by Pastor Darren Green
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:1-11).
How do you identify? What a strange question that is, isn’t it? It seems to have taken on a new identity of its own in the past year or two. Now, when you hear this question, sadly you might start thinking we are talking about whether someone chooses to identify as something different from what they were born. What a strange world we live in! However, the identity we want to talk about today is what people have defined as identity for ages.
What is our identity before our God? Since the time of Jesus, people have identified as Christians and children of God. It is this identity that the Apostle Paul is speaking to the Colossians and to us about! How important this identity is for our lives and eternity. The theme for you to take home today is “Live Your Identity with Christ!” Paul lifts our eyes and encourages us to:
- Set our minds on things above! And he reminds us that
- It’s a daily fight!
If you read the book of Colossians, you will continually find yourself marveling at what your God has done for you. Paul knew that to find true meaning in life, one must look at life through the eyes of Christ as a child of God. In Christ our life has meaning. It will not be meaningless, as Solomon was saying in the Old Testament reading from Ecclesiastes. Although Solomon had all the riches and wisdom one could have in life, they had actually led him away from God. It is a strong reminder that if one looks to the things of this earth to find true life, they will leave a person empty and feeling like everything is meaningless.
Paul wants to answer this question: “What will truly give a person meaning in life?” He boldly tells us it is knowing who you are in Christ! Just before this section, Paul tells us that in Christ, we have been made alive: “…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God … God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins!” (Colossians 2:12-13). Building off this, Paul says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
Did you catch what Paul is saying? We have a new identity with Christ! It is eternal! We will see the glory of God. We are with Christ, the ruler of the universe. This identity changes everything for us. In Christ, our life has meaning! In the movie Princess Diaries, a teenage girl living in California found out that she was actually royalty and heir to a throne. It changed everything for her and her life, just as it does for a young man or woman who makes a professional team. You look at everything differently; you are concerned about seeing everything from your new perspective.
Live Your Identity with Christ!
As we confess, Jesus is seated, ruling from the right hand of God. He knows all and is ruling all for the good of His Church, believers. That is you, dear child of God. Know this, live this identity! Let it sink into your whole being, your thoughts, your actions. Paul has already made clear what Jesus has done for us and given us by the gift of faith. As Christians, we are justified and made right by God. Now, as children of God, knowing this, faith will show itself through our actions and in our lives! Our Lord desires that we live up to what He calls us. This love of Jesus motivates me to let this head knowledge show in my actions and let it rule my heart. Our lives are important. It takes work. It takes FOCUS, focusing on who we are in Christ!
One day you will see the glory of God. We know this because of Jesus and what He has done for us. The Holy Spirit has given us faith that says, “This is mine!” Hidden with Christ, now living by faith, yet God already sees me raised with Christ, with Him! Set your minds on this. Let heavenly, godly things fill your desires, your mind, and your heart. That is easy to say, right? But it is hard to actually put into practice when I get out in the world. It is this that Paul is exhorting us to work on and make happen!
How serious and difficult is this? Listen to Paul’s words: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature …” (Colossians 3:5). We need to remember that we were born in sin. Our earthly nature refers to the sinful nature that all humans were born with. It permeates our whole nature, our thinking, and our feelings. Because of this, we can’t just let how something makes us feel be the way we check whether it is pleasing and right to Christ. This is the reason that we will always find problems in this world—in our relationships with others, with our spouse, with our children, at work, at school. All are born with this sinful mindset that looks at everything thinking, “How will this best serve me?” It’s a daily fight! A constant fight! Paul actually says to put it to death! Strong words, right?! Satan knows this. The world is filled with sinful people who care only about their own earthly desires and not Christ’s.
Paul rightly calls this worship that I find in my heart idolatry! Idolatry is when my desires and the things of the world come before my Lord Jesus in my life. It really comes down to a first commandment sin because the desires and needs of my life come before Christ and crowd Him out. We may at times struggle to see this in ourselves. We can easily see it in others and think of how hypocritical they are. As we listen to the news, we hear of sex offenders being caught or greedy people being caught swindling or cheating. As we look around the congregation, we may even think of how hypocritical some of the people are that we know. However, if you listen to your thoughts and look through the eyes of Christ, you will find the earthly desires festering in your own hearts and in what you desire. Oh, if I would just have that income or that car or that cabin, if I just had more things, or fulfill this desire, then I would really be happy and blessed. Jesus’ parable about the rich man may have made you wonder, “How rich am I toward God? What was so bad about what the man did?” God was not ruling his heart, his own desires were. Listen to Paul’s words: “Whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). It does not take much to realize that if Christ is listening beside me, I have much to confess, much that I struggle with on a daily basis. Jesus wants our heart and soul. He wants our life. Look to Him!
“Because of these, the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:6). Those without Christ will find nothing in this life gives true meaning. They will only find the judgement of the true God, which will eventually lead to eternal suffering in hell. This is what we know we deserve. “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived” (Colossians 3:7). Used to, for Christ found you and came to you. He took these sins. He took your hell. He took the wrath of God on Himself and has hidden you with Him. You are no longer identified as “sinner” but “saint,” “raised with Christ”! You have a new identity with Christ. Set your mind on things above! It’s a daily fight!
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature … But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:5, 8-10). You know who you are! You identify as a redeemed child of God. You identify as a Christian, a follower of Christ. You know the glory that is yours to come with Jesus. Right now, you are in the game and in the grit of putting this knowledge into action and into life! Let your identity show! Let it show in your relationships with others. It means you can’t just go on autopilot. It means you can’t just live like the world around you. You live as Christ, striving to live as He calls you! Fight the good fight. Catch the times that ugly sin is brewing in your heart or in your mind! Put it to death. Don’t let it flare out in angry outbursts against others. That is what you once were, but not now in Christ. He empowers you to change. Get rid of the rage and anger. Get rid of negative thoughts about others, which lead to words and actions against them. Protect your neighbor, whoever they might be, including your enemies. Words can cut far deeper than metal. Check your language at the cross. Let Christ guide you.
Keep sharpening your conscience by reading God’s Word and being in worship with your fellow Christians. It is what truly helps to sharpen our conscience and help us to find our idolatrous thoughts and sinful attitudes. Spend time with your fellow Christians. Be aware of the secret parts of your life that trouble you, that you may try to hide from others. Find your hypocritical sides and let the light of Christ shine in. If your fellow Christians are pointing out concerns, listen and look to your Jesus. God is growing us and using others to grow us in our kingdom work and lives with Christ. This is putting on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge of our creator. What matters and what gives true meaning to life is what is connected to Christ.
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11). Now we desire to see everything and everyone as Christ sees it. All are part of this world that Jesus loves. He desires that they come to know Him and are hidden with Him, raised with Him. Remember who you are, part of Christ’s family, part of His team. Look to where He has placed you in life. Use the gifts that He gives to touch the lives of others. Consider how true meaning is seeing everything and everyone through the eyes of Christ. Realize that God may be using you to lead others to grow in Christ, to teach them, to mentor them, to humbly show them what a redeemed child of God looks like. This is why our lives are so important, and equally important are those the Lord has put in our lives: our family, our friends, our neighbors, and coworkers. It truly is a daily fight! But you know who you are! Christ has raised you with Him. Set your minds on things above.
Live Your Identity with Christ!
Rev. Darren Green serves as discipleship/inreach pastor at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Redwood Falls, Minnesota.