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In an article in The Weekend Australian (July 11-12, 2020) Dr. Greg Sheridan, writing of the cancel culture forces at work within the West, concludes: ‘The West is under profound challenge internally and externally today. The irrational hatred of the West, within the West, is one symptom of a deep malaise…’
So, how can we live in a rapidly changing and troubled world? We need wisdom, understanding, and the strength to persevere that springs from a growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the opening lines of chapter 2 of his Letter to the young church in Colossae, Paul the Apostle writes of his agonized striving in prayer for the growth and rich quality of his readers’ faith. And in verses 6 and 7 we find keys that unlock the central theme of his letter. He writes: As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (2:6-7).
God’s people can waver in their faith in troubled times because there is no change in their life, they are not growing in their relationship with Christ, and they have no heartfelt thanks to God, for who he is and what he has done.
So, let me identify three themes in Colossians 2: 6 and 7.
First, As you received Christ… so now live.
Paul expects the lives of God’s people to be shaped by a heartfelt love for God and a genuine neighbor love – the two themes that we find in the Ten Commandments and in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Having received Christ Jesus the Lord we are now to live in him.
We can think of it like this. When Christ moves into our lives there are many things with which he is not comfortable. There’s a lot of cleaning up to be done, repairs and renovation. But, as anyone who has been involved in renovation and repairs knows, it takes longer and costs much more than originally thought. You only have to watch the program ‘Grand Designs’ to see the truth of this.
It’s like this with our lives. It takes a lot longer and costs a lot more to make our lives a place fit for the king. The challenge is to make Christ Lord in all our affairs.
Paul develops examples of this in the second half of his Letter. In chapter 3:5 he writes: Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:… Toss out of your life what doesn’t fit this new life with Christ. Is it lust or sexual immorality, evil desire or greed? Is it anger or rage, malice or slander? Do you always tell the truth? These things belong to the old self. Put on the new self which is being renewed after the image of its creator.
Second, As you were rooted… be built up;…
With mixed metaphors, one from botany the other from building, Paul stresses the need for growth. He doesn’t want God’s people to be stunted in their relationship with Christ Jesus.
Yet there are many who have accepted Christ – that he died for their sins – but who have never gone any further. Consequently, their faith has shriveled up and they have neither a biblical framework to discern the issues, nor the resources to remain firm in their faith in changing and uncertain times.
So how does growth occur? By focusing on ritual and ceremony at church? By chasing after ecstatic spiritual experiences? No. A genuine growth in Christ rarely comes to people who are not spending time in the Scriptures. And this can true of churches. As ceremony increases, sermons become shorter.
There are times when we’re not motivated to dig deeper into the Scriptures. But sometimes God uses sickness or a crisis in life to awaken us to our need to read the Bible. Sometimes it’s not until we see houses and other trophies of the world for what they are – transient trifles that have a fading and passing splendor – that we see the lasting treasure of God’s truth. And that’s when we begin to grow.
As you were taught… be established in the truth, Paul continues.
For some years a little saying kept me focused on my need for consistent Bible reading: ‘No Bible, no breakfast; no prayer, no paper.’ Yes, the danger with this kind of line is that Bible reading and prayer become a law. But if it is taken as a guide it can be a useful reminder of our need for daily Bible reading and prayer. This is how we can grow in our understanding of God and a richer relationship with him.
And thirdly, …abounding in thanksgiving.
To have a thankful heart is to have a contented heart. How often do we get anxious because thankfulness to God is not part of our psyche. The sense of thankfulness within us is a real measure of our growth in Christ. We can’t get taken up with our own desires and moans and groans for long if a spirit of thankfulness to Christ is an essential part of our daily attitude.
When we know deep down in our heart that Christ Jesus is the Lord, that he is our good shepherd bringing good for us out of all the confusion, frustrations and challenges of life, we will find that, quite surprisingly, we will be able to press on with determination and joy in our hearts.
As you have received Christ… so live – honoring Christ through Godly living. As you were rooted… be built up, and as you were taught… be established in the truth – growing in a rich relationship with God through biblical understanding. And, …abounding in thanksgiving – with heartfelt gratitude to God.
A prayer. Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things, graft in our hearts the love of your Name, increase in us a true faith, nourish us with all goodness, and so by your mercy keep us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.