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Mr. Ken Matthews: “Living in Christ” (Colossians 2)

July 29, 2009

From Mr. Ken Matthews of Jesmond Parish Church in the United Kingdom, here is a good sermon – what I’d call a “discipleship sermon”- titled Living in Christ and based on Chapter 2 of Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians.  Mr. Matthews gives us some very sound counsel on how to build a faith that cannot be shaken, but I think his “3 things we need to work on to ensure we  keep walking with Jesus as Lord” is excellent:

And there are 3 things we need to work on to ensure we keep walking with Jesus as Lord.

Firstly: We need to Check Our Foundations. That’s verse 7 isn’t it? We need to be:

rooted and built up in him.

I remember trying to renovate a garden with an old housemate a number of years ago. And we were thwarted at every turn by an old rose bush that try as we might we couldn’t kill off. We would hack it back to nothing – and it would just grow back. We put down weed killer, ant killer, Domestos, anything to poison it– it didn’t make a dent. So we tried to dig it up – but it was impossible! We had broken a trowel, a fork and a spade by the time we eventually got it up – OK the trowel was a daft idea, but when we did get it up we found its roots went so deep that they were just as big as the plant itself.

Paul is saying that if we want to grow then we are going to have to put down solid, immovable, unkillable roots in Christ’s Lordship. And if we’re not doing that, then it’s hardly surprising if our Christian lives don’t flourish, but end up looking kind of limp and withered like a poorly tended pot plant.

And the problem for us is that we can start out really well with Christ, but there are so many different pots that compete with him for Lordship and we all too easily let ourselves be uprooted and make others our lord.

We can end up with our roots in the politically correct pot which makes public opinion lord. At work or at family gatherings don’t you so often feel like the Brazilian football team? Sorry, not gifted and on top of the world, but… gagged by the management. That’s what’s happened to them this week as the Christians in the team have been told to keep their faith a private matter. And we face that too with our families and friends and work colleagues and can easily be uprooted by that pressure.

Or we can end up in the ambition pot where we make work our lord. And we end up so busy that we don’t even notice that we have let work master us, rather than asking Christ to be master of it. And can I just say from personal experience that this can happen even if our ambition is for the church.

And then again there’s the romance pot where our relationships become Lord. And we let our dreams of love, sex and marriage lead us slowly but surely away from the only one who can truly satisfy our cravings for acceptance, intimacy and security.

The pressures on us are great, but if we are to be rooted and built up in Jesus then we are to have no greater passion than him, no greater influence than him, no greater goal than him, no greater person in our lives than him. We are to put down roots that will build us up or our faith will be dry, undernourished and will eventually shrivel up and die. SO Check your foundations.

And then secondly we should Remember The Truth. As Paul goes on in verse 7:

strengthened in the faith as you were taught.

We cannot move on from the basic teaching that Jesus is Lord. Christ is the only Lord who can nourish us and keep our relationship with God healthy. So we keep having to come back to his words to feed us.

And it would be a great idea to store them in our heads so that we remember them at the crunch points of life. We need to fight untruth and temptation with them. Resist the devil with them. Treasure them. For without them we will all too easily be uprooted.

And then thirdly and finally we are to be Bursting With Thankfulness. One last dip into verse 7 gives us Paul’s encouragement to be:

over-flowing with thankfulness.

If you can keep yourself rooted in Jesus, being strengthened by the truth of his Lordship you will find yourself, verse 7 “overflowing with thankfulness.” So you bow the knee and make him Lord of your money and surprisingly you don’t find yourself losing out on all the stuff you want, instead you end up thankful that he transforms you into a generous person. You let him be Lord over your time and end up grateful to find out how true fulfilment comes from serving. You stop biting your lip on his Lordship at work and are amazed that he does have power and relevance in people’s lives today.

You see, this isn’t the thankfulness of the Awards ceremony acceptance speech – where you grab hold of your Oscar and through gritted teeth thank your director, your wife, your mum, the milkman just because you have to. It’s a thankfulness that comes naturally from walking with Jesus as our Lord. ‘Cos if we’re really walking with him – learning more and more about how awesome God is, understanding more and more how much Jesus did for us on the cross, how wonderful his generosity is in our daily lives – we will find ourselves with so much to give Jesus thanks for that it will overflow from us like a river bursting its banks.

Sure you have to make an effort sometimes to look out for things to give thanks for – especially when you’re going through a testing time. And it’s also easy to slip into negativity in a culture that prefers to tear down rather than build up. But thankfulness is a sign of people who have fully realised the riches that they have in Christ.

Is thankfulness a mark of your life? If it isn’t can I just say that it may be a sign that you are being uprooted. That you’ve taken your eyes off Jesus. That you’re slipping away from him.

This sermon is most helpful, I think, for its emphasis on the importance of thankfulness in the Christian life.  There can be no doubt that Scripture speaks time and again on this, and I appreciate the reminder of this by Mr. Matthews!

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