(this post was originally written for the C&MA Pacific District’s blog)
I’ve been reading and reflecting on Colossians as we begin a new year. My conclusion: in 2012 we need more Jesus.
For Paul, true growth is the growth of the gospel, the word of truth. When we talk about our churches growing, we usually mean that our attendance is increasing, more people are participating in community groups, getting baptized and becoming covenant members. The strategic among us (myself included) set measurable targets for growth and create action plans to achieve those targets. In short, when we think of growth, we usually think of more people responding to the gospel. But Paul doesn’t put it that way. He talks about how it’s the gospel that’s bearing fruit and increasing in the whole world. The growth Paul looks for is the growth of the gospel, which he calls “the word of truth.” By this gospel growth, Paul is not talking just about non-Christians hearing and receiving the gospel, though that must be part of it. It’s clear from the context that he’s also talking about the gospel truth growing in the lives of the Colossian believers. He says of the gospel, “indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.” Hearing and understanding the grace of God in truth (the gospel) is just the beginning of the growth of the gospel within them. The gospel is growing within them, as they believe its truth more deeply and trust Jesus more fully. Later, Paul urges them, “as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him” (Col 2:6). Receiving Christ is just step one, now walk in him. We never graduate beyond the gospel, we just keep walking in Christ.
Paul is adamant: Jesus is supreme. There is no other. He is the image of the invisible God. He is the agent of creation—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Wow. And we’re far from done. He is the head of the church, the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. All this is so that in everything he might be preeminent. Do you see that? The purpose of all this is that Jesus be seen as preeminent in everything. In our churches, Jesus must be preeminent. In our lives, in our marriages, in our families, in our schools, in our hobbies, in our finances, in our children Jesus is to be preeminent. Jesus is the head of the church, he holds all the authority. Jesus is the purpose of the church, we must display him as preeminent and supreme. Jesus is everything.
We can’t talk about Jesus too much. We can’t overvalue him. We can’t speak too highly of him. We can’t overdo it. We can’t find sufficient superlatives for him. We can’t give him too much airtime or say his name too often.
The trinket-driven church tells us that Jesus isn’t enough. If you present Jesus alone, it won’t be compelling. People would rather hear 5 steps to a better marriage and 6 steps to financial security. Maybe that’s what people want, but what we all need is more Jesus. We need to present Jesus, preach Jesus, sing about Jesus and treasure Jesus in such a way that “we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col 1:28).
My prayer for my church in 2012? God, satisfy our hearts with more of Jesus.