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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. David Jeremiah » David Jeremiah - Singing the Praises of the Unsung

David Jeremiah - Singing the Praises of the Unsung

David Jeremiah - Singing the Praises of the Unsung
TOPICS: Christ Above All: The Book of Colossians

He's been called "the man who saved the world," but you probably never heard his name. It was early in the hours of September 26, 1983. The Soviet Union's early warning systems detected an incoming missile strike from the United States. Computer readouts suggested several missiles had been launched, and the protocol for the Soviet military was to retaliate with a nuclear attack of its own. But duty officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job it was to register apparent enemy missile launches, decided not to escalate the situation. He and others on his staff concluded that they were seeing a false alarm, and they were. The system mistook the sun's reflection of the clouds for an incoming missile, and they almost retaliated for nothing that had happened.

Twenty-three minutes later, he recalled in a BBC interview, "I realized that nothing had happened. It was such a relief". Mr. Petrov kept silent for 10 years, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, his story got reported into the press, and he received several international awards. He died a few years ago at the age of 77, but he never thought of himself as a hero. "That was my job," he said. "But they were sure lucky it was me on the shift that night".

The book of Colossians begins with the record of an unsung hero by the name of Epaphras. He's a man who also doesn't get the credit he deserves. In fact, this might be the first time you've ever heard of his name. Now, there's another guy in the Bible named Epaphroditus, but this is not the same guy. This man's name is Epaphras. Without his ministry, there would be no book of Colossians, a book that has blessed and encouraged millions of believers throughout the centuries. Epaphras's story is like Petrov's. It's one of intrigue and potential loss of everything dear to him. It's a story that has survived even longer than the one I just told you, and it has been clearly preserved for us in Paul's letter to the Colossians.

Now, Colossians is not a very big book. It's only 4 chapters and really only has 95 verses. The good news is you can read the whole book in 10 minutes. But the understanding and application of its message is no short-term project, I promise you. Here is the history behind this book. The city of Colossae is located in the Lycus Valley in what we know today as Turkey. In its heyday it was a densely populated and wealthy city. But by the time Paul showed up, it was dwarfed by the larger cities of Hierapolis and Laodicea. In the 1st century AD, a devastating earthquake struck Colossae, and it was never rebuilt.

So, how did the church begin? Well, as far as we know, the Apostle Paul never visited Colossae, and he was not the founder of the church. That honor goes to a native Colossian, our unsung hero, Epaphras. Most scholars believe that it happened like this. Epaphras was converted as the result of Paul's three-year ministry in Ephesus. Now, Ephesus is not a small city like Colossae. It was a big metropolitan place where people from all over the world would visit. And through Paul's ministry there, an incredible outreach of evangelism happened. In fact, Acts 19:10 describes it this way: "All who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks".

I like to think of it this way. Just like Billy Graham would come into a community and hold a crusade, like he did, for instance, in New York, it went on for weeks and weeks, not just the time it was suspected to go on, and many hundreds of people came to Christ. Like Billy Graham, Paul the Apostle came to Ephesus and held a crusade. And apparently, Epaphras traveled there from where he lived in Colossae. He went to see what was going on in Ephesus, and when he got there, he heard the gospel and he became a Christian. And filled with evangelistic zeal, he returned home, 'cause he wanted everybody he knew and loved to hear about this Jesus he had accepted.

Now, about 10 years later, Epaphras visited Paul in Rome. And at that time, Paul was under arrest. He wasn't in jail. He was under house arrest. He was chained to a Roman soldier 24/7. And eventually, because Epaphras came to be with him, he got arrested too, and Paul refers to Epaphras as his fellow prisoner. They were prisoners together in Rome. And Epaphras had gone to Rome for one reason. The church he had founded in his little city of Colossae had come under attack. Some attractive and destructive teachings had wormed their way into the Colossian fellowship, and Epaphras didn't feel like he had enough theological firepower to deal with it, and so he came to Rome to plead for Paul's help, and Paul responded to his plea by writing this letter we know as the letter of Colossians.

