Intro: If you could interview the Apostle Paul and ask him only one question, what would it be? A good question to ask might be, “Paul, what was your greatest struggle?” Would he say, “Shipwreck?” Probably not. Maybe, “Beatings?” Unlikely. How about, “Stoning?” That’s a candidate, but almost certainly he wouldn’t mention it. What then? It is without doubt what he is discussing here in tonight’s text: it is the struggle to make Christ known to Christ’s people. That may sound strange, but it really isn’t strange at all (cf. 2 Cor. 11:24-29). The hardest thing in ministry may very well be helping Christ’s saved people to discover who Jesus is for them personally. Tonight we’ll explore that question.
Proposition: It is “Christ in you” that is your hope of glory.
(1:24-29) The Minister’s Struggle – The discussion begins with a crucial concept that should be appreciated by every believer: When we came to Christ, we became one with Christ in spirit and truth. Notice what we are told in these verses:
[DOCTRINAL POINT] As God’s people we will not be mature in Christ until we realize that it is our union with Christ that is our hope of glory forever.
[ILLUSTRATION] Remember when you were a child but didn’t know it? I remember going out to celebrate my birthday one year when our oldest son was about 10 years old. We went to a favorite restaurant and I ordered a meal that had way too much food on it, even for an adult. My son, wanting to show that he was my equal ordered the same meal and ate the whole thing. The resulting evening was not pretty around our house! As a child we were often unaware that we are not the intellectual, emotional and physical equal of our adult parents.
[APPLICATION] Spiritually speaking, this is also true of many Christians in our day. There are many people in gospel preaching churches that have been followers of Christ for years but seem to reflect Paul’s words to Timothy about a certain class of Bible students: “Always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). What is the problem? I would suggest to you that it is a lack of the Holy Spirit’s ministry either in the source of their teaching or in the individual himself. When we are in union with Christ, the Spirit will not rest, will not cease the struggle to bring us to full maturity in Christ. We must pray continually for Spirit-filled ministers and Spirit taught congregants if we want to have a mature body of believers in our churches.
(2:1-3) The Greatness of the Struggle – Paul had never personally met the believers to whom he was writing, but he worked hard for their maturity just the same. He recognized that this battle to bring them to maturity was no small contest because the believer’s maturity in Christ will dictate so much of the believer’s happiness in Christ and unity in the Church. Follow his argument about the importance of this struggle on their behalf:
[DOCTRINAL POINT] All we need for Christian encouragement, happiness and assurance is found in Christ.
[ILLUSTRATION] God save His Church from “Well Intentioned Dragons,” and “Killer Sheep.” These are some of the titles given to Christians who have lost for a moment their grip on intimacy with Christ. Well intentioned dragons and killer sheep are found in every church body. They want to do what is right, but because they have lost sight of Jesus and replaced Him with lesser things they actually become stumbling blocks to everyone around them.
[APPLICATION] The struggle for maturity in a life or in an assembly is simply this: We must keep our eyes on Jesus because in Him are found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. It is amazing how easy it is to convince ourselves that Christianity is about something other than Jesus. For many who have lost their way, Christianity is about the idolatry of patriotism. For others, Christianity is about comfort and prosperity. Still others in our day are all about strengthening the family (nothing wrong with that unless your family becomes bigger in your eyes than Jesus). Whatever it is in our lives; whatever it is in our church that takes the place of Jesus in our thinking and priorities becomes a stumbling block and must be struggled against. Even good things can become stumbling blocks to the believer if they overshadow in our thinking “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
(2:4-5) The Importance of the Struggle – There is a continual danger to believers and churches of drifting away from the centrality of Christ. We are constantly allured by “plausible arguments” and outright delusions that “have indeed an appearance of wisdom… but are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23). Paul will tell us more of this at the end of chapter 2, but for the moment let us simply notice his concern for the Colossians because of his union with them in Christ. You see, our union with Christ also is a union with all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] As believers in Christ we are called to look out for the best interests of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
[ILLUSTRATION] Families look out for each other, don’t they? “You can say anything you want to about me, but watch out what you say about my momma!” Who we love we have the courage to struggle for.
[APPLICATION] Christian maturity in ourselves and in fellow believers is everyone’s responsibility in the body of Christ. Perhaps the most dismaying quality of Christian life in our day is our lack of courage when it comes to protecting our fellow believers and our churches from the “delusions and plausible arguments” that fly around us every day in the name of contemporary Christianity. “Preaching is out of date! Just give us more opportunities for pleasant services and blessed thoughts!” But we won’t grow to maturity that way. “Give everyone a spiritual gifts test. Then they’ll volunteer to help out!” But what if the problem isn’t that they don’t know their gift, but that they don’t know their Savior? “Make sure you don’t offend people by being too specific about issues of morality!” Fear. A lack of courage keeps us silent when we ought to be struggling “to make the word of God fully known.” It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that a lack of courage comes from a lack of love. Christian maturity dares to be brave when those it loves are threatened. Let’s be the kind of people who look out for those we love.
Conclusion: If our question to Paul was “What was your greatest struggle,” what is our question to ourselves? I would like to suggest that the answer to that question, whatever we discover it to be, is probably one and the same: Know “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Let’s pray about that.
Intro: How is peace made? Whether it is individuals fighting or nations warring, how does one go about actually achieving a lasting peace? Not just a temporary cessation of hostilities, but a lasting peace? There may be many answers to that question, but perhaps one of the best is that peace is finally restored when the injustice that caused the dispute has been satisfied. Peace is not always achieved in this manner. Sometimes the guilty party is the stronger and injustice reigns. But when that happens, everyone knows that the future holds renewed conflict. The only way to a lasting peace is for justice to be finally and fully satisfied among the waring parties. It works that way on planet earth, and it works in just that same way between God and man. Ever since the Garden of Eden, God and man have been at war. As fallen men we have all done countless injustices against a Holy God. As we’ll see tonight, peace has now been restored between those who believe and Almighty God, because the claims of justice against us have been satisfied by the Preeminent Christ.
Proposition: Since God has reconciled us to Himself through the death of Jesus, we should whole-heartedly believe this great salvation.
(v.21) “You were…” – Our condition before we believed in Christ. It has often been observed among us that we have to get people lost before we can get them saved. Before anyone will care about the good news of the gospel, he must first realize the lost nature of his condition before God. The Holy Spirit through Paul was writing to the Colossians, a group of believers – people who had realized their lostness and put their faith in Christ as their Savior. They were now saved, but Paul took a moment to remind them of who they were before their salvation. He reminded them of three conditions once reigning in their lives:
You once were alienated from God… Separated from life’s Source, having no ability to respond spiritually to God. Before Christ saved us, we were spiritually dead – powerless to save ourselves. Notice that all of these things spring FROM OUR SPIRIT.
You were hostile to God in mind… Actively avoiding God. Mistrustful of God and His word. Determined to suppress the knowledge of God in our minds. Disbelieving His love for us. Notice that all of these things happen IN OUR MINDS.
You were doing evil deeds before God… Because our spirits were dead toward God and our minds were captivated by lies about God, our bodies practiced evil deeds toward God. The deeds of the body result from the condition of the “heart.” “Out of the heart comes corruption…” (cf. Luke 6:45; Ezekiel 16:30; Proverbs 4:23) In our Bibles, “heart” means the inner part of man: our spirit connects us with God, our souls are our personality (thoughts, feelings, will). It is from this wellspring that our actions come forth.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Before Christ, we were alienated from God and without hope in the world.
[ILLUSTRATION] It is important for us to remind ourselves of this often because the way we think about these truths will determine how we act toward others who are still in this lost condition. In our present day lives we know this is true, don’t we? If you grew up in poverty; if you were in a family that had to scrape for your next meal, it is very likely that having escaped the grip of poverty that you have a great concern for those who are still living in poverty. Because you know from bitter experience the hopeless feeling; the insecurity; the humility of poverty, it is very likely that you have a tenderness of compassion toward those who are still caught in its grip.
[APPLICATION] For just this same reason it is important for all of us who are believers to remind ourselves often of who we were before Christ came to our rescue. Never forget what you were before Christ saved you! Remind yourself often of the greatness of the gift you have been given. Before Christ we were cut off from grace and completely without hope just as those around us are who are still “in Adam.” It will help us to feel again some of the desperation they are living. Do we see those around us as still trapped in mortal danger from which we have escaped because of God’s preeminent Son? I think it would do worlds of good for our willingness to witness if we would remind ourselves regularly of who we were before Christ!
(v.22) “But now…” What the Preeminent Christ has done for us. He has reconciled us to God by His death. Jesus, by His taking of humanity up into Himself, has reconciled us to God – made permanent peace between God and man. How did He do this? By dying the death we deserved in our place. He has become the “Last Adam” and the “Second Man” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:45-48). He is the Federal Head of a new humanity. We all sinned “in Adam,” but now those who believe are all raised to new life “in Christ.” How did we get “in Christ”? God did it (cf. 1:13-14). Because we are “in Christ” we have redemption, forgiveness and reconciliation. A gift of grace. What was His aim in being so gracious? That in Christ we might now appear before God no longer as dirty sinners but now as holy, blameless, above reproach sons. All of this is true of us because we are “in Christ” who is holy, blameless and above reproach. Notice that this is not a product of any work we do to earn it. It’s a gift. We simply receive it by faith. It’s as simple as ABC!
[DOCTRINAL POINT] In Christ we are reconciled to God and made new creatures.
[ILLUSTRATION] I recently saw this story in the New York Times: Sarah Yanai, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor, clutched the handle of her wheelchair as she closed her eyes, and then opened her arms to embrace the woman who helped save her and most of her family from the Nazis more than 75 years ago. “How are you, how are you Melpo?” Ms. Yanai asked in Greek while stroking the cheek and silver hair of Melpomeni Dina, the 92-year-old Greek woman who, along with her two sisters, provided a hiding place for Ms. Yanai’s family in Veroia, a town in northern Greece, during the German occupation of the country in World War II. The two women and Yossi Mor, Ms. Yanai’s brother, were reunited at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial center, in Jerusalem on Sunday. The meeting, which was set up by the center and by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, a charity that assists those who risked their lives to save Jews, might be the last of its kind, Stanlee J. Stahl, the executive vice president of the foundation, said by phone on Tuesday. “I believe this will be the very last reunion,” Ms. Stahl told reporters on Sunday, noting that most survivors and the people who had helped them were either unable to travel or had died. Ms. Dina, who was accompanied to Jerusalem by her daughter, was introduced to 40 descendants of the Jewish family she had helped to shelter in a bedroom in Veroia in the 1940s, according to a statement by the center and the foundation. “Everyone is here, they are all waiting to meet you, to tell you that they thank you very much,” Ms. Yanai told Ms. Dina. “We are a large family now, we are all here,” she said. One by one, members of the Jewish family, middle-aged offspring through to young children, embraced Ms. Dina, who now uses a wheelchair. “We were hiding in her house — she saved all my family,” said Ms. Yanai, whose family name at the time was Mordechai. “Thanks to her, now she can see all our large family.” When we read stories like this, why do we find them so moving? Because they are stories of grace!
