Fellow Workers for the Kingdom

Series: Rooted

Sermon by David Strain on May 5

Colossians 4:7-18

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Now if you would take a Bible in hand and turn with me please to Paul’s letter to the Colossians, chapter 4; Colossians chapter 4. We’re going to be considering the concluding section of Paul’s letter, Colossians 4:7-18, and then God willing next week we’ll start to consider the message of the prophet, Micah. So if you’d like to read ahead during the week, you might turn your attention to Micah and pray that God would use the message of the prophet in our lives and in our life together as a church.

So these remaining verses of Colossians 4, at first glance, may appear slim pickings for rich teaching. But actually, if we take some time and look a little closer, I hope we'll see that what Paul is doing is providing some lived examples that put flesh on the bones of the skeleton of truth that he's been teaching in the body of the letter. We all benefit from that, don't we? When we're taught to do something, when we're told the principles - that's one thing. But when we see someone modeling it, actually demonstrating how to do something, that's an immensely helpful thing. It's one thing to know what God requires of us in our lives, but to live in close proximity to someone who is faithful and living it out, that's a profoundly impactful relationship as we're discipled and helped to grow. That's sort of what Paul is doing here as he sets before the Colossians this long list of people that he wants to commend to them. He wants them to see lived out some of the things he's been teaching them in the verses prior to this throughout the letter.

Before we read it together, let me ask if you would please bow your heads with me again as we pray.

O Lord, come. O Lord, hear. O Lord, see. O Lord, speak, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Colossians 4 at verse 7. This is the Word of God:

“Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.

 

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions - if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.’

 

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

The Brits, as you probably know, are a nation obsessed with the weather. And one of the clearest demonstrations of that obsession is found in the reverential attitude of a very large part of the British public for an obscure, late night radio broadcast. Every night after midnight on BBC Radio 4, the shipping weather forecast is broadcast to the nation. It's bizarre and yet strangely soothing. And it's full of odd names and arcane numbers. Nobody I know actually understands anything that it says really, but it always evoked for me, lying in my bed safe and snug, you know, a small fishing boat tossed on the massive swells and the pounding rain in the dark of night, finding great and profound significance in these names and numbers. Let me just give you a little sample. It's always read in a rather posh English voice; very matter of factly, sort of sonorous, lulling the nation to sleep. Alright, it's fascinating stuff. Listen to this. These are actual shipping weather forecasts:

“Thames dover white, southwesterly veering northwesterly 5 or 6, decreasing 4. Rain then showers moderate with fog patches, becoming good. Pharaohs northwest backing southeast 3, increasing 5 or 6. High west sole, 10-28, expected east sole, 10-19 by midday tomorrow. Low southern portugal 10-10, losing identity” - I don’t know what that means but it sounds horrifying! - “Viking north utsire, northwesterly 4 or 5, occasionally 6 at first; moderate or rough. Occasional rain. Good, occasionally poor.”

And it goes on and on like that for a while. No explanation, no more information, and the entire British nation falls asleep feeling wonderfully comforted. It’s a strangely soothing esoteric list of names and numbers that for most people mean almost nothing. Until, that is, a man called Charlie Connelly wrote a book about them. He set out to visit all the places in the shipping forecast. If you’re interested, the book is called, Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast. It’s a hilarious and fascinating volume. And now these bizarre names, you know just an empty stretch of north sea, has a history and some significance to it. It’s actually a riveting read.

I was reminded of the shipping forecast and the work of Charlie Connelly when I began studying verses 7 through 18 of Colossians chapter 4. Because a bit like the shipping forecast, at first glance, this is a list of unknown names and obscure references, intriguing perhaps, to be listened to with some reverence for sure but not particularly informative. But actually if we pay a bit of attention to the details, like Charlie Connelly visiting those areas listed in the forecast for himself, we'll see that what at first may appear an unimportant part of the letter, is packed full of interest and significance. We're going to tackle it together under three headings. First I want you to think with me about faithfulness in Gospel ministry. Faithfulness in Gospel ministry. Paul commends a number of coworkers that exemplify faithfulness in the ministry. Then secondly, fellowship in Gospel community. Paul's missionary team itself is modeling fellowship and unity in diversity to the Colossians who themselves, as we've seen, were struggling with some of those things. Faithfulness in Gospel ministry. Fellowship in Gospel community. There's also forgiveness in Gospel relationships. And some of the names here speak to and call for forgiveness from the Colossians. And Paul himself, as we'll see, models forgiveness in his behavior. And then finally, in verse 14, with the name "Demas," a warning note sounds. Here's a fraud. Demas is a counterfeit, in love with the world, and here's a warning then about fraud when it comes to living out the Gospel with authenticity. Faithfulness, fellowship, forgiveness, and fraud.

Faithfulness in Gospel Ministry

Let's think about the first of those - the theme of faithfulness in Gospel ministry. Isn't it helpful to notice the first person that Paul commends to them, Tychicus, in verse 7, his ministry is not at all a public, upfront, spectacular ministry. Tychicus is a beloved brother, notice, "faithful minister and fellow servant." Or better, "a fellow slave in the Lord." Clearly, Tychicus is someone Paul trusts and honors and loves, a coworker that he can depend upon, and he wants to commend him to the Colossians. We first meet Tychicus back in Acts 20:4 where he's listed as part of Paul's multiethnic, multinational mission team. And then we come across him again, Ephesians 6:21, here in Colossians 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:1, Titus 3:12, where we discover Tychicus is the person most frequently sent by the apostle to the churches that he has planted probably as the bearer of his letter to them and to let the Christians there know how things are going with Paul, which is precisely what Paul says his task is in verse 8. Do you see that in verse 8? "I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your heart."

Tychicus, we might say, is the apostolic mailman. That's his ministry. That's his work. It's a simple ministry; it's not dramatic. He doesn't have a personal following. He's not someone on a platform anywhere wowing folks with his oratory. Instead, he traveled behind the apostle Paul, around all the cities he's visited, to the congregations associated with him, simply delivering the apostle's letters. Look, not all ministry is public in order to be valid or significant. Some of it's in the background. Some of it has a supporting role. That was Tychicus. And yet, his ministry made Paul's ministry possible and effective. It's because Tychicus was faithful in his task that the letters Paul wrote reached their destinations. I don't think it's a stretch to say that because of Tychicus' inglorious work, we actually have much of what we call the New Testament. And so if you have a supporting ministry, a quiet, backroom work, if your ministry is unglamorous and basic, overlooked even, often ignored, remember Tychicus and be encouraged. We couldn't have studied Colossians together on these Sunday mornings without Tychicus. What a vital work he did. It's not the admiration and praise of men and women that define the importance or value of a ministry. It is being a beloved brother or sister, a faithful minister, a fellow slave in the Lord. That's what really counts - faithfulness to the task entrusted to us.

And then staying with this theme of faithfulness, let’s look at Epaphras in verses 12 and 13. Do you see what Paul says about Epaphras? He was first introduced in the letter back in chapter 1 verse 7 where Paul, notice, uses the same language for Epaphras that he has already used in our passage for Tychicus. He is a “faithful minister in Christ.” It was from Epaphras, Paul says, that the Colossians came to know Jesus. It was from him that they first heard the Gospel. He was their first pastor, the church planter in Colossae. And now here in verse 12, Paul teases out for us with some detail the contours of Epaphras’ faithfulness as a Gospel minister.

Struggling in Prayer

Look what he says, verse 12. First of all, he says "Epaphras is always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God." Now he's led them to Christ, Epaphras, he's preached to them, he was their minister, their pastor. What Paul remarks upon, the thing that stands out for Paul, the great characteristic of Epaphras' ministry was not so much his preaching or his evangelistic success; it was his prayerfulness, the struggle, the wrestling of this man of God on their behalf in his prayers.

Now I’ll confess, I find that to be a stinging reminder to me as a preacher of my primary business. My first business isn’t preaching. It’s not pastoring. It’s not administration or leadership. It’s prayer. Prayer is the heart of my business as a minister of the Gospel. You remember in Acts chapter 6 when the dispute arose within the early church over the daily distribution of food and the Hellenistic widows were being neglected and the burden of administration was too much for the apostles and so the first deacons were appointed. Then the apostles said, “We will devote ourselves to” - what? “To prayer and the ministry of the Word.” The order is important. Prayer is the priority and the ministry of the Word flows out from their prayerfulness.

