The Supremacy Demonstrated: By your Identity in Christ (Col. 3:1-4)
Just as I was about to leave my house in NY with my parents to go to some important get-together of some sort (I forget where exactly), my mom stopped me outside my room. I was in high school at the time and it was one of those functions you really did not want to go to as a teenager, but were forced to because “I said so.”
She looked straight at my shirt, furrowed her eyebrows and gave the Indian mom look which you never want to get. “You are wearing this tonight? You have nothing else?” (Indian accent). I looked at down at my shirt. This was my favorite shirt (a red plaid shirt—c’mon, I grew up in the ‘90s). It was my all purpose shirt. I wore it when I was out with my friends. I wore it mowing the lawn and sometimes I wore it to church.
What a bully I thought! (Just kidding, I did not think that). Ok, looking back now, she had a point. It was kind of raggedy. It had a few small holes in it and I am sure if I tugged on certain strands that were loose, I could really transform it into a t-shirt in no time!
My mom always did this. This time I was going to let her know what I thought about her standards for my life and I wanted her to really evaluate her motives and…so you know what I did? I went back into my room and changed into a nice button down dress shirt. Moms always win!
I think there are two reasons for why my mother said that to me that day. First of all, I think it had to do with my identity. By God’s grace, I was not a homeless person and did not come from a slum with only one article in my wardrobe, so why dress like a bum? That was not who I was. Secondly, it had to do with my representation. I was representing my parents. Suppose I went to this get together and people would walk by and see my “holy” shirt and perhaps they might wonder, “Whose parents are this kid? Don’t they have money to buy their kid a decent shirt? What a shame.”
Identity and Representation. These two words explain Colossians 3 and 4. Colossians 3:1-4 will deal with our identity in Christ and the remaining verses will deal with representing Christ. Chapter 1 was the Supremacy Declared. Jesus Christ is totally Supreme! Chapter 2 was the Supremacy Defended…don’t mess with the message of Jesus Christ. We are complete in Christ and Jesus Christ is totally Sufficient! Now it does not enough that you declare it or defend it, but you have to demonstrate it. Not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Last week we looked at the bullies who take us away from experiencing fullness in Christ. They are all caught up with themselves and don’t have it. They don’t get the Christian faith and he wants to make sure the true believers get it. We must get it as well! Paul first lays the foundation. You will not know how to walk if you don’t know who you are.
A few years ago, President Bush’s daughters were in the news for drinking. Now young people drinking is not a new thing, but why were his daughters highlighted? It is because of who they were. How you walk depends on where you sit, who you are. Do you know who you are?
Before we tackle that, let me share seven wrong identity foundations that followers of Jesus Christ often make. Jot these down:
1. My identity is in my career.
2. My identity is in my culture.
3. My identity is in my countenance.
4. My identity is in my college education.
5. My identity is in my circle of friends.
6. My identity is in my circumstances of the past.
7. My identity is in my children.
This is not who you are. Let me read these verses again to you and tell me what is repeated five times in four verses. Do you see? Here is the first thing:
Five times in four verses Paul says or refers to Jesus Christ:
a) “with Christ” (v.1a)
b) “where Christ” (v.1c)
c) “with Christ” (v.3)
d) “when Christ” (v.4a)
e) “with Him” (v.4b)
Do you get it? You’re identity is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s unpack each of these.
a) We are raised with Christ (Col. 3:1)
Paul begins with “if you have been raised with Christ.” A better translation here is “since” or “because” you have been raised with Christ. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel raised. Do you wake up in the morning feeling very “raised with Christ”?
Remember that feeling raised and the reality of it are two different things. Notice a few observations:
1) It is an accomplished fact…”you have been raised.” When you became a believer, God mystically raised you from the dead. It didn’t come through legalism, mysticism or asceticism. Religion is man’s way to get to God…to do. Christianity is God reaching down to man and it is not “do,” but “done.” Through Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, we have been separated from the old life of this world, and we now belong to a new heavenly life. It means you are new.
2) It means new perspective. Paul says we are to look ”where Christ is, seated.” Christ today is in Heaven seated. Seated meaning job done, accomplished. Christ is not pacing about, biting his nails, wringing his sweaty hands, no He is seated. Not worrying that Bin Laden is still out there or North Korea has nukes or the next blasphemous movie or book like the DaVinci Code is out. He is seated, in complete control, settled and secure. When Christ rules the world, He rules with His feet up. We are raised with Him so we have a different perspective. Sometimes you may feel the problems of this life, the trials that come along are over our head and we feel like we are about to sink. But remember that although they are above our head, it is still under His feet. We have been raised with Christ with a new perspective.
