“How does a person grow in the Christian life?”
I don’t need to work hard to prove that is an important question.
If you are a true Christian you are by definition concerned about how to grow in your Christian life.
The very terms we use to describe what it mean to be a Christian indicate that. Think about the word disciple. Before Christians were called Christians they were called disciples. A Christian is a disciple and a disciple is at the minimum, a learner. That’s what the word disciple means.
When we say we are Christians we are saying we are disciples. When we say we are disciples we are saying we are learners. And when we say we are learners we are saying we are concerned about how to grow in the Christian life.
You can’t read very much of the New Testament without being struck by the writers concern for the believer’s spiritual growth.
Jesus says, “Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Paul explains, “And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28)
And James writes, “Consider it all joy my brothers when you encounter various trials, knowing that testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Biblically speaking, spiritual growth is not an option. There is something drastically wrong with anyone who says they are a believer and yet is not interested in changing and becoming more like Christ.
We as believers are to continually press on to maturity.
We are by definition interested in spiritual growth.
Unfortunately while this is a subject that every true believer is interested in, it is also a subject that many believers are terribly confused about.
Even worse, there are many people who have no idea what it means to be spiritually mature. Actually, maybe “no idea” is not the right way to put it. Perhaps it would be better to say they have the wrong idea about what it means to be spiritually mature.
They have an idea of the Christian life and of spiritual growth that is just twisted and warped.ThIs is a great hindrances to their really growing in Christ. You are going to have a hard time maturing in Christ if you don’t know what it means to be mature in Christ and if you are using the wrong means to pursue it.
Reading through the book of Colossians, you’ll see that Paul is concerned about just that. In fact, in verses 16-23 of chapter 2, he has to deal with a real perverted understanding of the Christian life.
Before he shows us the path towards spiritual maturity, he shows us paths we absolutely must not take. He does so because there are certain ideas about the Christian life and about spiritual growth that are just flat out deadly. We’re talking,soul-destroying.
Paul makes that pretty obvious.
Listen to this text.
He is calling on the Colossians to reject something. He says in verse 16, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you…” That’s a command, not an option and I think this command is so fascinating. Because notice, he doesn’t say you need to stop passing judgment on other people. He says you need to stop letting people pass judgment on you.
When it comes to how to live the Christian life not everyone is correct.
There are certain attitudes, certain teachings that Paul wants believers to reject. In fact, take it a step further, there are certain attitudes and certain teachings that Paul says believers must reject. That we absolutely cannot accept. That we’ve got to stand up against.
To get an idea of how important rejecting these wrong ideas really is, listen to what Paul says in verse 18.
“Let no one disqualify you…”
Now, that’s a strong statement. He’s moving past someone just passing judgment or looking down on you, towards someone robbing you of your prize. If you follow these men you are placing yourself in a dangerous position, because verse 19, they are not connected to Christ.
They are not “holding fast to the head…”
This means any view of life that is like “I’m just going to sit back and take it all in – I’m going to be like a sponge and just accept it all” is flat out unbiblical and thus completely wrong.
Paul is saying that you have a responsibility to identify false teaching and you have a responsibility to reject it.
Now the problem is that it’s not always easy to spot false teaching about the Christian life.
Take the Colossians.
They were in some senses, pretty strong Christians. In chapter 1 and verse 3, Paul says, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for you…” And he was doing that because he had heard, “of their faith in Christ Jesus and of the love they had for all the saints…”
And yet, Paul recognized chapter 2:4 that even they needed to watch out that they weren’t in Paul’s words, deluded or you could say deceived – that they didn’t fall for false teaching.
One reason it is sometimes hard to identify false teaching about the Christian life is because it so often sounds so good.
You’ll notice as you study Colossians that Paul’s very up front about what they were hearing there in Colossae. He says in 2:44 that these false teachers have plausible arguments. You listen to them and it sounds like it could work. The people presenting these ideas weren’t just anyone, they were persuasive intelligent men (2:4) who were promoting a philosophy (2:8) which means in other words that they were teaching this whole long worked out system. This wasn’t some fly by night deal and then they were claiming that philosophy was based on ancient traditions. If you rejected their philosophy you weren’t just rejecting them you were rejecting the “wisdom of the ages…” And to make matters worse, it seems that they were going around saying that their philosophy was the path towards greater insight into spiritual things and a fuller knowledge of God which are things every true Christian should want. Plus, these teachers, were religious men. Deeply religious men. They were very disciplined in the way they treated their body. They did a lot of things that from a worldly point of view looked real spiritual. Additionally, what they were teaching was somewhat appealing in that it was mysterious. Somehow what the core of what they were teaching was tied to elemental spirits of the world, verse 8 and verse 18, the worship of angels, and verse 10, cosmic powers and authorities; which are all things as we can even see in our world that people are naturally interested in knowing more about. All that to say, verse 23, that what they were promoting had the appearance of wisdom.
It’s important to note that because sometimes people are like, “Hey this guy seems religious and what he is saying sounds wise so it must be true.”
But that’s just flat out false.
As Martin Luther once put it, “The more holy the heretics seem in outward show, the more mischief they do.” It was because these teachers in Colossae had persuasive arguments, they seemed really wise, they were super religious, that they were so dangerous because in spite of all their great arguments they were flat out wrong. They were wrong about God and they were wrong about Jesus Christ, that’s chapters one and two so far; and they were wrong about how to live the Christian life, that’s the rest of chapter 2. What they were teaching had the appearance of wisdom, but look again at verse 23, Paul sums up this whole section by saying, it had no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. To put it real simply: what they were sounded good but it wasn’t.
They had a completely warped understanding of how to grow in the Christian life and what exactly it meant to be spiritually mature. In the next several posts, we’ll identify their three wrong approaches to spiritual growth.