The most famous passage in Luke’s gospel is:
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world…And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
But that’s not the beginning of his book, here’s how he begins:
Luke 1: 1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
So, Luke, a physician has done careful research, spoken with many eyewitnesses and has written his gospel, an orderly account of the work of Chris…so that this man, Theophilus, may know the certainty of what he has been taught…to inspire his faith…confidence.
Look at the words he uses: carefully investigated, everything, from the beginning, orderly account, certainty.
There are four gospels, Matt, Mark, Luke, John…each written to proclaim the good news (that’s what “gospel” means) of Jesus Christ.
These are not mere biographies.
They are biographical in that they are historical writings about a real person.
But normal biographies are not written in order that the reader would place their faith in the subject of the book and find peace with God.
One of them begins with Christ pre-exsting from eternity past.
One focuses most of the book on the last week of Jesus’ life.
Thus, they are called “gospels”…a unique genre of literature in and of themselves
Let’s read on in Luke’s gospel…
From the manger scene, Dr. Luke takes us out into the surrounding countryside to help us see that what has just happened back in Bethlehem is no ordinary childbirth.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
So, Luke, gives us the transcendent meaning of the historical fact of Jesus’ birth…
… Through the proclamation of super natural beings telling the shepherds about what has just happened.
His birth is “Good news of great joy, A Savior has been born…he is Christ (Messiah) the Lord.
Every baby that has ever been born has intrinsic worth…that worth is derived from the fact that they bear the image of God.
But this baby, Jesus…is the very image of God…God become man to save men and women.
So, when the shepherds, trekked into town to see the Baby…without this proclamation of gospel…they wouldn’t have known what or who they were seeing.
The gospel is the “news” that God has provided a way that men and women can have restored relationship with God…so it is, very good news.
It is good news that must be proclaimed.
Everyone is “seeing the world” around them…but not everyone is “seeing” what is actually real about the world.
Gospel proclamation is telling people what they are seeing…first the reason for the problem, then God’s solution.
The break in relationship between us and God, is the root cause of the break in relationship between people…leading to divorce, broken friendships…and even World Wars.
It is the root cause of the break between us and others…and “within” us…our struggles on the inside are rooted in this break with God.
The Gospel has three parts to it: Like a story with beginning, middle and end, or a symphony with three movements, or a three layer cake…you pick your analogy.
The point is…one single thing, three parts.
Justification: By placing our faith (moving confidence from self) in Jesus (specifically, what he has done for us in his life, death, and resurrection)…we are born again.
-Jesus said in John 3, unless a person is born again, they cannot see the kingdom of God.
-This is 100% the work of God…our part is to open our hands and receive the gift.
Sanctification: This is the lifelong process of “working out our salvation” not working for it.
-This is a collaborative effort between us and the Spirit of God.
-We are to continually “put off the old life” and “put on the new life”
Glorification: This is the completion of the work of salvation at the resurrection of the dead.
-This is the post mortem hope of our salvation.
-Death and sin do not win in the end…gospel does, resurrection does.
**Heart with life/light taking over new ground
Paul’s writings most often build on Justification and point our attention to glorification…but they focus for the most part…on Sanctification.
Why? He is writing to the church, to Christians…who have been justified, will be glorified…but are being sanctified.
And in light of these gospel realities…they are to go out into their everyday lives and represent and proclaim Christ.
Today we finish Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae:
3:18-4:1 The gospel applied in everyday life
4:2-6 The gospel proclaimed in everyday life
4:7-18 Closing greetings
We will begin there, at the end, why?
Because these closing remarks remind us that we are not dealing with “classroom theology”
As we look at the gospel applied and proclaimed in everyday life we must keep in mind that…
Paul is not sitting in a university library writing abstracts for fellow academics…he is in prison writing to real people.
This is a real letter to real people about real things.
And this is really important for us to keep in mind.
So let’s start with the end:
7-9 Paul introduces the bearers of his letter.
-Tychicus (tic kuh cuss) is being sent to deliver the letter because he is a faithful man.
-And the express purpose for delivering the letter, is that they will know about Paul’s circumstances and that their hearts will be encouraged
*We all need continual encouragement…can I keep going? Is this actually doable? Am I alone in this? Is this suffering, trouble, normal?
So, this faithful man is going to go and pour courage into their hearts by a report and letter from Paul
-He is accompanied by Onesimus, a man we will learn more about when we get to the book of Philemon.
-Onesimus is an escaped slave who has become a Christian.
10-14 Paul conveys greetings from 6 of his colleagues.
Two of whom, interesting enough, are Mark and Luke, men who wrote Gospels that bear their names.
So, remember how Luke began his gospel…his careful research into the facts?
Here we find that Luke is hanging out with Paul during his imprisonment doing some of his research.
15-17 Paul sends some personal greetings to individuals in the region and asks them to make sure that this letter circulates to the other surrounding churches.
Finally, he puts his signature on the letter and concludes with:
-Remember my chains
-Grace be with you.
Why “remember my chains”
-He didn’t start this church and had not meet them yet…yet his suffering was for them.
