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Contending For More

Contending For More

Do you mostly approach life actively or passively? And I already know your answer. “It depends.” It’s true. Some of us are super active at work, but super passive at home. Some of us take initiative when it comes to our physical health, but we’re more passive about our relationships.

Think about the people you know. Do you know people you wish were a little more active, who took a little more initiative? Do you know people you wish were a little less active? In fact, you don’t call them active; you call them aggressive. When it comes to our spiritual growth, should we be more active or more passive? Here’s another way to ask the question:

Is God responsible for our spiritual growth or are we responsible for our spiritual growth?

Yes. Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are so welcome here at Epic. And here’s our encouragement: Start where you are because you can’t start from any other place. And wherever you are, make an intentional decision to keep moving forward in your faith journey. This is what we’re always after as a church community.

Here is how I want to define spiritual growth for our purposes today. This is a simple definition with profound implications.

spiritual growth – when more of my life is shaped by more of Jesus

Or as Paul wrote to the Galatians, it’s when more of Christ is formed in more of you.

And here’s the question I want each of us to be asking as we step into today’s teaching:

Am I willing to do whatever it takes to contend for more of Jesus in my life?

I’m calling this message, “Contending for More”. Our text for today is Colossians 1:21-29

Colossians 1:21-29 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fulness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Remember who you were and how you became who you are. Don’t forget who you are.

There were some in this Colossian church who were teaching that you had to do certain things to be acceptable in God’s sight. And Paul reminds them who they were. They were alienated from God, cutoff, estranged.

But they were reconciled by Jesus’s physical body through death. And the same is true for us. Through the death of Jesus on our behalf, we can move from being separated from God to being reconciled to Him.

And here comes the beautiful, glorious, hard-to-believe result of what Jesus has done for us: We are now holy in God’s sight. God sees us without blemish. We are now free from accusation.

When we receive what Jesus has done for us, it completely changes our standing with God.

Paul opens verse 23 with this conditional statement – “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” It is common for us as Christians to believe that the gospel is what brings us into a life with Jesus, but now it’s entirely up to our efforts to grow in our faith. And Paul’s like, the gospel is how you get in, how you stay in, and it’s what will carry you until the end.

He talks about their faith being established and firm. He’s using an architectural image that I think we can relate to. He’s using the metaphor of a house firmly set on the foundation. Our team that has been designing our buildout at 414 Brannan has spent significant time looking into the foundation of this building. They know it needs to be strong enough to hold all of us.

How strong and steady is the foundation you’re building your life and faith on?

If your life is built on Jesus, it’s like the house built on the rock. If it’s built on anything else, it’s like the house built on the sand. It will not stand when the storm comes.

As you move along in the text, Paul starts talking about a mystery. He uses this word intentionally. There were some in the Colossian church teaching that a select group of people had been given a special mystery or secret knowledge. Paul says the true “mystery” is that in Jesus, everyone can belong to God. This was a radical idea for these first-century Gentiles; to know that because of Christ, they are included in the family of God. In verse 27, he says that God has revealed the glorious riches of this mystery and here it is:

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

God, help us marvel over this reality. Ask the Spirit to make this miraculous truth a felt experience for you. This should change our perspective, cause us to wonder, and make us forever grateful that Jesus would make his home in us. We don’t need everything the world says to have a glorious future. There’s one thing we need over everything else, Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Looking at verses 28-29, I’m going to let you in on what my role should look like as the Lead Pastor of Epic Church. This is true for our entire pastoral team and for others in our church who have leadership roles.

But I also want to talk to you about what your role should be. Here’s the first thing Paul says in verse 28 and it’s what we’re after here at Epic too:

Jesus is our lead story.

Paul simply says that “He (Jesus) is the ONE we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom.” Jesus isn’t one among many other competing priorities. He’s it!

And he says that the aim of our teaching is to “present everyone fully mature in Christ.”

Everyone – Some Colossians were teaching that there was a select group that had special access to a deeper spiritual life. And Paul’s like, this deeper spiritual life is available to EVERYONE. This means, it’s available to you. It’s not that some of us were born with special access to spiritual growth.

What is true about the most spiritually mature person in the Epic Church community can also be true of you.

No matter how young or old, rich or poor, male or female. Regardless of your past, your personality, or anything else.

What’s the end goal we should have for our ministry at Epic Church? To present everyone FULLY MATURE in Christ. This is why our vision is what it is.

The vision of Epic Church is to see an increasing number of people in San Francisco orient their entire lives around Jesus.

Is your ultimate aim your happiness or your spiritual growth?

I do believe spiritual growth will, in the end, lead to a life filled with greater joy. But if happiness is what you’re after on a daily basis, spiritual growth will have to be forfeited. Just so you know, I’m very familiar with the happiness temptation – in two ways. I am personally tempted to go after my own happiness most.

And as your pastor, I am tempted to pursue your happiness most. But more than your happiness, I want to see your faith in Jesus grow deeper. And I do think that will lead to what you most deeply desire in the future.

If you are passive about your spiritual growth, it won’t happen.

If you think your spiritual growth is entirely up to you, you’ll exhaust yourself.

If you actively get more of Jesus, you’ll experience spiritual growth.

Paul says, “Because your spiritual maturity is my end goal, I strenuously contend with all the energy that Christ so powerfully works in me.”

Being fully committed to the mission of God for our community and beyond is hard work, but we are not doing this work alone.

We contend with all our might, but we do so with the power Christ gives us. How are you contending for the spiritual growth of others?

“God releases a supernatural energy when you contend for others’ maturity.” -Jon Tyson

When you plan for your future, does that include spiritual growth?

I love having a life plan. In fact, I’m going to be teaching you how to create one if you come out on Tuesday night, July 11. But if spiritual growth isn’t part of your future plan, what are you really living for?

God wants you to grow spiritually. He’s making every resource you need available to you, so that this will happen. He’s fully committed to it. Will you make everything you have available to him so that He can do what He intends to do with you?

Where are you on the journey? What’s the next step or stage you must enter to grow in this season? Something around prayer, service, character, generosity, rest, leadership, or something else.

As Paul gave the Colossians some of his pastoral heart, let me give you some of mine.

We didn’t start this church because we needed something easy to do.

We’re not staying at this church or in this city because we can’t get other jobs.

The reason we pray. The reason we study. The reason I lead our team. The reason Shauna and I are still here is we want to see God so something so beautiful in your life and through your life. We’re here for it. Are you?


-Move from separation to reconciliation – faith in Jesus

-Commit to your spiritual maturity – prayer time

-Contend for the spiritual growth of others – prayer time

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