Colossians 3 – New Beginnings – Snow Day
First of all let’s give credit where credit’s due-the seer of seers, the prognosticator of prognosticators, the famous Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil was right when he saw his shadow this year-6 more weeks of winter! The snow is coming down out there. I apologize last week for saying I wanted snow-I didn’t mean this much snow. The early part of the week was an epic blizzard-16 inches of snow. Did you get outside and enjoy it-or did you nearly die from shoveling all of it? I think I did both. We built a snowman and scooped lots of heavy, wet snow. And now I think we’ll all have lots more fresh snow to shovel this afternoon. So instead of talking about Armageddon as we would have in our Revelation series-we’re going to talk about Snowmageddon which is what we’re experiencing right now! Apocalyptic amounts of snow! But we were going to resume our series on Revelation this morning. We had gotten up to chapter 14-but then paused in December for Christmas and then we started off the new year with our series on Kindness that we just wrapped up last week. So today we were going to dive back into Revelation with chapter 15-but now with the snow day we’re going to pause 1 more week and pick it up next Sunday. And instead today we have an opportunity to explore a passage that I love to reflect on at the beginning of the year. It’s one I’m always drawn to because as a new year serves as that reset to makes some changes in your life and do things different-this passage serves as that spiritual road map for determining where our priorities ought to be. It’s a chapter where our theology connects with our lives reminding us of exactly who we are and what we’re called to do. And so the passage is Colossians 3 and it starts off with a hypothetical question.
Do you like hypothetical questions? “If you had a million dollars what would you spend it on?” “If you could travel anywhere in the world where would go?” “If you could have your dream job what would it be?” And I love the weird situational ones-“If you had to choose between getting a speeding ticket or a bad haircut which would you pick?” “If you had to choose between being shipwrecked in Greenland as winter sets in or stranded in the Sahara desert during summer which would you pick?” Important things to wrestle with-but many hypothetical questions do reveal a lot about you. If there were no obstacles in the way and you could do anything you want what would it be? But unfortunately the key word is if-because we can’t do anything we want, we don’t have a million dollars laying around, we can’t just pick up and set sail for a tropical island, and dream jobs aren’t just for the taking. If describes the stuff of fiction and fantasy-not facts. “If you could have dinner with anybody in history who would it be?” And obviously that isn’t possible-although if it was… If is a word for wishes, but, sometimes if can be used to highlight the truth. And that’s what Paul is doing here in Colossians 3. Take a look at it-Col 3:1. And this isn’t hypothetical or wishful thinking, it’s not talking about an aspiration or a pipe-dream. Paul is saying-“If you’ve been raised with Christ”-which you have if you’re a believer-“then your life will look like the following.” Verse 1 is stating an accomplished fact, it’s describing the truth, emphasizing a reality in your life-the most important reality. As a believer “you have been raised with Christ” no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it, there’s no fine print or disclaimers to read. You have to remember as a believer that’s the essence of your life. The NIV it says, “Since you’ve been raised with Christ set your hearts on things above.” Being raised with Christ isn’t what you’re trying to reach as a believer, it’s the starting place. It’s where the race begins, the truth you must accept-Indisputable Fact 1: You are currently raised with Christ.
That’s an awesome and powerful fact, but if you’re like me, you’re asking the question-What does it actually mean? It’s one thing to picture Christ having been raised from the dead on Easter and now dwelling in heaven. He’s alive in a resurrected body and longer in the tomb, but here we are-you and me-walking around the earth in our same old bodies, we haven’t been raised off the ground or beamed into heaven-how are we raised with Christ? I’ve read this verse countless times and it sounds great, but what does it mean? Quite literally, the idea of the word raised is co-resurrection. It means that through faith you have a relationship, a union, with Christ that began at conversion. When you became a Christian an instant bond was formed between you and Christ; that what has happened to Him has happened to you. Look at Col 2:12-13. Now that’s describing a spiritual reality for you and me-but it’s connected to the physical and historical reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Just as He died on the Cross and was buried so your old sinful self died; and as He was raised from the dead so now your spirit has been raised to new life. Who you are on the inside is new. Of course one day, when this world is over, your physical body will follow along and be resurrected for eternity, but for now it’s a spiritual reality. The newness begins inwardly. There’s an old Christian song with the lyric- Beneath our skin a new creation. You’re a new person trapped in an old body. And that’s where the struggle and the battle comes from. The new self no longer sides with sin but wants to follow God. The old self, however, the flesh has all sorts of other tendencies and habits and attitudes that constantly surface and keep dragging us down, causing us to sin.
