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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Live in union with Jesus Christ, consistent with your confession of him as Lord
Text:Colossians 2:6-7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2014
Added:2015-12-08
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2014 Book of Praise

Psalm 118:1,5,6

Psalm 32:1,2

Psalm 99:1-3

Hymn 44

Hymn 75

Scripture reading:  Acts 20:17-38

Text:  Colossians 2:6-7

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

The book of Colossians comes to us with a background of a battle against false teachers.  The Colossian church was being threatened by messages that undermined and attacked the gospel.  Consequently, in this text of Colossians 2:6-7 and in the context, Paul’s concern is to shore up the Colossian church so that she doesn’t get led astray.

If they have true faith in Christ, if they are fixing their eyes on him, there’s protection in that.  But that also has a result.  The result is a distinction of believers from the false teachers.  You can tell the true believers through the way they live.  Their true faith in Christ bears real fruit in daily life.  The Colossians were doing that already, but here in this text, Paul encourages them to continue doing that.

The main point of this text is in those three words at the end of verse 6, “walk in him.”  Of course, walk refers to your walk of life, how you live.  So you could also translate those words the way the NIV does, “continue to live in him.”  Keep on living in Jesus.  But what does it mean to live “in Jesus”?  After all, Jesus is not a place.  You could say, “keep on living in Hamilton [or wherever you are],” and that’s something someone could easily do, because Hamilton is a place where you can live.  But Jesus is not a place.  So what does it mean to live “in Jesus”?

That expression is used throughout the New Testament, especially by Paul.  It refers to our spiritual union with Jesus Christ.  The best way to explain union with Christ is with one of the pictures that the Bible gives for it.  This picture is used by Jesus himself in the gospel of John.  He said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  The image there comes from the world of the vineyard.  Jesus compares himself to a grape vine.  You could take branches and graft them on to the vine.  People who work in vineyards know how to do this sort of thing.  That branch becomes connected to the vine.  When the graft takes, the sap and whatever else from the vine goes into the branch.  The branch becomes one with the vine.  After a while, you might not be able to tell where the vine ends and the new branch begins.  When that happens, you can also expect the branch to give grapes, to bear fruit.  Jesus is the vine.  We are the branches.  We are united to him, grafted into him through the Holy Spirit who lives in him and in us.  What is true of him in terms of attitudes and behaviours increasingly becomes true of us.  When we are grafted into Christ and have union with him, we start to bear his fruit.  So union with Christ can be thought of in these agricultural or horticultural terms, vine and branches.

If someone truly believes in Jesus Christ, they are spiritually united to him.  As I mentioned, that happens through the power of the Holy Spirit.  So our text works with that idea.  Here God encourages us to let that union bear fruit in our lives, especially in view of what we believe about Christ Jesus as Lord.

Verse 6 says, “Therefore as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.”  When Epaphras and maybe other preachers came to Colossae, they preached the full message about Jesus Christ.  They preached that Jesus is the gracious Saviour of sinners.  God says you must have an obedient life.  Jesus did it for you.  You need to pay for your sins.  Jesus did it for you.  You need complete victory over sin and death.  Jesus did it for you.  You need a voice in heaven -- you have it in Jesus Christ.  Epaphras and others preached all of that.  But they also preached and taught that Jesus is Lord.  He is the Master, the Owner of everyone and everything.  All people are called to recognize him as Lord.  Not all people do, but everyone is called to do that.  Christians are people who have been bought with the blood of Jesus and with his Spirit they’ve come to recognize that he is in fact their Lord.  He holds the reins of our lives.  He calls the shots.  He does that through his Word.  Where once people thought that they were in control of their lives, doing whatever they wanted, now they submit to Jesus and his authority.  Christians recognize that Christ is King.

So, if you confess Christ as Lord, and if you are united to him through his Spirit, what’s your life going to look like?  That’s where verse 7 fits in.  Verse 7 has four ways of describing life in union with Jesus Christ.  Let’s go through each of those ways. 

The first word in verse 7 is “rooted.”  You can connect that to the words “in him.”  So, “rooted in him,” “rooted in Jesus Christ.”  Obviously the language here is taken from the world of plants.  A few minutes I told you about the image of Christ as the vine and believers as the branches grafted into him.  Here the picture is different.  Here the believer is a plant or tree that’s been rooted in the soil of Jesus Christ.  The tree is rooted in a good place where it can’t be blown over, it’s safe and secure.  The tree can grow and bear fruit because the soil is healthy, full of moisture and nutrition.  “Rooted in Christ” means having been planted in him like a tree is planted in good soil.  That happens through the gift of faith, through the Holy Spirit working in your heart so that you entrust yourself to this Saviour alone.  Being rooted in Christ is something that the Spirit does, as he sovereignly works so that you rest and trust in Jesus alone for your well-being now and for eternity. 

Plant and tree imagery are used quite often in the Bible.  Sometimes the imagery is there to warn us.  For example, in Matthew 13, Jesus told a story about a man who had a field with both wheat and weeds in it.  According to Christ, those who have placed their faith in him will be like the wheat gathered into the barn.  He says that those believers will then shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  However, those who have rejected him will be like the weeds “cast into the furnace of fire.”  In other words, if we’re not rooted in Christ, we’re in serious trouble – eternal trouble.

But, loved ones, if you believe in him, you have been rooted in him.   You’re called to continue being rooted in him.  In other words, if you’re united to Christ, hold fast to Christ, abide in him.  Continue looking to him in faith each day; continue to believe the gospel of grace.  And in faith pray that God would continue to keep you rooted in Jesus Christ.

The second aspect of living in union with Christ is being “built up in him.”  Here the picture switches from a plant or tree to a building.  And this building is under construction.  Slowly but surely the building is rising, from time to time another floor gets added and it rises higher.  Of course, this image of believers as a building is also found elsewhere in Scripture.  We can think of 1 Peter 2, where believers are being built up into a spiritual house.  By ourselves and as a church, individually and corporately, we are being constructed as a type of building.  That building is a temple, a building for worship, a building for giving glory to God. 

There’s more we can draw out of this.  This building is being built up in Christ.  He is both the foundation and the cornerstone of this building.  Without a foundation, a building can’t go up.  Without a cornerstone, it won’t hold together.   So too with Christians and Christ – we can’t expect to make progress in our walk with God apart from Jesus Christ.  Remember what I quoted a few minutes ago from John 15.  Jesus said in John 15:5, “apart from me you can do nothing.”  That’s why we have to abide in him.  Moreover, Christ is also the one doing the building through his Holy Spirit.  Verse 7 literally says that we are being built up in him.  We don’t really build ourselves up, this is something that we have done to us.  To be sure, we are involved.  There is a calling for us here too, but in the final analysis, it is Christ in us, working in us through his Holy Spirit.  Therefore, living in union with Christ means praying that God would continue building us up in Christ.  Brothers and sisters, you need to do that.  You need to pray for building up.    

God has his ways of doing that building work.  The most important way is found in Acts 20:32.  As Paul is saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, he says, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up…”  That’s the same kind of language that we have here in Colossians 2:7.  What is it then that God uses to build us up?  “The word of his grace.”  It’s the Bible and specifically, the gospel message we have there about Jesus Christ.  So that means that if you are going to live in union with Christ and be built up in him, you need “the word of his grace.”  That’s God’s chosen means by which to build you up.  You need to be reading and studying the Bible for yourself and also studying it with your brothers and sisters.  But most importantly of all, you need to be under the preaching of the Word.  Those who are united to Christ want to be where Christ is preached as Saviour and Lord so that they can be built up in him.  When you’re in church listening to the preaching, that’s where you’ll be built up in Christ.  Then your building, your temple, is expanding and growing to the glory of God.   

The third way our passage speaks about union with Christ is being “established in the faith.”  You could also say “strengthened in the faith.”  Paul is writing here about “the faith” as in “the Christian faith,” as in a set of teachings.  You might say, “being strengthened in Christianity.” 

That tells us again that the idea of union with Christ is not static.  What I mean by that is that when you are united to Christ, you’re not supposed to be left standing in one place.  A true believer who is united to Christ must be growing, there has to be movement and that movement is supposed to be in a positive direction.  Getting stronger, not weaker.  As those united to Christ, his will for us as our Lord and head is that we get a firmer grasp on what the Christian faith teaches us. 

And again, the primary way that takes place is through the instruction we receive every week in the preaching of God’s Word.  That’s the most important thing of all and we should never forget that.  If all you do is come to church twice every Sunday and listen intently and humbly to the preaching of Scripture, you will be living in union with Christ and you will be established in the faith.  That’s guaranteed.  The key thing is that you’re not just a pew-warmer, but have a genuine interest in being established and strengthened in the faith.  Loved ones, come to church prepared each Sunday to really listen and grow.

