May 5, 2019
Colossians 4 – New Identity, Deep Roots – Part 14
As they say, the 5th time’s the charm. It took us 5 weeks but we finally finished Colossians 3 before we took a break for Easter. Obviously we had Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter morning. Then last week Ken Mannele brought the message while I was away. But now for the next couple of weeks we’re back to the book of Colossians to wrap it up. You probably thought we never would get there or wondered how we could take so much time in such a short little book-but God has a lot to say and as we begin the last chapter there’s much He’s going to tell us. So open your Bibles to Col 4.
Now there’s a trend in most of Paul’s letters-as you might recall he’s the guy who wrote Colossians-sending this to the house church that met in the town of Colosse. But in most of Paul’s letters the first half is more theological and the second half tends to be more applicational. That’s definitely the case in Colossians. Chapter 3 where we spent so much time is that turning point from theology to application. It’s asking the question-because of who you are in Christ-the theology from chapters 1-2, how should you now live? How is your life actually impacted by what you believe? And so we studied the godly characteristics that ought to describe our lives-being patient and kind, bearing with others, forgiving others, putting on love which binds everything together. Then we looked at how our marriages ought to be impacted by who we are in Christ. How should husband and wife truly interact with each other in forming a godly household? Then we looked at how our work is impacted by who we are in Christ-what kind of employer or employee ought we be. Now today we’ll be talking about our mouths, our speech. As a follower of Christ, what you say, and specifically how you say it, matters a great deal.
So to get us started I want to ask, would you consider yourself more an introvert or an extrovert? Are you more outgoing and talkative, hanging out in large groups, or are you more quiet and reserved preferring a small group? I want us to take a little quiz, in fact, it’s called the Quiet Quiz and it’s taken from Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. What a great subtitle! But you’ll see a paper numbered 1-10 and I want you to answer each of these questions with True or False.
1. I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.
2. People tell me that I’m a good listener.
3. I enjoy solitude and alone-time.
4. I enjoy work that allows me to “dive in” with few interruptions.
5. I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members as opposed to a big party.
6. People describe me as “soft-spoken” or “mellow.”
7. I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it’s finished.
8. I tend to think before I speak.
9. I often let calls go through to voice-mail.
10. If I had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with nothing to do compared to one with lots of things scheduled.
Now very quickly add up the number of True’s and the number of False’s you have, which one do you have more of? If you flip that sheet over you’ll see that if you have mostly True you tend to be an introvert-read statement; mostly False you tend to be an extrovert-read statement. And if it’s an even split you’re an ambivert (sounds like some kind of strange animal at the zoo!)-read statement. So how many extroverts? How many introverts? Ambiverts? Why is this important? Obviously, it helps you identify your personality traits a bit more-how you tend to act in social settings, whether you’re someone who draws energy from being with people or tend to feel drained by being with people. The author says, “Too many people live lives that don’t suit them—introverts trying to maintain frantic social schedules, or extroverts forcing themselves to do jobs that require them to sit in front of their computers for hours at a stretch. When people spend too much time battling their own nature, they end up depleting themselves.” And maybe you’ve felt that way before. It’s important to understand how we’re wired and what our limitations are because this issue of being an introvert or extrovert is very relevant to our passage in Col 4. In a sense, we’re talking about talking this morning.
Look at v. 2-4. Paul is asking the church to pray for him to have opportunities to speak about Jesus. He wants open doors to declare and proclaim the mystery of Christ. Paul passionately desires to share the gospel with people-saying this is how I ought to speak-no excuses. And when you read these verses you might say, as I often do too-That’s great for Paul because he was a strong extrovert, he wasn’t afraid of people, speaking up didn’t bother him, of course he wants to proclaim the gospel, let him shout it from the rooftops. But that’s not me, I’m no Paul, I’m no Billy Graham, I’m an introvert, I’m an ambivert-not an extrovert. Someone else can do the speaking up, I’ll just serve God behind the scenes and stay quiet. Maybe you’ve talked yourself out of sharing the gospel because you’re not very outgoing. Or maybe you think someone else can do the speaking because you don’t know what to say. Or you’ve made excuses because you’re quiet and get all tongue-tied when you try to speak. Unless you’re an extrovert extraordinaire it’s really easy to talk yourself out of sharing the gospel, saying it’s not your spiritual gift-it’s for someone else. But here’s what’s so fascinating about this passage-look at the transition. Paul goes from talking about himself-v. 4-to then addressing you and me-v. 5-6. These verses aren’t just speaking to the extroverts in the church, they’re speaking to all of us-introverts included. Paul isn’t saying try to talk with people, he’s saying when you talk with people here’s how you should speak. These verses relate to all of us regardless of our spiritual gifts or personalities. Introverts don’t get a free pass and extroverts don’t get a gold star. So here’s the heart of what this passage is all about-Pt1:What? God wants to use your words, staying silent isn’t an option.
Notice how these verses didn’t specify where you have to speak; they’re not saying that you have to stand up and speak in front of a large group of people, the verses aren’t saying to talk with every random stranger you meet. I think for a lot of us, our idea of sharing the gospel is going door to door with a tract in your hand or instantly striking up a conversation with the person next to you on an airplane. And if that happens-great. But the verses aren’t dictating the type of situation in which to speak, they’re simply saying what to do which is speak. So that means, whether as extrovert who loves to talk with anybody and everybody you meet, or as an introvert who likes more intimate one-on-one conversations, your words will be used by God. It could be someone you just met or a friend you’ve had for years. The point is that God wants to use your words no matter how you’re wired. Your personality type isn’t an excuse. Extroverts have the ability to strike up conversations with whoever and introverts have the ability for deep meaningful conversation with someone they really know-and both are important.
I don’t know about you, but speaking up for Christ is one of the tasks we make the most excuses for. Lord, I can’t. I don’t know what to say, I’m too scared, too embarrassed, too intimidated. And yet God’s heard it all before. Remember Moses? Look at God’s call in his life-Ex 3:9-10 NIV. God had selected Moses, a bummed out 80 yr. old shepherd living in the middle of nowhere-this is a huge privilege for him, God wants to use him in an incredible way-but look at his excuses? Ex 4:10. Moses is saying-Forget that opportunity, Lord, I’ve got nothing! I just stutter and speak a bunch of jibberish -blah, blah, blah. I have no ability to speak on your behalf. Now you and I know how the story turns out. We know that Moses was the guy who talked to Pharaoh in Egypt, he talked with God on Mt. Sinai, he instructed all the Israelites, leading them through the wilderness and serving as their judge. We know from the story that Moses did all sorts of speaking and leading. When we read this excuse we think he’s just being completely foolish. C’mon, Moses-don’t be silly. God knows that you can speak just fine, quit him-hawing around and get on with it. We see right through his excuses. So why in the world do we often make the very same excuses to God? Don’t you hear yourself in Moses’ words? I do. Lord, I don’t know what to say, I’ll probably sound stupid or fumble over my words so I just won’t say anything. Like Moses, we figure there’s someone out there who can speak better, say it a whole lot more effectively than we can. Remember what he said to God-Get my brother, Aaron. He’s the speaker in our family, Lord, not me Get him to do the talking. And that may be true-Aaron may have been a better speaker than Moses. The problem is that God didn’t call Aaron, he called Moses. And it’s the same for us. God didn’t call this person, He didn’t call that person, He’s called you-Col 4:6. And we make the excuse saying-But I don’t have any answers, I can’t explain the gospel effectively. But God isn’t after effectiveness, He’s after willingness. His answer to you and me is the very same answer He gave Moses-Ex 4:11-12. God wants to use your words, staying silent isn’t an option. He’s commanded each one of His followers to be salt and light, to seek opportunities, to speak with grace, to share the answer, which is Christ. Just as He formed your mouth, so He will form your words. He will give you what to say, you simply need to trust in Him that He will. In the NT, Jesus said this is what the Holy Spirit’s come to do-Luke 12:11-12. Notice that it’s not an ability issue, it’s a trust issue; believing that the Spirit will bring to mind the words He’s leading you to say. It’s committing yourself to that truth-Okay, Lord, speak through me to our world that desperately needs to hear from you. It’s a privilege and a responsibility.
And the passage goes on to tell us when-back to v. 5. Paul is basically rewording what he said in v. 3-that God may open a door for the word. That as we make the best use of the time God will open up those doors. So it’s talking about opportunities to speak-and this really challenges me. Am I looking for opportunities? Am I praying to make the best use of the time? Too often I think about how there was a good chance to talk about Christ after the fact. Bummer, I should have said something to that person. God put it on my heart and I just brushed it aside. Or in the moment with whatever I’m doing I’m too worried about my comfort and my concerns and accomplishing my plans so that talking about the gospel isn’t even on my radar. But this verse is directed towards our mindset; to be thinking ahead of time how to use the time wisely and make the most of every opportunity. These commands are really straightforward, but we have to think about what it looks like in our daily lives. So Pt2:When? Speaking about Christ at work, family gatherings, community/sports activities, friends/neighbors coming over, etc. These are the kind of things the verse is talking about. Too often we overlook these things and think that open doors are when someone randomly comes up to us and asks about Jesus. Now that’s great when it does-but it rarely happens. When was the last time someone asked you out of the blue how to know Jesus? Probably not recently! These things happen all the time. These are the opportunities to make the most of, times when you’re already with people. Don’t think about your family reunion as drudgery, or as something to endure or try hard to get out of (as a lot of people do). Pray that you would have a chance to speak about Christ. Maybe you have a friend coming over for coffee or you’re meeting someone for breakfast, instead of just talking about kids and the whether and sports, pray that God would help you steer the conversation in a spiritual direction. Maybe you have lunch with the same co-worker everyday but you’ve always been too timid to talk about your faith. Pray that God would help you wisely use that lunch hour to start saying something. How can you make the best use of the time? I’m sure you can instantly think of people and opportunities that God has put on your heart. Don’t talk yourself out of them but let the Spirit lead you. I’ve lived with plenty of regrets in not making the most of the time, in not speaking up and keeping my mouth shut, in saying there’s always next time. But these verses say don’t.
