Identify: Who Will You Be?

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)

Happy New Year! Okay, it’s not actually New Year’s, but it’s never too early or late to make a new beginning. It’s only really hard. But we can do hard things.

identify_350The obstacle is this: We’re still us, right? Aren’t we doomed to just keep repeating the pattern of our strengths and weaknesses until we die? In Colossians 3, Paul says, “nope.” At least, that’s what he says to Christians.

Believers have this superpower we don’t talk about much. Because of the Holy Spirit, we can say “no” to sin, “yes” to powerful new choices, and we can become wildly different people. In fact, we can exchange our identity for a brand new one. Starting right now.

How? Step one is found in verse one above: Make a new goal. Paul says to aim to live in the identity of Jesus Christ Himself. And that means setting your life in the direction of heaven. More tomorrow.

Think: Do you like making new beginning or do you dread them? Is making a goal of becoming like Jesus a goal worth setting? Is it worth it enough to make it your first and biggest goal?

Pray: Ask God to help you to set the whole direction of your life toward Jesus and heaven. And then ask him to overwhelm you with the desire to keep moving that way.

Do: If you’ve got a few minutes, let Paul’s description of Jesus true identity in Colossians 1:15-19 blow your mind.

Identify: Think Where You’re Headed

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)

What better time than now to dig deeper into your new ID as being “in Christ”? Paul describes is this way: You died to the old you when you became a Christian and then you were raised from the dead with Jesus into a brand new identity.

identify_350That sounds like a radical transformation, so shouldn’t it be more noticeable in your day-to-day? It can be. You can choose to be Jesus in your home, at your school, in your church. (We could use way more Jesuses in our churches.)

How? We stepped on square one yesterday: Make heaven your goal; set a heading beyond this life and into the next one. That’s what “set your hearts on things above” means. Next: Think about where you’re going. More clearly: Think about heaven and the stuff of God more than you think about the stuff of this short-term existence.

It’s work to think about stuff. You’ve got to do it on purpose or it will never happen. So what’s so great about heaven, anyway? What makes it better than this life? What are we missing now that we won’t miss there? And how will you be different when you’re done with sin and death once and for all? (Are you thinking about the “above things,” yet?)

Think: What’s your strategy to spend more time thinking about the things above? How could you use technology or relationships or your new school schedule to make that happen?

Pray: Ask God to help you to set your mind on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Do: Make a quick list of five things you know about your future and forever life in heaven.

Identify: Christ is Your Life

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:3-4)

If you forget for a second that you’ve ever heard these two verses before, they should sound a little spooky. You died? Your life is hidden? What’s all that about?

identify_350I don’t think we can understand it completely, but here’s the big idea: Christ is your life. He is your new identity. When you became a Christian, you basically said, “I want to accept the gift of trading Jesus’ sinless life for my sinful one, his death on the cross for the death I deserved. I want to take on his identity as my own.”

So when Christ returns, when he appears, your real life will show up, too. Your identity change from the old you to the Christ-like you will be complete. But the transformation has already begun, and we can join in making it happen.

Step one: Set your heart and mind on the above things. Step two tomorrow: Do violence to your sin.

Think: What are the implications of thinking of your real life as being hidden in heaven with Christ? What are the implications of making Christ your identity in this life on earth?

Pray: Thank God that your life is hidden with Christ and that you will appear with him in glory when he appears.

Do: Read Romans 6:1-14 to get ready to think about the next few verses in Colossians.

Identify: Kill Your Sin

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:5-6)

We’ve probably read these verses too many times to feel the shock of Paul’s words: “Execute your sin!” He puts out a hit on the output of our earthly nature and says we should be the assassins. The next step in taking on the identity of Jesus is doing in the product of our old selves.

identify_350He starts with the sexual sins, listing every form of sexuality we might express outside of a biblical marriage, from sins of the mind to taking part in any kind of a sexual act with someone other than a spouse. He doesn’t leave room for exceptions.