3) It means new power…”seated at the right hand of God.” The image of the “right hand”=power Mark 14:62, where it says, “Son of Man is sitting on the right hand of power.” No longer defeated by the power of sin. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is given to us so when sin rears its ugly head and the flesh wants to have its way, just like we connect a power cord to an appliance, we connect ourselves to our living Head and access His power over sin.
4) It means we have never-ending prayer of the Lord. The Bible teaches that Christ lives today ever interceding for us (Rom. 8:34). He is praying for us to have the strength to live the raised life with new perspective and new power.
b) We have died with Christ (Col. 3:3a).
Paul says not only are you alive, but you are dead at the same time. You are a “dead man walking.” Dead to the old way of thinking, dead to old values, dead to old behavior, dead to old actions and dead to old reactions.
IIus: Warren Wiersbe tells the story “…about two sisters who enjoyed attending dances and wild parties. Then they were converted and found new life in Christ. They received an invitation to a party and sent their RSVP in these words: “We regret that we cannot attend because we recently died.” 
George Mueller (1805-1898), British Christian evangelist and caretaker of over 10,000 orphans in his lifetime, was once asked what was the secret of his ministry. He replied that there came a day when George Mueller died, died to his wants, died to his desires and died to his wishes.
Let me ask you a question: “Are we alive to the things we should be dead to?” or I can rephrase it, “are we dead to the things we should be alive to?”
Here are some things that need to die:
1. People’s opinions. A little praise lifts my spirit and a little criticism destroys me for a week.
2. Possessions. Should I go and buy this or that when I don’t have the money for it? It is not wrong to have things, but things should now have you.
3. Pleasure. Should I go and do this to make myself feel good for the moment?
5. Past sin. Everything the accuser of the brethren digs up, is gone, covered by the blood of the Lamb.
6. Personal time. Am I willing to sacrifice my personal time because some needs my encouragement or prayer, my wife needs to talk to me or my child wants to play with me?
The reason why we have a tough time dying to those things is because we think we deserve something. It is self and pride rearing its ugly head. The only thing we deserve is a ticket straight to the fires of hell. I am really glad God does not give us what we really deserve!
My former pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel said whenever sin rears its ugly head, he says out audibly, “I’m dead to that.” Then he replaces that thought with a prayer of offering to God. Perhaps you are in a group and someone says something hurtful about someone at church. Your first thought might be, “I totally agree. I have a story that supports your thought.” Now instead of going ahead and sharing that, you say to yourself, “I’m dead to that! Lord, this is someone you shed your blood for and the object of your affection.” Instead, you say something edifying instead. Turn every temptation into conversation with God and die to those things!
c) We are secure in Christ (Col. 3:3b)
Later in verse 3, Paul says that our lives are “hidden with Christ in God.” The word “hidden” suggests “secrecy or safety.” Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). We are safe in His hands. The Bible says, “Our times are in his hand” (Ps. 31:15), that we are “engraved on the palm of his hand” (Is. 49:16). Notice you are doubly covered: “with Christ in God.” No burglar, not even Satan himself can separate you from His love (Rom. 8:31-39).
Illus: The later preacher Vance Havner had his wife pass away. Many would come to him and say, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Everywhere he went, he would hear those same words. In thinking of those words, he said this: “Nothing is lost if you know where it is!”
Illus: At a marriage ceremony, I once saw the couple perform a salt covenant. The groom came forward with a long cylindrical tube of white salt. The bride came forward with her own cylindrical tube of white salt. They then poured it into one another cylindrical tube. I thought it was beautiful. Two became one. Try to separate whose salt is whose. You can’t! It’s inseparable. This is what Paul is saying here, your life is all tangled up in Christ with God. Inseparable! Secure!
d) Our life is Christ (Col. 3:4a)
In verse 4, Paul says Christ is “our life.” Someone has said, “Life is what you are alive to.” Children come alive when you bring them their favorite toy or when you give them cookies or ice cream. Some say “Oh, music is his life or sports is his life or he lives for his work.” What makes you come alive?
Illus: Sometimes I am amazed at what makes people come alive. At church they act like they are at a funeral, you know, the “frozen chosen,” but take them to a ball game or a concert, all of a sudden it’s like they are totally different people.
I remember going to a baseball game at Wrigley Field once with some friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to a game, but I remember at one point someone hit a home run. All of a sudden, everyone gets up and cheers and people started shouting, high fiving each other, screaming, hugging and crying. People’s whole being is moved. I thought to myself, “If I close my eyes, this is just like a Pentecostal worship service.” People came alive at the field why? All because someone took a stick and hit a ball over a wall. Yeah! My life has meaning now!! Woo hoo!
