3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
In Colossians 3, Paul calls the church to put away past sins and seek the things of God. He says that since we have been raised with Christ, we must seek the things that are above, where Christ is. He gives a brief list of the earthly things we must put to death. They once walked in them but now they are to put them all away and put on their new self.
When I reflect on the list of earthly things that we are to put to death, I realize how impossible it is for me to completely eliminate them all from my life and behavior. Maybe the first list could be somewhat doable, but he includes things I struggle with almost everyday in the second list. He includes things like anger, obscene talk, and lying. Even the most godly person I know has gotten angry. How do we carry out the call to set our minds on the things that are above and not these earthly things? My initial response to this call would be to shut myself away from the world. If I am physically separated from everyone and anything that could tempt me to sin, then I’d be safe. But this is not what God expects of us and it is obvious in his commands to go out into the world to spread the gospel. He doesn’t expect us to hide from the world and temptation in our own security and works. He expects us to hide ourselves in him.
We can place all of our sins onto him, he takes them all. Paul uses the imagery of taking off and putting on clothing. We are to strip ourselves of immorality and be clothed with grace. Our sins were placed on Jesus and buried with him. Our new selves, our new clothing, is placed on us by Him and we are made new and alive in His resurrection.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
There is a common misconception that when we hand our lives over to God we will be giving up all the fun parts of our lives that we enjoy and will then have to live a life of boring, righteousness to pay him back. Seeking the things that are above is seeking Christ, because that’s where he is. Paul gives a picture of what it looks like to seek Christ and his life for ourselves. He doesn’t just stop there but he tells us why: because we are his chosen ones, we are holy and beloved. God loves us and knows, better than we do, what’s best for us. He doesn’t simply want to give us behaviors that just look good but he wants to give us the life that he knows we will enjoy the most. Ultimately, he offers us a life of peace, joy, and harmony, all bound together in his love.
What is not to desire about that? Why wouldn’t we seek these things? Without Jesus our sin looks good to us. It feeds our flesh and makes us feel temporarily good on the surface while it eventually destroys us. Paul reveals in his letter to the Colossians that our sin is not good for us. Jesus died so that we could have the power to have it destroyed and that we could receive a better life in Him. Everyday is a taking of our old selves, our flesh, and giving them over to Jesus and putting on our new selves. Paul says that this new self is still being renewed in the image of its creator. We are not as perfect as Christ yet. But everyday as we take off our old selves, placing them on Christ, and put on our new selves, our lives are being hidden with Christ in God and when Christ who is our life appears, we also will appear with him in glory.
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