A great religious revival is sweeping the western world. The Gallup poll reports that one in three Americans claims to be "born again," and that one out of five attends Bible study or prayer meetings at least once a week. Church attendance is up after a seventeen year decline. Evangelical and fundamentalist churches are thriving in most places. Millions listen daily to television evangelists and healers. Religious books and tapes and records are on the "best seller" lists.
Yet, at the same time that religion is flourishing, morality is floundering. Soaring rates of abortion and crime, the disintegration of the family structure, and the explosion in pornographic books, magazines, movies and video tapes shows that the moral glue of our society is coming unstuck.
After reviewing the data, the Gallup poll concluded: "Religion is increasing its influence on society, but morality is losing its influence. The secular world would seem to offer abundant evidence that religion is not greatly affecting our lives."
A teenager wrote this letter to a popular Christian magazine. "I love Jesus and I have complete faith and trust in God I also like to drink with my friends and smoke cigarettes. I don't see any harm in it myself, but I need to know if this has anything to do with having eternal life. Is it wrong for me to do the things I want to do even though they may be against God's wishes? Can I live this way and still be sure that I will have eternal life?"
The writer of that letter sees Christian faith as a kind of hell fire insurance. People with that attitude wonder how many violations will be allowed before the policy is canceled. But salvation is not an insurance policy; it is a relationship. The Colossian Christians may have been making this same mistake as the letter writer and many others in our religious and immoral society. Paul writes to them, "As you have, therefore, received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding with thanksgiving" (Colossians 2:6,7). There are three strong actions verbs which describe our relationship with Christ: walk, root, built.
Too many believers have substituted words for works. They say, "Lord, Lord," but do not do the will God (See Matthew 7:21). They talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk.
"As ye have received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in him." But Christian life is not just taking a walk, it is going somewhere. "Quo vadis?" the ancient Romans asked. Where are you going? You are not necessarily on the right road just because it is a beaten path. Jesus said, "Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and a only few find it" (Matthew 7:13, 14).
Heaven is not a cash bonus for following Jesus; it is where the path leads. And hell is not a fine levied for following Satan; it is where the path leads.
Too many churches "dip 'em and drop 'em." But the faith through which the covert enters salvation is the same faith in which the convert walks the rest of his or her life. Saving faith is walking faith.
"As you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in him." "As" and "so" refer to the same faith. The faith you had when you received Christ is the faith you need to walk in him. It is not what you eat but what you digest that makes you strong. It is not what you read, but what you remember that makes you informed. It is not what you profess but what you possess that makes you Christian. "He who has the Son has life" (1 John 5:12).
Since God is
love (1 John 4:16), we walk in love (Eph. 5:2).
The word Paul uses for "walk" is peripateo which includes a prefix meaning "to walk around." He is talking about your lifestyle. Like it or not, you have to live somewhere forever, so you had better learn how to live and the sooner the better. You can't control the length of your life, but you can control its width and depth.
day, day by day
Itís an old question asked may times before, but how would you answer today: if you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? You received Christ Jesus the Lord, perhaps years ago, but are you walking in him now?
In a marvelous mixture of metaphors Paul calls us not only to walk in Christ, but to be rooted in him. The Christian is not only on the move with Christ, but firmly grounded in Christ.
In the ancient manuscripts the word "rooted" is a perfect passive participle which means that we are rooted in the past and that this rooting has present effects. It is from our roots in Christ that we draw the life-giving juices that flow through us enabling us to bear fruit for him today and forever.
I am only an amateur gardener, but I know that a plant is only as good as its roots. Although they are unseen, they are essentialóand so is Jesus! The reason so many apparent Christians wither and die soon after they profess their faith is that they have been stuck like cut flowers into the church's pot. You find them in the bud vases of a popular preacher, or the floral arrangement of a religious peer group. But they have no roots in Christ. And consequently, they have no staying power. They wilt like last month's corsage.
Where are your roots? If they are in a religious experience however exciting, if they are in a group relationship however warm, if they are in family tradition however strong, if they are in professional achievement however successful, if they are in anything other than Jesus Christ, your spiritual life juices will eventually dry up and you will die.
If you are rooted in Christ, then you will grow in him. You will draw constantly on his sustaining power.
A city dweller moved to the country and bought a milk cow. Soon, however, the cow went dry. He complained to a neighboring farmer, "I just don't understand it. I was as kind and considerate to that cow as I knew how to be. If I didn't need any milk, I didn't milk her. If I needed only a quart, I took only a quart."
The neighbor tried to explain that the only way to keep milk flowing is not to take as little as possible, but to take as much as possible. That is also true of your life in Christ. The only way to grow in Christ is to receive from him all he has to give.
In a third metaphor Paul calls you to be "built up" in Christ. In the ancient manuscripts the words "built up" and "established" are present passive participles which indicates a continual process. Every Christian is in a building program that is never finished. We are all Christians under construction. Some of the ugly scaffolding may be in place and dangerous wiring may be exposed, but thank God he is not finished with us yet!
Whether you are a colonial mansion or a pup tent for Christ, there are two things that can be said about you if you are "built up in him:" your foundations are firm and you are filled with thanksgiving.
Your firm foundations are laid in the faith "as you have been taught." That's why Sunday Church School, Bible Study Classes, and personal study is so important. You are laying a foundation for your faith. The wise person builds in fair weather to be ready for foul. (See Matthew 7:24-27.) Don't wait for the storms of sickness, death and failure to break upon you before you have laid your foundations.
"The faith" in which you are established is the truths you believe (1 Timothy 4:6), preach (Galatians 1:23), contend for (Jude 3), and never give up (1 Timothy 4:1). Jesus Christ is the "chief cornerstone" of your foundation (Eph. 2:20). You must begin your foundation with him and fit everything else you believe in line with him. If you begin with something else as the cornerstone and try to fit Christ into some vacant hole, your foundation will be as "wacky" as a house of cards.
On the plains of western Kansas I heard farmers joking about the difference between agriculture and farming. "They are the same," they said, "except farming is doing it."
What's the difference between theology and thanksgiving? They are the same, except thanksgiving is doing it. Those who are walking in Christ, are rooted in Christ and built up in Christ "abound in thanksgiving."
I like to be around thankful people, don't you? And I think I know why. If they are down, they never despair; if they are up, they are never proud. They are always thankful because they look at life as a gift.
Accepting life as a gift means you can't grumble when it is bad, or brag when it is good. To grumble because you have less of this world's goods is to regard them as a right instead of a gift and thus to insult the Giver. To boast because you have more of this world's goods is to deny that everything you have is an unmerited favor. "Who made you superior to others?" Paul asks. "Didn't God give you everything you have? Well, then, how can you boast, as if what you have were not a gift?" (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Unlike the agnostic, the Christian knows whom to thank when he or she feels profoundly grateful. One of the sure signs of apostasy is failure to thank God (Romans 1:21). An ungrateful person is like a pig under a tree eating acorns, but never looking up to see where they come from.
Since you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, grow in your walk in him, rooted and built up in him, established in your faith and overflowing with thanksgiving. That's the life!