Pastor Duane Smets
September 9th, 2018
I. Church Leadership
II. Church Membership
III. Church Relationships
Today we begin a journey together…a journey into reading through and studying our tenth book of the Bible together as a church.
I’ve been reading and preparing and planning and anticipating this for over a year now and I’m super excited to introduce to you today to the book of Colossians in a series we are calling, “The Glories of Christ.” Colossians is an incredible book of the Bible. It’s exciting, it’s comforting, it’s challenging, compelling and extremely encouraging. It was originally written to a fairly young church, like ours, to a very cultured city, much like ours.
I’ve personally benefitted a ton from reading Colossians in my personal life. There are some lines in it that just hit you and sink deep. A few of them have become key phrases I now regularly think of and pray in my walk with God. Lines like, “Christ holds me”, “My life is hidden in Christ.” “All my life for the glory of Christ.”
I’ll tell you this, I promise you if open yourself up to really read and take in this book of the Bible, it will change your life. It’s going to be a great journey for us together as a church. So here’s what we have planned, 36 sermons, which will take us about a year.
And here are some special things we have planned for you.
1. You can buy a study guide for $10 at the connect booth. This is what all our community group leaders will be using for the discussion times during the week. A special thanks to Pastor Ryan Buss who did all the hard work in writing the material for this book!
2. Pastor Ryan Buss not only wrote the study guide has written weekly devotionals from Colossians that you can sign up to receive. Three times a week you can get an email that comes in the morning with a little blurb to read to start of your day. If you want on that list, do this, pull out your phones and text DEVO to 619-648-5444.
Pretty cool huh? Are you guys excited about this? I believe God is going to use our study of this book to really grow and shape us as a church, making us a healthy, mature and great church!
Alright, let’s jump into our text for today. Just the first two verses from the first chapter in a sermon I’ve titled, “Family Faith.” Would you stand with me in honor of recognizing these words as words written not only by the hand of human men but superintended by God to be His given word to us.
“1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”
So here’s what I want to do. First I want to tell you a little bit about Colossae and the nature of this book as a letter and then we’ll get into the three main things its introduction brings up.
Colossae was a beautiful city in Asia Minor, which is now the country of Turkey. It was about 100 miles inland along the Lychus river, backdropped with mountains and lots of green pasture. The river had this chalk in it that they used for dying cloth that became super popular back then known as “Colossae Cloth.” Colossae was one of three cities in the region and what Colossae really became known for was its spirituality.
Colossae was sort of the melting pot place for all kinds of belief systems. Whether it was astrology or the worship of this god or that god, or special diets and healing techniques or interest in dreams, angels and all kinds of philosophy, whatever you might be into you could find it in Colossae.
Kind of like San Diego right? San Diego is the ultimate melting pot. You’ve got people here from all over the world, people from every race, every religion and no matter what sport or hobby you’re into, you can find a group of people here who are into that.
I just discovered wake surfing. It’s where a special boat creates a wave in its wake and you just surf that wave behind the boat not even holding a rope. And there’s special wakesurf board and if you go out on Mission Bay on a Saturday morning you’ll see a bunch of boats out there with people wake surfing behind them. It’s super fun! Whatever you’re into you can find it here in San Diego, which is one of the things that makes our city so great! There’s no need to ever go anywhere else!
So a number of years ago now we studied through the book of Acts as a church, which tells the story of how all the first churches got started after Jesus died, rose and went back to heaven. What seems to have happened is in Act 19 Paul, who we’ll talk about in a few minutes as the guy who God had write this letter to Colossae…Paul was preaching in the area and a bunch of people became Christian, one of whom ended up being this dude named Epaphras, who went back home to Colossae and started the churched.
Within the first 20 years after Jesus rose from the dead a bunch of churches got started all over the middle east, dedicated to, worshipping and following Jesus as God and Savior. Colossae was one of those churches and it was a special church because God had Paul write a letter to it, that ended up getting put in the Bible and being called book.
But here’s what you gotta know. Even though this letter was first sent to the church in Colossae, it was not only meant just for them. At the end of this letter, it says, “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 the Laodiceans (Col 4:16).” That letter was the book of the Bible we call Ephesians.
The reason why I’m bringing this up is one of the most common questions I get as a pastor is how did the books of the Bible get in the Bible, was it just some power play by the Catholic church or something? And the answer is no, all they did was collect all the writings that were being circulated and treated as special words put down on paper from God, through the hands of men for us for all time.
All of the things Paul wrote, he called “prophetic writings”, which means mouthpiece of God writings and in Romans 16:27-28 he says they are for “all the nations, according to the command of the eternal God…forevermore.” So this letter, the book of Colossians was not meant just for the ancient church in Colossae but for us, here and now today!
Now, I know we don’t really write real letters anymore. Email killed letters, right? Do any of you remember the last time you received or wrote a letter to someone? You know like a real letter, “Dear so and so…and then you write a bunch of personal stuff”? I don’t think I’ve ever actually done that. Now we just post social media updates and expect everyone to know what’s going on in our lives that way. No real personal interaction right?
But imagine. Imagine if someone we got this bonafide, certified, registered mail in the letter, from God to us The Resolved Church. I know some would question whether or not it was really from God because someone else typed up what he wanted to be said. But it was real, can you imagine what that would feel like? It’d feel pretty awesome and pretty special right? That’s what the book of Colossians is to us. A special letter was written from the heart of God, through the hand of the Apostle Paul, to us, for our good and our growth.
Today, we’re just looking at two short verses, the introduction to the letter. Yet, in these short two verses, there’s a ton we can see and learn from about how God sees and means church to be and to function. So let’s talk about three of them. They are “Church Leadership”, “Church Membership” and “Church Relationships” and what all three are talking about, the main idea or take home thing is simply that “Church is God’s family and it’s the best family."
I. Church Leadership
With this first point, I want to tell a bit of the story of Paul and the way God has set up and designed church to function. Paul wasn’t always called Paul. He used to go by the name of Saul and he actually hated Jesus, hated Christians and hated church.
Saul would talk trash about Jesus, Christians, and church and at one point even got the political authority to go after churches to shut them down and to arrest and even kill Christians. He was actually instrumental in having the very first person ever killed for being a Christian, a man named Stephen. Due to his role in that Paul later referred to himself as a murderer and called himself a chief of sinners.
What happened was one day on a road trip to go to this church in a city to shut it down, a bright light shone down from heaven blinding him and a voice spoke from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He answered and said, “Who are you?” And the voice spoke again saying, “I am Jesus.”
From that moment on Saul was a changed man. He came to believe that Jesus was truly God’s Son, who loved Him and had grace on him by dying for his sin on the cross, even his sin of murder. He was so changed from the inside out He started going by Paul instead of Saul and became one of the most ardent followers of Jesus, talking about Him all of the time, he started a bunch of churches, became an Apostle to the churches, wrote thirteen books of the Bible and then in the end was put to death for his faith in Jesus.
It’s an incredible story. It reminds us that there is no one who is too far gone that there is no hope for. God can change anyone and use them. One of my daughters friends from school’s mom is a very vocal atheist and we were talking about her the other day and I said, “She might be close.” Sometimes it’s those who hate God the most that are so close to having a change of heart and coming to know Him and love Him.
I want you to know today too, that if you feel like you’re too far gone, too damaged, too broken, too sinful, too whatever…that there is still hope and grace for you. Jesus stands in front of you, shining His light of grace and opens His arms to you.
There is hope for you. Don’t let the dark clouds of fear, guilt, and shame overtake you. See the brilliant light of Christ piercing through and saying I love you just the way you are, I accept you and receive you. God may even mean to make you a church leader like Paul and if so we’d love to help you with that! You can register for LD today!
Paul went through a lot and after a number of years God raised him up to be an apostle for the churches. That’s the first line in the book of Colossians. He introduces himself as, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”
An apostle was very unique and special role of church leadership. It was a role where one was a leader in not just one church but overseeing several churches. There were certain qualifications to being an apostle, just like the Bible gives certain qualifications for those who are pastors. To be an apostle you had to have seen the risen Jesus and been trained by Him (Acts 1:21-22).
Paul was a special case. He saw the risen Jesus later than the original ones and then after becoming a Christian says he went down to Arabia and was taught by Jesus Himself for three years (Galatians 1:12,17-18), the same amount time the original disciples were. So Paul became the thirteenth apostle in addition to the original eleven and Matthias who replaced Judas.
Apostle means “sent one” and the apostle’s job was to spread the gospel by planting churches, overseeing them and they were the only ones who could be commissioned by God to write or validate books of the Bible.
Now, due to the qualifications of having had to see the risen Jesus and be trained by Him directly and due to God telling John that after the book of Revelation that there should be no more books of the Bible (Rev 22:18), we here at The Resolved Church do not believe there are apostles anymore today. People may have apostolic like gifts in planting multiple churches and even overseeing multiple churches but we do not believe they should be called, capital “A” apostles.
What we do believe in is the principle of authority in churches. Apostles were part of the leadership structure of the way Jesus intended churches to be set up and function, along with pastors and deacons. Apostles still carry a weight of authority today as we read what God instructed them and attempt to follow it and put it into practice.
The authority structures the Bible gives for churches today to operate by are described in Acts 20, 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and it’s with pastors and deacons. I’ll just simplify it today by saying this…Pastors are leaders who mainly lead with their words, either in the pulpit or small groups or one on one meetings. Deacons are leaders who mainly lead with their works, assisting the pastors in taking care of the practical needs of the people of the church.
What it boils down to, what the word “apostle” signals is that God means for His churches to function with good godly leadership. This is important for us to recognize.
Due to people who have abused positions of authority and hurt others, whether it was in the home, at work, at church, in government it seems to me that our culture has become increasingly suspicious and resistant to leadership and authority.
Brett McCracken in an article titled, “Spiritual Authority in an Anti-Authoritarian Age” wrote,
“The question of authority is a hard and really uncomfortable one for a lot of people because we live in an anti-authority age in which we're skeptical of authority. We're in a post-truth era. We don't even know who to trust, what to trust. So, within these institutions that used to be trustworthy (religion, politics, leaders), we don't know who to trust anymore.
We live in a culture that, for a long time, has basically said that you as an individual are the only one that you can trust. You are the only one who can determine your destiny, who you are, what you're meant to be. How you were created doesn't matter. You get to decide.”
So here’s what I want to say about this.
First, you can’t get away from authority. The moment someone starts saying you should reject this or that authority they are speaking authoritatively as though you should listen and obey what they are suggesting.
Second, authority is meant to be a good thing. Almost one-hundred percent of the time when you have children who perpetually behave wild and unruly its because the authority figures of mom or dad are either not present or that mom and/or dad refuse to say “no” to their children and refuse to discipline their children when they act out.
In contrast to the B.F. Skinner positive reinforcement only method of parenting, child psychologists nowadays are saying that children are testing limits to figure out what is safe and when a parent does not say “no” it’s unsettling and scary. So one of the ways a child ends up feeling loved is by letting them know what is okay and good for them and what is not.
And here’s the thing, all the leadership structure in the church is based upon the leadership structure in the home. A good family structure is the core of a good society. William Bennet wrote an article in the New York Times a while back titled “Stronger Families, Stronger Societies” and said,
“The family is the nucleus of civilization and the basic social unit of society. Research clearly shows that the institution of the family is the first form of community and government and is the first, best and original Department of Health, Education and Welfare. For a civilization to succeed, the family must succeed.”