[APPLICATION] Have we forgotten the great grace we have been gifted “in Christ”? An escape from death in this present world is cause for gratitude and celebration. How much more do we owe God for giving us deliverance from eternal death through Christ’s sacrifice for us? God has taken the initiative to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. “In Christ” He has done this purely as an act of loving kindness and not because we can repay Him in any way. Here is a call for humility and gratitude as we live our new lives in Christ.
(v.23) “If indeed you continue…” The condition of our reconciliation is that we possess genuine faith in Christ Jesus. What are the evidences of genuine faith leading to permanent reconciliation? The text gives us a list:
[DOCTRINAL POINT] The condition of this reconciliation is that we truly believe the gospel.
[ILLUSTRATION] Polycarp had been a Christian since he was a child, but the Romans didn’t get around to killing him until he was in his eighties. Whatever the reason for the delay, it is still the first recorded martyrdom in post-New Testament church history. Roman soldiers eventually discovered Polycarp’s whereabouts and came to his door. When his friends urged him to run, Polycarp replied, “God’s will be done,” and he let the soldiers in. He was escorted to the local proconsul, Statius Quadratus, who interrogated him in front of a crowd of curious onlookers. When Quadratus offered to set Polycarp free if he would renounce Christ or burn him at the stake if he would not, the old man simply replied, "Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked." Soldiers then grabbed him to nail him to a stake, but Polycarp stopped them: “Leave me as I am. For he who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails.” He prayed aloud, the fire was lit, and his flesh was consumed. The chronicler of this martyrdom said it was “not as burning flesh but as bread baking or as gold and silver refined in a furnace.” Where does such faith come from? Not from knowing about Jesus, but from knowing the preeminent Jesus, Himself.
[APPLICATION] Some take lightly the greatness of the gift they have been offered in Christ. It is not infrequently the case that people hear the good news and commit themselves to a set of facts rather than to a Savior. “Faith” that saves is not faith in a set of facts about Jesus – it is faith in Jesus Himself. It is easy to abandon a belief system when times get rough. That is why God did not give us a set of facts to believe in but a living Savior to rely on. It is easy enough to abandon a belief system but hard to forsake a Savior who died in your place and who waits for you daily to come into His presence to fellowship, listen and discuss life. True faith persists because God is no longer distant from the believer. As the years go by He becomes more real in our experience, somehow closer to us in our journey. Christ becomes preeminent in the life of a true believer because He is a person, not a proposition. Is Christ becoming more real to you each day? If not, why don’t you begin to talk to Him about that? “When we seek His face, He is always glad to open His hand.”
Conclusion: How is peace made? Peace between God and man comes in only one way. It comes when we Admit we are a sinner; Believe Christ is the Savior; Commit ourselves whole-heartedly to His preeminence. Really, it’s as easy as ABC.
 New York Times, November 5th, 2019.
 Wikipedia and “131 Christians Everyone Should Know,” by M. Galli and T. Olsen.
 Daniel Henderson
Intro: As Christians we are often encouraged by the Scriptures to ‘pray in the Spirit.’ I wonder of you are like me and are a bit mystified by what is meant by that phrase, ‘pray in the Spirit.’ How does one pray in the Spirit? Am I expected to work up some feeling as I pray? What if I don’t have that feeling? Am I still praying? Is praying in the Spirit some special mystical prayer form reserved only for a certain class of elite Christians? It all seems very vague and confusing to me. Fortunately, in the text we have before us tonight we have an apostolic example of what that means. The doctrine being taught to us tonight is the doctrine of prayer. Let’s look together at what it means to ‘pray in the Spirit’
Proposition: When God’s grace bursts upon us, our hearts want to respond by praying ‘in the Spirit.’
(vv.1-2) Housekeeping! – What is the context of this letter to the Colossians? Who is writing to whom? Why is he writing? Who are these people, anyway? Let’s start our study in Colossians by clearing up some of the mysteries. Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians we are told. Paul was an “apostle,” an authoritative messenger of the good news (gospel) about Jesus Christ. Scripture uses the word “apostle” in two ways. One is to designate certain people as authoritative sources of Christian truth in the way it is used here. Only a limited number of people are designated this way in Scripture: the Twelve, Jesus’ original twelve disciples, (cf. Luke 6:13), Barnabas and Paul (cf. Acts 14:14). The word is used of others occasionally but with a different meaning: it simply means “messenger” in those cases. Here, Paul is writing to the Colossians as the authoritative kind of apostle. Didn’t the Colossians already know this about Paul? Maybe not. It’s clear from the text that Paul had never been in Colossae and had never met these believers personally (cf. 2:1). How, then, had these believers heard the gospel? Through Epaphras, one of Paul’s coworkers, who was himself from Colossae (cf. 4:12). It is believed that Epaphras probably met Paul, heard the gospel and believed in Christ during Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, a city about 100 miles west of Colossae. Apparently Paul discipled Epaphras and sent him back home to evangelize Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis. So, Paul was writing to people he’d never met, and he was writing to them from imprisonment in Rome around the year A.D. 62. He wrote four letter at this time (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians) and seems to have sent three of them (Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon) out by the same messengers, Tychicus and Onesimus (cf. Philemon 1:1; Col. 4:17; Col. 47-9; Eph. 6:21-22). Why was Paul writing to the Colossians? Certainly he wrote to encourage the Colossians in their faith. Faith is strengthened by able instruction. He also seems to be writing to protect the Colossians from error that seemed to be arising among them (cf. 2:6-23). The protection he gave them came from the instruction: Christ is preeminent (cf. 1:15-23). Therefore he instructs them to “set you minds on things above,” (cf. 3:2). He continues the letter by unpacking that command through practical instructions for daily living (cf. 3:18-4:5). He finishes the letter by talking of his fellow workers in Christ (cf. 4:6-18). So What?
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Early Christians exhibited a close care for each other’s welfare, even when they did not know each other personally.
[ILLUSTRATION] Christianity is really big in our day. It is estimated that there are around one billion people who identify themselves as Christians in our world. You and I know only a small number of these people, perhaps just a few hundred at best. “Out of sight, out of mind” probably fits our thinking about the rest, and that’s understandable in a certain sense, but inexcusable in another. The apostle Paul modeled for us a concern for believers he’d never met who lived in a city he’d never visited. And he modeled that concern while himself being in prison! Wouldn’t it make more sense for the Colossians to be writing encouragement to Paul?
[APPLICATION] Shouldn’t we as modern Christians imitate this first century concern for brothers and sisters in Christ we’ve never met? We have fellow believers today in prison for their faith around the world. Believers in North Korea, for example, live under the harshest, most terrifying conditions. Do we pray for them? Are we concerned for their situation? What about believers in our own country who live in the inner cities of America? Do we know any? Are we concerned for their welfare? Do we take time to learn about these needs and the needs of other Christians around our world? We should. It’s part of Christ’s presence in His world for His people to be concerned for the welfare of those they’ve never met personally.
(vv.3-8) Thanksgiving to God welled up in Paul’s heart when he heard about the Colossians. – When this happened, Paul seems to have immediately responded by prayer. Here is the beginning of our lesson on ‘in the Spirit’ prayer. As we study this paragraph, we will notice that Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving had a very specific cause: “We heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints” (v.4). When the report of the Colossian’s conversion came to Paul through Epaphras, his heart began to shout praise and thanksgiving to God the Father! Why did he praise the Father for this good news?
When these facts were made known to Paul, his heart began to sing with thanksgiving to God. This is the origin of prayer ‘in the Spirit.’
[DOCTRINAL POINT] When the grace of God bursts upon us, our hearts want to respond ‘in the Spirit.’
[ILLUSTRATION] Our hearts are often moved by things that we encounter in life. Sometimes our hearts are broken when we hear of the death of a loved one or of some tragedy in our world. Sometimes our hearts leap up with joy at the good news of the conversion of a friend or a blessing we ourselves receive from God. When our hearts are moved in these ways, prayer is always appropriate.
[APPLICATION] There are two kinds of prayer we often engage in. There is ‘mental prayer.’ Mental prayer is prayer offered to God solely on an intellectual level. Someone says to us, “My sister in Iowa is having surgery tomorrow. Would you please pray for her?” And of course, we will. We want to encourage our friend. Actually, we don’t know her sister and don’t really feel too burdened about the situation, but we pray just the same. I’m not suggesting this is wrong! But prayer is a far different thing when our hearts are moved by the Holy Spirit, isn’t it? When we feel the tug of God’s Spirit on our spirit; when we are burdened by the Spirit to pray; when our hearts leap up to God in rejoicing because of some news that has come to us, we begin to pray ‘in the Spirit.’ I urge you to listen to the Spirit’s tugging at your heart. Don’t try to create a feeling you call “the Spirit’s voice” in your heart. That’s a recipe for disaster! But, when you feel the Spirit’s moving in your spirit, make it your habit to respond be that tugging ever so gentle. Prayer ‘in the Spirit’ is “Spirit led, Scripture fed prayer,” as we see in these verses.
(vv.9-14) What to pray for when the Spirit moves your heart. – Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is instructive. When he prayed for them, what did he ask God to give them? An interesting fact emerges as we study Paul’s prayers and other prayers in the New Testament. The things we often ask for are MINOR themes in New Testament prayers. The things New Testament Christians asked for are MINOR themes in our 21st century prayers. It’s almost as if the values of Christians have been reversed in the centuries since Paul offered his prayer for the Colossians. Notice what Paul prayed for. Two broad requests emerge:
In other words, New Testament prayer almost always asked God for SPIRITUAL strengthening and PRACTICAL help for godly living. Today our prayers seem to ask God for MATERIAL BLESSINGS above SPIRITUAL STRENGTHENING.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Paul’s prayer emphasized the Spiritual rather than the material.
