June 23, 2010 David Balzer

Colossians 3:1-17: A Whole New “You”

Biggest Loser. One of the most popular shows on TV. There’s conflict and tantrums and tears and hugs. But perhaps the BEST bits are when people COMPLETELY TURN THEIR LIVES AROUND. Not just the way they LOOK, but their HEALTH, their life expectancy, and the way they think about themselves. New opportunities open up for activities, jobs, clothes, and relationships. And their whole LIFESTYLE changes. It’s almost like being BORN AGAIN.

 

And, while most contestants are able to KEEP the weight off. Others STRUGGLE. And put all the weight back ON again. Because they go straight back to their old ways of thinking, their old methods of dealing with life, and their old patterns of eating.

 

It’s just as important to change the INSIDE as it is THE OUTSIDE.

 

A new “you” demands a new ATTITUDE. A new set of desires, and behaviours. It demands a complete re-orientation of life. Old eating habits are KILLED, and new ones put on instead.

 

When your whole ATTITUDE to food changes. You don’t just eat a carrot, and wish it was chocolate. Or hoe into an apple and imagine it was a Big Mac. But when you DESIRE healthy food. When you SET YOUR MIND on a healthy life-style. It’s a whole new you.

 

It’s the new THIN you. You’ve killed the old fat you. There’s no way you’re going back THERE again. And so your desires and thought-processes change to reflect that.

 

And it’s the same idea Paul’s getting across here. As a Christian, you’re not the same person you used to be. You’re not EARTHLY anymore. So kill the bits that are still earthly. Get rid of them.

 

Get rid of them, because your new life is hidden with Christ in God. So seek the things that are there. THINK ABOUT the things that are there.

 

Paul’s logic goes like this- “SINCE this is who you are… THEREFORE kill this… and THEREFORE put on this”. Since, therefore and therefore.

 

1. Since

First up, “SINCE”. Right there at the start of v1. Describing something about your PAST, about your PRESENT. And about your FUTURE.

 

a) you HAVE died (3) and been raised with Christ (1) in the PAST

Firstly, IN THE PAST. Every Christian’s had his own death and resurrection experience. In verse 3 Paul says we’ve DIED. And then in verse 1. That we’ve been RAISED WITH CHRIST. Look there in v3.

3 FOR YOU DIED, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

 

It’s about dying to EARTHLY things. Putting to death your OLD attitudes and priorities.

 

And it’s not something you can do YOURSELF. Just turning over a new leaf. Back over in Ch 2 v11, Paul says it’s something only Jesus can do.

11 In him (that’s through or BY JESUS) you were also circumcised, IN THE PUTTING OFF OF THE SINFUL NATURE, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with THE CIRCUMCISION DONE BY CHRIST,

 

Jesus circumcised you, or put you to death. Different image, same idea. Dying to earthly things, or cutting off the sinful nature. Jesus did it.

 

And at the same time, there was A RESURRECTION as well. A new life BEGINNING. V1 of Ch 3. “You have been RAISED with Christ.”

 

And, once again, that’s something only GOD can do. Just like he’s the only One who can give ANYTHING life. Back over in Ch 2 again. V12.

12 having been BURIED with him in baptism and RAISED WITH HIM THROUGH YOUR FAITH IN THE POWER OF GOD, WHO RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD.

 

Or v13.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, GOD MADE YOU ALIVE WITH CHRIST.

 

God DOES it. And he DOES it to those who TRUST him. Gives them NEW LIFE.

 

And that’s where the illustration of Weight Loss breaks down. Because that’s all about HUMAN self-control and will-power. But that’s not the way it works when you become a Christian. It’s GOD who puts you to death, and raises you again. God who makes you BORN AGAIN. A definitive, unchangeable, gracious act. Nothing to do with whether we deserve it or not. Nothing to do with our will-power or goodness. But all to do with his grace and power.

 

b) your life IS hidden with Christ (3) in the PRESENT

It happened in the PAST. And it affects us NOW IN THE PRESENT. Notice, in v 3 Paul talks about the present. He says that our life is NOW HIDDEN WITH CHRIST. It’s because we’ve been RAISED with him. And that, in some sense, that’s where we are NOW.

