There are often themes I notice in the emails I get. Right now, my inbox is full of people who are looking back at 2020 and seeing their behavior in a new light. Regarding mostly posts on social media, where once they felt justified and self-righteous, they now feel embarrassed and ashamed. Some mentioned being afraid their kids would one day be able to see their posts and comments.
Quick links to the other parts this week:
Many have said they got caught up in the frenzy and division and allowed that to excuse words full of anger, slander, and accusation. They couldn’t see how believers could have different opinions or politics than they have, and it was easier to dehumazine than disagree. One read a Q&A of Jack’s where he points out the name of our enemy is the Accuser. And they felt convicted that their words have mimicked the father of lies far more than the Lover of our souls.
The new year has us reflecting, not only on what has happened, but on our responses to it. 2020 was hard. It was a year where everything that could be shaken was shaken. It revealed how fragile some things are, including ourselves. So what do we do when we disappoint ourselves? How do we move forward, acting more like the Jesus we follow?
First, I’m so proud of each of you. It takes maturity and a sensitivity to the Spirit to look at behavior we justified before and see it the way Jesus does. Some have asked for a reset and detox from what 2020 brought out in them. So let’s do it together!
I want to create a space of abundant grace for you here as you read this. If on looking back, you are like the many who were shocked with themselves in what was revealed in their hearts, let’s move forward together! Jesus is standing with arms open wide. Even if you can’t relate to this specifically, there is likely an area in your life where you sense the Holy Spirit calling you to be more like Jesus. We can all ask the Lord for any correction He’d like to make in us. Pray with me, Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
The Lord has had me in Colossians for awhile now. I can’t get enough of it! And I’m currently memorizing Col. 3:1-17. So as I have been responding to these emails, the words of chapter 3 have been on my mind. It is a great message for us, as we leave behind us the year with all its division and slander and accusation and enter this new year with Jesus and each other in love, as the family we truly are in Him.
We could likely use any of Paul’s letters to help us here. He encouraged people in a similar way. Oh, let us live up to what we have already attained (Phil. 3:16) But today we’ll use Colossians 3:1-17. Let’s read it together:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
Who we are: chosen, holy, and dearly loved
What parts stood out to you as you read the passage above. When I’m looking to encourage myself or others, Paul’s words are always there. We have been raised with Christ! Our minds should be on things above, where we are with Christ. We have died with Christ, we have been raised with Him, and our life is now hidden with Him in God. Incredible! Because of this, we must set our minds on things above, where we actually are! And where Christ is, not on earthly things. We are called higher!
Paul reminds us first Whose we are and what that means: We belong to God, and we are seated in heavenly places with Him!
He will then remind us who we are: God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved. This we must remember. When we see ourselves correctly, then we can see others correctly as well. We are chosen, holy, and dearly loved, and so are the people we disagree with! We are called to peace as members of one body. When we disagree, instead of slander or malice or accusation, we must first see the other person as chosen, holy and dearly loved. We see each other as God sees them. And we must see ourselves this way too. You are chosen, holy, and dearly loved. The next time you mess up, repeat this to yourself. I am chosen, holy, and dearly loved. The next time you are angry with someone, remind yourself that they are chosen, holy, and dearly loved.
With our foundation of who we are, we now move into what behaviors we must take off and what we must put on. I love the imagery of this, because who we are does not change. No matter the behavior we are “putting on,” we remain chosen, holy, and dearly loved. We remain seated with Christ with our lives hidden with Him in God. What now is our response to this amazing gift?
Take off the old
Paul told us who we are and now talks about our behavior as if it is clothing we remove or put on. Our old nature and behaviors are those we must take off: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. We must not lie to each other, and we must forgive, since we’ve taken off our old self with its practices.
Now that we’ve taken those off, we can clothe ourselves with behavior befitting our new self, this self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator, knowing that as one body, there are no more divisions, for we’re a new creation. We’re defined by Jesus and Jesus only: for Christ is all and is in all. There’s no left and right, no conservative or progressive, nor any other division we can come up with. We are defined as Christians and that alone. Jesus is everything, and everything else is nothing.
We are defined by Jesus and Him alone. There are no other subgroups! None. Anything we try to add here will hinder our relationship with Jesus and others, and it will become an idol. We are not American Christians or Republican/Democrat Christians. We are not liberal or conservative Christians. We are Christians. Full stop. Any focus on other divisions is exactly what the enemy wants.
Does it feel threatening to read these words? Then rejoice, because you just discovered an idol you need to dethrone! Better to know and dethrone, than go along ignorance hindering your relationship with God. For He does not allow anything in your life to take His place. Our hearts cannot serve both. We have to choose. If it’s Jesus, it’s nothing else.
Put on the new
Our next step is to clothe ourselves with all the things that help us be like Jesus: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We must bear with each other and forgive as the Lord has forgiven us. And over all these virtues, we put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.
This is such good imagery for us as we walk into the good works the Lord has prepared for us this year. I can easily look at the words I’m using each day and see which clothing I’ve put on. Is it the clothing of my old self, with anger, rage, malice, or slander? Or is it compassion, kindness, and humility?
As we allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, we’ll become more sensitive to His promptings, and it will become increasingly easier to move our behavior in line with His standard. But each time we fall short, He is there, ready to forgive us and restore our relationship. His mercies are new every morning, and every moment—the instant you ask. And then remind yourself that you are chosen, holy, and dearly loved. And if anyone irritates you, remind yourself that they are chosen, holy, and dearly loved.
Let me pray for us:
Father, help us to see ourselves as you see us, chosen, holy, and dearly loved. And help us see each other the same way! Let your peace rule in our hearts. Forgive us where we’ve fallen short and got caught up in the division that rages around us. Destroy all idols in our hearts that we have placed before you. Let us see each other as members of one body, together in you. Let our words and actions be evident of the fruit of the Spirit at work in us, full of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience and especially love. In the mighty name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
See the other parts on the blog this week: