DUNCAN/United to Christ
Please turn in your Bible to Colossians 3:1-8. In chapter 3, Paul moves from doctrine about Christ to the topic of godliness or holiness. In other words, Paul is saying to the Colossians and to us, “You are in Christ. Now act in such a way that it is consistent with what you profess to be and what you have in fact been made in Jesus Christ. These truths are true about you. Now live in a way which reflects consistency which flows out of the reality of being united to Christ.” Paul is reminding us here that we must never be satisfied with mere intellectual apprehension of doctrine. It must work itself out in our lives. Thus, Paul is teaching us four important lessons in this passage. First, Christians must set their hearts on things above. Secondly, Christians must set their minds on things above. Thirdly, Christians must put their sin to death. Fourthly and finally, Christians must lay aside the practice of sin.
I. Christians Must Set Their Hearts on Things Above.
In verse 1, Paul says, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” Paul is saying that we are to set our affections on spiritual things. The apostle Paul knew that this is absolutely necessary for Christian growth. And it’s absolutely necessary for combating sin. Your heart must be set on God. He must be the One that you’re hungering after. The blessings which are found in Him must be those blessings which are your first priority. What Paul is saying is close to Jesus’ words when He says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” If you are first thankful for temporal blessings, and not for the things above; or, if you are thankful of the temporal blessings, and not focused on the One who gives the temporal blessings, that may be telling you that something is awry in your priority of life. Paul says the first principle must be to set your hearts on things above. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Is Christ your treasure? Are things above your treasure? This is a good test to see whether we are in Christ or not.
II. Christians Must Set Their Minds on Things Above.
In verse 2, Paul says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ and God. When Christ, who is our light is revealed, then you also will be revealed in glory.” Paul wants not only our hearts in glory, he wants our thoughts in glory. And Paul goes on to say that one day, just like Christ will be revealed from glory to be not simply the suffering servant but the Lord of the world, so believers will be revealed to be the inheritance of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you ever stopped to ponder your sins against others and become so depressed that you could not see what you have yet become? Now have you ever juxtaposed that with what Paul says here when he says that believers are to set our thoughts on things above because what we are may not be apparent to the world and it may not even be apparent to us, but what we are will one day be revealed. Believers will stand before the Lord spotless. No moral impurity, no imperfection, absolutely complete in Christ and the whole world will know it. Though we are pilgrims on this earth, and though we are to live as obedient pilgrims here doing the will of God, there is another home which awaits us. And there is a reality about us which is going to be revealed, and all the praise and all the glory will not go to us, but to the Lord Himself.
III. Christians Must Put Their Sin to Death.
In verse 5, Paul is saying, “put to death sin in the members of your earthly body.” Paul is telling us that we are to kill sin. Richard Baxter once said, “Kill sin before it kills you.” Sin, though it presents itself to you always as something that is good, will ultimately destroy you. And the apostle Paul is saying in the Christian life we must kill sin. Notice that Paul does not make the killing of sin optional. There are some people who speak as if we can be saved by Christ without His Lordship working itself out in our life. The apostle Paul says here the Christian will be killing sin in his or her life. And Paul gives a reason for that in verse 6. Because of sin, the wrath of God will come. Paul is saying God is going to judge the world because of sin. And therefore we must kill sin because God is going to judge sin. We cannot be ambivalent about sin. We cannot be apathetic about sin. We must seek to drive it out of our lives. Now it is important to understand that we do not mortify sin in order to gain favor with God. We mortify sin because the grace of God is present in our lives, and because we desire to be conformed to the image of Christ.
IV. Christians Must Lay Aside the Practice of Sin.
In verse 8, Paul says that Christians must not only set their hearts on things above, they must not only set their minds on things above, they must not only desire to kill sin, but they must lay aside the practice of sin. So the Apostle Paul tells the Colossians to put away sins such as anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk. Paul is telling the Colossians that they have to fight sin specifically. Furthermore, he is saying to them, “Don’t you live that way because that’s not who you are. That’s what you were, but that’s not what you are now. Be who you are, and therefore kill sin.” Why is Paul having to say that? Because when we become Christians, we do not become immediately sinlessly perfected. Augustine once said the church was a hospital where sick sinners get well. But those sick sinners are not being simply ministered to by the great Physician of the soul, they are actively involved in their own treatment. By the Holy Spirit and the work of sanctification, they strive to kill sin. Are you locating, identifying, and then seeking out and killing sin in your life which is destroying you and destroying your relationships with others? If you are, it is a sign that the Holy Spirit is at work in you. May God cause His Word to break forth in light and godliness in our lives and enable us to fight the remnants of sin in our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit.