So last week we saw that part of being new in Christ is dying to sin. We kill sin. But on the other side of this we are to put on our new selves. Our identity has changed as Christians. That’s why our mission statement here at Raintree is “Guiding people to a Christ-centered identity and influence.” Today, we’re going to see what that Christ-centered identity looks like, and what it means to put on the new self. Let’s read Colossians 3:12-17.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 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. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 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. 17 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.
This is such a rich passage. And I want us to unlock all of its riches, which starts with our identity in Christ. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.” We are God’s chosen ones, his children. That is our new identity; that’s our new significance, and we need nothing else to define us as human beings outside of Christ, because there’s nothing greater to define us.
This is why, in vs. 11, from last week, if you recall, Paul said “There is no Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free.” Why did he say that? Because our new identity and significance is not found in what makes us unique from other people, but instead is found in Christ himself. The end of verse 11- “But Christ is all, and in all.” I want us to see just how profound it is that our identity, our significance, is in Christ. To give you a picture of this whole identity thing, let me tell you about when I was in Junior High.
In 7th grade, I was involved in pretty much everything humanly possible. Sports, band, clubs, church, everything. But I found my significance primarily in sports. The glory of the football game. I was the best player on the B-Team. The attention of being at least decent at long-distance running. I enjoyed band too at the time, but I found my value and significance in sports in 7th grade. That was until my brother started to outgrow me. Suddenly, he was better at sports, not just for his grade, but better than me even being two years younger. Why did this suddenly threaten my identity as a 7th or 8th grader? Because, even just in my very family, sports was no longer what made me feel unique. This brother who was younger was suddenly better at what I thought made me feel unique.
We all do this to some extent, don’t we? We like being known by what makes us different from other people. We like being known as the funny guy, or the smart guy, the logical guy, the whatever guy (or girl). We all have our personalities, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with personality. It’s good! But, do we find our significance, our value, in what makes us unique from other people, or do we find our significance in Christ? This is part of our fallen nature. It’s a naturally selfish and even narcissistic position we hold in regard to ourselves. But one of the beautiful things about the gospel is that we are freed from trying to build our own name and identity in and of ourselves. What are freed to do now? To worship and lift up the name that is above all names. “Christ is all, and in all.”
Last week we saw what this new identity and new life in Christ means for sin in our lives, that we kill it, that we eradicate it, that we treat it like old dirty clothes that we don’t want to put on again. In today’s text we see the positive side of our new life and identity in Christ. We see what clothes we’re to put on, what virtues we’re to pursue. 2 Questions we’re going to ask: 1) What does new self look like? 2) How do we put on the new self?
What Does the New Self Look Like?
Verse 12 says compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Compassion, a deep sensitivity to others’ needs, not just our own. Not a façade of compassion, but real compassion from the heart. In the ancient world, the sick and elderly in particular were neglected, because people just didn’t care. We should care deeply and truly for the needs of other people.
Kindness and Humility– I put these two together because kindness is the Christ-like attitude we should have toward others, and humility is the Christ-like attitude we should have toward ourselves.
Meekness and Patience– These are also sort-of two sides of one coin. Meekness, or gentleness, is our approach to people. Patience is our reaction to people. Gentleness is how we approach people, this doesn’t mean that we’re not honest. Sometimes we think kindness and gentleness negate honesty. That’s not true at all. You can be completely honest with people while also being gentle in your attitude and your candor. Patience is our reaction to people. We’re patient, ultimately, because God is infinitely patient with us. I can’t help but think of the problem of evil. The most common objection to the Christian God, “How can a good God allow evil in the world?” The best answer I’ve heard to date is, “Because he’s patient.” Right? Who is the cause for most evil and suffering we experience on earth? People! How can a good God allow evil? Because He’s patient, and hasn’t yet decided to just kill us all! God is infinitely patient with us, with fuels the patience we have for others.
The last virtue I want to bring up before we see the practical applications of these virtues, the last one is love. Vs. 14- “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Ultimately, what holds everything already mentioned together? Love. The language here could actually be metaphorically referring to an outer piece of clothing that holds everything together, like a belt. That would certainly make sense! I’ve forgotten my belt before. It’s not fun. You have to make sure and hold your clothes up sometimes. These five other virtues—compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience—none of them will be part of who you really are without love, because love binds it all together.
If you think about it, because of Christ, we are all heading the same direction. I don’t mean heaven, I mean toward the same goal, because we’re all pursuing Christ, or at least that’s what we’re to be doing. In the midst of pursuing Christ, what’s happening? We’re being drawn to one another in love! I’ve said before that this doesn’t mean that we all have to be best friends or that all of our personalities will go perfectly together, BUT, there is a real sense in which Christ in us produces a genuine affection for other believers, no matter our differences.
