Colossians 2:6-7 | 6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Life is made up of a series of steps. Maybe you have raised a child or are in the process of raising one. Whatever the case may be, we expect a child to take new and exciting steps in their physical development. In fact, we expect it so much that we become worried when it does not occur because it is unnatural. Physical development is a natural process of our life, and it continues until the day we die. We are a people of next steps. We go from crawling to walking to communicating to learning to becoming an employee to leading from our experiences to retirement and eventually death. It is human nature to desire to go to the next step.
Just as we desire for children to develop physically, and we seek to develop ourselves financially or academically, we should also have a desire to develop spiritually. At the beginning of the year, our church was led to become “Established in the Faith.” We have taken the wording of this theme from the passage we just read. Colossians 2:6-7 are some of the most familiar verses of the Bible when referring to our spiritual journey. Many churches, discipleship books, authors, pastors, and teachers have used these verses to challenge Christians to grow in their faith.
If you have been around the Christian faith or church for any time at all, you have probably heard these verses preached on or shared in some manner. If you haven’t heard these verses, you have probably heard the principles. What makes these verse unique is the process that is laid out within. The wording and structure of these verses give each Christian a step by step process to follow.
If we expect growth and development in every other area, why not expect it in our spiritual lives? As we begin the process of becoming “established in the faith” as a church family, would you consider the following steps to gauge where you are at spiritually? Would you examine your life for what the next step is for you?
Let’s begin these next couple weeks of lessons by introducing the next steps of our spiritual life:
Step 1: Salvation
“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord,”
Most of us understand that our spiritual journey began at salvation. When Jesus is talking to Nicodemus in John 3, He actually refers to salvation as being “born again.” When we accepted Jesus as our Savior, we became a baby Christian – a Christian who needs to partake in the natural process of growth and development. This first step is crucial. It is actually required if we desire to become established in the faith.
We accept the free gift of salvation by faith according to Ephesians 2:8-9:
Ephesians 2:8-9 | 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
We must understand that without a faith in the work of Jesus Christ and the work that God can do, then it impossible to please Him.
Hebrews 11:6 | But without faith it is impossible to please him:for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
More importantly, it is impossible for us to develop and grow in something we have never accepted. No one has ever moved up in a company where they have not accepted a job. No one has ever excelled academically in a school where they have not enrolled. This is the foundational principle of our Christian life. If our salvation is not settled, we cannot move on to becoming an established Christian.
Today, you may be hearing some of this for the first time. It could be that you’ve been visiting this church for quite awhile, but you have never settled your salvation. Would you determine to talk to a friend, teacher, or pastor today? If we truly desire to become an established church, it must start with the first step of salvation.
Step 2: Walk
“…so walk ye in him:”
There is not many things more exciting than seeing a baby take their first couple steps. The excitement in their eyes and the excitement of the crowd that has gathered always makes for a memorable moment for everyone.
Sadly, many baby Christians never learn to “walk” spiritually. Just as unnatural and unnerving as it is to see an adult or child of age who has not developed the strength to walk, it is the same with a baby Christian.
Sometimes, we will refer to our relationship with Christ as our “walk.” Our personal walk with God was put into motion, the moment we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior. No one can see your personal walk with God, just as no one can see the muscles used for a physical walk. We know the muscles exist based on the act of walking. Our spiritual walk cannot be seen unless spiritual steps taken by the Christian that are the evidence of a personal relationship with God. For us, here at our church, we have broken this step into two visible sub-steps that we believe evidence a personal walk with God:
Step 2A: Baptism
The first step following salvation and our new relationship with Jesus Christ is baptism. For some baptism is intimidating for a variety of reasons. Many Christians hesitate at this first visible step because of the pressure it involves. Baptism can be defined as the “outward expression of an inward faith” or “a public profession of a private faith.” Basically, you are now telling everyone (friends, family, co-workers, church members, etc.) that you have accepted Jesus Christ. Baptism tells everyone that there should be a life change occurring in your life.
Romans 6:4 | Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
This does not mean that you will live a perfect life from here on out, but it does mean that you should be walking in Christ and becoming more like Him. If you feel intimidated by baptism, you are not alone and you are most likely correct in some of your assumptions of baptism. It is scary to think that all those close to you should now see a new you. The comfort we can find is that life transformation is not our job. Life change does not come from discipline, baptism, or any other avenue other than the power of Christ working in us.
II Corinthians 5:17 | Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
The job of the Christian following salvation is to be willing to take the next step and see how God rewards their actions. Maybe you have been saved and have ignored the step of baptism. Maybe you have felt the pressure and intimidation that goes with baptism. If you are experiencing any or all of these things related to baptism, consider that the responsibility of becoming established is not up to you, but in the hands of Christ.
Step 2B: Church Membership
The verses we just read do no mention baptism or church membership, but as we seek to apply them, we can understand that both are evidences of a personal walk with God. While neither church membership nor baptism guarantee Heaven, both our visible steps of an inward faith. It would be difficult to dedicate three times a week to a place that wasn’t helping you in your spiritual walk. It would be difficult to participate in a church service to a God that had done nothing for you. When we commit to a church or to follow in believer’s baptism, we are showing the fruit of a inward faith.
This steps follows baptism based on the example found in Acts 2:41:
Acts 2:41 | Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Today’s culture has done a grave disservice to many baby Christian by disconnecting the power of the Gospel from the local church. Jesus Christ died for the church according to Acts 20:28:
Acts 20:28 | Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
As the owner and purchaser of the local church, Christ gave the commission of the spreading of the Gospel to disciples who would be the first leaders of local church ministry in the book of Acts. As we look at the history of the local church, the Gospel was spread by the members and leaders of the New Testament church. In fact, outside of several evangelists in the Bible, we never see an organism outside of the local church responsible for the propagating of the Gospel. This is crucial for us to understand in relation to church membership.
Today’s society has disconnected the Gospel from the local church with well-meaning, and many times, fruitful para-church organizations and humanitarian efforts. Salvation is freely offered to everyone and commanded to be shared by all Christians, but when the Gospel is shared outside of the context of the local church, there is no foundation for further spiritual growth. We have given a person new life without giving them new food. We have given them fresh water without showing them the well. We have given them the Gospel without giving them a means for growth.
Our desire as a church is to share the Gospel and reach as many as we can, but if we fail to use our buildings and assets to train people to go and do the same, we have failed. The Biblical model found in the New Testament is that Christians would be reaching and training other Christians to experience what they have found in Christ through their local church.
Today, would consider being a part of the Gospel ministry taking place through this local church? Would you allow the fruit of your personal walk to be seen through your local church? This step is needed if we desire to move on to establishment. The Bible gives no other method or organization.
Step 3: Rooted
“Rooted and built up in him,”
As a member of the local New Testament church, we have been given a mandate by God to take the Gospel to everyone. This command is known as the Great Commission and is found in Matthew 28:19-20:
Matthew 28:19-20 | 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Reaching people with the Gospel is only part of the Great Commission though. If we are to apply it the process we are developing from our passage, it is step one in a Christian’s spiritual walk. The Great Commission commands that not only we go and share, but that we also baptize and teach.
As we seek to become more established as a church, it is necessary to grow deeper before we grow bigger. Everyone enjoys the wonderful shade of a tall tree on a warm summer day just as everyone enjoys the life of an established Christian. Without roots, neither the tree nor the Christian will be able to withstand the winds and storms of life.
Many times, we make decisions and changes spiritually to appear more established because its what people see and recognize. A false sense of establishment in our spiritual lives only leads to our personal destruction and the despair of others. Before we can become an established Christian and an established church, it must start not by building up, but rooting our lives in the Word of God and the work of Christ.
Maybe you have been saved and baptized and been a part of this church for a long time, but you are giving a false sense of establishment because you lack roots in the Word of God. As a part of this local church, you have the opportunity to sit across from an experienced discipler and be taught God’s Word. It could be that you even serve, but you find yourself giving an appearance of being established when in all actuality you are serving Christ on empty. The life of a Christian was intended to be unique and different than the world, but without roots we will be thrown around by the winds of life just like the unsaved. When we choose to root ourselves, we are beginning the final step toward being established. If you lack roots or are giving the appearance of having roots, talk to your teacher or a pastoral staff member today about how you can learn the Word of God in the context of the local church and become rooted in Christ.
Step 4: Established
“…and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”
The good news is that there is a possibility of being established and settled in a world which longs for both. As a Christian, this is what we strive for, but it never stops. Some would have you to believe that a certain age or maturity level can achieve spiritual maturity, but the Bible never teaches this. In fact, it gives multiple examples of men and women of God who were receiving fresh and new glimpses of God in their old age. Being established is not synonymous with age, church activity, or any other man-made gauge. These are fruits of being established, but establishment occurs over time and years of faithfulness – years of continuing to go deeper into God’s Word, years of growing as a Christian, years of dedication to the work of God.
The analogy of roots and establishment lends itself to trees and living organisms very easily. We understand that a tree that is well established not only has deep roots, but it deepens those roots to continue to grow stronger. Each tree that is alive and growing is budding and producing each year. A Christian who is established does not stop following the process laid out by his or her church. An established Christian desires to grow deeper roots and bud and produce spiritual fruit for as long as they can.
Peter exemplifies this same principle in the conclusion of his second epistle. He writes:
II Peter 3:17-18 | 17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. 18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
He encourages these Christians to take all that he has taught them and allow it to root them deeper so as not to be pulled away. To combat the pulling away, he encourages them not only to take what he has written to them and learn it, but to also continue to grow themselves according to verse eighteen.
In a day where statistics speak to the masses leaving the church, it is paramount that we seek to become established. However, it does not happen overnight; it is a journey. What better journey could there be than the one that draws us closer to our Savior for the cause of reaching the world?
Where are you right now in your spiritual life? What’s your next step? Consider what God would have you do next to become “established in the faith.”