After Paul, under inspiration, confronts the outward show of mere externalism in Colossians 2, which has no power to overcome real fleshly issues, he explains how to live the overcoming life in Colossians 3. The focus must be on Jesus (not manmade externals) so that by the power of His indwelling life real flesh issues may be overcome. To live the overcoming life you must access the overcoming life of the indwelling Christ. Set your heart on Christ and access His life by faith.

“When Christ, who is our life shall appear [be manifested]…Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him…Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Colossians 3:4-14, italics added).

This part of the text is contingent on the facts presented earlier in Colossians 2 and the focus presented early in Colossians 3. In summary, through our death with Christ, the divine surgery (circumcision) of cutting off our old man (unregenerated spirit) from the indwelling sin master took place, and through our resurrection with Christ, the divine nature of the new man (regenerated spirit) was implanted in us so the Holy Spirit could indwell us (Col. 2:11-13). By setting our focus on Christ and responding in faith, we experience the provision of the Spirit streaming the throne life of Christ right into us. When we tap into this stream of Christ our life, His life is manifested in and through our personalities. On this basis we may experience His overcoming life (Col.3:1-4). But this spiritual provision has practical potential.

Our present text begins with, “Mortify therefore…” The therefore refers to this provision of Christ’s life (Col. 3:1-4). The term mortify, often explained as “put to death” is the idea that your fleshly members are as good as dead unless you let them power up by yielding to the urgings indwelling sin. But indwelling sin that still resides in your soul and body is no longer your master. The real you, your core, your spirit, was severed from that sin master through death with Christ, was raised with Christ as the new man which is created after God in righteousness and true holiness, and then joined to Christ who moved in! Therefore, on the basis of this amazing provision, deprive any fleshly propensity of powering up by yielding to the indwelling Christ. Focus on Christ (set your heart on Christ) so that you can exercise faith in Christ.

What about dealing with the sins of the flesh? What about practical Christian living? The words I italicized above in our text portion of Colossians 3:4-14 reveal what Paul is teaching: Since you have put off the old man, now put off all that he was about, and since you have put on the new man, now put on all that he is about—all by depending on Christ who is our life.

Transformation comes from the inside out. This dynamic demands a relationship with the indwelling Christ. He is Lord and life. When you trust in His leadership, you experience His life. Outward show only puts on an exterior mask. Not that external issues don’t matter at all, but they must be Spirit-led, not man-driven, and Spirit-energized, not flesh-manipulated. Included in the fruit of the Spirit is “temperance,” which is Spirit- energized self-control. Undoubtedly, this impacts the internal and external realm.

Transformation from the inside out experiences Jesus as both Lord and Life. Jesus will never lead you to sin. When you are animated by His life, you live right. You overcome by His overcoming life. The fleshly sins mentioned in the inspired text apparently are what matters, not manmade traditions which look religious on the outside, but often cover for sins on the inside. But when you access the very life of Christ through Jesus-focus leading to Jesus-dependence leading to Jesus-experience, you experience the victorious life of Christ from the inside out.

John Van Gelderen

John Van Gelderen

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