The Full Knowledge of Christ

July 9, 2023 ()

Bible Text: Colossians 2:1-7 |


The Full Knowledge of Christ | Colossians 2:1-7
Brad O’Dell | July 9, 2023

Go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Colossians 2. We’re going through the book of Colossians over the course of this summer and we’re a handful of weeks into it. As you turn there to the passage I want you to have this image in mind.

Katie and I got to spend about a week in England last week, one of our favorite places in the world, and it’s where we did our honeymoon, and we’re coming up on four years of marriage, so we celebrated there. But also because we have a baby coming in the fall. I heard it on good word from you all that it’s the last opportunity we’ll have to do anything fun for the rest of our lives, so we took that opportunity and we went to England.

If you’re in England and Scotland, one interesting thing that exists is that in all of the pastureland and all the cropland that’s out there, these are open for the public to just walk through at will. They don’t build their roads wide enough, even for the cars, hardly, so they definitely didn’t build them wide enough for people to walk on. So people will traditionally just walk through people’s fields to get to different areas, especially as they’re hiking or backpacking across the country. So you’ll see these paths that are just trodden down through people’s fields, and you’re walking right there with the sheep and the deer and the cattle, and in the middle of these fields you’ll have these signposts that are directions. There are indications: “If you want to go this direction, you need to head down this vague path; and if you want to head this direction you need to take this vague path.”

As you’re going through those fields you have to be looking for those directions about where you’re going, but also you have to look out for warning signs. All the times you go into the field you have to crawl over the fence through these stiles that they put, and you have to pay attention to see if they put a warning sign on the field. One of the big warning signs is “Bull in the field.” If you see that, that’s a field you don’t walk through. You swing around that and you go to a different field, because when there’s a bull in the field all those docile cattle that will kind of look at you oddly as they munch their grass, there’s one that’s no longer docile, and he will take note of you and he will run you right out of that field if he can.

There are directions and there are warnings as people are on their way to where they’re going to be.

It reminded me of that as I read this text today and as I sorted through an outline of how I would want to present it or how the text seemed to be presenting it. Here we see Paul in this section kind of giving the Colossian believers a destination, a goal, for the Christian life. As he does so, he gives some specific instructions about what it looks like to pursue that destination or go towards it, but also he lays out some warnings as he does so. So we’re going to see all of that in the text today. Let’s read Colossians 2:1-7, and we’ll kick into it. He says,

“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

In this text I think we see the goal that Paul is calling them towards, the warning, and also the instruction.

1. The Goal
2. The Warning
3. The Instruction

That’s going to be our outline as we walk through the text this morning.

1. The Goal

The first thing we see is a goal Paul calls them to in their Christian life. This is laid out in a few different clauses. But before we get to that, we hear Paul talking about this struggle that he has. He says, “I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you,” but not only for you, but “for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face.” He’s talking about all the believers in that region where he hasn’t gotten to visit. He says, “I have this struggle for you.”

We have to remember that the chapter divisions and the verse divisions were not original to the letter that Paul wrote, so we always need to be looking up at what came before and looking to where Paul’s going to see how this fits in. If we remember last week’s text, Paul ended that text by talking about a struggle he had. We see that in verse 29. He says, “For this I toil, struggling with all of his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

What is he toiling for? We see it there in the previous verse. He says, “That we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Paul is telling these Colossian believers, “Listen, I have a daily struggle on your behalf, that I might present you mature in Christ. I don’t just want to reveal Christ to you, but I want to actually see you grow into the fullness of who you are in Christ and grow into maturity.” So he has this struggle. He struggles in his prayers on their behalf, day after day. He struggles in his writings to them. He struggles in all his travels. He struggles in the persecutions that he encounters for the sake of preaching the gospel to them. “I have a struggle, and it’s so that you might reach the fullness of your maturity in Christ.”

Then he says, “Here’s what I’m struggling toward,” and he says it right there in verse 2. He says, “That your hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love.”

