An Exemplary Witness
Unite to Build
An Exemplary Witness
(The Church’s Reputation)
Colossians 1:3-8
Today we come to the closing message of our current series entitled “Unite to Build”.  At some point in the future we will have some actual costs and proposals for the upcoming projects, but before that time ever gets here, there are some preliminary preparations that need to be made. 
In fact, the are not only important for specific projects we might undertake, they are essential to the health and well-being of the church as a whole in its every-day life.  If the church will ever be successful in its ministry and mission, it will be because these fundamental characteristics are being observed and implemented. 
First of all, there must be “A Unified Spirit”.  We bring all of our diversity and opinion and giftedness to the feet of Jesus, submit it to His lordship and He does a work inside of us that causes us to be like-minded.  In other words, we seek His glory and good and will instead of our own.
And as long as a church is filled with those who seek glory for themselves,, it will never have a unified spirit. 
Next, we are called to do the will of God no matter the cost.  If we are living to bring glory to God, then our heart will not only desire to honor Him, but it will make “The Necessary Sacrifice” to see that it gets done.
Then comes “Intentional Prayer”.  We are not just generally praying for God’s blessing.  We are learning to take intentional, specific prayer requests to God to see that His will is carried out.  Amd just as Jesus modeled and taught, our prayer is “Your kingdom and will come and be done.”
In the meantime, there are some ongoing needs at the church and just because you are involved with a specific project doesn’t mean the rest of the ministry has to suffer.  Therefore, we are called to “Tithe Regardless”.  No matter what other commitments I might make or other projects I think important, my first responsibility is to “bring the tithes to the storehouse so there will be plenty to do the work of God.
And I will remind you that next Sunday we will be having a Catch-Up Offering Sunday. . .
Now today I want to bring one other aspect of what it means to “Unite to Build” to your attention and that is how what we do as a church reflects in the community and how it is perceived by those outside the church. 
It is always my desire that whatever we do as a church that we give “An Exemplary Witness” through it.  I never want to be an embarrassment to the church or the church to be an embarrassment to God.  I don’t want to ever give the devil an opportunity to point at what we do and use it as a reason for someone to not follow Christ. 
It makes a great deal of difference to me what people think about my church.  They can be critical of our stands when we stand on Scripture. 
They can disagree with our positions on moral issues.  They can even not like the message that we proclaim.  But there ought never be an opportunity for someone to point to our fusses and fights and say, “It that’s how God’s people act, then I don’t want any part of it”.
So with that in mind, let me point your attention to a church in the New Testament that had an exemplary witness.  In the book of Colossians, we find the Apostle Paul writing to a church that he had nothing to do with founding.  As far as we know, Paul had never visited this church.  All Paul had was what he had heard from others. 
And Paul writes them this letter we call the book of Colossians to say, “I’ve heard about you and I like what I hear!”
Now that really got my attention because I figure whatever Paul likes about a church is most likely what a church ought to be like.  So I think it a safe assumption that if I want my church to honor God and have a good reputation and an exemplary witness then it ought to be characterized by the things Paul identifies here in Colossae.
So in Chapter 1 he introduces himself and others with him, then notice what he says beginning in
Verses 3-8
Now there is always a temptation to say, “Yes, but times are different now.  If they had been trying to build a church in Southern Oklahoma in 2012 it would be different.  And I suppose there is some truth to that. 
It’s always good to look at the historical setting of the letters and see what was going on then and how it is addressed and reflected by the writing. 
And when you look at first century Colossae, you discover these folk had anything but an easy time.  For instance, this geographical region had a very sparse Jewish population so there was no religious influence.  Instead it was very pagan.  As a result of that there was a very strong cultic influence that was preoccupied with the occult. 
Whereas the area had once been a thriving commercial center, the economy was now on the slide.  Evil was rampant.  Crime was terrible. 
And yet, someone had planted a church there, and their reputation had made its way to Paul and he like what he heard. 
So what was it about this church that Paul like?  What gave them such an exemplary witness? 
First of all, he mentions
1. They Declared the Right Kind of Faith 
It is important that we believe, but it is even more important that we believe correctly.  Our faith must be sound.  Notice verse 3 tells us there faith was “in Christ Jesus”.
Now that is so elemental, why even mention it?  Because so often in our lives and in our churches we have our eyes on everything except the Lord Jesus. 
That’s why churches fight during building projects.  It becomes their focus rather than Christ.  And I can promise you the devil always likes to draw attention to the church that doesn’t draw attention to Christ. 
The church ought to be famous, not for its fights and fusses and disagreements but for Jesus.  Paul said, “I’ve heard of your soundly defined, exclusive faith in Christ Jesus.”
Looks take a closer look at what that means.  What does it mean to have faith in Christ Jesus?
Verse 15
Who is Jesus? This verse tells us He is the image of the invisible God.  In other words, He is God in the flesh.  Co-equal, co-eternal, co-existent, always was, always is, and ever shall be, nothing less than and no one other than God Himself. 
Jesus Christ is God in the flesh and the church ought to make tha very clear.  Our faith is in Christ Jesus.
Then notice verses 16-17
Not only is He God, but as such He is the Creator and Sustainer of everything that is.  That means that everything that is He made and without Him it wouldn’t be here, and beyond that if He takes His hand off of it, it disappears.  He holds it all together. 
So in relationship to God, He is God.  In relationship to everything else, He is the Creator and Sustainer.  Then notice in verse 18 we find His relationship to the church. 
Verse 18
Do you know why so many churches fight so much?  Someone violates the pecking order.
Somebody decided they were going to be head of the church and anytime someone challenges that, the fight is on.  And a lot of churches are just like watching “The Wild Kingdom”.  Remember that show?
Marlin Perkins for Mutual of Omaha would be sitting in the canoe 300 yards away from the action while Stan wrestled with a wildebeest or alligator or lion as they went out to study the habitats of nature. 
That’s how the church is.  Only the strong survive and the weaker must find their place under the head whatever. 
But his verse has some very important information for us.  Who is the head of the church?  Contrary to what some would like to believe, it’s not the pastor.  Nor is it the deacons. And it’s sure not you or me! 
Jesus Christ is the head of the church.  It’s His church.  Therefore, when you have a fight with the church, you’ve got a fight with Jesus.  When you bad-mouth the church, you’re talking about the Lord Himself.  When you harm the witness of the church, you are harming the witness of the church for which Jesus gave His blood. 
When you cause division in the church, you are messing with the pride and joy of God Almighty!
And the church of the Lord Jesus ought to be known first and foremost for its faith in Christ Jesus. 
Faith in Who Jesus is comes first.  Then notice what faith in Christ Jesus has done
Verses 19-20
Listen:  What Christ Jesus has done is our message to the world. 
It is our faith in Who Jesus Christ is that sends us out with the message of what He has done. Our message is alla bout Jesus. 
  • He lived as God’s sinless Son on Earth
  • He gave His life as our substitute on Calvary
  • He Who knew no sin became sin for us
  • He arose victorious over death and hell
  • He is coming again
And any church that believes who Jesus I ought to be known for preaching the Gospel of Salvation based on what He has done.
Ours is a message of salvation and reconciliation and hope and promise based on the blood of Jesus. 
We declare our faith in Who He is and what He has done. 
Real churches are not some little social club where we meat to eat and pamper one another.  Ours is fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ where Jesus is taught and preached and proclaimed as Lord of the Church and Savior of the lost!
First and foremost our reputation ought to be of our faith in the Lord Jesus. 
What else did Paul like about this church?  Well keep reading. 
Notice verse 4
And specifically, according to verse 8 it was love in the Spirit. 
Paul said, I’ve heard about you and you have the Right Kind of Faith.  Secondly,  
2.  They Demonstrated the Right Kind of Love
That’s something isn’t it?  The Christians in the church at Colossae loved one another in the Lord. That makes all kinds of sense because Jesus Himself said, “By this shall all men know you are my disciples because you love one another.”
That means the church that have their faith in Christ Jesus are made up of folks who demonstrate a Spirit-inspired love for one another. Now God’s love for you is characterized by the fact that He loves you as you are and not as you ought to be.  Is that true? 
Does God love you because you are perfect?  No.  He loves us as we are and not as we ought to be.  Aren’t you thankful? 
God loves you always and not just when you are faithful and good and clean and prayed up.
God loves you when you are obedient and when you are disobedient.  You can’t enjoy His love as much when you are disobedient, but He still loves you. 
God loves you when you tithe and when you don’t.  He can’t bless you like He like to when you don’t, but He still loves you. 
God loves you when you pray and when you are silent. He can’t answer if you are praying, but He still loves you. 
  God loves you when you’re faithful to your church and when you are absent.  He can’t feed you like He like to, but He still loves you.
God loves us as we are and not as we ought to be.  In fact, there is nothing you can do that would make God love you any more and nothing you could do that would make Him love you less. 
Now here’s my question.  If God loves you like that, how could you refuse to love others like that?  If you and I , as the children of God have received and enjoy that kind of relationship, why we would want to withhold it from others?  If we’re God’s and we have His love in us, we will love our brother and sisters in the faith unconditionally. 
And yet do you know what a lot of Baptists do?  We act like we love one another until they do something we disapprove of then we drop them like a hot potato.  Therefore, when they mess up and do what we say they shouldn’t, they run from us rather than to us and I don’t blame them. 
And the truth is we love ourselves a lot more than we love others.  Therefore anytime someone does something I don’t approve of, I get upset with them, and what I’m saying is, I’ll love you if you behave a certain way and do certain things and if not, I don’t have time to mess with you.
But God loves me as I am and not as I ought to be and it is that loves that brings me to where I ought to be.    
