Serve the King in Community

            Life should never be lived alone.  Some of the best friends in my life are those with whom I have labored with serving the Lord.  You can build friendships around a common activities or events, but I believe you build deep “family” friendships when you serve the Lord in close community.  The Apostle Paul gives us a model in how to serve in close community.

Serve in Close Community

            Paul was an extraordinary man.  Outside of the Lord Jesus Christ, he probably did more to spread Christianity than any other individual in history.  He wrote 13 books of the Bible. He planted numerous churches. He was an extraordinary man, but he was also just a man.  He struggled with sin. He struggled with loneliness and fatigue.  He struggled with hurt and confusion. Paul was a man that was able to accomplish extraordinary things, because he had help.  First and foremost, he had help from God.  1 Tim 1:12, “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service.” Paul ultimately knew that whatever he was able to accomplish for God he did by the strength and grace of God. That being said, Paul was able to accomplish much for God, because he served in close community with other brothers in the faith. 

            Remember Paul is writing this letter in prison.  He was put into prison because of his preaching of the gospel. He was put in prison for following the will of the Lord.  It is hard emotionally to experience trials and difficulties when you are following God.  Have you ever been there?  You are working for the Lord and trying to serve him and yet are experiencing hardship and difficulty. Following God does not always produce comfort, but often it brings persecution and affliction.  If that is the case, how important were the men that served alongside Paul?  Listen to how Paul speaks of these men, verse 7, “Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” Verse 9, “He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.” Verse 14, “14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.” Can you hear his affection for these men?  There is so much warmth and love for these men. 

            Listen to verses 10-11, “10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.Paul is in prison, experiencing hardship and trial, and yet God comforted him. How? Paul is comforted through the faithful service of his dear brothers in Christ.  Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”  Aristarchus, a name that is not regularly used in our conversation, was a fellow prisoner. He was jailed with Paul for his service for King Jesus.  He was also with Paul during the riot in Ephesus in Acts 19:28-29” 28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater,” and in again during Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27. And yet, he was still with Paul.  A brother is born of adversity. 

When someone is with you and comforts you in adversity, your love for them grows exponentially. So let me say two things. First, if you are in trial, do not face it alone.  Invite people in to comfort you in the midst of that trial.  Secondly, if you see someone in trial, comfort them. Beloved, we do not need to go through affliction alone.

            Another blessing that Paul experienced in serving in a close community was that he was able to give away the ministry. The mission was bigger than the Apostle Paul.  He knew that there was much work to be done and more than one man can handle.  So he delegated the ministry to other men.  Paul sent Tychicus and Onesimus to the church to tell them about what was happening with him and to encourage their hearts. Verse 8-9, “I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our[a] circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.”

  Paul could not make it personally, but he still wanted to care for the people.  He wanted their hearts to be encouraged.  These two men came on behalf of Paul as if Paul was coming himself.  They came as a representative of Paul.  Would they have preferred for Paul to come? Of course, but they appreciated the men who came. Recently, our deacons have divided up on church membership roll to share in the responsibility of caring for the flock.  So if a deacon calls or visits, they are coming as a representative of the church.  As a pastor I want to make as many visits as I can, but if I do not make a visit, know that it is not out of lack of concern. Like Paul, I want your hearts to be encouraged, that is why we are dividing up our membership so that we may more effectively care for you and to work that no one is overlooked. More information will be announced in the forerunner this coming week regarding our deacon families.  

            Paul served in close community with other believers.  His friends and brothers were one of the reasons he was able to accomplish so much for kingdom of God. His brothers were dear to him and much loved.  So do you have close brothers or sisters that you are serving with?  If you don’t, you have to ask yourself why don’t you have these kinds of relationships. Pride? Selfishness? Fear of Rejection? Timidity? Friendships and relationships are strengthened when we serve together.  Serve in close community.

Serve your Church Community

            Paul wanted to see the church in Colossae grow in Christian Character and Christian Service.  We have seen that theme throughout this letter
Colossians 1:9-14:                  

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. 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, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[d] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption,[e] the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 2:1-7

I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.


12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Paul never had met this church personally, but he loved his church.  Why? Because the people that he loved, loved this church.  Onesimus was from among the church as well as Epaphras. Onesimus was a run-away slave from the household of Philemon.  Paul sent of Colossians as well as the letter to Philemon with Tychicus and Onesimus.  So the last time Onesimus was back home, he was known as a slave and thief, but he returns as a faithful and dear brother. Do the words forgive as Christ has forgiven you, mean more knowing that one of the recipients of this letter was going to have to forgive the one who brought the letter? But do not miss it, Onesimus came back to serve his people.  He name means useful, which was a common name for a household slave, which is fitting for he returns to his home to be useful for the Lord.

            And look at the example of Epaphras in verse 12-13, “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.”  Epaphras served the church through faithful and consistent prayer for the church.  He prayed that they may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.  He was not casual about his devotion to prayer, but it says he wrestled in prayer.  The word used there is how we get the word gymnastics.  He labored for these people in prayer.  So Epaphras was serving the church in his prayers, he was also serving the church by caring for Paul’s needs. Many scholars believe that Epaphras was sent by the church to serve Paul. Also, Paul wrote the letter to the church because of the information shared by Epaphras as seen in Colossians 1:7, “You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.”

            Epaphras and Onesimus were both servants of the church.  Epaphras left Colossae as a servant in his ministry to Paul while Onesimus returned to Colossae to serve the church. God used Epaphras and Onesimus to serve and grow the church at Colossae.  Although Onesimus and Epaphras served alongside Paul in planting and strengthening churches, they were just examples of the typical believer in the New Testament.  Paul writes in Romans 12:4-8:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his[b] faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

1 Peter 4:17-11

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.  What is your gift? What has God given you to serve others?  Use whatever gift you have to serve this church. Sunday School, Nursery, Visitation, Welcome, Outreach, Sound, Power-point, Choir, Prayer, Fellowship, Teaching, Giving, Administration, Transportation, etc. 

Paul’s companions were not special super Christians.  They were just ordinary people doing ordinary things for the glory of God.  I do not want to put an additional weight on you, but if you are not serving the church, you are the one missing out. But here is the thing, I should not have to convince you to serve the church.  The church is close to Jesus’ heart and if you love Jesus you should want to serve his bride. Listen to the words of the great hymn of the faith, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

        Were the whole realm of nature mine,
        that were an offering far too small;
        love so amazing, so divine,
        demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts captured the heart to service.  God has given us so much that even if we had the whole world, it would not be an offering far too small.  He is so worthy. He is so excellent.  He deserves everything and we should want to give it to him. God has blessed you with gifts so that you can bless others.  Be a blessing.  Serve the church community.

Serve for the Conquered Community

            We end the book of Colossians, where we began four months ago.  The first sermon I preached as your pastor, I challenged you to be fit for heaven.  There are many things that are important in life, but nothing is more important that being with God forever in Heaven.  This book is full of thoughts of Heaven. Col 3:1-2, “ Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  Thinking about heaven is so important because it helps us finish the race, to fight the good fight and to keep the faith until we are part of the conquered community.

Let me point out a few things here.  Laodicea mentioned here was a neighboring city to Colossae.  It is also mentioned by Jesus in Revelation 3:

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. 15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the church.”

Church at Laodicea was once strong and vibrant, but their works became lukewarm and they became wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  We are all susceptible to become lukewarm believers.  I believe that much of the American church has suffered from the sin of Laodiceans.  We have become lukewarm; we are neither white hot for the Lord or ice cold.  The Lord says that he wants to spit out the lukewarm believers. But God in her mercy reproves and rebukes those he loves and encourages his people to repent and turn back to him.  He is the one that stands at the door and is knocking for us to turn from being complacent and indifferent to red hot burning embers for the Lord Jesus Christ.  He says to get white garments to clothe ourselves so that the shame of our nakedness may not be seen.  For the one who conquers, Jesus will grant him sit with him on the throne as a co-heir of heaven.  Jesus has conquered death through his resurrection from the dead and is seated down with the Father in Heaven. 

            Beloved, we must serve with an eye on that conquered community which is the community of the
saints that have conquered death by trusting in Jesus Christ for their resurrection from the dead to eternal glory.  For even in the list we just read, we see one who did not endure until the end.  2 Tim 4:9-10, “Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.” Demas, who was once a faithful servant of Jesus Christ and a minister with the Paul, fell in love with this world and deserted the faith.  When you love this world, more than you love the world to come you end up abandoning the faith and losing eternal life.  We see a negative example in Demas, and a positive example in Paul.  Colossians 4:18, “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains.” Paul was in prison.  He was in prison for preaching the gospel.  He could have left prison if who would have denied Jesus Christ. But his hope in heaven was far better than his hope for comfort and ease in this life.
1 John 2:15-17:

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

One of the ways we protect our soul from love of this world is in serving others for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we serve, we give ourselves for others. We give our time, our energy, our money, our wisdom etc. We give ourselves.  And when we give ourselves for the sake of others, we follow in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Galatians 1:3-5
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

And Ephesians 5:1-2

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

When we serve others, we love others and follow in the example of the Lord Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Jesus gave his life so we could be with God. In many ways, our service helps people experience the Lord. 

            God has given us gifts to build up the church. Look back at our text in Verse 17, “Tell Archippus: See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”  Archippus had given a work from the Lord, it was his job to complete it.  Let me ask you, what work have you been given in the Lord?  Where is God calling you to serve? See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.

            So how do you complete this work? How do we serve with an eye on the conquered community?  The last four words of this letter some it up. “Grace be with you.” Live in grace. Live in community.