Colossians 1 – New Identity, Deep Roots – Part 7
This morning we’re going to be talking about the age old question of whether our walk matches our talk. For example, would you go to a hairdresser or a barber who had terrible hair? Or would you sign up for lessons from a personal trainer who was terribly overweight? Or what about going to a doctor who looked really unhealthy? Or getting financial advice from an investor who was broke? Or taking music lessons from someone who had a terrible singing voice? Or sampling the cuisine from a chef who was slender? What do they say-never trust a skinny chef! It’s the rounder chef who likes to eat that knows what he’s doing-and how to cook with lots of butter. But when it comes to our spiritual lives this is a big deal. There’s the old joke that after the dedication at church of his baby brother, Jason, the older brother sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him several times what was wrong. Finally the boy replied-The pastor said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you and mom! It’s the challenge of having our talk match our walk. Isn’t that the core issue?
As you’ve been seeing on the screen or on your bulletin over the last several weeks, the title of our sermon series in Colossians is New Identity, Deep Roots. The reason we’ve called it that is because the main point of this little letter that Paul’s written is that the Christian life is something new; it’s something different. As a follower of Christ you’re not who you were before. Life has started to change. It begins on the inside and works its way out. The beginning chapter of Colossians describes the change-1:13-14. Now obviously that’s talking about a spiritual reality but if you could turn your spiritual conversion, your salvation, into a movie it would look like that. Our predicament as sinners is that we’re a bunch of prisoners chained up in the dark dungeon of our selfishness and sin. We’re stuck, we’re helpless, locked away deep in the castle because of our rebellion and pride-but thanks be to God for storming the dungeon and rescuing us from our sins, and that happens through Christ. Because of His death on the cross our sins are paid for, our guilt is erased, we’re forgiven as the verse says and we receive a new, regenerated heart. So spiritually, we’ve gone from darkness to light, from the dungeon to the kingdom-a huge change has taken place inside our hearts at conversion. But the question is whether that change is working its way out. Is it reflected in what you do and how you act? Are you living like a citizen of the kingdom or still living like a prisoner of sin? As we get further into chapter 2 this is precisely the question, the challenge, that confronts us. How has your life changed since coming to Christ-or has it changed? Is this Christianity-thing really making a difference-or are you still the same old you?
Look at chapter 2 as we continue our series-v. 6 And that’s talking about conversion, the time when you received the grace of Jesus into your life and were saved. Maybe you grew up in a Christian home and received Christ at a very young age-and have a hard time remembering exactly when it happened. Or maybe you can clearly remember the moment you received Christ, whether in college or as an adult, because all of a sudden the lightbulb flipped on and the gospel made perfect sense and you trusted in Jesus to save you. It’s like that A-ha moment when everything makes sense-sort of like when the clues of a movie come together at the end-and you say-Now I get it! Of course! It’s the same way with the gospel-Now I get it-of course I couldn’t save myself, I need Jesus to save me. That’s when Christianity begins-receiving Him into your life. So Pt1a:Have I intentionally received Christ by faith or am I trying to slide into Christianity? We can slide into a lot of things in life. From sliding in to a new promotion at work, to developing a new hobby, to becoming interested in something, to sliding into a new friendship just by hanging out with somebody a lot. When Monica and I lived in Dallas we slide into becoming Dallas Mavericks fans-maybe we’ll slide into becoming Knicks fans here. But no one ever slides into being saved by hanging out at church or hanging out with other people who love Jesus. Salvation happens when you intentionally come to Jesus in repentance and faith. It’s when you say-I’m done trusting in myself, Lord, forgive me of my sins-cause there’s a lot of them-I trust you to come into my life and save me. That’s what conversion is-you once were not following Christ, but now you are. You once lived separately from Christ, but now you’ve received Him into your life. So ask yourself-Pt1a.
