TEXT: Colossians 3:1-3,8-14
On Easter we talked about the significance of the Resurrection of Jesus. Not only does God forgive us our sins because Jesus died (Good Friday), but God raises us to new life with the risen Jesus. We are spending this month looking at what it means to be “raised with purpose” with Jesus.
Last week we talked about the new identities God gives us when we believe and follow Jesus. I summarized that in three ways:
- LIVING STONES: In Christ there is salvation and new life/identity for all who believe and follow in obedience
- NEW IDENTITIES: In Christ you are part of a community of faith, both in this local church and through God’s church in all times and places
- PURPOSE: In Christ we are called to be a faithful community, reaching out through word and deed to serve and bless our neighbors, community, and world
Today we are going to look a what it means to “live out” those identities, to live as our “new selves” in Christ. In each case we have to choose to live out the new. Like the man on the mat whom Jesus healed (John 5) we have choose to “pick up our mat and walk” in this new life. We have to choose a new mindset, a daily renewal that Paul describes getting spiritually dressed for the day, and new behavior.
1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
First, a new mindset. Verses 1-3 begin “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ….” And we have, so what follows becomes a command, an invitation, a possibility for us to choose: “Keep seeking the things above… set your mind on the things above….” (vv.1b-2) That is, set your mind on Christ himself, for he is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on God’s will and God’s purpose, on Christ’s character and Christ’s mission. Set your mind on these things, not on the “things on earth.” Now, there is an old saying that sometimes Christians are “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.” It would be a problem if that is what this passage described. But it’s contrasting God’s character, mission, and purpose with a fallen and sinful world. The later verses will help make that distinction. But God’s mission and purpose is all about this world: bringing the Kingdom of God into this world. So this is not a call to remove ourselves from the world or to ignore it. Indeed, Jesus prayer for his followers and us in John 17 makes clear that he intends us to live, love, and serve out IN the world. This passage, rather, is making the other distinction he made in that John 17 prayer, that we keep ourselves from becoming OF this world – so identified with it’s sinful values that we become indistinguishable from it. Seeking the mind of mission of Christ will not take us OUT OF the world nor allow us to become OF the world, but will send us INTO it.
Verse 3 gives some explanation of how God enables us to choose this new mindset. It is because we have died and been raised – Good Friday and Easter – and now our life is ‘hidden’ or held safe with Christ in Heaven. Our salvation and our identity – our healing if you want to think of the man on the mat – is accomplished and secure. What remains is what we are going to do with that – how we are going to think and live.
Old vs. New (vv.8-11)
8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
Nonetheless, there is a constant battle for our mind, as described in verses 8-11. We have to choose this new mindset because our minds are fickle things. And it’s not like we just set our mind on Christ once and it’s done. We have to do it day by day and even sometimes moment by moment! So we are to put aside “anger, wrath, slander, abusive speech, and lying.” These are practices of the “old self.” It’s the temptation for the healed man to lay his old mat back down and keep begging, because that’s familiar and comfortable, and it’s all too easy for us to do as well.
And yet the more we set our mind on Christ the more it becomes habit. Being renewed is being made new again and again and verse 10 says our new selves are “being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created [us].” When we set our mind on Christ, we become more and more like Christ!
Verse 10 goes on to say more about this renewal. This might be easy to gloss over, but ever since the Lord opened my eyes to issues around race and discrimination I have become increasingly aware just how much it is spoken against in scripture. Of all the things to say to further explain this renewal of our minds in being shaped into the image of Christ it is this: it is “a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman.” In fact, this list goes out of its way to mention more races, nationalities, and cultures than the usual “Jew and Greek” – naming barbarians and Scythians as well. A key part of participation in the Kingdom of God on earth is removing divisive barriers defined around race, nationality, and culture. I should note, too, that this is not a call for “colorblindness” but a call to mutual dignity and worth as those bearing the image of God in contrast to practices of injustice, discrimination, inequity, and dismissal. This passage doesn’t unpack all that for us, but neither does it gloss over something that is easy for the majority culture to ignore. If that’s a topic you want to dig into from a biblical basis, I’m glad to talk with you further or point you to more resources.
New Behavior (vv.12-14)
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
Finally, in verses 12-14, we see some examples of the new behavior that goes with the new mindset and new identity we have in Christ. Like getting dressed for the day, God calls us to put on the spiritual clothing of our new selves, new behaviors that honor the Lord and bless those around us. This image of putting on clothing helps illustrate the daily and constant choice we have to make between the old identities and the new ones.
The new behaviors include “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other, and love.” These don’t all come naturally, but they are all things that we are able to choose with God’s help. And the more we set our mind on Christ and are renewed and shaped into his likeness, the easier it becomes to choose these behaviors.
So what do you need to put aside: Anger? Unkind speech? Untruth?
What do you need to put on: Compassion? Patience? Love?
Here’s a 5-minute challenge for you tomorrow morning:
When you get dressed for the day, get spiritually dressed at the same time.
- Choose to set your mind on Christ: “Lord, this is the day you have made; help me set my mind on you today.”
- Claim your new identity in Christ: “I am chosen, holy, and beloved; I belong to Christ.”
- Choose a new behavior to practice today: “Today I will put on compassion. Today, I will put on patience…”
And try that for a few days… perhaps every day for a week or a month. And maybe you’ll find at the end of the day you need to take off some stuff of the world that has accumulated. “Lord, I’ve spent a lot of time today worrying about this thing; help me give it to you.” “Lord, I felt broken and worthless today when this thing happened. Help me put that off and remember who you say I am in Christ.” “Lord, I was pretty angry toward this person today and not very forgiving. Help me let go of that and start fresh tomorrow.”
And the next morning, get dressed all over again. Scripture says this in Lamentations 3:22-23…
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Some Music Used
- Death Was Arrested
- Heart of Worship
- Holiness (Take My Heart)
- The Swan (Saint-Saëns) – Liz Burns, cello; Rick Bean, piano
- CHOIR: What Wondrous Love (arr. Bean)
- O For a Heart to Praise My God (AZMON)
- Song of Confession: Come to Me (VanderHeide)
- Offertory (Choir): O Love (arr. Hagenberg)
- Salvation’s Song
- Postlude: Prelude from Suite 1 (Bach) – Liz Burns, cello