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Mosaic Spokane

Deeply Rooted

Deeply Rooted

Colossians 2:6,7

September 3, 2017

Anybody here opposed to people “falling in love”?  No curmudgeons in the family today? Just imagine what we would be missing in literature and film if you did away with “falling in love.”  The whole genre of chick-flicks survives on the reality that most people actually find the idea rather attractive…if not compelling. 

My experience of falling in love with Sandy took about 3 weeks.  But it took another four years to just reach the starting gate of marriage.  By the time we said, “I do,” we had been through enough ups and downs, highs and lows, to know that we were both “in love” and committed to growing that love for the rest of our lives. 

            I’m curious this morning who here has had, a.) the shortest courtship, and b.) the longest courtship?  [Get responses.]

I never tire of hearing people’s “love stories.”  When I meet a couple and we start developing a friendship, I always want to hear about the “love story.”  When my wife and I have an evening to watch a movie, we usually alternate between a “chick-flick” love story and an action-packed drama thriller.  (That’s kind of what marriage is like anyway, right? J) 

            Most of us probably like to hear stories of how people fell in love. But, honestly, falling in love is fairly easy…if you haven’t noticed!  It’s staying in love that seems to be the challenge. How do you sustain that love so that it grows deeper and stronger over a lifetime?

I’ve performed a lot of weddings and without exception, every couple was deeply in love with each other at the time. But sadly, I’ve also often had couples in my office who are so angry and bitter towards each other that I wonder how, just a few years before, they ever were in love. They started out madly in love, but they failed to sustain and deepen that love.

Becoming a Christian is a lot like falling in love. For some people, the “courtship” leading to the “marriage” is a pretty quick process.  For others it may take years.  But for almost everyone, there are some accompanying feelings and experiences of joy, of peace, of relief, of wonder and more. You experience the lifting of guilt. You’re at peace with God and maybe even with other people more. Emptiness is replaced by purpose and joy and the hope of eternal life. You’re a brand new creation in Christ and it feels wonderful…kind of like falling in love.

But those wonderful feelings will not automatically last. Trials and disappointments will come. You may suffer health problems. You pray for something, but God doesn’t answer the way you want or in the time you want. Doubts creep in. Old friends cut you off and ridicule your faith. If you’re married, your spouse may be threatened by your changed life and become hostile and abusive. Your kids may not turn out as you had hoped and worked and prayed they would.

How do you go on with Christ over the long haul and sustain that first love for Him?

Sadly, some don’t. Some people grow bitter at God because of their trials. Some fall prey to false teachers, who promise them health and prosperity if they just have enough faith. Some get sucked in by cults that major on some minors and fail to hold onto the really major truths about Jesus and life in Him.

Others settle in for routine Christianity, like a routine marriage, where they go through the motions, but they don’t enjoy the love of Jesus. They fill the void by collecting more things that promise to make them happy. Some succumb to temptation, thinking that an affair or an addiction will bring happiness and fulfillment.

So the question for ALL of us who have entered into a personal relationship of faith in Jesus is, “How do you go on with Christ? How do you keep that first love fresh and vital over the long haul?”

In Colossians 2:6-7, Paul gives us a simple, but not simplistic, answer.  Here it is.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

            A few weeks back, John Moody ably introduced us to a possible problem that Paul was addressing in this book.  Some people think that Paul was trying to counter the claims of certain people (possibly Gnostics) in Colossi who taught that to really experience the Christian life to the full, you needed to adopt certain beliefs about supernatural beings and engage in certain beliefs that were outside of what God had revealed in His word or through is Apostles. 

            I can certainly appreciate how that problem can arise.  After all, aren’t we here today because, as good as our walk with God may have been up to this point, we want more!  We want to go deeper.  We want to experience more of God’s blessings and less of his discipline.  So, among other reasons, we gather together regularly to hopefully learn more and have a growing experience of God, right? 

            It can be very easy to get sidetracked and sucked into something other than Jesus even when your goal is to grow in your relationship with Him.  It could have happened to me in college.

ILL: Going away to college is a great time of discovery and learning…and I’m not talking primarily about the classroom.  When you first launch out on your own and have to start making your own decisions about who your friends are going to be and whether or not you are going to be part of a church and which church that will be, it usually becomes a time of great discovery.