Do you think you’re close enough by the people you hang around or the amount of times you’ve come to church or the amount of the Bible you’ve read? A lot of people think that way-that they’ll just sort of automatically slide into being saved. But it doesn’t work that way. I like how clear it is in the beginning of John’s gospel-John 1:11-12. So there’s the big change-becoming a child of God-and listen to how John makes the distinction-v. 13 NIV. He isn’t talking about something physical, like being born a second time from an an earthly set of parents-but of having that radical new identity from being born of God. It’s something spiritual that happens on the inside of your life, however, it impacts and affects what you do physically on the outside. At least it should. Look back at Col 2-v. 6a-as as you trusted in Him and were saved and become someone new-so v. 6b. And if I can state the obvious-your spirit can’t walk, your spirit isn’t visible to other people, people can’t actually see what’s on the inside; it’s your physical body that we see, it’s your legs that walk, it’s your words we hear, the kindness you communicate, the grace that you show; it’s your hands that reach out in order to serve and be generous. This verse is saying that if you’ve received Christ, if you’ve been changed by His grace on the inside than that grace ought to be clearly and practically displayed to people on the outside. Paul isn’t saying that this is something you should consider or think about-he’s saying this is part and parcel of who you now are. That just as you joyfully received Christ into your life when you became a believer, so now you should joyfully walk in Christ because that’s what a believer does.
There’s a reason Paul’s used the word walk because it basically covers everything. Think about it-pretty much all we do in life includes walking. You go to and from work, maybe you sit in your car or sit on the train or you sit at your desk or stare at your computer, but to get to all those places-to get to the break room or the meeting room or to leave the office-you walk. At school you walk around campus or walk down the hallways. When you’re at home-whether cooking dinner, or going from the kitchen to the living room, or heading to the shower or upstairs to bed, you’re walking. When don’t you walk, other than sleeping or watching tv? Now the average American takes between 5000-7000 steps a day, the more sedentary person takes between 1000-3000 steps, but we all know from our Fitbit’s and health trackers that 10,000 steps a day is the ideal goal. So where do you fall on that spectrum? Maybe you’re faithfully hitting your goal and feeling good or maybe you’re woefully falling short so you’ve given up counting and stopped wearing your Fitbit. But whether you like it or not, walking is basic to life. So when Paul chose to write about the most common, daily activities that we do without thinking it’s either breathing or walking. That means this verse is challenging us to be Christ-centered at the most basic, fundamental, daily level of our lives. To walk in Him. In fact if you have the NIV it already translates it that way-just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him. This verse completely dissolves the idea that there’s you and over there is Jesus and when you need Him you turn to Him for help, but otherwise you’re living your life and its business as usual. This verse dissolves the idea that you have a church life on Sundays but then the rest of the week is normal life and you’ll check in with Jesus next Sunday. It dissolves the idea that you’ve got a religious hat you wear every so often when you want to look good but otherwise life is spent just doing your own thing. This verse is saying that if you’re a follower of Christ, if you’ve received Christ, then everything you do in life should now be done through Him.
Do you remember Venn Diagrams from high school math class-pic. There’s two spheres-A and B which are distinct entities, but part of the spheres are merged giving you something new, which is A & B together. And that is so representative of our spiritual lives. The part in the middle where the two spheres are merged represents your new life in Christ. If you were A and He was B, receiving Christ means you are now filled by Him so the merged part is how you’re supposed to live. Remember a few weeks ago in chapter 1 we talked about v. 27. Or look at 2:9-10. As a follower of Christ that now describes your life. Christ holds all the fulness of Deity, meaning all the fulness of God. We can’t hold that fulness, only He can-but we are now filled with His fullness. That’s what resides inside you if you’ve received Christ. So that means there shouldn’t be any more of the empty portion of the sphere. All your life is to now be lived within the sphere of the fulness of strength, peace, wisdom, confidence and joy that Christ gives. Those things ought to be overflowing from your life as His fulness fills you. You’re no longer trying to muster up the strength to love people on your own; or finding the ability to forgive in your own power-it happens through Christ who’s filled you. Your heart’s been massively changed -therefore does your life reveal those changes? v. 6 Are you doing that? Does that verse describe your life? Are you walking in Him? Or is there a huge separation between what you believe and how you live? I’m sure we’ve all heard people say-I’m a Christian. I trusted in Jesus years ago at church. I went forward, I raised my hand, I prayed the prayer. I got my fire insurance, I’m going to heaven. But when you look at their life there hasn’t been a change, they haven’t grown or become more loving or obedient to God. They’re just the same old person they’ve always been. So a verse like this is directly challenging that thinking saying that Christianity isn’t just a one-time event from years ago. It’s not just something you said once or something you slide into; rather it’s an ongoing, daily lifestyle of walking in Christ. So Pt1b:Am I walking in Christ or still forging my own path?
Are you constantly trying to live your own way, do what you think best, following your own desires? Or have you begun to take steps in Him-steps of obedience and steps of faith? Have you started making different decisions than you used to? Have you begun living in new ways because of how Christ is changing you? Think about percentages for a moment-how much of your life is spent walking in Christ and how much isn’t? Is it 50/50 or 60/40? Or is it more like 10% walking in Christ and the other 90% of your days are spent zeroed in on other things so that Christ is a just a distant thought in the back of your mind? I think that’s the problem for a lot of us. At times you’re walking in Him-maybe after having a really good devotion or having gone to church you feel really motivated, maybe it’s after a good prayer time or listening to a favorite worship song you feel really inspired and spiritual so you’re walking in Him until somebody sets you off at work, until your boss annoys you again, or you fight with your spouse again, or your kids stress you out again, or somebody annoys you at church and those old attitudes and tendencies resurface, old ways of acting and temptations come back and before you know you’re walking down all the roads you used to travel and Christ feels like a million miles away. Have you been there before? We’re able to walk in Him when it’s easy, but the moment our priorities are affected, the moment our pride or our desires are challenged, the moment we have to step out of our comfort zone or do something new than we tend to walk it alone and leave Christ behind. In those moments we walk in the old ways we used to because it’s what we know, it’s how our old selves are wired. We don’t want to show patience or grace to people. We don’t want to forgive. We don’t want to apologize or show love to someone we’re really mad at. We’d rather ridicule them and make them pay, we’d rather demand that they apologize to us; we’d rather act in a way that stokes our pride and elevates us instead of bowing down and showing humility. We’d rather respond like we’ve always responded, to operate out of our own strength, but following Christ is all about the new self-that having received Christ as Lord we now walk in Him everyday, especially during the hard and difficult times that really stretch us. Isn’t it ironic that the moments we need to walk with the Lord the most are often the very moments when we tend to turn away? But v. 6 is telling us that walking in Him should happen at all times. Not only when our faith is fired up, but throughout all our days-because that’s what walking is-a daily activity.
So here’s the big question-How? How do you keep walking in Christ when it’s so easy to fall off the path and walk your own way? Paul tells us this with two good illustrations in the next verse-v. 7. So the first way to walk in Christ is by being rooted in Him, which makes us think of a plant or a tree. It’s an agricultural illustration-something they knew a lot about back then. Here’s a tree picture with shallow roots. In fact it came from the website of Vanderbeck Tree Experts in NJ explaining what they to help anchor trees and develop roots. So the website explains-So why do trees uproot? Our culture is very needy. We need sidewalks, driveways, gas and water lines, underground electric, septic systems, sprinklers, and manicured lawns. All of these things affect the tree’s root systems and it’s ability to go deep or spread out. People fail to realize how important tree roots are. Trees roots are overlooked, in most cases, because they are invisible. There is a saying, “Out of site, out of mind”, but that should never apply to the roots of a tree. He then explained that shallow roots do become visible-like in this picture-when a storm or hurricane blows through with strong winds rocking the tree back and forth until it finally breaks loose and collapses, no longer anchored by its roots. And it’s no different spiritually. We can be like this tree. Without deep roots we can easily collapse when the storms and trials of life blow through-as they always do. Unless we’re anchored in the truth of who we are in Christ we can easily topple over when anxieties and fears start raging. And yet the Lord didn’t create us to be toppled over or blown along through life like a tumbleweed, carried away by every wind of doctrine, as Eph 4 says; nor does He want us to be repeatedly moved and replanted from place to place, hoping we’ll find some feel-good idea out there to help us. He wants us firmly anchored in Him; to have roots that go deep and create stability and strength. And as we draw up nourishment from His Word we become like a tree that flourishes and grows.
