The Gift Exchange Series
“Regifting: Sharing Christ with Others”
This morning we come to the last sermon in our Advent series entitled, “Gift Exchange.” During this series I’ve attempted to exchange our modern mindset of Christmas for a spiritual perspective. The first week we looked at Layaway where we were challenged by God’s Word to store up treasures in heaven instead of treasures on earth. The second week we saw that salvation through Christ as the “Best Gift Ever.” Last week we looked at the “Unexpected Gifts” that believers are given by the Holy Spirit to serve the church. This week we are looking at “Regifting”
Regifting is the act of taking a gift that has been received and giving it to somebody else, oftentimes disguised as a new gift. There are rules for regifting but I leave it to you to discover what they are but I will suggest that you try to avoid regifting a gift to the person that gave it to you originally. It is really awkward when that happens. Did you know that there is an official National Regifting Day? Yes, it was December 18th. Just a couple of days ago. Sorry if you missed it but I’m sure that isn’t going to stop you from regifting during this holiday season.
Well this morning I am putting a spiritual spin on regifting. We all have the opportunity to be “regifters” by sharing Christ with others. The fact is that we have the opportunity to share the best gift ever with others by sharing Christ with our friends, family, and neighbors. Today’s church faces profound challenges within the broader culture: political correctness, postmodern relativism, and religious pluralism often causes us to be reluctant to “go tell it on the mountain” let alone sharing it “over fields and everywhere.” We live in a society full of unchurched people who don’t know the basic tenets of Christianity or the redemptive story of the Bible. In some cases the church has a poor reputation among non-Christians. Many Christians have a poor view towards using traditional methods of evangelism. And COVID has caused massive isolation and many people are not interested in having long conversations. In light of these challenges, how can we share the Good News of Jesus Christ in a world that desperately needs it? Well, I believe that the Apostle Paul tells us how to spiritually regift in Colossians 4.
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God may 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; in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person. (Col.4.2-6)
Background and Context
Paul’s epistle to the Colossians is known as one of the Prison Epistles because Paul wrote this letter as he sat in prison for preaching the Gospel. The city of Colossae was located about 100 miles east of Ephesus in Asia and was probably established through the evangelistic and church-planting ministry of the church of Ephesus. In writing to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul was addressing a group of Christians that he had never met.
The church of Colossae had been invaded by a dangerous heresy, which attacked the sufficiency of Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior. And after writing about the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and that it was God’s good pleasure . . .to reconcile all things to Himself through Christ’s work upon the cross, the Apostle moves on to challenge the church to make the most of every opportunity to share the sufficiency of Jesus Christ with others.
In today’s text Paul gives instructions concerning the public and private aspects of regifting. He emphasizes both the private life of the believer as well as the public life of the believer to live out of the Gospel in word and deed. Let’s ask the Lord to open our hearts to regifting as we consider the words of the Apostle Paul.
Devote Yourself to Prayer
Paul’s admonition is to “devote yourselves to prayer.” Prayer is the starting point for regifting. This word “devote yourselves” means to persevere and not faint. This word is used six times in the New Testament in reference to prayer. We see it used first as the followers of Christ, after the ascension of Christ, who devoted themselves to prayer for ten days straight. (Acts 1.14) The result was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and the birth of the Church. This is the word used to describe the attitude of prayer among the first Christians in Jerusalem who continually devoted themselves to prayer and as a result saw the Lord continually adding to their number those who being saved. (Acts 2.42) Later on the Apostles asked the congregation to select seven men to serve as deacons so that they could devote themselves to prayer and the word. (Acts 6.4) Paul called the church in Rome to be devoted to prayer. (Rom.12.12)
Devotion to prayer is the spiritual oxygen we need to run the race and not lose heart. The main idea is that we would be strong and persistent in our prayers for those the Lord has placed in our lives. Regardless of their resistance, regardless of their opposition to the Gospel, and regardless of their strong disagreement with biblical principles we are called to be devoted to pray for them. But here in lies the problem; most of us are weak lacking persistence in prayer. But Paul is encouraging us to be devoted to prayer as the starting point for regifting.
