Vantage point: Call to prayer (intro- Rooted in LIFE)

Scripture Study Col 1:1-14                                                                Rooted in LIFE- Jan-April series at Lifespring Syokimau

Little Billy promised faithfully that he would not leave the yard.  He was reminded there would be throngs of people on the street that day to watch the parade.  But once the bands started playing and the floats began moving by, he suddenly realized what he was missing.  Oh, to be free of the tall board fence that surrounded the safety of his yard!  All Billy could see of the parade was through a small knot holed in the board fence.  People were constantly getting in his way.

Then he heard the voice of his brother calling from the upstairs veranda, “Billy, why don’t you come up here.”  Billy couldn’t quite reach the bottom rung of the outside ladder, so his brother came down, lifted him in one strong arm and carried him to the top.

Of course!  Here was the place to see everything!  He looked down at the wide avenue from one end to the other.  He thrilled with excitement.  “Oh,” he cried, “Now I can even see what went before, and what’s passing now, and way up the street I can see what’s coming.  It’s like living in a new world.”

For Billy the past, present and future had some to blend into one big now.  So it is when we come by God’s invitation to view the parade of time form the heavenly vantage point.  God not only sees in one vast sweep the events of time; He sees all He had planted before the book of Genesis began and all that will be consummated after the Revelation.  As viewed from His eternal now, eternity becomes one complete whole with the span we call time as but a minute parenthesis.

Today we begin the introduction of our 2015 Theme on Rooted in LIFE, taken from Colossian 2:6-7 (Read) this year we have sensed God is calling us to grow deeper in Christ as we are anchored in His Truth, His Community and His Service. Our desire is that the Lord will not just become a subject of reference in hard times, or a theological mindset we put on or a supermarket for good things for life but the Lord will be seen supreme, the very essence of our lives and faith.

In this first term of the year, we will give ourselves to the systematic study and exegetical preaching through the book of Colossians. This month, in order to appreciate the instructions from this book, we will begin with a background study of the church in Colossae. The Spiritual , Social, Economic and the cultural backgrounds.

To this end we have provided a bulletin that will guide not only our sermon but also our traditional opening of the year with the 21 days of prayer and fasting set to begin tomorrow. The Intention as mentioned last year is to live a life worthy of the Lord by asking not what I want , but Lord what would you have me be?

As the Lord speaks to you, we encourage you to journal and pray through this series. In each of the 4 areas of our objectives, Conviction, Relationship, Stewardship and Mission- We are asking Lord what would you have me be this year? At the end of the series we will present these reflections and prayers to God as thanks giving throughout the year.

Paul in the Book of Colossians calls us believers to see ourselves, our lives and time, from his vantage point of view.

Let’s turn to our main Text Col 1: 1-14

Paul is the author of this letter to the church in Colossae (1:1-2). Timothy and Silas were with him at the time of writing. This is one of the prison Epistles together Ephesians, Philemon and Philippians letters that Paul wrote from prison in Rome written about 60-61AD. (sixty one years after the death of Christ). The letter was delivered to the church by Tychicus and Onesimus (Col 4:8-9)

The founder of the church in Colossae was believed to be Epaphras (Col 1:7-8), who was a convert in one of Paul’s missionary journeys in Ephesus. As a new convert he went to Colossae and begun to share the good news leading to the founding of the church.  Epaphras had come to visit Paul in prison and bring him the report on how the church was doing. The letter is Paul’s response encouraging the church toward Christian maturity. We will seek to understand deeply this spiritual back ground that threatened the church.

This report was for the most part favorable (col 2:5). But the subject matter in the epistle strongly suggests that the church was facing two dangers:

  1.  The danger of relapse into paganism with its gross immorality (col 1:21-23; 2:6;3:5-11)
  2. The danger of accepting what has come to be known as “The Colossian heresy”.

This heresy was a syncretism, involving four elements of both pagan (Greek Philosophy) and Jewish traditions:

  • Philosophies of men – which denied the all sufficiency and preeminence of Christ (2:8)
  • Judaist ceremonialism – which attached special significance to the rite of Circumcision, food regulations, and observance of special days (2:11, 16-17)
  • Angel worship – which detracted from the uniqueness of Christ (2:18)
  • Asceticism – which called for harsh treatment of the body as the means to Control its lusts (2:20-23).

Of Concern, Gnosticism challenged the Christian faith in the following main areas

  • That God is good and matter is evil and so God has nothing to do with the material world. The spiritual world could not relate with them material world. Denial of Jesus as deity and acceptance of dualism.
  • That Jesus Christ was merely one of a series of emanations descending from God and being less God (a belief that led many to doubt his true humanity). This questioned the sufficiency of Christ for salvation.
  • And that a secret, higher knowledge than scripture was necessary for enlightenment and salvation. There existed a higher secret knowledge that had more authority than the word of God. This led to the believe that a man is what he thinks.
  • The heresy contained also the Jewish legalism e.g. the observance of the ceremonial rituals of the Old Testament law.

Paul’s letter addresses this problem and re-emphasizes the deity of Christ- Christ in all Christ is all.

Paul’s prayer for the church is very important for us and this church that was facing the threat of false doctrine or heresy.   In this prayer for the Colossians, as given in Phillip’s translation, he makes this thought clear:  “We are asking God THAT YOU MAY SEE THINGS as it were FROM HIS POINT OF VIEW, by being given spiritual insight and understanding…”  (Col.1:9).

In verse 9 prayers is prominent; in verse 10 purpose is paramount; in verse 11 power is predominant; in verse 12 prospect is viewed as the saints apprehend the fact that we have been made to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (W. Fraser, n.d., p.7). in Verse 13, we are reminded that as believers we have been rescued from Satan’s dominion and removed into God’s kingdom. This is our new vantage point, Our lives are hidden in Christ. We are in Christ.

Comparing the Modern Church with the Colossian Church

Just like our Kenyan church, the Colossian church was made up of both Jews and Gentiles, people who came to understand the gospel through different worldviews. World views are human perceptions that influence negatively our view of God and faith. World views are the way man tries to look at God, Faith is how God sees man and How He has chosen to reveal himself to man. This is the difference, our faith relies on revelation not world view.  Such Worldviews are seen in the Colossian heresy, indeed this Gnostic heresy is still with us today and stand as a threat.

WHAT HERESY IS PLAGUING THE KENYAN CHURCH TODAY?

These are just a few but we can suggest even many

  1. Illuminism- increased dependence on prophesy above that which is in the scripture. People are looking for the “man of God” to provide revelation. Nothing can be believed or trusted unless it was said by the “Man of God” and what is revealed in the scripture is almost not sufficient for enlightenment and salvation. A lot of people have been led astray by people who have given them a sense that only they are closer to God, and that their blessings can only come through them. There is a sense in which the responsibility of our personal walk is heavily placed on the Man of God, and too often has been manipulated for the wrong reasons.
  2. Buying of oil and sowing seeds to receive God’s Grace or miracles. The implications of this false teaching involve the subtle trade with God, a performance based relationship where we need to do or be more spiritual to gain approval or favor with God. People instead look for formulas and methods at the cost of seeking Jesus who is the solution we desire. This is LIFE-less faith.
  3. Increased emphasis on the public demonstration of spiritual power and gifts: People are drawn to congregations where there is public display of power, e.g. healing, speaking in tongues etc. Maturity is measured not by the likeness to Christ character, but by the number of miracles being performed. As a result, growth and maturity of believers is retarded. The success of the church is being measured not by the level of holiness and spiritual growth of members, but by the no of people attending ones church. Many have being deceived to think that one church is better and successful than the other because of the no of people attending.Power is misunderstood for the instant and loud and not seen in the Lord who gives strength in perseverance, patience, and persecution. Power is being sought in the dramatic, emotions and intelligence and not in the experience of Grace.
  1. Demon obsession: The increased need of deliverance ministries in many churches shows how people continually grow their reality of supernatural evil. All of life is seen as battle with demons in such a way that Satan and his hosts is blamed for such things as bad health, weight, bad behavior, and so forth. People abandon their responsibility to simply admitting the devil made me do it.  Others are made to believe the reason for their misfortune is as a result of witchcraft. There is no doubt that Satan does cause many of the struggles that believers go through, but when we deny our own responsibility towards sin, we endanger our spiritual growth. Discipleship and deliverance is not just in the binding and casting away of demons, but the process of putting oneself to death in submission to Christ.
  2. Increased obsession with supernaturalism: Constantly expecting miracles of all sorts. People are drawn to churches where demons are being cast and persons rolling on the floor, eyes are being opened and a public display of lame walking. They are led to believe that God Is only at work when there are striking demonstrations of God’s presence and power which leads many to go in search of a higher experience with God. They desert the personal growth in the fruit of the Holy Spirit and ran after the quick fix. Many “Men of God have preyed on such Christians and deceived many” When in prayer, they insist that God is experienced in supernatural striking way. There is nothing as a still small voice to this Christians who are looking for a supernatural experience of God. This has further led to a dualism of life, drawing of lines between the spiritual and the material. Our responsibility to relate with and nature our world is abandoned for a more ‘Spiritual’ pursuit.
  3. Secticism- This is the misguided membership into churches that fit and favor our selfish and prideful needs. All others except those of my ‘church’ are considered untouchable or lost and deceived. Instead of the Kingdom mindset of belonging to the body of Christ, Many believers pride themselves and their faith deeply in the church group they belong to and how they do things differently from others. Not only so, just like the jews we run the risk of not being effective in missions to other cultures and religions as we brand them ‘dogs’ the ones we cannot associate with.

Just like the Colossian church, the Kenyan church is in danger of this heresy.

But what is our response to this? Today I sense God is saying to us as we answer Lord what would you have me be? In this arena of faith there exists a lot of false teachings around us. Be in Touch. Be in Touch with LIFE.

So that we are not lost, the Lord asks us to be in Touch with Him. When we know him so well, when we know his will and purpose so well than we will not be led astray, when we know his truths so well, we can identify the lies quickly. Paul here then suggests that this is how we should pray?  For in this prayer we ask God to lift us to his vantage point. (Col 1:9).

But why do we need God’s vantage point- Because our vantage point is blurred.

  1. Worldly advice- based on Self will- do it yourself or power within the self – The core of Gnostic teaching is the elevation of self as God.
  • Self minded pragmaticism (the way I feel like),
  • Self reliance( DYI), self Challenging- I can do it, believe in yourself
  • self pre-eminence (positive self image and esteem)
  • These three lead to life centered sorrow, success and satisfaction.
  1. Worldly Distractions
  • Life Centered knowledge- newest info is the truest, latest news is the greatest, dependence on couched knowledge and science, fuzzy thinking and fiction into matters of faith.
  • Visual images- Tech that speed up life, less mental processing, we become watchers not walkers, we measure by sight not by faith, impressionism without depth.
  • Christian Spectacle- Appeal for tempo, sound, sight, ad drama defining our faith. Faith is based on surface things like appeals, touch and scents. Dependence on programs, charismatic leaders and events
  • Spiritual entertainment- If it sounds good believe it, if it feels good do it. Expectations of entertainment excellence in church, is it pleasurable? Lack of discipline and direction.
  • Everything is relative- lack of absolute truth, too many opinions and perspectives, everything depends on who…
  • Lack of Authority- Amplification of ambiguities, distortion of Truth, realities are buried. We become suspicious of Christian leadership, human models become the model of faith, shifting of messages and methods.
  • Lack of Permanent Values- Like parliamentarians we are constantly drafting new laws and thinking in them we will be more obedient. We seek for consensus at the risk of faith, democracy instead of theocracy. Blind loyalty to a group.
  • Pluralism- Peace and Acceptance is found in plurality of opinions, welcoming of gayism, homosexuality and other vices.
  • Left with Uncertainty- Yesterday’s news becomes today’s fiction- Nothing is certain except death and taxes. The promises of God are viewed as illusions.

HOW DO WE ADRESS THE PROBLEM- the Vantage point

If our position is in Christ, “with Christ in God” means, we have risen to a heavenly vantage point which to view a whole new life. Then we need to see ourselves and our world in the way He sees us. We will begin on this next month as we consider the supremacy of Christ.

PRAYER LIFTS (COL 1:9)

Prayer is very important foundation of our Christian faith. At the onset, Paul emphasizes the need for it.  vs. 9, he prays for the Colossian church that they may be filled with the knowledge of Gods will in all wisdom and understanding

For the church to stand strong in these last days (2nd Tim 3) and keep her hope in Christ, prayer is essential. We must pray for Wisdom and understanding of Gods will for our lives. Prayer is asking God to lift us to see things from his vantage point. Lord what do you see that you would like me to see? Prayer is admitting that our vantage points are faulty in seeing what God desires.  To know the direction and Gods purpose for our lives we must pray. We must acknowledge our inadequacy by acknowledging that God is our all in all. To be able to walk worthy of our calling and overcome sinful nature we must pray. To remain rooted in God, we must pray

We must pray to be strengthened with all might according to his glorious power so that we grow in patience and long suffering, with joy, and gratitude to God despite our situations. Our year must be founded on the true and strong foundation of prayer.

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