Teaching series from Colossians

Key Ingredients of Spiritual Maturity

Colossians 2:4-7

Teaching t23033


We are in the sixth week of our study of Colossians – a letter from Paul (one of the leaders of the early Christian movement, now imprisoned in Rome) to the Christians in Colossae (a small town in south-western Turkey - MAP).

Last week, Paul called all Christians to help one another toward spiritual maturity (read 1:28,29a). In the following verses, Paul continues to talk about his own labor to help the Colossian Christians (and other nearby churches) toward spiritual maturity. Read 2:1 and point out that “struggle” is the same word as “striving” (agonizomai) in 1:29. Paul gives a partial description of spiritual maturity in 2:2 (read NLT).

In 2:4-7, Paul he discloses some key ingredients of spiritual maturity. An ingredient isn’t the finished product; it is a component that is essential in order to get the finished product. The Colossian Christians already had some of these ingredients, so Paul rejoices in this. They lacked other ingredients, so he urges them to give attention to these. We need to know what these ingredients are, because if we lack them, we will not be able to mature nor will we be able to help others to mature. Read 2:4-7. I see four key ingredients here; let’s cover them in a different order...

#1: Receiving Christ

Spiritual maturity requires receiving Christ Jesus as Lord (read 2:6a). Just as you can’t mature physically until you are born physically, you can’t mature spiritually until you are born spiritually. And the only way you get born spiritually is by receiving Christ Jesus as Lord.

What does it mean to do this? Look closely at this phrase.

It means that you adopt the right view of Jesus. You don’t have to know all of the details of His birth and ministry and execution and resurrection life, but you do need to acknowledge who He is. He isn’t one of many ways to God, or merely a good moral example, or a master teacher/spiritual guru. He is the Christ/Messiah – God’s chosen King, predicted by the Old Testament prophets that His death paid for our sins, and that He will return to establish God’s rule over all humanity. He is the Lord – the one and only rightful Ruler of your life.

It means that you make a conscious decision to receive Jesus. “Receive” (paralambano) means to take for oneself (Matt.1:24 – Joseph took Mary as his wife), to welcome someone into your home. In other words, it’s more than growing up in a Christian family/nation. It’s more than just believing intellectually that He is the Christ. It’s more than merely attending or becoming a member of a church. It means that you take the living Jesus as your Messiah and Ruler, and that you welcome Him into your heart and life (Rev.3:20).

It is when you receive Christ that His Spirit comes to live in your heart to give you the desire and ability to mature. Have you actually received Christ? If not, why not do so today?

#2: Ongoing instruction about Christ

Re-read 2:6. Once you receive Christ, you need to “walk in Him,” which is a synonym for developing spiritually. How do we walk in Him? Read 2:7. By receiving ongoing instruction in the New Testament message about who Jesus is and what Jesus has given you (which is what Epaphras taught them – see 1:5,7). Just as a baby will not develop properly without a regimen of healthy nutrition, so spiritual babies will not develop properly without a regimen of this spiritual nourishment. Paul describes two different stages of this crucial ingredient, using two different metaphors:

First we need to be “rooted.” This is an agricultural word (rizoo), from which we get “rhizome” (SLIDE). New plants need to develop a good root system in order to grow to maturity. New Christians also need to develop a good root system, and you do this by getting solid instruction on the basics of what Jesus did for you on the cross – especially that He forgave you completely and permanently.

Only when you are thus rooted will you have a stable basis for development. Otherwise, you will have a very unstable relationship with God. You will tend to believe that He loves/accepts you based on how obedient you’ve been lately. You will tend to interpret adverse circumstances as His punishment, and lack of strong positive feelings about God as proof that has abandoned you.

To get rooted, you need solid instruction on this subject. We will study what Jesus provided for us on the cross in two weeks. Consider taking the “Christian Growth” class this spring, which focuses on this topic. Books like Sit, Walk, Stand and Walking In Victory are also very helpful.

Then we need to be “built up and established.” These are both architectural terms which mean to build the structure on the foundation that has already been laid (SLIDE). Whereas “being rooted” is in the perfect tense (something completed in the past), both of these terms are in the present (ongoing) tense. In other words, we need to keep adding to our understanding of the gospel for the rest of our lives.

