We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)
I have been studying Colossians with some men I know, and God has been using it to work me over the past couple of weeks! Reading it through every day has been a real blessing; there is a treasure trove of truth in that short book that has really been changing me and making me reassess my commitment to being the man that God wants me to be. He has led me as a husband and father, and shown me recently about my need to be grateful. Lesson #1: reading a single book of Scripture many times in a month pays significant dividends in my heart and in my understanding of Scripture.
Case in point is the quote above of Colossians 1:28. Paul tells us that his ministry is focused not just on teaching, but on “admonishing” every man. This term (in Greek it’s the word noutheteo for you Bible scholars out there) refers “to counsel about avoidance or cessation of an improper course of conduct.” (BDAG) Paul doesn’t just show people the truth found in God’s Word; he is perfectly willing and ready to warn them when their course of action is headed toward disaster! He is willing to tell guys where they are headed and also to tell them to knock it off.
I think of this like having a friend who is about to walk off a cliff. If you saw a friend blithely heading toward a cliff, would you launch into a lesson on physics and the surety of their fall? I sure hope not! Hopefully you’d warn them strongly and even grab them if need be to stop them from heading to their doom. That is, in my mind, the heart of the word “admonish.” We do everything in our power to help our friend keep from going off the deep end.
These words were ringing in my ears the past week or two, as I had to have a couple of significant conversations with friends. I have a good friend who was having a really hard time in his marriage, and as I was riding to see him for a get-together the Lord kept bringing Colossians 1:28 to mind. I HATE confrontation and conflict, so much so that I get physically ill before I have to have a conflict. But these words kept ringing in my ears, so I knew what I needed to do. I couldn’t get away from them, so to be an obedient disciple I needed to listen and trust that God’s way was best.
Then I thought some more about this verse and the intent of the teaching and admonishing. Paul wants to “present every man complete in Christ.” The idea here is that Paul wants the people in his life to be mature; he wants them not only to know Christ, but to be mature in Him and committed to Him. That really struck me because of my mission statement. I have said for the past 4 or 5 years that my purpose in life is “to know Jesus Christ, to grow in Him, to serve Him, and to help others do the same.” Well, that means helping them be the people that God wants them to be! It means more than teaching; it means admonishing when I have to and being willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of my friend and for what Christ wants with my life and theirs.
I am a teacher and a preacher by calling and skill, so I have no problem there. If living as a Christ follower for me was just teaching I would be all for it! I am not, though. I pastor a smaller church, which means that I can’t be the “preaching pastor” or whatever who buries himself in his study and comes out of hiding for 30 minutes on Sunday morning. No, shepherding involves getting involved in people’s lives and being willing to get in the mix with them.
So I had that difficult conversation, and God blessed it. I have had two since as well, one with a man I am mentoring and another with a lady who needed to be warned as much as taught about where her actions were taking her. And even though I hate confrontation, God kept bringing this verse to mind over and over. Teach and admonish, teach and admonish. Don’t settle for the surface relationships, whether with God or with people. It seems like He brought that verse into my life for this season to remind me to be willing to go the extra mile with people, helping them be who they should be in Christ.
Want to grow in Christ? Surround yourself with people who are willing to admonish you when you need it. I am so grateful for the couple of men I know who, when I am being an idiot, are perfectly willing to tell me I am being an idiot and that I need to stop being an idiot. They help me see the truth of God by teaching me (usually by example) what godliness is and admonishing me when I ignore Him. So get some friends like that; they are worth their weight in gold. And be a friend like that too, who is willing to help others see the biblical issues in their life and love them enough to nudge them to choose to serve God.
That’s the way to be “complete in Christ.” And from my perspective, that’s everything.