Now, there is a lot of argumentation in the commentaries about how these clauses should go together. The second clause is actually a modifier on the first clause, but it’s a question about how it modifies it. I’m going to present it as, essentially, these are two complementary ideas that are dependent on one another, but they are separate enough where we can view them in and of their own right. If you want me to defend that, I can do that afterwards. But let’s look at two different things here.

(1) First of all, he prays that their hearts may be encouraged. That sounds warm, that sounds nice, but what does that actually mean for us? That their hearts may be encouraged—what does this look like as a goal for our Christian walk in the same way it was for theirs?

I think we have to remember that in that day and age, in the ancient time period that the Bible was written in but also in Jewish culture, the heart was understood a little bit differently than we understand it today, after the intellectual revolutions we’ve been through. The heart was not just the seat of their emotions and their emotional life, but it was actually understood as the very core of who a person is. It wasn’t just their emotions, but it was their faculties of mind, it was their decision-making, it was their thinking. It was also their will, their volition, their decision-making in that regard. So the heart was kind of understood to be the very core of who a very person is. It’s their soul, in a lot of ways, and it includes all those things—not only your emotions, but also your thinking and also your willing in life and your volition.

He asks that they would be encouraged at the very core of who they are. Some of your translations might say “comforted,” some of your translations might say “strengthened.” Really, it seems like all of those ideas are in mind to a degree. The translators struggle to find a word that communicates this fully, as happens in translations a lot. But I think what this is talking about is the idea that he’s asking that God would shape them at the very core of who they are. There’s an aspect of them being encouraged, there’s an aspect of them being comforted, and there’s an aspect of them being strengthened in their very core.

But he’s saying that “I would love to see you be shaped at the very core of who you are, to be convinced of the lordship and the worth of Jesus. This is what I’m struggling for: that you would know Jesus is truly the Lord and that he is worthy of all your service.” He is the King of kings, he is the Lord of lords; he is this great person that we’ve talked about in Colossians 1:15-20, this exalted passage. He is the true Lord, not only of creation but of your salvation. Not only that he’s worth it. Nothing in this world is as great and as valuable as the Lord Jesus. His struggle is that they would know that, and that this would shape them in a profound way into the image of what God’s called them to.

(2) But also he asks that they would be knit together in love. This is kind of taking it out of the individual aspect and more into the corporate aspect. What he’s saying is, “I don’t just ask that you would be shaped in and of yourselves, but that you as a community, you as a local church, you as the people of Jesus gathered together, that you would be shaped in a way that you are knit together in love.”

We see that Paul is struggling to see manifested in this Colossian church what Jesus prayed for and actually commanded right before he went to the cross. He said, “A new commandment I give you, that you would love one another the way I have loved you. When you love each other in this way, then people will see you and know that you are my disciples.” That we would be knit together in love.

The way Paul writes this, these things complement each other. As our hearts are knit together in love, then we are encouraged, we are shaped at the very core of who we are, because we see the love of Jesus more and more. And as our hearts are shaped more into the image of Jesus, then it makes us to be people who love like Jesus and serve others the way Jesus did.

He says, “This is what I want to see happen in your life. This is the true and full life in Christ.”

(3) But these are intermediary goals toward a fuller goal, and that’s this. This is the ultimate goal, he says: that they would “reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ.” What a loaded clause of a sentence, right? “To reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ.”

I’m not going to go into the mystery language. I think Andy handled that well last week. If you didn’t get to hear that, go back and listen to that. It was a really wonderful message. But I want to look at these words “understanding and knowledge.” They’re kind of interesting. He’s using them in a sense that maybe is not quite obvious to us what he has in mind.

I think that’s partly because we’re not entirely sure exactly what the situation is that might have been existent in Colossae or that would be existent in Colossae for false teaching that is going to come across their way. But there seems to be some aspect where they think that there is an understanding, a spiritual knowledge, a spiritual wisdom, a spiritual enlightenment, that is in addition to what they have received in Christ. There are going to be people who are trying to lead them to add some things onto their faith in order to reach the true spiritual life or the full spiritual life or to attain all of God’s blessings—what have you.

So he’s going to go into this more fully in the rest of the chapter. We’ll speak to that more fully next week. But I think that’s what we know of the situation. What he’s saying is, “I want you to grow into the fullness of the understanding and the knowledge of Christ.”

