Colossians 3 is a big transition in the text. Paul moves from the “Theological Section” - where he is teaching his audience the big concepts about God - to the “Practical Section” - where he tells us how we can apply the lesson. If you’ve been wondering “so, what am I supposed to live this out?” This is Paul’s answer.
And that answer is… a bit confusing. Paul begins by telling us to “set our minds on things above” rather than things on earth, and talks about us having a “hidden life with Christ in God.” Then he goes on to list a bunch of rules for how we should live - when he JUST SAID it isn’t about rules! What is he trying to tell us?!
I knew a guy from my college days who really loved college life. He was a leader in his fraternity, loved the parties, and was fairly popular and well-liked. After we graduated, most of us moved on to our new lives - moving out of town, getting married, starting our careers. But not Phil. Phil just kept hanging around his old fraternity, working his job at the coffee shop, partying with college students on the weekends and living in his off-campus apartment. Even though he had his degree and some decent job offers, he just didn’t want to move on.
Paul is saying that we can tend to be a bit like Phil. We have been given a new life in Christ. With that life comes a new mission - building His kingdom - a new family, and hopefully a new perspective. But many of us, instead of embracing that new life, are still stuck doing the things from our old life - seeking temporary pleasure and distraction, accumulating wealth, lashing out at others in anger and insecurity (all the stuff he mentions in v. 5-11). Like Phil, we are so stuck in our old ways that we haven’t realized how much better this new life can be.
That’s why Paul tells us to, “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:2 NLT) He isn’t asking us to close our eyes and picture the pearly gates. He is telling us that we are citizens of heaven, so start acting like it! You have a new boss now - so go out and do your new job, and stop acting like you still have your old one.
Part of that will involve shedding some bad habits. Not because we have to follow the rules for God to like us - that’s “old life” thinking - but because greed, lust, deceit and the rest distract us from doing the job He has sent us here to do and the life we are meant to have with Him. Along the way, we would do well to dress for our new job - putting on mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13). Again, not that we need to “impress God,” but because these are the traits that will lead to success and joy in the new life we are living. After all, we are called to be “a representative of the Lord Jesus” - we’d better look the part!
Are you still living in the past? Still clinging to some old thinking? Are there old habits you haven’t managed to get rid of? Lay those at His feet today. Ask Him to help you begin to see things from His perspective, and leave the old life behind.