Working Together for Christ
September 3, 2017 Speaker: Mitchel Kirchmeyer Series: Colossians: "Look Nowhere Else! Christ Is Everything"
Scripture: Colossians 4:7–4:18
How do we work together for Christ? We do life face to face, shoulder to shoulder, on our knees, in the Scriptures, and on mission.
What factors determine whether you will enjoy your job or not? What needs to be present in your workplace to create a healthy working environment where you wake up on Monday and don’t dread going to work? What your boss is like is certainly a huge factor. If your boss is difficult to work with, doesn’t have your back, micro-manages you, and is always criticising you, then enjoying your job will be difficult. Liking the people you work with is also a big help. If you don’t get along with anyone or feel you can talk to them and have fun with them, that would reduce how much you enjoy your job. It can also be frustrating if you are working hard but you know others don’t really care. You are part of this team of people but other people do their work poorly or don’t want to work with others. Knowing your co-workers are doing their work well and you can count on them contribute to how much you enjoy doing your work. Feeling like your job has a purpose is also a factor. Does what I am doing matter? Working simply for a paycheck is possible but doesn’t make work very enjoyable.
Today we are continuing our series in the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. Paul was an early follower of Jesus and he is writing a letter to other followers of Jesus in Colossae. Throughout this letter, Paul has been showing them that Jesus is everything. If they want a relationship with God, if they want hope for the future, if they want to have a rich, full spiritual life, they need to look nowhere else because Jesus Christ is everything - he provides all of it.
Paul closes this letter in a typical way that ancient letters were closed. Paul has addressed a group of Christ followers and now he adds some personalized remarks. Sometimes the end of letters in the bible can seem like parts we can just read over or skip. There doesn’t seem to be much that is relevant for us today. But God has put these personal greetings and instructions in here for a reason. They give us a personal window into what life in the early church was like.
We started talking about factors that determine whether you will enjoy your job. In the final passage of this letter we get a glimpse into how Paul is working with others for the cause of Christ.
The big question this passage answers is: how do we work together for Christ? How do we work together for Christ?
You know how some organizations will put their values up on the wall? You see this a lot in schools. The values for Katie’s school are ready, responsible respectful. They have those values painted on the walls and they put them on t-shirts. That’s the type of environment they want to have. If Jesus were running a business or school, what would Jesus paint on the wall as the values? Jesus does run something: the church. We are the body of Christ. Jesus doesn’t run a building but a people. We are the walls he paints his values on. So what does he write as his values? How do we work together for Christ?
We will cover this passage in three sections. From those, Paul is going to give us five practices for working together for Christ.
Before we get into the passage, grab your song books and flip to the very last page. It’s number 46 and at the top it says “What is Good News Church all about.” This page shows three things. First, it lays out our mission. As a community, we are surrendering all of life to Jesus and inviting others to do the same. You could say, we are working together for Christ. But how do we do that? The second thing it shows is our community practices. How do we surrender all of life to Jesus? How do we invite others to do the same? In the middle, the answer is: by practicing these things: believing the gospel, living as family, loving as servants, going as messengers, and relying on the Spirit. Third, what will be the result? The bottom says so that as the family of God we can show and tell the good news of Jesus to every man, woman, and child.
As I was studying this passage, I started seeing our Community Practices - that middle part - in it. So as we answer our big question: how do we work together for Christ - I’ll point out how they connect with our Community Practices.
Let’s look at our first section by rereading verses 7 to 9.
Face to Face (4:7-9)
7 Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9 and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. (Colossians 4:7-9)
Here, Paul introduces the two men who carried the letter from Paul in prison in Rome to the church in Colossae. Tychicus is described as a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord. Paul obviously looks on him with affection. Then Onesimus is said to be “one of you” so he is from Colossae. He also is a faithful and beloved brother. We learn more about Onesimus in the book of Philemon. Tychicus is carrying this letter to the whole church in Colossae but he was also carrying a letter written only to Philemon. In that letter, we discover that Onesimus is actually a runaway slave. He ran away from Philemon, his master. What’s striking here is that Paul trusts both Tychicus and Onesimus to minister on Paul’s behalf. In Christ’s kingdom, Onesimus the slave has the same status as Tychicus the free man.
