Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Paul was warning the Colossians about getting shackled by ungodly rules and regulations imposed by men, which choke out the life of freedom found in the gospel. On the outside, they seem wise and helpful, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence, ie. truly changing the heart. Ironically, however, the next section in my Bible (which obviously was not part of the original letter, but is worth noting just the same) is headed "Rules for Holy Living."
Now wait just one minute. Weren't we just talking about not getting caught up in all the rules and freely living our lives in Christ?! Yes, yes we were. So we've got to keep reading, don't we? We must investigate this to find out what Paul's up to. Is he going to show us the way to move toward restraining sensual indulgence? Because as rated-R as that sounds, I'd be lying if I said I didn't need that. I'm failing at self-control over here on a regular basis, in all areas of life. Paul, what have you got for us?
Colossians 3:1-17Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Oh boy, that's a lot of text. We'll spend a couple of days here.
Some initial thoughts:
- Set your hearts on things above, because of Christ. The first thing Paul says to them, before giving them the proper "recipe" for holy living in Christ, is that they must set their hearts on things above, not earthly things. Christ died and our lives are now in our God. I get a picture in my head of my life being completely enveloped in God, surrounded, supported, protected, secure. With one's heart set on remembering that - and that one day we'll share in Christ's glory (because He's coming back, God fulfills His promsies) - we're prepared to get into the following things: putting the old self to death and putting on the new self. Do not rush to put the cart before the horse. We need Christ's power to be changed and renew, to care about our sin and desire to mortify it, and to delight in living in a way that pleases the Lord. Set your heart on things above. THEN...
- Put to death what belongs to the old nature, because you're being renewed in the image of Christ. Because of your new identity, Colossians, get rid of the old junk from your former life. You used to do all that, but now you've got a new self. Notice that Paul does not here say that this secures their salvation; it's simply a natural progression from remembering their identity in Christ. Those lists are pretty serious, aren't they? I'm humbled by how accurately they describe me on a daily basis. But I am encouraged by Paul's words to take the putting off of my sin more seriously because it no longer owns or defines me. Christ does. And He gives us new dress...
- Clothe yourselves with Christ's character, because you're God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved. Again, Paul reminds the Colossians who they are. God's people! Wowzers. And God's people have a dress code. We're called to put off the ugly old rags of sin and depravity, and to put on the beautiful robes of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love. As we strip ourselves of the old, Christ gives us something new to put on. This is a process of transformation, we don't automatically look like Christ the day we become a Christian. But God is working His character into us, so we can reflect Him, and here Paul encourages the Colossians (and us) to get in on the "being made holy" action, by more intentionally clothing ourselves with these things. What I find so beautiful is that we're not only told, "Stop that bad stuff!" We're also told, "Christ has given you new things to wear and pursue."
That's all for this evening. We'll check this passage out s'more tomorrow.
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I hope you're getting to enjoy some good R&R and maybe some great shopping this weekend. I'm got to take in a movie with the husband this afternoon. You don't know this about him, but he's not a big fan of going to the movies. When he mentioned he wanted to go see James Bond IN THE THEATER, I jumped all over it. I love going to the movies! And, for the record, Skyfall is amazing.