[ILLUSTRATION] I have the privilege of leading the Wednesday night prayer meeting and it is frequently the case that someone will call the church on Wednesday and ask Cathy to give me a prayer request for our group to pray about that evening. Almost without exception it will be something like, “Pray for so-in-so, who needs to be healed of such-and-such.” Not one time that I can recall has anyone called up and said, “Pray for the salvation of John Smith and Pocahontas,” or some such request. I always smile when Cathy gives me the request, because I know two things: The person making the request does not think it is important to actually come to prayer meeting themselves to bring the request before the Lord personally. Secondly, the person making the request has probably never been to one of our prayer meetings, for if they had they would understand that we very seldom pray for that kind of request as a group. Around two years ago we changed the emphasis of our prayer meeting to reflect New Testament values. While we still give time to some requests for material blessings, most of our time is now spent asking the Lord for the spiritual blessings only He can give.
[APPLICATION] Now, I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t pray for healings, or employment matters, or the sale of houses, etc. Of course we can and should pray about those things. The point I want to make is that for many modern Christians, spiritual needs are now taking a back seat to health, wealth, power and politics. This is a complete reversal of first century Christian values. This is problematic, because to ‘pray in the Spirit’ means that we pray for the things that Christ Himself would pray for. One of the secrets to praying ‘in the Spirit’ is to follow the pattern of Scripture in our prayers. The tremendous promise of answer to prayer in Scripture is understood to be made on the condition of asking “in my name” (cf. John 14:14; 16:24; 16:26). What that means is that we must ask for the things that Jesus Himself asks the Father to do. The most certain way we know to pray ‘in His name’ is to follow the pattern of Scripture in our prayers. So, if we would pray ‘in the Spirit’ we must ask ‘in His name’ and I want to specifically encourage you to learn this pattern of prayer if you do not already know it. The easiest way to do this is by using the Psalms as your prayer book. Start out with a Psalm a day and work your way gradually up to five Psalms a day as you feel ready. Read the Psalm you want to pray over for the day, THEN PRAY THAT PSALM BACK TO GOD USING YOUR OWN WORDS IN PLACE OF THE PSALMIST’S. It may seem awkward at first, but as you practice this, you’ll be amazed how your own burdens, joys and concerns write themselves into your prayers. Best of all, you’ll be learning the secret of “Spirit led, Scripture fed, worship based prayer.” This is for everyone! You need not be a special kind of Christian to learn this. There is no need for mystic gifts to do it. The Holy Spirit will be happy to lead you in the way. The earliest Christians knew the secret and so can you!
Conclusion: Paul prayed in the Spirit, and so can you. Jesus always prayed in the Spirit, and you can too. It is a question of trusting Him to teach you and applying yourself to the task. Ask for His help. Get out your Bible and turn to the Psalms. Ready. Set. Pray! Learn what God can do when His people follow His command to pray ‘in the Spirit’ (cf. Eph. 6:18; Jude 20; 1 Cor. 14:15).
 Vaughan, C. (1981). Colossians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 177). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
 Vaughan, C. (1981). Colossians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, pp. 177–178). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Intro: “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23) It is a verse many of us memorized in Sunday school many years ago, and probably most of us would agree that the verse is exactly true! Sin will find us out. It cannot really be hidden, though it tries hard to remain undetected in the life of believers. Sin likes to do its work in secret, pretending to be something good, desirable and harmless, but the reality is that it bites like a viper and ends in death when its sting is full grown. There was a man named Saul, some two thousand years ago. He was a Pharisee, an up and coming young leader among this strictest sect of the Jews in Jerusalem. Everyone thought Saul was a great young man! “Look at Saul,” they whispered as he walked by, “There goes a truly righteous young man!” Even Saul thought he was something special. Many years later he wrote of himself in Philippians 3:6, “As to righteousness under the law, [I was] blameless.” After all, Saul kept the commandments! He only worshipped God; he didn’t make any homemade gods; he honored God in his use of God’s name; he never missed church; he honored his father and mother; never killed anyone; didn’t commit adultery; was no thief; and didn’t tell lies. Saul thought he was doing pretty good until one day while studying his Bible that last commandment caught his eye. Its meaning had always been a mystery to him. “Now, what in the world does that mean,” he thought. “What is this ‘coveting’ thing? Why is this such a big deal that God would mention it in His list of Commandment?” So, Saul did a word study on the word “covet.” What he found sobered him to the core of his being. Listen to his description of the moment in Romans 7:7–12 – “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” This last commandment uncovered the secret of Paul’s heart. His external righteousness through keeping the Law lay in ruins around his feet when through this commandment he saw for the first time the hidden secret of his true nature. Looking at the first nine laws, Saul considered himself righteous, but when he discovered the true meaning of this last commandment, he saw himself for what he truly was: a sinner in need of a Savior! Let’s follow him on that journey tonight as we learn that…
Proposition: The sinful desires of the heart reveal our true need of a Savior.
