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ROOTED AND BUILT UP IN HIM

Colossians 2:6-2:23
Key Verse: 2:6-7

Happy New Year! In 2016 we had Hebrews 12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” as our ministry key verse. How important it is to fix our eyes on Jesus in our Christian life. However, as we set this direction to fix our eyes on Jesus, I found anew that fixing the eyes of our hearts on him was not easy because of many distraction within and without. It is a spiritual battle. We believe that God wants us to win the victory in this battle. Related to this, we want to have Colossians 2:7 as our Toronto UBF key verse with the direction, “rooted and built up in Him.” We pray that the year of 2017 be the year of being rooted and built up in Him, our Christ and Lord. May God richly bless this direction.

First, to be rooted and built up in him (6-8). Until now Paul wrote about the supremacy of Christ in this epistle, Colossians. For at that time false teachers had introduced heresies into the churches, claiming that Jesus was not enough for their salvation, thus denying that Jesus is the only way. Our time is similar to that time. The voice of people to say that there is no absolute truth in the world seems to be very loud. Relativism and pluralism are abounding. Yet, what the people of the world say does not matter much, but the heart attitude of the believers. Christians must clearly understand what they know and believe, which is truly amazing. So Paul described the supremacy of Christ. In 1:14-17, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Here the word “all” is written five times, in the phrase, “all creation” or “all things.” What an emphatic description! He is the Creator of all things, so above all. Apostle John wrote in John 1:3, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” And then in verse 18 Apostle Paul wrote, “And he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” And in Revelation 1 the risen Christ said to John, who fell at his feet as though dead seeing the risen Jesus, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!” (1:17-18). This is the supremacy of Christ. He is all supreme in his creation and resurrection from the dead. What can be compared to his supremacy in heaven and on earth? Surely, nothing.

And then in verses 19-20, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things or earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” In other words, he is God in flesh as we studied. But God the Father let him be crucified and die on the cross shedding his blood as a ransom sacrifice for the reconciliation of all. Truly Christ Jesus who offered himself unblemished to God shedding his precious blood through his death on the cross is sufficient for the salvation of mankind and reconciliation of all things.

How precious and great Christ Jesus is! He is supreme and sufficient with no comparison in this world. He is lacking nothing but perfect in his person and work. Also Paul wrote in 2:3, “In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” So those who receive Christ Jesus as Lord are truly blessed. They have everything in life. At that time the world claimed that Caesar was the Lord, and many people were floating in that trend. But when Paul thought of the Christians in Colosse, they were very precious. So he said, “I am delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is” (2:5) Here the words ‘orderly’ and ‘firm’ are military terms. ‘Order’ means arrangement and to keep things in line, and ‘firm’ means a strong barricade or many military units in a small area. The Roman army could defeat any enemy through their training of order and firmness. Paul was rejoicing to see Colossian Christians’ orderliness and firmness in their faith in Christ. Yet, he wants them to further in their faith.

Now look at verse 6. “So them, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him…” Christiana life is life together with him. And here it is also a continuous living in him. As a fish is to swim and live in the sea, a Christian is to walk and live in him. As Canadians we live in the land of Canada, True North. This is a visible land and territory in the earthly realms. But we should know that there is an invisible spiritual world and there are spiritual realms and territories (Eph 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). Again, a Christian is to live continually in him.

And then Paul said, “…rooted and built up in him.” As a Canadian continuously lives in the land of Canada, taking Canada dry, Canada water and Canada air, it is important for the Canadian to be rooted and built up in Canada. Then he or she is a real Canadian. Likewise a Christian is to be rooted and built up in Christ. It requires our effort, much effort. Then how can we be rooted and built up in Christ?

Firstly, let’s think about how to take a root in him. Psalm 1:1-3 say, “Bless is the man...his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” It teaches us that root-taking in Christ needs constant meditation on the word of Christ, that is, the word of God. And Psalm 119:97 says, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” Without meditating on the word of God, no one can be rooted in Christ Jesus. Jesus spoke about the four kinds of the soils of human minds related to the seed of God’s word, path soil, rocky soil, thorny soil, and good soil. Regarding the good soil he said, “the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Lk 8:15). Retaining the word of God with perseverance surely through meditation is absolutely necessary in taking a root in Christ. Jesus once said to the Jews who clung to their own teaching, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:31-32). Especially we need to hold on to one word of God very personally as a matter of spiritual life and death.

