Colossians 2:1-7 ESV
“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, 2 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, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 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. 6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
Christ saved Paul by grace on the Damascus road also called him to a life of continuous activity.
Paul became one of those early Christians whose constant effort led to overturning the known world.
When we turn to the epistles (letters written by Paul to the churches he planted and coworkers he sent) we find Paul constantly encouraging believers to work just as hard as he did.
The casual reader of an English translation of the New Testament can often miss when Paul is emphasizing this fact. This is due to the fact that English translations do not accurately translate a particular grammatical structure that is found throughout Paul’s writings. It is called a Present Active Imperative, and translates as a call to continuous action.
Walking is a metaphor for how we live your lives. Here Paul is saying that it is not enough just to accept Jesus as our Savior. We have to live our lives according to the reality that we are now saved by Him.
This command was important for the Colossians because false teaching was beginning to spread throughout the churches. That false teaching implied that getting saved was OK, but in order to really impress God with your spirituality, to get on God’s good side, and to open the door for supernatural power, believers needed to add something else besides faith in God’s grace.
Having grown up as a legalist, Paul recognized that these prohibitions were not from God. The gospel is supposed to set us free. Paul is telling them not to get sidetracked by legalism.
The first century Colossians are not the only ones who are tempted to replace the gospel of grace with a law code. Whenever we as Christians today define our Christianity by what we do not do, we are in danger of doing the same thing. I think that the reason much of the modern world has rejected Christianity is that we have fallen into the same trap.
Paul wanted the hearts of the Colossians to be encouraged. One of the first signs of depression is that you stop doing things that you are used to doing. Paul wanted to spur the Colossians on to keep on living the life of children of God. It is easy to give up when you fail to see regular signs that what you are doing is accomplishing something.
Now, here is a key to this whole idea of continuous activity. Keep obeying God, and he will eventually bless what you are doing. Stop obeying God and the power flow will eventually cease. When the power flow ceases, discouragement is the result.
That is where the Colossians were at. They were discouraged because they had rested on the fact that they were saved, and failed to keep on living that salvation.
I cannot help but believe that many in our churches today are in the same place. The solution is to live our lives by faith in the same grace that saved us. People who live those kinds of lives are obedient to Christ. This may sound like a contradiction but it is not. Grace and obedience are not opposites. A life lived by grace is one of continuous activity!
I keep hearing the same complaint from many churches: “we are not united.” Paul gave this command in order that the Colossians might be “drawn together in love” (2).
This tells me that we are not going to be unified if we only try to come together doctrinally. There are always going to be differences in how we understand God’s truth – even if we all agree that that truth comes from the Bible. Unity is going to happen when we all start obeying the same truth.
Notice how Jesus prayed to the Father for the Church’s unity:
John 17:23 “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
How are we going to demonstrate that God loves us in the same way as He loves Christ? We will do this when we live the life that Jesus lived. Our unity needs to be one of action, not just words.
How can we be sure that our activity is the right kind of activity?
First, everything we do must be something Christ would do. Our actions must be rooted and built up in him. A good way of insuring that we stay in him is intentionally learning his specific commands.
Second, must must not do anything that contradicts what we profess. Our actions need to be established in the faith. When the Bible talks about “the faith” it is referring to what we believe and teach. That’s why Paul adds the phrase “just as you were taught.”
Third, Paul adds that we should abound in thanksgiving. He didn’t say that we had to be successful in everything we try to do. He didn’t even say that it has to cost a lot of money. He just reminds us that it doesn’t hurt to be grateful, to thank the Lord while we keep on walking.
God has planned for Christ to live his life through us. When we do nothing, we fail to demonstrate Christ’s life.
As we keep on walking in Christ, what God has revealed about him is going to become more and more real to us. Paul likens it to a treasure storehouse. The more we walk through the storehouse, the more treasures we see.
I believe the way this process works is this: God has revealed what he wants us to do by his new covenant commands found in the New Testament. To the extent that we continuously obey those commands, God is going to keep giving us glimpses of his plan for our lives.
Obedience to the commands that we know can guard us against being deceived about those matters in which we do not know.
Satan has a number of weapons that he uses against believers, and one of them is deception. Paul said that he “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). If he showed up like in the cartoons, with the red pajamas and pitchfork, we would always know it was him. But he enters into our conversations around the dinner table. He inserts himself into a television news broadcast.
How can we keep ourselves from being deceived by Satan’s “false arguments?” First, stay in the word of God. Regular Bible reading can keep you from counterfeit doctrine just like being familiar with real money can keep you from accepting counterfeit cash.
But another way of avoiding deception is staying busy doing what you know for sure is God’s will. When the believer stays continuously active, living the life of Christ, he has no time for doctrines of demons.
What we need in this world today is Christians who dare to live like Christians, and keep on living like Christians until they change their communities, counties, states, and nations.
LORD, help us to learn how to keep on walking in you, so that you can use us to transform the places where we walk. In Jesus’ name. Amen
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This sermon was preached on May 16th, 2010 at Takanini Church of Christ, Auckland New Zealand.