Living 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. (Colossians 2:6-7) 

Before Paul takes us to more teaching and warnings regarding holding on to what his true, and recognizing and staying clear of what is false, he encourages us to focus our lives on what is true. To focus on what is true is to focus on a person, it is to focus on Christ.

For most of us our greatest struggle may be in trying to be good. What I mean is we make plans, read books, employ self-determination, we bring in some disciplined restraint, and we put all that together and we hope that the final product will be a new me or a new you, that is a really good, godly, moral person. We may do all this, and if we do as Christians, we will most likely fail in our pursuit, and we will eventually look back and discover that all our effort was, well, it was simply our effort. 

It may go something like this: “Well, I know I need to change, because if I don’t I may lose my spouse, or my job, or my reputation, or my whatever.” And so seeing a practical need for change in order not to lose something, we try really hard. The problem is that most of the time that is not enough. Trying really hard is not enough. It is a spiritual issue in need of a spiritual solution, and the spiritual solution is found in a person, and that person is Jesus Christ.

We attempt to change while leaving Christ Jesus out, and we fail. And since we are still dragging around the remnants of a sin nature, and since we can be stubborn and forgetful, sometimes we fail and we try the same thing again and again and again, and then we may give up and even lose hope of real change. Discouragement, despair, and guilt may set in and take up residence in our heart and mind. The solution is to see our problems of sin as spiritual matters that require not our power, not our methods of change, but the power of Christ in us.

Paul seemed concerned that the Colossian Christians may meet this challenge of a society that was anti-God, even this anti-God society in Colossae that would eventually infiltrate the church, and facing that they would try to go to battle against false teaching in their own strength. This is what arrogant men and women do. They think, “I can handle this, I can resist this, I can take this on,” and this thinking can lead to disaster. We are not strong on our own. We are weak. We need strength, but not our own; we need Christ.

Many would say, you may say, “Well I am a Christian, I have Christ in me, so I’m good.” And it is true that if we are truly born again, we do have the Spirit of Christ in us, but there is another truth that we must know. There is something else that the Bible talks about. God tells us of not just having the Spirit of Christ in us, but of also “walking in Christ.” That is what I want to talk about today: walking in Christ.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him (Colossians 2:6)

This verse opens up the possibility that one can receive Christ Jesus by faith, and yet not walk in Him. We know that this happens because when Paul wrote Ephesians 4:30 he was writing to Christians. There he said, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

What Paul is saying in Colossians 2:6 is that we ought to walk with Christ in the same way that we received Christ Jesus. How did we receive Him? By faith.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

We received Christ as our Lord and our Savior by faith. And now we are to also live by faith in Christ. We are not saved by faith and then called to live on our own, in our own strength or understanding, or our own might; we are to live by faith in Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

So, as we received Christ by faith, so are we to walk in Him by faith! To walk simply means to live this way, to live in Him, to live by faith. Our walk is what we do, it is what others see. Our walk is what is on display. All that goes on in our minds may be hidden from view, but not our walk. This walk ought to be one that reflects Christ. It will be, in many ways, a strange walk in this world. It will not, should not mirror the walk of the average man, woman, or child.

Christ Jesus’ walk was unique. It was so unique that He drew a great deal of attention. He was odd not just because of His miracles, although they were very unique, but also because of His attitude and His manners. He gave Himself to others. He did not budge in His perfect character, He never sinned. He spoke with authority from the Father, and yet He was humble and kind. He gave His time to those in need around Him. He spoke boldly to false teachers and hypocrites. He was never arrogant or rude. He lived a life with great conviction, not for political change, but to glorify the Father. He served those close to Him and strangers who called on Him.

If we are walking in Him, then our lives will reflect Him. We will walk in ways that show the character and the person of Jesus Christ.

This idea of Christ being our example, and of doing as Christ did, we see this mentioned four times in Romans 15:1-7…

1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:1-7)

The encouragement, the admonition is that we be like Christ, walk as Christ Jesus walked. And this by faith. By faith because we cannot do it on our own. We walk as Christ walked, by faith. Believing that in Christ we can walk as Christ.

It is His work in us, otherwise we have much about which to boast. We would be like, “Look at me, look how I am like Christ, aren’t I great walking like Jesus walked?” That is ridiculous. Everything we are able to do, everything good that we do at all will only be because of His work in us.

James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” These gifts include the ability to do anything good that even comes close to being Christlike. Walking in Him, in Christ in any measure is a gift from God. It is not of ourselves!

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him (Colossians 2:6)

So, we are to walk in Him, live in Him, reflect Christ in these earthly, now redeemed lives. But how?

rooted and built up in him and established in the faith (Colossians 2:7a)

Remember, we are talking about your experience here if you are a Christian. As believers, saved people by faith, we are rooted in Christ. When we were saved there was a rooting that took place. Think about roots of a tree. This is an agricultural example. Have you ever tried to dig up a tree by its roots? Roots of a tree go deep. They have to go deep in order to give stability to the tree. The root is what anchors the tree in the soil so that it can grow high, and even wide, and not come crashing down because of its own weight and growth.

If we take that analogy of being rooted in something, I know of no greater comfort than to know that as Christians we are rooted in Jesus Christ Himself. Somehow at salvation we became rooted in Jesus. Rooted in the one whom we read about in this book, who created all things and holds them all together. Rooted in the all-powerful one. So when the storms of life hit hard, and they send howling winds of great force, the anchor of strong roots, firmly established, will hold. 

We may sway in the wind, but we will not be taken down by the winds of life. I remember climbing trees in my backyard as a kid, sweet gum trees. They were tall and straight. I would climb as high as I could go and hold on, and would feel the tree sway in the wind. I never once thought that the roots of that tree would snap and the tree would fall over. I sometimes feared losing my grip, but I did not fear the tree root losing its grip in that soil. I felt the sway caused by the wind, but the roots always held.

Don’t think we won’t feel the sway of life’s troubles, because you and I will. But if we are in Christ, then we are rooted in Him. He will not let go, we are firmly rooted in Him. And again, this is not our doing, it is His!

Being rooted in Christ, we are being built up to Christ-likeness.

Being built up indicates an ongoing action of progress. This is our spiritual, Christian growth. When we receive Christ we are rooted, yes, but we need building up, we need growth toward maturity in Christ.

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)

We are all to be in this process of growth.

1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:1-3)

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity (2 Peter 3:18)

Paul too speaks of our need to be built up, to grow in Christ. This is God’s will for us, that is to grow. One of my favorite passages on this subject is found in Ephesians 4, because it so clearly and forcefully describes this incredible process in which each of us is to be involved. Listen to what he says…

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

Paul in Colossians 2 also mentions being “established in the faith.” Being established is being strengthened with an inner strength. So rooted in Christ, growing in Christ, how can we then not be established or strengthened internally in our faith?

And here is the great thing, follow the flow here. This rooting in Christ, being built up in Christ, gaining inner strength in Christ, where does this all lead? To bragging, to arrogance, to, “Wow, look at how great I am?” No, none of that, not all all. Where does this lead us, where should this lead? Look at the end of verse 7: “abounding in thanksgiving.”

We understand that this all comes from God, that we are new in Him, that we are rooted in Him, that we are being built up, growing in Him, that He is changing us into being more like Christ, that He is further establishing us in the faith, and so what can we do other than, in all sincerity, with all joy and gratitude, go to Him and say thank you! Things are being accomplished in us that are not of us. We recognize an outside force doing things to change us, and this is of course God. Like a potter molds clay, there is pressure being applied to our hearts to make us something new. God is working in us, He is working on us.

And if our aim is really to glorify God, then as we see God making us more like His Son, and we understand that as glorifying Him even more, then expressions of thanksgiving for His work ought to be constantly flowing from us. We of all people ought to be constantly offering up praises of thanksgiving. 

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:15)

8 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
9 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
10 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
11 Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
12 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
13 O offspring of Israel his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones! (1 Chronicles 16:8-13)

Giving thanks to God is acknowledging that He has provided for us. It is admitting our own inability to provide for ourselves, whether it is a physical need or a spiritual need. It is saying, “God, you can do for me what I cannot do for myself. You are great and I am not. I need you because I am unable to carry my own self through life in a decent way.” And so acknowledging our weakness and relying on His ability to give, we humbly say, “Thank you Lord. Thank you for rooting me in Christ, thank you for building me up in Christ, thank you for establishing me in this most holy faith, thank you for doing in me what I am unable to do in myself!”

This describes, this process is to be indicative of the Christian life, the life that reflects one who has not only received Christ by faith, but one who is walking in Him. It goes back to verse 6: ”Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him”

You may hear all this and say, “Honestly, this does not seem to describe me at all. I can’t really say that I am walking in Christ, or that I have a desire to walk in this world as Christ walked on this earth. I am frankly living for other things – wealth, position, power, relationships, pleasure. I don’t really think much about being like Christ at all.” You may say, “I don’t really think about being rooted in Christ, or growing in Christ, or being more firmly established in the faith, and I don’t spend time thanking God for all He does in and around me.” If that describes you, then I would encourage you to consider whether or not you are are truly a Christian at all, whether you have really experienced a change in your life, having been truly born again. Where are you with Christ? That is a very important question. Have you been changed? 

Earlier today, we were able to see four people get baptized. Each of these four indicated to us that God has changed them and has come into their lives to make them new creations. They have each expressed new desires to follow Jesus, to be more like Him for the rest of their lives. The picture of baptism is of one going down under the water and rising out of it as a changed person. Not a perfect person, but one with new desires to follow Christ. This picture of baptism is simply meant to show what has happened already in their hearts.

This is a good time for each of us to examine our own state before the Lord God. So I hope you will do that!

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. (Colossians 2:6-7)