Colossians 3. 12-17: Mystery of a Mind on Jesus (Vivification)
November 20, 2011 Series: Colossians
Topic: New Testament Passage: Colossians 3:12–3:17
Intro: Two Battle Fronts
This letter is about growing up in Christ. The false teachers in Colossae have argued that, though spiritual life may begin with belief in the gospel of Jesus, growing and living comes from either doing religious things or resisting doing irreligious things. And though this might LOOK like maturity, it is little more than Peter Pan Spirituality, childish and superficial. Paul has said that true spiritual adulthood comes from exposing our minds to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Last week I ended with an Old Testament verse from the book of Jeremiah where God says: my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water (2.13). Not only have men refused to drink from the fountain of living water (to behold Christ), they have chosen to like water off of broken cisterns (behold other stuff). There are two battles.
1st Adam vs. Last Adam
Last week we talked about fighting our sinful flesh. We fight FROM a position of righteousness. In other words, the motivation for our fight is not to obtain a right position with God; rather, it is bringing into practice what we already are in position through faith. Through faith in Christ we are fully JUSTIFIED, and one day we will be perfectly GLORIFIES, but right now we are being SANCTIFIED—set apart, repossessed to bring him glory as we reveal Him in all areas of our lives. That image renewal requires more than killing sin. Punching at sin, resisting sin with our mind-powers, or otherwise turning from sin…and STANDING STILL is not enough—we are to walk in Christ. Walking in Christ implies ongoing movement in a particular direction. There are two battles. True repentance is BOTH walking away from delight in sin--Adam 1.0 and walking toward delight in Jesus—Adam 2.0. We possess a sinful first Adam default mode that draws us toward broken cisterns. We must fight against our first Adam nature, meaning, our fight will look foolish, it will be counter-cultural, counter-traditional, even counter-intuitive. Adam 1.0 is familiar, it is easy, it is natural, and it is broken. But with our new hearts, by the power of the Spirit, these old ways become more undesirable—even if we are not able to resist them perfectly all the time. But we might fight to PUT OFF old Adam suit and to replace it by putting on our Jesus suits. This is the complete picture of a pursuit of holiness.
Putting on Christ
Paul listed 10 vices we need to fight against because they are only anti-relationship, they are anti-Christ. Now, he tells us to PUT ON virtues which are not only Christ-like, they are Christ Himself. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, Paul begins by remind the Colossian Christians who they are—chosen, holy, beloved. All of our fighting is a response to what God did for me. (Israel in Deuteronomy 7.6-8 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession… because the Lord loves you ). Jesus chose me to be His Son, though I walked away from Him. Jesus made me Holy though I am unholy to the core. Jesus loved me though I am an unlovely sinner. The gospel is not about me, it is about God. The gospel is about God’s perfect justice and wrath poured out on His Son and His immeasurable mercy and grace poured out on me. My only response is worship—not through religious ritual, legalism, or elitist spirituality—but in daily life, in walking, driving, talking, singing, parenting, exercising, purchasing, recreating, working, making love, eating, drinking, and every other aspect of our lives. Christ wants more than our morality. He wants every part of our selves. And that is hard. And that is why our fight to delight in Jesus, just as our fight against delighting in sin, is dependent upon the Spirit in us. Apart from faith in Christ, apart from a new heart, apart from the Holy Spirit, one cannot obey God and worship Him. But for those who have put their faith in Christ, you have no excuse—you can PUT OFF SIN AND you CAN PUT ON CHRIST. We are not just putting on holy attitudes; we are putting on the life of Christ in us. Paul here lists out those things that are beautiful about Christ, those things we are beholding about HIm, those things that dwell within us to renew the image in us and overpower the sinful flesh distorting it.
We are putting on…Compassion of Christ compassionate hearts,
We are to put on the compassion of Christ. When Christ looked at you, He saw past the past the hostility, past the brokenness, past the dirt, and saw the beauty of what you were meant to be. Though none of us were of lovely or loving, but He chose to love us. This not a moment of compassion; it is a constant attitude of the heart whereby empathy replaces indifference. Christ empathized with us so much, he entered into our suffering and dwelled with us there. In Adam, we are indifferent. In Christ, we genuinely care for others. By the Spirit, in response to Christ’s compassion for us, we do the uncomfortably difficult work of entering into one another’s suffering. As we fight against our flesh that wants to judge or ignore, we fight to put on the compassion Christ.
We are putting on… Kindness of Christ kindness,
We are to put on the kindness of Christ. Christ didn’t simply hold a different mental disposition toward me—he acted graciously in a way that was manifest and measurable. He entered into this life for me; He suffered for me; He took God’s wrath for me; He overcame sin and death for me. His kindness cost him something, His kindness cost Him everything. We have been saved because of God’s gracious kindness toward us through Jesus Christ. In Adam, we are selfish hoarders. In Christ, we speak and act graciously and generously. By the Spirit, in response to the kindness of Christ, we give up and build up, knowing it will cost us. As we fight against our flesh that wants to be harsh or cruel, we fight to put on the kindness Christ.
We are putting on… Humility of Christ humility,
We must put on the humility of Christ. Again, beholding a solid theology of Christ, transforms who we are. When we understand WHO Christ is, the humility required by the incarnation (infinite God taking on human flesh) mystifies you and the humility required his crucifixion (to die at the hands of his own creation) shames you. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking more of others. It is, as Christ was, other-oriented at your core. In Adam, we are prideful. In Christ, we are other-oriented, we see the needs of others as more important than ourselves. By the Spirit, in response to the humility of Christ, we deny ourselves the pursuit of power, esteem, or honor that God and others might be held up. That means we submit to authorities, we listen to counsel, and we serve. As we fight against our flesh that pridefully wants to achieve, be approved, or complain about unfair treatment, we fight to put on the humility of Christ.
We are putting on…Meekness of Christ meekness,
We must put on the meekness of Christ. When men came to arrest Jesus, Peter resisted and cut off the ear of one of the servants. Jesus reminded his impetuous friend that He could have summoned 12 legions of angels. He could have released his anger for how he was treated. He could have wowed them with more than He did. He could have become King. Jesus was the Creator in human flesh, but he remained in control his immeasurable power and strength as His own creation that killed Him. In Adam, our power and passions are unrestrained. In Christ, we act with strength tempered with gentleness, and passion tempered with restraint. By the Spirit, in response to Christ’s meekness, we fight the temptation to have it, to flex it or to fix it, (especially when we KNOW we can) and we fight to put on the meekness of Christ.
We are putting on…Patience of Christ and patience,
We must put on the patience of Christ. Jesus holds his judgment. As God, He has since the beginning. Though he is entitled to everything—he did not demand it. And as a man, when a sinless Jesus was mocked by family, slandered by strangers, betrayed by friends, falsely accused by his pastors, and beaten by his creation, he revealed his incredible patience. This word is literally “long-temper.” A patient person can put up with irritating people or frustrating circumstances. That doesn’t mean there is never anger. Jesus got angry; anger can be a sign of holy character. But impulsive unrestrained anger is sin even if it is in response to someone else’s sin. In Adam, our anger governs us. In Christ, we patiently endure people and circumstances as we entrust ourselves to God. By the spirit, we control our impulsive outbursts; we fight our right to be right and our need to have it our way immediately, and we fight to put on the patience of Christ.