            Such was the case when I went over to Tacoma and Portland for my college years.  One of those experiences involved a group two of my sisters were involve with in Seattle. It was a very interesting “church.”  They had their own sort of format for worship—everyone sitting in a multi-layered circles facing each other; their own hymnbook; their own translation of the Bible (WARNING! WARNING!); their own sort of vocabulary and way of “pray-reading” the Bible.  They targeted mostly college-aged adults and were super-engaged in buying houses and filling them with either single men or single women.  They all read the same books, etc., etc. 

            And there was a lot of social pressure when you were with them to be a part of their church.  They claimed that it was wrong that the people of God were so divided by different doctrines and that the one foundational doctrine everyone but they were in error on was that there was only ONE true church in every city…and guess which church that was?  

            I admired their zeal.  I appreciated their communal living.  I believe they had genuinely deep personal relationships with God. But I always felt pressured. I always felt like they were sort of looking at me with as condescending, pitiful, “It’s just too bad you won’t embrace what we have discovered of the deeper Christian life” sort of attitude. 

            In hindsight, I’m so very grateful God had built into my journey with Him a relatively solid foundation in the Word of God.  I’m grateful He put around me wise people who could point out some problems. Because having watched this group now for some 45 years of my life, I’m completely convinced that they are a Christian cult.  Much of their experience in Christ with each other is good, but some of it is terribly controlling, terribly manipulative, terribly spiritually abusive and terribly “super-spiritual.”

APP:  Friends, these kinds of groups/churches will always exist.  That is why we MUST heed Paul’s call here to engage our hearts and minds, souls and bodies, in a consistent, ongoing spiritual walk with Jesus Christ.  Here’s the way Paul describes that “walk”:  It is a  WALK IN FAITH!

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, 

continue to live your lives in him….”

Note a couple of things here.  First, Paul is talking to people who have “received Christ Jesus as Lord,” (or literally in the Greek, “Christ Jesus the Lord”). 

There exists today this big debate about “Lordship salvation” verses “Free Grace salvation.”  Without boring you with the details, and stating it very plainly, one camp contends that if you don’t receive Jesus as Lord, you aren’t saved while the other contends that since salvation is by the grace of God, whether you receive Him as just Savior or as Lord and Savior, it doesn’t matter.  I honestly think the truth lies somewhere in the middle on this.  

            While the number of times something occurs in Scripture is not a proof for something in and of itself, I nonetheless think that it is instructive that the title “Savior” as applied to Jesus Christ by Paul occurs just 12 times in all his 13 books of the N.T.  On the other hand, the title “Lord” is applied over 235 times to Jesus by Paul.  [If you consider the book of Acts of the Apostles, the word “Savior” occurs only twice (5:31; 13:23) while the title “Lord” is mentioned 92 times, “Lord Jesus13 times and “the Lord Jesus Christ6 times, for a total of 111

            However you slice and dice this reality, the truth taught in Colossians 2:6 is that God’s people are people who have “received Christ Jesus the Lord.”  Our culture doesn’t use the term “lord” very much.  We kind of left that with the British along with their monarchy during the Revolutionary War.  So speaking of someone as “Lord” is sort of outside our normal vocabulary.

            What other titles or roles might fit that in our terribly individualistic and “personal rights” culture? 

[Boss, Jefe, master, Commanding Officer, ???] 

Even all of those together miss the full scope of biblical lordship. When we receive Christ Jesus the Lord, we’re embracing both His person and His position—absolute Sovereign over every area of our life from thoughts to actions, words to deeds. 

APP:   I don’t know what your understanding of Jesus Christ was when you first “received Him.”  But if you have been growing at all in your relationship with Him, I can guarantee you that virtually every step has made you aware of more and more areas of your life that need to be surrendered to Him and need Him to truly be Lord over.  Believing in Jesus is not about buying some cheap fire insurance that doesn’t change the life you are “insuring.”  It’s about signing over the title deed of every moment and every part of your life to Jesus and then learning the rest of this life how to let Jesus Christ live in and through us in everything. 

The second thing to notice in this phrase is that we are to KEEP ON living with Jesus Christ in the same way we started with Him. 

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him….”