And look at how we’re commanded to speak-v. 6. Two vivid descriptions-always gracious and seasoned with salt. And of course salt is what adds flavor to food, salt is what makes it edible. Our words are edible, our words can heard by others and internalized when they’re gracious and seasoned with salt-not when they’re harsh and mean and blunt. Have you ever caught yourself saying to someone-Now I want you to take what I’m about to say with the grain of salt. And what you mean by that is-what I’m going to say to you isn’t nice and basically mean so get ready for it. But when you do that your words fall on deaf ears because the person is immediately defensive and most likely offended. Instead we’re called to season our words and fill them with grace. Look at Eph 4:29. It’s nearly the same command. And what would happen if that was true of your words? How would your conversations with people change if your goal was to build others up and give them grace by what you say? And notice back in Col that important word always. Paul isn’t saying to sometimes speak with grace, or to speak kindly when it’s someone you like or you’re not too mad at them. He’s saying that our speech, our words, our tone of voice should always be gracious and seasoned with salt. So Pt3:How? Removing the gossip, bitterness, negativity and tearing down of others. That’s what grace is all about-eliminating things like that which tend to fill our speech. I like what Warren Wiersbe said-Commentary Vol 2, 148. And how often have you found yourself speaking like a judge or prosecuting attorney about someone? I can’t believe what so-and-so did, can you? I would never do such a thing.
Just think about it. How can you hope to speak about Christ one minute, and then start tearing someone down the next? We do it a lot and it doesn’t work too well. Look at James 3:10. And I won’t put any more verses from James on the screen because they’re way too convicting! But he’s saying there must not be a double-standard in your speech. When it says to speak graciously it means that your words should be a blessing to people, a refreshment to hear; to be encouraging and gentle, loving and thoughtful. Even when you have to say something hard to somebody, it can be done sensitively and graciously. The very word, grace, means undeserving-so Paul is saying to bless someone with your words even if they don’t deserve it-yet how often do we speak the opposite? We tear people down, we speak rudely and harshly to others. Back to Pt3. But what happens when we don’t remove those things and let them control us? Ask yourself-How often are your words controlled by negativity? Maybe you’re known as a negative person. But it’s so easy to point out faults and mistakes in other people, to nit-pick at someone and highlight all their failures and problems. And that’s because we all have them. We could tear down every person who’s ever lived-except Jesus-because we all have things that aren’t good, we all have faults and failures. But when our speech is controlled by grace-everything changes. The book of Proverbs talks about this constantly. Here’s a few-Prov 10:11; 10:32; 11:9a NIV, 11:12 ESV; 13:3 ESV; 15:4 NIV. What you say matters. Are your words like a tree of life-or are you crushing people by what you say? Do your words enhance people, like salt enhances a meal? Do people walk away from conversations blessed and built up from having spoken with you? Are they seeing Christ through what you say? Or do your words wear people down? Do you unload all your complaints and frustrations to others? Are you always speaking negatively and tearing people apart? That’s not how God wants to use your mouth. He’s given you an instrument, a tool, to be used as an incredible blessing to others. Refrain from using your mouth as a weapon. Take a look at one last verse in-Prov 16:23-24. What a vivid description of the effect your words can have on others. I’m honestly picturing a bowl of Honeycombs cereal! Would that be true of you? Are your words sweet to the soul and healing to the bones? John Calvin says-Everything you say that does not edify is tasteless. How true! Are you filling your speech with tasteless words that don’t profit anybody? God wants your words to be flavored with grace, seasoned with salt so that…and here’s the purpose this is driving towards-v. 6b.
Knowing how to answer everyone means pointing people to The Answer, which is Christ. That’s Pt4:Why? Pointing people to The Answer-which is Jesus. This passage is commanding our words to be gracious because we need to point people to the One who is grace, the One who’s grace we all desperately need, which is Christ our Savior. Are your words pointing people to Him? Are you saying to people-Look, my life is different because of Jesus. I was going my own way, trying to find my fulfillment in the fleeting things of this world, living to make myself happy, when Christ grabbed hold of me and showed me the joy and forgiveness and fulfillment that are only found in Him. People are hurting, people are searching, even though we all work really, really hard at putting up these facades that everything is going great and we’re doing fine, we’re actually empty and hollow inside, unsatisfied with life, filled with disappointments and unfulfilled dreams, we’re all looking for meaning and purpose-and the answer is Christ. I love how the verse uses that word, answer, because if we’re honest that’s what the entire human race is chasing. We ask the questions-What’s the point? Why am I here? What’s my purpose? What am I supposed to do? Why the hunger and longing in my heart? What’s it all for? Everyone has those questions-but if you’re a believer you have the answer-which is Christ. It’s like the lyrics of the song we sang-I’ve tried more of me and I’ve come up dry, trading you for things that go away. My happiness is found in less of me and more of you. I have found the answer is to love you and be loved by you alone. The grace, the forgiveness, the new life we have from Jesus changes everything. He’s what we’re all looking for, what our souls are longing for. And in our study of Colossians we’ve seen that over and over. Flip back to 1:27-28b; 2:2b-3; 4:3-4. Did you catch that each time Paul said it’s a mystery, meaning that people don’t know what they’re looking for, they’re not sure where to turn or what to find, but he’s saying that now his purpose-and ours-is to reveal that mystery, to make it clear, to communicate and share the answer people need to hear-which is Christ, our Savior and King. Now that doesn’t mean you need to preach to people, that doesn’t mean you need to have a 4 pt sermon or gospel presentation every time you talk with someone, it simply means to share what God’s been doing in your life. It means that your mindset, your thinking, is constantly focused on Christ, asking Him-How can my words, even small little statements, point to You, the answer that people need to hear?
Maybe this morning, you’re here still searching for that answer, still wondering what your point in life is, hoping that something will satisfy the hunger in your heart and bring fulfillment. The good news is that you can stop looking, stop seeking because that something is Someone, and it’s Jesus who came and lived that perfect life on earth we’ve all failed at miserably. The amazing truth is that He did it all right-never sinned-and therefore became our perfect substitute on the Cross. He gave His life for us, for you, He died in your place, bearing your punishment so that your sins can be completely forgiven, never to be held against you. It’s remarkable! You don’t have to earn anything or prove anything to God-you just need to trust in His Son Jesus. Despite the popular idea out there, Heaven isn’t where the good people go-Heaven is where forgiven people go. And the moment you trust in His forgiveness, that future is secured for you. Chapter 3 says it so well-3:3-4. Your hope, your purpose, your joy is centered on Him and one day He’s returning so that you can dwell with Him in glory forever. We’re talking eternity here! There’s not a better hope, a better answer out there than Christ. And the fact that even after you’ve messed up, and we all have, He still doesn’t give up on you but pursues you, reaching out in His mercy and grace is incredible. If you’ve never trusted in Him as the answer to your heart, do so today. Don’t put it off. Tell the Lord you can’t save yourself and you need His grace to save you.
And if you have done that, if you’ve trusted Christ and realized that He is the answer, then don’t be silent about it. Whether you’re an extrovert who loves talking to random people or whether you’re an introvert who prefers one-on-one conversations with close friends, don’t waste the opportunities or the relationships you’ve been given. The Lord has convicted me through this passage to stop making excuses, to stop thinking there’s always next time to talk about Christ because we don’t know. You and I simply need to be faithful to what the passage is saying-which is making the best use of the time (all the times you see people), letting your speech be filled grace, seasoned with salt, so that you can point people to the answer which is Jesus. And it starts with prayer. What if you did what Paul is saying in v. 3. What if you prayed that prayer in your life this week? What if you asked God to open doors with the people you know to declare the mystery of Christ? Dare I say that’s a prayer request God will certainly answer! And this isn’t an optional bonus activity for extra-spiritual Christians. This isn’t like the advanced problems at the end of your math homework that only the really smart kids do. This is a command for all of us, for every believer. And I believe it comes down to trust. Instead of saying-No, no, no-talking about that stuff isn’t for me, let someone else do it. It’s trusting in God to guide your words, it’s trusting what God said to Moses-Hey, who made your mouth? Me. So go and I’ll be with your mouth, teaching you what to say-introvert or extrovert. It’s an incredible privilege. God wants to use your words, staying silent isn’t an option.