In Gal 3:1 he had written “I am a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…”
He was no fraud…he wanted much for them not something from them.
“Remember my chains” means…I am seeking to bless you not to impress me…so what I am telling you is real and true.
So, again, we begin this morning with the end…in order to impress upon our minds the important reality that this is written by a real person (in difficult circumstances) to real people living out their real lives.
So…we cannot, we must not…push what we are going to consider this morning aside as not being relevant to our own circumstances.
“This is not practical, things are different now…things are different for me.”
No, things are much the same…and the message is exactly the same.
If there is encouragement to be found here…we can rightfully take it to heart.
If there is challenge and rebuke to be found here…we can rightfully take it to heart as well.
We are, as they were…real people, living in real circumstances…believing and living out the reality of the gospel.
So, let’s circle back to the gospel applied and proclaimed in everyday life:
3:18-4:1 The gospel applied in everyday life
18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. 4:1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
The verse prior to this section is “Whatever you do, whether in word of deed, do it all the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Here he has given a brief, summary application of this principle of a “Single story life” to everyday relationships…do and say everything to the glory of God.
- Wives submit/Husbands love
We talked about this balance recently.
Husbands are specifically told to love their wives as Christ loved the church…he showed that love most profoundly through his sacrificial death.
Wives submitting is no more about being a “doormat” than husbands loving is about mere “emotional sentimentality”
Both submitting and loving are rooted in firm facts of gospel…Jesus submitted to his father and showed his love on the cross…submit and love are terms describing healthy, robust relationship.
When people are tempted to discard these verses as being rooted in outdated ideas…they should first look around and see how contemporary ideas of marriage relationships are getting along.
Not very well.
When this simple, gospel centered approach to marriage is lived out…it works beautifully.
Wives feel loved (because they are)
Husbands feel respected (because they are)
Partnership is elevated as the “two become one”
- Children obey/Fathers don’t embitter and discourage
Treating children as persons with both privilege and responsibility is where the gospel was breaking new ground in that culture.
Children were not seen this way.
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
These two sentences summarize what hundreds of parenting books have tried to put a handle on.
The tension here is the key.
When children’s privilege is over emphasized versus their responsibility…the imbalance creates broken adults….and the reverse is true…responsibility without corresponding privilege.
Likewise with Fathers (parents) fail to take seriously their responsibility to not embitter their children then they can become culpable for the damage done
“Fathers” can refer to both parents but it may be that Paul is focusing the attention on the importance (we know all too well now) of the father’s role in the life of the child.
“Embitterment” comes from constant nagging or belittling.
Children are people in their own right…we are not to try and mold them into our image, or to live our lives through them, or become angry and distant when they are an inconvenience to us.
They are a stewardship…and stewards must be found faithful.
So here, we find that children and parents both need appropriate discipline in their relationship.
Parents are to live out the gospel for the child…not just demanding obedience…but modeling it for them.
*I breezed through that…but nothing about parenting is a breeze.
- Slaves obey/masters provide what is right and fair
We will unpack the NT position on slaves and masters when we get to Philemon.
But what is given here has wide application for our work as Christians.
-We are to work hard, with or without applause from others…out of reverence for the Lord.
-We are to work hard at whatever we are given to do…whether we feel it is trivial or not…out of love for God.
So, the gospel turns every task, every job…into a potential act of worship.
Without the gospel…every job, every task will come to have no meaning.
In the Documentary on the Beatles “Get back”,
Peter Jackson, Lord of the Ring’s director takes 60 hours of film from early 1969 when the Beatles are trying to create new music and come up with some direction for what is next.
It turns out, in historical retrospect that this is the end of the Beatles…not some new beginning…the band will be done by 1970
But in January 1969, they are still in the 20’s, and have become the most famous and wealthy musicians in the world in the space of about 5 years.
Now they are weary, purposeless…finding no satisfaction in their work or in each other…and it didn’t take long for this to happen.
Their manager who launched them to fame had already died, two years earlier of a drug overdose.
This tragic story has repeated itself many times.
People have reached what they have long sought only to find great disappointment and disillusionment.
Where humans cannot, ultimately, find purpose in anything for very long on their own.
Through the gospel, as new creations in Christ, we can find purpose in everything that comes our way.
This is no illusion, no mere mental smoke and mirrors…it is fact based in gospel truth…it’s been lived out, proven by many over the centuries.
Covid and other cultural storms have revealed this “purpose” deficit…people are living out (and dying from) the desperation of “purposelessness”
This is…meaning in everything through the gospel…is an extremely difficult perspective to hold…especially if you are under appreciated, or suffering..
But it is a challenge that we can take personally.
The balance in relationships that the gospel brings is seen again here, in the command for the masters to provide what is right and fair…because they have a master in heaven.
Paul, called himself, a bond-slave of Christ.
Christians are people who have willingly put themselves under a master.
So whatever role you have…play that role as a servant of Christ.
We flew that section…but the bottom line is that in three macro categories:
We see that what has been described thus far in the letter…the gospel impacting what we believe, value, and do…impacts our everyday relationships.
