As we saw last week, spirituality is not void of effort. Those who have come to know Christ and have embraced the “circumcision of Christ” and were “made alive together with Him.” (Colossians 2:11-13) have a God given task before them. Something we are responsible to endeavor in as followers of Christ. Part of that responsibility is a conscious choice of what to seek after and set our minds on. The word “resolved” is appropriate to describe what God was teaching those early Christians in Colosse when Paul penned Colossians 3:1-4. To be resolved is to be determined, committed, or to make up one’s mind about something. Abraham Lincoln wrote, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” For those who are in Christ, what defines success? We already have salvation! It seems that Paul is about to say that success in life on earth involves transformation. And transformation is measured by how much I reflect Christ in my life. So, in order to succeed in this endeavor, I need to make up my mind about things in my life.
“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth.”
Remember that “you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Being convinced about the hope you have in Christ, and with your focus on “things above,” there is work that we need to do. The idea of “put to death” is translated as “So put everything evil out of your life” in the ETRV. We might get confused; Paul seems to emphasize some kind of asceticism, which he argued against in Colossians 2:20-23. His point is relatively simple and expressed well by one commentator who wrote, “Be what you are!” As they made up their minds to be a follower of Christ, putting their faith and hope in Him, continue to do so by being resolute in being like Him here on earth. Though saved, they still lived in a broken world and in these fleshly bodies. So that means they could quickly become distracted, even entangled in sinful things if not careful. What things? Paul lists some of those things: “fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5) which they were to put to death. Why? Consider what Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus. He said, “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints” (Ephesians 5:3). The ETRV says in part, “…because such things are not right for God’s holy people.” That conduct did not fit what they claimed to be true through faith! Christ made them saints, so their objective is to act like one. Those things “which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them” (Colossians 3:7) will no longer define who they were in Christ.
“But now you yourselves are to put off…”
This idea to “put off” means to lay off or aside, renounce, stow away, put. The word renounce stands out in a powerful way to me personally. About a year and a half ago, I decided to stop drinking soda: I renounced it so to speak. Since then, I have primarily done that very thing. But I would be lying if I said my resolution was easy. Being tempted as people around me would drink it. Then, there is my desire for soda that has made the endeavor challenging. So, I wonder, is this sort of what he is teaching them? As one commentator puts it, Paul is exhorting them to “put off all those old habits, just as you would discard an outworn suit of clothes which no longer fitted you.” What exactly were they to put off? Consider once again the ETRV, “But now put these things out of your life: anger, losing your temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and saying shameful things.” Remember, “you have put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9). They had made the decision to no longer live this way, having “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:10). So, they were to continue to be resolved to be like Him as they journeyed homeward.
I like how one commentator put it, “The Christians, incorporated into the new humanity-into Christ-at baptism, is not urged by Paul to become a new creation by virtue of moral conduct. Rather, as Paul has previously argued, the Christian is encouraged to conform or change his life to embody his condition as a new creation.” Like what was earlier said, be what you are! To succeed in this endeavor called transformation and to become more like the Savior, we have come to love because He first loved us, we need to dialy choose to seek and set our minds on the things above and resolve ourselves to put to death and put off those things from our former way of life. They no longer define us; Christ does! And remember, “Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11). Without Christ, none of this really matters.