Rooted Together in Christ (Colossians Sermon 5 of 21)
September 23, 2007 | Andrew Davis
Warning for the Church, The Purity and Unity of the Church, Fullness in Christ
Times of Trial Can Be Sweet Memories
Well, I'll, for myself, never forget the night of December 4th, 2002. That was the night of the great ice storm. Those of you who lived here at that time, you remember it too. Some of you were without power for as much as a week after that. It was a special time for me, sleeping in my office here at the church, I'd never done that before, and having my family around. And it really was a special memory. It's amazing how times of trial like that can actually end up being very sweet memories as life is shaken up a bit and you realize you don't really need all the things you think you need. And you really just need to be together in Christ. But that ice storm was really kind of a marvel to me. I was raised in New England and it used to just snow. You just got blizzards. But we live in a kind of intermediate region in the eastern part of the US. And so, north of us that day was snow and south was rain, and we were right on a band, and all we got was ice. And it was terrible too, because the ice coated each of the branches with a thick coat. And as the storm progressed, and the evening progressed, some of those trees started coming down. And I will never forget, in the middle of the night, hearing just cracks, terrible cracks, and crashes and bangs in my yard, and getting a flashlight and going out to inspect it. It was 2:00 in the morning. What was I thinking? It may be the closest I'll ever be to a war zone, as literally tons of tree-age, if that's a word, was just falling to the ground. Some of you will email me this week, and it isn't a word. But I know it's not a word. But tons of tree was falling down. Actually, while I was out there for about 10 minutes, one tree came within 15 feet of me, and that's when I knew I needed to get back inside.
I got my family up and we spent the night in the living room and on the first floor, so that if any trees came crashing down, we would be safe, relatively safe. And then the next day, with the sun coming up, I looked at the damage and it was awful. We lost ourself 40 trees. Some of those trees, later they were cut by chainsaw, we were able to count the rings were 30 or 40 years old. And they met their match that night in that ice storm. Most of them though, were loblolly pines. I'll never forget that because the branches on our trees, at least, were really way up high. There weren't any branches down lower. And all of the ice was up heavy, and it was just very top heavy, and they just came toppling over one after the other. And in doing so, they ripped up their roots, and you could just see the roots. And it was tough because there was a soaking rain for a few days before the ice storm. And the ground was soft, and the root system of those trees was proved to be inadequate.
And that brings us to our text today. Is your root system adequate for the tests and trials that are going to face you for the rest of your life? You'll not get a free pass to Heaven. You're not going to have an easy journey from this point forward until at last you see Christ face to face. You're going to face trials and difficulties. Jesus promised, “in this world you will have trouble.” My question to you individually is, is your root system adequate for what you're going to face? Or is it going to be proved to be... By being ripped up, is it going to be proved to be inadequate? And I'm not just thinking individually now, but I think Paul really is writing corporately to the church, to the Colossian Church, speaking about their society, their community together. Is their community root system adequate for the trials that they're going to face? And so that's something that we ask. Much of the Christian life is hidden. You can't see it. You go into your room and you close the door, and you pray to your Father, who's unseen, and Father sees what is done in secret. He rewards, he blesses. So much of our devotional life is private. We don't read the Bible out in public, not that we're embarrassed, but we feed ourselves in the morning in the quiet time. How is your root system? And then as I look at the church here, are we united? Are we together? Are we facing the challenges as a healthy church should? What is our root system corporately?
Now, you probably don't spend a lot of time thinking about roots. I mean, physical roots. Like those gnarly, kind of dirty little things that get ripped up. And for myself, after the loblolly pines went down, I didn't like seeing all of the roots up, they're just not attractive. But without the root system, the tree dies. Roots are just an astonishing creation by God. Literally, in some fully-developed elm trees, there might be as many as 14 million roots, and as many as 14 billion tiny little root hairs that in an amazing way suck water and nutrients in various... Just chemicals out of the soil, taking only as much as needed. And then, in a kind of a fireman bucket brigade, passing it up to a leaf, let's say, as far as a 100 feet off the ground. And so you see a picture of cooperation. I see the picture of the Body of Christ in the issue of the root system here. Colossians 2:1-7 speaks of that root system being Christ and Christ alone.
Struggling in Prayer
Paul’s Loving Struggle
Look at verses six and seven. It says, "So then, just as you receive Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him," verse seven, "Rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." As we come to this passage, we're looking at our roots in Christ. And Paul speaks of a struggle that he has, and he's struggling for them in verse one. He says, "I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally." So he has a personal struggle. And that struggle is to see the church growing up into full maturity in Christ. He wants to see them built up. Now what is the nature of Paul's struggle?
First of all, Paul is struggling, and the implication of that struggle is that there's an adversary to what he's trying to achieve, and friends, there is. Just as I said, so much of the Christian life is invisible. So also there is an invisible foe, Satan, with his kingdom that is organized against us and against what Paul is seeking to do. Paul is struggling for the church in Colossae. He's struggling in his ministry and he's struggling specifically against Satan. Now that struggle is pictured in many places. In Ephesians chapter 6 it says, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." You're not going to see them with your eyes but there's a struggle. I know we may think our struggle is against people but it really isn't. But rather against demonic forces in the heavenly realms.
Why the Struggle?
This struggle is pictured for us in the Book of Daniel. Daniel set his mind to praying about the future of Israel, seeking God's face in prayer, dedicating himself to that and praying. And God sent an angelic messenger to give him an answer but it took that angelic messenger 21 days to reach Daniel, 21 days. And it's amazing if you look at the description of this angelic messenger in Daniel 10:1-6, it says, "His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze and his voice like the sound of a multitude." This is a mighty angel. A warrior angel and he's come with a message from God to the praying man, Daniel. Daniel is so overwhelmed by the sight of this angelic messenger that he falls down on his face speechless on the ground, and yet, this mighty angel couldn't get past a satanic, perhaps even Satan himself, opposition so that it took 21 days.
The angel himself said this, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have now come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me 21 days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes came to help me because I was detained there by the prince of Persia." That is a struggle in the heavenly realms, that it took two mighty angels to get a message past this prince of Persia, whoever he was. May have been Satan himself or maybe just one of Satan's most powerful demons. Do you not see the power then that Satan has arrayed against the church and the great struggle the church would have in the spiritual realms were it not for the power of Almighty God? And do you not see why Martin Luther would say in A mighty Fortress Is Our God, "Did we in our own strength confide," that means put your trust in. "Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing. Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God's own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He. Lord Sabaoth, Lord Almighty is His name, from age to age the same. He must win the battle." But there is a battle, there is a struggle. And Paul says, "I want you to know how much I am struggling for you." So he's struggling.
The Weaponry of Paul’s Struggle
Now what are the weapons of his struggle? The weapons that we make are immense and powerful for destroying things. You think about thermonuclear devices, mega-tonnage of dynamite that just takes things that were orderly and together and just blows them apart. That's what we can do. But God's weapons are exactly the opposite. They take chaos, they take destruction and they put it back together into a beautiful unity. And that's even more powerful, even more awesome, isn't it? And what are the weapons that we have in our struggle? And Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10, "Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we're ready to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." So there's a struggle in the world of ideas and concepts and satanic doctrines, but the ultimate end of it is beauty and order and structure. And so Paul is struggling mightily and his weapons are the same as that of all the apostles. We have the weapon of prayer and the weapon of the Word of God. These are the weapons that Paul uses to the building of Christ's kingdom. And so he speaks about prayer. Paul's struggle for the Colossians is directly in prayer primarily. If you look at Colossians 4:12, it says there, "Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings." And there it says, "He is always wrestling in prayer for you." Do you see that? So here's this servant of God, Epaphras, and he is wrestling in prayer. He's struggling for the church in Colossae that they would be fully established. So Paul is struggling and wrestling in prayer. The word he uses in Colossians 2 is 'agon' from which we get agony, there's a struggle in prayer.
