New in Christ

New in Christ, 22 September 2019

New in Christ
Series—A Love Supreme
Colossians 3:1-17

Series Big Idea:
Christ is above all others. This is a study on the book of Colossians.

Big Idea:
When we put to death our old, sinful selves, we can become new in Christ.

New. For decades, marketers have been using it to sell their products. Try the new and improved cleaner. Taste the new burger. Drive the new car. Buy the new fashion. As an entrepreneur, I love new. But not everyone is so wired.

Some people are afraid of the new. “It’s an oldie but a goodie,” they might say. But when it comes to humanity, we’ve all been tainted by sin. We’re all broken. We’re all in need of grace, forgiveness, and salvation. No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, you can be made new in Christ.

We’re continuing our series A Love Supreme, looking at Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. Chapter three is loaded with contrasts between old and new, before Christ and after Christ, sin and Spirit-filled, selfish living and christoformity.

I may have just introduced you to a new word:
christoformity. Jesus invites us to be like him, to be formed to the pattern of his life. That’s radically different than self-actualization. Perhaps you noticed that our “tolerant” culture accepts the most outlandish behavior and identities…except for godliness. We have become a culture of self-idolatry, not only doing but being whatever or whomever we feel like, with no regard for our Creator and His vision and will for our lives.

This is why Christianity is revolutionary. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people come to life! But first, they must die to themselves, their agendas, their preferences, their desires. The first two commandments in Exodus 20 are no other gods or idols. In our self-absorbed society, nothing could be more offensive.

For two chapters, Paul has been telling this early church community about the supremacy of Christ. He has written about their freedom from sin and religion. He begins chapter three by saying,

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Some Christians are so heavenly-minded, they’re no earthly good! But too many of us live so focused on this life—on this moment—that we fail to see what’s ahead. This is obviously in the presence of little children. They can’t see the next minute, much less the next day, week, or year.

College students work for four years—or more!—in their quest for a piece of paper.

Olympic athletes train just as long for a piece of medal. As they lose sleep, sweat, endure injuries, and bleed, they’re not focused on the moment. They are looking ahead to that moment when crowds will cheer them to what they hope will be victory.

In the same way, we must set our minds on things above. Sure, we need to eat and find shelter and care for our health, but our focus should not be the same as that of unbelievers. We are in Christ. We are citizens of heaven. We need to be training for eternity, preparing for the next life while fully living this one for the glory of God.

What do you have your heart set on? Maybe it’s a new car, a home improvement project, or a job. Perhaps you’re consumed with stress over your debt, worried about your health, or counting down the days until vacation. None of those are necessarily bad things, but they’re all so temporary. In a hundred years—maybe in one year—it will be forgotten. Paul’s not saying don’t see earthly things, but rather don’t seek earthly things.

I’m speaking to myself here, too. Don’t think for a moment I’ve mastered this! Unlike many in this world, we have many choices to make, especially about our time, maybe our money, possibly our energy. Most of us don’t spend all day hunting for food to eat. We’re blessed with wealth in this nation, but that wealth can so easily become an idol.

New in Christ means we are dead to our old selves.

Is anyone else convicted? We need to put to death our old self, our sinful nature. You can’t serve God and yourself at the same time. There’s no such thing as a part-time LORD, even on Sunday morning! We need to see things from His perspective before we make it all about us, our pleasures, our desires, our will. It’s not about empty religion or self-righteousness, either. We are to be with Christ.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. (Colossians 3:5-7)

I’m glad no one in here has ever dealt with any of these sins! To put these to death means we should desire them as much as a dead person! It doesn’t say avoid them or manage them or not to play with them too often. Paul says put to death the earthly nature. Kill them!

There is no room for sexual immorality in the life of Christ-follower. Period. That means sexual activity is sacred and reserved for the marriage covenant, husband and wife. If you don’t believe me, there’s twenty more mentions of sexual immorality in the New Testament. Google it!

Impurity. That’s an umbrella term. The funny thing is, most of us know when we encounter something that is impure, whether it is entertainment, conversation, materialism, or even workaholism. Is your mind pure? Are your relationships pure? Are your words pure?

What about lust? Evil desires? Greed? Put it to death! You
used to be into that stuff, but you’re new in Christ.

New in Christ means we are dead to our old sins.

We can kill our sins or our sins will kill us! Literally. All sin leads to death, ultimately.

There are two reactions we can have toward our sin:

  1. 1. We can struggle and try to put it to death.
  2. 2. We can rationalize it and embrace it. I urge you to skip this option! All sin leads to death, ultimately.

