Series on Colossians, I The Mystery of Christ, A The Revelation of God, 2 Prayers, a Petitions, Text: 1:9-11, Title: Know and Grow

Introduction

Over 60 years ago Frank Sinatra introduced a song entitled “Love and Marriage.” They were different times. The lyrics said, Love and marriage, love and marriage, Go together like a horse and carriage This I tell you brother You can't have one without the other. In the cynical twenty first century that song would seem silly, but it embodies a time honored principle. Love leads to marriage in the normal course of events. One follows the other. There is a similar relationship in the Christian life between knowing and growing. You can know without growing and many do learn a great deal without applying it to their hearts and lives. But, you can never grow without knowing. This is the principle that Paul sets forth in his prayer. Non-Christians accumulate vast quantities of information that does them no good. The knowledge that the ungodly person loves is not saving or sanctifying knowledge. He blindly prides himself in how much he knows.  Someone has estimated that, if all of man's accumulated knowledge from the beginning of recorded history to 1845 were represented by one inch, what he learned from 1845 until 1945 would amount to three inches and what he learned from 1945 until 1975 would represent the height of the Washington Monument!  Since then it has probably doubled. Few people, however, would argue that the incredible leap in scientific, technological, and other such knowledge has been paralleled by a corresponding leap in spiritual and moral wisdom.  If anything, man's understanding of what he is doing and why he is doing it seems to decrease as his practical knowledge increases.   The more learned he becomes in that superficial kind of knowledge, the less likely that he sees the need for the knowledge that comes only from God. Christians, on the other hand, must have knowledge of the truth of God in order to grow. Christians need to be filled, fruitful and faithful.

I Filled

Thus Paul prays in verse 9, For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. The word “fill” mens to be controlled by something. On the day of Pentecost the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in unknown tongues. The crowd that witnessed Jesus’ healing of the paralytic were filled with fear. The Pharisees were filled with rage at Jesus’ claims. To be filled with the knowledge of God’s will means our lives are controlled by that will. This is Paul’s desire for the Colossian Christians.  There is a mocking of the false teachers here buried in the original Greek. They taught that salvation was through knowledge, a mystical experience of “gnosis.” Paul prays for an “epi-gnosis” for the believers, that is a precise and correct knowledge which comes through the gospel and the Scripture and not through mysticism. People talk about knowing the will of God a lot. What they are usually interested in is insight into a decision such as what church they should attend, whom they should marry or what college they should attend. Paul is not talking about that at all. He is referring to a broad knowledge of the will of God in our salvation, or the plan of redemption. This is what grounds us. Without a source of authority to provide absolute standards, virtually anything goes. Today the moral values enforced are often arbitrary, based merely on human opinion. But for the Christian the authoritative Word of God provides absolutes which are the basis upon which all truth about God and all standards of faith and conduct are set. Ignorance is not bliss, and we are responsible for knowing and powerless without that knowledge. That knowledge provides wisdom and understanding of how to glorify God in our lives. There was an old song, “Fly Me to the Moon.’ Fat chance of flying to the moon unless you have the knowledge to design and build a rocket ship. There is even a less chance of living the Christian life without the knowledge for which Paul is praying.

II Fruitful

The Lord does not show Himself to us in order merely that we may know, but in order that, knowing, we may do, and, what is more than either knowing or doing, in order that we may be. Thus Paul writes in verse 10, And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:6, And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Thus the first step in pleasing God is to believe on the one He has sent, Jesus the Savior. Once we have done this we can pray as David in Psalm 119:18, Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. Once we know Him, seeking to know Him better pleases God because Paul prays that we may grow in our knowledge. And the last step in pleasing God is doing as Jesus said in John 13:17, Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. This is the fruit-bearing stage as our verse indicates, bearing fruit in every good work. Many never grow in knowledge because they never grow in obedience. Alexander Maclaren eloquently writes, “The Christian should ‘walk’ in a manner corresponding to what Christ has done for him. ‘Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people, and unwise?’ was the mournful wondering question of the dying Moses to his people, as he summed up the history of unbroken tenderness and love on the one side, and of disloyalty almost as uninterrupted on the other. How much more pathetically and emphatically might the question be asked of us! We say that we are not our own, but bought with a price. Then how do we repay that costly purchase? Do we not requite His blood and tears, His unquenchable, unalterable love, with a little tepid love which grudges sacrifices and has scarcely power enough to influence conduct at all, with a little trembling faith which but poorly corresponds to His firm promises, with a little reluctant obedience?” We are never worthy of grace and salvation of mercy and forgiveness, but we can walk in a more worthy manner. One more observation is appropriate. Fruitfulness is defined in Scripture, but for many people fruitfulness is how big the church grows, or how many professions of faith are made. Fruitfulness is much more than that as Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-24, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Even as Paul prays for the Colossian Christians to be filled with the knowledge of God he has in the back of his mind the fact that without the proper knowledge they will never be able to experience God’s will in their lives as he writes to the Roman Christians in Romans 12:2, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. When we picture fruitfulness only in terms of numbers, as many do, we miss God’s view of the church. Jesus said that we are the light of the world. He said a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. We are that city, but often we are more concerned with sound than light. The Biblical model is for people to stream to the city on a hill, but if we fail to build the city by the fruit of the Spirit, who will come? I am reminded of one of my favorite films, “Field of Dreams.” While walking in his cornfield, novice farmer Ray Kinsella hears a voice that whispers, "If you build it, he will come", and sees a baseball diamond. His wife, Annie, is skeptical, but she allows him to plow under his corn to build the field. Others are skeptical too. But, ultimately, through a convoluted fantasy, Ray’s dreams are fulfilled. I love that thought, because if you build the city of God with love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, they will come. This is Biblical fruitfulness.

III Faithful

The job is not easy. It is too hard. It is beyond our ability but, when we are filled with the knowledge of God we are also strengthened as Paul writes in verse 11, Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance. Although being filled with the knowledge of God has significant effects on the mission of the Church, it also is of great benefit to the individual believer. It enables them to persevere. Endurance is not generally appreciated in the fast food churches of today. The gospel is presented too often as an instant panacea. You repent and believe the gospel and then everything is taken care of for the rest of your time here on earth.  I believe it was Jesus who said in Matthew 10:22, All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. God preserves His true children, but they must persevere through temptation and trials of every sort. The way one elect lady put it was, “To live off a garden you have to live in the garden.” Persistence, perseverance, and endurance are essential. In the course of the  War between the States in 1862 a beleaguered attachment under General Corse was riddled with casualties. The defenders were slowly driven into a small fort on the crest of the hill in southern Illinois. Despite the hopelessness of the situation they held their ground and then just in time they saw signal flags on a hill 20 miles across the valley. They were the forces of William Tecumseh Sherman whose march through Georgia eventually gave the North the victory. The message was, “Hold the fort for I am coming.’ Later P. P. Bliss wrote a gospel hymn with that title. The lyrics state, “Ho, my comrades, see the signal, waving in the sky! Reinforcements now appearing, victory is nigh. ‘Hold the fort, for I am coming,’ Jesus signals still; Wave the answer back to Heaven, By Thy grace we will.’    See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on; Mighty ones around us falling, courage almost gone! See the glorious banner waving! Hear the trumpet blow! In our Leader’s Name we triumph over every foe. Fierce and long the battle rages, but our help is near; Onward comes our great Commander, cheer, my comrades, cheer! ‘Hold the fort, for I am coming,’ Jesus signals still; Wave the answer back to Heaven, By Thy grace we will.’” Filled with the knowledge of God’s will in the plan of salvation we are strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that we can hold the fort until he comes.