What did he have in mind here? I think there are two things that we can look into that help us understand this.

There’s such a thing as factual knowledge and there’s such a thing as relational knowledge. The two work together, but they’re not exactly the same thing. I’ll explain it like this: the difference is in reading a biography about someone and maybe spending time with that person day in and day out.

You see how there’s a fuller, richer, deeper knowledge at the core of who someone is, that they get from actually spending time with someone day after day as opposed to just reading about them? This is a true knowledge, but it’s not quite as full as this. Of course, spending time with someone without a lot of this detail isn’t as full either; the two depend on one another.

Here’s another way to understand it. There’s a difference between knowing that something particularly irritates your spouse and actually doing the thing that particularly irritates your spouse. Isn’t there? There’s knowledge of something in this regard, and then there’s actually experiencing the reality of that in another way. When you do that, then you feel that at a much deeper level. Next time that moment comes up it’s not just going to be a thought that comes across your head, there’s going to be an emotional reaction and response in yourself. You’re like, “Oh, I’m going to be a little more careful there,” or out of love for them I’m going to conduct that a little bit differently.

To bring it into our spiritual walks—there’s a difference between knowing that God is faithful and actually experiencing God’s faithfulness in a season when you’re unfaithful. Have you experienced that in your life? It’s a doctrine that we hold that God is faithful. That’s his character, that’s his nature, that’s his way. That’s really rich and we can hold onto that and we should make sure we know that that’s true. But there’s a deeper, fuller knowledge in actually experiencing God’s faithfulness to you in a season when you know you were walking unfaithfully to him.

There’s a difference between knowing that Jesus conquers sin—that’s a proposition that’s true; that’s something we should hold onto, it’s great—there’s a difference between knowing that and actually experiencing Jesus’ conquering of the habitual sins in our lives. Have you experienced that? It’s pretty profoundly different. The two are dependent on one another, but it’s a little deeper, a little fuller.

I think this is what Paul’s getting at. He’s saying, “I want you to grow into the fullness of the riches of this knowledge of Christ,” and it’s not only factual knowledge. Yes, know the word of God; yes, know the doctrines; yes, know what Jesus has taught and promised and hold onto that. Make sure you know those things. But also, “I want you to walk with Jesus in this way, that you know Jesus richly and fully because you have experienced his goodness, you’ve experienced his character, you’ve experienced the truth of who he is in a thousand ways in your life, and you know it at the core of your being.” That’s what he’s praying for for these Colossian believers. I think he sets it as a goal for our lives.

But I love this language—I want to take a second on it—where he talks about this as riches. He says, “I desire that they would reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding in the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.” The riches—reach all the riches.

First of all, the language of reaching presents a journey, a path, a growth path that we can have, a goal that we pursue over time. But it is a path of riches. He uses the language of treasures in verse 3, riches and treasures.

I like this quote from Spurgeon because I think he captures this idea for our Christian walks. He says,

“I speak experimentally. I have had more joy in half an hour’s communion with Christ than I have found in months of other comforts. I had had much to make me happy—diverse successes, smiles of providence which have cheered and comforted my heart—but they are all froth on the cup, mere bubbles, the foam of life and not its true depths of bliss. To know Christ and to be found in him—oh, this is life, this is joy, this is marrow and fatness, wine on the lees, well refined. My master does not treat his servants churlishly; he gives to them as a king giveth to a king. He gives them two heavens: a heaven below in serving him here and a heaven above in delighting in him forever.”

This is what Paul has in mind as he’s praying for and struggling for this goal to be met in the Colossian believers’ lives. He’s presenting it to us as a goal for our Christian lives as well. It’s that to know Jesus fully is to have the greatest treasure and the richest blessings that we could possibly attain, not only in this life but in the life to come. That’s God’s heart for you.

I hope you know that this morning. I know that in the day to day of our walks of faith it might seem like God’s holding out on us a little bit or he’s holding back or he’s kind of giving miserly or churlishly, the way Spurgeon says—that is, kind of in a begrudging manner. But this is not the way God is. God says, “Hey, at my right hand are pleasures forevermore. My heart for you is that you would have fullness of joy.”

