Colossians 3:12 (NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
This Verse is a “call” to us regarding our dispositions … our manners … our characters as new creations in Christ. It reminds us that our redeemed lives are to be Spirit-filled with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. In this context we are to be forgiving … just as the Lord Jesus forgave us. And over all these virtues, we are to put on love – which binds them all together. The message here from Paul to the Colossians has quite the application for us because it describes the outward “physical” changes that should follow the inward “spiritual” changes that have caused us to become “holy and dearly loved” children of God.
So I think I will reprint this section of Scripture for your easy reference and reading. I pray it will impact you and I in the 21st Century as deeply as Paul intended for it to instruct the Colossian believers of the 1st Century.
Colossians 3:1-17 (NIV)
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And above all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
This is the new life we have been saved to live. If you continue to experience conflicts with your earthly nature exerting itself above your inner man, you need to realize that the battle is now spiritual. Verse 3 reminds us that the old person you were has died and the new person you are is now hidden in Christ. But Paul instructs us that we do not wrestle against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Cf. Ephesians 6:12) But I will encourage you in this, as you see the physical manifestations of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love in your relationships with others, you can know that the spiritual battles are being won. Think of your earthly nature as a barometer of your spiritual nature. It might not be an exact measure but I’d venture to say it is fairly close….
So what is our application? Well, our bodies (flesh and blood) are not really the problem. The greatest battle is within our hearts … our inner beings … our souls. For as a man thinks in his heart … so is he. It is our hearts that God must capture; and He did through Christ Jesus. Do you not realize that it is the kindness of God that led us to repentance? (Cf. Romans 2:4) The love of God is why we submit to His transformation of our hearts … so that we might be conformed to the image of His Son. And this is why we are called to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. This is why we are admonished to put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. If we are not seeing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and in our relationships with others – then we need to do some serious introspection and start fighting those spiritual battles. Paul tells us how to be winners:
Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
This is how you fight those battles. This is how you put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. There are several defensive pieces of armor in the list above – but there is only one offensive spiritual weapon you are provided by God. It is the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God. And, of course, we would include prayer. Paul instructs that we should be praying at all times in the Spirit. If you want to win the battles – then you will need both the Word and Prayer! Finally, I will leave you with a couple of parallel verses to encourage you in this fight. They assure us that our faith in Christ Jesus can overcome our earthly nature and the trouble we have in this world.
John 16:33 (NIV)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
1 John 5:1-5 (NIV)
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome,4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.