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Dec 07, 2014

My Compliments | Part 2

Passage: Colossians 1:3-8

Preacher: Tim Badal

Series: Preeminent

Detail:

This week we are continuing our series on the Book of Colossians entitled, “Preeminent.” Last week we learned the who, what, why and where of the Book of Colossians. Paul has written a letter to a young, yet growing church in the town of Colossae. Colossae was a city situated in what is now modern day Turkey. It lay 100 miles inland from the headwaters of the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. Though he had never met these people, Paul learned about their lives of faithfulness and zeal for the gospel through the Colossians’ teacher, Epaphras. Epaphras went to Rome—where Paul was imprisoned for the gospel—in order to seek Paul’s wisdom on issues that were threatening the church. Spiritual issues were causing all sorts of confusion among the people of Colossae. So Paul pens a letter in response to Epaphras’ entreaty. This church had a lot of problems. While there was growth taking place, there were some really bad things going on in the city and also within the church. Before Paul confronts the Colossians on their sin, he takes time in Colossians 1:3-8 to shower them with love and affection.

As a parent, this is something I have had to learn. I long for my children to live productive lives, to grow in wisdom and strength. As a father, it is difficult to watch my children play sports and, at times, fail miserably. It is difficult to hold back after a difficult loss and not point out all the times when they could have done better. I need to stop and say, “Great game. Well done.” As a pastor, it is easy to look at the negative. Every so often, our pastors will get an email from someone telling us where we failed, how they are disappointed with the church, where we have offended. After an email like that, I’m tempted to get up in the pulpit and say, “We’re going to do this better. We’re going to try harder. We will fix this failure.” Yet Paul’s example teaches us that the best way to communicate with people is not to begin a conversation with what needs correcting, but rather what needs commending.

Paul begins by commending the Colossian believers. I also want to commend you through this passage as we study it together.   Colossians 1:3-8 says:

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

As the celebration of Christmas quickly approaches, many of you are seeking the perfect gifts for the people you love. You spend hours searching and spend lots of money. You want to show people that you care. You want to affirm their place in your lives. However, did you know that there is a gift this Christmas that costs you nothing, yet has tremendous impact when it’s opened? It is something that is so versatile that it addresses the needs of young and old, male and female. It has the uncanny ability to lighten everyone’s day. It never goes bad. It never breaks. You don’t have to have a warranty. What is this great Christmas gift that you can give to your loved ones? It is compliments.

Compliments are expressions of praise, admiration or affirmation. They show another individual respect, honor and fondness. Compliments are “gifts for the soul.” Because they are so good, and because it feels so good to receive them, you would think that complimenting others would be easy and come naturally. However, people by nature are terrible at giving compliments. You love to hear them, but it is always awkward when you are the recipient. You’re not sure how to respond. You might deflect compliments, thinking that receiving them only flatters your pride. You know that you need to give compliments to people. You know that they do a lot of good. However, compliments are rarely given. There are a myriad of excuses not to compliment others. Maybe a New Year’s resolution this year would be to mark your calendar for March 1st which is World Compliments Day—a great opportunity to catch up. Just make sure the other person doesn’t know what day it is.

Before you think I’ve gone all Hallmark Special on you and think we should just compliment as if everyone gets a trophy in this game of life, I want you to understand that there are good and bad ways to compliment. You need to be discerning in your use of them. There are ways compliments can be bad:

  1. Using compliments in the wrong situation. There is a video on YouTube that shows how compliments used in the wrong way can make you sound creepy. Don’t be a creeper. Don’t make people feel uncomfortable because of your ill-placed compliments.
  2. Compliments can be used to deceive. Sometimes, people compliment others by lying through their teeth. They brown-nose others. They kiss up. They try to get something from other people through flattery; by saying things they really don’t believe.
  3. When you receive a compliment, you can be tempted to elevate your pride. If someone compliments me after a sermon, I can be tempted to think that I am the world’s best preacher and never need to study again. I could take the compliment to a level that was not intended.

Compliments should be given to promote the wellbeing and good works of others. What should good compliments look like?

  1. They should be rightly used.
  2. They should expose the good that someone is doing. If you see something in your children, in the workplace, or in the family, tell them. “You’ve done a great job. I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing in you.”
  3. They should encourage people to continue doing praiseworthy things. If you do not affirm that which is good in others, why would they continue doing it?

In our text, Paul shows us what a good compliment looks like. He doesn’t begin with people. He begins by giving God praise for what He is doing in the lives of the Colossian believers. He says in Colossians 1:3, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.” Before he gets to the compliment, Paul recognizes that apart from the Person and work of Jesus Christ in our lives we have nothing good—we are lost, we are sheep without a Shepherd, we need someone to show us how to live lives that warrant compliments. Everything good that we do comes from the hand of God Himself.

As we go through Paul’s compliment to the Colossians, I want to compliment you—Village Bible Church—as the people of God. I thank God for the good things that you are doing. I thank God because I know that apart from Him you wouldn’t be able to do anything good. I know that we aren’t perfect either. I don’t have on rose-colored glasses. There are many areas in which we can improve. However, I want to stop and encourage you in the ways you are being faithful in the calling of God. I thank God for you because you are:

1. Filled with the Right Things

Colossians 1:3-5, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” Paul acknowledges that the Colossian people could be pursuing all kinds of things in the world. Likewise, church, you could invest your lives in a variety of worldly things, but you choose to be part of the things of God. You choose to invest in the Person and work of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom ministry.

The Colossians set their eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of their faith (Hebrews 12:2). Because of this, Paul compliments the Colossians on three things:

  1. Faith. He says, “I thank God for your faith in Christ Jesus.” Why would we thank someone for his or her faith in God? Ephesians 2:8 says that your faith is not of yourself, but a gift of God. I am overjoyed to see so many people walking in faith at Village Bible Church. It is an ongoing reminder to me that God is continually at work in the lives of people. God is active in saving people, opening their eyes, turning them from sin and onto the Savior. Faith isn’t a random thought or feeling. It is centered on the Person and work of Jesus Christ, made available through His death, burial and resurrection. As I look at this church, I see lives that have been changed by faith in Christ. God is not just at work in certain types of people. He’s not just working in the elderly people who came to faith generations ago. When I see people who have known the Lord for generations, it encourages me that my faith will remain while my body grows older. The same joy lives in the elderly as in the youth. Young people are not absent in this church. There are families here who are raising young children who are excited about the Lord. They are filled with faith and seeking to honor Christ in all they do. I love seeing young people and children in our midst. Seeing their faith lived out reminds me that God is doing a special work, not just in a certain generation or geographical place. He saves people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds. God is doing His work and putting faith in lives all over the world and throughout the ages. We have people here from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Our languages may not be the same but we have the same faith in Christ Jesus. He is opening the eyes of sinners everywhere. Your faith is living and active; not just something you do on Sundays. Your faces light up at the evidences of God in your lives. You’re excited when God answers prayer. You’re willing to sacrifice your time and treasures. You say no to things of this world and yes to the things of God. Thank you for your faith.
  2. Love. Colossians 1:4, “The love that you have for all the saints.” How do you know if you have faith? It’s a personal decision so how do you know? First John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” You cannot say that you have faith and not have love for one another. You know you have faith if you have love for other people. This love is seen in your relationships with one another. Every Sunday is like a reunion for all of you. You have comradery and enjoy each other, though you come from different backgrounds and places. There are hugs, hearty handshakes and smiles on your faces as you gather together. You have concern for one another and pray for one another. You rejoice in the good and struggle together through the bad. You display amazing acts of kindness. You sacrificially serve one another, bearing with one another, putting others needs above your own. You love one another. Don’t quit. The way the world will know that you are followers of Jesus Christ is by your love.
  3. Hope. Colossians 1:5, “Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” I thank God that you know this life is just the beginning; this world is not your home. As the hymn writer, Bill Gaither, reminds us, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives all fear is gone.” I am thankful for the hope that I see in your lives. Even in the most difficult trials, even when facing death, you don’t cling to this life, but with joy in your hearts you say, “The best is yet to come.” You point to Christ and say, “God, You are good in life. You are good in death.” I am thankful for that hope. I am thankful that even in the midst of cancer and death, you don’t shake your fist at God. Instead of saying, “God, how could You do this?” I see your hope and peace. Every time I meet with you in your time of suffering, you counsel me that, “It is well with my soul.” That kind of hope encourages a pastor during the week. God is doing a great work in the lives of His people.

God has filled this church with the right things—spiritual things that He enables us to grasp. How are these people anchored? How do these three things find their place in your lives? God gave the Colossians something that would lead and guide. He gave an anchor for those times of trouble.

2. Faithful to the Gospel

Paul reminds the Colossians that they have been faithful to this guide, which is the Gospel. The Colossians’ faith was founded upon the Word of God. In Colossians 1:7, the Colossians “learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.” They devoted themselves with utmost fidelity to God’s Word. This is seen in Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” I am thankful that I am part of a group of believers and have the great privilege of preaching to this group of believers who long for the Word of God to dwell in you richly. What does this look like? Look at Colossians 1:5-7:

Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.

How do you take God’s Word and makes it your own? There are two things to remember:

  1. Desire to understand the Scriptures. In a world where performance trumps preaching, where drama trumps doctrine, where entertainment trumps exegesis, this church doesn’t merely tolerate biblical preaching, it celebrates and embraces it. Since I have been the pastor here almost 11 years, we have opened this Book well over 500 times together and have sought to know God’s good and pleasing will. I have never heard this church complain about opening God’s Word. You hunger to hear and seek after God. You don’t want to just know the Bible in your heads; you embrace it and want to hear it taught so that you might understand it and use it.
  2. Desire to use the Scriptures. This isn’t something that the Colossians merely learn; it impacts their lives and bears fruit within them. Each week we have over a hundred people involved in theology and Christian worldview classes at this church. You have embraced the importance of being a healthy church. You have embraced this Word and it has impacted the very essence of who you are. The Bible says things that are difficult to hear and understand, but it also shows you who you are, how great your sin is and how great your Savior is. It has made you more Christ-like in your communities and workplaces. You are better wives, husbands, children, parents, employees and neighbors because, whether in word or deed, you will do all things to the glory of God because that’s what this Book tells you to do.