If you are struggling with your sin, you’re not alone. This is why we need one another. I think it’s why Jesus’ half-brother said,

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

We can’t run this race alone. We need to help one another. Pray for one another. Encourage one another. We need to put to death our old sins, but that may take a lifetime to be fully realized. The struggle is real. Paul himself said,

…the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:19)

Admitting and confessing our sins, Celebrate Recovery, small groups, one-on-one relationships, scripture memorization, Christian counseling, and quality time with God are all useful in helping us stay on the path of godliness. Spiritual practices—sometimes called spiritual disciplines—are proactive steps we can all take to grow closer to God. One of my favorite books on the subject is John Ortberg’s
The Life You’ve Always Wanted. He has some great insights on prayer, confession, celebration, servanthood, scripture, and even suffering.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. (Colossians 3:5-7)

The wrath of God is coming, family. Paul’s saying put sin to death. You used to do those things.

Maybe you’ve mastered this list of sins. You’re not off the hook!

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:8-11)

The invitation to be new in Christ is available to everyone…Jews and Gentiles, men and women, black and white, young and old…we’re all invited to follow Jesus…and die to our old selves and our old sins. Jesus transcends all barriers and unites us as one family.

New in Christ means we put on the new self, we become a new creation. What does that look like?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Let’s camp out here for a bit! It’s nearly impossible to simply stop a habit. You need to replace it with something else. A new focus is required. If I say, “Don’t think of a purple elephant,” how many of you are thinking of a purple elephant?

But if I said imagine the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen…

Paul provides a great list to describe the new self.

Compassion
Kindness
Humility
Gentleness
Patience
Forgiveness
Love

New in Christ means we are alive to love.

I really wish we had another word for “love” in the English language. It feels too soft and mushy. Some equate it with fondness or even lust. I love ice cream. I love the Mud Hens.

Scot McKnight offer what may be my favorite definition of biblical love:

Love is a rugged commitment to be with other people, to be for other people, and to grow together in Christ-likeness.

Love is a rugged commitment (covenant).
Love is a presence. It is “with.” It’s not expressed from afar.
Love is advocacy. It is “for.” It has their back.
Love is transformation. The goal is for us and them to become like Jesus.

I believe the only way you can truly love is to first experience love. You can’t give what you don’t have.

Have you experienced God’s love? Really? Put on love. Wear it. Share it. That’s what “the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” is all about. Love.

Is that what Christians are known for in our culture?

Paul understands the struggle to love, to obey. He wrote,

For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15b)

Again, the struggle is real, but if we allow Him access to our lives, if we truly surrender, if we pursue God, we will gradually become more like Jesus.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

Peace.
Unity.
Thanksgiving.

Is that what Christians are known for in our culture?

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:16)

I love the image of Christ dwelling among us. He is here! The Holy Spirit lives inside every man, woman and child who is new in Christ. This is why we gather, we teach, we admonish one another, we sing, and we are filled with gratitude. We’re no longer dead. We’re not taking our cues from the culture. We’ve put to death our sin, selfishness, and idolatry. We’re new in Christ, alive in Christ, followers of Christ, and we are becoming like Christ.

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. (Colossians 3:17)

Whatever you do, it’s all about Jesus.

You were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory.

How does your work reflect this?
How do your relationships declare this?
How does your calendar and checkbook reveal this?
How does your heart communicate this?

So What?

Every Sunday, sermons are preached all around the world with the same basic message expressed in an old song by Mylon LeFevre: Love God, Hate Sin. If only it were that easy! Life is a struggle. Following Jesus is battle…because we have a real enemy who wants us to sin, who tempts us to disobey God, who literally is trying to kill us. But we’re not powerless.

We’ve been given the Holy Spirit. It comes when you invite Jesus to be your leader, your master, your LORD. In a word, it’s about surrender. That’s what this entire passage is about…dying to self and being made new in Christ. There are two parts. We must surrender and die…
and we must allow the power of God to be unleashed in our lives.

Our actions do not earn salvation, but they do follow salvation. Christoformity—and sanctification—occur as we die to ourselves and become like Jesus.

Perhaps today is the day for you to begin your journey with God. You can do so with a simple prayer:
Jesus, I give you my life. That’s it. Total surrender.

Maybe today is the day for you to put to death your sin. Kill it! No more white lies, pornography peeks, greedy thoughts, or toxic words. Total surrender.

You might think you’re a good Christian, avoiding sin, but are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Would others use words like compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, peaceful, and loving to describe you? Total surrender.

Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people come to life! It’s a process. It’s ongoing.

It involves our focus. It starts in the mind.
It involves our actions. It moves to our hands.

New in Christ. It’s not about trying harder. It begins with total surrender.

Credits: series outline from D6.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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