1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:1-11)
The seriousness of sin is evident by the amount of time Paul spends discussing it in the book of Colossians. Paul is not one to shy away from hard topics, and that includes the discussion of sin in general and even specific sin. We live in a day where it is not popular to discuss sin. Even more than that, in some circles it doesn’t even make sense to discuss sin. What I mean is we live in a day where sin is culturally getting harder to grasp because of the popular idea that good and virtue is ultimately to do whatever satisfies. And so if to tell a lie serves my purpose of getting what I want, then lying can be seen as virtuous. And to deny myself what I want is not healthy, because to get what I want and to feel how I want to feel is ultimate good. So we hear things like, “You should do whatever makes you happy. You should do what makes you feel good. You must look out for yourself, do good for yourself.”
Living that way necessarily leads to a turning away from God’s commands. What is interesting is that Paul is also interested in joy and happiness, but he helps us understand that it comes through living for another, not for ourselves alone. He helps us see that God loves us, and He gives us commands to obey, and in obedience we experience joy. And so Paul unashamedly talks about sin because He loves the church people and he deeply wants them to not only live for Christ, but to find joy in Christ. And to do this is to put sin away and pursue Christ.
How serious is sin? We need only look at Jesus’ walk to Calvary, His suffering, His painful death, His loneliness on the way to the cross, His grief, His sorrow. How serious is sin? Jesus had to die on the cross because of it, to pay the price for our sin. Let’s not avoid the topic of sin. It is a big deal. It is dangerous, it harms, and it damns many to hell. So to push it aside, sweep it under a rug, to make light of it, to avoid dealing with it, these things are not helpful and they do not reflect how a Christian ought to think about it. And so Paul lays it all out there, from sexual sin of all kinds to social sins.
Paul ends his list with verse 9 – “Do not lie to one another.” That is pretty plain. Many say, “I don’t really understand the Bible.” Well, I know some of it can be hard. But then we also have this! Very clear, very plain, a statement that we can all understand, from the youngest to the oldest. “Do not lie to one another.” He tells of no exceptions, there is not ambiguity, it is clear. And we have all done it.
This command related to any kind of falsehood, whether by words or actions. Did the Colossian church have a particular problem with lying, or did the false teachers there promote lying or condone lying, or were they themselves particularly given to lying? We don’t really know. Maybe Paul mentions it simply because all people in every time period are subject to lying.
The Christian community, all of us here who belong to Christ, we should be, individually and as a group, characterized by truthfulness. All lying belongs to the old self, it goes well with the old self, the unregenerate self, but it does not go well with the new self which is in Christ.
Lying characterizes Satan, not God. Satan is the father of lies, lying is his mode of operation. Lying is how he rules. Jesus, speaking to a group of Jews in John 8:44, says this: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” When Christians lie they are mimicking Satan. Deceit is of the devil.
In Ephesians 4 Paul takes several verses and describes how unregenerate sinners live. He says they are hard of heart, darkened in their understanding, callous, given to sensuality, greedy, impure, corrupt through deceitful desires. He uses all of these words or phrases to describe non-Christian behavior and attitudes. When he gets done he then begins describing how we are to to walk in contrast to the nonbeliever. When he moves to how we should live, do you know the first thing he mentions?
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (Ephesians 4:25)
Lying and deceiving are almost always associated with every other sin. We sin, then we try to hide it how? Through deceit. We want to build ourselves up in other people’s eyes, so what do we do? We exaggerate, we leave out important facts that make us look bad. Each of these acts are deceitful lying.
Think about this regarding the Christian and lying…
if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)
Paul is reminding us that we, the church, you and me, we have been entrusted with truth. We are to be the proclaimers of truth. We get to share the truth with other people. He says that the church of the living God is the pillar and support of the truth.
If we are marked by lying, how is it possible then to be those that God has put in place to be the support of truth? Can we be liars and truth tellers? If we are liars, then when are we telling the truth? How can we know it is true if it is coming from a habitual liar? If I am known as a liar, when am I telling the truth? Do you see why Satan is so intent on convincing people to lie? It is because it then blurs the truth.
“Do not lie,” God says through Paul. Don’t deceive. Put this away, kill this sin. Walk as a child of God, not as one who would adopt the ways of the deceiver. Why?
9b seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:9b-10)
The reason for putting away lying is because of the changed people we have now become. The new people that we as believers have become.
Three verbs in these verses describe the Christian. The first two look backwards to the point of regeneration. The third verb looks to the present which is now taking place, a process of being renewed. The old self has been put off, like an old, tattered set of clothes, and the new self has been put on, like a new set of clean, fresh clothing, and this new self is reaching toward a new goal of being like the Creator.
So the past activity is at the end of verse 9 and beginning of verse 10 – “seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices,” then, “and have put on the new self.” These are references to the past activity of regeneration.
