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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Prayer: The Evangelistic Key
Text:Colossians 4:2-6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Mission Work
 
Preached:10/25/2015
Added:2015-11-10
 

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
10/25/15 – a.m.
Prayer: The Evangelistic Key”
Colossians 4:2-6

There is a suction on the front door of the parsonage. When you go out through the front door, a suction of air from the storm door pulls the front door closed. That is a good thing if you have your keys with you.  But as I have discovered on more than one occasion, it is not a good thing if you don’t have your keys, especially if no one else is home and the dog looks at you through the window with a blank stare, like “What are you doing out there in the cold?”

If you have ever been locked out of your house or out of your car you know just how valuable a key is. A key is something that we can easily take for granted, or if we have a lot of keys on one key ring we may find keys to be a great nuisance. But when we come to that locked door, what a blessing it is to have the right key!

As Paul closes out this short letter to the Colossian church he reminds us that prayer is the key to evangelistic outreach. Prayer is the key to the salvation of souls. Prayer is the key to the clear proclamation of the good news of salvation through saving faith in Jesus Christ.

What is true for your car or for your house is equally true for the spread of the gospel. That’s why this paragraph in chapter 4 begins by saying, Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (v. 2).

Devotion to Prayer

Are you thankful for your own salvation? Are you thankful that you have the blessed assurance of everlasting life? Are you thankful that because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ you are spared from the agony of hell because He bore that agony for you when He was separated from His Father’s love, taking the curse of your sin and mine upon Himself at Calvary?

If you are truly thankful for your salvation then also be watchful. Look around yourself to see others who do not have that blessed assurance of salvation. Look around you and you will see a multitude of people who, unless they change, are headed to an eternity in hell instead of the glory of heaven.

At that point, – when you are truly thankful for your own salvation and clearly see the eternal consequences of those who are not saved from their sin through faith in Jesus, – it should lead you, and it should lead me, to devote ourselves to pray for their salvation.

Watch for specific people you have contact with. It could be a family member or a neighbor or friend. We all know a lot of people who are not saved from their sin. We all know a lot of people who have never put their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Focus in prayer for some of those specific people, devoting yourself to pray for their salvation.

Some of you may have heard about Robert M’Cheyne. He was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who wrote extensively and devised a system of reading through the Bible in one year, a system that is still widely used today.

What is less known about Robert M’Cheyne is that when he was a young man he had no interest in the Lord at all. His older brother, David, prayed for his younger brother Robert day by day. The prayers did not seem to be answered.

In the course of time David died, and at a young age was ushered into heaven, never knowing in this life that God would open the door to his younger brother Robert’s heart for the gospel to enter in with the saving power.

What was the key that opened the door to Robert M’Cheyne’s heart? Was it the skillful presentation of biblical facts given to him by his brother David? Was it a certain sermon that changed his life? Those things may have been used by the Holy Spirit to plant the seed for salvation,  for faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). But the key – the key – that opened the door into the heart of Robert M’Cheyne was prayer.

Prayer is crucial for the spread of the gospel. That’s why verse 2 emphasizes our need to devote ourselves to prayer. To devote yourself to something means that you make it a priority in your life. It means that you spend time – quality time – in prayer.

Some of you know that my wife is a twin. She has a twin brother, Ken. But although they are twins, Karen and Ken, the they are a world apart, indeed, an eternity apart when it comes to salvation. By God’s grace I am blessed with a wonderful Christian wife. But her twin brother is anything but Christian, even though he grew up in the same home and attended the same church.

I make no apology for being a five-point Calvinist. I make no apology for being a five-point Calvinist, not because I blindly follow John Calvin’s teaching, but because those points of biblical truth, summarized in the Canons of Dort, are spelled out for us so clearly in Scripture.

For instance, I readily agree with Romans chapter 9 that since God is sovereign He can do whatever He desires. The Lord has every right to say about those well known twins, Jacob and Esau, before either one was born, in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by Him who calls (Rebecca) was told, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” (Romans 9:11-12).

