Changed: A New Rep

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.” (Colossians 1:3-4)

If you’re a Christian — someone who has trusted in Jesus as the only way to be forgiven of your sins and spend forever in heaven with God — how has that changed you? I mean, how are you different inside and out than before you believed in Jesus?

changed_350This week, we’ll read someone else’s mail to find out. Paul will describe a few of the ways the Christians in a town called Colosse have changed — and how they can expect to continue to be transformed. If we don’t recognize some of these changes in ourselves, we should wonder why not.

The first thing Paul writes is that these Christians have a new rep. They’re known as people who trust Jesus and love other Christians. Those two qualities are obvious in their lives.

Think: Is it obvious to anyone in your life that you trust Jesus and love other Christians? Do you think your your church has that reputation?

Pray: Ask God to help you to have a reputation as someone who trusts in Jesus and loves other believers.

Do: Write a quick list of 5 or so people you know who have a reputation for trusting Jesus and loving other Christians.

Changed: What’s the Point?

“. . . the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.” (Colossians 1:5-6)

Why did you become a Christian? You could get the idea from listening to some of us “defend our faith” that we weighed all the various options and chose Christianity based on our careful study of the reliability of the Bible.

changed_350Not me. I became a Christian because I wanted to go to heaven. As a kid, that was the part that mattered to me. It was the whole point! In this passage, Paul writes “going to heaven is the whole point!”

No more sickness, sadness, or selfishness! No more emptiness or “inner groaning,” as Paul described life on this fallen rock. The hope of heaven turns Christians into people full of faith in Jesus and love for each other. That hope changes everything — including you and me.

Think: When you became a Christian, were you excited about going to heaven? Are you now? How have you been changed by knowing that you’ll spend forever in heaven with God?

Pray: Ask God to help you to never be so satisfied with this life that you stop hoping for heaven.

Do: Read Romans 8:18-25.

Changed: All Over the World

“All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” (Colossians 1:6)

Have you ever watched the opening or closing ceremonies for the Olympics? There’s something exciting about the idea of people from all over the globe gathering together in one place, nation by nation in an endless-seeming parade, that makes the world feel more connected than ever.

changed_350Another mind-blowing thing to wonder about is, How many of the people in that stadium are Jesus-followers who once heard the good news about salvation from sin and ‘understood God’s grace in all its truth’? How many of the people from China and Zimbabwe and Russia and Bolivia and Canada are fruit-bearing believers walking the same path you and I are?

Paul writes about our connection to all of them, a connection far deeper and longer lasting than just being “fellow citizens of the global community.” We are brothers and sisters of a million different mothers and just one Almighty Father. I can’t wait for the opening ceremony of eternity in heaven.

Think: Do you ever think about all you have in common with believers in Jesus “all over the world”?

Pray: Pray for all the believers around the world who, just like you, came to God through Jesus.

Do: Pick a country or two to look up on Wikipedia and think about all the believers who live there.

Changed: Mac Evangelist?

“All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” (Colossians 1:6-7)

Evangelists are not just people who tell other people about Jesus. We can be evangelists for anything. Years ago, when computer and business guru Guy Kawasaki worked for Apple, his job title was Mac Evangelist. He went around the country telling everyone how great Mac computers are.

changed_350We evangelize our friends about bands, movies, TV shows, and fashion trends. We even use apologetics to defend our positions on sports teams, actors, and Mexican restaurants. We all know how to evangelize; it’s just a little scarier to evangelize about Jesus.

Paul credits Epaphras as a double evangelist. He evangelized (“brought the message to”) the Corinthians about God’s grace through Jesus, then he went back with the gospel (“good news”) of the Corinthians Spirit-powered Christian love.

Think: Do you ever “convert” your friends or family to your way of thinking about music, movies, sports, or other things? Are you less likely to be as open and persuasive about your belief in Jesus? Why do you think that is?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be willing to tell the good news about Jesus to unbelievers and to tell the good news about growing Christians you know to other Christians.

Do: Make a quick list of 5-6 good things you’ve told others about, recently — or good things others have evangelized you about.

Changed: Pray for Yourself

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (Colossians 1:9)

How should you pray for yourself? Yes, you could pray a million different things. But how should you pray for yourself about your spiritual life? Do you ever pray for your own spiritual growth — or maybe the spiritual growth of a friend who is getting serious about following Jesus?

changed_350It’s a great idea to pray for yourself and others this way. How? Notice how Paul said he prayed for the Colossians when he heard about their Jesus-following faith and love taking off. The first thing he said he asked God was to help these growing believers know God’s will.

Why? Getting to the point in your Christian life where you’re willing to do God’s will for you is one step. The next one is to figure out what His will for you is. Paul asked God to provide “spiritual wisdom” and “understanding” so these Christians could figure out God’s will. Are you looking for God’s wisdom? Are you asking Him for it?

Think: On a scale from 1 to 10, how willing are you right now to do God’s will for you? On that same scale, how confident are you that you know God’s will for you today?

Pray: Ask God to “fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Do: Read Romans 12:1-2 and notice how those two verses teach us to find God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Changed: What Does God Want from Me?

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10)

What does God want from you, anyway? Paul gives us a quick laundry list of things God wants from us in these next few verses.

changed_350He wants us to live a life worthy of the Lord. It matters to God how we live. True, we’ve been forgiven for our sins through Jesus, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that means God doesn’t care what you do next.

He also wants you to make choices that please Him. Some people resent the idea that God would want us to perform for His pleasure. Others are thrilled with the notion that a single human being could do anything to bring positive emotion to the God of the universe.

Think: Do you really believe that your personal moral choices matter to God emotionally? How do your choices reflect your belief?

Pray: Ask God to help you care about making Him happy — and to help you to live a life worthy of Him.

Do: Write down any evidence you can think of from your life recently that shows that you’re “bearing fruit” in good works. Next, bullet-point any evidence that you’ve been “growing in the knowledge of God.”

Changed: Fruitier, Smarter, Stronger

“. . . bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience . . .” (Colossians 1:10-11)

Today, we continue Paul’s quick list of ways that we — as puny, single human beings in a world of 7 billion people — can bring pleasure to God. It’s the list of ways Paul prayed that these Christians would continue growing.

changed_350Bearing fruit in every good work: Growing Christians do good works that make a difference in the lives of others.

Growing in the knowledge of God: Growing Christians keep finding our more and more about God.

Being strengthened by God’s power: Growing Christians get stronger, which makes them more patient and able to trust God with less effort.

Think: Have you seen evidence of these three areas of growth in your own life? If so (or not), why do you think that is?

Pray: Ask God to help you to bear fruit for Him in every good work; to grow in your knowledge of Him; and to get stronger with His power so it’s easier for you to trust Him longer.

Do: Make a list of the names of three Christians, one each that you’ve noticed growing in these ways during the last year or two.