March 3, 2002

Communication With A Heart Toward Evangelism

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Colossians Scripture: Colossians 4:2–6


Communication With A Heart Toward Evangelism

Col. 4:2-6
Sunday, March 3, 2002 
Pastor Randy Smith

Unresolved conflicts, superficial relationships, broken marriages, exasperated children, minimal companionship, hostility with others… a poor testimony in general. Often those who suffer from these have insufficient communication skills to blame for the problem, or if I can be more biblical, an improper use of the tongue.

The tongue is often the culprit, but the crux of good communication doesn't originate in the tongue, it originates in the heart. Jesus Himself declared, "For the mouth speaks out of that which overflows the heart" (Mt. 12:34). Therefore one of the greatest indicators of a godly heart is an evaluation of one's communication skills: how they talk, when they talk, where they talk, why they talk & what they talk about. Often one's words reveal either: pride or humility, anger or love, folly or wisdom, immorality or purity, or in other words (in the context of Colossians) the put-offs and put-ons that Christ expects us to manifest as a new creation. Communication, no doubt, is a window to the heart.

Therefore proper communication is important to both God and us! Communication reveals the nature of our heart. Communication is also the number one attribute necessary for any healthy relationship. Without proper communication we cannot maintain our relationship with God (we call that prayer) and other people . Our goal this morning is to unpack some principles of communication both vertically with God and horizontally with man as they apply specifically to evangelism.

Let's first examine communication with God in verses 2-4.


"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" (Col. 4:2-4).

Paul begins the section on communication with God with a general imperative in verse 2, "Devote yourselves to prayer". The command carries the idea of being "courageously persistent." As an apple tree is devoted to bearing apples, as a bee is devoted to honey, as a fish is devoted to water, the Christian is to be devoted to prayer!

You may ask: what does it mean to be devoted to prayer? Does this mean that if I am not on my knees 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that I sin and violate this command? No, however, I do believe that scheduled, daily, verbal communication with God is essential. God is not looking for an individual who offers up a simple petition with lip service once in his lifetime to a cosmic genie in the sky. I hear this often, "say a prayer for my sick mom"… like prayer is some magical formula no deeper than the words that come forth from my mouth. Where is the heart attitude or persistent laboring in that?

Well, then you may ask, what does God expect ? Let me read two quotes regarding devotion to prayer from 2 perspectives. Bingham Hunter in The God Who Hears said, "From a biblical point of view, prayer is related to everything that we are and everything that God is. God does not respond to our prayers. God responds to us: to our whole life. What we say to Him cannot be separated from what we think, feel, will and do. Prayer is communication from the whole person to the Wholeness which is the living God. Prayer is misunderstood until we see it this way." Brother Lawrence in his classic, The Presence and Practice of God , wrote, "The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in great tranquility as if I were in my knees."

In general God is looking for an individual who makes prayer the priority of his/her heart.

  1. God is looking for one who prays continually . "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you" (Col. 1:3). "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you…" (Col. 1:9). Paul modeled continual prayer for specific subjects. He was devoted to prayer.
  2. God is looking for one who labors in prayer. "Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers…" (Col. 4:12).
  3. God is looking for one who is God-conscious in all his/her actions. Though it may not be formal prayer, the day should be conducted with a spirit of prayer in spontaneous thoughts. Just in my drive home from work I may have these thoughts coming to mind that I continually take before the throne of God. Oh Lord, forgive me for that thought, help me to focus on what is pure; Oh Lord, help me to consider my wife and kids more important than myself when I walk in the door; Oh Lord, thank you for creating such a beautiful world; Oh Lord, help me to make a wise decision regarding a work situation tomorrow morning; Oh Lord, give me a greater heart for all these lost souls that I see on the road. I believe this was Paul's thought when he said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing".
  4. God is looking for one whose prayers reflect the overflow of a God-saturated heart . This means I pray for more than sick and injured people. I hope my Christian life is more than just seeing healthy people. My prayer life should be an overflow of my relationship with God and desire to know Him and glorify Him in all things. Issues of sin and persecution and wisdom and sanctification and holiness and temptation and boldness and adoration and missions and thanksgiving should permeate my prayer life.>

Do these 4 traits characterize your hearts? Are you devoted to biblical prayer? Are you like the Apostles who "continually devoted themselves to prayer" (Ac. 1:14; 2:42; 6:4) or Cornelius who "prayed to God continually" (Ac. 10:2)? I hope so! As Colossians 4:2 says, we should be devoted to prayer keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.

