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New Self in Christ- Part I

Updated: May 9, 2022

May 1, 2022 | In Christ Alone | New Self in Christ Part I| Colossians 3:1-11

John Cutler

Senior Pastor

wk 5- Alive in Christ

Last week we got into the meat of Paul’s letter to the Colossian church as we dealt with much of chapter 2. I gave you a sentence to write down that summarized what Paul wanted the Colossian believers to walk away with. ‘I will walk in faith, on guard against deception, holding fast to Christ alone’.

One of the overarching themes of that section is that we cannot make regulations like ‘do not handle’, ‘do not taste, do not touch’ according to human precepts and teachings our security or standard of our salvation. That refraining from certain things cannot bring us closer to God. We have been made alive with Christ, we have been reconciled through Christ, and we are secure in Christ. It is in Christ alone.

We saw that we are complete in Christ, accepted in Christ, and alive in Christ.

But, lest his readers think that they had no responsibility in the Christian faith, after he thoroughly dealt with the deceptions of submitting to regulations meant to bring one closer to God, Paul now spends a considerable amount of time dealing with the reality that since we are new in Christ, our lives should be different.

We are going to divide what he says in two sections. One primarily dealing with the negative characteristics that do not fit with our new self and one with the positive characteristics that should describe our new lives. .

This morning in verse 1-11 of chapter 3 we will dig into the first part of what Paul says concerning our new self in Christ. If you have your bibles open to Colossians chapter 3 at verse 1.

One thing to remember when you are studying your bible is that it originally did not have chapters and verses. Paul is not beginning something new here in chapter 3 but rather continuing what he has been saying. This is clearly evident in the first two words in our scripture. If then…

Colossians 3:1-4 (ESV) 1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The reality of your new self.

If then you have been raised- Think of ‘if’ not as something that may be true, but rather ‘since’ you have been raised with Christ, then…, that is, here are the implications of that reality.

Have been raised refers us back to what Paul has previously said-Colossians 2:11-14 (ESV) In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

This is what we dealt with on Easter, that in Christ we had been forgiven, our debt forgotten, and our freedom secured. That we have been raised to new life in Christ.

We highlighted that coming to Christ is not simply an intellectual assent to the truth, not merely a religion you choose to follow, but the supernatural working of God where he brings spiritual life where there was only death.

Since that is your reality, that is, as Paul says it here, your new self, then what does that mean for your life?

Since there has been a change in your status from death to life, there should now be a visible, demonstrable, change in the way that life is expressed, right? That makes sense. If you think about it, that is what Paul has just finished dealing with. The Colossians, at least, we can easily assume, they knew that their lives should be different. Why else would they be thinking about submitting to Jewish law or strict religious practices? Their desires to exercise their new life differently weren’t wrong, their methods were, which is why Paul finishes that section with these things (false teachings) have an appearance of wisdom but they are of no value in accomplishing what you desire.

What is Paul’s answer? How would Paul instruct you today, if you said, Paul, I understand that I have been made alive because of grace, by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ, how should my life now reflect that?

I think he would answer it in the same way he does here, he gives them two things that should be a result of the reality of their new life, and one reminder about that life.

Seek the things that are above-

Seek could be thought of as ‘to aim at’. Your new self has a new aim in life. Before Christ, the Bible describes man’s aim as his belly. Such is what Paul says in Philippians describing the enemies of Christ. 3:19 (ESV) Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

That is to say the aim of their life is to satisfy themselves. Pleasure, satisfaction, these are the things the self, apart from Christ, seek.

No one has to teach us this, it is natural to us. Most of raising kids is trying to help them understand that it is not okay or socially appropriate to get what they want, when they want it. RIght?

We teach them they cannot take things from other people because they want it. They can not throw themselves down in Target because we won’t buy them the toy.

But with our very best efforts, we can never get rid of this impulse, to get what I want to satisfy my desire, can we?

Coming to Christ is not about another tool to help us manage our selfishness, to curb our appetite for pleasure, if it was, it would ultimately fall short as well. No, Paul says coming to Christ, being made alive, means we now have a different aim in life.

Rather than seeking the things that satisfy us, seeking to fulfill our desires, Paul says we seek the things that are above. Where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Being seated at the right hand of God is yet another way Paul highlights the supremacy of Christ. Remember Paul is battling not just Jewish legalism but the worship of angels, of secretive divine knowledge, thought to be able to allow you to work your way closer to God. Paul reminds them again, as the Christian life finds its beginning in Christ, so it finds its sustenance in Christ as well. He is our highest aim. Christ is the focal point of our new life.