Always

And we shouldn’t overlook the “always” there. Epaphras “always” prayed for them. There’s a diligence there, a consistency. He never neglected to pray to God for the flock entrusted to him. But more than that, “he always struggled in prayer for them.” This is challenging. When last did you wrestle, when last did you struggle in your prayers for someone else? There’s a holy wrestling, a deep burden, an appropriate and proper concern for their spiritual welfare that’s weighing upon him and so he struggles, he wrestles. The Greek word, “agondsomai” - “agony” is an English word derived from it. There’s a vigorous personal investment and wrestling with God for the welfare of the people of God.

And notice what he prays for. He prays for their “maturity and for full assurance in the will of God.” Epaphras is not interested in mere decisions for Christ. That’s not his definition of success in the ministry. It’s not a room packed, filled to the rafters with people. That’s not his definition of success in ministry. His goal is not numerical increase merely. His goal is Christian maturity. Yes, he wants to see people coming to the church. Yes, he wants to see them professing faith in Christ. But he wants them to “grow up into him who is the head.” He wants maturity and full assurance and he knows that’s utterly beyond him. It’s not something he can manufacture. It’s not something he can create or cause by the force of his rhetoric. And so he is cast back upon God and he wrestles with God for them in prayer.

The Mark

That’s the mark, you know, of a true and faithful shepherd. It’s not first of all if he can turn on a smile and make small talk with you in your living room or at the hospital bedside. It’s not whether he has gifts as a counselor or a preacher. Those are skills that shouldn’t be neglected, to be sure, but the most revealing mark of a true shepherd is whether he wrestles in prayer for the people of God. Pastors and elders, men, those of you who are training for Gospel ministry here at the seminary, isn’t this all too often the forgotten priority in our preparations and in our training for the work of the Lord? You can preach your heart out every Lord’s Day. If you don’t pray down heaven, what hope of success do you have for all your pulpit labors? You can shepherd and counsel and take time to visit the flock, but what hope can you cherish of helping anyone in spiritual things if you will not struggle on their behalf in prayer. Prayer is the work of the ministry.

That does mean, actually, for me certainly, perhaps for us as a whole church, there needs to be some adjustment of our expectations of what our pastors do with their time. If you think a pastor should be frantically busy, your understanding of the work of the ministry is not Biblical. The burden of their work is the burden of prayer. Prayer and the ministry of the Word. Please, will you pray and insist and encourage your ministers to spend significant time in their day in their work week pleading with God for the good of the flock. Prayer is the work of the ministry.

Hard Work

Notice also that Epaphras is commended not just for his wrestling in prayer but for his hard work. Verse 13, “I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those at Laodicea and in Hierapolis.” Epaphras is a hard worker and he works hard not just for the Colossians, his own local congregation; he works hard for all of God’s people in his presbytery, in the churches in the Lycus Valley in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Now sometimes I suspect people get into the ministry because they think it’s an easy option. I suspect some church members think pastors don’t know the meaning of hard work. You might be right. I suspect some church members have come to recognize that pastors give them every reason to think that pastors don’t know the meaning of hard work. Faithfulness, however, in the ministry God gives us, demands hard work.

And sometimes hard work can be costly. The cost involved in the ministry may actually be what’s behind Paul’s exhortation to Archippus in verse 17. Do you see his exhortation in verse 17? “See that you fulfill the ministry you have received in the Lord.” There’s something going on with Archippus and he needs a word of exhortation to finish the work, to fulfill his ministry. Sometimes the work of the ministry is hard. There is a personal cost to be paid. And often, those of us who are serving in ministry need a work like verse 17 - someone to come to us and say, “Press on. Finish the race. Fulfill your ministry.”

