“They will never change.”
Have you ever said that? Maybe you thought it? Or maybe it was declared about you. Is it true that people never change? Perhaps it has been true for some people. But for the vast majority, change is always happening in our lives, even if incrementally.
As we have been studying in Colossians 3:1-4, starting here, God wants us to focus above, and the result will be change in our lives.
The change that God wants to work in our lives, first of all, is not entirely dependent on us. The proof for this Paul writes in Colossians 3, verse 3, is that “You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” The earthly way is dead. That self-focused way is dead.
Do you find that harsh? It is pretty severe. Death! The old way is gone. Now your life is hidden with Christ in God. That’s a wild statement. Do you feel like that? Do you feel that your life is hidden with Christ in God? Many Christians do not feel that. What does Paul mean?
When I think about that image, what comes to mind is a picture of a child who is hiding in the flowing folds of their mother’s dress. The child is maybe two or three years old, just a couple feet tall, hugging their mother’s legs. As the mom talks to other adults, the child grabs the dress and wraps it around them, hiding from the world, safe in their mother’s presence.
What Paul is saying is that our earthly way of thinking and living is dead, and we have been folded up into the life of Jesus. We are hidden. Not gone. But hidden, and when people see us, they see Jesus. He is visible through us, through the new life we live we display Jesus to the world. Our way of thinking and living has been transformed so that people see not the old earthly way flowing from us, but the new heavenly way.
But God does not change us against our will. While he has made it possible for us to change, he then invites us to join him in the transformative process.
Are you striving to join Jesus in your own transformation? One way to answer that question is to look at what you value in life. Jesus himself once taught: “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” What he meant was that our treasures show whether or not our heart is focused on the things of God, on this new life we have in him.
Paul is saying basically the same thing in Colossians 3. Christians, you are utterly different. You have been changed by Jesus, and you also participate in advancing the change. It shows by how you think, how you talk, how you spend your time and your money, how you treat your friends, how you treat your family, how you work as an employee, how you are as a student, or as an athlete. Our hearts and minds are to be set on the things of the Kingdom of God. We are IN Christ. And by his Holy Spirit, he is IN us. Let us show that to the world. Allow the actions of the Spirit to flow out of you: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, self-control. See people like God sees people, made in his image, loved, valuable.
You might think, “I want that for myself. That outflow of the Fruit of the Spirit sounds wonderful, but I don’t know how to nurture that in my life.”
Consider, then, how the Christian philosopher and writer, Dallas Willard, started each day, slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer, phrase by phrase, dwelling on each phrase. What a great practice. Imagine what God could do in your life when your practice a sustained, consistent habit of starting every day with the prayer, “Your Kingdom come in my life, Lord, your will be done in my life, on earth as it is in heaven.”
In one of Michelle’s monthly meetings with her spiritual director, they talked about a similar prayer that she posted on our fridge: “God May I be aware and see you. May I listen and hear you. Help me to know you more. May I think act on all I’ve seen and heard from you and come to know of you.”
Here’s a practical suggestion for you: either use the Lord’s Prayer or write your own prayer to help you focus on God’s Kingdom. Consider writing that on a post-it and putting it on your bathroom mirror, and praying it each morning.
When that kind of prayer fills your thinking, the earthly way, the society around you, the culture around you no longer informs you, no longer providing the false measure of success, the false measure of joy, the false measure of life. Instead, the new heavenly way informs and guides you!