Be Completely Changed
How do you know that you are a Christian? How do you know if someone else is a Christian? You know if someone is a Christian by the way they are changed. There is a change in believing because your belonging has changed. When you belong, you are willing to believe. Belonging is a form of devotion.
In Paul’s letters, he will normally divide the letter into two parts: Who we are and what we do. He deals with “what I should believe” in the first half. Then he will say “what I should do.” From what we know to how we grow. He describes who I am and then what I should do. Here in Colossians, as Paul shifts from the belief in Jesus Christ to devoting my life to Him. In chapters one and two, Paul showed what Jesus did to make me completely changed. Now, Paul will shift to how I show other people that Jesus has changed me. First, we will see five signs of devotion that show that I am completely changed. Then, we will look for 3 traps from 5 sins of desire that can prevent me from showing my faith to others.
5 SIGNS OF DEVOTION THAT SHOW I AM COMPLETELY CHANGED
I show that I am completely changed when I:
1. Look to Jesus who is ahead of me (Colossians 3:1)
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1, CSB)
“keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, CSB)
People can notice my devotion to Jesus when they see that I look to Jesus. As a follower of Jesus, I follow Him. I look to Him to lead me.
2. Set my mind on Jesus and His ways (Colossians 3:2)
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2, CSB)
The Queen of England exercises certain powers and privileges because she sits on the throne. The President of the United States has privileges and powers because he sits behind the desk in the oval office of the White House. The believer is seated on the throne with Christ. We must constantly keep our affection and our attention fixed on the things of heaven, through the Word and prayer, as well as through worship and service. 1
THREE WAYS GOD HELPS ME SET MY MIND ON JESUS
1. I set my mind on Jesus by what I treasure.
For one week, I had a crush on Denise Fuller and wanted to take her to our church youth group’s Spring Banquet. In order to pay for it, however, I had to sell the one share of American Motors stock I had bought for twelve dollars. Now, I was really into my one share of stock—so much so that, although I was a big Giants fan, before I checked out the box scores to see how Mays, Cepeda, and McCovey were doing each day, I turned to the stock page to check on American Motors’ progress. But when this banquet came up, I sold my one share of stock to take Denise Fuller to the banquet. And guess what. Once I sold my share, I never turned to the stock page again. I just lost interest.
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20, CSB)
When Jesus tells us to lay up treasure in heaven, it’s not God’s way of raising money. Knowing that where our treasure is, our heart will follow, it’s His way of raising our hearts and minds out of this world and up into heaven. You see, if you invest your treasure in American Motors, that’s where your heart will be. If you put your treasure in your house or hobby, your heart will be there as well. Your heart follows your treasure. So one of the ways we get our hearts on things above is by investing in the kingdom.
2. I set my mind Jesus by my trials.
God will send a trial a day your way just to keep you homesick for heaven. If He didn’t, we would become bound up in this earth and would miss out eternally on what He has in store for us.
3. I set my mind on Jesus by my transfers.
A third way the Lord gets me to set my heart and mind on things above is by transfers—when the people we love precede us into heaven. This process is very important because when you have transferred friends, parents, and spouses into heaven, your heart longs to be there all the more keenly.
Treasures, trials, and transfers are three ways our hearts can be constantly set on things above2
Millions of people today think their things are their life. I once saw a poster which pictured a coffin with pallbearers and the deceased’s possessions: a mansion, a helicopter, nine cars, including a Ferrari, a Rolls, an M.G., a Porsche, etc., with the caption: “He who has the most toys when he dies wins.” For many, this is the philosophy of life. Sadly, many in the Church are not far behind. People today spend not because they need, but for identity.
Paul says in response that we are not to set our minds “on earthly things.” This includes not only material possessions, but the immaterial things of this world: earthly honors, position, advancement. We must note that Paul is not suggesting that the Christian withdraw from commerce and any possibility of prominence or achievement. Taken to absurdity, there would never be a Christian surgeon or chef; there would be no excellence. The difference is that the Christian is no longer to see these things as if they are all that matter. Moreover, his mindset is to be dominated by “things above.” Paul is precise in his command: “Set your minds on things above” and keep it that way. Implicit here is the idea of concentration.3
I don’t just look to Jesus. I decide to do what Jesus wants. Setting my mind on Jesus means that I think the way He wants me to think. He wants us to not be bogged down and worried about the world. We look to what Jesus wants from us.
3. Reorient my life around Jesus and His desires (Colossians 3:3)
“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3, CSB)
My life is centered around Jesus, not myself. I am dead. My old ways are dead. My old nature is dead. My sinful priorities are dead.
4. Look forward to the return of Jesus (Colossians 3:4)
“When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4, CSB)
This is a reference to the appearing of Jesus Christ when He returns in the future. Many theologians use this verse to point to the rapture. This points to the return of Jesus Christ.
“while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13, CSB)
This appearing of Jesus, when He becomes visible and calls His followers up to Heaven, is called a “blessed hope.” It is a hope and it is a happy hope. It is a happy hope because it is certain.
When you center your life on Jesus, you will battle with sin. It will happen. But you will be able to overcome sin because Jesus has changed you. I look forward to the return of Jesus or my return to Him. But in the meantime, I have a job to do. That is to “put to death” my sins of desire in the present.
5. Put to death my sins of desire in the present (Colossians 3:5-7)
What are the sins that I need to put to death? Paul described five sins of desire that can trap me in three different ways.
5 SINS OF DESIRE WHICH CAN TRAP ME
“Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5, CSB)
“The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6, CSB)
“But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints.” (Ephesians 5:3, CSB)
Here, we see that Paul identifies sins of desire that can trap me. They can prevent me from growing as a Christian. While I am completely changed because of what Jesus has done. I belong to a new family. However, my behavior has to match who I follow. Sin prevents me from following Jesus as I should. The world wants to mold me back into the way it thinks I should live. God is changing me. So the world will try to trap me. It is the same three traps that Adam and Eve encountered. Paul identifies five sinful desires that fall under three potential traps.
Let’s first address the reason why they are forbidden. They are forbidden because they are not Godly. First, Just because I can do a thing, it does not mean that I should do a thing.
““Everything is permissible,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up.” (1 Corinthians 10:23, CSB)
Second, some things that I do that are sinful don’t work because they were designed to work that way. Just as you can’t make a tractor fly because it was never designed to fly. If you try to take a tractor and drive it over a cliff, it is not going to suddenly fly. It is going to crash. In the same way, some things are forbidden because they don’t function that way.
Third, some things are forbidden because they take the glory off of God and place it elsewhere. When I do something out of a sin of desire, then it will by definition prevent me from glorifying God.
TRAP #1: FORBIDDEN SIGHT
“saw that the tree was good for food” (though it was forbidden)
The tree’s fruit was good because it did not require God’s limits. That is the problem with sexual immorality and impurity. Both of these sins of desire are sins because they go beyond the boundaries that God set for relationships.
1. Sexual immorality – sexual relationships that are immoral
2. Impurity – sexual practices that make you unclean, immoral sexual rituals and rules
Jesus referred to this sexual code when He called out the Pharisees:
““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity.” (Matthew 23:27, CSB)
The word “impurity” is about sexual practices which were immoral and against God’s intention.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated, these relationships and rituals lead to obsession and hate.
These sexual relationships are immoral because they are not what God designed for us as humans. Jesus took the Ten Commandments and condensed them down to two statements: love God and love one another. Paul is referring to the Levitical holiness code in Leviticus 18. In that chapter, we see sexual relationships that are wrong, and make us impure. They make up what I call the Ten Commandments of Sexual Behavior. Paul summarizes these practices with two phrases: sexual immorality and sexual impurity.
While it is common today to claim that not much is said about same-sex relations in the Bible, once one accepts this expansive understanding of porneia, one has to say that Paul brings up all kinds of sexual irregularities, including same-sex relations, quite often. Why? Because in the Roman world it was common that males had a wife for procreational sex, while the public was for recreational sex, including sex with slaves and prostitutes—that is, with those under one’s status, including at times boys.4
TRAP #2: FORBIDDEN DELIGHT
“delightful to look at”
3. Lust – passion
4. Desire – craving
Here, we see forbidden delights. These two words deal with improper passions and cravings. There are certain delights that we are not called to have as Christians. We should not delight in the desires of the world. Instead, we should delight in God. When the world brings about delights that damage my relationship to God, then it is dangerous.
TRAP #3: FORBIDDEN INSIGHT
“desirable for obtaining wisdom”
Greed refers to the haughty and ruthless belief that everything, including other persons, exists for one’s own personal amusement and purposes. 5 Greed is when a person decides to selfishly hoard. A person is greedy when one has an intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food. The warning is clear: God’s wrath is coming for people who are like this:
“Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient,” (Colossians 3:6, CSB)
These three areas in my life will keep me from living a proper Christian life. These desires: sex, greed, and evil desire prevent me from following God. They are antithetical to God. They are in opposition to God.
“and you once walked in these things when you were living in them.” (Colossians 3:7, CSB)
These sins of desire prevent me from doing what God wants me to do my life. The reason that Paul lists them here and then lists that they are in the past is that if I want to be devoted to Jesus, then I need choose to stop committing these sins of desire. I now know that these sins of desire are traps of Satan. I have to look for the traps and be ready to avoid them.
Are you completely changed by Jesus Christ? Are you putting to death the sins of desire? Will you trust Jesus to help you overcome these sins and help you lead others to Him by the way you live today?
1 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 134.
2 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1317.
3 R. Kent Hughes, Colossians and Philemon: The Supremacy of Christ, Preaching the Word (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 90–91.
4 Scot McKnight, The Letter to the Colossians, ed. Ned B. Stonehouse et al., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018), 304.
5 David E. Garland, Colossians and Philemon, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), 204.