Well, if verse 2 was a general command to be devoted to prayer, verse 3 is a specific prayer request . It's almost as if the Apostle is saying, "While you are devoted to prayer, please remember us specifically as it relates to our efforts in evangelism." The verb is in the present tense, which denotes a continual activity. It was not, say a prayer for my mission work; rather it was devote yourself to prayer for my mission work.

Notice how Paul's primary (and only) prayer request in the letter was not for his aunt Emma's hangnail or a bigger house or a NY Giants victory. As a matter of fact his prayer request wasn't even for himself; it was for the glory of God. His desire was for the lost and perishing souls without the gospel. Paul's desire was for effectiveness in evangelism, and he knew that prayer made all the difference in the world. Prayer gave him a right reliance on God to open hearts and use him effectively as a tool to share the gospel. His request for prayer was not a cliché; rather it was a humble dependence on God for any success in this area.

Specifically, Paul asked the Colossian church in verse 3 to pray that God may open a door for the Word . An open door is simply an "opportunity". But elsewhere when he used this terminology, he was free. Now he was in prison (look at the end of the verse)! You'd think that the great Apostle to the Gentiles would be frustrated that his ministry was being delayed. On the contrary, he knew God was sovereign, and all he wanted were opportunities to share the gospel in jail. As a matter of fact, in the book of Philippians (another book written during this time of incarceration), Paul said, "Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear" (Phil. 1:12-14).

You know, for the longest time, I thought it was wimpy when Christians would pray for an open door, simply because I saw it as an excuse to avoid diligent communication of the gospel. Some Christians can go through a lifetime without sharing because the "open door" never came! But I have come to realize, without excusing laziness and the need to be bold, that God must open a door for successful evangelism. He must assign us a field in which to labor, and He must grant the unconverted faith to believe. Though He uses humans rightly handling the biblical gospel message, only God can save sinners and enable them to believe in Christ. Salvation, if it is to occur, will only happen if God "opens the door" of a sinner's heart. "And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul" (Ac. 16:14). "And when they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles" (Ac. 14:27).

But again those accounts in Acts took place when Paul was free to preach the gospel (or as he calls it here, the Word and the mystery of Christ). Now he was imprisoned… for the very message he desired to preach. Yet this did not hinder him… he still desired to preach and still prayed for opportunities . Though he was imprisoned, he knew "the word of God is not imprisoned" (2 Tim. 2:9).

Likewise we are to pray for open doors. We are not only to pray that God will save people (that's good, but it gets us personally off the hook); rather we are to pray that He might give us the joy of being used in the process. We need to pray for specific, personal opportunities and then with responsibility, speak forth the Word with (verse 4) clarity in the way we ought to speak…leaving the final outcome to God.


Communication is essential with God particularly in regards to evangelism, but it is also essential with people in regards to evangelism. In order to be effective evangelists the Christian needs to know how to speak effectively with those outside the church.

"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. 4:5-6). I believe historically, Christians have erred by adopting two extremes in dealing with those outside the church.

On the one extreme, we have the believer who closes off any spiritual contact with the unsaved. This is either a result of one's spiritual cocoon where he adopts a "holier than thou" attitude and limits contact to only other Christians…"Why should I dirty myself with pagan scums?" Or , it is the result of the believer who maintains contact with the unsaved but is totally indifferent to their spiritual state…"Who am I to question their religious beliefs? I don't want to offend anybody! Sure they're going to hell, but it doesn't bother me!" Either of these lifestyles is sin, rooted in pride, and ultimately rooted in a lack of love. If God only wanted to save us, He would have raptured us at the moment of salvation; rather He kept us around to share the glory of Jesus Christ with others, others who will perish lest they come to an understanding of the truth.