But I want to encourage you this morning to go much further.  I want you to be as established and strengthened in the faith as you possibly can be.  Your elders want that for you.  Most importantly, I believe that I can say with absolute conviction that God wants that for you.  God wants you to go further.  So, while preaching is important, there are other important ways through which you can become more established in the teachings of our faith. This is going to require work, yes.  It won’t be easy.  It’s going to take time and commitment on your part.  It will involve things like reading.  Not only reading Scripture, but also reading books and magazines that will help you grow in your understanding of the Christian faith.  Let me ask you:  when was the last time you read a good non-fiction Christian book from cover to cover?  Do you have a subscription to Clarion or other good Christian magazines?  What about good Christian websites or blogs?  Do you read them?  Brother, sister, are you reading to get more established in the faith?   I hear some of the excuses already.  “Forget it.  I don’t like reading.  In fact, I hate reading.”  So why not invest in audio books?  Or why not download some MP3s with good Christian teaching?  If you need some recommendations, ask me.  Other people will say, “But I don’t have the time to read.”  But you seem to make time for all kinds of other things that are important to you, don’t you?  Can’t you make time for becoming more established in the faith?  Or is this not a priority for you?  If it’s not a priority, that doesn’t speak well of your union with Christ.  Listen, if you really are united to Christ, you will want to grow in him, and grow in your understanding of the teachings which speak of him and his will for your life as your Lord.  You’ll agree with me that it’s time to put away the excuses and make a fresh commitment to be an eager student of the faith.  It might not be easy at first, but I assure you that there will be fruits and benefits from it.  Growing is a good thing and a sure sign of union with Christ.                                                   

We’ve now come to the fourth and final way that believers live out of union with Christ in Colossians 2:7.  Paul writes about believers “abounding in thanksgiving.”  Walking in Christ is to be characterized by an overflowing thankfulness.  If the Christian’s thankfulness is a river, then imagine that river bursting its banks.   A Christian united to Christ exudes thankfulness wherever he or she goes. 

Why?  Because they’re united to Christ!  That fact makes them thankful.  After all, union with Christ means life.  Remember the vine and the branches?  You were a dead branch on the ground.  God picked you and did what it took to graft you onto the vine.  Life-giving sap started to penetrate and make you alive in Christ.  What an amazing gift that is!  It’s a gift of grace.  And when you receive an amazing gift, what’s the normal response?  You would expect someone to be grateful.  When it’s the most amazing gift in the world, you would expect someone to be gushing with gratitude to the one who gave it.  From God we have received the gift of life eternal – could there be a greater gift?  A gift of that magnitude calls for a thankfulness that abounds.  That’s the biblical picture of a Christian life. 

To all around us, it should be clear that we’re thankful people.  That should be clear with our words.  We always give credit where credit is due.  When God blesses us, we acknowledge his blessing openly, both with Christians and non-Christians.  For example, where the unbeliever might say that he was lucky for getting a raise, the Christian will say that he’s thankful for this blessing from God.  Where the unbeliever might say that she was proud of herself for getting a good mark on the exam, the Christian will say that she’s thankful that God blessed her with a good mark.  Jesus spoke like that in his life, didn’t he?  Shouldn’t those who are united to him do likewise?

It should also be clear with everything else in our lives that we’re thankful people.  We’ve been brought up with the Catechism, so we should know that gratitude comes to expression with obedience to God’s law.  We show ourselves thankful for our salvation, by living for the Lord in his ways.  We aim to live in union with Jesus Christ, the perfectly obedient Son of God.  We want his obedience to God’s law to be reflected in our lives, we strive for that.  We strive for that, not to measure up in God’s sight, but because we’re so profoundly thankful that we don’t have to measure up.  We want to be obedient to the Lord in every way because he has loved so much, and we love him who first loved us.

Our lives as those united to Christ should be a picture of gratitude.  There should be one constant refrain in our lives.  There should be one thing that people around us hear us saying over and over:  “I have so much to be thankful for.”  We should never boast in ourselves, thinking that we have accomplished anything in our own strength, but rather direct all the praise and gratitude upwards to our God, and to our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Loved ones, live out of your union with Christ, consistent with your belief in him as Lord – and thus, be overflowing with thankfulness. 

We believe that Jesus is Lord, don’t we?  We have embraced him as our Master and King, as well as our Saviour.  Now our text calls us to live in union with him.  Don’t we want to do that?  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can.  Prayerfully depending on God’s help and strength, we can more and more show that we are truly are those branches which have been grafted into the vine.  AMEN.

Prayer:

Holy Father in heaven,

Your Word continues to be our guide, an infallible source of wisdom and direction for our lives.  We love your Word and the way that it teaches us and leads us.  Thank you for the teaching of your Word from Colossians 2 this morning.  We thank you that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, united to him.  Thank you for your Holy Spirit who joins us to him.  Father, we confess that Jesus is Lord, and we commit ourselves again to living out of union with him.  Please help us to do that.  Please keep us rooted in him, please build us up in him.  With your Word and faithful teaching from your Word, we pray for you to establish us more firmly in the faith.  And Father, we have so much to be thankful for being united to Christ.  Please help us to see that more clearly and then to be abounding in thanksgiving.  We pray that our words and lives would be overflowing with gratitude to you, so that the world may know that all blessings come from you alone. 

 

    




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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