Hope, Thanksgiving, Stewardship, and the Sustaining Gospel

Steve Viars November 21, 2009 Colossians 3:1-17

- when I was a kid, one of the riddles posed by another guy in the neighborhood was, if you were at an intersection, and a police car, and an ambulance, and a fire engine, and al mailman all reached the intersection at the same time…and the police car and the fire engine and the ambulance all had their lights on and their sirens flashing…who would have the right away…

- and according to Mikie Sheets, who was bigger than the rest of us and therefore the self-appointed authority of all such questions claimed that the correct answer was…the mailman.

- if you don’t agree with that answer, please take it up with Mikie…but it would be interesting to see what would happen if all  those vehicles showed up at once…

- well, there is a sense in which we are at a similar point of convergence today…in fact, let me just give you our title, and then we’ll reconstruct the accident…we’re calling this, Hope, Thanksgiving, Stewardship, and the Sustaining Gospel.

- if we threw in your kitchen sink, that would just about cover everything…

 

- but here’s where we are…

- all year we have been thinking about the subject of Finding Hope…focusing on verses like Romans 15:13 - Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

- and we have certainly needed it…this has been one of the most unusual years in my entire ministry career…from the perspective of what is happening in our economy and our world…

- in fact, just about a year ago we saw a significant increase in our attendance and I wonder if it had a lot to do with men and women in our community being truly frightened by everything that was occurring – we all needed hope…and still do…

- this has also been a year of rather significant suffering by many in our church family…yes we’ve had opportunities to rejoice with those who rejoice—and those have been wonderful times together---but we’ve also had many occasions to weep with those who weep – we’ve tried to “abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

- there have also been many attacks on our hope…I am so thankful as a pastor for the many victories that have been won this year spiritually in the lives of individuals and families---there have been many…but I grieve the number of situations where men and women have chosen to dig in their heels, or refuse to apply the riches available in Christ to the challenges they face – I’ve never been more aware of the power of sin and its devastating effects on lives and families…so for me you could summarize this year in part with the words – hope tested, or hope stretched, or hope extended…so that gets through the first word in the title [the first concept at the intersection]…

- but it’s also the week before thanksgiving…which on the one hand is a major theme in Scripture, but on the other hand for some can be a major pain in real life…

- it can be a stressful time with holiday preparations and traveling and being with people you don’t normally spend time with, and having extra time on your hands in some cases…it’s possible for the thanksgiving part to be forgotten at…thanksgiving…

- but even on a more serious note, for some this will be the first holiday with ____ (you fill in the blank)…and you may have been dreading this coming week…and we need to face that…and try to tie these themes of hope and thanksgiving together…

- but that’s not all – this is also the conclusion of Stewardship Month – and by the way, I’m thankful that the majority of the people of our church are planning to attend our stewardship banquet tonight – we’re going to have a great time together…

- but we have been thinking about – what are all the things God has entrusted to us, and are we being faithful to the trust?...and what kind of commitments would He want us to make in the days ahead?...

- so there’s a lot running through our minds right now – how do the topics of hope, thanksgiving, and stewardship fit together…and I didn’t even try to add Christmas to the title…but you’re reminded even by the decorations around the building today that Christmas is a’comin – and for our church family, that means a lot of things, but it certainly includes the LN, CFE, The Christmas Musical, Christmas Eve Services, the Christmas Day Dinner, etc…many opportunities to celebrate the message of Christ and proclaim the good news of His birth…

- so what can tie all of that together, and give it meaning, and focus, and direction?...

- one answer is the last phrase in the title, the sustaining gospel…

- how the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is intended to impact God’s people each and every day…

- now I’d like us to turn to a passage of Scripture that can help us tie all of this together – please open your Bible to Colossians 3…page 158 of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

 

- if you feel like this time of year makes it easy to be distracted, you’re in good company…

- that was also true of the Colossian church…based on what we know from the content of the book, it would appear that the people in this congregation, or perhaps series of church families, were facing a number of doctrinal emphases that were not in line with the Word of God…

- so you read verses like Colossians 2:8 - See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

- Paul’s antidote to being distracted by many things was a heavy emphasis on the supremacy of Christ…

- you could pin this book to a wall and throw darts and with practically every throw, you’ll hit something about the Person and work of our Savior…like Colossians 1:18-19 - He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.

- that pretty much sums it up…and that’s just exemplary of the kind of emphases you read throughout this wonderful letter that’s been preserved for us…

 

- there’s also much in this book about the sustaining gospel…and to be clear, what we mean by that term is the present applications of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for followers of Christ today.

- the gospel isn’t only something we believe when we trust Christ…or something we know will get us to heaven when we die…there is a sustaining aspect of thinking about it and applying it every day…I think I mentioned this quote earlier this year, but it bears repeating…

- God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted.  Actually, he offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness.  The wise believer learns this truth early and becomes proficient in extracting available benefits from the gospel each day.  We extract these benefits by being absorbed in the gospel, speaking it to ourselves when necessary, and by daring to reckon it true in all we do (Milton Vincent, The Gospel Primer, p. 5).

