"LIVING BY FAITH"
(A Series in Colossians)
Westgate Chapel 8/8/93 a.m. Colossians 2:6-7
PROPOSITION: The Christian life is started with a living faith in Christ and is to be lived out by being rooted, built up, strengthened in and thankful for that same personal dynamic of relationship in Him.
- FOR those of us here who have been Christians for the majority of our lives, it is very easy for us to forget that the very foundation of our life in Christ is FAITH in Him, in what He did for us......and NOT our works to save us.
- FOR those here this morning who are not yet followers of Christ, it is hard to believe that to be born again, there is nothing for you to actually DO to earn that privilege....except to put your faith in what Jesus has done for you on the cross and be born again.
- OUR proud human nature wants to achieve the significant things in our lives the old fashioned way....we want to earn it.
- WE resist the notion of getting something that we haven't earned....so we try to prove our worthiness to ourselves and to God by volunteering for causes, giving money to charitable organizations, trying to be a good moral person, or by putting a righteous veneer on the outside of our lives.
- LET me share a story with you from John Stott's book on the cross, that best describes what I am talking about this morning.
* The story is quoted from George Bernard Shaw's comedy about the Salvation Army entitled, Major Barbara.
Bill Walker, a rough customer of about 25, arrives at the Army's West Ham shelter one cold January morning drunk and infuriated because his girl-friend Mog has not only been converted but 'got another bloke'. Bill's rival is Todger Fairmile, a champion music hall wrestler in Canning Town, who has also been converted. Accusing Jenny Hill, a young Salvation Army lass, of having set his girlfriend against him, Bill first seizes her by the hair until she screams and then strikes her with his fist in the face, cutting her lip. The bystanders mock him for his cowardice. He attacks a girl, they say, but he would not have the courage to hit Todger Fairmile. Gradually, Bill's conscience and pride nag him, until he can no longer bear the insult. He determines to do something to redeem his reputation and expiate his guilt. He says in broad Cockney:
'Aw'm gowin to Kennintahn, to spit in Todger Fairmawl's eye. Aw beshed Jenny Ill's fice; an nar Aw'll git me aown fice beshed...Ee'll itt me ardern Aw itt er. Thatll mike us square...'
But Todger refuses to co-operate, so Bill returns shamefaced:
'Aw did wot Aw said Aw'd do. Aw spit in is eye. E looks ap at the skoy and sez, "Ow that Aw should be fahnd worthy to be spit upon for the gospel's sike!"...and Mog sez, "Glory Allelloolier!" .'
Jenny Hill says she is sorry and that he did not really hurt her, which makes him angrier still:
"Aw downt want to be forgive bi you or bi ennybody. Wot Aw did Aw'll py for. Aw trawd to gat me aown jawr browk to settisfaw you--'
Because that way has failed, however, he tries another ruse. He offers to pay a fine which one of his mates has just incurred, and produces a sovereign.
'Eahs the manney. Tike it; and lets ev no more o your forgivin an pryin an your Mijor jawrin me. Let wot Aw dan be dan an pide for; and let there be a end of it...This bloomin forgivin an neggin an jawrin...mikes a menn thet sore that iz lawf's a burdn to im. Aw wownt ev it, AW tell ye....Awve offered to py. Aw can do no more. Tike it or leave it. There it is', -- and he throws the sovereign down.
- THERE is the burden of guilt that we all carry for sin in our lives...and so many of us are determined, like Bill Walker, to pay for it ourselves.
- THE essence of being a Christian, however, is the recognition that no matter how hard you and I may try we cannot make ourselves acceptable to the God......so we renounce our efforts, repent of our sins, and accept the gift of salvation and eternal life won for us by Jesus on the cross.
- THIS is the simplicity of the cross....the Bible says it is a scandal to some and a stumbling block to others because of its simplicity.
- OUR proud hearts rebel against it.
- WE have a hard time acknowledging either the seriousness of our sin and guilt, or our complete indebtedness to the cross.
- SURELY, we say, there must be something we can do, or at least contribute, in order to make amends?
- IF not, we often give the impression that we would rather suffer our own punishment than the humiliation of seeing God through Christ bear it in our place.
- WE insist on paying for what we have done.
- WE cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing someone else to pay for us.
- AND only the Gospel demands such a self-humbling on our part, for only the Gospel teaches that God taking our place is the only way of salvation from the judgment on sin.
- ALL other religions have some form of self-salvation. They deal with the problem of guilt apart from the intervention of God.
- ANY attempt on our part to cover up for ourselves is as useless as the leaves that Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves with when God came looking for them in the garden of Eden.
- WE have to acknowledge our nakedness, see the divine substitute wearing our filthy rags instead of us, and allow Him to clothe us with His righteousness.
- THE only alternative to this kind of simple trusting faith is hell.
ii. just as you received him
- FROM the very first day of the history of the Church of Jesus...to August 8, 1993....the battle has raged against the simplicity of salvation by faith in Christ alone.
- IN Jerusalem the Judaizers tried to add Jewish rituals, like circumcision, to the formula in order to be saved.
- IN Corinth some tried to say that you had to be baptized in order to be saved.
- IN Rome they tried to add good works as a pre-requisite to being saved.
- IN Colosse, it was the worship of angels, intellectual pursuits, and a variety of rituals that were being added in order to be saved.
- SO, in Colossians 2:6 Paul takes them back to their beginning.
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him..."
- "JUST as you received Christ Jesus as Lord..."
- HOW did you receive?
- PAUL is taking the Colossians back to their first experience with Christ.
- HOW did they receive Him....back when Epaphras preached his first sermon in Colosse?
- WELL, since he was probably sent there by Paul, it is likely that he preached to them much like Paul preached to the citizens of Rome.