(v.17) “You shall not covet…”
What does it mean to “covet”? - “Hebrew hamad, ‘desire’, is in itself a neutral word. It is only when misdirected to that which belongs to another that such ‘desire’ becomes wrong.” To ‘covet’ means ‘to desire.’ It is a natural feeling that arises spontaneously in the heart of a man or woman when something desirable is seen or described. You are walking down the aisle at Publix and a bag of potato chips grabs your attention. Something in your heart says, “I want that!” So far so good! There is nothing improper about a bag of potato chips. But what if you’re poor and can’t afford $4.29 for a bag of chips? The thought crosses your mind: “I could get that bag of chips under my shirt. Who would know?” Observe what has happened: a legitimate desire for chips is fine when it arises; but when it arises in connection with something God hasn’t given to you, it isn’t fine at all. It’s sin. Note it well: the desire arises spontaneously and without being summoned by the individual. When that desire arises for a legitimate object, it is fine. But, it also arises in connection with things that aren’t legitimately ours and when that happens, it discovers something to us: our nature is sinful. It wants what it wants, legitimate or not.
Coveting show us who we really are with absolute clarity! We cannot command our desires. Dozens of times every day each one of us experiences desire; sometimes for things that we’ve been given by God and other times for things God hasn’t provided for us. Like what? Like your neighbor’s house; spouse; or kids; or employees; or car; or cattle; or, or, or… You name it. Anything that doesn’t belong to you that you look at with desire has become an object of covetousness.
The thing to notice is, we have no control over this. It just happens to us. We can and should push it away when it occurs, and most of the time we will. Most of our illegitimate desires are never acted on. BUT TO HAVE THE DESIRE ITSELF IS SIN BECAUSE IT COMES FROM OUR SIN NATURE. When Saul / Paul saw this in the Word, he lost all hope of creating His own righteousness. It became obvious to him that he was a sinner at heart and that no amount of keeping the Law externally would make up for the fallen nature he discovered in the core of his being. What became obvious to Paul was that he was lost at heart and could do nothing to change that situation. It was just part of his natural condition.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] The spontaneous desire of our heart for that which is illegitimate reveals the fallen condition of our sinful nature.
[ILLUSTRATION] Mary Mallon was a Irish immigrant to the United States who was employed as a cook by a number of families in the New York area in 1906-1907. She seemed quite normal, except for the fact that she never seemed to keep her job very long. She moved from job to job with some frequency, and always after a serious outbreak of typhoid fever among the families she was working for. A researcher finally figured out what was going on: “Typhoid Mary” was an asymptomatic carrier of Typhoid Fever. She carried the disease, but never had a symptom herself. In a certain sense we are all like Typhoid Mary! We’ve got the disease of sin, but are reluctant to believe it because we never seem to see its symptoms in ourselves. The tenth commandment exists for the purpose of discovering to us our condition. Until you discover that you have the disease you won’t be willing to go to Doctor for the cure!
[APPLICATION] Each of us must confront the fact of our fallen condition. Until we realize that we have the disease of sin and that our condition is fatal, we simply will not turn to Jesus to receive the cure for our condition. We kid ourselves. We think, “I’m not that bad. In fact, I’m really pretty good. I go to church once a week. I occasionally put a quarter in the offering plate. I own a Bible. What more evidence of my condition do I need?” God blows our self-righteous rags into the rag-bin when He says to us, “No coveting!” Try as we might, we simply can’t keep those desires from arising in our hearts. Have you discovered your true condition?
Why is the sin of covetousness so offensive to God?
The sin of covetousness is offensive to God because it reveals that we are not satisfied with the gifts He has given us. In a word, WE ARE UNGRATEFUL FOR THE GIFT OF HIS LOVE.
When a person covets, he allows the desire for that which is coveted to govern his relationship with other people; this may become the motivation for murder, stealing, or lying either to attain the desired thing or to keep it from someone else. Because of the way coveting values a particular thing over trust in and obedience to the Lord as provider, it is also a breach of the first commandment, which the apostle Paul makes clear when he refers to coveting as idolatry (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5)
It is important to note that this sin is a sin particularly offensive to God, though almost never resented by man. “Clear proof is this that these Commandments are not of human origin. The tenth Commandment has never been placed on any human statute book!” God resents this sin not only because it denies His loving provision for us, but also because it sets us against our fellow man. TO GIVE IN TO ILLEGITIMATE DESIRES ALWAYS DAMAGES SOMEONE ELSE.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Covetousness is hateful to God because it denies His goodness in providing for His children.
[ILLUSTRATION] Scripture tells us that (1 Timothy 5:8) – “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” That is how God’s Spirit speaks about a mere human being who will not take care of his own family. How much more serious a sin must it be for a human to charge God with little concern for those He loves! To covet is to say in effect, “God has not provided enough for me. He must not love me as much as He said He did!”
[APPLICATION] Our privilege and obligation as Christians is to find contentment in whatever condition we are in, knowing that God our Father has chosen our circumstances. He is no mean Father! He provides just what is needed and just what is best for each of His children. To content our hearts in Him by denying the improper desires that arise within us, we must stay close enough to Jesus to be continually filled with His Spirit. How will we overcome the sinful desires of our flesh? Only by keeping a grateful heart toward God and a joyful fellowship with His Son. Daily communion at the throne of God is the secret to a joyful, grateful heart. Are you chasing it?
How should 21st century believers live out this commandment?
The Scriptures tell us how to live this commandment out in our day. Listen to the counsel they give:
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Depend on the gifts of God, especially the gift of His Son and His Spirit.
