Living in Light of our Destination
Colossians 3:1-11; compared to Genesis 24
© C. O. Bishop 10/18/18 Cornell Estates 10/21/18
We have been working our way through the book of Colossians, and we have arrived in a precious passage where Paul is encouraging the believers to allow God to change their lives. He has already established their position in Christ, so he poses the logical result: living in light of our position, and our destination.
1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
All of what we are to experience and put into practice, now, is predicated upon the truth of this passage: either we really are dead with Christ, and risen with Him, and our real life truly is now hidden with Christ in God, or we are not dead with Christ, not risen with Him, and we are still in our sins.
We cannot have it both ways: either my sins were purged at the Cross, by the Blood of Jesus, and I am already seated with Christ in the heavenlies, or His blood did not purge my sins, and I am still guilty before God, and lost.
On the strength of that truth, we are told to set our affections upon the things of Christ—the things above, not the passing things of this world. Jesus said a fair amount about laying up treasures in Heaven: he also said that where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also—not the other way around. If we are really dead to sin, and dead to the World, then our affections should be upon the things above. We are to set our priorities according to this truth. And the more we see our treasures as being with God, the more we will see our hearts directed that way as well. Remember that Daniel yearned toward Jerusalem, and several times a day, he opened his windows toward Jerusalem, and prayed toward the demolished temple there. That is where his treasure was, and that is where his heart was. His actions demonstrated the fact.
We are to place our trust in the finished work of Jesus at the Cross, and recognize that everything of eternal value is there, with Him, in Heaven.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
We can’t see these things, now. We walk by faith: we are trusting in that which is to come. We are not even told what the rewards are like: in fact, he clearly states that “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things the Father hath in store for them that love him.” (1st Corinthians 2:9) That certainly calls into question the truth of the many books available today where the authors expound on all the details of heaven. We are actually given very little to go on, and it is fitting that it should be so: God says it is completely beyond our comprehension, and beyond our imagination. Don’t believe the false prophets! They really have not seen heaven, nor can they tell you what eternity holds!
Compare an Old Testament bride to the New Testament Bride
Remember, back in Genesis 24, when Abraham sent his servant back to Ur of the Chaldees, to find a wife for Isaac. When Rebekah left home with her female servants, all of them were in the care of Abraham’s servants, and she herself was betrothed to become the Bride of Isaac. But, once her home town was out of sight, behind them, she and her companions were utterly committed to the mercy and the faithfulness of the One keeping them for the end of that journey. They could not run away and go back, even if they wanted to: the desert was utterly merciless to inexperienced or unprepared travelers. They would never again see their old home.
The main comfort they could hold to, in their hearts, was the fact that a huge price had already been paid for the Bride (Rebekah), and there was nothing that could ever persuade the Servant of the Father, to fail to bring home the Bride, to the glory of the Father and of the Son.
Give that some thought: That is what we have, too! The unimaginable price paid for our sins, and for the sins of the entire World, has already been paid on our behalf, at the Cross; and, when we completed the transaction by faith, we were sealed for the glory of the Son: we are part of the Bride. We were sealed in Him until the redemption of the purchased possession. (Ephesians 1:13, 14) Our life is hid with Christ in God! So, now: what are we supposed to do about it?
Consider the Old life truly Dead
5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
Some things need to completely drop away: they are part of the old dead self that still plagues us, but to whom we owe no further obedience. My old sin nature is still there, but I am to treat it as if it is dead: permanently separated from the “real me,” because the real “Me” is already seated with Christ, in the heavenlies! (How’s that for mind-boggling?)
Remember, too, that regardless of how Rebekah behaved on the trip to meet the Bridegroom, she was sealed for Him, and she was the Bride! If she behaved in a “proper” fashion as the Bride, it was to her honor, and to the Father’s glory; but that is not what made her the Bride. Two facts bound her to Isaac as his Bride:
- The fact that the Bride-price was paid, and
- The fact that she agreed to go.
Those were what betrothed her to Isaac, though she had never met him. She behaved as the Bride should, because she was the Bride, not the other way around. She was genuinely looking forward to meeting her groom. I would surmise that, along the way, the Servant had been telling her all about Isaac: his miraculous birth, his utter faithfulness and perfect relationship to his Father, Abraham.
I surely hope this is sounding familiar to you. This is such a tender picture of the Christian experience, as the Word and the Spirit tell us all about Jesus long before we ever get to meet him face to face. We are already betrothed, and already sealed, and we have only this long and sometimes difficult journey to endure before we meet Him. But we are carried along by the indwelling Holy Spirit, whose only desire is to glorify the Father and the Son, and who, personally, is our guarantee of redemption: the Earnest of our inheritance. He will bring home the Bride! But along that journey, while we travel, we are learning to walk with God, too.
God says that His wrath still burns against the children of disobedience (unregenerate sinners) for the things listed in verse 5 (and elsewhere): But, notice that he says (in verse 7) that you are no longer part of that group: He says that you once were part of that group, but that you have been taken out, and you are dead with Christ (verse 3).
As a result of our being dead with Christ, we are to lay aside the works which were associated with our old position in the World: all the behaviors that once marked us as being just plain, ordinary, “run-of-the-mill sinners” are to be left behind. Think again of Rebekah: except for her maids, and whatever personal belongings she brought with her, everything of her old life was abandoned! She left the old life behind, in favor of the new life with her bridegroom, Isaac!
We, too, need to leave the Old life behind!
8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Notice how many of these things have to do either with the heart, or with speech—the mouth! Jesus said that a good man brings out of the good treasure of his heart things that are good; and an evil man brings forth out of the evil treasures of his heart things that are evil; because “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh!” The old sin nature is still there, but we need to starve it, and guard against it! Our mouths are supposed to be filled with good things, now…so the change has to begin with a cleansed heart.
God says we can only cleanse our hearts through the application of His Word. He says that through His Word, we are to become partakers of the Divine Nature! When we feed on God’s Word, and meditate upon His promises, we begin to see the character of God working itself out in our lives. The Fragrance of Christ will begin to permeate our lives, so that anyone who knows us can see the changes brought about by the Word of God and the Spirit of God. We begin to be a blessing to those around us.
9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
We have a new nature: He says it has been renewed in knowledge, in the image of the Creator. What does that mean? Over in Ephesians 4:24, he says that the new man has been created in the likeness of God, in Righteousness and true Holiness. Speaking for myself, if it were not for the knowledge that God has given me that new nature, I could not at all grasp the notion that God has imputed to me the righteousness of Christ. It simply would not fit the natural “reality” that I see in my flesh. Notice that it is all past-tense, too. This is not something that we are to “strive toward:” it is a current reality based upon a completed past event, and it is for us to lay hold of by faith, so as to experience the reality of it, today.
Why does God “spell out” the prohibition against lying? Remember what Jesus said (in John 8:44) about our old spiritual father: He said “Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own, for he is a liar and the father of it.” So it makes sense that one of the things God really wants laid aside is lying. That is the earmark of Satan’s brood. We all began there, whether we know it or not. We all were called the Children of wrath, in Ephesians 2:3.
Lying is the most common human reaction to circumstances we wish were otherwise. People lie on their tax-returns because they don’t want to pay the taxes they owe. People lie to one another for reasons ranging from heartbreaking to ridiculous. And some people just lie for the fun of fooling people. But we are told to stop it, specifically because our “old man” has been set aside. We are separated from it to the degree that we can speak honestly, and we can worship from a clean heart. But we are not free from its influence. We are in an ongoing, daily battle to walk with God, and to not follow our old sin nature. This is true for every Christian, regardless of his or her background. Now we are called to “Speak the truth in Love!”
The Jewish Apostles pointed out in Acts chapter 15, that no Jew had ever been able to follow the Law, so they said it was wrong to burden the Gentile believers with it. Paul said that we have been set free from the Law. What a happy, blessed freedom that gives us all! All believers, Jews and Gentiles, together, were freed by the same sacrifice, and we are now free to fellowship and worship as one body of Christ!
11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Whatever you were before you were born again is of zero importance. In Christ, the old divisions no longer exist. The ground is truly level at the foot of the cross. Where the Jews were once separated from the Gentiles, slaves were once shunned by free men, and commoners shunned by noblemen, they all have been “leveled” by the Cross. None of those “differences” are of any significance when compared to the Majesty of the Messiah; nor could any of those “differences” alleviate to any degree the total lostness of the human race, apart from the Cross.
All of us are called to lift up our eyes and see the Savior! We are called to set our affections on Him, and the things He has for us. We are to let our old life drop away as a freed slave lets his chains drop away. We have truly been set free in Christ. We are dead with Him at the Cross, buried with Him, resurrected with Him, and ascended to sit with Him. We believers are all part of the Bride of Christ. The Holy Spirit indwells us, and He will bring home the Bride!
Lord Jesus, allow us to see ourselves clearly, so as to know that we have died with you, so that we may lift up our eyes above this world, and fix our hearts on our treasures with you. Free us to serve you with gladness, in Jesus’ name!