- One paragraph in Col. 3 describes how Christ gives us freedom from earthly values (Col. 3:5-11) putting to death anger, lying and gossip….
- Another paragraph (Col. 3:12-14) is a mini Fruit of the Spirit, godly qualities that form our character.
- The next paragraph is living for Christ (Col. 3:15-17)
- and finally a new way of thinking and behaving in personal relationships in the family and other relationships (Col. 3:18-4:1). What Paul writes about family relationships is radically different from the culture of the day in which there was a hierarchy…e.g., to tell husbands to love their wives is not the norm of the day…col. 4:1 is radical to say a Master is to care about the slave (or in our culture the closest we can get, I think, is boss and employee).
Christianity is to be shared…this scripture today is clear: we cannot force others to be Christians, but we are to be ready to share….READ Col. 4:2-6. Actively, deliberately, ready. Jesus said in Matt. 28 we are to "Go and make disciples." He said just before he ascended into heaven, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses" (Acts 1:8). The early disciples of the Lord had this word burning in their hearts, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21).
One person issued a challenge. Is it stated too strongly? I don’t think so but you be the judge: “Christianity is a converting religion. It is evangelistic. It is persuasive and expansive and missionary. It is not coercive. It does not use the sword, manipulation, or brainwashing. But it does proclaim, and persuade and plead and pray. And where this is not believed and practiced, Christianity ceases to be Christianity and starts to become another religion with another king who no longer says, "I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply." When we lose a passion to see people won over to Jesus, we lose Jesus.” (John Piper)
The Lord Jesus Christ wants us to change inwardly. But we are also to be outward focused, ready to invite others to a life of faith in Him. What I appreciate about Col. 4:2-6 is that evangelism is not a formula. It’s great to memorize awesome scriptures to lead people to Christ, but this is not about that. This scripture urges us to walk with Christ in the world looking for opportunities to share Christ. We must love people, respecting the faith choices they make, but believing Christ will make an eternal difference if they will open up their hearts to Him.
I know many people that need to accept Christ, but I am powerless. I don’t know how to reach them for Christ, but I know how to push them away. These verses give me hope, urging me to be ready, patient, aware, never giving up on wanting Christ for them… For many people it seems any effort on my part to share Christ is met with resistance, so the best I can do is pray with my eyes wide open as I love them, watch, wait….
Notice the last phrase in this scripture: “that you may know how to answer everyone.” I.e., a huge part of sharing the message of Jesus with non-Christian friends is to listen. To know how to answer means we need to be listening for the questions. It doesn’t do a lot of good to answer questions nobody is asking.
In the late 80’s Sally and I lived in S.F. Go downtown and you would likely see a person from Jews for Jesus handing out gospel pamphlets. 1000’s.… I used to wonder if it was worthwhile… Jews for Jesus used our building. One day I went to a class in how to hand out their literature. I gained great respect… the pamphlets were not the gospel. They were designed to raise questions, usually the pamphlet was a major current topic such as earthquake preparedness or the S.F. Giants, a common worry, or a confusing topic and end by talking about Christ as the ultimate answer. What was the purpose? Jews for Jesus was looking for 1 in a 1000 people that would take the pamphlet, glance at it as they were walking, a question would be come to mind, and they would turn around and talk to the person who thrust the pamphlet in their hand. The gospel message was not the pamphlet, but rather, the message was with the person who handed them the pamphlet. The beauty of it: the person on the street asks questions… “so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
I’m not proposing we hand out similar pamphlets in downtown Sumas. But I love the idea of being a Christian in the world listening for the questions. We don’t need to present the complete gospel in every conversation, but as we’re able, sprinkle thoughts, stimulate questions, be upfront that I am a person of faith and if they ever want to talk.
Let’s dig a bit deeper about how Paul instructs the people to be in the world:
An emphasis on Prayer: READ Col. 4:2. Prayer is dialogue with God/ awareness of God. As we walk in the world we are to be people of prayer. Prayer keeps us immersed in the things of God. The next two words add to the way we are to pray: be “watchful and thankful.” I.e., Pray with your eyes wide open and look for the good in the world. I am not called as a Christian to always point out everything that is wrong with people… ~~~ be thankful the good book says. Appreciate. Compliment. My theory: everyone has something good about them, something I can appreciate, something I can learn. Pray with your eyes wide open and look for the good in others. Pay attention. Paying attention means you are actively looking to influence people, and being thankful makes you into an approachable person.
Paul then says to pray for an Open Door for the Word of God to be shared. We are not to be passive, waiting till somebody happens to ask us about Jesus, Pray for opportunities… READ Col. 4:3. Maybe it is your children or grandchildren, your family, the next door neighbor… when prayer for open doors to witness of Christ is a way of life, you are far more likely to be given those opportunities, and you will be more bold in walking through the door…
God will create opportunities for the gospel to be heard in response to prayer. He will open doors for speaking. He will take down walls. When the text talks about proclaiming “the mystery of Christ” the mystery is not from our angle, but rather from those to whom you are sharing the gospel… The next verse fittingly speaks of praying for the message to be clear: READ Col. 4:4. One of my many problems is that too often I overexplain and confuse people. Too much detail. I need wisdom to KISS….
Another thing that keeps people afraid to share their faith: What if somebody asks you a question and you don’t know the answer. I had a professor speaking to future pastors who said she had 3 words we needed to learn that would enlarge the effectiveness of our ministries. The same three words will help all of you be more ready to proclaim the gospel of Christ. You are asked a question and don’t know the answer. Ready for the three words?... I DON’T KNOW.
I don’t know is a good answer. People respect it. Many folks are turned off if the preacher has every answer….
The next verse adds to the attitude of being with people who are searching. READ Col. 4:5. “Be Wise” We don’t need to rehearse a response to every possible situation. Paul says, Be wise in the way you act… do your best to be consistent in the things you say you believe because it is true that actions speak louder than words. People are watching me… they are watching our church family… Many times I hear about the Christian at the person’s workplace that acted like anything but a Christian and what a turn off that was… Be wise. Walk your talk. don’t join the edgy jokes, keep your standards, watch your mouth, have a healthy perspective on money, how you treat others, work on getting rid of gossip. I.e., the imperative back in Col. 3. Your character is the most important testimony you share with others.
“Make the most of every opportunity” simple. Be bold when the door opens
Col. 4:6 is more wisdom in how to share the gospel. READ. One person paraphrased this verse this way “Be gracious; be interesting; be sensitive.”
“Let your speech always be with grace….” One surefire way to always be gracious is to forever be amazed at your own salvation. Jesus died for me… woe to anybody who takes that truth for granted. Jesus died for me. That means I am better than nobody. I am on an equal footing with every other person on the planet. Not me or a single other person deserves the love of God. Be gracious. The world is good at smelling out arrogance.
Seasoned with salt. I.e. Be interesting. Salt brings out better taste. 30 years ago I read a chapter in a book that stuck. The title: “The Ministry of Small Talk.” Not everything out of my mouth when I go into the community is spiritual. I make no apologies. When I meet people I don’t know I ask a thousand simple everyday questions… If the things of Christ come up that’s terrific but I don’t consider it a failure if it doesn’t… wisdom, to me, means getting know people and listening…
that you may know how to answer everyone. I.e. Be sensitive. Listen for the questions. / deeper needs. A few weeks ago in the Clothesline a person in the community was there I had gotten to know. As she was talking to several of us she had a long list of things overwhelming her life. Right in the middle (sorry I cannot share it) I heard a key word. I just knew she wanted me to hear it… A week and a half later I got to pry for more details knowing she wanted to talk, she wanted somebody to listen…
For you it’s going to be different than me. God uses my personality and my gifts to make a difference to some people. He will use you, in his way, in keeping with your opportunities and personalities.
The Lord Jesus Christ wants his message of salvation to go to the world. He will use those of us who are willing to bring the good news of a transformed life to those that are searching. Pray with your eyes wide open looking for the good in others. Doors of opportunity will open for you to bring clarity and understanding. Be simple. You’ll gain respect if you’re willing to say I don’t know. Walk the talk that you are inviting others to accept. Always be ready. Be gracious. Be interesting. Be sensitive. As the Lord has changed your life, may your desire be to see others give their heart to Jesus Christ.