In a nutshell, when Jesus wanted uninterrupted time he withdrew from the crowds. The rest of the time? Well… let’s just say that Jesus had a completely different concept of boundaries than we do.
Colossians 2: 6-7
“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
The Apostle Paul was arrested for preaching the gospel in Jerusalem and starting a riot. As was the right of a Roman citizen, he appealed his case to Caesar. Now near the end of his life, Paul is writing this letter to the church in the city of Colossae (in what is now western Turkey) from his prison cell in Rome. He had never visited the Colossian church, but has learned that false teaching has entered the church. He’s writing this letter to counteract that teaching. Paul first paints a portrait of Christ and then, in a loving, fatherly tone, offers his own teaching on what it means to follow Christ.
“Let your roots grow down into Him…”
What does it mean to follow Jesus? Paul tells us to “…let our roots grow down in him”, and to let “our lives be built on him.” He’s using the image of a tree to describe our life in Christ. The picture Paul draws for us is of a tree that is deeply rooted, solid, and stable. We are rooted, or anchored, in Christ. We derive our sustenance and nourishment – our life – from Christ. Like a tree, we get our stability and the ability to stand firm in storms from our roots. And like a tree’s roots go down into the earth, so our ‘roots’ are to go down into Christ. Our ‘roots’ in Christ give us stability and security, and we draw spiritual nourishment up into our lives from him.
“…let your lives be built on him.”
An apple tree produces apples. An apple tree never has to think about what kind of tree it is, worry about whether or not it will produce apples, or work at developing the ability to grow apples. An apple tree simply grows apples. In the same way, many of us never give any thought to what our lives produce, we simply live. Are you producing good things in your life? The answer depends on what you’re rooted in. Are you rooted in the good soil of Christ’s love, or something else? Do your roots go down deep into Christ’s love, or do you live on the surface of that love, truth and beauty?
“…your faith will grow strong…”
The Apostle Paul wants his readers to focus on Jesus as the basis for their life. He wants them to live not for Christ but from Christ. This is not just a clever play on words, but is an essential truth for Christians. If we are separated from our roots, or are not deeply rooted in Christ, we run the risk of not being healthy. We run the risk of not growing good things in our lives, and we run the risk of being toppled by the storms of life.
In addition to growing strong in our faith, Paul says that if we are rooted deeply in Jesus we’ll become ‘thankful’. Gratitude appears often in the New Testament, and it’s often described as a way of life. The Apostle Paul sees it as a result of letting ‘our roots go down deep into him.’ Gratitude can’t coexist with a sense of entitlement. Gratitude can’t co-exist with the belief of ‘I deserve this.” Gratitude requires us to have humility and to relinquish our hold on selfishness. Almost – if not all – of the world’s troubles, evils, and difficulties can be traced back to selfishness.
It Takes Time
The process Paul describes takes time. It takes consistency and some effort on our part. This flies in the face of our culture, where everything is instant and immediate. But the results of not building our lives on him are evident everywhere in our world in broken families, broken systems and broken relationships. So the question remains – what is your life built on? Perhaps there’s a better question. How can you grow your roots down deep into Jesus?
“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.”
Colossians 1: 15 – 20
“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on the earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”
This is probably a hymn of the early church, which the apostle Paul recites to the church at Colossae, to whom he is writing letter (we know it as the book of Colossians)
Fact Check: The Person of Jesus
Is Jesus the “visible image of the invisible God?” Hebrews 1:3 tells us that, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…” As to Jesus being at one with God before the creation of the world, John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In verse 14 John continues, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Fact Check: Jesus as Creator
Hebrews 1: 2 says, “God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.” Christ is the agent of God’s creation; the world was created “through” Him. The Father and the Son had two distinct functions in creation yet worked together to bring about the cosmos. John says, “God created everything through [Jesus], and nothing was created except through [Jesus].” (Hebrews 1:2) Paul reiterates: “There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 1st Corinthians 8:6.
Fact Check: The Resurrection
The early church believed that there was a resurrection of the dead in and through Jesus Christ, and the church has continued to believe this for almost 2000 years. In Acts 4:2, the Apostles Peter and John were arrested for preaching that “…through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead.” In Acts 26: 22-23 the Apostle Paul tells the Roman Governor Festus, “…I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen – that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead…” In Matthew 22:29-32 Jesus himself confirms that there is indeed a resurrection from the dead.
Fact Check: Jesus Is Head Of The Church
1st Corinthians 12:27 reads, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” For almost 2000 years the church has placed Christ at its head, both individually and collectively, and acknowledged Christ as the leader of the church. Ephesians 1:22 says, “And He [God] put all things in subjection under [Christ’s] feet, and gave [Christs] as head over all things to the church…”
What Does This Mean For Me?
All of this points to the exalted position of Christ for the early church. Christ reigned supreme. The question is: Do we have the same exalted position of Christ in our lives today? Do we believe that Jesus is God, second person of the Trinity? Do we believe that everything was created by Christ and for Christ, and that he exists in every aspect of creation and every aspect of our lives? Do we live like this is true?
Today, more than ever, we have full to-do lists, full schedules and we juggle so many things at once. Some days, there isn’t enough time to do everything that’s on our list. Constantly being tuned to social media, and constantly connected to friends and family, adds another layer of stress to our already burdened minds. King Jesus becomes an add-on to our lives.
We often ask why we don’t see miracles today like we read in the book of Acts. Part of the reason may be that we don’t hold Jesus in the same high regard as the early church. For some of us, Jesus is a reason for living, not the reason for living. For some of us, Jesus is an idea, and not a living person who we recognize as our King.
Our world has one thing in common with the world of the early church: Jesus. And Jesus isn’t asking to be a part of our life. He’s claiming to be the reason we live.
What does that look like for you?
We’re advised in scripture to meditate on the bible. Psalm 1:2, contrasting foolish people with the wise says, “…they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.” In Joshua’s famous charge to the Israelites he says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it…” (Joshua 1:8)
But what is meditation? How does it work, exactly?
There’s many different ways in which Christians meditate on the scriptures. One of the most common ways is through focused thought. This is when you fix your thoughts on something for a period of time in a conscious, intentional way. This type of meditation requires that we be fully present with the scripture we are engaging. This is the thought behind Philippians 4:8 where it says, “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
According to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word we translate as ‘meditate’ means to mutter or to moan. The sense here is not of complaining, but or reading the scripture aloud with a heartfelt longing. When you’re faced with a particularly difficult situation in life you may have – or may need to search for – a bible verse that seems to speak to your situation. When you find it, you’ll know – God will confirm his promise in your spirit. Repeat the verse quietly throughout the day – a dozen times, a thousand times. This is the “mutter” part. While doing this, be conscious of God’s presence, and that you are speaking his promise (This is the “moan” part). In essence, you are praying God’s word back to him, asking him to be faithful to his word. God doesn’t hear a thousand prayers any more than he hears one prayer, but this “mutter and moan” form of meditation changes us. It keeps us focused on God and the fulfillment of his promise to us. And I believe that God rewards persistence and perseverance (Luke 18: 1-8)
One of these bible verses that I frequently mutter and moan is Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
There are Christians who make a habit of ‘muttering and moaning’ much larger portions of the scriptures. Many Christians pray through the psalms and The Paraclete Psalter is a terrific resource for doing this. Others meditate on specific passages to achieve a breakthrough in some area of their life – such as Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word or the excellent book from Wesley and Stacy Campbell, Praying the Bible.
Now just a single white column of smoke remained,
Where seconds ago it was burning bright.
The flame symbolic of Jesus’ life,
Had now been taken from my sight.
I closed my eyes and slowly bowed my head,
And quietly began to pray.
As the scent of the candle now filling the church,
Silently drifted my way.
I came to church, in search of the flame,
Unprepared to witness its death.
And with my heart now increasingly heavy,
I solemnly drew my next breath.
And discovered that it wasn’t until the candle went out,
That I could appreciate its fragrance within.
The gift it had given once the flame was gone,
Our eternal life that Jesus had given.
As it entered my body with each ensuing breath,
How quickly it filled my heart.
His love now replacing my sorrow,
Allowing the healing to start.
And through this insight of His crucifixion,
This precious glimpse not soon forgot.
Every candle I behold now reminds me,
Of why Jesus is alive in my heart.
God is understanding; he is patient.
He forgives our disobedience,
He doesn’t want to lead us around like a mule.
He expects us to be disciplined in how we affect others,
and to ask for forgiveness and confess our sins.
He want us to have joy,and victory over our sin.
God provides us with a pathway,
extends his hand – does not tempt us!
He is our protector, our hiding place, and our guide.
God asks us to be pure in heart,
and to be aware of who we serve.
When Jesus said, “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures,” he was undoubtedly speaking about a sheep-fold. These were stone or branch enclosures where a shepherd would bring his sheep to bed down for the night. It represented safety and security, not just because the enclosure kept wolves at bay but because the shepherd would remain nearby through the night. Jesus was drawing a stark contrast between himself and the religious leaders of his day, who he described as ‘thieves’ and ‘robbers’. When we enter a relationship with Christ we find safety and security. We can “come and go freely” not only because the sheep-fold exists but because the Shepherd is present with us.
Jesus’ words also suggest a deeper meaning. When the Jewish people returned from captivity in Babylon their first task was to rebuild the walls surrounding Jerusalem. They began this work by rebuilding the “Sheep Gate,” called thus because it was the gate through which the priests brought the sheep to be sacrificed in the Temple. The rebuilding of the Sheep Gate was led by the High Priest, Eliashib. (Nehemiah 3: 1-2)
The Sheep Gate is a picture of our salvation in Christ. The sacrificial lambs of Old Testament time shed their blood as a covering for sin, and now Christ has shed his blood as atonement for our sin. (Romans 3:25) The Sheep Gate was built by the High Priest, and now Christ is our High Priest. (Hebrews 8) It’s also no coincidence that the High Priest’s name – Eliashib – means, “God restores,” and that this High Priest was restoring the gate that led to the altar of forgiveness, and that gate was a picture of Christ, who restores us to a right relationship with God. All of this represents Jesus who is the way in which we enter into the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus is the “Sheep’s Gate.”
The 3rd chapter of Nehemiah describes the re-building of Jerusalem’s walls and that chapter begins and ends with the Sheep Gate, just as everything about our relationship with God always returns to Jesus. In 1517 the Sultan Suleiman, as the result of a dream, renamed this gate “The Lion’s Gate,” unknowingly foretelling the time when Jesus will return not as the Lamb That Was Slain, but as the Lion of Judah. (Rev. 5: 5)
What’s the point of all this? Well… God is working in multiple dimensions at once. Always has been, always will be. And if he can weave this amount of detail together over centuries of history then he can handle the details of my life right now. We serve a God who is not surprised by what is happening to us today, and won’t be surprised by what happens tomorrow. And seeing God’s hand in history like this makes me realize that, truly, “…all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” Whatever you’re worried about today… God has got it covered. Your situation may not turn out the way you hope, but – if you’re willing – God will use it for a greater good.
Sometimes, receiving and answer to our prayers is not so much a matter of faith but rather of trusting God when the fulfillment of His promise seems to be delayed. We must realize that we won’t immediately receive everything we are ask for. The Scriptures tell us, “The testing of [our] faith produces patience. (James 1:3) This statement indicates that while we are exercising our faith, a period of time may pass. That doesn’t mean that we are supposed to stay sick or defeated until Christ returns. Rather, it tells us that we must persevere in order to obtain our promises and miracles form God.
What should we do when the promise doesn’t manifest immediately? We should ask the Holy Spirit to give us discernment regarding which type of faith to exercise in a given situation and moment – either “now” faith that receives the manifestation immediately, or faith that perseveres until God is ready to release the miracle for us to receive. We should also wait faithfully and confidently for the manifestation of the promise.