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Entries in Old Man (1)

Tuesday
Jun042013

Understanding the Gospel II

Last week we talked about the importance of understanding the Gospel leading up to salvation.  Today we will talk about the importance of understanding the Gospel after salvation.  The Law teaches us that we will never approach God through it.  It begs the question “Is there another way?”  The answer is yes there is only one way and His name is Jesus.  What does the life of a Christian look like?  Or, what should it look like?  Two common mistakes happen in the lives of believers.  We either see Jesus as a new and improved “Law” that we need to keep, or, we see Jesus as the reason why we don’t need to do anything.

In Colossians 3:1-11, Paul lays out the proper understanding for believers to have.  When we truly understand the horrible predicament we were in and the awesome love that Christ showed for us at the cross, our lives will be impacted in very practical ways.  Let’s look at the first 4 verses of Colossians 3.

Seek The Higher Things

You might read chapter two to get a better feel for Paul’s point here.  It is clear that some of the Colossians were caught up in a legalistic asceticism, which basically focused on what you couldn’t eat, touch, or handle.  To them Christianity was still the Law, but under new management.  Paul’s argument at first sounds like he is saying there are no more rules.  But the truth is that they are looking at all the wrong things.  They are focused upon things of this world that are consumed and then gone.  He tells them to turn their focus and aim at a higher thing.  This is very different then saying, “Do anything you want because it doesn’t matter anymore.”  Paul is turning their attention up towards Christ.

When he uses the “If” conditional, he is not implying that some of them were not saved.  Rather he is emphasizing the logic of where our focus should be.  This logic was not only taught to them but also illustrated in their water baptism.  Colossians 2:12 says, “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith by the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”  Water baptism symbolizes my death to sin and this world and my new life with Christ.  If Christ is my new life, why is my focus on everything but Him?

The present location of Christ should help to draw our heart and affections toward God.  We long to be with Him, but he is not here.  However, we can fellowship with Him by the Spirit.  The focus should be up towards Christ is now.  Think about it this way.  Jesus did not come to Earth because he wanted to enjoy the “Local Color.”  He came to Earth because of the heart of His Father.  God desired eternal fellowship with men.  Thus the earthly endeavors of Jesus were from a heavenly reason.

Now some have said, Christians are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.  This may be true of some, however the opposite can be stated.  Many people are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good.  Think of the Pharisees.  On the surface they were all about God’s business.  But, in truth, they really weren’t.  Their political machinations were very much about themselves and things on this earth, not God and his heavenly purposes.  Believer should impact this world from the directive of heaven.  Anything short of this will fail to bring lasting impact.  Now let’s look at verses 5-8.

Cut Off The Lower Things

After telling them to seek the higher things of Christ and the heart of the Father in heaven, Paul then tells them to put to death or cut off the “lower things.”  When you read his list of these “lower things,” it is clear that he is not just talking about anything that has to do with the natural world here on earth.  Rather, he is talking about motivations of this life that are not of God (the higher), but are of our flesh (the lower).  Let me give an example.  A family is not in and of itself a higher or lower thing.  It just is.  However, the motivations behind my interactions with that family are of a higher or lower quality.  Even the giving of money to a charity can be done for base, lowly (read that fleshly) reasons.

These lowly motivations are not just “on the earth.”  It literally could be read that they are “centered upon” the earth.  They are lowly because these motivations are solely focused upon earthly reasons and ends without regard for The Maker of all things.

Another reason why they should cut off these lower things is because they are the very reason that God’s wrath is going to be poured out upon all the earth.  We must not fool ourselves.  The judgment of God is coming upon the earth, and precisely because of our sin.

Abortions, homosexuality, adultery, war, destruction of the earth, pride, atheism, false pretence, theft, anger...(the list is practically infinite), not only are sins against each other but they fly in the face of God.  Why would I continue to embrace what God has pledged to destroy?  Each true believer must seriously ask themselves this question and remember Lot’s wife.  Lot’s wife did not perish because no one loved her.  She perished because even when she knew it was being destroyed, she loved the things of this world.

Now in some ways, what Paul is saying sounds like regulations again.  Seek this, kill that.  But let’s recognize that the difference is in the word Relationship.  Regulations do not care about God and His heart.  It is not about a relationship other than slave to master.  However, God has called us into the relationship of a child with a father, or a wife with her husband.  In each case we will focus on certain actions and get rid of others, but, for very different reasons: the reasons of love.  Love embraces things and gives up others for the sake of relationship.  Christ is not coming to simply destroy those who eat pork or worship on the wrong day.  He is coming to destroy those who have rejected relationship with Him and have turned towards hurting others.  In the end, sin always hurts our self and others.

Without such a relationship with Jesus, we are powerless to follow Christ.  That is why Paul said in Colossians 2:23 [following man-made regulations] have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.  Many people who are strong at controlling the outward appearance of their flesh will find that God is not pleased.  (Do you remember the instructions Jesus gave about lust in our mind and heart and how it is the same as adultery in the flesh before God?)  When you understand the impact of that statement you will realize quickly how powerless you are without Jesus.

Put Off The Old Man Put On The New Man

In Colossians 3:9-10 Paul changes the metaphor of higher and lower and uses “old man,” “new man,” and getting dressed.  Here the new man seeks the higher things of Christ, whereas, the old man lived for the lower things.  Thus if you are going to follow Christ you need to strip off that old man and its lower motivations and put on the new man which is motivated by Christ himself.  If I truly turn from my old life towards a new life in Christ it will make an impact in my life.  This “clothing” is not merely new and better rules, but rather, a new focus, attitude, and source of power.

Paul says that the new man is renewed by knowledge.  Specifically, this is the knowledge that we have been given by Christ.  It is the Word of God and our knowledge of the true Gospel and God’s real judgments.  This will enable us to be renewed into the image of Jesus who is our pattern.  This is where our focus should be; the desire to be like Jesus, not because we will then be saved, but because he has saved us, out of love.

Final Thoughts

Our flesh does not want truth in this area.  Even when we turn to Christ our “Old Man” remains hostile to the things of God.  Just try to pray every morning before you go about your day and you will see how true this is.  Our flesh will either be unbalanced towards legalistic regulations of pride or it will be unbalanced towards “sloppy agape.” 

The truth has more tension in it then either of these two extremes.  Following Christ is filled with tensions that we are tempted to relieve in all the wrong ways.  Don’t run from the tension.  Rather relieve the tension by turning to God in prayer for strength and surrendering to His grace for peace.

 

Understnding Gospel II Audio