I would just say that this walk, this pursuit of the Lord, this pursuit in knowing Jesus fully, to walk with him daily and really understand the riches of who he is, it’s not a chore. It’s not a chore in our lives, but it’s this wonderful windfall inheritance that is ours, and it’s ours just to kind of delight in it and to spend it as much as we can, spend it in a spiritual sense. It’s to rejoice fully in the full riches of what God has given us in Jesus.

That’s what Paul is saying, “That’s what I want to see happen in your life.” That’s the goal of our Christian lives as well.

He says, “I want to see them mature in Christ.” What does that mean? It means a lot of things, but it at least means this: that they would experience the fullness of the riches of truly knowing Jesus and his love, and also his loveliness, in every way that they can.

2. The Warning

As he presents this goal, he kind of gives a warning sign here. You see that in verses 3-5. He says, “Not only do I want you to have this full understanding and knowledge of Christ,” but he puts this phrase on it: “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” It seems like that was a given, but he’s emphasizing it.

Then he goes on. “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.”

So Paul presents this warning. He’s saying, “I need to make something clear to you so that you’re not deluded by plausible arguments. Jesus is the one in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.”

We have to address again the situation in Colossae so we understand what he’s getting at and why he’s using all this language of wisdom and understanding and knowledge. As we said a few weeks ago, what it seems like Paul is doing is not so much calling out false teaching in the midst of the Colossian believers. They’re a young church that seems like it hasn’t developed yet. But he’s trying to get out ahead of some false teaching that likely will or surely will come their way.

We’ve talked about what this is, and it’s actually pretty similar to a lot of the teaching that we see elsewhere in the New Testament, where there are these people who come from a Jewish background, either believers or Jewish people themselves, and what they’re trying to do is they’re saying, “To truly be a Christian, to truly be a person of God, you need to take some of the background of your Christian faith and add it onto your Christian faith. You need to take some of these aspects of the Jewish law and add it onto your life.” They’re saying, “There’s a reason for this, because that is where true wisdom lies. God created the world through wisdom, and we are supposed to walk in the ways of wisdom for the good life. That wisdom we think is held in the law.”

What Paul is saying here is he’s already subtly bringing in an argument for Jesus against this argument that surely will come, and he’s preparing them so that when they see that they’ll see it to be false, because they know what’s true: that Jesus is the fulfillment of this wisdom ideal.

Let me read Proverbs 2:1-8 and let me show you how Paul is taking a background text and probably layering it in here to prepare them for this. Here in Proverbs 2 I want you to see a lot of the language that’s consistent with the language of this passage that we’re reading right now. But also pay attention to verses 1-2, where it talks about the commandments of God, the words of God. That’s how the Jewish people would see law. And then in verse 2 it talks about wisdom. You can see how the Jewish people connect these, but what Paul is saying is that, “No, no, no, these things are found holistically in Christ. Jesus is all you need to walk in the Lord.”

So, Proverbs 2:1-8 says,

“My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.”

You see that all the language is very consistent—knowledge, wisdom, understanding, the language of treasures and riches, things that are stored up. It’s very consistent, and what Paul is saying is, “No, no, no, this isn’t connected to the Jewish law. That’s not what you need to experience the fullness of your life in Christ. It is found wholly in Jesus Christ.”

I want you to see Paul’s tactic here. I think it’s important for our Christian walk. He doesn’t go into detail—and he encounters it in all the other churches he’s going to, an aspect of this—but he doesn’t go into this rich detail of, “Okay, here’s everything they’re going to say, here it is line by line. Here’s how I’m going to break down their argument and show it to be false. Here are all of your easy outs, easy-solution answers to get out of that and move on with your life and defeat it,” right? He doesn’t go into all that detail; he just says, “Listen, there are plausible arguments coming.”

What he says is, “Whatever shape these plausible arguments might take (I’ll give some indication of it, but not a ton), the way that you will stand firm against them is that you are deeply grounded in the truth.”

