Becoming A Strong Christian
Colossians 2:1-7
Rev. Bryn MacPhail

The local church was only a short distance from the local theater, and it was obvious more people were attending the theater than the services at the church. One day the minister was talking with one of the main actors and asked the question: 'How is it that you are just acting and yet more people are coming to hear you than me, when I am preaching the truths from the Word of God?' 'Well, Pastor,' replied the actor, 'the problem is this. You proclaim the Truth as if it were fiction, and I proclaim fiction as if it were truth.'

It is a great tragedy that many preachers today, do indeed, proclaim God's Truth as if it were fiction. Many preachers, I'm afraid, do make God's life-changing, timeless, Truth sound boring and irrelevant. This, however, is not something the apostle Paul could be accused of. Paul was as passionate about God's Truth as any person could be. Paul was anything but indifferent--to the contrary, Paul welcomed suffering and hardship in his efforts to proclaim Jesus Christ. Paul backed up his words with actions.

As we begin to examine Colossians 2, we hear Paul reiterate his willingness to endure hardship. Paul says, "I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf, and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face "(v.1).

That Paul mentions his 'struggle ' on behalf of the Colossians is no small matter. Paul is going to spend the duration of his letter instructing the Colossians. Why should the Colossians listen to what Paul has to say? Because Paul is enduring suffering on their behalf--that's why. Paul is suffering for these people--many of whom he has never met--because he recognizes that actions speak louder than words . If Paul is to impact the Colossians with his words, Paul recognizes that he must remind the Colossians of his efforts on their behalf.

Paul, once again, takes up the issue of knowledge and understanding in verse 2, but before he does that, he adds a qualifier--Paul wants the Colossians to also be "united in love ".

As much as Paul wants the Colossians to be "increasing in the knowledge of God "(1:10), and as much as Paul desires that the Colossians gain "the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding "(v.2), Paul does not want knowledge to become an end in itself.

The end Paul has in mind, the goal Paul has for the Colossians, is that they would become mature in their faith . Christian maturity requires "increasing in the knowledge of God ", but Paul recognizes that knowledge will only bear fruit in a community that is "united in love ".

The unfortunate reality is that there are some Christians who are quick to side-step important doctrinal truth for the sake of love. This is a mistake. There are other Christians, however, who, in their efforts to preserve truth, display a complete absence of love and grace toward others. This too, is a mistake. What Paul is asking for here is a balance . Where Paul succinctly articulates this balance is in Ephesians 4:15, where Paul insists that we "speak the truth in love ".

Truth and love are not mutually exclusive. The mature Christian, the type of Christian Paul wants us to be, must learn to balance knowledge and love for others .

I must remind you, that we are not talking about just any kind of knowledge here--we are talking about a knowledge of Jesus Christ--a knowledge that every Christian should attempt to increase in.

Notice also, the language Paul uses to describe gaining a knowledge of Christ. In chapter 1, verse 27, Paul talks about God "making known the riches of the glory of (Christ) ". In chapter 2, verse 2, Paul speaks of "the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of (Christ) ". One verse later, Paul states that, in Christ, "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge "(v.3).

'Riches ', 'wealth ', and 'treasures '--the words Paul employs to describe the value of a knowledge of Jesus Christ. You would think that the knowledge of Christ was some bad tasting medicine judging by the Bible reading habits of many Christians. But the knowledge of Christ is not at all like a bad tasting medicine, it is not at all like a dry tasting, but nutritious, cereal. Knowledge of Christ is a Divine Treasure, Paul says.

I find it absurd that we toil, sweat, and strain for treasures that last only for this lifetime, when Paul is reminding us of the riches available from growing in our knowledge of Christ--riches that will last for eternity.

Earlier in his letter, Paul states that the purpose behind his admonition to "increase in the knowledge of God "(1:10) was that this knowledge would lead to us "bearing fruit in every good work "(1:10). Here in chapter 2, Paul states an additional purpose for growing in one's knowledge of Christ: "I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive arguments "(v.4). We will see, in the weeks to come, that some members of the Colossian community have been "taken captive "(2:8) by doctrines that sounded reasonable, but were based on worldly principles rather than according to Christ.

In this respect, Paul's advice to the Colossians is very relevant to the ministry of the modern-day Church. The modern-day day Christian Church, quite frankly, is a fractured Church. That there are hundreds of Christian denominations in the world testifies to this fact. The fact that there are hundreds of Christian denominations in the world does not reflect a healthy diversity, rather, it reflects our chronic inability to discern truth.

A horrific reminder of our inability to discern truth is the German church in the 1930's. Christians followed Hitler because he quoted the Bible and talked about Jesus. When I think about the maturity of a congregation, I ask myself whether the people would be able to detect someone who knows how to use the religious language but is really an enemy of the gospel of Christ.

In a sermon titled, 'Becoming A Strong Christian', you may be wondering why I am spending so much time talking about having a knowledge of Christ. The reason is simple: In order to become a strong, mature, Christian we must be constantly increasing in our knowledge of Christ . This is not my emphasis, it is Paul's emphasis. But Paul, not wanting us to be puffed up by knowledge, reminds the Colossians to also be "united in love "(2:2), and Paul reminds the Ephesians that their knowledge must be "rooted and grounded in love "--that is, it must be grounded in "the love of Christ "(Eph. 3:17, 19).

If someone were to ask me, 'What are the benefits of growing in the knowledge of Christ?', I would point them to Colossians 2:4-7--for in these 4 verses we find 4 benefits of growing in our knowledge of Christ.

The first benefit of increasing our knowledge of Christ is that we will be less likely to be led astray by doctrinal error--we will not be "deluded " by "persuasive arguments "(v.4).

Secondly, growing in our knowledge of Christ will contribute to us having "good discipline " and "stability " in our Christian faith--this knowledge will give our life order, and our character, strength(v.5).

Thirdly, as we become stable and firm in our faith we will increase our ability "walk " in a manner worthy of Christ--that is, we will become more and more like Christ(v.6). As verse 7 points out, it is only when we have been "firmly rooted " will we be in a position to be "built up in (Christ) "(v.7).

And the fourth benefit to increasing our knowledge of Christ is that we will find ourselves "overflowing with gratitude "(v.7). This is not simply gratitude for life's blessings--this is gratitude for the One who blesses us. This gratitude comes from recognizing "the riches of the glory of (Christ) ". As we gain an appreciation for who Christ is and what He has done for us, our natural response should be to "overflow with gratitude ".

To summarize these benefits, the Christian who increases their knowledge of Christ will receive four things: 1) discernment, 2) stability, 3) progress, and 4) joy. These are the marks of a mature Christian.

We tend to think of maturity as a status--young Christians are immature, while older Christians are mature. While that may often be the case, I don't think that is a biblical understanding of maturity.

If Christian maturity is about discerning between truth and error, if Christian maturity is about leaning on the Lord in the midst of hardship, if Christian maturity is about constantly progressing in one's faith and obedience to Christ, if Christian maturity is about rejoicing in the Lord always, then we are talking about a maturity that does not come with age, but rather, we are talking about a maturity that comes with effort.

It is true, our efforts must be fueled with "power according to (the Lord's) glorious might "(1:11). It is indeed God who enables us to mature, but as Paul has said to the Philippians, maturity also comes from "pressing towards the mark "(Phil. 3:14).
Conversely, immaturity is complacency. Immaturity says, "I have put in my time", "I have done my bit". Because God's work is never done, the mature Christian will never cease to use their spiritual gifts to serve the Body of Christ .

Remember, serving Christ--serving the church--is not intended as a burden to be tolerated, it is intended as a blessing to be shared in. The road to maturity is never easy, but the benefits are great--discernment, stability, progress, and joy await those who press on faithfully toward the mark. By contrast, confusion, anxiety, failure, and sorrow await those who neglect the knowledge of Christ.

Examining the benefits of each road should make our choice easy. Let us resolve today to become a strong Christian. Amen.