Big God. Big Whatever. (Colossians 3:1-17)


Many of you know that parenting is hard. I often say, parenting is hard work because it is heart work. It’s not just trying to change and shape external behaviors but internal convictions that result in character. Christian parents want the overall values and culture of their child to model Jesus Christ and His word.

I heard a story of a parent who was having difficulty with his son. The father was a pilot and decided to take his son on a special airplane ride with face-to-face conversation. He hoped to elevate his son’s thinking and motivate his behavior. After this special airplane trip, the son came back totally transformed. The son was respectful to his parents and other adults. He was loving toward his siblings. He sought to do extra chores around the house and even picked up his grades in school. It seemed like the son was a brand new person.

Other parents noticed the changes in the family’s son too. They inquired what parenting methods they used to elevate the boy’s thinking and motivate the boy’s behavior. The father said, “Many of you know I’m a pilot. Ever since I took my child on a special plane trip and had a face-to-face conversation, my son has changed. He does whatever we ask of him.” The other parents wondered about this special plane trip, as I’m sure you do as well. Would you like to see a picture?

You see, when we are elevated with Jesus, we will become and imitate whatever way of life He desires. Today’s message is from Colossians 3 titled, the Big Whatever.


The book of Colossians is reminding Christians about our identity. Identity informs appearance. Christian identity is dying to self and being raised with Christ. Our hearts and hopes are seated in heaven with Christ on the throne, so that on earth we set our minds on things above (Col 3:1-3). Paul uses the language of death to self and being buried with Christ in baptism (Romans 6) to indicate a new way of living; being totally transformed so that whatever we do in word or deed, we do everything for God’s glory and in the name of Jesus Christ. The verb “set your mind” (Φρονέω) means not merely to think but to have a settled way of understanding, to hold an outlook and maintain a mindset (Rom. 8:5; 14:6; 1 Cor. 13:11; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 2:2, 5; 3:19).[1] Also, it’s in the present tense indicating ongoing action.
The contrast of setting our mind on things above – in heaven – is to set our mind on things below on earth. Earthly thinking seeks immediate gratification and to hope in only what you can see in present circumstances. The Christian who died to self now lives for the Savior; their earthly loyalties give way to an eternal priority that grounds our thinking and guides our living.

The Christian who died to self now lives for the Savior; their earthly loyalties give way to an eternal priority that grounds our thinking and guides our living.

We cannot set our mind on things above unless we set our eyes and ears upon the word of God. Tools: S.O.A.P.S. and 5 Arrows with Community Groups.

The rest of this passage describes not just the mindset but the character or dress code of a Christian. As we consider the character or dress code of Christianity, we are to think about an overall DNA, culture and identity. This is the practical application of having our mind set on things above.

1) Put off the filth (Col 3:5-8)
“Put to death” (3:5). “Be killing sin or it will be killing you” (John Owen). Don’t cater sinful practices or compartmentalize your faith. Take sin very seriously.

“what is earthly” and Paul lists a series of ten sinful and filthy practices. While not exact, the first half is personal while the second half is social, relating toward others.

“On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (3:6).
– Zeph 1:15, 18 “The day of the Lord is a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness… Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord. In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed”

After each list of five there is an additional exhortation to “not lie, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (3:9-10). If reading this list of sins doesn’t give you pause, then it’s possible your spiritual life is apathetic. No one escapes this list and we are all guilty. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. [But] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:8-9). We overcome sin by being honest with ourselves, with God, and with others.

  • We should not coddle sin but kill it. We kill sin by starving it. Is there anything in your life that you are feeding, funding, nurturing, rationalizing? Let today be a fresh start with the grace of God by repenting of sin and rededicating faith in Jesus Christ.
  • The gospel of Jesus is for anyone: Greek or Jew, religious or irreligious, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free… (Col 3:11). Barbarian and Scythian refer to the most vile groups of people, thus, there is no sin too filthy that Christ cannot forgive.

