Sunday, 7 November 2021

Kill it Off, Put it On - Colossians 3:1 - 14

Last week Paul seemed to blow away all notion of living by law or rules, describing it as 'mere elemental'. Paul now writes 'Since then ...' - but the 'then' actually refers back to earlier in chapter 2. In fact all the way back to 2:6 'just as you received Christ as Lord, continue to live your lives in him ...' and 2:12 'your self buried with him, now raised with him through faith in God who raised Jesus'. For Paul this is all the same thread, all back to putting our lives in Christ - to us dying with Jesus (who himself died on the cross) and being raised with Jesus to a new life.

This is a whole life turnaround, a radical transformation - a completely different way to live. It is that total abandonment (dying with Jesus), and being raised with Him that enables us to be truly free - a freedom only found in Jesus. But we must remember that freedom in Christ does not mean 'anything goes'.

Paul calls us to set our hearts and minds on things above - on God's "Kingdom Ways", the ways associated with everything lining up with how God wants them to be. That is not just being super-spiritual with our head in the clouds, it is about what we do with our bodies/minds/thoughts here on earth.

To make his point Paul writes out some lists of negative real life stuff that matters in v5 & 8. First is sexual immorality and impurity: what we do with our bodies matters! God hasn't drawn arbitrary lines for morality - God made sex as good, but we need to remember it is never simply just a physical act with the biological aspects of special nerves being stimulated, leading to chemical responses in our brains etc. All that is included, but sex is also very much both emotional and spiritual too.

Paul writes on with lust, evil, desires and greed: what we do with our mind & thoughts, how we look at others, how we look at stuff/money. With greed Paul spells it out - if we put money/stuff as primary we have made it a god, which is idolatry. In the second list Paul notes anger and rage: these are un-God-like expression flowing out of us. Continuing he puts malice, slander, bad language and lying: which are about how we act towards others, and what we say. We should note that all of this last set have the effect of undermining truth.

Paul is very clear: in following Jesus we all need to put to death these things, and get rid of them. Do not entertain them, don't flirt with them, don't even go there. Jesus put it like this: if your right hand causes you to do bad, then cut it off!

Paul knows that while we are alive this side of eternity, these things will lurk in us - he calls it our 'fleshly nature', like it is always there, beneath the skin. So Paul knows that to 'kill it off' is a clear decision and an ongoing daily decision. It is like addictions, for example an honest alcoholic will acknowledge themselves as an alcoholic even if they have been sober for years - it is a life thing - but they can of course also say "but I don't want to live that way any more", putting that to death in Christ, and living a life now avoiding risky situations.

It is the same for all of us - whatever our own personal weak spot - it is beneath our skin. We have to declare 'I want this aspect of me to be dead', and we have to avoid things that trigger or go near that weak area. All finding new life in Jesus are in this together. In v11 Paul writes that in this Christ renewing deal there is no Gentile/Jew, circumcised/uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, save or free - in other words none of those categories count! Instead we are all putting on the new self - being renewed 'in the image of its Creator', i.e. being set back to how God originally intended.

So we 'kill it off' and we 'put on'. Putting On equals living the Jesus way, having your thoughts/attitudes/heart renewed to align with His. That goes with the 'filling with knowledge of His will' in the prayer for Colossians back in chapter 1. With putting on there are positive things we can do. Verse 12 says 'clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience; bear with each other, forgive each other; put on love'. Imagine someone released from prison: they change out of their prison clothes and put on different clothes appropriate for life outside in the free world. The garments Paul lists are clothes appropriate for 'freedom in Christ'. Note also they act as good antidotes to the issues Paul listed in v5 & 8!

With the putting on, however, we should not fall into the trap of thinking it is just about outer appearances. We all know someone can 'look good' on the outside, but still be bad on the inside (Jesus talked about this). It is never just about outward things we can do - things listed here are real and helpful, but they have to go with inner transformation. For that inner transformation something first needs to die. Jesus showed the way: to death and then raised to new life. This is why we are a 'people of the cross', regularly rehearsing again and again his death and new life.

This is the 'narrow way' Jesus talked about: dying to old self and being raised to new life in Him. This is the call on our lives.

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