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Living the new life in Christ

Powerpoint for sermon (100kb)

The title of my message today is “Living the New Life in Christ”. It comes from Colossians 3:1-17 as we just heard. This is a passage that God laid on my heart last week when I began to prepare for today. I originally was looking at another passage, but that changed early in the week.

As you look at this text in our Bibles we can see it falls into four paragraphs, so I am going to share four points. There is nothing really new in what I am going to say. It is more about reminding us, because I know as Christians we need reminders every now and then. They help us to stay on track. Just to warn you I have props today.

Message Points

1. Focus on heavenly things (v1-4)

Verses 1-2 talks about things like setting our hearts and minds on things above. Verse 1 uses the term focus our hearts on things above. We are drawn towards things we love. We do nice things for those we love. Verse 2 uses the term setting our minds on things above. It is a deliberate and intentional focusing of our thoughts towards God and His Kingdom.

When Paul says to set our hearts and minds on heaven he does not mean that we should never think about the things upon the earth, but he is saying that these things should not be our main aim, our main goal, or our master. The Christian has to keep his feet upon the earth, but their mind on heavenly things.

When we focus our hearts and minds on heavenly things we see God’s bigger picture. We still may have problems and struggles along our journey, but if our focus is on heaven, our lives take on an eternal perspective. We are able to be lifted above the current struggles that face us today. Viewing our lives through an eternal perspective gives us peace and comfort and a sense of purpose. It reminds is that we have a destiny and that we are part of God’s grand plan.

One of my favourite ways to bring this home is my first prop - a piece of rope. The white end is our life we live. It is when we are born, go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, and work hard to set up up for retirement. The red part at the end is where we get to sit back and relax. It is “our” time. But I believe there is a better way to do it as Christians. We flip the rope. The red part actually refers to our life here on earth and the white part is our life in eternity.

We need to remember death is not the full stop at the end of the book for the Christian, it is the full stop at the end of the first chapter. Our lives must therefore have an eternal perspective. We must focus on heavenly things if we are to live out this new life in Christ.

2. Put off your old earthly nature (v5-11)

As Christians a key part of living the new life in Christ is putting off our old earthly nature. This means we need to purposefully get rid of some of our old habits and behaviours that belong to the old nature. Like we have to purposely set our hearts and minds on things above we need to purposely put off or put to death the habits, behaviours and attitudes of the earthly nature. These include “having nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires”. It also says we need to throw off anger, rage, malicious behaviour, slander, and dirty language.

If you look carefully at this passage you see there are five things of the flesh and five things of the mouth that we need to get rid of. Flesh = sexual immorality, impurity, lust, greed and evil desires. Mouth = rage, malicious behaviour, slander, lying and dirty language.

(Reveal black shirt with labels on). This is what we are born with. This is what the world offers.

I remember when I first came to Christ in the late 1980s I read an analogy of our nature of being like two dogs - a black dog and a white dog. The black dog is our old nature with all its habits. The white dog is our new heavenly nature that we received. It really stressed the importance of feeding the white dog to make it strong and healthy. We need to feed our new nature by reading the Bible and allowing it to renew our minds, by praying and spending time with God, and spending time with others who follow Christ.

Like we find with a diet and exercise program, it takes time and consistent training to bring results. It is the same with spiritual growth and putting off the old nature. If we work with the Spirit and do the right things, we will see growth and the old nature’s habits fall away. And if we really struggle with one area we pray and ask God to help you put it off. Dear God, change my heart. Help me to remove this from my life. Amen. This is the second reminder for living our new life in Christ.

3. Clothe yourselves with heavenly attitudes (v12-15)

Verse 12 says, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience”.

As we saw in the last point there were five things of the flesh and mouth we need to put off. In this section we see five things we need to put on. They are compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

(take off black shirt to reveal white shirt with labels on).

It is interesting to note that most of these are the things called the fruit of the Spirit that Galatians 5:22-23 talks about - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

I love the analogy of clothing ourselves. It says we need to put on these attitudes and behaviours on like getting dressed. In the same way we have to out off our old fleshly behaviours, it is a conscious decision to put these things on.

As we grow in our faith in Christ by feeding the new heavenly nature, we will see these heavenly attitudes of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience start to happen automatically.

Every now and then I sit down and prayerfully asses how I am going. I ask myself “Am I more compassionate? Am I more kind? Am I more gentle? Am I more patient?” If the answer is yes, that is great. If the answer is no, I know I need to prayerfully go back to the black shirt and start ripping labels off again.

4. Be Christ’s heavenly representative (v16-17)

The Bible tells us that we are no longer citizens of this world, but are citizens of heaven and of God’s Kingdom. David touched on this in his message last week.

Ephesians 2:19 says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household”. And Philippians 3:20 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”. We are to live and breathe and walk like members of God’s Kingdom and be his ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). It is our new role in this life. We can add it in to our resume- in my case 21 July 1989 to present “Ambassador of Christ”.

(Put on Ambassador of Christ hat).

Years ago I used to work at the Immigration Department in Perth. I would often have to visit foreign embassies to pick up passports or paperwork. When I walked through the doors or through the gate I was told to be conscious that I was on foreign soil. Yes, I was in Perth, but legally I was either in Greece, Russia or Italy. I had to abide by their rules and try hard not to offend their customs or I could be in trouble.

In many ways, this is what it is like for us as Christians when we come into this place. It is God’s embassy. It is His dwelling place on earth. The Bible says the Lord inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3) and where two or more are gathered He is in our midst (Matthew 18:20). When we meet here were are in His dwelling place. We are His children, doing His work, representing Him. When we leave this place and go home we still have our ambassador hats on. We are citizens of heave representing Him.

So how do we best represent Christ? Verse 16 says the best way to be Christ’s representative is to “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives”. When we let the message of Christ’s love, Christ’s teachings and Christ’s death on the cross for us fill our lives, we want to live for Him and let others know about Him. When we are full of Christ’s love, it has no choice but to outflow on to those around us. Like Jesus said in John 7:39 “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." Streams of living water are a natural outworking of faith in Jesus and the new nature that we are given. As we have seen we need to do the right things to let this new nature flourish and flow out.

This section finishes off with verse 17. It reminds us that whatever we do or say we need to be conscious that we are Christ’s representative. We need to remember that we are the only Bible many people will read.

Summary

I really like how this passage starts and ends. It has bookends – Set you hearts and minds of things of heaven (v1-2), at the end it says to remember that we are Christ’s representative in this world (v17). In the middle it talks about putting off your old nature and putting on your new heavenly nature. It is all about living the new life in Christ.

    1. Focus your heart and mind on heavenly things
    2. Put off your old fleshly nature
    3. Put on your new heavenly nature
    4. Be Christ’s heavenly representative in all you do.

Prayer

Dear God, please help me to live my new life in Christ in a way that honours You. Please help to focus my heart and mind on heavenly things. I pray that You will help me to spend time doing things that feed my new nature. I pray that You will help me to clothe myself with mercy and kindness and to be a worthy representative of Christ to those around me. We ask in Jesus name, Amen.

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