As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have died with him and have been raised to life with him. As Paul says elsewhere, It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. But, as he writes here in Colossians 3, if I have been raised to new life with Christ, that has to change how I live life now. Rather than focusing on “things of earth”, Christians are called to think about things of heaven – to set our sights on the realities of heaven, where CHrist sits in the place of honour at God’s right hand. Why? Because that is where my life is now. My life is with Christ, in Christ, Christ in me. I have died to my old self, my real life is now hidden in Christ. Hidden now, but to be revealed to the world when Christ is revealed to the world as Lord and God. Then I shall share in his glory, then my new life shall be made clear and plain and definitive.
But until that day, I – and all of us who follow Jesus – live in the uncomfortable space between. Yes – I have died to my old life. But I still live in the realm of who I was. And the corpse – much like a de-headed snake – still thrashes and tempts and assaults me. So, until the day Christ is revealed and I share fully in his glory, transformed fully to be like him, I have to put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within me. I have died to them, but they still, in a sense, live within me. Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires: even the saintliest of Christians this side of eternity feel the lure. Greed is the same. But, as Christians, we also know that these things do not please God. His anger is coming because of sins like these. Doing these things before becoming a follower of Jesus is one thing… but now our lives aren’t part of this world. Rather than living as strangers to God’s ways, we are to rid ourselves of the vestiges of sin. Things like anger, rage, maliciousness, slander, dirty language, lying to each other: these aren’t pleasing to God. Oh – I know how many of us Christians still act like this. I have – still do at times. But I want to be more like Jesus. That’s not how he would act. That’s not a description of a godly life. I’m not talking about being prudish. You don’t have to live that sort of life to reach a dying world. Jesus didn’t.
Thing is, when I became a Christian, what I did was to take off my old sinful nature and all of its deeds. But what is needed – every day it’s needed! – is to put on my new nature. I need constantly to be renewed by learning to know my creator God, by seeking to become like him. The more I seek to imitate God, the more my life will start to reflect something of his life. Perfectly? I wish – but no. Still, I need to do it. Thankfully, he also works to bring about the image of Jesus in me by his Spirit.
What does that new nature look like? It looks like being “the holy people [God] loves”. It looks tenderly merciful, kind, humble, gentle, patient. It shows allowing for each other’s faults. It shows in an attitude of forgiveness towards others – an attitude that reflects the forgiveness that God has shown me. It looks like love; it looks like God. His love which binds his people together is almost a summary of our new nature, for God is love. And if God’s love is at work in me and us, then I will let the perfect peace that comes from Christ rule in my heart. I will let myself relax into the knowledge that God is for me, and that he will keep his promises towards me, and that none can separate me from his love. When tempted to think otherwise, I will seek to rest on that truth, bearing the helmet of my salvation as God’s defence for me.
Oh – and the new nature is also thankful – so thankful. Because God has brought me from darkness to light. He has forgiven all my sins. He has destroyed my old self, and gives me his strength to fight against that which still lurks within.
So as a Christian, rather than setting my mind on my sinful old self and its desires, I will put my focus on Christ. I will – I must – let the message of Christ fill my life. Following Jesus isn’t something I can compartmentalise. It has to do with my whole self. That’s one of the reasons God gave us the church: that we might encourage each other to daily live who we are in Jesus. So that we can celebrate God’s goodness together – in song even! But no matter whether with Christians or not: I need to live as Christ. Each of us who follows him is his representative all of the time. At home – with our spouse or parents or children – showing something of who God is. At work – Paul speaks of slaves and masters – working as for Christ.
Father, thank you for granting me new life by Jesus. Thank you so much that my old sinful self has been crucified with him. Lord, please help me to focus not on the things of this world, but on Christ. Lord, you know the things that lurk within me – better than I do myself. Help me to be honest with you about them. And please, give me of your strength as I deny them and starve them of oxygen. Keep my eyes focussed on you. Please help me every day to be renewed more and more. Change me to be like you, Father. Help me to live as Christ’s representative all of the time, no matter who I am with. Thank you that you are good and loving and kind. Thank you so much for all that you have done, and all that you will do. Thank you that I am not the man today that I was yesterday, and that I will not be the man I am today tomorrow. Thank you that ultimately, when you return, I will be the man you always meant for me to be – thank you that I will be like Jesus. I can’t wait to share in his glory, Lord. Thank you for that promise. Help me today.