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Hidden with Christ | Colossians 3:1-17

As preached by Timothy O'Day.

Since Christ has changed your destiny,

1) set your mind on the heavenly glory that awaits you (1-4).

2) divest yourself of the trappings of the old way of life (5-10).

3) invest yourself in the new creation of Christ (11-17).

-corporate identity

-dressing like Christ

-under Christ's rule and word

Hidden with Christ in God

Colossians 3:1-17

April 21, 2024

Have you ever noticed that your disposition is intimately tied to your perception of your destiny? 

The man who believes his job to be secure spends money, but the man afraid of losing his job hoards it up.

The woman who knows that her friends have her back does not fret about others gossiping about her, but when she thinks that others speak about her, she sees evidence around every corner.

Last night we all went to bed thinking through what time we would get up and what we needed to do, not even asking ourselves if the sun would rise. 

Your mood, temperamental make up, tendencies, and inclinations are all tied to what we think or know will happen. 

This reality, that our disposition is tied to our mood, is behind all arguments, including Paul’s argument thus far in the book of Colossians. He has argued that false teachers should not alarm them because Christ is supreme and preeminent in all things. So, if you are in Christ by faith, you have the fullness of God. There is thus no need to resort to syncretism or be scared when someone new comes along saying that they have a new prophecy, a new book, or a new spiritual paradigm to help you unlock your spiritual potential. 

In Christ, the Christian has a changed destiny and a new home: the kingdom of God. Instead of hell and wrath, he has peace; instead of eternal separation from God, he has eternal peace and communion with him. 

All of this is important to remember as we come to Colossians 3:1-17. In 2:6-23, Paul made what was mostly a negative argument—meaning he told the Colossians what NOT to do. Now in 3:1-17, he shifts to a positive argument that looks back on Colossians 2:6-7. He now explains more fully what it looks like to walk “in Christ” by being rooted and built up in him, established in the faith and abounding with thanksgiving. We do these things because our destiny is different in Christ. Since Christ has changed your destiny, instead of chasing after every new spiritual fad, you should…

  1. Set your mind on the heavenly glory that awaits you (1-4)

In these first 4 verses, Paul lays out for us the foundation of all that is to follow. What you are to do instead of turning to false teachers is to turn deeper to Christ. 

He does this with two complimentary commands and one grounding, basis, for both of the commands. Let’s look at each.

First, in verse 1 he calls us to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” This is what you are to do if you are raised with Christ, that is, given new spiritual life in Christ through faith. Seeking does not refer to pursuing something that you do not already have, but living in accord with what Christ has accomplished through his death, resurrection, and ascension—thus the mention of Christ being done with his work and sitting at the right hand of God. This gets clearer with the second command in verse 2.

Second, the next command comes in verse 2: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Since you have been raised with Christ and he gives you all that you need through his finished work, you must set your mind on the things of his Kingdom, heavenly realities. This is not mere intellectual assent, but cherishing and valuing what is above; intentionally turning your mind onto these realities. 

We have to do this continually setting of the mind because there are distractions. The things of the earth, the system set up against God and his Christ, calls for our attention and for our affection daily. 

Living in the present age is like going to the grocery store hungry. You are buying ingredients to have a wonderful, tasty, nutritious meal, but since you are hungry seeing candy bars, chips, and other junk constantly makes your stomach turn over with hunger. It can be easy to forget that you have a wonderful meal coming because you see quick ways to satiate your desires now. So you have to turn your mind to what is true constantly: steak is better than Little Debbie; fresh bread is better than a candy bar. 

But what are you turning your mind to? That is what comes next in verses 3-4, the ground and basis, the why, of verses 1-2. 

We can summarize the basis of these commands like this: In Christ, you have a glory awning you that is beyond your comprehension. Look down at verse 3: in Christ, you have died and have a new life that is with Christ and in Christ, hidden in God. By union with Christ, you’ve died to the guilt of sin and the power of sin. 

You are forgiven. God’s wrath is coming, but you won’t taste it.

You are free from he dominion of sin. You may still struggle with sin, but by his Spirit you can say no to it and grow in hating it. 

In Christ, you are forgiven of sin and free from sin. 

This broken world, the domain of darkness, is no longer your destiny. It will burn up in judgment, as we read in 2 Peter 3, but you will not because you have been transferred to the Kingdom of the Beloved Son. In the new creation, heavenly will come down and all things will be made new. That is where you belong, so that is where you should set your mind. Hope for heaven, not the things of the earth.

This only makes sense when you understand your destiny. 

Imagine a an inmate who has a life sentence in jail. He is carefully planning his escape, making plans for how to get out, setting up his means to get out of his cell and over the walls of the prison. It will be difficult, but he has to try. Then he receives word that he has been pardoned by the governor and is set to be released next week. How crazy it would be for him to focus on his escape plan, on how to grease the hands of the guards, make good alliances with other prisoners, and such. Why think about life in jail when he knows it will not keep him? 

“But,” you say, “it doesn’t really look like I will be pardoned. Everyone else seems to be on top of this world and living it up, but I struggle.”

Indeed, you may struggle with dwelling on the things of this earth and the cheap glory it offers because your heavenly glory and life is presently hidden with Christ in God. 

Here is what it means that your life is hidden with Christ in God:

First, your eternal life and destiny are secure in Christ. He holds your hope in himself and no one can snatch it from his hand. No false prophet or spiritual guru has authority over Christ, so if the Son sets you free then you are free indeed. 

Second, your true life and state are not yet seen by you or others. Just as God’s promises were hidden in that it was not clear how all of his promises would be true and fulfilled, but Christ was the answer to this mystery, so too now when you are saved your new life is hidden—meaning that it is not clear what you will be. Your future glory is hidden, but when Christ comes, as verse 4 says, your glory will be revealed. 

In the resurrection, you will be like Christ, for your life is hidden in him. When you see him, you will be like him. 

If you are in Christ, the glory that awaits you is greater and more satisfying than you could dare imagine now. On this idea, CS Lewis gives us some meat to chew on. He writes,

He calls us to remember this: “That the dullest and the most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.” 

What does he mean? Eternal glory in Christ awaits you, or eternal hell does. 

Right now, there are earthly figures—men and women—who are so physically attractive, celebrated by the world, and worshiped because everyone wants to be like them. But one day, if they are without Christ, their corruption will be made clear and you would call the sight of them a nightmare. 

But also, right now, there are figures—men and women—who seem so dull and ordinary. Uncelebrated by the world, ignored because they have no beauty and charm. But they love God and forget the world. If you could now see the glory that they will possess, you would be tempted to drop down and worship them on the spot. There are no mere mortals. There are no insignificant people. Don’t get distracted from the glory that is yours in Christ and give into the lesser glory promised by this world. 

Setting your mind on and orienting your thinking around what lies ahead protects you from distractions of false teaching and the lies of sin that say they can give you glory. 

When you dwell on the future, it can bleed into the present: your destiny forms your disposition. It guides how you live, which is what we see next. 

2. Divest yourself of the trappings of the old way of life (5-10)

Being in Christ makes it natural and necessary to put off activities and attitudes that fit with the domain of darkness. In verses 5-10, we see two complimentary commands and two grounds for these commands. 

In verse 5, we see the command to put to death what is earthly in you, which is clearly tied to the first 4 verses because we see the word “therefore,” which calls us to look back on what was just said. Paul is telling us that having minds set on what is above has the natural consequence of leading us to put to death what is earthly in us. The list he goes on to make of sins moves from outward expression of sexual immorality down to the root cause of such immorality: covetousness, which is idolatry. What is the connection between covetousness and idolatry? Covetousness is to look at something and say, “That should be mine.” The implication is that God has not given you what you deserve. And, when you do not have what you think you deserve, the human heart goes “god shopping,” looking for the one who will deliver to him or her the desires of the heart, even if the desires are sinful. 

Next, in verse 8, Paul gives similar list of what should be “put off,” but this time he moves from the heart to outward action. Anger, wrath, and malice are general and interchangeable terms, but they all begin in the heart. They find expression through the tongue in obscene talk, slander, and lying. 

What should we take away from this? Having your mind set on things above naturally causes you to throw off sins of the body and the heart. They simply do not fit with who you are anymore, which is exactly what Paul goes on to say in the reasons why they should put these things off. In verses 6-7, Paul says we are to put these things off because God’s wrath is coming against such rebellion. Why participate when you belong to his kingdom? These activities once defined you when you were not in Christ, but now Christ defines you.

This is what he means in the second grounding of these commands in the second half of verse 9. These acts and attitudes belong to the old person who is now dead. Now you have a new self, but don’t just think that you are a new version of yourself. You have been incorporated into Christ—he is the new self that lives in you and now directs you. Like Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me…” If you are in Christ, you can truly say that the way of sin is no longer natural to you because sin is not natural or fitting with Christ. 

This language of “Put off” is used throughout the New Testament and other ancient writings to speak of taking off clothes. As one puts off an old garment, Christians are to put off sin because it no longer fits who they are. 

Up until a few years ago, I had some jeans that I had owned since high school. I don’t know why I kept them, because they are size 28’’ and I have not been that size in years. Before getting rid of them, I tried them on one last time. While I was able to get them on (just barely), if you had seen me you would have said right away, “Those don’t fit.” I had changed. I am a new man now. While I could get them on, I did not want to keep them on because I could not enjoy them.

Christian, you can still sin. You can put on these actions which you are called to put off, but if you are in Christ you will immediately recognize that these actions do not rightly fit you. Moreover, you will not be able to enjoy them. 

The Christian life is about putting off sin because you are new in Christ. Put you are not totally like Christ yet. This is why Paul says in verse 10 that you, Christian, are being renewed into the image of your Creator, who is God the Son. This is God’s purpose for you and he will surely do it.

Since this is what God is doing, he does not merely tell you to put these things off, he also tells us what we are to put on. That’s what we see in verses 11-17.

3. Invest yourself in the new creation of Christ (11-17)

As we turn to the last few verses in this section, we see that through our corporate identity in Christ, each one of us is to put on the attitude and practices of Christ himself as we also sit under his peace and instruction. 

There are three steps to explain what Paul means in these verses. First, when we come to Christ we receive a corporate identity while still remaining individuals. Second, when we come to Christ we are dress like him in our actions and attitudes. Third, coming to Christ means sitting under his peace and his authority. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

First, you invest yourself in the new creation of Christ by coming to him, but in coming to you you are brought into a corporate identity. Colossians chapter 1 reiterated to us that Christ is the beginning, the first born from the dead, meaning that the dawn of the new creation begins with him and his resurrection. Look at verse 11 and take note of the word “here.” What is this referring to? It looks back to verse 10, speaking of the new self—that is, the new man, who is Christ. When you come to Christ, you receive his Spirit and live by his Spirit. Yet, you are not the only one. Christ is in all of the church and all of the church is in Christ, no matter what your background is. He is what defines you most preeminently. That is to say, you are more defined by your unity to another Christian who is Asian than you do with an American who is outside of Christ. You have more in common with a Christian who is in a different economic bracket than you are than you do with a non-Christian who is in your same economic bracket. 

This is because you are both incorporated in Christ, which is why Paul uses the analogy of a human body to speak of the church. While we retain our own identity, we are intimately connected to each other and need one another because now we are one in Christ. 

To invest yourself in the new creation, then, begins by investing yourself in the church, which is God’s people, made to be the population of the new creation. 

But how do you invest in God’s people? Verse 12 gives us an answer.

Second, dress like Christ in order to invest in the new creation. Verse 12 tells us to “put on” various actions and attitudes because we belong to God. Get this: you do not put these things on in order to belong to God; you put them on because you belong to God. When I take my kids out, I remind them to act like O’Days. We have a code of conduct that I want us to act out and an attitude that I want us to keep. If another child comes along and starts taking up those actions and attitudes, I don’t say “now you are my child!” But if you become my child through adoption, then I would call you to put on the same things. What’s my point? You don’t belong to God by works, but if you belong to Christ then you will inevitably desire and grow in imitating him. 

Actions that imitate Christ are listed in verses 12-14. Notice that compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with one another, and forgiveness are all actions that find their greatest illustration in Christ himself. He feels love for his people, which is compassion; he shows love to his people, which is kindness; he considers the needs of others above his own, which is humility; he is gentle with his people, which is meekness; he quick to show mercy and long suffering with difficult people, which is patience; he is not harsh toward your weaknesses, which is bearing with others; and he deals with sin, which is forgiveness. 

This is how we are to live together, church, and display the reality of the new creation. It may seem impossible at times, and it would be without Christ. This is why we must put on love, which binds all of these actions and attitudes together. When we live in the love of Christ, we are able to love others. So abide in his love. That is the key to investing yourself in the new creation by dressing like Christ as the church.

Third, invest in the new creation by living in the peace of Christ and the authority of Christ’s word. Christ has made reconciliation through his cross, now the church is called to live in that peace, according to verse 15. Now only do we have peace with God through the cross, but we have peace with one another. The hostility is other and there is now no division, but Christ is in all. Why are divisions in the church so heinous? Because it declaring that Christ himself is divided and does not care for his church. Verse 15 tells us that we are called to peace “in one body,” meaning that we are to display the peace that typifies the new creation in our church. 

Instead of being disgruntled with each other, we should be thankful together. We are disgruntled when we live with each other with a sense of entitlement. But when we dwell with each other knowing that we deserve judgment, but instead we have peace, thankfulness defines us. 

And we do not jus live under his peace. We also live under the rule of his word, which is what verse 16 means. The word of Christ is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, as found in Scripture. Christ proclaimed the kingdom and repentance. That is to say, he taught about the kingdom of God and warned people not to miss it. When the word of Christ dwells in you richly, you are soaking in this authoritative message, then the result is threefold: you will teach and admonish in the wisdom of this message, you will sing in joy of Christ and his gospel, and give thanks to God for the gospel. 

Verse 17 then sums all of this up. To invest in the new creation of Christ, do all in his name, meaning aim to live in such a way that what Jesus desires is expressed in your life and attitude. In the totality of your living (“whatever you do; In word or deed; in everything”) make Jesus preeminent by setting your mind on him and the things above, the Kingdom to come. This will lead you to thank God the Father through him. 

Thankfulness is a real test case of where our minds are set. If you are not thanking God through Christ today, you aren’t dressed right because your mind is focused on the things of this earth. If you lack thankfulness, you are either not in Christ or you are not seeking the things above. 

Right now, consider your destiny. Are you far from God? Then feel the rightful despair of eternal separation from him, but don’t stay there! Come to Christ in faith, trusting that he has done all that is necessary for you to have peace with God and be made new. 

Are you in Christ, but have your mind set on the things of the earth? Then remember your destiny of eternal glory in Christ, that will reset your disposition. Consider the fact—and be thankful—that you will not enter into eternal judgment, but even now experience eternal life in Christ. Don’t let earthly distractions, things that will pass away, district you as if they define your destiny. If you are in Christ, then singleness, marriage, illness, health, riches, poverty, fame, disgrace, and even sin do not define you. Christ is in all—he defines you.

If you are in Christ, he defines you and your life is hidden with him in God. When he appears, your glory will be made manifest. Wait and set your mind on that day, putting on Christ daily now because you are hidden with him. 


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