When you think about Jesus, how do you imagine him?
Do you imagine him as a babe swaddled in clothing, as a broken body hanging on the cross, as the One who couldn’t be contained by death, as the King of Glory seated on his throne in heaven, or as the rider who returns for his Bride? Christ Jesus is all of the above! One of my professors from Asbury Theo. Seminary Dr. Steve Seamand once wrote a book entitled “Give Them Christ: Preaching his Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Return.” And, that is just what Paul is doing here in the letter to the church at Colossae. Christ has provided through his life and death the redemption and forgiveness of sin (1.14). At his Resurrection Christ became the first born of all Creation (1.15). Christ has been exalted to the right hand of God the Father Almighty (3.1) and has invited those who believe to stand in power and authority with him.
Let’s dig into God’s word a little deeper.
Col. 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, #1 set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 #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 life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Psalm 110 is the Old Testament scripture that Paul is pointing us to so that we can understand the fulfillment of the Messianic promise. The use of Psalm 110 in the New Testament happens on 23 different occasions. Jesus has indeed been exalted to a place of power and authority at God’s right hand. Peter preaches to us in his first sermon at Pentecost that Jesus has been exalted (Acts 2.32-33) We remember Jesus place of authority every time we recite the Apostle’s Creed (UMH35). We ask three questions during our baptismal covenant as a profession of faith: Do you believe in God the Father? Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit? (UMH35). When we set our hearts on things above, we are following Jesus’ exhortation to seek the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6.33). Paul is urging his constituents to fully be integrated into the new life in the Kingdom of God (Phil. 3.20). We have the opportunity to put off the old life of this world, and become completely transformed. Ascended Christ Jesus is seated in a place of authority, and now offers us the same authority to overcome evil in our lives (Psalm 110.1). Believers’ stand in a place of security as they trust God when they face conflict (Psalm 27.5-6, 31.19-20). The Ascension empowers us in particularly to overcome our sinful nature (Mt. 5.29).
Col. 3:5 Put to death (imperative to keep on putting to death), therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: #3 sexual immorality (porneia – any kind of intimacy outside of the marriage covenant), impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid (take off) yourselves of all such things as these: #4 anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Paul begins with the problems that disrupt our relationship with God. He begins with a violent expression: put to death. Paul lists five issues (sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust/coveting, evil desire/coveting, and greed/coveting) that the believers in Colossae needed to work on, and they were all around sexual purity (porneia). He points out that sin issue of greed is tied into impurity. Paul calls this insatiable appetite idolatry. When our hearts hunger for something other than God, we are in danger of estrangement from God. We are all accountable to God for our appetites. Sometimes we mislabel our appetites for needs, rather than addressing the sinful nature. Paul then lists five more issues that are destructive to unity in the church. These issues (anger/annoy/antagonize, rage/temper/storm, malice/hatred/malovence, slander/insult/defame, and filthy/rude language) are problematic between people and should not be a part of the church.
Col. 3:9 #5 Do not lie (imperative meaning to keep on not lying) to each other, since you have taken off (meaning to disarm) 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.
We deceive one another when we do not walk according to the new nature within us. It’s all about the relationship. We are being renewed in the image of God. There is no side but God’s side. We are to disarm ourselves from our corrupted earthly nature. The weapons of impurity and anger stir up strife in our relationships.
Col. 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe (keep on wearing, putting on clothes) yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (it becomes a constant practice). 13 #6 Bear (lift, esteem) (hinder, stop) (bear, suffer) with each other and forgive (extend grace “charts” to one another) one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love (agape), which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
The text calls to confess our faith. The first step in confessing our faith is to renounce evil and repent of our sins. The second step is to resist evil with the power that God gives you. James teaches us to resist the devil and he will flee from us. The third step is to confess Jesus Christ as your personal Savior trusting that his grace is sufficient to overcome evil and forgive sins. Then we agree to serve him as our Lord within the community of believers called the church.
Col. 3:16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Being the real deal in your Christian walk costs us everything! I once met a young man who was in an ATV accident. His initial response was to tell his mother he was sorry to disobey her wishes. His second response was to tell his friends he forgave them. The third response was to get right with God. His life was hanging by a thread and he knew the value of all his relationships – parents, friends, and his God. He wanted those he loved to feel his genuine love in the face of death. Because his heart was willing to seek to live a righteous life, God was able to move in miraculous ways to bring healing to his body.
Our relationship with Jesus Christ the Ascended One is ours today to discover and nurture. Will you join me in seeking the face of God that we may live a righteous life like this young man in the power of the Holy Spirit?