Chapter three contains instructions for living our lives in the manner God intends for us. We’ve been raised with Him and our lives are hidden in Him. What do we do now?
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All right, tonight we’re in Colossians 3, and obviously it follows on the heels of chapter two where we talked about a whole bunch of stuff last time, most of it being the notion that we’re free from human regulations through our life with Christ.
The problem with the Gnostic Error as it came about, was that the religious system that they espoused was created by the very teachers who were promoting it, and so it was their idea, it was their interpretation of the way things should go and so, these false teachers themselves had created the regulations of their system.
These prohibitions and things that they were teaching were not from God. So, even as we read last time, even with components of Judaism, the Lord said in Isaiah (I think it was 29:13 that we looked at) that religion was made up of teachings that were in turn made up by men. And so, a lot of stuff has gone into the system that the Lord never intended, and this was a problem He had.
And so, we ended in chapter two with Paul’s view that these things were all destined to perish because they are based upon human commands and teachings.
Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
So, they really didn’t do anybody any good. There were a lot of things you could not do but there wasn’t anything you could get from that, and so it was an imposition of a fairly harsh system in some cases, for no value, for no purpose.
And so the lesson we might take away from that, the thing that we might listen to as we’re going through what God’s rules are now, which is what chapter 3 is going to talk about, what does the Lord expect of us out of all this. The lesson that you might summarize chapter 3 by is saying, don’t try to add to what you already have (speaking of the salvation that we have through faith) don’t try to add to what you already have but work to become what you already are. That sounds pretty cute I think. I wish I could say I made that up, but I wrote it down from somewhere and I can’t remember who did make it up. [laughs] But I liked it because many religions, you know, many religious systems try to add to the salvation that was given us at the cross, right? They say Jesus started it, now it’s up to us to finish it. Some even say He’ll take over after, but only after you’ve done everything you can and that He took you up to the time when you confessed your faith in Him, but from now on you’re on your own and you’d better behave or else you could lose it all.”
All these things are components of various religious systems, many of them claiming to be Christian, that give us their view that God didn’t really do everything. He only did enough to get you started. And then He said, “Okay, the ball’s in your court now. It’s up to you, and don’t mess it up because you can go as fast as you got it.”
Okay, so Paul is obviously opposed to that view. As we start off in chapter 3 then, he’s going to say:
You could translate that, “Since, therefore,” you know what we always say about the word, therefore. The word “therefore” and the word “then” are the same there in the Greek.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
Now, he says, do two things here. One:
set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your hearts on things above; in other words, what is it that comes out of your heart? It’s your desire, right? “The desires of our hearts” the Bible says. Those things come out of our heart, so set our hearts on that, let that be the thing you desire.
And then second, in verse 2:
Set your minds on things above,
Don’t be so preoccupied on what’s going to happen here. Most of it you can’t control anyway and a lot of it doesn’t really matter. But we get so preoccupied by it. We get so wrapped up in it, so engrossed in the things that are happening here.
And he says, in (I’ll show you a couple of verses here in a minute) but he says:
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
So, both our hearts and our minds are supposed to be set on things above, not on earthly things.
Let’s back up a couple of books to 2 Corinthians 4 and we’ll get the expanded version of this. 2 Corinthians 4.
One of the best rules that the Lord has for life here and for the next life as well starting in verse 18:
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
And that is just the exact opposite of human nature. Human nature, it’s so easy, if you’re living in this world and you get caught up in the ways of this world, it’s so easy to conclude that you got to get everything you can while you’re here because, if you don’t, you’ve missed out. Of course if you’re a non believer that’s true for you. I mean, the non believer only has this life. And so, the idea is, you’ve got to get everything you can while you’re here in this life and the world becomes so preoccupied by the things of this life. They sell you products based on their perceived ability to get you more of the joy and satisfaction of this life, they ask you to do certain things, they ask you to spend money to acquire certain skills and talents and abilities and to look a certain way, to act a certain way, to be a certain way—all for the things of this world.
Paul says, “You know that’s all temporary. It’s all going to disappear. It doesn’t matter how much of it you get, it’s all going to disappear and when it does, you’ll be left with nothing.” I like the way I heard somebody say recently, “I never saw a U-Haul following a hearse into the cemetery.” Just doesn’t ever happen; whatever you leave is left and you’re not going to get any more. So, he says, that’s all temporary. What’s eternal is the stuff you can’t see.
That’s what you ought to be focused on because that’s what you really want. Because the eternal stuff, when compared to eternity, our little sixty year, seventy year, or eighty year life here pales into insignificance. It’s no more than a breath compared to eternity. And yet people invest all their time, effort, energy, and emotion trying to get everything they can get out of this little, bitty segment called life. They don’t give a single thought about making sure they have the right conditions set up for their eternity.
It’s an amazing thing, isn’t it? Most people don’t give it a thought. In fact, with our last group up there in Montana, I was (I’ve got to be careful because I know they’re going to get this tape. I hesitate to even say where I was, because it always comes back to haunt me. People come back to me and say, “What’d you say that about us for?”) but I was amazed, and I shouldn’t have been because this is typical, that even a fairly large group of believers, when I started asking them how much consideration they had given to what Heaven is going to be like, most of them hadn’t thought much about it at all. In fact, I sort of got the impression that they felt I was maybe a little weird for thinking about it myself. [laughs] But you see, I’m very curious about it and I’m curious about how the Lord is going to handle this.
You guys have had company, right? In your house from time to time, you’ve had company? What do they say, “Company is like a nice, fresh fish. It’s okay for a couple of days, but by the third day it starts to stink”, right? And then, you’ve probably been guests in other people’s homes where the thought has come into your mind that maybe you’ve outstayed your welcome and maybe it was time to leave. So, I know it sure has happened to me. And it’s happened even more often when I’ve had guests in my home. I mean, I’m ready for them to go long before they’re ready to leave. And so, what is the point? The point is entertaining people.
Now, how do you entertain someone? Suppose somebody came to stay with you for several weeks or months, maybe. How do you entertain that person? How do you keep that person enthused or happy or excited? They’re away from their home, they’re away from all the things they know, and you don’t know what their habits are, or what their preferences are, and yet you feel sort of an obligation to keep them entertained.
Well, put yourself in the Lord’s place now—He’s agreed to do this for you forever! You’re going to come, move in with Him and He has promised you in advance that you’re going to be blissfully happy every single day, and each day more so than the one preceding it, forever. Not for a week, or two or a month. Not for a year. Forever! Every day has to be new, and exciting. Every day has to have something about it that makes it different and therefore better than the day before.
Okay, so you are God now, so how are you going to arrange this? How are you going to make this happen? Well, you see this provokes a great deal of curiosity in my mind, and so maybe it’s easier for me to make this verse real for me, focusing not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, because I’m very curious about that. How’s the Lord going to do that?
Now you know they say that kids are, by and large, happier than adults because kids spend more time learning new things, acquiring new skills, doing things they’ve never done before, seeing things they’ve never seen; everything is new for a kid.
Having a little one like I do, you start to understand how many things they do for the first time. They don’t get it all done in a week or two. I mean, I’ve got one that just started crawling and he can yank himself up on the—whatever, dresser or table or anything that happens to be around. And if there’s a drawer within reach, he knows how to open it up and get everything out of it! And so he just goes around the house doing that all day. It would take two or three people following him around just to keep things cleaned up. But, you know, this is not going to end any time soon for him, this is going to be an experience. And he’s so happy while he’s doing it. He just laughs while he’s doing it.
But that’s the way we’re going to be for eternity—going around, opening up things, looking inside, taking stuff out and giggling. That’s how we’re going to be for eternity. The Lord’s got quite a big job on His hands to keep us occupied intellectually, and keep our sense of curiosity high, and keep our enthusiasm high for all that time. How’s He going to do this?
Well, you see, the more time I spend thinking about stuff like that, the less time I have worrying about what’s going on around me. That’s exactly what Paul is telling us to do, he’s saying, “Don’t worry so much, don’t think so much about the things that are around you, things that you can see. It’s all going to disappear, it’s all going to be gone.”
“Better,” he said, “you should be focused on the things you can’t see because that’s what’s eternal—this stuff’s all temporary. That’s what’s eternal.”
So, it gives us something to “think about” right? So, we set our hearts on things, we decide what we’d like it to be like, and then we set our minds on these things trying to figure out how it’s going to happen. And that’s, he says, what we’re supposed to do.
Look at Philippians, it’s another book just to the left of Colossians. Philippians 4. Paul gives some advice to the Philippians on how to do this.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Do you know what that is? Do you know that when Norman Vincent Peale read this verse he invented something that’s called the power of positive thinking, that’s right. This wasn’t some new age thing like he got accused later on of going off into the wild, blue yonder and coming up with a bunch of new age religion. No, this was right out of Philippians 4:8. This is something we are commanded to do, and in fact the Philippians who were under intense persecution were advised by Paul to do this to bring the peace of God into their hearts. The power of positive thinking. Now that’s a very good companion verse for 2 Corinthians 4:18 because guess what the 2 Corinthians 4:18 verse is the father of? Where he said, “Don’t fix your eyes on things that are seen, which is temporary, but what is unseen which are permanent.”
In other words, don’t look at what you have, look at what you want. This is called visualization in the new age today, right? You see, before you can have a perversion of something, you’ve got to have the original, right? You can’t have the copy, until you have the original. All this stuff that goes in under the name of new age paganism, neo-paganism, whatever you want to call it today, had its origins in the Scriptures. The difference between the way it’s practiced by the pagans and the way it’s admonished in Scripture is, somebody gets left out of the pagan version. Who do you think that would be? That would be the Lord.
And you know, when I first started thinking about this kind of stuff twenty, twenty-five, thirty years ago, I remember two things, two pieces of information I had gotten from two different sources. The one that is still my favorite, my all-time favorite Bible verse today is in Psalm 37:4 and it says:
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Then in the early ’60’s I was in a seminar in Dallas, Texas where a man stood up in front of this huge group of people and he said, “The human mind has the potential to visualize and then to achieve anything it wants.” And he says, “Wake up the sleeping giant within you and start dreaming about the things that you want, and you can make them come true because you have got—your Creator,” he said, “has endowed you with potential beyond your wildest imagination to accomplish anything that you can imagine.”
Well, you know what? He was right. Our Creator has endowed us with that potential. But did our Creator want us to go off, and start dreaming up stuff on our own? No, He wanted us to use that potential for His glory and that’s why He said in the Scriptures, “You spend that effort and energy thinking about Me and I will give you the desires of your heart.”
To me that means two things. It means (1) “I’ll place in your heart those things I want you to desire,” and then (2) “I will perform on those desires and you will wind up with those things.” He says, “You just pay attention to Me.”
Jesus said it a little differently in the New Testament. He said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom, and all these things will be provided as well.” It all means the same thing. The new age co-opted this stuff. They put it into the—what was called in the beginning, the personal development industry—and now it’s gone off. In the latest renditions of these things, there’s all kinds of Eastern mysticism wrapped up in that and it’s become a religion all unto itself. But the idea is, the first thing that God told us was, “You focus on Me and I’ll take care of all these things. You focus on Me.”
And so, in Philippians 4:8 when you’re practicing the power of positive thinking, what are you thinking about? You’re thinking of the beautiful and wonderful things that God has provided.
And in 2 Corinthians 4:18 when you’re forgetting about what you see in front of you and focused more on what you can’t see, what are you thinking about? You’re thinking about the life that God has prepared for you that no eye has seen, no ear has heard nor has any mind conceived the things that God has laid up in store for those who love Him.
You find that in 1 Corinthians, right around the beginning somewhere…chapter one, two maybe. [laughs] Verse 8, I think is the verse, but “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived what the Lord has laid up in store for those who love Him.”
So, what has the Church done with all this? They have—I use this phrase a lot, people don’t know this phrase very well. Back east it’s a big one and that’s where I was raised. Have you ever heard this? They throw the baby out with the bath water. Have you ever heard that one? Isn’t that fun to think about?
So what did they do? The Church is scared to death of some of these passages which can bring untold joy and happiness and peace into the hearts of believers. The Church is scared to death of them because they’ve been labelled new age.
It’s a great work of the devil to take this away from us because that way he can keep us miserable. He can make malcontents out of us and he can cause us to be sourpusses. And like a friend of mine once said, “It looks like you’ve been weaned on a pickle.” The way some of them walk around, he says, “You walk into a place and they brighten up a room by leaving it.” He says, “It makes you want to believe in retroactive birth control the way some of these people are.” He says, “All it is, is they’re just miserable and all their joy has been taken out of their lives because they think there is something satanic, something evil, about using this incredible potential that the Lord has given us. Directing it toward Him, yielding and submitting ourselves to Him in the process then letting Him perform His wondrous works in our lives.”
And my friend Paul here, who was the first of these personal development people, by the way, he’s the one who taught them visualization, he’s the one that taught them positive thinking, he’s the one that taught them to speak affirmations to themselves. And he said, “This way you can achieve and maintain your joy, even through suffering.”
So, I don’t know what to do with all that information, but I’ve come to the conclusion that, like most things, Satan has simply counterfeited the Scriptures. And then they edit out the Creator, and then they use it to forward the goals of the religion called secular humanism, the one invented by man. It’s a shame because it has stolen the joy from untold millions of people.
What book are we in here? Colossians? Okay now let’s see what verse 3 has to say.
For you died,
Here’s the reason why you set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, set your minds on things above and not on earthly things:
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Several times throughout the Scriptures (Corinthians is a place, and Galatians is a place, and several others) Paul talks about the fact when we came to Christ, the old person died, and the new person was born. The idea of baptism is designed to symbolize that. You know, you don’t get saved being baptized, baptism is a public declaration of something you’ve already decided in your heart. It basically symbolizes when you go into the water, you’re dying; when you come back out of the water, you’ve been born again. It’s a symbol of when Christ went into the tomb and came out of the tomb. It’s the same idea. And it’s supposed to symbolize the new life. And so, since your old life is gone, don’t let these things that were part of your old life still control you. Do this: set your heart on things above, set your mind on things above because your old life is dead and gone, it’s behind you. “You are now,” he said in 2 Corinthians, “a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come.
and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
This phrase “is hidden”, I’m one of those who believes it is literally hidden. I’m one who believes that there’s a very limited access that our enemy has to us when we are in fellowship with God. Only that which the Lord permits for our ultimate good. But the trick is, you’ve got to stay in fellowships with Him to take advantage of this invisibility, let’s call it, you’ve got to be careful about that. Staying in fellowship means you stay prayed up, you keep yourself confessed up, and you’ve got your hedges up, they say in some circles, and the only thing, by the way, that can take you out of fellowship with God is unconfessed sin.
We’ve done studies before on the difference between the union with God you have through salvation which is bought for you at the cross, all you have to do is accept that and receive it. But then there’s fellowship with God which the Bible talks an awful lot about, which is staying in touch with Him.
You know, you’ve got a Father and you’re going to be His child, and you can never stop being His child, He can never stop being your Father. Once you’ve accepted that, you’re adopted into His family. You’re it, He’s your Father, you’re His child. That happens once and for all, that’s forever.
But, to maintain the relationship, the communication, and to benefit from all the blessings that come, you’ve got to stay in touch. You’ve got to stay in fellowship with Him. Being in fellowship with God means you are pure and holy.
Now, that doesn’t mean you never sin, it means you pray and confess every time you sin. 1 John 1:9 says if you are faithful to do that, He is just and faithful to forgive and every time you confess, He will purify you from all unrighteousness—1 John 1:9. When that happens, then you are back in fellowship.
Now when you are in fellowship with God, you are hidden; to a great extent you are invisible to your enemy. But when you go out of fellowship, you have a problem with another believer, and you get anger between you and it’s unconfessed and you can’t get rid of it and you can’t give it up, that puts you out of fellowship and you suffer for that. And so you think you’re punishing him, but you’re winding up doing all the suffering. Because, when you are out of fellowship, the enemy has access to you.
I believe in my studies of the book of Job, that this is why God had to permit Satan access to Job. Even though Job was described as the most righteous man on Earth, his very attitude about himself because of his righteousness became an unconfessed sin that put a gap in his defenses. When Satan asked for access to him, God had to grant it because that access was there. Job had a self-righteousness problem, it was a sin that he didn’t understand and therefore didn’t confess, and it gave Satan access. We’ve all got the same problem.
In fact, I just went through a study of the Book of Job in a college-level study. My daughter talked me into going to this class with her. And so, mostly to be with her, I went to the class. But it turned out to be a great class. It was Job, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, and Proverbs, those four books. And we went through those.
When we were in the Book of Job the instructor made the point that the more “righteous” you are, in other words, the closer you are to becoming this perfect model, the more vulnerable you are to attack because you start thinking that you can’t be reached. And that’s the very problem that gets you. [laughs] Satan doesn’t have time for all the people who spend their whole lives out of fellowship. You know, he doesn’t have to worry about them because their witness is shot; they’re not doing any good anyway, he doesn’t have to worry about them. They’re kind of sidelined.
It’s the ones that are right in the middle of the battle and the ones that are trying to make something happen and trying to advance the work of the kingdom. Those are the ones that he’s after and those are the ones that have the most vulnerability. That’s why you should pray every day for your pastor, he’s got a lot of vulnerability. And the better he is, the more you like him and the more he blesses you and the more he does for your organization, the more you’d better be praying for him because he needs more protection than the average person.
So, you’re in fellowship, your life is hidden. Sin takes you out of fellowship. And believe me, when that happens, you are an enemy soldier behind the lines, and you’ve got a target painted on your back that glows in the dark and you’re going to get zapped and you’re going to get zapped bigger and faster and harder than anybody else. Stay hidden.
And here’s how you do it, verse 5—we’re into the section, by the way, which is more practical stuff. The first two chapters of Colossians have been the theological stuff, the kind of stuff that has explained the Gospel. Remember, we call it the K.I.S.S. Gospel. Now we’re into the practical stuff.
Verse 5—how do you stay hidden?
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
Now, some earlier versions after that word “coming” where it says, “the wrath of God is coming”—some early manuscripts say “on those who are disobedient.” I don’t know if yours says that or not. It was not included in the mainstream acceptance of these passages. Obviously, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient, that stands to reason but for some reason they didn’t leave that in the mainstream translations.
He says in verse 7:
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
All right, so he goes on with this idea here that you are a new person now. These old behaviors are no longer consistent with you. And again, you’re not doing this to add to what has already been done for you, you’re doing this to become what you already are. This is the way the Lord sees you—remember 2 Corinthians 5:21:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
He sees you. Once you become a believer, He sees you as being as righteous as He is. So, it’s not you trying to become something different, it’s you trying to become what you are. Trying to become what you are.
How many of you are familiar with the thing called the Pygmalion effect? The movie My Fair Lady (the show first) was based on the Pygmalion effect. It became a popular management technique because it says by and large people will rise to the level of expectation held by their superiors. Works on kids, works on adults, works on everybody. We will rise to the level of expectation. When you’ve got a boss, who expects a certain level of behavior out of you, you will sooner, or later rise to that level.
Unfortunately, most bosses have a fairly low expectation of their employees and guess what happens? It works that way too. So, the thing that the advocates of this Pygmalion effect try to teach management people is that your expectation has a greater impact on the productivity of your unit than their ability. So, you elevate your expectation, and they will respond by elevating their productivity. Makes everybody look good.
Well, this is the ultimate of it, here. The Lord sees you as if you are perfect and have never, ever, ever, ever sinned. He sees you this way. What Paul is saying is “Elevate your own expectations a little closer to become a little closer in tune with His. Get rid of that stuff, it’s not worthy of you. You’re better than this.”
Now, of course, John reminds us that we can’t always live up to an expectation that high, so when we fall short, it’s called sin; we ask for forgiveness and when we ask, it is granted. Not only is the sin forgiven, it is forgotten because the Lord is the ultimate expert at separating the person from the performance. That’s how we’re taught as parents, aren’t we? Don’t attack your child personally when he acts up or does something wrong, attack the performance and then separate him from it. (“That was not a good thing to do, son, that is not like you. You don’t do stuff like that.) Now, you’re condemning the performance, not the person. The big mistake we make in discipline is condemn the person, which destroys a little self-esteem. So what you do is you elevate the self-esteem by condemning the performance. (“It’s not like you to do things like that. You’re better than that.”) When the kid starts to believe that, the performance will change, it will line up with your expectation.
And so Paul is saying here that this is God’s view of you, this is what He expects because He thinks that you can do this; He sees you this way, and so let’s meet Him part way, at least. Then he says—and this is the reason; you want to know why so many Christians live defeated lives, it’s because of verse 10. He says:
and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
I used to know how many believers there were in the state. I assume there is more by now because my latest figures are about ten years old, but I remember there were about 15,000 ten or so years ago. That’s all; about 15,000 who meet the test of evangelical believers, you know, born again. And so, let’s say—let’s just take that, a hypothetical number—15,000. What percentage of that 15,000 do you think attends a regular Bible study? Not very high. And that’s why we have so many believers living defeated lives, because what does it say here? It says, How are you becoming this new creation? How are you being renewed?
It says, you’re being renewed in knowledge. Well, if you’re not gaining any knowledge, are you gaining any renewal? No; you made some trip down the aisle one Sunday morning and you gave your heart to the Lord and you locked in your eternal destiny, that’s fine. But then what did you do? Did anything happen after that? See, your job now is to get to know the Person to whom you are betrothed so you don’t wind up meeting a stranger one day.
And as you get to know the person to whom you’re betrothed, you begin to emulate the person, to become more like that person. And that is the whole process.
This is why I believe that churches that teach from the pulpit, verse by verse Scripture, do a better job of bringing their believers into a more mature state of awareness than those who do other things in the pulpit like, you know, topical stuff or current events stuff or stuff like that. This is why the so-called seeker-sensitive congregations tend not to bring people along very well, they sort of keep everything on the surface level.
But that’s not what the Bible says. It says that the way we are renewed, the way this old person dies and the new one is born, is because of the knowledge we acquire that conforms us, progressively conforms us, to the image of our Creator.
And isn’t that in fact also said in Romans 8 somewhere? So many good things are said there.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,
That’s what’s happening, that’s the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, step by step conforming us. This is the process called sanctification. It’s the thing that’s supposed to happen after the event called salvation, and we’re supposed to be conformed more and more to the likeness of His Son and, in Colossians, to the image of our Creator. So, we’ve got both the image and the likeness that is supposed to be coming out of us. Now, you know when that happens, people begin to see it.
Did I tell you? I’ve got a friend in Kuwait. She and her family have lived there for several years now. In fact, I got an email to her because there’s been a lot of activity over there, terrorist activity in Kuwait recently. It’s actually not that big a country and some of the attacks are against the military bases. Her husband is a civilian contractor for the military so I assume he lives in the compound there. But she was remarking about the fact that while in Kuwait it is illegal to proselytize, you can’t stand out on a street corner preaching the Gospel. However, you are permitted to answer any questions anyone has of you. So if somebody comes and starts talking to you, “Who’s this Jesus guy?” you can answer. That’s not called proselytizing, that’s just called responding. You initiate the conversation, it’s against the law; you respond, it’s okay.
So, she was saying how remarkable it was to her that people sought her out and so much more than they did others. So she wrote to her pastor about it and her pastor said, “It’s because they could see Jesus in you.” Because she’s conformed to the image and likeness—she looks like Jesus to them. And so, he said, “You should expect that.”
The more you are conformed to the image and likeness of Christ, the more you will look different and the more people will be able to see something in you and the more you will be approached, especially if you’re living in an area that’s spiritually very dark. And so, we were talking about this and (this happened a number of years ago) so she said, “It’s still going on and I’m still amazed by it.”
So I gave her this verse and I gave her a couple of others that demonstrate this, that you become light in a dark place. This is what the Lord was talking about when He said, “You’re the light of the world.” It’s the light, used in the context of not just the light that comes out of the bulbs up here but a light that shines forth with knowledge. We enlighten others, right? By our faith, our own faith shows through. So today we call this being transparent. They can’t see us; they can only see Jesus in us, right?
But this is another one of Paul’s little attacks on this so-called secret knowledge thing. He says, “You want to gain knowledge? This is how you do it. You put off the old self, and you consciously stop acting the way the old self acted and start consciously acting the way the new self would act.”
By the way, this is another new age principle. “Act as if….” They use it for all kinds of things. If you don’t feel good and you decide you don’t want to not feel good, act as if you don’t not feel good. [laughs] Act as if you’ll feel better and sure enough, you will begin to feel better. You tend to adopt in your physical nature those attributes that you hold mentally. And so it’s called the Act As If principle and if you want to find it, it’s in Ephesians. Lots of good stuff in Ephesians. It’s in Ephesians 4:22.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self,
Now, that’s the Act As If principle, isn’t it? I mean, it says, don’t act like you were any more. Recognize who you are now, change your attitude about yourself, and then start acting like who you are now, instead of how you used to be.
He said that this is how you do this, you put on this new self which was created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
And yet, sometimes it’s called self-manipulation these days because you’re supposed to be real, you know. But guess what? This is real! Because this is the way your Creator has created you to be and this is the way He sees you as being. In this new image of His, and again I could tie this back to Ephesians where we talked about the fact that what God was doing was creating a new race of humans. Well, here’s another verification of this. He says in verse 11:
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Again, he says it here, he says it in Ephesians, he says it in Galatians. When you’re in Christ, you’re neither Jew nor Gentile, doesn’t matter circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian (that’s what the Greeks called anybody who couldn’t speak Greek, barbarians. I tell you, the Far Easterners, the Chinese and Japanese, call us Westerners barbarians. I think Cajuns, is that the word they use for it? But it means barbarian; we’re called barbarians. And the worst barbarians of all were the Scythians. They were the forebears of the Russians, today’s Russians. They were thought to be the worst, hardly human) slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
All right now we’ll go down to verse 12, and he says:
Now you remember “therefore”, what’s that there for? Well it’s there for all the stuff we’ve just talked about.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Now, how did He do that? How has the Lord forgiven you? Let’s talk about the degree to which He has forgiven you first.
Did He forgive you mostly? No—completely, right? He, in fact, did He not forgive you so completely that He can’t even remember that you sinned? As far as east is from the west; your sins are removed as far as the east is from the west.
And then, does He forgive you once, or is it repetitively? How much does it cover, you know, once for all time. So He did once.
What did He say how are we to forgive? Seven times? No, seventy times seven, which is of course, 490 times. Now, have you got anybody who is up 485 or 486 yet? You know, I don’t think we’re supposed to count those. I think it was a big number and it was meant to say, as often as it takes. The person who commits the same sin against you 485 times tell him, “Get a life, will you Move on, can’t you think of anything new?”
So, He forgave you completely. He forgave you once, but it covered all time. He forgave you for this, but it also covered that one. He forgave you for everything, and you know what? It was all in advance. Before you had sinned even once, He forgave you. We’re supposed to forgive each other this way.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Now, we’re going to see the word, “let” here a couple of times. You know that implies you have a choice. When someone says, “Let this happen” he is implying you have a choice to do this, you can do this. So, if you want to let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, that’s your choice, you can do that, you can let that happen, you can be thankful.
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.
Now, again in Philippians, he comes up with a little different way of saying the same things.
Rejoice in the Lord always.
That word there literally means never ceasing; don’t ever stop doing that.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Rejoice always. Do you want an extreme example of this? A guy standing on the top of the tallest building in the city admiring the view somehow lost his balance, and over the edge he went. On the way down as he passed each floor they could hear him say, “I’m okay so far.” [laughs] Now, is that maintaining a good attitude or not? This peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
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. 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.
Okay, now we’ll get into some more practical advice here.
Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Of course, this is the third time this one gets mentioned. 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5:22 all talking about wives submitting to their husbands. You notice, their wives are never required to love their husbands. They’re not required to do that, but you are required to submit and it’s an issue of choice. It is your choice to do this. I’ll suggest to you that a Christian woman can be in submission to a Christian man because he is in submission to the Lord. She has nothing to fear there.
