In my previous blog I began to share from Colossians 1:28-29 the unique way in which the Apostle Paul chose to describe the believers who had grown up to be mature and multiplying followers of Jesus Christ. He described them as being presented “Complete in Christ”. Our focus in the first post was on this unique destination. What did this goal mean? How would we know when we had reached this destination of presenting a person as “Complete in Christ”? To be “Complete” is to have grown to maturity in the faith. This maturity is able to be seen by others as they observe the believers walk with God, ministry to others, and multiplication of disciples. Today I desire for us to give focus to the path which leads a person to this destination of being “Complete in Christ”. For the church to be able to help people reach this goal we must understand the path we must encourage people to travel. The path to being complete is a path of growing. We must be committed to helping people experience growth in 3 vital areas. Those who have reached the desired goal of spiritual maturity have done so through growing in the faith, growing in fruitfulness, and growing in faithfulness. In this post we will seek to understand and apply the first area of growth. Becoming Complete in Christ requires Growing in the Faith. When I use the words “the Faith” I mean our personal relationship with God. We enter into a relationship with God by trusting Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Once a person has trusted in Jesus alone for salvation the person is given the gift of Eternal Life. This is assured by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The person is now described as being “In Christ”. They are eternally joined to the Life of Christ and now begin the journey towards completeness or maturity. The foundation of spiritual maturity and the source of spiritual fruitfulness are experienced in the relationship with God. Everything we are called to do by God is born out of our relationship with God. This is the model Jesus gives us as we see Him live out his life in the Gospel record. To grow in the faith is to grow in the relationship with God. Our growing to know God is how God describes eternal Life. (John 17:3). This is the priority to God. He desires to reveal to each of His children who He is, His ways, His purposes, His plans, His wisdom, etc. He loves and accepts us. As He reveals Himself to us we are transformed into the Likeness of Christ. To grow in this relationship, like any relationship, requires time and experiences together. As we grow to know God we experience the wonder of God working in us and then through us to help reveal Him to others. How does this growth happen? Why do some believers grow and others do not? What should the church be providing for people to help serve as catalysts to encourage this needed growth? These are questions that we need to be able to answer. A great book by Andy Stanley about The Path provided me with this path concept of growth. I encourage you to read it. From experience, when you listen to the testimonies of people who have experienced growth to a level of maturity in the faith you can discern the experience of 5 common catalysts. If the church can work to create an environment where people can experience these catalysts we will see more people growing towards this goal of “Complete in Christ”. The five catalysts are: 1.Practical Teaching of God’s Word- God’s Word is taught in a way that provides understanding and application. 2.Private Disciplines – Those who begin to receive the practical teaching soon develop a hunger for God and His Word that demands they learn to feed themselves. The disciplines of studying God’s Word, praying specifically, practical obedience, and regular gathering with other believers will become a part of the person’s lifestyle and produces growth as God works through these disciplines to reveal Himself. The likelihood of a new believer practicing these disciplines is directly related to whether or not the new believer is getting practical teaching and is in a relationship with another believer or group helping to provide mutual accountability. If practical teaching and mutual accountability are not provided then the new believer will seldom grow. There are exceptions but God’s ministry should not be built upon hopeful exceptions. 3. Personal Ministry – a person cannot grow in a relationship with God without experiencing God’s desire to work through them to serve others. Knowing that God is urging people to serve should lead the church to provide as many opportunities to serve as possible. These opportunities should be to help in the ministry to the church family as well as to serve people who are not yet in God’s Family. The church occasionally will have someone who does not wait to be asked before seeking out a place to serve. This is the exception. Most will have the desire but will not know how to ask or what they should be doing. This is why we must move people into relationships and offer many levels of serving for people to explore God’s call upon their lives to service. Sometimes through being allowed to serve alongside God’s people God is able to bring a person into His family. 