Today we wrap up our study on the book of Colossians and I’ve got to tell you, this has been a really great refresher course for me. For most of us, this hasn’t been ground-breaking new material that we’ve been looking at, but its sure been good to be reminded of some of these things that we already knew.
We so easily get sidetracked and distracted from the main thing – it’s good to spend some time going back to the basics.
If you’re a football fan, you probably know the name “Vince Lombardi”. If you’re not into football, I’ll presume you’ve at least heard of the superbowl. The trophy that you get by winning the super bowl is named the “Vince Lombardi Trophy”. Vince Lombardi was the coach of the Greenbay Packers from 1959-1967. Of the 130 games he coached, his team won 96 of them – including two Superbowl championships. So this guy knew what he was doing.
One of the things that Vince Lombardi was famous for was a speech he gave at every pre-season training camp. He would begin by holding up a football and saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”
He would then go over the basics of what a football is and its role in the game. He would then take his team out and show them the field, explaining where the out-of-bounds lines and the end zones were. He would go over the basic fundamentals of the game – touch downs, tackles, field goals – explaining the rules and organization of players.
Now keep in mind that this was not little leagues. These players were not beginners. They were the seasoned, professional NFL players. They’d known all this stuff for years already. And yet every year, Lombardi would begin with the most basic, fundamental principles of football. Why? Because he knew that to build a winning team, they had to understand the basic fundamentals of the game.
And that’s just what we’ve been doing. As we’ve been looking at Paul’s letter to the Colossians – his Christianity in a Nutshell so to speak, we’ve been reviewing the most basic, fundamental principles of the Christian life. Who is Jesus? What did He accomplish by dying on the cross and rising again from the grave? How do we walk in close relationship with God? How does the Holy Spirit guide our lives? And how do we relate to each other now that Christ lives within us? These are the basics of Christianity. And these are what we have to understand if we, together, are going to be a winning team for Christ.
Last week we talked about how, in whatever we say or do, we do it as representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ – no matter what position of life we are in. For example, we talked about husbands and wives – and how we are to reflect the attitude of Christ in our marriage. We talked about parents and children – and how we can reflect Christ to our family. And we also talked about slaves and masters (or employers and employees) and how we are a living illustration of Jesus in what we say and do in our workplace.
And so we had these three sets of relationships – these three areas of life – where we need to be accurate representatives Christ. Today we are going to look at one more kind of relationship where we need to be ambassadors of Christ. And that is in our relationship with those who are not believers. People who don’t share our beliefs. We could use the term “pre-Christians” – people who have not yet accepted Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour – though we hope one day, they will. How do we represent Christ to these people?
Now depending on your situation, this area might overlap into some of these other areas that we’ve already talked about. It could be that some of you have a spouse or a boyfriend/girlfriend who has yet to accept Christ as their Saviour. Some of you may have children who are not currently walking with the Lord. Perhaps your parents have yet to come to know Christ. Probably most of you work with people who don’t share your beliefs. And certainly, all the things we talked about last week would still apply to these relationships whether they are believers or not, but now Paul gives us some further, specific instructions for our relationships with people who don’t share our beliefs – those who are currently unbelievers.
And he starts off, as we should in every situation – with prayer. He says in Colossians 4, verse 2…
“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” Colossians 4:2
Now this could really be a ‘stand-alone’ verse. We could ignore everything else that Paul says before and after this, and it would still be a great verse to focus on. Prayer is a foundational element of the Christian life. I think all of us would admit that we need to work on how we devote ourselves to prayer.
However, I don’t think, that when Paul wrote this, that he intended it to be a ‘stand-alone’ verse. It’s not just a general statement that he threw in there to say “And by the way, Christians should pray. It’s a good thing. You should do it.” No, he’s more intentional. He’s got an agenda in mind. He’s not just throwing in random bits of good advice – he’s still talking about how we are to represent Christ to the people around us. Look at the next couple of verses…
Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.
Notice the kind of prayers that Paul is asking for here: He asks the Colossians to pray for opportunities for Paul to speak to people about Christ and then pray that he would make the message clear when those opportunities come. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it seems to me that if Paul wanted them to pray that way for him, wouldn’t Paul also want them to pray that way for themselves too?
I mean, sure, Paul had dedicated his life to sharing the Gospel. He was a professional missionary. Certainly, it makes sense that people would pray that he would have opportunities to share the Gospel and that He would be able to share it clearly.