By the way, I’ve got to throw this in here. This is one of the best definitions of a wife I’ve ever heard. “A wife is a young man’s mistress, a middle-aged man’s companion and an old man’s nurse.” Isn’t that a good one?
Now, the husbands have a little different story here.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
The word love there is always agapeo which means to be totally given over to. You’re totally submitted in your heart to the other one’s best interests, willing to subordinate your needs to hers. It’s the hard thing to do.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
We could go off on the one in Ephesians where it gets into this in more detail, but since we’ve just done that recently, we will resist the temptation tonight.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.
By the way, you and I don’t have slaves these days, but we are, for the most part, employees which is a comparable term. Because it—yeah, it feels the same, doesn’t it? And about as much is asked of us as employees as was asked of them as slaves.
We have a distorted view of slaves because of our country’s history here a couple of hundred years ago—or a hundred years ago, rather, and so we have a kind of distorted view of that. But in their economy, slaves were basically a class of employee and they were treated as such. When you were a slave to a Hebrew family, you know, they couldn’t work you on the Sabbath. Everybody in the household had to have a Sabbath free. You could earn your freedom, you could purchase your freedom, but a fair number of people voluntarily lived lives of slavery, servitude is the word for it. These people were called bond slaves and they had voluntarily enslaved themselves to a householder family for life.
And there’s lots to be said in the Scriptures about slaves that makes it a lot different. All the slaves in the Jewish economy were set free every seven years and when they were set free, they were given a stake—some property sometimes, some animals, some money sometimes; a way to get started again. You were enslaved primarily in those days either by another country’s army coming in and capturing you (and in that case, all bets are off) or you were enslaved because that was the remedy for debt in those days. You couldn’t pay your debt, somebody loaned you some money, you couldn’t pay it, so you became that person’s servant and you worked off your debt. Every seven years, the contracts were all null and void, and so slaves were set free every seven years.
And so it was a little different. So what he’s saying is, you should obey your Earthly master. In Romans, Paul says, “These masters, they have—”oh, he says it here, too. So, we’ll just wait until we get there and I’ll read it then.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Do you see Paul’s idea here? The Lord’s paying you, so He’s really the guy you are working for because He’s giving you this inheritance; the compensation you’re getting is coming from Him. And so, you’re working for Him, really. You might have this Earthly master, but do the work as if you are doing it for the Lord.
Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
This, of course, is the hint to the master, and I’m going to read the first verse of chapter 4 because somebody put the chapter break in the wrong place (we’re looking for the guy but haven’t found him yet) the chapter should actually end one verse later.
Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
That ties off the thought. You see, you know you have a master in Heaven, and so you treat the person that you’re over the way you would like Him to treat you. It’s an offshoot, if you will, an application of the Golden Rule.
Okay, so there we have chapter 3. Now there are a couple of things that we haven’t really covered here. We might, because we have a little extra time, we might come back and pick some of those things up a little bit and so we can take some time and do that. But I wanted to make sure we got through the passage first.
Chapter 3 is called, Rules For Holy Living. If you want an overview of the chapter, Rules for Holy Living. And then it is sub-headed (down at about verse 18) Rules for Christian Households. This is the way the Lord wants us to live. These are not commandments. In the Old Testament people had commandments and these commandments were things you had to do in order to maintain your relationship with God. The failure to do these things is what really defined sin. And so, whenever you broke a commandment you had to go take a lamb, go to the temple and tell the priest you broke the commandment, and then offer the sacrifice and as the lamb died, the innocent blood was shed for your sin; your sin was set aside and you were admonished not to do it again.
The idea there was that we had this remedy that basically set aside the sin until it could be dealt with at the cross. Then it was dealt with at the cross and so after that, these things that Paul is talking about here in Colossians, these don’t have the same bearing, if you will, as a commandment does.
You can be saved and not do any of this stuff because salvation isn’t dependent upon how you live, salvation is dependent upon your faith, your faith in one thing and that is, did He die on the cross for you? If you say, “Yes, I believe He died on the cross for me. I believe if I were the only sinner in the universe, He still would have gone to the cross for me.”
Okay, so that’s what gets you your salvation. And so, you can’t lose that. Because you see, there was no behavioral standard for achieving it. Grace is by definition detached from merit, right? By definition. If there is merit involved, it can’t be grace. A definition for grace is unmerited favor. So, you are saved by grace. It’s through your faith, but it’s the grace of God combining with your faith which saves you. And then, to make sure it happens, God gives you the faith to do it. So, having done nothing to earn it, there is nothing you can do to lose it.
And so, in the Old Testament, the idea was you behave a certain way or else you’ll lose everything, including eternal life. The motivation there was the fear of loss, right? In the Old Testament, people obeyed the Law for fear of losing their position with God. At the cross that changed, and instead of the fear of loss, now we have the desire for reward. It’s the opposite motivation. It’s a positive motivation, whereas the Old Testament it was a negative motivation. And the positive motivation is, instead of” behave or else you’ll lose everything”, in the New Testament the motivation is, “behave because you’ve been given everything”. See the difference? You’ve got it all—you don’t have to earn any points with God because He’s given you all the points. You’ve already won, the game’s over. Final score’s in—you won and it’s in the books. It can’t be changed.
Now, if you are grateful for that, if you feel a sense of gratitude for that, here are some things you can do to demonstrate it. You can do these things. You can act like you’re grateful by acting in the manner that He expects. Now you don’t do this out of fear of losing things, you do this out of the love for having been given everything. You see how opposite the motivation is?
In fact, there are really three components—there’s the Old Testament, the New Testament, and then the Millennium where it changes again and it’s not like the Old Testament and it’s not like the New.
In the Millennium, you behave because you can see everything, okay? We’re doing it by faith, right? But in the Millennium, He’ll be there in person and they’ll be able to see it. And there won’t be any “fix your eyes on what is unseen” because they’ll be able to see.
But for the age of the Church, the motivational quotient made a huge shift from the fear of loss to the desire for reward. Then it went beyond that to the gratitude for the reward. Because it wasn’t that God said, “Behave and I’ll give you everything.” No, He said, “Behave because I already did give you everything, now it’s your opportunity to demonstrate your gratitude by doing these few things.”
Act like the person you are. Perfect. As righteous as God Himself. And I love the way he says it:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
You can show your gratitude by:
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Especially toward one another, especially toward other believers.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Having been a student of these concepts of motivation in my business career, it really hit me. You know, before I was a believer and somebody read to me the parable of the workers in the vineyard—remember that one? Where the Lord went out early in the morning and (or, not the Lord, but the guy who owned the vineyard) and he hired some people and he said, “I need some workers for the day, come and work in my vineyard.” So, they agreed. Now by agreeing, they were going to work from 6 AM to 6 PM.
Okay, well the job wasn’t getting done so about noon he went out and got some more. And then he got some others in the mid afternoon and then one hour before quitting time, at five o’clock he went out and got a few others and brought them in.
Okay, so quitting time comes. It’s the end of the day, it’s time to pay them because in those days they understood motivational compensation. You got paid in cash at the end of the day, every day because that way you knew what you did to get the money, so you could understand it. And nobody took 39% of it before you got it. You got the whole thing in your hand at the end of the day, in cash. That’s the way to pay people. [laughs]
At the end of the day he goes to pay them, and he brings in the guys, the last guys first, the ones who just worked an hour, and he gives them the whole day’s pay. The guys who had been there for twelve hours said, “Wow, this guy’s generous! He gives these guys who worked one hour, he gives them a whole days’ pay. Think what he’s gonna give us?”
But sure enough, everybody got a whole days’ pay, and the guys who had been working there all day were mad.
And so was I. I was not a believer at the time, and I said, “That violates all the rules of personal productivity and of motivational compensation. Violates the whole thing.”
And of course, it was supposed to. Because He wasn’t teaching a lesson on motivational compensation, He was teaching that everyone who believes, regardless of where it happens in his life, receives all the benefit of belief. Even if it’s on his deathbed, he receives all the benefit of belief because the owner of the vineyard was representing the Lord. The day represents our lifetimes. And the different groups of workers represent people that come to the Lord at different stages in their lives.
The point was everybody gets all the reward. The Lord told it to these guys—and I can always see some of these lifelong Christians grumbling, you know. Especially when some guy who’s just gone to prison for killing a whole bunch of people and he has this conversion in prison and these lifelong believers say, “That ain’t fair, look at all he did. And now he’s going to get in with all of us?”
That’s right. Because our behavior is irrelevant. It’s our heart that the Lord is concerned about. It’s our faith that He wants to reward, not our works.
And so, the Lord said, “What are you guys grumbling about? You got everything you thought you were going to get. You worked for a day and you got a day’s pay. What’s the problem with that? If I want to be generous to these other guys, how am I hurting you?”
But you see, the whole concept here is this idea that this is given without merit. None of us have earned this. None of us can purchase this. None of us can expect to receive this because of what we’ve done.
This is a free gift we’ve been given and all He’s asking now is, “Act like you appreciate it, act like it means something. Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean it was cheap. I gave My Son’s life for this. I paid the price so that you could have it for free. Now, act like you appreciate it.”
And that’s what we’re all about in Colossians 3 and that will bring us to the end of the study. So next time we’ll pick up the closing chapter, number four, and we’ll try to wrap this all up.