Are you feeling imprisoned by old habits and practices that harm you, others, and your Christian testimony? Spend some time reading Colossians 3. The first 17 verses provide the principles for change. The rest of the chapter paints a picture of what change looks like for various people in various life contexts.
If you look closely, you can detect and distill 4 practices that will help you make the changes in life God wants you to make so that you can change not only your life, but the lives of those around you (as they see change in you). Do it for God’s glory and their good, as well as your own growth.
Practice 1: Focus your mind on good and godly things whenever your mind wanders into “dangerous” or “harmful” territory:
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." Colossians 3:1-2
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to seek God’s kingdom first and foremost and God will provide the rest. When faced with temptation, addictions, or destructive habits, we have to focus and fixate our minds on the things of God, not on the things that trip us up. Make Christ, not your habit, the most important thing in your life, in that moment, and always. Seek first His kingdom. Set your mind upon the good and godly. Focus and fixate on Him rather than the ungodly practices of your past. Then…
Practice 2: Detach and discard anyone and anything that hinders your relationship with Christ, that trips you up, or entices you to continue in your destructive habit, addiction, or behavior.
"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:5
The first of the 10 Commandments is, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” When habits dominate our thinking, they become little gods that hinder our relationship with Christ and others. You have to put to death, or kill off, all the desires and triggers that feed these habits, like pouring weed killer on weeds. You’ve got to uproot the weeds in your spiritual garden (your your mind and soul). Jesus talked about the same thing when He said if your right eye or right hand causes you to stumble cut it off and throw it away from you. You and I have to detach and discard old practices of our previous life, before Christ saved us. In Jesus’ day, the right hand or right eye were considered essential to daily living. His point is that it’s better to lose what we consider an essential body part than to give in to sin. Sometimes we believe that we cannot live without someone or something that causes us to stumble, but the truth is that Christ is sufficient (the point of all of Colossians). Therefore, put to death old thinking and old practices and…
Practice 3: Acquire new habits and practices.
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Colossians 3:12-16
Act! Put off old and harmful and sinful practices and replace them with new ones. Think of it this way. When you weed your garden, if you don’t plant something new in place of the weeds, new weeds return. It’s the same way with habits, addictions, and other hurtful practices. It’s not good enough to live a life of “don’ts.” You’ve got to add a list of positive “do’s.”
Notice the “put off” and “put on” language. You see the same idea in Ephesians 4 where we read, “Let the thief who steals steal no longer, but work with his hands that he would have something good to give to those who have need.” Change comes with actively forming new habits. Replacement behaviors must supplant the old destructive ones. They are strengthened and solidified through a change in thought process (setting your mind on the things above… seeking the things above) as we seek to eliminate harmful attitudes (putting to death what was earthly in us). So, we focus on the good and godly, detach and discard the ungodly, and then we work to acquire solid replacement habits, thought processes, and behaviors. You find a list in verses 12-16!
Practice 4: Check yourself, your motives, and your methods.
"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17
We can talk ourselves into doing foolish and even outrageous things. We tell ourselves, “just one more time…” As we seek to rationalize a wrong behavior, we often lose perspective. Verse 17 provides us a test. We have to ask ourselves, “can I take this drug in the name of the Lord Jesus?” “Can I lose patience in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him?” “Can I engage in water cooler gossip in the name of the Lord Jesus?” Check yourself; test yourself. Paul writing to the unruly church at Corinth told them in 1 Corinthians 10:31 to do whatever they do to the glory of God. If you can’t engage in a practice or habit to the glory of God, then you are likely doing the wrong thing. If it doesn’t bring glory to God in some way, it’s just plain wrong.
Turn over a new leaf now. Start over by making these four practices daily habits, daily acts of devotions, so that you can overcome bad practices and habits. It might seem difficult, but it won’t be impossible. God will provide. Just be faithful to really, truly try.
Posted on Thu, February 18, 2016
by Sam Petitfils