Sermon – Life on the Clock: Two Church Priorities for the Time We’ve Got Left (Colossians 4:2 – 4:18) – Cornerstone Church Kingston
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Sermon 16 of 16

Life on the Clock: Two Church Priorities for the Time We've Got Left

Tom Sweatman, Colossians 4:2 - 4:18, 28 January 2024

In the last of our sermon series, Tom preaches from Colossians 4:2-18. Making the best use of time prompts a crucial question: what should we prioritise in the limited time we have? In this passage, Paul shows us that the answer lies in steadfast prayer for the spread of the gospel, cultivating watchfulness and gratitude within the church.

Colossians 4:2 - 4:18

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.

10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

If you've got a Bible, grab it and, turn to colossians chapter 4, and versus 2 to 18, and Naomi's gonna come and read that for us. That's colossians 4. Versus 2 to 18. Devote yourself to prayer, being watchful and thankful, and pray for us too that god may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains.

Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should. Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders. Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer everyone. Tichicus will welcome you will tell will tell you the good news about the good news about me.

He is a dear brother, a faithful minister, and fellow servant in the lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts He is coming with Winissimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is 1 of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here My fellow prisoner, Aristakis, send you his greetings as does Mark, the cousin of Barnaby, he have received instruction about him If he comes to you, welcome him. Jesus, who is called Justice, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of god and they have proved a comfort to me.

Epaphras, who was 1 of you, and a servant of Christ Jesus sends greetings, He is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of god mature mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Leodicea and hierapolis. Our dear friend Luke, the doctor and Demus send greetings. Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Lea Dicea and to Nympha and the church in her house. After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the laodiceans, and that you in turn read the letter from laodicea.

Tell archippus, see to it that you complete the ministry I have received in the lord. High Paul write this greeting in my own hand, Remember my chains. Grace, be with you. Thank you Naomi for reading that to us. And well done, there's quite a number of tricky tricky names and places there.

Good morning. My name is Tom. I'm 1 of the pastors here, and, lovely to have you with us. We have been working our way through this series in colossians for some time now, and we've come to our to our final session, actually. This is gonna be our last sermon for now at least in the book of colossians.

And that's partly because next Sunday, as Rory has already said, we're going to be having the feast and the media fast launch after the morning service, and I would really, really encourage you to come along to that. Please do make an effort to be here next Sunday for lunch. So that you can receive your media fast information. And, because during the week, we are going to be reading through the book of judges and Ruth, we thought it would be helpful to have a a sermon on judges and ruth next Sunday just to provide a bit of a so that we can navigate our way through those 2 books over the course of the week during the media fast. Just to underline something Rory said earlier on, we do want people to to bring and share food next Sunday.

And so please do think about what you might like to contribute to that feast meal but unfortunately, because this is a public place, and we've got, you know, food legislation laws with which we must comply. There are a number of just rules that you've gotta look out for. So chicken cannot still be twitching in the slow cooker. You know, it it's that kind of thing. And so Emma is going to send out that email.

So if you wanna bring something, please do. Let me encourage you to do that, but just have a look at those guidelines to make sure that everyone will be able to, eat it and we can serve it and so forth. So that's for next Sunday. Look, let's come to these, come to these words now. Colossians 4 2 to 6, and we'll pray and seek the lord's help in our understanding of them.

Father, we thank you for all that you have taught us, about the great lord Jesus Christ through this letter. We thank you that your son is the image of the invisible god that he is the firstborn overall creation that by him, every single thing was made. And in him, everything has its life and strength and being, lord Jesus, you are the great person, the great life force of this universe who holds everything together, and we thank you that you have, taught us so much about you and your glorious gospel, over our months in this letter. And we pray now as we come to these verses, which serve as something of a conclusion, to this letter that you would help us to prioritize, the same things that you wanted this church in philosophy to prioritize as well. May we be a people who are devoted steadfastly to prayer.

May we be a people who want to see the gospel going out in the world? May we be a people who live wisely before outsiders? May we be a people who make the most of every opportunity? Please, lord, these lessons that you have for us here in your word, would you help us to to hear them, to apply them to our lives in Jesus' name? Our men.

About, 15 years ago, there was a a film that came out called In Time. I don't know if any of you have seen it in time. It, featured Justin Timberlake as 1 of the, 1 of the main actors in the film. And, it was 1 of those movies where, in my opinion anyway, and so this may not count count for much. The concept I thought was great.

