Of Trees, Transplants, and Tumbleweeds…

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just las you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2.6-7

The book of Colossians is a book about spiritual maturity.  In the first chapter, Paul explains that his mission, whether it comes through his persecution or his prosperity, is to bring others to maturity in Christ.  Of course, he does not presume that people will in fact “attain” maturity, rather, he puts forward an image of a lifelong struggle where a believer actively fights against sin and fights for delight in Jesus–all by energy God provides (Col. 1.29).  He is arguing against some false teachers in Colossae who have taught that spirituality begins IN Jesus, but grows IN something (or someone) else.

Paul’s heart on the matter is made most clear in Colossians 2.6-15.  Nine times Paul says “IN HIM” (or WITH HIM), arguing that all maturation  is found IN JESUS.  In other words, maturity is not about asceticism, legalism, or any other -ism that sounds spiritual.  Maturity in Christ comes from gaining a deeper understanding of the gospel–who Jesus is and what He did–and what I am as a result.  Through intentional devotion to knowing the riches of Christ, a believer begins to grow up and look like Him.  Paul uses botanical imagery to describe this maturing process.  Those who know Christ have roots cultivated by the most basic truths about Christ and what He did. These roots, like all roots of a plant, cannot be seen; their depth is made evident in the health of the plant.   Roots provide strength, nourishment, and fruitfulness.  We need cultivate DEEP CHRIST-CENTERED ROOTS and become strong, healthy, fruitful trees.

But many believers don’t like the “work”, training, or disciplined practice required to cultivate deep roots. There are many reasons men and use to justify their delayed growth.  Some hide behind their upbringing, some their current circumstances, some their busyness, and some even their theology.  Their excuses ensure their extended spiritual adolescence. To our detriment, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, we give into our sinful flesh and become something else entirely…without roots…

TRANSPLANTS

Some believers become transplants.  Transplants never stop long enough to develop deep roots–they lack commitment.  They are not committed to learn, to sacrifice, or to serve longer term.  When things become difficult or uncomfortable, instead of growing (sanctification) they run. There is a deliberate choice being made–not to dig in, not to stay, and not to sit courageously in the tension that growth requires. Spiritually, they move from soil to soil without ever taking time to establish roots.  Though community is the very thing that Paul says makes maturity possible (Col. 2.1-5), they refuse to be a part of a church family in any true sense.  Transplants hop from church to church, change their devotional practices weekly, and pray sporadically.  In essence, they are afraid of relationship with Jesus and with His people, because they believe it will require a sacrifice of self…it will.

TUMBLEWEEDS

Some believers become tumbleweeds.  Tumbleweeds are like the ADD kids of Christian spirituality and growth.  They are the epitome of immaturity; they are reactionary and highly emotional in their decision-making.  Doctrinally, they are allured with every new theological wind that blows; relationally they are high-speed pendulums; and culturally they pursue every new idea and product on the market with reckless abandon.  They are discontented tumbleweeds, constantly rolling across the landscape searching for the next best thing they can make the ultimate thing…at least for five minutes.  They are the children that Paul described who are tossed to and fro (Eph. 4.14).  They can be found constantly questioning their faith, revising (vs.refining) their theology, reading every new popular book that comes out, searching for every blog, attending every conference and ostensibly trying to maintain a teenage romance with Jesus.  The hardest thing for them to do is stop, slow down, and live a mature decisive life.  They fear the hard work and long-suffering that a steadfast faith (relationship with Jesus) requires. 

MOSS

Some believers become bryophytes, also known as moss.  They are not transplants that move too often,nor are they tumbleweeds that never stop; they are moss, and moss doesn’t move…ever.  Everyone loves moss; it looks pretty, it feels soft, and it doesn’t take much for it to grow.  And though appears to be teaming with life and health, in truth, they have no roots.  The simplest of all plants, moss has no depth to keep it strong–it is by definition, shallow.  Spiritually speaking, believers who are “moss” in their maturation, don’t move.  They don’t serve.  They don’t give. They don’t sacrifice.  Instead, they consume.  Moss sits, getting really fat and waterlogged as it absorbs whatever is fed to them.  Though these believers have the appearance of spiritual strength, like moss, even the smallest tug will reveal the rock beneath. 

