June 16-18, 2018
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Colossians 1:3-8
“THE GOSPEL IS BEARING FRUIT AND GROWING!”
1. Among us.
2. Among others.
3. Thank God!
Colossians 1:3-8 (NIV 1984) “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—5the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. 7You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.”
The Christians in the church at Colosse certainly had some reasons to feel down. They were living in a city that had been a center for commerce in the early Roman empire but at the time the Apostle Paul wrote to them Colosse was diminished and unimportant. A man named Epaphras had been converted to Christianity and had brought the good news of Jesus to the city. Some were converted and believed. A Christian congregation had begun. But at this time they were floundering. Some false teachers had come in and gained many followers. Watching the outward results of the false teachers flourish while the faithful congregation floundered had led some to question if this thing called grace was actually true and if Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus was really the way to go. They needed a pick me up. Some Good News.
Do you feel that way sometimes? I have to think that those of you who lived closer to the post WWII years have to feel like you are living in a country that used to be preeminent but now is in decline. All of the data on our Milwaukee community from race relations, crime, taxes show no improvement and more likely decline despite all kinds of efforts. Gradually we are getting used to the idea that we are living in times when Christians are no longer favored in our country and God’s morality no longer even pretended to be accepted. This past week we had our WELS district convention and the news shared publicly and privately about the state of all Christian churches in America is the same. Declining numbers. Declining attendance. We see it here too. I have to tell you as a pastor that when you come back from vacation and see an attendance figure of 360 people for a 1200 member church it could get you a little down. Do you need some Good News?
God provides! Here are the facts. All over the world the Gospel is bearing fruit and growing. God is in control. God’s word works because God works. That’s what God had the Apostle Paul tell the Colossians when Epaphras went to Paul on their behalf. Talk about someone who might have felt down. When Paul wrote this letter he was in prison. And yet he was filled with joy and confidence. You and I can too. Because the Gospel is bearing fruit and growing among us.
Just like it was among the Colossians. “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—5the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6that has come to you.” The Colossian Christians had faith in Jesus Christ. They had love for one another. The Gospel was bearing fruit and growing. By the Spirit’s powers the believers in Colosse were looking forward to the riches God had stored up for them in heaven. That heavenly mindset was seen as they clung to their faith in Jesus. It was seen as they showed love for one another. It made Paul thankful. What that looked like among them I don’t know. But I do know what it looks like among us and it makes me thankful not down. It looks like Elaine Kyler praying to be in heaven and while she waits Ladies Aid members visiting here and sending cards and Girl Pioneers making her a blanket. It looks like members giving others a ride to church. It looks like meals being taken to those in need and prayers request abounding and being made by the ladies of St. Jacobi. It looks like men working hard all day and giving two more hours of free time at night to serve on boards. It looks like husbands and wives fighting their selfishness and holding their tongues to speak kindly to each other and apologizing when selfishness wins. It looks like brothers and sisters forgiving each other and children asking for Bible stories. It looks like members put the Gospel work of St. Jacobi in their wills and responding to financial needs and wanting to do more. The Gospel is bearing fruit and growing among us.
And among others. “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. 7You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” Just what did “all over the world” mean when Paul wrote these words? We know the Pentecost crowd took the message back to the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. We know where Paul went. Did Thomas make it to India? How far did it go? China, Russia, the British Isles? I don’t know. But I know where it is bearing fruit now. We heard at this last district convention of how WELS Committee on Relief which you support has helped people in need as close as Farmington WI for storm damage help and far as Texas, Barbuda, Dominica and Puerto Rico for hurricane relief, to Africa and India for clean wells. Now look at this! The gospel is bearing fruit and growing!
Thank God for that. First remember that through what we are doing here people are thanking God. Parents are thanking God that you treat their kids as your kids so they get a Christian education. Members are thanking God for the help and kindness and prayers you are giving. People all over the world are thanking God for you, for your prayers, for your generosity toward missions that God has used to get the Gospel all over the world where it is bearing fruit and growing. The latest amazing work of God we heard is an open door in Vietnam, North Vietnam that is. Some of you lived in the history of the Vietnam War. You know what communism did to that country. What would you say if I told you that the government of the country that set up Ho Chi Minh city and the Hanoi Hilton is willing to have us set up the Hanoi Lutheran Seminary. Impossible! Yes, that’s what Jonah said when God sent him to Nineveh, a city filled with cruel and heartless pagans. Did you hear what God did? The Gospel is bearing fruit and growing. Thank God for that. And thank God that His Gospel is bearing fruit and growing among us. “But you just told us churches in America are in decline. We see our own attendance at worship going the wrong direction. Look at the morality. And my kids that I brought so faithfully to church, that went through our Lutheran schools! Pastor they are straying.” Did you hear the one about the farmer who just planted seeds and let the Lord bring the growth? Someone named Jesus told that one. He also told the one about the mustard seed. Have you heard that recently? What’s the point? Be careful how you make judgments. God’s word works. It may seem like it’s too small or not working but it is all over the world including in you. You appreciate God’s grace that He has not cast you away from His presence into the Hell you have earned. Your faith is in Jesus. You are worshipping and serving and caring and striving to be moral. The Gospel works. So be concerned about our straying family members and church members? Of course. Pray for them and make more efforts to encourage them? Yes. Give up on the Gospel? No way. Thank God by treasuring it and relying on it and sharing it.
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—5the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6that is producing fruit and growing in you! Amen.