Maybe you remember Paul’s transparent confession from Rom 7:18-19; 21-23 Clearly there’s the battle, trench warfare with our old selves. It’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Who hasn’t felt exactly as Paul has felt? Haven’t you done something and thought, Why do I keep doing this? Why do I keep acting this way? This isn’t me anymore. The new person needs to take control of the old body-but look at where that battle is fought-the members of my body waging war against the law of my mind. Your old body, the flesh, is one smart enemy and he knows exactly what to attack-and that’s your mind. In those moments when your anger is ready to explode and you want to take it out on somebody, when you’re in the midst of temptation, or caught up in pride or self-centeredness, or your tongue is just ready to drip some juicy gossip the flesh says to your mind, Of course you ought to say that and do that-it’s who you are, it’s normal. Everyone else in your shoes would do the same so don’t worry about it. Those are the words of the flesh-and when your mind believes them you live it out. But that’s not the truth. Back to Col 3:1-3. Who you used to be is dead. We’re back to Indisputable Fact 1: You are currently raised with Christ. That is who you are-and that’s what you have to remember. One of my favorite quotes says, What you do flows out of who you are. If you’re a musician than what you do is play music; if you’re an athlete what you do is train and work out; if you’re a bookworm you read; if you’re a foodie you cook, if you’re an old quarterback you’re still throwing passes in the Super Bowl in your 40’s, if you’re old man winter you’re dumping lots of snow on us! But what you do flows out of who you are. So if you’re someone new in Christ than what you do is live out that new life. And it begins by remembering who you are, keeping your identity at the forefront of your mind.
But let me be honest by saying that this is what I often forget. In the middle of the day, when I’m all stressed out and starting to feel worried I need to remember, I’ve been raised with Christ, I don’t need to be consumed with anxiety I need to trust Him. Or when I’m home and the kids are wearing me out and I’ve lost all patience and I’m ready to start yelling out of irritation I need to remember, I’ve been raised with Christ, I don’t need to be controlled by my anger, I need to show patience. When I become bitter towards someone, or start holding a grudge and just want to build up a wall and write them off I need to remember that I’ve been raised with Christ which means I need to be someone who mends relationships not tears them apart. My life is totally different when I remember who I am. I no longer need to cling to my rights, demanding that other people serve me and do what I want them to do. I no longer need to cling to my pride or hoard my possessions. When I remember who I am life stops being solely about me and my comfort and my wants. And that leads us to Indisputable Fact 2: You don’t need to depend on the “old things” to make you who you are. Too many of us as Christians still try to walk both roads. We’re trusting Christ-yet if we’re willing to admit it still trusting in money and possessions, fearful if they’d ever go away. We want to surrender our lives to Christ but we’re still clinging to our pride, searching for worldly success, or defining our worth on what other people say about us. Maybe we desire to give to others but we still make personal comfort our number one priority. Maybe we want to love others but only do it on the condition that they’ll love us back. Or maybe we want to seek righteousness, yet still cling to our sinful habits or hang out with our old friends who take us down bad roads. It’s easy to keep holding all those “old things” so tightly – success, possessions, pride, pleasure, comfort, the praise of others-and allowing those things to define us and create our identity, but as a Christian our source of identity has ceased to be those “old things”. Col 3:1, 3-4.
When Paul says that your life is hidden with Christ he doesn’t mean that you can’t find it because it’s hidden away so well and locked up tight. I’m sure you’ve got things at home hidden away so well you can’t find them. I’m going to put this here to keep it safe-and it’s super safe because you don’t remember where you put it! I knew I put it somewhere-where is it? That’s not what Paul means by hidden. Instead he’s speaking of your life, your identity, as being eternally valuable and perfectly secure in Christ. So Indisputable Fact 3: You are forever identified with Christ. Now plenty of people have lost their identity and reputation in the world. They make some mistakes, a scandal starts brewing, boom-their reputation is ruined, their identity is tarnished. When left to ourselves who knows where our identity may end up-but if you’ve trusted Christ, if you are His, then your identity is forever connected to Him. The winds may blow, trials and tribulations may come, storms might threaten to undo you-but nothing can change the fact that as a believer you old life is dead and your new life, your eternal life, is hidden with Christ.