This is needed in our church.

3. Fruitful in Your Ministry

Paul says that the gospel is bearing fruit and increasing in the lives of the Colossians (Colossians 1:6). They were not only bearing fruit in Colossae, this small, fledgling group was impacting the lives of people whom they had never met. Paul had heard of and was encouraged by the Colossians, people whom he had never met. He thanked God every time he prayed for their ministry. Peoples’ lives were changed by the gospel. They were coming to know Christ by faith. Their fruitful ministry was first done in their immediate community.

 

When you are filled with the right things and faithful to the Word of God, the church will be fruitful in its ministry.  I wish I could speak to all the things our church is doing to bear fruit but let me just share a few things that are going on here. Every week our children’s ministry serves more than 350 young children, teaching them the gospel of Jesus Christ. For every adult present in the sanctuary, there is a child represented in another room. The children may even outnumber us. The next generation of the church is alive and well at Village Bible Church. They are being taught the Word of God in Sunday School, children’s’ worship and Awana Clubs. This is so encouraging. Be sure you thank the teachers, children’s worship leaders and youth leaders. They are on the frontlines of proclaiming the gospel. This last summer we had more than 400 kids involved in Vacation Bible School. We are reaching out and bearing fruit in the lives of the youngest among us. Every Wednesday night more than 125 middle school and high school students fill our sanctuary.  They learn from their leaders what it means to embrace the faith God has given them. Dozens of teenagers meet in their schools, impacting the communities around them by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. They are on fire for the gospel.

Dozens of groups meet weekly throughout the Fox Valley area to pray and study God’s Word, enjoying fellowship with one another. There are other ways you could have fun together but you choose to meet over God’s Word, perhaps because you enjoy the relationships you’ve made here.

While our church has areas where it needs to grow, I am blown away by how you give. Almost $1,000,000 has been raised this year for the gospel ministry of this church. You have worked hard for that money and I know it could have been used in many other ways. I thank God that you decided to give because our church has been able to reach the lost, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, minister to the orphans and widows in their distress, and be a gospel light to our community. I pray that this will only continue to grow. Because of your giving, lives have been changed. We have baptized dozens of people into the faith as a result of your faithful ministry. I thank God for this church. Without it, I would not be preaching the Word of God. As a young teenager with issues and struggles, and an apparent dead-end future, you embraced me. You equipped me. Now, I love serving and honoring God with my gifts.

This doesn’t just happen in our community, but everywhere around us as well. Paul says in Colossians 1:6, “The gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing.” I am encouraged that our church isn’t consumed with introspection and caring only for the people within our walls. This church is generous, dedicating more than $250,000 annually to overseas missions where we partner with over 30 different ministries. We don’t have to do that, but we have made a decision to reach people whom we have never met. We have missionaries serving all over the world: Ireland, Spain, Uganda, Liberia, the Middle East and South Africa. We support missionaries to unreached people groups in Thailand, India, the Philippines and in Papua New Guinea. Through these ministry partners, people are coming to know Christ. My friend, Ben in New Guinea, reports that people are hearing the Name of Jesus for the first time because of you.

You don’t think the money you’re giving is changing lives? Then you’re not reading what our missionaries are reporting. You’re not listening to what our children are saying. You’re not seeing the impact this is having in our young people. You’re not seeing the marriages and lives that are being changed as a result of joining together to minister to the physical and spiritual wellbeing of people. Many who have grown up in this church have been sent out from our own body as missionaries. More than a hundred of our own members embark every year on short-term mission trips. Hear the thankful heart that I have because of your faithfulness to the gospel. You are filled with the right things. You are now seeing the fruit of your ministry. I thank God that you are willing to be used by Him. I compliment you on a job well done. However, our job isn’t finished yet. It has only begun. There is much left to do and the best is yet to come.

In order to see the blessings and benefits that come out of the book of Colossians, remember what Paul says in Colossians 1:2. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” Begin by thanking God for all He has done and for everything you have accomplished. Be encouraged by what God has done in and through you. Don’t let these compliments puff up your pride. Allow this encouragement to drive you to your knees and remind you where you were before Christ met you in your sin. Be thankful for the work that God has done in your life. Christ has redeemed you and brought you back into a relationship with God the Father.  Be filled with gratitude for what God has done and for the community with which you work. Your faith is changing lives both here in this local body and in the world around you.

Have you thanked God for what He has done in the lives of others? Take time to be thankful for the gifts God has given in Christ Jesus.

 

Village Bible Church  |  847 North State Route 47, Sugar Grove, IL 60554  |  (630) 466-7198  |  www.villagebible.org/sugar-grove/resources/sermons

All Scriptures quoted directly from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

Note: This transcription has been provided by Sermon Transcribers (www.sermontranscribers.net).