Keep Living 4
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.
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. 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.
In this letter of Colossians we have heard the Spirit’s call to keep on living fully and freely not in our own little bubble of hopes and dreams; not merely keeping rules or doing whatever we want, but firmly grounded in the gospel of Jesus.
We have heard that living this new life has a character about it, a timbre, a song, a way: it is thankful – thankful living or ‘Thanks-Living.
Paul has warned us: that it is possible to go backwards or sideways; to give our heart to fickle gods of the culture or earning God blessing and security by keeping the Old Testament Law, both of which are mere shadows of Jesus, the real thing, who gives real life.
This thanks-living is not lived founded on human fickle gods, philosophies, new moon festivals, new moons, eating and drinking, ceremonies and rules. Our life is founded on, lived in the resurrected and ruling Caesar Jesus. He is where our heart is best set.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things …
Why set your heart on this heavenly Jesus and his earthly presence?
Because we have received everything we need for full life under any threat or suffering or temptation to do our life ‘our way’. We have the fullest wisdom and highest authority with us and for us everyday (2:6-10).
We have already gone through one death and been resurrected to this new life in Jesus when we were baptised into his death and resurrection. We no longer need to achieve God’s blessing and life by being good and keeping the Old Testament law for that purpose.
Neither do we need to chase after many gods in and endless pursuit of happiness that is so fickle and fleeting. We are free of both those burdens in the grace and power of Jesus (2:11-15)
We are completely free. We live in the light of Jesus, our new temple. We can freely live in THANKS-LIVING – living a life of deep thankfulness to Jesus which keeps us anchored, established and strong in his vision, his hope, his future for us (2:16-30).
And how? Well, like wearing clothes …
Paul says thanks-Living is like wearing daily clothes in the everyday places live. In life and work and family and community and church we take off some clothes and put on some new ones, says Paul.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:5-11
This is not about ‘do’s and don’ts’ in gaining God’s blessing. This is about simply reflecting what God has given to us in everyday living with others. Thanks living is not about keeping the rules or throwing them out but reflecting the acceptance, love and life we have already received by God’s immeasurable grace in this superior Jesus.
We take off these old clothes because we know they don’t fit us anymore and don’t help us live at all.
IN SEXUAL THINGS: Avoiding any sexual unfaithfulness to another, using sex as simply a means of meeting your sexual desire devoid of relationship, trust, commitment and sacrificing love, sex as power not serving, sexual conduct as completely self-orientated, not other centred …
IN STATUS/POWER AND MONEY: Avoiding the pull of greed; of things; of what all those smiling faces on Face book seem to have or the people in that house obviously have …
IN SELF: Calling off the chase for more immediate gods of happiness and satisfaction,
IN WORDS/RELATIONSHIPS: Using true, honest and clear words rather than gossip or words aimed at winning or getting our way.
IN SUFFERING AND JOY: Thanksgiving in anything not just positive thinking or its opposite: whining and complaining,
IN TIME – ALL THE TIME IN ALL THINGS: not living a double life of church and the rest of my week as ‘me time’ – but Jesus all the time in all things.
And as God’s already chosen and called people of his love, these are the new clothes we wear into life everyday …
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 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. 17 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 3:12-17
And even more details on our new clothes … for every day …
18 Wives, submit yourselves 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 embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favouritism.
4 1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
I am not sure we can understand just how new these clothes of King Jesus really were for the Colossians. In a community with as much domestic violence, casual divorce, pain, limited tolerance, pressure to conform to the local customs and approach to life, and often violence against fellow Christians as we know is experienced now, this is what Paul says the new community of faith looks like:
Equal people in true partnership together. The very notion that women, children and slaves are human beings in their own right, equal to those In power over them is truly new.
In the neighbourhood and family and at work, women, children and slaves are just property to be treated however you like. They are not at all equal in dignity of value and can be used however the ‘owner’ wishes. Well not now. Not now in the new world of Jesus’ rule.
In Jesus’ new economy of grace woman, children, slaves, employees and anyone vulnerable to others are now raised up as being stand alone, dignified human beings both created in the image of God and baptised into Christ as far as church goes.
So, Marriage is now mutual submission; love, laying down each other’s ego, very life for each other. Not merely money, family politics and getting ahead.
Parenting – no shaming of little ones, no disrespecting or any kind of abusive words or silence or worse but deep love and always respecting between kids and parents.
Work – doing your best for the boss no matter what she or he is like and whether or not they are looking. Acting with integrity in the workplace as an employee, but then being fair and even-handed as a boss.
And all of this makes this:
11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Friends, this is church – not merely buildings and ceremonies and festivals and rosters and friends.
Church is community in Jesus’ way, and it was revolutionary in Colossae and the entire Roman world. There was nothing like it in their world until the Christian community sprang up. There is still nothing like it now in our time.
We are that revolutionary community. We live in tis privileged place with patient, daily, wearing of Jesus on our sleeve as we live this life grounded in thankfulness to king Jesus for allowing us to live it.
There is no need to give up, give in or give it all away. This emperor has new clothes and shares them with us. Jesus is here, and he never ceases being the real thing that gives real life to this world of death and suffering.
We dig in, stay connected, be grounded on the things above right here with us on the ground for the living of it here and now.
This thankful life is ours to live and give in this community. We sing it speak it, encourage each other in it as we do whatever is at our had to do on any given day until the last great and final day when the King will repeat his public spectacle for all to see, and we will be lost in overflowing thankfulness.