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“Get Over Yourself! And into the New You – with Others”

Oct.16/16 Relief & Development Sunday - Col.3:1-15


Some aspects of the Christian Gospel are very positive – the grace of God through Jesus, the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit, the love and unity we experience in Christ’s body the church. But some aspects are negative by comparison; to get to the “Good News” you first have to acknowledge the “bad news” about our sin that draws God’s wrath, our need to repent from base desires, and so on.

      There are some things in life you need to defend yourself against. I was sitting in my easy chair recently when a cute little furry grey spider, about the same size as my little fingernail, appeared out of nowhere and ran down my arm onto my hand. I thought to myself, “What a cute little spider,” and promptly blew him / she / it off into the air in the direction of some houseplants a few feet away. Later on, though, my finger started to swell and get itchy and painful, and some tiny blisters appeared about where the spider had sat. I can only conclude I was bitten or otherwise subjected to some noxious venom. Had I known what would happen, I would have reacted more quickly and antagonistically towards that “cute little spider”.

      A friend of ours from Northern Ontario is currently serving as a missionary in Africa. She shared a photo on Facebook of a greenish snake that had been found and killed by natives while they were clearing brush near her home. She expressed how thankful she was they could dispatch it safely. Another person commented it looked like a mamba, which can kill a person with one bite.

      Recently the summer Olympics were held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. There was much concern about the danger of transmission of the Zika virus, which has been connected with babies being born with smaller heads. Therefore, much effort went into fumigating for mosquitoes in advance of the summer games. We don’t want to mess around when it comes to protecting our lives, our families, our health from natural enemies.

      Yet like me watching that cute little spider, sin can sneak up on us and start poisoning us; we may not notice it at the time – but its after-effects can be destructive, even deadly. So when Paul educates the church at Colosse about how to practically live out the Christian life, he uses some terms that may seem a bit negative – but the sin that would attack and undermine us is dangerous. We can sum up the first part of Colossians 3 in four words, two of which seem a bit startling or negative: SETTING, STABBING, STRIPPING, and STYLING. The two negative ones, Stabbing and Stripping, have to do with fighting sinful habits that would sting us, poison us, and drag us down.


The first word is SETTING. Col 3:1f “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.” See that? “Set your hearts...Set your minds on things above...” To set your heart is to actively seek something, to fix your aspirations on something; NRSV “SEEK the things that are above, where Christ is...” Are we “seeking first” God’s Kingdom priorities? (Matt.6:33)

      It is a constant fight to set our hearts and minds on things above, Kingdom matters, purposes Jesus and our Heavenly Father care about, rather than getting distracted by ordinary everyday temptations, needs, and satisfactions. Your heart either loves the Father or loves the world – you can’t have it both ways! John writes in 1John 2:15ff, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.For everything in the world— the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does— comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away...”

      How can we set our hearts and minds on higher things, eternal matters? Paul reminds his readers that, if they’re Christian, their lives are tucked away with Christ already. It’s as real to him as if it’s already happened; the way he talks, he reckons-as-if it’s already done. Vv3-4 “For you died, [NEWS FLASH!] 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.” You DIED! With Christ – and your existence is now wrapped up, tucked away, hidden with Jesus in the Father. When sin comes knocking, it should find a corpse (as far as you’re concerned with it). 2:20 “...you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world...” Romans 6:2 “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

      SET your hearts and minds on things above. We don’t watch the shopping channel. We’ve used Netflix rather than regular TV so much it’s almost as if we get an allergic reaction when we see a commercial! (Someone was telling me last week they’ve started to run advertising as banners now along the bottom of the screen during the regular programming.Ech!) The Sears Christmas Wish Book came in the mail last week, unasked for; we set it aside right away. To set your desires and aspirations and thoughts above necessitates setting some of this world’s attractions aside.

      Is Christ’s presence at the right hand of God REAL to you? He “IS your life”, Paul says; when He appears, it’s like he steps around the edge of the doorway – it’s not that He doesn’t exist, He’s just not visible yet. I was reading an account in ChristianPost.com about a dozen indigenous missionaries in Syria who were martyred by ISIS in August 2015 after horrible torture (rape, beatings, one 12-year-old had fingertips cut off, four were crucified). 8 were beheaded, but it’s reported “They kept on praying loudly and sharing Jesus until their last breath.” “One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, ‘Jesus!’”

      Is He that real to us? Set your hearts and minds there, be seeking what matters to the Lord.


“Stabbing” is rather a violent word, but when it comes to the war against sin, we need to be attacking it regularly. Paul says in vv5&8: “PUT TO DEATH, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature...But now you must also RID YOURSELVES of all such things as these...” Put it to death. Stab it. Stomp it. Kill it. Don’t let sin rear its ugly head (though, admittedly, usually when it makes its first appearance, sin looks deceptively attractive and sweet in the short-term).

