Month: November 2008

The Secret to the Christian Life

“As you therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”  Colossians 2:6-7

The secret to the Christian life is that there is no secret.  The Colossians, like many people today, thought that if they could just find the one missing piece to their spirituality everything would fall into place. The Colossians tried legalism, mysticism, and human philosophy all in an attempt to find the secret to being complete in Christ. They bounced from one idea to another always looking, always hungry, always thirsty, but never finding the sustenance that was right their before their eyes. Does that sound familiar?  It should because we fall prey to these same traps all of the time.  We believe that something is missing in our spiritual lives and that all we need is to find that one missing piece that will finally make it all right.

Real spiritual growth, however, can only take place when we realize that the secret to the Christian life is that there is no secret.  Paul admonishes us in these verse to walk in Christ in the same way that received Him in the first place.  In other words, the Christian life is simply a matter of continually turning from our sinful, selfish way of living and trusting in Jesus.  Now right away I can hear people saying, “wait a minute preacher, that’s too simple.”  My response is, “do you really want it to be any harder?”  This principle may be real simple, but it’s real true.  Until we learn that everything we need is in Jesus and has already been provided in salvation, we will never be able to grow.  Listen to what Paul says just two verses later, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Col 2:9-10)

What these verse teach us is that real spiritual growth does not come by trying to find what is missing but rather in becoming grounded and rooted in what has already been provided.  The cross of Jesus is an inexhaustible storehouse of spiritual blessing.  The more we come to understand, appreciate, and glory in the work of Christ upon the cross the deeper, richer and fuller our Christian experience becomes.  Troubles can assail us from every side but they cannot move the Christian who revels in the love of Christ displayed on the cross.  Satan can hurl fiery darts of temptation at us, accuse of us of every type of sin, condemn us, and remind us of every past failure but he can never defeat the Christian who basks in the knowledge that all of his sin was placed upon Jesus and completely paid for at the cross. Other people can mistreat us, misunderstand us, and even misrepresent us, but the grace of Jesus displayed on the cross still covers our life.

Brothers and Sisters the key to the Christian life is that there is no key, there is just Jesus and He is all we need.

Paul’s Theology of Suffering

This past Sunday I preached from Colossians 1:24-29 and mentioned Paul’s theology of suffering.  He says in v. 24, “I now rejoice in my suffering for you, and fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.”  There are two phrases that really stick out in this verse.  First, Paul says that he rejoices in his suffering for the Gentiles.  This is an amazing statement because it is so counter to human nature.  I don’t know about you but I don’t like to suffer.  If I feel the least bit of rejection or persecution I want to crawl up in a ball somewhere, but Paul is in prison and still says that he rejoices in suffering.  How can this be?  I think that the second phrase helps us to understand Paul’s attitude, “and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body.” Now obviously, we cannot take this to mean that Christ’s death on the cross was somehow lacking or ineffectual.  That would be heresy.  It would make the last words of Jesus, “It is finished,” a lie and end up making salvation man centered rather than God-centered.  So what is Paul saying?  Paul seems to have in mind here that his sufferings are a necessary part of the growth and development of the church.  In other words, the spread of the gospel requires suffering.  This then gives purpose to his suffering, it enables him to say, “I rejoice in my suffering for you,” because Paul knows that it has meaning and purpose.

In my own life I have encountered periods of suffering and hardship as a result of the gospel.  So have you if you’ve been a Christian for very long.  I find myself in need of being reminded that everything that happens in my life is part of God’s prupose and plan.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” This does not mean that life will be easy or that Christians will never have trouble.  But it does remind us that God has a purpose behind everything.  We can be assured that He is constantly working for our good and His glory.  We can rejoice in suffering because in the economy of God suffering has a purpose.

Reflecting on the Cross

This past Sunday I preached from Colossians 1:19-23 about being encouraged to continue in the faith by reflecting upon the cross.  As you will remember Paul is addressing a serious theological error in Colossians that threatens to draw believers away from Christ.  Noone is completley sure what this heresy was but it appears to have three basic elements.  First, it stressed performance as a the means of obtaining God’s grace, thus it stressed things like circumcision, the observance of varous feast days and other ascetic practices. (Col 2:11-17).  Second, it had an element of human philosophy attached to it. (2:8-10)  Finally, it emphasized an experiential side of Christianity that was reserved for only the elite. (2:18-19)  The problem according to Paul is that all of these things were drawing the Colossians away from their simple trust in Christ.  Therefore, he encourages them to stay faithful but leading them to reflect more deeply about the cross.

I belive that in so many ways we have the same troubles going on in the church in America today as they did in Colossae.  The story I told about my friend Mike who jumped from one spiritual subsitute after another looking for something to fill his life until he finally recognized that all he needed was in Christ.  Once he began to reflect on the work of Christ on the cross his whole persepctive on Chrsitianity changed.  He recognized that he could add nothing to what Jesus had already accomplished.  Rather than struggling to find what was missing, he began to rejoice in what he had been given.  What he discovered is that it is impossible to exhaust the unsearchabe and incomprehensible riches of the cross.

What I want to challenge our church to do is to start seriously thinking about the cross and the work that Jesus accomplished there.  To rejoice in what God has done on our behalf.  To begin to live out what C.J., Mahaney has called the “Cross Centered Life.”  I would love to hear your thoughts about this and what God is showing you about the cross.  I especially would like to hear from some of the men who have been coming to the Tuesday morning Bible study.  What is God saying to you?  What are you learning about the Cross centered life and how are you seeking to live it out?