“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”
The agenda is to gain a deeper, fuller, richer, wider, more vivid understanding of who we are in Christ.
I am convinced that many of us walk around claiming the title of Christian, but are virtually blind to the glory of what that means.
Now, there may be some here who are indeed blind, blind to the truth of the gospel and have not come to understand or embrace the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Some in this room may be dead in trespasses and sin and have never been confronted with the holiness of God or the offensiveness of their sin. There may be some that have never placed their faith in Christ alone for deliverance from the just anger of God. And though they claim the title of Christian, they are blind. That is a very real possibility.
But for us who have truly been made new and been given eyes to see the preciousness of Christ in the gospel, we may be living our lives without a clear understanding of who we are in Christ.
The message is for believers, and so there may be some who will be listening in on what does not belong to them. But I pray that this might be the word that God uses to open eyes and warm hearts and save souls.
If you are a Christian, God would have you know that you possess indescribable treasure, treasure that should make us weep with joy and freedom and thankfulness. If we could but catch a glimpse of the treasure that is ours in Christ Jesus, it would change us and strengthen us and move us to glorify God, even as we groan, eagerly waiting to receive the fullness of what has been promised.
So the agenda is to clear the fog in our minds, to peal back the veil, to come to our senses and to behold the glorious realities that have even now, already broken in to this age in Jesus Christ. We need to understand who we are in Christ.
Everyone who has been called to be a saint, is prone to forgetting who they are in Christ, and so we all need renewing and reminding of that truth.
We need reminding, renewing.
Paul tells us that we are renewed (verse 10) in knowledge after the image of Christ, the creator of the new people of God.
It is coming to understand more deeply, fully, richly the grace we have been shown, the inheritance that is ours, the eternal life we have been given, it is coming to see and understand the value of the possession that is ours in Christ Jesus which will change us into His image.
Do you know who you are, Christian? If you bear that name, do you know the glory of what being a Christian means?
I’d like to start the discussion (this morning) looking at verses 9, 10, and 11 of chapter 3:
“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”
A Definitional Change:
First, before we talk about how a Christian is to behave, notice very carefully how Paul describes the Christian in terms of someone who has, already, put off the old self and someone who has, already, put on the new self.
Note that this is something that has happened in the past. Paul assumes that if you are a Christian you have already put off the old self and put on the new self.
This transaction is definitional of what is means to be a Christian. What Paul is describing is not something that happens again and again. It has happened once, in the past. You are new. A new creation. You have put off the old and have put in the new.
Paul has been making a clear effort in this letter to show that a cosmic change has taken place in those who are truly Christians.
Listen to the language he has used in this letter to talk about this massive change. First Paul says who we were:
You were enslaved to the domain of darkness (1:13)
You were enslaved to sins (1:14)
You were alienated and hostile in mind doing evil deeds (1:21)
You were dead in trespasses (2:13)
You were dead in the uncircumcision of your flesh (2:13)
You had a record of debt that stood against you with legal demands (2:14)
and on account of these things the wrath of God is coming (3:6)
You have been delivered from the domain of darkness (1:13)
You have been transferred into the kingdom of Christ (1:13)
You have been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (1:12)
You have been reconciled to God so that you will be presented holy and blameless and above reproach before Him (no longer under His wrath – ever!)(1:22)
You have been filled in Christ (2:10)
You have received a spiritual circumcision from God (2:11)
You have been identified with Christ so that you were buried with Christ (2:12)
You have been identified with Christ so that you have been raised with Christ (2:13)
You have been made alive with Christ (2:13)
All your trespasses have been forgiven (2:13)
The record of debt that stood against you with legal demands has been canceled (2:14)
You have died to the legal demands of justice (2:20)
Your life is hidden with Christ in God (3:3)
When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (3:4)
To summarize: If you are a Christian, you have put off the Old (3:9) and you have put on the New (3:10) through faith in Christ Jesus.
Oh, that we would know how precious this is. Oh, that we might be granted eyes to see the glory of forgiveness and the glory of deliverance from the power of sin and the glory of being qualified to inherit with the saints, as a beloved child of God. Oh, that we might live in the joy of the freedom of the glory of the children of God!
You have been given spiritual life. You have been made truly alive to God and the very Spirit of Christ is in you. You are brand new.
One Distinguishing Mark …Christ in you:
Secondly, Notice how Paul calls our attention away from earth bound distinctions of who we are and directs us to the one distinguishing mark that matters, namely Christ in you. Look at verse 11:
“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all”
He says, “here” that is here: in the church. Here: in the redeemed people of God. Here: in the assembly of those who are a new creation. Here: among those who have been brought from death to life. Here, there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free.
Among Christians, among those who are new, we are no longer bound to what would define us on earth. We are a brand new people, who find their identity and life in Christ. And in fact, the identifying mark is Christ in us. As verse 11 says, “…Christ is all, and in all.”
Our earthly citizenships and earthly stations no longer serve as the substance of who we are.
Yes, we still live in this age and in this world and so we still live in a particular nation on earth and are under particular governing authorities in this short age. And yes, some of us have come into positions of authority and freedom in this age, and some of us are in positions of servitude and restriction in this age, but we are no longer of this age. This earthly citizenship and those positions of power or service do not serve to define the substance of who you are.
And as we will see in the weeks ahead the substance of who you are in Christ does not eliminate your place in the world, instead it transforms your priorities, as we remain for a few more moments in our varying roles. But it is Christ who defines us. Christ is all, and in us all. If we have been born again.
Beloved, it is your new identity as a citizen of heaven that must have your heart.
Paul says in 3:1, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Are you seeing the picture, citizens of glory? We were once all members of a dead humanity: in sin and under God’s wrath, like rotting corpses – without spiritual life, alienated from the life of God, futile in our thinking, foolish in our hearts, darkened in our minds. We did not honor God or give Him thanks.
But, we, who have come to know Christ as our only hope, have been made alive. We have been shown grace and have come to our senses. We have been raised to life. That old self has been stripped away and a new self – a new creation has been acquired. Christ is now in us.
In verse 3 we are told that during this age, our new life will be hidden so that those around us will not be able to see it, except by its fruit. But, when Christ appears – we will appear with Him in glory. This fallen creation one Day will be no more and we will enter the everlasting joy of the children of God. The heirs with Christ will be revealed and we will be glorified with Christ our Lord.
So, even today, you, dearly loved of God, you, Christian, are a new person because Christ is in you. You have died, you have been raised. Your identity is that of a beloved heir of the Almighty in Christ. And soon, so very soon, all of this that can be seen will be wrapped up and we will appear as we truly are: alive in Christ.
And what distinguishes you from other people is not your ethnicity, nation of origin, station in life, nor any other earthly category. What distinguishes you from other people is Christ in you. You are a citizen of Glory.
Conduct Befitting the Ones Made New:
“Therefore, (citizens of glory)” Paul says in verse 5, “Put to death …what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now (citizen of glory) you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”
Paul would have us understand who we are in Christ, and so be strengthened in our faith and joy and thankfulness. If we but understood the immeasurable weight of glory that is even now ours through Christ our Lord, these prescriptions to live lives fitting of those made alive, fitting of citizens of Heaven, these prescriptions would not strike us as heavy or burdensome.
These things that Paul commands Christians to put to death do not fit among citizens of glory. They belong to those in the domain of darkness, against whom God’s wrath will be outpoured. We have been delivered from that kingdom – we are those who have been called out of that darkness and into the light! We are Christians – saints of the most high, who have Christ himself in us.
An Age of War:
Notice that Paul assumes that believers, those loved by God, will need to kill and put away what is earthly in them. Christians, in this age, will continue to have what is earthly and sinful rising up within us. We, who are citizens of glory, will, in this age, continue with an enemy within us.
But, oh how important to understand that this enemy has been defeated, cut off from you by the circumcision of Christ (2:11). Paul has stressed that Christ defeated the enemy of sin at the cross.
Even so, Paul assumes that this defeated enemy, will be in us, will be with us, until the end of this age. This is an age of war (citizens of glory).
But notice that it is only those who have been raised with Christ by faith – it is only citizens of glory that can wage war on what is earthly in them. Those who are dead in trespasses and sins have no hope of defeating the enemy of sin on their own.
We, on the other hand, are those who know that our sin has already been defeated by Christ and so we wage war in this age against a defeated enemy. The enemy of sin will never again possess power to kill you. Instead, you must be about killing it and putting it away. So we fight as those who are already victorious and not as slaves. You fight as a citizen of glory to put these things away.
Citizen of glory – the age to come is but a breath away. As a citizen of glory, seek the things above. It does not befit the heirs of God to go on living in sin. In fact, Romans 8 tells us that if we live in harmony with sin we are not citizens of glory.
If you have been raised with Christ you have Christ in you, and Jesus Christ does not live in harmony with sin! You are either at peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ our Savior or you are at peace with sin. There is no middle ground.
But, if you are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ than Christ is in you and you will be putting to death those things that are earthly in you, knowing that you are at peace with God and the enemy within you can never condemn you because of Christ’s work on the cross. You are a citizen of glory. Therefore kill what is earthly in you.
The Renewing of Our Minds:
How do we go about killing what is earthly?
The key to living as a child of God in this present evil is found in 3:10.
