Colossians 2 – New Identity, Deep Roots – Part 10
There always comes a time in the New Year when I realize that the New Year isn’t so new! And that’s about now. Here we are in mid-March so 2019 is cruising right along. And so I want to ask the question about how everyone’s New Year resolutions are coming along. This is about the time when if you made a new year’s resolution and you’re still committed to it-then you’re going great! Maybe you decided to start a new hobby and you’re still sticking with it, maybe you got a new gym membership and are consistently there working out or you’ve faithfully stuck to a new diet plan. But let me ask the obvious question-what happens when you’re trying to live a healthier lifestyle? Hopefully you get healthier. That’s sort of a no-brainer. Hopefully you lose a few pounds and start looking better, feeling better, even sleeping more soundly at night; you feel like you’re ready for the beach come summertime. So pursuing a healthier lifestyle brings a whole lot of positives to your life-which is why we do it. But pursuing a healthier lifestyle also interferes with a whole lot of things in your life. Think about it from that perspective. Changing your diet interferes with all sorts of food you love-clearly ice cream, pizza, donuts, bagels, bags of chips, cookies, chocolate, cheese, pastas drenched in creamy alfredo sauce and even garlic knots-all the good stuff in life-have to be seriously scaled back. Getting healthier interferes with your habit of hitting the drive-thru and grabbing fast food, it interferes with indulging in a late-night snack. Getting up and going for a run or heading to the gym interferes with sleeping in, choosing to bike to work or hitting the gym before work will interfere with your morning routine because you have to leave the house a lot earlier. Unfortunately there is no way you can say-I want to get healthier-but not let it interfere with anything in my life-even though that’s the dream. How can I lose weight and get in shape while still eating as much as I want and never exercising? If you invent that you’re a millionaire. But we all know it doesn’t work. It’s a common sense principle: becoming physically healthier interferes with your daily decisions.
And we find the same principle to be true spiritually. Seeking to follow Christ is going to interfere and disrupt our normal lives. It’s also a common sense principle-if you want to see change you have to change something. Yet why do we often think we don’t have to? Why do we think that we can lead the Christian life without making any changes to our daily decisions or routines? Why do we think that we can be spiritually healthy while continuing with our old unhealthy habits and attitudes? It’s a question of interference. So here’s the Main Idea:Following Christ always interferes with our old self. What gets disrupted, what gets changed, what needs to be different about ourselves-not the same-but different because we are earnestly desiring to follow Christ? Just like it relates to our bodies-How can I lose weight and get in shape while never dieting or exercising-I think we would pose the same question spiritually-How can I follow Christ without changing any of my behaviors, attitudes or habits? Bascially-How can I stay the way I am and pursue Jesus? And deep down we all know that the answer is we can’t. We make a valiant effort at it, we stubbornly want to stay the same-but it just doesn’t work that way-following Christ interferes with our old selves. And that’s exactly what we’ll see in Colossians 3.
Turn there in your Bibles-and if you recall we started the New Year by examining this chapter. To me Colossians 3 is one of a handful of chapters I like to reflect on at the beginning of a new year. It helps me understand what God wants for me and the goals He wants me to pursue. Colossians 3 is that reset-it’s that place to go to remember who we are in Christ and how He’s called us to live. So our first sermon in Colossians was from chapter 3. I’d never started a series in the middle of a book before-but the week after we went back to chapter 1 and began working our way through it. Well today we’re back to where we started. Back to chapter 3-and the reason that following Christ interferes with the old you is because by being in Christ you’re not the old you any longer. Look at Col 3:1-4. I want you to notice 3 really important statements right at the start of Col 3. In fact, if you like to underline in your Bible I strongly encourage you to underline these 3 things because they are factual descriptions of who you are as a follower of Christ. Obviously these descriptions don’t refer to everybody-but if you’ve trusted in Christ to save you, if you’ve turned to Him for forgiveness and eternal life then they’re true of you. V. 1-raised with Christ-that’s not a wish or goal or the dream to one day attain-that’s the truth of who you are. Secondly-v. 3-For you have died-there’s old you. Dead-no longer alive-no longer worth investing in. People talk about being stuck in a dead-end job with no promotion or growth in sight. The old you is a dead-end identity because there’s no future for that guy. What is the future? It’s the 3rd phrase to mark down-v. 4-Christ who is your life. When was the last time you remembered that about yourself? When was the last time you recognized that you are no longer you-but you are becoming a new you in Christ? Look at what it says in Gal 2:20; Phil 1:21; 2 Cor 5:17. And that’s exactly what it’s saying here in Col 3. Your old self has died-it’s passed away, and your new self has been raised with Christ so that you are now identified with Him. So as we talked last week-Christianity is not a list of do’s and don’ts, it’s not following a checklist or abiding by a bunch of rules; it’s about the relationship you have with Christ, it’s about your new identity in Christ. And that is what profoundly affects the way you live.
So the rest of chapter 3 is divided into two halves-it’s about the things we don’t do anymore because that isn’t who we are-and it’s about the things we’re beginning to do because of who Christ is shaping us to be. It’s what I call the new wardrobe passage. Who doesn’t sometimes look at their clothes and just wish they had a whole new wardrobe? I’ve had these clothes forever-some of these clothes don’t fit anymore, they’re old and out of style, time to buy some new stuff and let these clothes go. I’m sure we all have clothes in our closet we could stand to get rid of-I’ve got some shirts that need to go-there’s one with some pink stains on it-but it’s so comfortable, I’ve got some jeans with holes in them that need to go-but they’re so comfortable too. I just can’t bring myself to say goodbye. I’m sure each of us can think of some clothing in our closest that we know we should part with-the old t-shirt or sweatshirt-but haven’t been able to because they’re so comfortable and familiar. And that’s exactly the problem with our behaviors and attitudes. They get so comfortable and familiar we don’t want to change. We get used to acting or feeling or behaving a certain way-it becomes a habit or just starts to define who we are-that we don’t want to change. We don’t want to part with how we’ve been living or the stuff we do-but what does the passage say? Jump down to v. 9-10. That’s what you’re becoming. I love that phrase-renewed after the image of our creator! What better image is there to be like? Images of what’s popular or who’s popular come and go so quickly. Who’s famous and cool one day is someone else the next day. But this is talking about being renewed in the image of your creator-meaning God. To be made more and more like Him as you live your life and follow Him. Are you being renewed in His image? Are you living out that new creation of who you are? And that happens by putting off and putting on. Just like the old clothes you’re taking out of your closet and getting rid of-it’s the same with our old selves. Time to say goodbye.
And here’s how the passage is communicating that-Pt1:We can’t manage our old selves. I don’t know about you-but I find it very easy-and very tempting-to want to manage my old self. To allow certain behaviors or attitudes to exist in my life-just as long as they don’t get too bad, too harmful or cause too many consequences. In a sense, as long as I can manage my sin and keep it under control then I’ll be all right. It’s the thinking that I can still follow Christ with part of my life-while dabbling in certain behaviors and attitudes with the other part of my life. But it doesn’t work that way. First of all, sin can never be just dabbled in. It wants all of you. Remember 1 Pet 5:8. Not nibble on or take a few bits or dabble with-but devour! Sin will devour us. Those behaviors and attitudes that we think aren’t too bad or that we believe can manage and keep under control actually want to tear us up and destroy us. Sin wants to have us for lunch. Back to Pt1. And that’s what the passage is saying-v. 5a. Not put up with it or live with it or manage it-but put to death the old self, eliminate it, get it out of your wardrobe! v. 5-7. When you were trying to manage it-but it didn’t work! Jesus has come to die for those sins, to pay for them and make you new in Him. So v. 8. If you have the NIV it says rage instead of wrath. And I think that’s a word we relate to more. Just this week Monica and I saw a news clip about the increase of road rage. And it showed some crazy videos of people really getting into it-honking, shouting, ramming cars. One guy had so much road rage he literally jumped on the hood of the person’s car and was hanging on, pounding on the windshield of the car while the person started driving away. He didn’t let go until it showed the police pulling up. But this guy literally held onto his rage. And hopefully none of us are jumping onto people’s cars and pounding their windshields-but are we holding on to our rage for someone? Are we holding tight to our anger and not letting go? That word malice is so important. I doubt a lot of us would say we’re full of malice-that sounds really intense. But the word is defined as a desire to cause pain, injury or distress to another. And how often can we become so mad at someone that we wish ill upon them, that we hope they get what’s coming to them. That we want to see them injured-maybe not physically-but injured in their emotions; that their reputation becomes ruined and they get the hurt that we think they deserve. But God says to put it away. So here’s where Col 3 is so practical. Pt2:Put away anger and bitterness-especially when we’re really mad. That’s what the passage is saying. Sure we can put away anger when it’s something not very important. I’m mad my favorite team lost; I’m mad they took my favorite show off television or mad at the guy who cut me off on the parkway (hopefully you don’t jump on the hood of his car!) But wrath and malice and rage and slander all happen when it’s something that really bothers us, really hurts us. And initially it’s okay to be angry-that’s a normal response. But Paul is talking about anger-something that lasts and continues; something that creeps into our hearts and settles into a behavior-where malice and wishing ill of that person becomes our attitude, where slander and gossiping about them fills our conversation. And it’s often in those situations when we’re really mad and tearing that person down that we try to justify our anger. To say-Normally I’m not an angry person, normally I wouldn’t say these things or act this way-but in this case, because of what this person has done, I can’t help it. Being bitter in this instance is okay, wishing ill upon that person is what they deserve. And maybe it is-it probably is. The person who wronged you or hurt you probably deserves that sort of response. But that’s not who we are anymore. We can’t try to manage our anger or justify it or live with it; we are called to be someone new in Christ who lives and operates out of forgiveness and compassion.
And that’s how the passage continues. Here’s the other half-v. 12a. Meaning that God has chosen you in grace to be His, you are dearly loved by Him, His beloved. You have a righteous and holy standing in His sight because of Jesus-therefore put on-v. 12b. Not anger, rage, malice and slander-the response we often want to have-but v. 12b. What a contrast! What if the next time you were really mad at someone you responded this way? Could you even fathom responding like this? Do you think it’s possible? Now the first term in the list is compassion-and I have to be honest, in the original Greek it refers to the internal organs of the human body and literally reads bowels of compassion. In this culture people located their deep emotions in the intestinal area. For them it was a very powerful organ. They would basically say, I love you with all my bowels. Thankfully down through the centuries we’ve changed it to the organ of the heart, otherwise Valentine’s Day Cards would have pictures of intestines on them! It’s a weird image-I love you from the bottom of my intestines! So Bible translators have interpreted this original phrase, let your bowels be full of compassion, to mean let your heart be filled with compassion. If you have the NLT it says tenderhearted towards others. And of course we would agree that it’s important to live like that, of course be compassionate-but again ask yourself-how often does bitterness and annoyance win out over compassion in your life? How often are you brimming with frustration and negativity towards someone-instead of being tenderhearted? It’s easy for compassion to get eclipsed by all the things that bug us about somebody and make us mad. And on the heels of compassion Colossians says we’re to be people of kindness. Now kindness doesn’t just mean being polite. One of my favorite definitions of kindness says that it’s goodness towards others that permeates the entire heart. So I have to think-does kindness permeate me? Does kindness fill my heart? Do kindness characterize my responses to people? Or am I filled with longstanding grudges and negativity? Am I quick to snap back with a sharp comment or a cutting remark? Do the attitudes of meanness and coldness steal a larger part of my heart than kindness? These are the questions to be asking yourself. You’re not supposed to read through this list and just agree with these qualities-sure I think compassion’s a good thing, sure I agree with kindness-but to ask yourself-am I compassionate, am I kind?
And then how about humility or meekness or patience, as the text goes on to say? We live in such a me-centered society. And isn’t that what poisons and harms so many of our relationships? Isn’t that what keeps us from reaching out and giving of ourselves to others. We’ll show compassion for someone only as long as it benefits us, as it blesses us, if we get something in return. How does this relationship make my life better? What am I getting out of it? You scratch my back and then I’ll scratch yours. So many of our relationships are self-serving which is the very antithesis of humility and meekness. So Pt3:Put on compassion and forgiveness-especially in messy and tough situations. Just like the last point-this doesn’t happen in a vacuum-but in the nitty, gritty of life. This list-compassion, kindness, humility, patience-are all great qualities we agree with-but when do you most need to display them? When do you need to show compassion? Probably when someone’s acting like a jerk to you. When do you need to show humility? In the very moments you want to boast about something or feel like you’re one-up or better than somebody. When do you most need to show patience? When things aren’t working out like you planned and you’re ready to explode or throw in the towel. The command to put on compassion isn’t just for when it’s easy to be compassionate and it comes naturally-this command is for when it doesn’t but sure needs to!
Look at the next verse-v. 13a-complain right back, give them a piece of your mind? No-v. 13b. And did you notice it said bearing with one another. That’s not a word we use when something’s fun. Nobody bears through their vacation (you bear through work anticipating your vacation!) So when it comes to relationships when do you need to bear with someone? When they’re being a bear and acting all growly! You don’t bear with someone when they’re at their best and easy to get along with-there’s nothing to bear. You bear with someone when they’re at their worst. When they’re cranky and irritable and treating you rudely. You bear with someone and stick by them even though their actions make you wan’t to quit and walk away. And what about forgiveness? That never happens in a simple situation. Think back to the last time you forgave someone. The mere fact that you’re having to forgive means that someone has harmed you or offended you or hurt you. They’ve done something to you that would make you want to sever the relationship yet this is when we don’t. It when the new self offers forgiveness, when the new self bears with one another. Again, it’s in the messy and tough situations where we truly need to live out who we are in Christ. The problem is that when those messy, hard moments come it’s easy to throw compassion and forgiveness right out the door and revert back to anger, pride and bitterness which come naturally. To not bear with one another but to walk away frustrated. Or we’ll make the excuses by saying, Normally I’m a really compassionate person, normally I am kind-ask any of my friends, normally I’m willing to forgive-but not this time. This situation is different, you don’t know how they treated me, you don’t know how hard this has been-so compassion and forgiveness just aren’t an option this time. I’m sure we’ve all felt that way before. To list all sorts of reasons why forgiveness isn’t possible in those moments-but it’s in the messy and difficult times that our real character shines through. Who are you then? What kinds of attitudes or actions do you put on in those moments? That’s the true you. When it came down to it for Jesus, He didn’t just preach compassion and forgiveness, He lived it in the messiest and toughest situation-the cross. Look at Luke 23:33-34. Talk about the depth of authentic forgiveness! And what does it say to us-v. 13b.
What if the next time someone hurts you, instead of instantly hurting them right back-you did what this verse is saying. What if you made the effort to bear with one another? What if you forgave others? It’s so easy to throw someone under the bus; or to write them off and say forget it, three strikes you’re out. And we’ll hold a grudge against them for years. But according to who we are in Christ that’s not the way we ought to clothe ourselves. We’ve taken off the clothes of anger, rage and malice and put on the clothes of compassion, kindness and humility. What would your life, your relationships look like if that was true of you? It’s not easy, it goes against the way our old self thinks-but we’re not called to wear the old self anymore-v. 14. Love is the like the superglue that holds it all in place. It’s the peanut butter in a PBJ that holds the whole sandwich together. Do you put on love? Does that describe you and your relationships with others? Not just mustering up the feeling but making intentional choices to love? Because that’s what it is-a choice to act in way that vividly displays Christ. As we can clearly see-love for Him was no mere feeling-but an intentional choice to sacrifice Himself for us.
Remember 1 Cor 13? That’s the famous chapter on love. No doubt you’ve heard it read at weddings. Maybe you had it read at your wedding. But this chapter on love isn’t reserved for husbands and wives. It’s not limited to marriage. What’s described there is real, practical, tangible love that ought to permeate every relationship we have. Listen to what it says-1 Cor 13:1-2 NIV. We would think that someone with that kind of knowledge and faith would be a super Christian-but the verse says no. What counts is having a faith that produces love-v. 3-5. That’s not easy-if there’s one thing we do it’s remembering the ways people have wronged us and hurt us-I’ll forgive you but I’m not going to forget it! But God’s Word says we’ve got to let it go, to forgive without keeping this long list of grievances that we’ll put out from time to time to remind that person what they did. We’re not called to remember or rejoice in the mistakes, but rebuild the relationship-v. 6-8a. So when you read that list it’s anything but feelings. These are all tangible actions and words that we need to communicate to one another. This is what we need to put on every morning as we head out the door. This is what we need to display to our families, our co-workers, our neighbors, to one another at church. If you truly began to live this way, to love with this kind of love, people would notice. This is not common, it’s not normal, it’s not how our old selves are wired. But following Christ always interferes with our old selves.
I don’t know if you realize it, but we’re lucky to be here in 2019. I was reading an article this week from Space.com and it was talking about the return of an asteroid that made a very close call to earth back in November, 2018. It’s Asteroid TB145 (nicknamed Spooky)-pic. Astronomers think it’s the remnants of an old comet. But it narrowly missed a collision with earth by about 300,000 miles. Now that might sounds like a lot-but in space terms it isn’t at all-that’s about as close as the moon is. And this asteroid is about a half-mile wide-the biggest known object to come that close to earth until 2027. But it would have caused considerable widespread damage to part of planet if it would have struck us-pic. So thankfully it’s trajectory was just slightly off and we can all breathe easy because this asteroid didn’t collide with earth-but when it comes to Christ we want Him to collide with our lives, for the attitudes and behaviors of our old selves to be obliterated by Him; for His presence to interfere with who we used to be-so that we can be transformed into who we’re called to be. So the big question for this morning is-Will you let Christ interfere with your old self? That’s what it comes down to? Will you let Christ interfere with your old self. Or are you running away and trying to keep Him at arm’s length? Are you on a collision course with Christ’s transforming power-or are you hoping to steer clear and just try to manage your old self? But if you’re a follower of Christ that can’t happen. You can’t manage your old self-and change isn’t optional. As a follower of Christ your old self will be interfered with; His plan is to transform and remake you into someone new. You won’t enter eternity as the old you, you’ll enter eternity as a new creation; with the new identity you’ve been given in Christ. So start living that way today. Put off the old stuff and put on the new-Col 3:9-there’s the interference -because in Christ those old practices are obliterated-v. 10-11. We’re all in this together as the body of Christ. By trusting in Jesus we’re all on a collision course to be made new in Him-and that’s a glorious thing! Will you let Christ interfere with your old self?