 

There’s a couple of ideas here. First, hidden with Christ means our eternal life is SECURE. It’s been put out of the way, where no one can touch it. Like a travel wallet that’s got your passport and cash. It’s HIDDEN to keep valuable things SAFE.

 

And that’s a great encouragement as we go about our life NOW. Life that’s so full of uncertainties and up and downs. But our life doesn’t depend on our performance. Simply about trusting the One who performed FOR us. Which is a huge relief.

 

Our life is HIDDEN with Christ.

 

But there’s another idea. There’s a sense in which the reality of who we really are, and what we’ll become is hidden. Not fully disclosed… YET.

 

We may not look any different from the rest of the people we bump into each day, but WE ARE. And that’s a reality that hidden. We’re ALIVE, while everyone else is dead. We’re connected to God- the source of life. They’re independent of him. OUR LIFE IS HIDDEN WITH CHRIST IN HIM.

 

Like the difference between potted flowers and cut flowers. They LOOK the same. For a while. But eventually the difference becomes obvious. Only ONE is connected to the source of life. Connected by roots to the soil. And THAT ONE GROWS, while the OTHER one WITHERS.

 

Same with US. If we’re IN Christ. What we’re BECOMING is hidden. One day that will be revealed too. Our new perfected selves. Our new identity and destination. It’s a future worth looking forward to.

 

c) you WILL appear with him in glory (4) in the FUTURE

And that’s what Paul talks about in v 4. The future. “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”

 

At the moment it’s HIDDEN, but one day it will APPEAR. And our glory on that day will be part of the glory Jesus receives.

 

Life now is “in between”. In between “having been made alive”, and “that new life being revealed”.

 

Christ HAS defeated sin, But we still sin. He’s defeated SICKNESS and DEATH. But we still get sick and die. He’s King, but people don’t RECOGNISE that.

 

It’s a glory we’re still HOPING for CONFIDENTLY. And one day, we’ll SEE it.

 

So that’s the picture Paul’s painted of the Christian. It’s the “since”. The past, present and future of the Christian.

 

2. Therefore

a) Put to death earthly things (5-9)

Now, he moves onto the “therefore”. Since this is what you are – that you’re being renewed in the image of your creator. Since you’re hoping for your glory to be revealed. THEREFORE put to death earthly things. Verse 5. Whatever belongs to the earthly nature.

 

It’s like all the rubbish in your life. All the grubby, embarrassing corners of your life you don’t let anyone see. Those SINS you’re ashamed of. They’re WILD ANIMALS you’ve kept in cages out the back. Out where no one looks.

 

You know it’s wrong to keep them. But you don’t want to get rid of them. Even though they’re dangerous. Because they still FASCINATE you.

 

Every so often you love to sneak out the back, watch them prowl around, pacing their cages. You love to throw them some raw meat, and watch them rip it to shreds. You know it’s wrong, but you can’t drag yourself away.

 

Paul says, stop trying to keep them in cages. That’s what the Old Testament law tried to do. Tried to keep sin in a box. To contain it. Keep it measurable and finite and controllable. But the law doesn’t work. It can’t deal with the root cause of the wild animals.

 

Drastic action is called for. Put them to death.

 

Look at the list. Verse 5. Sexual immorality, impurity and lust, evil desires and greed. Put them to death. STARVE them. Don’t entertain them, don’t cherish them, for a moment.

 

Kill the wild animals. No mercy.

 

And then in verse 8, Paul moves onto a DIFFERENT sort of list. Doesn’t really seem to measure up. Many churches would be SHOCKED if any of the wild animals from v5 appeared. But they seem perfectly happy for the dangerous creatures in v8 to wander all over the place.

“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other”

 

Paul’s not saying, “Don’t let these things SURFACE”. He’s saying, “Get rid of them! They’re ALREADY wandering around! Call in the pest exterminators. There’s a plague!”

 

The “do not lie to each other” is a soft translation. It’s really “STOP lying to each other”. And notice the “to EACH OTHER”. These were things that were happening IN THE CHURCH!

 

Anger. The continuous state of smouldering or seething hatred against a brother.

Rage. When this state breaks out into angry words or actions against a brother.

Malice. Actions or words, or even AN ATTITUDE, intended to cause hurt to a brother.

