“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, 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, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” ~Colossians 3:12-17
You can tell who people are by the clothes they wear. If you see a police officer, you know she is a police officer by the uniform, the badge, and the handcuffs on her belt. You know a nurse by the scrubs she is wearing, the stethoscope around her neck, and — nowadays — by the bags under her eyes. A referee wears a striped shirt, a cowboy wears pointed boots, a chef wears an interesting hat, and a dad wears cargo shorts and Nike Air Monarchs. (Which are still really cool!)
A Christian is also recognized by the fashion statement he makes. When you’ve been raised with Christ, you wear compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. And people recognize it a mile away.
The old clothes, the clothes you wore in the life you once lived, are inappropriate for the new realities in Christ. The new clothes, the new ways to behave, are what we wear now. And these new clothes signal to people who we are and what we’re all about. They identify us as belonging to Christ.
Now, some people will criticize the clothes Christians wear as kinda wimpy: Christians are weak-willed sissies who talk about love and peace and get run over by the rest of the world. That’s simply not true. Christian behavior is decidedly different from worldly behavior — but it’s not for wusses. People who say that don’t even know what they’re talking about.
Have you ever seriously tried to forgive somebody who did you wrong? That is a very difficult thing to do. It takes determination and commitment and follow-through. It takes a devotion to the other person and a loyalty to higher ideals. It takes great courage to forgive. The wimpy thing, the easy thing to do, is not forgive.
Have you ever seriously tried to be compassionate and patient? It’s not natural. It’s not easy. It takes tremendous discipline. Being a person of peace in this world we’re in takes a massive amount of courage and boldness. And it’s risky. It’s much safer to slander and lie and express anger. But those are the old clothes. That’s the old life, before we were raised with Christ. Our reality is different now.
And so are our clothes.
“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. For you died, 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.” ~Colossians 3:1-4
When you realize where all eternity is headed and that you’re headed right there with it, your priorities shift. What matters to you gets reshuffled. You don’t just go with the flow of the world or the culture. When you become a Christian, you do more hard thinking — not less. You are required to use more of your brain — not less. Set your minds on things above.
A good way to keep your new-life focus sharp is to ask questions.
1 – What Would Jesus Do?
It becomes so much easier to answer this question with confidence, regardless of the circumstance, the more time you spend in the Gospels. Reading the words of our Lord, contemplating his actions and responses, reflecting on the motivations for his deeds, digesting his teachings, understanding his goals — this helps so much in training your mind and your heart to think and act more like Christ. Not just the particulars, although, those are very important. But how the particulars add up to a more complete comprehension of the bigger picture. As the “exact representation” of God — if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father — what would Jesus do is the same question as what is God doing? What is God’s will in this situation? How can my behavior match God’s behavior?
2 – What’s Best for the Community?
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry… You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 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, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, Scythian, slave, or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” ~Colossians 3:5-11
You used to live in these ways before you were raised in Christ. Your focus used to be on meeting your own needs and satisfying your own growling appetites; protecting yourself and defending your honor and fighting for your rights; getting your own way. But not anymore. Your focus is flipped. Your mind is set on things above, where Christ is. You view the whole world now, and the people in it, from the perspective of eternity.
The main example here is treating all people equally in the Body of Christ. Here, in Christ, racial differences don’t matter. Cultural differences don’t matter. National differences, gender differences, political and economic differences — they don’t matter! Christ is all, and is in all!
All of us possess the fullness of God in Christ, so we look beyond the world’s walls and the worldly barriers to focus on our holy unity and community in Christ.
3 – How Do I Participate in the Future Reality Right Now?
We know God is working through Christ to reconcile all people together forever. We know Jesus died on the cross to destroy the barriers between us and God and between us and other people. So that’s what we do, too. We tear down walls, we destroy barriers; we never work to divide, we always seek to unite. We know that on that great day of Christ’s glory there will be no more tears, no more hunger, no more sickness or pain. That’s the coming reality that cannot be stopped. “The old order of things has passed away! Behold, I am making all things new! It is finished!”
So we lean into it now. We practice it together now. We feed the hungry, we shelter the homeless, we comfort the grieving, and we heal the sick.
We know that someday nations will no longer practice war and death will be eternally defeated. So we adapt ourselves now to that coming reality by beating our swords into plowshares and being people of peace. We renounce all violence and become bearers of peace.
Eternal life is not a quantity of life that begins when you die, it is a quality of life that begins when you are raised with Christ. The peace of Christ in your heart rules everything you do. The Word of Christ in you rules everything you say. Word and deed, it is all said and done in the name and manner of our risen and coming Lord Jesus Christ.
The reality is that you have already been glorified, it just hasn’t been fully revealed. Romans 8 says those he called, those he justified, he also glorified. On that last night around the table with his disciples, our Lord prayed, “I have given them the same glory you gave me.” It’s already a done deal. When you are raised with Christ, your destiny is redirected. You are already rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of God. You’ve been re-routed. It is the most certain, most positive, most definite guarantee from our God: When our Lord Jesus Christ appears in his glory on that last day, you are also going to appear right there with him!
Nothing can possibly stop that. Nothing is going to keep that from happening.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” ~John 10:28
You are going to live in Christ’s glory in the presence of God forever. It’s so certain, it’s so guaranteed, the Bible talks like it’s already occurred. And the call is to adapt yourself now to that coming reality. Don’t wait.
“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. For you died, 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.” ~Colossians 3:1-4
Paul is still talking about baptism here and being identified with Christ. You died, he says, and your life is now in Christ. Christ is your life, he writes. He says a similar thing to the Christians in Galatia: I have been crucified with Christ and I don’t live anymore; Christ lives in me. He tells the Philippians, “To live is Christ!”
When you are raised in Christ, your old life dies and your new life in Christ — Christ in you, the hope of glory — comes alive. You begin to realize all the gracious blessings you’ve received in Jesus, all the merciful gifts outlined in the first two chapters of Colossians, and you begin to think more like Jesus. You begin to see people and things like Jesus does. You realize more of what God has done and is doing through Jesus, you understand the bigger picture of the inevitable realities, and it shows in your changed life.
When someone hits you, you don’t fight back, you turn the other cheek. When someone sins against you, you don’t seek revenge, you forgive unconditionally. When an evil person does you harm, you don’t retaliate, you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Not so these bad people can turn nice and leave you alone. That rarely ever works! No, Jesus says you turn the other cheek, you forgive without limits, you walk the extra mile, give up your coat, and love your enemies because that’s the way God is.
When you are raised with Christ and filled with the fullness of God, your life is changed. It’s not new rules to follow or new commands to obey, it’s a changed life. The Bible always emphasizes what a Christian is, not what a Christian is supposed to do. But that changed life will show up in the ways you think and behave. What comes up in the bucket is usually what’s down in the well.
“This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life.” ~1 John 5:11-12
Maybe you don’t feel this new life. You might not be so sure about the reality of God’s transforming power in your life. I get it. What you believe in your head and what you feel in your heart are sometimes two very different things. It’s like a football player who suffered a terrible ankle injury but has undergone successful surgery. He’s still favoring the repaired ankle and it’s hindering his performance on the field. He still limps because he remembers the terrible pain. He’s not 100% sure his ankle is totally recovered.
Maybe you’re walking through life with that same kind of limp. You might not believe God can really change your life. There’s too much history. Too many bad things. Too much pain.
You died. And your life is now secured, it’s safe, with God. Christ is your life. Give yourself totally to him, completely to him, and allow the transforming power of Jesus to reveal the reality that your life is changed.
When we’re at the house and about to go somewhere together as a family, I’ll do the courteous thing and give my wife and daughters the little reminders. “Twenty minutes!” “Ten minutes!” It feels like courtesy to me, but they may not experience it that way. “Five minutes!” Then, when it’s time to go, I’ll announce loudly to everyone in the house, “I’m in the car!”
But I’m not in the car. I’m standing in the living room. I say “I’m in the car” when I’m not.
The girls will call me on it. “No, you’re not!” Occasionally, our youngest will shout, “Liar!” from her bedroom.
Is it a lie? What do I mean when I say, “I’m in the car” when I’m not?
I mean, “I am on my way to the car and nothing can possibly stop me.” It’s inevitable. It’s imminent. “I am going to the car and nothing will keep it from happening.” It is so absolutely certain, so undeniably guaranteed to happen, that I’m speaking like it already has. My being in the car is going to become a reality very soon, so I’m speaking and acting like it has already occurred. And, you’d better adapt yourself right now to that reality. Don’t wait.
“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. For you died, 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.” ~Colossians 3:1-4
Since you have been raised with Christ… what? Since you have been raised with Christ… everything has changed!
One of the main things that’s changed is your location. Just like with real estate, the key to your salvation is location, location, location. And your location has shifted. You’ve been moved. When you participated in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus — when God fully identified you with his Son — you weren’t just saved. You were transported to live on another plane. Christ Jesus has been raised from the dead to sit at the right hand of God in heavenly glory. And that’s where you are, too!
Your life is now hidden with Christ. It’s held or secured in Christ. It’s safe. You are in Christ and the fullness of Christ is in you. So your location is shifted. This same writer, Paul, said the same thing to the Christians in Ephesus.
“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” ~Ephesians 4-6
The Bible doesn’t say God will raise us with Christ in the heavenly realms, it says he already has! It’s already happened! You’re already there!
Since you’ve been raised with him, and since he’s in the position of eternal authority at God’s right hand, you have total access to this glory, you have free admission into the presence of God. This is where you live now. Your location has shifted. Nothing can possibly prevent it from happening. And you should adapt to that reality right now.