Mature in Christ
"Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me." Colossians 1:28-29
The first step of any project is to determine what the end goal looks like. If you don't know where you're going, you're not going to get there. Before you start your home renovation project, you'll want to draw up some sketches, take some measurements, and make sure you have the necessary equipment. In Colossians 1:18-29 the Apostle Paul shows us his end goal, along with the tools and methods that are necessary to get the job done.
Whom did Paul proclaim? Christ. Not himself. He proclaimed Christ. Like Paul, we proclaim Christ as being all supreme and all sufficient. What this means is that if you or I have a problem, the answer is Christ. Do you have a marriage problem? You don’t need self-help. Rest assured that Paul didn’t preach self-help and neither will we. The solution to life's biggest problems doesn't come from within us.
If you have an issue in life--if you have a marriage problem or you have an addiction problem or you have interpersonal relationship problems, we know that at the root of all those things is the corrupting force of sin, and the only remedy for battling against sin is the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Each one of us needs a greater and greater knowledge of who Jesus is. You may think “Well I know who Jesus is...” Oh no you don’t! Not enough! The knowledge of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished for sinners is of infinite grandeur. The gospel of Jesus is a well that never runs dry. It Is an inexhaustible fountain of righteousness and holiness and glory, and it is transformative. You can’t see Christ in the scriptures and not be changed. That’s why we proclaim him.
Notice in verse 29 how Paul says “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
The word there that’s translated “struggling” is the Greek word where we get our English word agony. It’s an athletic term, and it means to strive with maximum exertion like a sprinter would, or to wrestle with maximum energy like a wrestler would. Paul actually says later in the letter that Epaphras, their pastor, is constantly wrestling (same word) for them in his prayers. So there’s this idea of striving towards a goal with maximum effort and exertion, focusing all of our energy towards a goal. And what is that goal? Paul states the goal clearly in verse 28. The goal is to present everyone mature in Christ.
Christian maturity is the goal. The goal is not to build a bigger church or to have the fanciest ministry or the most programs we can cram into a week. The goal is not to draw a crowd or get more warm bodies into the sanctuary. The goal is to present those entrusted to him mature in Christ. What’s Paul’s method to accomplish this? These are the necessary tools: Proclaiming Christ, warning everyone, and teaching everyone with all wisdom.
If we’re to be a people that are spiritually mature, do you know where we have to start? Humility. Drop the pride. Each one of us has to acknowledge our need to grow—no matter if you’re 18 years old or 80. Christian growth starts there. We all have a struggle with sin. We all have sensitive areas where we are embarrassingly immature. But if we don’t acknowledge our need to grow and change, we’ll never move past that. There is no place in the Christian life for a child of God to say, “Oh that’s just the way I am.” That’s the language of immaturity. Just think of how many teenagers think that their parents are fuddie duddie and they think they know better than their parents and have nothing to learn from them?
Secretly, deep down, teenagers want parents who will discipline them. They may not say admit it, but they do. You know why? Because if your parents don’t discipline you it means they don’t love you. Hebrews 12 says that God disciplines the Son whom he loves. So if the goal is to present everyone mature in Christ, we have to start at a place of humility.
A few years ago the Burger King here in our town was being remodeled. The restaurant stayed open during the process and put up a sign that said, “Please excuse our appearance while we’re under renovation.” They put that sign up so that everyone would know that they were in a process and that this mess would be going away. They weren’t intending to leave things as they were.
We’re all under renovation during this life and it may look crazy now but the goal we’re after is conformity to Christ. The goal is a true remodel. A reformation in your life. The goal is for you and I to grow into maturity.
It’s important for us to understand that wisdom and maturity doesn’t just come with age. We can all think of a few elderly people who aren’t very wise. Maturity comes from the body of Christ ministering to one another with the Word of God: Proclaiming Christ to each other, warning each other, and teaching one another.
We proclaim Christ--we teach every person from the Bible, and we warn every person from the Bible. That’s the roadmap to Christian maturity. This isn’t just your pastors warning and teaching you, it’s everyone teaching and ministering to one another. This is a team effort. We’re chasing something here! If you haven’t experienced belonging to a church where members are held accountable and warned and disciplined and are well taught, you’ve missed out, because those are things a healthy church does.
That’s what we’re chasing. Full maturity. Maturity takes discipline. It takes being warned and corrected and encouraged and taught and reminded and loved. That’s our aim. If you’re a member at FBC Carthage, expect to be warned if you get off track. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a tremendously good thing! That’s God showing grace to you! I want that, don’t you? Expect to be taught. Expect to be held accountable for your actions and lovingly pushed Christward.
This is what Paul’s ministry consisted of. Beautifully simple. Strategically focused. Marked by love. So strap on your tool belt and let's get to work.