I think this is important for our Christian walks, because a lot of us come into the church and think, “Man, if they could spell out all the errors out there in the world and they could give me a super detailed analysis and they could give me these really clean answers, then I don’t really have to think about it myself, and then I’m prepared to go and make sure I don’t fall into any pits in life.”

You know what? We’re going to try to do that as often as we can from this pulpit, as we have time and ability, but there’s no way that we can get out ahead of every single deception and every single small thing that would lead you astray in life. Instead, the answer of Scripture is that you need to be grounded in the truth, such that when these things come in all the very persuasive ways they come—not only persuasive arguments but very persuasive people, who are very sincere in what they believe, and their lives look very clean and all these things, and we might be easily deceived by who they are—when these things come we can recognize it as false. We might not be able to say all the details of everything we see and make a full-out analysis of it, but we can recognize it as false because we know surely what is true.

I’ll explain it like this: Last week my mother was here with her twin sister. My mom was in town to watch our dog while we were out of town, and her twin sister came up to spend some time with her because she just lives in Indianapolis. If you met my mom the previous week when she was here, you would have said, “Oh, that’s Brad’s mom! I know what she looks like.” And when she came in with her twin sister, you might have seen her twin sister and said, “That’s Brad’s mom.” You would not be wrong for doing that; they’ve experienced that a lot in life. Why? Because she’s very close to the truth, but she’s not exactly the truth.

I think that’s really why this plausible arguments language is really important, because we need to remember that when false teaching comes across and when heresies come across, we have this idea that says, “Well, anyone with half a brain and a half decent spiritual walk will be able to see that for what it is and avoid it.” But that’s usually not how it is. It’s usually something that looks so close to the truth but it’s far enough away from the truth that it actually leads to destruction and shipwreck of your faith.

But it looks very close to the truth. Like my mom’s twin sister, she’s very close to who my mom is, but she’s not the same. Here’s the thing: I would never get confused between my mom and my aunt, because I know my mom so well. I’ve been with her my whole life, right? So it’s easy for me to recognize, but it’s very difficult for other people to know who don’t know my mom so well.

I think we see something of that in this. We are supposed to be grounded in the truth so securely and so regularly that when these false things come across, and they look very similar and they look very persuasive, we can see them for what they are and we’re not easily deceived. We see them from the position of truth instead of from outside of truth, analyzing truth alongside the other option and trying to make the best decision in the moment. Does that make sense?

I think it’s a very important thing that brings back to our minds the importance of regularly grounding ourselves in the word, regularly grounding ourselves in sound doctrine, giving it time. Maybe it feels dry to you, but it’s important, because this is what is involved in this.

It’s not all gloom and doom, right? Paul does turn in verse 5 and he encourages them. He says, “Though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I’m rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. I’m rejoicing. You’re firm in the faith, you’re sound, you’re in good order,” and what he’s saying to them is, “Listen, you’re good; just keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t be easily swayed away from it. Don’t try to move on from it. This is what the life of Christ is like.”

3. The Instruction

That helps lead into his instructions in verses 6-7. He’s presented a goal and he’s presented some warnings about how to look out for some ways that we can be easily swayed or dissuaded from this goal, and he goes into some instructions about how to pursue that goal. They’re very brief; I think he’ll continue in the coming weeks. But he just says this: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.”

He’s saying, “Listen, with this goal presented to you and with these coming arguments that will seek to lead you astray, in the midst of that, here’s what you need to do: as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.”

Then he has these four participial phrases to explain a little bit more of what that is. “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” How did they receive Christ Jesus the Lord? I think we can say it simply like this: they received him by grace through faith.

You see that in Ephesians 2, right, the companion letter to Colossians. It says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should best.” By grace you have been saved through faith. So, as they received Christ Jesus the Lord by grace through faith, he’s saying this isn’t just something you did once and now you have to do something else for your Christian walk to figure this out. He’s saying, “No, no, no; this is what you walk in: grace and faith. As you came to the Lord simply on the Lord’s grace and then as you receive that in faith, so walk in the same.”

