Colossians 3: 1 – 11 New Living Translation (NLT)
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven,
where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven,
not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in
God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.”
Paul begins his very practical guidelines for the way Christ followers should live with that statement. Does he mean that we should live some ‘other worldly’ lifestyle? Should we spend all our time praying and living a ‘reclusive monastery-like’ existence? No!
What does he mean when he says, “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” Let’s look at a couple of things Paul said in the first two chapters. “ … you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (1: 21 – 23) “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (2:6)
There are two worlds out there – one world that is influenced primarily by Satan. Paul tells us that before we accepted Christ by faith, we were in that world. “You were his enemies”. Our thoughts and behaviour centered around ourselves and what we wanted; not what God wanted. We saw that in the Garden of Eden when Satan urged Eve to eat the fruit of the one forbidden tree. His argument was that the fruit was forbidden because God didn’t want Adam and Eve to be as smart as God was. Adam and Eve fell for that line; the idea of being as important as God and controlling their own lives introduced sin into this world.
Paul asks us to set our sights on the “realities of heaven”, a very different world. This is a world where God was willing to die and take on all the sin of each one of us, so we could have a close relationship with him. God is a God of love, wisdom and creativity. And that is what Paul tells us to set our sights on – “think about the things of heaven”. It doesn’t mean we pull ourselves away from our families, friends, jobs, hobbies, etc.. It means as a child of God, we put God’s priorities first in our minds and actions.
Now Paul is going to tell us what we need to avoid. Tomorrow, we’ll look at what God wants us to concentrate on.
“5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.”
That is quite a list! If you stop and look at that list, you will see that all the behaviour mentioned has at its root, selfishness – the desire to get what we want regardless how much it might hurt or diminish someone else. Paul first mentions sexual issues. Sexuality is not evil; God created it for us to enjoy within marriage. Paul’s list of sexual sin is all about sex outside of marriage and for making sex something that controls our conduct and thoughts.
Paul next mentions greed. Our culture is obsessed with getting more. It’s not wrong to want better or nicer things. God created this amazing world. He loves beauty and variety, and he made us in his image. There is nothing wrong with wanting a better job, a nice home, lovely clothes, a new car, fun gadgets, etc. But when those things become our major focus, that is greed. And it’s so easy to do in our culture. Just stop and think about all the things you were focusing on today.
How much had to do with the things you own or hope to own; the success you have and hope to have?
Then Paul talks about our relationships with others – anger, rage, malicious behaviour, slander, dirty language, and lying. All of those things happen when we’re upset that we didn’t get our own way. They involve putting people down and getting some kind of revenge; treating someone with disrespect or just plain being dishonest.
Paul pleads with us to “put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him”. (v. 10) We belong to Christ; he has given us a new life and forgiven us all the self-centered things we’ve done. We want to be like him. And that is what Paul will talk about tomorrow. Just what should we be like in practical terms?