Not love “if” or “because”.  Love and those words don’t go together.  It’s either love or it’s not.  And you and I must learn to love one another no matter what.  Our reputation as the people of God depends upon it. 
The lost world is not impressed with your good, clean moral life.  Many of them are living just as clean and just as moral as the folks at the church.  Society expects folks to live good clean moral lives.  They’ll fine you or put you in jail if you don’t. 
And I really don’t think the world si too surprised when we aren’t.  They know we aren’t perfect and understand that.  What the world can’t tolerate is a hypocrite who acts like they’re perfect and condemns those who aren’t and criticizes and belittles others and wears a mask on Sunday and lives like the devil on Monday thru Friday.
Then when we try to tell them about our faith in Jesus Christ they aren’t interested and I don’t blame them! It’s hollow and plastic and cheap and doesn’t ring true.  And when we say “Follow Jesus.  Come be like us.  Come to our church? 
Why?  So you can gossip about me behind my back?  So you can criticize me and condemn me when I’m not listening?  No thank you!  I don’t need any of that. If that’s what church is all about.
The lost world pays attention when we rally to one another and help one another and when somebody falls we are there to pick them up.  Not to criticize and embarrass and kick when they are down.
Think about it.  If there is somebody in this church and you are hesitant to walk up to them and offer them some expression of Christian love like a handshake or a hug, you are not right with God and this church will never have the reputation it ought to have if you think you are so good and so holy and so self-righteous and spiritual that you can look down your spiritual nose at another person and not love them.       
I wonder what Paul would write to us?  What is our reputation?  Because whatever it is, it is because the individual lives in the church have made it that way!
Here’s the third thing.  Paul said, You declare the right kind of Faith.  You demonstrate the right kind of love and thirdly rd of your love and I’ve heard of
3.  You Depend upon the Right Kind of Hope 
Verse 5
We ought to have the right kind of faith, the right kind of love and the right kind of hope. 
We do not “hope” we go to heaven, our hope is in heaven.  Our hope is not a commodity.  Our hope is a person. 
Listen to Hebrews 6:19-20
Our hope is in heaven because Jesus is in heaven and in a hopeless world where people eliv ein gloom and despair and dread you and I have the privilege of looking them eyeball to eyeball and saying,
 “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name.  On Christ the Solid Rock I stand.  All other ground in sinking sand!
The church ought to have the reputation for being a place of hope!  I don’t have to attend the pity-parties sponsored by the nay-sayers of the world where we sit around and wring our hands and declare it’s bad and nothing can be done. 
Let us say, “Be not dismayed whate’er be tide.  God will take care of you!  Beneath His wings of love abide.  God will take care of you!
That’s the right kind of Hope!  That will get you through today!  That will help you face tomorrow!  That will prepare you for eternity!
Pretty good church don’t you think? 
They had the right kind of faith, the right kind of love and the right kind of hope.  Then here’s the last thing.  Paul says
4. You Duplicate the Right Kind of Fruit
Verse 6
These folk not only received the Lord Jesus Christ, they reproduced that relationship in others.  Ever since they received the Lord, they were seeing him born again in others. 
See how that happens?  When a church places its faith in the Lord Jesus and falls in love with God and each other and has its hope in Jesus Christ that church will be used of God to duplicate that process in others.  That church will bear fruit. 
It’s John 15 in action.  Jesus said, “Abide in me and you will bring forth much fruit.
It’s interesting how fruit trees bear.  Did you ever listen to one?  I had an interesting conversation with a peach tree one time.  I walked by that tree and I heard the most intense groaning and grunting.  I said, Hey peach tree!  What are you doing? 
That tree said, I’ve got to bear some peaches!  If I don’t they’ll ut me down!  I better go to a seminar on how to bring forth peaches.  I need to learn ow to blossom and produce some buds that turn to flowers and develop peaches or I’m doomed!  I’m destined to be fire wood if I don’t learn how to bear fruit. 
I said, “Listen little peach tree, that’s not how it works.  A healthy peach tree, firmly rooted in mineral rich soil, that is properly tended in love, will bear peaches.  Do you know why?  That’s what peach trees do! 
That’s what a peach tree is all about.  It’s the most natural thing in the world!  It’s just the way God designed it to work.”
Now I don’t know if that wittle talk helped that peach tree or not, but it did me a world of good. 
As Christians, we are to be firmly rooted in the rich soil of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are to come alongside one another in love and encourage and help and strengthen one another in the faith.  We rest in the eternal hope that is our sin Jesus Christ knowing that we don’t have to perform to be accepted and as a result of all that, we bear fruit. 
It’s just what God’s churches and Christians do!  It’s the supernatural work of God to take healthy believers in healthy churches and duplicate them over and over again. 
Well, I wonder what the Apostle Paul would write of us if he’d been listening down at McDonalds or the coffee shop?  What is the reputation of your church?
May God help us to protect it and groom it as we grow together in the Lord.
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