Sermon June 14, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1449

June 14, 2020 Colossians 3.1-17

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“Life In Christ”


 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing 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. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let 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. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

  • Seeking And Setting (1-2)

We have always been in a world that is scarred by sin. But lately it seems that greater sin has brought greater pain or question or flat out stupidity among lots of people. We look out at the landscape of our country and find it hard to believe that people can act and say things that simply go beyond belief. If nothing else it has all affirmed our theology of total depravity of human beings and their need for salvation in Jesus Christ. That’s the only real answer and the only real hope. We can reform every police force in the country and replace every politician in DC and attempt to shut down all media outlets, but only Jesus can save us. Only in Christ can we see the world as it is. Only in Christ can we know the truth. Only in Christ can we offer what the world needs.

As I have prayed and thought about Scripture to address COVID and now riots, it seems to me that we must consider ways to strengthen our faith and witness to Jesus. We must consider focusing on Jesus and living in Christ in order to bring hope to a hopeless world. One of the YouTube personalities I follow has a T-shirt with the slogan, Make America Godly Again. That is the real challenge for the church. Today I have selected Colossians as our focus. This is one of the best letters on how to live out the Christian life. Colossians 1-2 engage us in what Dallas Willard calls – enthralling the mind with Christ. To be enthralled is to be captivated by something or someone and in Colossians 1-2 we become enthralled with the supremacy of Christ. Paul tells us things like all things were created in Christ and through Christ. Christ’s authority is over all things. In Paul’s day, as in ours, there were lots of competing philosophies going around. Narratives were being told that painted false ideologies about life and truth. We face the same kinds of false narratives today. So many narratives are being lifted and told that have nothing at all to do with Jesus and others distort the gospel to deceive those who do not know the truth of Scripture.

When Paul writes Colossians 3-4, he engages us in what it takes to become like Christ. The goal in his teaching is to remove all the responses or tendencies of our life that would oppose the kingdom of God. Colossians 3.1-2 begin with our unity in the resurrection of Christ. If then you have been raised...could also be translated, “since you have been raised with Christ”. That is to say that we have been raised with Jesus Christ to new life!

The result of this truth is that we are called to two actions: seek the things above and set your minds on things above, not the things of the earth. In light of what is going on in the earth these days, I think this is timely truth. What is needed most of all in our context is the truth of Christ and the things from above, the things of heaven. We need the kingdom of God. This is one reason Jesus commanded that we “ first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6.33). We seek first and foremost to be conscientious about the things of God, to become enthralled with the kingdom life, a life of abundance and love and grace and mercy and wisdom and hope. In this life we will find ways to respond to the chaos of the world. Only in Christ will we be able to discern truth from lies, and there are plenty of lies out there seeking to distract us from truth. Seek the things above and set our minds on things above, not the things of the earth. It is only in the things above that we will be able to address the things of the earth and the sin so prevalent.

  • Your Life (3-4)

Paul states in verses 3-4 that our lives are hidden in Christ, and when Christ who is your life appears...we will appear with him. In the first verse he says that we are raised with Christ and here he clarifies that we have been raised because we have died! What he is saying is that our old self has been crucified (Gal 2.20) and that our lives are now all about Jesus. Jesus is not just a part of our lives tucked away when we need Him, He is our life, He is life. Christ defines our very existence. Jesus Christ is our life. This is why we seek Him and the things above. This is why we are called to set our minds on a particular focus of heavenly things, kingdom things, godly things. Because we are in Christ we are to live in ways that reflect Jesus.

One of the best news items in the end of verse 4 is that one day we will appear with Christ in glory. We I take from that is that all the things we see today are not the end of the story. They do not define us or what is to come. The future is bright and hopeful and will be victorious in Christ. Because of this condition and that we find in chapters 1-2, Paul takes this third chapter and teaches us how to live in Jesus. This is what we are to model for the world to see.

  • Put Off the Old Self (5-11)

In Christ we are to put to death all the old sin and old self that is so depraved and put on Christ. Put all that sin away and take on something new. The way Paul describes it is something like taking of an old garment and putting on a new one. Discard the old clothes – those tattered old evil desires, malice, or slander. Strip off the old self with its practices. In spiritual terms this means being crucified with Christ – an action symbolized at our baptism. In practical terms this means a change in disposition. We cannot simply keep living the same old life that sins against God and against one another and truly be living the Christian life.

