Rooted and Built Up

Colossians 2:6-7 – So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, [7] rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Off to a Great Start

We start off so well. With great gratitude and enthusiasm we bow before the throne of our King. Upon placing our trust in Christ alone – “receiving” him – we take on the world in his name.

But motivation and inspiration can wane. That which does not become habit and done out of joyful and obedient self-discipline will not last for the long haul. That is why church history is littered with travelers who fell by the wayside on the narrow road to the celestial city. Jesus taught that the seed of God’s Word sometimes falls on shallow soil and does not take the necessary root it needs to live and grow (Matthew 13:1-23).

Continue In Him

Thus, Paul exhorts us to “continue to live in him.” This is much more than simple encouragement to attend church and have your quiet time, both of which are good. He is indeed saying followers of Christ are to persevere in such means of grace. But even more than that, Paul is declaring that our very power source is the Lord himself. He is our power, foundation, anchor, and compass – our all in all. The Lord Jesus Christ must not be sprinkled on our lives to simply add a little flavor to an already okay meal. Instead, he is to be our life. To claim we are in Christ means we died with him in his crucifixion and are raised with him in his resurrection. The life we now live we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

Root, Shoot, and Fruit

I love the language Paul uses to undergird his thesis. He adds that we are to be “rooted and built up in him.” In John 15:1-8, we discover Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. Apart from him, he tells us, we can do nothing. If we would bear fruit, we must remain connected to Christ. He must be our root, for it is only then he will bear fruit in and through us. If we as branches ever become detached from our vine, we become useless.

Our Chief Cornerstone

Changing our imagery, Jesus is our chief cornerstone and we are to be built up in him. He is our only sure foundation. All else is shifting sand. If we are not built up in him, we will crumble during the storms of life (Matthew 7:24-27).

What does it mean to be “built up” in Christ? Paul helps us here. He says it means to be strengthened in the faith we were taught. When those in the early church first came to faith in Christ, they sat at the feet of the Apostles and learned from them (Acts 2:42). Today we have their authoritative teaching in Holy Scripture. We are built up and strengthened in Christ when we meet him in his Word and listen to his instruction. More than that, we must obey what we hear (Matthew 7:24-27).

And so be encouraged. You have the greatest resource at God’s disposal to enable you to bear much, good, and lasting fruit in your life, Christ Jesus our Lord and the power of his Spirit. Without him you cannot do anything. With him, all things are possible.

Walking Points

  • I have provided Scripture references throughout this devotion. Look up these texts and meditate upon them as you reflect on the following questions.
  • What is the hardest part for you when it comes to persevering with Christ?
  • Does it encourage you to know God has provided his greatest resource to help you live your life well?
  • What are three ways you can deepen your roots in Christ?
  • Share your answers with a friend and start “deepening your roots” today.


Merciful God, I praise you for your goodness. You have graciously revealed yourself in and through holy Scripture and I am thankful. Through your Word you have made us wise for salvation and given us what we need to train us in righteousness. It is there we meet with you and hear your voice, learn your ways and wisdom, and grow in grace and knowledge. But only when we are rooted and built up in your Word. Father, protect me from laziness, lack of focus, intentionality, and self-discipline. Please give me the gifts and graces I need to abide in you and for your Word to abide in me, that I might truly know you better, love you more, and follow you more faithfully. For it’s in your Son’s name I pray. Amen.

The Way of Love

The Way of Love

What the World Needs Now

In 1965, Jackie DeShannon sang a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. If you know it, it will now be stuck in your head the rest of the day. It was called, “What the World Needs Now is Love.” It was true in 1965… and it’s perhaps even more true today, especially in our politically polarized country.

Love has been a topic of stories, poems, songs for centuries. Again, going back to the 1960s, an obscure band from Liverpool, England sang quite a few songs about love. Here are a few of their titles,

  • All My Loving
  • And I Love Her
  • Can’t Buy Me Love
  • I’m In Love
  • Love Me Do
  • Love of the Loved
  • Love You Too
  • PS I Love You
  • Real Love
  • She Loves You
  • Step Inside Love
  • Words of Love

And, in the same spirit as Jackie DeShannon’s song…

  • All You Need is Love

Well, what the world does need today… is love. But I wonder if we know what we’re saying when we say that. I wonder if we have a firm grasp on the subject when we use popular slogans such as, “love is love” or “love everyone, always.”

Not An Abstraction

You see, Christian love, biblically understood, is anything but abstract. It’s a way of life. It not a mere feeling or emotion, it’s an act of the will. I almost called this devotion, “The Shape of Love,” because love, biblically understood, looks like something. There’s a shape to it.

It can’t be reduced to an abstraction or slogan. And this kind of love is hard. It takes practice because it is a way of life. It is a mindset.

