The Mystery of “hagiasmos” – Part Two
Union to Christ
The following message is the second message of a three part series on New Covenant Sanctification and was presented by Moe Bergeron at the 2014 All Things New, a yearly New Covenant discussion group. Introduction by pastor Joseph Krygier.
Sanctification is not rocket science. It is simply being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, our Creator.
Colossians 3:1-25 ESV
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is 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 what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
New Covenant Sanctification – Msg Two
SEEKING AND SETTING YOUR MINDS ON THINGS THAT ARE ABOVE
Let’s begin with a re-reading of the verses 1-4.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
The word “if” here is of primary importance. It serves to separate the saints of God from all others. “If then you have been raised with Christ” automatically defines those for whom what will follow applies.
The next thing we need to note is the encouragement that is found within verses 1 and 2. It’s truly a most neglected thought and its importance is essential to God’s encouraging and motivating those who have been raised with Christ.
In verse 1 God states plainly, “seek the things that are above”
and in verse 2 it is “Set your minds on things that are above.”
Why? The things that are above? Because that is where your Savior is seated at the right hand of God, the source of the saint’s being.
Apply: So if the old sin loving “you” has died and you were raised with Christ — then seek the things above — set your minds on things above. God and his Christ, your Christ!
What are those above “things”?
Hopefully we all know the answer.
If I were a Christian of at least a few years, and if I owned a Bible and had the privilege of the fellowship of God’s saints, and if I did attend a respectable Bible believing church then I should know, at least in part, what these things above are. But not everyone knows, even after many years as a Christian.
The Spirit of God, who is the true author of God’s word, including this letter, expects the new covenant community to know what these “above” things are. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 3 verses 13-16 wrote;
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
“Press(ing) on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus was a big deal for Paul and the others who had lived by faith in God and in the promises given by God.
But what was Paul’s goal? What are those things that are above, things in heaven and not on earth? If you don’t have a clue let me first say that the things above are obviously sought through faith. See Hebrews 11:1-3 ESV.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
We also know that’s where “…Christ is, seated at the right hand of God”.
Now Paul was not the only saint who had sought the things that are above. The Spirit of God has filled the Bible with people who have also done the same. See Hebrews 11:8-16
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
OK! So now you know, at least I hope you know in some small way and that it makes a big lasting impact on you.
This is your encouragement to walk before God in the beauty of holiness.
In my first message we have seen how Paul used the new creation motif to encourage the saints of God to walk as new creatures in Christ Jesus and as participants of the new creation. They are to be actively engaged in living the resurrected life. They are to seek the blessed things that are already ours, yet await us above.
I am now going to encourage you to join with me as we look even deeper into Colossians 3 by focusing on the “how to” language of “put to death” and “put on” that we see in verses 5 through 17. The primary, underlying thought, is found in Colossians 3:16.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
The first thing we want to consider is the “WHY”. Why should we set our minds on those things that are above?
The Spirit of God through Paul tells us “WHY” we should be seeking and setting our minds on the things that God has prepared for us. See Colossians 3:3-4.
3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
The first thing we want to point out is this. You have died and you were buried! You have experienced an honest to goodness real death, though not a physical death.
But how and when did you die? See Romans 6:1-11
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Not only have you been immersed into Jesus’s death and have also died, “Your life is hidden with Christ”.
But our “hidden-ness” will come to an end, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
For now this means your new life with Jesus is not publicly disclosed. No one looking at you or me right now can say with a certainty that you or I are truly who we say we are, a born again disciple of Christ.
There are two things this verse is saying:
- Your union to Christ is your life.
- And when Christ appears “then you also will appear with him in glory”. It’s then, at the appearance of Jesus, when your union to Christ is fully disclosed with him in glory.
Because of all these reasons we should be actively engaged in being conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ.
THE PUTTING ON AND THE PUTTING OFF
The next thing you need to pay close attention to is this commandment of Christ in verse 5: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you”.
Your ability to fulfill this commandment comes as a direct result of your union with Christ.
Now this is where things get interesting. The Spirit of God has said some remarkable things about God’s saints that we just can’t let slip by unnoticed.
- In verse 1 he says, “you have been raised” The use of the past tense is extremely important in the Spirit’s instruction. “You have been raised”.
This is an accomplished fact if you are in Christ. And it is a given if you are in Christ.
- In verse 3 he states, “you have died”. Yes! You are in Christ because you died.
This is where it gets interesting because…. The Spirit of God is plainly telling those who are already dead –to kill.
- That’s what we see in verse 5. “Put to death”.
This is truly a most fascinating fact of spiritual life for the saints of God.
- Those who can put to death what is earthly in them –are those who already have died –and whose lives are hidden with Christ in God.