Slander. Words which put a brother down.

Filthy language. Words which contaminate speaker and hearer. Either by their meaning, or their intent.

Lying. Deliberately misleading a brother for your own benefit. Leading them astray.

 

It may not seem to be such a colourful list as v5. But Paul doesn’t distinguish. They’re ALL dangerous animals. ALL need to be put to death.

 

Anger. Rage. Malice. Slander. Filthy language. Lying. Put them to death. Kill the wild animals. No mercy.

 

3. Therefore

Phwuh! Take a deep breath! Enough of the heavy stuff. How are you feeling?

 

Well, Paul’s not just about putting OFF, or putting to DEATH. He’s also about putting ON. It’s his second “therefore”.

 

Since you’ve been raised. Since you’re God’s chosen people. Therefore (3 things)

SEEK heavenly things (1)

THINK ABOUT heavenly things (2)

PUT ON the new self (10)

 

a) seek heavenly things

Paul’s point is that if our new life is already in heaven with Christ, then our THOUGHTS AND DESIRES need to be there too. Verse 1. SET YOUR HEARTS on things above.

 

It’s literally “SEEK the things above”. That makes it a bit more ACTIVE than just “set your hearts on”. We’re to actively SEEK OUT the things of heaven. Not just dream about it, but make it happen.

 

Like someone who’s lost weight. It’s no good looking back. Just THINKING about exercising. Or THINKING about eating properly. Do THAT, and pretty soon you’ll end up back where you began. SEEK OUT the new way of living. A way of living that’ll keep you where you want to be.

 

And it’s the same with the Christian life. Good intentions mean nothing. Seek out the things of Christ. The things that focus your thoughts, and your actions on him. SEEK OUT Christ himself.

 

b) think about heavenly things

And it’s our THOUGHTS Paul mentions next. Verse 2. Part of what it means to seek the things of heaven, is to SET YOUR MINDS on them. To THINK about them.

 

Fill your minds with good things. That’s what Paul says in Phil 4. Verse 8.

(Phil 4:8 NIV)  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

 

Gee, we fill our minds with some rubbish, don’t we? All in the name of entertainment, or relaxation. We think we DESERVE it. A hard day at work, and time for some mindless entertainment. Newspapers, magazines, TV, hire a video.

 

But there’s so much GOOD stuff we could be filling our minds with. If we’ve been raised with Christ, then we need to be SEEKING OUT things of heaven. We need to be FILLING OUR MINDS with the things of heaven. Books, tapes, Christian conversations. Make the effort.

 

Download some Bible talks. They’re all over the internet. Listen to one on the train, or in the car. Turn off the tele for half an hour, and listen to one. Listen to one while you iron, or cook dinner, or ride the exercise bike.

 

Set your minds on things above.

 

It’s amazing how often I’ll think, “Oh no, bible study again.” Or church, or a camp, or a meeting. I’m too tired to concentrate. I just need an easy night.” But then it turns out to be great, and I’m glad I went.

 

Because the funny thing is it’s THE THINGS OF HEAVEN that refresh you. That RELAX you. That ENERGISE you. That ENCOURAGE you.

 

Because that’s the way we were designed. Just like SUNFLOWERS are designed to turn towards the sun. So we’re designed to turn towards the things of heaven. That’s where our LIFE is.

 

So, since you’ve been raised, seek the things of heaven. Think about the things of heaven. Like sunflowers turning towards the sun.

 

c) put on new self

The third thing Paul mentions is that we’re to “put on the new self”. Verse 10.

“You’ve put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator”

 

It’s literally “put on the new HUMANITY”. Put on the new MAN. “Self” sounds very individualistic – like turning over a new leaf, or trying to be a better person. But “to put on the new humanity” describes moving from one camp into another. From the old creation into the new. And so the old way of doing things doesn’t make sense anymore.

 

It’s like putting on the uniform. You don’t sit on the hill at Parramatta Park, right in the middle of the Parramatta Army, blue and gold everywhere, wearing your Sydney Roosters gear. Right people, wrong uniform.

 

Put on the RIGHT uniform for the RIGHT people.