The Great Commandment

Jesus emphasized the priority of love for his followers, indeed for every person, when he gave us the Great Commandment. In Matthew 22:36, Jesus was asked by an expert in the law, which of the commandments was the greatest. He was trying to test Jesus. But Jesus, being the smartest human to ever live, didn’t take the bait.

Jesus summarized all ten of the commandments by saying these words in Matthew 22:37-40,

37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ i 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ j 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

You see, love is the greatest commandment. Love is the purpose of all the commandments – love of God and love of neighbor. And that love looks like something.

What does it look like? It looks like…

  1. Having no other gods before the Lord our God.
  2. Not making idols
  3. Not taking the name of our God in vain
  4. Remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy
  5. Honoring your father and mother
  6. Not murdering
  7. Not committing adultery
  8. Not stealing
  9. Not bearing false witness against our neighbor
  10. Not coveting.

Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments by saying we’re commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – with all that we are. And we’re to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

The Real Meaning of the Commandments

But what do we often do? Well, a lot of times, instead of trying to dig into those commandments to better understand them so we can more faithfully live them out, we oversimplify them and say, “Well, I haven’t murdered anyone today or robbed a bank, so I must be ok.”

But then Jesus comes along in the Sermon on the Mount and tells us that not murdering anyone is a good start. However, he says if we have unrighteous anger toward someone, we’ve murdered them in our hearts.

Jesus says, you may not have committed adultery, but if you have lusted after someone, you’ve committed adultery in your heart.

Jesus gives us eyes to see what the commandments really mean. And they mean a whole lot more than we usually give them credit for. Jesus also teaches us that the commandments aren’t merely negative prohibitions against things (“Thou shalt not”).

They also imply positive actions. To not murder means more than not taking someone’s life or hating them in your heart. It also means desiring the best good of others and helping them flourish. It’s to act with reverence toward all living things and to honor the sanctity of life.

That’s just one example of what it means to love God completely and love our neighbor. It’s a way of life and requires a sanctified mindset.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

And it’s immensely practical, not just theoretical. It’s the heart and soul of all who follow Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:1-2,

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The ESV Bible version says we’re to “imitate God.” As God’s children who are dearly loved and forgiven by him, we’re called to imitate God. How? By walking in the way of love.

And Jesus, who is our ultimate model shows us what that love looks like. And the short answer is: it’s a sacrificial love. Paul says, “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” That’s sacrificial love. That’s real love. That’s Christian love.

But even there it would be fair to say, “that still sort of vague. What does it mean to love sacrificially?” And here the Apostle Paul is very helpful.

Paul’s Lists

Paul loved writing lists. And right before Ephesians 5:1-2, he gave us a list of what sacrificial love looks like when it’s practiced faithfully. And again, Paul is doing the same thing as Jesus by summarizing the Ten Commandments with practical examples. Here’s his list in Ephesians 4:25-32.

What does it mean to walk in the way of love? It means,

  • We must put off falsehood
  • We must speak truthfully to our neighbor
  • We must not sin in our anger
  • We must not steal but work so we can help those in need
  • We must not say unwholesome things (obscenity, slander, gossip, abusive language) (And I would say that includes writing it on social media.)
  • We must use our words to build up others according to their needs and for their benefit
  • We must get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, and slander – and every form of malice
  • We must be kind, compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you

That’s what walking in the way of love looks like. Want another list? Paul has one for you in the love chapter – 1 Corinthians 13. He said love,

  • Must be patient
  • Must be kind
  • Must not envy
  • Must not boast
  • Must not be proud
  • Must not dishonor others
  • Must not be self-seeking
  • Must not be easily angered
  • Must not keep a record of wrongs
  • Must not delight in evil
  • Must rejoice with the truth

That’s the way of love we’re called to walk in.

So, How Are You Doing?

So, how are y’all doing with all that? Are you faithfully walking in the way of love? Love, as the world understands it, is so much easier when it fits into the title of a song… or a bumper sticker… or a slogan.

But true Christian love is hard in real life.

The Gospel

But here is some good news for you. The good news is that we don’t have to love perfectly to be perfectly and completely loved by God. God has redeemed and reconciled us because he loves us, and when we put our trust in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection we become new creatures.

God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence within us and we become people who are able to walk in the way of love as Jesus and Paul and the rest of Scripture describe it. To be sure, we cannot walk in love without the continual power and guidance of the Holy Spirit living in us and through us.

But this way of love is what we are each called to. We do participate. God doesn’t do it for us. Furthermore, we won’t live this way by accident. Walking in the way of love takes practice. It’s takes conscious intentionality.

Conscious Intentionality

It’s why God has given his people what we call the means of grace. For example, God has given us his church, the fellowship of the saints, prayer, Scripture, worship, fasting, the sacraments, just to name a few. These are means by which we’re able to learn and grow so that we can walk in this way of love.

