#1 Colossians 1:1-8 "Faith, Hope & Love"

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother: 2 To the saints in Christ at Colossae, who are faithful brothers. Grace to you and peace from God our Father. 3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints 5 because of the hope reserved for you in heaven. You have already heard about this hope in the message of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. It is bearing fruit and growing all over the world, just as it has among you since the day you heard it and recognized God’s grace in the truth. 7 You learned this from Epaphras, our dearly loved fellow slave. He is a faithful servant of the Messiah on your behalf, 8 and he has told us about your love in the Spirit.  HCSB

Read vs4-8 again. Do you see the primary action in this passage? Paul and Timothy heard about the faith and love of the Colossians from Epaphras. The Colossians’ faith and love came from hearing about the hope in the message of truth, the gospel (v5), also from Epaphras. But they didn’t just hear what he was teaching, they recognized God’s grace (v6) in what they heard. They understood God’s message of hope in Jesus and learned about his love, and they acted. They believed and received this truth into their lives, entrusting their eternal destiny to this fantastic news (this is what the word "gospel" means) and were forever changed.

Think back to how you came to believe. Who was your Epaphras? How many people did God send to help you understand this hope (v5), recognize God’s grace and accept it? How did God orchestrate the circumstances of your life so that when his message of truth, the gospel came to you, you heard and understood it? Take time to thank God for sending that person or those people into your life and for opening the eyes of your heart so that you could understand it and receive it to be the truth.

Notice in v4 how Paul heard about their faith and love. I wonder what Epaphras told him? I wonder how they practically expressed their faith and love? Whatever they did, Paul summed it up by writing: for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints (v4). They weren’t missionaries or pastors. They certainly weren’t Christian recording artists or authors. The Colossian believers were simple people who experienced the spiritual transformation of coming to believe in Jesus, who is Christ the Messiah (“Christ” is the Greek word, “Messiah” is the Hebrew/Jewish word, both mean “God’s Anointed One”, “the Savior”). They were ordinary people just like you!

God’s desire for you is the same as it was for them. He wants to help you live out your faith in love. According to Jesus, the main characteristic that sets us apart as his followers is that we love all the saints (v4). Faith and love are inseparable. They are two sides of the same coin. You will find them paired throughout the Bible because our faith is in the One who is love. They are so connected that Paul was led by the Spirit to write this statement: The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6 NIV). What matters the most in your life is your faith in Christ being lived out through your love for Christ and for his people, all the saints.

Nope, "saints" doesn't refer to New Orleans’ NFL team. Nor does “saint” refer to great Christians of long ago who now have a statue to honor them or their own cathedral in Europe – although that’s how the term is incorrectly used. “Holy” and “saint” come from the exact same word. You are a saint through your faith in Jesus, because God has set you apart. He calls you a saint because he has made you to be his very son or daughter. He chose you and appointed you to belong to him and he expects you to be faithful to him. Your Father’s will for you is to learn how to be fully devoted to him just like Jesus was. This letter to the church in Colossae is all about inspiring you to remain (menó) faithful to your Father because of the grace he has shown you and continues to show you. Your faith is best expressed by how you selflessly love other believers, which means you put their wants, needs and interests ahead of your own. This kind of love does not look to be reciprocated and it comes with no strings attached. This kind of love, from the Greek word agapé, always costs the giver. And agapé love is totally impossible to pull off on your own!

Two things will help you in this most difficult undertaking. No, three. Definitely three! First, like the Colossians, focus your heart on the hope reserved for you in heaven (v5). “You” is plural. Every follower of Jesus has experienced the same grace from God and we will all live together in a sinless new world, in the visible presence of God, in absolute love and peace. Think about that for a moment. No loneliness or depression, no jealousy or envy, no burdens or sadness, no broken relationships, no cheating, no gossiping… only Jesus' kind of love - agapé. That’s what is coming for us as his people. Think about the reality of it. Picture it in your mind. Let the most beautiful place you have ever seen or your most cherished relationship remind you of the amazing world that will be your forever home. This world we live in is drenched in sin. Imagine a sinless world!

Secondly, the love you have been given is from God. He is in you through the Holy Spirit. That’s why v8 declares: and he has told us about your love in the Spirit. You can only love like Jesus loved through the power of his indwelling Spirit within you. Because every believer has the Spirit in them, we also have the same potential to love like he does. Therefore, you never face another believer one on one. That’s just not how relationships work in the Kingdom of Jesus. If you and another believer, like your spouse for example, aren’t getting along well, realize that the Spirit is in you both. Your arguing means you are not living like the One who lives in both of you. Remember that he loves the other person just as much as he loves you. So stop taking yourself so seriously. Agapé love by learning to listen so that you truly hear the other person’s heart.

Third, because you are in the Spirit and the Spirit is in you, rely on him when your emotions get the best of you. When you feel jealousy, rejection or anger towards another follower of Jesus, and it happens all the time, acknowledge your sin and ask the Father to strengthen you. His power can prevent you from saying something that you'll later regret. By his strength, you can reject focusing on what is wrong with the other person. Stop replaying the DVD and definitely don’t tweet or post about how you feel! Instead, ask God to help you focus on what is lacking in you. Ask him to strengthen your faith to work itself out in Christ’s agapé love. The Spirit of Jesus is your helper who is in you, 24/7. Rely upon him!

 Take Action:

- Keep reminding yourself that the Father made you able to see and believe what you never deserved to know.

- Thank God throughout the day for making you one of his saints. Every time you encounter a non-believer, thank God that he has given you faith to believe.

- Look for how God’s grace is working through you to love others during the course of each day. Ask your Father to increase your love in the Spirit (v8) in everything you do.