We are called to holiness. We are called to put sin in the coffin … and keep it there. How? Colossians 3:1-17 provides deep theology and highly practical steps. I invite you to open Colossians 3 and read the Apostle Paul’s exhortation.
Set your hearts and minds on things above (Colossians 3:1-4)
It’s a simple command but a difficult one to follow. Heavenly things can seem so far away and so far removed. Yet, earthly things constantly stare into our eyes and weigh on our shoulders. Immediately we feel the tension in this passage.
If you have a bad day its much easier to shout “the sky is falling” than “God is on his throne.” Yet, shouting “the sky is falling” doesn’t produce anything productive. Setting your heart and mind on things above reminds you of the things which are truly important and does a world of good.
Paul, being a good preacher, gives the church in Colossae the reason why they should set their hearts and minds on things above. He begins with baptism language “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ” and moves to “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
It is a matter of theology. As a baptized believer, you’ve been raised with Christ, you are hidden with Christ in God.
This matter of theology quickly turns to a practical matter. Since you’ve been raised with Christ, since you’re hidden with Christ in God, you need spiritual disciplines to pull your gaze from earthly things. You need spiritual disciplines to fix your gaze on things above.
- Confess your sins to God (He will forgive you)
- Pray to God daily (He will guide you)
- Read your Bible daily (God will speak to you)
Put to death earthly things (Colossians 3:5-11)
Paul insists that the old nature must be put to death. Hear him? Put to death. We do not add an overcoat of Christian values which merely covers our old nature. No. We put to death earthly things. Jesus put it this way: “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out” (Mark 9:43 ).
Paul provides a sin list starting in verse 5 (he mentions sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed) and another in verse 8 (he mentions anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, lying). Yet, Paul’s list of sins is not exhaustive. I believe that is why he gives two separates lists. You should read this list and feel convicted where conviction is needed. If your particular sins of choice are not listed … feel free to insert them. Write them in the margin.
If the computer leads you to sin … do something about it.
If the TV leads you to sin … do something about it.
If the phone leads you to sin … do something about it.
If idle time on the weekend leads you to sin … do something about it.
If certain situations lead you to sin … do something about it.
If certain people lead you to sin … do something about it.
Put on Christlike things (Colossians 3:12-14)
Now that you have put to death earthly things, Paul now exhorts you to put on Christlike things. Paul once again provides a list that is not exhaustive. But it’s a really good start: Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love.
As you put to death earthly things, you will find yourself with idle time. It might be idle time once filled with gossip, drinking, pornography, unforgiveness, stress, worry. For those things to remain in the coffin you’ve placed them, you must put on Christlike habits. Your earthly nature of lust, anger, deceit must be replaced with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love.
My frequent use of this passage stems from a lunch with a friend many years ago. Over the course of lunch, my friend confessed his struggles with lust. After getting everything off his chest, he said something like, “I guess we’re all sinners. That’s just the way it is, right?” I agreed with him, “Yes, we’re all sinners. But that’s not just the way it is. It sounds as if you given up on resisting sin. You’ve been called to so much more. You’ve been called to Christlikeness.” Right then and there, with plates of food still on the table, I pulled out my phone and we walked through Colossians 3.
My friend, in attempt to keep sin around, said, “The first look is free, right?” Meaning, “I’m allowed to look for a little bit as long as it’s not too long and as long as I don’t act on it.” I said, “No. You have trained yourself to look at women as objects. You have trained your eyes to look upon women with lust. You’ve trained your heart to be OK with lust.”
I told him “Put that to death and take on holy habits.” I instructed him: Spend more time with your wife. Spend time in prayer with your wife. See people as people created in the image of God not as objects ready for your lust. When you begin to lust, repent.
Do all of this in Christian Community (Colossians 3:15-17)
You must surround yourself with people who will walk with you in the same direction. You need the church. You need people who will push you towards Christlikeness.
As you attempt to put to death earthly things and put on Christlikeness you will face obstacles, roadblocks, and temptations to detour. For example, your phone will be filled with contacts of people inviting you back into earthly things. You’ll get text messages and Friday night phone calls inviting you to participate in the things of earth. You must say “no.”
You must also fill your life with people who will support and encourage you towards Christlikeness. Many church goers are fooled into believing they live in Christian community. I go to church! Of course, I live in Christian community!
Here is the true test of Christian Community: If you make a decision that is clearly unlike Christ, do you have anyone in your life that will call you on it? Is there someone in your life that will look across the table and say, “What in the world were you thinking?” Will someone call you up and speak truth?