Transformation is a popular theme. A flurry of “makeover” shows followed ABC’s hit series “Extreme Makeover- Home Edition.” If you have watched any of these programs, you have seen the transformation of homes, restaurants and even unruly children, all within a sixty minute television format! If only real life were that easy!
The appeal of this programing is a sense of satisfaction that someone’s life was dramatically improved in a short period of time. But there is a more meaningful transformation needed. It is the transformation of our character.
We turn to Colossians 3 today where the text provides the remedy so the church in Colossae would not be taken captive. The central warning of this epistle is found in Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
To stay faithful to Christ and not be carried away captive, Christians are instructed to conduct their lives according to the New Nature that they possess through Christ. This New Nature is contrasted to the Old Nature in three sets of character traits found in 3:5-14. Each set contains five traits. The first two sets are characteristic of the Old Nature, and the third set contains traits of the New Nature.
- 3:5-6. NEGATIVE (inner struggles and temptation)
- Sexual Immorality
- Evil desires
- 3:7-8 NEGATIVE (relationships with others)
- Filthy Language
- 3:12-14 POSITIVE (Christ’s character in me)
It is obvious that the first two sets of behaviors are wrong and undesirable. These are behaviors that even most pagans would recognize as evil. In 3:6, 7, Paul describes these characteristics. These sinful behaviors are the reason that God will judge sinners. Colossians 3:6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. Further, we are reminded that all Christians once committed these acts. Colossians 3:7 In these you too once walked.
The power of this passage is more than a description of the things that we SHOULD DO and SHOULD NOT DO. We most likely know this. While it is good to be reminded, we need something MORE. We need more than OUGHT TO, We need to know HOW TO allow Christ’s character to be formed in our lives.
The STRUCTURE of Colossians 3, and the WORDS PAUL USES HERE teach us the “HOW TO” of Christ living in me.
Spiritual Transformation Occurs When I Acknowledge my Identity
In Colossians 3:5 we are told to “put to death” (ESV, NIV) the things that were part of our sinful behavior before we came to Christ. As Christians, we are to RECOGNIZE that we have a NEW IDENTITY in Christ. The NAS is perhaps more clear, reflecting the thought of the Greek text “Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality” (NAS).
The Greek tense here indicates an action that is complete. Christians are to reckon that we are a new person in Christ. This is the same theological truth Paul writes about in Romans 6:11 (NIV84) In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. In that passage, the Greek word used is logizomai and means, “reckon, consider. The helpful web source “Precept-austin.org mentions the following: Logizomai: A secular bookkeeping term which meant to make an entry in the account book or to put to one’s account. It carried the economic and legal meaning of crediting something to another’s account. EXAMPLE: when you deposit $1000, the bank credits your account with $1000. Therefore when you write a check for $500, you don’t worry about it because you are reckoning on the fact that money is actually in your account. (www.preceptaustin.org/romans_611-23)
Our spiritual transformation begins when we recognize and embrace that we have been given a new identity in Christ.
Second, Spiritual Transformation Occurs when I PERSISTENTLY BATTLE Temptation
Colossians 3:10 reminds us that the New self is “being renewed.” This is a present tense verb indicating ongoing or continual action. Our identity as a new person was secured when we trusted in Christ, but we must still battle sin on an ongoing basis. Note other behaviors that must also be continually emphasized. These too are Greek present tense verbs. 3:14 “bear with each other” (present tense), “forgive” (present tense)
So, Christians must carry on a A RECKONING of who we are in Christ, and then a DAILY COMMITMENT to walk in obedience. Joel Beeke wrote… I once read of a missionary who had in his garden a shrub that bore poisonous leaves. At that time he had a child who was prone to put anything within reach into his mouth. Naturally he dug the shrub out and threw it away. The shrub’s roots, however, were very deep. Soon the shrub sprouted again. Repeatedly the missionary had to dig it out. There was no solution but to inspect the ground every day, and to dig up the shrub every time it surfaced. Indwelling sin is like that shrub. It needs constant uprooting. (Precept-austin.org)
In the same way, our sinful tendencies must be constantly uprooted. They will spring up again, and we must be vigilent. In overcoming sin.
Third, Spiritual Transformation Occurs when I Yield Myself to Christ
Colossians 3:10 (NIV84) — and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
The CHANGE comes through Christ!
Victory is not you overcoming sin
Victory is Jesus overcoming you
What were we like before salvation? Colossians 3:5 (sexually immoral, impure, passion, evil desire, greed). 1 Cor 6:11 (“and that is what some of you were”)
What are we like without Christ’s continual transformation in our lives?
As John Gregory Mantle has written “There is a great difference between realizing, ‘On that Cross He was crucified for me,’ and ‘On that Cross I am crucified with Him.’ (Source: precept-austin.org)
Fourth, Spiritual Transformation Occurs when I GOD’S WORD Transforms my Heart
Col 3:10 says that we are “renewed in knowledge” The renewal of spiritual transformation occurs through the knowledge of Christ. It happens as we get to know Christ better and his life transforms ours.
“Knowledge” is an important term in in Colossians.
Colossians 1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
Colossians 1:10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Colossians 2:2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,
Colossians 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
This knowledge is bound in Christ!
The NT Principle of this transformation through Christ is found in many passages, perhaps the most familiar is Romans 12:1–2 (ESV) — I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Spiritual transformation occurs when Christians are transformed by the renewal of our minds. This renewal occurs as our minds are filled with the knowledge of Christ. It occurs as we take in more of the Word of God and meditate on spiritual things.
The same spiritual principle is also found in the Old Testament in Isaiah 55:1-9 This is a GREAT INVITATION for Israel to return to the Lord.
Here we find a PROMISE that the Word of God will always accomplish the purpose for which God sent it. God’s Word will not return void. God’s Word is like the Rain and the Snow which water the earth and bring life and vitality to the vegetation.
We often quote these verses to speak of the power of the Word of God, but often stop short of reading the following verses. They explain the vegetation upon which the rain and snow fall. What is being watered?
Isaiah 55:11–12 tell us about God’s watering process through His Word. 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 12 “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
But Isaiah 55:13 tell us the vegetation that is being watered. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
The amazing thing about God’s Word is not that like rain, it falls upon good plants to make them grow. The miracle is that God’s Word transforms useless and dead plants and makes them living, productive and beautiful! You see, we are the thorny and dead plants that come alive when the Word of God is received!
That is the miracle of spiritual transformation. God transforms our dead, useless spiritual efforts and makes into productive and vibrant living instruments in his hands!
How do you view your spiritual identity?
Do you see yourself as a transformed Child of God?
How do you see your heart? Is it thorny in need of transformation?
Are you feeding your soul daily?
Are you killing the flesh every day in your life?
How do you view the Word of God? A rule book? (The Bible contains rules, but it is not a rule book). A History book? (The Bible contains history, but it is not a history book). An Encyclopedia of Theology? (The Bible contains theology, but it is not an encyclopedia. God’s Word is the GOSPEL that points us to CHRIST who transforms our lives for God’s glory.