Now, why is prayer a struggle? Well, it's a struggle because Satan opposes it so violently. It was in prayer that Daniel was that Satan sought to oppose not just the answer but the praying itself. Do you find your prayer life to be a struggle? Is it hard for you to pray? It is for me. It's hard for me to continue in prayer. Satan opposes the action of prayer, he fights it with temptations. He fights it with boredom, with lack of compassion. He fights it with all kinds of thoughts. Anything to get the man or woman of God off their knees. Whatever it takes, he's going to fight, and so Paul says, "I'm struggling for you in prayer." He also struggles with the ministry of the Word. We already saw in Colossians 1, "We proclaim him," it says, "Admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom." The proclamation of the word. He says, "To present the word of God to you in its fullness." And so these two go together, the ministry of prayer and the ministry of the word of God, they go together. But Paul says that it's labor, it's a sense of struggle. At the end of Colossians 1, go back to Colossians 1 in verse 28 and 29, it says, "We proclaim Him, Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end, I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me." And so we have the ministry of the Apostle Paul in prayer and also in the Word of God. Now, what is his end goal? What is He seeking for in the Colossian church? Well, look at Colossians 1:9-12, we already preached on this in the first message I preached in Colossians but this describes it better than any other passage. He says, "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this, in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way. Bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light."
Describing a Healthy Church’s Root System
The root system there that he's praying for, if you can put it all together, is he's praying for Christ-likeness in them, Christ-like maturity resulting in a life of persistent fruitfulness. And thirdly, perseverance, no matter what Satan throws at him. Those three things: Christ-likeness, fruitfulness, and perseverance over a long period of time, that's the root system he wants to see develop in them. And to that end, he labors, he labors in prayer, he labors also in the ministry of the Word of God. Now, what is the nature of a healthy church? A healthy root system? What does he say in Colossians 2 from this point on? Well, he wants to see the church established. He cares about that church, even though he's never seen it. He doesn't know them personally, yet he wants to see that church fully-established. And he begins with the issue of encouragement in heart.
Encouragement in Heart
Look at verse 2, he says, "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart." One of Satan's number one weapons against the advance of the Gospel is the weapon of discouragement, the weapon of discouragement. He wants to get us down. He wants to get us depressed, listless, lifeless, can't get up out of bed almost spiritually, sometimes, maybe even physically, just down. And so he begins with this issue of discouragement. He says, "My purpose, that they may be encouraged in heart." The Greek word here is parakletos, from which we get, in John, Paraclete, the comforter. And so he says I want to see the ministry of the comforter coming in the life of these Christians, that the Holy Spirit might be alongside them, encouraging them along the way, that they not get down. Satan, I think it's got to be his number one strategy to keep us from taking the field against him. He knows the power of our offensive weaponry.
We already quoted in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, weapons of righteousness in the right hand and the left, he can't defeat it. The “Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes,” he can't stop that. Offensive weaponry for the building of the church, he cannot oppose it. "The Word of God cannot be broken!" Jesus said in John 10, he can't fight it. What about our defensive weaponry? Well, Ephesians 6 talks about the mighty armor of God, “the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” The “breastplate of righteousness,” “the helmet of salvation,” all of that is effective for protecting the Christian warrior. Alright, well, what's he going to do then? He can't penetrate our defensive armor, he can't oppose the strength of the Word of God. All he can do is to keep the Christian soldier from taking the battlefield at all. So you don't put on your armor, you don't take up the weapons, and you don't take the field against him. And the way he does that is through discouragement.
He lies to you, he just flat out lies. It's never going to work, it's ineffective. Nothing's ever going to come of any of it. Word of God doesn't really have power, people's lives really aren't being changed. Christ really isn't building his church, Gates of Hades actually are winning. He lies, so that we will not continue in our fruitful ministries. And so he gives this issue of discouragement, and I'll tell you every servant of God, no matter how powerful in the Word, no matter how effective in ministry, every single one of them has faced issues of depression and discouragement in ministry. All of them have. The apostle Paul faced it, even his letters Epistle of Joy in Philippians, he talks about how “God had spared Epaphroditus from death, and spared not only him but also me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.” Even in the Epistle of Joy, he's talking about “sparing me sorrow upon sorrow.” And he says in 2 Corinthians 4:8, "We're hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair." You see, he's tempted with it, he's struggling with it, but he overcomes it, it's a constant battle. “You know that everybody in the province of Asia has deserted me.” He says, 2 Timothy 1. Looks at his ministry, and there seems to be nothing left. Apostle Paul, battled discouragement.