This past weekend my wife and I attended a wedding. While weddings are fun they can add a little stress on what to wear. Some can go through multiple outfits before they identify which they will wear. Some helpful advice about what we should wear:

  • Dress for success but most of all, dress.
  • Mark Twain said, “Clothes [do] make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

Paul gives a dress code and wardrobe for the Christian:

2) Put on agape love.

The command to “put on” is in present tense, suggesting ongoing action. The key object of putting on is love – agape love, which is divine benevolence. Paul describes this attire with seven features:

  1. Compassion: deep inward feeling; affection that results in action. More than intention and words.
  2. Kindness: rich goodness. Going above and beyond.
  3. Humility: unselfishness, placing others first. Uncommon attitude and surprising action.
  4. Meekness: gentleness with strength; like a tamed wild animal. When persons of privilege contribute with abundance not just as mere charity.  
  5. Patience: long-suffering, ability to withstand bursts of uncontrolled anger. Profound character developed over long periods of time.  
  6. bearing with one another: to endure and hold up. Measure of a true friend in thick or thin.
  7. forgiving one another: extending pardon and generous grace. Forgiving someone implies not allowing yesterday’s hurt hinder today’s healing. Otherwise, bitterness becomes a fatal poison in our soul. Forgiving others comes from the reality Christ has forgiven us; there is an interdependence between forgiving others and being forgiven (cf Mt 6:12, 14-15; 18:23-25). Ultimately, we will never forgive anyone as much as Christ has forgiven us.

Agape binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col 3:14). Paul has used this word of binding together (σύνδεσμος) before in relation to joints and ligaments holding the body together (Col 2:19). Agape love is the undergarment that allows every part of the body to feel secure.

  • Jesus does not love the lovely but the unloveable. His love is bold and different. So, we too are called to love boldly and in daring ways. Who is someone that God may be calling you to express Christian love that would be surprising to the unbelieving world?
  • Another application that appears contrasting but is really complementary toward loving others is to discern the difference between Christian love and earthly loneliness. The command to love does not include condoning sinful practices. Authentic love will never be a lie against God or His design. Spiritual meekness does not imply relational weakness. So, be careful that our desires to be liked and feelings of loneliness do not dismiss biblical truth.

    3) Put on peace.

Paul gives another command and clothing attire for Christians – “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body” (Col 3:15). Paul has already described how one attains peace with God, by believing in the blood of Christ’s cross to atone for our sin and reconcile us to God (cf Col 1:20). But Paul’s command is not just about peace with God but having the peace of God rule in our life. The presence of peace comes from having relationship with the Prince of Peace (cf Php 4:7; and the many prophetic statements about the Messiah – Isa 9:6-7; 54:10; Ez 34:25-31; 37:26; Hag 2:9; Zech 8:12).

The background concept of peace comes from the Hebrew shalom, which carries the concept not just of spiritual wholeness but social wellness. God’s shalom is personal and corporate, where people are cared and provided for with mercy, grace, and justice.

It’s also no accident that Paul calls to mind for the Colossian church that they were called to peace in one body. Their differences can turn into demands and judgments (2:16-23), or they can result in having gospel unity in diversity and urgency in mission. As I shared last week[2], When Christians or the church are living in chaos or conflict, the unbelieving world misses refuge in the harbor and is pummeled by the storm waves. Yet, when Christianity reflects a peacemaking perspective, the world takes notice. Peacemaking propels mission.

The church can be described as soldiers in a foxhole fighting side by side against a common enemy. Yet, when the war against the enemy subsides, we go back face to face in the barracks and too often we end up fighting one another over petty preferences and insignificant issues.  

  • We put on peace with the practice of prayer palms down and up. Turn your palms facing downward while communicating with God about things you surrender control. Confess your pressures and problems and entrust them to the Lord’s care (Ps 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7). In time, turn your palms facing upward while requesting the Lord’s wisdom, strength, and grace (Php 4:4-8).
  • Further, peace, like biblical community and friendship, is not merely discovered but cultivated and needs maintaining. We can create an environment for peace with consistent words of encouragement toward others. An example could be having a goal to encourage at least 2 people each week at church – 1 person a friend and 1 person you are unfamiliar.  

    4) Put on thankfulness.

