In my book Christ’s Empowering Presence: The Pursuit of God through the Ages I introduce the concept of a “Colossians 3 Kind of Life” and suggest that a moment-by-moment mentoring relationship with the risen Christ is they key to it. The following exerpt from the introduction to my book is the way I go about drawing the attention of my readers to what I want to suggest should be the goal of every sincere follower of Christ.   

A Colossians 3 Kind of Life

            “You know you want this!” During the latter portion of my three-decade-long career as a teaching pastor I found myself uttering this phrase at the conclusion of many of my most challenging sermons. Having done my best to help my hearers understand the life implications of this or that passage of Scripture, I would then encourage them to view what was often a strong, challenging biblical exhortation as an exciting invitation to begin living their lives in a more Christlike manner. “You know you want this. You know you were made for this. You know that that deep down inside you’d really like to be the kind of Christ-follower who’s capable of living your life in this God-pleasing manner!”

            Over the years I found that some biblical texts require this kind of sermonic “framing” more than others. Consider, for example, Colossians 3:5–17, a passage that contains an intimidating list of moral imperatives:

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. 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. 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. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

            Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

            Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

            At first glance this passage might appear to be nothing more than a formidable laundry list of onerous expectations that Paul was placing on the poor Colossian Christians in a more or less impatient fashion. But let’s take a closer look. Isn’t it true that this passage also indicates that it’s possible for sincere followers of Christ to begin living their lives in ways that, deep down inside, they’ve always dreamed of? To become the kind of people who . . .

  • are overcoming the power of sexual lust in their lives?
  • feel no need to be greedy and stingy toward others?
  • routinely speak the truth in love rather than engage in slippery speech?
  • are able to love others despite their idiosyncratic tendencies?
  • are perpetually experiencing the peace of Christ in their hearts?
  • consistently function as peacemakers, rather than troublemakers, within their circle of friends?
  • are genuinely positive people—always ready, whatever their circumstances, to offer sincere thanksgiving to God?

These are just some of the new lifestyle possibilities that Colossians 3 speaks to us about. I ask you: Who wouldn’t want this? Who wouldn’t want to believe that we might someday come to a place in our spiritual journey where it’s possible to actually pull off these moral and spiritual imperatives—or at least do a better job with them than we are now?

            As I said before, I believe I know the secret to our being able to live in this remarkably satisfying manner. You see, the Christlike kind of life described in Colossians 3:5–17 is prefaced by some important words of pastoral counsel in Colossians 3:1–4. This very important prelude reads this way:

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. 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.

While acknowledging that these words, so obviously rich in significance, are nevertheless a bit difficult to comprehend, it’s apparent from their context that Paul was endeavoring here to help his readers understand how they might forge something other than an ultimately frustrating manner of life earmarked by a seemingly insurmountable compulsion toward sensual indulgence (see Colossians 2:18–23). According to the apostle Paul, the Colossian Christians must learn to shift their focus from their own limited physical resources, training their attention instead on the person and power of the risen and ascended Jesus. This is the key to a more spiritually satisfying existence. Indeed, this is the key to our achieving the Christlike kind of life Paul goes on to delineate in Colossians 3:5–17. We must learn to experience a perpetual sense of the risen Christ’s empowering presence, to live our lives each and every day drawing on the rich resources of the one who, having overcome all things (see John 16:33), presently abides at the right hand of God the Father in heaven!

Following Dallas Willard, my primary mentor when it comes to the theme of Christian spirituality, I’m convinced that it really is possible for Christ’s followers to learn to live a Colossians 3 kind of life. At the very least, I believe that we should spend the rest of our days endeavoring to do so. 

Would it appear that I’m merely promoting my book were I to go on to reiterate my firm conviction that learning how to pursue the empowering presence of Christ is the key to a Colossians 3 kind of life? Too late; I just did so!

Something to think about.