We’ve turned the corner in Colossians 3. These two chapters – Colossians 3 and 4 are in many ways the ways you live out the truth that were taught to us in Colossians 1 and 2. Much of the New Testament is that way. First half of the letter is “Here’s the truth,” and the second half of the letter is “Here’s how to live it out.
What we have to realize is that it’s no good being able to declare the truth and defend the truth if you can’t demonstrate the truth. What’s the use of somebody saying, “I know that’s right and that’s wrong,” if they can’t show it in their lives? Because that’s how God changes the world. There’s a lot of Christians out there who are real good at chapters 1 and 2 of Colossians but not as good at chapters 3 and 4. I don’t want to be like that. I want to spend my life finding out what the truth is and then living it out. Both of them are incredibly important.
How do we start to live out this truth of being a new person? Colossians 3, the first eleven verses tell us. How can I be a new person in Christ?
Colossians 3:1 “Since then we’ve been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above not on earthly things.” Set your heart and set your mind.
Remember, “On your Mark! Get SET!…”. In a race the runner knows where they start, which lane they are running, where they are running, what they are running for and that they run to a finish line. We too, must “set our hearts,” (emotionally), “set our minds” (mentally) and we will see that we are physically and spiritually involved as well! A lot of times we think, “now that I’m a Christian it’s all up to God.” He’s going to perfect a good work in me. And, yes, He is working to do it. But we must also “set our hearts and set our mind.”
That means that both our affections and our thoughts are involved in our growth. Our affections – what I really enjoy, really love. And our thoughts. Our heart shapes our passions, our thoughts shape our priorities. They’re both involved and they’re both important. It’s affection (what you really love) plus thoughts (what you really think about all the time) equal action, what you really do. That’s what God’s really interested in: what we think, what our heart’s after and what we do.
How do you do that? Why do we do that? Paul goes on to give us some very practical advice about this.
Set your heart and set your mind so you can grow… where? “Set your heart on things above.” What does that mean? It means that you and I start to think about life like God thinks about life. It means that you and I start to see things in this world from His perspective in a brand new way.
What He asks us to do is get our mind off the “earthly,” that means the world’s way of thinking about things. The world has a way of thinking about things that’s a little bit different than God’s way of thinking about things. Material things: does the world think differently than God? Sex: does the world think differently than God? You could go right down the list of everything’s that important to us. God has a different way of thinking about it.
Paul says if you really want to start to grow “set your mind” on God and His way of thinking about things and not on the world’s way of thinking about things.
What is the “Spiritual Compass” in our lives? CHRIST
He says where you set it “where Christ is seated at the right and of God.”
When I set my mind above, I’m setting my mind on a throne where Christ is seated. A throne is a place of authority. God sits in a place of authority.
When I set my mind on things above it reminds me that no matter what happens God is in control. Do you need to be reminded of that this week? It reminds me that no matter what I’m facing in my life God has the power to make a difference. Setting my mind on God’s throne in heaven is setting my mind on a different kind of authority. It’s a place of both authority and security. I need that in my life. Sometimes it feels like the world’s kicking us around. We need a place of authority where we recognize that God’s power and not mine can make it through everyday life. And I need a place of security where I realize that no matter what, I know that Christ loves me.
How do we do this? Paul gives us some ideas.
What power is there to help set them?
The power to do it is found in one word and this has to be our focus. “Since then you’ve been raised with Christ set your mind on things above.” The one word is Resurrection. The power to do it is to realize that when I became a believer in Christ that I share His resurrection life now. I’ve got a brand life. We have the power to live a new kind of life.
Think about Jesus and what He did, the kind of person that He was, the kind of life that He lived. What do you really admire about Him? The way He treated people? The boldness He had in difficult situations? What is it about Jesus that you admire? The way that He prayed? What is it that really captures your heart about Jesus Christ? We say, We share the resurrection life of Jesus Christ, the Bible’s teaching us that you and I can start to share in those very things. We can’t become God. We can’t become Jesus. But He wants to share His character, His power with us. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens step by step as we’re going to see. But He wants to change our lives. He wants to make us new people.
Colossians 3:3 says, “For you have died…”
There’s a couple who came to know Christ. They had gone to a lot of wild parties before they were Christians. They decided they shouldn’t do that. They got an invitation to one of those parties. They sent back “We regret that we cannot attend because we recently died.” There’s just a change that happens in our lives.
3:3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. I’m going to quote New Testament Scholar Bruce Barton here: “The Greek aorist tense in the phrase, for you died connotes that we died when Christ died. It happened at a point in history. In Christ’s death, all believers died. Like a seed buried in the earth, believers’ real lives are hidden from the world, just as Christ’s glory is hidden, only to be revealed when he returns. The spiritual lives of believers are hidden inner lives that are in union with Christ who has brought them to be with him in God. Their new life is a mystery, a secret.
Paul often wrote about how believers already possess the life of Christ, having died and risen with him, yet do not fully possess the perfection and eternal body they will have upon Christ’s return. In the meantime, they are “not yet.” That their lives are “hidden” means they are concealed and safe, hidden from public view. Just as Christ’s glory was real but hidden until the Mount of Transfiguration, so we have a glory that is hidden and will be revealed when Christ returns. This is not only a future hope; it is an accomplished fact. Believers’ salvation is sure, so they are to live each day for Christ and in expectation of his promises.”[i]
One of the stories from war history comes from Napoleon. He had a favorite horse. One day his horse got away. It was running towards the enemy lines. A private ran after the horse, risking his life, jumped on it and brought it back. When the private got off the horse, Napoleon shakes his hand and says, “Thank you, Captain!” This Private immediately went back to his barracks, took everything out, moved into the officers’ quarters, took off the Private clothes that he had, changed into a Captain’s uniform and began ordering men around. He completely changed everything about who he was because of what one person said.
Everything about you and I changed because of what you and I did, what Jesus Christ did. it takes a little while to catch up with it. It doesn’t happen overnight. But don’t let the fact that it isn’t happening overnight fool you into believing that it’s not real because it is. You are a new person in Jesus Christ if you trust Him. Because of that new life in Christ we’re dead to sin. You’ve experienced this somewhat already as believers. The things that used to bring you joy, the things that used to be really something you looked forward to, they don’t bring you a moment’s joy now. But there are new things that bring you joy. Why? Because you’re a different person. Not just different beliefs but because you’re a new person in Jesus Christ.
Live for Christ, not our Earthy Nature
What part of the earthy nature needs to die? Paul gives a quick list. Here’s a list of some of the things I want to put to death by recognizing I’m not alive to those things any more. I’m alive to God in Jesus Christ.
Two sets of sins are listed. The first five refer to sexual sin; the second five to sins of speech. These first five were related to the cultural background of the Colossians and were particularly deadly to the life of the church. Here’s more from Dr. Barton:
Sexual immorality (porneia). Any form of illicit sexual relationship. The term serves to spotlight forbidden sexual behavior between people or indirect participation as an audience. We derive our term “pornography” from this Greek word. In contrast to the loose morals of the ancient Greek world, believers ought to show self-discipline and obedience to God in this area.
Impurity (akatharsia). Moral uncleanness. Perhaps no sexual act has taken place, but the person exhibits a crudeness or insensitivity in sexual matters. Like the other characteristics mentioned on this list, impurity points to activities before knowing Christ and should have no place in a believer’s life.
Lust (pathos). Evil sexual passion that leads to excessive sexual immorality and perversion.
Evil desire (epithumia). Wanting something that is sinister and vile in order to satisfy one’s desires. Sinful human nature cannot help but have evil desires. Thus Paul admonished the Colossian believers to get rid of the evil desires that could easily control them and which had been part of their lives before Christ.
Greed [pleonexia] (which is idolatry) Relentless urge to get more for oneself. In this context, Paul may have been focusing on greed for satisfying evil desires and for sexual immorality. The greed is described as idolatry because its focus is on filling desires rather than on God.
He gets a little bit more practical about some of these things. Why do we put these attitudes to death? Why is it so important? Verses 6 and 7 “Because of these the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways in that life that you once lived.”
3:6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. The wrath of God refers to God’s judgment on these kinds of behavior. The final culmination of God’s wrath is coming—with future and final punishment of evil. People may try to get around it, but there is punishment for evil for those who have not believed in Christ as Savior. This wrath is described in other references:
- “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath” John 3:36.
- “But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” Romans 2:5
- “When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9
- “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” Revelation 20:15
Two reasons to put these things to death.
- We should put them to death because they hurt the heart of God. God takes sin very personally. It hurts His heart because He knows what it does to His children. Don’t you take personally anything that hurts your kids? God does too.
- They no longer fit who we really are. We’re not those people anymore. He goes on and says, “You used to walk in these ways. That’s the life that you once lived. But you’re different people now.”
Here’s the practical strategy:
3:8 But now you must get rid of all such things
It’s like taking out the garage. We must get rid of some things. “Get rid of” means to put off or disrobe. The old, filthy clothes must be taken off before the new clothes can be put on. The believer “removes” the old life of sin and “puts on” the new life of Christ. Not only did they need to deal with sexual immorality in all its variations, they also needed to deal with misused anger that often spilled over into evil speech.
Here’s another list of natural behaviors that need to change:
Anger (orge). A continuous attitude of hatred that remains bottled up within. This could refer to what is under the surface, while “rage” (below) refers to what bursts out.
Rage (thumos). Outbursts of anger or quick temper for selfish reasons. This could mean continual and uncontrolled behavior.
Malice (kakia). Doing evil despite the good that has been received. This word is a general term referring to an evil force that destroys relationships. It can mean anything from trouble to wickedness. It is a deliberate attempt to harm another person.
Slander (blasphemia). Destroying another person’s good reputation by lies, gossip, spreading rumors, etc. Malice often manifests itself through slander. From the Greek word we get our word “blasphemy,” a term used to describe speaking against God. The Greeks used the word for defamation of character. Again, this destroys human relationships.
Filthy language (aisxrologia). Crude talk, abrasive language, expletives. Paul admonished the believers that such language must be caught and stopped before it escapes their mouths.
These behaviors have no place in any Christian or in any church. These are part of the “old life” before knowing Christ. Christians must resolutely “put off” these repulsive sins of anger and speech so that they can “put on” Christ’s attitudes and actions.
Sometimes Christians and churches fall into the trap of concentrating on one of these lists to the exclusion of the other. Some churches might be horrified at sexual sin in the congregation, all the while ignoring backbiting and gossip. On the other hand, some churches want so much to keep peace and quiet that they will not confront sin, even sexual sin. But Paul doesn’t leave room for any such behavior. The believers were called to get rid of it all.
10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
The truth is you’ve got to put off before you put on usually. When your kid comes in and they’ve been playing out in the mud and you tell them, “Go put on some new clothes.” What if they go upstairs and they just get some new clothes and put them on over the muddy clothes. That’s not the way to do it. You’ve got to take off and then put on.
Growth in my life is an ongoing process: Put off the old. Put on the new.
Think about a little baby – 9 -14 months old – getting ready to take it’s first steps. It’s ready to go. The baby takes one step, then other step, says “Wow! I did it!” then sits down the rest of his life and never takes another step. You and I – it’s a continual journey of steps. We will fall down, we will get dirty and need to change. If you want to walk the daily life with Christ, you put off the old, put on the new. Then you repeat it: put off the old, put on the new. Then you repeat it: put off the old, put on the new.
Because of Christ, we’re able to say, “God made me a new person in Christ and it changed my life. The cross changed my life. It changed who I am at the minute of salvation. It means I’ll spend eternity with God in heaven. It’s also changing my life everyday as I look to Him and have faith in Him and become more what He wants me to be. It’s a lifetime process.
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[i] Bruce B. Barton et al., Life Application Bible Commentary – Philippians, Colossians, & Philemon, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1995), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 205-206.