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Colossians 3:12 Deep Dive // Chosen, Holy, and Dearly Loved
"In no way is this verse us earning anything— rather because of what God has done, because of who he is, because of how he has called us and loved us and made us holy, we are able to be empowered and motivated and freed to do the very things that this verse is asking us to do." — Natalie Abbott

Do you ever wonder how God sees you? If you’ve trusted in Jesus, the beginning words of our verse this month are balm for our souls: chosen, holy, and dearly loved. Join Natalie Abbott, co-founder of Dwell Differently, as she walks us through the context of this verse and the vital place we need to start before we try to tackle living out the virtues listed in Colossians 3:12. There is  freedom awaiting us when we rely on God as we seek to live as he’s called us to!

AUGUST DWELL VERSE

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” — Colossians 3:12

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Welcome back to the Dwell Differently podcast. I'm your host, Natalie Abbott, and it's our teaching episode. Guys, I am so excited to be here with you right now and to talk through and really meditate on what our verse this month means. (READ MORE)

It's an awesome verse. It's also a little tricky because I think sometimes we have a tendency to want to do what this verse is telling us to say without recognizing why and how we do those things. So without further ado, let's go ahead and talk about this verse. It's from Colossians 3:12. It says this, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."

Such a good verse. This is a verse that Paul wrote to his people, and it's an encouraging verse. It's a verse that's telling us, “Hey, this is how you can and should live.” But before we kind of start to pull apart our specific verse, I want you to see where it falls in the book of Colossians.

Now, this is a book that is written to the church, to God's people. It's written by Paul and it comes in this beautiful context. Essentially, most of this book actually is telling us these things are true of you. It's telling the church and us as believers, these things are true of you. And in light of these things — that Christ has redeemed you, that Christ loves you, that you are God's chosen people, all of that, you shouldn't live this way, but you should live this way.

So it is a very practical book about Christian living, but it is very rooted in deep theology, good truth, the gospel [00:02:00] message that God loves us and that God wants us to live in a way that is thriving, that pleases him, and that reflects who he is, and he's the one who has empowered us to do that.

So we're gonna look at Colossians 1:1-17 I'm just gonna read that whole section to you and then we're gonna talk about how that is actually kind of a microcosm of the book of Colossians. And then our verse is even a smaller microcosm of that message. So it's really, really cool how our verse kind of is situated in a place where it is sort of a microcosm of a bigger thing, which is also a microcosm of another even bigger thing. So if Paul's intent with Colossians is to tell the church, "Live like this because of this." Then this section in Colossians does that as well. And our verse specifically is like the tiniest, you know, cell— the smallest living organism of that message.

I love how this verse kind of fits in like a Matryoshka doll, those little stacking cups or stacking dolls that our kids play with sometimes. Let's go ahead and read Colossians chapter 3, verses one through 17, so you can really hear where our verse is situated.

"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[a] 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.[b] 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.

Okay guys, that is such a great passage, and do you see what I'm talking about here? That because of who God has called his people to be. Because of our position with Christ and in Christ.

Therefore, we should put to death all of these earthly things that are [00:06:00] part of who we once used to be when we walked in those ways, we should put all those things to death. And also, therefore, as God's chosen people holy and dearly loved, we should clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, which is our verse, and then it goes on to say, forgive one another if you have any grievances, put on love. Let the peace of Christ rule in your bodies dwell together as members of one body. All of these beautiful, wonderful things that we should do, but all of what we shouldn't do, all the things that we should put to death and all of the things which we should put on.

Are not just in a vacuum. These truths that we are learning and we are talking about are foundationally held together and made right because of Christ. So if we look at those first four verses,

"Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above. And then set your minds on things above, not unearthly things for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ."

So because you are raised with Christ, because you are now seated with Christ at the right hand of the Father, and because all of these things are true of who you are as a believer, then you should. This, this, this, this. Right? And you should also, not this, this, this, this. So our tendency, I think, and our temptation as humans is to look at a verse like this and feel the heavy weight of it.

I'll never forget, I remember watching the movie, Saving Private Ryan, and for those of you who are unfamiliar, it is a beautiful, epic movie about a soldier who is rescued. He is rescued out of World War II and all of these other soldiers go on this mission to find him and save him. [00:08:00] And what happens at the end, the final soldier that gets him and rescues him and saves him, he looks at private Ryan and he says to him, "Earn this. Earn this."

And I think sometimes when we read a verse like this, we can, in our minds, look at the sacrifice that God has made on our behalf and think, "Because of that sacrifice, now I must earn this." Right? Now I must do all of these good things. I must give up all of my sins. I must clothe myself with compassion and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience as a way of earning what God has done for me.