 

And in v12 we get a little fashion parade of what the new uniform LOOK LIKE. The new outfit for God’s new humanity. Notice how much it’s about our relationships with EACH OTHER.

(Col 3:12-15 NIV)  Therefore, AS GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE, holy and dearly loved, CLOTHE YOURSELVES with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. {13} Bear with EACH OTHER and forgive whatever grievances you may have AGAINST ONE ANOTHER. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. {14} And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. {15} Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since AS MEMBERS OF ONE BODY you were called to peace.

 

Let me suggest that it’s easier NOT to do the list in v6 to 9, than it is to DO the list here.

 

It’s easy for me to look at Bill over there, and say, “No, I’m not angry at him. There’s no rage, or malice. I’ve never slandered, or lied to him. In fact, I hardly know him at all!”

 

And that’s the problem. If we don’t KNOW each other, how can we ever be expected to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, or patient with each other.

 

It’s easy to be patient with someone you only see for two hours a week. But to DEMONSTRATE these characteristics among God’s people, we need to spend time with each other. To get into each other’s lives enough to start really BUGGING each other.

 

A friend of mine jokes about his spiritual gift. He said he has the gift of PROVOCATION. He always knows just how to rub someone up the wrong way. He figured he was so good at it, it must be a gift!

 

But there’s an element of truth in what he says. People can’t demonstrate patience and forgiveness unless someone does something that REQUIRES patience and forgiveness as a response.

 

Of course I’m not saying that we go out of our way to be annoying. Just so someone can show forgiveness or patience. But lives need to be lived among each other. Do things together. And it doesn’t have to be super-spiritual things.

 

Help someone move house. Invite someone over to watch a World Cup rugby game. Come to the church picnics when we have them. Give up half a day for the Woodcroft Festival, or the Holiday Kids Club. The opportunities are there. Make the most of them.

 

Or make MORE opportunities. Drop in for a cuppa. Ask people around for meals. Write letters, or emails. Organise holidays together. Meet for a working bee at someone’s house.

 

 

But it’s not just about spending time getting under each other’s skin. There’s lots of groups who spend lots of time together. Sporting groups, bands, community groups.

 

If we’re not developing the characteristics of God’s people. The distinctives that make us different, then it’s a waste of time. So Paul reminds us about HOW we’re to develop these fruits. Verse 16.

(Col 3:16 NIV)  Let the WORD OF CHRIST DWELL IN YOU RICHLY as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

 

It’s the word of Christ that’s to be the focus. It’s the word ABOUT Christ. The gospel that’s to dwell in us. To dwell AMONG and AROUND and THROUGH us.

 

We’re to speak it, pray it, sing it, teach it, correct each other by it. We’re to LIVE it! We’re to remind each other of what we’ve been saved from. What we’ve been saved to. Who we’re now hidden with.

 

And if we’re doing that, then God’s going to use us. Use us to bring people from the old creation into the new. To be his change agents in the world.

 

Listen to the testimony of John Bunyan. He wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress”. But years earlier, he was converted because of the love a group of Christian women had FOR EACH OTHER. Loving and fruitful conversation. Talk that taught and corrected. Talk which centred on the word about Christ.

 

“One day the providence of God did cast me to Bedford, to work at my job, and in one of the streets of that town, I came where there were three or four women sitting in a door in the sun, and talking about the things of God and being now willing to hear them, I drew near to hear what they said … But I didn’t understand, for they were far above, out of my reach, for their talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature;

 

They talked how God had visited their soul with His love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted and supported against the temptations of the devil. Moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular, and told to each other how they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up under his assaults…

 

And I thought they spoke as if JOY did make them speak; they spoke with such pleasantness of godly language and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if THEY HAD FOUND A NEW WORLD…

 

At this I felt my own heart begin to shake, as mistrusting my condition… Thus, when I had heard, and considered, what they said, I left them and went about my employment again, but their talk and discourse went with me, also my heart would tarry with them, for I was greatly affected with their words…

 

Therefore I should often make it my business to be going again and again into their company of these poor people, for I could not stay away.

 

And before long he was converted.

 

That’s the sort of fellowship that changes lives. Real, patient, forgiving, loving relationships. Clothes that befit God’s new humanity.  …….. Dear God, make us a people just like that!

 

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