This devotional was originally published on July 21, 2011.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
— Colossians 3:1–17
I am constantly amazed at how simply Paul describes the Christian life under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Several very practical things stand out in Paul’s directions to the Colossians.
First, Paul is consistent in preceding suggested action with doctrine. The first couple of chapters of Colossians lay out awesome doctrine about Christ and his work on our behalf. Paul uses a similar style in Romans and Ephesians, where doctrine precedes practice (actions). It is out of this doctrine that our actions should be based. Upon what doctrine are you basing your actions?
Second, Paul also consistently speaks of the importance of the mind in living the Christian life. In Colossians, he uses the term set your minds. In Romans and Ephesians, he says, “renew your mind.” In Philippians, he says, “let this mind be in you which also in Christ Jesus”. Isaiah states the obvious reason for this:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
— Isaiah 55:8
Paul’s words remind me of the advice of Struther Martin (the warden) to Paul Newman (the prisoner) in the movie Cool Hand Luke. Martin basically tells Newman to “get your mind right, boy!” The apostle Paul definitely considers this an important aspect of living the Christian life. Do you have your mind right in relation to spiritual things?
Next, Paul implies that, in the Christian life, some changes are immediate and other changes take time. He first tells the Colossians to “put to death” some things. This implies an immediate cessation of these items, no discussion needed. He then says to “put off” some things and to “put on” some things. This phrase from the Greek speaks of a process, as in putting on or taking off a coat. There is a definite end goal in mind, but it is not immediately attained. Look at the list of things that Paul seems to indicate will take time. How are you progressing in these? Are you moving closer to the goal?
Finally (but not finally in covering all of Paul’s points in these verses), Paul stresses the importance of God’s word. He uses the phrase to let his word “dwell in you richly.” Dwell means to hang out, to be at home. John used a similar word, abide. It is amazing how God’s word can change a life. How are you doing in letting his word dwell in you?