The concept of the film was great. But when it came to the execution of it, there was probably ways that it could have, it it could have been improved. But anyway, if you haven't seen it, it doesn't matter too much. Because the concept is quite simple to grasp. So, the there's here's a quote that's gonna come up that will tell you tell you about it.

In 21 69, people are genetically engineered to stop aging on their 20 fifth birthday, and are given 1 free year to live. Everyone has a timer on their forearm that shows their remaining time. When it reaches 0, the person times out and instantly dies. Time is the universal currency transferred directly between people or stored in capsules. The country is divided into time zones.

Dayton is the poorest, a ghetto where people rarely have more than 24 hours on their timer, and new greenwich is the richest people there are effectively immortal. So it's a very interesting idea, isn't it? Everybody lives to the age of 25. And when you get to 25, this countdown timer appears on your arm. And from that moment on, as it says on the previous, the previous slide, you've only got a limited amount time to live, you've got 1 free year to live.

So when you get to 25, the timer appears and there's 1 year counting down. And therefore, the job of every person becomes to try to get more time. That's why time is the currency. You can gamble with time, You can trade time. You can steal time off people.

You can gift time to somebody else. You can store your time in a bank if you don't need it. There's time becomes the currency. And of course, as it says there, the world is divided up into Ghettos. There are some places where everyone is very time poor and they've only just got rarely more than 1 day to live.

They're on a 24 hour clock every day, but if you live in New Grenwich, you can en masse millions and millions and millions of years. So it's a film really that is all about inequality, and it's a film about wealth distribution, and it's a film about class, but it's a very, very interesting idea. And when you watch it, you cannot help but imagine, yeah, what would it be like If I had 1 of those timers on my wrist, I mean, just put your hand up if you're over 25 in this room. You're over 25 in this room. Okay.

Take a look around. You're all on the clock. Okay? You're all on the clock. Imagine what it would be like.

If you could see the time ticking down, you might wonder whether the sermons were too long given that, you know, this time is so limited. There might be all kinds of things which you decide either to do or not to do when you can see your time expiring, it would certainly bring clarity to our lives, wouldn't it? So you may not decide to watch 3 or 4 hours of Netflix on a Friday night. If you only had 24 hours to live, you might not think that was a great use of your remaining hours. But if you were incredibly rich and were set to live for millions of years, then what difference would it make binging for 3 or 4 hours on your favorite show.

It would bring much clarity to us, wouldn't it, and the things that we do and don't do? Now, there must be a very good reason why the lord has not engineered us in that way. And maybe you can talk with your neighbors afterwards about what you think that reason might be. But there must be a reason why god hasn't set us up so that we can see that. But the concept is certainly a biblical concept.

The idea of numbering our days so that we make the right choices is straight out of Psalm 90. Have a look at Psalm 90. Here's a sentence from Psalm 90. Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. In other words, lord, even though I can't actually physically see my time ticking down, help me in the eye of my mind to know that is what is happening.

That my days are expiring, that my hours are ticking past, help me to number my days, help me to see in the eye of my mind, an hourglass so that I can see the sand grains always drifting through from top to bottom. Help me to see that So that I may gain a heart of wisdom. Help me to live life on the clock so that I choose the right things to do and avoid the wrong things to do. Help me to number my day so that I make good decisions with whatever time that I have left and avoid things that would be harmful or destructive to me and others. So we don't have it on the wrist, but we ought to have it in the eye of the mind.

And this is a concept that Paul certainly enjoyed and used and applied to the church. So here's ephesians 5. Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. Making the best use of the time. The phrase is literally redeeming the time.

Making wise decisions, knowing that time is a limited resource. There is a way of making the best use of it and there is a way of squandering it to help me to make the best use of the time, teach me to number my days so that I may gain a heart of wisdom given we are in evil days help me to make the most of the time. And the same phrase, word for word in the original, is found here in colossians 4. It won't appear on the screen, but you've hopefully got it in front of you. Colossians 4 verse 5 make the most.

Of every opportunity. Again, the phrase is literally redeeming the time, and it's language from the marketplace It means snap up a bargain than if you've ever seen online, there's something that you wanna purchase, and you've only got 8 hours in which to do it because the sale is gonna be ending tonight. Sail ends tonight, and you just can't leave the website. You've gotta snap up the bargain while you can. Maybe you go to a shop and you see something on offer.

And you don't know how long it's gonna be there, but somebody else might come in and snatch that bargain up for themselves. That's the idea. There's an urgency about it. Snap up the time. Treat it like a bargain.

Make the best of it. Grab hold of it while you can. Click it. Order it. Make the best use of the time.

This is what he wants us to do. And so the question is, given that we all are on the clock, what is the most profitable way to use our time. Given that our time is running out, What should we prioritize in whatever time we have left? There are 2 things that Paul draws our attention to here at the conclusion of this amazing letter, 2 things that he wants the church to prioritize. In the time they have left.

The first is that they should pray steadfastly for the spread of the gospel. And secondly, we'll see later on that they should live wisely for the sake of the gospel. They should pray steadfastly for the spread of the gospel and they should live wisely for the sake of the gospel. And so firstly, pray steadfastly for the spread of the gospel. You can see verse 2, how he begins devote yourselves to prayer.

And immediately, if you are an activist by temperament, If you are somebody who likes to just get up and make a strategy and make a plan and start organizing people and start advertising and get going, this verse might immediately feel like a waste of time. Why would I devote myself to prayer when I could be doing something? I could be organizing. I could be emailing. I could be texting.

I could be booking a room. I could be ordering a leaflet. I could be delivering it door to door. Why would I pray when I could get going, get active. But he says, no, best use of the time, devote yourself to prayer.

The word devote just means to keep going, even if it's hard going. It has this idea of perseverance written into the word, to be steadfast, to to keep going with this thing, even though it might be difficult. So you might imagine somebody walking in a in a country country lane or on a hill, and they're walking against the wind. That's 1 image that I find helpful to to walk against the wind. And even though you're going in the right direction and you're doing the right thing, there's some kind of resist there's a resist to where you want to go in the direction that you want you you're going in.

Devote yourself to prayer. Go for it even though you will feel the resistance of your own heart and the culture around you, don't don't don't go off course, be steadfast, be devoted, in prayer. And then he says, be watchful in it, and that word has a number of different meanings. It can literally mean just stay awake while you're praying. Stay awake.

Don't be like the disciples in the garden who fell asleep when they should have been praying. Be watchful, and who of us doesn't know the strange relationship that does exist between prayer and sleepiness. There there is something weird about that, isn't there? You wanna pray. You get up early to pray.

It's late, and you find yourself. There is a sort of sleep. There's something up in that, isn't there? Something strange about that. Be be be watchful in it.

Be awake. Try to keep yourself awake as you pray. But spiritually speaking, be watchful means to just be wary. You know, be wary of anything that would diminish prayers' importance in your mind. Be wary of anything that would distract you from this priority.

Be suspicious of any reason suggested to you for you not to pray. Be be wary. Might be a reason suggested to you by your own heart. Don't need to pray. Can't be bothered to pray.

Haven't got time to pray. Might be a reason suggested to you by the culture around. It'd be better to give you time to this. Better to invest your precious hours in this. Be suspicious of any reason not to pray.

That's what he means. Be be be watchful in it and thanksgiving, he says. Now that thanksgiving is a huge theme in this letter. Comes up time and time again. And not only is it important because that's a right response to what god has done for us to be thankful, but also thankfulness motivates you to keep praying, doesn't it?

You had that experience before where you've you've you've gone over the things that God has done in your life, you've been thankful for them, and it reminds you that the lord really is alive and active, and he's working in my life, and he's working in the church, and I can say thanks to him, and that incentivizes me to keep praying. Thank you, look. You are doing stuff. I'm gonna ask for more. Thank you.

I he answered that prayer. I'm gonna ask for that again. There's something about thankfulness, which which increases our desire to keep praying. And so he says devote yourself to prayer, be watchful in it and thankful. The other keyword though that I think it's worth us reflecting on is the word yourselves.

If you look at it verse 2, devote yourselves to prayer. And as with so many of the commands in the new testament, this is an instruction given to the church. It is given to the assembly of god's people and is to be obeyed by them corporately. And that's very important because I think lots of us, when we read verse 2, we instinctively think, oh, that means quiet times. That's what he's talking about.

He's talking about what I do on my own before the lord every morning if I manage it. That's what he means. Devote your service to prayer. Oh, he's talking about he's talking about quiet times. And obviously, there's nothing wrong with quiet times.

You know, clear, clearly there's nothing wrong with quiet times and journaling times and devotional times. But the emphasis here, and I think in the new testament is much more on Are you assembling regularly with the people who pray? Are you devoted to corporate prayer in the life of god's people? Act 2 42. This is in our membership course.

It's such a key verse for us, Brandon, if you wouldn't mind putting that 1 up. Acts 2 42. It says that the disciples were devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Do you see that? You see how prayer being devoted to prayer was part of being devoted to the fellowship.

They were devoted to prayer. Now what did that look like? Really intense long quiet times, well, maybe, but in the first case, devoted to prep with 1 another, devoted to the fellowship. This was a command given to them as a people that they were to obey together. And I think that's quite an important thing because many Christians do feel guilty perhaps unnecessarily whenever you talk about prayer and quiet times.

And that's because we often base our standing before god with how well we're doing in that particular area. So yesterday, I managed just before bed to rehearse a quick prayer for the family. That was good. The day before, we say, I managed 45 minutes of prayer in the morning. On that day, I felt god really loved me yesterday, not so much.

Because I didn't I didn't manage very long. And we can feel a misplaced sense of guilt here, whereas it and and sometimes that can be okay. But if I was a if I was a betting man, I would say Paul in this verse is more talking about assembling together for prayer and less talking about quiet times. Even epaphras, he's a very interesting example. If you look at 4 verse 12, epaphras, who is 1 of you, and a servant of Christ Jesus sends greetings.

He is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of god mature and fully assured. And so you read that verse and the image that comes to my mind, is a man kneeled down over his bed, hands into lot, sweating, and struggling in prayer on his own, for this group of people. And he may well have done that. Probably did do that. But the question is if that's all it was, how did Paul know about it?

How do you know about it? Or is it more likely than in chapter 1 verse 8 when they met up? They did that together. They did that together. They were devoted to prayer corporately for these people.

And so the question is devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Are we steadfastly committed to the people who pray, to the people who get together in order to plead. With the lord. I'll come back to that in a minute. But what should they pray for?

Well, have a look at verse 3 and pray for us too that god may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should. And that is a remarkable request, isn't it? He just pause and think about what he's asking for there. Here is a man who is in prison.

He's in prison. Okay? At the time of writing this. Now that prison was probably a type of house arrest because it does seem to be that Paul was allowed visitors and he had writing materials and was able to send off and write letters, but it was not a pleasant experience. He says, right at the end of the letter, doesn't he?

Remember my my chains. Remember my chains. Here is a man in prison suffering And yet, what is his request? What is his chief concern? What does he ask?

Brothers and sisters pray for me, please? That the lord would give me a nicer sell, please. I hate this 1. Brothers and sisters, will you pray that I'd get 2 hours of daylight and not just the 1 I've been allotted. Brothers and sisters, would you please pray that the quality of the food would improve?

Because it's rubbish here. And I longed for something better. Brothers and sisters, please pray for my freedom. I wanna be out. I'm sure he did.

But what is his chief concern? What is the thing that matters most to him? Brothers and sisters pray. That god would open a door for the gospel. It's amazing, isn't it?

Here is Paul asking the church to pray that he would have more opportunities to share the same message that put him in prison. Father, This message put me in chains. Give me more chances to preach it. I wanna tell more people about it. I don't want my chains to frustrate your great plan to reach the nations for Christ.

I want these chains to somehow serve your plan to reach the nations for Christ. That is the god that Paul believed in. So sovereign, is he? That even his imprisonment could be the means of getting more people under the sound of the gospel. And so brothers and sisters don't pray in the first case for my and my comfort.

Pray, please, that the mystery of the goth born, namely Christ would run free and be honored even despite my chains. And the wonderful thing is the lord answered those prayers in some incredible ways. Have a look with me at Philippines 1. Here's what Paul says. This is another prison letter.

Now I want you to know brothers and sisters that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. Amazing. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become terrified They're shaking, they don't want anything to do with it anymore. They don't wanna say this message, if they're gonna end up like me, They have become confident in the lord, and they dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

Isn't that just a remarkable testimony to the grace of god and the sovereignty of god? What did god enable Paul to do in prison to preach the gospel to the whole palace guard? All of them became aware that he was in chains for Christ. What did god enable Paul to do while he was in prison strengthen the brothers and sisters? That they too wanted to have a part in sharing this gospel message despite the cost.

What did god enable Paul to do when he was in prison? To write colossians and to write ephesians and to write Philippians and to write philemon. These are not small contributions to world Christianity. These are massive soul saving church building truths that god helped him to pen even though he was in chains. Do you see what the lord did through the ordinary prayers of churches like this?

In colossae. You see, it sounds like Paul is a superhuman here, doesn't it? Who could who would pray this? But, you know, he's not a superhuman. He wasn't a superman because he had to ask for prayer.

He needed help. He clearly recognized in himself a temptation not to do this. He clearly needed help to say it clearly as he should. Maybe there was something in Paul's manner or the way Paul communicated which some sometimes clouded the gospel or made it obscure and people found it hard to get. He says, pray I don't want that to happen.

Pray that I might be clear, as I should be clear, please help me so he wasn't a superman, but isn't it amazing how the lord answered these prayers and enabled Paul to do what he so heartily wanted to do, and doesn't that just encourage us to pray? Doesn't it encourage us to pray? Who can tell what the lord might do through our media fast gatherings next next week? As we gather every evening to pray for the cause of the gospel, for our missionaries, for the church, who knows what God might do? Who knows what the lord might do through our prayer meetings as humble and as ordinary as they seem, gathering on the first Wednesday of every month just to pray together.

Who knows what the lord might do? I think of a story of a woman in the church who, who started work at a new school recently and, managed to have a conversation with the head teacher and persuade him or her. I can't remember who it was. To persuade them to allow bible clubs and bible assemblies to be in that school for the first time. I think of a lady in the church whose husband, is is going really downhill in his in his health.

And this will be known to many of you and getting worse and worse, and she's having to do more and more care. I think of her at the prayer meeting last time, just celebrate god's goodness to her through the church, celebrating god's faithfulness, giving thanks for god's kindness to her. I think of King's church Walton and the story we shared recently about their youth group, which has got loads of kids coming to it, who don't normally go to church. Know, brothers and sisters, how are we going to hear these stories if we don't assemble to pray? What inspiration are we gonna miss out on?

If we don't gather to pray. What encouragement are we gonna deprive ourselves of if we won't gather to pray? You see, there's there's 2 there's really 2 ways of thinking about the prayer meeting, isn't there? We can either say, this is a great week for a week off. Nothing much happens at the prayer meeting.

The cause of the gospel certainly doesn't depend upon me coming out to pray. The children of the church don't need me to come out on a Wednesday night to pray nothing nothing turns up. What's the point in it? That's 1 way of looking at it. Or you can say what an opportunity to assemble with the people of the lord, to devote myself to prayer with my church family, to be watchful for 1 another to be thankful for what god is doing, to pray that he may open doors for the gospel, and in so doing to be part of the furthering of the gospel cause in the world and encouraging my own heart.

That's 1 is a sort of, here's a terrible burdensome law, devote yourselves to pray. 1 is a a gospel excitement. Devote yourselves to prayer. Be watchful in it. And thankful.

Isn't that what we wanna be about? Given that time is so short, will it ever be a waste of time to go to the prayer meeting? Will we ever wish Man, I'll never get that hour again. Never get that back. We'll never think like that.

This is what he wants us to give ourselves to. And so firstly, pray steadfastly for the spread of the gospel. And then secondly, he calls us to live wisely for the sake of the gospel. Let's pick it up in verse 5. Be wise in the way that you act towards outsiders.

Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace seasoned with salt. So that you may know how to answer everyone. And there's that redeeming the time snapping up the bargain language in verse 5 make the most of every opportunity. How do we do it?

He calls us to be wise. He calls us to live wisely before outsiders. Now, what does he have in mind when he says live wisely? Well, really he simply means to live according to god's wisdom. To live out all that we have seen together in the last few months in colossians, to set our eyes on things above where Christ is.

To set our minds on gospel realities where Christ is, to put to death sin in our own lives by the grace of god. To love 1 another and let the peace of Christ rule at church. That's wise living, to sing songs that are going to encourage truth to dwell richly within us. That's wise living. To make sure that I love my wife at home and I'm not harsh with her.

That's wise living. To make sure that as a dad, I don't embitter and provoke my children. That's why I was living. To make sure that at work, I work for the lord and don't be a people, please, are just doing my best when my boss is watching. That's wise living.

If I'm a master and a manager of others, that I remember I've got a master in heaven to whom I am accountable and to let that shape how I treat my colleagues. That's wise living. It's everything that he has been talking about. Be wise in the way that you act towards outsiders. Doesn't mean to be perfect doesn't mean you have to be spotless.

It just means you have to try by the grace of god to be consistently Christian in every sphere of your life. Not perfect. We can't be. But just consistently Christian. And that's really, really important because without that, the speech stuff let your conversation will be somewhat empty if we're not living wisely.

I heard a story this week of a of a of a guy who was was, was in town to speak at a Christian conference. And he'd, he'd come with another speaker, and they decided before the conference began to go out, to go out for dinner together. And so they went for dinner at this restaurant, these 2 speakers, and, the wait just came over to serve them, take their order and then bring them their drinks. And when she bought the drinks, to the 2 speakers, she spilled his drink on, on on this this other speaker's clothes, and he just went off the handle at her. I mean, he was furious.

Apparently. He was shouting at her. He was telling her how clumsy she was and shouldn't she be more careful? And doesn't she know that he's about speak an event, and how's he going to have time to anyway, very embarrassing for the other person. So the waitress goes away, very apologetic, gonna come back and sort things out And the other Christian who was there, the other speaker, just leaned over to his friend and said, when she comes back, I dare you to witness to her.

And and he was like, what? What do you mean witness say, yeah, when she comes back, I dare you to witness her, dare you to tell her about Jesus and what you're doing. Wait just comes back, and he can't do it. You can't do it. Now the good thing to have done would have been to say sorry for how he just treated her and to say what it is that makes him feel it's important to say sorry, but he couldn't he couldn't say anything at all.

Now why is that? Because his rudeness had destroyed his witness. He he wasn't able to to have a gracious conversation with her because he hadn't lived wisely before her. And so he says you've gotta you've gotta live wisely. You don't have to be perfect.

You just have to be consistently Christian because if not, it will suck the life out of our ability to speak, won't it? It's just gonna make it hard. You know, if I in my terraced house am known by my neighbors as the 1 who is shouting at his children all the time, If they can hear me shouting harshly at my children all the time through the walls, it might make it that little bit harder for them to receive an invitation to the Carol service. Of me. Because they sit there watching Kelly hearing me thinking, I don't wanna be like that guy.

I don't want a parent like that. That sounds horrible in there. Do you want to come to the council? It's difficult, isn't it? So he says live wisely.

Conduct yourself Christianly. Before outsiders. But speech is important, isn't it? Look how he comes to speech in verse 6. Let your conversation be always full of grace.

Let your conversation be gracious. Have a pleasant tone about you. Say kind things in kind ways, just be pleasant to speak to. You know, we don't wanna be like those evangelists, and you see them online sometimes, and they they seem to measure their effectiveness by how offensive they've been. They seem to think it's a good day for the gospel if lots of people have been bruised.

Lots of people have been offended by their manner. Well, it may have been a good day for the gospel. It may have just been you weren't very nice. You weren't very nice to them. Let your conversation be full of grace, let it be pleasant speak nicely to people.

And then he says seasoned with salt. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt It's quite hard to know sort of exactly what he means by that, but it's something like let the way that you speak be that little bit different to how other people speak. Let your conversation have some seasoning in it. Something interesting. Something spicy.

Something redemptive. Maybe a slightly different take on that news event that everyone's been following. Maybe a slightly different comment about traitors, which everyone has been obsessed with. Maybe a slightly different way of explaining what's really wrong with the world, just something a little bit savory, something that lifts the conversation, a slightly different take on things, offering a word of explanation for something. In other words, he's saying, don't be boring, don't have bland speech.

Don't be bland. You don't want to just parrot the cliches of the world, do you? You don't want to just say what everyone else says in the way that they say it. There's something anemic about that. Isn't there?

It's like it's like a cup of very weak squash. You know, very, very weak squash. So diluted. You just it's offensive. You'd rather have water or nothing at all.

There's no thing worse than very, very, very weak squash. He says, don't let your conversation be like that. Let it have something interesting, a bit of flavor, something that sparkles in it. Let your conversation. And that's, you know, that's 1 of the reasons why it's sisters act and reliable men.

We do try to think culturally. We don't just want to think I like that, but why did I like that? And what did it teach me about people? We don't just want to think that show was rubbish. We want to say, when everyone in the office is saying it's rubbish, can I offer a reason that is slightly as to why it's rubbish and didn't connect with us?

It's it's trying to have something salty about our conversation. And then he says, season with Seoul, so that you may know how to answer, so that you may know how to answer. And that's quite interesting that, isn't it? Because he seems to think there is a difference between the sort of evangelism that he and the apostles are doing and the sort that many Christians on the ground are doing. You see, he says, pray for me that I may proclaim it.

That I might speak it out and preach it and burst into cultures and share it, but pray for yourselves that you may learn how to answer when you're asked. There is a kind of forward speaking, and there's an always being ready on the defensive to answer and to give a reason for what I'm saying. And you think about it. In this congregation, there were slaves. Now slaves could not just burst into their master's office and start giving them their opinion on what they should be doing on Sunday morning.