Now here’s the thing. I know many of us have been hurt. I was hurt by the kind of authority I grew up with in my family and I’ve been hurt in churches by people and pastors who were supposed to be trustable. I was actually publicly dismissed from a church once. That was not fun.
Some of you have been hurt by spouses, bosses, disillusioned with government leaders and the natural reaction to hurt is to want to protect ourselves. The inner conversation is that didn’t feel good, so no way, I don’t want that.
I get that. And I think the Bible gets that too. It’s why there are such high standards set for pastors and deacons. Out of the sixteen qualifications, fifteen of them have to do with character.
So what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to follow spiritual authorities, when we’ve been hurt and have trouble trusting?
I think the answer is in our text. Paul says he “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”
God is the ultimate authority. And God never has nor ever will abuse His power and authority because He’s a good God. We only have two options in life. We can either be our own authority, which is essentially making ourselves out to be our own gods or we can submit to The God and trust Him as the supreme authority.
But what about the hurts? Two things. One, 1 Peter 4:19 says it this way, “Let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.” Two, Paul says in our first verse of Colossians that he’s an apostle of “Christ Jesus.”
Christ Jesus is the one who was hurt for us on the cross so that He could heal us. Through Jesus was can be healed of our hurts and in Jesus, we find one who is truly trustable because He cares for our souls.
The Bible actually calls Jesus the chief pastor and says that all any other pastors are to be is simply under pastors. Pastors are to simply serve under Jesus as instruments of His love, grace, and healing. And when we see that and experience that then we’re able to do what Hebrews 13:17 in the Bible calls for when it says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls.”
I speak for all six of the pastors of our church when I say it’s our deepest desire to earn your trust and to love and care for you with the love of Christ. That’s how we see church leadership of Jesus Christ according to the will of God. It’s based on a loving family. The church is God’s family and it’s the best family.
Well, let’s move on and talk about church membership.
II. Church Membership
I’m taking this point from verse two in our text for today where it says, “To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters.” We’ll talk about the brothers and sisters part in our last point for today. First, let’s spend a few minutes on the word “saints” and the word “faithful.”
“Saints” means holy ones. The Catholic church has venerated certain people who have done great things in Christian history calling them saints. But according to the Bible, anyone who is a Christian is a saint.
Paul explains it this way in Ephesians 2:19-21,
“You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”
Being a saint doesn’t mean you’re perfect but means you’ve become a citizen of God’s kingdom, a member of God’s family, his household and you’re a person who spiritually growing along with other people together. Being called a saint is a recognition that God has done a big work in your life, like Paul’s, changing you, which results in you coming into the family to walk with God and have Him work in you.
Even when we still blow it because we’re still sinners as Christians we’re still saints because we’re still in the family and we’re still members. You see, being called a saint is really the call to church membership.
You might be here today and you’re just sort of checking things out and we’re stoked that you’re here and that you are. Our desire is that you would see and hear how good it is to come in and live under God with us in His house and experience the joys of being family members together.
Last year guy in our church that was just attending, coming occasionally, I’d see him some Sundays and not others. Then he started coming more regularly, God really began to do a deep work in His life. He got baptized, went through our church membership class and then had an interview with one of our pastors.
When we covenant new members here at our church we do this special ceremony where we bring everyone on stage. And I’ll never forget the day he became a member. He was wearing the shirt he got baptized in and he had the biggest smile on his face and he said to me as he was walking up the steps here behind the curtain, “Duane, I’m so excited to become a member today. I’ve never had a church love me and commit to me like this.”
We hear stories like that all the time. Families who went to churches before but they didn’t have any kind of official membership and they’ll tell us, “This is so wonderful, to have a church that commits to loving and caring for one another.” There’s something so significant about putting a name on it and publicly saying, “I’ll be there for you and we’re in this together.” There’s such a difference between just attending and actually being a member.
So little plug, we’ll be covenanting a bunch of new members on the 23rd and then on September 30, the last Sunday of the month our next membership class starts. You can register for it at the connect booth or on our website today!
If you’re not a member I’d love for you to become one with us. We want you. As Christians, we’re all part of the capital “C” Church, the Church of Jesus throughout all the world throughout all time, but God calls us to be members of a particular local church, like the church at Colossae or The Resolved Church. That’s the will of God for you in how He means for you to flourish and grow in life.
I read this great little book a while back titled, “Stop Dating The Church: Fall In Love With The Family of God.” In it, Joshua Harris writes this,
"Do you see one or more of these characteristics in yourself?
First, our attitude toward church tends to be me-centered. We go for what we can get—social interaction, programs, or activities. The driving question is, ‘What can church do for me?’
The second sign of a church-dater is being independent. We go to church because that’s what Christians are supposed to do—but we’re careful to avoid getting involved too much, especially with people. We don’t pay attention to God’s larger purpose for us as a vital part of a specific church family. So we go through the motions without really investing ourselves.
Most essentially, a church-dater tends to be critical. We are short on allegiance and quick to find fault in our church. We treat church with a consumer mentality—looking for the best product for the price of our Sunday morning. As a result, we’re fickle and not invested for the long-term, like a lover with a wandering eye, always on the hunt for something better.
Consider what is lost when church dating becomes a way of life. When we resist passion and commitment in our relationship with the church, everyone gets cheated out of God’s best. You cheat yourself. You cheat a church community. You cheat your world.”
Kind of strong words but I think he hits the nail on the head. Church membership is good for you and if you resist it, it’s going to be really tough to grow, be used and experience all the good God has designed for you. So take the membership class!
Okay, next let’s talk about this word “faithful.” To be faithful is to be consistent, to be reliable, to commit. We live in a culture that is extremely afraid of commitment, very unreliable and inconsistent.
Have you ever invited someone to something and you can never quite get a straight answer out of them? We all want to keep all of our options open and never commit until the last second, just in case something better comes along. Sound familiar?
What Paul points out here right away is to be saints, holy ones, is to be faithful, to be consistent, to be reliable. Our God is faithful. You can count on Him. He follows through. And a big part of maturity, what Christian maturity looks like is God making us increasingly faithful.
In our guestimations, it seems that about half of our church comes only once or twice a month on Sunday and only about one-third are regularly in community, in a community group. And I simply want to invite you to come every Sunday and to get into a community group.
I was doing a member interview with a young gal in our church who’s becoming a member in a couple weeks and I guess I said something like that a number of months ago and she said she got to thinking, “Why don’t I come every Sunday?” So she started to come every week and she was explaining to me how different it felt, how much better to see everybody each week and to start off her week hearing about God and His love and how God has been using it to grow and shape her.
Here’s what I want to say. Sunday shouldn’t be an option. It shouldn’t be a question in your mind, “Hey, do I feel like going to church today?” “Do you want to go to church today?” We shouldn’t let anything get in the way of it. Nothing’s more important.
The reason it shouldn't be an option is because God our faithful Father created the world in 7 days. The world functions in weeks. We live week to week and God means for each of our weeks to start with Sunday, where through that regular rhythm we receive spiritual rest from the prior week and empowerment for the coming week.
It’s not about just coming to hear a sermon. It’s not about just coming to hear some music and sing some songs. It’s not about just coming to see your friends. It’s not about just coming to receive communion (which by the way you can’t get anywhere else except in church). It’s not about any one of those things. It’s about how God has designed all of that together to be a rhythm of life to bless you with His grace and peace and to shape who He is making you be.
Without it, you’re missing out on the good life God means for His people. So take hold of the opportunity. Say to yourself, this year I’m going to be faithful. Unless I’m sick or on a planned vacation, I’m going to be here because this is where God has called and designed me to be. Church is God’s family and it’s the best family, so come and be with the family!