Many of you are actually very good at that. Some of you have a real gift of encouragement and I’ve been on the receiving end of it often. And over and again not only have you said nice and kind things, but you’ve encouraged me to press on. If that’s a gift that Lord has given you, will you cultivate it? Your ministers often badly need it - a word of encouragement - and I’m so very grateful for the encouragements that you give to me. We need someone like Paul saying to us, as he does to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry you have received in the Lord.” So Paul is teaching us here first about faithfulness in Gospel ministry. What does it look like? How can you pray for your pastors and your leaders? Well here’s how - faithfulness. In the mundane things, in the things people don’t notice and don’t see. Faithfulness there in ministries like the ministries of Tychicus and faithfulness in the great spiritual priorities and burdens of a pastor’s heart - men like Epaphras and Archippus. Faithfulness.

Fellowship in Gospel Community

Then secondly, notice with me the theme of fellowship in Gospel community. Fellowship. When you step back a little from Paul's list, and you'll notice that the team Paul has assembled around him, models in a wonderful way the power of the Gospel to build of the many one body in Christ. For example, verse 9 and again in verse 12, speaking of Onesimus and Epaphras, Paul says of both of them to the Colossians, "These men are, he's one of you," that's what he says. They're Greek-speaking Gentiles who come from Colossae. Colossae is in the Roman province of Asia; modern Turkey. Likewise Luke is the beloved physician. He is a Gentile. He's actually the only non-Jewish author of the New Testament scriptures.

Ministry Team

But then, on the other hand, look at verses 10 and 11 where Aristarchus and Mark and Jesus Justus are mentioned. Paul says of them, "These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God and they have been a comfort to me." So these are Jewish coworkers. We've seen before, haven't we, that there are tensions in Colossae. The false teachers are fracturing their fellowship together. And the question of how to relate to the Jewish ceremonial law was at the very heart of those tensions. Chapter 2:11-12 deals with circumcision. Chapter 2:16, new moons and festivals and sabbaths. The issue of how Gentiles and Jews relate to one another was tearing at the fabric of their fellowship. But here in Paul's ministry team, we see the way the true Gospel, the Gospel Paul has been teaching them and correcting the Colossians on for four chapters now, that Gospel brings diverse people and unites them and makes them one in Christ Jesus.

Now do notice carefully Paul does not say the Gospel obliterates difference. I think it’s useful he reminds the Colossians that “Onesimus and Epaphras, these are men who come from your hometown, guys.” That’s what he says. It’s also helpful to see that Paul takes personal comfort in knowing that he has a few who are Jewish followers in Messiah Jesus who stand with him in the work.

Beautifies Diversity

Here’s why I find that to be helpful. Sometimes I hear people talking about being colorblind. Have you heard that expression? “I’m colorblind.” What they mean is “The differences of ethnicity really don’t matter to me.” And that’s great. That’s laudable. But we’re not to be colorblind as if those differences of ethnicity and culture should simply be ignored. No, they need to be acknowledged and celebrated and learned from, not ignored. We’re not to be colorblind; we’re to be colorful. Right? The Gospel doesn’t obliterate diversity, it beautifies it. It helps us to see the glory of the work of God in the lives of men and women from every tribe and language and people and nation in all the variegated glory of human beings made in the image of their Creator. The Gospel takes us, in all our difference, and it doesn’t obliterate that difference but it helps us stand together and to celebrate our difference and to learn from one another in it.

Brothers and sisters, let me put it this way. The church militant, the church here on earth, must strive to look at much like the church triumphant, the church in heaven, as it can. That's what sanctification requires. It's our preparation for glory and it happens not just in my individual life; it happens among us a fellowship. And that means not that the church should look as much like the world as possible, not that the church should look like the community around us as much as possible, but that the church should look like the kingdom of Jesus Christ as much as possible, made up of people from every tribe and language and nation. And Paul is modeling that reality to the Colossians who are really being challenged by that as the fabric of their fellowship is under real pressure.

