Continue To Live In Him
Key Verse 2:7
“rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
Paul had been struggling very hard for the Colossian Christians. (2:1) Paul’s concern for Colossae’s Christians had been serious. No sooner had the Gospel take root in people’s hearts and begin to spread throughout the known world, than enemies rose up to fight against it. Even Paul himself had once been an enemy of the Gospel. But why did the Gospel have so many enemies? Because as Paul tells us elsewhere, the Gospel is “The power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) The Gospel is certainly a power unlike any power this world as ever known. The world speaks of power in relation to outward manifestations of physical strength and conquests and the like. But real power lies elsewhere. When Jesus sent out his disciples in training to preach the Gospel in the towns and villages of Israel, he said to them: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:19) During his trial before Pilate, this discourage took place between Pilate the mighty Roman governor and Jesus the bound prisoner. “’Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’” (John 19:10-11) Before his ascension to his heavenly throne, Jesus made this promise to his disciples of all time: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) Indeed real power lies elsewhere, outside the human realms.
Truth is, there is no power on earth that can effect the smallest change in a person’s heart or life. It takes power, real power to do that! A man or woman may conquer the world, and his or her circumstances. But unless one can conquer their thoughts and feelings, and inner person, we cannot say that a human being has power— any power! No power on earth could change the sinful condition of men’s lives, nor their destiny. But God can! And he did. He sent his Son to this world to suffer and die in order to defeat sin, and to rise from the dead to defeat death and the one who holds the power to death. And this became the Almighty Gospel. And through faith in this Gospel, there became available a power for us that is able to effect a person’s inner life. The power to forgive. The power to change a heart enslaved by sin to a heart enslaved by righteousness. The power to change a man or woman’s destiny! Since the ascension of the Lord Jesus, the Gospel has been “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes”. Surely then the devil hates the Gospel, because the Gospel has the power to rob the devil of his own sinister power. Surely then the devil would do anything within his power to hinder the Gospel from reaching men and women’s hearts. The Colossian Christians were facing the danger of heresies that undermined and challenged the true Gospel they had received. And Paul, the good shepherd, wrote them to help them remain true to the Gospel they had received and held on to.
In the last lesson Paul prayed that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love. (2:2) He prayed for them this way because he wanted them not to be deceived by the dangerous false teachings that were circulating at the time— teachings that claimed that the Gospel is not enough. Paul encouraged them that in Christ they had everything. That if they had Christ, they lacked nothing else. But the danger of heresy was strong. What then could defeat heresies designed to lessen from the glory of Christ and of his Gospel? We see that Paul simply taught them again and again the Gospel. He was certain that a sincere Bible study that reminded them of Who Christ is and what Christ has done would be enough to help them remain spiritually strong and invulnerable to false teachings. And this is what the rest of this chapter is about.
Read verse 6. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him.” Paul reminds them of the faith by which they had become Christians. They had already received Christ at the teaching of one of Paul’s disciples Epaphras. When they heard the Gospel for the first time, they had not been skeptical, nor did they question the truth of the Gospel. Their faith had been so wonderfully simple. They had heard that God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. And when they had heard this, they had also realized that they were sinners, beyond the ability to save themselves from the power of sin working in their hearts and lives. They had also realized that God Almighty had loved them enough to include them his plan of salvation. They had believed that Christ had also died for them, to blot away their sins. They had also believed that if they repented of their sins and turned their hearts to God, that God would save them in Christ Jesus and bring them into his holy family. They had been so precious and simple in their faith. And at the time they heard the beautiful Gospel, they had believed it. And at that moment they had been touched by the Almighty power of the Gospel which penetrated their hearts and brought about an inner change in them. And they knew without a shred of doubt that it was Jesus and the power of the Gospel that had changed them from condemned sinners into the holy children of God. For that they were thankful. They had believed the Gospel they had heard. How precious are those who believe. Men are so stubborn losing the best gift God had given to them, the gift of salvation through the sacrifice of his son. But these Colossians were not stubborn. They were simple in their faith and they had received all that the Gospel promises those who put their faith in it.