But shouldn’t we pray that same way for all of our fellow believers? Shouldn’t that be how we pray here in our church and in our homes? Praying that God would give us opportunities to share His message with the people around us? Absolutely!
Sometimes I think we limit the scope of our prayers to our own immediate needs and desires. Things like “keep my loved ones safe and healthy”. “God, please provide for my needs.” A favourite line my kids have when we pray before bed is “Thanks for the fun day we had today – help us have a fun day again tomorrow!” The majority of our prayers are for our immediate needs and wants. This is even true when we meet together as a church to pray. The most common prayer requests that I’ve heard in church prayer times are either “pray that God would keep us safe as we travel” or “pray for my sick relative”. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. God wants us to bring all our concerns to Him – including our traveling and our health. But let’s not stop there with our prayers.
I think one of the key prayers that we need to bring to God again and again is for the neighbors and friends and relatives in our lives that need to hear how much God loves them and how He died in their place so that they could have life! We’ve got to pray that God would open doors and give us opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them.
And I’ll admit, I fall short in this area myself. It’s something that I’m learn and trying to put into practice in my own life. But of course with that, if we pray that God would send us opportunities to share his message, then we’d better be watching for those opportunities to come.
Look again at verse 2 – and I like how the NIV puts it: In the NIV it reads…
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 NIV
We need to be watchful (and thankful) for the opportunities that God brings us. Too often I think we pray and then forget to watch for the answer. We ask God to give us opportunities to share his message with the people around us – but then we miss those opportunities when God sets them up for us.
One of the people that I’ve prayed for in the past is my neighbor. Quite often I talked with him across the fence and over the years we’ve had lots of conversations about lots of topics. And in those conversations there have been opportunities for me to share about Christ – about what God has done in my life and and what I know God wants to do in his life. And sometimes I’ve taken those opportunities – but I know sometimes I’ve missed them. I walk back into my yard after talking with him and I realize – “I could have said this – God set up the opportunity, but I missed it.”
We need to be watchful for the opportunities that God brings us to share the message of Christ with the people around us. Now of course, that doesn’t mean that we need to launch into a full 45 minute sermon whenever we meet someone in the grocery store. I think Paul warns us about that kind of an approach. Look at verses 5 & 6…
“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”
I’m not sure that a 45 minute sermon in the grocery store would be gracious or attractive. I’m not sure that would be living wisely among those who are not believers. I mean, perhaps in the right situation it could be, but that’s probably not the norm.
So what DO we do? When God brings us these opportunities, how do we share the message of Jesus in a gracious, attractive way? How do we share with the people around us – our friends, neighbors, and relatives – how God has changed our lives? How God has forgiven us and made us right with Himself? How God has been working in our lives to get rid of the sinful junk that causes us so much pain and misery and instead, how God has been replacing that stuff with things like joy, peace, goodness, love?
How do we share all that in way that is gracious and attractive? How do we make the most of the opportunities that God sends us?
Well, let’s look at that verse 6 in a different light for a minute. Again, the NIV adds a unique perspective. Here’s how is reads in the NIV:
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
Hmmm. Isn’t that interesting? Seasoned with salt. What’s the purpose of seasoning something with salt? Salt brings out the flavor, doesn’t it? French fries without salt would be pretty bland – wouldn’t they? The intensely satisfying flavor in bacon basically comes from the pork sitting in salt. Same thing with pickles – they soak in saltwater. Salt is also a key ingredient of cheese. It seems that many of the most delicious foods on the planet can only be created by using salt.
So the idea here is, what salt does for food, we do for our conversations we have with the people around us. We bring a little bit of Christ into the conversation. We enhance the conversation with a little encourage, a little joy, a little hope. We offer them a taste of how good God is. We share how God has been working in our lives and maybe how we can see God working in theirs. That’s seasoning your conversation with salt.
But you have to be careful with salt too. Too much salt is not only unhealthy – but it can make good food inedible. At our house, occasionally we have salt and pepper shakers on the table and when the kids see us sprinkle some salt on our food, they want to do the same. But of course, if a little is good, a lot must be better and so they don’t sprinkle – they pour it on. And everything gets covered with salt. And of course, that ruins the food – you can’t eat it. It’s too salty.
The key to salt is to use just the right amount. Too little and it tastes bland – too much and its inedible. And I think this the idea that Paul is trying to convey in these verses.
