It was Mahatma Gandhi who said of the “Christians” he knew, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Could anything worse be said of professing Christians?
1. Changed by the Gospel One Day
This is hard to believe since the most life changing influence in the world is the gospel of Jesus Christ. When a sinner receives Christ (Colossians 2:6), at that moment his entire living environment instantaneously and mysteriously changes into a totally new life—a life made “one” with Christ. What an unexplainable and indissoluble union! He is not Christ (nor ever will he be), but he is joined to Christ and Christ is joined to him (Colossians 1:27)! Paul calls it being “in Him” (Colossians 2:6) or “in Christ” (1:2). This union between sinful man and holy God changed everything, elevating and enriching his life for time and eternity. This change is made possible by the gospel (Colossians 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:3–4).
This glorious change takes place for every genuine Christian at some point in the past — at the moment you first believed in Christ (Colossians 1:4). It was at this time that you “received” or took Christ to yourself and welcomed Him humbly as your Lord. You received Christ Jesus the Lord (Colossians 2:6), and in doing so you were changed radically from a sinner to a saint (Colossians 1:1)! Praise the LORD!
Theologians point out that this union is so complete that it cannot be altered or reversed. The union is fixed — you “in Christ “ and “Christ in you!” The two of you cannot be separated one from another. This is why Paul can write these astonishing words —
· “For me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21)
· “your life is hidden with Christ” (Colossians 3:3)
· Christ is “our life” (Colossians 3:4)
· “Christ is all and is in you all” (Colossians 3:11).
I think I often fail to realize this is what true Christianity is. It is Christ and the Christian living every day — sharing in the same common life together as one! Presbyterian theologian Augustus Strong noted, “They are not separate persons linked together by some temporary bond of friendship — they are united by a tie as close and indissoluble as if the same blood ran in their veins. Yet the Christian may never have suspected how intimate a union he has with his Savior; and the first understanding of this truth may be the gateway through which he passes into a holier and happier stage of the Christian life.” Wow!
2. Practicing the Gospel Every Day
Let me say it again, living in union with Jesus is the essence of the Christian life. This is true for all believers. One day at a time, moment-by-moment, Christians learns to live a life of trust, learning to give more and more of self over to the Lordship of Jesus — this is what it means to “walk in Him” (Col 2:6). This is practicing the gospel! In this new life together, it is Christ — not the Christian — who establishes the values, guides the thinking, and directs the conduct of the relationship.
As you are well aware, the Christian life ebbs and flows. Some days “Christ in me” is more obvious than other days. Thank God it’s not based on works or we would all be in trouble! The good news is, however, the more firmly established the union becomes with time, the more the instruction of the faith will be lived out! So, the greater we practice the gospel of Jesus Christ, the greater will be its portrayal to others.
By God’s grace, I now look more like the Lord Jesus today than I did 20 years ago! According to Paul, like a tree extending roots underground or a building becoming more settled into its foundation, God is faithful to continually root and ground believers in the faith (Colossians 2:7). Over time, believers becomes more “firmly established” than when the relationship first began. The exercise of trust in God becomes more consistent, and the believer’s attitude contemporaneously becomes more and more thankful.
The more this change takes place — that is the more the gospel is “practiced” — the more its fruit will be “portrayed” in the life of the Christian. What does this look like in practice? What kind of overall feel does this Christ-centered life portray?
3. Portraying the Gospel On Hard Days
According to verse 7, thankfulness is the leading attitude of the one who practices this union. This is not occasional, once-in-a-blue-moon thankfulness; “abounding” is the word. Paul is saying that believers who walk in Him (in Christ) are like a fountain overflowing with many words of thanks to God.
A few years ago I was sick for 6 weeks. My attitude was tested! Should I have found the words to show my thanks to the LORD even in sickness? Yes. Did I? Yes. And here is why, I was helped by the gospel.
JC Ryle said, “In a world of sin and sinners, even sickness is a mercy!” Did you get that? I think what Ryle was getting at was this: thankfulness in sickness is in order because anything short of what I truly deserve –death, judgment and the lake of fire — is pure mercy! Wow. Similarly, Andrew Fuller wrote, “Compared with what I deserve to be, how happy my condition.”
For a man who deserves to be in hell at this very moment, my sick bed is not so bad after all! Thank you, Jesus, in sickness for the gospel!
Would you pray this prayer with me? “Lord, drive me deeper and deeper into the gospel every day, that the gospel would flavor everything I do and say in my life that you may be portrayed as first in all things (Colossians 1:17).”