But according to Paul, they had not only believed the Gospel. They had done something else as well. Look at verse 6 again. They had received Christ as Lord. This statement is remarkable. Paul skips the step that they had believed the Gospel, because it was obvious that they had believe the Gospel they had heard. And he reminds them of what else they had done. They had received Christ as Lord. They had done what God intends every human being to do, which is o receive Christ as Lord. Before they had received Christ as Lord, the Colossians were their own lords. Their lives had been their own lives. They had lived in their own way. They had done their own thing. They had no commitments other than the commitments they had in their daily lives and common to most people. But no sooner did they hear the Gospel and believe it, they had made Christ the Lord of their lives. They had surrendered their lives to Jesus. They had committed their lives and all to Christ. In that way they had received him as Lord. Today, Christians talk of Christ as if he were their friend and no more. And the concept of Lordship of Jesus is vague and almost non existent. But Christ is more than a friend. Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth. He is the Lord of life. he is the Lord of our lives, especially of the lives of all those who have been saved by his blood shed on the cross. So when a man or woman believe in Christ and what he has done, they must also believe that Christ owns their lives and future. The Colossian Christians had understood that believing the Gospel is good, but that they should take a further step to surrender their lives to Christ as Lord. Paul was very happy that these Colossian Christians had surrendered their lives to Christ, offering him the Lordship in their lives. They were great because they had willingly surrendered their lives and hearts to him to do with as he sees fit. Who is the man or woman who serve God in the will of God? It is the man or woman who have not withheld from Jesus Christ their lives, but have given them over so that Christ may do with them as he sees fit. There are many kinds of Christians in the world, but in truth only those who have submitted their hearts and lives to the Lordship of Christ are those whom God can actually work through to accomplish his great purpose.
Paul had been elated at the Colossian Christians faith. They had believed the Gospel. They had gone further in their faith to surrender their lives to the Lordship of Christ. So what advice would Paul give them? Look at verse 6 again. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him.” Paul urged them to continue to live in him. They had an obligation to surrender their hearts and lives to Christ. They had committed their lives to Christ. Now they needed to continue living in him. What does it mean to “continue to live in him.” It means that they should continue living in him. Jesus once taught us that Christians must remain in him, that he might remain in us. He taught us that we should remain in his word and that his word should remain in us. He taught us that the life of following Christ is a life long commitment. That the life in Christ is a life of dedication and devotion to his cause. Jesus taught us that when we give our lives to Jesus, we give them in fullness and not in part. And in fullness means that we live day after day in Christ Jesus and seek to serve him and to obey his will. It is not easy to continue living in him when this world calls us always to its ways, to follow its way. This world so powerfully draws men and women in its ways that they walk blindly in its destructive paths and its crooked ways. Even Christians sometimes become weak to the ways of the world. They hear the Gospel, believe it, and many also surrender their lives to Christ as Lord. But when the difficulties of life begin to haunt them, they compromise with the world a little at first, then they find that they had completely given up the Christian life in order to follow the ways of the world again. It is not easy to continue to live in Christ. that is the truth. But Paul urged the Colossian Christians to continue living in him. They must even when life becomes difficult and the Christian walk becomes hard to follow. We too must listen to these words and take them seriously. Continue living in him. It is a commitment. It is a commitment no one can keep if Jesus himself does not help us. So we must ask God to help us continue living in him.
When Paul encouraged the Colossian Christians to continue living in Christ Jesus, he did not leave them without wisdom how to do so. Read verse 7. “rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Paul gave the Colossian Christians perfect advice on how to continue living in him.
