Are there things about your body that you’d change if you could? I think that most people would answer, “yes” to this question. Even world class athletes want to have a quicker first step, or a larger vertical leap. The rest of us would settle for losing ten pounds, gaining a little muscle or smoothing out a few wrinkles.
Maybe it’s not your body that you’d change if you could. Maybe you’ve got some bad habits you’d like to erase. Things that you do, but don’t like to do. Ways that you tend to think, that you’d rather not.
In our reading for today, Paul talks about changes that take place through knowing Jesus.
The Son of God didn’t come to earth to take away a few of our sins. He came to erase the damning record of ALL sin. Ours. Our neighbor’s. He came to erase the sins we might consider “little” AND the sins we consider “unforgivable”.
When it comes to changing the way we live, the scope of Jesus’ work is just as grand. He doesn’t want to change us a little bit, He wants to REDEFINE us. He want to make a whole new you.
For the past six Sundays we’ve been studying Paul’s letter to the Colossian Christians. Today we pick up our study at Colossians 3, verse 12.
“12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14 NIV).In the first part of this chapter, Paul talked about eliminating the old sinful ways we used to live in. He talked about things like lust, and greed, and rage as if they were extra limbs that grew out of us. He said that since we have now become part of God’s family through what Jesus did in our place, these sinful mutations should now be amputated.
Halfway through the chapter, Paul turns from the subject of eliminating old sinful habits to the subject of putting on new godly ways. Instead of the grim image of lopping of appendages, he uses the imagery of putting on brand new clothing.
Look at the beginning of verse 12. Paul says, Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, etc. This is incredibly important. Paul isn’t telling the Colossians to adopt these new ways of living so that they will then become acceptable to God. He isn’t saying that IF they change their ways well enough God THEN will love them. The Colossians were already accepted by God through faith in God’s Son. Paul calls them HOLY and DEARLY LOVED by God!
God’s Son took all their sins, and all our sins, onto Himself when He suffered and died on the cross. By His excruciating physical and spiritual torment He served the sentence that our sins against God demanded.
The point is, the Colossians were already forgiven through Christ. All this talk of life changes comes AFTER that gift has been received.
In Galatians 3, verse 26 Paul told his fellow Christians…
“26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27 NIV).This makes all the difference in the world. Paul says that if we try to get forgiven through keeping the commandments we’re never gonna make it. In Galatians 5, verse 4 Paul says…
“4You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4 NIV).At the beginning of our reading for today, Paul says, Through faith in Christ, your sins stand forgiven. Now, here’s some new clothes for you to put on. This is how God dresses, since you’ve been made His people through Christ, start dressing like Him from this point forward.
So how do we do this? I mean it’s easy to say, “I’m going to make a change today. I’m going to start eating right.” It’s easy to say, “Today, I’m going to stop telling lies.” It’s easy to say, “Today, I’m going to start being patient with everyone I meet.” But without a plan, our grand intentions fail.
So, how do we put these “clothes” on? Paul gives us a clue in verse 13. There he says, ”Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). First we gotta look at our Savior. We gotta see how HE lived in our place. Then, knowing that we are already declared HOLY because of Him, we can move forward and learn to imitate His ways.
Our forgiveness depended on Jesus, and so does our change.
One way to learn how to put all of these virtues on is to discover what the Bible says about each of them. In fact, this is what we did on the camping trip this year. This section from Colossians is actually the part of the Bible that we focused on in our camp devotions. We dug into these virtues. We saw how Jesus modeled them. We dug into the words themselves and discovered what the Bible says about them. Then we talked about how we could incorporate them in our lives, why we WANT to incorporate them into our lives.
We don’t have time right now to go into all of them in that way, but I’d like to talk about the last one for a moment. Look at verse 14 again. Paul says…
“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14 NIV).Paul says, here put these virtues on like clothes. Imagine they’re like the parts of a suit. You’ve got the shiny shoes, the socks, the pants, the coat, the vest. If there’s one piece that pulls it all together it’s the tie. That’s “love”. It draws all the virtues together. Completes them.
Or think about it like this. We can be patient without loving people. We can act kindly without really caring. But that’s not what God wants. He wants a heart that backs up the action.
Turn to First Corinthians 13. There Paul says…
“1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.If all the virtues of Colossians three are the pieces of a quilt, then love is the backing that holds them together. If these virtues are the pieces of the human body, then love is the muscles and tendons that make them function properly.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7 NIV).
And how do we put love on? How do we know what it is and how to put it into our lives? First John 3, verse 16…
“16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16 NIV).We look to Christ. We see our sins forgiven. We learn to forgive.
We look to Christ. We see His astounding humility. We learn to be humble.
We look to Christ. We see His compassion. We learn to feel emotions of mercy and pity.
Our forgiveness depended on Jesus, and so does our change.
In this first half of our reading from Colossians Paul has spoke of a “new look” for us to put on. Now, in the second half of our reading for today, Paul talks about the new management that runs our hearts.
Turn to Colossians 3, verse 15. There Paul tells the Colossian Christians…
“15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And 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” (Colossians 3:15-17 NIV).The “new management” in the Christian heart is Christ Jesus. If you look at this section it says that the “peace of Christ” rules in our hearts, the “word of Christ” rules in our fellowship, and the desire to “live for Christ” dominates the things that we say and do.
Another thread that runs through this section is “thankfulness”. Paul mentions three areas of life: the “inner life” of the Christian, the “church life” of the Christian and the “everything else” of the Christian. And in each area he says, “Be thankful”.
Personally, I like the way Paul speaks in verse 15. He says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”. Another translation might be, “Let the peace of Christ umpire your hearts”. The umpire in a baseball game is the one who calls the plays. His decision is the final decision. He governs what happens on the field. The “governor” of our heart is to be the “peace of Christ”.
Jesus once told His disciples…
“27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27 NIV).The peace that Christ gives us is peace with our Creator. If we’re good with Him, what is there to fear? Nothing! That’s the fact that Paul says should determine the emotion of our heart in every situation: God’s on my side. I’m at peace with God through Christ’s cross. Heaven is my final destination. My sins are forgiven.
But Paul says that Christ is to rule more than our inner state of being. Paul says that Christ’s Word is to be the foundation of what we say and do as Christians together. Verse 16 again…
“16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16 NIV).Paul admits that we Christians need to learn, when He says to “teach”. Paul admits that we Christians sometimes need to be corrected when he says “admonish”. But this learning and correcting must be in line with Christ’s Word.
This is part of Redemption’s constitution. If you become a member of our fellowship you agree to be corrected by the Word of God. Not by human opinion, but by the Word of Christ.
Paul says the Christ is to rule us outside the door of this church too. In verse 17 Paul says,
“17And 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” (Colossians 3:15-17 NIV)If we know ourselves, this seems impossible. Doesn’t it? That all we do would point to Jesus? That all we say would make others think, “wow” what a different He’s made in this person’s life”. That’s what we want. But our old sinful nature clings to us. It turns our thoughts from Christ’s sacrifice. It gets us thinking of problems. Our failures. Our sins.
And that’s where we need to return to Paul’s first words in our reading for today. Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved. We are not God’s people because of our track record. We are God’s people because His Son’s perfection covers our every failure.
Prayer: Father in Heaven, we are sinners. We have fallen short of what you created us to be. Without your intervention we would have been lost forever. Thank you for sending Your Son to take our place. Through that great injustice, we have been redeemed and set free. Thank you Father. Thank you. Help us to learn how to live in your image. How to be like You in the things we say and do. Help us to really believe that our sins and failures are erased in Christ, because they are. Re-create us in your image Father, Amen.