I love what John Calvin, way back in the 1500s, said about this passage in Colossians-What is to be more desired than this-that our life remain with the very fountain of life? And that’s precisely the point we have to remember. Who is the source, the fountain of all life? Col 1:16-17. Jesus is the Giver of Life. Remember what He said about Himself during His time on earth-John 11:25; 5:21 He’s the source, the fountain of life. So Col 3 is saying that as a Christian your life is bound up in Christ-and that’s exactly as it should be because there’s no other place from which life comes from. You will try in vain to create your own life apart from Christ, you’ll be banging your head against the wall, desperately searching for purpose and identity in temporal, fleeting things that don’t last. That’s true of the unbeliever, and that’s true of the believer who’s still trying to live with one foot in both camps, still trying to ride the fence between the old life and the new. The idea of living for Christ when it’s convenient but indulging the flesh when you feel like it. You may think that gives you the best of both worlds-but it doesn’t, it’s an illusion. That kind of living will never result in lasting peace or meaning. This passage in Colossians doesn’t describe a half in/half out kind of Christian life. Flip it on when you’re at church and act godly, flip it off when you’re at home and live like you want. If half-and-half living was the answer Col 3 is the place to say it. But it doesn’t. Colossians 3 is saying that the only place of permanent peace and meaning is found in letting your old life die, in letting your old self be put aside and out of the way. I love what the author Phil Downer says in this book-Eternal Impact, 107. God’s not interested in the old you-because He’s zeroed on the new you being transformed in Christ.
So what should you do with the old self? That’s the question-and I love the answer-Col 3:5. Kill it, get rid of it, destroy it. Can the analogy be any clearer? When was the last time you killed something? It’s a morbid question-but think about it. Around our house I get to be the bug killer. And one time years ago when I was away on a mission trip, Monica had to be the take care of the bat flying around our house-I think a tennis racket was her weapon of choice. But whether you’ve killed a bat, trapped a mouse, swatted a mosquito, or squashed a spider, when you kill something it’s dead. It doesn’t get back up, it doesn’t run off, it just lays there. And that’s precisely the picture we need to have in mind for our old selves-v. 5. Squash it, kill it, let it lie there-Col 3:7-10. Put to death what is earthly in you and let it stay dead because that’s not who you are anymore. The Puritan John Own famously said-Mortification, 5. Walk away from those behaviors and attitudes, leave them alone. But here’s the big question-why do we still go back to those things and put them on? Why do we dabble with sin, why do we play with fire, why do we still think a little bit won’t hurt us? Indisputable Fact 4: You don’t have to resurrect old, sinful habits, tendencies, and attitudes. Because as a Christian that’s what you’re doing when you turn to sin. You’re resurrecting something that should have stayed dead. You’re bringing to life something that no longer needs to see the light of day. You’re giving power to something that doesn’t need to control you. Next time you’re faced with temptation, next time your attitude starts to get all sour and cruddy, or materialism starts to consume you, think about what you’re doing and tell yourself to drop it and leave it. Remind yourself that there’s no need, no reason, no good can come from resurrecting your sin. There’s a reason it was put to death in the first place.
Remember the movie Old Yeller? Classic film-and I remember as a kid watching it thinking at the end of the film, Old Yeller can get better, right? He’s foaming at the mouth, he’s lunging at them with fangs ready to bite, he’s not the same dog from earlier in the film but they can give him some medicine so he can get better, right? And then you hear the sound of the gun when they shoot him and it was such a sense of finality. Of course as a young boy I thought, Well, maybe he’ll come back, maybe they didn’t kill him. But Old Yeller wasn’t coming back. And I quickly learned there was nothing they could do for a dog with rabbies back then but kill it. It was harsh, but totally necessary. And it’s the same with our sins and our old selves. There’s nothing else we can do but kill it and leave it dead. Rom 8:12-13 NIV Through the Spirit who dwells within you, with His strength, you can put to death the sinful deeds of the body and let them stay dead.
Maybe you’ve been struggling with a sin or a certain attitude for a long time. Maybe you keep resurrecting the same old habits. Maybe you’ve been trying to live the Christian life with one foot in both camps-a bit of your new nature and a bit of the old nature. You don’t have to live that way anymore-because it isn’t who you are. For all of its troubles, 2021 can be a year of new beginnings for you because Rom 8, Col 3 isn’t describing wishful thinking. It’s not talking about super-Christians who rise up and with great strength to wipe out sin in thier extraordinary power. This is describing ordinary, everyday people, like you and me, who believe the extraordinary truth of the gospel which says that as a Christian we’re not who we used to be. That as a Christian you have been raised with Christ. And if you’ve been raised with Christ, if your new self is hidden in Christ-which it is-it’s not hypothetical thinking, then you no longer need to seek the things of earth, you can put to death what’s earthly in you and seek the things above. You know what I love most about this chp? It describes 1 person, 1 identity-being raised with Christ. Yes there’s struggle, you’re nowhere near perfect, you’ll have moments of failure as you battle the old nature, but you’re not 2 people-the old self and the new-in Christ you’re 1. A new creation! Let what’s true about you on the inside shine through into all you do on the outside.