God has the sovereign right to save whomever He chooses and to pass over the gift of salvation according to His elective will. None of us deserves to be saved. Our salvation is all by God’s grace.

Yet until the day I die, and the day my wife dies, we pray for unsaved loved ones including my brother-in-law, Ken. And we do so with the confidence that prayer is the key that God uses to open the door of human hearts for the power of the gospel to bring transformation, to transform sinners into saints, into people of deep and grateful saving faith.

Before “talking the talk” with others, first talk to God in prayer. Write down the names of some specific people whom you know and commit yourself – devote yourself – to pray for their salvation.

Prayer for Clarity and an Open Door

This passage also tells us to pray that God will open a door for His message. Verse 3 has this request from Paul,  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ...

An open door is a crucial prayer request because unless God opens the door all of your words will fall on deaf ears. We have perhaps all known well meaning Christians who always speak to others about the Lord but instead of drawing them close to the Lord they drive them further and further away.

We knew a zealous Christian lady who loved to witness to others, but she didn’t wait for the Lord to open the door. Her blunt “in your face going to hell speeches” drove people away instead of being used by the Holy Spirit to bring the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.

There is a time to be quiet as well as a time to speak. And the time to speak is when God, by His providence in answer to prayer, opens the door for you to present the gospel. And when that door is open you will know it. And at that time the prayer request of verse 4 becomes very personal. Paul writes, Pray that I may proclaim it (the gospel) clearly, as I should.

That prayer request, incidentally, applies to each one of us. I am thankful that many of you tell me that you pray for me. It is a very daunting task to take the words of the immortal, Almighty, holy God and convey them in a practical, meaningful way to others. No wonder the Apostle Paul exclaimed to the Corinthians, “Who is equal to such a task?” (2 Corinthians 2:16). I appreciate that before coming out here to preach a member of the Council offers prayer for me as well for all of you.

But clarity in speaking the Word of God to others isn’t a prayer request just for ministers and missionaries. Instead it is a prayer request for each and every one of us. When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13, 14), He wasn’t speaking just to the disciples, He wasn’t speaking just to would-be missionaries and ministers.

Each and every one of us is to reach out to others with the message of the gospel. And as we do so the prayer of verse 4 becomes very personal. The apostle’s prayer in verse 4 is one that we can all relate to. When you mention “witnessing” a fear springs up in us that leads so often to silence.

But instead of being afraid to witness remember that since God opened the door you had been praying about He will use what you say concerning the essence of salvation. That essence of what we must convey to others includes:

a) Humanity’s need, namely that all of us are sinners, there is no one righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10).  Unless people see their sin they will not see their need for the only Savior Jesus Christ.

b) If we only showed people their sin our message would have no comfort. We also speak of God’s provision: God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21), for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

c) When God opens the door to witness His Word we must also clearly convey that salvation is due to God’s grace. So many people base their hope of salvation on their works instead of God’s grace through faith in Jesus. In witnessing, convey the truth of Titus 3:4-7: But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

d) Although salvation is by God’s grace it also carries God’s requirement: We must repent of our sin and believe in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Those two actions, repentance and faith, together equal conversion. That’s why Jesus said in Luke 13:3, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” And the Apostles declared in Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household.”

The Value of a Written, Personal Testimony

When God opens the door for you to witness these biblical truths to someone else it is often helpful to present these truths in your own personal testimony. In other words, how did you see your need as a sinner for the only Savior, Jesus Christ? Think of some specific, concrete ways that you have experienced God’s grace. Be willing to honestly confess areas in your life where you have repented of your sin and found forgiveness through faith in Jesus.

By sharing your own testimony with someone else you are not just saying to them, “You need to repent of your sin and believe in Jesus.” Rather, you are showing that you – along with all humanity – are a sinner, in need of Jesus’ sacrifice, offered by grace and received by faith.

