Updated: May 26, 2020
by Gabe Bernal
Read Colossians 3:1-17
Reread it again.
I was an idiot when I was younger.
Okay, I'm still an idiot now, but not as big of one! haha
In all seriousness, there are times I look back at how I was when I was younger and just cringe. I'm sure some of you have felt the same way. This is okay! This is actually good because it means that we have grown and matured.
How many of you, though, still struggle with a few things you struggled with when you were younger? It doesn't have to be actions (things you did), but just attitudes and behaviours that linger in your heart.
When I was a teenager and played a lot of sports, I was mean. Like a certified jerk! I point out sports because that is when it came out the most. I would get ultra-competitive, and in that my mouth would begin running.
It always started out as some banter, sometimes even friendly. But in most sports, again most teams, there is that one guy. Either he's taking it too seriously or has a short tempter or would negatively react to some of the things I would say. In those moments, I knew, "That's my guy!"
For the rest of whatever match I was playing, I would begin to focus all trash talk to "that guy." I was essentially poking a bear. I knew most of the time "that guy" would get frustrated or angry, sometimes even blow up.
I've been full-on rugby tackled in flag football. Hip checked, and body slammed in basketball. Had balls thrown at my head in baseball. Luckily I've never had any punches thrown at me, but you may be wondering why I would do that.
Well, in my young teenage mind, there was a very good reason. When I get an opponent to that point, they will get so frustrated or angry they would not be able to focus on the match or playing their best, they would want to get back at me somehow.
And sure, that worked. Often.
But in reality, I used that as an excuse to just be mean. Because to be honest, I enjoyed it.
Even though I've grown (a lot) since then and now when I play or watch sports now, I will never go past friendly banter. In fact, if I notice I go too far, I will profusely apologise.
I tell this story because we all have something we did or behaved before we came to Christ that we are moving on from.
In verse one of chapter three, Paul says, "Since you have been raised in Christ." Contrast this to verse 20 in chapter three where it says, "If with Christ you died..."
Life and death are dramatic split from each other. Paul is shining a light on the fact that, when we are in Christ, we die to things of this world to be raised anew in Christ.
Our old life is dead and gone, and we become new in Christ Jesus.
This isn't the only time Paul mentions this concept, in 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul more directly says "therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old passes away, behold, the new has come."
This is great news!!
Because of Christ and his saving work on the cross, we can have a transformed life and throw away what held us back before. We need to stop thinking that we need to clean ourselves of our lives to approach Christ. There is nothing we can do to become holy. Isaiah says, "even our good deeds are like filthy rags to God."
That's not to say that good deeds are pointless or useless. God may not need our good deeds, but our neighbours do. But instead, we need to remember that our good deeds are not what bring us closer to Christ, rather they are an outward sign of our inner devotion and transformation.
If there is anything that I hope has sunk in by this point in this study is that it's not about us, it's all about Christ. He is the image of the invisible God. It's His sacrifice, His blood that makes us. We are merely called to come alongside Him.
Go back to to the beginning of the letter and reread Colossians 1:21-22
Is this something you can relate to?
Is there anything in your past, or even sometime you might be struggling with currently, that you feel holds you back from Christ?
No matter what your answer is to the previous questions, what is the mindset Paul calls to have?
"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." - Colossians 3:2
One of the most dangerous false gospels that is floating around is one that we tell ourselves.
You can't change who you are. You can't move on from what you've done.
Like a cyclone, those thoughts can swirl around in our head and withdraw us not only from Christ but a loving community who wants the best for you, who wants to help you.
"But you don't know what I've done."
"You don't know who I used to be."
"God wouldn't want a wretch like me."
Have you forgotten that Paul was once called Saul? Have you forgotten that he persecuted and murdered Christians? He pursued and tortured them.
Yet God, who is rich in mercy, chose Him to be one of the voices of the New Testament. 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament are attributed to him.
Paul denied Christ three times!
Noah was a drunk.
Jacob stole his brother's birthright.
David had an affair, then murdered to cover it up.
Those are just a few off the top of my head. The bible is full of broken people who have done stupid or terrible things. Things that the world would say is unforgivable. Still, these men are heroes of the faith!
This is why Paul says, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things 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." Colossians 3:1-4 (my emphasis)
We are never unqualified to receive love and forgiveness from God. No matter who we are, no matter what we've done - "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us"!
Too many times, we try to treat the symptoms. In last week's blog we talked about religion and legalism. As I said in that blog, the heart may be in the right place, but they don't get to the root of the issue.
In verses 5-9, Paul exposes the very essence of sin. Paul doesn't care about a gospel that creates rules and restrictions that everyone has to follow because they will do nothing except create barriers. Barriers that can easily feed into the false gospel above.
In verse 5, Paul exposes some very specific sins (earthly things) but with no specific solutions, why?
Does putting these earthly things to death look the same for everyone?
Why or why not?
I'll give a quick example: Personally, I was a big fan of the TV show Breaking Bad, but I had a friend who decided to stop watching because he noticed that because it reminded him of a world he used to be in, it started to affect his behaviour. So he stopped watching it. But notice he didn't impose his Breaking Bad embargo on me (or anyone else for that matter).
Rules or restrictions that are imposed on everyone doesn't make us more virtuous.
Don't misunderstand me - Yes, we need to create some rules and policies for the overall populace in order to protect people. And yes, we need to be sensitive to other people's struggles and set some relational rules (but again to protect our friends).
But to create sweeping rules over all of us (especially when it comes to religion), only created barriers to the true gospel being heard. We are all works in progress with our own weaknesses and struggles, and the message here hopefully is clear:
Paul is telling us to live out our lives in a way that we reflect what we have become in Christ.
Starting in verse 10, Paul again uses the metaphor that we need to "put on our new self," which we are able to do when we receive "the glory of His glory, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (1:27)
Remember, as saints and fellow brethren, once we are in Christ, we all receive the knowledge that in Christ, we can see the fullness of God.
And in verse 11, Paul says something that he reiterates in several other books. In Christ, there is no distinction in who we are, what our race is, what our background it, what our gender is, in Christ we are all the same, and are no longer segregated.
No longer does our past disqualify us, but who we are or where we are from doesn't separate us from God, so neither should it separate His saints from each other.
If you notice, Paul (a Jew) even calls the Colossians (who are not Jews), "God's chosen ones." A distinction formerly only for the people of Israel.
So if overarching rules aren't the answer what is? Paul instead attributes virtues we should put on as a part of our new self.
There are a total of 10 virtues Paul lists from verses 12-17.
v12 - holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience
v13 - bearing with one another
v14 - love which binds all things together
v15 - peace of Christ rule your heart
v16 - word of Christ dwell
v17 - do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus
What virtues resonate with you?
Do you struggle with any?
What is one you can encourage another with?
Paul points out these virtues as a result of a transformed life. Exhibiting these virtues are a sign that we've taken off the old and genuinely put on a new self.
I don't want you to take away from these last two blogs that rules don't matter. Or that we shouldn't follow any rules. I'm not saying that at all. But, I want you to be mindful of the rules imposed by the Church.
Yes, we are called to obedience - but to Christ, not to people.
Edward Schweizwer, a biblical scholar, once said, "In the gospel, the call to obedience is BECAUSE one has already been saved and created anew, while in the law, by contrast, it is IN ORDER THAT one may become so."
The gospel is not about working to God. It's not about cleaning ourselves up so that we can approach God. If that is the case, we're all doomed. Every since one of us. We all fall short. But while we were still sinners, broken and undeserving, Christ died for us.
He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we can become the righteousness of God. Co-heirs with Christ adopted sons and daughters of the Author of Creation and King of Kings.
That's who I am
That's who you are
Is there anything that sticks out to you?
Once again - If there is anything during your discussion or journaling as you went through those questions that you found encouraging, .. let me know! I'm no expert, and this blog is definitely not exhaustive. I am learning as much as you and would love to hear how God spoke to you through this passage.