Martin Luther, one of the great soldiers of the Gospel. 1529, he was so discouraged with his preaching ministry in Wittenberg, that he told them he wasn't preaching ever again. Now, he was a professor at the university, and he said, "I'm going to go on with that work, but I'm not preaching to you people anymore." Now, Luther was a bold man, I wouldn't say these things to any congregation, but I like reading them, but just because I think he's an interesting man. But this is what he preached to his own congregation. Actually, he wasn't the pastor there, but frequently, a pastor would urge him to preach, and this is what he said, "The time will come... " Now this is Luther, this ain't me now. I'm quoting, you understand that, please nod. This is what he said, "The time will come when you who now have an abundance of preaching will long for a single sermon, but your impudence is so great that you have no appreciation for preaching. I'm unwilling to preach to you anymore. I would rather preach to raving dogs, because there's no use doing it with you and it's offensive to me. So I shall leave preaching to the pastor and his assistants, and I'll stick to my lecturing." Okay, I'm out of Luther now. But why did he say this? Well, he was discouraged. He was just discouraged. He thought that Wittenberg would be like a city on a hill. He thought it would be a bright, shining evidence of what happens when you preach the true gospel. Instead, they hadn't changed much. They were unregenerate in the days of the Roman Catholic era, and they were unregenerate in the Protestant era as well. And so these same people, not of all them, many were saved, but he's talking about the city, the town, all of those people. He was just discouraged. He lists things like ingratitude, lack of self-discipline, firing of guns under his window. Hardheadedness, shameless dress, adultery, profiteering, and thievery. And the ones who didn't do these things just laughed at the ones who did. And above all, he said, was their drunkenness, which he called, 'The great vice of us Germans'. He was discouraged, discouraged. Then there's Adoniram Judson, he was an 18th century missionary to Burma, used by God, to ultimately, lead tens of thousands of Burmese to faith in Christ. Not directly, but he led many and then it just grew and grew. Amazing work of God. But after his wife died of a tropical fever, very shockingly, he didn't expect it, but out of nowhere, she took sick and died while he was away, in the space of about a week. Came back for her funeral, and he said of his beloved wife, Annie, he said, "Over there lies, enclosed in a coffin, in the form of her I so much loved the wife of my youth, the source and center of my domestic happiness." Judson at that point, entered into a period of deep depression. He built a little hut out in a jungle. He dug his own grave and sat there and stared at it for hours and hours on end, just staring into a pit. He wrote, "God is to me the great unknown, I believe in Him, but I find Him not." Gave all his money away to the mission and just sat and waited to die. Over time God ministered to him, recovered him, and his ministry really prospered in an amazing way after that. But he was facing the pit of discouragement.
Charles Spurgeon, who really is one of the most joyful, energetic ministers of the word of God ever, he said he battled depression and discouragement his whole Christian ministry. And in teaching and lectures to his students, he talked about the minister's fainting fits, and this is what he said, "As it is recorded that David in the heat of battle waxed faint, so may it be written of all the servants of the Lord, fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful, as we may be, we must, at intervals, be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise are not always ready, the brave are not always courageous, and the joyous are not always happy."
And so it is, do you face that ever? Are you ever discouraged in your Christian life? Do you ever face, you look at your ministry and think it should be further along than it is? You look at your Christian life and you wonder why you still battle the same sins you battled 10 years ago? You don't see the progress in your knowledge of the Word of God or in prayer that you should. It's so easy to get discouraged. And so Paul says, "I pray that they might be encouraged in heart." Secondly, he mentions, united in love. United in love. Not only does the church have to be encouraged in heart, and by the way, you may ask, "How can I be encouraged in heart?" To me, the remedy is clear, go to the Word of God and draw in the promises of God again. Strengthen your faith by the promises of God. Remind yourself that God cannot lie, that He will minister to you. Ask Him to lead you to a Psalm or to some place, where He'll minister to your depression and discouragement. And He will show you by His word everything you need to see. It is the Word of God that rescues us and draws us back, I'll say more about that later.
But the ministry of encouragement is something that every Christian leader must do. By the way, if you have the gift of encouragement, use it, use it. You may not be called to be a pastor, you may not be a teacher or a leader or a gift of administration, but if you have that gift of encouragement, the church needs you to do it.