4. Pivotal Relationships – Every person who has grown in the faith is able to tell who the people were that served as mentors to them whether officially assigned or more likely through a person’s teaching, modeling, and taking the time to pour their life into another person. The church must create as many opportunities for people to build long term mentoring and encouraging relationships. 5.Providential Circumstances – God handles this catalyst by bringing circumstances in the person’s life or in the churches experience. These circumstances are used by God to help bring brokenness, direction, opportunity to share Jesus and serve, etc. To help people to find and travel the path to being “Complete in Christ” churches must commit fully and practically to help each person grow in their relationship with God. Our desire should be to see everyone we are able to reach growing in a personal relationship with God. Can you envision being a part of a group of people who are each experiencing growth in their relationship with God? A people who demonstrate -confidence in hearing God’s voice -confidence in understanding God’s gift of salvation -confidence in sharing the Gospel with others – walking with God in greater personal obedience -confidence in discerning where and how God desire to work through them to serve others -confident application of the principles of stewardship of their lives -confidently building relationships with others to share the Gospel and /or to provide mutual encouragement and accountability – a willingness to take the time needed to pour themselves into another person or group of people with the desire of seeing the person(s) becoming a multiplying disciple(s). -commitment to unity, loving one another as Jesus loved us These examples create for us a picture of God’s vision and purpose for His church being lived out. What could a growing group of believers like this be used to accomplish for God’s kingdom? Have you begun to Follow Jesus? The relationship with God begins with trusting Jesus Are you growing in your personal relationship with God? Where are you receiving practical teaching of God’s Word? Are you growing experiencing God at work in your life as you practice the disciplines of the faith? Are you studying God’s Word learning to feed yourself? Are you praying specific prayers? Are you learning how to listen to God’s voice through the Bible and in your prayers? Are you committed to be a part of mutual accountability? Are you choosing to trust Jesus demonstrated in your obedience? Are you experience less choices to sin and more choices to obey and follow the Lord’s way? Who has God placed into your life to encourage you to grow in your faith? Who has God placed into your life that you can begin to encourage in the faith? Are you on the path to becoming Complete in Christ? If not, begin to make decisions today that will lead to this path. Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us to trust the Lord with all of our hearts, to not rely on our own understanding, in all of our ways (all you think and do) acknowledge God (put God first) and God will make your path straight. For the church to be filled with people growing in faith I must be growing in the faith. I must be helping others grow in the faith. So must you. Together God can use us in mighty ways for His kingdom. His Kingdom Come! Pastor Joe Durham

It is my hope to begin to share truths from God’s Word through this blogging process which will help us grow as followers of Jesus Christ. Today I begin a series of blogs based upon the concept of “Presenting every man complete in Christ” from Colossians 1:28-29.This blog is an introduction to this truth. Please stop now and read Colossians 1:28-29. The Apostle Paul describes this purpose of making disciples in a unique way here in Colossians 1:28-29. Paul describes it as presenting every person complete in Jesus Christ. We must visualize this purpose of making disciples as our God given destination as we follow Jesus together. If making followers of Jesus is the task of the church then it must be the purpose of every member of God’s church as well. Decisions lead to paths. Paths lead to destinations. If the church is to be presenting everyone complete in Christ (making disciples) then the decisions and path taken must lead to this purpose/goal. If we are not making disciples then we must evaluate our path and see what decisions or lack of decisions have led us to where we are. We must then determine the path needed and begin to make decisions which we lead us on the path to making disciples. Every decision we make needs to keep us working towards making disciples. Every decision should be moving us further down the road to our destination. Decisions that take us off the path must be avoided. In this description the Apostle Paul reveals the destination, the path, and the power needed to reach the goal. Our hope is that as we consider these concepts we will be able to more clearly understand what God means by presenting people as complete. Our hope is to learn how we can apply this concept to enable us to be truly faithful to the purpose of making disciples of Jesus. In this message today our desire is to ask God to enable us together to see His Destination, His Path, and His Power that together enable us to effectively fulfill His Purpose. Understanding the Destination- “Every Person Complete in Christ”-As we seek to understand the meaning of “Complete” we need to look at other passages from God’s Word. It is always best to allow the Scriptures to define the any specific Scripture passage that seems unclear to us. When a person trusts Jesus alone for salvation the person is placed into Christ. Being “in Christ” means to experience our lives being joined eternally to Christ. Every person who trusts Jesus is given eternal life-a relationship with God. If everyone who trusts in Jesus receives the same gift of eternal life then what is meant by “complete”. We know from Scripture that the word “complete” does not mean to be finished serving. Paul said he had finished the race only as he knew he was facing the end of his life. It does not mean to have arrived at complete maturity with no more growth needed. In Philippians 3: 7-14 Paul clearly says He had not arrived but continued to press towards the goal. It does not mean we no longer struggle with sin. After 30 years of ministry Paul wrote in Romans 7 that he still struggled and would continue to struggle until he was set free from his flesh at death. The Scripture does indicate that we should be growing to be more like Jesus. The Apostle John described followers of Jesus as children, young men and Fathers. This indicates different levels of maturity in the faith. In Galatians 6 Paul urges those that are spiritually mature to help others who are struggling with sin. What does it mean to be complete? How do we know when we have presented a person as complete? The answer is in the process. Once a person has trusted in Jesus a walk with God begins. As the person walks in obedience to Jesus he or she will begin to know and apply God’s Word. This walk with God will lead them to a desire to serve. The person then begins to serve according to the spiritual gifts given to them at salvation. Now the person grows to share Jesus with others and to help others growth in faith. The person grows deeper in intimacy with Christ. Complete means the person is able to hear God voice with confidence. It means the person is being guided by the Lord. The person is serving the Lord. This service is both to the church and to the world. The person is also sharing Christ with others and modeling for them how to follow Jesus. When these goals have been reached and maintained the person is matured or complete in Christ. The person has become a disciple of Jesus. The person continues to grow both deep and wide. Deep in the relationship with God and wide as God flows through the person to bless others. Throughout the Old and New Testament the image of a tree with deep roots and fruit is used to describe this kind of person. The destination of the church is to see everyone God enables them to reach growing to this level of completeness. Now let’s consider the Path to presenting people complete in Christ. To reach this level of spiritual maturity a person must be growing in 3 ways. They must be growing in Faith; a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They must also be growing in Fruitfulness (ministry and multiplication) Thirdly, they must be growing in Faithfulness. Paul describes the process He used to help lead people on the path towards being complete in Christ. This same process can be followed by the church today. The process includes Proclaiming, Admonishing, Teaching, and Presenting. We will look at each of these steps in detail as God allows us in future blogs. The Power required for the process- to reach the Destination-(vs. 29) Presenting people complete in Christ is described by Paul with the words Labor and Striving. These are pictures of hard work in difficult, uncomfortable circumstances. These words indicate the need to stand firm against the winds of resistance to the Gospel which comes from our enemy. The difficult circumstances of people’s lives and choices along with the spiritual battles required to see God transform lives and communities often discourage the church. Most churches will make an attempt or two to try to reach people. The resistance causes most to quit. It is not easy to make the decisions needed to keep on the path to making disciples. It is much easier to simply love the people we have coming and care for one another. The key to making disciples is to stay connected to the source of power we need. We must at all costs resist the desire to rely on our flesh, or on what we believe we can do ourselves. Decisions based upon what we can see will seldom lead us on a path where God is needed. Only God can transform lives. Yet God has chosen to do this as He works through us enabling us to labor and strive in His field. Paul described it as “His power working mightily in me” Applications -Who are we responsible to “present in Christ”? Everyone we proclaim too. Who do we proclaim too? We cast the seed to every person from our community to the ends of the earth. Applying this Word means to ask and answer honest questions about how we are doing in making disciples. It means making decisions that will lead us on a path which leads to people becoming fully functioning followers of Jesus. Each of us make decisions daily that lead to paths. These paths either lead us closer to Jesus or away from Him. If the church is going to make disciples it will be because I do and you do; we do together. Let me know what you think about the blog. His Kingdom Come! Pastor Joe Durham