And he doesn’t leave room for negotiation with our sinful choices, either. We’re not called to show mercy, just to pull the trigger. Kill the sin and walk away. Obviously, that’s not always easy. Sin no longer controls us (because our faith in Jesus freed us from its power), but sometimes we still want to keep it around instead of finishing it off.

Don’t let it go. Get ruthless.

Think: Do you tend to take your sinful choices seriously enough? What is the most extreme you’ve gotten with yourself to say “no” to sin? What sacrifices are you willing to make to use God’s power to walk away from it?

Pray: Ask God to help you to put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.

Do: Write 2-3 sentences describing how greed is like idol worship, as the verse above states.

Identify: Throw Away Anger

“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.” (Colossians 3:7-8)

Sex sins and anger sins. Those are the two categories (so far) that Paul wants us to use our God-given power to kill in ourselves. In today’s verse, he says these sins define the old you, the “you” before Christ, the “you” without him.

identify_350Paul’s list of anger sins includes anger (anger you hold on to), rage (anger unleashed from self-control), malice (anger that wants to do damage), slander (anger that uses lies to hurt), and filthy language. That last one isn’t just saying the words on the naughty list, it’s about unleashing ugly words you’d never say when you weren’t spitting mad.

Anger itself is just an emotion – and not a sinful one. In Ephesians 4, Paul writes from God that we should be angry without sinning and learn to ditch our anger in a day. James helps, too: “. . . anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:20)

Can you throw it away?

Think: What makes it hard for us to let go of anger? What are we afraid of losing? How can we trust that fear to God?

Pray: Ask God to help you to rid yourself of anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Do: If you have trouble with anger, try memorizing Ephesians 4:26-27 and thinking about it – especially when you’re mad.

Identify: Don’t Lie

“Do not lie to each other, 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.” (Colossians 3:9-10)

Sex, anger, and now lying. Paul says deception is definitely an old-you way to live. It doesn’t go with any of the new character qualities you’ll be wearing as the “new you in Christ.” Lying will just look ugly on you.

identify_350Nobody likes to be lied to, but lots of people in our culture have a grudging respect for a good liar. You’ll hear that lying is an art, that it’s a skill, that it’s as natural as breathing. Whatever we call it, lying is something Jesus never did – and will never do. One of His names is “the Truth.” (See John 14:6.)

And God – right this second – is actively changing you to be like him. He is renewing this new version of you – in what you know – to make you more and more like the One who made you. You are in Christ, and that’s the most important thing about you.

Do you believe that?

Think: On a scale from 1 to 10, how easy is it for you to lie without even thinking about it? What strategies have you tried – or could you try – to make it harder for you to lie?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to lie. Thank him that he is renewing your new self in knowledge in the image of your Creator.

Do: Read the list of “7 Things God Hates” from Proverbs 6:16-19.

Identify: Ditch Your Labels

“Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11)

Band geek. Brainiac. Hispanic. Teacher’s pet. Jock. Preppy. Church kid. Dyslexic. Autistic. Poor. Princess. Black. White. Rich. Baptist. Evangelical. Good girl. Bad boy. Fat. Skinny. Popular. Nobody. Bus kid.

identify_350We’ve got a lot of ways of identifying ourselves and each other. Some labels we put on ourselves. Others get stuck on us – or we stick on other people. Paul wants Christians to ditch them. He listed a bunch of labels from his culture and said they don’t apply to those who are in Christ.

To be in him means to trade in all of our other identifiers. Other people may still throw them our way, but we refuse to catch them, to be labeled by any other name but his. He is the most important part of us.

Think: What labels are you stuck with that bother you? Which ones are you proud of? What will it cost you to stop identifying yourself by those labels and start identifying yourself first and above all by having Christ in you?

Pray: Thank God that your most important identity is being in Christ.

Do: Make a list of cultural labels that would describe you. Then cross them all out and write “in Christ” at the bottom of the list.