Here’s another tree pic-this one is the Boscia albitrunca, or Shepherd’s Tree, from southern Africa. Now it only grows to be about 30 ft tall, but it has the deepest root system of any tree on the planet descending nearly 200 ft deep. Take a look at this pic-that’s over six times the height of the tree-or the length of two blue whales! But that’s how deep the roots have to go in the African desert to get the water and nutrients it needs. So when I think of this tree I can’t help but make the comparison to our lives, because our world is not all that different from a dry desert. Hollow ideas and empty philosophies are all around us-v. 8. So we’ve got to dig deep if we want to know the truth. Listen to David-Psalm 63:1. David was someone clearly deepening his roots in the Lord. David continually desired to seek the Lord, to know Him, to grow in Him. David knew the utter necessity of deepening his roots. But too many people today are content to just remain shallow, to have a cursory understanding of God and a vague idea of His Word, to keep Him at arm’s length and not grow. What about you? Ask yourself. Pt2:Am I deepening my roots in Christ or just staying shallow? How would you answer that? Are you seeking the Lord, desiring to know Him more or are you content to just know Him in a distant sort of way? But as I read the text, being deeply rooted in Christ isn’t optional-v. 6-7a. Deep roots are essential. And the primary way to deepen your roots is to sink into His Word. All that He wants to tell you is right here so if you want to be rooted in Christ you have to read it. Plain and simple. You can’t just assume you know what the Bible says. A lot of people do that-Oh yeah, I got it, I know the gist of it; I read Genesis once-there was a flood, a boat, lot of animals. I know what it says. You have to actually read it. You can’t base everything on what somebody else tells you, you can’t just live off of a devotion you did 6 months ago, your spiritual life will starve and shrivel up. You yourself need to draw strength from Christ and His Word on a regular basis. Now that doesn’t mean you have to read it from cover to cover in a year, that doesn’t mean 2 hours of Bible study and prayer every morning before the sun comes up-what it does mean is a commitment to the Word, it means acknowledging your need to consistently read it, reflect on it and apply it to your life. Here’s what I want you to consider, you’ll have roots in something. Just as every tree puts out roots, so do you and I. The question is where your roots are going. Would you say that you’re rooted firmly and deeply in Christ or would you say you’re more rooted in other things-rooted in work, rooted in your favorite hobby, rooted in sports or politics or video games or pop culture. Fight the temptation to stay shallow, make the commitment to grow deeply in Christ-and here’s the interesting result. Becoming deeply rooted allows you to grow upward.