- so that’s another way of thinking about our goal this am – how do we keep thanksgiving, stewardship, and Christmas and all the ideas and activities associated with those emphases centered on the Person and work of our Savior?...

- let’s look for answers to that beginning in verse 1 of chapter 3 (explain that we are going to be especially focusing on verses 15-17) – read Colossians 3:1-17

- So, we’re talking about Hope, Thanksgiving, Stewardship, and the Sustaining Gospel (with a Little Christmas thrown in on the side…)…because of the emphasis of the text, let’s think now about 3 ways your relationship with Christ is connected to thanksgiving.

I. Let the Peace of Christ Rule in Your Hearts and Be Thankful – v. 15

- if you know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, even if this has been a terrible year for you in every conceivable way…you still have a reason to be thankful today and throughout this week…A. Because of what Jesus did to secure your peace, positionally.

1. Peace – is the Greek word eirene“includes both the concept of an agreement, pact, treaty, or bond and that of an attitude of rest or security” (Macarthur, Colossians, p. 158)

- the only way that you and I can have peace with a holy God is because of the finished work of Christ on the cross…

- that was Paul’s point in Romans 5:1 - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

- the moment you trust Christ, you are completely justified, or declared righteous on the account books of heaven…you are now, and for the first time ever whether you realized it before or not, finally in a state of peace with God…the price of your sin has been paid…

- Paul made that same point earlier in this book of Colossians when he said, Colossians 1:20 - and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

2. Let peace “rule” – brabeuo – “used to describe the activity of an umpire in deciding the outcome of an athletic contest” (MacArthur, Colossians, p. 158).

- often people use that concept to think about making decisions---did I have peace about it or not – “let peace be the umpire”…

- the problem is – that’s not what this passage is about ---- the immediate context is about corporate peace in the church by following the commands in verses 12-14---we’ll talk about that in a minute…

- but the chapter we just read shows that the overall picture is the peace that we have with God because the finished work of His Son.

- that aspect of the gospel should continue to be our focus, and our motivation…it should serve as an umpire to help us evaluate thoughts, and goals, and words…is this consistent with the peace of God that I enjoy because of the precious blood of Christ….

3. This is one of the reasons we should be thankful.

- surely you noticed as we were reading that the concept of thanksgiving was a part of each of these last three verses in the passage…[re-read v. 15]

- and the principle is – as you (perhaps—if you) choose to think about and meditate upon the cross of Christ, it will produce a deep and abiding sense of thanksgiving that can sustain you through whatever challenges you might face this week…

- that’s why C.H. Spurgeon said…Abide hard by the cross and search the mystery of his wounds (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, January 4, Evening meditation).

- C.J. Mahaney added,Paul simply refused to be pulled away from the gospel.  The cross wasn’t merely one of Paul’s messages; it was the message.  He taught other things as well, but whatever he taught was always derived from, and related to, the foundational reality that Jesus Christ died so that sinners would be reconciled to God (C. J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life, p. 25).

- so what does that have to do with Thanksgiving? – Can I encourage you to seek to make it more about Christ and less about baking the perfect holiday bird?...If that thing comes out so dry that it would be better used as the football in the afternoon outdoor family exercise time – instead of letting that ruin the day – how about – If Christ has died on the cross for me, that’s more than enough to make me thankful…the peace I have with God is going to rule my heart…the same is true…

B. Because of what Jesus continues to do to make peace possible in your relationships practically.

- I mentioned a moment ago that the immediate context of this idea of “peace umpiring our hearts” has to do with our relationships in the church, and our relationships with one another…

- [re-read vv. 12-14]…

- and I realize that you might say – there is no way I can live like that…

- sure you can, because of the ongoing power of the sustaining gospel…

- Romans 6:17-18 - But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

- see, even if you’ve messed up the last 32 times you and your in-laws have tried to get together…it can be different this time…

- because of the power of the gospel – you have been united with Christ in His death, and raised to new life in Him…

- and did you see the appropriate response at the beginning of the verse in Romans?...[thanks be to God…]…Christ has died for me and I have died with Him…

- Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and be thankful…

- let this week be centered on the finished work of Christ…

- let your stewardship commitments tonight flow out of thankfulness to Christ…

- let all our Christmas ministries rise out of the ashes of sheer busyness and activity and focus on the supremacy of our Savior…

- and even if this has been a very hard year for you – find hope in our crucified and risen Lord…

 - some of you have a MacArthur study Bible that has a marvelous summary of what the Scripture says about the Supremacy of Christ…Pastor Garner put a group together to remind us of those truths and as they come to minister to us…I want to encourage you to say in your heart…that’s what I want my Thanksgiving to be about….that’s what I want my stewardship commitment to be about, that’s what I want my Christmas activity to be about, that’s where I want my hope to be found…

 

- Reading – The Supremacy of Christ…

- now you might say – well, how does this practically work itself out?...the next verse really helps us there…

II. Let the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly and be Thankful – v. 16.

- part of the good news of this day is that there are men and women who can look back over this year and say – I know much more of the Word of God at this point of my life than I did a year ago…not so much in the sense that I have it memorized, but in the sense that I am applying it in everyday life…

