Living the new life in Christ

February 28th, 2015

When we come to Jesus Christ for our salvation we receive a new life with many blessings. We receive forgiveness for our sins, we come into relationship with Jesus and we receive eternal life. However, it is not a destination, but the beginning of a new life and journey with Christ.

If we have a look at the New Testament book of Colossians, we find a passage that talks about living the new life in Christ. When we look through chapter three we see that it gives us some pointers to help us live effectively for Jesus. Today I want to share some of those points.

But first let’s have a look at the text…

Bible Reading – Colossians 3:1-17 (NIV 2010) 

1 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.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 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.

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.

Message Points 

Now this text has a lot in it. I think you could actually write a book about it. Prayerfully and probably thankfully I found as I looked at the text God wanted me to draw five things out for us all today. There is nothing really new in what I am going to say. It is more about reminding us, because as Christians we need reminders every now and then. They help us to stay on track.

1. Remember to focus on heavenly things (v1-2)

Verses 1-2 talk 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 focussing of our hearts and 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, main our goal, or our master. The Christian has to keep his feet upon the earth, but his head in the heavens. We must be heavenly-minded here on earth and in doing so we help to make earth, like heaven. As Jesus taught the Disciples to pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Paul’s command to set our hearts and minds on things above echoes Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33—“to seek first the kingdom of heaven.”

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. Much like I can see further if I go and stand on Merredin Peak, than if I look Westward from Barrack street. 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.

I love the line from that great hymn Amazing Grace – when we have been there 10,000 years, we have only just begun. After 10,000 years we have only just scratched the surface of eternity. We need to remember death is not the full stop at the end of the book, 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. Remember we have a new standing in Christ (v3-4)

It is interesting that at the start of this passage it says in verse 1 that “Since then you have been raised with Christ…” and verse 3 says “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God”.  As Christians the Bible tells us that we have died with Christ when we asked Him into our hearts and lives. We are identified in His death. We are also indentified in His resurrection. We are given a new life in Him. We celebrate this when we go under the waters of baptism. Galatians 2:20 echoes this thought when it says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

At the moment we received Jesus into our hearts and life the Bible also tells us that the Holy Spirit washes us clean and gives us a new nature. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us because of his mercy, and not because of any good things that we have done. God washed us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He gave us new birth and a fresh beginning.” This is known as the Doctrine of Regeneration. It is a work of God that the Holy Spirit does in our lives when we come to Christ. This work includes receiving the Holy Spirit to indwell us and empower us. Romans 8:11 tells us that it is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. We have resurrection power living inside us. It is this power that helps us to His witnesses to the ends of the earth and to live this new life we have in Christ.

As Christians we need to remember our new standing in Christ says that we are Justified before God. To be justified is to declared legally righteous. It is a divine act where God declares the sinner to be innocent of his sins. We are also Redeemed. Redemption means to free someone from bondage. It often involves the paying of a ransom, a price that makes redemption possible. We were redeemed from the power of sin and the curse of the Law through Jesus and His death on the cross. We were bought with a price. We are also declared Righteous. Righteousness is an attribute of moral purity belonging to God alone. No one in the world is righteous in the eyes of the Lord, that is, except the Christian who is in Christ. We are counted righteous in the eyes of God when we receive Jesus by faith (Philippians 3:9). We are also Sanctified. Sanctification is a two part process. To sanctify means to be set apart for a holy use. So when we accept Christ we are sanctified or set apart. Sanctification is also the process by which the Holy Spirit makes us more like Christ in all that we do, think, and desire. It is an ongoing moral and spiritual transformation. If we look back at our lives 5, 10 or 15 years ago we should see very different people to who we are today.

To summarise our new standing in Christ we died and were raised with Christ, the Holy Spirit washed us and gave us a new nature, the Holy Spirit dwells within us to empower us, and we are Justified, Redeemed, declared Righteous and we are Sanctified and set apart for Holy use.

3. Remember to put off your old earthly nature (v5-11)

In my last point I touched on Sanctification – the ongoing change that takes place in our lives. God does His part by sanctifying us and setting us apart. We also have to do our part. A key part of this 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 have to purposely put some things off. These include “having nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, greed 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, and the shirt I am wearing that represents our old nature, 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.

Getting ride of these things may take time, but if we feed the new nature and allow God to work in our lives, they will slowly drop away. 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, by spending time with others who follow Christ, by coming to church and worshipping God and having communion, by focussing on heaven, and by serving God with your spiritual gifts. If we work with the Spirit and do the right things, we will see growth and the old nature’s habits fall away. This is the third part of living our new life in Christ.

4. Remember to 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.

It is interesting to note that 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. This white shirt represents our new heavenly nature that we received when the Holy Spirit washed us and regenerated us as I read from Titus 3:5-6. In the same way we have to out off our old fleshly behaviours, it is a conscious decision to put these things on.

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

5. Remember to 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. Ephesians 2:19 says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers,but fellow citizenswith 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”.

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 I was either in Greece, Russia or Italy. I had to abide by their rules and try hard not to offend their customs. In many ways, this is what it is like for us as Christians when we come into this place. It is God’s embassy. His dwelling place on earth. The Bible says the Lord inhabits the praises of His people and where two or more are gathered He is in our midst. 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. Often people will look at our lives first, before they will ever listen to our message.

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. In the middle it talks about our new standing in Christ, 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. Remember we have a new standing in Christ
  3. Put off your old fleshly nature
  4. Put on your new heavenly nature
  5. 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.