Fu Ming Tse—Taichung, Taiwan
We have witnessed seismic shifts in society, changing lifestyles, and the clash of ideologies in the last few decades. These pressures have greatly challenged Christian values, leading to problems within the community of faith, such as the creeping in of deviant behavior and believers going astray. We must thus be rooted in faith and pursue spiritual growth to help us discern right from wrong, navigate the trade-offs between sacrifice and gain, know the truth of the Bible, and establish the correct life goals. Positioning ourselves properly in these fast, ever-changing, and chaotic times enables us to adapt and stand firm in the truth.
HAVE A ROOTED FAITH
In the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord Jesus told the parable of a sower. Among the seeds sown:
“Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up, they were scorched, and because they had no root, they withered away.” (Mt 13:5–6)
The Lord Jesus explained that these represent those who hear the word and receive it with joy. But without roots, they only endure for a short while. They immediately stumble when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word (Mt 13:20–21). As the Lord’s disciples, we must be deeply rooted in the faith before we can become sturdy, grow, and bear fruit.
Receiving the word of God, understanding the mystery of the truth, and experiencing God’s precious salvation will produce unwavering faith. The outcome of this faith is the salvation of our souls (1 Pet 1:9). If the seedlings do not take root and, thus, wither, the efforts invested in the sowing will be wasted. God once warned that His “people [were] destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos 4:6). We must have a rooted faith in our Christian lives and service to God; we ought to set the following goals in our pursuit of a rooted faith:
1. Be Rooted in Christ
In the history of the church, there was an apostle named Paul. Initially, he did not know Jesus and persecuted those who believed in Him (Acts 9:1–5). Subsequently called to believe in the Lord, Paul declared how excellent it is to know Christ (Phil 3:8). To him, neither tribulations nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword could separate him from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35–39).
Moreover, Paul did not consider his own life when proclaiming God’s gospel of grace and fulfilling the mission entrusted by the Lord (Acts 22:22–24). He knew, believed, and loved Jesus deeply. He rooted his entire life in Christ and was so firmly grounded that he lived and died for the Lord (Rom 14:7–8). Paul writes, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:11).
The Lord Jesus performed many miracles on earth, including feeding five thousand with just a few loaves of bread. However, when He started to talk about the bread of life, many people stopped following Him. At that moment, the Lord Jesus asked His disciples, “Do you also want to go away?” Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:66–69).
These two examples remind us that faith should not be rooted in material things, interpersonal relationships, or physical healing (Lk 17:11–19). Instead, it must be rooted in Christ.
2. Be Rooted in the Church
The church is the body of Christ (Eph 1:22–23). Redeemed by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:28), the church is where God manifests His manifold wisdom and executes His saving grace (Eph 3:10). He established the end-time true church through the promised Holy Spirit, revealed the truth of salvation, and gathered His people from all nations, all tribes, all places, and all peoples; they shall flow to this spiritual Mount Zion (Acts 2; Isa 2:2–4).
The True Jesus Church is the true vine that the Lord Jesus spoke of (Jn 15:1–8). The Lord Jesus said:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (Jn 15:5–6)
The Lord Jesus specifically emphasized the importance of being united in Him. If we abide in Him always, He will abide in us, enabling us to be fruitful and enjoy an abundant spiritual life. Rooted in the Vine, we have a robust stem, ensuring that we remain strong and sturdy. The church is the house of God and the gate of heaven (Gen 28:17). She has the abidance of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We ought to preserve ourselves in the love of God and be rooted in the church, the house of God.
3. Be Rooted in the Truth
The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15); the truth is the foundation of our faith. Paul urges us to be steadfast in this faith, not moving away from the gospel preached to every creature under heaven (Col 1:23).
Hold fast to the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was commited to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. (2 Tim 1:13–14)
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. (Col 2:6–7)
Paul reminds us that the Spirit expressly says that some will depart from the faith in latter times, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim 4:1). The day of the Lord’s coming will not arrive unless the falling away comes first—when the son of perdition is revealed. Therefore, our minds should not be shaken or troubled (2 Thess 2:1–12). We should earnestly heed the gospel we have received, lest we drift away, corrupted by strange doctrines. Let our hearts be strengthened by grace, so that we can watch and stand fast in the faith (Heb 2:1; 13:9; 1 Cor 16:13).
The Bible describes the man who trusts in the Lord as a tree planted by the waters, spreading its roots by the river. It will fear neither heat nor drought; it will continue to thrive and bear fruit (Jer 17:8). Psalm 1 echoes this sentiment, adding that the one who meditates day and night on the law of the Lord shall be like such a verdant tree, whose leaves shall not wither. If we are to grow and be rooted in faith, we must rely on God and His word.
1. Have the Right Heart
In the parable of the sower, the Lord Jesus spoke about four types of heart (Mt 13:3–23). First, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the birds came and devoured them. This refers to the word in people’s hearts being taken away by the evil one because they do not understand. Some seeds also fell on stony places where the earth was shallow, springing up quickly, but withering in the sun. This is when the word fails to take root in people’s hearts—such faith is like a house built on sandy ground, which is then washed away when the winds and rains come. Some seeds fell among thorns; these are the ones whose hearts have been deceived by the cares and the riches of this world. Impeded by such cares, their spiritual lives do not grow. The final category of seeds fell on good soil and bear fruit to a hundred-fold, sixty-fold, and thirty-fold. These are those who hear the word with a noble and good heart, keep it, and bear fruit with patience (Lk 8:15). As Paul says, “I know whom I have believed (2 Tim 1:12). Those who “mix the word with faith” (Heb 4:2) will hear the word and understand it.
2. From Milk to Solid Food
The Bible says:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:12–14)
Paul regarded the church in Corinth as babes in Christ who could only take milk and not solid food. They behaved as carnal men, affected by envy, strife, and divisions (1 Cor 3:1–3).
Today, the combination of technology and the havoc wrought by the rampant pandemic has created a volatile situation. With the plethora of information disseminated through the internet and a range of media, we should be even more cautious and discerning to guard ourselves. If we are not watchful, the media we consume could become a snare, letting bitterness takes root and confusing us in our faith. Ultimately, we may be deceived.
3. Maturing to Adulthood
Maturing into adulthood is the natural manifestation of growth. This growth process requires care and cultivation to facilitate psychological maturity and spiritual progress. Paul describes this as the time when:
[W]e all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting. (Eph 4:13–14)
With full maturity, we will be able to discern truth from deception. In Paul’s time, some believers were turning away from Christ to a different gospel (Gal 1:6–7). He warned them not to let their minds be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light to deceive people (2 Cor 11:3–4, 14). Therefore, beware of those preaching another Jesus, a different spirit, or a different gospel, no matter how pleasing it may sound.
Moses is a good example of spiritual maturity:
By faith, when he came of age, Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he looked to the reward. By faith, he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. (Heb 11:24–27)
He could hold onto his values in the face of such great temptations only by attaining spiritual maturity, looking past the temptations of Egpyt and his own suffering to focus on the invisible God and His rewards.
Today, living in a rapidly changing society, we are inevitably impacted by its pluralistic ideals and multiculturalism. Although we have little control over our environment, we can still preserve ourselves from getting lost in this great spinning wheel of our times. This is because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). For our faith is the victory that has overcome the world (1 Jn 5:4), and we will become partakers of Christ if we hold steadfastly to the beginning of our confidence to the end (Heb 3:14).