The Good Christian vs. the Bad Christian: A study of Colossians 3:1-17

As is the case in many of Paul’s Letters, he has set forth a contrast in “bad behavior” and “good behavior.” In Colossians 3:5-10 he lists some of the things of human nature that need to be put to death. The very attitudes that cause believers to become “bad christians”, unfaithful to Christ. I want to spend time examining these attitudes, these things that tell the world that we are not of godly principles, but of earthly ones instead.

But let us begin with the opening verses of Paul’s problem. Verse 1 states, (ESV) “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1. Just as Jesus is raised up into heaven and seated with the Father, at his right hand, we to are lifted up. And that right hand is the hand of Authority. The hand that gives commands, that hold judgement. Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you [God] will bring about justice for them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8 NAS). And that is the very thing Paul is concerned about, the believers having lost faith and returning to the ways of deprivation. So Paul tells them, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are here on earth.” (Colossians 1:2 ESV). To much is given to the people today AS WAS EVEN THEN, that are materialistic and carnal. We have too much to tickle our senses and not enough to inspire our thoughts to righteousness. We must remember what Jesus told the twelve in Matthew 16:24-26, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what should a man gain in return for his soul?” We equate this to taking up the burdens of faith, but it also applies to forsaking Christ for the things of the world. If our constant desire for pleasure, wealth or power are greater than our desire to be humble, contrite and holy, aren’t we selling out to the devil? If we are truly of Christ,then we want to live in Him. We want only to live for Him and by His Word. Paul is telling us that we have power to live for Christ now and in the future. Verse 3-4 say, “For you have died (to sin) and your life (eternal) is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears (in the end days),then you also will appear with Him in Glory.(ESV)” The question then is, are we giving all of ourselves to Christ or are we holding onto the world? Will we, by our example and expressions of Faith, bring glory to God so that we can come again with Christ in full Glory as he will? Or will we be lost to the world and indeed, be dead to grace?

The next question is why then keep sinning? What does it gain us? Paul brought this up to the Romans, “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2 NLT). Paul also told the Corinthians (2 Cor. 5:14-15 NAS), “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and if He died for all, that they should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” That is the question that I have for you today. Why, if we have turned ourselves over to the control of Christ, do we still seek to court sin like a lover? We no longer should seek to please ourselves but only to please God. Let us prepare ourselves for the true Glory that only comes from God by setting our trust and our obedience in Christ. If we are to be true to God, we fight the things that separate us from Him. We work with diligence to preserve what is right and holy before God and cast away the desires of the world.

So Paul writes to the disciples in Colossi, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” And then begins the list of offences he is aware of. He lists sexual immorality, impure thoughts, evil desire, covetousness and obsessive passion as idolatry. Now I noticed that ALL sexual immorality as one sin, being no difference between types; adultery, rape, homosexuality, incest, fortifications are all the same. Impurity is not just actions against the body and mind but also lust, greed, envy and pride. These are all sins of impurity. As well as obsessions like hoarding, addictions and selfishness are sins of passion and covetousness. Envy and hate and revenge are among the many sins caused by evil desire. And Paul claims that these all are sins of idolatry. And He is right! For by these sins, God is placed below and the desire of the mind and the flesh are worshipped in His stead. The wrongful desires of the World override the Desires of Grace.

Paul warns us, as he did the citizens of Colossi, “On the account of these the wrath of God is coming! (Colossians 3:6 ESV). Not to be left unaware, Paul is telling them that if they continue to live in the ways of the past, the attitudes they had before coming to Christ, they will suffer the judgement of Christ. God is coming! Christ is going to judge the living and the dead. And those who are dead to Him because of continued sin will suffer His Just Wrath. Peter also warns us of the sins against Christ that will fill the churches. “Many will follow their evil teachings and shameful immorality. Because of them, Christ and his true way will be slandered. In their greed they will make up clever lies to get a hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago,and their destruction is on the way.” (2 Peter 2:2-3 NLT). But Peter also gave us the answer to the dilemma in his first letter, “So get rid of all malicious behavior and deceit. Don’t just PRETEND to be good! Be done with all hypocrisy and jealousy and backstabbing. You must crave Spiritual Milk so that you can grow into the fullness of your Salvation. Cry out for this nourishment as a baby cries for milk, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s Kindness.” (1 Peter 2:1-3 NLT)

Jesus carried our sins on the cross personally, not so we could continue to live in sin but so that we might be free from the power of sin. We are called into righteousness and to live blameless in Christ. When tempted by sin we must take a stand and resist, we must flee from the desires of man and Satan and run to Godliness and the Truth of Jesus. We must, as preaches Paul, “…put them all away: wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk [trashing and vindictive language] from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing you have put off the old self with its practices,and have put on a new self, which is being renewed [made fresh] in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:7-10. ESV) Our behavior must be in the very example of Jesus, living and loving the ways that God designed us to walk in. Paul also told the people in his letter to the Ephesians (whom he held in high regard), “But you did not learn Christ in this way (referring to sensuality, greed and impurity), if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you have been renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which is the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:20-24 NAS). If we are renewed, refreshed and created in the image of God, why then would we seek after the image of Satan? If we are, by the blood of Jesus, a new creation in the true image of our Creator, why seek after the ways of our past sins against Him. Are we then also no longer Friends of Jesus but friends of deception? In every way, at every time, seek after the righteousness and cast down the sins of our past as dead and corrupted into decay and ruin. No longer should the desires of evil, lust and greed occupy our minds but we should be filled with generosity and mercy and kindness to each and every one. Grace and loving kindness should fill our hearts. and we should also cast out the things that separate us into classes, nationalities and religious pasts.

In the very next verse, Paul reminds the believers that they are no long considered to be Greek (Pagan), or Jew. No longer ruled by customs and tradition asked of God to be a sign of the covenant of obedience and service, but under a new covenant of usefulness and generosity and mercy toward each other as one people under the banner of the Cross. No longer separate and different from each other but one under Christ as Christ is all [God] and in all [believers]. Yet even today, churches slander each other, hold malice and contempt for each other, and cast out those who refuse to follow obscure laws and dictates that man has invented to replace the true Spirit of the Gospel. Many times inventing sins that God has never declared, and other times excusing sins as irrelevant that God has declared as evil in His sight. Jesus changes us, and Paul told the Romans, “But thanks to God, you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:17-18 ESV). But the key here is we are to become willing slaves (bond servants) to the Word and the Way of Jesus. We must turn ourselves completely to His Grace with every desire to serve Him completely in this world. Our freedom in Christ remains in the obedience to the Way of Christ.

Just as Paul has told us to put sin to death forever in our lives he asks us, no, demands of us, to put on a new life. Just as Jesus told the disciples and the Jews that when the demon is cast out of a “house” (our life) he will seek to return to it if it is not filled with the Spirit of God. And if the house is still empty, he will bring seven friends with him. In the same manner Paul tells us to put on a new life, to fill our house with the things of the Spirit of Christ. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience,” Colossians 3:12 ESV). We are to be new creations, renewed in the Spirit, laying aside the falsehood of our old life, speaking truth with each other in compassion for we are members of one another (see Ephesians 4:21-26). Peter begins his first letter to the church as a whole with, “…to those who are elect…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His Blood:..” (1 Peter 1-2 ESV). I want you to note three things here; The foreknowledge of the Father (God knows who will accept Him And He will reject Him). The Sanctification of the Spirit ( As to those who hear and accept His grace, He gives by the Holy Spirit a Sanctified Grace to seek after righteousness). And Obedience to Jesus Christ (by His blood, shed for us). And this last is vital to your spiritual growth and our maturity in God’s wisdom. With a complete desire to be obedient to Christ by striving to live outside of the sinful nature of our flesh and the desires of carnal minds. We need to seek after those things told to us in the Gospels of Jesus, from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) to the prayer of Jesus in the Garden (John 17). We must welcome the burdens and the trials as Christ welcomed the cross, by yielding to the total will of the Father.