So first, today, we see the gospel “applied” in everyday life.
Look next at 4:2-6: The gospel PROCLAIMED in everyday life.
Last Sunday night we had a few long-time friends over for dinner.
After the normal eating and chatting we began to talk about how our relationships together had impacted each of us in profound ways.
Four different friends described how their coming to Christ years ago had completely changed the trajectory of their lives.
Some spoke with tears as they tried to imagine what their lives would be like if they had not given their lives to Christ.
My heart was filled with joy, and it was re-invigorated with a desire to make the gospel known to others…so they could someday say the same thing.
I mentioned this next story awhile back but I want to repeat it because it has also been a source of great encouragement to my heart lately regarding the power of the gospel.
The summer of 1982 I worked on an oil rig in East Texas.
I prayed for the 20 or so guys on the rig and shared my faith with them that summer as I could.
At the end of the summer, I gave each of the guys a Bible and I put a letter, sharing the gospel, in each one.
I didn’t hear, for many years, of any fruit from that summer in any of their lives.
Maybe 30 years later a man called my parent’s home phone (they had that same number for about a hundred years so I put their number in the letter, just in case)
So, the man, got my dad on the phone and told him this story:
His dad had worked on the rig with me and took the Bible I gave him home and put it with the letter on a coffee table…but did not read it or take the family to church.
This son, who was now an adult with his own family…told my dad that he had grown up reading that Bible and the letter, and had come to Christ…and he now took his own family to church.
Have you lost or never had a vision for the power of the gospel to save those who believe?
Would you like to gain that kind of vision or regain it?
Listen to this next passage:
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Pray for people who are far from God.
Devote yourself to praying…commit to praying for people who are far from God.
Don’t stop praying…stay watchful and thankful
Watchful…means don’t fall asleep on the watch (and this is our watch)…stay spiritually alert…keep praying, keep being thankful for the gospel’s power.
Don’t lose gratitude even if you don’t see anything happening…it might take 30 years…or more.
Pray that God will open doors for the gospel…pray it for yourself, for me, for all of us.
Pray that when the door is open…we will walk through it.
Pray that we will proclaim the gospel clearly.
“Proclaim clearly” means literally to “reveal”
It is tied to that phrase “mystery of Christ”
Remember back in chapter 1 he wrote that:
“The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, is now revealed…this glorious riches of this mystery is…Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
We get to announce (reveal) much like the angels did the good news that God has made his plan known…it is this…
“Receive Christ by faith and you we will saved.”
Saved from what…separation from God.
Saved from the sin that separates us.
Saved from the lost purpose that leads to empty living.
Saved TO…relationship with God/eternal life
Christ in you is your hope…now and forever.
We want to announce this hope clearly…so our lives and our speech should reflect the wisdom of God revealed in the gospel.
5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
“Be wise in the way you act” is literally “walk in wisdom”
We are to follow Christ as God’s pattern and power for full and authentic human living.
Put off the old dirty clothes of the old life…put on the beautiful clothes of the new….
This is walking in wisdom in the way we deal with “outsiders”…meaning those who are not yet Christians…we walk among them as Christ’s ambassadors.
Building trust relationships in order to cross that trust bridge with the gospel.
*I encourage you to pray for and work towards trust relationships.
In those relationships…Whatever you do…word or deed do as a representative of Christ.
“making the most of every opportunity” is a phrase that means to “buy up”…
My uncle, my dad’s brother…has been known, when he finds what he thinks is a bargain…to buy everything.
He once bought all the dresses in a dress store that was going out of business.
This is the idea…we see our opportunities to make Christ known as a bargain…we don’t want to miss them…we want to buy up the moment.
But this is no excuse for arrogance, or being combative, having little situational awareness…on the contrary…
As you buy up opportunity…
6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
“grace” has the double meaning of both “God’s grace” and “human graciousness.”
Our words are to be full of the kind of speech that draw people into the grace of Christ.
Seasoned with salt was a different idiom than the modern one.
Salty speech for us means profane.
Salty speech then meant profound.
Salt brought flavor, kept foods from spoiling.
I’ve been around football locker rooms, oil rigs, military installations…I’ve heard my share of “salty speech” in the negative sense.
I’ve also heard firsthand, how “salty speech” as God’s wisdom… “Words that taste good and bring life” can transform those places…the people in those places.
We don’t look to win arguments/we are not trying be cute, clever or smart…we are looking to win hearts and minds for Christ.
So, we pray for lives that reflect the wisdom of Christ and words that are full of the flavor and life of Christ.
This doesn’t mean you have to turn every conversation into a “Bible talk”…but certainly it means we don’t let all our conversations be ESPN commentaries, or political talking points, or conversations centered around ourselves.
When the peace of Christ is ruling our hearts…then the way we live and the words we use are to going to more and more reflect Christ.
Have you ever committed your life to Christ or are you unsure as to where you stand with God?
Who do you know who needs new life in Christ?
Pray for people who are far from God.