How Can I Change?
We all, I think, want to be verses 10-15, don’t we?
I mean, even if you’re here and you don’t love God at all, my guess is that that list still sounds really good to you. They are virtues that we’d all like be known for.
And you’d probably agree that the things in 5-8 sound pretty bad. And you don’t want to be known by those.
The question this passage is answering is the how: how do we become that person?
New Year’s Resolution.
You’ve probably made some New Year’s Resolutions, to help you become a better person. In Britain, an article from The Guardian had polling data revealed 66% typically break their NYRes in the first month. When it comes to change statistics are against you.
Neurologists discuss the habits of our lives in chemical terms. Habits form brain wiring, and it’s very difficult to unwire it. When it comes to change biology is against you.
A recently concluded Harvard, cross-generational, 70 year study determining the changeability of people over time concluded that we should almost always plan for failure to change. We’re terrible at it. It seems, that when it comes to change, time is against you.
One writer said it like this: “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.”
The Christian Expectation.
Christians have some pretty lofty expectations, don’t we? We are supposed to be the image of God on the earth. 3:10 “new self, renewed to the knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.”
So how is this supposed to work?
- God Has To Kill You
Notice vs 1: “keep seeking.” That’s what you have to do. We’ll come back to that in a minute. What comes before it: “if you have been raised.” You can’t raise yourself. The work before your work is God’s work on you.
For you to be even the least bit successful at seeking the things above, first you’ve got to be raised.
Notice verse 2: “Set your mind on things above.” But there’s a condition that comes before it. Verse 3. “You died, and your life is hidden in Christ.” You died, and somebody gave you a new life (verse 4): Christ is our life.
So, in other words, before you can become the person in 9-15, before you can seek things above, set your mind on things above, you have to get killed and get raised with Christ.
Let’s take this in parts. First, let’s talk about the killing. You have to Get Crucified with him. Well, look I always thought that that’s weird. Jesus died a long time ago. How could I do that “with him”?
Then the offer in the gospel got clearer to me over time. You and I deserve God’s judgment (3:7). And the mercy from God is that He offers to accept Jesus’ death as your own. In other words, the beauty of the gospel isn’t just forgiveness. It’s forgiveness based on justice. Christ died to take away your sin, yes! But he he also died to take YOU away. YOU Have Died.
Jesus endured the cross, but not so that we could escape it. He endured the cross so that we could join him there. I don’t like the idea of dying. But I am grateful that I can crucify my jealousy. I enjoy the truth that the old Ben Stubblefield, greedy, foolish, wayward heart has a cross to get nailed to. And as sure the sky is up, God promises that it gets destroyed, scourged, spear-pierced, and buried. And God’s justice on the old Ben Stubblefield, and the righteous ire of the holy judge, is satisfied. The first born Ben Stubblefield gets taken, like the sons of Egypt, by the angel of death. And it’s good. And, in Jesus’ words, that death is now a way of life. Put to death pride, anger, arrogance, laziness, cowardice. (Die daily).
That’s what happened to me. So you know what? I’m dead to verses 5-8. That’s what got pinned to the beams of wood. I, with Jesus, bore that curse once. Never again. Don’t you want a place to kill your our greed, lust, hatred, emnity, malice? Don’t you want a place to die? What a joy it is to get loose of my scheming, selfish, wretched bod body of death.
If you have time, mention The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace, and the dragon skin.
- God Has To Raise You.
2:13, 3:1. If you died with him, Romans 6, you will be raised with Him.
The life of Christ is your life. 3:4. What is true of Jesus’ death about you is also true his resurrection. Jesus’s resurrection lopped the head off of sin and judgment. He defeated sin and paid for it.
Which means he didn’t bring the Old Ben Stubblefield back to life. That died. I get born again. It’s not like the first. Not born in Adam. But born in Christ. Not born in weakness, but strength. Not born in unrighteousness, but again in righteousness. Born to live in the power of Christ’s resurrection. He’s new, unshackled by sin, death, and judgment. And because I died with him; that’s my life too.
You may say: “Ben, all you’ve said today is kind of passive. You haven’t told us to do anything, just talked about what God has to do to us. And I’m an active person. I want to take control of where I’m headed.” Let me say two things to you.
- You’re exactly right. All I’m saying is that to change, you have to invite, plead with God to do his crucifying/resurrecting work for you. That’s your first job. Come to the ruinous end of yourself, once and for all, finally and fully.
- If you get this backwards, you’ll never really change. If you can’t let God work on you first, then you’ll still be stuck in the old man. Let me say it this way.
Do you know anybody that dresses up their dog? Listen, you can put a suit and tie on a dog, it’s still gonna find fleas and roll in dirt.
At the end of the day that’s what’s going to happen with us? Look, you can make some habit changes. Save more $, lose more lbs, volunteer once/week. But those things aren’t going to make you a verses 9-15 person. I’ve known plenty of skinny people who are awful. You try to just become these things, without the transforming power of Jesus, you’ll be back to fleas and rolling in the dirt.
That’s not how Christian change works. You’ve got to find Jesus, and let him put you to death, so he can bring you to life again.
Some of you may say, “Ben, I’ve already done this. Your whole sermon has been about everybody else but me. I’ve already been put to death and made alive in Christ Jesus. So this whole message has been totally unhelpful.
Let me try one more Narnia analogy on you and take you to the Silver Chair. Prince, Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum (the Marshwiggle) come under the enchantment of a powerful witch. And they forget their mission, they forget their names, and all is almost lost – the entire kingdom is nearly destroyed. Not because they’re evil. But because they were forgetting who they were.
Listen, Paul’s writing to Christians. He is reminding, rehearsing, grounding who they are, so they never forget or lose focus. Friends, “You’ll never outgrow the gospel.” All growing “Christians will always go back to seed.You say, “well, I know all this already.” Do you!?
Where was Abraham, right after the covenant? Fooling around with Hagar. Noah, right after the flood? Getting drunk and shaming himself in front of his sons. Where was Peter? Denying Jesus at his trial. Adam? Eating forbidden fruit. Don’t tell me you’ve outgrown Colossians 3, or we might as well reserve you a place of worship next to the golden calf. You be killing sin at the cross, or it will be killing you. You be walking in righteousness, image of God, or unrighteousness will be walking you.
It is the great work of the devil to lull the Lord’s people to sleep. To thinking their beyond the simple gospel. But every day we must be reminded to claim the promise, that as I’ve laid down my life, he will take it up again. Dead to sin, alive to God.