by Paul Tautges | February 11, 2014 6:29 am
Two days ago, I preached my farewell sermon to the church that God—by His grace—gave me the privilege to serve for twenty-two years. During the final weeks before this sermon, I thought much about what I might say and finally landed right where I had begun in 1992. I wanted to preach Christ; I wanted to exhort the congregation to keep looking to Jesus as the Great Shepherd and Guardian of their Souls (1 Peter 2:25). I also wanted to encourage them to follow Him, day-in and day-out, as the Good Shepherd who faithfully feeds, leads, and protects the sheep of God (John 10:11).
Therefore, I settled on Colossians 2:1-7, a passage written by a mere man who lived with continual, and often overwhelming, concern for the souls in his flock. As a result, his heart compelled him to remind them to keep a Christ-centered focus and to keep walking with Jesus. The supremacy of Jesus Christ is the theme of the book of Colossians. Since Christ is supreme the apostle repeatedly exalts Him before his readers in order to call them to look to Jesus (for example, 1:13-18, 28-29; 2:9-17; 3:1-3, 15-16).
A key command in the book pulls the centrality of Christ and our need to follow Him together into one, in 2:6-7, and that was our main sermon text. In the five verses that precede these, however, the apostle describes his concern for the Colossian believers as a struggle. “Struggle” comes from the same word from which we get “agony,” referring to a strenuous and demanding athletic contest (like the Olympics). It is a picture of the intense effort that the apostle put forth in ministry toward those believers. In 4:12, Paul uses a form of this same word when he mentions Epaphras, who was “always laboring earnestly…in his prayers.” Prayer is a form of spiritual labor, an intense inner struggle against all the forces of evil in the kingdom of darkness. Paul described his struggle with the adjective “great” – a word that speaks of the magnitude of abundant inner stress. Paul says he experienced this struggle for the Colossians, the Laodiceans, and all other believers whom he had not met personally. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, modeled this same jealous concern for the sheep in John 10:11-15.
Why did Paul have this internal stress? God had given him a shepherd’s heart, which drove him to work on their behalf. His spiritual desire for the believers produced a great struggle within. He knew that he was a fallen sinner himself and knew that everything he wanted for them was against the powers of the world, the flesh, and the devil. The description of these desires leads up to the apostle’s key command: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”
As believers, we are called to walk the walk of faith: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord.” But how have we received Christ?
Paul’s command to “walk” is best translated “keep walking.” It refers to continual, habitual action. It stresses the daily walk of spiritual development. Paul is saying:
Our walk is “in Him.” As believers we live in union with Christ (John 15:4-5). It is only in Christ that we become new creatures. It is only in Christ that we become fruitful. It is only in Christ that we are accepted by God.
The apostle describes the believer’s lifelong walk in Christ in four ways.
The apostle’s command to keep walking in Christ is similar to the closing desire of the apostle Jude, “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21). Nothing will ever separate the believer from Christ or His great love for us. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus never fails.
[The audio for this sermon can be found here.]
Source URL: http://counselingoneanother.com/2014/02/11/my-farewell-sermon/
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