Over the past month we’ve been looking at Christianity in a Nutshell as we’ve been studying the book of Colossians. In this letter from Paul we find many of the core basics of Christianity. We’ve looked at who Jesus really is and what He did for us on the cross. We’ve talked about some of the things that distract us from our walk with God and how important it is to keep our focus in Christ. Last week we started talking about how we can avoid those times of growing distant from God and instead how to live continuously in a close relationship with Him. And this morning we are going to continue on that theme – this is kinda a “part 2” to our message last week.
Last week we talked about the battle between our two natures. We have our old sinful nature that just wants to please me – and we have our new Christ-like nature that wants to please God. And these two natures are constantly in conflict with each other. We always have this struggle between doing what I want – and doing what God wants. And this battle, I think, is the reason that so many Christians feel defeated. Time and time again, they really want to do what is right, but they inevitably do what is wrong – just like what Paul expressed in Romans 7. So they feel like failures.
But Paul tell us that we don’t have to live that way. We don’t have to follow our sinful nature. Through the power of Jesus Christ who lives within us, we can strip off our old sinful nature and put on our new Christ-like nature. We looked at Colossians 3:10 last week…
“Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” Colossians 3:10
And so that’s where we want to pick up this discussion this morning. How do we put on our new nature? Is it something we do or is it something God does? And what exactly does our new nature look like? How will our lives change as we start following our new nature? There’s all kinds of questions – and hopefully our passage today will provide us with a few answers.
We begin this morning in Colossians 3 – verse 12. Paul writes…
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Now in that verse 10 that we looked at last week, Paul tells us to “put on our new nature” and here in these verses, Paul tells us exactly what he’s talking about. He gives us this list of things that we are to “clothe” ourselves with. These are characteristics of our new nature. This is what we “put on” – mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, peace, and thankfulness.
Paul wants us to put these things on – like we would a coat or a shirt. Paul is using the image of clothing to talk about our two natures. This old sinful nature that we have is kinda like my old hoody. It’s old, worn out – getting ragged at the edge – its got a hole in the armpit, some stains… But I still like it. I’ve spent a lot of time wearing this hoody. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar.
And isn’t that like our old sinful nature? We like to wear it. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. Right? When we are faced with a tough choice between following our sinful nature or doing what’s right, it’s always easier to give into our sinful nature. Sin is always easier. It always offers a more immediate satisfaction. Sin is the comfortable default.
The problem is… giving into our sinful nature is like drinking delicious poison. It seems great in the moment, but it leads to death. James explains it this way:
14 “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15
Sin always bites us. It always has consequences and regrets. Sure, it’s comfortable now – but it always comes with a lot of pain later. You can probably look back over your own life and see that. Sin always comes with consequences – not always immediately, but the consequences do come.
So Paul says get rid of that old hoodie – its junk. It’s no good. That’s not you any more. God’s given you a new nature – so get rid of the junk and put on the new.
Remember how we read last week to “strip off” our old sinful nature? Back in verses 5,8-9….
So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. …Now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.
Colossians 3:5, 8-9
This stuff is garbage and we know it. So Paul tells us to strip all this junk off, and put the good stuff on.
So instead of all that junk, we “cloth ourselves” instead – with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, peace, and thankfulness.
We put on our new nature. We begin to get to know God and become like Him. And its great – we get to live without guilt – we actually feel good inside – we have peace and joy. It’s fantastic. I think most of us would agree that those times when we are walking close to God are the most awesome times of our lives.
But the problem comes when, before too long, we look down at that old sinful nature crumpled up on the floor and we remember how comfy and familiar it was. We forget what a piece of junk it really is, and we pick it up and try to put it back on. In fact, we try to put on both natures at the same time – and we find that it doesn’t work very well. It’s a bit of a struggle.
And I think this is the state that many Christians live their lives in. They’re trying to wear both natures at the same time – and it’s not really working so good. They want to please God – but they keep giving in to their old sinful nature. So what do we do? How do we keep that old nature off, and keep our new nature on? Because I don’t know about you – but I’m tired of wearing this old nature. I’m tired of getting sucked back into doing those things that I don’t want to do. So how do we do it?
We talked a little bit about this last week, and the solution that Paul gave us at the beginning of chapter 3 was to keep our eyes on Jesus – to focus on the realities of heaven. Focus on God and on his kingdom. To keep eternity in the forefront of our minds. So this morning I want to dig into that a little bit more. I want to know what I can do to keep my focus on Jesus so that I can always go around wearing my new nature – instead of my old.
Now one of the things that I noticed when I was reading through this chapter in Colossians, is that it was very similar to another passage in Galatians. Let’s flip over to Galatians chapter 5 for a minute – starting at verse 19.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
That’s a very similar list of things that Paul told us to strip off in our Colossians passage, right? Let’s read a little further…
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Again, a very similar list to the things that Paul says we are to “cloth ourselves” with. This is what we want to be like. Now let’s read just two more verses…
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
And that there is the phrase of the day. This goes hand in hand with keeping our focus on Jesus – we need to follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Did you know that the Holy Spirit wants to lead you in every part of your life? Not just the big decisions of where to live, who to marry, what job to take and all those other ‘big decisions’. The Holy Spirit wants to lead you in every part of your life. He wants to guide you in what you say to your spouse at the breakfast table. He wants to guide your thoughts as you drive to work. He wants to guide your conversation when you meet with your banker or your insurance agent. He even wants to guide you as you play with your kids before bed.
The Holy Spirit wants to lead us in every part of our lives – our job is simply to follow Him every moment of every day. And if we consistently do that, we’ll find that we’ll be consistently putting on our new nature – and leaving our old nature off.
As we consistently follow the leading of the Holy Spirit every moment of every day, he will lead us to put on – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. The more we do that, the more our old nature will begin to lose it’s grip on us and we will consistently walk in close fellowship with God. The key is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
And I know that’s not always easy. We already talked about how sin is the comfortable default. But what makes it even more difficult for us today is that our culture has made it very difficult to even hear the Holy Spirit – let alone follow Him. How can we follow His leading if can’t we hear what He’s saying or see what He’s doing?
Our culture has us so busy every moment of every day. Culture tells us that successful people are frantically busy people. If you have a lot of free time on your hands, you’re obviously not working to your potential.
We’re always going somewhere or doing something. We’re always plugged in to our ipods or our iphones. We’re texting or browsing or watching something every moment of every day. We’re running to meetings, going to events, serving on committees, and doing all kinds of good things. But how, in the midst of all that, can we hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us? How can He lead us in every part of our lives if we’re not listening to Him?
Now that’s not to say that all that stuff is bad, but I fear that we tend to fill our lives up so much – with so much stuff and so much activity and so much busyness – that we don’t leave any room or any time to listen to the Holy Spirit and let Him can lead us.
Go back to our passage in Colossians. Look at verse 16 of Colossians 3: And this is where we’re going to find our practical application this morning.
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
Paul tells us to fill our lives with the message of Christ. Not fill our lives with meetings or events or other good things – but with the message about Christ and all it’s richness. So the question for us is: what’s your life filled with? Is it filled with the busyness and the activity and the distractions of life – or is it filled with the message of Christ in all its richness?
You know, even as a pastor, I find that my life gets filled up with the busyness and the activity and the distractions of life very easily. A lot of it is church or family related stuff. But I have to continually make time (I can’t just find time, cuz it won’t be there, but I have to make time) to listen to the Holy Spirit. To spend time with God. To let the message of Christ fill my life. To allow others to teach and counsel me with all the wisdom God has given them. To sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God with a thankful heart.
These are all ways that we can hear and be led by the Holy Spirit. In fact, let’s go through these one at time to see some practical ways of how we can live like this. The first part of that verse says…
- To let the message of Christ in all its richness fill your life.
It seems to me that that if we are going to fill our lives with the message of Christ, a really good first step would be to read God’s Word. God has given us this book, called the Bible, that is filled with information about Him. It tell us what what He’s like and what He’s done – and what He’s going to do and what He wants you to do. As we fill out minds with the truths of Scripture, the Holy Spirit can use that information to communicate specific things to us at specific times. When we are faced with certain situations, quite often the Holy Spirit will bring to mind passages of Scripture that fit our situation perfectly. But He can’t do that if we don’t have those passages in our minds. So we need to fill our lives with the message of Christ! We need to read His Word. Memorize it. Meditate on it.
This is what we talked with the kids about this morning. Meditation… or regurgitation. It’s like a cow chewing on it’s cud. We need to do that with the Scripture we read. Read a passage before breakfast, and then sometime mid-morning, bring it up again. Remember it. Or re-read it. Think about what it means. Then we do it all again later. Not only does that help you understand it, but it makes it readily available to the Holy Spirit when He wants to use that passage to communicate with you.
