Text: Colossians 1:1-14

We continue our series called “Shaped by the gospel”. This week we are looking at a gospel shaped heart. How do we know our heart is shaped by gospel? What does it look like? How do we know the Holy Spirit is active in our hearts?

In our passage in Col 3, we observe phrases like put to death (v.5), put away (v.8), put off (v.9) and put on (v.9, 12, 14), seek things above (v.1), set your mind above (v.2). These phrases point to the language of repentance and faith.  

Repentance and faith is the combustion engine of heart transformation. These dynamics are active in a heart shaped by the gospel and a lack of these dynamics reveals a cold and stagnant heart.  

In Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel”. When Jesus says repent and believe, it means keep repenting and keep believing the gospel. It is a consistent pattern of our Christian walk. We never stop needing to repent and believe the gospel.

First, lets look at the contrast between moralistic view of repentance and a gospel-centered view of repentance

Moralistic view of repentance:

1. Repent only if we do something really bad
When asked if there is anything to repent? We usually say, no, I am fine. I have not done anything really bad.  We minimize our sin saying I was just a little upset with my friend, I just lied a bit to my boss, I was just a bit rude to auto driver but he was crazy.  I’ll be ok. These things happen. A moralistic or a religious view of repentance is that you repent only when you do something really bad.

2. Repentance is something we try to avoid
It is viewed as something like going to you boss’s office or a student going to the principal’s office when they get caught with something. Moralistic view of repentance is that we repent only when caught and we try to avoid it as much as possible.

3. Repentance is a duty
Repentance is viewed as something that robs our joy, it makes us sad and it’s a horrible feeling. Moralistic view assumed that we are supposed to be repenting less, as we grow mature in Christ.

4. Repentance is selfish and self-centered
The motivation to repent is to make us feel better or to make God happy. It is fear based as a moralistic view assumes God will not bless me or answer my prayers if I don’t repent. So the moralistic motivation is selfish or fear based.

This is how the world generally looks at repentance and this is how we commonly look at repentance. We wonder why we have repented so many times but don’t see change in our lives. The reason is we don’t engage in a repentance that is biblical, gospel based and life transforming. We engage in a false and moralistic repentance.

Gospel shaped/centered repentance:

1. Repentance is a lifestyle
We never cease to repent. Martin Luther comments on Mark 1:15, "Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance". When we grow in our awareness of God’s holiness and our sin, it leads to repentance. We don’t sin more but leads to greater, deeper and more genuine repentance. It’s a lifestyle.

2. Repentance leads to spiritual progress
Spiritual maturity is not repenting less. In fact, a lack of repentance shows a lack of growth/ and transformation.  The evidence for the gospel working in our hearts is how deeply we repent and what we repent of. It is true repentance that moves us toward real transformation.

3. Repentance leads to greater joy
When we truly repent, we enter into joy of the Lord. It is no longer a duty but leads us to enjoy and love God more.

4. Repentance leads to a greater appreciation for Jesus
Jesus goes to Simon’s house in Luke 7. A woman of ill repute kisses Jesus’ feet. And Jesus looks at Simon and shares a parable two men who owed a moneylender. One owed 500 denarii and the other 50 denarii. One denarius is roughly equivalent to one day’s wage. When they could not pay, he cancelled both their debt. Jesus asked Simon, who loves the moneylender more? Simon replies, the one who had the larger debt cancelled. Jesus uses this to show that the woman loves Jesus more, simply because she realizes her debt and repents deeply. True repentance leads to a greater and deeper appreciation for who Jesus is.

Isaiah 30:15 says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it”. We see the dynamic of repentance and faith in this verse that leads us to our ongoing sanctification.

We will look at two questions from Colossians 3: What do we repent of? And what do we believe?

A. What do we repent of?

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Paul commands use to repent us off the root of our sin, our heart idols. Heart idols are like weeds. When we pull out the weeds, they keep coming back again unless we deal with the root of the issue. In the same manner, our behavioral sins keep emerging unless we put to death the root issue.

Paul uses strong language to deal with our flesh, which is our sinful nature, attitudes and our old man. He is addressing the church and the redeemed. This shows that even though we are redeemed, deep roots of sin and wickedness is still present in our hearts. In v. 7 Paul says this former manner of life is still active even in the hearts of the redeemed. We have to battle it, fight it and put to death. The question is how? By dealing with the root or the heart idol.

In v.5 we see a progression, which goes deeper. Paul starts with sexual immorality, which is behavioral and moves deeper to impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness and ends with the root of the issue which is idolatry.

The word for idolatry is epithumia, which means over desire, great or strong desire. These are not just evil desires but even good desires that rule our hearts and become strong or great desires. Good things when becomes ultimate things in our lives, they become idols. It becomes an object of worship.

