Audio Worship 9/24/2023 "Spiritual Formation: Transforming Our Thoughts" Colossians 3.1-17

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1606

September 24, 2023

Colossians 3.1-17     Click here for audio worship

Dr. Ed Pettus


"Spiritual Formation: Transforming Our Thoughts"


If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


  • Think on These Things


From time to time we might ask someone or they might ask us, “What are you thinking about?” Many people joke about the difference that response might be depending on whether a male or female is asked. Males tend to respond with either “nothing” or one thing on their mind. Females, the joke goes, have a multitude of thoughts simultaneously. The Bible invites or commands us to think about or to think on certain things in order that we might live in holiness and righteousness. So, for instance, our reading in Colossians 3.2 commands, 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. The Holy Spirit is telling us to think about heavenly things, holy things, the things of God and His kingdom. Our thoughts are shaped by many things. Memories are thoughts from our past that may shape us for good or for bad. Perceptions are thoughts that determine how we see things, how we relate to things, or how we take in our world. Beliefs are thoughts about the things we trust. These are at least three ways that thoughts are known to us, the things that come to mind moment by moment as we walk through this world. Thinking can be about someone or something past or something coming. We use phrases like, “I thought this about what you said.” It is sometimes a process and others times a conclusion.

The apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had a lot to say about the minds and our thoughts. So, here in Colossians 3.2 he speaks of setting the mind on heavenly things. What are theses things? If we take a look at the things Paul tells us to put off, they are all things that could preoccupy the mind. So he tells the church to put away things like sexual immorality and evil desires, as well as anger and slander. One cannot live as a Christian with these kinds of things occupying the mind.

Then in verses 12.17 he tells us what to do, what to be mindful of as believers in Jesus Christ: things like kindness, patience, love, and doing everything in the name of Jesus. Now in order to do everything in the name of Jesus, we have to have our thoughts in the right place. We must have our minds set right.

In another letter from Paul, he gives a list of things to think about:

Philippians 4.8-9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. These things to think about are honorable, lovely, and commendable, and to top it off, whatever Paul taught them was to be practiced so that God would be with them.

Paul may be the most poignant on this topic of thinking in Romans 8.5-6, For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” The mind and our thoughts are vitally important to life in the Holy Spirit. People who are of the world set their minds on the things of the flesh and in turn do all they can to satisfy the flesh, to satiate the appetite, to fill the ego, to bring pleasure to the senses. But it is all about themselves and all about the flesh, passions of the body, and never about that which truly brings life. Instead they are dead men walking because they have chosen to life by their own wits, their own power, and their own mindset.

What the world cannot see is that the physical world and the flesh are not all there is to life. There is the spiritual realm of God, the kingdom of God that is more important and more real than anything we can experience in the flesh. Life in the Spirit is life and peace. Life set in the flesh only leads to destruction. And yet Christians also fall into this life trap of focusing our thoughts far too often on the flesh. We fear what COVID will do. We fear what political parties will do. We fear for the things of the flesh. But to have the mind set on spiritual things is life and peace, says Romans 8.6. Life and peace comes when our minds are set right. We learn there is no need to fear, we can let go of anger, not live in immorality, have nothing to do with evil, but live instead in Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. We seek to live by His Holy Word so that we are constantly working on the renewal of the mind!


  • Renew Your Minds


Again we turn to the apostle Paul and another passage about the mind. Romans 12.1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” What we are seeking to do in transforming our thoughts is to rid ourselves of the systems of thoughts from the world and integrate the thoughts of God’s kingdom in our minds. Seek first the kingdom of God. We might even say, seek only the kingdom of God. If we seek it first, though, we will soon not want to seek anything else! The kingdom will become our only thought system we desire to seek. Conformity to this world is thinking like this world and that is enmity to God’s way of thinking. The aim of spiritual formation is to bring our heart, mind, soul, and strength in line with God’s will and the intentions of His Kingdom. We do that through His Word and by living by the Holy Spirit. In order to be transformed by the renewal of the mind, we have to recognize our thoughts, our system of ideas, and our worldviews that might be more reflective of the world and evil than that of God and His Word. Anything that moves us away from God needs this transformation into the thought process of God’s Word and kingdom.

Too often we settle into a pattern of thought and seek to find Scriptures that will affirm us and what we already think is right. But what we need is to take the Word of God into our hearts in such a way that challenge those patterns of thought that may not actually be in line with God’s way. We pray that God will not just challenge us in our thinking, but break us out of the patterns of thought led by the culture and the world. So much of the left leaning church has adopted the thoughts of the culture rather than the thoughts of the Bible or they twist the Bible to match what the culture thinks.

There is a phrase that Paul writes to the Corinthian, the phrase is to “take every thought captive to obey Christ”. The purpose of taking our thoughts captive in Christ is to destroy the arguments and opinions against the knowledge of God. 3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10.3-6). The thoughts to obey Christ are not thoughts that play nice or seek to tolerate all the idolatry going on around us, but to destroy strongholds, to destroy arguments and lofty opinions against God’s Word. Destroy is a powerful word here. It means to abolish or to break down completely. It is not that we are seeking to be mean to people or not to love them, but as long as people are living with arguments and opinions that are against God, they are living in a way of death and evil. These strongholds that have people enslaved in falsehoods must be destroyed and we are the ones called to wage war through prayer, through opening and interpreting Scripture, through witnessing to Jesus Christ, and through all the other ways we are called to be the body of Christ in the world.

So how do we renew our minds? Colossians 3.14-17 gives some possibilities! Above all put on love (vs 14). Love is commanded by God. Love is central to our ability to be transformed. So number one is love. Second, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (vs15). That means things like do not be anxious about your life. It means trusting in God’s provision and care. It means casting all our cares upon God who will give us peace. Third, also in verse 15, is to be thankful. Giving thanks is acknowledging that we have not done all things on our own and it is a form of praise to God for what God has done. Fourth, verse 16, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly! It is not just about knowing the Word but obeying the Word. It is about letting the Word of God shape us and take our thoughts captive to Christ. It is being in love with God’s Word in such a way that we meditate on it day and night as in Psalm 1. Fifth is doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus (vs 17). If we were to think about everything we do and say and think in the name of Jesus, how might that change or renew and transform everything?

Every part of our being, while we may separate mind, spirit, soul, but every part is part of a whole and intertwined one to another. Soul affects body and body affects the soul; mind affects spirit and spirit, mind. We are seeking, in every aspect of our lives, the character of Jesus Christ, to become like Him. (1 John 2.3-6) 3And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Walk like Jesus. Think like Jesus. Live like Jesus.




  • Transformation to the Mind of Christ


Our tendency, in Presbyterianism, is to blame everything on human sin and we neglect the possibility that what we perceive in the world is flat out the work of evil. We know evil exists, that the devil prowls around seeking to devour, but we shy away from confronting evil in prayer. We give lip service to Ephesians 6 where Paul speaks of our taking up the armor of God to stand against the schemes of the devil and against the spiritual forces of evil. There is this toxic nature of evil, evil working in the culture, and in the thoughts of people who have no resistance to it in Christ or they embrace evil as a way of life. Satan’s primary goal is to stop the advancement of the kingdom of God and the purposes of God. Take for example the first time the devil sought to thwart God’s plan or design. The devil did not harm Eve or Adam in some physical way to get them to do his bidding. Instead the devil gave them an idea. Maybe God cannot be trusted. Maybe God did not say what you think He said. And when Adam and Eve took that idea and did not trust God, they acted on their own in disobedience to God. When the idea takes us to disobedience, the image of God becomes distorted, not only in how one sees God, but how one sees one’s self as a distorted creature in the image of God. We then think we have to do things by our own power and will and we resist the power and will of God in our lives. Then when the image of self is twisted, we begin to host twisted ideas about life and God and we no longer see ourselves as God’s Beloved, but as one who must find fulfillment in the ways of the world.

The only deliverance from this stronghold of evil is to come to realize that one simple song is true, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” That one line brings us properly back to being a person loved, aware that God loves us, and confident that the Bible is true in telling us that God loves us. When we come to realized that we are loved and realized by God Himself, we can move toward living with renewed and transformed ideas and images about God and self and the world and all things as revealed in the Bible.

Philippians 2.5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

1 Corinthians 2.16, “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.


To think like Jesus thinks! To act like Jesus acts! To be like Jesus! Through sensitivity to discerning the Holy Spirit’s movement within and among us. Through the Word of God written on our hearts. Through consistent disciples of prayer, worship, study, service, silence, and the many other disciples we might practice. It is why Jesus includes the mind when commanding us to love God, love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Thinking through these things is a way of loving God. Seeking to transform our ideas and images through what we feed our minds, is a way of loving God. What happens when we come to see the gospel light of Jesus Christ, is that all our ideas and images are changed. We start to see love differently. We begin to see friendship differently. We begin to see the world differently. We become new creations in Christ and all things can then we transformed. One of those areas of transformation is in the mind, in our thoughts, in our ideas and images that help to create our vision and understanding and confidence and trust. While the world and the devil seeks to form our ideas and images to make us dead to God, the Holy Spirit, working through our efforts in spiritual formation, seeks to make us alive to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6.11). Through the transformation of the mind, we will grow more and more alive to God. Let us think on these things, in order to renew our minds, that we might think like Jesus and become more like Him. Amen.


* Sermon series based on readings from Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard.