08 Oct 2023
The Christian is raised to new life with Jesus. He should then seek things above. This is not dreaming about some future streets of gold, but it is pursuing obedience to Christ in daily living today. According to Paul, it involves purity in life, unity in the church, order in the household, faithfulness in prayer and wisdom & graciousness in testimony. In Col 3:5-11, Paul begins with the call to purity in life. And one can do so when he remembers. 1. His Position. The Christian is a man set free from the rule of sin. So "be set free" is Paul's call. You have been uncaged! Step out of the prison of sin! 2. His Purpose. The Christian is a man who has a new heart that truly loves God. He obeys, but not to earn God's love (for that is legalism). He obeys because he loves God!3. His Practice. The Christian is a man who daily puts away or kills sin by the help of the Holy Spirit. He puts into practice who he is in position.
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Today we're looking at Colossians chapter 3, in a sense we turned a corner. We look at a lot of practical instructions and commands from here onwards and I hope that you'll be ready not just to be hearers but to be doers as well.
When I completed my studies in secondary school and JC, I was very glad to be able to bid farewell to many subjects that I didn't really enjoy. I could say goodbye to geography, history, literature and Chinese. And I did not have to do them anymore for any exams thereon.
In a sense, when someone comes to know Jesus Christ, he bids farewell to many things. He bids farewell to things that he used to do in order to gain some favour with God. That's what Paul had been saying in Colossians. He says when you come to Jesus, something miraculous happens. You died, you died with Jesus. You died with Jesus to the elemental principles of the world. The elemental principle of religion, the basic principle of religion in the world is do more, try harder, deserve your way to God.
But when we come to Christ, something amazing happened. We died to this elemental principle of the world of what we call legalism or works-based religion. And so Paul says if you have died with Him, you do not need to submit to the regulations of do not handle, do not taste, do not touch. So the world operates in its religion with the operative word do.
Do more, try harder, deserve. But in Christ, that is done away with. You died with Christ because Jesus did it all for you. The Bible message is one of done, not do. Every religion in the world says do. Jesus says it is finished. I've paid for your sins. It is done. So that's what Paul also said, because of Jesus, we are forgiven. Our record of debt is cancelled or blotted out or erased. It is now set aside because He has already nailed it to the cross.
So, after sermon last week, quite immediately after, I received a text from one of our members here. And the text goes, Hi PJ, thank, this is super blown up ah, very big for those with eye issues. Hi PJ, thank you for your message today and reminder of Christ's sufficiency on the cross. However, I am a little puzzled by what you mean when you say we need do nothing.
Wah, Jason are you saying, that as a Christian, we don't have to do anything anymore? That's a great question because that seems to be what it sounds like. Jesus paid it all, I don't have to do anything. So I had to write back and respond and said, Need do nothing with respect to justification. But need to do a lot with respect to sanctification and service.
So I don't have to do anything, anymore with regards to being right with God in my position. But I have to do a lot, if I want to pursue godliness and if I genuinely want to serve God. Because that's what Paul went on to in Colossians 3 and verse 1. He says, If you then have been raised with Christ, you are now to seek the things that are above.
So coming to Jesus, getting saved, is not a path into cho boing. One of the favourite words in Singapore, cho bo, do nothing. No if you come to God, if you come to Jesus Christ, you don't have to earn your salvation anymore. But there are a lot of things to do as we will learn with this phrase, seek the things that are above.
So today we're going to look at what it means to have this resurrected life with Jesus. Now that I died and now that I'm raised with Jesus, does it mean I'm just sleeping on my couch every day? No, there are lots of things to do. So we're going to explore what this life should look like.
So entering this text in a verse by verse way, initially, we see verse 1. If then you have been raised with Christ. This is highlighted, raised with Christ, because I want you to see the structure in that chapter 2 verse 20 says, if you have been, or if you died with Christ, now he says, you are raised with Christ. When you died with Christ, you died to the elemental principles of the world. These are the geography, history, literature, Chinese, you don't have to do anymore.
