Yesterday in my sermon on Colossians 2:6-7 (link coming soon!), I said that this short text from Paul is his view of discipleship in a nutshell. Paul tells us what discipleship is all about when he says that we are to “walk in [Jesus], having been rooted in him and now being built up in him” (literal translation). He writes to the Colossians because false teachers were saying they had to believe that receiving Jesus was an okay start, but once you get going in Christianity, you need something else. More than likely, the Colossians were tempted to go back to practicing Judaism.
Paul wants the Colossians—and us—to know that Christ, not anything else, is supreme. You started with Jesus. You go on with Jesus. You end with Jesus. This means that as disciples, our goal should be that Christ become progressively more and more supreme in all of life to us. Discipleship is not about being built up on theology, spiritual disciplines, morality, traditions, church programs, or anything else. It is a life being built on Jesus for his glory. Discipleship is all about Jesus.
This means that we live the Christian life the same way we started: repentance and faith in Jesus (cf. Mark 1:15). That’s our rhythm. We continually turn from counterfeit glories back to Jesus, our true glory. We don’t become Christians by trusting in Jesus and then move on to something else, as if it were more advanced. No, instead Christ and his gospel are always progressively becoming more and more beautiful, glorious, delightful, and, therefore, “real” to us.
At one point in the sermon, I mentioned a (literal) illustration that might be helpful. It’s sometimes called “The Gospel Grid” or “The Cross Chart” depending on who you talk to. Here it is:
When we become Christians, we don’t know very much. We don’t know very much about our sin and rebellion. We didn’t truly understand what it cost God to save us (the death of his only Son). We just knew that Jesus did die for us and we were captivated by him. At some point, we may be tempted, like the Colossians, to go on to something else. This chart is a visual reminder that “being built up in him” means that Jesus and his work on the cross should become “bigger” to us. That is, we should increasingly see what it cost the Supreme One to redeem sinners. As the chart shows, over time, disciples grow in their awareness of God’s holiness and of their sinfulness. As we mature, the cross seems bigger not because we sin more or worse (hopefully not, at least!). But because, unlike our physical eyes which worsen with age, our spiritual eyes have better vision than months, years, or decades ago. God’s grace in the gospel increasingly becomes sweeter and more amazing than we previously thought.
This reality is in Ephesians, too. Paul prayed that this church would have the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened to see the depths of gospel grace (Eph. 1:18-20) and that Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17). These are prayers for Christians! What did he mean by praying this? He meant that he wanted Christ to be more real to them in their everyday experience. He wanted them to revel in Christ’s supremacy and work in the gospel. He wanted them to delight in the God who gave it all up for them. He wanted Christ’s glory and beauty to melt their hearts so that counterfeit glories would be rejected. He wanted their discipleship—their Christian life—to be a continual cycle of getting to know Jesus better and becoming more like him.
When Jesus becomes “bigger” or “more real” to us things change. We start to point people to him, not ourselves and our traditions, preferences, programs, models, etc. We start to sacrifice our comfort, time, resources, and energy for others knowing that the Supreme One gave it all up for me.
And most importantly, as I said in the sermon yesterday, we become humble, grateful people. Paul calls for us to “abound in thanksgiving” (v. 7b). When you are captivated by grace, you become thankful. Why? Because you can’t take credit. God has given you a gift. When the gospel of grace is big to us, thanksgiving is big, as well.
So let’s not be tempted to move on to something else. Nothing is more advanced than Jesus and the grace he gives because of the gospel. He is supreme and our discipleship is all about him.