Summary: As we focus on those things that are eternal, and put on the new self, we will experience freedom from those things that have shackled us in the past.
Breaking Free from the Past
In an old Candid Camera episode, an actor is on a busy sidewalk and begins looking at the ground. He walks around a bit and continues to look down. People are passing by him and a few give him strange looks. After a couple minutes, he decides to get down on his hands and knees and begins feeling around with his hands. People begin to slow down and watch what he’s doing. Finally, one person stops and starts looking at the ground. Then another one begins searching the sidewalk.
In a few minutes, the camera shows about a dozen people looking down, some even on their hands and knees! At that point, the actor, who got all this started in the first place, quietly gets up and walks away. No one else notices that he has left. They’re so intent in their search that they never even bothered to ask what it was they were looking for.
This is a good picture of how many people live in our society today. They’re searching for something because they know there’s got to be more to life. But, they’ll never find it if they don’t know what it is that they’re missing. We’re going to discover this morning from Colossians 3:1-11 that if you want to break free from your past, then where you put your eyes is very important. Instead of looking down, Paul challenges us to:
Look up (1-4)
Look out (5-9a)
Look in (9b-10)
Look around (11)
As we come to Colossians 3, we move from doctrine to conduct. This is very similar to the outline of the Book of Romans, where the first eleven chapters contain rich truths and the final chapters focus on how to live them out. The same is true of the Book of Ephesians. What we believe determines in large part how we behave.
Specifically, in Colossians, we’ve learned that if we get Christ right we get everything else right. Jesus is supreme over His creation, His church, and now we’ll see in chapters 3 and 4 that He is supreme over the Christian. There are practical implications that should be evident if one surrenders to the supremacy of Jesus. As such, we move from principle to practice, from the indicative to the imperative, from the “is” to the “ought.” It does little good if we can declare and defend the truth but fail to demonstrate it in our lives. Let’s pray that we’re not like those described in Titus 1:16: “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him.”
Warren Wiersbe reminds us that the pagan religions of Paul’s day taught little or nothing about personal morality: “A worshipper could bow before an idol, put his offering on the altar, and go back to the same old life of sin. What a person believed had no direct relationship with how he behaved.” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, page 133). Christianity is much different. Duty is always connected to doctrine.
Paul has been arguing that we are set free from the powers around us, now he tells us that we have been set free for living a life above moral reproach. God’s plan is to first make us new; then He challenges us to live as new people. In short, we don’t have to be like we’ve always been. We can break free from the past, if we know where to look.
Instead of gazing at the ground, we must first look up! We see this in Colossians 3:1-4:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
This opening phrase parallels Colossians 2:20: “Since you died with Christ…” As we learned last week, since we died with Christ, we don’t have to follow the rules of a hollow and deceptive philosophy. Colossians 3:1 establishes the truth that since we’ve been raised with Christ, we have a new status and therefore a new way of life. We now have a power source for living. Believers have died with Christ, been buried with Him, have been raised with Him, and as Ephesians 2:6 states, we have been seated with Him in the heavenly places. This is our position, but we must appropriate these truths on a daily basis in order to break free from the past.
That’s why Paul writes, “set your hearts on things above.” I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.” While I guess that’s possible, it’s more likely that people today are so worldly minded that they’re no heavenly or earthly good. If we truly set our hearts on things above, we will experience power and freedom here on earth. The word “set” means to seek something out with a desire to possess it. The word is in the present tense, which implies that we’re to continue to seek the things above. It’s not just a one-time decision, but is to be a daily activity.