Many of you know I am a road biker.  I really enjoy riding on the country roads on my bike.  If you follow me on Instagram, you see the pictures I post when I ride.  What’s funny about riding, it’s more detailed than you might think.  It’s not like when I was a kid when I jumped on my bike to do my paper route.  There is a way to ride that makes riding so much fun.  And there is a way to ride that will make it so much harder for you.  When I started riding, I didn’t fully understand the details to riding so I rode in a way that exhausted me.  It wasn’t until I started riding with guys who taught me how to ride, did I understand how to ride.  For example, I learned how to ride uphill the right way.  I learned how to pace myself for long distances.  I learned how to pull up as much as I pushed down on the pedals.  Believe it or not, those details are important.

What am I saying?  I needed someone to ride with me and teach me what to do and what not to do so I could enjoy road biking.

I remember when our girls were really young. I taught them how to ride a bike.  I remember when they were older, I taught them how to drive – horrifying moments – there must be a better way.  I remember helping them prepare for their first job interview.  I remember Karen getting them ready for Prom.  In all of these life situations, you need someone to tell you what to do and what not to do so that you can enjoy life more or at least be prepared for it.

Can you connect with what I am saying?  If you want to enjoy life or life moments more or at least be prepared for it, you need someone to teach you what to do and what not to do.

That’s what Colossians is all about.  Paul is teaching us what it looks like to practically put God in the center of your life.  There are things you must do and things you must not do.  Paul is saying, the most important thing about your life is your relationship with Jesus.  Understanding, Jesus is supreme over everything.  Everything gets started in Jesus.  Everything finds its purpose in Jesus.  Everything finds its place in Jesus.

In another letter Paul wrote, called Philippians, Paul explains what happens when we don’t believe the most important thing about life is our relationship with Jesus.

There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. MSG Philippians 3:18-19

Paul is saying, if you want to enjoy being a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, the greatest thing you can do is surrender your life and give it back to Jesus.  And be aware that many people don’t want to.  They want easy street.  They want to live in a selfish way where they follow their feelings and appetites.  Why?  It’s easier.  They get to stay in control and do what they want.  This way of living, Paul would say, is hating Christ’s cross.

Isn’t this our struggle?  It’s my struggle.  I want to be in a relationship with Jesus and at the same time I want what I want.  I look at life and think, I don’t know if I want to surrender my life and do life Jesus’ way.  I may feel fear and think, my way to deal with my fear is better than Jesus’ way.  I don’t know if I want to take my selfishness and nail it to the cross to die.  Isn’t this your struggle too?  That’s why Paul wrote this letter.  To remind the church, the greatest thing you can do is surrender your life and give it back to Jesus.

Paul in this letter continues to explain how to put Jesus at the center of your life.  I just want to stop and point out that Paul takes this fuzzy, spiritual, religion, church, God talk and makes it shockingly simple.  He doesn’t make things complicated.  He doesn’t make it hard with religious requirements.  He doesn’t make it seem out of reach by expecting us to achieve great things.  He doesn’t even make it super spiritual by requiring you to speak in tongues or anything like that.  It’s almost like he makes it easy by bringing heaven down to us.  He makes it so simple and practical.

Let’s quickly read what he wrote.

We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. MSG Colossians 1:28

He said,

Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. MSG Colossians 2:11

He said,

God brought you alive – right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. MSG Colossians 2:15

The first part of Christianity is simply believing that Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus came to die for your sins and heal you.  So the greatest thing you could do is surrender your life and give it back to Jesus.  It’s simple.  It’s common sense.

Then Paul says, there is a part two of Christianity, choices.  If you are serious about following after Jesus, then there are a couple things you must do and a couple things you must stop doing.  If you want to enjoy Christianity, you need to make choices.

Real quickly.  Five things Paul said you need to stop doing and get rid of.

First, dump religion.  It’s a childish and puffed-up way to live out Christianity.  Secondly, walk in sexual purity.  Stop anything in your life that is leading to lust and having sex outside of God’s boundaries.  Third, stop being greedy.  This way of living that believes I need more money, not God, to be more secure and happy.  Fourth, get rid of anger and meanness.  Fifth, get rid of profanity, dirty talk and lying.

Real quickly.  Five things Paul said you need to start doing.

First, in your brain as you live out life, think about the things of heaven.  Second, be loving.  Third, forgive people because Jesus forgave you.  Fourth, go out of your way to live in unity and peace.  And make sure, this is the fifth thing, make sure all this stuff starts at home in your family.  Then allow it to impact your workplace, your church, in your community.

Again, this is common sense.  It’s simple.  Your relationship with Jesus is everything.  And to put Him at the center of your life, there are things you must stop doing and things you must starting doing.  Why?  Because if you don’t, Christianity will not make sense, it will be hard for you.  Paul called it, ‘…hating Christ’s cross…’

Do you remember what Sam brought out last week from Colossians 3?  Who we are with others reveals what our relationship is like with Jesus.  That’s an incredible thing to think about.  Remember how practical Sam was as he explained this?  For example.  Do you need control, and struggle to allow someone else to lead you in life?  Odds are you wrestle for control of your life with God.  Are you one of those people who takes and reaches out to people when you need something and no other time?  Chances are, it matches the times when you reach out to God.  Do you go up and down and all over the place with people?  They are in your life, out of your life, as the wind blows?  Odds are your relationship with God looks very similar.  Do you really need people to know your greatness, your knowledge, your resume, and wisdom?  Are you constantly trying to prove your worth to people?  Odds are you are doing that with Your Heavenly Father too – earning your way to heaven.

