Sermon audio (preached at a midweek communion service)
Do you want to be fruitful? Do you want what comes out of you to be life and blessing? Are you sick of poison and darkness coming out? Paul tells us here how to bear fruit as believers and as churches.
Right from Genesis 1 we learn that people are meant to be fruitful trees.
Day 3 & 6 are parallel. And just as seed-bearing plants bear fruit with seed according to their kind, so Adam and Eve are told to "be fruitful and multiply" according to their kind.
But sin cuts us off from true life. Flesh gives birth to flesh (John 3:6)
What’s spread through human race has been counterfeit life:
life after Adam’s kind – it's poisonous and it doesn’t last
I was taking a funeral last week and noticed all the cut flowers on the graves. What a brilliant picture of our predicament! We've been cut off from our life source and we flourish for a little bit. But soon we rot.
I said these words at the graveside:
“15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” Ps 103:15
So how to be fruitful?? Colossians 1:6 and 10 - Paul tells us how Christians globally and individually can bear fruit.
Context of letter– v1,2,7; 4:12,18
From Paul (in prison), to Colossians in province of Asia (who he's never visited - 2:1)
But he had sent Epaphras, a fellow-Colossian, to plant the church.
Acts 19:10: [Paul was in Ephesus] for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
From a distance Paul is still confident they are, v2, holy and faithful, how?
He’s heard that the Colossians are bearing that famous trio of fruit – faith, hope & love
V4 He’s heard how they TRUST Jesus and LOVE each other.
How’s that happened? V5 Hope. Stored up in heaven. That’s the foundation.
From this hope springs faith and love. What’s the hope?
V12 inheritance of saints in kingdom of light. Father has qualified. I don’t have to qualify
That’s extraordinary: I thought we were like flowers that must wither, what’s my hope?
Gospel According to Fruit:
1:21 - we're alientated - cut off from life source (like cut flowers);
1:19 - but Christ stands on the earth full of The Life Source - connected intimately with Father
1:18 - Christians are united to Him intimately - as body to Head
2:12-13 - Christ takes our life and goes down to grave - just as our life deserves
But He bursts back out again - the firstfruits of new life
We, who are grafter into Him, take the same journey
2:9,10 – Now we, we are grafted into Him, have the fullness He has
So of course now we have hope beyond the grave - we have a certain inheritance.
Here’s gospel truth. When that goes IN, I have hope FORWARDS. Future secure in Christ
Hope means v4: faith UPWARDS and love OUTWARDS. That’s what springs from hope.
Hope <=> Faith: I’ve often asked Muslims the question, Are you certain of paradise? They say no. They’ll have to try their best and wait and see. I say, Then you don’t trust Allah to save you, do you? They trust themselves not Allah. When you don’t have a certain hope, then you don’t have a certain faith either.
Hope and Faith <=> Love: [Luther] “God doesn’t need yr good deeds, neighbour does.”
So faith, hope and love spring from the certainty of gospel promises.
Do we see how verses 4-5 work? Truth in, hope forwards, faith upwards, love outwards
THAT is the gospel bearing fruit – v6. It’s a life-giving thing. It reproduces itself.
Gospel seed goes into hearts, produces trees with fruit after its kind.
That fruit produces seeds which produce more trees like it. Exponential explosive fruitfulness
V6: “All over the world” and “among you”, There's a global gospel revolution AND it’s in Colosse too!
Same with us - the same gospel that's sweeping through China is changing us. We are all from the same stock. Exciting!
But how do we grow? Understanding!
God’s grace needs to be understood (v6) in all its truth. It needs to be (v7) learned
What needs understanding? v5 “word of truth”, “gospel”, v6“God’s grace”
Want fruitfulness? Want life? Get truth – Gospel truth. Get it INTO you, like seed.
3:16 – word of Christ (not morality); dwell richly (not comprehension); in community; in singing.
And back in 1:9 here’s a crucial ingredient: Prayer!
Prayer is huge in Colossians.
Because if true life is connection with our living Head then prayer is voicing that connection.
I’ll tell you why we don’t pray: We think life grinds along according to impersonal forces.
But actually life is Jesus – and we’re vitally connected to Him. So pray!
Because the universe doesn’t run according to principles, it runs according to prayer
PRAYER: 1:3,9-13; 2:1 3:1,2,17; 4:2,3,4,12,13
What do we pray for? If you’ve been following Paul’s argument you won’t be surprised.
V9: “knowledge”, “wisdom”, “understanding”
Note the virtuous circle: v10: knowledge => fruit => knowledge
What kind of Christians does that produce?
V11-12: Christians who exhibit Patient endurance ó Joyful gratitude
Naturally the world only produces one or the other – either endurers or rejoicers
The gospel produces enduring rejoicers. Because we look to our certain inheritance.
V12: give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
V13-14: Paul brings it all back to this gospel truth.
We’ve heard the Gospel according to Fruit – now we have the Gospel According to Exodus.
Rescue, redemption, going from one dominion to another kingdom. From darkness to light.
Exodus language. Tho look at how v12: “light” is now paralleled in v13 with “beloved Son”
Think of a kingdom infused with light, saturated with light, its atmosphere is light
Now replace light with Jesus, the bright radiance of Father’s glory, the beloved Son!
The very atmosphere of our lives IS the beloved Son! We have been drawn INTO the love that the Father has for the Son. John 17:24-26!
We have been grafted from one tree into another; delivered from one realm to another.
That’s so different to how we usually think.
We think that occasionally we have nice spiritual experiences but then drift away to the dark
No! We r NOW, once&4all IN Jesus IN WHOM we have redemption WHICH IS forgiveness
How do we think about forgiveness? Blackboard eraser or realm?
It's a realm we are IN.
U can choose 2 live against the reality of yr forgiveness but in Christ, that’s where you are.
Maybe u live against reality by indulging sin, maybe by wallowing in guilt
But truth is if you have trusted Christ ur IN HIM and HAVE forgiveness IN HIM.
Where do you look to find your forgiveness?
Don't look to yourself
Don't look to your performance (penance)
Don't look to some sign in the sky
Look to Jesus - He IS your forgiveness.
Praying for forgiveness is like praying for the grace of Jesus: it’s something we already have.
To finish: Where are we? Grafted into true Vine. Citizens of true Kingdom. AND Planted in Eastbourne.
Dual location: v2 – in Christ and in Colosse. We are in Christ and in Eastbourne.
What fruitfulness could come out of us as we abide in Christ?
As the gospel goes in, hope forwards, faith upwards, love outwards, prayer ongoing
This church, this town, this nation could be overtaken by gospel fruitfulness.
That gospel seed is powerful. And it's at work!