We also must keep spiritually alert. To share Christ effectively with others we must stay spiritual awake and continually see things from a spiritual perspective. The early church coined the proper name, Gregory. Gregory comes from the Greek verb meaning, “I am awake, I remain alert.” O’ that we all would be known as Gregory! But being Gregory, remaining alert, is difficult with modern media and twenty-four hour news. The world is continually bombarding us with its spin on things. But Paul is saying if we want to truly share the Good News of Jesus Christ, if we want to share situations in life from a biblical perspective we must stay alert and set our minds on the things above and not on things that are on earth. (Col.3.2) We must maintain our focus of seeing things from a scriptural perspective and not a worldly perspective especially if we want to share Christ with others.
Have an Attitude of Thanksgiving
Brothers and sisters being a spiritual grinch will only drive people away therefore we must maintain an attitude of thanksgiving. Did you know that of all of the writers of Scripture, Paul is the one who gives thanks the most. Paul is the Apostle of thanksgiving. For example, in this short book to the Colossians Paul calls us to give thanks to God the Father, abound with thanksgiving, to be thankful for Christ, to always give thanks, and to be alert with thanksgiving. (Col.1.3, 12; 2.7; 3.15, 17; 4.2)
Pray that God would Open Doors
Paul continues his instruction about how to become a spiritual regifter by telling us to seek the Lord to open doors of opportunities to speak the Gospel. He writes, “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; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.” (4.3-4)
Paul considered his incarceration as an opportunity to speak forth the mystery of Christ to those around him. You could say that Paul knew he had a “captive audience.” During his ministry Paul spent about 5 ½ to 6 years in jail. Paul had seen God work wonders during his time in prison. The most notable was when Paul and Silas were thrown into the inner prison in Philippi. When about midnight, as the prisoners were listening to Paul and Silas praying and singing praises to God, the Lord sent an earthquake that opened all doors of the prison. One of the guards who saw the whole thing was so overwhelmed by the experience that he surrendered his life to Christ together with his entire household. (Acts 16.25-34)
Another notable event in Paul’s prison ministry was sharing the Gospel to Onesimus. Onesimus was a run away slave from Colossae, who Paul had the opportunity to lead to Christ while incarcerated in Rome. Later Paul would orchestrate reconciliation between Onesimus and his master, Philemon, who were now both brothers in Christ. (Philemon 1.1-25)
My point is that Paul expected the Lord to use his time behind locked prison doors as an opportunity to open doors to speak the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul expected God to perform these types of wonders over and over again so he wasn’t going to squander the opportunity to speak the Gospel.
Isn’t it sad that Paul considered his incarceration as an opportunity to speak the Gospel when we as free people don’t seek the Lord to open up doors opportunities to share the Word of God? How many opportunities do we squander just because we are not seeking daily opportunities to share the word of God with others. Family members, work associates, friends, classmates, people we see and converse with everyday but we are not seeking the Lord to open up the door of opportunity to share the word of God and the Gospel with them.
Maybe we have become intimated by this PC culture we live in today, a culture where everything but Christianity and biblical truth is accepted. Maybe we desire so much to be accepted that we are willing to hide the light of the Gospel instead of seeking opportunities to shine the light of the Gospel into the darkness of this world.
I like the way the Apostle asks for prayer when he writes, that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Sometimes we need to be direct. Sometimes we need to be gentle. Sometimes we need to quote a Bible verse and sometimes we need to share from our own experiences. Regardless of how the Lord directs us to share the Gospel when the Lord opens the door we should be ready to walk through it. As the Apostle Peter tells us, “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (IPt.3.15) You might have never been train in evangelism but there is one thing we all can share. We can share our story. We can share our experience with Christ. No one can deny your experience. So who is it that you are going to start seeking the Lord to open the door to share the Gospel?
Conduct Yourself with Wisdom
But sharing the Gospel with an unbelieving world is not just words but also in deeds. You know the saying, “If you are going to talk the talk, then you better walk to walk.” Paul writes, Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (4.5-6)
“Outsiders” is a term that is used to denote those outside of the Christian faith. Often our conduct speaks loader than our words. Therefore, Paul admonishes us to “conduct yourselves with wisdom.” The idea here is that the majority of our relationships with “outsiders” are people we already know. So, Paul is telling us to think about how we are going share God’s Word with people we already know in words and in deeds. It’s kind of like a “premeditated evangelism” or “premeditated apologetics.” You know what people are going through. You know their difficulties. So, seek the Lord in how you can share His Word and your life with them.