But now you have to do something else. You have to seek the things that are above. In other words, seek heavenly things. Now when someone says seek heavenly things, you start to think about angels strumming the harp, or babies floating around in the skies. You think about the streets of gold, you think about the gates of pearl, you think about heavenly things. And so we think seeking the things that are above is very chill, very cho bo, very fantastical, almost irrelevant to our life today.
So people actually even say, you are so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good. But that's a wrong caricature of what this phrase really means. To seek the things that are above is not asking you to daydream about heaven. To seek the things that are above is very relevant and practical for daily life. Why? Because after Paul sets down this principle, he goes on to show exactly what it means.
He paints a picture of what it means to seek heavenly things. The text will go on to say in chapter 5, uh chapter 3 verses 5 to 11, it looks like purity in life. In verses 12 to 17, it looks like unity in the church. And verses 18 to chapter 4 and verse 1, it is order in the household. In chapter 4 verses 2 to 4, it will be faithfulness in prayer. And finally in verses 5 and 6, it will be wisdom and graciousness in a testimony before a watching world.
He says now that you are dead with Jesus, you don't have to earn justification anymore. But you are to seek the things that are above. Heavenly things are not just about things in the future, but how you should live your life today. And that looks like this kind of a life. That is what Christianity should look like. That we live pure lives. That we love one another. That we have happy, healthy homes according to God's Word. That we will be a people faithful in prayer. And that we will be a people who live wisely and speak graciously in a world that we live in. That is intensely practical, don't you think?
So if you are raised with Christ today, these are the things that you should seek after. Heavenly things on earth today.
Now he goes on to say that the things that are above are where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. The right hand of God is a very important concept that communicates authority and rule. The most commonly quoted Psalm, Psalm 110, says, The LORD says to my Lord. Now this is a bit confusing for many people, but basically it's saying the Father, Yahweh, the LORD, says to my Lord, that is Jesus. So the Father says to the Son, sit at My right hand. Jesus is at the right hand of God. And the characteristic about the right hand is that this is where the enemies are made your footstool.
You know, sometimes when you sit on a chair, not so comfortable, so you drag a foot, what do you call that, uh, uh whatever, a pillow, whatever, a stool, and you bring it and you put your leg on top of the stool. So the picture here is that the enemies are so defeated, they are like the footstool for Jesus. It's a picture of rule and authority and of kingly reign.
So when we come to this context where we are to seek things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, we're saying this is the place where Jesus rules. We are to seek obedience to Jesus Christ. The world today does not want to obey Jesus. But as Christians, we want to obey Jesus, not to earn salvation, but because we love Him and we want to serve Him.
So seek the things that are above is to seek the things that are under the rule and dominion and obedience of Christ, and it is contrasted with verse 2, not on things that are on earth. And the things that are on earth, is are not referring to gardening, cooking, bathing. These, these are not the things that are above, but are on earth, because what Paul meant refer, referring to sins like sexual immorality, impurity, passion, and so on and so forth.
So when you see this contrast, it is easy to see that to seek the things that are above is to pursue, to desire, to crave obedience to Christ. That's the right hand of God. That's the opposite of earthly things, and it is seen in our daily life, as seen in purity of life, the church, the family, your personal devotion, and your witness in the world.
So that's what I think Paul is saying in something that may be misconstrued quite commonly. This is repeated again in verse 2, set your minds on things that are above. It's a similar concept. He says it again in a different way using the word set your minds, which means to direct your minds or to consider. So it is to direct your thinking again to the obedience to Christ in daily life.
Why? Why should we now, because we are raised with Christ, seek obedience to Christ in our daily lives? Why do we do it? Paul says in verse 3, this is the reason why, for, because you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. So two things, two reasons why you and I, we don't have to earn justification, but we have to obey God, we have to obey Christ, that, that should be the main driving goal of life.
First reason, you have died with Christ. And this harkens back to Colossians 2 verse 12, how Paul already said we are buried with Him, we are crucified with Him, we, we died with Jesus. And so I bring you back to the theology of the cross, and we remember how this is what everybody in the church will remember, Jesus died for me, how He paid for my sins, that's true, but Paul has been emphasising the other aspect of the theology of the cross, and that is how I died with Jesus. I'm buried with Him, I'm crucified with Him, and so this speaks of the union with Jesus and how that sets us free from the power or the authority and dominion and rule of sin.
So guys, seek the things that are above, why? Because you have already died with Jesus, you are no more a slave to sin, you have been set free, so why would you live according to earthly values and practices like immorality and sensuality and so on? Why would you want to do that? You have already been set free.
But the second reason is that your life is hidden with Christ in God. This is kind of like a double security, a bit like our offering box, two keys, double security. There is double security in that we are hidden with Christ, that's already very secure, and it is in God that's double secure. So you can pursue a godly life because you are secure in Him.
But there is another idea behind the word hidden, because in verse 4 there is this statement when Christ who is your life appears, so there's a bit of a nuance that you've got to grasp. Your life is hidden with Christ, but Paul goes on immediately to say, Christ who is your life? Christ is your purpose, Christ is your pleasure, Christ is your pattern, Christ is your power, Christ is your everything. Christ, who is your everything, when He appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
So the reason why we need to pursue the things that are above is because number one, I've been set free from the power and dominion of sin, and number two, I am securely destined for glory. That's what He means, but your life is hidden because you will one day appear with Him in glory.
Now when you stand in front of the mirror this morning, I don't think you look, I don't think you would think that you look particularly glorious. Some will look at his pot belly and say, I'm not particularly glorious. Some will look at his pimples and not say, I'm particularly glorious. Some will look at his balding head and say, I'm not particularly glorious. So all of us have reasons to see I'm not very glorious at all.
In fact, if you think about your own life, you will think that your life is painfully ordinary, isn't it? Nothing very special. But the reality is, one day, you will be very glorious. One day you will be so awesome. One day you will be so beautiful. One day, if you could see yourself that day, if you see yourself that day today, you will say, wah, you are amazing man, Jason. I think so.
C.S. Lewis has this very interesting, insightful quote, and I state it here. Remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which if you saw it now, you will be strongly tempted to worship. I don't think I'll explain more, you just figure it out yourself. I think you can get the point.
So what is Paul saying so far? Back to the speech bubble, Paul is saying in these verses, you are raised with Christ, my brothers and sisters. You died to the stoicheia, the elementary principles of the world, which is legalism. You don't have to do that anymore. You died, but you are also raised. You're given a new life. So now seek the things that are above, pursue them, desire them, crave for them.
And what I mean is that you pursue obedience to Christ in all areas of your life, purity of life, unity in the church, and so on and so forth. Do not desire nor pursue earthly things, and this is not about swimming or sports, but do not pursue earthly things such as immorality and such. For you have died, thus set free from the rule of sin, and you are securely destined for glory when He returns. So guys, seek the things that are above. Do these things. This should characterize your obsession, your desires, and your goals today.
Now we are not going to have time to look at all today, so we are just going to very quickly and I promise you it's going to be quick, just verses 5 to 11, purity of life. Tomorrow, uh not tomorrow, huh, next week then we'll look at unity in the church, purity in life. So Paul says, put to death what is earthly in you, sexual immorality and so on and so forth. So the first phrase is put to death. Uh, preachers like to use the word mortification, to kill, tai sha, that's the idea, kill sin in you.
And these are the sins that bring about the wrath of God. God is angry with sins in the world today, don't you mistake it. A lot of people say God is love, God is love, God bears with all things. It is true that God is love, but it is also true that God is holy and He's angry at sins here.
I won't go in detail as to what each of these sins actually mean, I think you can get the idea. In essence, these I think are sins of desires. The desire, sexual fulfilment outside of what God says fulfilment should be found, which is the marriage and you go amok in all these desires, sexual desires and even covetousness which may expand the desires to beyond sexual desires.
And Paul says, I think covetousness is idolatry in that you are craving or desiring something more than what God allows, in essence treating that object of desire as greater or more important to you than God Himself. That's why it becomes idolatry. And on these things, on account of these things, God will judge this world. So be warned that you do not participate in these earthly things, since your God hates them and will pour His wrath on them. Verse 7, in these you too once walked.
So the Christian is a miracle, because there is a marked dramatic turnaround in his life. He used to be involved in these things but by the grace of God this has become past tense. You used to walk in them, you used to live in them, but now you don't or you shouldn't. So make sure you put to death, you mortify these sins.
He goes on to say, but now you must put them all away. Actually the word them is not in the Greek. In other words, it's probably easier to say, but now you must put all away. Because the them here may refer to the things that are before which is sexual immorality, desires, passions and then you may have a problem understanding why he suddenly insert these things. But he's merely, I think, connecting these two lists. Put all away.
The putting all away is the imagery of throwing off your clothes as we would see later on. So not only do you need to kill sin, you need to throw away sin and he talks about such sins, anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk or foul speech from your mouth, do not lie to one another and so these, I think, are sins of disunity. So the first list, sins of desire. The second list, sins of disunity that can cause divisions within the body of Christ.
Seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. So Paul uses that put off, put on. Now this, let me be very, very clear, is not saying what you should do. This is not what you should do. Because this is what you have already done. In the Greek, it's the past tense, the aorist tense. It's already done. So this is not what you do now, alright? What you do now is to put them away. This is what has already happened. And what is this? This is a parallel to how you have died and been risen to new life.
So he's using a different way to describe that reality. When you came to Christ, the old Jason is dead, it's put off and now I am a new man, I've put on, I've been risen with this new life, new self. And this new self, this new life, however, is not complete yet. It is still under construction because he says, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.
So my old life that is dominated by sin is put off. It's crucified. It died. And in place of that old life is a new life, a new Jason. But he's not perfectly in Christ, in that he's not perfectly like Christ. But he is going to be progressively like Christ. It's being renewed in knowledge after the image of his Creator. So Paul is saying, put away sins, do not do these things, seeing, knowing, remembering, reckoning, you have already died and you have this new life.
So it comes back to verses 1 and 2, kind of like encapsulates this whole idea together. And then he goes on to say in verse 11, here, that is in Christ, there is not Greek and Jew circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarians, Scythians, slaves, free, but Christ is all and in all. What Paul is saying is, in this new creation, in this new Christian, he aims for unity. He aims for the barriers of unity to be removed.
So, we don't look at ourselves and segregate ourselves based on whether you are Chinese or Indian or Filipino, whether you are from NUS or NTU, whether you are male or female, whether you are rich or poor, in Christ, these things are done away with. So guys, why would you sin against one another with anger and malice and slander and obscene talk? And why would you lie to one another? So we know that verse 11 gives us the context to understanding the sin list in verses 8 and 9.
So, in a nutshell, back to the speech bubble, if we could interview Paul, Paul would say this, guys, you are raised with Christ, seek the things that are above. That means, desire, crave, pursue obedience to Him in all areas of your life today, starting with purity. Do not desire nor pursue earthly things such as immorality and such. For you have died and are set free from the rule of sin, and you are securely destined for glory when He returns.
Put away what is earthly in you, disobedient sins, sins of desire and the sins of disunity. For we are all one in Christ. We should not be dividing. And Christ is all and in all.
So, in about 30 minutes, 20 plus minutes, we looked at the exposition of this text, but let me close with some applicatory thoughts. What does it mean to have this resurrected life with Jesus? Three things.
1. A New Position
Number one, it means that I have to realize I have a new position in Christ. My new position is that I'm no more the old guy, I have died with Christ. In this new position, Paul describes it, you have already put off the old self. So you are no more under the rule and dominion of sin. If you are watching porn today, it's not because you are helpless, but because you chose to. If you are bearing bitterness and unforgiveness in your heart, it's not because you have no choice, but because you chose to.
I was driving along Orchard Road and then I very quickly glanced this poster along the roads. I, I can't really, stop to see what it is, but the three words caught my attention. And the three words are, "Be Set Free".
I mean, this is very interesting English. Usually it's Be Free or Set Free, but here it says, "Be Set Free". I can't know exactly what is the context for this poster, but I thought it's good for me to use it as an illustration today.
You know what Paul is saying when he says, you died with Christ? He's saying these things. He's saying exactly this, "Be Set Free". You say, why is this English so weird? Why can't it be, be free? I say it's not be free. There's a difference between be set free and be free. What's the difference? Be free means you got to work yourself to be free, right? I'm stuck, so I have to try to break free. That's the idea. But be set free is, you are already free, please live as if you are free, because you are free.
So maybe the idea is, if I'm in a cage, be free means I have to break out of the cage. But be set free means the cage already removed, no need to stay there anymore. And that's the idea. Be set free is also not the same as set free. Set free means the cage is already removed, but you don't know. You are still hunching there in that position because you are, you don't know. But be set free means you know. You know. You are already set free.
So today, you don't have to sin anymore. And if you do choose to, if you do sin, it's not because you have to, because, but because you choose to. See the resurrected life with Jesus means today I have a new position. I don't have to say yes to immorality, evil passions, slander, obscene talk and falsehoods. I don't have to. You don't have to live in that cage because the cage is removed and you can walk free.
2. A New Purpose
Secondly, the resurrected life with Jesus means that now I have a new purpose, I have a new goal, a new desire. The Apostle Paul says, when you were circumcised, or when you are in Christ, you were also circumcised. This is not about physical circumcision, but it's about the spiritual circumcision of the heart. That sin desire, that sin principle is kind of removed.
You now have a new heart, a heart that desires to please God. And that's what it means for you to be made alive. When you were formerly dead in your trespasses and sins, you don't want to obey God. But now you want to obey God because you are given a new life. And that heart of disobedience is taken away, it's circumcised. That's why Paul can urge people today to desire, to crave, to pursue heavenly things. You have a new purpose, a new desire.
So back to the text I received last week. What do you mean when you say we need to do nothing? I say, I need to do nothing with respect to justification, but I need to do a lot with respect to sanctification and service. And I ended the text by saying, so in the end, do a lot. Christianity is not cho bo. You do a lot. But the motivation, this is the key. This is key to God and this is to be key for you and me. The motivation is completely different.
Legalism, works-based religion, is try to save yourself with your good works. Don't have to do that anymore. Now I do a lot because my motivation is completely different. I want to really worship God. I want to make Him glorious. I want to please Him and I want to serve Him. This is what it means. The resurrected life with Jesus is one where you enjoy a new position, you are set free, you know it, and you have a new purpose, you have a new desire, you really love Him and want to serve Him. And you do a lot as a result of that. Motivation, completely different.
3. A New Practice
And finally, you have now a new practice. And this is seen in, for you have died and now you are to put to death. And then in verse 9, you have put off the old self, but you are also to put them all away. Eh, Paul, you are very confusing lah you. Did, did I die already or not? You say I died already, then you still ask me to put to death.
You, you know, I used to see those, I, I was in Chinatown market recently, I remember when I was younger, I would go to the market with my parents and from the top floor, you can see down and that's where the, the fresh market is, right, where the animals are. I can remember they take that snake head fish and they'll take this hammer and hammer the head of the fish, wah the fish, so I don't know whether it's dead or not because it's still slithering there. You know how things when they die, they still slither? So Paul, are you saying I've died but I'm still not completely dead so I have to kill myself? Well that's not quite what it is.
There's this very interesting dynamic in the Christian life in that positionally, I've died, because die means die, no more life. But on the other hand, I still need to put to death the practices. So what Paul is saying here is that you have to do in practice, put them all away, put to death what you are in your position. You have already put off the old self and you have already died. That's the idea.
You are to do in practice what you are in position. This is a very Paul-like way of teaching. He repeats this idea not just in Colossians but in other letters that he has written. We just have to understand this.
That in a sense, my old life is truly gone. I'm a new creation. But that doesn't mean that I do nothing, but that I should actively today do in practice who I am in position. That's Paul's instruction. And what it means is to put away sins and I said this is a clothing, dressing imagery because he says later on in verse 12, put on. So put off, put on. When you woke up this morning, you put off some old clothes, your pajamas, and you put on new clothes. You can't come to church with your pajamas. That would be quite inappropriate, don't you think?