- how could you possibly not be thankful this morning if you could honestly and humbly say that the Word of Christ is more richly dwelling in you than ever before…

- and friends, that is a significant part of…

A. The goal.

- Colossians 1:28-29 - We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

- that’s why we’re so amazed and excited about the piece of property at Purdue I mentioned last Sunday…

- it has nothing to do with magnifying ourselves…

- we’re trying to proclaim Christ – we’re looking for ways to teach and counsel from God’s Word with the goal that men and women will repent and believe and then let the Word of Christ dwell richly in them and become thankful…

- and think of it – as we do that, what is the result – that more and more men and women in our community or whatever community God directs them next in their journey will be complete in Christ…

- I realize you might say – PV, but do we have enough people who are trained and bale to serve in that kind of ministry?...

- that is a good question – but here’s a more pressing one – do we have enough facility both here on our campus and at Purdue to house all the men and women who want to serve in that way?...

- because here’s what’s happening – it’s just like a conversation I had with one of our lay counselors on the way out of the counseling center Monday night – he was telling me about someone he was working with and how God was marvelously transforming that person’s heart and life through His Word…and this layman from our church was so thankful and excited to be used in that way…

- we don’t have to twist arms – we have to build space…now, please add this idea…

B. His Word can richly dwell in you because our Savior is alive.

- please tie this back to the sustaining gospel…

- we don’t worship the Bible, or try to apply its principles in our own strength alone…

- Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

- this is part of antidote to pride as we grow…it’s not – I’m a more biblical spouse and I’m really something…it’s, God is helping me change and grow and I am so amazed and thankful for what He’s doing…because He’s alive, I’m alive….

- just like the end of the great resurrection chapter in the Bible, I Corinthians 15…Paul said…1 Corinthians 15:57-58 - but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

- see, is there evidence that His Word is more richly dwelling in you, proof that He alive, and you are too?

- and friends, that can sustain you…

- I’ve mentioned several times this month that stewardship month isn’t all about money…it’s a very broad subject….on the other hand, it certainly includes money…

- Our giving should demonstrate we have died to self and are living to magnify and proclaim our risen Savior…

- there is an extended discussion of this in II Corinthians chapters 8-9 – which describes a love offering that is being taken up for the poorer Christians in Jerusalem…and Paul says…

- 2 Corinthians 9:11-15 - you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all,while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

- our stewardship decisions are to flow out of our thanksgiving for the indescribable gift God has given to us.

- letting God’s Word dwell in you richly to produce that kind of thankful and faithful stewardship will sustain you life-long…

- some of you have heard me talk about two close friends my father had, Jack and Bob…

- Jack was a friend from the army, Bob was my dad’s cousin…they lived in TN and would come up each summer to go on a fishing trip to Canada…when I reached 10 years old, they started taking me…

- after my dad retired, my parents moved down to that area and were very close with Jack and Bob and their families, along with a lot of other relatives down there…

- Bob has been a very faithful leader in his church…was often the chairman of their deacons…

- involved in all sorts of building programs…

- we would often talk about those matters on the trips…and he would call from time to time and ask questions about what we were doing here…

 

- earlier this year Bob was diagnosed with cancer…and they told him that it was the best kind of cancer you could have---they even claimed to have a 100% success rate, etc…

- so he’s been going through treatment but had a series of setbacks and was just told last week that there’s nothing else they can do…

- so my mom was talking to his wife Wilma about how they’re doing…

- and it’s one of those conversations I wish I had recorded for a lot of reasons, including the fact that I could never reproduce her accent…

- and Wilma said that Bob sat down with her and showed her where the will was, and reviewed all their finances with her, and retirement accounts and all of that…and she said…and Wanda, he even told me how much I was supposed to tithe…

- now, if you knew Bob and Wilma, that’s not because Bob had some concern that Wilma wouldn’t be faithful after he was gone…but their giving to God was such a natural part of him that it would be as habitual to include that subject as any other aspect of what needed to be passed on at the end of his life…

 

- when the Word of the risen Christ is richly dwelling in you, faithful stewardship almost becomes second nature….

III. Let the Name of Christ be Glorified in You and Be Thankful – v. 17

 

- our hope is found…in name of Christ…

- thanksgiving is all about…the name of Christ…

- and our stewardship commitments are all about…the name of Christ…

 

- and friend, when you bring a group of people together who are organized around that purpose, it is amazing what God often chooses to do…

 

- we wanted to start a Passion Play to magnify the name of Christ at Easter, and the Lord allowed us to do that…and we’re thankful…

- we wanted to develop a Living nativity to magnify the name of the Lord at Christmas, and the Lord allowed us to do that…and we’re thankful…

- we wanted to start a Christian school…

- we wanted to build a community center…

- we wanted to start a church-based seminary…

- we wanted to have a faith based residential treatment center for at risk girls…

 

- God often blesses those who want to magnify the name of His Son…and we’re thankful…

 

- now we want to build a ministry center at Purdue…

- we want to build a ministry center here on our campus…

 

- where could faithful stewardship take us in the days ahead?...

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video