READ – Colossians 2:6-7
We’re in a series called F1RST on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The key verse is Colossians 1:18 “that in everything He might be preeminent,” that is, that Jesus might have first place in all things. This week we’re looking at what many scholars think is the heart of Colossians. In two short verses, Paul compacts his entire message. His basic point is that Jesus is enough for beginning as a Christian and Jesus is enough for continuing as a Christian. The way we come to know Jesus is the way we grow in Jesus. That’s counter-intuitive for us and it was for Paul’s audience as well. It’s the hardest thing to grasp for those who are exploring Christianity – and for those who are well-trained in Christianity.
1. LEARNING TO RECEIVE
The first command or imperative in Colossians comes in 2:6. What is it? Receive. The first command is an anti-command command. And it’s this anti-command that actually enables all other obedience to Jesus. How so? Think about the logic of our lives: everything we do is based on achieving. We are hardwired to believe that first you achieve, then you receive. But the gospel logic of Christianity is reversed. Receiving comes first. You receive not just a principle or information, but a person – Christ Jesus as Lord. You receive all of who He is and what He’s done for you. In essence, you receive all He has achieved. Christianity isn’t an achieving faith, but a receiving faith. It’s not based on your performance or mine, but on Jesus’.
So how do we begin Christianity? We receive with empty hands. How do we continue? We receive with empty hands. Why? Because in Jesus there is an endless fullness for all our emptiness. Why is learning to receive so hard for achievers? It’s because we desire to be in control. We think we are Lord, not Jesus. But receiving Jesus means He is Lord, not us. What is something that I’m holding onto, that I feel I need to control; something I won’t let go of? Jesus invites us to open our hands and receive. What He gives is always better than what we’re holding onto.
2. LOOKING TO THE ROOTS
Paul goes on to say, “continue to live in him being rooted and built up in him.” Paul uses two metaphors, one botanical and the other architectural to describe the Christian life. What do his metaphors mean?
Paul invites us to look to our roots. Too often we focus on changing the external rather than the internal. But good fruit comes from healthy roots. That’s really counter-intuitive for us. We tend to look first at fruit – our look, appearance, behaviors, outward success, image. But the gospel logic of Christianity is: we look to the roots first that changes the fruit.
So what does it mean to look at the roots? Paul is talking about core beliefs. Roots are whatever or whoever our trust or confidence is in. Who or what I’m trusting is where I’m sending my roots. So how do we know where we are rooted? The Bible suggests that what we really believe will show up in our behavior, reactions, and emotions. The language of roots is found multiple places in the Bible, but one poignant text is Jeremiah 17. Here the prophet invites people to consider their fears and worries. Check the places where you are fearful and anxious – usually you can follow those feelings to your functional roots.
Here’s a few diagnostic questions that might help you get to your roots in times of fear and worry: (1) What am I believing about myself? (2) What am I believing about what God is doing and has done, (3) What am I believing about who Jesus is, (4) What am I believing about what Jesus is doing and has done, (5) What am I believing about who I am in Jesus?
Ultimately, we need to be rooted in Jesus. Apart from Him, Jesus claimed, we can do nothing. But if we are rooted in Him we will bear fruit (John 15).
3. LETTING MY LIFE BE REBUILT
If Christianity is all about receiving and staying rooted in what Jesus has done, what about our own growth? Is it optional? Can we live however we want? Paul’s botanical and architectural metaphor go together here – we grow deep so we can be built up. Theologians describe this as “union with Christ.” It’s the beautiful vital reality that you are in Christ and Christ is in you. You are complete in Him and He is completing you. The goal of Christianity is not behavior management, but being in union with Jesus and built into who you were made to be. The essence is: the more we learn to receive, the stronger and deeper we are rooted in our identity in Christ, and thus the more we will be built by Jesus into something new. It relieves the pressure of us having to build our lives, career, marriage, family. Christianity offers a God who builds you. God does the building, not you. That’s encouraging and desirable because what Jesus is building with us isn’t what we would build with our lives. His blueprints are far better and greater than what we could dream or imagine.
Anyone who knows what it’s like to build a building or remodel an existing structure knows the uncomfortable implication is this: things are going to get worse before they get better. We naturally think we need renovation in the ‘bad’ parts of our hearts and lives. But Jesus is getting at the roots. He wants to rebuild not just the ‘bad’ parts of you but more importantly the parts you think are ‘good.’ Your goodness needs to be demolished. Your moral efforts and religiosity need to be bulldozed and you need a life build on the reality of Christ Jesus as Lord. It’s never a minor fix, but a full renovation. And the good news is that Jesus always finishes what He starts.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. Christianity is a receiving faith, not an achieving faith. Explain. Is this how you have understood Christianity in the past? How might believing and resting in the gospel logic of receiving re-shape your view of life, family, work, God?
3. A big part of the Christian life is letting Jesus be Lord, not us. What might you let go of this week knowing the reality of “Christ Jesus as Lord?” What would be hard? What would be freeing?
4. What’s a place in your life where you are fearful or anxious? Are you willing to share with the group? Try walking yourself through the five diagnostic questions to get at your functional roots. What do you see?
5. Does it bother you that Jesus wants to demolish not just the ‘bad’ parts of who you are, but the ‘good’ things as well? What does that mean? How can we be repenters not just of sin, but our moral striving to look good? How does the gospel logic of Jesus’ blueprint for our being built up encourage us?