Bible Study Materials


by   01/30/2009  


I. Set your hearts on things above 1. How did the author remind Colossian believers of their new status? (1a, 2:12-13; 2 Cor 5:17) What life-direction must they have? (1b,2) What does it mean to “set one’s heart and mind”? [In Greek, “set your hearts/minds on” means “seek.”] (Mt 6:33; Heb 3:1; Ro 8:5-7) What are the things above? (1c; 2:8; Ph 4:8)? 2. Why should we live this new life? (3,4) In verses 1-4 how often is the expression “with Christ” repeated? With Christ, what is our present reality and our future hope? II. Put to death your earthly nature 3. Since we have new life with Christ, what must we do with our earthly nature? (5; Ro 6:11-13a) Why must we not live like this? [Notice its tense] 4. What lifestyle did they use to have? (7) Now what must we do? (8) Why did Paul command, “do not lie to each other”? (9a) What can we learn here about one of the important characteristics of Christian life? 5. What is the contrast between the old self and the new self? (9b,10) Why is there no distinction in Christian community? (11) III. Clothe yourselves with Christian virtues 6. What is the Christian’s new identity? (12a) What virtues should we clothe ourselves with (12-14)? Which virtue does he emphasize, and why? (14) 7. What should rule in our hearts as members of one body? (15) What is the important thing needed for the life and fellowship of Christian community? (16a) What should we do based on his word? (16b,17) Why is it so important to be thankful? (1 Th 5:18; Ro 1:21)



Colossians chapters 1 & 2 are doctrine for Christ, and 3 & 4, practical applications for believers. Today’s passage deals with our practical Christian life. Our faith in Christ Jesus and practical life cannot be separated. In this individualistic society no one wants to interfere with other’s private life, and nobody wants to be bothered by it. Our Lord Jesus Christ, however, wants us to have a new lifestyle as new creation, new men in Christ. Let’s see what kind of life the Lord wants us to live. First, set your hearts on things above (1-4). At the beginning of this chapter Paul reminds Colossian believers of their new status: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ…” These days more than 300,000 people die every day. Yet, no one can expect a dead person to be raised and live again. It has been so in time past and present. That’s impossible in this world. But Christ Jesus was raised from the dead and so have we been with him. It is a wonderful work of God: we have been raised with Christ from death. Then being raised with Christ, how should we live? This is a primary concern. We need a new life direction. We know the important of direction in life. One’s direction points to the final destination. Running fast or slow in that life direction is the second matter. Verse 1 says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” The heart is the centre of one’s life. So where we set our hearts is substantial. It says, “Set your hearts on things above.” In other translation it is “keep seeking things above.” What does this mean? Does it mean that we should look up to sky as we walk on the road? Definitely, not. It is related to what we love and hope. In this world we have received many blessings of God in Christ: salvation, meaning of life, mission, good school, good jobs, material blessings, etc. But things above which are far greater are yet to come. Paul says in Romans 8:24, “…hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” Things above include the completion of our salvation in sanctification and glorification. In the redemption of our body we will have imperishable glorious perfect body with perfect beauty. And there will be a perfection of everything, perfect love, perfect joy and peace, perfect humbleness, perfect cleanness, perfection in each one’s character, so on. 1 Corinthians 13:10 says, “…when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” And we will inherit the kingdom of God that can never perish, spoil or fade while all earthly things do. 2 Corinthians 5:1 says, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” And 2 Peter 3:13 says, “…in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” In our eternal home the Lord Jesus is waiting for us to come to him and live forever with him, after finishing our life in this world. There is a description in Revelation 21:3,4, “…Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Things above are so good, so great, so attractive, so satisfying and truly glorious. That’s why the Bible says, “Set your hearts on things above; keep seeking those things which are above.” Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:19,20). Our Lord Jesus wants us to make a spiritual investment. Jesus also said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Jesus promises that when we seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness first, all the provisions and happiness in life follow. C.S. Lewis once said, “If you seek heaven, as bonus you will gain earth. But if you seek the earth you will lose both”. There are people who want to gain both the world and God, and they try to love and serve both. But if they serve both masters, they will be rejected by both of them. Our body belongs to the earth. But the Lord Jesus who is in heaven wants us to set our hearts on things above. Look at verse 2. “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Now Paul talks about mind-setting after heart-setting. Setting the mind is related to constant thinking. We cannot overly emphasize the importance of what we think. There is a saying. “Be watchful of your thoughts because it will become your word of mouth. Be watchful of your word because it will become your behavior. Be watchful of your behavior because it will become your habit. Be watchful of your habit because it will become your personality. Be watchful of your personality because it will become your life.” In this way our lives are determined by what we think of. Romans 8:6 says, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Since we are living on the earth, our mind-set is automatically earthbound, being occupied with the thoughts of earthly things. To overcome earthbound mind-setting requires tremendous discipline. Our thinking is naturally human-centred, flesh-oriented, worldly, unspiritual, negative and fatalistic. Through much effort and training by the help of the Spirit our thoughts can be changed into Christ-centred, spiritual, holy, positive and challenging for God’s glory. This is the reason 2 Timothy 4:7b,8 says, “…train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things…” As for us deep weekly testimony-writing and daily Bible reading are absolutely necessary. It also includes making a good spiritual environment around us in all possible ways. Through this kind of spiritual discipline we can set our minds on things above. When our thinking naturally becomes spiritual and heavenward, how great the blessing will be! In verses 3 and 4 there are reasons why we should set our hearts and minds on things above. Look at verse 3. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Again and again we must count that our old self died. Our life is now hidden with Christ in God. It will be disclosed more and more and finally completely revealed in heaven. And verse 4 says, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” It says, “Christ…is your life.” Christ is our life, our true life. Without Christ our life is not true and real. When Jesus appears, then we also will appear with him in glory. We thank and praise God for the life and hope we have in Christ and with Christ. Second, put to death your earthly nature (5-11). It is noticeable that before talking about putting to death the early nature, Paul said about hearts and minds-setting first. When we do not set our hearts and minds on things above, we are easily influenced by the earthly worldly things and become weak in spirit. Weak spirit means weak spiritual immunity and so being susceptible to any spiritual disease. But a strong immune system prevents us from various sicknesses and diseases. It is good to know that setting heart and mind comes before behaviour. Now look at verse 5. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” “Put to death” is a strong expression (to make dead, slay; to deprive of power, to destroy the strength of). We are made alive with Christ. But we must not make our earthly nature alive with us. The Bible tells us to put them to death. It is a fierce spiritual battle. In time past and present sexual immorality terribly affected mankind. The Bible mentions it again and again, from Genesis to Revelation. In Genesis there is a description of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was due to people’s giving themselves up to sexual immorality and perversions (Jude 1:7). They say that Roman Empire was destroyed because of her immorality. Sorry to say, now in our society sexual immorality seems to be norm. Among pretty young girls, virginity does not seem to be a virtue anymore. Even young boys and girls are encouraged to forfeit their purity. In truth this is a very powerful deception, Satan’s deception. Sexual immorality, fornication and adultery, sweeps over our society beating so many people, young and old. Marriages cannot last long (fast divorce $200) and so many families are broken. Its effect seems to be out of control. However social norm and people’s mind change, sexual immorality is a great sin before God. God commanded, “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex 20:14; Dt 6:18). People are free to live as they want, but those who ignore the commandment of God cannot ignore the terrible consequences of their sin. Verse 6 says, “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” (The tense is present progressive) As we briefly thought, it is proven in history. And it is true in each person’s life. There is no exception for this wrath of God. We must know that God deals with the sin of sexual immorality seriously. So those who have been raised with Christ must overcome the immoral trend of this world and must protect their lives and families and children and God’s community from sexual immorality. Furthermore they must strive hard to keep their hearts and minds pure. This is a matter of spiritual life and death. That’s way it says, “Put to death sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires.” Let’s remember that this comes first in the list of Christian ethics. Look at verses 7-9. “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other.” Anger (slowly burn) and rage (violent anger) are the same kind, but both are written here side by side for the emphasis. Anger suffocates our spiritual life and that of others. It must be ridden of. Anger can be developed into murder. And God commands, “You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13; Dt 5:17). There will be some ways for anger management. Some would say, “Explode your anger, and you will be better.” But the Bible does not say, “Burst out or explode your anger.” Ephesians 4:26, 27 says, “’In your anger do not’ sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Anger is enough for one day. If we hold anger longer, it is giving the devil a foothold and we lose the spiritual battle. We need to anger only toward sin and Satan, not people. We should know that God hates sin but loves sinners. The best way to overcome our anger is to remember our Lord Jesus who did not retaliate but entrusted himself to God and endured the cross, scorning its shame in obedience to God’s will (1 Pe 2:23; Heb 12:3). The next thing described is concerning the words we speak: malice, slander, and filthy language from our lips. Then verse 9 says, “Do not lie to each other.” Some people lie intentionally with evil purpose. Some others lie out of fear, to get out of a certain situation or not to lose something or to get some benefit. Still others lie habitually. In any way lying harms others and destroys the relationship. We know that lie is Satan’s weapon. Jesus said that the devil is a liar and the father of lies (Jn 8:44). Lying is giving in Satan’s rule. God wants us to be honest and speak the truth even if we lose something precious. We must know that our God is the God of truth, and our Lord Jesus is the king of truth and came to this world to testify to the truth (Jn 18:37). The world is the world of deception. But God wants his people to be different. He commands, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Ex 20:16; Dt 5:20) It is also important to know that half truth or half lie is lie. We ask for God’s mercy that we may learn to live before God and tell the truth, although it means losing reputation, position or money, or even endangering our lives. Look at verses 9b,10. “…since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” These verses tell us a clear reason and a way to keep the Christian ethics we mentioned above. We have taken off our old self and have put on the new self. When we wear new clothes, we are very careful not to soil them. We want to keep the clothes as clean as possible even with no a single dust. As we have put the new self, we have been recreated in Christ Jesus with his image in us. Our new self should be renewed in the knowledge in the image of Christ, namely, the image of God. Being renewed is continuous renewal. This is how we should struggle as we studied. God wants us to remember our Lord Christ Jesus and follow him through the imitation of Christ and be renewed and grow up in his image. Look at verse 11. “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all.” There is no difference in Christ Jesus, no racial (Greek or Jew), religious (circumcised or uncircumcised), cultural (barbarian, Scythian-uncivilized), and social (slave or free) difference at all, except whether one has a new lifestyle. The only thing that counts and makes difference is a new lifestyle resulting from faith in Christ Jesus. When there is a new lifestyle, Christ is all and is in all. Third, Clothe yourselves with Christian virtues (12-17). Look at verse 12. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Here our new identity is expressed as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved. What can be more precious than this identity? This is the identity we really wanted to have, isn’t it? Those who have been raised with Christ are holy, dearly loved God’s chosen people. In God’s eyes they are too precious in this world. God wants them to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. This is a positive struggle to have versus to get rid of. These virtues are quite opposite of anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language. These are really beautiful virtues fit to God’s children. Verse 13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Here forgiveness is emphasized. God is forgiving. But fallen men are not forgiving toward other fellow fallen men. So people make an excuse for their unforgiving act, saying, “Forgiving is divine, unforgiving is human.” Unforgiving spirit is ruling the world, blaming, condemning, holding grudge and, revenging. It goes back and forth. God’s chosen people are not to do so. We must remember that our Lord Jesus forgave all our sins, nailing all the documents of our sin-record to the cross and thus shredding them. It includes our unknown sins, for he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” According to the Bible the sins we have been forgiven are compared to millions of dollars, and the sins we are to forgive is just a few dollars (Mt 18:24,28). One of the important characteristics of God’s chosen people is forgiving for they are forgiven. (Leonardo da Vinci) Jesus tells us to forgive from the heart (Mt 18:35). It is having no blaming spirit at all. When we forgive from the heart, this is to win the war over sin and Satan, though we lose some battles for a time being. Look at verse 14. “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 called love-chapter, “Love is patient; love is kind…It is not rude…it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong…always perseveres.” Love is not like becoming suddenly extremely hot and then extremely cold, causing people to get sick with flu. Love is steadfastly warming the heart with moderate temperature. As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, God wants us to put on the virtue of love in holiness above all, for we have been made holy, dearly loved. Look at verse 15. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace…” People have no peace in this troubled and turbulent world. But our Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, gives his people peace, the peace different from the peace the world gives. We need steadfast peace, which is not being affected by the changing world. It comes from the right relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. When the peace of Christ rules in our hearts, we can have peace in us and with others. Look at verse 16. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…” The word of Christ is the sustainer of our lives, as Christ sustains the whole universe by his words. God created the world with the words of his mouth. Christ can dwell in us through his words. For this we need personal and faithful Bible study. Look at 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.” When we do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, then it is for his glory. The famous musician Bach did not write his name on his compositions. But he wrote “INDNJC” which is the initial of “In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” in Latin (In Nomine Domini Nostri Jesu Christi). Notice that in verses 15-17 there are the words written, “…be thankful,” “with gratitude in your hearts to God” and “giving thanks to God.” Giving thanks to God must undergird our hearts in Christian life. A thankful heart is a barometer that our Christian life is spiritually sound and safe. Thank God that we have been raised with Christ. We have taken off our old self and have put on the new self. Now our identity is God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved. In these wonderful blessings of God may we set our hearts and minds on things above and put to death our earthly nature and clothe ourselves with beautiful Christian virtues, especially, with love and thanks, letting the words of Christ dwell in us richly. In this way may we live new life in Christ and grow in the image of Christ.


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