As you may or may not know, I’ve been memorizing a passage of Scripture for the past couple of weeks. The passage is Colossians 3:1-17. I finally finished memorizing the final verse this morning. Of course, the test really comes tomorrow (and the next day and the day after that, etc), to see if I really remember.
Memorizing Scripture is an interesting exercise. I’ve seen how it has worked its way into my life in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I find myself thinking about a certain verse or being reminded of a certain verse as I encounter a situation in my day. This sounds cliché, but it seems to have worked its way into every fabric of my being. I think about it when I wake up. I recite it driving down the road. I’m reminded of it as I live out my life and I think about the verses or recite them as I lay down at night.
One other thing that repeating the same verses over and over does — whether aloud or silently — you really get the overall meaning of the passage. You really understand it as a whole. Instead of concentrating or zeroing in on one verse and “standing on it”, as Christians are apt to do, you get the big picture.
Colossians 3:1-17 would seem to be the apostle Paul’s practical instructions on how to live… what to do and what not to do. There is a laundry list of things to avoid, as well as a list of virtues. “Do this, and life will be good; and be sure to avoid…” is what it sounds like.
But it is so much more than that. What Paul is talking about here is your identity in Christ. There are several words such as “Since, then,…”, “because”, and “therefore”, and when I see words like that in the Bible, they are referring to something previously stated or to a previously implied condition.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ…”
“Put to death, therefore…”
“… since you have taken off…”
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people…”
“… since as members…”
Our identity is now in Christ. Our old self is dead. Our new life has come alive in Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells within and is growing. I am a child of God with Christ dwelling within me. I live in the unshakeable Kingdom of God. The pitfalls listed in the passage are not only to be avoided, they are beneath me. That kind of living is not suited for a child of God. I have taken off my old, stinky laundry and am now clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (v.12). This is the kind of living that is more suitable for Kingdom-living.
Because of what God has done for me in Christ: a forgiven past, an abundant life lived here and now, and a secure hope and future, the old Tim is dead. As Paul says in Galatians,
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)