      Pastor John Piper was preaching in a podcast on Romans 8:12-16. He was pondering how a believer experiences v16, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” How do we know that, feel it, experience it day-by-day? One of the ways, Piper concludes, is by our warring against sin. Rom 8:13 “But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Stabbing sin when it tries to invade and take over us, day in, day out – that constant battle is one way we have assurance we in fact ARE sons or daughters of God. If you DON’T find that battle going on – if you’re quite cozy and compatible with sin – look out!

      Paul groups sins in this passage in a couple of categories: we’ll call one “WANTS” or Attractions, the other “WARRINGS” or Attacks. First the WANTS, the desires. Vv5b-7 “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.” Sexual immorality / impurity / lust abuse the body, our physical beings which now belong to Christ. Believers in Jesus are a “new creation”, walking temples to be indwelt by God’s Spirit (2Cor 5:17; 1Cor 6:19). Holiness requires avoiding immorality and controlling our bodies honorably (1Thess 4:3f) – which is not getting any easier in a culture where media and fashion draws us the other way. Greed is a different type of desiring and wanting; Paul declares greed is idolatry – that is, preferring anything else over God, making it “most precious” in your life.

      The second cluster Paul warns against are WARRINGS or Attacks: vv8-9 “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.Do not lie to each other...” When we blow up in a rage, our words and lashing out can be as harmful to others as daggers. When we post swear words or coarse language on social media, it may seem trendy or ‘hep’ to our peers, but it reflects poorly on Jesus. When we lie to someone, we’re betraying them, they can’t trust us, it’s something like knifing them in the back. Jesus said He is the Truth (John 14:6): we honour another person when we’re truthful with them. Keep it wrapped in caring and grace, yes, and wait for the right time – but be truthful rather than just saying what they may want to hear, or what’s easiest for you to pretend is the case.

      So, STAB the WANTS and the WARRINGS.


In vv9-12 and, by grammatical extension, to v14, Paul uses the metaphor of putting on or taking off clothing to help his readers picture the difference Jesus makes in the way we live. V9b “Since you have taken off your old self with its practices...” There’s the STRIPPING, as if you’ve been wrestling hogs in the pigpen and need to take off your manure-besotted coveralls. V10 “...And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” NRSV “And have clothed yourselves with the new self...” V12 “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, CLOTHE YOURSELVES with compassion” etc.

      Being crucified with Christ, God’s surgery strips us of our old evil practices and behaviours. Also, surprisingly, v11 points out the distinctives are removed which some might take pride in or use to put down those of other race, culture, class, or background. Christ is the Great Equalizer. He pricks the balloon of puffed-up Prejudice. 3:11 “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” Perhaps Paul was especially conscious of this because this very letter to the church at Colosse was being accompanied by a certain runaway slave named Onesimus who’d become a believer and Paul was sending back to his master Philemon along with a letter urging the master to receive his former slave more as a brother in the faith. This wasn’t just theory, it was about to get very real!

      Following the STRIPPING, the removal of the old self, comes the STYLING, being clothed with Christ and His beautiful character. Now, one looks at this list in vv12-15 and asks, “HOW?!” Somedays you just don’t feel like being gentle, or patient, or forgiving. How does this happen?

      First clue: five of the items listed here are part of the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22f – kindness, gentleness, patience, love, and peace. We need God’s presence in our lives to infuse us with His goodness, His qualities, by the Holy Spirit. It is the “peace OF CHRIST” we’re to let rule or ‘umpire’ (for you Blue Jays fans!) in our hearts (v15). Pray for Him to fill you when you’re ready to react angrily to or lash out at someone. If you truly are chosen by Him, “dearly loved” by Him as v12 says, how might that influence how you respond when someone attacks you or slanders you?

      The second clue to how this works is at the end of v13: “Forgive AS THE LORD FORGAVE YOU.” We’re not starting from scratch here; God in Jesus has already blessed, graced, and forgiven us, so out of that surplus we can bless others in turn.

      So how can we summarize the “STYLE” we’re to wear and display as Christ’s people? What’s the ‘fashion statement’ we should be making as we wear His colours? Skimming through vv12-15: “...clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.Forgive as the Lord forgave you.And over all these virtues put on love...Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts...And be thankful.”


In closing, on this Relief & Development Sunday, I’d like to use a short video presentation in which our Ontario representative for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, David Epp, talks about the ways your donated dollars are making a difference to people in need around the world. Giving to CFGB is a handy way to address at least three, maybe four, things in our list: compassion – feeling empathy towards those who suffer; kindness – helping starving individuals and families be fed; “bearing-with each other” – coming alongside to mutually support whole communities caught in drought, such as through food-for-work projects. Also giving to such an agency helps us put to death “greed, which is idolatry”. We’re showing we’re valuing what God wants to do in the world – saving lives – more than the fleeting pleasure we could have spent that money on otherwise. [VIDEO]

(Prayer by David Epp)