Colossians 1.24 - 2.5: Mystery of Maturity
October 16, 2011 Series: Colossians
Topic: New Testament Passage: Colossians 1:28–1:29
Mystery of Immaturity
Today’s passage explores the MYSTERY OF MATURITY. There is no mystery IMMATURITY. For all the blessings that children are, for all the chaotic unpredictable joy they bring into life—children are IMMATURE. They are “gifted” at doing, saying, and thinking childish things. Children do not listen. Children speak before they think. Children are self-centered from a very young age. Children react. Children are an emotional roller coaster. Children are foolish. Children are naïve. Children are messy. Children are over-confident. Children are vulnerable. Children complain. Children make excuses. Children are easily frustrated, easily tempted, and easily frightened. Immature children often choose the easier wrong over the harder right because they forget, reject, or doubt what they are told by their parents. And the hope is that, with time, the children will naturally grow and mature. But a survey of our culture seems to confirm that it is taking a lot longer for people to grow up—as if there is an extended adolescence. A growing number of people who are taking longer to finish their educations, longer to establish themselves in careers, longer to marry, longer to have children, longer to become financially independent, and longer to give up childish things. They are, from all signs sexual, emotional, physical, intellectual, and social juveniles. No one knows how to grow up.
This is a spiritual problem. This kind of LIFE IMMATURITY is a result of spiritual immaturity, and SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY is a result of not knowing Jesus with intention. The immature un-believer doesn’t know Christ, but the immature believer doesn’t live in what they know about Him. Due to juvenile spirituality, there are a growing number of men, women, spouses, parents, and workers that are juvenile in how they see, think and act, love, commit, and work. Just because faith begins like a child does not mean we are to remain childish. Spiritual children are: tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Eph 4.14). This is why Paul is writing to a young immature church, full of young immature believers—to grow them into mature believers, mature men and women who, with all joy, center their lives on Christ. To accomplish, he doesn’t spend time beating them down and making them feel guilty. The first thing he did in his letter was proclaim in great detail WHO JESUS IS and WHAT HE DID. We see him elevating the Supremacy and Sufficiency of Christ, reminding them of the certainty of their transformation, all to inspire them to be all that they are NOW made to be through faith in WHO HE IS and WHAT HE DID. Paul is on a “mission of maturity”—he will tell us it is his life purpose. The implication is that He is qualified to lead this—mature. Not perfectly or fully mature, but mature enough to use HIS own life as an example of what a believer completely centered and devoted to Christ looks like—and it’s not childish.
V. 24-25a THE EXPERIENCE OF THE MATURE (IN THE BODY)
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, Paul begins by speaking about his own present suffering. NOW, Paul says, knowing what he knows about Christ NOW, he rejoices NOW as he is suffering in Roman prison NOW. His attitude toward suffering is unique to Christianity, completely offensive to the world, and foreign to many of us—but it is the result of mature man convinced of CHRIST. One of the first signs of maturity, or lack thereof, is how someone deals with pain. Children do not deal with pain well (accidents, shots, bad tasting medicine, etc.)
Suffering AS the body
Do all Christians experience this kind of pain? Yes. Paul views his sufferings, not as something to be avoided, but a tool to be used to proclaim Christ and bless the church. By filling up, Paul is not suggesting Christ’s atonement was lacking. The death of Christ on the cross was the complete and finished work that saves men from their sins. The suffering Paul refers to is the expected afflictions that “come with being a member of the body of the crucified Christ” (N.T.Wright). Suffering is more than something for the individual to piously endure without purpose; it is the means through which the cross is fully known and made known to others. Phil. 3.10 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, Spiritual maturity, deep gospel conviction, steadfast faith Christ comes through suffering as Christ. These afflictions are not necessarily persecution, imprisonment, or death like Jesus. King Jesus, the creator, suffered mockery, ridicule, rejection, betrayal, false accusations, at the hands of those who should worship him. And even our inward sufferings whether temptation, sickness, anxiety, fears, doubts about our faith, are all a part of being called an heir with Christ. Romans 8.17 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Suffering not only reminds us, but proves, our identity as a member of God’s family (And if you are not suffering like Christ, perhaps you are not living like Him). The joy of the immature is often dictated by the moment. The immature avoid pain, avoid discomfort, avoid making suffering. The life-joy of the mature is not dictated by the character of their circumstances, but by the character of God—the mature do not just look OUT they look UP. The “hardness” of any trial is overwhelmed by the reality of Christ’s identity, of His power, and His gracious love.
Suffering FOR the body
The pain of the affliction is seen NOT ONLY as a blessing for what it produced in me, but also what it provides in others. All Christians will suffer as the body; some will suffer FOR the body. He sees Jesus for who he is, the creator, and understands as an adult what he truly did in giving everything for OTHERS. He’s not like some selfish child who feels entitled to comfort or pleasure and claims its “unfair” if he doesn’t get it. He knows what was fair was for him THE CHIEF OF SINNERS to be killed but he was shown grace… more than that, he has the privilege of being a minister of the gospel and a servant to the church—it is his joy to give all that He has, his time, energy, reputation, comfort, and life so that others might experience the riches that come only through a deeper intimacy with Christ and His Bride. This is not a ministry he chose, rather, it is a mission that he was entrusted with by God. 2Corinthians 4.7-12 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. To be like Christ is to be other oriented. Not necessarily as a pastor, but whatever your calling is—as a husband, wife, parent, friend, member of the church. Juveniles are always about organizing life around themselves, whether it be their own prosperity, their own comfort, their own reputation, or their own power. The mature believe, I HAVE ONLY WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN SO THAT I CAN GIVE TO OTHERS.
V. 25b-28 THE WORK OF THE MATURE
Whether suffering or not, Paul says his goal is…to make the word of God fully known…the reveal the mystery hidden for ages…to make known Christ in them, the hope of glory.
