1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now 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, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Let me tell you of a group of people who are a real delight to be with. It doesn’t seem long after they get together that you can tell they are Christians. They really listen to each other and do seem to understand each other. Simple comments seem to carry with them touches of truth – even Bible truths – and reality. There are serious concerns in the community and they share their concerns but aren’t fearful. There is an assurance, peacefulness they have and, more to the point, share with you. You know about the Holy Spirit and after being with these people you realise you have just been in his presence. There is good humour amongst them and something more – you can tell they love each other. You could call their get-togethers church. That’s obvious. Then I think of that great Australian phrase, “tell him he’s dreaming”.
- Why does the reality not seem to match the ideal?
The Bible tells us how to do it but we keep missing the mark. Read from Colossian 3:1 with me.
1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. – and then someone mentions the lack of parking in town. Or the dual citizenship of our politicians. Or the size of the insurance bill. Did your mind stay set on things above?
Verse 3 has the glorious truth: For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
What a wonderful thought – how amazing! How gracious. And see what we have to look forward to: 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. What a difference those truths will make to you this week! Or, should I say, what difference will they make?
We don’t have much trouble living like Christians and following the teaching of verse 5: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
We live pretty good lives and match up to this list. Well, pretty much. Probably best I don’t go through the list and see what the words really mean.
It gets harder in verse 8: But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices. We comfort ourselves saying, nobody’s perfect but the teaching says, “rid yourself” of these things. Well, I haven’t told a lie in, umm…
Preachers are often criticized for making people feel guilty – but why not? It’s so easy to do.
When writing to the Colossians Paul avoided making people feel guilty. Amazing, really – he did it not by lowering the standards, certainly not down to the standards of his society and culture – or ours. He did it by raising the bar, setting higher standards and encouraging us to live up to them. He comes up with a practical conclusion in Verses 12 to 17.
- Get dressed
12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Because we are God’s chosen people, adopted children of God Almighty, those he dearly loves, then we should at least look like we are. Clothe yourselves, he says. Put these things on. “Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you (MSG)”.
2 Peter 1:5 “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But whoever does not have them is short-sighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”
2 Peter 1:10 “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure…”
Make every effort. Be all the more diligent.
There are things that come naturally to us – things of the old nature we were first born with. But our new life is not natural – it’s supernatural and so it doesn’t come automatically. We actually have to make the effort, to do something, to put it on, to clothe ourselves in the new life.
You can tell that this new life is not natural when you see what we are to put on: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. These are godly, Holy Spirit supplied things, not part of our natural character.
Paul wrote similar messages to the Galatians and told them that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
All this is good news because while we are told to make the effort to clothe ourselves with this fruit it is God’s Holy Spirit within us that produces it. We are not alone in this – we have the presence and power of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead who enables us to clothe ourselves with his fruit.
I had not really thought of these lovely things as something I have to “put on” or “clothe myself in”. I think I had assumed that they were somehow automatic, especially if I were more sanctified than I am. Is it too much to ask me to “put them on”? It sounds a bit like pretending to be something we are not. But, then this instruction matches the teaching that comes with them in verse 5: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” and “rid yourselves of all such things as these…”. There are things godly people don’t do and avoid doing because they are busy doing things they should do.
In Matthew 12 Jesus warned 43 ‘When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.’
Having shed yourself of such un-Christlike things don’t stand there unoccupied, naked and vulnerable! Put something on! Clothe yourself with a spiritual covering, the fruit of the Spirit. Overcome evil with good. Don’t just stand there – do something!
What if you don’t feel loving, joyous, peaceful, patient etc? That’s not surprising. And it doesn’t necessarily matter. Fruit is borne externally, not internally. It’s something you clothe yourself in. It doesn’t describe your personality or your nature – it’s the product of the nature of Christ’s Holy Spirit. It’s what you put on. It’s what you give to others.
The fruit of the Spirit you bear is not for your benefit but for mine – and for anyone else you come across.
As a Spirit-filled Christian God will produce this fruit in your life and your job is to make a bit of an effort to give it to others; to clothe yourself with this fruit so people can help themselves to it.
For example, sometimes I don’t feel like being patient but people I come across need me to be – whether they deserve it or not. But it’s not my natural response to be patient. It comes naturally to the Holy Spirit to be patient so I need to call on his help. “Lord, by the empowering grace of your holy Spirit who lives in and with me – please enable me to be patient. And I’ll make the effort to give it to those in need.”
It’s clear to me that we need to ask for help with this.
Don’t you find you need to pray prayers like that? Especially when you include the need others have for you to give them love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness or gentleness. Better add in self-control, too.
Being a Christian is a continuous thing, a way of new life, continually reminding yourself that the old nature was crucified with Christ and you are to live Christ’s new life with his enabling.
So you go around scattering the fruit of the Spirit to all and sundry and what do you get in return? It would be nice if people noticed your efforts from time to time but what people seem to give in return often isn’t niceness at all. So what do we do?
- Two things to do
Two things, it seems. See verse 13: Bear with each other and forgive one another. In other words, give them some more fruit of the Spirit!
If the situation is really bad, remember Jesus said, “love your enemies, and do good, expecting nothing in return.” (Luke 6:35)
Bearing with one another feels like just putting up with each other, to grin and bear it. But that’s not the idea God wants, I think. Ephesians 4:2 says, ‘with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love”. There’s some determination and commitment in that as you give them back some more fruit.
Romans 15:1-2 says, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, to build him up.”
Bearing with one another, along with forgiveness is positive and productive, effective; especially if you forgive the way the Lord forgave you. That means putting sins and offences as far away as the east is to the west, determined to remember them no more, casting them to the depths of the seas and, as Corrie Ten Boom said, putting up a sign saying, No Fishing.
That does away with grudges and old hurts from the past but also requires thst we also bear with and forgive peculiarities and daily irritations.
- Build each other up
Now we have blessed each other with that lovely, comforting fruit of the Spirit, verse 16 tells us how to lift each other’s spirits, to strengthen and build each other up:
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly. This means let it have the run of the house – give it plenty of room in your lives – let the message of Christ have its home within you, dwelling in your heart and mind, permeating every aspect of your being.
You can help this along as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
There’s something wonderful we can do for each other. Tell me the old, old story of Jesus and his love. Remind me of my relationship with God the Father through Jesus my Saviour with his Holy Spirit in and with me. Tell me how God has blessed you. What has he taught you, shown you? God deals with us individually so you have things to tell me. Teach me. Please admonish me, correct me – even if that means giving me a chance to practice humility and patience. We all have need to learn and to grow in Jesus.
Each of us has the Holy Spirit so each of us has wisdom, insight, knowledge or at least experience we can share. Some of that comes from the gifts of the Spirit as they have been allocated to you, some from the fruit of the Spirit.
If you think you have nothing to share, nothing with which to teach and admonish others then I suggest you read the Bible prayerfully and thankfully and often. You will then be sure to find an eye-opening message to share, perhaps even a psalm.
You have read the Bible this last week haven’t you? Wasn’t there something that struck you, clicked with you? What was it – tell us about it.
There’s bound to be a hymn or song that stimulates you spiritually. Tell us about it. Let us share in your gratitude – don’t keep it to yourself.
- The conclusion
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, as you do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, we will all find ourselves giving thanks to God the Father through him.
When this is done and under the over-arching spiritual blessing of love we find ourselves in unity and at peace and filled with thankfulness.
Have you noticed that it’s easy to love people you have nothing to do with? There are too many people who agree with Linus of Peanuts cartoon fame when he said , “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand”.
How do you have unity with people you have nothing to do with?
In other words, all this works out – gets tested, even – when we spend time with each other. So, while we are together let’s try putting this into practice.
Be generous with your presence. Let your presence be an act of generosity. Be generous with the fruit the Holy Spirit bears on you. Share yourself with us.