25 Sep Quarter Three Lesson Ten
Overcoming Through Crucifixion
This lesson focuses on the heart of overcoming. In our last lesson, we learned the importance of searching the Scriptures for Christ because as we fix our eyes on Jesus and learn more of Him, we are transformed into His image and begin to overcome the world, our own flesh and the temptations of the devil. Today’s lesson will continue in this theme and expand upon it. Let’s begin.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4 (ESV)
Question 1. We are told in Colossians 3:1-4 to “seek the things that are above…” but first we are given the motive. What is the motive according to the above passage?
“If you have been raised with Christ” means if we have been raised from the deadness of our sins to live a new life in Jesus Christ. It means that we have put our faith in Jesus, received Him as Lord and Savior, and are now alive from the dead (see Ephesians 2:1-8).
So, if we are united with Christ in this way, we are to seek the things that are above specifically “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
Question 2. According to Colossians 3:2, what is supposed to be the mindset of the Christian?
The Christian is to set his mind on things above, not on things that are on earth. We are to be spiritual people, meditating much and often on Jesus, heaven and the “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 11) that have gone before us. We are to focus on Christ and set our heart and mind on Him.
In Psalm 27, David expressed this mindset when he wrote:“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4 (ESV)
So far in our study of Colossians 3, we’ve seen the motive and the mindset of believers, now let’s notice three reasons why we are to set our affections and our minds on Christ:
For you have died (verse 3). That is, when Jesus died on the cross you died to this world with all its allurements. Every Christian is crucified to this world and the world is crucified to him (see Galatians 6:14). And if we are dead to this world, and have renounced it as our happiness, it is absurd for us to set our affections on it and seek it. As Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live…” (Galatians 2:20).
Your true life is hidden with Christ (verse 3). Ever since you put faith in Jesus you have been finding life in Him, and this is because your life is hid in Him. You are one with Him. He is in you and you are in Him. This is why He said, “Because I live, you will also live” (John 14:19).
At the second coming of Jesus Christ your happiness will be perfect. “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
These are powerful reasons for us believers to keep on seeking Christ, keep on setting our hearts and minds on heavenly things: we died in Christ, we have been raised in Christ and our life is hid in Christ, and when He returns we will live with Him in glory forever.
The gospel is at the heart of it all: Jesus died for our sins and we died to this world and to our flesh in Him. Then He rose from the dead on the third day, and we rose in Him to a new life. Our life is hid with Him now and when He returns we will be with Him in glory forever. This is tremendously good news to be received by simple faith.
But this good news is not passive or merely informational. The gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful and calls us to action. Paul is now going to tell us something to do in light of the gospel:
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” Colossians 3:5-6 (ESV)
Question 3. What are we to do with the lusts of our flesh?
There is one great hindrance from seeking Christ, to setting our hearts and minds on things above; that is sins of the flesh. And here Paul tells us to crucify the lusts of the flesh. We are to nail those things to the cross with Jesus, see them dying in Him, and bury them in His tomb. The way to overcome is by killing that which would kill us.
Question 4. Please list the specific things that believers are to put to death.
I remember reading one time about a farmer who was driving his truck into town and on the way he ran over a ground hog. He then did an interesting thing. The farmer stopped his truck, put it in reverse and backed up over the ground hog. Apparently the ground hog had dug holes in the farmer’s fields and one of his horses had stepped into one of the holes and become injured. To protect his horses, the farmer wanted to ensure that the ground hog was really dead.
In a real sense, this is what we are to do with lusts of the flesh. We are to kill them as one would kill weeds in his garden, or mice in his basement, or an enemy who fights against us and wounds us. We are to put them to death.
Friend, this is not teaching that you will get from the world, the philosopher, or the religious man. None of those will have you to be so extreme in your manner of dealing with lusts of the flesh, but God does. God knows that if we do not put to death our lusts, they will destroy us. Our lusts cannot be managed; they must be crucified.
So the believer is to fill up his heart and mind with the good news of Jesus death, and then he is to set about putting to death his own lusts. This is a lifetime effort because, like the game “whack-a-mole”, just when we think we’ve clobbered our lusts they pop back up. And so we must crucify them again, and again.
