In our last lesson, we looked at verses 1-4 of Chapter 3, in which Paul tells the Colossians (and us by extension) to seek the things above. We were raised with Christ, and now we are to seek Him. We do so in eager anticipation that we will someday be with him in glory.
Our passage this week begins with a therefore. Because we have been raised with Christ, because we seek him, because we have this future in mind, our lives should look different. Verses 5-14 give us a more concrete picture of what it means to seek Christ.
Read verses 5-9.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
We must meditate on these things. Don’t go so fast through the list. Don’t glaze over them. Study them. This is what you and I have been saved from! These actions, habits, SINS have been nailed to the cross. This list describes the kind of person that God, in his sovereignty, chose! You have died to these things, when you died with Christ.
Because we have died to such ways of life, we take them off. We move on from them, we put them away. Verse 5 tells us to put them to death! But we dare not forget them.
It is in recognizing exactly what we have been saved from, who we once were when we were lost in our depravity, the depths of our lostness, that we can experience the depths of the Lord’s forgiveness, his kindness, his mercy, his love. So we dare not rush through this list, as though it really just describes a truly awful person. We benefit greatly from pausing and examining ourselves.
In our examination, we should ask ourselves, “Do I still live like this? Do I ever exhibit any of these characteristics or actions?” If we are honest with ourselves, the answer will be yes. We are not yet free of sin. We still choose each moment what we “put on.”
Some mornings I wake up and I “put on” anger. Nothing quite goes as planned and I have not realized I have put on anger that morning, but perhaps one of my kids complains or disobeys or upsets a sibling. My immediate response is anger. That is what I am wearing that day.
Or perhaps I don’t realize I’m wearing my old self as I am talking to a neighbor about her beautiful new kitchen remodel. As we are talking, I so badly want what she has. Everything shiny and new, the best this and that. And I am so dissatisfied with my perfectly functional, perfectly lovely kitchen. In my heart, I know that if I just had a great kitchen, I would be so much happier. And I grow frustrated that I don’t have what others have. I start to believe that life would be better if I did. In these moments, I am trusting in THAT, in a kitchen, rather than in God. This is idolatry. That is what I am clothed with in that moment.
Or maybe I’m talking with my husband and the subject of “that person” comes up. Suddenly, unkind words are spewing – complaints, resentments, frustrations. Such bitterness wells up from deep within. I am slandering another and I am speaking obscenely, using filthy, dirty language about one of God’s creations, and I might even be enjoying it. I am not talking about this person with the light of Christ but with my old self on, my sin self.
Yes, we are new creations. We have new selves. We are seated above, with Jesus, at the right hand of God. We are His children. But we are still in process. We are not yet free of the dirty clothes. And so we must take off and put on, and we must do it constantly.
So what do I do when I realize I have clothed myself in my old self with its filthy rags? I rip them off! I can’t get those garments off fast enough. Or that’s how it should be, right?
I am angry, but I’ve died to that. I’ve been set free.
I covet, but I’ve died to that. It has no hold on me.
I slander, but I’ve died to that. I can choose to love instead. I can speak words of life.
When we catch ourselves in sin, wearing our old selves, we have to stop! How many of us woke up this morning and dug through our dirty laundry, trying to find the most filthy, smelly clothes to put on? No, we went to the closet and we put on something clean.
If you are invited to a fancy dinner party at the nicest place in town and you are provided with a stunning, perfect outfit – one that fits just right and matches your personal tastes exactly, one that makes you feel beautiful and special and loved – are you going to then put on the clothes you wore out to work in the yard that week? No, of course not.
This should be true in our lives as believers, also. Christ has given us the most beautiful garments to wear! He has clothed us in righteousness. He has exchanged our filthy rags for pure and holy ones. We have been invited to spend eternity in glory and we have been given perfect clothes to wear to it, clothes that look like His. Clothes that make us compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, loving. In other words, beautiful!
When we see it this way, isn’t it just absurd that we would put on anything else?
But we do. So we must be always on alert, always ready to intentionally take off the filthy rags of sin and put on our shiny new clothes of righteousness. It sounds so easy.
Sometimes it is. When our hearts and minds are rightly centered on Christ, and the Holy Spirit convicts us of certain sins, it can be easy to stop, repent, and act rightly.
Sometimes it is not. Recently, as I was doing my study for this week, the Lord convicted me about an attitude I’ve had, an area of sin in my life. It was a rare moment when I was home alone in my house. And I actually said aloud, “But God, I don’t want to! I don’t want to change. It’s too hard.” The Lord honors these moments of honesty and he knows we feel this way. It’s only in his strength that we can do what we don’t want to do or can’t do. I wish that I could tell you that I just whipped off that old self and put on the new self, and thank goodness that’s done. No, this is going to be a long-term project, I fear.
So there is the taking off, but there is also the putting on. Otherwise, this is going to get a little awkward – hello nakedness.
We are to put on our new selves, “which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Just as we have to be actively taking off and putting to death the old way of sin, we have to be intentional and purposeful about putting on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, “bearing with one another, forgiving one another and loving one another.” We must work at these things. Our efforts are not to be just in trying NOT to do the bad stuff.
If this list sounds familiar, it is rightfully so. Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” We put on the fruit of the spirit. Our lives should be defined by these characteristics if we belong to Christ.
It takes intentionality to live as a follower of Christ. This kind of living is not easy. For instance, just in the time between when my kids get out of bed in the morning until I drop them off at school, I almost always have to work at every single thing mentioned here in Colossians. Some mornings there is a lot of taking off and putting on. It is not easy being compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, forgiving, and loving when dealing with small humans. And I love my three kids with all my heart!
It’s also not easy to bear with the family of God. The church is made up of sinners, as we are probably all too aware of. We are all struggling with the taking off in various ways and to various degrees. And yet, it is within the body of Christ, in his church, that we are to exhibit these characteristics, with the goal of unity. And unity in the church is how the world is to know that there really is something to this whole Jesus thing.
So we must work at it. But we must remember that if we are simply concerned with doing all of the right things, we are still missing the point. We must ground these actions, these qualities in the Lord.
“This ongoing process of becoming more Christlike (sanctification) occurs only because of the change in status (justification) that God has granted. It is as we learn of God’s love for us that our hearts are changed and we are moved to obey him from the inside out.” (Gospel Transformation Bible)
We live like this because we know and love Jesus more and more.
Really, what Paul is talking about here is far more than putting on good actions and attitudes. He is telling believers to take off sin and put on Christ. Galatians 3:26-27 “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes”
So, practically, how do we do this taking off and putting on? And how do we keep taking off the old and putting on the new?
- We need to be reading the Word, studying it, meditating on it
- We need to be in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the old clothes of sin we are still wearing, and asking for His help in taking them off.
- We need to recognize just what it is we have been saved from. We should remember what it feels like to live alienated from God. We need to regularly marvel in the grace that has been extended to us.
- And then we need to act in obedience. We have to put on the qualities of Christ. We push ourselves out of our comfort zone to bear with one another, forgive one another, and love one another. We put on our new selves as we interact with others. We prove that we are new creatures as we live in fellowship with one another.