Unity in Love
So just pour it on because Satan is pouring on the discouragement. Second issue, as I mentioned, is unity in love. Look at verse two, "That they may be united in love." The Greek word literally means knit together, that their hearts might be knit together. Satan's always working against the unity of the church. Paul wants them to be bound together as one person, contending together for the Gospel. As he says in Philippians, he wants them to be united. Now, this issue of unity is a constant issue in Paul's ministry, but I think it's really sublime in Jesus' High Priestly Prayer. In Jesus' High Priestly Prayer, He prays in John 17, "I've given them the glory that you gave me that they may be one, as we are one. I in them and you in me, may they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me."
Now, just stop right there for a moment, think about it. As the church makes progress toward unity, the world, observing, sees and knows that the Father sent the Son. That's incredible. It's very much like Jesus said in John 13, he said, "A new command I give you, love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, will all men know, that you are my disciples if you love one another." Francis Schaeffer, commenting on both passages said this, in John 13, the point was that if an individual Christian doesn't show love toward other true Christians, the world has a right to judge that that person is not a Christian. In John 17, Jesus is stating something which is more cutting, more profound. We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus's claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians. In other words, the world has a right to judge that we're not Christians, if we're not loving, and the world, it seems has a right to judge that Jesus isn't the Son of God, if we're not brought to complete unity. That's astonishing.
And this is all the more true when there is surprising unity, when you see groups that ordinarily wouldn't get together, worshipping together. I had the privilege of ministering with some missionaries in Eastern Europe, and we talked about Serbs and Croats who had each come to faith in Christ and were worshipping in the same place, and how their communities were just astonished to see that kind of unity. Imagine if a Palestinian and a Jewish person, each of them came to faith in Christ and groups of them are worshipping together in Palestine. What a display of supernatural unity. There are so many divisions in the world. What if in the American setting you have Blacks and Whites, and also internationals, Hispanics, all kinds of people, worshipping in one place as a display of surprising unity, the world can see the power of the Gospel. I yearn to see that in this place, that we might be united in love, you ought to pray for it. We have the beginnings of it, but we could see more and more of it, couldn't we? More and more of it. So I'm praying for that, that we'll have an effective outreach to the community right around the church. And that we would see more and more internationals coming to faith in Christ. So there'll be a clear display of surprising unity to let the world know that the Father sent the Son. United in love.
Thirdly, “that they might have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they might know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Complete understanding. Hidden treasure. Like any little kid, their eyes start to glow, "Read me a story about hidden treasure, like pirate treasure." Or like one of those Spanish galleons that went down, and in the 21st century, some treasure hunters go and they're able to get the gold that blooms up out of the sunken ship, hidden treasure. Or you hear the stories about the Declaration of Independence being found in some attic, or some painting by El Greco, suddenly showing up in your attic. You have a painting by El Greco up in your attic. You might want to bring it out and cash it in, and use the money for the advance of the kingdom.
Do it now while there is time. But this hidden treasure, Paul here says that the treasure is doctrine, friends. The treasure is truth about Christ, and you're going to find it hidden in Christ. The false teachers, the Colossian false teachers were saying, "You need some hidden doctrines, some hidden truths". You could be an initiate, an insider, you could get the secret trade words, the secret passwords. And if you had that secret knowledge, you could ascend, kind of in a spiral way up through the heavens and become more and more freed from the body, and up into the spiritual realms. If you had their secret passwords of knowledge. The whole thing's false. We'll talk more about that in weeks to come. But instead you want hidden treasure, it's found in Christ, and in Christ alone. And it comes through complete understanding the issue of doctrine of doctrinal truth. And he says that also, that there might be protection from false doctrine. Look what he says, verse four, "I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments." Paul must fight the battle against deception.