Paul says he has sent Tychicus and Onesimus so that they can tell the Colossians everything that has taken place with Paul. Tychicus, as the letter carrier, would also be trusted to interpret and elaborate the letter. Tychicus would be able to help them understand the truths about Jesus found in this letter as an encouragement. Tychicus can help them understand the gospel more fully. At the same time, Paul puts a high value on them knowing how he is doing and what is happening where he is. Paul has been told how they are doing and now he wants them to know how he's doing.
The big question this passage answers is: how do we work together for Christ? The first practice is: we do life face to face. We do life face to face.
There are different ways we can interact with people. One way is face to face. We sit across the table from someone and we talk with them face to face. We share how we are doing, we tell stories, we laugh, we cry. We catch up on how life has been and what has been happening. That is doing life face to face. Looking at someone, knowing them and being known by them.
This is something we all need. We all need people in our lives who really know us - who know our weaknesses, our struggles, our strengths, our stories. We need people who are journeying with us through both the joys and hardships of life. We need people with whom we share our fear, excitement, and happiness. God is relational and we were created in his image, so we are relational creatures. We need to do life with others face to face. Deep inside every person is an aching desire to be known.
That’s why one of our Community Practices is Living as Family. God is our heavenly Father and through what Jesus has done we have been adopted into his family. When we trust in Christ, we become part of a spiritual family with brothers and sisters in Christ. As God’s family, we are to reflect God’s character to one another. How should a family with God at the head of the dinner table act? One way is by doing life face to face - caring for each other, celebrating with each other, crying together, laughing together.
This has been expressed to Katie and I really well. As many of you know, Katie and I have tried to get pregnant for almost three years now and have been unable. In January we started the process to adopt. It has been a difficult journey, but through all the ups and downs we have had a family around us doing life face to face. Our journey is known by others and our hardships are empathized with. That takes a huge burden off. There are lots of marriages that fall apart when the couple goes through infertility or loss of a child because it is a weight they try to bear on their own. We don’t have to do it alone because we have a family on the journey with us.
We all have things like this in our life. We all have burdens and weights that we are carrying. The good news is you don’t have to carry them on your own. God gives us other people with whom to do life face to face. Jesus has this value painted on the wall of our life as we work together for him. He wants us to enjoy the people we work with and help each other through tough times.
The big question this passage answers is: how do we work together for Christ? The first practice is: we do life face to face. Let’s look at the second section of this passage in verses 10 through 14. Let’s reread those verses.
Shoulder to Shoulder and On Our Knees (4:10-14)
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him),11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. (Colossians 4:10-14)
After introducing the letter carriers, Paul now sends greetings from six different individuals. Each of these men show up elsewhere in the New Testament except Jesus who is called Justus. We could do a little biography for each, but I’ll leave that for you on your own time.
Paul says the first three - Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus - are all Jews. That’s what “men of the circumcision” means. And he says they are the only Jews who have joined him as fellow workers for the kingdom of God. Because of that, they have been a comfort to him.
The big question this passage answers is: how do we work together for Christ? The practice we are given here is: we do life shoulder to shoulder. We do life shoulder to shoulder.
One way we interact with people is face to face. But another way we interact with people is shoulder to shoulder. We work on projects together. We do chores together. We serve together. We clean up together. Paul was comforted knowing these other three men were working with him shoulder to shoulder. They are fellow workers with him for the kingdom of God.
When Katie and I go on vacations, we reflect on our marriage: what’s gone well over the past six months and what would we like to be better for the next six. Something we’d like to be better is how well we work as a team. We both felt the other person always prioritized their own concerns above the others. I have my projects for which I want Katie’s help and she has her projects for which she wants my help. We just wanted to get our own concerns taken care of and we wanted the other person’s help. But working as a team means we make the other person’s concerns our concerns. Instead of always asking for help, we offer our help to get their work done. It also means that when one person has a crazy busy week, we have their back and help with their chores. Doing life shoulder to shoulder means you know you someone else has your back and that you aren’t doing this work alone.
That’s why one of our Community Practices is Loving as Servants. Jesus is our King who laid down his life for us. He humbled himself as a servant to display his love. So as we follow our King, we lay down our lives like he did. We love one another by serving each other’s needs. We put the concerns of others above our own. We serve each other and we also serve our neighborhoods and city.
There is a great camaraderie built when you know others are in the trenches with you. Paul had great comfort from these men who were in the trenches with him, working shoulder to shoulder. They weren’t coworkers who were not showing up or putting in half effort. He knew they could be counted on. When we do events like the Back to School Bash in August, we get to look around at everyone doing life shoulder to shoulder as we put on an event which would have been impossible for us to do alone.
Paul mentions three other men in verses 12 through 14, but he especially highlights Epaphras. We learned in chapter 1 that Epaphras was the one who told the people in Colossae about Jesus. He is the one who got the church there started. Here, Paul says this about him: 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. All the ways Paul describes Epaphras here have already shown up in the letter. He is struggling like an athlete in a contest in his prayers. His prayer is that they stand mature - wholeheartedly devoted to Christ. And that they would be fully assured in all the will of God - that they would experience the assurance and certainty that comes from understanding the gospel. Paul says Epaphras has worked hard for them. He is always praying for them and for those in the neighboring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis.
The big question this passage answers is: how do we work together for Christ? The third practice is: we do life on our knees. We do life on our knees.
What is the hard work and the fight Epaphras is engaged in? He has devoted himself to prayer. That’s the work he is doing. He is on his knees, praying for these believers in Colossae. He wants their devotion to Jesus to be unwavering and he wants the gospel to fill their hearts and minds. Paul showed us last week how important prayer is for the spread of the gospel. Here he shows us how important prayer is for our growth in the gospel. Praying for others is one of the most important and most commendable things we can do for others.
That’s why one of our Community Practices is Relying on the Spirit. We believe Jesus when he said “apart from me, you can do nothing.” If we are to grow as Christians, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit. If we are to see other people’s lives changed by Jesus, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit. We show our reliance on the Holy Spirit through prayer when we ask God to guide us and change us.
Doing life shoulder to shoulder means we have an others-first reflex. Doing life on our knees means we have a pray-first reflex. Both require humility. They require recognizing we aren’t at the center of the world.
The big question this passage answers is: how do we work together for Christ? The first practice is: we do life face to face. The second is: we do life shoulder to shoulder. The third is: we do life on our knees. Let’s get the fourth and fifth from the final section of this passage. Let’s reread verses 15 through 18.
In the Scriptures and On Mission (4:15-18)
15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. (Colossians 4:15-18)
Paul introduced the letter carriers, then he sent greetings from people with him. Now he is going to give personal greetings and instructions of his own.
First, he wants the Colossians to greet the other believers in Laodicea on his behalf and a special greeting to Nympha and the church meeting in her house. It wasn’t too long ago we were a church meeting in Larry’s house.
Then he says something interesting. After the Colossians read their letter, they are to get it over to Laodicea so the church there can read it too. And Paul has also written a letter to the Laodiceans. And he wants the Colossians to read that as well. But if you look in our bibles, there is no letter to the Laodiceans. It’s a letter that Paul wrote which we do not have. It’s lost. So the question is: are we missing part of Scripture? If the letter to the Laodiceans was found today, should it be included in our bibles as God’s Word right alongside the letter to the Colossians? The simple answer is this: We can trust that God is powerful enough to include in our Bibles what needs to be included in Bibles so that we can know him. The letter to Laodicea wouldn’t reveal anything we need to know about God or about our salvation. Scripture is sufficient for that already.
Paul’s desire here is that these two churches learn from Paul’s letters sent to each of them. As we have seen, this letter is all about how Jesus is everything. We don’t need to look anywhere else to find hope for the future, peace with God, or wisdom for living. We don’t need to look anywhere else for spiritual fullness. It is all found in Christ. And this letter is about how to live in light of that reality in our churches, our homes, and among those who don’t share our beliefs. We can imagine the letter to Laodicea addressed similar issues. Paul doesn’t see the letter to the Colossians only applicable for them. He sees it as applicable to other Christians as well, which is why we apply it to ourselves today.
The big question this passage answers is: how do we work together for Christ? The fourth practice is: we do life in the Scriptures. We do life in the Scriptures.
