Living in Christ

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Colossians 2:6-10

INTRODUCTION: We are working our way through Paul’s letter to the Colossians, and today we come to the very heart of the letter. Paul has introduced himself and his major themes. He has presented the person and work of Christ in the highest possible terms. He has focused on the importance of the gospel and working hard for the gospel. Now he turns his attention to the central theme of the whole letter – living in Christ, or as we have called it in this message series, living the Christ-centered life. (Read 2:6-10 and pray.)

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What’s the secret to living the Christian life? We all start off so well. We receive Christ as our Savior, and we are filled with excitement at the prospect of new life in Christ. Our sins have been forgiven, we have been restored to relationship with God, we have assurance that we will go to heaven when we die, and we know that our whole life just changed. We start off enthusiastic for Christ and ready to take on the whole world. And then some of us seem to keep that spark, while others of us seem to struggle and flounder. Why is that? We want to live the Christian life. Why is it so hard sometimes? What’s the secret to living the Christian life?

In today’ passage Paul tells us three things about living the Christian life. The Christian life is marked by faith in Christ, it is marked by freedom in Christ and it is marked by fullness in Christ. We received Christ Jesus by faith – now we should continue to live in him by faith. We found freedom in Christ – now we should see that no one takes us captive through false teaching. We received fullness in Christ – and it will take Paul the rest of the letter to explain all of what that fullness means. What’s the secret to living the Christian life? Let’s find out!

I. Faith in Christ (6-7)

First of all the Christian life is marked by faith in Christ. Look at verses 6-7: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7) What is Paul saying here? Your Christian life began with faith in Christ, and it must also continue with faith in Christ.

By faith you received Christ Jesus as Lord. This is the earliest Christian confession: “Jesus is Lord.” We confess our faith in Jesus as Lord at every baptism in this church. We confess our faith in Jesus as Lord every time we receive new members into this church. By faith you received Christ Jesus as Lord. Now Paul says, you need to live in Christ the same way you received him. The Christian life begins with faith in Christ, and the Christian life must continue with faith in Christ.

The Christian life is not simply faith in a set of teachings but faith in a person. It is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The Christian life is lived in Christ. Christ lives in you, and therefore you live your life in him. Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, you continue to live in him. Part of confessing Jesus as Lord means that everything we do revolves around him. Christ is central, and we must live the Christian life by faith in him. The next three phrases tell us more about what it means to live by faith in Christ.

   A. Rooted and built up in him
      – John 15:5

First of all, you are rooted and built up in him. “Rooted” refers to the foundation of your Christian life. The Christian life is founded on Christ and Christ alone. It is not founded on your goodness or your works or your merit. The Christian life is founded on faith in Christ and Christ alone.

The word “rooted” brings to mind the image of a plant. Christ is more than just the foundation of your faith. He is the root and source of your Christian life. As Jesus says in John 15: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Jesus is the root and source of the Christian life. You cannot live the Christian life apart from Christ.

If “rooted” refers to the foundation, “built up” refers to your continued growth in the Christian life. Just as you began your Christian life with faith in Christ, so you must continue your Christian life with faith in Christ. You can’t start the Christian life without him, and you can’t grow as a Christian without him. You are rooted in him, and you are built up in him. Once again, it is all in Christ. Christ is central.

   B. Strengthened in the faith as you were taught
      – Acts 20:32

Next, you are “strengthened in the faith as you were taught.” (Colossians 1:7) The word translated “strengthened” in this verse means “established” or “made firm.” Not only must you have faith in Christ. You must also be well-grounded in your faith.

The “faith” here refers to the teachings of the Christian faith – the gospel of Christ, the teachings of Christ, the truth about Christ as found in the Scriptures. Paul is telling them and us: Don’t be fooled by false teachers or false teaching. Stick with the gospel. Stay grounded in Christ and the Bible. Don’t go looking for new teachings outside of Christ. Grow in what you already know!

Paul said something similar in Acts 20 when he told his friends: “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32) To receive Christ is to believe in him and to believe what God’s word says about him, to be strengthened in the faith as you were taught.

   C. Overflowing with thankfulness
      – Colossians 1:3,12, 2:7, 3:15,16,17, 4:2

Living by faith in Christ means being rooted and built up in him, being strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and thirdly, overflowing with thankfulness. This is a recurring theme in the book of Colossians. This is the third time Paul has brought up thankfulness in the letter, and he will bring it up four more times as well.

A life that is lived by faith in Christ is one that is overflowing with thankfulness. Don’t leave thanksgiving out of your prayers. Begin each day thanking God for your life and salvation and for the many blessings he has given you in Christ. Don’t be just a little thankful. Be overflowing with thankfulness. You can never thank God enough.

II. Freedom in Christ (8)

The Christian life is marked by faith in Christ, and secondly the Christian life is marked by freedom in Christ. Look at verse 8 where Paul writes: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

The word translated by the phrase “see to it” in this verse is a word that means, “Beware! Watch out!” The word translated by the phrase “takes you captive” is a word that was used of someone being kidnapped or carried away as a slave. In other words this is a strong warning to guard your freedom, to stay alert, to be on the lookout for those things that can rob you of your freedom and take you captive.

Most cults today prefer to recruit from churches rather than from the unchurched. They look for people in churches who have a spiritual interest but who are not strong in their faith. You would think once they found out you were a Christian, they would leave you alone. But you are actually their prime target. Of course the best antidote is what we were just talking about as far as living in Christ. As long as you are rooted and built up in Christ, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness, you are not going to fall prey to a cult.

   A. Watch out for hollow and deceptive philosophy
      – Acts 20:29; Colossians 1:13

So what things should we watch out for as Christians that can rob us of our freedom in Christ? First off Paul says watch out for hollow and deceptive philosophy. Paul is not talking about philosophy as an academic study such as we have in our colleges and universities. This is a much broader term than the way we use it today. He is talking about philosophy not as an academic discipline but more as a way of thinking about the world, how you view the world around you, really any system of thought.

And note that there is nothing wrong with philosophy in and of itself. He doesn’t say, “Watch out for philosophy,” but rather “hollow and deceptive philosophy.” The word translated “hollow” is a word that means “empty, that which is void of truth and value.” And it is deceptive. It sounds good at first, but it appeals to our sinful nature rather than exalting Christ.

Paul is really warning against false teaching here. It’s the same warning he issued in Acts 20:29: “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.” (Acts 20:29) And whether using the analogy of kidnappers or wolves, false teaching does real violence to the body of Christ, because false teaching takes you captive and robs you of your freedom in Christ.

Paul told the Colossians back in 1:13 that “He [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Colossians 1:13) The thought here is, you’ve already been rescued, why let yourselves be captured again? Do you want to keep your freedom in Christ? Watch out for hollow and deceptive philosophy.

   B. Do not look to human tradition or the basic principles of this world
      – Mark 7:8; Galatians 4:3, 8-9

And then next, do not look to human tradition or the basic principles of this world. Paul says this hollow and deceptive philosophy depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Human tradition refers to man-made teachings rather than the God-given revelation we have in the Bible. Jesus spoke about the problem of choosing human tradition over the word of God. He told the Pharisees in Mark 7: “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” (Mark 7:8) You can’t get to God if you start with man. You need God’s word to know the truth that sets you free.

And then this phrase “the basic principles of this world” is a difficult one to interpret. Some people think it refers back to the spiritual powers and authorities that Paul mentioned back in Colossians 1:18. However, I think in this context it just refers to the basic ways of human thinking apart from God. Paul uses the same phrase in the context of freedom and slavery in the book of Galatians. We read in Galatians 4:3: “When we were children, [that is, before we came to Christ], we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.” (Galatians 4:3) [Cf. also Galatians 4:8-9]

Paul says watch out for hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

   C. True freedom is found in Christ alone
      – Galatians 5:1

That brings us to our third point about freedom this morning which is true freedom is found in Christ alone. Too many people think the Christian life is all about rules and regulations when Christ really offers us a life of beautiful freedom. In Christ you are free from condemnation, free from guilt, free from fear, free from sin. But when you look to anyone or anything other than Christ for your freedom, you are going to end up in slavery again.

