I was pretty familiar with Colossians 3 before I started studying it last weekend. Colossians 3:1-4 (“set your mind on the things above…”) has always been a favorite passage. Our youth group has gone through the book twice that I remember.
The focus of the chapter is “put off/put on” – we’ve laid aside the old self and put on the new, but we still have a daily battle to lay aside the old self’s evil practices and put on the behaviors of our new self.
At least, that’s always how I’d interpreted it – “put on” righteous actions, words, and thoughts. But as I started studying the chapter, something jumped out at me. Paul isn’t talking about behaviors. He’s talking about the heart.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; (Colossians 3:12)
The peace of Christ is to rule in our hearts. The word of Christ should dwell within us. We’re to sing with thankfulness in our hearts.
Renewing of the Heart and Mind
In verse 10, Paul says our new self is being “renewed to a true knowledge”. Romans 12:2 calls us to “… be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Throughout Colossians, Paul refers to the “knowledge of God”. Because God revealed Himself to us through His word (and especially the gospel), we can know Him.
This is why the Bible is so important! Knowing God through His word renews our mind and increases His love for Him. As we behold His glory, we are transformed.
The Power to Change a Heart
Behaviors are easy enough to change. Good things aren’t that hard to do. I can form a new habit, give my money away, do my chores, work hard, even memorize Scripture – all by myself.
But to change my heart? To alter the very fiber of my being? That’s a lot harder. For me, that’s impossible.
But the gospel has never been about me. It was God who “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). It was Christ who “reconciled [us] in His fleshly body through death” (1:22). It’s His power that strengthens us (1:11).
And it’s He who is renewing us (3:10). It’s not that we don’t “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12) – if we didn’t, why would Paul tell us to put on this new kind of heart? But “it is God who is at work in you” (Philippians 2:13). We work – and He works in us. It’s a glorious paradox, that only through His power does our working have any effect.
He is working in us. So let us work to align our hearts more and more to His word.