".....because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God 'will give to each person according to what he has done.' To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." (Romans 2:5-8)
"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:21-24)
"He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Romans 4:25-5:2)
- AND the people of Colosse heard that message and were pricked in their hearts that they needed forgiveness for their sins....and they wanted life eternal in the presence of God.
- AND the Word of God stirred faith in their hearts.
- AND they submitted to God's verdict concerning their lives.
- AND they put faith with action and repented of their sin and publicly confessed Jesus as Lord of their lives....and were born again.
- HOW did they receive Christ?
- THAT was how....they had faith stirred by the message of the Gospel, and they put their faith in Jesus.
- WHO is it that they put their faith in?
- IT is interesting that Paul uses three titles for Jesus in this verse:
* Christ...the one sent by the Father as a demonstration of God's great love for us. And he came, not begrudgingly, but because of His love for the Father and for us.
* Jesus...the human being who was tempted in all things just like we are, yet was without sin. Only man could pay for man's sins. So, He shared in our humanity. He was fully man, or He could not have been our substitute.
* Lord..the title used exclusively of God. He had to be God to properly satisfy the justice of God in His sacrifice. God, in Christ, dying for man....reconciling man to Himself. He took His own judgment for sin.
- THIS Jesus is the Son of God whom you and I receive by faith when we come in repentance to be born again.
- IT is at that point that our sins are forgiven, the past is wiped away, we are made new creatures in Christ, we are given the gift of eternal life....and we enter into an eternal, personal relationship with Jesus.
- IT is not a religion, a creed, a ritual, and church, a denomination.....it is a life-long, an eternity long relationship with a person....Jesus.
- AND it all started by faith.
iii. continue to live in him
- NOW, says Paul in Colossians 2:6-7, in the same way that you received Christ Jesus....
"......continue to live in Him..."
- HOW is that?
- BY faith.
- WHY is this so important?
- BECAUSE we must live by faith just like we started out by faith or we will burn out and lose out trying to stay saved by our human efforts.
- IT is blasphemy to think that we can add to what Jesus did on the cross to make us perfect in God's sight.
- BUT it is easy to start in faith and then fall back to what we know best...human effort.
- LISTEN to Paul chastise the Galatians for the same problem in Galatians 3:1-3.
"You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? ....I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?"
- NO! is the only proper answer. We started by faith....that is how we must continue.
- "CONTINUE to live".....means to go about your normal pattern of living....only do it in relationship with Christ.
- BUT there is also a sense of determination in the word, "continue."
- IT implies a steady progress, regardless of temptation or opposition.
- AND Paul tells the Colossians four ways to continue in Christ.....and this is the part where we cooperate with Him in the process....not to secure our salvation, but to continue, to grow steadily in Him and not become stagnant spiritually.
- VERSE 7,
1. ROOTED in Christ.
- THERE are some interesting verb tenses to these four instructions about how to continue in Christ.
- THIS first one, rooted, means something that took place in the past.....with affects that persist in the present.
- IT is an analogy from farming and has to do with an organic relationship between the root and the soil....where life and growth spring from that relationship and travel up the root system into the plant.
- IT took place in the past, when you received Christ as Lord.....and the benefit continues in the present.
- THE Bible is full of this kind of analogy from agriculture.
"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1:1-3)
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.....Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." (John 15)
"If the root is holy, so are the branches." (Romans 11:16)
- SO, you can continue in Christ by tending to the organic relationship between your root system and Him.
- THE majority of this growth goes on unseen...although sooner or later it shows up above the soil.
- IT is amazing to me how good plants take lots of tending, and weeds grow without encouragement.
- THE root/soil relationship is by faith....its quality is in large part determined by you.
- TEND the relationship, and the growth.
2. BUILT UP in Christ.
- THE next analogy the Paul uses is that of a building.
- BUT, interestingly, not concerning the foundation.
- THE Greek vocabulary here has to do with the on-going progress of construction.
- IT has to do with the steady growth of a structure.
- SOME of the process can be seen overnight, but the majority of it is slow but steady.....maybe even unnoticeable.... but happening.
- AND in this building, Jesus is the means whereby the structure is held together.
- IS this kind of growth going on in your life?
- TEND the relationship and the progress.
3. STRENGTHENED in the faith.
- THIS is a continuous strengthening going on.
- THIS is an on-going increase in the knowledge of the faith....which comes by the Word of God....and the on-going experience of its power.
- REMEMBER, Paul was concerned that the Corinthians faith was based on the power of God and not the wisdom of man.
- GIVE yourself to those things that strengthen your faith and the experience of His power.
4. OVERFLOWING with thanksgiving.
- AND, lastly, almost as a caution against some kind of self-congratulation that you might fall in to as a result of spiritual growth...Paul says that we are to be "overflowing with thankfulness."
- THANKFULNESS produces right attitude...in us...towards God and towards our fellow man.
- GIVE yourself to thanksgiving.
- THERE they are.
- FOUR principles to continuing to live in Christ.
1. Rooted in Him.
2. Built up in Him.
3. Strengthened in the faith.
4. Overflowing with thankfulness.
- YOU say, "Pastor, I thought that you started this sermon by saying that we were to continue as we started, by faith?"
- BUT now you are telling me that I have to tend my root system, to make sure that my building is progressing, to be strengthened in the faith, and to give myself to thanksgiving.
- IS it by faith that I continue, or do I have some work to do?
- THE answer is yes.
- IT is by faith that you and I are saved and stay saved.....and in relationship with Jesus.
- BUT, within the covenant of salvation, we have been given a responsibility for growth.
- THE quality of your relationship with Christ depends on whether you put yourself in the environment where His growing grace is poured out.