We started our expedition 6 am. Trains took us to Dover and a very rough sea crossing. By evening we were in Paris and then we spent a sleepless night standing in the corridor of a French “sleeper” train which didn’t have any seats. At 6 pm we arrived in the French Alps and so began a 3 week Trek in Moutiers in France to Aosta in Italy up and down several mountains including more than 13,300 feet up Gran Paradiso which is the highest mountain in Italy. We walked more than 200 miles with rucksacks weighing half a hundredweight full of tents, stoves, food and clothes. When the sun shone the temperature was in the 80s. When the sun wasn’t shining it was raining. At night and at altitudes above 2000 feet it was snowing. We had none of the conveniences you might expect at modern campsites because there weren’t campsites. We just stopped overnight where we could find a piece of level ground near an icy mountain stream. It was the most memorable holiday of my life even though it happened almost 40 years ago.
Three weeks later we arrived home and our families didn’t recognise us. Stepping into a warm bath to wash away three weeks of mud and grime was one of the happiest moments of my life! Hot water and soap! Feeling clean at last! And of course then when I got dressed, I didn’t just climb back into all the clothes I had been wearing for three weeks. That would have been stupid! To get really clean but then put on those filthy damp clothes again. Of course, I put on clean fresh dry clothes. Because you just don’t return to civilisation but then carry on wearing the same clothes you wore hiking across the Alps. That wouldn’t be at all appropriate. It’s just not done!
But, Paul says to the Colossians, that is a picture of exactly what Christians do if we live our lives after we become Christians in the same sinful ways as we did before we were saved!
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.
For Paul, becoming a Christian and beginning the Christian life is just like throwing off an old set of filthy tatty rags and putting on a brand new spotless suit.
We have taken off our old self – we throw away our old life and our old sinful human nature when we come to Christ as Saviour and Lord. And we have put on the new self – as Christ cleanses us all our sins are forgiven and we receive a brand new life to live, a new nature, a new self.
And that new self is being continually renewed in the image of its creator. In Colossians 1:15 we saw that Jesus Christ is the image of God. We are being continually transformed into the image of Christ, to be more like Jesus.
2 Corinthians 318 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
The Good News Bible puts verses 9-10 this way.
Do not lie to one another, for you have taken off the old self with its habits and have put on the new self. This is the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image, in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself.
Throwing off the old – putting on the new. But how do we do that? Well, Paul says, it’s an attitude of mind. It is about understanding and believing the incredible things God has done for us in Christ. It is all about realising that
YOU HAVE BEEN RAISED WITH CHRIST (vv 1-4)
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Before we were Christians we were entirely separate from God, cut off by sin. But now our lives are inseparably linked with Christ’s life. We saw that in Colossians 1:27 Christ in you – the hope of glory. And again in Colossians 2:10 You have been given fullness in Christ.
Our lives are linked with Christ’s death and resurrection. Colossians 2 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
We have died with Christ (verse 3) For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
And we share Christ’s resurrection (verse 1) Since, then, you have been raised with Christ.
We also share Christ’s exaltation (verse 1) set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
And we will share in the glory of Christ’s return (verse 4) When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Your real life is Christ. Our true identity and our ultimate destiny is spiritually and eternally bound up with Christ’s life and death and resurrection. The Message paraphrase puts it really well.
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you.
“Your real life is Christ!” So we should live on that basis. Verse 1 – set your HEARTS on things above. In Bible times the heart was not the centre of the emotions but the centre of our WILL. And verse 2 – set your MINDS on things above – our will and our intellect should all focus on the truth that our real life is Christ! We should strive to see everything in its true eternal and spiritual perspective.
The battleground for our Christian conduct is in our minds and our wills. We know that God exists, we know the Bible is true, we know that Jesus Christ is Lord. So we will want to live our lives on the basis of these eternal truths, not on the basis of the ignorance and disobedience which characterises this fallen world.
A newspaper reported that a young man who once found a £5 note on the street resolved that from that time on he would never lift his eyes while walking. Over the years the article said the man also collected, among other things, 29,516 buttons, 54,172 pins, a dozen pennies, a very sore back, and a miserly disposition. But he also lost many things – the glory of sunlight, the radiance of the stars, the freshness of blue skies and the smiles of friends.
Some Christians are like that man. They may not walk around staring at the pavement but they are so caught up with this world that they give little attention to spiritual and eternal values. They spend all their time on this world and give no thought for the next. That is dangerous. Paul says that Christians are “seated with Christ in the heavenly places.” But if we give all our attention and affection to a world that is passing away, we lose our upward look. Our perspective becomes distorted and we fail to soak up heaven’s sunlight. Buttons, pins, and pennies, but no treasures laid up in heaven.
The Living Bible paraphrase makes the point very clearly.
Since you became alive again, so to speak, when Christ arose from the dead, now set your sights on the rich treasures and joys of heaven where He sits beside God in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts: don’t spend your time worrying about things down here. You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person does. Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God. And when Christ who is our real life comes back again, you will shine with him and share in all his glories.
Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God. So LIVE on that basis! And so you should:
PUT TO DEATH YOUR EARTHLY NATURE (verses 5-11)
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
There are so many pressures and temptations in today’s world. Moral pressures of immorality impurity and lust. Materialistic pressures of evil desires and greed. Evil actions start with evil thoughts which is why we need to get our thinking and our attitudes and desires right in the first place.
8 But now you must 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
Again, sinful words begin with sinful thoughts. All these sins belong to our old nature. There is no benefit in thinking about the sins themselves, but great benefit in considering WHY we should turn away from sin.
6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. Sin makes God angry. In our evening services before Easter in the letter to the Romans we saw that God’s wrath is a central theme for Paul. Our sin brings on God’s wrath and separates us from God.
7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these:
Sinful thoughts and words and attitudes were part of our OLD nature. But now we should throw them away and never put them on again, now we are Christians. A prisoner is so very glad to get rid of his prison uniform when he is released. That uniform is for people serving their time – facing their punishment. Free men wear different clothes! A tramp who inherited a fortune would soon throw away his old tatty smelly clothes and wear new ones. In the same way, when we become Christians, Paul says God gives us a new set of clothes – and we should wear them!
WE MUST PUT ON OUR NEW SELF! (verses 12-14)
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.
We must wear the new clothes God has given us, because of just who we are in Christ.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
We are God’s chosen people, holy, cleansed and purified and set apart for God, dearly loved by God. So we should live like that!
Preparing his son to become the Monarch, King George V would often remind Prince Edward VII, “My Dear Child, always remember who you are.” And as Christians, we need always to remember who we are! And so we put on the character of Christ, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Day by day God wants us to grow more like Christ, who lives in us.
13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Bearing with one another, forgiving each other. Not just seven times, Jesus says, but 70 times 7 !! Forgiving each other as God has forgiven us, as the Lord’s Prayer reminds us.
14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Perfect unity: a church without divisions of any kind.
11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
It’s obvious really. If Christ is in each of us, and each of our lives are wrapped up in Christ’s life, there CANNOT be any divisions. Christ is all, and in all! And over all these virtues, put on love. More than anything else – love. Put on love like an overcoat. Love which binds us together in unity and perfection and maturity.
We should all press on to Christian maturity, perfect in Christ. More like Jesus in all that we do, all that we say, all that we think, all that we are. And we do that by throwing away the old clothes of our sinful human nature and putting on our nature, the image of Christ. Because our real life is Christ.
The story is told of an eagle that had been captured when it was quite young. The farmer who snared the bird put a restraint on it so it couldn’t fly, and then he turned it loose to roam in the barnyard. It wasn’t long till the eagle began to act like the chickens, scratching and pecking at the ground. This bird that once soared high in the heavens seemed satisfied to live the barnyard life of the lowly hen.
One day the farmer was visited by a shepherd who came down from the mountains where the eagles lived. Seeing the eagle, the shepherd said to the farmer, “What a shame to keep that bird hobbled here in your barnyard! Why don’t you let it go?” The farmer agreed, so they cut off the restraint. But the eagle continued to wander around, scratching and pecking as before. The shepherd picked it up and set it on a high stone wall. For the first time in months, the eagle saw the grand expanse of blue sky and the glowing sun. Then it spread its wings and with a leap soared off into a tremendous spiral flight, up and up and up. At last it was acting like an eagle again.
We can let ourselves be too comfortable in the barnyard of the world. But God wants you to live in a higher realm, to soar on wings like eagles!
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. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Day by day, dear Lord I pray:
To see You more clearly;
To love You more dearly;
To follow You more nearly
Day by day.