Alright, let’s move on to our final point for today, “Church Relationships.”
III. Church Relationships
In this last point, I want to talk for just a few minutes about the family language here. Paul calls Timothy his brother. He calls the people of the church brothers and sisters. He calls God “our father.” He mentions Christ Jesus, who he says 12 verses later is God’s “beloved Son.”
So all this is family clearly family language, right? Family is a really really big deal. Here at our church, we are convinced that everything flows from family.
As we see in this passage God is the Father. We believe that God is the Holy Trinity who exists and has existed eternally as one God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in a relationship of love and unity. The Bible teaches that we as human beings were created in His image, so we were created by nature to be in relationship, to be in a family and to have healthy family relationships with all God’s people.
Family sets the trajectory of the course of all of our lives whether we like it or not.
Rich Plass and Jim Coefield write in their book “Relational Soul,”
“By definition, the Christian God exists in relationship as Father, Son, and Spirit. We were created with this relational likeness and we long for relational connection because God exists in a relationship of love.
We are structured by and for relationships. Our relationships determine whether we have and enjoy life. A deep participation in the life of another is the lifeblood of the soul.
Learning to relate starts at least as early as the day we are born. Our way of entering into and maintaining all our relationships (not just marriage) is one of the earliest psychological structures formed in us. We come into the world neurologically wired to make connections, to attach to others. When our early connections are healthy, we will find it easier to connect well as adults. To the extent our emotional attachment with our primary caregivers is lacking while we are children, we will find our relational capacity limited as adults.”
So here’s the thing, you may have grown up with a good family or in somewhat of a challenging family environment. In reality, I think there’s something challenging in every family. But I think we intuitively know that family is a good thing.
I’ve never heard anyone say, “You know the real problem with the world is babies and children. We just need to get rid of them. If we didn’t have them, everything would be okay.”
No, it’s what happens in the course of a person’s life, if they have not experienced the love of God from a mom and a dad, it has devastating effects on a person’s life in how they are formed and the decisions they make as they grow into adulthood.
The Bible itself is essentially the story of God’s family. It starts off with one man and woman and their family. The parents make some foolish decisions that end up affecting their children and the entire human race. So God says He’s going to redeem the family, making a family of faith who gets rescued and redeemed by His special son Jesus. God’s family is the best family.
Some of us may have grown up in fairly healthy families. So when you hear talk of God as Father and as your fellow church members as brother and sister that makes sense to you. Others of us may have not grown up with that, you may not have had a brother or a sister or a mom or a dad or you did and those relationships were strained at best.
In both cases, I think what our stories tell us is that we long for and need healthy family relationships. And that’s what gets provided for in Jesus. He’s the Son of God who dies for all the children who have been detached and damaged and He rises again to new life so that any who believe in and turn to Him can come into His family, the true and better one.
Romans 8:15-16 says that through Him we “…have received the Spirit of adoption as sons and daughters, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
So the way we are meant to relate, the way we are meant to be the church together is as a Godly family of brothers and sisters. Paul is constantly saying this in all his letters. 120 different times he calls the church brothers and sisters. That’s what we are to be to one another.
There’s a guy in our church, who I love, and he never calls me my name. Every time, it’s just “brother.” He’s not my brother. I didn’t have a brother growing up. And I actually know his brother. But you know what? The way I think about Him and feel toward him is as a brother. I would do anything for him and I love him and we have fun together and we learn together and grow together. He’s my brother.
You see doing church as family is such a good thing. It’s in and through that God uses to redeem and heal a lot of past family hurts and where he uses those who had healthy families to teach us what it’s like to love and care for one another as children of God.
Church is God’s family and it’s the best family. So come on in, there’s room for more in the family.
Well, we’ve jumped right into Colossians! We’re going to continue to learn a lot and grow a lot together through it and I’m so excited to see how God uses it shape us as a family together.