But it is not just the lusts of our flesh we are to crucify but also our love of the world. By that we are not referring to enjoying where we live, or having fun in life, we’re referring to that love that takes the place of Christ, that dulls our affection for him. This is the “evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
Question 5. Why do you think we are to take such a militant stand against the lusts of the flesh and our love of the world?
It is certainly not to gain favor with God or win His approval that we are to crucify our passions. No, Jesus already won God’s approval for us when He lived perfectly, died substitutionally and rose bodily. His success means God is well-pleased with us who believe in Jesus. So we should never think that we are “more righteous” or “more loved” or “more accepted” because we are crucifying our lusts. Nor should we think we are “less righteous” or “less loved” or “less accepted” when we fall and stumble and lose a battle against our lusts.
According to Colossians 3, we are put to death our passions because they prevent us from seeing Jesus, and enjoying our new life with Him. They keep us from seeking things above and focus us instead on earthly things. They keep us from experiencing the joy that we could have in Jesus.
Question 6. What things do you need to put to death right now, so that you can set your heart and mind on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God?
Question 7. Are you ready to begin crucifying your lusts and your love of this world? Why or why not? Please explain:
God tells us to look at the cross of Jesus and then follow suit. In other words, God loaded Jesus up with our sins and then crucified Him. Likewise we are to “take up our cross and follow Jesus” (Matthew 16:24); that is, to crucify the lusts of our flesh and our love of the world.
But there is always a real wrestling match between us and the forces of evil and darkness (see Ephesians 6:12) on this very issue. God tells us to crucify our passions, Satan encourages us to indulge them. This is the way things really are in the life of a believer. We are to go on putting to death our wrong desires and passions, and it is always a wrestling match to do so.
To illustrate this point, we want to share with you an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce (pages 98-103). This has benefited us, and we hope and pray that it will you as well.
I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. “Shut up, I tell you!” he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.
“Off so soon?” said a voice.
The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.
“Yes, I’m off,” said the Ghost. “Thanks for all your hospitality. But it’s no good, you see. I told this little chap,” (here he indicated the lizard), “that he’d have to be quiet if he came – which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realize that. But he won’t stop. I shall just have to go home.
“Would you like me to make him quiet?” said the flaming Spirit – an angel, as I now understood.
“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.
“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.
“Oh – ah – look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,” said the Ghost retreating.
“Don’t you want him killed?” said the Angel.
“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with something so drastic as that.”
“It’s the only way,” said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the lizard. “Shall I kill it?”
“Well, that’s a further question. I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point, isn’t it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it…” said the Ghost.
“May I kill it?” asked the Angel.
“Well, there’s time to discuss that later” said the Ghost.
“There is no time. May I kill it?”
Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please – really – don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it will be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”
“May I kill it?”
“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.” said the Ghost.
“The gradual process is of no use at all.”
“Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well today. It would be silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.”
“There is no other day. All days are present now.”
“Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.”
“It is not so.”
“Why, you’re hurting me now.”
“I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you”…
The Angel’s hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying.
“Be careful,” it said. “He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me forever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d only be a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren’t they better than nothing? And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams – all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent…”
“Have I your permission?” asked the Angel to the Ghost.
“I know it will kill me.”
“It won’t. But supposing it did?” asked the Angel
“You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.”
“Then I may?”
“…Go on can’t you! Get it over. Do what you like,” bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, “God help me. God help me.”
Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken backed on the turf.
What follows this account is that the Red Lizard turned into a flying horse, the ghost became human, and together they flew up into the realm of eternal glory. If you are intrigued, you might want to read the whole book.
Question 8. How does the above story illustrate the teaching of Colossians 3 in this lesson?
The wrestling match in your own heart can go on and on for years, decades even. And just when we think we’ve put to death our “little red lizard” it comes back to life with a vengeance. This is why we are told to “go on putting to death” the lusts of our flesh.
Question 9. What, if anything, are you needing to do differently as a result of the study of this lesson today?
Question 10. Write out any prayer requests that you have today. Or if you prefer, write out your prayer to God here: