Psalm 103, Colossians 3:1-17
September 28, 2014
This passage from Colossians 3 is a fairly well known passage. It’s the place where Paul tells the Colossians about what he calls the “Old Nature” and the “New Nature.” Of course what he means by that is the life we live before and after coming to faith in Jesus, the Messiah.
Now, before we go any further, I want us remember who’s writing this! If anyone knew about the difference between the “Old Nature” and the “New Nature,” it was the Apostle Paul. Under his former name – Saul of Tarsus – he was the greatest, most vehement persecutor of the church. He was in the business of arresting those who believed in Jesus, and hauling them off in chains to be put on trial. His aim was to stamp out the Church! But then, when he met Jesus himself, on the road to Damascus, his life was totally transformed! And he became the Church’s greatest champion! He, of all people, knew the difference between the “Old Nature” and the “New Nature!”
Ok, but when we think of our own lives, it’s not that dramatic, is it? At least it isn’t for most of us. Maybe if we were in a different kind of church, in a different setting – maybe in an inner city church – we might know people people who had gone through more dramatic changes in their lives as a result of their faith. And that’s great! But I suspect most of us are more like me. We grew up in the church. We were always basically good, solid people – more or less. We never did anything terrible or strayed off into the life of “The Prodigal Son.” Do you remember him?
Maybe for us, it’s the other end of that story which is really pertinent. Because I believe that parable is more the story of the Elder Brother. He’s the one who said to his father, “I’ve been with you all my life. I’ve never disobeyed your command. And yet you throw a party for this son of yours who has gone off and wasted the family money!” I think the elder brother really is the focus of that story! And maybe that’s us. We can relate to him. And maybe over the years we’ve heard the stories of others who went through a more “dramatic transformation,” but we didn’t ourselves. And we wonder how we fit in.
So when it comes to this passage from Colossians, how do we live the “New Nature?” What does that look like? How different is it from the “Old?” Sometimes we’re not even sure we should. Sometimes we think it’s not right to “wear our faith on our sleeve.” In other words, we shouldn’t talk about our faith or show our faith in the sense that we are “showing off.” And that’s right! The spotlight – the glory – should go to God, not to us, right? But sometimes we take that too far. Sometimes, with that in mind, we don’t show our faith at all! Or, since we’re not all that sure, we don’t bother trying.
Well, in this passage (and many others!) Paul calls us to do just that. He calls us to take on and to live the “New Nature.” And that’s not just a matter of “showing our faith.” It’s really a matter of “living our faith.” Because, if you think about it, just “showing” what we might not really be “living,” is the real problem. That’s where people see us as being “hypocrites.” To use the contemporary expression, that’s where we’re seen as just “talking the talk” but not “walking the walk!”
So, if we’re living the faith. If we’re “walking the walk,” what does that look like? Well, Paul gives us a good picture here. He starts by telling us what we should “put to death” in us. (That’s quite a metaphor, isn’t it?) You can read through these again on your own. And I hope you will. There’s quite a list here of what he considers to be “Old Nature,” “ungodly things.” And I hope you’ll really notice the last one, which is about putting away all divisions! Jew or Greek, slave or free. And we could add a lot of others, couldn’t we? Divisions between us are “Old Nature” things!
Then he tells us what we are to “put on.” (Which is another great metaphor, isn’t it!) Look at these things we’re told to “put on.” “Compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearance for one another…” And then he ties it all together with the word “Love,” which he says, “binds all things together.” If you remember a few weeks ago, I gave out my “adaptation” of I Corinthians 13. I made it a “proactive” version. It said, “I will be patient and kind. I will not be jealous or boastful. I will not be arrogant or rude…” I got a lot of positive feedback on that one! There are still a few more of them in the back if you’d like to take one. And I can make more, if need be. That’s the kind of thing Paul is talking about here.
Please understand, in all this, that the “New Nature” is about being the kind of people we are called to be! So, do you want to know what God wants you to do in your life? Do you want to know his will for you? Well here’s the place to start. His will is that you be the kind of person you are called to be. (For his glory, of course! Not yours!) His will is that you live the “New Nature.”
The other thing, which I am always quick to point out, is that this is more than just living the “New Nature.” It is a matter of choosing to live it. This is something we need to decide to do, and then to work at doing! It doesn’t happen all by itself! Paul says, “Put to death the Old Nature.” He says, “Put on the New Nature.” Those statements are in the imperative. He’s telling us to do something. These are things he wants us to choose to do! That’s the nature of the grammar in those statements, and it’s the nature of our lives! “Put on these things – compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness…” Choose to do them! Decide to be such people!
So then, the question we might have when we hear all of that is “Why?” I want you to think about that. “Why are we called to be ‘such people?’” The first reason is not the one you might expect. The reason we are called to be “such people,” to put on the “New Nature,” is so that we might have the kind of life God wants for us! And what life is that? Think about the reason Jesus came here in the first place. He said it! “I have come that you might have life, and have it (what?) more abundantly!” That’s what God wants for us, a life of abundance. He wants us to “thrive,” not just “survive!” And he wants that both for us as individuals, and for us as a church. He wants us to thrive, not just survive!
We were talking about that the other night in one of our committees. We’re not here as a Church just to “survive” – just to “get by.” We’re here to show that we’re “alive and kicking,” that we have life within us! We’re here to bring the joy of God’s kingdom to the world! That’s what the church is about! And we’re here to show the world that we can rejoice despite the circumstances of life. That was our message last week, and it’s a good one! The world needs to hear that! Life is good, but it’s not always easy. And we can have grace and joy and contentment in all circumstances!
That’s our message to the world. And that’s the second reason God wants us to be people who live the “New Nature.” He wants his kingdom to “thrive” as well. This is not just about being God’s servants and workers. It’s about the living the abundance and joy of his kingdom, and bringing that to the world as well!
Unfortunately, too many Christians present to the world a picture of life that is all rules and sacrifice and doctrine. And I’m not saying that such things are bad! But what we have to offer the world is so much more! We offer the world peace and joy – the very peace and joy the world craves, but cannot seem to find! We can show the world what it’s like to thrive, not just survive! We can choose to live the New Nature so that we can be the kind of people God wants to be in relationship with, and the kind of people who show the joy of that relationship to the world.
So, what about you? Do you think about the difference between your “Old Nature” and your “New Nature?” Do you choose to live the New? Do you seek the “things above,” as Paul puts it? Do you choose to “put on” compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, patience, and forbearance? Do you strive for the love he describes, which “binds all things together in perfect harmony?”
We are called to be “such people.”
Eternal God, your love for us is eternal. Your Grace is amazing. And your mercy is beyond our comprehension. Help us to be people who choose to live the “New Nature” we have in you. May we know and live the joy of your kingdom. And may we do that for all the world to see. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen!