LIVE OUT OF WHAT YOU BELIEVE! Pete Bauer
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on June 15, 2014. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Col 2A.
We have come to a transition in the book of Colossians. So far Paul has been telling the Colossians about all they had received from God.
- The gospel had come to them and given them a new hope (Col.1:5-6).
- They had been rescued from the power of darkness over their lives and brought into the kingdom of God’s Son, so that their lives could be redeemed and their sins forgiven (Col.1:13).
- They had received Jesus, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, the firstborn from among the dead, the head of the church (Col.1:15-18).
- They had been reconciled to God, despite their hostility towards him, by Christ’s death on the cross (Col.1:21-22).
- ~ They had received the knowledge of the mystery of a new kind of spirituality, Christ in them, the hope of glory (Col.1:26-27).
The Gift Received to Be Used: Now Paul is going to turn a corner and say to the Colossians, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” Despite the amazing list above, which consists of actions by God which obviously display his love–the phrase, “so walk in Him,” is often received by Christians as a kind of threat. We read all of these things about the grace and deliverance of God, and yet, at the point of practice, we hear another message which demands that we “Just Do It.” The irony is that Paul is saying almost the opposite–not “Just Do It,” but that we should take these amazing gifts of grace and actually “walk” or “practice our faith” in response to them. In fact, Paul is dealing with what is a very modern disconnect of the Christian life–the tendency to try to live the Christian life in our own strength and our self constructed understanding of God. As a result, many believers receive the gospel with joy, only to end up, in practice, trying to manufacture a spirituality of their own, and finding themselves burdened and confused about how to live the Christian life. This morning we want to look at three metaphors Paul uses to describe how believers should be receiving the gift of Christ – how they we to grow up out of this gift…
You Have Received God’s Forgiveness and Favor Through Christ.
Metaphor #1–Grow From the Root: “having been firmly rooted” Plants grow from roots. The life of a plant is nourished and supported by its root. In the same way, the Christian life grows from a root–that root is the Gospel– the announcement of a new spirituality–Jesus Christ living inside of you as a spiritual presence. This is the hope of glory. This presence inside of you (the Holy Spirit of Jesus) is the one who has created a kingdom of people who have his Spirit in them, who want to please God, because they have received God’s favor and forgiveness despite their past hostility to Him, and despite their continuing failures to be glorious and holy. This is the root of Christian living. Separate your practice from that root and it will die. The crucial issue, then, for Christian practice is that we must live in response to this forgiveness and favor–not in response to some demand that we clean up our lives. Put another way, you will not live out the Christian life, regardless of how you try to behave, unless you are responding to God’s favor! This is not to say that obedience is unimportant–obedience is crucial. However Christianity involves a certain kind of obedient response to God–a response of love.
Loving God: Fallen human beings cannot initiate love for God! We can only love God back. We can only respond to God’s favor and love for us, the gift of Jesus Christ. This response to God’s favor and love is the rootedness to which Paul is referring. The plant that grows up out of the root of Jesus develops and grows in the practice of love response to God and love for other people, whom God loves. However, many Christians try to reverse this dynamic. They seek to do enough good so that God may, somehow, accept them and be pleased with them. Many Christian books sell this scheme, and it is a way of thinking often taught in the church. A life lived in this kind of spiritual reversal will not grow up. Christian faith only grows and thrives when lived from the root. This is because only a relationship of love can change any person in a positive way. Relationships based on force, shame or manipulation can only ever distort our lives.
Build The House of Your Faith on The Foundation You Received.
Metaphor #2–Build the House: “… and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed…” Jesus, after preaching the sermon on the mount (Matt.5-7), said this… “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of min and puts them into practice is like a wise man who build his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Paul talks about being built up in Christ and established in faith, he is using the metaphors of housebuilding (establishing a foundation and building upon it). This is the same kind of language that Jesus used in the Sermon on the Mount, and it is possible that Paul had this in mind. Jesus, in this sermon, defined through practical example, the practice of what it looks like to love God, and warned, through practical example, against those things that deaden and kill the love of God in us. Yet this is the very point at which many believers stumble. How are we to remain rooted in the favor of God if we also have to pay attention to all of these commands to love God in certain ways? Doesn’t Jesus’ teaching create, all over again, this sense of obligation to God and fear if, somehow, we end up not building our spiritual house well enough?
Two Gardens: My parents had a vegetable garden when I was a child. I hated that garden because, in part, it gradually expanded to swallow up what had been a play area for me (my football field). Also, it kept producing vegetables that I had to eat. Also, I was occasionally told to go work in the garden–which, to me, was a death sentence. But somehow, when I moved here, I decided that I wanted to build a garden. I spent years working on my garden, pouring over gardening books, designing and redesigning. Working on my garden was not always easy or fun, but I was creating something – I had an evolving vision. I was inspired! Spiritual housebuilding, or discipleship, can be either enforced gardening or visionary gardening. Jesus’ teaching can either be a matter of enforced living or a hope and vision that captures you. Obedience can either be motivated by a love for what you want to become, or the drudgery of fear and slavery. Paul is suggesting that those who are living rooted in the favor of God should grow up into the vision of who God made them to be–to build a beautiful house!
How are you Building? Is obedience more like slavery or more like a passionate project for you? God wants your cooperative, passionate engagement to build something beautiful of you. This goes beyond what any human being can teach you. No person can construct for you the vision of holiness and beauty that God has designed in you and for you (that would be like building someone else’s garden). You will only discover this vision as you go to the source/root–Jesus–in prayer to hear and grow in understanding of what God is doing in your life (gradually, over time). God’s vision is to bring together all of these households into one great heavenly city. The church is the beginnings, the construction area of that great city–the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev.21).
Respond to the Great Gift of God with Joy and Praise.
Metaphor #3 The Fountain of God’s Favor: “… overflowing with gratitude.” What would happen to the church if we were all people who were convinced of God’s favor and love for us? What would happen if every person in the church had a vision of the holy, beautiful, powerful person God made us to be? What would the church be like if we did not merely accept these promises as orthodox teaching, but actually took hold of them and lived through them? Paul expected the Colossians, and all believers not only to accept the favor of God from the root (Jesus), but he expected a church overflowing with gratefulness – like a fountain–like a spring of life–in response to the transforming gift of Christ. Yet, here again, believers take even these words and turn them into a performance command to be more joyful! We try to manufacture joy by pretending we are always happy. We try in a mechanical way to repeat phrases or ideas to ourselves that will make us joyful. We try to pretend that our circumstances area always, somehow, good. But joy that is real happens as we receive and become rooted in the abiding favor and love of the God who rescued us while we were yet hostile sinners–the God who wants to transform our lives. That kind of joy is not plastic or pretend happiness, but a deep conviction of hope and freedom.