This is a message that I delivered to the youth group that I attend. I pray that God will continue to use this message that He gave through me on this blog.
Colossians is written to the church in the city of Colossae. Paul wrote this letter in 62 A.D, during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. He wrote this letter because Epaphras, the founder of the Colossian church, came to Rome and told Paul of false teaching that had been deceiving the Colossians. One of the main characteristics of these was syncretism, which is the combination of different beliefs and practices to form some type of hybrid religion. Paul restates in this letter the importance of true Christianity. In Chapter 3:1-17, Paul talks about how to die ourselves and to put on the new self, which is in Christ.
Focus on the Father (v. 1-4)
In order to put on the new self, we must focus on God, our Father in heaven. Verses 1-4 of chapter 3 say:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
These four verses talk about the pursuit of godliness. Look at the definite distinction that is made between things that are above (God and things that honor Him) and things that are on earth (sin, things that do not honor God). This separation shows that a desire for the world and a desire for God cannot coexist. Our sinful natures will keep us from perfection as long as we walk this Earth, but our desire should be found in Christ and to be like Him, and that is what we need to focus on as followers of Christ. Verse 1 refers to Christ’s resurrection. If we have been saved, we have risen with Christ. As born again believers, we must strive for things that are above. Our desire for things on Earth died with our selfish nature. Christ is our new life. We live our lives as Christians for the glory of Christ, and in doing that we will appear with Him in glory. I’m going to come back to this paragraph throughout the lesson, but now we’re going to go ahead and move on to how true focus on the Father is obtained.
Flee from the flesh (v.5-11)
We must flee from the flesh, dying to our old self before we put on the new self.
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.“
True focus on the Father cannot be achieved without striving to abstain from sin. What does verse 5 say we should do with our worldly ways? Put them to death. Paul then goes on to list examples of these, “…sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry”. Notice that the majority of this first list is referring in some sense to sexual sin. Sexual sin is not talked about enough, especially in the seriousness of how controlling it can be over someone’s life. These lustful passions and greedy practices can become our main focus, what we devote our most time and attention to, which makes them idols. The very wrath of God’s righteous judgment is coming on account of these sins. Those who are continually walking in this evil way of life will face final judgment and condemnation. When Paul is saying that we once walked in these, he is not saying that we can achieve perfection, but we must strive for it. When you walk in something, you do it willfully. We are called to fight sin and avoid participating on purpose. Paul goes on to present another list, “…anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth…Do not lie to one another”. Notice how this list shows sins that are involved with our relationships with others. Anger to one another, obscene talk, lying, etc. These things we have put off, because we lived in these before Christ, both of the lists of sins defined our old self. Our new self was put on after our salvation. Notice how it says that it is being renewed. Present tense, not past! This is not a one-time thing, the transformation of Christians requires continuing renewal! What are we being renewed in? The knowledge of the world? The knowledge of others? No, the knowledge of our Creator, in whose image we are made! The image of God and the desire to become more like Him is something we have in common with all believers, in that statement we are all united in Christ. Despite our differences, we are one as the body of Christ. One thing that amazed me was the mention of the tribe Scythian. This is the only time it is mentioned in the Bible. The Scythians were a barbarian tribe that would decapitate their enemies and use their skulls as drinking cups. This statement becomes even more powerful when you imagine reading this at their time. Scythian would’ve been the equivalent of ISIS, or Al Qaeda. Our unity in Christ surpasses all of our former lives or practices, making us one in our new selves! Our focus on the Father is increased the more that we abandon this world. We must die to our old self and be continually renewed in Christ.
Furthering Your Foundation (v. 12-15)
We are more able to focus on The Father more clearly as we further our foundation in Christ. Pursuing the things that are above and being continually renewed in God’s Word are both referring to the specific examples verses 12-17 give. These verses specify what putting on the new self is. Let’s just read this as a whole first.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
As God’s people we have been set apart. As we grow in Him, the further away from the world we will be. We are to apply all of these characteristics as Christians. All of these flow from having love, which binds all together in perfect harmony. Our new selves are to be loving, compassionate, humble, meek, forgiving, peaceful, and patient. Thankfulness is mentioned 3 times in these five verses, we are to be gracious for what God has provided for us! We are to let Christ’s words and lifestyle be an example to how we should live, and use it as a standard of comparison to correct one another as fellow believers. Worship God with thankfulness in your heart! Verse 17 sums it up with the command of doing all things in the name of Christ, giving thanks to God. All of these things are signs of someone that is focused on the Father and has put on the new self.
Focusing on the Father, fleeing from the flesh, and furthering your foundation are all present in putting on the new self. They all coincide and relate to one another. If we are to set our mind on what is above, we must apply these things. None of this is possible without Christ. Notice how many times He is mentioned, that is because there is no hope without Christ! We are able to do this as followers of Christ with His strength, relying on His power. Since we can only do these things by His grace and power, we should do them all for His glory.
Now you must ask yourself, if you are a Christian, are you being continually renewed? Are you dying to yourself daily? Are you striving to abandon ALL worldliness? Where is your compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, love? These are all signs of continuous renewal. Where is our compassionate concern for the lost? Why do we shudder at the thought of sharing the very Gospel that saved our souls, believers? I encourage you to proclaim the Gospel with all boldness and to apply these principles to your life. Renew yourselves in the Scriptures daily.