V. The Development and Application of the Christian Mind (Colossians 3:1-17)
V. The Development and Application of the Christian Mind (3:1-17)
3:1-2 Unfortunately, many modern Christians are out of their minds. What do I mean? Well, if you have bad habits that you can’t control, you have a mind problem. Actions originate in the thinking. You may assume you can just break your bad habit, but you must begin to pry it loose in your mind. If there is no change to how you think, there will be no substantive change in how you live. This is why Scripture calls for “the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2).
Paul wants us to understand that our minds will determine our well-being. The only source for a victorious new mind is where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (3:1). Therefore, we are to set [our] minds on things above, not on earthly things (3:2). Believers must be tuned in to the Heavenly Broadcasting Network to receive the data needed for daily living. The problem is that too many of us frequently change the channel to faulty programming. Some embrace unbiblical data from the world and then wonder why their lives are a wreck. We’ll never become spiritual by using the world’s methodology (2:20).
Victorious living requires a shift of focus. We must have a heavenly mindset for earthly action. Paul is not saying, “Think about heaven all day, so you will know how to live when you get there.” Rather, he says in essence, “Take a good look at heaven’s perspective on every issue, so you will know how to live on earth.” We need a kingdom mentality if we expect to receive heavenly benefits.
3:3-4 To help the Colossians develop a new mentality, Paul reminds them of their new identity. First, he says, you died. Your old life has no more power over you. Second, your life is hidden with Christ in God. In fact, Christ is not merely to be in your life; he is to be the total sum of your life (3:4).
We have been “raised with Christ” and “seated” with him (2:13; 3:1). If Christ is your new identity (that is, if you’re a Christian) and heaven is your new location (you’re physically on earth but participating in the spiritual realm), then you’re called to live from that new perspective. Decisions are to be informed by an eternal, heavenly perspective rather than an imperfect, earthly one. We need a Christian view of the world—a kingdom worldview.
3:5-7 Paul’s words in 3:1-4 are crucial and essential. But we can’t stop there. Though you have heavenly blessings available to you through faith in Christ, you must access them by taking heed to God’s Word. Paul calls Christians to put to death what belongs to [the] earthly nature (cp. Rom 8:12-13)—to kick that earthly perspective out! Don’t give it a chance to breathe or rear its ugly head. Paul then gives a sordid list of common sins that need to be dealt a deathblow (3:5). Because of these things, God’s wrath is coming (3:6). You once walked in them (3:7), Paul says, but you’ve been saved and cleansed by Christ. You’ve been “raised” and “seated” with him (3:1). Your spiritual bank account is full (see Eph 1:18). Why go from the palace to the poorhouse spiritually? As Paul argues in Romans (see Rom 6:15-22), why offer yourself as a slave to those things from which you’ve been freed? Why continue to participate in things that you’re ashamed of?
3:8-11 In 3:5, Paul says to “put to death” the sins of “your earthly nature.” Here he says put away even anger and filthy language (3:8). They don’t belong in your life. When you have taken a shower, you naturally put on clean clothes. They complement what the shower was designed to do. Jesus Christ cleansed you by his blood. Therefore, you must ask yourself concerning your actions, “Will those clothes match what Jesus did in my life? Or will they dirty up what Jesus made clean?” Instead of wearing the dirty grave clothes of the old self—by doing things like telling lies to one another—put on the clean clothes of the new self (3:9-10).
Paul lists a variety of ways people sin with the mouth (3:8-9). But because Christ has set you free, your mouth no longer rules you. You’re no longer a slave. You have a new, domesticated mouth as part of your “new self.” So use it rightly. This is what it looks like to be renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator (3:10). And God does not have favorites, because Christ has first place in everything (3:11).
3:12-14 What are some of the clothes of “the new self” that we need to wear (3:9-10)? Paul tells the Colossians what to put on: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (3:12). These are the counterparts to the dirty clothes of “the old self” (3:8-9). And over all of this, we are to put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (3:14). If the qualities in 3:12 comprise the Christian’s new wardrobe, love is the overcoat.
One way we manifest the characteristics of the new self is by forgiving one another (3:13). Some believers harbor unforgiveness, and it results in perpetual anger and bitterness. Why? Because, as far as they’re concerned, offenses committed against them linger like unpaid bills, and they demand payment. However, they forget that our vertical relationship with God is linked with our horizontal relationships with one another.
Forgiveness does not mean approving a sin or excusing evil. Rather, forgiveness means releasing people from obligations incurred by their wrongs against you. This may come in the form of unilateral forgiveness—that is, forgiving someone who has not asked for forgiveness. Or it may come in the form of transactional forgiveness, which involves the confession of the offender, his repentance, and reconciliation.
What makes forgiveness possible is recognizing that the Lord has forgiven you (3:13). There is an inseparable link between forgiving and recognizing that you’ve been forgiven. To refuse to forgive, in fact, is to burn a bridge over which you must cross (see Matt 6:14-15). If you refuse to forgive, you have blocked God’s operation in your life (see Matt 18:21-35). But when you forgive, you no longer “grieve” the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30), and you imitate the one who has forgiven you.
3:15-16 Let the peace of Christ . . . rule your hearts. When you are committed to setting your mind “on things above” (3:2), God will give you the peace of Christ—inner calm despite trying circumstances to help confirm your decisions and the directions for your life. If you don’t have that, something is out of alignment. So, in order for peace to rule, you must let the word of Christ dwell richly (3:16). The Word of God must be at home in you, welcome in every room of your heart.
When I visit with members of my church, they say, “Make yourself at home, pastor.” But they don’t want me going into every room and doing whatever I want! God’s Word, by contrast, must have access to every inch of the house of your heart—every bedroom, closet, and attic. You may have junk and dirt in places that you don’t want God to see. But rest assured: he already knows about it. And if you’ll let him, he can clean it up.
Our psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are to be directed toward God and toward one another. With them we worship our Lord with gratitude, and we also teach one another biblical truth.
3:17 Doing something in the name of . . . Jesus is like authorizing a contract with his signature. You are to do everything under the authority of Jesus, making sure he approves of your actions. Jesus’s name signed at the bottom of your day means his power is behind your life. You are to do all things with his reputation in mind.