On the other extreme is the individual who simply sees people as objects to be saved and not human beings created in the image of God. The goal of evangelism is not to put another notch on the cover of my Bible. That's how outlaws and drug dealers treat people. That is the sin of manipulation.

Rather, the goal of evangelism is to minister in love by meeting people where they are at. It's understanding their needs and sharing Christ with gentleness and respect. This is Paul's heartbeat in the two verses that follow. Verse 5 begins by saying that we are called to conduct ourselves with wisdom toward outsiders. We need to seek God-given wisdom. We need to know how to balance a bold and uncompromising witness without appearing harsh, unloving, or tactless. We need to know how to balance a genuine conversation without forsaking our distinctive Christian commitment. We need wisdom to speak the right words at the right time in the right setting through a lifestyle that does not contradict our message. These are elements mentioned in verse 5 that require wisdom.

Wisdom also finds people, according to that verse, making the "most of the opportunity ". Literally this means to "redeem the time". The wise individual realizes that time is fleeting, and everyday more people die without Christ. We must recognize the crisis at hand; we must recognize the urgency of the times; we must capitalize on every chance provided. Rightly understanding the doctrine of election means we will have this attitude! We never sit back and say; "Since God will save His children my attitudes and actions are meaningless." C.H. Spurgeon (a 5-point Calvinist himself) once said, "If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for." Making the most of the opportunity is essential!

Another element needing wisdom is our speech. First in verse 6 we are to speak to outsiders with graciousness , regardless of any persecution, difficulties, or injustice we may face on their behalf. Sadly I've seen so many students of the Word share the gospel with condescending or arrogant or demeaning or belittling speech. On the contrary, since we have been given grace from God, that grace should flow from our hearts and out of our mouths. Remember, "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart" (Mk. 12:34). Sure the gospel is offensive, but that doesn't mean we have to be offensive. Unfortunately, today many unbelievers are turned off more by the messenger than the message itself! "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph. 4:29).

Second, in verse 6, our speech is to be seasoned with salt. In the ancient world salt primarily had two purposes: to season food and keep it from corruption. For the longest time I believed this verse taught the latter…meaning that we are to expose corruption with our speech. There is truth in that, however, in reading many ancient quotes and perusing a plethora of commentaries, I am fairly confident that Paul is referring to the former; namely, that our speech is to "season the conversation ". It is to be thoughtful, savoring, joyful and interesting. It is not to be dull, insipid, or boring. It is to be presented in the spirit of the gospel. Jesus exercised this principle. He took profound theological truths and crafted them into stories that have captured the imagination for centuries! Unfortunately many today speak the Bible with confusing theological jargon, using outdated illustrations without any excitement, passion or joy. Then we have the audacity to wonder why so many bored and disoriented people are turned off to the meaning of life that is applicable to everyone in every generation.

Third, the end of verse 6 gives us the purpose for gracious and salty speech. As it says, these are the ways we are to "respond to each person." The understanding is that the world will attack us, challenge us, and question us; nevertheless we should respond with graciousness and joy. Obviously this presupposes godly wisdom and a thorough intellectual understanding of our faith. "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, yet with gentleness and reverence ;" (1 Pet. 3:15).

A word of caution must be mentioned in our postmodern age of relativity. Although these manners of speech are important, we must never go overboard and sacrifice the uncompromising , inerrant , timeless truth of the message for the sake of creativity , relevancy or entertainment .

This morning we examined communication with God with a heart toward evangelism. We examined communication with man with a heart toward evangelism. We could go much deeper, but the foundation has been laid. Bottom line… we need to implement what we now know. We must be Christians devoted to prayer in such a way that God will open a door for the gospel and use us in the ministry as we communicate His glorious gospel with clarity, graciousness and joy.

other sermons in this series

Mar 24


For The Sake of The Name - Part Three

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Colossians 4:15–18 Series: Colossians

Mar 17


For The Sake of The Name - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Colossians 4:10–14 Series: Colossians

Mar 10


For The Sake of The Name - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Colossians 4:7–9 Series: Colossians