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Colossians 3:1-11 (Living the New Life

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Good morning,
Can you believe that it is December? I’m not sure where November went, however we can start getting excited about the Christmas season. We are in week 5 of our series on the book of Colossians called Rooted. Next week we will be switching gears for Christmas and then finishing up our “Rooted” series the first couple of weeks in January. So far in our series we have learn the importance of taking time to give thanks. We learned that Christ is Supreme of all creation and of the church. Kris preached on what is our purposes in life and last week we talked about how we must continue to grow deeper and deeper in Christ!
This morning we will be looking at , which the main theme of this chapter is living the new life that we have in Christ.
Can a butterfly go back into a cocoon after it’s come out as a caterpillar? Of course not. It can’t happen. Once the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, it is what it is — a butterfly.
When you become a believer, you’re like that butterfly — you come out of your cocoon. It may take you some time to fly spiritually, but once you become a new creation in Christ, you are what you are. You are a new creation.
The Bible says in , “Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new” (CEV).
So what does it mean to become a new creation in Christ? The moment you believe in Christ, there’s a spiritual metamorphosis — everything changes! This is a matter of faith and not sight.
The greatest step of faith we can take in our lives is to believe what God says about who Jesus is and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
I believe the second greatest step you can take is to believe what God says about who you are. You are a new creation in Christ! The Bible says in , “Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace” (NLT).
A true life, a better life, a wonderful life is only found in Christ. When you become a Christian, you have a new life in him. Amen?
In an old Candid Camera episode, an actor is on a busy sidewalk and begins looking at the ground. He walks around a bit and continues to look down. People are passing by him and a few give him strange looks. After a couple minutes, he decides to get down on his hands and knees and begins feeling around with his hands. People begin to slow down and watch what he’s doing. Finally, one person stops and starts looking at the ground. Then another one begins searching the sidewalk.
In a few minutes, the camera shows about a dozen people looking down, some even on their hands and knees! At that point, the actor, who got all this started in the first place, quietly gets up and walks away. No one else notices that he has left. They’re so intent in their search that they never even bothered to ask what it was they were looking for.
This is a good picture of how many people live in our society today. They’re searching for something because they know there’s got to be more to life. But, the sad part is that they’ll never find it if they don’t know what it is that they’re missing. We’re going to discover this morning from that if you want to break free from your past, then where you put your eyes is very important. Let me say that again… If you want to break free from your past, then where you put your eyes is very important. Instead of looking down, Paul challenges us to: look up, look out, look in and look around.
As we come to , we move from doctrine to conduct. This is very similar to the outline of the Book of Romans, where the first eleven chapters contain rich truths and the final chapters focus on how to live them out. The same is true of the Book of Ephesians. What we believe determines in large part how we behave.
Specifically, in Colossians, we’ve learned that if we get Christ right we get everything else right. Jesus is supreme over His creation, His church, and now we’ll see in chapters 3 and 4 that He is supreme over the Christian. There are practical implications that should be evident if one surrenders to the supremacy of Jesus. As such, we move from principle to practice, from the indicative to the imperative, from the “is” to the “ought.” It does little good if we can declare and defend the truth but fail to demonstrate it in our lives. Let’s pray that we’re not like those described in : “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him.”
Warren Wiersbe reminds us that the pagan religions of Paul’s day taught little or nothing about personal morality: “A worshipper could bow before an idol, put his offering on the altar, and go back to the same old life of sin. What a person believed had no direct relationship with how he behaved.” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, page 133). Christianity is much different. Duty is always connected to doctrine.
Paul has been arguing that we are set free from the powers around us, now he tells us that we have been set free for living a life above moral reproach. God’s plan is to first make us new; then He challenges us to live as new people. In short, we don’t have to be like we’ve always been. We can break free from the past, if we know where to look.
Look Up!
Instead of gazing at the ground, we must first look up! We see this in :
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 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.”
This opening phrase parallels : “Since you died with Christ…” As we learned last week, since we died with Christ, we don’t have to follow the rules of a hollow and deceptive philosophy. establishes the truth that since we’ve been raised with Christ, we have a new status and therefore a new way of life. We now have a power source for living. Believers have died with Christ, been buried with Him, have been raised with Him, and as states, we have been seated with Him in the heavenly places. This is our position, but we must appropriate these truths on a daily basis in order to break free from the past.
That’s why Paul writes, “set your hearts on things above.” I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.” While I guess that’s possible, it’s more likely that people today are so worldly minded that they’re no heavenly or earthly good. If we truly set our hearts on things above, we will experience power and freedom here on earth. The word “set” means to seek something out with a desire to possess it. The word is in the present tense, which implies that we’re to continue to seek the things above. It’s not just a one-time decision, but is to be a daily activity.
Jesus put it this way in : “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If our focus is on things that will ultimately rust, tarnish, break down, or burn up, our energy and emotions will be misplaced. If we seek out Christ and allow Him to become our ultimate treasure, our hearts will follow.
Knowing that “Christ is seated at the right hand of God” provides a much-needed reminder that Jesus is supreme and in control. This phrase echoes , which is the most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament: “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” Jesus is exalted and sits at the right hand of the Father, which shows that His redemptive work is now complete. The false teachers stressed “heavenly things” also, but Paul was appealing to the highest power of all, Jesus Christ.
The first imperative is to “set our hearts on things above.” The second is to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.” This literally translates, “Keep on thinking, as a matter of habit, on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Our feet must be on earth, but our minds must be in heaven. Thoughts can influence actions, so if we place our thoughts above and not on the earth, our behavior will reflect those things that matter to God. This requires tenacious effort on our part because we tend to look down by nature, instead of looking up. But if we fix our gaze on things above, God will change our desires. If we change our mind, God will change our heart.
Paul is urging us to look up and remember who we are now, who we once were, and who we will be when Christ returns. Where are you looking this morning? What does your mind focus on? What gets the attention of your heart? Friends, we must make a conscious, deliberate, and daily decision to look up and set our minds and hearts on heavenly things. Our outlook determines our outcome. Keeping our minds and hearts in the right place will often determine where we end up. That leads to the second point.
Look Out!
Not only must we look up, we must also look out. We see this in verses 5-9a: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 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…”
, in the New Living Translation reads like this: “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you.” Because we have died and been raised with Christ, we have the spiritual power to slay those desires that want to control us. We have died to sin, but we must render sinful desires as powerless. While we can’t totally eradicate the sinful nature, we can treat it as a morally impotent force. The new life calls for more than jettisoning a few vices and beefing up our spiritual life by going to church once in a while. We’ll talk more about this in verse 10, but what gets renewed is the “new self,” not the earthly nature. Positionally, we’ve died with Christ. Now we need to live it out practically.
God’s wrath is balanced within His holiness by mercy, compassion and love. He is repulsed by sin and yet is committed to us in love. Jesus will give you grace but He also tells the truth about your sin because He is the perfect embodiment of both grace and truth. Just as He told the woman caught in adultery to “go now and leave your life of sin,” so too, He calls us to look out and stop what we’re doing so that we can follow Him completely.
Verse 7 reminds us that this kind of behavior belongs to our old life and should not be part of our present pattern of living: “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” We need to put the past behind us and refuse to resort to a lifestyle that no longer reflects our true identity. In verse 8-9a, we’re told to rid ourselves of social sins. By the way, we often dismiss these sins as the “little ones” that we can overlook. Paul doesn’t. If you thought you cruised safely through the first list, you better fasten your seat belts.
The image here is that of taking off old smelly clothes. When my dad would take care of us kids growing up, he prided himself on never having to change a dirty diaper. When asked how he accomplished this feat, he would grin and say, “Oh, it’s actually pretty easy. I would just put on a clean one right over the dirty one!” That probably explains why I am the way I am today.
Before we can put on the new, we must first take off the old. The verb “rid” calls for immediate, decisive resolution. Before new garments of righteousness can be put on, the old rags of sin must be discarded.
Look In
After looking up and looking out, if we’re serious about breaking free from the past, we must also look in. We do this by recognizing the truth about what happened at conversion. Look at the last part of verse 9 and verse 10: “…Since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
We’ll pick this up in greater detail next week but I want you to notice that “you have taken off your old self” and “you have put on the new self.” This is not a command to keep but a truth to claim. It’s already been done. We are exhorted to stop doing certain things because we can stop. We are different therefore we can act differently. As we look in, we realize that we are no longer what we once were.
The new self has been put on and yet it is “being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” We are created in the image of God but because of our sin, that image has been defaced. God’s purpose is to restore His image in us. Warren Wiersbe puts it this way: “We were formed in God’s image, and deformed from God’s image by sin. But through Jesus Christ, we can be transformed into God’s image once again.” This is where we take the responsibility to renew our minds according to : “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
Look Around
That leads to the fourth aspect of breaking free from the past: we must look around and see others as Christ does. Notice verse 11: “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” The word “here” indicates that in Christ there should be no barriers of nationality, race, education, social standing, wealth, gender, religion, or power. The gospel breaks down walls of ancient prejudice. Paul lists four groupings that need to dissolve in the church.
All of these human barriers belong to the “old man” and not the new one. Friends, since Christ dwell in all believers, regardless of background or social status, we must make sure we are not allowing any division or prejudice to take root in our lives. The stigma of being different must be loved away as we strive for unity within diversity. Christ is all and is in all.
Stop looking down. And stop searching for something that will never satisfy. Instead, seek Christ by looking up…and live Christ by looking out, looking in, and looking around.
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