Protection from False Doctrine
It is important for me, as a pastor, not only to teach positively, the positive truths about Christ, but to expose and uncover, negatively, errors that are current in the day. I can't just say the truth, the positive things. I must also say, what is Satan doing to pervert the truth right now? And that's tough because sometimes those ideas take root in people's minds and you have to root them out and it's not easy. But the issue is that none of us would be deceived by fine-sounding arguments. Satan, it says, masquerades as an angel of light. He's not going to come with stupid-sounding arguments, things that are immediately rejectable right out of hand, you just see it, no, it’s not true. Instead, he entices you with half-truths, with partial insights, with clever sayings, and the people are drawn in at that point into a pattern of false doctrine. So he says, "I want you to be fully rooted, to have complete understanding of right doctrine in Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." "I want you to be rooted in Christ so that you cannot be deceived by fine-sounding arguments. You'll recognize them right away. You'll be able to uncover the truth." Kind of like somebody who finishes with a very rich, full meal. A healthy meal. With all the food groups covered, lots of vegetables, green leafy vegetables, all kinds of things. You're just full and it's good and whatever. And then somebody brings in a double quarter pounder with cheese, at that moment. Double quarter pounder with cheese. Never mind, I'm not going to get into it, but you look at it carefully and you don't want to eat it, alright. But you're full, you're satisfied, you're full of the truth, you don't need falsehood. You don't need the deception. It's repulsive to you, really. So it is also protection from false doctrine.
Orderliness in Faith
And then he mentions their orderliness in the faith. Verse five, "For although I am absent from you in body, I'm present with you in spirit, and delight to see how orderly you are, and how firm your faith in Christ is." So Paul is speaking there of his concern for their order and the stability of their faith in Christ. And he actually is positive, he compliments, he's delighted to see how orderly they are, he's happy with their stability. He's not slamming them here, he's actually encouraging them. He's delighted to hear about their orderliness and their stability. Now, the issue of orderliness and stability, they are military terms that he uses. You could picture, back in Paul's day, row upon row of Roman legions, each of them in perfect order. The orderliness was just a hallmark of the Roman legions. And every one of them under their battle standard, and they all were in the right place, and when they took to field, they meant to intimidate, just by the structure and the organization of their armies. Their soldiers weren't physically stronger than others, but there was just a structure and an orderliness to their military system. Paul borrows that word and says, "So also in the kingdom of Christ there must be order." There must be structure, it's not just random or chaos, or do whatever you feel like doing. Like in the book of Judges, in those days, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” That can't be it. There must be orderliness.
You know, Paul talking in Corinthians about the proper use of the gift of tongues and prophecy. It seemed that there was mayhem in the Corinthian church. Paul alludes to if somebody came in, they saw all this going on, they'd think you're out of your minds. There's got to be some order here. And so he says in 1 Corinthians 14:40, "Everything should be done decently and in good order." And he tells them what that order should be. God is a very orderly being, if you could see down into the molecular, even the atomic level, you would see rows upon rows of atoms in perfect array, like in a lattice structure. That's the way He is, He is orderly. And if you were to go in Heaven, you would see circles around the throne and each being would know where they need to be. Thousands upon thousands attended to Him, and 10,000 times 10,000 stood before him, each one knew where they were supposed to be, and what they were supposed to do.
Some time ago, I was invited to be involved in a wedding. I wasn't performing the wedding but I was invited by the couple to read scripture. And I was delighted to take part, and I remember sitting, I was sitting in the front pew maybe over here, waiting for my time to come up and read scripture, and I saw, just... It's almost like a beautiful choreographed play, a wedding is. It's so pretty, the order and the beauty of the flowers, everything done. And you rehearse it the night before, and the groom comes in with the groomsmen and they all wearing tuxedos, and with a certain color scheme that the men definitely didn't pick, they never do. But the colors match the bridesmaids' dresses, and they come down and everybody stands on a little piece of tape, which is marked there, and they know where to stand. And then the bride comes in and everything... And at just the right time, at the proper time, I came up more or less around here and read the scripture, that had been assigned to me. I read it and then I sat back down. And I thought, if I came up 10 minutes before that, just to bless the couple say, "Hang on, wait, everybody. I just want to say somethings, just down my heart, right now. I just want to share just the love I'm feeling right now for the couple." That would be disorderly, and it would not be beautiful. You see. I would never have done it. There's an order and a beauty to the church. And so if we have an ambition for something God doesn't have for us, we're out of order, even if our motives seem to be good to us. I think about the visit that the queen of Sheba made to visit Solomon. She had heard a reputation of his wisdom, but she wanted to see it with her own eyes. So she made a long trip, like from the ends of the earth almost, to come with a big retinue, a bunch of servants and men with her. And she took a bunch of spices and gold and all kinds of stuff, and came to see Solomon. And this is her assessment. It says in 1 Kings 10, "When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon, and the palace that he had built, and the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cup-bearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord." It literally says, "There was no more breath in her." She was like, *gasp*. She couldn't couldn't catch her breath.