What’s that look like in our lives? It looks like this: it means that we are constantly, constantly remembering that it’s not because of what we can do, it’s not about what we accomplish in our lives, it’s not about adding things on and making sure that we do all the right things in order to have access to God, but we have access to God and we have sure promises because God has chosen to give it. It was by grace. It was never because of anything we did and it will never be because of anything we do that we’ll experience the fullness of the riches of our life in Christ. It is only by God’s grace, and because he has given it in grace we know that he surely will complete it by his grace. It’s doing it by faith.

It’s not saying that we need something beyond Jesus, we need something beyond the gospel in order to find the fullness of our spiritual walks; it’s saying, “I believe that in Jesus is everything I need. Jesus has accomplished it all, Jesus is it all, and Jesus is the source and foundation of it all. All things will ultimately be united and consummated in him, and Jesus is really all I need. So I will walk with him and I will be shaped into his image and I will walk by his Spirit to pursue the life that he’s called me to.” Jesus is the one—by grace, through faith. We never move on from it.

This isn’t something you learn in children’s ministry when you’re memorizing Scripture and now it’s like, “Boy, to figure out the Christian life I have to figure out what else to do.” No, no, no. It’s just figuring out how to do that over and over and over again and day by day and moment by moment by moment, walking by grace through faith, constantly trusting Jesus and relying on the fact that it’s by his grace that it happens, not by anything that you will accomplish in your own power.

Then we see Paul getting into these descriptions and a little more of what this looks like. I want you to see here how this is similar to his prayer, where he gave four participial phrases. I know you are tired of hearing about participial phrases, but Paul keeps using them, so I have to keep bringing them up. Participial phrases are things that explain the clause or the verb that came before.

So he’s explaining here, and I want you to see the parallel and see that what Paul prays for he’s now instructing them to walk in. What Paul prays for and what he’s trusting that God will give and has given, he now instructs these believers to actually work out. This is always how the New Testament speaks. God has given you all by grace and God will provide everything you need; because of that, go and do the thing that God will surely provide. We don’t do one or the other, we don’t do this and then it accomplishes grace. No, the grace is given, so we walk in the grace that has been given, and that’s the good news of the gospel, that there’s always the given before we are called to do. But we are called to walk these things out, and this is how Paul speaks.

He has four phrases, and I want to spend a moment on each of them as we wrap up this morning. He says, “Be rooted in him, be built up in him, be established in the faith, and abound in thanksgiving.”

(1) Be rooted in him. Paul uses this agricultural metaphor, something he likes to do, something the New Testament authors in general like to do because they used it a lot in the Old Testament. It was an agricultural culture, and these are things that spoke to them. He says, “Listen, you need to be rooted in him.”

This is interesting, because to be rooted is a passive thing, right? But he’s saying there are active things you can do to make sure that you are passively rooted in Jesus.

I think I would like to bring it home like this: if you want something to be deeply rooted in gardening, then you need to tend the soil and then you need to make sure it’s properly watered. I know there’s probably more that plays into it, but you need to tend to the soil and make sure it’s properly watered. When you do that, the roots surely will root deeply and root securely. Tend to the soil and make sure it’s probably watered.

I would just ask you, in your spiritual life, when was the last time you spent some time tending to the soil? Remember Jesus’ example when he talked about the seed. He said there are different types of soils that the seed goes into, and it determines how they actually thrive or not. So I would ask you, what are some of the hard places of your heart? Where are some of the hard places of unbelief or pride in your life? Is your bitterness in your life and doubt at God? These are hard places in your heart that are keeping those roots from going deep. This may be a time to actually face those before the Lord and to confess those, to spend some time in prayer, maybe get some other Christian believers to come alongside you and to walk with you through some of those things. Just like the seed couldn’t grow in the rocky soil when it was spread, so deep faith in the Lord or this life of grace cannot thrive in these hard, rocky places.

What are some of the thorns in your life? We also get the image of thorns that choke out the plants. The thorns are the cares of the world, anxieties and worldly pursuits. What are some of those in your life? You’re giving all your time and focus and energies, these things that you’re pursuing but you’re doing it instead of spending time with the Lord, instead of seeking him, instead of hearing from him. What are some of those worldly anxieties of your heart that you need to bring before the Lord and confess so that they don’t choke out this faith that you’re seeking to grow?

Also, what’s your watering regimen look like? What do I have in mind here? I have in mind the classic disciplines: time in the word, time in prayer and worship, time in Christian community, being poured into and pouring into others. Right? What’s your watering regimen? Do you give little spritzes of water and hope you survive as you remember? Do you almost die sometimes? You’re like, “Oh boy, I have to water that.” And then you fill it back up and you hope it survives. Or is there a regular watering regimen, where you know that you’re getting what you need to thrive? If you do this, these are the things that help the roots grow deeply and be established in Jesus.

(2) Paul shifts metaphors, and he says we’re also to be built up. He uses a construction metaphor. He does this a lot in his writings, where he’ll shift between agricultural and construction. I have two things in mind, both at an individual level and a corporate level.

At an individual level, each of us is called to be built up in the fullness of who we are in Christ. We’re supposed to walk by the Spirit and live out the fruit of the Spirit. We’re supposed to be shaped into the image of Christ over life. Scripture speaks about us in this way being temples of God, or buildings of God, in this way.

A couple things with a building—if you want a building to grow well, you need to have a solid foundation and then you need to have the right contractors. I know there’s more than that, but those are what I want to focus on.

What am I talking about when I talk about a solid foundation? I mean this: the building that you build can only be built according to the foundation that was laid, right? If you’re building and you decide to build a wing onto your house but there’s no foundation under it, what’s going to happen to that wing on your house? It’s going to collapse, right?

A lot of us have been at the work of building out our lives and building and building, and maybe we’re in our thirties and we’re having kids and we’re expanding in our career. Maybe we’re a little beyond that and we’re building, building, but we’ve neglected looking at the foundation for a long time. We don’t know if the building we’re trying to build is the building that is consistent with Jesus, the foundation of our lives. Are we building our lives into the image of who he is, or are we building something else that ultimately will fall?

We have to constantly be looking at the foundation so we know what our life is like to build up. This is knowing Jesus, like we talked about, circling back to this first point we made. It’s knowing Jesus; not only knowing him through the word and doctrine, but also knowing him experientially day after day, walking with him, being in regular relationship with him.

Also, you have to have the right contractors. Here’s what I have in mind with this—this is the corporate aspect. The right contractors are everybody else in this room right now (and the first service; we have to remember them too). It’s the people in this church! The thing is, in this life we aren’t just individuals who are growing up into the image of Christ, but together—we see in Scripture that we will only come into the fullness of who we are in Christ in the community of Christ, playing our role in the grand structure that is the temple of the Lord that happens as all of us gather together and serve one another and use these gifts.

We see this in Ephesians 4, where he uses this language of being built up. It talks about, “Listen, if you want to be built up into the measure, the stature, the fullness of Christ, there’s something that needs to happen. God gave you spiritual gifts, and you are to use those gifts for the sake of the body in love.” Not only that, but they are supposed to be doing the same for you. When that happens, each of you, as a piece of the building, is playing your proper role in that. Then all of you are built up into what you’re supposed to be in Christ.

I know I’m layering in a lot of things here, but the idea is that if you are going to be built up into the fullness of this Christian life and experience all the riches and the treasures of it, it’s you regularly giving yourself to this body of Christ, using the gifts that God’s given you in love. That’s important—in love—because if you aren’t using it in love, you might be here serving, you might be here doing things regularly, but if it isn’t because you have an affection for these people and you love them with the very love of Christ, then it’s not going to have the impact that it’s supposed to have, not only in their lives but also in your own. We are to do these things in love.

If I were to prep this whole sermon and get all this information and come up here and preach it but I don’t love you guys at all, if I didn’t pray for you at all, if I didn’t really care about what happens in your lives at all, it would land quite a bit differently, wouldn’t it? If you’re getting greeted at the door and someone’s saying hello to you but they don’t care about you at all, they don’t love you at all, you aren’t on their heart at all, that’s going to be a really weird greeting, isn’t it? It’s going to be a lifeless, limp handshake greeting, and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. This is the whole idea of 1 Corinthians 13; that as God gives spiritual gifts that we are supposed to use them in love. We’re supposed to love people with the love of Christ, built up into the image of Christ.