The only way we can share Christ with others is if we have him ourselves. This letter to the Colossians was intended to keep them wholeheartedly devoted to Christ. Now it has been passed down to us for the same purpose. We read it and we hear about Jesus and we trust him more and live for him more.
That’s why one of our Community Practices is Believing the Gospel. In the gospel, we hear the good news about who God is and what he has done in Christ. We need to get the good news in us in order for our lives to be changed. Knowing who God is and what he has done leads us to love him. That’s how dating relationships start isn’t it? You start getting to know someone - who they are, what they stand for, what they like to do - and you starting gaining affections for them. You spend more time with them and eventually asking them on a date and the more you get to know them, the more you love them. With God, the more we get to know him - who he is, what he stands for, what he is all about - the more our affections will grow for him because we discover he is so loveable. We know God through the Scriptures - through the Bible.
Paul also sends a special message to Archippus in verse 17: 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” Who knows what the ministry Archippus received was. We aren’t given those details. But apparently there was a ministry - an assignment - he had received from the Lord Jesus. Perhaps he was being slow in fulfilling it or avoiding it. Paul uses this opportunity to spur him on.
The big question this passage answers is: how do we work together for Christ? The fifth practice is: We do life on mission. We do life on mission.
It’s really easy to get off task. Think of all the distractions we encounter in just one single day or one single hour. It is so easy to get distracted and veer off course. But Jesus has given us a task. He has given us a responsibility and mission to accomplish. That mission is to go into all the world and tell others about him. We are to tell others about who he is and what he has done in our lives. We are living testimonies that prove Jesus is who he said he is and that he can do what he said he can do.
That’s why one of our Community Practices is Going as Messengers. Jesus was sent into the world by God the Father in order to accomplish a mission. His mission was to give his life as a ransom for many. In so doing, he would be able to make peace between God and humanity so that we can have a relationship with God again. What was broken in our relationship, Jesus restores if we trust in him. Now, we are messengers of Jesus sent to tell others this good news that through Jesus, we can have our relationship with God restored.
The big question this passage answers is: how do we work together for Christ? The first practice is: we do life face to face. The second is: we do life shoulder to shoulder. The third is: we do life on our knees. Fourth: we do life in the Scriptures. Fifth: we do life on mission.
These are the values Jesus would write on the walls of his business and that he would print on t-shirts. So he writes him on us - his church. We have these spelled out in our Community Practices. In closing...
Know that Christ made the way for your relationship with God to be restored. When you trust in Christ, you become part of his family and that means you are no longer alone. You have God and you have his people. You have people to journey through life with - face to face, shoulder to shoulder, on our knees, in the Scriptures, and on mission.
And yet, so often we take a lone ranger approach. The lie we believe is that we need to figure things out on our own. We believe that needing help is a bad thing. We believe the lie that if we don’t have it all together, we better get it together before other people find out. We need to get our act cleaned up before we can really be Christians. But the truth we learn from this letter is that without Jesus, we can do nothing. True spiritual power starts with saying, “I need Jesus.” We admit that without him we are alienated from God, hostile toward him, living in darkness, and dead in our sins. But with him we have everything: hope for the future, peace with God, new life and spiritual fullness. Believe that Jesus is everything. The implication is that you can’t be a lone ranger even if you wanted to because apart from Christ you have nothing if he is everything. You need Jesus. And if you can admit that to God, you can admit that to others. There are no lone rangers in the Christian life. Not even the apostle Paul was a lone ranger. Not even Jesus was a lone ranger. A book Nik and I read together said this: we are simultaneously both needy AND needed. You are needy and so are others so you are needed.
So was there one of these that stuck out to you as a practice you need more of in your life? Which of these do you need to put into practice? Do you need more face to face time with others where you are knowing and being known? Do you need more shoulder to shoulder time, working alongside others and serving others? Do you need more time on your knees, praying for others? Do you need more time in the Scriptures, getting to know God better? Do you need more time on mission, talking with people who don’t know Jesus? One thing you can do is pick one of these and come up with one concrete step for practicing that more in your life.
When we think about our world, most people believe the same lie we believe: that we have to be lone rangers and figure out life on our own. Wouldn’t it be good news for people to hear: You don’t have to do life on your own and you were never meant to. We can invite people into a community that is openly imperfect yet love each other all the same.