We are not called to live by rules but called to disciplined living. What is the key to disciplined living? A vision and a mindset that lead to a motivation, are what makes the difference. We will do almost anything and endure almost any discomfort if we are sufficiently motivated towards the goal. Even Jesus needed this motivation:
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: the cross, the shame, whatever! And now he’s there, in the place of honour, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he ploughed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3, MSG)
The above quote from Hebrews is mirrored in the first four verses of Colossians. We should do the following:
- Realise that we have already died and have been raised with Christ and are now with him in heaven
- Set our hearts on that place in heaven where we are already seated with him (see also Ephesians 2:6)
- Set our minds on eternal goals, those things that God really cares about
- Recognise that we are forever joined to Christ and that He is our life
- Look forward to the day when He appears, when we also will appear with him, in great glory
That is our motivation and our mindset.
Once vision is in place, the discipline kicks in: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature…” (v5). Paul then goes on to say the same thing in different words (verses 8-25). Since we died with Christ, let’s put to death the old lifestyle of the old ‘me’, discarding it like an unwanted old coat. And we have some great new clothes to wear instead, shaped like truth, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, and patience. If any of these actions are directed towards those who are undeserving of them, we can also apply the label of ‘love’ (the unconditional kind). We can try these clothes out before our wives / husbands, children / parents, employers / employees to check that they fit!
“Let the word spoken by Christ have its home in your hearts and minds and live in you in all its richness, as you teach and admonish and train one another in all insight and intelligence and wisdom and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to God with his grace in your hearts” (v16, Amplified). Here we see how the teaching of Jesus, beginning with the gospels but expanding into the whole of the New Testament and Old Testament, should permeate every fibre of our being and lifestyles. It should steer our human relationships and lead to worship and thanksgiving to God. All this will be activated by the Spirit of God within us – without whom nothing comes to life. (Try eating a packet soup without first adding boiling water, if you want an illustration of the scriptures without the Spirit!)
It appears that the Colossians had plenty of the Holy Spirit but needed to apply the ‘Word of Christ’ more diligently. The very opposite appears to have been the need of the Ephesian church; in Ephesians 5:18b-19, where the emphasis is on being filled with the Holy Spirit. The same outcome occurs after that!
If you are a wife, a husband, a child, a parent, a slave/employee, or a master/employer, then some key applications of the word of God are listed just for you. Paul could have written many things against each human role, but he chose to major on just a few. Let’s study them and put them into practice. (The ‘Master’ role is found in the first verse of Chapter 4, which just goes to show that the division of the bible into chapters is not infallible – unlike the words in them!)