“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (N.I.V.)
“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.” (N.I.V.)
The liturgy for baptismal services asks the question “Do you turn to Christ?” to which people need to give an honest and thoughtful answer involving a personal decision, an internal choice leading to change. It is a very challenging question involving a complete turn-around in thinking and life-style. It means turning AWAY from a previous self-centred lifestyle – and turning TO JESUS.
Christianity is centred on a living Being. It is a relationship with Him. Making Christ not only our Saviour but also our Lord. It is a decision done out of a person’s free choice, but not one to be taken lightly.
In His letter to the Colossian Church Paul was writing to people who had made this decision. He urged them to continue in their faith and not get side-tracked.
As a keen gardener I appreciate Paul’s horticultural metaphor in speaking about being “rooted in Him” (Christ). Every plant needs a growing medium in which to live. When planting something in the ground it is important to ensure that the roots are firmly in contact with soil, with no hidden air-pockets limiting the contact. Without the life and energy from the soil (or compost in a pot), a plant will wither and die.
Jesus used another horticultural metaphor when He spoke of the branches of a grape-vine needing to remain in contact with their source of life in the parent plant.
Paul also used a metaphor from the building trade in speaking of being “built up” in Him (Christ). Any good builder will tell you the importance of solid foundations and strong structures. Always, the underlying foundation is important for the safety of the building.
So whether we look at horticulture or brick-laying the principle is the same. The underlying “soil” or “foundation” of our faith is Christ Himself. Our faith is built on Him. Christianity is quite unlike any other religion – it isn’t a philosophy, an ethic, a set of rules or a system (as described once by Prince Charles!) it is a relationship with Jesus who has opened up the way to God for us.
Lest we think that “turning to Christ” is simply a one-off decision made on a single occasion Paul tells us to “continue to live in Him…”. Returning again to the above metaphors…….. a plant has to develop and grow, otherwise it remains as a seedling or sapling. Similarly, a foundation stone is not a building on its own – it needs bricks, timber, windows etc. to become what it was always intended to be.
Christians need to grow, develop and be changed into fullness of life in Christ….to become what He always intended us to be and not to remain as weak infants. This takes a lifetime of ongoing commitment through all the ups and downs encountered on our journey. It is very easy to drift off course when the journey gets difficult and to look elsewhere for our needs to be met. Paul’s challenge for Christians to continue in the faith and grow is important for us.
The past sixteen or seventeen months have tested us. Being unable to meet as a Church in the usual way for services and other activities may have led some to wonder on the meaning of their faith. Church isn’t intended just as a social club – we need the mutual support and encouragement we get from one another and this helps us to stay on track with God. During this time some may have been tempted to look away from God to have their needs met. It is important always to keep in mind that the centre of our faith is Christ Himself. In Him is our soil and our foundation. He is our heart. Without Him we have nothing. Each of us is responsible to ensure that our relationship with Him through daily prayer and Bible study continues to grow.
The overflow of this life-giving relationship with Jesus is thankfulness.
I leave you with a question to ponder…..”Has my relationship with Jesus strengthened or diminished during the time of lockdown.
“Saviour, teach me, day by day.
Love’s sweet lesson to obey;
Sweeter lesson cannot be,
Loving Him Who first loved me.
Teach me, I am not my own,
I am Thine, and Thine alone;
Thine to keep, to rule, to save
From all sin that would enslave.”
(Jane Leeson, 1807-1882)
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.