Colossians 3.1-11: Think like Jesus, Live like Jesus

Colossians 3:1-11

Think differently. Think as a new person
Live differently. Live as a new person.

That is what Paul is saying here.

You are, as a Christian, a new person.

Last week we were looking at the idea that when we put our faith in Christ, and when we are baptised, we do not only come into a relationship with Jesus, but we are placed in Christ

It is like going to Sheremetova airport.  You put your trust in the plane – that it can fly – and you walk into the plane. You are now in the plane. When the plane is on the ground, you are on the ground. When the plane is in the air, you amazingly are in the air. Beneath you and the ground there is nothing – just 35000 feet!

And when we put our trust in Jesus we are in him. Where Jesus is, we are.

That means that when Christ died on the cross, we died with him.
That is why we are told in v3, ‘for you have died’. And last week we saw that when I was baptised, the old Malcolm, who wants to live for the things of this world and in the strength of the things of this world: the currency of this world, the stuff of this world, the glory and status of this world, the delights that this world offers – that Malcolm died.
And when Christ rose from the dead, I was raised with him. V1: ‘… you have been raised with Christ ..’

So when I was baptised, and when I put my faith in Christ, when I received Christ, the old Malcolm died and a new Malcolm, a Malcolm with Jesus, rose from the dead.

And Christ is now seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father (v1). That is picture language to say that he has both the authority of God his Father and intimacy with God his Father. And because I am in Christ, I am seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father. It may not be obvious now – when at times I live a gutter life – but that is my true position.

And when a person becomes a Christian, when they receive Christ, they become a new person. They have been united with Christ, bound together with Christ. They have been knitted together with Christ. Their identity and their destiny are intertwined with the identity and destiny of Christ. Paul writes, ‘When anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come’.

Think of the aeroplane again. You’re in the plane. Someone looks up and says, ‘there is flight number SU2654’. But someone else looks up and says, ‘there is Olga, there is Peter’!

And Paul continues here and says, ‘If you are in Christ, seated at the right hand of Father God, then live as if you are in Christ. The old you has died to the things of this world and the strength of this world, so live as if the old you has died. And you have come alive with Christ, so live as someone who is alive to the things of God’

Live as a new person, think as a new a person.

We are to think differently, as people who are in Christ
V1: Seek the things that are above
V2: Set your minds on things that are above

Look up: look at the divine, look at the eternal
I walk along looking only at the ground. I know that is sensible – you don’t want to trip up – but I miss so much. At times we also need to look up.
It is too easy to look for the 10 rouble coins that may have been left lying on the street and to lose the sky.

Desire the eternal things.
Jesus says, ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God’. Be people who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for purity, for peace. And long for God, for intimacy with God. Pursue the things that will last for ever: love, truth, wisdom and beauty

And look at things, and at suffering, in the light of the eternal
In Dostoevsky’s novel, the Brothers Karamazov, Ivan sees the suffering of children and refuses to trust a God who lets that happen. But in doing that he is saying that the suffering is everything. He is denying the possibility of future healing or future reconciliation. He denies the possibility that one day there will be an opportunity to look back and to say that that suffering was not pointless or the act of a sadistic God, but that there is some good which can come out of it.
I know it is difficult. I remember when I was a vicar in inner London meeting a man who told me that as a child he used to hide in the cupboard when his father came home drunk, praying to God that he wouldn’t find him, because if he did he would beat him. And he said, ‘My father always found me, and beat me. How can I put my trust in God after that?’
I could not answer him then, and I’m not sure I could really answer now. But perhaps I would now say is that even if at the time you think you are going through hell and have been abandoned by God, faith tells us that suffering and evil does not have the last word. It really is God who has the final word.
On Good Friday, Jesus Christ was crucified. It seemed that hate and prejudice and envy and cruelty had won. But it was not the last word. On Easter Sunday God brought Jesus Christ back from the dead.
And many people have told me of times when they went into the pit – but that they would not change that experience for anything, because it was there that they met with God. This week I was reading about a Romanian priest, Dumitru Staniloae, who spent 5 years in prison during the communist period because of his faith. He speaks little of that time in his writings, but does say that it was during those 5 years that he was able to pray the Jesus Prayer almost ceaselessly.

And look at people in the light of the love and eternity of God.
If you look at your neighbour and see someone who was created in the image of God who has the potential to have Christ in them and to be in Christ, you will relate to them in a very different way. They are not there simply for you, to be used by you. And they are not there as an obstacle to overcome, to be ignored or crushed. Each person has an amazing dignity

 And look at your fellow believer in Christ in the light of the love and eternity of God.
Paul speaks of the unity of those who have received Christ. We are different but we have been bound together in a unity that overcomes all of those things that would have separated us. V11: ‘In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free’.

And look at yourself in the light of the eternal.
You are in Christ: you are in him ‘seated at the right hand of God’.
You are flying – not 35000 feet above the earth, but in the heavenly places
Can you see yourself as that? Can you see yourself as someone in whom Christ is living?
Can you see yourself as someone who is in Christ?
If the atheists are to be believed, you are worthless, an accident who came from two other accidents in the freak accident that is our universe. You are meaningless.
But with Christ, in Christ, there is one who gives your life an eternal worth. You are no accident. You have value and purpose and meaning. You are not on your own.
You have a glorious destiny, a destiny that is tied in with the destiny of all God’s people and with Christ himself.

And we are to live differently, as people who are in Christ:
V5: Put to death therefore whatever in you is earthly
V9: You have stripped off the old self with its practices .. and have clothed yourselves with the new self

We are, with the help of the Spirit, to ‘put to death’, to take off, our old nature.
We are to put to death two of the big things that drive us, that motivate us

Firstly, wrong desire – the desire for the delights of this world, and in verse 5 Paul is particularly focussing on unlawful sexual desire: fornication, impurity, passion – which can so easily get a grip on us. It is not that sexual desire is wrong, but that it destroys us and it destroys other people when it is misplaced.
And it is not just about sex. There is also greed, the perverted desires for the things of this world – whether for money or possessions or food: Greed is when our desire for certain things starts to control us.
Those are the sort of things that used to drive us. And when we pursue those things we are on the road to self-destruction.
And those are the things that, in Christ, have been put to death in us.

And secondly, as new people in Christ, we are to get rid of wrong anger and wrath (v8). This is the anger which drives us on to prove ourselves, to get revenge or to show others that we cannot be ignored or belittled. It is anger which leads us to do or say stuff that we afterwards deeply regret. It is the anger which means we are out of control, which causes us to speak nasty of others and to use slanderous and abusive language. It is the anger which wants to hurt the other, which Jesus says is actually the same as murdering the other person.

And in place of slander and malice and abusive anger, we are to speak the truth, or at least we are not to speak what we know is not the truth: ‘Do not lie to one another’.
It is very easy to live a lie – to hide behind the fabrications that we have made up about ourselves and others. But as new people in Christ we can begin to strip away the lies and begin to be honest with each other: honest also about our own weakness and fears and sin.
As people who are growing to realise that we are in Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father, we do not need to hide anything

Think like Christ. Live like Christ

I know this is hard.
It is hard to remember that we have died, when our body is behaving like a headless chicken running in circles round the courtyard.
It is hard to remember that we have died when our desires for the things of this world burn with a passion within us
It is hard to remember that we have died when the fear or the anger take over and control us.

But please do not despair, especially when it gets really hard, and do not give up. Repent, come back to God who is always ready to forgive us, and ask him for grace and strength to try again.
It is a process, and it will take time, but we are being changed, ‘renewed in knowledge’ (v10), and we are being changed so that we take on the image of our creator, so that we become like Christ.

The story is told of the old beggar who walked the streets of Chicago. Nobody knew his story. He would sit on the pavement and beg and at times was seen scavenging for whatever food he could find from the bins. When it was cold, he would curl up in the latest coat or blanket or sleeping bag that somebody had given him. He occasionally went to night shelters, but not that often. He didn’t drink, and was quite well spoken.  
Wherever he went he carried two bags. He kept them close by his side. Sometimes he would be seen looking into those bags picking at what was inside, but he never let anybody see what was in them. When he slept, he put his head on them, and wrapped the handles through his arms.
One morning the police found him dead. He had died in his sleep. As they prised away the bags from his emaciated and already cold body, they looked into them. The first contained what you might expect: bits and pieces picked up off the street, the sort of worthless stuff that an eccentric might keep. But what was in the second came as quite a shock: there were 4673 $100 notes.

As Christians many of us are like that man. We have immense spiritual wealth, but we live as if we have nothing, as if we are spiritual beggars
We are in Christ. We are seated in him at the right hand of the Father. The old me has died. We have a new identity and a new Spirit – his identity and his Spirit. We have the resources of heaven.

Listen, says Paul. Recognise who you are and what you have and where you are placed in Christ – and live like it. Begin to think like Jesus. Begin to live like Jesus.


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