And so Paul issues the warning. Watch out! Be alert! Don’t let anyone take you captive! We read a similar warning in Galatians 5:1: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

Paul says watch out that no one takes you captive through false teaching. We will talk more about guarding your freedom in a couple weeks when we get to Paul’s instructions on fighting against legalism at the end of this chapter (2:16-23), but for right now take heed to Paul’s warning to guard your freedom in Christ.

III. Fullness in Christ (9-10)

1) The Christian life is marked by faith in Christ. 2) The Christian life is marked by freedom in Christ. And 3) The Christian life is marked by fullness in Christ. Look at verses 9-10: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” (Colossians 2:9-10)

   A. All the fullness of God lives in Christ
      – Colossians 1:19

This is a remarkable statement. First Paul says that all the fullness of God lives in Christ. All the fullness of God – not just God’s attributes but his very essence; not just part but all – all that marks God as God dwells in Christ.

This verse echoes Colossians 1:19 which said: “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” (Colossians 1:19) But Colossians 2:9 comes out even stronger when it says all God’s fullness dwells in Christ “in bodily form.” What a response to the false teachers! Remember the false teachers taught that the physical world was evil, that only spiritual things were good. But Paul says all God’s fullness dwells in Christ bodily.

Jesus was already fully God, but through the incarnation Jesus became fully God and fully man. And he remains fully God and fully man forever. All God’s fullness dwells within Christ even now. The incarnation was not a temporary thing for Christ but permanent. All the fullness of God lives in Christ.

   B. Christ is the head over every power and authority
      – Matthew 28:16; Colossians 1:16, 18

Not only that, Christ is also the head over every power and authority. Now this certainly includes earthly powers and authorities. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:16) But Paul is probably thinking about spiritual beings once again, as we saw in Colossians 1:16 where he spoke about spiritual beings as thrones, powers, rulers and authorities. All these powers and authorities were created by Christ, and all these powers and authorities are subject to Christ.

Earlier in Colossians we saw that Christ is the head of the body, the church (Colossians 1:18). Now we see he is the head over all spiritual beings as well. When you live in Christ, you do not need to fear anything because all the fullness of God lives in Christ, and Christ is the head over every power and authority.

   C. You have been given fullness in Christ
      – John 1:16, 10:10; Ephesians 3:19; Colossians 1:9,19, 24-25, 2:2, 9-10

And then there is one more part to this remarkable statement. You have been given fullness in Christ! Christ lives in you; all the fullness of God lives in Christ; and therefore you have been given fullness in Christ.

We have seen this theme of fullness over and over again in the book of Colossians:

Colossians 1:9: “… asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will.”
Colossians 1:19: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.”
Colossians 1:24: “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions.”
Colossians 1:25: “…to present to you the word of God in its fullness.”
Colossians 2:2: “…may have the full riches of complete understanding.”
Colossians 2:9-10: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ.”

There are other Scriptures that talk about the fullness we have in Christ also. We read in John 1:16: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” (John 1:16) Jesus said in John 10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) Paul prayed for the Ephesians “that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19)

Paul’s point in Colossians is this. Why give in to the hollow and empty philosophy of the false teachers when you have been given fullness in Christ? You’ve already been filled! You have Christ! What more are you looking for? As Max Anders writes: “Don’t go looking for treasure you already have!” Everything you need from God you have in Christ.

CONCLUSION: So what is the secret to living the Christian life? Christianity is not simply living out a creed, but it is living in a person. You are united with Christ by faith, and you receive the strength to live the Christian life every day through your relationship with him. Your Christian life began with Christ, and it must continue with Christ.

Does your life feel hollow, empty, unfulfilled? If so, it’s because you are being deceived by an empty philosophy that depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world. You are living your life according to something other than Christ.

The Christian life is marked by faith in Christ, freedom in Christ and fullness in Christ. Anything less is not authentic Christianity. What’s the secret to living the Christian life? It’s simple. The secret to living the Christian life is living in Christ. That’s the heart of Christianity, and that’s the heart of this letter to the Colossians.

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