Conclusion: “Be sure your sin will find you out!” Each of us has a sin problem. No one is exempt. All of us have to face the fact that the desires of our heart reveal the heart’s true condition. But since we have such a gracious Savior who has taken pity on our fallen condition, why should we not respond with gratitude and faith in Him? We have been found out! Now let’s find out what help we have in Jesus by making it always our aim to please Him rather than ourselves.
Benediction: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 – “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” Amen.
 R. Alan Cole, “Exodus,” page 161
 ESV Study Bible notes, page 177
 A. W. Pink, “Gleanings in Exodus,” page 164
Intro: All the trouble started with a lie. In the Garden of Eden, Satan, “the father lies” and the father of all liars, deceived our parents, Adam and Eve, with a lie. “He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’” The original temptation to sin was a lie: Satan taught man to question God’s truthfulness; to wonder about God’s goodness and love. The rest, as they say, is history. Bad history. Violent history. Perverted history. Sin has done it dastardly work on humanity, and it all started with a lie. For this reason, God, who is Truth, hates lies and despises all liars. He takes truthfulness very seriously indeed, promising in Revelation 21:8 that “all liars” will have “their portion… in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Scripture tells us that we as Christians have a duty “to preserve and promote truth between man and man.”
Proposition: Because we are God’s people in Christ, who is the Truth, we are “to speak the truth, and not to mislead others by our silence.”
(v. 16) “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”
What is meant by this?
“The ninth commandment calls for sanctity of truth in all areas of life, even though the vocabulary primarily reflects the legal process in Israel.” In other words, this goes far beyond mere legal witness in a court of law as the verse seems to say. It has to do with any form of untruth. Biblical witness to this is undeniable. Even a casual reader of the Bible’s plain sense will discover that all forms of ‘false witness’ are prohibited.
The scope of these words is much wider than is generally supposed. The most flagrant form of this sin is to slander our neighbors – a lie invented and circulated with malicious intentions. Few forms of injury done by one man to another is more despicable than this. But equally reprehensible is tale-bearing where there has been no careful investigation to verify the evil report. False witness may be borne by leaving a false impression upon the minds of people by a mere hint or suggestion. “Have you heard about Mr. -------?” “No.” “Ah! Well, the least said the soonest mended.” Again, when one makes an unjust criticism or charge against another in the hearing of a third party, and that third party remains silent, his very silence is a breach of this ninth Commandment. The flattering of another, exaggerated eulogy, is a false witness. Rightly has it been said, “There is no word of the Decalogue more often and more perpetually and persistently broken than this ninth Commandment, and men need perpetually and persistently to pray ‘Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.’” (ref. Ps. 141:3)
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Failing to speak the truth about ourselves or others in any form is to tell a lie.
[ILLUSTRATION] Words are powerful things. In a court of law, when a man accused of murder is on trial for his life, a few words spoken by a judge and jury can make all the difference between a life of freedom, and a tragic death.
[APPLICATION] I wonder if we realize the seriousness of our words spoken about others. We seem to be living in a moment when many Christians have decided that what we say about others, especially others we don’t know personally, isn’t a matter of moral consideration. Frankly, I cringe when I read some of what our people post or forward on Facebook. Many seem to have no regard for fact checking. No concern for damaging the reputation of people completely unknown to us personally. No real concern to rebuke those who lie about others shamelessly. When we do these things or when we are silent as others do them in our presence, we make ourselves co-conspirators with those who lie. We participate in lies, when we use our words to slander, tale-bear, give a false impression of, flatter or remain silent in the presence of an unjust criticism of others. And it isn’t just on Facebook that we do these things, is it? This is a matter very serious in God’s eyes.
Why is this matter of truthfulness so serious in God’s eyes?
[DOCTRINAL POINT] God takes lying seriously because those who lie despise both who He is and those He loves.
[ILLUSTRATION] If you speak badly about my wife, you speak badly about me! Criticism of my children is criticism of me. I think we all feel this way about the ones we love, don’t we? Isn’t there a natural protectiveness in our hearts for anyone we truly care about? God cares about His people. He cares about lost humanity. He desires that His concern for those He loves be reflected in the lives, actions and words of all of us who call Him Father. For this reason, it is the Christian’s responsibility to “preserve and promote truth between man and man.”
[APPLICATION] I suppose none of us really wants to damage others by the way we treat the truth, but I wonder if we realize that, as Christians, we have an obligation to represent the truth to those around us. Someone has to speak up for truth in our generation! In a world where lies are casually accepted as normal ways of doing business, who will finally have the courage of conviction to stand up and say, “In God’s name, enough is enough!” God has assigned that duty to you and me. As Christians, we have the obligation to bless God’s name by standing up for the truth. As Christians, we have an obligation to stand up for truth when our neighbors are slandered, flattered, or misrepresented in front of others. Who will stand for truth in our generation? Those who do, are God’s people in spirit and in truth.
What is the Christian’s responsibility toward truth in our generation?
First – We have an obligation to speak for the Truth in our generation: Since Jesus is “the Truth” and we are “in Him,” we have a responsibility to be those who speak for truth in our world. Jesus explained our responsibility in this matter in Matthew 5:14–16 - “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” “Light” is a well-known symbol for “truth” in Scripture. What Jesus was saying, then, is that because we have received and believed God’s revelation of reality in the Bible, we are His plan for spreading that light all over the world. We should be so full of God’s truth that it flows out of our mouths, our hands and our feet as we walk in this world. People all around us need to know what the truth is and we are God’s ordained source for their learning what is true.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] We have an obligation to speak for truth.