She said to the king, "The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true, but I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me, in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard." Now what was it that blew her away? It was the beauty and the order to his kingdom. Everybody knew where to stand, everybody knew what to do, everything was figured out. Can it be that Christ's kingdom is more disorderly than Solomon's? It cannot be. We are heading to a place of perfect order and perfect beauty. And our breath will be taken away when we see it. It's going to be awesome.
Conversely, though, in James 3:16, it says, "Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." When people get it in their minds to take things that are not given them by God, there comes disorder, in a local church. But, verse 17, the wisdom that comes from Heaven is, first of all, pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers just sowing peace raise a harvest of righteousness. You want a healthy church with a healthy root system that's going to produce a big harvest? Then there must be order and there must be glad acceptance of roles, and there must be a delight in them, and know that all of it comes from the hand of God. And that's a beautiful thing.
Daily Walk Under Christ’s Lordship
And finally, he mentions a daily walk under Christ's Lordship. So while we've been looking corporately, talking about encouragement, and unity in love, and stability in good, solid doctrine, being warned against false teachings. And we're looking here at the orderliness and the stability of faith. I think, in the end, he's looking at individual Christians. And he knows, that the local church will only be as healthy as the individual Christians and their own private walks with Christ. This church, First Baptist Church, will only be as healthy as my walk and your walk with Jesus as Lord. It just comes down to that. So we want a healthy root system corporately. We have to individually have a healthy root system. And here he tells us how to do it. So then “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you're taught and overflowing with thankfulness.” Paul exhorts the Colossians here to walk or continue on in the Christian life in the same way they began it. He says in Galatians 3:3, "Having begun by the Spirit are you now completed by the flesh?" You have to be completed in the same way you began. And how do you begin the Christian life? You hear the gospel. You hear that Jesus died on the cross. He, the Son of God, shed his blood for your sins, and for the sins of the world. You believe in that, you believe that God raised him from the dead.
And he is now seated at the right hand of God and is reigning. He is King. He is Lord. And just as you received all of that, you received Christ Jesus as Lord, you trusted in him so you must continue. Now, it may be that you have never bowed the knee to King Jesus before this very moment. It may be that God, in His sovereignty, brought you just for this moment of the sermon, that you might hear that simply by looking to Christ, looking to Jesus dead on the cross, you might have all of your sins forgiven. It may be just for that reason God brought you here today. For the first time yielding to the lordship of Christ, that he, your Savior, must be your Lord. The two go together. And that you bow the knee at last to King Jesus through repentance of sin and through faith in Jesus, all of your sins may be forgiven. It may be that as you're listening to me right now, faith is coming up in your heart. God is creating a light inside your heart that wasn't there before. Oh, trust in Him. Call on the name of the Lord for the salvation of your soul.
That's the beginning of the Christian life. But let me tell you something, according to this text, that's also how you make progress a year later. And 20 years later. And 40 years later. You want to make progress over the next year? Then receive Christ Jesus as Lord and walk in him. It's not new. It's the very, very same thing. There's a continuity here. So you want to make progress in your Christian life then you go bow the knee to King Jesus again. You come back to the cross. Come back to the blood shed there. Come back to the empty tomb and the power there, and you find in Jesus everything you need to make progress. As you receive Christ Jesus as Lord, now continue to walk in him. "Rooted in Christ." He says. "I am the vine and you are the branches. For man remains in me and I in him, he'll bear much fruit." You want to bear much fruit? Be rooted in Christ. What that means is a total Christ focus in your life. Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing. Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing. I don't ever want to be apart from Jesus. I don't need to be apart from Jesus. I'm engrafted in Jesus. "Jesus help me. Help me on my drive home, Lord. Help me at work. Help me to speak gently to my spouse and lovingly to her, or to him. Help me to raise my kids. Help me to be submissive to my parents. Help me, Lord Jesus, with my tests. I've got a test coming up. Lord Jesus, I know I know the material, but apart from you, I can't do anything. Help me." There's a Christ focus in the Christian life. You're rooted in him, you're not separated from Him. Going and doing your own thing and then bringing, "Look, Jesus, what I did apart from you." We already told you what you can do apart from him. Nothing. So, you're bringing him nothing. Don't do anything apart from Jesus. Do it all in Jesus. Walk in him. Rooted in Christ. Built up in him. It's more of an architectural image there, that you could be like a high fortified wall that no enemy can breach, you could be like a magnificent house, like a mansion where many can live, you could be like a beautiful cathedral where the Spirit of God dwells, built up in Christ step by step, strengthening the faith as you were taught.
