Christ Is Our Life!
O Lord, as I draw near this day to worship in Your presence, fill me with holy awe, for You are a great and good, a just yet merciful God. You invite me into Your presence in view of the blood shed by Your dear Son, Jesus. I come trusting in His name and relying upon Your promises to forgive, to uphold, to instruct, and to strengthen me. May my presence, prayers, and praises be acceptable in Your sight, O God! Amen.
God is faithful to us, His believing children, and He calls upon us to be faithful to Him in return. He will indeed bless us as we treasure His Word within our hearts, and as we seek to apply the truths of that Word in our lives.
Jesus urges us to seek heavenly as opposed to earthly treasures, for earthly treasures are easily lost or stolen, while heavenly treasures will abide throughout eternity. Jesus then warns us that we can serve only one Master with complete faithfulness. Let us wisely choose to serve Him!
Text: Colossians 3:1-10
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him….
In Christ Jesus, Who is the Source and Substance of our life—now and throughout eternity, dear fellow redeemed:
How close are you to Jesus? How close is Jesus to you? Those questions speak of our relationship with Jesus Christ. The Bible describes and we speak of our relationship with Jesus in different ways. We find David’s words so very comforting: “The LORD is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1). Those words depict a close relationship in which our Savior cares for us and protects as a shepherd does his lambs. We sing the words, “What a Friend we have in Jesus” (TLH 457:1) or “Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress” (TLH 371:1). Both hymns reflect the closeness, the love, and the joy that we can and ought to feel in our relationship with Jesus as someone who loves us and who has covered us with His own blood and righteousness.
The opening words of our text build on a theme that Paul began developing earlier in this epistle--a theme that reveals that we have a much closer relationship with Jesus than anything I have described up to this point. Paul wrote: “You were also…buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:11-12). Through our baptism we are united with Christ. Our baptism, Paul suggests, lays us down right beside Jesus in His grave. Our baptism unites us with our risen Savior in such a way that we say good-bye to that empty tomb. So close is our relationship with Jesus Christ, that Paul tells us that our “life is hidden with Christ in God” and, in fact, Paul says even more emphatically: CHRIST IS OUR LIFE! Consequently, Jesus Christ is not only over us as Lord, or beside us as Good Shepherd and Friend, nor even just on us as holy garments covering our sins. Rather, He dwells within us, bestowing upon us and enabling us to enjoy His gift of life! Paul’s words reflect Jesus’ statement: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10b). But Jesus is not simply someone who exists outside of us and merely gives something to us. Rather, consider the import of these words of Jesus: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). There is an intimacy within the relationship of Jesus with each of us as believers that we may well find incomprehensible, and yet it is real. CHRIST IS OUR LIFE, and that fact is not to be without effect in our lives. That is what Paul addresses in our text, and God’s desired end for each of us is described by Paul’s parallel and yet opposite admonitions: let us put off the old man, and let us put on the new man!
If this is all true—that Christ is not only over us, beside us, on us, and within us—why then is life so hard so often? Why, if our relationship with Christ is so close, do we have to endure sickness, go through divorces and other family problems, lose our homes or jobs, and in general experience so many hardships? Why are we so often beset by our own sins and those of others? Why cannot our lives be more like those of the Bible heroes about whom we read in Scripture? The answer to that final question is that they are! Our lives are like those of the Bible heroes, for they too experienced many if not all of the challenges we face today. That is because the reason for all troubles remains the same today—sin and our own inclination to sin. Listen to the apostle Paul, who so transparently confesses: “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform which is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:18-25a)
You see that Paul faced the same basic issue that we face! He had an “old man”—his sinful flesh to contend with, even as do we, but he also had a “new man”—his faith created by the Holy Spirit and resting upon the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ who indwelt him. Throughout his life, Paul as well as the other saints of old had to endure the struggle between their sinful desires fueled by their flesh and their sanctified desires encouraged by their faith. My dear friends, each day in our lives such a struggle takes place within our minds, our mouths, and the actions we undertake. Will Jesus reign within our hearts and so fill our minds with godly intentions leading to good words and helpful actions, or will Satan succeed in controlling our hearts and filling our minds with sinful desires leading to corrupt words and selfish actions?