I had the privilege of going to Indonesia about a year ago, and one of the most notable parts of the trip was seeing people of an entirely different culture, different language, different lifestyle, different clothes, different everything, worship the same Jesus that I worship. Read and follow the same Bible that I read and follow. There was a genuine love and affection for brothers and sisters in Christ, even those you may not know or understand. It’s funny that we can go across the world and be drawn together because of what we have in common in Christ, despite the world of differences in culture, and then we come home and fight about style of music. Not at Raintree, but many churches across our country. Or we fight about other preferences or opinions. In Christ, there is a genuine affection and love that is natural for our brothers and sisters, which should bring us together. We love each other, not just with our affection and our emotions, but with our actions and our service to each other.
So those are the virtues and the clothing of our new selves that we’re to put on. Now Paul mentions two other virtues in verse 13, but I kind of see these more as the practical applications of these other virtues, which is why I put it last.
Forbearance and Forgiveness- 13 “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.” You had the virtues in verses 12 and 14. Now we see some practical applications: we bear with each other, and we forgive each other.
Each of us respond in certain ways to certain types of people. That’s just true. That’s part of our personalities. Certain types of people rub us the wrong way; other types we’re naturally drawn to. But with bearing with one another, we hold back what might be our natural reaction towards certain people; we let them be themselves.
We also forgive each other. Why? Because “the Lord has forgiven you.” That’s verse 13. We forgive each other because God has forgiven us. To not be able to forgive others, as Christians, doesn’t make sense. If you’ve read 1 Corinthians you might remember that the Corinthians were taking each other to court! They were suing each other! Paul said, “Why not rather be wronged?!” The point is we’ve been forgiven for far more than anyone on earth can do to us. That’s our fuel for forgiveness. We endure each other, we love each other, and we forgive each other. Those are some of the practical applications of these virtues that Paul lists here.
So what happens when we truly pursue these virtues? When we truly put on our new selves? What’s the result?
15 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” When we let love have its full effect, it will result in peace. No matter what disagreements or differences there are in the body, ultimately, this peace that we have in Christ with God rules. This peace is a corporate peace, it’s not actually referring to peace in our individual hearts, as much as peace throughout the body- “one body.” Now this peace isn’t the absence of tension or even disagreement in the church. That’s not what this is referring to at all. What this is saying is that no matter the differences, ultimately, we must know and let rule the fact that we are one in Christ.
Now let me mention one other thing that this doesn’t mean. A lot of times we talk about not having a peace about things, and we think that that means it’s not God’s will. I just didn’t have a peace about it. I’m not saying that God doesn’t speak that way, but I am saying that sometimes God wants us to do things that we may not feel too peaceful about. If I’m honest, I think he does that often. I don’t always feel peace about sharing the gospel. Sometimes I’m nervous; many times it’s awkward, or at least it can be. Does that mean God doesn’t want us to share? Of course not.
What this is speaking to is the peace of Christ that governs the church. The “shalom” of Christ. The wholeness, the joy, the completeness that comes from salvation in Christ. That governs everything. That reality overflows and overwhelms our differences and our disagreements. The love of Jesus, the peace that He brought in His sacrifice, overwhelms us. The question for us: Are we overwhelmed with this peace that we have with God Almighty through Christ? Overwhelmed with gratefulness that we have Christ, and we have the body? We can’t miss here that at the end of verse 15, it says, “And be thankful.” And even the end of verse 17, “giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Are we so overwhelmed with Jesus’ love and the peace that he achieved between us and God, that we’re just thankful people? We’re thankful for Christ, we’re thankful for His body, the church.
I feel like I’ve been more thankful for the body than ever before since I’ve been here. I’ve only been here five months, and I feel unbelievably grateful for the people in this church. I started going through the elders in my mind, then the deacons, then other volunteers and leaders, then our members, then even some of you who are guests that I’ve gotten to know a bit. We have reason to be thankful for this body of believers. We are treasured by Christ. And if Jesus treasures us and considers us to be the pinnacle of His creation, should we not treasure each other?
We are one in Christ. We may not always feel like it, but we are one in Christ. That’s why our love for one another shouldn’t change when circumstances change. Because circumstances don’t rule in our hearts. Love does. The peace that we have with God through Christ’s sacrifice, that rules, that determines our affection for one another. I love that. OK, we’ve seen the virtues of our new selves that we’re to be putting on, we’ve seen what results those virtues bring, and now we’re going to try and answer the question, “How, exactly, do we put on the new self?” Verses 16-17. This is just, good, good, good. My grandpa…etc., etc.
How to Put On the New Self?
16 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. 17 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.
How do we put on the new self? We don’t just kill sin. We don’t just eradicate it. That’s part of it, like we talked about last week. But we also must fill our hearts and minds with the word of Christ, which is basically the revelation Jesus brought into the world. We kill sin, AND replace it with God’s Word, the gospel.
We let the word make its home in our minds and hearts. It’s ok to be obsessed with truth that has come straight from God. In fact, it seems entirely appropriate! Let it dwell in us as we teach and admonish each other in all wisdom. Why does someone have to preach every Sunday? Why is there so much teaching at Raintree Community Church? Because we need it. I’m not here to give you a little tid-bit that will help you through your week, though it might do that. I’m here to help the word dwell in us as a body. Others that teach do so to help the word dwell in us richly.
What about singing? Why do we sing when we meet? Ugh. Maybe you don’t really like the singing part. I will argue strongly that singing hymns and songs helps us let the word dwell in us richly. How so? Well, why do we teach children the ABC song? Because it helps them learn the ABCs! Singing great truths from the word help us put it in our hearts. Music helps us to express things to God sometimes in words that we never could of thought of on our own.
There’s this particular song that is so good at expressing a profound theological truth, it’s called “Though You Slay Me” by Shane and Shane. It’s expresses something that’s difficult to explain much less worship God for. The chorus goes, “Though You slay me, yet I will praise you. Though you take from me, I will bless your name. Though you ruin me, still I will worship. Sing a song to the One who’s all I need.” This song expresses worship toward God in the midst of God-ordained pain. Why? Because pain has a purpose. Pain is not meaningless, even if we can’t see the purpose. What an unbelievable truth. I hope you don’t see the singing part of our gathering time as the part we have to get through to get to the actual beneficial stuff. No no no, There is meat in music. There is spiritual and biblical nourishment to be found in singing praises to God and expressing thankfulness to Him. In fact, I’d say singing songs together is one of the best ways to teach each other. Singing matters.
I mentioned this a few weeks ago, in Colossians 2, and it comes up yet again here. We’re not just to teach each other positively. We’re to so desire the word to be in our hearts, and to put on the new self, that we accept correction. That’s always left out, it seems. We live in a world of positive reinforcement. And I believe the Bible teaches that we’re to encourage each other, and love each other so much, as I’ve just been saying. But sometimes, especially in churches, we mix up love with niceness. We think that to be loving, we can never criticize. But we must, in gentleness and compassion, be able to correct each other.
Let me give an example from Sinclair Ferguson, who is a Scottish theologian: Teaching without correction, ok, teaching without admonishment, is like a asking a child, what is 2+2? They say 5. Teaching without correction is like answering this child, “Great job, buddy! You recognized that this was an addition problem. Good job!” Would this child feel good and affirmed in that moment? Would he even gain some confidence? Absolutely, but here’s the thing: it doesn’t help him. He needs to know he was wrong. You can still be encouraging while correcting. In fact, I’m convinced, that the greatest love we can possibly show to each other is in being honest, having in mind not just what is best for each other’s feelings, but what’s best for each other’s holiness.
This goes back to taking off the old self, our old clothes that fit our old way of living. Sometimes we need someone to tell us, hey, that piece of clothing doesn’t fit your outfit. I usually leave on Sunday mornings before Lauryn wakes up because I like being here pretty early on Sundays, and because of that, I have to admit, there have been one or two times where Lauryn arrived, and asked, “What are you wearing?” I think I’m the stereotypical guy that doesn’t really know what matches and what doesn’t. In college, I wore a swimming suit to class regularly throughout the winter. Why? I don’t know; I was comfortable. And it was Texas, it rarely gets very cold. But the point here is that sometimes we need people to reveal to us things that we don’t even see.
According to Hebrews 3:13, sin is deceitful. We don’t always see our own faults because that’s part of the sinful nature. We desperately need the body of Christ. We desperately need to covenant with a local body of believers that can drastically propel us forward in putting on the new self, in becoming more like Christ.
Ultimately, what does it mean to put on the new self? The last verse for today explains it well. Verse 17: “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.”
With every single choice that we make, throughout the day, at work, at school, at home with your family, by yourself, every decision we make. It’s worth asking the question, “Does this fit who I am in Christ.” Does this fit my new identity in Him? Or is this an old piece of clothing that I need to retire or throw out?
Every choice we make, every thought we have, every word that comes out of our mouths can either fit our new ensemble, or not match at all. Ultimately, the question we must ask in our lives is not what do I want? It’s what does He want? That’s what it means to do everything in His name. That’s why it’s so important that we are teaching each other and holding each other accountable.
If a man dressed as a fireman walked in here and said, “I’m a police man,” that wouldn’t make much sense would it? No. Does your life reflect who you are in Christ? Or do you dress like someone else? Are you holding on to your dirty clothes that should be thrown out because they’re part of the past? Or, are you wearing your new clothes that reflect who you are in Christ! We’re new creations. We have new lives, new identities. We’ve died to our old selves. By God’s grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we’re to live up to who we are in Christ. We’re His children, His chosen ones, holy and beloved. Let’s pray.