This letter was written by Paul while he was under house arrest and communicating with Epaphras, who became his fellow prisoner. And when the letter was done, they commissioned a guy by the name of Tychicus to deliver the letter to the Colossians. You read about that in the fourth chapter. Now, what was this false teaching that had come into the church? And by the way, that's the one thing you cannot allow to happen in a church, if you care deeply about your belief. Like what's happening in America today happens in many churches. They start out believing the truth, they start out teaching the truth, but they get careless, and they don't guard the truth; and before you know it, false doctrine begins to be perpetrated among them.

How many of you know you can't give to somebody else what you don't possess yourself? And the way you protect a doctrine is you set up guards like that to make sure that the people who teach our children, for instance, and teach our young people are people who know Jesus Christ and believe the Word of God that we claim to believe as a body of believers. Well, the false teaching that was coming into the church of Colossae was sort of a mixture of eastern philosophy, Jewish legalism, pagan astrology, mysticism, aestheticism, and a little touch of Christianity to give it some credibility. And all together, it was called Gnosticism. That's spelled G-N-O-S-T-I-C-I-S-M.

The word "gnostic" comes from the Greek word which means "to know". The Gnostics were the people in the know. They were the know-it-alls of their day. They were the woke religionists of the 1st century. And they had all the answers, and they looked down with disdain on anybody who had not been enlightened like they had. They came in with all their pride and arrogance, and they began to teach things that were destructive to the faith, the simplicity of the gospel.

A.T. Robertson, one of the great scholars of the Bible, helps us to understand what was behind this Gnostic falsehood. He writes that Gnostics believe that God is good and he could not touch matter because the Gnostics believed that all things material are evil. Therefore, they believe that the world was created by intermediate agencies called emanations. In order to deal with the problem of God being good and matter being evil, they had to construct all of these intermediate things that would take the onus off of the matter so God could be involved. Unaccepting Christianity, they immediately had a problem with Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ was the combination of everything spiritual and everything material. He was the Son of God and God the Son. He was God in the flesh.

That was a big problem. So, they moved Jesus Christ into this list of emanations that kind of came down from God, and he ended up being sort of a created person. He was considered by them to be a creation of the Father, and he would then not have the integrity and the deity and the power that we know to be true of him. And so that began to dissuade some of the believers in Colossae that Jesus Christ maybe wasn't everything they thought he was. So, Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians to help them deal with this false doctrine that was all around them; and in the process of doing this, he painted one of the most vivid pictures of Jesus Christ in all of Scripture to help the believers then and to help believers today to understand that Christ is above all. He's superior to any belief system and any false teacher who ever comes across the scene. He is the Lord of lords and King of kings, and one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.

So, when we read the book of Colossians, we're not going to spend a lot of time talking about Gnosticism. We're going to spend a lot of time talking about Jesus Christ and how he is the Christ above all, and you can trust him. You can believe him. You can give him your life. We begin our discussion of Colossians with the words Paul used to introduce the letter. I suppose for all of us who teach the Bible, the hardest lesson for us always to teach is the first few verses because the verses are filled with things that don't seem to have any real inspiring influence. But I want you to be careful that you don't ever take them for granted, because the Bible is never without purpose, and every word of the Scripture is important, and everything we learn from the Bible has something that will help us live our lives better.

So, I want to begin with reminding you that there are three individuals and one group of people who are mentioned in the first eight verses of Colossians, three individuals and one group of people. The first individual was the author, who was Paul the Apostle. "Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God". As Paul writes this letter, it's interesting to note that he's near the end of his service for Jesus Christ. Some 29 years have passed since the day on the Damascus Road. He embraced Jesus Christ as his Savior. Of his 60-odd years, less than half of them have been spent as a Christian. And now in the twilight years of his ministry, Paul calls himself an apostle of Jesus Christ. The false teachers who had come into Colossae would challenge the credibility of anyone who disagreed with them.

