Are you one who is clinging on to that favorite old shirt? You know the one that has been hanging in your closet for years? The one that doesn't even fit anymore? The one that has certain attachments and every time you see it, you reminisce about the good ole days? The one that you just can't get rid of...Maybe for you it's not a shirt, but some sort of knick knack (or dust collector :)), or whatever it might be...That thing that has no purpose in your life anymore, yet you just can't bring yourself to let it go...Yes, I can relate!
Colossians 3:5 starts with the words, "Put to death..." and verse 8 begins by saying, "Rid yourselves of..." These follow verses that describe those who "have been raised with Christ...", those who have made a heart commitment to live "hidden with Christ in God". These verses go hand in hand. Live in Christ; Die to earthly nature. "Put to death" or "Rid yourself of" as opposed to "set aside for another time - just in case". Take it outside and burn it, as opposed to tucking it in the back of your closet. Sometimes easier said than done?
Continuing on in this passage, we learn what to put to death. "...whatever belongs to your earthly nature...sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, (idolatry), anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, lying..." These are the old shirts that hang in the closet. I can skim through the list (which is not inclusive) and focus on certain ones and profess I have rid myself of such ways. But, when I meditate carefully on this list, I become convicted. Read the list again; one by one; and ask God to help you identify what you still need to purge from your closet.
Oh brothers and sisters, there is much found in God's Word distinguishing between the two lives...The life that
indulges in our earthly nature vs clothes ourselves in the nature of Christ
leads to death vs leads to life
gratifies our sinful nature vs is embedded in God's grace, hope, peace
We have a choice.
I mentioned in last week's blog that as we look back at the moment we decided to follow Christ, some of us have a clear definitive transformation, while others experienced more of a gradual shift. Regardless, if we have chosen to follow Christ, to receive His grace, to experience His presence, it is clear that we must work at distinguishing between these two lives, putting to death and ridding ourselves of the old, other life. Colossians 3:7 says, "You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.." and verse 9 says, "...since you have taken off your old self with its practices, and have put on the new self that is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." WOW - THAT's POWERFUL! :) Read that again and soak in it a bit. It doesn't say to put on the new self and now we are perfect. It's a process. We are being renewed.
Ok - here's another Scripture I feel led to include for us. 1 Corinthians 10:21 says, "You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord's and the cup of demons. You cannot eat at the Lord's table and the table of demons." We must choose.
How does this look as we are in the world, yet are not to be like the world?
There is the struggle. This earthly, sinful nature that screams, "Try me back on...don't get rid of me - you might need me later...I'm still a part of you..." Sometimes it's deafening. "Just once more. You deserve it. Just one more click. Just one more lie. Just one more grudge to hold. Just send one more message. Just one more _________." Each and every one of us can fill in the blank. We all must resist sinful nature.
This reminds me of when our kids were little. They would ask us to play a game and so we would enjoy a game together. But, eventually it would come to an end and then came the heart-felt plea, "Can we play again...please...just one more?" So we give in and enjoy another game. It ends. The plea, "Oh please can we just play ONE MORE game - just ONE MORE?" Ok fine - we play again. Just as the plea was about to come again, we emphatically interject, "NO MORE ONE MORES!!"
You can also see this struggle with sinful nature in Romans 7:14-25 as Paul writes about his waging war. Read it and see if you can relate......Seriously, take some time to find it on your Bible app, or open up the Word and read these heart-felt verses.
Here's where the knowing about God vs knowing God comes in. As we make that commitment to follow Christ, we know about putting off our old self. We can identify sin and its nature. In fact, we are pretty good at pointing it out in other people. We know about God's forgiveness of sin. But here's the challenge...have we spent time with God and interacted with Him in a way that allows us to grow to know Him? Have we fallen in love with Him and recognize His voice in our lives? His strength in our lives? His voice is loving....convicting....forgiving. We know about love, conviction, repentance and forgiveness, but what do they feel like?
To choose to put off the old life and step into a new life in Christ is life-changing. But we don't have to do it alone. Paul follows the description of his sin struggle with Romans 8:1-17. Read these verses and be reminded of the power of the Spirit who lives in us to free us - who gives us LIFE!
Do we, as Christians, mess up? You better believe it. It's a daily struggle. A daily choice to wake up and proclaim, "NO MORE ONE MORES!" Some of us have secret closets or "junk drawers" or even whole rooms we keep locked up. It's time to clean them out.
By the power of the Spirit, with the help from the God we come to love and know and experience, we can reach into our closet and take the steps needed to remove the old! Jesus provides this way out. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." Own that verse. Believe it. When we feel ourselves approaching the plea of "Just One More", I pray we can take a breath, pause, and imagine Jesus with us, inviting us to take a walk with Him rather than give in. HE provides the way out as temptation dangles in front of our faces.
In Christ, we look different; we act different; we think different. In the eyes of the world, are we different? Do we blend in or stand out? Hypocrisy? Or, are we like it says in Philippians 2:13-16, " for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life..."
Today is the day. Trash day. I hear the truck coming. Bring your bags to the curb of Christ. Throw out the junk. Stand strong in this new life that your Abba Father has for you. Today is the day!
1. Spend time with God intentionally asking Him to reveal to you what junk you need to throw out.
2. Meditate on Romans 7:7-8:17; look up other passages about getting rid of sinful nature
3. Identify and name the junk
4. Do something concrete as an act of throwing it out
- write about it and then burn the paper
- get rid of something that may be the vessel of earthly, sinful nature
- confide in a close friend and confess, seek their prayers of support and accountability
5. Celebrate your freedom and new life in Christ!
Jay and I found ourselves preparing to pack up and move our family once again. It seemed like each move we've made included more children and more stuff! We were determined that in this move from PA to OH, we would be very intentional to simplify and get rid of some stuff - not children, we took them all along - but things we haven't used, junk we could part with. We hauled all that was left....and well...ok...yes...we still filled a semi truck, but imagine what it would have been like if we didn't do some simplifying!!
So we settled into our new home, put things neatly in place, and felt as though our belongings and home were off to a refreshing, clean start. I took pride in tending to the house. I remember being so excited that the pantry and drawers in the kitchen and bathrooms were not crowded, but nicely and neatly organized, some even empty! I continued to daily have the time to make sure that everything was put in their right spot and things were orderly. Laundry was done, folded and put away. All was well.
As I'm writing this, almost 4 years after the "honeymoon" stage of our move, I see dishes in the sink, mail on the table, toys on the floor, shoes by the front door and a pile of laundry! Not TOO bad, but there are definitely things not in their right spots, tasks that haven't been completely tended to as needed. Across the 4 years, we gradually let our guard down. Other activities and tasks added to our days and unintentionally, the care of the house became less of a priority. We still tend to it, but it kind of gets our left-over attention.
I don't know when or if you have taken that step to start a new life; when or if you made the decision to accept and believe in Jesus; when or if you dedicated your life to Christ. But I imagine if you have, there was great joy as you considered what your New Life would be like.
Colossians 3:3 starts by saying, "For you died..." Well, if you are reading this, we know you didn't literally, physically die. We understand that at the point of making the most important decision of your life, you felt a stirring to cease the way you have been living. You came to know who Jesus is, what He has done for you and realized you want to live in Him. Your desire in the decision was to start a New Life in Him. Verse 3 goes on to say, "...and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." Let that soak in a bit.
I remember as a young child hearing the salvation story at a Bible Adventure gathering - held right after school at the Berlin Baptist Church. I was moved to tears and remember taking that step in raising my hand accepting the invitation to accept Jesus. I went with the others to another room where we received the booklet and they prayed with us. And then I went home. Over the next years through elementary, jr high and high school, I continued to grow in my knowledge of the Christian walk as I participated in church, Sunday School and youth groups. For me, I didn't have that explosive moment of transformation when I made the decision to follow Christ. As I consider my walk, I have come to the conclusion that my decision was genuine, and I did allowed Jesus to move into my heart. I allowed my mind to learn more and more ABOUT God. But, there have been moments and experiences and choices I have made later in life when I have intentionally opened myself even more to experiencing His grace, His love, His presence in my life.
I'm not going to get into my whole life testimony, but I wanted to shed perspective on what this New Life - hidden in Christ - might look like. Sometimes we make the mistake of tending to our New Life with the perspective that we have a New Life - a New START. But then gradually other activities, thoughts and experiences move in. Perhaps after a while, after the start, there are tasks and corners of our life we neglect or that are untended. Maybe we have reached a point where our New Lives in Christ are getting our left-over attention.
What if we considered our decision to follow Christ as it should be - not just a START - but a LIFE-LONG commitment? What if we embrace that this life we are living indeed is "...hidden with Christ in God"? Ponder what that means.
What if we woke up embracing this New Life DAILY? What if we go beyond knowing ABOUT this New Life in Christ, to knowing and living it in each day?
It's never too late to embrace our New Life in Christ. If you haven't made that commitment yet, the invitation is there for YOU today. No matter if you accepted Jesus many, many years ago, or just now, our Savior or as Col 3:4 says, "...Christ, who IS YOUR LIFE" invites us to not just know about Him, but truly know and experience Him...He is our New Life!
~ Many of us can recite the phrases of salvation: "Jesus died on the cross to save our sins", "God sent His Son...", "We confess our sins, and believe that Jesus died and was raised for our sins, and accept Him into our heart"... Move beyond reciting these phrases...understand the depths of them. Experience them. Embrace in your life what it all means to you. And be transformed by your Savior. Seek His Word to reveal even more!
~ Go back to the time you surrendered your life to Jesus.
- What did you die to?
- What was the experience like?
- Consider what your New Life has looked like since you made the choice to follow Him
- What can you do to daily embrace the New Life in Christ?
~ Dig into the Word and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to passages about salvation and about the life we have as a Christian. What does it look like?
What a better time to consider what God has done for each of us through His Son, Jesus, as He sent Him to be a sacrifice on our behalf. Easter is a celebration of the life we have in and because of our Resurrected Savior!!!
Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
You might be familiar with the "What to Expect" books by Heidi Murkoff: What to Expect When You're Expecting ... What to Expect the First Year ... and even What to Expect the Second Year. Yes. I confess. As Jay and I expected our first child, almost 18 years ago, we read the book!
We had no previous knowledge or experience of what it was like to be pregnant, deliver a baby, let alone parent a child. And so, we referred to "the book". It became our instruction manual. It told us about what we should expect in the
upcoming month; how big the baby was; what I would be feeling and should be doing each step of the way. We learned a lot ABOUT pregnancy. We would often find ourselves saying, "Well, the book says..."
But let me tell you...I could have memorized the entire book, yet knowing ABOUT it had nothing on experiencing it. Yes, I read about what to expect each month, but in each month I came to truly KNOW.
We can have the whole Bible memorized; we can quote favorite verses and passages; we can share Bible stories. We know about God. But do we KNOW God?
Colossians 3:1-2 says, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things."
When we say we believe in Jesus, it's more than just knowing about Him. He wants us to set our minds and hearts on things that are of Christ; to understand, think, and seek the attributes, identity and priorities that are the same as Jesus, not of the world.
So how do we do this? How do we know Christ in a way we can set our minds and hearts on Him? Maybe we can best describe it in regards to how we get to know others in our life. There are some people who we KNOW ABOUT because we read about them or watch an interview with them. Sometimes we read so much about a person we think we know them. Now let's consider someone we dearly love - a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend...someone you interact with and experience life with. Yes, we know ABOUT this person, but the depth of the relationship is so much deeper. We spend time together, have meaningful conversations, experience the ups and downs of life together and really begin to understand each other. We find that we really do KNOW this person. With each interaction, even more of the person's personality and characteristics touch your heart. The knowledge and understanding moves from your mind to your heart.
Oh to consider what there is to know and experience with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. As we position our mind and heart in a way that points to Christ, we can get to truly know Him and His ways. Read the Book - Know About God - Set your mind and heart on things above - KNOW GOD!
~ Make a list of things that you know about God
~ Identify and pick just one of the characteristics or descriptions and go beyond just knowing that ABOUT God. Do something that helps you really know and understand that aspect of God.
~ Be intentional to set your mind and heart on things above, where Christ is - not on earthly things
~ May you know Him even more as you spend time with Him.
Maybe the one characteristic you pick that you know about God is that He is love.
Dig into the Word and find scriptures that refer to God's love and really spend time in the Truths of His love.
Spend time being still and allowing God to love on you; place yourself in His lap and allow Him to wrap His arms of love around you.
What is He saying to you? What earthly definition or ways of love might need to be replaced with Christ's ways? What does your heart experience as you rest and experience His love?
I invite you to join me in a series of...well...I guess they're called "Blogs", which, by definition, is "a regularly updated web page, that is written in an informal or conversational style". I have never "blogged" before, but I sure have been informal and most conversational, or talkative some would say. :)
I have felt led to write on a series that I'll call "Knowing About God vs Knowing God". We will unpack Colossians 3:1-17 a little at a time. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit might stir us up, challenge and transform us, move us even closer in our experiential relationship with God Almighty, our Heavenly Father, our Savior...so that we might allow what we know of God move from our mind to our heart...and that we might not just know ABOUT God, but that we might KNOW Him deeply!
Over the next few weeks I will write on the following, and welcome your insight, comments, questions, conversations and wisdom as well!
1) Set Your Heart and Mind on Things Above (vs 1-2)
2) A New Life (vs 3-4)
3) Throw out the Earthly Junk (v 5-11)
4) Clothe Yourself in Christ (v 12-14)
5) Be All In (v 15-17)