Wednesday, June 8, 2011
The New You (Part 1)
Text: Colossians 3:1-11
We talk a lot about the transforming power of Christ, and being changed, becoming a new creation, becoming something other and hopefully better than what we are today. Many people say it, but Paul offers us sound advice on how to do it, as he writes to the church at Colossae. Let's look at our text.
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."
I am showing my age by using this story but, there’s an old Candid Camera episode that shows an actor on a busy sidewalk and he 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 of 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 this 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.
We’re searching for something because we know there’s got to be more to life. But, we’ll never find it if we don’t know what it is that we’re missing. What are we looking for? It is possible to tell a great deal about a person’s character by finding out what they really love and what their goals are.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself as you're thinking about this:
1. What are the three things you are most earnestly working for right now?
2. What are the three things you love the most?
3. What are the three things you think about the most?
This is essentially the same method used by Jesus to determine a person’s true character when He speaks in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The heart is the seat of the emotions and it determines how and what we think.
Proverb 23:7 says -- "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:"
If you’ll be honest with yourself, you will probably find (as I did) that, for the most part, your affections, as revealed by your thoughts, are more focused on the things of this world than on the things of God.
If you question this, open your checkbook register or online bank statement and see how much of your income is devoted to financing your earthly desires, vesus how much is devoted to the Kingdom of God. It‘s a difficult dilemma. Why is it so difficult for us Christians to set our minds and affections on eternal things? To say it a little bit differently, why is it so hard for God’s people to be "heavenly-minded" people while we’re still here on earth?
Some might answer, "Well it’s because of our sinful nature." And certainly there is some truth in that. But, Christians have two sets of desires that are constantly at war with one another; the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit. But our difficulty in focusing on eternal values cannot be completely blamed on our sin nature. The fact is that God has placed Christians in a difficult, though not impossible situation.
He asks us to be citizens of two worlds. Twice Jesus specifically says that God’s plan is not to take Christians out of this world, but rather, to send them into the world (James 17:15,18).
So, how do we live in this world with its responsibilities and temptations without loving this world and being conformed to its values? Our text this morning, Colossians 3:1-11 addresses some of the answers this dilemma.
According to our text, to be heavenly-minded means to conform our everyday desires, attitudes, and actions to the image of Christ. In other words, being heavenly-minded simply means loving what Jesus loves, thinking like Jesus thinks, and viewing everything in our daily life from His heavenly perspective.
Your first thought will be, "Well, I’ve tried that many times and I just can’t do it consistently. I just can't seem to stick with it." I completely understand this feeling. I empathize and sympathize with you; been there, done that, got the T-shirt and the scars (both physical and emotional) to prove it. But, I am here to tell you that just because you and I haven’t done it very well in the past doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It just means that we have been going about it the wrong way. It usually works something like this…
We read the Bible or listen to some preaching or teaching and the Holy Spirit convicts our heart of some sin in our life.We decide that we need to fix that “thing”. So we make a mental judgment to eliminate "this and that" from our life and we may even go so far as to replace it with something more godly. We pray for strength and announce our decision and commitment to God. Then we go home and try our best to live up to our new commitment.
However most of the time we find that, no matter how determined we are, we are still subject to the sins and pleasures of this world. The shine wears off our new commitment and we fail! Our failure brings frustration, which often leads us to believe that since we can’t live the kind of perfectly godly life that we want, then there is really no point in trying.
But then we read our Bible or we hear some preaching or teaching and the Holy Spirit convicts our heart and the whole thing starts over again.
But there is a formula that will work for us. And it is found in our text, Colossians 3.
If we want to break free from the past, then where we put our eyes is very important. Instead of looking down, Paul challenges us to: look up (1-4), look out (5-9a), look in (9b-10) and to look around (11). In Colossians, we learn that if we get Christ right, we get everything else right. Jesus is supreme over His creation, His church, and we’ll see that He is supreme over the Christian.
There are practical implications that should be evident if one surrenders to the supremacy of Jesus. It does little good if we can declare and defend the truth but fail to demonstrate it in our lives. We make a mockery of ourselves and Christ.
(originally posted 4/5/11)