So, Paul properly calls attention to his right to speak as a protagonist of true Christianity. He says, "Listen, you guys, I'm an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am an apostle by the will of God". He reminds them that he has not called himself to be an apostle; the necessity of apostleship has been put upon him by Almighty God. He is aware that he's been sent by Christ to do the work of Christ, and it is a further reminder of his message that it's from God when he says, "by the will of God". Paul is giving us his pedigree, his credibility. He's going to deal with this teaching that's come into the church, and he wants everybody to know who he is. He's not some just fly-by-night scholar who happened to be coming along the way. He's the apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. The author was Paul the apostle, and the associate was Timothy the brother.

In the same first verse, we read, "And Timothy the brother". It is true that opposites attract; and if that is true, we can be sure that Paul and Timothy were good friends. Paul, you see, was strong and violent and visionary. Timothy, on the other hand, was timid and frail. But the bond between them was undeniable. In fact, Paul even said that there was no other friend with whom he was so likeminded as Timothy, and he gave him the title "my dearly beloved son," 2 Timothy 1:2. But what is going on here in this text is way beyond friendship. Paul was putting his name to a letter that would outlast all of the suns and stars of space. He was signing a God-breathed epistle, one of only 21 of such letters ever to be written.

Here was a writing destined to become part of the living Word of the living God, an instrument to bring light to millions of people for thousands of years, a document to outlast empires, a letter that will be of absorbing interest to God's people in all of the ages of eternities to come. And what does Paul do? He summons his young convert and his colleague, and he hands him a pen and he says, "Here you are, Timothy. Sign right here. Your name is linked with mine forever. And wherever this letter will be read, it will be Paul and Timothy". Timothy didn't write any of this letter. He was Paul's disciple. He was Paul's friend, and Paul wanted him to be included in the letter. This is a window into the heart of the apostle, helps us to understand why God was able to use him so greatly. His humility shines forth in his love for this young man.

So, the author was Paul, and the associate was Timothy the brother, and the addressees were the saints in Colossae, beginning in the next section of these verses. Now, Epaphras had come to Rome from his little church, and Paul learned a lot about the Colossian church because Epaphras told him. Listen to me, everything Paul knew about the Colossians he had to learn from somebody else, 'cause he'd never been there. He didn't know anything about them. If Epaphras hadn't come to Rome to tell him about his church, Paul would not have had any way to say some of the things he's going to say. He basically knew everything now that was going on in the church because Epaphras told him. He knew all the good and he knew all the bad. He knew they needed some encouragement.

So, in typical Pauline fashion, he chooses to begin his comments about the church with all the good things that he had heard about them from Epaphras. The designation of the church in verse 2 is, "To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse". Paul begins his letter by telling these people to whom he is writing the letter, they are saints and faithful brethren. For those of you who may not understand what this is all about, a saint in the New Testament is not some person who's been canonized, immortalized in a stained-glass window, and whose relics are worshiped and rumored to perform miracles. A saint is simply any sinner saved by grace.

When the word "saint" is used in the New Testament, it is never in reference to a condition. It's always in reference to a position of the person. If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are a saint. I am a saint. I am St. David. Turn to your right or turn to your left and tell the people next to you, "You're a saint". That's probably the nicest thing you've said to each other all day, right? Paul referred to these brethren as saints, and he said they were in Christ. He understood that being in Christ was important for these believers. If they're being attacked from without, what is their protection? They're in Christ. They're protected from the enemy because they're in Christ. We're protected from our enemies because if we're Christians, the Bible says we're in Christ.

According to the archeologists of that day, many of the nameless tombs in the catacombs of Rome carried the inscription on the slab, "In Christo," in Christ. And some of those same slabs had the two words "In Peace" written on the other side, almost as if to say if you're in Christ, you're in peace. The best way to be in peace is to be in Christ. So, there's the designation of the church: saints, brethren in Christ. Those are pretty good things to say to a group of people if you're trying to encourage them. "You all there in Colossae, what I've heard about you is you're brethren, you're saints, you're in Christ, you're at peace". And then he gives a little blessing, a little doxology in verse 2. He says to them, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ".

Do you know that in the New Testament, there's no richer word than the word "grace" to describe the work of Christ and what it sustains us to be, from the moment we're saved, all the way until we get to heaven? How many of you know, if we all stand together on the doorstep of heaven someday, if we would all be together, we'd look at each other and say, "It's all by grace. I'm here by the grace of God". We know it's not us. All we have to do is a little self-examination. We don't deserve to be in heaven. We're going to be in heaven by the grace of God, amen? And the doxology always comes in this particular order.

If you read it in the Bible, it's very interesting. It's always grace and peace, never the other way around, 'cause you can't have any peace if you don't have any grace. There can be no peace until there's grace. Peace can be had in Christ, even in the midst of war. Did you know that? And if men had more of the grace of Christ, they'd have more of the peace of Christ.

One of the tragedies of our time, in my estimation, are people pursuing peace apart from grace. There is no peace without the grace of God. You see, we're at enmity with God. Until Jesus Christ comes and destroys the barrier between God and us, which is sin, until there's the grace, there can't be any peace. I'm at peace with God today because one day Jesus Christ died on the cross. He took the penalty for all of my sin, which I deserved to be penalized for. And because he gave me what I don't deserve and withheld from me what I do deserve, I am now at peace with Almighty God. First the grace, then the peace.

Now Paul's going to describe this church, which he has learned about from Epaphras, and he's going to give thanks to God for all of the good things about Colossae. Are they being infected by false doctrine? Yes, but that's not the only thing about them. Paul wants us all to know there was a lot of good things going on in the church in Colossae. Verse 3 says, "We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you".

Do you know what you'll discover if you read the epistles of Paul in the New Testament? You'll discover he's one of the happiest guys who ever walked on this earth. You know why? Because he was always thankful. The epistles of Paul are filled with gratitude. If you want to have a place where you can look for a thanksgiving devotional, go read all the letters of Paul, and you'll find it everywhere. He's always giving thanks to somebody for somebody. And verse 3 begins a prayer and thanksgiving that is one long sentence that runs all the way through the 8th verse. It reminds us that we can follow Paul's example and always pray for others with a heart of gratitude, giving thanks for the people we know in Christ.

As we consider how Paul went about his task, that's how he went about his task. He gave thanks, first of all, for the people in Colossae and what he had heard about them. Now, what did he hear about 'em? First of all, he celebrated their faith, verse 4. "Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus". Paul says to the Colossians, "I heard about you. I heard about you, that you are men and women who have faith in Jesus Christ". They didn't just have faith. They had faith in Jesus Christ. Have you ever run into anybody who tells you they have faith? And when you ask them, "What is your faith in"? they just say, "Man, I've always had faith. Since I was a little kid, I've had lots of faith". "Faith in what"? "Well, I don't know, just faith in faith, I guess. I don't know".

When people say they are people of faith, we have every right to ask them to tell us about the object of their faith. You see, faith isn't about how much faith we have. Faith is about what a great God in whom our faith is placed. I have a little story that I used to use when I was witnessing to people in the city of Fort Wayne, when I was going out every night and visiting in homes. We'd get on this faith bit, and I'd ask them, "Oh, yeah, I have faith, Pastor, yes, sir". "What's your faith in"? "Oh, I've always had faith. I grew up in a family of faith. My father was a faithful man. My grandfather was a faithful man. I've had faith since, man, I was born with faith".

And so we would have this little discussion. And sooner or later, we'd get to my little story, and my story went like this. Suppose we were going to go fishing. It's in the middle of the winter, and we're going to go ice fishing. Let me ask you this question. Over here on this part of the lake is a section of ice that's 2 foot thick, and over here is a section of ice that's just about 2 inches thick.

Now, let me ask you this question: would you rather have a little bit of faith in the 2 foot of ice or a whole lot of faith in the 2 inches of ice? You would be surprised how many people would say they wanted a whole lot of faith in a little bit of ice. And I'd write their name down so I never went fishing with them. That was the truth. You see what I'm saying? It's not how much faith we have. It's how worthy is the object of our faith? You can have a whole lot of faith in a little bit of ice. You will drown. Or you could have just enough faith in the overwhelming majesty and majestic nature of Jesus Christ. It's not our faith that counts; it's who our faith is placed in that counts. These believers, the Bible says, had faith in Christ Jesus. The whole thing is necessary. And not only did they have faith in Christ Jesus, but that faith eventuated in love. It says in the same verse, "And your love for all the saints".

Did you know that on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus gave his disciples the most important "one another" that's in the Bible? In the New Testament, there's 19 "one anothers". I think I found them all. Love one another, pray for one another, bear one another's burdens, a lot of one anothers. It kind of tells you how to live as Christians. But the most popular one is that we're to love one another. And the apostle John was with Jesus that night, and he was the last living apostle, and he became known as the apostle of love because from that moment on, whenever John would write a letter, it would be filled with this truth. He featured love in his gospel, and love dominated his first epistle.

Listen to these words from John's first epistle. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we loved the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death". 1 John 3:23, "And this is his commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment". Tradition says that as John got older... I hate to read these things about getting older because every time I read one of them, I think, "Oh, Lord, don't let that happen to me," but this is what happened. As he got older, he started to repeat himself. You know, that's what you do when you get older, right? So, he got to the place where all he ever preached was on love. And he preached the same message all the time.

Occasionally, some impatient member of his church would interrupt him and say, "John, you've already preached that one. Tell us something new". "Very well," he said, "a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another," and he'd keep on preaching on love. When we have this love for one another, for all the saints, there will be no more church politics, no more pampering of the rich at the expense of the poor, and no more respect of people according to their skin color. When we love each other as God has loved us, all of that disappears. The church in Colossae had faith in Jesus Christ and they had love for one another. And then he goes on to say they had hope: "Because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel".

Faith rests on the past; what Christ has done. Love works in the present; how we love one another. And hope presses toward the future; what God has for us ahead. Did you know that God has promised us an inheritance in heaven? Our hope in heaven, one day when we get to heaven, there's a big, big, wonderful surprise that God has for us. And 1 Peter says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, and it's reserved for you in heaven, and you are kept by the power of God through faith until you get there".

Listen to me, what Peter is saying is we have this inheritance in heaven. God's protecting that. Nothing's going to touch it. And also he's protecting us until we get there. It's a double-edged sword. It's a twice blessing. The reward is protected. We're protected until we get the reward. One day, because of our promise from the Lord Jesus Christ, every one of us are going to receive an inheritance in heaven. How do I know that? The Bible says it. What if I mess up? No, the Bible says God's going to take care of you so you get there. He's going to protect your reward, and he's going to protect you until you get there. What a blessing from the Scripture.

Finally, the apostles not only celebrated the faith of Colossians, he celebrated their love for one another, he celebrated their hope, and he celebrated their growth. He said, "Which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth". Here Paul says, "I just thank God". And you can just see Paul. He's writing this letter. And maybe he had to ask if they'd take the chains off so he could write this letter. And he's saying to the Colossians, before he says anything else, "Hey, you know what, guys? I want you to know I just had a long visit with Epaphras, and he told me about you, and here's what he told me. He told me you've got a lot of faith in Jesus Christ. He told me you have love for each other. He told me you have a hope that's in heaven, that shines bright in your life, and he told me that your little church is growing and bearing fruit".

And this must have been a great encouragement to those believers when they got this letter that we're studying. So, the author was Paul the apostle, and the associate was Timothy the brother, and the addressees were the saints in Colossae, and the assistant was Epaphras the servant; 7 and 8 of the first chapter are about him. "As you also learn from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit".

When Paul speaks of the faithfulness of Epaphras, he's reminding us this is a long-term thing. I mean, it's one thing to be faithful for a moment. All of us have had an opportunity to do that. We rise to the occasion. We do something noble. But it is something quite different to be ministering faithful year after year. That's what Paul said about Epaphras. He was a minister who was faithful, whose protracted ministry was observable and worthy of mention. Oh, men and women, how we need that quality in our lives, not to give up when the going gets tough, not to quit when what we thought would happen doesn't happen, and when something we hoped wouldn't happen does; to be faithful.

As we close our Bibles on these first 8 verses and what we've learned, I want to share with you three takeaways that I hope will resonate in your heart. What are the three main things we can pull from these verses that will help us? First little thought is this: little is much if God is in it. Say that with me: little is much if God is in it.

