forgive

Have you ever thought about how you want to age? Maybe that’s a weird question, but it’s something that I think about all too often. And I’m not talking about aging physically. How do you want to age emotionally? Spiritually? Mentally? What kind of person do you want to be when you’re 70, 80, or 90?

One of the things that I’m terrified of becoming is a bitter old man. It’s one thing to be crotchety (which I already am!). It’s another thing to be spiritually poisonous. I don’t want to become the grandpa whose kids and grandkids don’t want to be around because he’s always complaining, cutting others down, or is consistently expressing bitterness and negativity.

I learned a long time ago that the key to aging well is learning to forgive. Not only does forgiving others improve our spiritual state, but it’s being proven to increase our physical health, as well. When we forgive someone, we let go of the need to be paid back, to come out ahead, or to be proven right. Forgiveness uproots the saplings of bitterness. Learning to forgive quickly and thoroughly prevents the development of bitterness because you have let go of the things that bitter people hold onto.

But you might be thinking, “That sounds wonderful, but you have no idea what that person did to me.” That’s true. I don’t. But God does. God knows all the sinful things that every person has done, whether it’s the things you’ve done to others, or the things others have done to you. And he has forgiven all of them at the cross of Jesus.

Paul tells us in Colossians 3:13, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” With his dying breath, Jesus cried out on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What a dramatic moment of forgiveness, and what a breadth of forgiveness he has offered! This is the example for us. This is how we are to forgive, with radical disregard for our own rights.

With radical forgiveness comes radical freedom. Freedom from bitterness. Freedom from emotional bondage. Freedom from sin. Don’t let the sins of others bind you to sins of your own. Don’t let your heart become embittered. Forgive, as the Lord forgave you.

The New Self – 3:12-17


12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let 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. 17 And 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.

Now that the old self has been discarded like filthy clothes, it is time to put on the new clothes of God’s kingdom. But before Paul unveils this wardrobe, he reminds the Colossians of three great truths. First, they are God’s chosen people. This is a title given to Israel in the Old Testament. Paul, a Jew through and through, recognizes that, in Christ, the doors of God’s choice have been thrown open. Now all may enter, whether Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian or Scythian, slave or free. All are welcome through faith in Christ.

Second, they are holy. They have been set apart for God’s purposes. As Paul explains in Galatians, Gentiles have been welcomed into God’s family as the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. Similarly, they are welcomed in so that that promise – that all the nations of the world will be blessed – will continue to be fulfilled in every tribe and tongue throughout all generations.


God’s love is unending, unconditional, and unquenchable.
Third, they are dearly loved. God dearly and deeply loves the world, so much that he would give his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for everybody’s sins. God’s love is unending, unconditional, and unquenchable. There is nothing, Paul declares in Romans, that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

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Identity politics are a hot button issue these days. Self-identification has become a vital component, not just of personal understanding, but of social politics. It seems that we can self-identify as anything we want, without respect to our physical bodies. Identity politics are about the soul, we’re told, not just the body. What’s on the inside is what truly counts.

What makes this so interesting, for Christians, is that it sounds like Christian teaching. We believe, of course, that the heart is the focus of regeneration, that sanctification flows from the inside (from renewed thoughts and desires) out, and that becoming like Christ means imitating his character, not simply his actions. A Christian would have no trouble agreeing with the statement: What’s on the inside is what truly counts.

Identity: Christ is allWhere the difference lies, however, is that Christian doctrine proclaims the need for internal change, and that this change is a person. It’s not what’s on the inside; it’s who’s on the inside. Christian identity is not wrapped up in what I believe myself to be, but rather in who has saved me from my sin. As Paul says in Colossians 3:11, “Christ is all, and is in all.”

This means that, before you are anything else, you are a Christian. Your identity in Christ is the spring from which all your self-understanding flows. You are not who you think or feel you are; you are who Christ says you are. By faith, you are in God’s family. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you are, more than anything else, a child of God.

More than anything else, this is why Christians oppose the identity politics of our culture. It’s not because we are grossed out or think people are being ridiculous. It’s because we know there is a better way. There is a better identity. And his name is Jesus.

Sin Assassins

Assassins in the movies are always portrayed as cool, smart, and prepared for anything. They’re always one step ahead of their target, usually with a sarcastic quip immediately following their deadly shot. You’ll never see a bumbling, unmotivated assassin in the movies. Movie assassins don’t tell dad jokes. That kind of character just isn’t believable.

In Colossians 3:1 Paul commands believers to “put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” He tells us to be sin assassins. We’re supposed to kill the sin that is a part of the old self, but which still hangs around tempting us to return to that worthless way of living. The assassins we see in movies provide an excellent example for how we should go about killing sin.

Sin AssassinsFirst, we have to be cool. Sin thrives when we are irrational, exhausted, or stressed. Staying cool, in this context, means staying under control, emotionally. It is akin to the spiritual fruit of self-control. Stressful situations wear us down, emotionally, which creates an opportunity for temptation. It is harder to resist temptation when we are worn out. That’s why it’s important to maintain self-control no matter the circumstances.

Second, we have to be smart. We need to understand ourselves and the sins we are most prone to commit. Just as importantly, we need to know the devil’s tactics and how he likes to tempt us. Knowing our weaknesses and the devil’s schemes allows us to effectively put to death the sins of our earthly nature.

Third, we have to be prepared. This means stocking up on ammunition, which is the word of God. You cannot effectively kill sin if you don’t have any bullets! We need to store up Scripture in our hearts and minds. This can be done by memorizing individual verses, doing daily devotions, or taking on a Bible reading plan. Knowing the Bible is the best preparation for attacking sin.

Sin is trying to kill you. It’s trying to drag you away from Christ and prevent you from living his life in your body. You can’t afford to take it easy on sin. You must be merciless. Assassinate the sin in your life by being cool, smart, and prepared for anything.

The Old Self – 3:5-11


5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

At last we arrive at the practical portion of the letter. Paul commands the Colossians to put to death anything that belongs to their earthly nature. However, he interjects a “therefore” into the middle of this sentence, so we must ask the question: What is that therefore there for? It is there because we are to put to death everything that has not been risen to new life with Christ. As always, practical application is derived from theological truth.


We are to put to death everything that has not been risen to new life with Christ.
The language here is strong: Be an executioner of your sinful nature. The Christian cannot be merciful to the old self. In fact, the old self has already been crucified with Christ. All the more reason for the believer to execute it! Whenever it rears its ugly head, chop it off!

Paul lists eleven things that belong to the earthly nature. (Similar lists can be found in Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, and elsewhere.) The first group is a list of five sins, four of which are sexual in nature. The first, sexual immorality (Greek porneia), is a sort of catch-all term for sexual misconduct. This is the term that Jesus used in Matthew 15:19 (a list of sins similar to what is found here), and that the apostles used at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. For faithful Jews like Jesus and the apostles, porneia would have been the summary word of the Jewish sexual code found in Leviticus 18. Whatever is listed there would have been considered porneia, or sexual immorality.

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