What Jesus has given us is so vast that we will never reach a complete comprehension of it. In Eph.3:8, Paul speaks of this as “the unfathomable riches of Christ.” In Eph.3:18,19, he prays for the Ephesian Christians to comprehend more deeply the scope of Christ’s love, even though it surpasses our full comprehension. A healthy Christian life is like the end of the movie “National Treasure.” We keep seeing more of what Christ has done for us/how much God loves us, and we keep getting more impressed and thankful for this (“overflowing with gratitude”). This is the most important ingredient in spiritual maturity.

Unfortunately, many Christians do not continue to be built up and established. They settle for being rooted only. They think they “get it” when they have only scratched the surface. They lose their thankfulness and joy, and even get an attitude of entitlement. And as a result, they do not gain strength to keep maturing, and they become vulnerable to all kinds of spiritual dysfunctions.

Don’t let this happen to you! Keep growing in this crucial area! Keep praying for illumination (Eph.1:18,19). Memorize and meditate on passages that emphasize God’s love and what Jesus has given you. Read quality books on this subject (e.g., A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent).

#3: Resistance to spiritual deception

Paul speaks of another key ingredient of spiritual maturity in 2:4,8 (read). In order to mature, we need to be resistant to spiritual deception. We do not live in a spiritually positive or even neutral environment. There are demonic spirits who want to neutralize you so that you will not influence others toward Jesus. They don’t normally try to neutralize us by overtly attacking us. They normally try to neutralize us by deceiving us, and who work through people who are very persuasive!

The Colossians were facing religious deception. Some teachers were re-inventing Jesus in ways that denied His deity and minimized the importance of His death (explained in 2:10-15). They also advocated erroneous spiritual practices (refuted in 2:16-23). This same kind of religious deception is operative today, and in a few weeks we will learn how to avoid this kind of capture.

But there are other forms of deception that can sabotage your spiritual maturity. You can get deceived into looking for comfort and joy from substance abuse. You can get deceived into looking for security from romantic relationships that compromise God’s moral will. You can get deceived into looking for significance from things like money and toys and career advancement. At the roots of these deceptions is usually the subtle lie that God doesn’t really care about you and can’t be trusted to provide for you.

Over the years, I have seen hundreds of Christians fail to mature spiritually because they fell prey to these forms of deception. It is heart-breaking and very sobering. I look at all of you and wonder: Who will be taken out by spiritual deception over the next few years? I look at myself and wonder: Why have been not been taken out by now? Do you ever ask these questions? If not, is it because you have an unfounded confidence that you are spiritually safe?

How can we cultivate resistance to spiritual deception?

The best defense is a good offense! Keep growing in your knowledge of the gospel (as per #2 above), and you will be more sensitized to deception and less attracted to it.

Practice critical thinking. Listen for the beliefs and values that are communicated at work and school, through the media, etc. – and consciously compare it to what the Bible says. Over time, this practice trains our senses to detect evil and falsehood (read Heb.5:13,14).

Perhaps the most important way to protect yourself against deception is the fourth ingredient that Paul describes in 2:5 (read)...

#4: “In formation” with other Christians

Whatever this ingredient is, Paul rejoices because the Colossian Christians already have this in place. Unfortunately, our English translations don’t convey what Paul is referring to.

Both of these phrases have a military background. “Good order” (taxis) means “in right order or in formation.” “The stability of your faith” (stereoma) means “a solid military front.” Paul is describing the Colossian church as like the Roman army in formation (MANIPLE SLIDE). They were relatively protected from deception because they were not a rabble of isolated, autonomous individuals. Rather, they were “in formation” with one another. Their church was an organized network of caring relationships (2:2 “knitted together in love”), relationships that were close enough that they could watch one another’s backs. In other words, they were organized the way we talked about last week – virtually everyone meeting regularly with friends to prayerfully read and discuss biblical truth, and help one another apply it to their lives.

Are you “in formation,” or are you an isolated candidate for deception? Consider:

What other Christians do you meet with you regularly to do the above?

Are you open with them about you current struggles, fears, doubts, etc.?

Are you responsive when they express concern about the way you’re responding to the above?

Are you watching their backs in the same way?

This is how deception gets nipped in the bud, and this is how we grow toward maturity!


SUMMARIZE 4 INGREDIENTS: Remember that each of these ingredients is necessary. Being strong in one ingredient cannot make up for weakness or omission of another ingredient. Rather, this will prevent spiritual maturity! So ask yourself which ingredient you most lack and go after that one, without neglecting the rest. And help others do this same thing.

NEXT WEEK: Easter warm-up – Jesus’ arrest