In his classic commentary on the book of Colossians, J.B. Lightfoot claimed that Colossae was the least important church to which any letter of Paul was ever addressed, the least important. So, the city probably would never have been mentioned in the New Testament, had it not even been for the church that was there. Here was a church of unknown people in a small town, receiving an inspired letter from the great apostle Paul. It was little, but God was in it, and so here today we're reading the letter that came from that church. It's just little, insignificant. If you had been in that church, you'd, "We're not much. We're just a little group of people who love Jesus".

The church in Colossae couldn't have been more than 30 or 40 people; how do I know that? Because the Bible says it was in the home of Philemon and his wife Apphia, and I'm sure they didn't live in a mansion. It was a little house church. Paul told the Colossians that they had become Christians through a relatively unknown person; he said, "You learned about the Good News from Epaphras," verse 7. So, what we learn in Colossians chapter 1 is that God often uses unsung heroes to do his work. Epaphras was an unknown from a city that doesn't even exist today; and yet, he was instrumental in planting and establishing a healthy, thriving New Testament church in his little town.

Let me just say this to you with all sincerity. God doesn't need an apostle or a pastor or some full-time Christian worker to establish a meaningful ministry to other people. All it takes is a person who is willing to tell others about the grace of God in his own life, a person ready to start loving others right where they are. That happens in small groups. It happens through deacon caring. It happens in our ministries, in choirs, in orchestras. It happens everywhere where God's people are, and God's just waiting for you to pick up the challenge and have a ministry to somebody else.

Well, you say, "Pastor, I never went to Bible school". That doesn't make any difference. "I'm not a pastor. I don't know the Greek". Well, most people don't, and most people don't care. You say, "I'm just a simple person". God loves to use people. The Bible says in Corinthians, "Not many mighty are used". God uses people like us, simple people. And if God is in it, little is much. There's a song that the Gaither Vocal Band sings. I've been singing it in my heart this week. You will be, too, after we're all done today. And here's how it goes: "In the harvest field now ripened, there's a work for all to do. Hark the voice of God now calling to the harvest, calling you. Does the place you're called to labor seem so small and little known? It is great if God is in it, and he'll not forget his own". And here's the chorus. "Little is much if God is in it. Labor not for wealth or fame. There's a crown, and you can win it, if you'll go in Jesus's name".

It's hard for me not to think about this when I think about what God has done in this church. Several years ago, quite to our surprise, people started giving churches to us, little churches that had once been vibrant and had a congregation, but now the congregation had gone away. Some of them had died off. People lost interest, and now they had a church. I remember the first church building we got. We didn't know what to do with it. We had to have a special meeting to figure it out. And then before we knew it, we got another one given to us. They're not big, but little is much if God is in it. And when you put all these little churches together, do you know there's almost 2000 people that go to Shadow Mountain who never come into this room when we're here? Never, ever get involved in demeaning small things. God loves to take things that we don't understand, things that don't make sense to us, and do something mighty. He may be working in you.

You may think what you're doing is insignificant. But let me say it again: little is much if God is in it. Here's the second thing I've learned from these first few verses, and that is this: faithfulness is heaven's badge of honor. Faithfulness is heaven's badge of honor. I want you to notice how many times that word shows up in this little book. Colossians 1:2, "To the saints and faithful brethren". Colossians 1:7, "Epaphras, who is a faithful minister". Colossians 4:7, "Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister". Colossians 4:9, "Faithful and beloved brother who is one of you". God puts a premium on faithfulness. And do you know that's one of the challenging things, isn't it?

It's all right to get up for something and say, "Oh, yeah, I'll do that". But then to find out you've got to do it again and again, it's interesting to see how easy it is for us to get involved in the ministry, but faithfulness is really something, something you have to work at. Let me tell you something I learned some weeks ago. Do you know what the average tenure of a pastor is in America in evangelical churches? It's less than two years. The average pastor goes to a church and stays for two years. Well, you can't even get to know what's going on in two years. You've gotta stay. You've gotta have some staying power.