And the more we experience the true love of God the more we’ll want to love God and others the way we’ve been loved.

But we need a plan. Like a vine needs a trellis to guide it in the right, life-giving direction so it will bear fruit, we need an intentional way of life to help us bear fruit, to help us walk in the way of love.

Make A Plan

This Fall our church we’ll have lots of groups meeting to help you do just that. One of the experiences I’ll be leading is called, “Crafting a Rule of Life,” based on the book by Stephen Macchia. In it, we’ll spend time considering our own unique callings, gifts, temperaments, and seasons of life and how we can cultivate those aspects of who we are to help us become consciously intentional in walking in the way of love.

If you’re interested, I hope you’ll reach out and ask me more about it or look at our website and see all the different offerings we have coming up in the Fall. Each of them will help you learn and grow as a follower of Christ so you can walk in the way of love.

What the world needs now… is love. That’s absolutely true. But the world needs the love of God. And the world needs followers of Jesus Christ who not only love God, but who love others as they have been loved by God.

Thanks be to God.

Why Return to Worldly Ways?

Galatians 4:9 – But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

A Change of Address

When we lived in darkness – when we were of the world – it made perfect sense that we lived as the world lived. We were a part of its system. You might say it was the very air we breathed.

But when we were delivered from that bondage, ignorance, and darkness, we were made into something new. Paul described us as new creations. To paraphrase the Apostle elsewhere,

“When I was a worldling, I talked like a worldling, I thought like a worldling, I reasoned like a worldling. When I became a new creature in Christ, I put worldish ways behind me.”

It is therefore sad to observe how the Apostle had to address the Galatian believers and ask them why they were turning back to their old, dead ways.

It’s difficult to admit how shortsighted we can be on a daily basis. If we don’t keep Christ daily before us, pursuing him with all God’s grace and our might, we inevitably find ourselves drifting back to the world and its ways of thinking. And such worldish thinking will soon lead to worldish living. What’s so frightening about this process is that even as it happens, we don’t seem aware that we are becoming enslaved to those “weak and miserable principles” all over again.

Why Do We Do This?

The question is indicting: Why would we ever want to go back to such thinking and living once we have been freed from it? Why do we seem to prefer bondage to freedom at times? It’s almost comical how we, like the Israelites, begin romanticizing how great the leeks and onions were in Egypt and forget about the fact that we were slaves there. Why do we do this?

There are probably many good answers. No believer, I hope, truly thinks the world is preferable to the things of God. I don’t think being out of shape is preferable to being healthy. But one skipped workout at a time – over a period of undisciplined living – and a person will find himself or herself struggling to walk up a flight of stairs. That was never the intention, but it was the consequence.

Similarly, a little disobedience and sloth here and there and one day a person will wake up terribly out of shape for the Kingdom. In truth, they will be downright unfit for it.

I’ve discovered in my own life that I tend to do the things I want to do. It’s no more complicated than that. I may dress it up in elaborate excuses and rationalizations, but at the end of the day that’s all they are. Can you relate to that?

Don’t Ignore God’s Means of Grace

Thankfully, those who are genuinely in Christ will not be able to return to their old ways without feeling the disciplinary rod of the Holy Spirit. God is not content to watch his children become remolded in the world’s image.

By God’s magnificent grace, the smoke detector goes off long before the fire blazes out of control. God awakens and disciplines those who are his own and gets them/us back on track again. But even here he does not “do” all the work for us. We can still choose to sleep in instead of pray and study. We can play instead of worship on Sunday mornings. Fill in the blank with those temptations that continue to call you back to your old life. We will have those choices ever before us.

But if you cry out to your loving Father for help, his grace will abound once more to rescue you from your chains. And if you rely on him daily and practice those things he promised will make you spiritually healthy, you may find you have to be rescued less often.

Walking Points

  • Do you ever find yourself moving back to the world’s ways of thinking and living?
  • What do you think are the primary reasons you do so?
  • Have you ever wandered back so deeply into slavery to sin that you thought you were beyond rescue? How did you escape?
  • What are two or three ways you can protect yourself from becoming enslaved to the “weak and miserable principles” of the world in the future?
  • Talk about your answers with a trusted Christian brother and pray for one another.

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Loving Father, you have redeemed me and adopted me into your family. You desire that I imitate you in my daily life. But all too often I feel the pull of my old life, the lure of sinful desire. Those weak and miserable principles seemingly cast a spell on me. Show me how awful, ugly, and untrue they really are and how they will only entrap and enslave me to a horrible bondage. Please let me see how wicked they really are before I give myself to them. Enable me by your grace to grow in grace. Control me with your Spirit so that I will both desire to, and be able to, live fully for you. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.