Our good is replaced with His good, our will with his will, our desires with his desires. His kingdom becomes our highest priority. Jesus said it this way, everyone seeks the things they desire, that satisfy, food and clothes and comforts, but the Christian is to seek first what?

The kingdom of God and his righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)

The first result of our new self is that our aim in life changes, the second is…

Set your mind on things that are above/earth-

This is the outworking of the first. If our aim is the kingdom of God, the rule and reign of Christ, then we must direct our minds there constantly.

By the way, this is why Jesus rebuked Peter in the strongest possible way. Remember when Peter took Jesus aside and tried to rebuke him for talking about his death and resurrection. Matthew 16:23 (ESV) 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Peter, you are thinking according to the flesh and the earth, not according to the things of God, the things that are above.

After we are born again, God does not force his will upon us. We must willingly submit to his will, daily, hour by hour. We do this by setting our mind on the things of God. We fill our minds with scripture, we spend our time in worship and prayer, in fellowship with other believers. This is how we align our lives with the aim of our new self.

How is this possible?

For you have died-

We have died to the world’s systems, the world’s way of thinking. Our lives are not wrapped up in the world anymore.

The way this is worded in the Greek is ‘for you have died once for all’. It is a definite act that has happened.

This world, which was once your life, all of its systems and orders, you have died to.

Your life is now found somewhere else.

Your life is hidden with Christ- I think the idea here is that although you may not look different, and your physical location may not have changed, who you truly are has changed. It is wrapped up in Christ and not fully revealed yet, until he appears, then your life will appear fully, with him in glory.

Here is why the reality of our new self is so important. It is an internal change that happens before external results.

Internal change before external results. All other religions begin with external factors and try to produce internal change. The false teachers were starting in the wrong place, with what they did, not with who they were.

Which people still do today, don't they? It sounds like this, I’ll come to Christ when I get my life together.

That is not the way it works.

Your new self is an expression of an internal change, an inward reality, not a result of external obedience to religious practices. So, the question is, if in Christ, we have this new reality of a new self, what should be our external response?

Colossians 3:5-8 (ESV) 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

The responsibility of your new self.

Therefore- Refers back to the reality of the new self. For you have died. That being so, therefore, this is what you do in response to that reality.

Put to death what is earthly in you

Here is one of the paradoxes of Christianity. How can Paul both say, you have died, and put to death?

Put to death here is used only three times in this form in the New Testament, twice speaking of Abraham, who for intents of producing an heir was as good as dead, and here when Paul says put to death. Why does the Bible speak of Abraham being as good as dead when talking about his faith? Because naturally, Abraham at 100 years old did not have the inherent strength to produce an heir, he was past his prime, right, devoid of power. Now, I don’t think it is a stretch to say that what Paul is saying here, is that we must subdue, or deprive of power that which is earthly in us. Make it as good as dead.

Here is one way of thinking about it. When we were saved, we were made alive to God we died to sin, that is spiritually we were made alive and free from the consequence of our sinful nature, or our flesh. And the Bible promises one day, when we stand before God in resurrected bodies, we will be completely free from the fleshly body. But until then, we wrestle with what has been ultimately defeated and yet still wrestles for control. This is the paradox of Christianity, this is why we struggle with the flesh after our salvation.

I believe what Paul is saying here is that although we can never fully kill it, we should do everything in our power to weaken it and subdue it so that it might as well be dead.

Here, a picture may help.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I planted a raised bed garden. We dug out all the grass, got down to bare soil, put weed barriers down, put good soil down, and planted our crops. That piece of ground had a new reality. It had gone from a grassy yard to a vegetable garden. But what do you think happened as the vegetables started growing?

Weeds came up right?

If you have ever weeded your garden or flowerbed, you know this is a reality, don't you?

It is not something you do it once and then it is done, right? No, you must be constantly in opposition to their invasion, right? The fight is never done. In the same way Paul encourages us to diligently attack the parts of our flesh that do not belong with our new self.

This is a theme the Apostle Paul touched on often. In Romans he says by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body. In Galatians, walk by the spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Again in Romans Paul says let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.

So what things do we have to battle against? The things that are earthly, or of this world.

Paul then gives us a list because he is not content in dealing with sin in an abstract way.

Sexual immorality- illicit sexual intercourse. That is any sexual act that happens outside of God’s design which is sex within the covenant of one man and one woman.

Impurity- morally unclean

Passion- controlled by fleshly passions

Evil desire- lusting for what is forbidden

In this context, Paul is probably tying immorality, impurity, passions, and evil desire to the realm of the sexual.

Paul adds Covetousness- or the greedy desire for more and reveals it for what it is, which is idolatry.

All of this list is essentially idolatry, that is putting something other than God as our god. That is we care more about fulfilling our internal desires than we do walking in obedience to God.

Let me just take an aside here for a minute. We Christians seem ready to condemn sexual desires, most often and especially when they are different than our sexual desires.

We find it easy to condemn homosexuality, but we aren’t willing to apply the same lense to men and women engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage. We aren’t willing to examine our own hearts and lives for signs that we are engaging in lusts outside of God’s design.

The word immorality here is the greek word we get the word porn from, which by all accounts is an enormous problem both within and outside the church.

As followers of Christ, as people who have been made new, we should be willing to wage war against these things in our own lives, before we try and weed someone else’s garden. Amen?

In these you too once walked/living in them- Paul reminds them that this was descriptive of their own lives before Christ, but it shouldn't be now.

But now- at this moment, You must put them all away- the idea is to cast off worn or old clothing. These things don’t fit in your life anymore, they don't belong. They are the weeds that do not belong.

Paul goes on, digging deeper into the things that don’t belong.

Anger- anger

Wrath- quick temper, angry reactions

Malice- ill will towards others

Slander- injurious talk about or towards others

Obscene talk- filthy language

Don’t miss that Paul puts these in the same category as sexual sin. It never ceases to amaze me at how we see some Christians doing all of these things in condemning sexual sin in others. Paul says here that you are just as out of bounds in acting this way as the person or persons you are condemning.

Let that sink in for a minute.

This has especially been prevalent in our current political climate. It amazes me how many professing Christians are seemingly okay with putting a ‘Let’s go brandon’ sticker on their car.

Paul says, the responsibility of our new self is to battle against these things, not necessarily first against others, but in our own lives first!

Colossians 3:9-11 (ESV) 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumccised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

The renewal of your new self.

Do not lie to one another- Paul uses the present imperative here which we can translate as ‘stop lying to each other’. Paul concludes this list with something so common in our old lives, but now he says it has no part in our new self.

Lying is something the world uses to get their way. To either defraud someone out of something or to stay out of trouble. Paul says, that is just as unbefitting a Christian as adultery.

Maybe Paul used lying because of its seemingly normal place to remind us that all sin is out of place in the Christian’s life, all sin must be rooted out and put to death in our new selves.

Why? Because Paul says, Seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices- having put off.

When you come to Christ, you reject the old man or the old sinful nature, the old self. Why then, Paul says, would you want to pick it up again and allow it to manifest itself in actions, as small as lying and as large as adultery?

Not only in receiving Christ did you die to your old self, put it off, you put on the new self. Another way to say you have been made alive in Christ.

Which is being renewed- cause to grow

in knowledge- truth

after the image of its creator- who is Christ

Here is the good news. God doesn’t leave you to yourself in sanctification, growing in holiness in your new self, he is renewing you more and more through his truth.

One commentator said it this way, ‘The believer's new nature resembles a growing plant that grown stronger and stronger in a continuous, advancing process.

He goes on to say, Paul is reminding us that giving in to our fallen nature does not help the process. But if we will, with God’s help, wage war against the residual nature we have put off and not try and fit pieces of our old self into our new life, God will bring growth and strength to grow even more.

God’s desire is that you would be conformed to the image of his son more and more until the day that the outside matches the inside.

Here is why that is important. These things are not listed because they are good for you but God doesn’t want you to have them, they are listed here because they are harmful to you and hinder the process of renewal that he wants to do in your life.

If you would allow me to, let’s return to that little garden for a minute. If I allowed the weeds to grow, the grass to grow back into the garden, eventually it would rob the good things of the water, the nutrients, and even the sun that would cause it to grow. In the same way, our sin, if left unchecked, chokes out the work God wants to do in us.

Paul finishes with what may seem like an out of place statement at first.

11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumccised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

But ,when we understand that Paul is saying this in reference to the new self, the one that is being renewed in the image of Christ, we understand that he is saying that, everyone who names the name of Christ experiences this blessing of the renewing work of God.

No matter their ethnicity (Greek or Jew), no matter their religious bias (circumcised or uncircumcised), no matter their cultural distinctions (barbarian, scythian), or social barriers (slave or free).

Christ abolishes all of these sinful distinctions and creates in himself one people, united in him and him alone.

Don’t miss this final statement from Paul. Who you are in Christ is more important than who you were born as.

Don’t miss this final statement from Paul. Who you are in Christ is more important than who you were born as. We often try to excuse sin because of our natural tendencies, or our environments, or our social standings. Paul says, you have been set free of all of that and because you are new in Christ, every one of you can experience renewal from God in the image of Christ.

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