(3) Two more things. It says, “Be established in the faith,” and, “Abound in thanksgiving.” To be established is simply the deliverance of these first two things, being in rooted in him and being built up in him. The language I think of and the image is to be someone who’s secure, reliable, and lasting.

As I was going around England and I saw these old churches—you know those old churches that have been in the same place for hundreds and hundreds of years, thousands of years? The world around them has changed in a hundred ways over all that time, but there the church is, in the same location, standing firm, the same architecture, the same beauty it’s always had, the same presence in the city.

I want your Christian lives to look like that. I think Paul wants your Christian lives to look like that. As the world around you changes (and it is changing drastically, and it’ll change drastically in another ten years, and many other times besides that), as you pursue these things and as you give yourself to them, as we’ve seen in this Scripture, you are a person who will be established.

The way we look at those old church buildings and we thank the Lord that they didn’t tear those things down and try to chase all the fads and architectural styles of the day, but they stayed firm, and we see their true beauty in that; so I really think that your life can look like this someday. Many years from now, as the world has swirled around you but you have remained firm in your faith, firmly established, there is going to be a beauty that people see, and it’s going to make an impact that’s steady and lasting in nature in the Christian life. I think this is a vision for us of something that we can achieve as we give ourselves to these things that the Scriptures call us to.

(4) Then, as Paul ended this participial run in chapter 1, so he ends here: “Abound in thanksgiving." It's interesting to me how much effort Paul puts into reminding regularly that if you are a Christian and you are pursuing the Lord, and if you are walking the walk of faith that you are called to walk, you will be a person who abounds in thanksgiving. You will be a person who is continually delighting in the fact that you know Jesus and delighting that you get to be a part of this church and delighting in the fact that you know the mystery of God’s creation, and it’s revealed in Christ, and they have a hope and a promise. You never get tired of it.

I think that has to be in our lives. We are a people of worship. We are a people of thanksgiving. We’re not a negative people. We’re not a people who are harsh, we’re not a people who always see the wrong side of things, but we’re a people who are thankful because we know the King on the throne and we know the promises that are ours and we know what he’s doing in the world and we see it and we’re rejoicing in it constantly. That is what it is to walk in the fullness of who we are in Christ and experience the fullness of these riches that are ours in him. I think it’s something for us to always be remembering to build in our lives.

So, Paul is going to go into this more in the coming weeks, and I think it’s going to be great to open it up more and more as we see it. But let’s take that with us this morning, this vision of what we’re going for, these warning paths, and let’s give ourselves to the truth and ground ourselves in Christ, root ourselves in Christ, and know that God has blessings forevermore in him. Let’s pray.

Lord, we thank you for this time. We thank you for your word. Lord, I want to pray for us as a church one more time. There are some of us here who not only need to know some of these great truths about you, Jesus, but we really need to experience them this week in the coming season. Maybe there are people here who have really been in a battle with sin. I ask that it wouldn’t just be a truth that they’re holding onto, as sweet as it is, that Jesus can conquer sin in their lives and he will in an ultimate sense, but that they would experience a victory and a conquering of that sin in their lives a little bit more. I pray that you would bring people into their lives to speak into them, to support them in that, and to help be your instruments in that area.

For those people who know that you’re faithful and that your strength is made perfect in weakness, but they’re struggling manifested in their lives in the difficult circumstances they’re in, God, I just ask that this week would be different; that their eyes would be opened; that they would truly experience, Jesus, what your presence is like and what your promises are like as they’re truly manifested in their lives. I pray that for myself; I pray it for everyone here. God, we want to give you all the glory. We want to experience the fullness of the riches that are ours in Christ and to give God all the glory for it as we experience these things that are ours in Christ. We ask you for that gift, we ask you for that grace. We ask that we would put you first, Jesus, every single day this week, and trust that that is how you will bring us into these realities more and more until the day we see you face to face. We thank you with joy in the name of Jesus, amen.