I’ve been reading in Colossians recently as part of my Bible reading plan through the New Testament. One portion especially stood out to me—Colossians 3:12–17. As I read this section of Paul’s letter, it made me think: “What if the church really lived like this?” … “What if I really lived like this?”
A Picture of the Church
Paul paints the picture of Christians as those raised with Christ, full of grace, where the word of Christ dwells richly and God is glorified through the thanksgiving of his people. This is the church. This should characterize our church. It should characterize my life! I often think of Colossians 3:16, “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” as I consider our corporate worship, but the context for this singing especially stood out to me as I read it this time. Christians are to teach and admonish through songs as part of the process of killing sin, and of putting on compassion, humility, meekness, patience, and love (Col. 3:12-14).
A Principle to Live By
The principle Paul sets forth here, and also in Ephesians 4:22-24, was clarified for me during a biblical counseling class in seminary. They called it the “Put Off Put On” principle. As Christians we strive not to sin, but the way you stop sinning isn’t by merely stopping the bad. It’s by actively doing what is good. Something must replace your sinning—your lustful thoughts, impatient words, unkind actions. You must put on Christ and his righteousness and goodness. No words or actions are truly neutral, nor is inaction. You’re either living for Christ, or for the world and fleshly desires. So, here’s what Paul says:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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. And above all this put-on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12–15 ESV)
The Power to Obey
Isn’t that what the church should look like? Don’t you long to be part of such a body? Every true Christian does, at least deep down. The hardest part is living it out. Humility is a very admirable trait, until you’re the one called to humble yourself. Will you put off sin—anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk (Col. 3:8)—and put on love (Col. 3:14)? Will you be quick to forgive your brother or Connect Group member who says something hurtful behind your back? Will you go and talk with the “loner” who doesn’t seem to have any friends, even if she’s just not very “friendly”?
God calls you to live this way—to love as he loved you. The good news is that he doesn’t call you to do this in your own power and wisdom. You would fail. But Christ is in you, through faith in him, shaping you by his Word, and strengthening you to put off your sin and put on Christ. So, brother and sister, God’s Word calls you:
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. 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. (Colossians 3:16–17 ESV)
May your life, and our church, be full of grace and thanksgiving, to the praise of God’s glory. May this be evident especially in our singing each week, and in our day-to-day life together. God has called you “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus”—put off your sin and put on Christ, by his power.