Asbury Free Methodist June 13, 2021
By Rev. Dr. Brent Russett
This morning we are looking at Colossians 3:1-11. There is so much in this passage that could be shared, but what I am going to focus on is, how to live the Christian life.
There are some people who think living the Christian life is all about going to church on Sunday. We need to be in fellowship with one another but going to church isn’t what it means to live a Christian life. Some people think that being good is what it means to be a Christian. Goodness, is one of the fruit of the spirit, but it does not describe the Christian life. Some people think that prayer and bible reading is what it means to be a Christian. You won’t get very far in your Christian life without spiritual exercises – but those things support your Christian life, they do not create your life as a Christian.
In our last sermon we looked at Colossians 2:16-23 we saw that we could not behave ourselves into our Christian life. So, the question is, how are we to live the Christian life?
I was brought up in a Christian home and I gave my heart to Jesus when I was 4 years. I have been walking with him ever since. But I have not always known how to answer the question – How do we live the Christian life.
I have had this desire, ever since I was young, to live for Jesus. But how do you do that? I was given different answers along the way. You need to pray more. You need to know your bible better. You need to be filled with the Spirit. You need to serve others. You need to be whole emotionally. You need to be holy. You need to display the fruit of the Spirit.
As I look back on my life, all those phases were incredibly important in my spiritual journey. God used them to shape me. But those are only the beginning steps with God. God wants so much more for us. But often times we get stuck in our spiritual journey. I am hoping that todays passage of scripture will help get some of you unstuck.
But before I get there, let me outline the beginning stages of the spiritual life. If you find yourself in this description – continue to walk with God. He has a lot more for you.
Usually we begin our spiritual journey with Jesus because it is a means to fulfill our life long desire for security and happiness. It might be to fix what is wrong with our lives, or it might be to escape hell, or it might be a way to find purpose. But you will notice that our spiritual journey is all about us. – And we all need to start somewhere.
As we begin with Christ, temptations are rampant, and prayer is often random, and the world is still really important to us.
As we move on in our spiritual journey, we kind of move into this wilderness. We have come to realize that God’s way is the right way, but the pull of the world is still really strong. Often time spiritual warfare in this stage is hard as well. In this stage we feel really pulled. Our faith is deepening but pull of the world is strong and we still often engaged in sin.
Our prayers are usually focused around telling God how to fix us. If we have some good discipling, we normally are able to learn how to fend off spiritual warfare. We learn to responds to the prompts of God to pray. We start to see God’s answers to prayer more and sometimes we blame God more for the bad stuff that goes on in our lives. But in this stage we know that God’s way is right so we persevere and we pray and we learn God’s word.
All this time Jesus is trying to call us into a deeper more intimate relationship.
As we move to the next stage we tend to attend church regularly. We have a consistent prayer life. We give a concerted effort to live the Christian life and we have a genuine desire to please God. We have become convinced that life with Jesus is the only way to live.
Faith becomes easier. We discover our spiritual gifts, and we are showing the fruit of the spirit. Ministry often becomes a significant focus in our lives.
Our pray life is deepened, but our prayer life is mainly about talking to God. This stage is often about doing the right thing, and we often get our affirmation from doing the right things.
And this is where we often get stuck. After all we are doing the right things. Our lives have come a long way. And if things go wrong at this juncture, what people tell us is that we need to pray more, or read our bible more – and we know that there is always more we can do. So we get to this weird place where we have pride in how far we have come and feel like a failure because we can’t be more.
A lot of Christians get to this stage within the first three to five years after the conversion – if they were converted as adults. But, a lot of Christians never get past this stage. After all they are doing the right stuff.
Today’s passage takes us past this stage. It takes us past the place where we focus on outward works and outward blessings to a place where there is an inward sense of God’s presence. Our attention starts to shift from what we do for God to being with God.
Out questions change from how do we live for Jesus, to how to be with Jesus for his sake, our sake and the sake of the world?
And here is the important shift. Our spiritual journey becomes less about what we do and more about who Jesus is. It becomes less about us and more about him. It becomes less about trying to love God and more about feeling the draw of God’s love on us.
If you find yourself hovering around this stage in your spiritual development – I especially want you to hear God’s word today.
Colossians 3:1–4 (NIV)
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 life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
You see, if you are still at the stage where your spiritual journey is all about what you do, you will probably read these verses wrong. But if you understand that your spiritual journey isn’t all about you, then these verses can add jet fuel to your spiritual growth.
You see if you think your spiritual life is all about what you do, you are going to focus in on the commands in verse one and two. The command in verse one is set your heart on things above. The command in verse two is set your mind on things above.
It is not that those commands are unimportant. But if your Christian life is all about what you do – then these commands are going to be all about mindset. You need to change your mindset.
Don’t get me wrong, mindset – the way you view life is a very powerful thing. When you walk into a room of strangers, do you think they are going to like you, or dislike you? That mindset will determine how you act. How you act will determine what happens. Mindset is a powerful thing.
But if you make these verses all about what you do and how you set your mind, you are going to miss the point. You may even become more successful, whatever that mean, but you will not progress in your spiritual journey.
But if you understand that these commands come out of what as already been done for you, you will approach them differently and they can change your life.
Now I apologize, because in order to explain this passage well, I need to get into the details. That is great if I am teaching a seminary class, but not so great if I am preaching. But bear with me for 5 minutes.
These verses say some really important things about who you are as a Christian. Notice verse 3. It says “You died.” When you became a Christian there is a sense in which you were crucified with Christ. Your old life, the old spiritual you, hung on the cross. The spiritual you, apart from God – died. But notice verse 1. It says, you have been raised with Christ. Or as verse 13 of chapter 2 says, “God made you alive with Christ.” You were raised to new life. Now your heart has been cleansed from sin, your spirit is connected to God. You have been made a new creation – is what the bible says.
Paul has repeated this theme a number of times in chapter 2 and chapter 3. You died to your old self which was burdened by sin and disconnected from God and you have been made alive with Christ and your sin has been forgiven, and Christ has come into you, and you are connected in your spirit to God of the universe.
I trust you are with me so far.
So, where does that leave us. Notice verse 3 again.
Colossians 3:3 (NIV)
3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Your life is now hidden with Christ in God. If you are a Christian, you may be sitting in a chair watching a video – but Jesus is in you – but you are also in him and he is in God. He is in the trinity. Even as you watch this video, as you live out your life – your life is in Christ, and he is in God. You are hidden with Christ in God.
You didn’t accomplish this. You just received the offer of forgiveness of sin and new life made by Jesus. You received it by faith, and God’s grace did the rest.
Now let’s get a little more specific. Where is Jesus. He is in God. But notice where in God.
Verse 1 –
“Where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
Where are you? You are in Christ. Where is Christ? He is in God; he is seated at the right hand of God.
It trust that you are getting what I am saying. You died with Christ and you have been made alive with Christ. Your life is hidden with Christ in God. Christ is at the right hand of the God and you are there with him. It is from that position that we are called to obey the commands.
Set your hearts on things above.
Set you minds on things above, not on earthly things.
In other words, set your heart on where you are spiritual already located. Set your mind from the position you are not from an earthly perspective.
Sometimes I have to remind myself to live in the present. I have to tell myself “Wherever you are, be all there.” Have you ever been in a conversation and found yourself focusing on the next thing, rather than the conversation? You are in the conversation, but you are not completely in the conversation.
Have you ever been doing one thing wishing you were doing another thing? There are a lot of us who have to work at being in the present.
That is something like what Paul is saying to us. You are spiritual alive. You are in Christ. You are in God. Live out of that reality. Let your heart reflect that reality.
What do you think Jesus values when he looks at your life? I know he values his relationship with you. He values the people around you. Does he value your money? He does, as a means to an end of you keeping body and soul together, and to be able to be generous with others and to be able to do some things that will bring joy. But asking what his perspective is, helps you to know what to set your heart on
What is Jesus’ perspective on the incident in London where a Muslim family was run down. I am sure his heart grieves. Set your hearts on things above where Christ is. Allow yourself to grieve with him.
Your are seated right next to Jesus – Paul is saying let your heart, let your mind see from his perspective.
But sometimes instead of letting our hearts rest in God we turn our affections to other things. Instead of allowing our hearts to be where they are we let our affections wander.
Sometimes instead of seeing our lives from God’s perspective, we take on a very worldly perspective. That is why Paul says.
Colossians 3:5–11 (NIV)
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. 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.
Paul says, (verse 5) Put to death what belongs to your earthly nature.
The word he uses here, means “stop giving live to it, stop energizing it, stop animating it.” In other words when he says “Put to death” he is saying starve it to death. Stop feeding it.
Then he goes on to mention our sexual brokenness that shows up in sexual immorality, impurity lust, evil desires and covetousness or greed that show us like idolatry.
If you have ever tried to wrestle with these kind of things you know that kind of brokenness is difficult to overcome.
Paul then goes on to list the sins of the heard. “Anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lying.” If you have ever had issues of dealing with anger or trying to tame your tongue, you will know it is hard to stop doing what you know you ought not to do.”
That is why Paul says starve these things. Stop feeding them.
When I was growing up, holiness seemed to be made up of a list of things that you didn’t do. All of these things would be on the list – and the list was a lot longer. In order to be holy – we were to stop doing those things. But listen if lust is your problem, or anger or what you say – how much help is it to say – stop doing those things.
When you make your Christian life all about not doing something, even if you are able by willpower and grit able to stop that thing, you wouldn’t be further along in your spiritual life. When you focus on something, you feed it, you don’t starve it.
If you focus on just being with God. Living out of the place that you are already in, God will give you the power to starve the other things.
So you have died with Christ, you have been made alive with Christ, you are in Christ and Christ is in God – therefore you with Christ in God. From that place you are going to set your hearts on things above. You are going to set your mind of things above. You are going to look at things from Jesus’ perspective.
Colossians 3:9–11 (NIV)
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.
You are starving the old self with the old practices. You are taking on the new self – which we will look at more next week. But look what is happening. You are being renewed. Your heart and your mind are being renewed in knowledge in the image of God.
You are changing and being transformed into the image of God. Your perspective is being transformed into the image of God. The way you see the world is being transformed. You are learning what Paul means in verse 11. Christ is all and in all. You look at the world, you look at your family, you look at your hobbies, you look at your life – and you see Jesus for Jesus is all and in all.
I started off today asking the question, “How do we live for Jesus?” But as we moved into our passage, the questioned changed to, “How do we be with Jesus, for his sake for our sake and for the sake of the world?”
I started out talking about the stages of spiritual growth. Most of us end up where we are doing the right things, and saying the right things. We are involved in ministries. We are doing good. That is awesome. But there is more.
There needs to be a shift from outward blessings and practices to an inner being with Christ. You hidden with Christ in God. You are with Christ as he is seated at the right hand of God. Your values in this world, you perspective on this world come from that place. But you can only get there as you are spending lots of time with him. You are not telling him what to do – you are just hanging out with him.
And here is what happens. You are renewed in the knowledge, in the image of the one who sits on throne. You are transformed so that you are able to see that Christ is in all and Christ is all.