We are putting on…Forgiveness of Christ 13 bearing with one another and, …forgiving each other
We must put on the forgiveness of Christ. This is the logical result of all that Paul has written. All spiritual growth is relational. You cannot grow spiritually insolation. God is by nature relational and we see that, in Christ, God is by nature other-oriented. We are built the same way. Relationships are not the best place to grow, they are the only way growth is possible. We cannot isolate ourselves, sit and JUST THINK about compassion, CONSIDER what it would like to be kind or humble, to be meek or patient. We need each other to practice on. And because you are sinful like me, I know that you will fall short (as you will) in being all those things. So we forgive unconditionally because we have been infinitely and unconditionally forgiven. If you struggle with forgiveness, it is because you don’t see how much you have been forgiven. In Adam, we refuse to excuse, we hold grudges, and we only absolve those who deserve it. In Christ, we forgive. By the Spirit, we fight against gossip, slander, ad bitterness, and we go to the offender and seek to help him in love. We fight to put on the forgiveness of Christ.
The Greatest Filter of all: The Love of Christ 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Paul says that LOVE ties all of these attitudes together. The Bible has a lot to say about love. In 1Corinthians 13, he argued that every spiritual thing we might do is meaningless without love. Love is first on the list of the fruits of the Spirit. Love is how Jesus summarized the entire law. And love is what Jesus said would identify us to the world as his disciples. And if the Bible says that God is love, then he, not culture, not tradition, not experience, comfort, or convenience, defines what love is. In other words, putting on the LOVE OF CHRIST not only ensures that our pursuit of Christ-like attitudes is pure, but also that our Christ-like actions are too. Any form of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, or forgiveness that is not governed by the love of Christ is a perversion. A commitment to love one another not only guards your words and your deeds towards others, it is a helpful filter to understand what everyone else says and does to you.
Peace/Rule of Christ
In verse15, Paul provides us some governing principles those extra hard relational times. He says: 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 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.
By peace, Paul speaks of unity of relationships within the church, but in all relationships. The word for peace here carries the idea of an UMPIRE—as if there are balls and strikes to call. Undoubtedly, when you bring people together you are going to have different opinions, personalities, and experiences. You will have different people in different stages of spiritual maturity, and it will be tempting to highlight all those differences and separate from one another. And what Paul says is that the Christ must be the umpire between all of us. He does not say that the peace of Christ should HELP us, but that it should RULE us. Our shared identity in Christ should bring us together and trump any disharmony that might exist. This does not mean that we all become best friends, but it means that we are so filled with gospel gratitude that I care more about peace than I care about being wronged. As Paul wrote the church at Corinth about brothers suing one another: To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? (1Cor. 6.7)
Conclusion: Word & Glorify
This kind of radical rule will only reside in our hearts if the Word of Christ dwells there too. The only way we can behold the ugliness of our sin we are supposed to flee from and behold the beauty of Christ we are to flee to is to SEE IT IN GOD’S WORD. The Word possesses the power of the Spirit and the Spirit leads us to the Word. That is fighting by the Spirit. We need to eat, drink, breathe, and live Bible. What place does the Word of God have? Not how much do you read your Bible every day. Does the truth of the Bible touch “real life” for you? It should dictate what we tell others, how we criticize others, our wisdom and decision making, and our worship. To Put on Jesus is to Put on the Living Word.
To Glorify God through Christ
None of this is possible if you don’t have the deepest conviction that a life like Christ, a life in His Word, is the best way to glorify God AND that glorifying God is the surest way to contentment in this life. 17 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. When you believe the truth your life is not yours, you become less concerned with asking what is right, popular, fair, comfortable, or what is convenient. Our fight is not motivated by “what will I get out of it it.” Because of the overflowing gratefulness of what we have been given, we begin to ask ourselves a different question—what will make much of the name of Jesus here. Fight against your first Adam nature in all things. Adam 1.0 is familiar, it is easy, it is natural, and it is broken. But fighting AGAINST is not ENOUGH. We must not only resist the toilet water, we must drink deeply of the fountain that is Jesus. But we might fight to PUT OFF old Adam suit and to replace it by putting on our Jesus suits. This is the complete picture of a pursuit of holiness--.
Romans 13.11-1411 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.