An understanding here of the old self and the new self is important. Some people equate these with the old nature and the new nature. I think that is a mistake. Or the old self and the new self is equated with old actions and new actions. But the old self and the new self in the Bible are always talked about as relating to the act of regeneration. Also, the old self and the new self are not talked about in the Bible as coexisting in a person. It is that one replaces the other. The point is that the believer is actually a new person.
There are three important texts of Scripture that talk about the new self and the old self…
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24)
9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:9-11)
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:6)
These are each presented as facts, happening in the past, as far as the old self being put off and the new self being put on. Romans 6 describes very well what happens to the old self, that it has been crucified or killed, put to death, though Paul there does not mention specifically the new self.
We really need to understand and grasp this. We are new in Christ. We need to, as Christians, understand this as a fact. You may say, “Well, I don’t always feel new,” or, “How am I new when I still struggle with old thoughts and actions that are associated with those who are not Christians?” We may say, “I don’t feel new, so maybe I am not new.” But this newness is not to be based on feelings, but on fact and faith.
Imagine I have been a carpenter for thirty years, a skilled carpenter for thirty years, and every day I go to a job site and I build houses for thirty years. I have my tools, my truck, and I have been trained. For thirty years when I go to bed at night I am thinking about carpentry, when I wake up I am thinking about building houses, making the right cuts, laying out the house properly, and so on. For thirty years I have lived this way. And one day someone comes to me and says, “You are so skilled at carpentry and so competent at it that I want you to come work for me as an artist.” This person says, “I need some portraits painted, and I think with some training you can do it.” Now, you know, there is a difference in skill type when it comes to painting portraits and building houses, right? Yet the person says, “I’ll pay you ten times what you’re making, guaranteed for twenty years, if you try this new skill. Whether you ever get good at it or not, I’ll continue to pay you.” So I get up the next Monday morning, go to the art studio, look around at the paint and brushes and canvases, and I see a business card on the desk that says, “Lyndon Shook, Artist.” That is my new title, that is my new job.
Now, let me ask you – do I feel like an artist? No way. No example is perfect, and you could argue that I am not yet an artist, but my job title is artist. Sometimes you may still feel like the old self, the carpenter, but that has been put off.
But when will you ever feel like the new self, the artist? Well, biblically I would argue that immediately there are deep changes regarding desires. With newness comes new goals and desires. But even then, there are old habits that linger and sinful actions that do not well represent this new self you have become.
And so Paul says in verse 10, “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” What does he say about the new self? It is dynamic, it is changing, it is moving beyond what it has been. It is being renewed. Renewed in the knowledge after the image of its creator.
This is the process of growth. Renewal here describes the process of change in the salvation experience. He even states the goal of renewal, which is to make us more like our creator, more like Jesus Christ.
So the new self is really a new self, but it does not make us instantly mature. The flesh will still tempt us, the old garments of the old self will still be known to us, and we will still have lingering sinful desires for them. In other words, the battle will go on. But even so, the new self is complete and real, and thank God has the capacity to grow. A baby is a complete human when it is born, and even before it’s born, but it is born with a capacity to grow and mature. That is where we begin as Christians. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “our inner self is being renewed day by day.” That is, our thoughts and actions are, or should be, more consistent with our new self as we are renewed.
How dramatic is this change into the new self and this renewal that is at work in us? It is so dramatic, so sweeping, that it really changes our whole identity. We have become part of a new family, a new race you could say, part of a new population of people that is to be identified not by skin color or ethnicity or geography, but identified primarily as Christians. Paul says it this way…
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11)
Paul in verse 11 throws groups of people into one sentence that could never get along or possess any unity normally unless they have been radically changed. The Greeks and Jews hated each other. Jews would not eat with Greeks, they would shake the dirt off their shoes when leaving Greek territory as a show of disdain. Christ and the gospel changed this – here is the beautiful truth…
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:13-16)
The Jews and the Greeks hated Barbarians and Scythians. Barbarian was a term used to describe low class, inarticulate people. Scythians were hated and feared even more, they were nomadic people, savages who delighted in murder and torture. They were sometimes described as people just a little better than wild beasts. They were like animals.
Can you imagine putting all these people in the same room together? How could they ever get along and live together, much less love one another?
This shows the power of the gospel, the power of the new self, the power of the renewal of the new self. This helps us to understand change and gives us hope that God can change anyone for His glory.
There is no place for racism or ethnic snobbery among the Christian community. Because Christ indwells all believers, we are all equal before Him and in His presence. In fact, we are to go further than that with each other and think of each other as more important than ourselves, right?
God has made us into one new man – “by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace.”
Can we see through cultural and ethnic differences and see others with the eyes of our Lord?
Embrace the change God has given you, embrace the renewal that He desires for you, and embrace the change He has brought to those around you.