The best way to prepare yourself to give a verbal testimony is to write it out. The reason to write it out is not because you will read it to the person you are witnessing to, but by writing it out you are forced to think through how God has worked in your life. By writing out your testimony you will be better equipped to put the gospel into words when God opens the door for witness.

Most of us who have grown up in the church have a testimony more like Timothy’s and less like Paul’s. In other words we may not have a dramatic “before and after” story to tell. That in itself is a testimony to God’s grace. But even for those who from infancy have known the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15), there has still been that realization that we need Jesus. Maybe for you it was when you professed your faith, or when someone close to you died and you were confronted with your own mortality and need for salvation. Or perhaps some other event took place in your life that brought you face-to-face with your need for faith in Jesus Christ. Bring that out in your written testimony.

Then reflect back on those Scriptures that tell us to commit our lives to Jesus, that tell us how Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life, -  that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Simply write out how those truths touched your life and how you responded to them.

Then, in your testimony, tell of the difference God has made in your life. Not only are you saved from sin, but in the trials of life describe how your faith in Jesus gives you strength to live day by day. Maybe you have gone through hard economic times, or issues with your health, or any number of other trials that your neighbor, co-worker, fellow student or family member whom you are witnessing to can relate to, for man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward from a fire (Job 5:7). Suffering is universal, making a contact that all humanity can identify with.

Show how your faith has strengthened you to meet those challenges and trials. Testify how your faith saves you from sin, giving you an eternity in heaven, but how it also gives you strength for the trials of life and a peace that surpasses understanding during the years here on earth before we reach heaven.

Thinking through how God has worked His grace in your life and writing it down will equip you and prepare you to be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; making the most of every opportunity.

Making the Most of Every Opportunity

Verse 5 and 6 give us a further application: Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

You will never be wise in the way you act toward outsiders  –  that is, unbelievers  –  unless you devote yourselves to prayer. It is in answer to prayer that we receive wisdom in regard to witnessing, as well as every other area of life (James 1:5).

And when we are people of prayer we will be perceptive enough to make the most of the opportunities that are put before us.  I acknowledge that I have failed on many occasions to make the most of every opportunity. But each time we see where we missed an opportunity to go forward with the gospel it gives us incentive to be more perceptive the next time, and to be more bold in witnessing the need for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

In much the same way, lips that have been devoted to prayer will also be lips full of grace, seasoned with salt, lips that give the right reply to those who ask us for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15).

* * *

If you have ever been locked out of your house or out of your car you know how crucial it is to have the key. The Lord has given us the key to open door for His message of salvation. The key is prayer. May you and I always be faithful in using that key, praying that God would open the door for us to witness the gospel to others.

May we always pray that when that door is open we would make the most of every opportunity, proclaiming the gospel clearly as we should, with conversations full of grace and seasoned with salt as we give the most important news in the entire world – the good news of salvation for sinners through faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

- bulletin outline -

 

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. – Colossians 4:2-4

“Prayer: The Evangelistic Key”
Colossians 4:2-6
 
I. Prayer is crucial for the spread of the gospel. We are to:
    1) Devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (2)
 
 
 
 
    2) Pray that God will open a door for His message (3)
 
 
 
 
     3) Pray that what is said is clear (4), through a well thought out testimony where basic biblical
         doctrine (teaching) is presented:
          a) Humanity’s need - Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10ff, 6:23a
   
 
 
          b) God’s provision - John 3:16, 14:6;  2 Corinthians 5:21
 
 
 
          c) God’s grace - Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7; Romans  6:23b
 
 
 
          d) God’s requirement: Repent and believe - Luke 13:3; Acts 16:31
 
 
 
 
II. Application: Be wise in the way you act toward unbelievers, making the most of every
     opportunity (5-6)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



* 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 10/2, Rev. Ted Gray

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