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Sermon for Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Colossians 1:1-14   What Are They Saying About Us

There is a human activity that is easily engaged in, can be almost addictive, can seem somewhat harmless, but can damage lives and destroy relationships.  We call it gossip.  Sadly, every one of us is susceptible to it.  What is worse is that it tends to magnify and intensify as it spreads from one person to another. It is a very effective sin that can do horrible damage. I know very well. I was a victim of some very horrible gossip that still causes pain.

A friend confessed to another friend that they had a bad habit of repeating gossip. When told this, the friend quickly responded, “I know, but repeating it wouldn’t be so bad if you did not improve on it time after time”.

In this passage, Paul states: We have heard.  A report has been given.  Material has been shared.  Information has been passed.  What is being said?  Is it gossip? 

The purpose of this book, this book we call the Holy Bible, is to bring to humanity the good news, the information, the inspiration, the instruction, and insight in order for us to discover the love God has for us and how we can reap the benefits of this love.  We call this the message the Gospel.  Paul was called by God to proclaim the Gospel. Question, is what Paul writes here to the Colossian’s gossip, or is it the Gospel?

Gossip is defined as a conversation about personal matters: a conversation about the personal details of other people’s lives without their permission, it does not matter whether it is a rumor, fact, or fabrication. This is especially true when malicious. 

Gospel has come to mean an absolute truth: something believed to be absolutely and unquestionably true.  As we read this passage, as we grasp Paul’s purpose it becomes clear that Paul is writing Gospel and not gossip.  So, what can we learn from Paul’s divinely inspirited words?

Out in our community, both gossip and gospel are being shared about our church and by our church.  Which one of these two elements is predominant?  Which one are we most known for?  This is not a static situation.  It is one that can change either way.  The deciding factor has to do with the level of spiritual maturity we possess and the spiritual maturity we desire. 

Some might ask, “What do you mean by spiritual maturity?”  I will get to that in a moment for it is a key element in Paul’s gospel words to the Colossians.

In our passage today, Paul addresses a church he has heard much about.  Paul had heard from secondhand sources about the details of the spiritual life of the people of the church at Colossae. 

What he had heard was not rumor, not speculation, but a report of what was happening.  What Paul was told is not about gossip but about Gospel. The rumors were real.

What has been reported is what God is doing in the midst of his people.  Paul is using what he has been told to seek to help this church through a crisis they are facing, a challenge that is growing in their midst. I hope we understand we have an enemy that thrives on creating conflict.

The church at Colossae faced a difficult challenge.  They lived in a world filled with spiritual counterfeits.  They were continually bombarded with seductive messages that tried to turn their hearts and minds away from Jesus toward lifestyles and mindsets that told them what was most important was their own desires and pleasures. Put yourself first, many religions would say.

Add to this that many in the church in Colossae were very immature in their faith and you have a formula for a church in trouble. 

What do you mean by immature in their faith?  Faith is a growth process.  Faith is like life.  A child is not born into adulthood. A child must grow to function as a human being. 

Faith must grow to function as intended in our relationship with God.  As human beings we mature physically, mentally, and emotionally.   Failing to grow in these areas produces immaturity. 

In faith, we mature in relational understanding, relational commitment, and relational responsibility.  Failing to grow in these areas produces immaturity. 

Now how does this apply to us?  We too, like the Colossians face a culture that is filled with spiritual counterfeits.  We too live in a world that is hostile to faith in Jesus Christ and tries to prevent us or at least make it hard for us to live our lives for Him. 

Our culture has been very successful in accomplishing this goal (evidence: 80-85% self-identify as Christians; 90% believe in God; 75% pray once a week; 47% attend church once a week & of those only 31% believe the Bible is true; of those, only 2% seek to obey what the Scripture teaches). 

The church today is a very immature church.  The crisis faced by the Colossians is a crisis faced by us today.  And the gossip that is heard about the church, about our hypocrisy, our fighting, our scandals, corruption, materialism, politics, and other problems are directly related to our level of spiritual maturity as is our ability to live in the light, love, power, and presence of the Gospel.

What can we do?  First, we need to understand that we cannot do it, but God can.

(Elephant walked across a bridge.  As the elephant walked the timbers and wood shook and rattled.  On the other side a flea, who was riding on the elephant’s back, yelled in the huge creature’s ear, “Boy we shook that bridge didn’t we.”) It is God, not us that can shake all eternity.

The beginning of spiritual maturity is when we understand that it is He, Jesus Christ, who must be in control of our lives. 

Look again at verses 12-14; He made, He rescued, He set us free.  This is the foundation of faith. This is the beginning of faith’s relational understanding.  We fail God. We sin.  We needed Someone to forgive us of our sins.  Jesus is the only one who can.  He died to do this for us. He forgives. He saves.

This, however, is just the beginning.  Look at verse 9.  Paul here is focusing on those in the church of Colossae who are maturing in their faith. 

One of the problems we human beings have is that we focus on the bad (just watch the news and list the bad news with the good news).  We tend to focus on the problems and weaknesses rather than our strengths.  It is easy to be drawn to the problems and neglect the possibilities.

Problems can consume all our energy and distract us from our purpose. 

The reality is that possibilities can overcome problems.  Look at verse 5.  Paul states because of hope.  This is not blind hope, but hope built on facts, upon experiences, and upon the promises of God. 

If Paul were writing us today, what would the Spirit have him write of our church?   Would he write about the love people have in this church, especially the love for one another?  Would he write about the desire we have to be a people of prayer?  Would he write about our hope to touch the lives of children and youth?  Would he write about our willingness to come together to accomplish Kingdom work?  These things are the gospel. 

Let us be encouraged to see the possibilities, the hope we have.  Let us work to increase our relational understanding.  Let us be encouraged to become more involved in those things that increase our spiritual commitment and work to increase our spiritual strength by becoming more conscious of our spiritual responsibilities in view of the world in which we live.   

This is what we are encouraged to do in this passage. 

Our world lives for gossip.  It likes to look at other people’s lives and point out what is wrong, such as the world’s immaturity.  We are called to the light of the gospel.  We need to look for the love of God in everyone we meet.

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