine, against discouragements that come from circumstances, and against all the other schemes that the evil one loves to employ against the true church.

These two prayer requests of the apostle, that the Colossians would be encouraged in heart and united in love, go hand in hand. Where do we find encouragement in our heart?  Ultimately we find it from God. As the Psalmist said, in Psalm 75:26, My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Or as Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The Holy Spirit is also called, in Scripture, the Comforter, (John 14:16, KJV), which is yet another reminder that ultimately our comfort and encouragement is from our triune God.

However, God always uses means to an end. And one of the means that he uses for encouragement is a congregation that is united in love, just as we sang in that familiar hymn,

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.

There is great truth in that hymn because it springs from a biblical principle. It springs from the biblical truth  that as God’s people we all need each other.  And when there is that proper biblical unity and love, then we are both a source of strength and an encouragement to one another.

Increased Understanding of Christ

But there is a further purpose why the apostle struggled in prayer for the Colossian church. He prayed that they would have an increased understanding of Christ. In verse 2 he writes how his purpose is that they would have the full riches of complete understanding. Or, as the ESV translates the last part of verse 2, the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ…

As we saw last week, when the apostle Paul used the word “mystery” he used it to refer to something that we would not have known if God did not reveal to us. He also used the word “mystery” to describe the unfolding clarity of God’s revelation to us. In other words, the types and shadows in the Old Testament that pointed to Christ become clear when we see their fulfillment in Christ.

The apostle is pointing out to the Colossians that he prayed that they would be encouraged in heart and united in love as they realized from God’s word the greatness of Jesus Christ. In the first chapter the apostle had given that lofty, eloquent description of the preeminence and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. He did so in part to show how vastly superior Christ is to the angels, for some of the false teachers were teaching that the Colossians should worship angels, not just Christ.

The apostle also described the greatness of Christ so that the Colossians could see that He is truly the only One through whom we are reconciled to the Father, and that only through faith in Him do we have the forgiveness of our sins and the guarantee of eternal life.

He had already given the Colossian church, – and us today through the living word of God, – that beautiful description of Jesus. And now, in verse 3, he gives a brief description that has a depth of meaning. He explains that it is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Wisdom and knowledge must go hand in hand. There are many people who have knowledge, but have no wisdom. Others believe they have wisdom, but if they do not have knowledge, their wisdom is false.

It is in Christ, and in Him alone, that all the treasures of true wisdom and true knowledge are hidden. We need the knowledge of Christ in order to be saved. The knowledge of the Bible and the doctrines that flow from it are of such great value. That is why we systematically teach and read the Bible. It is a book like no other and the value of it cannot be calculated in this life.

That is also why we teach the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Canons of Dort. Knowledge is crucial. But knowledge by itself is dangerous. 1 Corinthians 8:1 says, knowledge puffs up but love builds up.

A true knowledge of Christ, rather than puffing us up with pride, will give us a humble and joyful heart. Knowledge of our Lord, as He is revealed in the pages of Scripture, also gives us the practical wisdom to live our lives in a godly way which pleases Him. Earlier, in Colossians 1:9-10, the Apostle described his prayer for the Colossians. He wrote: …We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of (God’s) will 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.

He desired that the Colossians would not just have knowledge, but have wisdom, which is the practical application of knowledge. It is the practical application of our knowledge of Christ which, by God’s sanctifying Spirit, enables us to live a godly life. 

When verse 3 says that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ, it doesn't mean that those treasures cannot be discoverable. They are hidden treasures in the sense that we must find them, but they are clearly discoverable through the word of God. Christ is revealed in the pages of Scripture, and through our faithful study of the word of God we come to know the deep spiritual treasures of His wisdom and His knowledge.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the well known preacher from a previous generation, likened the word of God to a deep mine that can never be exhausted. The precious truths concerning Christ – whether they are found in the unique types and shadows of the Old Testament or whether they are seen in their fulfillment in the New Testament – all those precious truths are like so many gems, diamonds and rubies. The deeper you dig, the more time you study God's Word, the more you will see the greatness of our God. The more you will see the truth that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

True Treasure

But by way of application, to spend time “mining” in God's word, Christ must be the treasure in your heart. The world and all that is in it offers so much counterfeit treasure. What the world offers may gleam, and may seem especially attractive to those of you who are young. The world beckons with its own version of what is real treasure, of what is real knowledge, of what is true wisdom. But the so-called treasure of the world doesn’t contain real knowledge and true wisdom. The knowledge of the world leads to futility, and the wisdom of the world knows nothing of the true biblical wisdom of Jesus Christ.

When I was a boy in Montana I collected quite a few rocks of “fools gold” as I hiked through the foothills behind our house. They were pyrite rocks which had flecks and veins of what looked like gold going through them. But, of course, they were of no value. They looked like gold, but they weren’t the real thing. That’s exactly what the wisdom and knowledge of the world is like. It may look like the real thing at times, but it is a counterfeit. The only true treasure is found in Christ.

But to find that treasure, to truly delve into the word of God, there must be the desire in your heart for Him in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If Christ is your treasure this morning, then you will seek with all your heart to truly know Him. His Word will become of great value and will be the most important book you have.

Resisting Fine Sounding Arguments

In verse 4 the apostle goes on to tell of a further reason why he struggled for those in Colossae and Laodicea, why he prayed for Christians whom he had never met personally. He writes, I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine sounding – plausible – arguments.

As this chapter progresses we will see how the false teachers were making arguments that sounded plausible, – fine sounding, – but were in reality deceiving people, leading them away from Christ. Not much as changed over the course of 2000 years. How many arguments are waged against Christianity? Some of them are simply arguments embedded in hostility, but others are carefully crafted and presented within churches as being plausible, as the ESV puts it, or fine sounding (NIV).

At the center of those arguments is invariably the question that was posed to Eve so long ago in the garden of Eden, “Did God really say..?” The evil one always seeks to plant the seed of doubt in a believer's heart.  It is relatively easy for him to do in the heart of the discouraged person. It’s relatively easy to do in the heart of the person who is not united in love to a local congregation. And it is certainly easy to do to those who do not “mine” the Scripture the way a miner seeks out the treasures deep within the mine in which he works.

And that brings us back to the importance of prayer. What a blessing that that church in Milan, Italy prays for us! What a blessing it is for us to pray for them! We are to be prayerful, always focused on Christ, standing firm in our faith in Him.

How important it is for us to pray for each other! The prayer requests that we have here in these few verses give us such good guidance in praying for others; whether the people who we know so very well or whether it be Christians we have never met personally.

Pray that others, as well as yourself, would be encouraged in heart, united in love so that we may have the  full riches of complete understanding in order that we may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Amen.

 

- bulletin outline -

 

…Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. - Colossians 2:3
 
“The True Treasure of Christ”
Colossians 2:1-5
 
I. Paul’s purpose in “struggling” (praying, cp. 4:12) for the church at Colossae (and Laodicea) is that they would:
    1) Be encouraged in heart (2)
 
 
 
 
 
 
    2) Be united in love (2)
 
 
 
 
 
 
    3) Have increased understanding of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (2-3)
 
 
 
 
 
 
    4) Be able to resist fine sounding arguments (4)
 
 
 
 
 
 
II. Application: We are to be prayerful (1), always focused on Christ (3), standing firm in our faith in Him (5)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
03/22/2015 – a.m.
 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 03/2, Rev. Ted Gray

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