Pentecost 8c

Preached: July 14, 2013

Be Filled with Spiritual Knowledge
Colossians 1:9-14

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit increases our knowledge of Christ is Colossians 1

Because of this since the day we heard, we also have not stopped praying for you and asking that you be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, in order to walk worthy of the Lord in all that's pleasing as you bear fruit in every good work and grow in the knowledge of God, being enabled with every power according to the might of his glory to endure and persevere with joy, giving thanks to the Father who has provided what we needed to share in the lot of the saints in the light. He's the one who redeemed us from the darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14).

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

There's always something new to learn. The news channels not only have their twenty-four hour programming; they also scroll the latest headlines across the bottom of the screen. Sports channels often do the same thing, scrolling the scores of the other games. Then there are the learning channels, teaching us some history or science or a new craft, skill, or cooking technique.

We live in the Information Age. We have more information at our finger tips than at any other time in history. Governments and companies collect mountains of data unimaginable just a decade or two ago. All you have to do is listen to the news stories about the NSA leaks from Edward Snowden to glimpse that picture.

But with all this information and data, do we really have any more knowledge?

Today as we take to heart these words that God gave the Apostle Paul to write, we pray that the Holy Spirit fills us with spiritual knowledge, the knowledge that brings wisdom and understanding and that gives thanks to God the Father by the way we live. That's our theme and parts today. Be filled with spiritual knowledge. Part 1: It's the knowledge that brings wisdom and understanding. Part 2: It's the knowledge that gives thanks to the Father by the way we live.

A. Knowledge that brings wisdom and understanding

As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Colosse, he began by giving thanks to God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. He gives thanks because through the Gospel God has given them faith in Christ, love for their fellow saints, and the hope of heaven. The Gospel has been growing and producing fruit in them from the day they came to hear and know God's grace in all its truth. Hasn't the Gospel done the same for you and me? Because of this Paul prays that they keep on growing so that knowledge continues to fill them.

But does being filled with knowledge simply mean learning more and more facts, mounding up more and more information? What kind of knowledge is the Apostle talking about?

Let's listen to what he writes. “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9 NIV84).

First of all, Paul refers to this knowledge as knowledge of God's will. How do we learn what God's will is? He is so far beyond our comprehension. We can't discover his will by studying the wonders of the universe or the mysteries of the human psyche. We can't uncover his will by delving into the depths of our own hearts or by trying to interpret the happenings around us as if they were special signs.

How do we learn God's will? Here's the answer that God himself gives in 1 Corinthians: “‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those how love him’ -- but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit ... This is what we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10, 13 NIV84). You, dear friends, have those spiritual words written down for you. That's what the Bible is. Spiritual knowledge, understanding, and wisdom come only through the word.

The prophet Moses made the same point in the First Lesson (Deuteronomy 30:9-14) today. “The word is very near you” (Deuteronomy 30:14 NIV84), he said. It's right here. No farther away than this Book. That's how it comes into our mouths and into our hearts. Others speak it to us or we read it. And as we hear and learn the word, the Holy Spirit writes it on our hearts as well.

So being filled with the knowledge of God's will, spiritual knowledge, begins with learning God's Word, the Bible.

But sometime people study the Bible as if they were just accumulating information. That's not being filled with knowledge. Imagine someone who can answer every trivial pursuit question about the Bible or even recite it word for word in the original Hebrew and Greek. They have a huge amount of information, like a computer database, but they may have no knowledge.

For, you see dear friends, knowledge takes information, data, and facts and sees how they all fit together for a purpose. That's called understanding. Then knowledge takes that understanding one step further and applies it to our lives. That's wisdom. So spiritual knowledge learns the facts of God's truth, comes to understand how they fit together for God's purpose, and applies this to our lives in wisdom. That's how we are filled with spiritual knowledge.

For example, we've learned the facts that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, that Caesar Augustus issued a decree, and that centuries earlier the prophet Micah had foretold Jesus' birth there. Then we come to understand that God was working even through the pagan emperor to make sure that his promise of the Savior was fulfilled exactly as he had said. And then wisdom applies this to our lives bringing us the assurance that God will keep his promises. So why would we worry? He even uses the most powerful unbelievers, like Caesar Augustus, to accomplish his good and gracious will. All this is the spiritual knowledge the Holy Spirit fills us with through his word in the Scriptures and the Sacraments.

Facts, understanding, wisdom. We need each of those if we're going to be filled with spiritual knowledge. That's why we keep on studying the Bible and keep coming to hear God's word preached. You may not learn many new Biblical facts. The most important facts you have known from little on up. But that doesn't mean you don't need to keep filling up with spiritual knowledge. How far we have yet to grow to better understand how all of what the Bible says fits together to reveal God's good and gracious will! How far we have yet to grow to apply this in our lives with all wisdom! So keep on studying the Bible. Keep on hearing God's word preached. Keep on being filled with spiritual knowledge.

Now this spiritual knowledge that comes from God's word and is filled with wisdom and understanding -- this spiritual knowledge gives thanks to the Father by the way we live.

B. Knowledge that give thanks to the Father by the way we live

Look at it this way. Why do you fill up your car with gas? Is it so that it can sit in the garage all the time and you can brag that your tank never runs low? Of course not. You fill up so that you can go places and do things. So also, we fill up with spiritual knowledge so that we can give thanks to the Father by the way we live.

The Apostle writes, “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way” (Colossians 1:10 NIV84). Now that God has taken us unworthy sinners and given us a share among his saints, now that he has rescued us from darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his Son, now that he has paid the ransom of his Son's blood as our redemption price -- with this spiritual knowledge alive in your heart -- you and I want to live a different kind of life, different from our former, sin-controlled selves. We want to live a life that measures up to what pleases our Lord, a life worthy of his standards.

Such a life bears fruit in every good work and grows in the knowledge of God. Since he has forgiven our sins, we no longer want to walk in those sins but rather to do what is right and good. We rely on his strength and power that gloriously shines through his grace and mercy. That's what gives us the power to patiently endure and persevere in doing what is right and good despite the hurt and trouble that may come. God does send more than we can bear with our own strength, but he never sends more than we bear with his power working in us. That power comes to us as we fill up with spiritual knowledge.

This is the life that gives thanks to the Father. The Apostle describes it like this: “bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father” (Colossians 1:10-12 NIV84).

And what has the Father done for us? The Apostle tells us, “[The Father] has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14 NIV84).

This is the heart of the Gospel. This spiritual knowledge changes us. It's not just an accumulation of facts and connections. It changes the way we think, consider, and contemplate. It changes what we feel, want, and desire. It changes our will, our resolve and determination, our goals and aims. All these inner changes change the way we live. Our entire life becomes a thank offering to the Father who gave us his Son. That's the spiritual knowledge that fills us.

So dear Christians friends, never let the Gospel be far from your heart, mind, and soul. Yes, you've known the facts of the Gospel for a long time. But how much more the Gospel can fill us with understanding and wisdom! We need to keep on growing in spiritual knowledge! For it is the Gospel that changes what we think, feel, and determine to do. Only the Gospel makes the way we live a thank-you to our heavenly Father. He has provided you with the perfect life of his Son to cover your sins so that you he calls you one of his saints. While you were still drowning in the darkness of unbelief, he rescued you and brought you into the kingdom of his Son. And through the blood of his Son, you have redemption and forgiveness! What else do we need? Be filled with this spiritual knowledge.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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