Sermon Notes: Colossians 4:2-6: Maturity in the Public Square

Colossians 4:2-6: Maturity in the public square

As we move toward the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he sets up his closing missional greetings with some instructions on how they are to grow up into maturity in the way they engage the public square. 

The Colossians, and all churches, are to be outposts of the kingdom of God to the world from our communities, towns, and cities. It matters how we engage those who are outside of the faith. 

Maturing in how we engage the world is important to the vision of God’s glory among the nations from the local church by us being and producing radical followers of Jesus Christ.

How did Paul choose to address this public witness? 

He gives two commands. (pray and act wisely toward outsiders, thus the title “maturity in the public square) 

Paul will also give us some modifying instructions on how to obey these commands.

Colossians 4:2-6.

Devote yourselves to prayer. V. 2

For all of God’s glorious means, known and unknown, He wired his world to work through prayer.

Prayer presupposes that we need God to overcome nature, sin, people, and institutions that we can’t ultimately affect, so we ask God to do it. 

In prayer, we are asking God to put the super on the natural and even to override others’ volitional decisions in order to bring about his reign on earth as it is in heaven. 

Prayer is us asking God to push past misplaced human values that he simply does not hold. 

Prayer, according to Jesus in John 15:16, is partly for us to get the fruit he has appointed us to go and produce as we abide in him. 

John 15:15 “I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give to you.”

Jesus’ words here are astounding because he tells us that the purpose is that we pray and ask the Father for whatever represents Jesus’ reputation and mission (that’s what “Jesus’ name” means). The purpose is prayer that glorifies God and God giving us what we ask for on mission, so God gave us a mission to do something that can only be done by seeking him in prayer so that we could ask. Astounding!

When we ask the Father for what Jesus came to do, the Father will do it. 

AND because prayer is so powerful for God’s glory and getting his work done, Jesus sends us to produce that exact fruit through prayer. (See George Muller)

This is why Paul tells them the first priority for work in the public square is prayer. 

And….

How does he want us to pray?

  1. With devotion. v. 2 
    1. Actually, make prayer a priority. 
    2. This means that we default to prayer as our primary action, not the “ministry”. 
  2. With alertness. V. 2
    1. Being aware of God’s glory and will in the moment. 
    2. Having our discernment set to the Holy Spirit so we can engage in prayer at a breath’s notice.
  3. With thanksgiving. V. 2
    1. Psalms 100:4-5 (CSB) 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name. 5 For the LORD is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations.
      1. Thanksgiving on the front end comes from a heart that knows God and his faithfulness, so that person begins with thanksgiving and praise. 

What do we pray for?

  1. We pray that God would provide opportunities for his people to speak the mystery of the gospel. V 3 
    1. Pray for opportunities to unpack the glorious gospel of the kingdom. 
    2. The gospel of the kingdom reveals what the curse of sin has tried to hide and has now been revealed through the coming, dying, rising and ascending of Jesus. 
      1. Colossians 1:27 tells us what the mystery is for those who don’t know, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Why pray like this? 

  1. So that we might make the gospel known as we should. V. 4
    1. There is an obligation here in the wording of “should”. 
      1. The implication is that we have been sent to proclaim the gospel, and without prayer, we might not do the work we’ve been sent to do. 
        1. Could a failure to preach the gospel be a failure in prayer?

If we need to pray and pray like this, what is possible if we don’t pray for our public square engagement?

  1. We might not be ready and become dull to God’s glories all around us. 
  2. We might lose a thankful heart as we become dull toward God. 
  3. We might not see God open gospel opportunities (or any opportunities) for us. 
  4. We might not experience the Lord in telling the good news of the kingdom. 
  5. We might just become religious consumers who wonder why we don’t see the power of God. 

Corporate prayer is not just an awkward time of silence for us to endure until someone starts talking again. It’s a time to effectively advance the mission together. 

What is the second command given for us to grow up to maturity in our public witness? 

Act wisely toward outsiders. V. 5

The second command is to “act wisely toward outsiders”, and Paul is going to tell them how to act wisely as they exist in the public square. 

  1. Act wisely by making the most of the time. V. 5
    1. “Act” modified by “making the most of the time”, means the manner in which one lives life. 
    2. Our life actions are to be wise by taking advantage of time. 
      1. In other words, acting in a timely manner is wise because the situation is urgent. 
    3. People who are outside the faith, and institutions operating on dark kingdom ideas, are receiving and sending input from sources and have been taken captive by the world system to do its will. 
      1. It is urgent. 
      2. There is no such thing as neutral information. 
    4. Being wise means we need to urgently and properly engage. 
      1. What are they believing that we need to affect?
      2. How do I communicate our distinctives that are contrary to a world system?
      3. Am I attractive to people outside of the faith? 
        1. Let the kingdom do any offending that needs to be done. Don’t assist with the offense. 
        2. How can we best do this?
      4. Bob Roberts writes about work in the public square in “Lessons from the East” beginning on page 115. 
        1. Be respectful of cultural authority and identity, and honor what is honorable. 
          1. Recognize the difference between race and ethnicity. 
            1. White does not equal country. 
            2. Black does not eqaul hip-hop. 
        2. Be civil. 
        3. Be a good citizen. Work for the good of your community rather than withdraw. This is how you earn a hearing.
        4. Understand protocol. (when to speak and when to be quiet/how to dress/how to eat or not/where not to sit/don’t honor yourself)
          1. Luke 14:7-11
        5. Build credibility by underpromising and overdelivering. 
        6. Keep a calm spirit. 
          1. We can be urgent while being calm. These are not mutually exclusive. 
        7. Live an integrated life. 
          1. Recognize God’s common grace and don’t divide the world into sacred and secular. 
        8. Highlight distinctives and don’t minimize them. 
          1. Find common ground and work from there.
            1. Example: We are all human and have human needs. 
          2. Never compromise the faith. 
  2. Act wisely by gracious speech. V. 6
    1. “Gracious” is modified by “seasoned with salt”. 
      1. Grace, in the Bible, is the power of God toward his people. 
      2. Powerful speech is not forceful or loud necessarily. 
      3. Gracious speech is seasoned with salt. 
        1. Salt was used in the Old Testament as a purification agent in sacrifices that were not burnt offerings and as an offering itself.  
        2. When we talk about being “salt”, Jesus means that we are to be agents of holiness and purity as we offer ourselves to Jesus as living sacrifices. 
        3. So, gracious and seasoned speech is speech that carries the continual aroma of Jesus and his kingdom manifested in purity and self-sacrifice. 
          1. Gracious and seasoned speech is that speech that always reeks of the Bible whether we can locate its chapter and verse or not. 
        4. Gracious and seasoned speech is that speech that for some is the aroma of life or the aroma of death.
          1. 2 Corinthians 2:14-17
        5. Gracious and seasoned speech is that speech that can take the principles of God’s metanarrative of the gospel and apply it to any situation. 
          1. This takes time and continual engagement and practice. 
    2. Why would we have such speech? V. 6
      1. So that we can know how to answer each person. 
      2. When our lives have been infected with the story of God’s kingdom, there is nothing we can’t apply God’s word to.

Application

Pray:

  1. Praise and thanksgiving. 
  2. Open doors for proclaiming the gospel as we should. 
  3. Holy Spirit ability to act wisely in 

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