To Follow Christ: Maturing in Christ (Col. 1:24-29)

I have three children, ages 10, 8, and 5. It’s fun to watch them grow up and mature. Maturing is a necessary part of the aging process. If one doesn’t mature, life can become unnecessarily difficult. Maturing is a skill that one must develop in life if he is going to survive and even thrive.

Spiritually speaking, Christ-followers are called to mature in their faith. However, there are some Christians that never mature and their spiritual life suffers as a result. In this blog post, I am going to share three requirements that maturing in Christ necessitates:

(1) Maturing in Christ requires suffering with joy (Col. 1:24-25)

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,

 Paul wrote Colossians in a Roman prison. He was in prison suffering for Christ. Undoubtedly, Paul had down days. However, the day he wrote this letter he had the Colossian church on his mind. He tells them that he was rejoicing in his sufferings. Why? Because through his sufferings, he was still able to encourage this specific church. He added:

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,

Paul was suffering specifically for Christ. Jesus had ascended to Heaven, so now Paul was being persecuted solely because of his association with Jesus.

If you are a Christian, you will suffer for Christ. It may be economic, social, relational; but you’ll suffer. But Jesus is worth it. Paul echoes this in 2 Corinthians:

2 Cor. 1:5: “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

You will suffer if you are a disciple. But the comfort and blessings that you will receive far outweigh the little suffering that you will undergo. To this we have joy in knowing that our suffering has purpose. Paul continues:

25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you,

 Paul suffered for the church and this is one of the reasons God called him to ministry: to suffer for the saints.  This was part of his stewardship as a minister. He was called to “manage,” so to speak, someone else’s possessions: God’s possessions, the church. What is his purpose in him suffering for the flock?

 to make the word of God fully known,

 This was his primary focus; making God’s Word completely known. He didn’t get bogged down in other matters of ministry that he wasn’t called to complete. He had a singular focus and executed it. Maturing in Christ means that we have learn to still be joyous when we are suffering.

(2) Maturing in Christ requires encouraging in love (v.26-28)

26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.

God’s plan of salvation has been progressively revealed. The Old Testament saints looked forward to the promise of the messiah. Those living in Jesus’ time saw and experienced the living Messiah. Now we in the church age learn and place our faith in the risen Messiah. Paul explains:

27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

This mystery is only fully understood and comprehended by those who know Jesus Christ. When you first place your faith in Jesus you’re not all that sure of what you’re doing. You just know that you need a Savior and the way you’ve been living has not working well for you. But as you grow in Christ and mature in Him more of God’s plan of salvation and how it works out becomes evident.

And this leads us to do what verse 28 states:

28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

We proclaim Jesus Christ! To proclaim Jesus means to tell of a completed truth: What was this truth? That Jesus Christ died for you on the cross. Your sin has been forgiven. Receive his gift of salvation and you will not perish but have everlasting life. This isn’t an opinion. This isn’t a way to eternal life. This is the truth.

We are to warn everyone and teach everyone so that all may grow mature in Christ. Warning or admonishing has the idea of encouraging right living and discouraging ungodly living.

Church leaders: this is our job. If there is a member of this church that we know is in some type of habitual sin, we are to lovingly come beside them and help them conquer it in Christ. We were never meant to be saved apart from community. Individualized Christianity is something that we’ve made up in Western society. It is an outgrowth of liberal theology. We are saved in community for a reason. So that we can mature in Christ…where we can be honest with each other and help each other in our struggles. If there’s sin, we call it out and help the other person grow in grace

If you dig your heels in and resist this type of change then you will never grow in your faith and you will miss out on all kinds of spiritual blessings that Jesus has in store for you. Maturing in Christ requires believers to warn and teach each other. Finally,

(3) Maturing in Christ requires laboring in Him (v.29)

29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. 

To “toil” or “labor” means to work to the point of exhaustion. Paul toiled for the faith. Maturing in Christ means that you will work. You will labor. You will toil. But it will be so worth it. “Struggling” or “striving” refers to competing in an athletic event. We get our word for agonizing from this Greek word.

One of the best feelings in athletics is when you face adversity and you rise to the occasion. You’re tired, you’re beat, but you dig down deep and you win anyway. That is what makes a champion. And the good news is that in Christ, we have this power! We have this ability to dig down deep and overcome anything that life throws at us, through Him.

Some of you will never mature like you would like until you start serving the church – either more or at all. If you are truly following Christ, you will see signs of maturity throughout your life. Do you find yourself suffering? You’re maturing. Do you find yourself encouraging others? You’re maturing. Do you find yourself working for the Lord? You are maturing. Maturing in Christ is a sure sign that you are following Him.

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