TREES 

God intends for us to become trees. Psalm 1 describes the man of the Word to be like a tree with deep roots. Faith like a tree, faith with deep roots, can weather storms, trials, and suffering.  This kind faith is not pain-free, but it is enduring even rejoicing in the pain.  A tree-like faith can endure spiritual droughts. When there is a season where delighting in God is not easy, deep roots help us to live off our stores until it is over. And a tree-like faith helps us fight disease when it comes. Even if we lose a branch or some leaves, given time, our deep roots in Christ will sustain us and heal us.  Faith with deep roots flourishes, faith with deep roots produces fruit to enjoy, faith with deep roots grows (up or out) each year, faith with deep provides shade for others,and faith with deep roots eventually reproduces itself.

Cultivating deep roots takes time.  And it is important to understand where our responsibility begins and ends, namely, with Christ-centeredness. In truth, some of us simply do not take our spiritual maturity seriously and some of us approach it in immature ways.  Like farmer, we must work hard in the things we can control AS we trust God to bring rain, the sun, and ultimately the growth.  And we must be honest to the fact that even trees with deep roots, don’t produce the same kind of harvest every year.

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Author: Sam Ford

Sam Ford is a preacher, planter, and pastor from the Pacific Northwest. He is currently pastoring Restoration Road Church in Snohomish, WA.

4 thoughts on “Of Trees, Transplants, and Tumbleweeds…”

  1. Our road group had an interesting ‘struggle’ with this sermon. We didn’t delve into the greek of ‘as you received Christ Jesus the Lord’ so we took this as a salvation point. And we believe the Reformed position in that we could do nothing and were completely dead in our sins and God did all the work to save us. So if we are to walk in the same, way how do you reconcile this? What ‘works’ are required for us to grow in maturity? I understand the pastor’s dilemma. He wants to implore or push his flock to study, serve, and ‘work’ towards maturity. But how do we do this if we’re suppose to walk in the same way we received Him?

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  2. I’m not a Greek expert, but it seems as if Paul is trying to specific exactly HOW they received Christ and not WHEN. Because of all he has already taught about the identity and work of Christ, it appears as if he is trying to emphasize that same content Epaphras preached, not the salvific effect. The Colossians false teachers have been arguing against the sufficiency of Christ to “fill them up”. Paul is arguing for Christ’s supremacy and sufficiency to give us new life and to grow us up in that life. Specifically, he is arguing that growth comes from focusing on the truth of who Jesus is and what Jesus did, as oppossed to focusing on doing good works. One comes before and even empowers for the other (Eph. 2.8-10).

    As the book unfolds, even beginning this week, we will see that Paul begins to teach us what works he is talking about. First, he will tell us exactly what he is arguing against–legalism and self-righteous works. Then, beginning in chapter 3, he will implore us to set our minds on Christ, to “put off” sin and “put off” Christ–it is an amazing chapter. I think we will begin to see that the “work”; of our maturity begins with the mind–which is a gateway to the heart (Romans 12.1-2). Paul regularly speaks of “setting” your mind on or “having the mind” of Christ. In other words, external reformation occurs when we center our attention on our internal transformation. This is not just an intellectual or emotional exercise, rather, it involves the will and action (walking). After chapter 3, Paul will get VERY practical and speak to husbands, wives, parents, etc. His desire is to see husbands begin to see and understand how Christ loved his bride, pray for the power to do the same, then act (even if it hurts to do so). So, Christ becomes the motivation and model for ALL of our maturity–a very different perspective than the false teachers.

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  3. Thanks .That helps. So Paul is saying in Col 2: 6 is that we need to grow in maturity in the same way that we received Christ, which was being taught who Christ is (not in the saving mechanism of the Holy Spirit). Because clearly we could not have received him without being taught about him to begin with.

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  4. Generally, yes. At the same time, it is somewhat difficult to separate the Holy Spirit from Christ’s teaching (as most of it was about himself, e.g. John’s “I AM statements”). . Paul makes an earlier argument in Galatians 3.1-3 against the self-righteous works of the flesh to further develop spirituality. Here he puts more emphasis on the mechanism. So the question is, what does the Holy Spirit actually do for us? In the gospel of John, a book written to declare the deity of Christ, Jesus is recorded teaching that the Spirit was to point us back to Jesus and His teaching. And if Jesus taught mainly about who He was and what he did (or would do), then it makes sense. Even if we take Colossians 2.6 to be emphasizing the Spirit (which I don’t necessarily think it is), then we still ultimately get back to Christ and away from works of the flesh…even “good ones” as the focus of our “struggle”.

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