Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Putting the Mind in Gear
If the idea of becoming a Christian is to become like God then how does that happen? Some of the Colossians thought it should take place through their own efforts to obey external rules about food, circumcision, and holy days. They thought by putting themselves into an altered state of consciousness through fasting and the like that they could access God in a new way and that would do the trick. Paul points out that all this is false?and of no value in making you love the fleshly self less and be more like God. Making rules to curb the old character is like pushing the accelerator to the floor while also pressing on the brake pedal. If you let go of the brake for a moment, the flesh rears its ugly head and you burn rubber?your back where you started.
As N.T. Wright says: ?The old taboos put the wild animals of lust and hatred into cages; there they remain, alive and dangerous, a constant threat to their captor. Paul?s solution is more drastic: the animals are to be killed.?
So if human effort and heavenly beings are of no value, then what is? Paul begins in Chapter 3 to tell us just what it means to be like God and how that process of becoming like him happens in a Christian. Chapter 3, verse 1 through Chapter 4 verse 6 is jammed packed with a description of the new character God is forming within us. We?ll take this section slowly to get the most out of it. But first Paul sets the stage of how this transformation takes place.
In the final passages of Chapter 2 Paul reminds us that belonging to Jesus means we have died with Him?to the ?elemental forces of this world??those man-made constructs designed to make us feel better as we try to make ourselves better by ourselves. But death is only part one of the equation. Part 2 is rising to new life?and a new character.
First of all ? ?if? does not mean: ?you might be?. It?s better to translate it ?Since? or ?if, and it is true?. This marks a huge shift in Paul?s letter from a more theological to a much more practical section. This is your relationship with Christ applied to real life.
And the first reality we need to deal with is that we?ve been raised with the Messiah. Believe or not, this is where some folks get stuck. Peter said ?Repent ? and be baptized? (Acts 2:38). When we realize our old human character is not like God?s and we want to be different, we repent, or change our mind. No longer do we want to live in the old ways. But some people stop there?like the Pharisees. They repented, but afterwards just tried harder to be good the next time. Does this happen to you? ?God I know I messed up and I?m bad. Please forgive me this time and I?ll do better?I promise.? We need to repent and be baptized into the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah?and rely on Him not only to forgive us but also cleanse us (1 John 1:9)
Jesus took the penalty for all the wrong things you?ve done?He died and was buried, then when God raised Him from the dead showing that His payment worked for you. In being raised with the Messiah you get the life that He has?eternal life free from the penalty of sin?in total relationship with God as your Abba Father. Jesus lived a perfect life under the Law, so that He could give that obedience to you?you get credit for what Jesus did. You are raised with Christ into that reality. He lived the life you should have lived, but didn?t?and died the death you should have died but couldn?t.
As raised people, Paul says we must ?seek? what is above. That is obviously not a call to do what the Colossian Jews were doing: trying to get into the heavenly realms by an altered state of consciousness and worshipping other supernatural beings.
No, the idea here is to start to think like Jesus?as the raised ?first fruits? of a new creation. We are a new creation of people:
2Cor. 5:17 ?Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.?
1 Peter 2:9 ?But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.?
We belong to God and as a newly created people our job is to proclaim God?s love through Jesus. Being called out of ?darkness? and into ?light? means we need to stop thinking like people of the darkness and instead think like Jesus. This is a place of love and power. Being seated at the ?right hand? means a place of supreme power, but this is a power used for good?to rescue others from darkness. Don?t set your sites any lower than the top!
The words ?set your minds on? here means: ?to think.? We?re talking about God altering our thinking patterns to no longer think like the old age. Some on Colossae were asking members of the church to continue to think like ?earthly? or ?this age? people. In the old age you enforced righteousness through an external code. But as Paul has said that Law was supposed to act like a guardian or a tutor (Galatians 4:1-5) to deliver us to the grace of God and a new way of thinking that re-writes our thinking patterns, which will affect our behavior patterns.
I also like what N.T. Wright says about this: ?mind and heart need not be in gear with what the body is required to do.? In other words, in this age thinking as long as we perform we don?t have to engage our minds.
I can?t emphasize this enough. The two-part plan of God in our lives is: transformation and utilization. That transformation is not pressing in with external rules that are really encouraging the flesh because when we obey we realize that I can do it without God (which is totally untrue anyway). You truly can?t legislate morality (nor should you legalize immorality?but that?s another message).
Romans 12:2 ?Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God?. The word ?transformed? is where we get the English ?metamorphosis? and it means to change into another form from the inside whereas ?conform? means to press in on something to force it into a mold.
3 ? 4
The old you is actually dead. That?s good news. But it?s almost like the ?new you? lives in an ?old you? wrapper. We currently live in a period of transition. Jesus died and rose and will come again. But even though He is not here physically, He is here in each one of us who name Him as Lord. He is like a diamond in a brown paper wrapper. One day, when He returns, the brown wrapper will be pulled away and the glory that God that is working in our character will be revealed. So right now we are in a state often called the ?already not yet?. We are already saved and God is already changing our character bit by bit, but we are not yet fully like Him and it is not yet revealed what that final character will look like. You are a remodeling project in process.
Two examples: Paul was dismissed by Gentiles and vilified by Jews?but we know that when the kingdom of God comes fully to earth, the work of Paul will be revealed to have been instrumental in the spread of the gospel around the world. Secondly, the church in the backwater town of Colossae might seem insignificant now, but when the full work of God is revealed it will be incredible.
You may think of yourself as just an ordinary Christian?already a believer but not fully revealed and not fully transformed. But God has placed His life in you and it is growing and will mature into His character.
We need to embrace this. You have a higher purpose. Your job is to fully cooperate with God?s transforming of your mind and fully cooperate with the missions He sends you on. They might not be missions to Africa, they might be missions to your job or to the supermarket or to school. In those missions you represent a new kind of person. It doesn?t mean you preach from your desktop every moment of the day. Think about Daniel, who was an official in a totally pagan culture. Daniel served his king, but also represented his God and the effect was mind-blowing. Daniel never demanded that the Babylonian and Medo-Persian kings worship Yahweh, but he never backed down from whom he served and God gave him plenty of opportunities to let his life be a witness.
Yes, when you have opportunity to speak into a life that is receptive, share the good news of Jesus with words. What I?m saying is that we need to wake up and realize that one day you will ride into Dodge on a white horse with Jesus to rule this planet with a character of power and self-sacrificing love. When it comes time will it seem foreign to you or will you finally feel at home? Much of that depends on what you do now in ceding authority over your thought patterns to the character of Jesus.
To fully understand what that character is, Paul contrasts it with this age type thinking and gives us some practical advice on how to live like a ?kingdom of God? child in this ?kingdom of earth? age.
Okay ? so how do we prep for what?s coming?the ?how to? of doing things God?s kingdom way?
First, let?s look at some general principals:
- If you are in Christ the old you is dead and dying
- If you are in Christ a new you is alive and growing
- There is a difference between the things of ?earth? and the things of ?heaven?
- The real power belongs to Christ, not the ways of this age
- Don?t read a Christian by her cover (even what may be obvious character flaws)
- Glory is coming?perfection or completion is coming?but is revealed when Jesus is revealed and you are shown to be like Him. 1John 3:2 ?Dear friends, we are God?s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.?
So as warm-up for what?s coming, let?s look at one of the greatest adhoc lists that contrasts the old life with the new: Galatians 5:19-23.
Gal. 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance?as I told you before?that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Gal. 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Let?s meditate on these things in preparation for looking at how to kill the flesh and feed the real you in Christ.