Today we wrap up our study on the book of Colossians and I’ve got to tell you, I’ve really found this series to be a 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 principles that you 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 might know the name “Vince Lombardi”. He 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 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.
We’re going to pick it up today in Colossians chapter 4 – starting at verse 2.
“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.
5 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.”
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 can show what God is like by what we say and do in our workplace.
And so we had these three sets of relationships – these three areas of life – that we are to represent Christ in. And I told you at the end of last week’s message that today we are going to look at one more relationship – one other area of life 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. I like to 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 very well be that some of you have a spouse who has yet to accept Christ as their Saviour. Some of you have children who are not currently walking with the Lord. 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 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 could do well to 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.
You see, this is the kind of praying that Paul is talking about here: Praying for opportunities to speak to people about Christ and then praying 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 he 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 share it clearly.
But shouldn’t we pray that same way for all of us too? 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 just “keep my loved ones safe and healthy”, don’t we? Especially when we meet together as a church. The most common prayer requests we get are either “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 should we not also be concerned about the people around us that don’t know Jesus as their Saviour? The neighbors and friends and relatives that need to hear how much God loves them and how He died in their place so that they could have life! Absolutely we should be concerned!
We’ve got to pray that God would open doors and give us opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. But of course with that, if we pray that God would send us opportunities, 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 that version 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.
Over the years I’ve had lots of conversations with a friend of mine about a lot 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 go home 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. 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 and 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. The NIV puts it this way:
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
Hmmm. Seasoned with salt. Isn’t that interesting? 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 comes from it sitting in salt as it’s made into bacon. Same thing with pickles – they soak in salt. 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 our kids see us sprinkle some salt on our food, they want to do the same. But of course, they think – 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:
What I’d like you to do is this: if you believe that the abundant life that God has given you is worth so much that you’d like to share with someone else, then I want you to write down the name of a person you know, who – at this point – has not yet accept that gift of abundant life from God.
And I want you to begin praying daily for that person. 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 when you’ve done that, keep on praying for them. Ask God to bless their socks off so that they can taste and see how good God is.
And maybe if you’ve never accepted God’s gift of abundant life – maybe you never even knew such a thing existed until today. And maybe you don’t really understand what it’s all about, and all this stuff I’ve been talking about seems a little weird and unusual… But if I’ve piqued your curiosity and you want to know more about this God who loves you like crazy and this abundant life that He offers you freely, drop me an email on my contact page. I’d love to have a salty conversation with you and tell you what Christ has done in my life and how He can do the same in yours.