Transcends

And notice it’s not just ethnicity the Gospel transcends. It’s questions of economics and class. Paul himself is an aristocratic, well-educated, ethnically Jewish Roman citizen. Luke is a doctor, a physician. But then there’s Onesimus. Remember him? What is his class and socioeconomic strata? He’s a runaway slave. Philemon, his master, is a member of this congregation in Colossae. This is about as diverse a team, both ethnically and socioeconomically, as a person could hope to ask for. And just think about it for a moment. Was it messy and problematic and uncomfortable for Paul when Onesimus the runaway slave came to faith in Jesus and now he has to go back to the church in Colossae and face Philemon? Well, if you read the letter to Philemon the answer is undoubtedly, “Yes.” But that is the dynamic of the Gospel in the midst of human relationships. It’s messy and uncomfortable. And Paul is not afraid at all to wade into that. The Gospel crosses, it transcends boundaries of class and education and ethnicity. He speaks freely of his love for these men. He depends on them in partnership for the work of the Gospel. They depend on him. If the Colossians worried about unity while under siege from false teachers, his team, Paul’s team is a reminder that the Gospel he’s been teaching them in this very letter overcomes division. It doesn’t obliterate difference, but it overcomes division and makes us one in Christ.

Forgiveness in Gospel Relationships

Faithfulness. Fellowship. Then thirdly, and back of the fellowship they enjoy together is forgiveness in Gospel relationships. Forgiveness. Onesimus is a case in point. Paul is sending him back with Tychicus to Colossae. Tychicus is carrying two letters. One letter for the congregation, the letter to the Colossians, and a personal letter from Paul to Philemon, Onesimus’ master. And Paul is urging them to be reconciled to one another, for there to be forgiveness between them. He urges Philemon to receive Onesimus, Philemon 16, “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother.” Forgiveness. Reconciliation.

Reconciliation

And the call to forgiveness that Paul is issuing in Onesimus’ case is actually a forgiveness, a reconciliation he himself is modeling right here. Notice verse 10 and the mention of Mark, “the cousin of Barnabas concerning of whom you’ve received instruction. If he comes to you, welcome him.” Now you may know Mark’s story. We first meet him - his other name is John, John Mark - in Acts 12:12. He lives in his home with his mother, Mary, in the city of Jerusalem. The church meets there for prayer and Saul, as he’s called in the early chapters of the book of Acts, and Barnabas, when they set out on a missionary journey they take John Mark along with them. We find him next in Acts 13:5 on mission with Paul and the team in Cyprus. But then, Luke tells us in the book of Acts, for a reason not given, Luke abandons the team and he returns to Jerusalem.

Next, we come into contact with Mark in Acts 15. Paul and Barnabas have completed their first circuit of the churches and they’re about to return to encourage the churches they’ve planted. And Barnabas, the son of encouragement, he wants to take Mark with them. “You know, poor Mark. He bailed on us before but let’s give him another shot. Let’s take him with us.” Paul, on the other hand, says he doesn't think it’s wise to take someone. “We have to depend on one another. We have to trust each other. And Mark abandoned us when we needed him. I’m not sure it’s wise to take him on this journey, Barnabas.” In fact, Luke says they differed sharply to the point their fellowship, the team, was broken. And Barnabas took John Mark to Cyprus and Paul took Silas and he went back to Asia.

Just as an aside, isn't it helpful to see the New Testament be so honest? Paul and Barnabas have a fight and it breaks their fellowship. What's the lesson? Even the best of men are men at best. Isn't that so? We're good at saying that, but when it happens right in front of us we manage to forget it fairly often. I'm so grateful for the remainder of the New Testament that the best of men are men at best so that when we see our best men stumble and fall and their egos get in the way and they say stupid things, as your leaders inevitably will, we ought to learn from the scriptures to be patient. We are all under reconstruction. We are all works in progress and we ought all to cut one another some slack.

Power of Gospel

And notice the power of the Gospel to overcome all of that and effect reconciliation. Here’s Mark again and now he’s being commended to the Colossians by Paul. At the very end of Paul’s life, 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul is imprisoned again and everyone, he says, “has abandoned me, except Luke.” And he’s writing to Timothy and he says, he gives him various instructions. One of the things he wants as he’s on the home stretch and he wants to finish well, the person he wants by his side is Mark. He says, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” He had all sorts of doubts about him before, but as his own ministry now winds down, Mark is the one he wants beside him on the home stretch. Look, the Gospel is no guarantee that division and interpersonal conflict will not happen. But the Gospel is the power of God to mend the rifts between us when they appear. The forgiveness that Paul calls for between Philemon and Onesimus is a forgiveness he himself is modeling in his team right here at the end of the book of Colossians.

Faithfulness. Fellowship. Forgiveness. We need to learn to forgive one another. Why? Because God in Christ has forgiven us. Forgive as you yourself have been forgiven. You are a recipient of redeeming grace, God not counting your transgressions against you, giving His own Son for your pardon. And now will you hold a grudge? Will you refuse to forgive others who have wounded and transgressed against you? Forgive as you have been forgiven. The Gospel creates true fellowship built on a readiness to forgive. Faithfulness. Fellowship. Forgiveness.

Fraud

Finally, fraud. There’s a warning note that I don’t want us to miss. Look down at verse 14. You see the name of Demas? Demas is being commended like everyone else to the Colossians, but in the same letter at the end of Paul’s life, 2 Timothy, the letter to Timothy, where Mark is called for - Paul wants Mark to come with Timothy to Rome. In that same letter, just a few verses later, we are told - chapter 4 verse 10, actually the verse immediately before - “Demas, in love with the world, has deserted me.” Now Mark deserted him too. What’s the difference? The great difference is that Mark’s faith in Christ and his love for his Savior and his love for the lost is not in question and never is in question. Whatever his reasons for leaving - was it insecurity, was it the fear of men, was he exhausted and burnt out, was there some other issue pressing upon him that he could not get passed - whatever his reason for leaving, Mark is restored. But Demas, the great difference is that Demas loved the world. The world owns his heart. The love of the world directs his steps and orders his priorities. It’s a challenging thing to notice about Demas. He’s being commended here. So far as Paul knows, Demas is part of the team, a trusted a reliable friend. He looks the part. He talks the part. He played the part but he loved the world.

Demas is a warning to us about the very real danger of spiritual fraud, of being a counterfeit. In the midst of all our affluence and comfort and ease, isn’t the love of the world a real temptation? Isn’t it? The love of the world. How hard it is to give up the love of the world and the things of the world. Look, if you profess to follow Jesus, you need to know there will come a time - maybe many occasions like this - when you will have to decide, “Will I pick up my cross and follow Jesus? Will I go to Him outside the camp bearing His reproach? Or will I make like Demas and desert my post because when push comes to shove I love the world more than I love my Savior?” Will the love of the world rule your heart? Will love of the world order your priorities? Will you slide back into the world’s paradigm or will you stand for Christ, count the cost by all means, but ready to bear it whatever it may be?

It’s actually the flip side, isn’t it, the flip side of faithfulness. We began thinking about faithfulness. Which will it be? Faithfulness, fellowship, forgiveness, glorious and beautiful realites that Christ gives to us and then works between us through the Gospel, available to those who bend the knee in their frailties saying, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. I’m willing, my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. I’m scared to death about what this will mean for me, but I’m willing if you’ll help me.” To such as those comes faithfulness - faithfulness from God, the faithfulness of God. And fellowship - the fellowship of the saints to stand with you and strengthen you in the face of the challenge. And forgiveness for when you stumble and fall. But there is always the danger of being content with superficiality, of saying the right thing and acting the part but ultimately being a fraud because you love the world. Be warned about the love of the world that leads one that even the mighty apostle Paul would commend, to desert his post. Does the love of Christ have a hold of your heart? Does love of Christ direct your priorities and your daily steps? It’s the only safe path - the love of Jesus Christ, though it is a costly one, and Paul teaches that too. Doesn’t he? Let’s pray together.

O Lord, we praise You for the mighty power of the good news that works in us the faithfulness that it requires from us. We pray for our elders and our deacons, our Sunday school teachers, our interns, men training for the ministry and the seminary and for our pastors. O Lord, give us faithfulness to wrestle in prayer, to struggle mightily, to work hard for the people of God entrusted to us. And we pray, O Lord, for our fellowship. Make us one. Make us glorious in the diversity of Your kingdom. And make us one in Jesus Christ. And do that by working in us and between us a readiness to forgive, that we would be practitioners of Gospel reconciliation like Onesimus and Philemon or Paul and Mark. And deliver us from the love of the world, lest after having said so much that’s true and good, we are found at the last in fact to be frauds. Do it for Your glory, in Jesus’ name, amen.

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