Q:  HOW did you “receive Christ Jesus the Lord”?  By works?  Of course not!  Eph. 2:8, 9 makes that very clear:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” 

Grace is not something you do or earn.  It is “God’s undeserved favor/goodness/blessing over your life.”  It is God giving us what we don’t deserve—forgiveness, love, kindness…all of Himself to people who wanted none of Him before.

How did we “receive” Christ Jesus the Lord?  By faith.  And that is precisely what every day of life in Him must involve:  FAITH! 

  • Faith causes us to set our alarm clock for a little earlier in the morning to enjoy time alone with God in prayer, reading His word, silence, journaling, etc.
  • Faith causes us to ask for God’s wisdom about every decision we will make that day.
  • Faith causes us to write a check to some Kingdom work when we don’t have enough money to cover the existing bills.
  • Faith moves us to believe God’s word that things like gossip or lust or hatred or coveting are harmful to us and the life of Jesus in us.

Faith is how we “continue to live our lives in Him.”  If we’re not constantly exercising faith that produces godly action then we’re not “continuing to live our lives in him” the same way we began. This is why the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  Faith is constantly saying to God, “Not my will but Yours be done.”   

So… what do you DO by faith on a regular basis that helps you “live in Christ”???  [Responses.]

Now Paul is going to give us 4 components that build our faith-walk with Jesus Christ the Lord.  But before we look at them, I want us all to look at our own personal “plan” for building our life in Jesus this fall. 

Here’s the 1st component Paul mentions that builds our “marriage” or “faith-walk” with Jesus:

  1. We are called to be ROOTED in Christ.

“…continue to live your lives in [Christ],rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

ILL:  I LOVE gardening.  [Pics of flowers and garden.]  I’ve been doing it most of my life.  And I’ve found that there are 3 critical components to successful gardening in Spokane:  soil, water and sunshine.  The City will charge you for water.  The soil may need to be worked on or brought in.  But the sunshine is, thankfully, still free.  (Don’t tell the politicians!)

            I usually start all my plants from seed anytime from February to June.  I’ll start them in little seed-trays and then transplant them to bigger flats and pots and eventually to the garden or large pots.  The reason I do that is because most things grow best where their roots can go down deep and remain cooler in the ground. 

            The same applies to most of nature.  The larger the plant/tree, the more important the root structure.  In fact, you can keep some trees small just by keeping them potted with their roots confined.

            The same is true of a Christ-follower.  We need to “sink our roots down into Christ.”  Nice-sounding phrase.  But what does it really mean? 

Roots are all about a couple of things:

1.) Nourishment:  water and minerals

2.) Stability:  anchoring the visible growth below the dirt-line.

#1.)  Nourishment:  So just where and how do we find/draw nourishment “in Christ” on a personal/individual basis?  What feeds our personal connection with Jesus us rather than draws us away from intimacy with Him?

[Responses.] 

Some of the most well-used historically, the most common, are what we call the spiritual practices/disciplines.

  1. Reading/studying with understanding and accuracy the Word of God, either alone or with others. [Bible studies, worship services, Adult Ed classes, home/apartment/bld groups, etc.]  [Talk about fall opportunities: 
    1. Adult Ed: Theology 101, SHAPE class, Rooted Groups.
  2. Memorizing Scripture and meditating on it
  3. Prayer: talking to and listening to God—prayer groups, personal times
  4. Journaling
  5. Reading good classics/writings
  6. Gathering for fellowship: home groups, men’s/women’s fellowship groups, recovery groups
  7. Worshipping God: worship services, monthly (or more often) worship nights
  8. Rest,
  9. solitude,
  10. silence
  11. Fasting
  12. Submission—willing submitting to another
  13. Secrecy—doing good anonymously

APP:  So what’s your PLAN this fall for nourishing yourself in Christ?  If you aren’t doing any of these things daily, choose 1.  If you are doing 1, add another one.  If you are doing something 1/mo, make it 2-3 times/mo.  You get the idea.  Sink your roots down into Christ!

#2.)  Stability—What spiritual practices are you engaged in that are providing greater stability to your life? 

Some of us are more “unstable” than others.  That could be emotionally or mentally or spiritually or physically.  That could be economically or educationally or socially. 

            I’ve found that stability in life comes through disciplined consistency. 