One of the nightmares I have, I think I've shared this before, I have weird nightmares. Nightmares like people chasing me. Nightmares like I drive and the brake doesn't work, wah, that kind of dream is very jialat. The, the, the brake doesn't work and you are just wondering when are you going to crash. And another nightmare I have is coming to church without the right dress. I'll be in my shorts and t-shirt and slippers, jialat, the church will condemn me, man, I feel. That's a nightmare. And that should not be the way we live our lives.
A fireman should be dressed in the right attire. A policeman should be dressed in the right attire. A doctor should be dressed in the right attire. And a Christian should be dressed in the right attire. So put off your garments that you wore when you were asleep and put on the garments when it is day. That's the idea.
So the resurrected life of Jesus is one where we can say no to legalism, no to self-justification, no to deserving our way to God's love. Don't have to do that anymore. Because in Christ, you are fully loved and fully forgiven. But in this resurrected life, you are to seek the things that are above. Not high, falutin theories, but practical obedience in daily lives. Why? Because I'm set free from sin and because I'm securely destined for glory when Jesus comes. So let me live the best life today for the glory of God.
And that will require you understanding, first of all, your position, you are dead with Christ, recognising that God has given you a new heart with a new desire to truly love Him and honour Him and obey Him. And that this means that daily, I'm to be putting away and putting to death, covetousness, immorality, anger, malice, things that divide the church.
Next week, we'll look at what clothes we are to put on. But till then, I hope we will be a heavenly minded people who will also do much earthly good. That's what Christianity is all about. Let's bow for a word of prayer together.
This morning, let us rejoice. Not only did Jesus die for me, but I died with Jesus. This is the foundation, the background, the context, the prerequisite to true, holy living.
If you're here today as a Christian, you know Jesus. I'm confident that you want to love Him and serve Him and obey Him. I don't have to tell you to do so because that's your heart, that's your instinct, that's your natural desire now that you are a new creation. I hope from the text, you'll be reminded that you are set free from the dominion and the rule and authority of sin. That you will not spin for yourself excuses that if you should choose to sin, it's not because you have to or you're forced to, but because you decided to.
And I pray this morning as you hear God's word, you'll be reminded that you're set free from the cage of sin and that you are someone who will be absolutely glorious because of Jesus. So from now to the day Jesus comes, let us crave, desire, pursue, set our minds on things that are above, things that are brought to obedience to Christ in our daily lives. Are you today struggling with immorality, pornography, adultery? Are you loving the things of this world so much that they are more like god than God is to you? Are you today festering some kind of bitterness and animosity? Are you backbiting someone? Are you not willing to forgive? Because of Jesus and by the help of the Holy Spirit, would you come this morning and ask for forgiveness and would you ask for His grace, for His Spirit's enabling to put away these sins?
Let your mind, let your life revolve around the things that are above because Jesus has cancelled your debt and set you free. We pray that Gospel Light will be a godly people, a Christ-like people. We can do it by the help of His Spirit and we can do it because Jesus has set us free. We are amazingly united with Him in His death and resurrection. So do in practice who you are in position.
For all my friends who are here and you do not know Jesus, you hope that as you come to church you will learn some new things, some new law so that you can kind of earn your way to God by doing better. I tell you, you are barking up the wrong tree because that is what the whole world thinks. But that's not the way of God. The way of God is the way of grace. The way of God is not saying, do more, try harder.
But the way of God is, I have loved you and I've paid for you on the cross of My Son. It is finished. It is done. Humble yourself, turn from your sin and believe, receive Jesus My Son as your Lord and Saviour. And if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, the Saviour, I will freely forgive you of all your sins. That is who I am, magnanimous and gracious and generous. And my friends, this is the Good News of Jesus Christ. Jesus paid it all. Would you believe in Him today?
So Father, thank You again for Your Word. Thank You for spiritual truths that have been preserved for us from a long time back. Thank You that though they are written thousands of years ago, they are still absolutely relevant and true today. It will forever be. And so we pray, You help us do well in not just hearing a sermon, but that we will obey it in our lives. May we be a people who will seek things that are above. Thank You. We pray this in Jesus' Name. Amen.
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