Paul continues his sentence with, “..bearing with each other.” It is necessary to be forbearing, to show mercy and to put up with each others faults and weaknesses and to help each other through the tough places in life. Not all are strong, many have weaknesses that cause them to stumble. Those of us who are strong should not be among those who condemn, but those who uplift and encourage in righteousness. We must guide and correct with the heart of Jesus. The rest of the sentence goes; “…and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving as the Lord has forgiven you, so that you must also forgive.” Colossians 3:13b ESV). What offence can any one commit against us that could equal God’s complaint against us? What offence is equal to any sin we have committed in the name of Jesus? It is clear to me that every offence committed against my name is nothing to the offences I have done against Christ, especially those I have done since I received the mercy of Christ. The most important thing we must do, what is foremost in the heart of a true believer is what Paul tells us next; “Above all these put on LOVE, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in you hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14-15 ESV.) As Paul also told the Ephesians, we are to live a life filled with love for one another following the example of Christ Jesus, who loves us so much that he thought His sacrifice for our sins a sweet perfume to the Father. (See Ephesians 5:2) The burdens we carry for each other should smell as sweet. We should not look at the thorns that each of us bare but at the fragrance of the flowers we have become in Jesus.

In Ephesians 5, Paul tells us not to tell off-color jokes, obscene stories, or enjoy foolish talk. In verse 5 he states very clearly, “You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God.” This bears much thought as many of us still indulge is such activities. This one point that many avoid teaching as it goes against the thinking of once saved always saved. But in reality it is saying if you indulge thus, you were never saved but still live in the flesh. Having come to Christ in the fullest, we leave such things behind. But let us concentrate on what Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:8-9 (NLT), “For though your hearts were once filled with darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light with in you produces only what is good and right and true.” What then is our goal in life as followers of Jesus? It is to do what is good, right and true! To be kind to each other, to reach out and help those who need us. To speak with gentleness and mercy and to avoid everything that is evil in the sight of God.

Our behavior is to be mature, ever reaching toward godliness. As I wind down this lesson on Good behavior vs. bad behavior, I need to strongly advocate focusing our lives toward Christ. We must seek after peace, harmony and gifting each other with love. The greatest gift from God in our Salvation and Sanctification is the Gift of Love. The unconditional love that only God can give. But we must also express the brotherly love toward one another. It is through the combination of the Philo (Brotherly love) and the Agape (Unconditional love) that is from Christ, that binds us as one people. It is clear that Paul wants the people of Colossi to be bonded together in perfect love for each other. His desire is my desire that all who call Jesus their Lord and their God be bound in a harmonious relationship with Christ Jesus. We must if we are to be in harmony with God, learn to endure each other with love. We must embrace each other in perfect peace and with the Joy of Our Creator and Redeemer.

When Paul states in the letter that we should, “Let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) What is unsaid but implied is that these be done with thankfulness for each other’s fellowship. Everything he speaks of prior leads to this point. Be thankful for the richness of Christ with each other. We cast off our bad behavior and join in good behavior in praise and thanksgiving for each other, being in the presence and good company of Christ our Lord. We are not left without resources in this. Jesus told us that, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach all things and bring to your remembrance all things I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; My Peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:26-27 ESV) Since we can not avoid the carnal desire alone, Jesus has given us His Holy Spirit to instruct us and our minds.

And the final words of Paul in this matter to the believers, and to us, is these wonderful words, “And what ever you do, in word, or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him Casting away the bad behavior of our past, growing in maturity in the Spirit of the Word and the Hope, accepting the grace and the gifts and living in the perfect Way of the Living Word. Putting aside as dead the pattern of our past, the confines of the carnal world and embracing the eternal and blessed ways of our Redeemer, living in the Spirit of God, sharing the Love that God has for us. Let us then make every effort to conform to Christ and to cast out as ruin, the ploys, distractions and folly of Satan. Leave as dust under our feet the obscure ways of the world and seek after the path of Jesus, the True Way. Look to one another as we would look to Christ. Look after each other as the Holy spirit looks after us. Provide kindness and forgiveness without regard of what the offence is as the Father forgave us our trespasses. That is the true liberty of Christ, the freedom from sin to serve the perfect God in pure love and obedience. We must live in the good behavior of Christ, as His representatives in the world. We are to lift the Lord Jesus in our behavior toward each other, not seeking after ourselves or the desires of the world, but the desires of the Heart of Jesus. Live kindly with each other, speak justly and with mercy. See in one another what Christ sees in you. Be Blessed by blessing others, praying for them and lifting up together the glory of God.

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