ILL:  I’ve been blessed with generally good physical health. On the other hand, some of that “blessing” has come because I choose to discipline myself in terms of a.) exercise, and, b.) what I eat (and don’t eat…except ice cream!). I take some supplements that have made a lot of difference to my immune system.  I eat lots of fruits and vegetables and try to stay away from a lot of sweets (except ice cream!). 

            This is why some of us are consistently in recovery groups.  We need it to stay consistent.  We need sponsors and accountability.  We need people asking us the hard questions.  We need constant renewal and challenging of our thought patterns.  

There is NO substitute for steady, healthy routines

  • If you have a chemical or physiological imbalance in your brain, some people need to take medications and KEEP TAKING them…every day.
  • If you tend towards a destructive addiction, there is no substitute for regular participation in recovery work.
  • If you tend towards negative thinking, there is no substitute for putting God’s word in your mind and heart to change that thinking.
  • If you are easily distracted from your faith-walk with Jesus, there is no substitute for daily prayer or Bible reading or weekly fellowship and Bible study with others.

APP:  What 1 discipline/consistency do you know that, if you engaged in it, would sink your life more into Christ this fall? 

So GETTING ROOTED is something God asks US to do!

  1. We are called to be BUILT UP in Christ.

“…continue to live your lives in [Christ],rooted and built up in him,

            Here we have, instead of a farming or gardening word, a

contractor's word.  This is what gets done through our lives in Christ because of the root system.  But remember, to try and build a really fruitful or influential life in the Kingdom of God doesn’t come by great exploits or lots of hard work apart from the foundation/roots.  The superstructure…the size of the plant… depends on the depth and health and strength of the foundation/ roots. 

ILL: I’ve been a pastor long enough now to have seen big ministries of mega-church pastors come and go.  The ones that last and whose people change the world are the ones where the pastor himself has a walk with Christ that has done the foundation work.  The ones that don’t last or crash and burn are usually because they didn’t let God do the breaking work needed to remake their soul life what it would need to be to stand the weight of the superstructure of ministry.

            I remember being in a staff meeting with one well respected and known author-pastor. He had just resigned to take a pastorate in another state.  We were discussing why pastors change churches and he said, “I think sometimes pastors change churches just to get a break from the incessant pressures and conflicts in the pastorate.”  He went on to explain that the break pastors get with time off in between pastorates plus the inevitable “honeymoon period” that they get in the new church, is really what they are after.  Then he said, “But they are really just willing to exchange a set of known problems for a set of unknown ones.”  That was a profound observation.

            Sadly, he went on to this new church but within 2 years he had left his wife of over 30 years for his publicist.  The “ministry” got far too big for the minister and foundation, in my opinion. 

But talking about “building” in Christ is where a different set of spiritual practices comes to play.  These are the ones that build our impact.  You don’t usually see the foundation of a building.  But everyone sees the superstructure. Most people won’t see our private spiritual disciplines.  But there are some public ones they will be able to observe.  And growing in impact matters too. 

Here are some of those “impact” spiritual practices.    

  • Service/”ministry”
  • Sharing the Gospel/Evangelism
  • Exercising your spiritual gifts in the church
  • Giving/frugality
  • Worship/Praise
  • Fellowship
  • ???

APP:  So what will you DO this fall to build up your ministry life? 

  • Become part of a meal-serving team for YFC or Changing Lives?
  • Teach or be a helper in a kids’ class?
  • Disciple/mentor a young person?
  • Pick up someone needing a ride to church weekly?
  • Join a prayer team?
  • Host a home group?
  • Be part of a teaching/facilitator team for an Adult Ed class or home group?
  • Hang out weekly with teens at the YFC center in the basement?
  • Volunteer in the office?
  • Double your giving?
  • Take the H.A.P.E class and discover where God wants to use you in ministry?
  • Join the Safety Team?
  • Share your home or apartment with someone needing housing?
  • Join the worship nights or just sing more from your heart during Sunday worship?

What will it be that will help you BUILD more of your life around Christ? 

Not only are we called to be “rooted” in Christ and to be “built up” in Christ.  We are called in our marriage to Jesus to be…

  1. “…strengthened in the faith as you were taught….”

The word “strengthened” or “established,” as some versions translate it, was sometimes used as a legal term meaning, “to confirm, guarantee, or make irrevocable.” Here, Paul may be looking at the growing assurance that we gain as we grow to understand the irrevocable truths of God’s Word.

