Some people at Corinth told the Christians there that there was no such thing as life after death. These people insisted that it was impossible for a dead person to be resurrected. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian congregation he argued the opposite. In part of his argument Paul wrote,
“…If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’” (1 Corinthians 15:32b NIV).In other words, Paul was saying, if there really is no life after this one, than Christianity has little to offer. Instead, we aught to build our life around having a good time while we still can. You could argue, logically, that if there is no life to come, personal pleasure should be the highest guiding principle in our lives.
In that same letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul wrote,
“19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.▬
20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man” (1 Corinthians 15:19-21 NIV).
In the part of Colossians that we’re going to examine today, Paul talks about what Christ’s resurrection means for Christian now. It means that God the Father has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice in our place. It means that our sins truly are forgiven, released, erased. But that’s only part of the pie. That’s just the beginning.
We read from Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV). Paul write to his fellow Christians in Colosse…
1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.▬
Paul is talking to believers. Followers of Christ who were living in the city of Colosse. He explains that through faith they have been connected to Christ. Their lives are now entwined with Christ’s life.
Earlier in his letter, Paul told them you have been…
“...buried with [Christ] in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.If my life is now linked with the life of God the Son, that alters the whole course of my life. Who I am. It changes how I look at the world around me. It impacts how I make my decisions. How I live my life.
13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins…” (Colossians 2:12-13a NIV).
It’s no longer the logical, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow I die”. For tomorrow I don’t die. Not if my life is wrapped up in the Son of God. If my soul rests securely in Christ at the very throne of my Creator, then that’s where my thoughts should also rest. That’s where my emotions should be born. That’s the place where I should make my plans and my decisions. All my steps in life should be taken with this in view. If I have been raised through faith, with Christ, to Spiritual life.
If my life is joined to God’s life through His Son, then I’ve also got to ask the question: Now what? How do I live my life from this point forward? How does God want me to live? My life is no longer mine alone (I guess it never really was), and one day Christ will appear, and because I’m wrapped up in Him, I’ll appear in glory WITH Him! So how should I live today?
Paul answers this question. In verse 5 he continues…
Colossians 3:5-11 (NIV)▬
5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
The English of verse five says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature”. In the Greek Paul is a little more picturesque. It’s more like, “Lop off the earthly limbs” the “arms of sin” that pull you into trouble. Limbs like sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. Paul says, chop ‘em off. They are no longer part of you, they’re just trying to hang on like ugly warts or infected tumors. They have no place in your life anymore! After all, it’s because of deeds like these that God will one day judge the world!
In saying this, Paul acknowledges that things like these are part of our lives. Like cancerous growths they’re there, wanting to grow larger. Wanting to take control of us. But Christians, they’re part of the OLD us.
In verse 9 Paul says,
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self…” (Colossians 3:9-10a NIV).Paul describes the inner sinful part of us as being the “Old Self” or the “Old Man”. And the word that he uses for “old” means just what it means in the English, “old”. Not mature and strong, but aged and weak. Frail and dying. There is no future in these limbs of self-gratification. Like limbs frozen or burned beyond rescue we must simply amputate them from our lives.
The world around us thinks differently. And the world shares it’s view through movies and television, radio, books, through the internet and every other means of communication. The world says these limbs are good limbs. Free sexuality is the doorway to the deepest realms of physical enjoyment. Living your own way, whether anyone else thinks it’s impure or not shows everyone else that you are strong and won’t be told what to do and not do.
God says, I want you to be MY PERSON. I bought you with my Son’s blood. Your past is forgiven and forgotten. Let the old ways be gone. Put on the new.
The apostle John was once given a vision representing heaven. He wrote describes this vision in the twenty-first chapter of Revelation. There it says…
“1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”God is going to re-make the universe. It will be like it once was, before sin brought death and disease and pain and suffering and cancer and divorce and hatred and murder - into God’s creation. It will be pure and holy. Perfect and sinless.
5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”… (Revelation 21:1-5a NIV).
And this renewing isn’t going to start after the last judgment. God has started it already. He is preparing sinners for eternity NOW. First He gives us complete forgiveness, the forgiveness earned by His Son through horrible agony, through the suffering of hell in our place. Then with forgiveness made ours through faith, God begins the remodeling. He begins the remaking, renewing and reconfiguring inside our hearts. His “making everything new” begins inside. God is making us back into a people who look like HIM.
Colossians 3, verse 9 says…
“9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:9-11 NIV).Just as sinful self-gratification is not God’s image, neither is self-promotion by judging others. All the groups that humans divide each other into mean nothing in Christ. There is no class structure for the redeemed. Paul mentions some of the groups that the Colossians might have divided people into: Greek and Jews. Circumcised or uncircumcised. Barbarians (basically foreigners), Scythians (really uncivilized foreigners), slaves and free people.
Today we have different ways of dividing people up to judge them in our minds, but it all amounts to the same thing. Before God we’re sinners. In Christ, we’re declared saints. Through Paul God says, erase the lines you’ve drawn around fellow Christians. Through faith in Christ all stand on the same, high ground - of forgiveness.
So, here’s what I’d have you take away from this message today: 1) Through Christ, your sins have been paid for. You stand forgiven. 2) Through faith you have been raised from spiritual death to life, being joined to the sinless Son of God for eternity.
3) If this is true, that you have been raised with Christ, then focus on Him. In Him your life is found.
If this is true, that you have been raised with Christ, 4) then lop off those old limbs of sinful living as the Holy Spirit directs.
Wake up every morning at peace, knowing your future is secure in Christ. With a thankful heart ask Him, “Lord, make me look more like you today.”
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.