[ILLUSTRATION] Someone has to teach us what the truth is. It began for most of us with our parents. For some, it continued with our Sunday school teachers, pastors, grade school teacher, high school teacher and college professors. It’s true that we didn’t always learn things that were true from these sources. Sometime they were themselves ignorant of the truth. Sometimes they were intentionally deceptive. Nevertheless, the reality remains: if we are to know what is true, someone has to tell us.
[APPLICATION] As followers of Jesus, we are God’s appointed messengers to the people of our generation. We have a responsibility. We must know what truth is, and we must speak truth to those who are deceived, confused and ignorant in our world. How will they ever learn if we who know the truth fail to speak up? The men and women of our generation have been taught that they are accidental travelers through reality. That they are the product of blind, mindless forces operating completely by chance. They have been taught that truth is an illusion at worst or relative at best. They truly believe that truth is optional so it really doesn’t matter if someone tells lies. To those with this world-view, all that matters is “results.” “Do I get what I want?” That is the question. This philosophy of life is a dead end spiritually, existentially, and morally. It leads to the hopelessness of despair. If nothing is really true, then life has no ultimate meaning. Into this darkness, we are sent with a brilliantly bright light. Our Bibles reveal to man everything needed “for life and godliness.” Our Bibles tell us who we are, why we are here, why we are so miserable, who God is and what He has done to rescue us from the darkness. This is a high calling and a great responsibility. Are you up to the task?
Secondly – We must not remain silent in the face of lies: To be silent when we should rebuke a lie is to participate in deception. Our great temptation when someone tells a lie in our presence is to remain silent. We “go along to get along.” This is especially true if we like the person who has told the lie, or if the lie he has told suits our wishes. We may know that what he has said is not really true, but because it seems to further what we ourselves wish were true, we remain silent when we should speak up for truth. To do this makes us a coconspirator, morally, with the one who has told the lie. By our silence we give agreement to what has been said. In that moment, we partner with the devil who was a liar from the beginning and the father of liars.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] As Christians, we are obligated not to mislead others by our silence.
[ILLUSTRATION] We’ve all done it, haven’t we? We remained silent as someone passed an unkind or untrue remark about a personal acquaintance. I remember an incident like this that I once witnessed on television. The late news man, Peter Jennings, was being interviewed by someone concerning some issue that was in the news. The interviewer as he spoke to Jennings made an unflattering remark about a news man from a competing network. Jennings immediately spoke up. “Wait a minute,” he said, “That man is a friend of mine and I don’t appreciate what you just said about him.” I was struck by that when it happened. Here was a man who, as far as I could tell, was not a follower of Christ, yet he felt a moral obligation to speak up when he felt that something unkind or untrue had been said about a friend.
[APPLICATION] As Christians, we have a moral obligation to be just as quick to speak up as Jennings was that day when someone tells or repeats a lie in our presence. Truth matters in our world of swirling untruths. Silence is not an option because it means that we are giving tacit agreement to the lie that has been told. When we speak up, we should speak up gently, but firmly, respecting each individual we address, but we must speak up. Are you up to the task?
Lastly – We must commit ourselves never to willingly partner with lies: One of the great lies I often hear Christians repeating in our day is that, “When faced with a choice between two evils, it is the Christian’s responsibility to choose the lesser of the two evils.” This idea, so readily accepted among professing Christians did not come from reading our Bibles! Even a casual reader of the Old Testament will notice that every time God’s people formed an alliance with a worldly power, be it Egypt, Assyria or Babylon, God sent His prophets to rebuke them for their unbelief, for unbelief it is. When we form alliances with that which is false, we are admitting that we don’t really believe that the One who is true can be counted on to keep us safe. This is what God told His people each time they fell into this sin. By reading our Bible, especially the Old Testament, we learn that God is completely sovereign over every aspect of life on planet earth. He does not need the help of unbelieving men to keep His people safe. Jesus often cast out demons and sometimes the demons He cast out came out saying, “You are the Son of God!” He always commanded them to be silent. Why? Because God never partners with evil in order to do good. A moment’s thinking will show us the truth about the matter. Even secular philosophy recognizes that, “When you choose the lesser of two evils, you have still chosen evil.” When we rationalize that we should choose the lesser of two evils, we willfully choose to partner with the open enemies of God and the whole world knows we are hypocrites. They may be wrong in that belief, but they have a right to hold it, for we have violated the law of God and our own conscience by doing so.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] As Christians, we must never willingly partner with evil.
[APPLICATION] Are you up to the task?
Conclusion: All the trouble started with a lie. All the trouble continues in full force, protected by a “body guard of lies” right down to the present moment. Dear ones, you can always tell who’s on God’s side and who isn’t. Those who stand for truth are God’s people. Those who cloak their desires with lies, aren’t. May God help us to be those who always stand for truth in our generation!
Benediction: 1 Thessalonians 3:11–13 – “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” Amen.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 3:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
 Westminster Larger Catechism, page 287
 Book of Common Prayer, page 848.
 Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, page 425.
 Gleanings in Exodus, A. W. Pink, page 164
 Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, page 425
 Exodus, R. Alan Cole, page 161