By J.R. Miller
Paul said to The Colossians what to many must have seemed surprising: "If then you were raised together with Christ." How could these Colossian Christians have been raised with Christ? Of course, it was a spiritual rising. The people really had been spiritually dead, and they were now living a new spiritual life. Everyone who truly believes on Christ, receives the Holy Spirit, comes out of his grave, and walks with Christ among the living.
Those who have risen with Christ should "seek the things that are above, where Christ is." What things? We are taught to pray that the Father's will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. That is bringing heaven down to earth. The things which are above are: holiness, goodness, truth, peace, love. The lessons the Bible teaches us are all of things above, the truths and principles of God's kingdom. These are the things which are unseen and yet are eternal. We are to seek to live here in this world--as we would live if we were really in heaven.
More, they must set their mind on the things that are above. Where the mind is--there the life is tending. Where the thoughts go--the soul is climbing. If we think continually of earthly, unworthy things--our whole being will gravitate downward. But if we train our thoughts to fly away like eagles into the deep blue sky--our life will be lifted upward. This means, at least, to attach oneself to something heavenly, that one 's life may be borne irresistibly upward.
We should form the habit of setting our thoughts on things above. It is said that many years ago, when a great suspension bridge was to be built over a wide river, a kite was sent over, carrying a fine wire across the chasm. It was not hard then to get a second and a third wire over also, and by and by the tiny thread of steel--had become a great bridge of twisted strands, on which human feet crossed over. So we may train our thoughts to fly across the abyss to heaven--first one thought, then another and another--until we have built a bridge for ourselves from earth to heaven. But we must begin and train our thoughts thus to fly, for nothing but such a habit will bring to us the blessing.
The Christian life is secret, and no one can see its workings: it is hid with Christ in God. You pray and grace comes into your heart. But no one sees it coming. You lean on God in your trust, and your strength is renewed--but the process, no one can perceive. Christ is the Friend whom having not seen we love, in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable.
The Christian's life is hidden also, because its real beauty is not visible to the world's eyes. The artist keeps his picture veiled while he works upon it. At last he removes the veil, and men see the loveliness which his hands have been fashioning in secret. So God works in our life, in joy and sorrow, in His providence, and by His Word and Spirit. The beauty He is producing, human eyes see not. "What I am doing, you do not now understand," He says, "but you shall understand hereafter." By and by, when the work is finished, men and angels shall see the marvelous beauty of Christ glowing in even the lowliest, plainest life.
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived." Colossians 3:5-7
A new life in Christ calls for the utter destruction of these evils. It is a shameful list which Paul names. It makes us ashamed to think that such qualities may belong to us--or may nest in our heart! Who would have thought that any these vile things could exist in anyone who wears the human form! Yet many of these ugly things are found in each of us! Our hearts are naturally cages of unclean birds.
What does Paul tell us we should do with these unholy things? He says we are to put them to death. When we find in ourselves any evil thing, we must kill it, for it is not right for it to live. An uncompromising war should be waged against all evil. He who cherishes any impurity in himself--is nursing a viper which will sting him to death by and by!
"But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips." This part of the chapter is not for the good people who are now studying it--is it? Look at the words honestly.
"Anger." Do you ever get angry? Does you temper ever get the mastery of you? Do you ever fume with rage, even if you do not let people know of it?
"Malice." Do you ever cherish a grudge, ever keep bitterness against another in your heart?
"Slander." Do you ever spit out spiteful things about another who is absent? Do you ever rail at anyone?
"Filthy language." That means speaking of which we ought not to be ashamed of, which we would be ashamed of before our mother or some pure-minded friend. Do you ever utter a word you would be ashamed to have Christ hear?
"Lying." One may lie by a look, or a wink, or by keeping silence. Robert Speer tells of asking a Sunday school once what different kinds of sin there are. One little boy answered, "Good sins and bad sins, sir." Then he asked what kind of sins, bad sins are. Promptly the boy answered, "Lies."
These are a few of the things which we are to put away, if we have risen with Christ. It is not enough to put away the evil things of the old life. The house cannot be left empty. If it is, the former bad tenants will soon be back again, bringing with them still more wicked companions, and the last state will be worse than the first. "To replace--is to conquer." The only sure saving of our life--comes through expelling sin from it--and then getting Christ into it.
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12-14
These are beautiful virtues which we are exhorted to put on. They all are fragments of the image of God. They each belong in the life and character of Jesus Christ. We must notice how large a place love holds among them. Indeed, all of these qualities are phases of love.
The compassionate heart comes first--for the heart makes the life. A kindly heart fills the life with gentle things. Kindness has been called the small coin of love. It is always scattering blessings.
"Humility" is often caricatured, for there are many who try to be humble. But it cannot be put on consciously or by any effort. It must be in the heart and must work out in the life.
"Gentleness" is patience under insult.
"Patience" is enduring without complaining, keeping sweet whatever the circumstances may be.
"Bearing with one another" is the power of getting along with people who are not easy to live with, getting along without being irritated, fretted and made ugly in spirit by their unreasonableness.
"And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Then comes "love" which is over all, above all, in all. It is this which makes the character complete. If we truly get love into our life--all the rest will follow!
As the true result of this transformation, the "peace" of Christ will rule in the heart. Peace is quietness in the midst of turmoil. It is gentleness in the midst of hate. It is patience in the midst of suffering and trial. It is self-mastery; rather it is Christ-mastery. We have but to think what Christ's peace was, and then to remember that it is this. His own peace, which He promises to give to us. If this blessed peace rule in our hearts, feelings, affections and desires, we shall lack nothing more!