First, Rooted in him. As a root tenaciously takes hold and buries itself in the soil to anchor itself in it, so also a Christian must anchor himself, root himself or herself in Jesus and in his words. Paul says rooted in him. In other words we must take root in him, so deeply that nothing can remove us from him. Taking root in Jesus demands that we love him and love his words and his ways above all else. Paul used these words so that the Colossian Christians commit their lives to Jesus completely. We know that there are many drifters in Christian life. They like to go from place to place, and to sample many things, never really taking root in anything. They deceive themselves thinking that taking root in one place, or making a commitment is not good, that it is better if a man or woman remain free to go where they want and to do what they want, to remain open (as they say) to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But in truth it is only an excuse to maintain the freedom they cherish more than they do Christ. For taking root is essential in the process of Christian growth. Those who take root usually grow enormously in Christ. and those who do not take root, but remain drifters, they cannot grow beyond the basic faith they have. Paul was wise to teach them the importance of taking root. And specifically taking root in Christ. To take root in Christ is to commit to Christ absolutely. To have our roots so deep in Christ Jesus so as to give the devil no room to move us in the direction that he would have us go. Judas was a drifter who did not find it necessary to take root in Jesus. he looked like any other disciple, until the time when it was urgent to have roots came about. When he needed roots he did not have any. So the devil tricked him and he ended up where he really did not want to go. Let us take root, deep root in Jesus. It is what Jesus would want us to do.
Second, built up in him. Read verse 7 again. “rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” To continue living in him, the Colossian Christians should take root in him. But they also need to build up in him. After the roots have taken, the time comes for the plant to build up its stems and leaves so as to be able to bear the fruit of its life. What then does it mean to build up in him? Our Lord Jesus talked about the importance of building up in one’s Christian life and walk with him. He told the story of two kinds of builders. Those who build their houses on sand. And those who build their houses on rock. Those who build their houses on sand were able to build houses as well as any other builder. The house seemed nice and habitable. The house seemed solid enough to house the man or woman who built it. But there was a flaw not in the building itself but in the foundation upon which the house was built. Jesus warned that building on sand, that is, on shifting foundation is foolish. Because when the wind comes or when the tide comes, even the strongest of houses crumble and are destroyed. On the other hand the other builders built their house on rock. The houses seems to be the same as those built on the sand. But the difference was in the foundation. The foundation of rock is solid, and so when the tide or winds came, the house did not crumble nor all. It remained solid and strong. And so are those who build in Jesus. this world has many builders and many foundations to build on. But the test comes when trouble comes. Those who build on rock experience victory while those who build on sand experience defeat.
How do men build on sand? They build on sand when their build on a worldly foundation. When they build on something that is of this world. When they build on human philosophies and teachings that seem good to the world, but which are empty and hollow and have no spiritual content to them. And many seem to build on sand. In Paul’s time, there were those who did not believe the full Gospel. They believed in their own way. They did not listen carefully to the teaching of Jesus. They did not take spiritual life very seriously. They combined spiritual life with physical life and made excuses why they were doing so. When their foundation was so shaky, their houses were on the verge of disaster. But we are not talking about houses here as much as we are talking about a man’s destiny in life and after life. we cannot afford to build on sand. We must build on rock. Building on rock is building on Jesus’ words. Building on rock is to take Jesus at his word, to take it to heart, to embrace it, keep it, hold it, struggle to obey it, and fulfill it. That man or woman’s house would stand up against any storm. Paul urged them to continue living in him, in Christ. To do so they needed to take root in his word. And they needed to build on his words as well. Sunday Christians cannot hope to resist the storm when it comes. Because their foundation is very flimsy. But Christians ought to be every day Christians meaning that we ought to build every day, on the words of Christ. we should keep our hearts in the word of God. we should keep our hearts rooted in there. That person’s house will not crumble every time a false teaching comes their way. We are living in dangerous times. We have many false Gospel which people have already fallen to. They fall because in their laziness and ignorance they build on sand, rather than on rock.
When God called Abraham, he called him and gave him a promise, promises. The promises were almost unbelievable. The promises were far fetched. The world seemed more real to Abraham than the promises of God. his situation of childlessness and old age, seemed more real than the promises of God. But Abraham build on God’s word of promise,. He kept those promise in his heart. He built on them. He believed them. and he kept them. On the other hand, Lot his nephew did not take God’s promises seriously. He build on the world’s foundation. He loved the life of pleasure. He built his life based on his own sense of pleasure and want and greed. When the time of testing came, Lot fell and his house fell on his head. And Abraham’s house remained standing because it was built on God’s promises. Jesus wants us to build on God’s promises, on his words. Regardless of what the world promises, all the world and its pleasures are like sand. They crumble in time. We must build on Jesus and on his words. Paul urged them to continue living in him, continue building in him.