            Let me ask you:  Do you know what “the faith” is that Paul is referring to?  If someone asked you, “What does it mean to ‘be in the faith’ as a Christian,” could you answer them well from God’s word? 

ILL:  I had the privilege of speaking to the Moody Students in 2 different chapel settings this week.  The first was a bit emotional as I stood and worshipped in the very room where so much of my early grounding in Christ took place—Uhden Chapel at 4th Memorial Church.  Sunday after Sunday morning, Sunday night after Sunday night, Wednesday night after Wednesday night, God spoke to me in that room.  I preached my first 10 minute sermon there.  I made a commitment to be open to serving as a missionary in that room.  I gave up my first summer as a high school kid to serve on a ministry team in that room. 

            Yet I know of dozens of my peers who didn’t get “established” during those years.  They’re not walking with Christ now.  And I know of dozens of Moody graduates who are in the same boat.  For whatever reasons, they didn’t get “established” or “make irrevocable” their life in Jesus, their faith.  Either bad theology or tough life experiences moved them away from Jesus. 

            It’s much more than just getting good biblical training, though without that it will be much less.  Holding on to Christ and true faith in Him means that you never graduate from the clear, consistent message of the Gospel.  You never “outgrow” the simple trust and dependence on the Word of God.  You never think yourself so smart that you think the Gospel dumb. 

ILL:  For me, those initial “establishing” days needed yet more strengthening in college.  I met up with all the arguments liberal theologians could muster as to why I shouldn’t trust or believe the Bible.  And I came close to letting go of my own confidence in the Gospel.  But I also went looking for answers.  That necessitated a change of college and major, something I am forever glad I did. 

ILL:  Recently I’ve been talking with a retired liberal pastor who doesn’t believe you can take the Bible at face value.  Two or three times in as many weeks, he has told me that he’s “studied enough of how we got the Bible to not believe in its inerrancy (lack of error).  That “wisdom” has led him to embrace abortion, gay marriage and gender fluidity to name but a few anti-biblical truths.  It’s also made him the final judge of which parts of the Bible still apply and which don’t.  I’m pretty sure that next time he makes that statement in my presence (which will probably be soon), I’m going to say, “You know, that’s interesting because my study of how we got the Bible and how reliable it is has left me more convinced than ever in its divine authorship, accuracy and inerrancy.”  Should be fun days ahead! J

            Here’s the point:  We can either use our doubts and questions to “strengthen” and “establish” us in the simple faith we started with OR we can allow doubts and questions to cause us to drift from “the faith.”  It’s our call.  The answers are there to your doubts if you are willing to do the homework. 

APP:  A great reason to take the Theology Track “What Christians Believe” this fall on Tues. nights. It’s going to be about “God & His Word”, Part 1 of our theology series.

Lastly, not only are we called to be “rooted” in Christ, to be “built up” in Christ and to be “strengthened” in our faith.

  1. We are called in our “marriage” to Christ to be a thankful, grateful lover/spouse.

“…continue to live your lives in [Christ]… overflowing with thankfulness.”

            I sometimes like to ask couples who are having marriage troubles, “Tell me, what was it that caught your attention when you were first in love?  What was it about your spouse that you loved?”  If their bitterness hasn’t poisoned them…or there isn’t some 3rd-party messing with the marriage… they will go back to things that their spouse still has, still is.

Then I will sometimes tell them that they have an assignment:  find 2 things every day they are thankful for about/in their spouse…and TELL them that every day.  It is amazing the effect of looking at the positive qualities in a person can have on a relationship.  And if that is true of imperfect humans, imagine how it can bond us to our perfect God? 

            While Sandy and I have been married now for 35 years, there are still things I find I don’t fully understand about her.  I don’t have her fully figured out yet!  That’s because she is different from me.  She’s a woman; I’m a man. 

            There are things I feel the same about God…except exponentially more.  He’s divine; I’m human. I sometimes have trouble with His timing, his sovereignty, his wisdom, his actions and inactions.  But being thankful helps me remember that there is far more I know and am grateful for about God than the things I don’t understand.  Gratitude is one of the glues that will bind us to God. 

            Remember Psalm 103?  We started with that for a reason.  Let’s prepare to be thankful in song by reading some of that Psalm again.

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