Thursday, September 4, 2014

What is necessary in getting ready for revival

Colossians 4:2-4 "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4 that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak."

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Today's post will feature Paul's closing thoughts in Colossians 4:2-18. The whole theme of the book of Colossians is: "Jesus is Enough". This theme is gleaned from what appears to be the key verse to the epistle in Colossians 1:28 - "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with allwisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ." How is it that revival is prepared for, reinforced and maintained in the local church? As Paul wraps up his letter to the church at Colossae, such questions are answered in the final set of exhortations and encouragements that we find in Colossians 4:2-18. 
What is necessary in getting ready for revival. Colossians 4:2-18
1). Persistent Prayer. Colossians 4:2 
Persistent prayer represents the first ingredient necessary to preparing for a move of God - prayer. We see the opening phrase in the NASB regarding the command to pray: "Devote yourselves to prayer....". Do you and I rush through our prayer time? Or do we wait on God to speak to us in accordance to what we may have read in His word or heard in times past in sermons or Sunday School classes. The idea of "devoting oneself to prayer" speaks of waiting and not yielding to fatigue or pressing, non-essential priorities. The kind of prayer being commanded here in Colossians 4:2 indicates a choice to attend and wait in prayer. This posture is so necessary when preparing for revival. (2 Chronicles 7:14).
The persistence in prayer commanded here in Colossians 4:2 is coupled with the command to be vigilant, to be watchful. In the NASB we read: "keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving". The verb translated "keeping alert" comes from a root verb that has to do with being awoken, raised (from the dead) or what we could say in modern day terms, revived. Prayer is as much about keeping one's eyes open to the things around you as it is about keeping your eyes directed heavenward at the throne of grace. What is God doing around us and in us? Persistent prayer is necessary when preparing for revival, but notice also...
2. Evangelism. Colossians 4:3-4 
Paul then writes next in Colossians 4:3-4 "praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4 that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak." Paul of course wrote these words while under house arrest in Rome, chained to a Roman Soldier. His incarceration gave him ample opportunity to share the Gospel with people who visited and with the soldiers who were assigned to guard him. 
We know that Paul's request for prayer was being answered based upon the background text to Colossians found at the end of Acts 28. Notice what Luke writes in Acts 28:30-31 "And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered."  When we make prayer and the great commission our increasing priorities, we are positioning ourselves to be ready for a might move of God. Notice the third necessary ingredient needed to prepare for revival....
3. Testimony. Colossians 4:5-15
What is a testimony? A testimony is a consistent lifestyle devoted to living out the living message of Jesus Christ before a watching world. Colossians 4:5-6 states: "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." The phrase translated in Colossians 4:6 "salt" is found in Mark 9:50 "Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” As you begin to study the purpose of salt in the Bible, at least three uses are mentioned in conjunction with the life of faith.
First, think about what happens when you eat seasoned or salted food. Salt and seasonings makes one thirsty - thus as Christians, our concern for a strong testimony before God ought to be that others around us get "thirsty" for God.
Secondly, salt and seasoning in the scripture is sometimes used to describe the purity of a sacrifice. Leviticus 2:13 speaks of acceptable sacrifices before God in the Jewish sacrificial system:  "Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt." In the New Testament we as Christians are described as presenting ourselves as living sacrifices, Holy and acceptable unto God, which is our spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1-2) Testimonies before a watching world ought to communicate a thirst for God and a consistent pattern of "walk" matching with "talk".
But notice a third reality associated with salt in the scriptures - preservation. Matthew 5:13 speaks of the preserving quality the presence of believers have in slowing the tide of evil -  “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men." 
A solid testimony aims for cultivating thirst for God, purity before God and preserving the integrity of God in an otherwise godless world. Now to ensure these three necessary ingredients are not just abstract, colorless ideas floating in mid-air, Paul puts forth before his readers a listing of faithful believers with whom he either ministered the Gospel or of whom he knew about in the course of his travels. 
a. There was Tychicus, described in Colossians 4:7-8 as a faithful and beloved brother.         
b. In Colossians 4:9 we read of a man by the name of Onesimus. One can read Onesimus' story in the short little letter of Philemon, written at roughly the same time as Colossians. Onesimus whad been a run away slave who ended up in prison with Paul. Having been converted under Paul's own testimony and witness, Onesimus quickly became a major part of Paul's ministry and according to church history, not only obtained his freedom, but actually became a pastor.                                                                                             c. Colossians 4:10 mentions a man by the of Aristarchus, who is a fellow prisoner of Paul. It was common in some first century Roman imprisonments to allow the prisoners relatives and friends to visit them. This man may very well had spent some extended time with Paul in his rented quarters where he stayed during his house arrest.                               
d. We then come to a more well known figure by the name of Mark in Colossians 4:10. John Mark's past was a checkered one that started out strong, but then shortly after the beginning of Paul's first missionary journey, Mark deserted the Apostle. Thankfully years later both were reconciled and Mark would be used of God to write the second Gospel we find in our New Testaments.                                                                               e. The next man mentioned by Paul is "Jesus, who is called Justus". Clearly we can see a mark of humility in this man, being that he wanted to be called "the just one" (i.e Justus) rather than named after our Savior and Lord. Furthermore, Paul speaks of this man as being an encouragement to him in Colossians 4:11.                                                   
f. The sixth man who evidences prayer, evangelism and a powerful testimony is Epaphrus. We of course meet this man early on in Colossians 1:7 "just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf."             
g. The seventh man mentioned by Paul that demonstrates a person who is prayerful, all about evangelism and a solid testimony is Luke, the great physician. This is the only passage we find in the entire New Testament where two Gospel writers are mentioned in the same context (Mark in Colossians 4:10 and Luke in Colossians 4:14).               
h. The eighth man, who is only mentioned by name, is Demas, found in Colossians 4:14.
Thus these eight men stand as pillars of example regarding those who are prayerful, all about the work of sharing the Gospel and serious about maintaining a Godly testimony - necessary ingredients in preparing for revival. Its one thing to be ready for revival, however how can one maintain the fervor and fire for God?

See tomorrow....

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