The faith is doctrine, friends. It's belief. It's particles of truth that are connected together in larger elements of doctrines. They're just put together, it's truth, rooted in Christ and built up in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Oh, wouldn't you love to have that said of you? Bottom line, he, she, thankful person. When you're around them, you just have the sense of gratitude flowing from them. Wouldn't you like to be a river of thankfulness? Just a river of who God is, thankful for who God is, of who Christ is, what he's done for you on the cross, of the power of the Holy Spirit of God. Thankful for your future, your bright, glorious future in the New Heavens and New Earth, overflowing with thankfulness.
How is Your Root System?
Now, what application can we take from this passage? Well, let's start with prayer. Do you expect a struggle in prayer? Do you expect it? Do you expect that it's going to be a challenge in your prayer life? Or are you surprised? You get to a point in prayer and you say, "Boy, this is hard. I think I'll stop." You need to expect a struggle and be willing to overcome it. Be willing to fight and to overcome in prayer. What about discouragement? Did I hit a nerve a bit earlier? Are you feeling discouraged in the Christian life? Are you feeling depressed or down? Then go back to the promises of God. Go back and battle. Don't just be a victim. Don't be a doormat before Satan, and let him steamroll you. Stand up on the promises of God. Tell Satan, "Away from me, for it is written... " Like Jesus did in the desert, and then say the promises of God. Battle it. Don't just give into it. Stand up. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “One of the best things a Christian can ever do is preach to himself.” Preach to yourself then. You get to decide how long the sermon is too, you get to start and finish. It's up to you. I would urge you to preach throughout the day. Preach to yourself.
And if you're in the Word, saturating your mind in the word of God, you'll have more and more themes to preach to yourself. Tell yourself the truth. Don't just give in to discouragement. Realize that because the sovereign power of God is guaranteeing the resurrection of the body, your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Now, you may not see a connection between the two but I'm telling you, the resurrection of the body for all of God's children is the finish line of this whole enterprise, and nothing can stop it. So that means, everything we do, whether a word of encouragement, prayer, a sermon preach, a Bible lesson offered, anything we do toward that, is not in vain friends. So your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Don't be discouraged. And what about unity in love? Do you yearn to see an open, surprising visible display of unity in this church? Pray for it then. Labor for it. Seek it. And if you don't want it, then go to the cross and remind yourself that around that same cross are people “from every tribe and language, and people and nation,” trusting in the same Jesus, for the same salvation as you, and be healed.
And then yearn for it, and pray for it, see that kind of unity. And interpersonally, if you know a brother or a sister has something against you, go and work it out. If you know that they have something against you, go and work it out. Be an instrument of unity in love. What about Doctrine? Don't despise Doctrine. Don't say, "Why do we have to have Doctrine?" It is by Doctrine that you are built up in the faith as you're taught. It is by Doctrine that you grow, then feed yourself on it. Read good Christian books, saturate your mind in the Word of God. Take advantage of the teaching ministry of this church. Take advantage of Wednesday night. Acts, you've heard about that. Sunday morning preaching. Bible for life classes. Take advantage of these things.
Orderliness in the faith, accept the roles that God's given you and make the most of them. If God has laid it on your heart to grow, then grow. And let God give you the roles and don't murmur or complain or wish you had a different role, but make the most. Let's be orderly in our faith. And finally, as you receive Christ Jesus as Lord, by that same way, grow in Him. Every moment of the day, in your mind, kneel to King Jesus. Take His yoke upon you and learn from Him, “for his yoke is easy and his burden is light.” Close with me in prayer, please.