Sam said something very powerful.  The gauge in life to know how we are doing at putting Jesus at the center of our life is found in this one question.  How do I treat others?  Why?  Because chances are, it reveals what your relationship with God is like.

Paul continues in Colossians 4

2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.  5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.  NLT Colossians 4:2-6

Paul is ending this letter and saying, you need to always be praying.  Don’t be naïve about life.  You need to be paying attention and always be grateful as you pray.

Have you ever wondered to yourself, how do I engage my world?  How does God expect me to live out being a Christian in a growingly godless world?  How do I go to school and bring God with me?  How do I bring change to this world?  How do I bring change to my school or my team?  Paul told us.  Pray.

In another letter Paul wrote, Ephesians, he explained more about why we pray.

10 Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies – the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world. LB Ephesians 6:10-12

I need to ask you a question and I want you to be honest.  When you hear, ‘pray about it’, what is your first response?  Be honest.  Isn’t your first internal response, ‘Ugh.’  Then your second internal response is something like, ‘praying just means nothing is going to happen.’  And if we think that, we would never, never, never admit it.  When told, ‘pray about it’, doesn’t it seem like a disappointing, weak, ineffective answer?

Why do some think prayer is weak?  Or disappointing?

We think this because we want control.  We want action and prayer seems like no action.  We think our enemies are people.  We want action against our enemies we can see – today.  We want things to happen the way we want them to happen.  And we want things to happen now on our timing.  And we want the outcome we want.  We want control and prayer doesn’t give us control.

What we don’t fully understand is the unseen demonic world behind the world we live in.  What we don’t fully understand is the God of the angel armies is behind us.  We actually believe, in this battle between God and the demonic, ‘I don’t need to pray, I will go do something now, I will create action.  I’ll get it done.’  Paul says, pray before you do anything.

Prayer is about our absolute surrender to God before you do anything.  It recognizes our complete dependence on God.  It’s asking God to unleash God.

The reason prayer can be such a struggle is because we want control and prayer is about surrender to God.

Recently, I met with a young man who was asking a lot of questions about life, our culture and how to be a Christian in this world.  I said, we live in days where I believe churches and church people are not equipped to deal with what is happening in our culture.  Our activities and programs are useless at preparing people to engage this world.

To prove my point, let me ask you the following questions.  In Afghanistan, Christians are being killed.  How do you deal with that?  They gave their lives to Christ and they are running for their lives in fear.  How do you deal with that?  Another question.  How do you raise kids in a culture that is the most upside down, sexually obsessed time we have ever seen?  How do you bring God into a country where the hate for God is growing?

Please hear me, we live in days when we need a profound move of God.  What we need is the very thing many Christians don’t think will work.  We need prayer.  Lots of prayer.  We need God to unleash God.  Sam and I have been saying this for years and years.  Programs and activities are good, but prayer unleashes God.

Remember what King David wrote?

3 Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.  4 When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them.  5 But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. NLT Psalms 146:3-5

What we need is prayer.  What we need is God.  What we need is to place our hope in God.  So, it makes sense that Paul told the church, pray.  Don’t be naïve about life.  Pay attention and always be grateful while you pray.

If you are surrendering to God, it will show up in your prayers.

Then Paul writes:

5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.  NLT Colossians 4:5-6

Do you remember when Paul said earlier in Colossians 3, …think about the things above, not the things of earth?  If we are thinking about the things above, we are seeing things from God’s perspective.  We are aware of what is happening in this world and we are able to see what really matters – God’s kingdom.  We are praying.  We are living and working with people who need God.  We understand that when we have a moment to be with someone who doesn’t know God, that’s a huge moment.  So, in that moment we are gracious and kind.  We try to bring out the best in people, not rage against them with our thoughts and opinions.

To close today, I want to ask you questions.

Have you discovered yet that every attempt you make to find joy, outside of Jesus, doesn’t work?  Success doesn’t work.  Checking out with Netflix and wine doesn’t work.  Posting a fake happy life on social media doesn’t work.  Being unforgiving and bitter doesn’t work.  Sex based on lust doesn’t work.

Have you fully surrendered to Jesus and are you giving your life back to Him?

Are you struggling to put Jesus at the center of your life?  Yeah, that’s everyone.  Relax and ask Jesus to forgive you and make choices to follow Him.

Are you making choices?  Dumping religion.  Sexual purity.  Giving instead of greed.  Ending anger and meanness.  Getting rid of profanity, dirty talk and lying.

Are you making choices?  Focusing on the things above.  Being loving.  Forgiving.  Living in unity and peace.  And making sure all this stuff starts at home.

As a Christian, who do you believe is your enemy?

What do you believe is the greatest way to fight your enemy?

How do you view prayer?  Is prayer weak?  Is prayer the most powerful thing you could do?

I want to give you a great practical start to prayer.  A first step.  Pray for 1 minute.  Pray for 1 minute, 3 times a day.  Just stop and at least be quiet for 1 minute, 3 times a day.  And if you don’t know what to say, that’s fine, just be quiet for 1 minute, 3 times a day.  Why?  It helps you invite God into your day – all day.  It helps you get on God’s page.