Sunday, October 11, 2009

Paul's Labor for the Church

This week's cold snap culminated in an early snow yesterday. Yet this morning the sun broke through and as the service opened, melting snow was dripping from the roof outside, no doubt assisted by the warmth from within. The lively, celebratory mood was broken only by the ebullient greeting of Pastor Brad and his genuine exclamation, "I'm delighted you're here today."

Key announcements before the commencement of the service included a reminder that the junior high retreat will be next weekend at Covenant Park and some information about the discussions taking place regarding the possibilities regarding a potential purchase of Caribou Lake School for our future building. Meetings have been conducted regarding the pitfalls and processes for this kind of move.

Darlene ushered us into worship again with special music that was, as usual, evocative. Ellie and Brad served as worship leaders this morning. The Scripture reading, after an offering, was taken from Colossians 1:24-2:5.

Paul's Labor for the Church

Brad began be re-reading the text for today's message, asking us to consider the words that jumped out at us. At first blush it is a passage with a level of complexity that does not make for easy understanding. Brad said that sometimes when he reads a section of Scripture that is difficult he looks for keywords which he holds onto as clues for unlocking the message or meanings in the passage.

Affliction, suffering, purpose, mystery and commission were some of the key words or ideas here in this passage.

Using three of these key words, Brad formed an outline that he hoped would provide us with a measure of understanding.
I. Commission
II. Specific Goals
III. Suffering

Paul writes, "I have become its servant by the commission God gave me." His commission was to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles.

What does it mean to have a calling or commission? Brad explained that our calling is an answer to the question, "Where can I fit in to the larger work of God."

Do you believe every Christian gets a calling? Paul believes all have a call on their lives. The next question is, will we carry it out?

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23) Brad asked us what kind of cross this was that we're asked to carry. A cross of wood? Obviously not. Rather, our cross is our calling. We are to be faithful to it, even if it costs us something.

Specific Goals
For this reason it is important that we discover our calling. Whose ultimately responsibility is it for you to find your calling? Is it God's responsibility?

Paul fasted and prayed for three days after his Damascus Road experience. (Acts 9) We have to lower the ambient noise level in our lives. Then we need to search out and deploy our gifts. As we step out we discover what we were born to be.

Jesus knew His calling, to seek and to save the lost. Mother Teresa's calling was to serve the poorest of the poor. Billy Graham, too, knew his calling, to preach Christ to the masses.

In verses 25-27 Paul writes:
25I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

The hope of glory was no longer something just reserved for the Jews. The doors of the kingdom had been opened wide and the Good News of the Gospel was being proclaimed for all. For Paul this meant not only making Christ known, but helping people grow to full maturity in Christ.

Do you hear an echo of the Great Commission? That's what we're about, too, to reach those who are far from the faith.

There is, Paul notes, a price tag. "I rejoice in what I suffered for you..." The kingdom of God does not advance to a higher level unless someone pays a price. Someone has to do a little dying. For the church to advance, we must die to self-absorption, must die to lesser dreams and get a greater vision, must die to wreckless pleasure seeking to put on the serving towel and serve in the church so that the church can prevail.

The key is knowing that Christ is working in us, and ultimately He will prevail.

Top Right: One of our two adult Sunday School classes.

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