I want to share with you some insights that the Bible gives about conducting ourselves with wisdom towards outsiders. First, Paul tells the Corinthians not to cast judgment against outsiders. (ICor.5.9-13) Basically, Paul expects unbelievers to think, talk, and act like unbelievers and we shouldn’t be shocked when an unbeliever thinks, talks, and acts like an unbeliever. It’s like when I’m a gathering or on the golf course and there is a person who going on and on about worldly things using very crude language and then he discovers that I’m a pastor and apologizes for the way he has been talking and acting. He doesn’t know that his whole discourse didn’t surprise or shock me. Why, because he is an unbeliever.
Let me give you an example. My oldest son has a bulldog and do you know how that dog acts? Like a bulldog! Why, because it’s her nature to be a bulldog. My youngest son has two golden retrievers and do you know how those dogs act? Like golden retrievers! Why, because its their nature to be a golden retriever. My point is that Christians should not be surprised or shocked when unbelievers act like unbelievers. Why, because its their nature. So, Christians shouldn’t judge outsiders but instead believers should seek wisdom from God to know how to conduct themselves with wisdom. In First Thessalonians Paul calls for Christians to “behave properly towards outsiders.” (IThess.4.12) When believers hang out with unbelievers we should seek the Lord for wisdom to behave properly. You see, the Bible tells us that believers should have a good reputation with those inside and outside the church. (ITim.3.7)
We need to be wise as we build relationships with people outside of God’s covenant community. Jesus was the Master of this. He was the Holy Son of God, who never sinned while at the same time He was a friend of sinners. (Mt.11.19) Jesus knew that the healthy don’t need a physician but those who are sick. (Mt.9.12) Therefore, He would hang out with “sinners” to dispense the medicine of the Gospel.
The Apostle Paul shared how he reached out to others with the Gospel when he wrote, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.” (I Cor.9.20) Paul respected the orthodoxy of the Jews and he hung out with them in an attempt to show them that no amount of law keeping will merit God’s grace. (Acts 16.3; 21.17-26)
Paul continues, “To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.” (I Cor.9.21) Paul sought to build relationships with Gentiles to show them what it meant to be sanctified in Christ.
Paul wrote, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.” (I Cor.9.22a) Paul didn’t come across like a super Christian but rather sympathized with people’s weakness. Paul summarizes, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (I Cor.9.22b) Paul’s motive was to win as many people he could for Christ but to live like this without hypocrisy takes God’s wisdom.
Make the Most of the Opportunity
As we conduct ourselves with wisdom we should seek to make the most of every opportunity God gives us. The verb in the phrase “make the most of the opportunity” is a market term that means, “to buy out” or “purchase completely.” The other day I was shopping at Costco and the laundry detergent we used was $4 off each large bottle. $4 off is a big saving on a nonperishable item that you know for sure you will eventually use. But the sign said, “limit 2.” So, you know how many bottles I brought? Two! It would be silly for me only to buy one bottle and just save $4 when I can buy two bottles and save $8. The point Paul is making is that it is silly when we don’t use the opportunities that the Lord gives us to share our lives completely for the glory of God. If the Lord gives us the opportunity to share our lives with unbelievers and we should use the opportunity to the maximum limit for the glory of God. If the Lord gives us the opportunities to share the Gospel or a Christian perspective with others our speech should always be with grace, seasoned as though with salt. A Christian has to guard against being judgmental and overly critical. We must always consider our own failures before we condemn others for theirs. (Gal.6.1-2) The Christian’s speech should bring a perspective that adds flavor to the conversion and that draws attention to the Gospel. We should never be ashamed of the Gospel but at the same time we must seek the Lord to season our speech so to attract people to Christ. (Rom.1.16) We need to open our lives to an unbelieving world and seek divine dialogs with the people the Lord has placed in our lives. Do the people in your life know that you are a Christian? Do they know what that means? Are you seeking divine dialog with unbelievers? The Lord has given you the treasures of His Word to share with the world.
This text shows us that Paul had a passion of regifting the Gospel and we should follow his example. The challenge is for us to be devoted to prayer to become spiritual regifters. The challenge is for us to stay spiritual alert with the attitude of thanksgiving asking God to open doors of opportunities to share a Christian perspective with those around us. The challenge is for us to ask the Lord to give us wisdom to make the most of every opportunity that He opens for us and that our words would always be gracious seasoned with salt.
Call to Prayer
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect; (IPt.3.15)
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb.13.20-21)