- Their life is hidden with Christ with God. (verse 3)
- Jesus Christ is their life! (verse 4)
- They too will appear with him in glory! (verse 4)
- Now let’s consider those things that serve as examples of those earthly things that are “in you” (verse 5).
At one time these things were telling signs that you were not disciples and lovers of God.
Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness which is idolatry.
There are no exceptions in God’s eyes.
- He plainly states in verse 7 that those things marked your previous life and you were living in them.
- And to complicate matters the Spirit of God informs us that we need to be putting to death these very same things because, as the Spirit says in verse 7, “On account of these the wrath of God is coming.”
If the world is going to suffer God’s wrath over these sins then we should be busily at work put(ting) to death what is earthly in us?
YOU ARE IN PROCESS –YOU ARE CONTINUALLY BEING RENEWED
But the Spirit of God doesn’t stop there. He knows there are other things God’s house must be putting away immediately. Note the word “now” in verse 8. “Now” means immediately and not later. Putting something off to later is contrary to the putting off now.
“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another”
I believe with all of my heart, that we must renounce such things because we are NOT the exception. We’ve been guilty of such. Even the best of us need to put these things away. Even your pastors and deacons, even our teachers, even our moms, even our dads, and even our children.
An Example: John Piper speaking to BBC on his 20th Anniversary in 2011
I regret the sins of my heart and the sins of my mouth mainly. James 3:1-2 says, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” I am not a perfect man. And I have stumbled and sinned with my heart and my mouth. And I am regretful of it. You have been a very forgiving and long-suffering people and have covered a multitude of sins with your love for me (1 Peter 4:8). But this would be a good occasion, I think, to make at least one public confession of public sin. I received a letter from one of our members a while back calling me to repent for things I had said about Greg Boyd in this recent controversy over the foreknowledge of God. I see in my heart a great tendency to defend myself and to justify my words and my actions. And I know that the intensity with which I disapprove of “open theism” easily moves into scorning persons rather than disagreeing with viewpoints. So I sent this letter to the elders and asked them all to read it and tell me if in their view I need to confess to sin in this matter since I distrust my judgment about myself. Here’s a response from one of the elders whom I respect very highly. He wrote, “On two distinct occasions I do recall thinking: ‘It seemed like John attacked Greg Boyd (not Greg’s theology).’ One of those occasions was at Northwestern College when, in a non-flattering way you mimicked Greg…. The problem was not with what was said. The problem was that the manner in which the words were spoken was disparaging [to] Greg….” The second incident the elder refers to happened on a Wednesday night when I referred to abominating Greg’s theology. The elder wrote, “I suspect that only the most careful listeners could hear an angrily spoken phrase such as ‘Even Greg Boyd, whose theology I abominate’ as a description of theology and not an attack of the person.” So I want to publicly apologize for the sins of my tongue and the impure heart behind it. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” Jesus said (Matthew 12:34 RSV). I regret moving from what I hope is a proper disapproval of theology across the line into expressed scorn for the person on those occasions. As I look back over twenty years of ministry, I am regretful that one of my most characteristic sins is to be quick to anger and quick to criticize in a way that runs ahead of brokenhearted concern and pastoral compassion. So, as you look with me into the future, there’s a place for you to focus your prayers. I don’t want us to be an angry church. I want us to be a humble, joyful, singing, Christ-exalting, God-centered, Bible-believing, patient, caring, kind, merciful, truth-telling, broken-hearted and bold people. It would help if I were that way. Pray for me. (Twenty Years, Then Romans June 11, 2000 – Scripture: Romans 5 ( PiperSermons-en))
So every one of us is to put off those things as well. Why? Look closely at the past tense language of verse 9b and 10.
“seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and (you) have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
“you have (already) put off the old self with its practices.“
“you have (already) put on the new self.“
And here’s the kicker… The new self you already enjoy is…
“being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
“Renewed” is a key word in this context and it needs to be properly understood. The two words in my ESV translation make plain that this self, this new self, “is being renewed” (present active tense words) describing an action that is ongoing. It’s a continuing process in the new self. The thought then is how you and I, as new creatures in Christ Jesus are growing and expanding into the likeness of our Creator through our growing knowledge of God in Christ.
When Adam rebelled against God he disfigured himself. The fact of the matter is this, the moment he turned against God, he became the image bearer of the devil. Proofs (John 8:43-45 ESV)
Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Here are some questions we need to ask: Do you relish your new life in Christ? Do you delight in Christ? Have you truly applied yourself to putting off the earthly things, the filthy things of your old self? And have you seriously applied yourself to learning more of Christ, who is your life?
Jesus said; “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. 25 These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:23-26 ESV)
Finally, I want you to understand the importance of encouraging one another as new creatures in Christ who are seeking the things that are above together. Look with me to verse 16.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.