Paul exhorts the Colossians being clothed with gratitude. It could have been easy for the Colossians to gripe about their circumstances or their differences. They were struggling in a city with frequent natural disasters and a declining economy due to the growth of other cities. They were struggling to relate to one another in a multi-cultural society. Their primary faith leader was Epaphras, and though he was a faithful minister, he still had to ask other experts like Paul about theological doctrine and practical ministry issues. They were an imperfect church with deficient resources and flawed leaders.

Yet, Paul opens this letter expressing and modeling the art of thankfulness. He thanks God for their faith and the hope they have in heaven (1:3-5). He thanks for their ministry opportunities in their community (1:6). He thanks God for provision of spiritual leaders, when there could have been none (1:7-8). He thanks God for the glorious gospel that has delivered them from the domain of darkness and transferred them into the everlasting kingdom of Jesus (1:12-13).

Christians have been given so much by the grace of God that there should be overflowing praise and limitless gratitude.

  • Psalm 9:1 “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart”
  • Psalm 35:18 “I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.”
  • Ps 100:4-5 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
  • Ps 147:7 “Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp.”
  • 1 Thess 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Being grateful is an emotion while thanksgiving is the action. Being grateful does not mean we think life is perfect or we ignore hardship. This last year many have faced disappointments, depression, tragedy, and grief. Clothing ourselves with thankfulness does not mean we downplay discouragement, but we remember God’s faithfulness. Like a magnet collecting precious metal over gritty sand, we find ways to give thanks and trust to our Lord.

Like a magnet collecting precious metal over gritty sand, we find ways to give thanks and trust to our Lord.

  •  As a starting point, for a week create a list of 50 items you are thankful (7 each day + 1). #ThankfulTogetherSPBCMD

    Put on the word of Christ.

A last, but not least, piece of attire is the clothing of God’s word. We are exhorted to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. God’s word takes up residence in our mind and heart not only when we read it but when we allow it to read us. Reflecting on God’s word results in changes – additions and subtractions of attitudes and actions. The word of Christ likely refers to centrally to the Gospels and the apostolic teaching of the NT and comprehensively to the whole Bible (Lk 24:44; Jn 5:39).

When God’s word dwells in/among us, it will result in three actions:

  1. Instruction: “teaching and admonishing one another” (Col 3:16). Includes preaching and personal convos.
  2. Celebration: “singing psalms & hymns & spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts to God” (Col 3:16).
  3. Dedication: “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:17).  

As a Christian, we should invite Christ as a permanent resident in our life and not treat Him as a guest. While a new Christian may be friendly with Jesus just as a welcomed guest in their life, spiritual growth mandates we give Christ a house key and grant Him total access to every room and corner of the house, even the closets!

When we think of Christ as merely a welcomed guest, it means we view our faith as a dutiful religion and not a devoted relationship. It means we compartmentalize our behaviors from our beliefs. Rather than seeing Christ is all and in all, we think of religion as a set of obligations…

  • How much do I have to go to church to keep God happy?
  • How moral do I have to live so I don’t get on God’s bad side? How much borderline or bad actions can I do and still be good with God?
  • How much money do I have to give so I can be blessed?
  • How much time do I have to serve so I can get on having freedom of my own time?
  • How much Bible do I have to know so can be saved?

God is not like a store for payments and exchanges, instead He is like soil that we must plant seeds and root deeply.

Ps 51:16-17 “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

  • Like we treat Jesus, we can treat the church as being a welcomed guest or an active family member. If we are going to allow the word of Christ to dwell deeply with the expected result in Col 3:16-17, then we must connect in spiritual community. What holds you from becoming known by God and knowing others in God’s church?


This series in Colossians – BIG GOD – reminds us that Jesus is not just first in religion but first in everything. Where in your life are you…

  • placing limits on God, as if God would be satisfied for a close second?
  • boxing God in, as if God is incapable or uncaring? You are God’s chosen, holy and beloved!
  • blocking God out, as if God is little and God’s holy wrath is not pending?

[1] Dunn, J. D. G. (1996). The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 205). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: William B. Eerdmans Publishing; Paternoster Press.


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