They couldn't just burst in and just say the break in with the gospel at any time they wanted, they they had to work, but what they could do is to be ready and on guard and like the wrestler who's dug into the ring braced for an opportunity to say something, to give an answer for why they speak differently and live differently. See 1 Peter 3 if you won't mind putting that up. It says, but in your hearts, revere Christ as lord, always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect. Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks And so this is the evangelism. He seems to think that most Christians are going to be involved in.

Some people are brilliant. At just breaking into conversation and they can do it winsomely and wonderfully and bring the gospel in. But for lots of people, They're trying to live consistently be wise, speak graciously and and being ready for that moment when someone says Why do you say that? Or why do you believe that? Or why do you do that with your weekends?

Or why do you think that way? And in that moment, you're not flabbergasted did an empty mouth, there's something there that's been prepared and it's ready to come out so that you can give an answer for this hope that you have. And then he says, lastly, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Everyone. You see, Paul recognizes that people are different.

Not every person is the same. We are not to give the kind of chat GPT answer. The computer AI answer to people. That's the difference between chat chat GPT and us, isn't it? So you could have 2 people sat down at a keyboard, typing into chat GPT.

If you don't know what that is, nor do I really, but it's a piece of computer software that tells you want what you want to know very quickly. You could have 2 people typing in the same question. Why does god allow suffering? 1 person is, just looking for a reason to dismiss the Christian faith are not really interested in the answer at all. There's an arrogance and a cockiness about the question they don't care.

The other person has just lost a child. Why does god allow suffering? Chat GPT gives the same answer to both of them. It'll give the same answer with the same words no matter who's asking. Paul says so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Because every 1 is a little bit different. And wisdom and grace and salty speech teach us not just to know what to say but who am I talking to and how do they need how do they need to hear it so that you may know how to answer everyone. So you can see the emphasis in what he's saying here. Given that we're on the clock, pray steadfastly for the spread of the gospel and live wisely for the sake of the gospel. Devote yourselves to prayer verse 2, being watchful and thankful and pray for us too that god may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains.

Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should. Be wise in the way that you act towards outsiders. Redeem the time let your conversation be always full of grace seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer everyone. His emphasis here at the end of the letter is on this glorious gospel of Jesus Christ going out. As we pray, and as we live.

And when you think about all we've learned of Jesus together, image of the invisible god, lord of all creation, the 1 who died and rose to reconcile people from every tribe, tongue and nation to god given all that we have learned about him. How could Jesus just be our little secret? How could he ever be? 1 that we just want to keep to ourselves? Is it not better given the limited time we have to pray steadfastly that the message of Jesus would go out and to live wisely for the sake of the gospel.

May the lord help us to to do those things, to prioritize those things together and we're going to bow our heads and pray. But Tom has asked me to come and pray for 3 things that we'd be committed to prayer as a church that would be watchful against self reliance and that we'd remain thankful for what god is doing. And that felt like a very personal challenge when he asked me to pray for those 3 things. So I'm sure that it probably feels the same for a lot of you as well if I feel that way. So let's pray about those things.

Father, we do, we do come before you as the utter failures that we are in this area. Whether we struggle to pray at all or whether we, whether we often feel good about our prayer life, the reality is that We fall so far short of your standard for prayer. We fall so far short of your model for prayer. We see how how much Jesus relied on you, how he went out of his way, how he got up early and took himself off to spend time in prayer with you. When everybody else was falling asleep around him, he was still going, how he wrestled with it, how he submitted to you in prayer, how he brought everything before you, especially the hardest things.

And so we pray that as a church, as individuals and as a church together, we would be committed to praying. We would be committed to praying about all things, the small things and the big things, and and that we would be committed to coming together to pray, that we would use the prayer meeting as an opportunity that that that meeting really in so many ways should be pretty much the most important thing that we do together, that that without prayer, we're nothing. Without prayer, how can we expect anything to to to really grow and come to fruition and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and change. So father we pray that we would be reliant on prayer. Father we pray that we would be watchful against our own self reliance.

It's our default setting. We we turn to ourselves too often we We go back in on ourselves. We rely on the things that we're good at, the things that we know, the things that we can control. And yet so much of life is outside of that. Almost all of life is outside of that.

And if we're just relying on ourselves, to get things done to, as Tom was saying, to come up with the strategies, to do stuff, to make things happen. We're just doing it in our own strength. And are we really doing it for you even or are we just doing it for ourselves, for our own glory? So father we pray that as we rely on you as we bring things before you as we submit our plans to you We know that it's you that's in control, it's you who decides the outcomes, and that through that you grow us, through that you mature through that, you change us. So help us to know that.

Help us to rely on you. Help us to know that everything in the end comes down to Christ winning us on the cross, that without that, we're nothing. Without that, everything is pointless. So that should be our reliance. And finally, father help us to be thankful people help us that when we pray, we just overflow with thanks.

Again, our default setting is to focus on the small number of things that are not going very well. And to complain about them and to raise them and to talk about them and to point them out. And actually, father, what we should be doing is thanking you for the thousands of daily mercies and crises that are just being poured upon us over and over and over again. Starting with the lord Jesus Christ and filtering down to all of the small little moments in in our daily lives. If we are not thankful people will become bitter people.

And if we become bitter people, then we're going to be distasteful to everybody around us. So father, please season our prayer with thankfulness. And we pray that that you would use this mightily for, every individual in this room as they as they seek to grow their prayer life with you. And that you would grow us as a church as we submit everything before you and that we would be a blessing to Kingston and to this borough, to our workplaces, to our friends, to our families. We pray these things in your name, amen.

Father god, we thank you for all the ministries that go on here at Cornerstone for all the people that are involved in in different areas of the church life, but we want to pray now for those ministries that are, the first contact, that people have with us. As we we just sort of listened and and heard about and we heard Paul describing outsiders, I'm talking about how we respond and how we witness to them. And we pray lord that for those areas of life like international cafe and mums and and toddlers, and breakfast church and hub club. These areas of of cornerstone life where outsiders are coming in and perhaps hearing about you for the first time and meeting us for the first time. We pray that we will, witness in those groups, to those people.

There are so many people in this town that don't know you. That don't know anything about you, that don't, know of us. And, we pray lord that more will be brought to these groups that we can have more of a footprint if you like in this town as a church that, more outsiders will come in the first time. And then we pray, lord, as we've we've been hearing about this morning, help us, to pray for those people, help us to welcome those people, help us to be, to to behave in a way in in those groups that attracts people to you. That we you then give us the opportunity to talk about you.

But lord help us to make sure that what we've said as we, as we meet them for the first time as the way we operate those groups, won't negate what we then want to say. Law, we just pray that we will be a church that continues to welcome everyone, and that that will then give us opportunities to talk about you. In Jesus' name, our man. I would just like to spend a bit of time praying for the gospel around the world so that's pride. Father god, we do thank you for the book of colossians.

We thank you, we can we can remember that And it is your gospel that goes out throughout the world. We thank you that the gospel bears fruit in many different contexts and it is your work as you bring the gospel to to places, hard places to reach. Lord, we know that Satan is present and, there is a demean of darkness, where where the light of Christ is not yet known and not we thank you that we do have, a gospel of good news for these areas and, lord, these areas can be be tough to reach where where the the gospel is hated where where men and regimes and false religions seem to have a dominant hold. And lord, we thank you that even in these areas, they cannot stand against the gospel and that the good news of Christ and We thank you for for men and for women and for churches around the world who who love you, who love the gospel, who love the lost and who long for them to come to a knowledge of the truth and to to come and come into the the the kingdom of Christ and lord we pray.

We pray for our brothers and sisters, those that we we know. Those whom we have partners with we've we've partnered with here at Cornerstone. We we pray particularly for for Taras in in Poland, in warsaw as he seeks to, proclaim Christ to to to those in in in his church and to to the students, particularly the student work that he's involved with. Dolby pray that, the gospel would bear fruits. Here, you give him boldness you give him all that he needs to to continue the the daily, longing to to to make Christ known.

And let me pray even for those, brothers and sisters just getting on with life, meeting people day to day, doing evangelism in in the way that they work we pray that they would live, consistently like Christians that they would be always ready to to give an answer for the hope that they have. There'll be prayer also for, the church in Belarus, lord we We know this is a it's a hard place to live and, they may end up in chains for the gospel. But lord we thank you that your gospel cannot be chained, but the the the the message of Christ can even reach these hard places and whatever happens, where it would be an imprisonment or or hardships, lord, we thank you that even in this. We can see the advancement of the gospel. So lord, we pray.

We pray for our brothers and sisters, and we pray even in hard times, you give them boldness and we pray that we would we would hear, great stories of, of the gospel going out, and we we thank you in Jesus' name, amen.

Preached by Tom Sweatman
Tom Sweatman photo

Tom is an Assistant Pastor at Cornerstone and lives in Kingston with his wife Laura and their two children.

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