Paul urges us: “Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” These are strong words demanding decisive action in view of the great stakes before us—a final destination either in heaven or hell! Satan wants to destroy you and me. He will not give up tempting us and trying to dissuade us from a godly path. He will offer us what appears to be secret thrills and joys, which he will suggest will bring us no harm but only allow us to live our lives to the fullest. However, behind every temptation of Satan lies the door leading to death—spiritual death and physical death, but also and ultimately eternal death. Satan wants you and me to chaff under God’s commandments. He here uses as an example God’s 6th Commandment, which demands sexual purity. He wants you and me to see God as ever so restrictive and preventing us from experiencing the sexual ecstasy that will surely accompany fornication. Satan wants to convince us that we should indulge our passions through pornography, and he surely wants us to believe that evil desires are perfectly normal and of little concern. Yet, all that Satan promises he will not deliver, and all that he suggests is true will ultimately prove to be lies! God’s laws are given to protect us and to enable us to experience true joy and pleasure in accordance with God’s intended plans and designs.
That is why Paul goes on to say: “Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds.” God’s judgment will ultimately fall upon those who reject His Son and continue to live in sin. Therefore, with Christ in our hearts and on our minds, let us put off the old man! Let us remove our pride and humble ourselves before God. It is our wounded pride that so often leads us to become angry. Let us rather rejoice in God’s grace, letting go of our sinful wrath and anger. Let us be careful what we say about God and about our fellowmen. What we say can be totally destructive of God’s good purposes, whereas our good words can literally bring life to a brother or sister who is depressed. Let us strive to be honest with one another. Paul tells us we are to speak the truth in love, so that we might all grow together in Christ (cf. Eph. 4:15). After all, CHRIST IS OUR LIFE! Therefore, let us put off the old man!
Let us also put on the new man! Paul concludes this text with the simple admonition: “Put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” Our new man is that faith created by the Holy Spirit. Our new man is tied intimately to Jesus, for it is with him that Jesus promised to dwell. That new man is the beginning of the restoration of the original image of God—the perfection in which God created man at the beginning of time. Jesus is the one who gives our new man strength—“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” (Phil. 4:13) Jesus’ Word is that which brings our new man truth and freedom (cf. Jn. 8:31-32). It is to our new man that Paul directs these words: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another; if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” (Col. 3:12-14)
This is what it means to put on the new man. We are by grace God’s elect—His chosen holy and beloved children. He wants us simply to act like it! Let us deal with one another with mercy and kindness, as He has dealt with us. He wants us to walk humbly, as did our Savior on our behalf during His earthly ministry. He wants us to be patient and put up with each other. We all have our weaknesses and our struggles with sin, so let us help each other rather than simply being critical of each other or condescending over against each other. When we need to forgive, and that will be the case often in our lives, even as it will be the case that we need to be forgiven by others, let us do so promptly, cheerfully, and completely, for Christ has forgiven us much more than we will ever have to forgive.
Let us “put on love!” Love is, as Paul suggests, “the bond of perfection!” Why is that? It is that perfect bond, because love is the very essence of God’s nature. It is the greatest of all attributes, which will be the hallmark of heaven. True love is that sincere desire to seek and to see the needs of others, even as God saw our own, and then to meet those needs in ways that will uplift and enable.
My dear friends, CHRIST IS OUR LIFE! Paul states this fact in the opening statements of our text: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” The effect of Christ living within us is that we are to see life and seek to approach life from a heavenly perspective. That means that our priorities, our time, our treasure, our relationships, our vocations, our expectations, our goals, our every thought, our every word, and our every action—all are to be guided by Christ, so that His will is done in our lives and those of others, so that His Kingdom comes in all of its grace and glory into our lives, and so that ultimately what is hidden in Christ—His gift to us of everlasting life—will be manifest for all to see when Christ returns. Christ will come in glory, as the Scriptures testify; and we will appear with Him in glory as the Scriptures here promise! Amen.
--Pastor Paul D. Nolting
To God alone be glory!