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The Supremacy Demonstrated: In the Marketplace (Col. 4:2-6)

Intro

Growing up, how many of you heard the warning, “Don’t talk to strangers!”? Some have argued that this is bad advice if a child is lost or injured. They have said that such advice should be qualified with, “If you get lost or are injured, find a mommy to help you.” That’s good advice too, but I think as a general rule, everyone would agree that “Don’t talk to strangers” is right and good for children. In fact, on many police web pages, there is a kid’s section. For example, in a certain Michigan township, here was the advice on their police web page for kids[1]:

DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS

  • Know who a stranger is: A stranger is anyone you don’t know.
  • Even if a person seems nice, they still may try to trick or hurt you.
  • Never let a stranger get too close, whether he or she is in a car or walking.
  • Never take candy, a present, a ride, or anything else from a stranger.
  • Never tell a stranger your name or address.
  • Never go into dark or deserted places alone.
  • If a stranger tries to grab you, yell as loud as you can for help.
  • Have a family “Secret Code Word” and know not to go with anyone, for any reason, who does not use the “Secret Code Word.”

When I was reading this, it hit me that a lot of believers today treat unbelievers like kids are taught to deal with strangers. So I took this list of safety guidelines and in place of “stranger,” I replaced it with “unbeliever” and tweeked it a little bit. So now it looks like this:

 

 

DON’T TALK TO UNBELIEVERS

  • Know who an unbeliever is: An unbeliever is anyone you don’t know in Christian circles.
  • Even if an unbeliever seems nice, they still may try to trick or hurt you.
  • Never let an unbeliever get too close, whether he or she is in a car or walking.
  • Never take candy, a present, a ride, or anything else from an unbeliever.
  • Never tell an unbeliever your name or address.
  • Never go where unbelievers are.
  • If an unbeliever tries to talk to you, yell as loud as you can for help.
  • Have a Christian “Secret Code Word” and know not to go with anyone, for any reason, who does not use the “Secret Code Word.”

This is humorous, but it is a sad reality. As believers in Jesus Christ, we often find ourselves in two extremes. Either we run away from all unbelievers or we run with all unbelievers, never sharing our faith.

So far Paul talked about demonstrating the Supremacy in your identity, your personal purity, your relationships, in your church, in your home and in your workplace. As Paul is winding down with his letter to the Colossians, he encourages believers not to forget to demonstrate the Supremacy to those who do not know the gospel, in other words, in the marketplace.

Remember one of the last commands given from our Lord was to “go,”[2] not to “sit.” We were commanded to make disciples. Once you become a follower of Christ, this becomes one of your primary burdens. We start to ask ourselves, What about my brother? And what about my dad? How can I reach my cousins and my best friend? And those of us who know the Lord today probably have people close to our heart we wished knew the Lord. Yet sometimes we are paralyzed with fear, sometimes with indifference, sometimes with self-doubt and lack of confidence, sometimes with a combination of all of them when it comes to actually doing something about it. We find ourselves asking, How do I share? What do I share? and How much is too much? and When should I hit the accelerator and go for it and when should I ease up on the gas and put on the brakes? This is what we want to look at today. I want to talk to you about “The Supremacy Demonstrated: In the Marketplace.” How can believers best demonstrate the fact that Jesus is #1, totally supreme and sufficient and able to subdue every area of their lives in regard to those who do not know the gospel?

Let’s start with this simple thought:

I. Talking to God about them (Col. 4:2-4)

Paul ends his letter just like he started: talking about prayer! In Ch 1:3-12 and 2:1-3, we can see that Paul practiced prayer and prescribed it as well. He is not ashamed to ask for prayer support and if this great Apostle felt the need for prayer support, how much more do we need it! If you want power in your witnessing, you better first be connected to the power source. In verse two, he tells us how to pray and then in verses three and four, he tells what to pray.

a)    How to pray (Col. 4:2)

Paul gives us three qualities of a vital prayer life.

1.     Pray persistently

Notice the first thing Paul says: “Continue steadfastly.” Other translations say, “Devote yourselves.”  This word means to “be courageously persistent” or to “hold fast and not let go.”[3] In other words, “Do not stop praying!” The same word is found 10x in the NT and 6x in the book of Acts![4] It characterized the early church. They devoted themselves to prayer and it is no wonder they ended up changing the world.

Most of us have ridden the prayer rollercoaster. We pray for a while for our unsaved loved ones and when we don’t see any changes, we stop. Perhaps some time later that loved one has some kind of crisis and we may start praying again. Paul here is encouraging us to continue! Don’t stop. Prayer makes us ready to receive what God has for us. Perhaps not always when we want it and how we want it, but God is ready

to pour out His blessing on us. James says you have not because you ask not.[5] Jesus says, “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find and knock and the door shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7). The tenses of those verbs mean “keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking.” Continue!

Jesus told a parable about a lady who kept bugging a judge and Luke tells us that the reason he told this parable was because “we should always pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1-8). Continue!

Paul in 1 Thessalonians said, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). The idea is not that we should walking around muttering prayers under our breath all the time. It would be really weird to have a conversation with you! It is, instead to have an attitude of prayer with everything you do. It is the posture of the heart.

This would mean acknowledging our dependence upon Him, realizing His presence within and trusting Him to help us obey Him completely. This is no substitute for having quality time with Him, but an overflow of it. But it may mean calling out short prayers all the time throughout the day and inviting the Lord into everything you are doing. Devote yourselves to prayer!

Illus: Warren Wiersbe gives an example: “A visitor at Spurgeon’s Tabernacle in London was being shown around the building by the pastor, Charles Spurgeon. “Would you like to see the powerhouse of this ministry?” Spurgeon asked, as he showed the man into a lower auditorium. “It is here that we get our power, for while I am preaching upstairs, hundreds of my people are in this room praying.” Is it any wonder that God blessed Spurgeon’s preaching of the Word?”[6]

Could we say that about the ministry here at EM? That our powerhouse is the people praying? Devote yourselves to prayer. Have you stopped praying? It is a command here that you get back on your knees and you do not quit.  It doesn’t matter how long it’s been. All that matters is that you get back up. This is true especially to those of us who have unsaved loved ones we used to pray for and we stopped since we have not seen progress. Scripture teaches us that God is always working (John 5:17) and just because we don’t see it or it is not in our timetable is no excuse to quit.

2.    Pray fervently

Notice in Col. 4:2, Paul says “being watchful in it.” The idea is alert and aware against spiritual drowsiness caused by attention to the world and the wiles of the Enemy. Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane said to his sleeping disciples, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). Peter says, “Be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

Illus: “In 1540 Luther’s great friend and assistant, Friedrich Myconius, became sick and was expected to die within a short time. On his bed he wrote a loving farewell note to Luther with a trembling hand. Luther received the letter and sent back a reply: “I command thee in the name of God to live because I still have need of thee in the work of reforming the church.… The Lord will never let me hear that thou art dead, but will-permit thee to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God.”

Those words are shocking to us, but they were certainly heartfelt. Although Myconius had already lost the ability to speak when Luther’s letter came, he recovered completely and lived six more years to survive Luther himself by two months.

There is a tension between boldness and waiting on God’s will. That tension is resolved by being persistent, yet accepting God’s answer when it finally comes.”[7]

Many of our prayers are weak, soft, sleepy and without any umph. Read the story of Abraham or Moses or David in the Psalms. They are crying out to God. They are calling out to Him to move on behalf of His people. I love Jacob at the Jabbok River, wrestling with God and saying, “I’m not letting you go unless you bless me!” (Gen. 32:26). That is fervent prayer!

May it be so at EFCC! May God raise up fervent people of prayer! If God is going to do anything here, it will be because of it. Enter the throne room of GRACE boldly! (Heb. 4:16)

3.    Pray thankfully

Look at the last part of Col. 4:2: with thanksgiving. This is the seventh time Paul has used thankfulness.[8] I have said so much regarding thanksgiving in this series. Here in context Paul says the way to persevere in prayer is thankfulness.

I know whenever I am in a rut spiritually, whenever I start cranking up the gratitude meter, God just lifts me up and gets me back in the race.

b)   What to pray

Col. 4:3-4 tells us the things we should on our prayer list regarding unbelievers. He says two things:

1.   Divine Opportunities to share the Word (Col. 4:3)

Paul asks for prayer for an opportunity to proclaim the gospel. The “us” refers to several people with Paul as he pens this letter. We will find more about them next week in Col. 4:7-18.

Notice he does not ask for prayer that for the prison door to be opened, but instead of the door for the Word to be opened! Paul is interested in the gospel being advanced than making his life more convenient. Look at Phil. 1:12-14and Phil. 4:22. Paul brought people to Christ in prison! Last week I told you about the runaway slave Onesimus, who found Paul in Rome and became a believer (Philemon 10). This was all possible because Paul had a conviction that though he was bound, the Word of God is not bound! (2 Tim. 2:9)

Most of our prayers are about convenience isn’t it? Not that we shouldn’t bring those things to the Lord in prayer, but we need to pray bigger prayers. I want to get to glory accelerating, breaking the tape and bringing some people with me!

Pray for divine opportunities! The Bible says that Jesus sets before us “an open door, which no one is able to shut!” (Rev. 3:8). This is the door I want opened before me. I do not want to try to open my own door. This will only cause damage. When I am in prayer for this, God will open doors for us and when He does, He will enable us to walk through it. When will I know if it is a divine opportunity? Well, the Spirit of God will convict us and bring it to our minds, but here are four times where God may open a door of opportunity for us to share:

  1. Following a move. Usually after a move, people are looking to build relationships.
  2. Following a divorce. People are looking for healing and a safe place.
  3. Following a crisis. Death of a loved one, injury or job layoff, people tend to think about bigger questions of life.
  4. Following a birth of a child. The physical and spiritual challenges that come with a birth are often overwhelming.

People are often receptive to the gospel during these times. They are looking for friendships, answers or just someone to walk this road with them. Pray that we will not miss these often “open doors” God opens for us!

Once the door is opened, what should go through the door? Look at the text: “…to declare the mystery of Christ.” Mystery is word Paul has used a couple of times in this letter already.[9] It is not referring to a Sherlock Holmes novel, but something hidden in the Old Testament now revealed in the New Testament; which is Jesus Christ, available to everyone who believes!

When the door is opened, give them Jesus Christ. Our prayers should say, “Lord, give me a divine opportunity where I can talk about Jesus Christ.” Talking about family, weather, sports, life, school, etc. is good and builds up relationships, but Lord, orchestrate it in a way where I can talk about the greatest thing in the world, which is Jesus Christ! You know why? Your personality as warm, witty and winsome as it is, will not win them over. Your arguments, as crafty as they may be, will not get them to Heaven. Even your testimony, as true and tender as it may be, is not enough. It is the Word! Rom. 10:17: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

This leads us to the second thing to pray for:

2.  Clarity in Communication

Paul says not only pray for divine opportunities, but when you get them, you want to be able to clearly communicate. When a good message is communicated in a bad way, more harm is done than good. Paul is asking that he would proclaim the truth boldly, yet graciously. Declare it simply, yet completely and wisely.

Illus: Spurgeon, the preacher, commented that Jesus commanded Peter to feed sheep and lambs (John 21:15-17) and not to put the food so high and unreachable to people. The Lord did not say, “Feed my giraffes.”[10]

Illus2: I love how D.T. Niles defined evangelism as “one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread!”[11] Or as one elevator operator in Nashville said,” I’m just a nobody telling everybody about somebody who can save anybody.[12] That is the simplicity of it!

We need God to empower us to speak. Let’s see, 20 minutes of my words or one second of God’s word? Which one do you think will make the difference? If you get a door to share Christ, walk right through. How can you communicate the gospel clearly? Let me suggest some ways to prepare yourself:

a)  The ABC Method. Admit you are a sinner. Don’t think you are as sinner? James 2:10 says if you break one of the 10 commandments, it is like you have broken them all. Believe that Jesus Christ has died for your sin. John 3:16(make them put their name where it says “world” and “whosoever”. Confess Him as Savior and Lord—that Lord, because you died for me, I will live for you.

b) The Roman Road. Romans 3:236:23;5:8;10:9. Make them read each verse.

c)  The Bridge Illustration. You can draw this on a napkin (see powerpoint).

If we are going to demonstrate the Supremacy of Jesus Christ in the marketplace, we need to first talk to God about them. We need to pray persistently, fervently and thankfully, asking God to make divine opportunities for us to clearly communicate the gospel.

Secondly, we need to:

II.  Talking to them about God (Col. 4:5-6)

It is good to be in prayer, but it needs to be balanced with life and testimony. You need to talk to God about them, but you also need to talk to them about God. Paul gives us two ways we can do that.

a)  By your walk (Col. 4:5)

Col. 4:5 says it is first by your walk. “Walk” is another word for lifestyle: the way you live your life. What you are gives credibility to what you say.

Illus: This story has often been told about Dr. Will H. Houghton, who pastored the Calvary Baptist Church in New York City and later served as president of Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute till his death in 1946. When Dr. Houghton became pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle in Atlanta, a man in that city hired a private detective to follow Dr. Houghton and report on his conduct. After a few weeks, the detective was able to report to the man that Dr. Houghton’s life matched his preaching. As a result, that man became a Christian. [13]

Paul says “walk in wisdom.” Don’t act as a fool. Wisdom is the ability to take the truth of God’s Word and download it into your life on Thursday afternoon at 4:30pm. More people are watching you than you think. Few people read the Bible, but many people are reading you. Are you paying your bills? Are you cheating on your taxes or next week’s Calculus test? Are you all about making money too?

Illus: Last week I talked to you about the time I was working at the Returns department of Tyndale House Publishers. One of the benefits of working there was the fact that damaged or defective books can be bought from them at a really insane discount. One day I noticed a Bible sitting near the damaged/defective area. It was black genuine leather, with a gold trim. It said “Holy Bible” on the cover. I picked it up astonished that no one claimed this. It was a really nice Bible! I even thought “I could even sell this at a really good price.”  My eyes were glowing with glee until I opened it. Every page was blank! Talk about defective! It was really more like a journal. Sometimes we are the only Bible people going to read. Our lives cannot be defective. We cannot just look good on the outside, but blank on the inside.

Paul says walk to maximize your time. Moses said, “Teach us to number our days so that we may present to you a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). Jesus said, “Night is coming when no man can work” (John 9:4). Our next breath is not ours. We can be gone in a moment or the Lord can come at any moment. Then it won’t matter what shirt I bought yesterday or the color of my IPod. What will matter is what I did with Jesus Christ for my life?

Illus: “Consider this: “If we had to buy time, would there be any difference in how we would spend it? Would the days of our lives be used more wisely?” That’s what time management consultant Antonio Herrera asked the participants in a seminar he conducted on the subject. Then Dr. Herrera became more specific. He asked, “What if you had to pay in advance $100 an hour for the time allotted to you? Would you waste it?” The answer should be obvious.

Of course, we can’t put a price tag on the minutes and hours we possess. They are given to us freely. But that doesn’t excuse us from using them conscientiously, carefully, and wisely. The giver of time is God Himself, and that places a far greater value upon it than any monetary figure could suggest. We must therefore use our time intelligently, taking advantage of opportunities it provides for us to serve the Lord and to do His will.”[14]

Illus2: There was a study which showed that we spend six months of our life waiting at a light.[15] I don’t know how they get these numbers, but it is amazing. We always talk about the fact that we have no time, but yet what would happen if we said a prayer for people or for our church at those times at the stop light or tried to recall a verse that we were memorizing? What about sitting in traffic? How many hours do we spend there that we can maximize?

b) By your words (Col. 4:6)

Paul says talk to people about God by your walk and by your words as well. We need consistency in our walk and consistency in our talk. How many of you have ever heard the quote by St. Francis of Assisi that “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” I like that quote, but often it is used as an excuse by believers never to open their mouth and actually communicate the gospel. “I’m just going to witness with my life!” they say. This is partially true. We must communicate it when we are given the opportunity. Paul says our words must have two qualities about them:

1.   Gracious

The Lord calls us to be faithful witnesses (Acts 1:8), but too often we act like prosecuting attorneys! Luke 4:22 says of Jesus that everyone marveled because of the “gracious words that were coming from his mouth.” The idea here is that our speech should be “spiritual, wholesome, fitting, kind, sensitive, purposeful, complementary, gentle, truthful, loving and thoughtful.”[16]

We do not need to be rude, obnoxious, grabbing people by the collar and stuffing the Bible down their throat in a running monologue. Paul is urging us that evangelism is a way of life, getting to know people and caring about them, praying simultaneously that you can impact them. In fact, when Jesus said “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19), He was literally saying, “As you are going about your daily life, make disciples.” It was never intended to be just an event in the spring or a rally of some sort. It was to be part of their day-to-day living.

Be gracious people! There is so little of it in this world. Remember the lady that Jesus healed with a bleeding problem? (Luke 8:43-48). After Jesus heals her, He called her “Daughter.” She was ostracized and orphaned by society due to her illness. More than the healing, Jesus spoke grace into her heart by giving her an identity. I wish we can see people as Jesus saw them!

Remember the adulterous woman who was about to get stoned in John 8:1-11? After the Lord rebuked all the stone throwers, He looked at the lady and said, “Who is there to condemn you?…Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” He gave her grace by saying, “I don’t condemn you,” but also truth by saying, “Go and sin no more.” He was full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

2.  Effective

Paul says let your words be “seasoned with salt.” There have been a lot of suggestions as to what Paul meant by this:

a)   Pure speech, without hypocrisy

b)  Wholesome, free from corruption (Eph. 4:29)

c)   Flavorful, adding charm and wit to conversation

d)  Penetrating

e)  Thirst-producing

I think the idea is that salt has an effect. Speak in such a way that it has an effect on people. I like the idea of salt producing thirst.

Illus: Have you ever had McDonalds French fries? I am not a huge fan, but if I am hungry and the choices are limited, I’ll get them. One of the distinctive characteristics about those fries is the fact that they are so salty. I do not know if they do that on purpose, but each time I order those fries, I always need a drink afterwards. I wonder if they purposely add the salt to make you thirsty and order a drink? And did you know that Coke products actually make you thirstier? We need to be like those fries! We need to create thirst to the people around us for the Water of Life!

Conclusion

The Supremacy of Jesus Christ must be demonstrated by your identity, your personal purity, your relationships, in the church, in the home, in the workplace and in the marketplace! In other words, everywhere! Paul here in Col. 4:2-6 tells us we need to first talk to God about people before we talk to people about God. Prayer makes all the difference.

Pastor Kent Hughes shares “a great story that comes from the life of Hudson Taylor. There was a mission station that was particularly blessed in the China Inland Mission, far above the others. There seemed to be no accounting for this, because others were equal in devotion and in ability. Hudson Taylor was traveling and speaking in England, and after a meeting a man came up and began to ask him about that particular station. Then he began to ask many personal questions. It turned out that the man had been the college roommate of the missionary at that station many years earlier, and he had committed himself to daily praying for the work there. Hudson Taylor said, “Then I knew the answer.”[17]

As we connect to the pipeline of God’s power, He will flood our world with the Supremacy of Jesus Christ!
—-

[1] http://hamburg.mi.us/police/strangers.html.

[2] Matt. 28:19.

[3] MacArthur, J. (1996, c1992). Colossians (177). Chicago: Moody Press.

[4] Mk. 3:9Acts 1:14;2:422:466:48:1310:7Rom. 12:12;13:6Col. 4:2.

[5] 4:2.

[6] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible Exposition Commentary.(Col 4:2-3).  Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[7]MacArthur, J.  (180).

[8] Col. 1:3:12;2:6; 3:15,16,17.

[9] Col. 1:262:2

[10] John R. W. Stott, Between Two Worlds (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), p. 128.

[11] Charles W. Colson, Life Sentence (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1979), 69.

[12]Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes (electronic ed.) (777). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[13] Wiersbe, W. W.  (Col 4:5).

[14] http://www.bible.org/illus.php?topic_id=967

[15] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (1326). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[16] MacArthur, J. (185).

[17]Hughes, R. K. (1989). Colossians and Philemon : The Supremacy of Christ. Preaching  the Word (138). Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books.

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