When a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ, the life of God enters his or her soul by the power of the Holy Spirit. Without this, the Christian life would be impossible. Somewhere in the valleys of weakness, conflict, and suffering, you would be overwhelmed.
Paul placed great emphasis on this when he wrote to Christians living in Colossae. They had been influenced by teachers who placed such strong emphasis on rules and self-discipline that they lost sight of the new life that God gives to every person who comes to faith in Jesus.
When you came to faith in Jesus, the person you used to be ceased to exist: “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Putting it more bluntly, Paul wrote, “You died” (Colossians 3:3).
This is good news, and it should come as a great relief. The Bible makes clear that the person you were before you came to Christ was alienated from God and unable to overcome the gravitational pull of sin (Ephesians 2:3; 4:18). That person was in darkness, heading for the ultimate condemnation of God.
But when you came to faith in Jesus, that person died. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live” (Galatians 2:20). When you came to faith in Jesus, the person destined for God’s judgment ceased to exist.
God has made you a new person and given you a new identity in Jesus Christ. You are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). “You have been raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1). Christ lives in you (Galatians 2:20).
There is a big difference between painting a chicken on an egg and hatching a chicken from an egg. The painted chicken is artificial. It is imposed on the shell. The hatched chicken is alive. It is able to move and to function.
When you came to faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit invaded your life. God made you alive and responsive to Him. You are a new person. The power of God is at work in you, giving you the ability to live the Christian life.
Your new life has begun, but it is not yet complete. “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). “What [you] will be has not yet been made known” (1 John 3:2). A tree looks bare in winter, but when spring comes, its life bursts out in a display of beauty. It is the same tree, but it is unrecognizably different.
That is how it will be with every Christian. God’s life is in you, but its glory is hidden until Jesus comes again. It is winter now, but spring is coming. And when Christ appears, you “will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). One of the great joys of heaven will be to see and admire what God has done in the life of every believer.
This miracle of the new birth makes it possible to live the new life.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,” Paul says, “set your hearts on things above” (Colossians 3:1). You have the power to set the prevailing affections of your heart. You can choose the things that you will love the most.
In the past, you were pushed around by impulses in your mind and your heart that were beyond your control. But now you are a new person. God has given you the ability to control your heart and mind, and this can take some getting used to.
Imagine that you have been working for the same boss for thirty years. Let’s call him Fred. Every morning when you go to work, you check in with Fred, and he tells you what he wants you to do.
Then one day the owner of the company asks to see you. He says he has big plans for you. On Monday you will have a new office, and you will serve in a new position.
As you arrive for the first day in your new job, you realize that you no longer have to take orders from Fred. Then it dawns on you that from now on, Fred will have to take orders from you. After thirty years, that will take some getting used to!
Two things are very likely to happen in the coming months. First, Fred will go on telling you what to do. He will always think of himself as your boss, even though that is no longer the case. Second, your natural instinct will be to listen to Fred and do what he tells you. You have thought of Fred as your boss for so long that it’s hard to break the habit.
After six weeks in your new position, the owner asks to see you again. “There is a problem we need to talk about,” he begins. “You are listening too much to Fred. If we had wanted him in charge, we would have given him the job. But we gave it to you.”
“You have to adjust to the new situation,” he continues. “Fred will always make suggestions, but you are under no obligation to pursue them. We have given you authority. Learn to use it. From now on, Fred does what you tell him.”
God has put you in a new position of authority over the impulses of your heart and mind. In the past, they pushed you around and told you what to do. But now you are in a position to give direction to your heart and your mind. Half the battle is knowing that you have the authority to do that.
If you want to live an effective Christian life, you must understand your new identity. The person you were before has ceased to exist. You are a new creation in Jesus Christ. God has placed you in a position of authority. Sin will always be your enemy, but it is no longer your master (Romans 6:14).
When Christ appears, you will appear with Him in glory. But before we get to glory, there is one more valley that we have to cross.
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.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
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