Summary: What is most necessary for our growth in sanctification?
Fruit Bearing Fruit
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
July 18, 2010
Series: Through the Bible in a Year
It was about nine years ago that Rachel and I planted some gladiolus bulbs in front of our house – well… really Rachel planted them. I had been gone for some reason or another and when I returned Rachel had cleared out some of the area in front of the house, marked off some flower beds with edging stones and filled them with fresh dirt and gladiolus bulbs. We were excited to see them take off – first, just little green shoots peaking up through the soil, then stretching out like large blades of grass, dog-eared and waving in the breeze. We could not wait for the explosion of color that would come with full-bloom.
We were a bit disappointed with the anemic response – only a few bloomed, and in less than dramatic fashion. We wondered what we did wrong – was it too much fertilizer, not enough water, did they need more sunshine? Unfortunately, the gladiolus were not too forthcoming – nary a word did they say in response to our inquiries.
The next year was even worse – some of the gladioli never even came up. By the third year, I was no longer sure what was gladiolus and what was day lily. After that, the day lily grew and bloomed every year, but the gladiolus seemed to be all done – until this year. Out of nowhere this year, one bold gladiolus plant grew and bloomed, throwing out yellow flowers in a vibrant display of life.
As I reflected on our lone gladiolus plant, I began to see parallels to the Christian life – or maybe I should say to our life in Christ. To me this is a helpful distinction – let me explain why.
The Christian life, at least today, is really not defined so much by faith and obedience to Christ as it once was. Today the term is packed with ideas of language, behavior and moral stances – all good things except when they exist for their own sake as a subset of what it means to be a Christian. I am a Christian, therefore I belong to a particular political party or I don’t drink beer or don’t use foul language.
Our life in Christ, however, informs and defines our language, behavior and moral stances. In other words, I don’t do things because I am a Christian, I do them because they please my Savior, Lord and King, Jesus Christ. They are points of obedience in following Jesus Christ. Because I love him, I do what he commands, what makes him happy. My actions define me to the world around me as a Christian, but my reason for doing them is because I love Christ. That is the truest definition of Christian – one who loves Christ, as evidenced by how he lives or how she chooses to respond to both blessing and adversity.
At any rate, as I thought about our gladiolus plant, I began to wonder about the Christian life and one of those great mysteries of the faith – why is it that sometimes we don’t see the growth in the life of other believers or ourselves that we expect?
I think this is a question that occupied the Apostle Paul quite often – as evidenced by how many letters he wrote to churches struggling with different issues of faith. For the Corinthian church it was a question of understanding what it means that we are brothers and sisters in one Body of Christ – our essential unity and purity. For the Thessalonian church it was the question of hope for our future – what is our hope in life and in death? For the Galatians it was a matter of sufficiency – was the death of Christ sufficient for all our sin or just what came before we accepted Christ? Were there certain rules and regulations we had to follow to remain in the grace of God in Christ?
The Colossian church had issues of its own concerning the nature of the Gospel. What has become known among theologians as the Colossian heresy had a mixture of Jewish asceticism and Greek philosophy injected into the Gospel. But the exact origin of the heresy is not what concerns Paul the most; rather it is how the false gospel the Colossians are hearing devalues Jesus Christ and his atoning death.
I suppose the question might be asked: what attracted the Colossians to this variant on the Gospel in the first place? But that still doesn’t get to the root of the problem or Paul’s message to the Colossian church. The real point to ponder is what was Paul expecting from the Colossian church? Why write them at all?