To change our clothes is to take off the old, bad habits of our lives. Paul lists some inappropriate activity. He may have been listing some activities he had observed in the community or simply taking some random behaviors he knew to be inappropriate. Take off those old rags of promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. Take off the clothes of bad tempers, irritability, meanness, lying, and toss them in the fire.

Paul tells us to do something – to take off the old self, put something to death, kill it, hang it on the cross, and to put on something else – namely, the character of Christ. Paul does not really tell us how to do this. Perhaps this is what he means by the phrase in Philippians “work out your salvation” (Phil 2:12). Work out what you need to do to live in responsive obedience to Christ. Within the framework of salvation, tend to your life as faithful disciples seeking to please God and grow in Christ.

How do we do put off the old and put on the new? The Psalmist suggests that we keep the Lord always before us, according to Psalm 16:8. Another version says I have set the Lord continually before me” (NASB). Keep or set the Lord before us. I think this means to have God as our main focus in the vision of our life. Paul does tell us two things mentioned before: seek the things above and set our minds on those things. Perhaps this answers the question of how. How do we put off the old? Seek and set our minds.

One purpose of this putting off or putting to death is to reframe our perspective of life. We train ourselves and open ourselves to the Holy Spirit to work in us a new life. We rid ourselves of sinful actions by increasing our love for God. John Owen speaks of not trying just to get rid of sin but focus more toward loving God so that the sin simply has no place in our hearts. We combat our sinful nature by setting the mind toward God and His righteousness and beauty and glory (Overcoming Sin and Temptation p.28). We seek to increase our affections for God and heavenly things. We so fill our cups with the Spirit of life there is no more room for sin. My cup overflows; our cups spill over in God’s love.

  • Put On Life in Christ (12-17)

 Take off the old and put on the new! Once those old clothes are removed we are given new clothes to wear. We make this garment change by working our way into God’s Word and by the Holy Spirit working His way in and through that Word. We make a garment change when we participate in the life of the church, in worship and service and, for some, in leadership, and in a variety of other ways. We make a garment change when we practice spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, silence, solitude, scripture study or memorization. But most of all it is the work of God within us if we would simply yield our will to His. Philippians 1.6 - And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. This is one aspect to our change of garments, God’s work in us. But another also is about working out our own salvation, not that we save ourselves through any works, but that we enable change through our effort with the Spirit. Phil. 2.12-13 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. These verses speak of both our work and God’s work together bringing us to work for God’s good pleasure, that is, to do His will.

Obedience is a key to our efforts. God’s faithfulness is the key to His efforts. We are to put on things like compassion, kindness, humility, and patience. But the greatest attribute we claim in Christ is love. Col. 3.14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Above all, put on love – putting on love. Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. Love brings perfect harmony like a great singing group that blends to make perfect harmony. I think Paul is saying, "If you forget everything else in this letter, if you forget compassion, kindness, if you forget to be humble or patient, do not forget to put on love. Why? Because love binds everything together."

What is it to seek the things above? Seek love. What does it take to put the old rags away? Love. What does it mean to put on Jesus Christ? Love. What holds our lives together? Love.

Finally Paul reveals some things we can do to make life in Christ a reality.

1) Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.

2) Be thankful.

3) And let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly (3.15-17).


In light of the world today letting peace rule in our hearts is a great way to calm the storms around us. Such a peace leads us to humility, able to remain calm in the storm and think wisely.

Being thankful is a discipline that recognizes our gratitude but also our dependence on God. It helps us to remember that we cannot do anything apart from Jesus. It reminds us of the many blessings poured out for our lives and for our salvation.

The Word dwelling within is the only Word – God’s Word that can bring wisdom and guidance in how we respond to things today. Let that Word dwell richly in your heart and mind by reading and studying it. Live it out daily as a witness to others that there is only one true narrative for life, the narrative of God.

This is life in Christ. This is the life we have been called to show others. One day all things will be revealed and all the pain and suffering of this world will end. Between now and then, we live fully in Christ and Christ alone. Seek the things above and set our minds on those things that will edify and build a faithful and obedient life in Christ.

All of this may sound too simplistic. There are things that need to be done and actions that need to be taken to get the chaos we see back under control and back to normal. From our perspective, the only Word we have is the one of Truth in Jesus Christ. Without that, there is no hope. Without Jesus, there is only chaos. My prayer is that Christ will rule in our hearts and in the hearts of those who lead us throughout our land. Amen.









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