The Pilgrim's Wellspring for Christian Maturity
May 22, 2016
The Colossian church had a problem. They were drifting away from Jesus Christ. They looked for spiritual maturity in human philosophies and man-made traditions. They were judged by others and felt disqualified before them. They became more and more worldly. And their relationships began to suffer.
But thanks be to God. For while the Colossian church did indeed have a problem, she also had a good and faithful shepherd. The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ lovingly brought the Colossians back to him. And he did it through a letter from his servant the Apostle Paul. Praise the Lord! As we go through this beautiful letter, let us be aware of how we may drift away from Christ. And let us draw near to our Lord, who is the true wellspring of our spiritual maturity.
Last Sunday, we looked at the beginning of Paul’s letter, where Paul thanks God for the faith and hope and love of the Colossian church. Today, we see Paul sharing what he prays about to God for the Colossian church. And his prayer is simple. He asks for the Colossians to know God’s will - verses 9-10. And he asks for the Colossians to have the power to do God’s will - verses 11-12. Knowing God’s will, and the power to do it. This is Paul’s prayer for the Colossians.
Why would Paul ask that the Colossians would know God’s will? The answer is because the Colossians were faced with other wills. Other people were speaking to them about how to grow into spiritual maturity. And they were being filled with the knowledge of human will in all man-made wisdom and understanding.
But Paul’s first prayer request is based on the fact that God’s will is better than human will. God’s blueprint for spiritual maturity is the way to go. Paul wants the Colossians to do God’s will for spiritual maturity, not other people’s own wills for spiritual maturity.
So how do we know God’s will? The answer is this: We know God’s will because God tells us his will. That is how we know God’s will.
The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it sublimely: “The distance between God and man is so great, that although we owe obedience unto him, yet we could never have any fruition of him as our blessedness and reward, except by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he has been pleased to express by way of covenant.”
In other words, brothers and sisters, God has spoken to us. God’s will has been revealed to us and written down for us in the Bible.
Do you want to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord? Do you want to please God? Do you want to bear fruit in every good work? If so, then know his will, which is all found in Scripture. God has spoken to us about how to grow spiritually.
This means many things. It means that we do not have to come up with our own ways to grow spiritually. We don’t have to be innovative or creative or reinvent the wheel in matters of spiritual maturity. It means that we ought to humble ourselves and recognize that God’s words and God’s ways are the best. It means that there are no secrets to Christian life and spiritual maturity. It means that we don’t need to go to human philosophies and man-made traditions to become better Christians.
So far we have talked about Paul’s first prayer request - that the Colossian church would know God’s will. Now here is the second prayer request. In verses 10-12, Paul prays that the Colossian church would be strengthened with power for certain qualities of Christian maturity.
It is interesting to note what Christian maturity comes down to for Paul. He says, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father….” Christians are to receive power and strength, but for what? For endurance. For patience. For joy. For thanksgiving.
This is God’s will for Christian maturity in a nutshell. Just as Christian life is centered on faith, hope, and love, Christian maturity is centered on endurance, patience, joy, and thanksgiving.
These qualities seem too general and simple. But remember: God’s words and God’s ways are higher than ours. I’ve personally come to realize that these qualities are the really crucial ones. And in my personal prayer life, I’ve begun to hear myself praying more and more for these big qualities.
The reason why these qualities are so crucial is because they are for the pilgrim traveler as opposed to the worldly settler. Noah’s neighbors cared less about endurance and patience because they enjoyed the world and called it home. But Noah cared about endurance and patience because he looked forward to a better world and another place to call home. Babel seeks a worldly joy and an earthly thanksgiving. But Abraham yearns for an eternal joy and a heavenly thanksgiving. Brothers and sisters, let us pray for these things at Highland. Endurance and patience. Joy and thanksgiving. These qualities, along with faith and hope and love, are the big ones for Christian life as we wait for the Lord and his kingdom, as we suffer for the Lord and with him and with each other.
So, we have talked about Paul’s two prayer requests. First, that the Colossians would know God’s will. And second, that they would have the power for endurance, patience, joy, and thanksgiving. But this leads us to the grand question of the entire letter and book of Colossians: where does God’s will come from? Where does God’s power for endurance, patience, joy, and thanksgiving come from? The answer is Jesus Christ himself.
In him do we have everything we need - not only for salvation, but also for spiritual growth. Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son….” 2 Corinthians 4:7 tells us: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” And we are told in places such as John 15 that Christ is the vine and we are the branches. Apart from him we can do nothing.
In Christ we have been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints. In Christ we have been delivered from the domain of darkness. In Christ we have been transferred to God’s kingdom. In Christ we have redemption. In Christ we have the forgiveness of sins. And in Christ, we have everything we need for spiritual maturity.
Brothers and sisters, I want to encourage you to trust in God’s will for your spiritual maturity. We are committed to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. This means that our primary means of grace, the basic things that we use to grow into spiritual maturity, are things such as the Word of God and the Lord’s Supper. Things such as these seem rather weak and foolish, inefficient and unimpactful, insufficient and outdated. But they are not. God has spoken and given us his will for spiritual maturity. And here at Highland, we’re committed to simply obeying God’s will and doing what he has told us to do for our spiritual maturity. So, I just want to encourage you to try it.