We’re back! For many of you this isn’t a return but simply a kicking-off. Wherever you find yourself, I am delighted that we are (finally) resuscitating the Village Church’s blog. Our desire in bringing our blog back to life is simple: we want you, our church family, to have regular resources that can stimulate, encourage and challenge you in your journey with Jesus.
My prayer through this time of preparation and even now, as this first post goes live, is rooted in Paul’s beautiful words to the church at Colossae found in Colossians 2:1-4. Too often we run past Paul’s introductory comments to the churches he addresses in order to get to the “meat,” the “theology,” the “depth” of what Paul is wanting to communicate. This is a grave error on our part! To sprint past Paul’s personal words to the churches is to strip the doctrine Paul loves so dearly of its heart. In Paul’s personal addresses, we find that the doctrine Paul clings to so powerfully finds its root in real people, real situations and real churches.
Walk with me for just a moment through Paul’s prayer for his brothers and sisters in Colossae and find in these words my own personal meditation and prayer for you, The Village Church. In Paul’s prayer, we see his goal for the churches, how this goal is achieved and finally the prize won in achieving the goal.
Paul’s Goal for the Church
First, what does Paul long for for the church? The beginning of Colossians 2:2 reveals the answer: “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery.” Paul is praying for the church to be united, mature and encouraged. That word encourage literally means “built up.” The imagery is of a house being built and fully complete, lacking nothing. A prayer for encouragement is a prayer that the brothers and sisters within the church would know that they lack nothing, even in the midst of significant worldly need, because they have Christ.
Paul also prays that they would be “knit together in love,” a desire for the church to live in harmony (2:2). Just as a family often experiences division and quarrels, the church is no different. Yet, even in the midst of human fallenness, Paul desires that the church would be unified, together, of one accord. For Paul, unity in the church is a picture of what Christ does. Christ brings people together of every tribe, tongue and nation in the act of building up His church, His people, the family of God.
Finally, Paul prays that the Colossians would reach maturity in their understanding of the Gospel. These “riches,” as Paul describes them, build up the church into a mature (“reach”) family where they are rooted firmly in Christ (“full assurance”) and confident in His promises (“understanding & knowledge”). His prayer expresses a desire that the church not remain as children, immature and uneducated. Rather, Paul wants them to grow up and experience the joy and satisfaction that comes from a deep knowledge of Christ and the power of His Gospel.
How This Goal is Met
Next, Paul expresses in his prayer for the church how these goals can be met. He writes, “which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (2:2-3)” For the church to reach unity and maturity in Christ, and to feel the weight of encouragement by all that Christ has done and promises yet to do, it takes Christ! Jesus is the only one whose work accomplishes what Paul is praying for. Christ is the answer! While this sounds incredibly “Sunday-schooly,” that doesn’t make it any less true. In Christ is where these “treasures” are “hidden.” In no one else, and nowhere else. Not in the world, not in busyness, not in ministry, not in vocation, not in academia. Nowhere else but the substitutionary, atoning, redeeming, justifying, reconciling, adopting, glorifying work of Christ on the cross for sinners.
The “wisdom and knowledge” that is found in the person and work of Christ is the only thing that can bring about the encouragement, unity and maturity Paul calls Christ’s Church to. We so often chase after other things. By “we” I mean us…The Village Church. Our pursuits are too often misaligned. We claw and we scratch for joy, contentment, peace and encouragement in other things besides Christ. Sure, we often tag Christ onto our efforts of busyness and ministry, vocation and relationships, but we don’t pursue Christ the way we should. Paul’s prayer for the church is that they would chase Christ! Would this be our prayer as well.
The Prize Won In Achieving the Goal
Finally, Paul speaks of the prize of this pursuit: joy in Christ. Paul writes, “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. (2:4)” Paul doesn't want the Colossians to drift; he doesn't want them to be swayed into believing lies or for their ears to be tickled by the trappings of worldly wisdom. No, Paul wants them to be so rooted, so mature, so full of encouragement and so closely walking together as the body of Christ that everything else that offers them joy just sounds silly.
To chase after Christ with the zeal and passion that Paul calls the church to leads them to experience the goals he desires: encouragement, unity and maturity. The prize of achieving these goals is that they walk confidently in the joy and satisfaction that comes from Christ alone. Paul knows that if we truly know Christ, then whatever “wisdom” the world throws at us will be foolishness to our hearts and minds. We cannot be deluded, we cannot be deceived, we cannot be shaken because we know we are found in Christ! I want this in my own heart. I want this for your heart. And, I want this for The Village Church. I want all else to seem absurd and foolish when compared to the “surpassing worth that is found in knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippinas 3:8).
To run past Paul’s prayer and heart for the church is to miss why Paul’s beautiful theology, the “meat” of his letters, is so important. Paul’s doctrine is not important simply for the sake of doctrine. No, doctrine is meant to overflow into worship, to lead to practical workings in real human hearts and real human minds. Paul’s theology leads to deeply practical and transformational practices in Christ’s Church. This is why his prayer is so heartfelt. He doesn’t want the truth of the Gospel to simply hang up high somewhere, but he wants it to move into the hearts and minds of God’s people.
I have been praying Paul’s prayer for our church. My desire is to want this for The Village Church with the same passion and zeal that Paul wants it for the church at Colossae. I want my heart to deeply desire this for our church family. I want our church to want Christ and to experience the riches that are found in Him alone. A part of my prayer is that this blog can be used to that end. As a source of encouragement and edification to our church family. As a tool that the Holy Spirit would use to regularly direct our eyes to Christ, awakening and deepening our affections for Him. Father, do this for the glory of Your name and the building up of Your church. Amen.