What was Paul’s goal in ministry? He tells us in Colossians: “We proclaim him [Christ], warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with his strength that works powerfully in me” (Col 1:28–29). This, of course, is nothing other what Jesus said should be the goal of his followers in the “Great Commission”: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them … [and] teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19–20). Likewise, John tells us that when some apparently believed in Jesus, he was unimpressed, challenging them, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples” (John 8:31), and later Jesus elaborated on what it meant to “remain” in him (John 15:1–8).
Are you and I followers of Jesus Christ—close followers, that is—or are we following him only from a distance? Are our lives profoundly transformed so that we can say, with Paul, that “I have been crucified with Christ; and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now life in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:19–20)? Are we taking our cue typically and habitually from the indwelling Holy Spirit as guided by God’s Word or from other people, even Christians, or from the world around us? Are we driven by deep inner convictions and commitments instilled by our allegiance to Christ or are we, in Paul’s words, “tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching” (Eph 4:14; similarly, Jas 1:6)?
Again, Paul’s words in Colossians are wonderfully comforting and reassuring: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Col 2:7). What is more, our focus should not merely be inward on our own maturation as believers, but also outward as we lead others to true Christian discipleship and help them mature in Christ. Are you and I engaged in several committed, nurturing mentoring relationships with several specific fellow believers? This was clearly both Jesus’ and Paul’s practice. Jesus had the Twelve, and Paul had his circle of close associates, including Timothy. With Paul, let us therefore strive to “labor for this”: “that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col 1:28).