Third, being strengthened in the faith. Read verse 7 again. “rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Part of continuing living in him is also being strengthened in the faith. The bible teaches us that faith comes from hearing the word, and from studying the word. And faith comes from prayer and from witnessing the hand of God working powerfully in the world and in our lives. The apostle Paul taught us a great teaching when he advised the roman Christians of the time, “the righteous will live by faith.” IN other words we cannot continue living in Christ Jesus and in his word if we do not live by faith. Living by faith is the gateway to all things. God has given us the gift of faith that we might exercise our faith in all things. In all situations. In all circumstances. God has given us faith that we might put our faith in him and hold on to him tenaciously. So a huge part of continuing living in him is living by faith in him. This world is very discouraging, urging even Christians to live by the ways of the world, to submit to the worldly ways, to do as the world would have us do. But God urges us that the righteous, those who are in Christ Jesus, who have tasted the grace of God, should live by faith. So to live by faith we must deny our desires, our thoughts sometimes, sometimes our feelings, and live by faith in him. How precious is he who gave us faith that we may exercise our faith on a daily basis in living for him and for his glory. Paul really prayed that the Colossian Christians’ faith may be strengthened. He hoped that as they live by faith, their faith would grow through exercising it in all situations.
Look at verse 7 again. Paul says “As you were taught” In other words Paul was not making this up, he was only strengthening what was already taught to them. Jesus had passed his teachings to his disciples. And in turn his disciples had passed his teachings to the converts. For Jesus had given his disciples the commission to “And teaching them all that I had commanded you.” So Paul tells the Colossian Christians “As you were taught”: to continue living in him. They were taught by those who brought the Gospel to them. They were also being taught by the Holy Spirit who lives in their hearts and teaches them again and again all that the Lord Jesus had taught.
Fourth, Overflowing with thankfulness: to continue living in Christ the Christian must always be thankful and more than that, he or she must overflow with thankfulness. [the hardest thing in this world is to remain thankful in a world that assaults the soul every moment with unpleasant things] [the Christian life is not easy. It is full of hardship and temptation. But in spite of all things, there is a command that the New Testament continues to teach us, to be thankful. To give thanks to God in all things. To be grateful for what the Lord has done, and what he continues to do in our lives. In order for the Christian to continue living in him, in Christ, we must take root, we must build on his words, we must study and teach time and again, without tiring. But we must never ever lose our thankfulness to the God who has given all things so that we might have life.
In spite of his hardship Paul himself remained thankful to God. He suffered so much. But he remained thankful. He would not let a spirit of bitterness or anger ruin the sense of gratitude he felt for Jesus in his heart. What could take away this sense of thankfulness Paul felt towards Jesus? Nothing. Nothing in heaven or earth could shake Paul’s faith and his thankfulness which he felt towards his Lord and Master Jesus. So also the disciples, all of them. Once when Peter and John were beaten because of their preaching, they did not get angry. They did not become discouraged. They did not become bitter at what had been done to them. They were thankful. They were thankful for being counted worthy to suffer for the name. How wonderful is the soul that does not easily gets discouraged nor blame God or others for its hardship, but instead raise its face to heaven and say “thank you Lord for your love and grace in my life.” Paul wanted the Colossians not to fall to false teachings that were sop prevalent in his time. How could he help them remain strong in the faith, true to the Gospel? He counsels them to be thankful. And not just thankful but overflowing with thankfulness. Praise God for such a teacher as Paul who teaches us to be thankful. Surely thankfulness is part of living the Christian life. Today let us lift our hearts to heaven and give thanks overflowing thanks to the God who has given us life in his son Jesus. Amen.