Idols can be all kids of good things: career, family, children, achievement, success, wealth, status, power, influence, approval of people, relationships, financial security, fame, physical attractiveness, social status etc. All these are not inherently bad, but when it becomes the ultimate focus of our lives, it becomes an idol that rules us. We will do anything for it, we get mad when it is hindered or when we don’t get it. We worship this.

In our minds we say Jesus is who we worship or maybe we don’t worship anything, but truly in our hearts, something else rules.

How can this be an idol? How do you know if you have made something good into an idol?

First recognize that we are all created to all worship. And we either worship the true God or we worship someone or something else.

Second realize that every sin is primarily breaking the 1st commandment.  You cannot break any of the commands in scripture without breaking the first and fundamental command, which is “you shall have no other gods before me”.

Why do we lie? In our hearts, we want to look good before others. That’s most important at that moment.
Why do we criticize or gossip? We want to feel superior to others and we put them down.
Why do we manipulate? We want to win and influence outcomes.
Why are we harsh and rude? We want to control others.
Behind every observable sin – lie, gossip, manipulation, rudeness, anger, there is a heart idol.  

Everyone has idols in the heart. What’s yours? Transformation begins with identifying our idols. If we say we have no idols, we are basically just blind to it.

Let’s look at a few examples and notice why certain people behave in certain ways.

Recently Café Coffee Day CEO committed suicide. He was a successful entrepreneur and a good person according to his friends. Why? One reason is, he could not face the shame of filing for bankruptcy.  He had money, power and connections. But respect of people was most important to him. And when that was attacked and ruined, he decided to end his life. Not everyone who files for bankruptcy commits suicide. But for this person, this was most important and he could not live without this respect.

What about Honor killings? Why some families decide to kill even their own children because they marry someone outside their caste or religion. Not everyone does this. But for some, this is most important. It rules their heart.

Some live for the opinion of others, opinion of parents, some live for success and they will do anything to appear smart, cool and successful. The list can go on.

Two ways to know how you can identify your heart idol:

a. Follow your emotion
Ask yourself, what makes you angry, bitter, afraid and anxious. Behind all these intense emotions, there is a heart idol that is being threatened, delayed, hindered, or someone gets in the way, or not going as you planned.

b. Follow your motivation
a. What do I fear or worry most?
b. Why do I work or study so hard?
c. What am I always preoccupied with? Fantasize about?
d. What prayer if it goes unanswered, you feel you’ll lose your faith?
e. What will make you most happy?

Answer to all these questions will point to an idol in your heart. God calls us to ruthlessly deal with our idols, not just behavior.
1 John 5:21 says, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

B. What do we believe?

Col 3:1 If then u have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then u also will appear with him in glory.

Repentance is one side of the coin and the other side is faith. Both go together. Repentance alone does not transform us. It can lead us to despair if we don’t complete the cycle by putting our faith in what Jesus has done.

What do you believe? You believe the gospel, what Jesus has done for you!
v.1says You have been raised with Christ. Where was Christ raised? To the right hand of God and is seated next to him in a place of honor. And that’s where you have been raised as well, with Christ. How is this possible? Why do I get such honor that I don’t deserve?

It is because Jesus lived perfect life, obeyed the laws of God perfectly. But instead of honor he was condemned, tortured and killed. He died for me. He took my sin and shame upon himself, willingly.

He died so I can live. He was condemned so I can be set free. He was abandoned so I can be brought into his family. He was broken so I can be made whole. This is what Jesus did for you! Why? So u can be raised to a place of honor and be seated with him.

Paul says, set your mind on this. Set your heart on this. Seek this. Let it sink in, invade and captivate your heart and mind. Let this be your identity.
In v.3, it says you are hidden in Christ. How can you face trials, suffering, ridicule, suffering, insult, failure without losing self esteem or self respect, without losing your approval and acceptance? You can face them with grace and poise if you are hidden in Christ. He covers us from all these attacks to our very identify. You understand deeply that you are lavishly loved, fully accepted and approved by the one who really counts. Then nothing bothers you. You
are never shaken.

True repentance leads to faith in Jesus. Apart from him, we have no hope.
True faith in Jesus leads us to repent.
And both lead us to true worship. What Jesus did melts your heart. You want to trust him more. You want to repent deeply. You want to be hidden in Christ.

Gospel shaped heart genuinely repents and greatly delights in the gospel.
Gospel shaped heart takes repentance seriously because Jesus took sin seriously.  
Gospel shaped heart is honest about sin and in awe of his grace
Gospel shaped heart is filed with godly sorrow about sin but also explodes with gratitude and joy for Jesus.

Ranjit David

Ranjit has been in Pastoral Ministry for the last 10 years in various settings. Coming from an Engineering background, he is passionate about working with young professionals in Delhi, using their gifts, teaching from God’s word, and having an open home. His training from Dallas Theological Seminary and Redeemer City to City has equipped him to serve strategically in an urban context.

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