I remember going into the office of W.A. Criswell as a student at Dallas Seminary, and he said this to me. He said, "David, let me tell you something, son". I was "son" then, "David". He said, "If you'll study and study hard, you can stay in a church as long as you want to. You don't ever have to leave". You see, why people leave is perhaps they don't study, and then they've said everything they know, and they've gotta go somewhere else and say it again. But you know, there's so much of the Bible I haven't preached yet, I can't live long enough to preach it all. And I'm not declaring my faithfulness. That's not the purpose. This isn't self-praise. What I'm saying is this. Whoever you are and whatever you're doing for Jesus Christ, you may be discouraged right now. You may be thinking of quitting.

Let me tell you something. Faithfulness is heaven's badge of honor. Someday, we're going to stand before God in heaven, and he's not going to say to us, "Welcome home, good and successful servant". He's not going to say, "Welcome home, good and famous servant". He's gonna say, "Welcome home, good and faithful servant". Your faithfulness, however unrewarded it may seem to be down here, will one day be rewarded, and you'll walk around heaven with heaven's badge of honor, the badge of faithfulness. And then there's one final thing that I learned from these verses that I want to share with you, and that is this.

This book is not about Colossae, it's not about Epaphras, it's not about the false doctrine of what's going on. This book is about Jesus Christ. And if you look carefully, you can even see it in the first 8 verses. So, if you have your Bible open, just look down at the text and follow me. Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ, verse 1. The saints were faithful brethren in Christ, verse 2. Grace and peace is from the Lord Jesus Christ, verse 2. We give thanks to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, verse 3. Our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ, verse 4. Epaphras was a faithful ministry of Christ, verse 7.

This letter to the Colossians is about Jesus Christ. All of the rest of this is sort of important context for what we're about to discover, but the apostle, from the very beginning of the letter, majors on what we're going to learn as we study this book: the whole story of Jesus Christ. Listen to this, when this story started, Paul preached a revival in Ephesus. And Epaphras and Philemon heard the gospel, and they carried it back to their little city where they established a church, and Philemon and his wife opened their home to the church.

And a guy by the name of Aristarchus become the pastor of that church, and Epaphras loved the church so much that he got arrested in Rome while trying to get help from Paul. And the church is always the story of people working together, facing challenges, trusting God, moving forward. The gospel, men and women, is not static, it's dynamic. The stories of the gospel cannot be manufactured. The gospel of Jesus Christ changes everything, and the gospel of Jesus Christ changed me, and it's changed you, too. He continues to do that incredible work.

One of the things that our family has enjoyed has been the San Diego Padres. We were so excited as this year began to unfold that we decided to get some seats. In the section where our seats are located, there was a woman who serves food to everyone in that section. Her name is Deborah.

My friend Jack Graham came to San Diego. He's the pastor of the Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. During the game, when Jack was up talking to some other people, Deborah came over to where I was seated, and she sat down in the seat next to me, and this is what she said. "Are you the real David Jeremiah"? We laughed about that, and then she told me that she had recently gotten out of prison, and that while was was in prison, someone had given her a copy, she said, of this magazine called the "Turning Point Magazine".

And she said she read it from cover to cover in one sitting. And when she got to the end of the magazine, there were a couple of pages where the gospel was explained. And she said, "I prayed and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, and I wanted to tell you what a difference it's made in my life. It's changed my life". She said she'd been out of prison. She had gone into prison addicted. She says, "My addictions are gone. I'm going to a little church". She told me about that. I was just overwhelmed. I didn't know this woman, didn't know anything about her. I accepted her gratitude, but I realized I was just a part of the many people who make that magazine possible. I realized it wasn't me that had changed her life, but Jesus Christ.

It wasn't me that had gotten the gospel to her, but many faithful men and women who create that beautiful magazine every month, and the many people who circulate the magazine, and one particular man by the name of Tom Heyer, who runs the prison ministry here at Shadow Mountain, makes sure that the prisons get a stack of those magazines every month. It was all of that and yet it was none of that. You see, it was the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul preached in Ephesus, that I preach in El Cajon. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. There's nothing like it. It changes everything. It changed me, and it'll change you. If you want to be changed from the inside out with something that will never, ever forsake you, you need to know Jesus Christ.
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