We need to season our conversations with salt – not too much, not too little. That 45 minute sermon in the grocery store – that’s probably too much salt. That’s not going to leave a good taste in people’s mouths. That’s not going to make you or your Jesus attractive to them. In fact, you’ll probably accomplish the opposite.
But on the other hand, saying nothing about Christ – you say nothing about the relationship you have with the Creator of the Universe, you say nothing about what God has done in your life – then you’re no different from anyone else they meet. You’re just another bland person who has nothing to offer them.
“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive [seasoned with salt] so that you will have the right response for everyone.”
You know, another attribute of salt is that it makes you thirsty. If you sit down in front of the tv with a bag of potato chips, before long you’re going to want that glass of Pepsi, right? Or if you’re a little more healthy minded, a glass of orange juice. Or if you’re really healthy minded – a glass of water (but if that’s the case, you’re probably not eating potato chips in front of the tv in the first place…) But regardless… salt makes you thirsty.
And when we season our conversations with salt (not too much, and not too little), when we share snippets of what God is doing in our life, when they begin to see the joy and the peace and the hope we have because of Jesus Christ, they’re going to get thirsty. They’re going to want what we have. They’re going to want to experience those same things too.
And that is exactly the point.
The whole point of us being representatives of Christ, of praying and watching for opportunities, of seasoning our conversations with salt, is so that the people around us – whether they be our spouse, our kids, our parents, our employers, our employees, our neighbors, our relatives, our friends, or just some guy we meet in the grocery store – whoever they are – the point of all that is so they can know that there is a God in heaven who made them, who loves them like crazy, who wants to forgive them and give them new, abundant, eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
That’s the point. That’s why we do this. So here’s my challenge for you this morning:
If you believe that the abundant life that God has given you is worth so much that you need to share with someone else, then I want you to begin praying for some person you know, who – at this point – has not yet accept that gift of abundant life from God. Maybe it’s your neighbour or a relative, a co-worker or a friend you know.
And I want you to begin praying daily for that person – pray for that ‘pre-Christian’ – that person that has yet to accept Christ, but you hope that one day soon, they will. And I want you to start watching for the opportunities that God will bring for you to have a salty conversation with that person. Be ready to bring a little bit of Christ into the conversation. Be ready to enhance the conversation with a little encourage, a little joy, a little hope. Offer them a taste of how good God is. Let them know what God has done for you and what He can do for them.
And if the thought of talking to someone else about God and about what He has done in your life – if that thought terrifies you – I have an additional challenge for you. I understand that for a lot of people – talking about your faith seems pretty scary. You don’t know how to do it – you’re afraid you might say the wrong thing. You don’t want to seem all awkward and weird to your friend. You don’t want to spoil the relationship you already have with them by being all preachy. You don’t want to pour the salt on! I get that!
But let me remind you: Our goal – our purpose as a church – the very reason why we exist here in Penhold – is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the people around us. This church began because we want the people in Penhold and in the surrounding area to know that there is God who loves them and wants them to enjoy eternal, abundant life with Him. So if that’s why we exist, then it stands to reason that we should try to get good at that. In fact, we should seek to become experts at telling people about Christ.
That doesn’t mean everyone needs to learn how to preach from a pulpit – but it does mean that we need to know how to share about Jesus across the dinner table or from the bucket seats at the hockey arena. We need to know how to talk about what we believe and what Jesus has done for us. If there’s one skill that you can learn that makes a difference for eternity, this is it.
So I want to help you with that. In the new year, probably about mid-January, we’re going to have a short six-week class on how regular people like you and I can share our faith with the people around us. We’ll be going through a DVD series called “Go Fish” – based on Jesus invitation to his disciples to become fishers of men. And our hope is that through that, we will be able to learn how to naturally share our faith with people around us. We’ll learn how to season our conversations with just the right amount of salt.
This class may not make you an expert (yet) at sharing your faith – but it will sure be a step in the right direction. So I’d sure encourage you to think about being part of that class when we get started in the new year. Its for the young and the old, its for singles and couples, long-time Christians or brand new Christians – everyone can benefit from this. It’s going to be great!
But to get back to my original challenge of praying for those ‘pre-Christians’ in your life, to close this morning, I’d like to take some time to pray. We began with these words from Paul:
“2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.
So let’s pray that way for each other right now.