Maturity for Everyone
It might seem self-promoting of Paul, or even me, to speak about his “suffering” on behalf of the Colossian church; but it’s only self-boasting of Paul stops lifting up and pointing to Jesus as Supreme. Paul not trying to promote himself over the self-promoting false teachers, rather, he is trying to explain the difference between mature Christ-centered attitudes with immature self-centered ones. Paul is all about one thing---preaching the word of God to the NON-JEWS. He intends through his attitudes, words, and actions to make the hidden mystery of Christ known to as many as possible. What is this mystery, the fact that God had a secret plan that he would save the world in Jesus Christ through his relationship with one group of people. But when a Jewish Jesus came to earth, and they rejected and killed the Messiah they had waited for, this did not mean God’s promised kingdom for Israel was abandoned. No, it meant God had revealed his mysterious plan to unite Jews and all people, through Christ, in the church Ephesians 3.4-6 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. And if the gospel is for anyone who puts faith in Christ, not just the “clean”, not just for the educated, not just for the experienced, and not just for the spiritually elite. And if that is true, then spiritual maturity is possible for everyone, jus pastors or “holy” people. YOU CAN KNOW GOD. YOU CAN KNOW HIS LOVE. YOU CAN BE THAT SPIRITUAL LEADER. YOU CAN REJOICE IN TRIALS….BECAUSE IT IS CHRIST WHO IS IN YOU THROUGH FAITH IN HIS WORK, NOT THROUGH YOUR WORK!
Maturity through Preaching Christ
The one and only catalyst for spiritual maturity is preaching Jesus. Paul says that it is “HIM WE PROCLAIM”. Whether it is Paul, Epaphras, Sam, or anyone else, the most important thing for any preacher, counselor, teacher, friend, parent is to proclaim the forgiveness of Jesus, grace in Jesus, courage in Jesus, power in Jesus, healing in Jesus, restoration in Jesus, hope in Jesus, in ALL THINGS. JESUS CREATED MY______________. JESUS is LORD of MY______________. JESUS will RECREATE MY___________. JESUS will SUSTAIN MY ______________. Different kinds of false teachers, religious or irreligious, proclaim systems, traditions, list of rules, or a man-made-philosophies. Paul preached a person as the solution to every problem—as the key to maturity. And the proclaiming of the person of Jesus as the one through whom we are saved AND grow, makes a difference in every church, every ministry, and every family. You cannot even take Jesus principles and make up a Jesus-like system devoid of Jesus. In his 1890 commentary on Colossians, Baptist minister Alexander Maclaren wrote:
“[Jesus] person is inextricably intertwined with His teaching, for a very large part of his teaching is exclusively concerned with, and all of it centers in, Himself. He is not only true, but He is truth. He message is, not only what He said with His lips about God and man, but also what he said about Himself, and what He did in his life, death, and resurrection. You may take Buddha’s sayings, if you can make sure that they are his, and find much that is beautiful and true in them, whatever you may think of him; you may appreciate the teachings of Confucius, though you know nothing about him but he said so and so; but you cannot do thus with Jesus. Our Christianity takes its whole colour from what we think of Him” In other words, if you think of Jesus anything LESS than what Paul has presented him, you will come to church and feel like the preacher should tell you something else to help you grow. But if you see Jesus for what he is, the one and only revealing of God, the Lord and center of creation, the reconciler of all things and men—he is the only thing you’ll want to hear about.
Maturity through teaching & warning
And Paul says that one part of the proclamation of Jesus is simply, clearly, and boldly speaking truth about Him in all areas of life. The other part of proclaiming is warning about the lies whether they come from the world or the church that infiltrate those same places. We have to correct what is wrong, defend what is right, and ensure the purity of the gospel. And sometimes that means teaching the unlearned, and other times it means admonishing ignorant people to stop acting like children, start fighting for truth, and grow up. SO…If you want to find meaning, hope, or contentment in any aspect of life then you need look nowhere else but Christ. But you need to look at Christ. You need to look at him, study him, meditate on him, delight in him, talk about him, talk to him, and serve him. And Paul gives us an awesome example of a work ethic to protect us from being sluggards or Pharisees. Paul does not go about his work half-heartedly—he uses athletic terms to describe his struggle, his toil, his hard work in service to the Lord. He does not go about trusting flippantly that God’s grace cover where he is too lazy to act. He does not believe it is ALL of HIM, BUT he does not believe it is NONE of HIM. He lives with intention to grow in his knowledge of God and to bring others into the same kind of maturity. Paul is the EXAMPLE maturity in what it means to serve God, to honor God, to love God, to work without fear or despair, and to know what it means to be gospel-centered in what God has given him to do.
V. 2.1-3 THE CHURCH IN MATURITY
Paul concludes with a surprising statement that many of us will want to reject. But I appeal to you to believe that the Words of Scripture are not just Paul’s words, but God’s. Here he writes about that role of the church in our maturity. For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Christianity is a bit counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. The world we live in emphasizes isolation, independence, and self-preservation. But, a deep understanding of Christ comes through living in Gospel Community, through fellowship, mutual dependence, and self-sacrifice. Maturity is connected with living and growing together. Paul says that he is working hard so that they will be encouraged and united, “KNIT TOGETHER” in Love. He doesn’t simply want them to work together because that makes knowing God easier. He wants them to be together because it is what makes knowing God possible. We actually mature as we experience Christ through one another. The more I have to learn about Christ, is hidden in you to be reveal to me, and vice versa. Proverbs 18.1 Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment—only children break out against sound judgment. Stop whining, stop half-committing, stop making excuses, stop delaying in becoming part of this family, the longer you do, the longer we all suffer.
BENEDICTION: Ephesians 4.11-16