Notice the second illustration in v. 7a. Paul turns from the agricultural picture of roots to the architectural picture of buildings; from digging deep to growing upward. You and I are called to grow up in Christ. I’m sure we’ve all had parents or teachers tell us-hey, stop acting like a baby and grow up. Maybe you still hear that today-you’re an adult, time to grow up! But it’s no different in our walks with Christ. We’re called to grow up in Him; to rise up like a tall tree or great skyscraper. Here’s a picture of my favorite building in NYC-111 W 57th-known as the Steinway Tower. It’s a residential tower 80 stories high making it the world’s skinniest skyscraper. How fabulous would it be way up high looking out over Central Park! However, here’s a recent picture I took in January-pic-construction has stalled out at the 20th floor due to a lawsuit with one of the investors-so there it stands unfinished. And again, I think what a visual of our spiritual lives. God wants us to grow in Him, to be rooted and built up in Him and yet a lot of us do exactly that-we stall out and let God’s constructing work in our lives stop. We hold up our hand to God and refuse to let Him keep working in our lives so we stand there unfinished, under construction. Now I realize that we’re all ultimately unfinished and under-construction until our lives end and we enter the Lord’s presence to be fully glorified where He fully completes His work in us. But throughout life as followers of Christ, we should all be constantly growing, constantly being built up. Everyday we should be allowing the Lord to keep constructing us into the people He’s called us to be-not refusing and stalling out-standing there like this tower-v. 6-7a. So Pt3:Am I being built up in Christ or just stalling out? Search your heart and evaluate that. And if you’ve been stalled out lately or refusing to grow in the Lord, tell Him you want to get your construction hat on to let the work resume! To say, Lord keeping on working in my life so that I can be built up in you, rising up like a skyscraper, growing and walking in Christ. 500 years ago John Calvin commented on these verses-and he didn’t know about skyscrapers then-but listen to what he said about buildings-Anyone not securely founded on Christ has the building of their faith suspended in the air–what a visual, not resting on anything substantial, just floating along. How many people, maybe yourself, are trying to live that way-not established in the faith or grounded in God’s Word. Like a house not supported by a foundation, they are quick to fall to ruin. But the stability of those who rely upon Christ are immovable, and their course is not at all wavering. That’s exactly how the verse challenges us-v. 7. Your faith in the saving grace and work of Christ forms your foundation. It’s absolutely essential. Without that foundation, you have nothing. Nothing to lean on, nothing to trust, nothing to hope in but yourself and what you can manage. But when you’re grounded in the Word, when you’re identity is resting securely in who you are in Christ, when you know with confidence that you’re fully forgiven, saved by His grace, and given an eternal inheritance in Christ, when you rest on that foundation-than your life, while not free from troubles, is immovable during the troubles. Stop floating along, suspended in the air, instead lean completely on Christ, developing deep roots in Him, being built up in Him. I love what it says in Ps 1:1-3 NIV. There’s a person with deep roots, who’s growing upward in God and displaying His grace through their fruit. This is someone who’s walk matches their talk!
This morning we’ve talked about the reality of the Christian life, the day-to-day, practical outworking of it. It’s about a radical change on the inside, in your heart, that works its way outward into how you live. So walk in Him, live your life, go about your day, in Christ and that firm foundation you have in Him. And as we said earlier, maybe for most the day you do-until you see that one person who’s really hard to love-but that’s when you most need to walk in Christ, demonstrating His love in that challenging relationship. Maybe you walk in Him until it comes to money-and you’re all stressed out, trusting in your finances and refusing to be generous. Or maybe you’re walking in Christ until that old temptation or sin issue pops up again where 9 times out of 10 you fail and give in. But you don’t have to-those are the moments when you most need to walk in Christ, and it happens when you’re rooted and built up in Him. What does that look like for you? How can you be rooted and built-up in Christ this week? I’m sure all of us, myself included, after reading these verses say- Yes, I want that to be true of me-I want to change. What is it you need to do? What step is God calling you to take? Maybe it’s setting aside some time to dust off your Bible and read it? Maybe it’s have family devotions more regularly? Maybe it’s meeting up with another believer for support? Maybe it’s dealing with an ongoing relationship and finally forgiving someone? How is the Holy Spirit stirring your heart to walk in Christ so that this Christianity thing in your heart is actually displayed in how you live? I like what Blaise Pascal said-quote. Is that true of your life? None of us are perfect-far from it-but is your life the vivid portrait of an ordinary person walking with an extraordinary God?
Colossians 1 – New Identity, Deep Roots – Part 7