Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 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.Colossians 3:1-17
Sanctification for the Christian is like peeling an onion one layer at a time. When a person first comes to Christ, they are thrilled and overjoyed with their new life in Christ. I have been forgiven! I am justified! I am considered righteous! Hallelujah.
All of that exuberance is justified and I personally encourage folks to revel in what God has done for them in Christ. Joy is abundant and it should be.
But, after a bit of time has past and a new believer begins to grow in their knowledge and experience of what Christ has done for them, they then begin to see what Christ is doing in them. They also start to become more aware of what remains in their heart that is unpleasing to God. We still act out and sin against our neighbor and against God. We begin to go to God and look for forgiveness and freedom from these parts of our old man that remain.
This process is like peeling an onion one layer at a time. Each layer represents a new area of our lives that God is working on next. We work with God to peel that layer off of our lives. When it is gone, we rejoice and bask again in the saving work of Christ. We look just a little more like Jesus in our behavior and in our hearts.
Then, inevitably, Jesus brings to our attention the next layer on the onion. Oh, brother, another layer to work off. And we begin afresh to put off the next layer of sin Jesus has revealed to us. I am so thankful that Jesus only shows us a little of ourselves at a time. I’m afraid that if we were to see just how much sin is in us all at once, we would give up in despair. But, with the help of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God, we can handle it one layer at a time.
I was just visiting with a brother this morning who is going through this experience of having the next layer shown to him. He is in pain and is rejoicing at the same time. In pain because of what he now sees in himself that is not pleasing to God or him. Celebrating because now that Jesus has shown him this next layer, he can repent and seek God for complete freedom in Jesus over this next nasty layer. In this case, a lot of external pressure is working like a kiln with a pot of silver. As the heat increases and the silver is liquified, the dross comes to the surface, and the silver worker can scrape off the dross leaving more pure silver in the pot.
God gives us many metaphors to describe his sanctifying process in our lives. He does want us to understand what he is doing that is good for us and glorifying to him. This painful good is part of what James talks about when he writes, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” These trials turn up the heat and expose the dross so the genuine pure silver can be revealed. It is the pain that reveals the joyful product of God’s working in us.
Look at the key verbs in our passage in Colossians: “Put to death…”, “rid yourselves…”, “you have taken off…”, “you have put on…”, “clothe yourselves…”, “put on love…” This is the work of peeling the onion. We surely can do nothing if we do not abide in Christ. Peeling the onion of our lives is not just a human effort, it absolutely requires the work of the Holy Spirit just as it absolutely requires our cooperation with the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Both God’s actions and our actions are essential to the process of sanctification.
So, lets put off and put to death sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry, anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips and do not lie to each other.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.Colossians 3:12-14
You can go from a stinky onion to a sweet-smelling savor to God. Put on and put off, remove the layers. Rejoice when the pressures come because God is working to make you more like Jesus.