Series: The Open Door
Title: A Clear Message
Scripture: Colossians 4:2-4

 

Outline:

Guidelines for Advancing the Gospel
1. Pray for an Open Door
    A. Pray Fervently 
    B. God is the Key
2. Proclaim the Message
    A. With Clarity
    B. As Necessity

 

Community Group Questions:

1. We learned we must pray persistently for open doors to share the message of Christ.  Why is prayer important an important component of evangelism? How often do you pray for those doors to open? 

2. We learned that we must proclaim the message of Christ with clarity.  Until now, what was your understanding of the gospel?  Look at the 3 Circles Conversation Guide...How does it help you explain the gospel with clarity?

3. We learned that it is our responsibility to share the gospel. With whom would you like a door to open so that you can share Christ?  

 

Sermon Notes

Good morning.  I am Andrew Ogea, your Community Groups Pastor here at Northshore. I am so thrilled to preach today.  For months, God has been putting this series on my heart and I believe this message will solidify our understanding of the Gospel message.  So, we are going to get started right away. 

Here is what is going to happen. For the first few minutes, I am going to preach a message out of Colossians 4:2-4. You can turn there now.  In that message, I want to show you the the Biblical foundations of the Gospel and some guidelines to advance it.  

Following that, I am going to illustrate something for you that made sense to me when I first saw it.  Then, you are going to see a testimony video of how this Gospel of Jesus has changed the life of one our church members.  

As you leave at the end, you will then be given something that you can take home that will help you implement what you have learned.  So lets begin by reading our passage for today.  Colossians 4:2-4.

2Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

In the early 2000s, Holiday Inn Express began creating some pretty funny commercials.  If you’ve never seen them, or don’t remember, let’s take a look at one that I found on Youtube this week:

Holiday Inn Express Commercial

They are pretty funny because we know that they are impossible.  It is impossible to be an expert on rocket science, medicine, or nuclear reactors just because you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.  The fact is we wouldn’t know what to do in a situation like that.

Christianity is of no exception.  You can’t understand or explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ simply because you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  Likewise, you won’t be able to explain your faith better by standing next to someone who knows how.  

The truth is that when we do not understand our faith, we are likely to water down the Gospel to accommodate whatever situation we are in.  We will try and change God to fit our circumstances, and our faith will shift according to our feelings.  

The Apostle Paul is the author of Colossians and he wrote his letter to the church in the city of Colossae that was started by one of his coworkers in the Gospel named Epaphras.  From his letter, it appears that these Christians were struggling with a similar situation.

In the first part of the letter, Paul thanks God for the report that the Colossians were flourishing in faith, love, and hope (1:3-8).  But there was a movement occurring that had the potential to cripple the momentum and stability of the church (2:6-7). In chapter 2:8, Paul writes,

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. 

So Paul’s purpose in writing the letter is to help solidify their faith.  He doesn’t want them to lack confidence and follow a false teaching based on hollow and deceptive philosophy.  He doesn’t want them to be easily shaken by opponents of Christianity who challenged and belittled the sufficiency of Christ. 

In our verses today, Paul begins by sharing their purpose for living, to share the Gospel. And, He gives guidelines for advancing it.  Today we are going to look at two of the guidelines.  Let’s looks at chapter 4:2-3 again.   

2Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message,

Guidelines for Advancing the Gospel
1. Pray for an Open Door

The first guideline for advancing the Gospel is to pray for an open door.  The church here is urged to to pray, being watchful and thankful.  They needed to pray and ask God to help them discern the false teaching around them, and to be thankful for the message that they first received.  

He then gets more specific and asks them to pray for God to open a door.  So, first pray against any false teachings. Second, be thankful for the truth about God and his Gospel, and third pray for an open door.  And the latter is the beginning step for our purpose as Christians, asking God to provide us with an open door, but we must pray for it.  But How?

Guidelines for Advancing the Gospel
1. Pray for an Open Door
     A. Pray Fervently 

By praying fervently.  The idea for the word pray here is fervent, persistent, or continual prayer.  Don’t just pray for it once, but as you are going about your day, pray continually for open doors.  How is this possible though?  Pastor Larry is going to be going through a series on prayer in the coming months, but there is one quote that I want to share that will help us understand. 

There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we can be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs.  But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship, and a gentle receptiveness to the divine.  - Thomas Kelly

While having a frustrating conversation with your boss you can pray for patience beneath the surface.  While worrying about what may happen tomorrow, you can be praying beneath the surface for peace.  While going about the the business of your day, you can be praying from your heart for Open Doors.

Guidelines for Advancing the Gospel
1. Pray for an Open Door
    A. Pray Fervently 
    B. God is the Key

The second part of praying for an open door is understanding the fact that God is the Key.  Verse 3 says pray that God may open a door.  Verse 3 says that God  may open a door,

3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message,

In this life, we are confronted with many doors.  But, when it comes to the Gospel, we must realize that God is the one who opens those doors.  He is the key.

