ST. STEPHEN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Where God’s saving Word is taught in its truth and purity.
St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309
Where God’s saving Word is taught in its truth and purity.
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6/10/21; 6/11/21; 6/13/21
St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church—Beaver Dam, WI
A parent’s eyes roll. They look and only have to laugh at another growth spurt of their child. It happens at some of the most inconvenient times. Their shirts become tighter and shorts just a little bit shorter. Here it is the middle of July. It does not pay to go out and get new clothes, because soon enough seasons will change. The school year starts. The child’s wardrobe is not as ready for the school year as everyone else is. It means a trip to Kohl’s to purchase some more jeans and shirts, so they have something to wear. Sometimes parents dread a growth spurt because it means the child sprouts up a couple more inches above mom or dad’s head.
Growing is a part of life. It happens to everyone. We speak about growing in height, growing intellectually, and even sometimes growing in a way we do not desire around the waist. Are we concerned about our growth? Do we monitor it like we should? I am no longer talking about growth physically or mentally but spiritually. This growth will never stop this side of heaven. It will continue until Christ takes us to perfection by his side in heaven.
Our Life of Faith Grows
Paul packed a lot in the few verses before us today. English translations did not really do justice to these words. They split them up in sentences, which chopped up some of the meaning. Paul wrote one big sentence in Greek piling up words of praise, encouragement, and reminders for the Christians in Colosse.
It all started with a word of thanks. That would be a good place to start, right? Paul should thank the people for their hard work, dedication, and fruits of faith. Paul’s thanksgiving was not intended for the people. Paul’s thanksgiving rose to God. “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you” (Colossians 1:3). Paul knew where the source of power and strength came from. The Colossians could not brag about how well they accepted the Word of God. Paul gave credit where credit was due. Paul thanked God for his work among the Colossians.
Paul thanked God for a special gift given to the Colossians, “Because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints” (Colossians 1:4). Sweet news reached Paul’s ears. The seeds planted in the hearts of the people of Colosse started to bear fruit. People came to water the seed with the message of the gospel. God did all the hard work. He caused the faith to grow in their hearts. Paul heard of their faith. Not only of their faith but also of their deeds done in faith. Paul rejoiced and thanked God for all those blessings upon the people of this city.
Paul knew where their faith came from. “You have already heard about this in the word of truth, the gospel, that is present with you now (Colossians 1:5-6). Once more Paul did not toot his own horn or point to his tireless efforts in preaching and teaching. The Colossians certainty could only be because of one thing. It was based completely on Jesus. Paul proclaimed Christ. The servants who came on behalf of Paul preached Christ. This message of Jesus Christ crucified brought faith to the hearts of so many people.
The very same simple message of Jesus does so much for people today. This powerful tool remains the hook that brings people to faith. Do we forget about that? We want to point to some kind of magical formula that will change a person’s heart. No illusions will ever change a person from sinner to saint. We think it needs to be some kind of experience, some decision, something in their life where they finally decide to believe in Jesus as their Savior. No great “come to Jesus moment” needed.
All it takes is the gospel. The Word of God is enough. We proclaim Jesus and his work. We hear about Jesus who died on the cross to pay for my sins, as well as the sins of the entire world. We base our entire faith on our Triune God who created me, redeemed me, and sanctified me. Pastors bring the news of the gospel to all. The loving voice of a teacher echoes Christ’s love to the children. Faithful Christians reach out in love to bring a person into a relationship with Jesus. All done with the gospel.
The gospel alone changes hearts because it is based on Christ. We need to remember this. Our faith, which grows daily, bases itself upon Christ and no other. As we remember this, we also see how God uses faith to bear fruit in our life.
Paul encouraged the Colossians to continue on in their life of faith. Paul had heard of that wonderful faith, so he encouraged them to continue to bear fruit. “The gospel is bearing fruit and growing in the entire world, just as it also has been doing among you from the day you heard it and came to know the grace of God in truth” (Colossians 1:6).
Paul did not want the people of Colosse just to be impressed with their own faith. He wanted them to look to all the corners of the world. The gospel worked! Paul received a front row seat to the gospel’s amazing power in the hearts and lives of so many people. He traveled from place to place, sometimes even in the most unforeseen circumstances, seeing the gospel’s power to bear fruit in the hearts of people. The Colossians could rejoice at the gospel bearing fruit in their heart and the hearts of so many people.
The Colossians also had to remember from whom they heard the gospel. “You learned this from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf. He is the one who told us about your love in the Spirit” (Colossians 1:7-8). Epaphras was one of Paul’s fellow workers. He worked in Colosse to nurture and grow the faith in the hearts of the people through the preaching of God’s Word. Epaphras kept in communication with Paul about the growing faith in the hearts of the Colossians.
I constantly remind people that their life of faith cannot be standing still. We can never reach a position of comfort in our faith thinking we have learned enough. The devil he wants us to have those thoughts. As soon as we do, he waits. Soon that person takes their life of faith for granted. Their faith weakens. They fall away from the church and Jesus.
We want our faith to continually grow. It cannot happen during one hour a week in church. We cannot think of coming to church so we can wash our hands of our “Christian duty”. We need, we desire so much more. We come to Bible Class on Sunday. Better. We nourish our faith. However, we still salivate at more opportunities to hear God’s Word and grow in our faith. We use Meditations in our devotional life. We read our Bibles. Our faith grows.
As our faith grows, it will bear fruit. It manifests itself in our actions. We treat others with love. Not a selfish love but a self-sacrificing love. Our thoughts no longer focus on ourselves but on God and all he has done for us. Our words change. We build each other up rather than tearing each other down. We use our lips to speak of God’s invitation to come and partake of the life-giving water of his Word. Our faith bears fruit through us, as our faith grows inside of us.
It does not only take place in our own lives or our own little corner of the world. God’s Word is taking off everywhere. It is easy for us to become pessimistic, isn’t it? We focus on only the bad. We see Satan’s victories that we fail to remember he has already been defeated and chained. The dwindling church attendance makes headlines that we fail to see the victories of new souls won for the kingdom and erring saints making their way back.
God’s mission to go out and make disciples simply does not mean in good times or when we feel like it. God’s mission stands in front of his church every day. We can be conduits through which the gospel message will be proclaimed. We support with our offerings the spread of the gospel all over the world. And it bears fruit. God wins souls for his kingdom. His work continues. More and more people hear about Jesus bearing fruit in their own life. The gospel will bear fruit through our message, and we continue doing that work, because we know what is already ours.
“Because of the hope that is stored up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:5). Paul spoke those words as the entire reason the Colossians had their faith and fruits of faith in action. They knew what was theirs. The gospel message came to them not with empty promises or promises of do this then maybe. The gospel spoke words of certainty that heaven was theirs. With hearts filled with thanksgiving for what God has done, and given to them, they would go out and bear fruit.
So many times, people need a reason to do something. They ask, “What is in it for me?” Money speaks volumes. People will do many things for a few bucks. A threat of punishment will keep someone from doing something.
This asks the wrong question in our life of faith. It turns everything around. We cannot ask what is in it for me, but what has been done for me? Christ has done everything for me. He set me free from sin, death, and the devil. Heaven has been given to me as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ. Now, I desire for my faith to be increased at all time. When we do this, there is something in it for me. Heaven. God promises that to his believers. We will grow in our faith until we reach our heavenly home.
Grow! That is a word we need to hear a lot in our life. We need to grow in our life of faith. We can never be satisfied with where we are. Grow! We grow based on Christ. We grow bearing fruit. We grow built on the promise of heaven. Our Life of Faith Grows. Amen.