I don’t know if you’ve ever sat down and read through Psalm 119. We don’t know exactly who wrote that psalm, but we believe it was likely either David, Ezra, or Daniel. And whoever it was understood the principle of filling their lives with God’s Word. They regurgitated it often.
Let’s me just read a selection of verses from that chapter.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
13 I have recited aloud
all the regulations you have given us.
15 I will study your commandments
and reflect on your ways.
16 I will delight in your decrees
and not forget your word.
33 Teach me your decrees, O Lord;
I will keep them to the end.
34 Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
I will put them into practice with all my heart.
47 How I delight in your commands!
How I love them!
48 I honor and love your commands.
I meditate on your decrees.
The chapter goes on and on like this. This guy saturated his life with God’s Word. He read it. He studied it. He memorized it. He meditated on it. And then He lived it.
That’s what we need to do. I know many of you have a regular time of reading God’s Word each day already. And if you don’t I’d sure encourage you to begin. But for those who do spend time reading God’s Word each day – I’d encourage you not to stop there. Don’t just read it. Study it. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Regurgitate it often. That’s probably the number one way to make sure that the new nature stays on and the old nature stays off.
I find that this is one of the greatest benefits of writing sermons. All week long I get to meditate and regurgitate a passage of Scripture as I try to understand it and then prepare to explain it to you on Sunday. This get’s God’s Word stuck in my mind so that the Holy Spirit can use those verses to speak to me. So maybe you want to start writing sermons as part of your daily routine – it might be a real benefit to you! (Just a thought…) Or maybe a more practical thing for you might simply be journaling. Or blogging if you a blogger. Or maybe you and a friend could text each other each day with just a little nugget of something that you noticed in your Bible reading that day. That might be a great way to regurgitate and meditate on what you read.
And actually, doing something like that would actually fit well with the second part of that verse in Colossians where it says to “Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives.”
We need the input of our fellow believers. God uses people to communicate to us – to guide us and lead us. Some of that we are doing right now – as you listen to me talking through these Scriptures. The Holy Spirit is communicating to you as you listen to me. But don’t stop with that. Twenty minutes a week is not enough. We need to spend time throughout the week – several times if possible – talking and listening to other people too. Find out what God is teaching them. Maybe study some Scripture together.
Probably the two greatest means of spiritual growth in my life has been through either being mentored by someone or by being a part of a small group. That’s where I’ve experienced my greatest spiritual growth. So this teaching and counseling that we receive from one another is really key to our spiritual well-being.
So I encourage you, teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom God gives. Start meeting with someone regularly to study God’s Word and pray together. Be part of a small group. Start a small group.
But get some people in your life that the Holy Spirit can use to speak to you.
And the last part of that verse says to “Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” In other words, worship Him. And I know that worship is more than just singing songs, but for whatever reason, God seems to really like it when we make a joyful noise to Him with thankful hearts.
There is something about pouring our hearts out to God in song – it’s like a deep heart-felt prayer. And when we do that, when we’re communicating our worship to God, very often God uses that time to communicate back to us. Prayer and worship is not just about us talking to God – but it’s also about stopping and taking time to listen to Him as well.
So we need to do that. And not just here at church. It’s great that we have great music team and its great that we have a crowd of other people to sing with us – but we don’t need all that all the time. You can sing to God from your heart in the shower… In your car…. Along to a CD… whatever. Don’t just wait for Sundays. Sing those psalms and hymns and spiritual songs all week long. Pour out our heart to God and then listen for what He has to say to you.
And you know what happens? As you focus on Jesus throughout your week – throughout your day… throughout each hour… As you fill your mind with the truths of Scripture – remembering them… meditating on them…. regurgitating them… As you meet together with others and spend time learning from each other. And as you make those joyful noises to the Lord throughout your day, pouring out your heart with great thankfulness to Him… Do you know what will happen?
You will hear the Holy Spirit. Not necessarily audibly – but you’ll hear Him – but you’ll know what He wants you to do. He’ll speak to you through the Scriptures. He’ll speak to you through the people around you. He’ll speak to you as you worship Him. You’ll be able to follow where He leads. You’ll be able to put on that new nature and leave your old nature nailed to the cross. You’ll be able to consistently walk in close relationship with you Creator.
I can’t speak for you, but I know that’s what I want. That’s the kind of life I want to live. That’s the kind of life that Jesus made possible for us by dying on the cross and rising again from the grave.