Our family recently moved to the Baptist Seminary Campus in New Orleans while we wait to close on a house here in Slidell.  The apartment that we are living in is not typical because it’s designed to house college roommates. 

A living room and small kitchen is in the middle of the apartment and they are supposed to be shared by all who live there.   There are four rooms, two on each side, and each set has a bathroom to share.   Each student living there receives a key which opens the front door and their specific dorm room. 

So each student can get into the common area, but their key cannot open the other three bedrooms, only theirs.  So, when got the apartment, we were given four keys.  In addition, we were given the little flathead screwdriver that typically opens bedroom and closet doors in a house.   This key is used to unlock the bathroom doors.

So, we have five keys and each one is unique to open a specific door in our apartment.  I believe our children, especially my two son, know this information and use it against us to torture us.  They are in the phase where they enjoy locking doors.  

I want to give the children a bath.  Nope, the door is locked.  I need to change a diaper.  Nope, the door is locked.  We are in hurry and need to dress the children.  No, no, the door is locked.  

So, we frequently visit the hiding spot for our keys and have to search for the right key for that specific door every single time.  It is quite frustrating to say the least.  But, I’m not bitter I promise.   

This verse makes it clear that as we live the Christian life, we will encounter many doors, but praise God there is only one key for all of them, and that is God himself.

Be faithful to pray and God will be the one who is faithful to open the door.  He holds the key to all of them.  You don’t have to concern yourself with that.  He will not only show you the door, but he will open it.  But what does he open the door for?  The end of verse 3 and the beginning of 4 says, 

that God may open a door for our message, 4Pray that I may proclaim it

Guidelines for Advancing the Gospel
1. Pray for an Open Door
    A. Pray Fervently 
    B. God is the Key
2. Proclaim the Message

The second guideline to advance the Gospel is to proclaim the message.  We pray fervently and  persistently for God to open doors that only he can open so that we can then proclaim the message of the mystery of Christ. What is the mystery of Christ?  Paul writes about it earlier in Chapter 1:25-27

25I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

To sum it up, the mystery of Christ is God’s purpose to reconcile the world through Christ and to welcome Gentiles in him.  Anyone who is not a Jew is a Gentile.  That is you and that is me.  And the mystery of Christ is that he loved us so much that he died on a cross to rescue us from our sins. 

It is ironic that Paul is using the imagery an open door to proclaim this mystery because he is sitting behind a closed and locked door of a prison cell.  He message is freedom, yet he is in chains, but he doesn’t care.  In fact, he had been in this situation before.  Phil. 1:12-14,

12Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. 

We have not yet experienced persecution like Paul.  Yet, we should be challenged all the more through his example to share the Good News of Jesus.  So, I ask you, “When is the last time you shared the Gospel?” “When is the last time someone heard you speak of life transformation and eternal hope in Jesus?”  

If you have a hard time answer that question, it is okay.  You may not know how.  But our scripture tells us how in two ways.  Look at verse 4,

4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.


Guidelines for Advancing the Gospel
1. Pray for an Open Door
    A. Pray Fervently 
    B. God is the Key
2. Proclaim the Message
    A. With Clarity

The first way to proclaim the Gospel is with clarity.  We must share it in a way that people will not misunderstand.  Now, even if you share it intelligibly, there will always those who will hear and see it clearly, but willfully misunderstand or misinterpret the message, and remain blind to the truth.  

Regardless, our objective is to share it so that the message is clear to all.  Secondly, we proclaim the as necessity

Guidelines for Advancing the Gospel
1. Pray for an Open Door
    A. Pray Fervently 
    B. God is the Key
2. Proclaim the Message
    A. With Clarity
    B. As Necessity

 The verse says, “that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”  This implies our sense of responsibility or our job as Christians.  Paul is bound more by commission to preach the gospel than by his chains.  It is our commission as well.  Jesus has given us the Great Commission.  Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says, 

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We are commission by Christ by himself to proclaim his message of salvation through him.  And, It is our responsibility as Christians and we are to share it clearly we those we encounter.  How do we share the Gospel clearly?  Today, I want to show you how to do that.  And, I hope this demonstration makes as much sense for you as it did for me.

On the back of your sermon insert, you will see a diagram with three circles and some arrows.  We will learn that sharing the Gospel can be easy as knowing THREE CIRCLES.  So, here we go…

 

How many times, in everyday conversations, do people engage you about their problems or challenges?  It’s amazing how often people share their heartaches regarding their marriages, children, finances, addictions, depression—you name it.  People are hurting all around us, and they need hope.

The illustration that I’m about to show you will help guide you to turn those conversations about problems in to conversations about Jesus.  Because the reality is that God designed our lives to be different than what we actually are experiencing.

So in the first circle, let’s write GOD’S DESIGN.  What is difficult for our world to see is that the beauty, purpose and evidence of God’s design is all around us.  Genesis 1:31, says,  

31God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. 