The life of Christian is in a sense a mind-battle. So the Scripture tells us the importance of our mind control. Romans 8:6 says, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind-controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Hebrews 3:1 says, “…fix your thoughts on Jesus…” We see Paul’s struggle in this matter. He said in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” To be rooted in Christ we should be able to control our thought world.

Then how can we be built up in Him? After teaching beautiful words of God concerning the kingdom of God Jesus said, “I will show you what is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on the rock.” (Lk 6:46-48). According to psychologists, we remember at most only 10 % of what we hear; 50 % of what we see and hear; but 90 % of what we see, hear, and do. This is much more true to God’s word. The word of God is to be practiced in obedience to God. God said in Isaiah 55:10-11, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” God’s word accomplishes and achieves God’s will and purpose through those who obey it. God fulfilled his purpose through Abraham and David who obeyed God’s word of promise and lived accordingly, but not through Lot and Saul who lived in their own ways, neglecting God’s word given to them. Through putting God’s word into practice very personally we can be built up in Christ the Lord. Also Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:9, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”

We can be also rooted and built up through serving others and feeding God’s flock of sheep. We remember what Paul said in Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love.” At the last chapter of John’s gospel the risen Jesus said, “Do you truly love me?...Feed my lambs” (21:15). And we learn who to shepherd God’s flock of sheep through Paul, who said to Galatians, “My dear children, from whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (4:19).

We are living in an individualistic society and individualism is prevalent in our culture. So it is easy to remain just as an individual in our Christian life. However, God wants us to be built up together in Christ our Lord, as we call him as our Lord, the same Lord. 1 Peter 2:4, 5 says, “As you come to him, the living Stone…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.” We are to be built up in Christ Jesus our Lord individually and collectively as well for his purpose. We were so thankful and happy when God established Ian and Jemmie’s family, the first house church in our community. God will establish such families of God continually until 12 house church are raised when we are rooted and built up in Christ the Lord together. In this way an army of God needs to be formed to confront and fight the strong power of secular humanism and relativism and pluralism, the fortress of Satan in our time.

Colossians 2:7 says continually, “…strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Our strength is our faith in God as we keep what we were taught, particularly the gospel, which never changes in this ever-changing world. Without faith we have no strength. And thankfulness is so important in Christian life. Thankfulness can be a measurement of one’s faith. Ingratitude was a cause of sin in the Garden of Eden. So Paul said, “…overflowing with thankfulness.” It is our prayer that as we strive to be rooted and built up in him, we may be strengthened in faith, overflowing with thankfulness at each time in this year.

Look at verse 8. “See to it that no one takes you captive through follow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Without root in Christ one is taken captive easily through hollow and deceptive human teachings. This is the reason God wants each one us to be rooted and built up in Christ.

Second, you have been given fullness in Christ (9-23). Verse 9 says, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” In 1:19 Paul wrote, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” Deity is “divine character or nature of the Supreme Being.” In 2:9 Paul used the broader term “Deity,” with the capital letter, “D,” so that even pagans might grasp who Christ Jesus is: In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in in him. And it is in bodily form. At that time some people (Gnostics) who were unspiritual intellectuals denied the presence of the physical body of Christ (the Incarnation of Christ), claiming that body is evil and therefore God cannot wear bodily form. But “the Word became flesh”: it is the undeniable truth of the Bible. This is the mystery of God. The invisible God became visible in human form. “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”: All the holiness, righteousness, power, wisdom, love, compassion, faithfulness and eternity dwell in Christ. According to John 1:14, he is full of grace and truth. And John wrote concerning this Jesus in 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (Jn 1:18).

In verse 10, “and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” In this world each one’s income is different. There are rich people , middle class people, and poor people. But God’s world is different. When one believes in Christ Jesus and receives him as the Lord, he or she is given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

Then in Christ what do we have been given specifically? Look at verses 11 and 12. “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Circumcision is literally to cut off the foreskin of a male. It was originated from Abraham. When God changed his name from Abram to Abraham, God commanded him to have circumcision. The meaning was to cut off his human desire just to be a noble father and accept God’s desire to be a father of many nations. Abraham obeyed God’s command and circumcised himself. It was a painful operation both physically and spiritually. Since then it became the sign of God’s chosen people. But when the circumcision became habitual losing the true meaning, the prophets stressed the circumcision of the heart (Dt 10:16; Jer 4:4; Ro 2:28,29). The idea of circumcision was developed into that of baptism in the New Testament. When we are baptised in the name of Jesus, who was crucified with his body cut off and torn apart and died for our sins and buried and raised from the dead, we are circumcised in him, in the putting off the sinful nature, being buried with him and raised with him through our faith. Paul expressed this in Romans 6:4, “We were…buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” As we believe in Jesus’ death through crucifixion and his resurrection from the dead, we are blessed with the circumcision of the putting of our sinful nature for a new life. So Paul said in Romans 6:6, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” And then he said 6:11, “…count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” It is to believe that I am circumcised in my sinful nature through Jesus’ crucifixion. Then Paul teaches how to struggle practically in 3:5, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry,” and then in 3:8, “you must rid yourselves of anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” This is a process to be rooted in Christ.

In verses 13-15 Paul goes more fundamentally into God’s grace and victory for us in Christ Jesus. In verse 13, “when you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.” How can we fathom this grace of God? When we see or hear of people’s death, we become sad and at the death of beloved ones our hearts are broken. Dead people do not breathe and do not respond at all, not being able to hear or speak. In this world, physically speaking all people are going to be dead one by one. But spiritually speaking all are dead how brilliant or gorgeous they are, unless God makes them alive. Spiritually dead people do not know how to respond to God, not being able to speak to God or hear his voice. Jesus said in John 5:25, “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” It is true that we were dead, but God made us alive through his living word. He made us alive with Christ. It is totally by God’s grace. This is our foremost thankful topic.

Then Paul elaborates God making us alive with Christ this way: “He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” In ESV, “…by canceling the record of debt…” When Jesus was nailed to the cross and died, he paid all the debts of our sin. He paid it all, so he said on the cross, “It is finished.” So the record of debt of our sin was cancelled and was taken away and so gone. It was like paper shredder, shredding all the documents of our sin-record thoroughly. According to Psalm 103:12 says, “as for as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” This is the meaning of Jesus’ being nailed to the cross. In other words we died to the law through the body of Christ (Ro 7:4). It is because Christ fully met the requirements of the law through his death on the cross and is the end of the law (Ro 10:4). So Paul said in Galatians 2:19, “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.” Then he wrote further in 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” What an amazing grace it is that Christ lives in me! In Colossians 3:3, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” We must treasure this grace given to us through God taking away the written code, nailing it by the cross.

And then Paul said in verse 15, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, Satan lost the ground to accuse forgiven sinners. It was like his being deprived of his armament. Furthermore, having disarmed the power and authorities, God made a public spectacle of them, triumphing them by the cross. This is the picture of a victorious Roman general parading his defeated enemies through the streets of Rome to their open shame. Satan became a public spectacle to his shame. What a victory through the cross! In truth we have double victory, assured victory in him, who became Christ our Lord through his death and resurrection. In this we have been given fullness in him. Truly we are his and God wants us to be rooted and built up in him.

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In verses 16-23 Paul talks about the emptiness of the life of living according to the basic principles of this world including Jewish legalism (ceremonialism), false humility and angel worship and asceticism (stoicism) and make it a contrast to the fullness in Christ. Particularly in 2:20, “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules?” We should watch out for such things.

We thank and praise God for the supremacy of Christ and the fullness we have been given in Christ. May we make clear that we have received Christ Jesus as Lord and strive to be rooted and built up in him for full life in him throughout the year of 2017 so that we all may have a sense of being truly rooted and built up in Him at the end of this year.

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