In preparation for the Olympic Games, every competitor commits to four years of training which they hope will culminate as they stand on the victor's podium and receive the gold medal.
Of all the races, the most taxing is probably the marathon: run near the end of the games, the runners ooze concentration and dedication from every pore. They set their hearts and minds on one thing: to finish the race. They shed pounds, unnecessary clothing or anything else that might slow them down.
The Christian life is often portrayed - especially by Paul - as a race (see 1 Corinthians 9:24; Galatians 2:2) but it is not a sprint, more a marathon. In the same way as marathon runners shed every excess pound of flesh and every hindrance to performance, so are we to do the same. We are to take off anything that slows us down and set our hearts and minds on Jesus and on the finish line
To think about ….
- How does setting your heart on something affect you?
- How do you feel when you suddenly realise that there is something missing?
I can give a prescription that will bring revival to any church, or community, or any city. First: Let a few Christians get thoroughly right with God. If this is not done, the rest will come to nothing. Second: Let them bind themselves together to pray for revival until God opens the windows of heaven and comes down. Third: Let them put themselves at the disposal of God for His use as He sees fit in winning others to Christ. That is all. (R A Torrey).
Stage 1: Looking ahead to the goal (verses 1 to 4)
- Please read Colossians 3 verses 1 to 17. What is our status as believers?
- How would you describe this status to someone who has never heard the gospel?
- What does this mean for us, practically, in terms of our goal(s) for Christian discipleship and Christian witness? (verses 1 - 2)
- How might verses 3 & 4 encourage and help us to understand what it means to look to Jesus rather than look to ourselves?
Every story of conversion is the story of defeat and a glorious victory such that our old life goes but a new life has to come for the change to be real and effective. Our passage today reminds us not only of the old order we have left, but the new attitudes and actions we are called to adopt as Christ has become real to us. Here, then, is a practical example for us of everyday Christian living.
Stage 2: Leaving restrictions behind (verses 5 to 8)
- Please reread verses 5 to 8. What do the things we are to “put to death” have in common (see verse 5)? Where do you see these things happening today?
- How can we keep God's perspective on immorality and greed when our culture accepts them as the norm?
- What are the consequences of that kind of attitude we see in verses 5 & 8? How are we to avoid them?
- What impact do the things mentioned in verse 8 have on personal relationships?
When we tell ourselves "I can never change," or "That will never happen," we presume too much and believe too little. In Jesus Christ God renders all of our final conclusions premature and all of our talk of determinism as simply bad faith. In Christ, God opens closed doors, brings resurrection, reveals possibilities, reclaims the lost, liberates the cursed and possessed, and changes the unchangeable.
Stage 3: Learning a new way of life (verses 9 to 11)
- Please reread verses 9 to 11. Our old ways of reacting are compared to a garment we took off at conversion (verses 8 to 10). Why is this behaviour inconsistent with new life in Christ?
- Although we may still struggle with these (or other sins), what resources for change do we now have (verses 9 to 11)?
- Why is determination and trying harder not effective?
- A barbarian (verse 11) was someone who did not speak Greek and was therefore seen as uncivilised. How does this openness in God's mercy help us to share the gospel with others and how should it order our attitude and thoughts towards those with whom we find it hard to accept or get along with?
Next steps …
Paul has shown us that our emotions, mind and will must be changed in order for us to live Christ like lives. Pray for help in the areas where you feel weak and spend time thanking God for the changes he has already made in you.