Psalm 19:1 says, 

1The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 

So, the Bible tells us that God originally planned a world that worked perfectly—where everything and everyone fit together in harmony.  And God made each of us with a purpose, which is worship Him and walk with Him.

But, sadly, from the first humans until now, we have gone against God’s purpose for our lives.  You see, life doesn’t work when we ignore God and His original design for our lives, and selfishly insist on doing things our own way.  The Bible calls this SIN, and we all do it.  Romans 3:23 says,

23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 

Unfortunately, the consequence of our sin is separation from God — not only in this life, but for all of eternity.  Romans 6:23 says, 

23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And as a result, sin leads to a place of BROKENNESS.  We see all around us, and in our lives as well.  When we realize life is not working, we begin to look for a way out.  We tend to go in many directions trying different things to figure it out on our own.  We have seen this throughout history.  Romans 1:25 says, 

 25They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creato 

Proverbs 14:12 says,

12There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

That is so true about us.  We try everything possible in our own power to overcome our problems: the sins that plague our relationships, the sins that are so destructive to our own lives. 

No matter how hard we try, we will admit that we are broken, if we are truly honest with ourselves.  And because we cannot fix it our own should bring us to the realization that we are in need of something greater, a greater power than ourselves. 

At this point, we need a remedy—some good news.  The good news found in the Bible is called THE GOSPEL.  The Gospel is this: because of His love, God did not leave us in our brokenness.  Jesus, God in human flesh, came to us and lived perfectly according to God’s Design.

Jesus came to rescue us—to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.  He took our sin and shame to the cross and payed the penalty for our sin by His death.  Jesus was then raised from the dead to provide the only way for us to be rescued and restored to a relationship with God. John 3:16 says, 

16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Colossians 2:14 says, 

14having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

But, simply hearing this Gospel, this Good News, is not enough.  We must admit our sinful brokenness and stop trusting in ourselves.  We don’t have the power to escape this brokenness on our own.  We need to be rescued.

We must ask God to forgive us and turn from our sin to trust in Jesus.  This is what it means to REPENT.  Turn away from sin, and turn to Jesus.  Then, BELIEVE.  Believe in Jesus, and by believing, we receive new life through him and God turns our lives in a new direction. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, 

8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.

Then Romans 10:9 says,

9If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

That is best new you will ever receive in this life.  It is the only way to be saved from sin and eternal death, and new and abundant life.  When God restores our relationship to Him, we begin to discover our meaning and purpose in this broken world.  And now, we can RECOVER God’s Design in all areas of our lives.

Even when we fail, we understand God’s pathway to be restored—this same Good news of Jesus.  Ephesians 2:10 says, 

10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

And guess what?!  We no longer walk alone.  God’s Holy Spirit now empowers us to PURSUE His Design and assures us of His presence in this life and for all eternity.

Doesn’t this just make sense.  This is the message that we are to proclaim with clarity, and it looks clear to me.  And, it is necessary for the salvation of souls that we proclaim it in our everyday conversation with those we encounter.  

Today, we learned the foundation of the Good News—the what? Next week we are going to look to Scripture for “the How?” How do we implement this story in our daily conversations.  

But, here is how we need to respond to the message today.  First, there are those of you in here who already believe this truth.  Hopefully, this has made sense to you and given you some courage about sharing it.  Today, as you are leaving, an usher will give you this booklet.  It is called the 3 Circles Life Conversation Guide.  

The illustration that I just shared with you is in this booklet word-for-word.  I ask you to read it again and get comfortable with how you could share it.  Also, begin to pray and ask God to reveal to you the people in your life who need to hear it and that he would Open A Door for you to share this Gospel message soon. 

Secondly, there are those of you who before today have either never heard this truth, or have heard but not believed.  But, now that you have heard this Good News, God wants you to respond to Him.  

You can do this by talking to Him from your heart.  So, everyone bow your head and close your eyes.  If this message made sense to you today for the first time, and you realize you need God to fix your brokenness, you can use words like this to pray this prayer:

God, my life is broken—I recognize it is because of my sin, and I need you.  I believe Christ came to live, die and was raised from the dead to rescue me from my sin.  Lord, please forgive me.  I turn from my selfish ways and put my trust in You.  I know that Jesus is Lord of all, and I will follow him.   Amen.

Now everyone look at me.  If you prayed that prayer and were sincere in your heart, then you are saved, rescued, you have new life.   

Romans 10:13 says, “For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” That is a promise straight from God.  So, if you prayed that prayer, I want you to tell another Christian.  It could be a friend that brought you.  It could be someone that you know in this Church. 

It could be one of the pastors that will be here at the front of the stage in just a moment. It could be right now or later.  But, sometime today, I urge you to tell someone about your decision or ask someone to talk further about it.  

Colossians 2:6 says, “Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him.”  I pray that would true for you today.