Sunday, July 2, 2017

Colossians 1:21-23 - What Jesus wants

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, IF indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” 

In West Texas there is a famous oil field known as Yates Pool.  During the great depression this field was a sheep ranch owned by a dirt-poor farmer named Yates.  

Farm life had not been kind to Mr. Yates.  He was so poor that he often had to choose between making the payment on his land or providing necessary food and clothing for his kids.

Day after day he led his sheep over those dusty West Texas hills fretting about how he might keep his family afloat.  Little did he know – under his feet was enough money to run a small country!

One day an oil exec came calling on the struggling farmer and told him ‘he might have oil on his place’ and asked for permission to drill.  When they finished drilling, one of the wells produced upwards of 125,000 barrels of oil … A DAY…and Yates owned it all.  He went from living on handouts to being a millionaire overnight.  

All those years spent in poverty - all those years of worry and struggle, not knowing the tremendous resources he had available to him.

Makes me think of a lot of people, if you want to know the truth.  People wandering through life, looking for meaning and purpose – LONGING for peace – willing to try almost ANYTHING (from alcohol to drugs - - - from illicit sex to the accumulation of wealth)… not knowing that their hearts desire is just one prayer away in Jesus Christ.  They haven’t stopped to think of all the blessings that could be theirs if they would only trust Him.

Do you ever find yourself pausing and thinking of how blessed you are??

Remember back to the time when you were lost in sin.  How you carried a load of guilt and shame without realizing the toll it was taking… the weight… the unrest.  But one day Jesus touched your heart and in faith you called out to Him to save you, and it was as if ‘a ton of bricks had been lifted off of you.’  Sin no longer separated you from God because Jesus took those sins away.  He washed you and made you His child.  Like never before, you felt the peace of God.  

At that point, you could look back and see how foolish you were for avoiding God the way you did.  But no one could have told you at the time that the things you were afraid to give up – those things you thought were so important - were nothing in comparison to the wealth of blessings available to you as a child of God.  

But THAT was only the beginning of your findings.

  • You also learned how God provides for your needs - when you trust Him and live for Him.  
  • How the Holy Spirit has taken up residence inside you, guiding you into the truth of God… speaking to your heart about what is right and wrong … helping you discover and apply God’s Word to your life… showing you how to walk in wisdom.
  • Think of the family He gave you to help you grow: a family who would teach you things, encourage you, protect you and nourish you.  The family of God is a blessing the Lord gave you because He knew you needed a place to belong… a people who would stand with you through life’s valleys and rejoice with you in life’s victories.
  • He gave you spiritual gifts so that not only could you BELONG in the family, but you now can make a meaningful contribution to its health and growth.  God knew that you wanted to be a part of something bigger than yourself, that makes an eternal impact… so He gave you talents that could be used in His work.
  • He gave you the blessing of prayer - where you can share your concerns with the Lord – so that you might place your burdens upon shoulders actually strong enough to bear them.  He encourages you to pray for wisdom, knowledge, and strength.  WHAT A BLESSING!
  • Think of the many times God made a way for you when there was no way.  The protection He has provided.  The times he prevented a problem or crisis or a threat you didn’t even know about.  The times He has healed you of your sicknesses and opened doors of opportunity for you.
  • Think of how LOVE now fills your heart where once there was anger, bitterness, and loneliness.  How He is helping you forgive those who have hurt you.  
  • God has given you a new song, where once there was brokenness there is NOW joy unspeakable and full of glory!

We could spend days praising God for all that He has done for us.

The psalmist asked, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me??”  

What should we DO - what is the appropriate response in light of all His blessings?  Paul gives us the answer in this text.

In light of all the many ways God has blessed us, there are a couple of things He wants from us...

1.  FIRST - Jesus wants your fellowship.  Paul says, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”  

We were ONCE alienated

That means “excluded, locked out of the blessings of God’s people”

because of our sin – but the Lord loved us so much that He gave His all… so that WE might be reconciled.  He wants our fellowship.

No matter how many times I hear it - that does something to me, folks.  To think that God wanted my fellowship so much that He would stop at nothing to reconcile me – even if it meant watching His ONLY Son - His PERFECT Son die on a cruel cross.  God wants our fellowship… He wants us reconciled to Him!

Not one time does the Bible EVER say that God needs to be reconciled to US.  God doesn’t need to be reconciled because He never left!!  The hostility was on OUR part.  God’s hands are always outstretched to us in love and always HAVE been.  WE are the ones who walked away!

The best illustration of this truth is seen in the story of the prodigal son.  It's one of my favorites.

YOU remember the story??  His wallet full from his inheritance, he heads out on his own to make his mark in the far country.  He couldn’t get away fast enough.  For you see, the day before, he had callously confronted his father… demanding his inheritance.  That’s right, practically speaking, he wished his father would hurry up and die so he could get what he had coming to him.  

Young people can be so headstrong… so short-sighted, and often fail to realize what their actions communicate - how their words WOUND their parents.  In selfishness he insulted his dad and separated from his family.

The old man must have been devastated over his son’s words.  He knew better than to reason with him.  The father would have been perfectly justified had he cut his son off and kicked him out.  Instead, he opened his safe & counted out 1/3 of his wealth and handed it to his thankless child.

As great as that inheritance may have been, like grains of sand running quickly through an hourglass, the boy saw all that wealth melt away.  Hungry, friendless, and penniless, he went from farm to farm in search of work.  

He soon discovered what the far country was really like. Instead of FREEDOM - there was only bondage.  Instead of FRIENDS & FUN - in the far country nobody cared if he lived or died.  His self-respect long gone, his hunger gnawed at him until he flung himself down beside the hogs to get his share of the slop.  Hopeless & lost – sin had all but destroyed him.  

Thankfully, the story doesn't end there.  Soon he began thinking of home.  

The Bible says, “He came to himself.” He remembered his loving father, whose servants had it so much better than he… how even the lowest of his hired hands had good food, clean clothes, and a warm bed.  And here HE was, unwanted, unloved, and dying of hunger.

“He came to himself.”  

He decided he would go back home.  He would confess his sin to his Father… he would volunteer for the worst job on the farm IF only his father would take him back.  He had no hopes of being a SON again - “but if only a servant, THAT would be enough.”  He picked himself up out of the hog-wallow, and headed back down the same road that had led him AWAY from his father.

It was a long road home, let me tell ya.  With every mile came some memory of the pain he had caused… the shame his sin had brought upon his family….what people would say and how his father would react.  

He had left with such big dreams …he returned bankrupt and broken.  

After all he had done, his greatest fear was rejection.  His father would have been perfectly justified in slamming the door in his face.  

Boy -- was that road long!

But what was THIS?  A figure appeared… and it was running… calling his name.  It couldn’t be?!?!  It WAS!  It was his father running to him!!  It wasn’t condemnation he found… but compassion.  His father fell on his neck, kissed him, and welcomed him home.  He called for the royal robe and the family signet ring… the fattened calf to be killed and musicians secured.  

Much to his surprise, from the day he had left, his father never quit watching down that road… never closed his heart… never gave up.

No, God doesn’t need to be reconciled to US.  It is US who need to be reconciled to God.  WE are the ones who have gone to the far country.  And yet, God, in His GREAT grace and mercy, still desires our fellowship.  

This God Who sees everything and remembers all – desired “to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”  

There was only ONE WAY that could be done, according to Paul … through ‘the blood of his cross.’

God wants your fellowship, friend.  But your sin prevents it.  As Isaiah the prophet said, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not short that it cannot save, neither His ear heavy that it cannot hear; BUT your sin has separated you from God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.

There is only one answer for sin – and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  

But just like that prodigal, you have to ‘come to yourself.’  You have to realize that the far country cannot give you what you are looking for.  You have to walk that long road of repentance.  And when you do... the Father will receive you.

2.  But not only does Jesus want your fellowship, He wants your faithfulness.  Paul says in v. 23, “IF indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard…”  

Hear what he said:  We HAVE fellowship with Him IF we continue in faith, IF we do not move away from the hope of the Gospel.  

There is a condition here - and that condition is faithfulness!

A lot of churchgoers are not “stable and steadfast” today.  They will search for the Lord when their world falls apart… at those moments they want the blessings and the help of God more than anything.  But as soon as their circumstances change, they are out the door.  They are not “stable and steadfast.”

Others will start out living for the Lord, but at the first sign of TROUBLE they are out the door.  They are not “stable and steadfast.”

Some fully intend to live for Jesus, but then they are exposed to a different set of friends, their fleshly desires overwhelm their desire to follow Jesus, and they fall away.  They are not stable and steadfast.

There comes a time when we must settle it once and for all… like Joshua, who said, “as for me and MY house, we will serve the Lord!”  God is never pleased with a divided heart and divided loyalty.  He demands faithfulness.

Evangelist, Vance Havner, once preached a powerful sermon on the need for faithfulness and made this important point…

“God is faithful, and He expects His people to be faithful.  God’s Word speaks of faithful servants, faithful in a few things, faithful in the least, faithful in the Lord, faithful ministers.  And all points to that day when He will say, “Well done thou good and FAITHFUL servant.”

He continued…

“What horrible times we have in our churches trying to keep people faithful in attendance and loyalty.  How we have to use rewards, picnics, and coax and tantalize church members into doing things they should WANT to do if they really loved God!  When will we ever learn that true faith shows up in faithfulness!”

Are you faithful?  Have you settled it in your heart that you are going to live for Jesus, follow Him, serve Him, learn and grow… no MATTER what happens or what others do??  Understand… GREAT are the promises God has made to us… AWESOME are the blessings He will bestow… BUT, we must “continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and … not be moved away from the hope of the Gospel…”

I am so blessed.  When I look back over my life, I am amazed at the grace, mercy, and faithfulness of God!  I am filled with thanks for all He has done.  You can’t put a price on His goodness… Amen??

And in light of all He has done, the very LEAST I can do is fellowship with Him and be faithful to Him.  What a small thing to ask in view of how good God has been to me!

How about you today?  Have you been faithful?  Are you walking with the Lord in fellowship?

Or maybe you have taken His blessings for granted, and today you want to be reconciled to God.

Today, if YOU need to settle some things with the Lord, we invite you make that commitment right NOW.