How are we to grow in holiness? And persevere in faith? How am I to kill the inclinations I still have toward sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry? How do I kill and put away the inclination I still have toward anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk and lying? Every single one of us has these inclination and has the temptation (sometimes more, sometimes less) to embrace these things that do not befit the children of God. How do we kill these inclinations in us and put them away?
We are “…renewed in knowledge…” verse 10.
Christians are renewed and conformed into the image of Christ, their Creator, in knowledge. It is by the renewal of our minds that you and I will not satisfy the desires of the flesh.
Is this not what Paul has labored to do in this letter?
Paul has labored to renew us by placing before us again:
- the glory of God’s plan in Christ,
- the power of His provision in Christ,
- the incredible joy of forgiveness and peace with God through Jesus Christ.
- He has reminded us of Christ, our precious, powerful, and perfect provision.
- He has dismantled the error of the false teachers in Colossi who misunderstood the sin problem, who misunderstood who Christ was and what He had done.
- Paul has labored to remind us of the spiritual reality of who we are in Christ and what is ours in Christ – the hope of glory, a glory that will soon be revealed.
Paul has labored to renew our minds. It is
the knowledge of Christ and
the knowledge of His work for us, and
the recognition of the hope laid up for us in heaven when Christ our life appears, that will fill us with joy and peace and thankfulness and love and patience and perseverance and arm us for the battle and remake us after His image.
We must be renewed in knowledge. The question is, what are you seeking and setting your mind on? What has captured your mind, and heart, and priorities? What are you setting your mind on?
Killing what is Earthly:
So, how do we go about killing sexual sin (verse 5)?
First of all what is sexual sin? Well, sexual desire is God given, but it is when we seek the fulfillment of that desire outside of the parameters and boundaries set up by God for our good, that it becomes sin.
To engage in sexual sin is to forget who you are in Christ. It is to forget where true and lasting and full pleasure is really found. It is to forget where you will appear in just a few moments. Why would a citizen of glory who has been freely given fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in Christ Jesus embrace the passing pleasure of a forbidden sexual experience? It can only be that you have forgotten who you are and what you have in Christ. God knows what will bring you fullness, and He has given it to you in Christ.
What about anger? Anger and wrath flare up and malice boils in us when we are denied what is most precious to us. If you are a constantly angry person or someone who struggles to forgive the offenses done to you and you day dream about getting even, you have forgotten that you yourself have not been called to account for your record of wrongs because Jesus nailed them to the cross. You have died to the basic principles of justice so that you can forgive the wrongs done to you. If you are constantly frustrated and angry that life has not met all of your expectations, you have forgotten that when Christ appears you also will appear with Him in glory. God knows what is best for you and He is working everything together for your good – lay up for yourself treasures in heaven – the things of this life are transient.
If you are given to sins of your mouth: slander, obscene talk, and lying, have you forgotten that you don’t need to prove yourself? Christ is your righteousness and life. Why are you tearing others down and serving yourself? You have been filled in Christ. Your life and joy and fullness is not at stake. Use your words, not for personal gain or glory, not for tearing down one another, but use your words to build each other up, to point one another to our hope in Christ.
Where is your treasure? Where is your hope? Where are your priorities? On what are you setting your mind? Are you seeking the things that are above? Are you setting your mind on things above or on things of the earth?
Citizens of glory – you have all things in Christ – put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you. Seek a deeper, fuller, richer, wider, more vivid understanding of who you are in Christ. If you are a Christian you possess treasures of indescribable worth. You have Christ Himself in you! And God Himself for you!
If we are setting our minds on understanding who we are and what we have in Christ and seek those things, it will change us to be more and more like Jesus.
Paul tells us that we are renewed in knowledge after the image of Christ. And so we need to set about the task in this short age of coming to better understand who we are in Christ. We must set about the task of more deeply understanding, more fully, more richly understanding the grace we have been shown, the inheritance that is ours, the eternal life we have been given.
Seek to see and understand the value of the possession that is yours in Christ Jesus and you will be changed.
Citizens of glory, the old has passed the New has come. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly and glorify God with your new life. Be quick to repent of what is earthly in you and quick to forgive each other and eager to point your fellow heirs back to Christ and the hope we have in Him.
Andrew “Andy” Murray was born and raised in New Hampshire. His father, pastor Loren Murray, served Fellowship Bible Church in Chester, NH. At six years of age Andy trusted in Jesus Christ and was baptized. He was brought up “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” At the age of 12 his father was in a fatal car accident. Reflecting on the loss of his dad Andy writes; “I see now the wise and loving hand of Christ in my life, as He used this event to, shape, mold and press me toward Himself. It was this event that sparked in me an earnest desire to know God from His Word. By His grace, this desire has continued to grow.” Andy met his wife, Elizabeth, at Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University). They have four wonderful boys. Visit Windham Bible Chapel.