I am not saying it is wrong to celebrate at a baseball game. What I am saying is that we are created for worship. Whatever we worship, we also serve. It saddens me when I can come alive at a baseball game, but act so dead to the One who holds my life together, sustaining my every breath, who has lifted my head when my head was bowed low, who befriended me as one who sticks closer than a brother, one who has made my cup overflow with more blessings than I can imagine, who gives me peace that passes all understanding and joy inexpressible, who gave me a spring in my step and a sparkle in my eye, who gave me a reason for living, who is preparing a place for me in Heaven, and the one who lived and died to give me a place in Heaven. I am often dead to Him. I offer him lip-service instead of love. I make time to do everything than speak to Him.
Our life is Christ. Paul said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). He got it right.
If we took out the words, “Christ” and “gain” from that verse and left it blank, for many their lives would be like this:
1. For me to live is money and to die is to leave it all behind.
2. For me to live is fame and to die is to be quickly forgotten.
3. For me to live is power or influence and to die is to lose both.
4. For me to live is possessions and to die is depart with nothing in my hands.
What will it be for you? Beloved, our life must be Christ. It is sad if we lived for the wrong thing! Is what you are living for, worth what Christ has died for? Jesus Christ is the guide, the path and the destination. He is everything. Would you pray today, “Lord, cut the strings that attach me to this world and set me free, make me alive to worship you with everything we have.”
e) We will be glorified with Christ (Col. 3:4b)
In the latter part of verse 4, Paul writes, “…you also will appear with him in glory.” This is our hope. One day, in a twinkling of an eye, the trump shall resound, the Lord shall descend, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll and our faith shall be sight. We shall see Him “as He is” (1 John 3:2). No more sin, self and sadness, death, decay and dandruff. Some people often say, “I hope Jesus doesn’t come back yet. I want to get married.” Are you kidding me? This place is a dump, man. This place is so broken. I was just a one year memorial service for a brother of mine, 22 years old, killed in a car accident one year ago. His older brother kept saying, “This world is so broken.” Perhaps you don’t want to go to Heaven, because you think it is one long worship service and someone like me is preaching to you. But think of it this way:
Imagine the most beautiful thing your eyes have beheld, the most aromatic perfume or flowers your nose has smelled, or the most delicious food your taste buds have savored or the most delicate of fabric your hands have held and the most joy and exhilaration you have felt in anything and multiply that exponentially to the nth degree…that is Heaven! “Come Lord Jesus!!” If you are Heavenborn, you will be Heavenbound!
II. Our responsibility is to make the priorities of Jesus Christ as our own (Col. 3:1-2)
We have been looking at several statements, facts about who we are in Jesus Christ. But with these tremendous truths, we have a tremendous responsibility. We don’t want information right? We want transformation. We don’t want just head knowledge, we need heart and hand knowledge. So Paul gives us two commands, really one command said two times in different terms.
“Seek the things that are above,” he says in verse 1. In verse 2, he says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.” Both the words “Seek” and “Set” are present tense verbs, meaning continually, making your lifestyle all about Heaven’s priorities. Put all your energy toward this. What does it mean to “seek the things that are above”?
He is not saying, “Imagine yourself strolling down the golden streets and polishing the jewels from the gates. Cool!” He’s not saying go to a corner, sit down, stretch out your hands and say “hum” as you think about your belly button, until you get to nirvana (actually this is what Buddhists do) in some kind spaced out spirituality. Actually, that’s a form of asceticism, which was already condemned by Paul (Col. 2:20-23).
No, he’s saying put skin and shoe leather to Heaven’s priorities, to what Jesus Christ is all about. Let your continually, habitual attention with Heaven, govern your responses on the earth. On earth, we are preoccupied with how much money we have, how our house looks, how our clothes look like or if we are keeping up with the society around us.
But to make the priorities of Jesus Christ as our own would mean:
1. I wake up not thinking, what do I have to do today? But who can I minister to today?
2. I am not spending time in prayer in God’s Word, but investing time in it because I can only hear God’s voice if I am speaking to Him.
3. I am constantly thinking of the lost and finding ways on how to reach them.
4. I am giving myself to ministry because that is the stuff that is going to last.
5. I do not neglect my family for the sake of career, but seek to nurture them.
6. I realize I am just a steward, not the owner of everything I have.
7. I realize that self-sufficiency is a deadly enemy against my relationship with Christ.
What preoccupies your thinking? Are you governed by what the world or by what God thinks of you? Where are your priorities today? Where do you find your identity? Would the Lord come up to you and stop you and looking at your lifestyle say? Is that you are wearing? Is this who you are?
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible Exposition Commentary. “An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire ‘BE’ series”–Jkt. (Col 3:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.