But just the opposite is true. This is not the message. This is not the good news that we find in this context. Praise God. Instead, we find as we'll look at the microcosm of our specific verse, that it is God who has done everything for us and God who equips and motivates and frees us to do the very things that he's calling us to do in this verse. To look like him, to love others with kindness and compassion and gentleness.

I wanna go now into the microcosm part of our verse and look specifically at how there is good news in it that we are not called to earn this, we are not pulled down by the weight of our failure to earn it or brought to some kind of a self exaltation that we can do it. Right? In no way is this verse us earning anything, rather because of what God has done, because of who he is, because of how he has called us and loved us and made us holy, we are able to be empowered and motivated and freed to do the very things that this verse is [00:10:00] asking us to do. So I hope that as we look at this specific part, that it would really help you feel a freedom and a sense of knowledge of, as you're memorizing this verse. That it wouldn't feel like a weight to you or a burden or a duty, but it would actually feel like freedom and be a joy and a rightly motivated intention. That you could seek to put on these beautiful, wonderful virtues, these virtues that we would all love to say are true about our lives. 

So that's my main message here for you. If you don't take anything else away from this podcast, know that you putting on these beautiful virtues should be motivated not by duty, and it should not be a chore, but a freedom and a motivation because of who God has called us to be. An empowerment through him, not by our own earning or achieving or even, because of how we fail, always, to do these things perfectly. 

So let's look at the three things that Paul tells us in the first part of our verse that really are beautiful news to us. Our verse says, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved." So there are three things that God says about his followers, his believers. He says that we are chosen- we are his chosen people. We are holy, and we are dearly loved. How do these things motivate us, equip us, and free us from this performance mentality?

First off, we are God's. We belong to him. He has chosen us. He has decided to invite us into a relationship with him, and that is beautiful– that the God of the universe looks at you and looks at [00:12:00] me and says, "I want that." Now we know from other passages in Scripture that he doesn't look at us because of our performance or perfection, but rather even while we were still sinners, Christ, died for us. When we were steeped in sin, when we were thumbing our noses at God. God says, “I want that. I am going to redeem that. I am gonna make that new. I am gonna make it beautiful again. I am gonna put it into its original intent.” And that's how God sees you and chooses you and loves you. That is his message to you in his book, and that is the message in the book of Colossians.

And that is the message in our verse. “Therefore, as God's chosen people.” That God has chosen a people for himself and he says, “I love you.” Now because he says that when we're steeped in sin, we have this holiness problem, right? Because God is perfectly holy. Holy just being a word that means completely other and always right and righteous and good.

Okay? So if God is holy without any moral blemish at all, at least I know when I see my own self, I'm like, “Yeah, no, I am not that.” So God has made us holy. And how he has done that is through the sacrifice of his son Jesus on our behalf. Jesus, who lived the perfectly holy life that we could not live. He was fully compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient. He put on love above and around all of those things, and in every way, he fulfilled what this verse is calling us to do because the reality is God knows that we are not able to do that. So instead, when we have faith in Christ, God looks at us and he doesn't see our [00:14:00] imperfections, but he sees Christ's holiness on our behalf, which is beautiful, amazing news for us, is it not? 

Finally, the third thing that God says about his followers is that we are dearly loved. I don't know if you need to hear that today. But I need to hear that today. We are dearly loved. You are dearly loved. You are close to the heart of the Father who created you, who wants you even in your sin, and has made every possible crazy radical sacrifice to bring you back to himself.

That is the beautiful theological foundation for the rest of our verse. If we are not believing those things, if we are not fully saturated in God's abundant kindness towards us in Christ, if we are not relying on the holiness of Jesus, if we are not standing in the love of the Father for us, then this verse is a heavy burden of performance.

It is the way that we earn our salvation. It is the way that we get to the place where we need to be before God. And there are two directions that we can go with that when we are walking in that, and I would say this is definitely a snare for us as human beings all the time.

So if you don't think that this is you, I guarantee this is you because this is me and this is everybody. We tend to want to do these things, to earn these things, and we either become prideful because we do it really well or we do it better than so and so. Literally just the other day, I remember thinking that my husband is so unkind because this, this, this, and I was [00:16:00] walking away from him pridefully thinking to myself, “I am more kind than he is,” How is that not ironic?!

This is one side of that coin. The flip side is to walk in self condemnation like, “I will never be good enough. I will never be able to do these things.” And they are a heavy burden to us. There is no freedom for us in that there is only guilt. But if we look at these three things that this verse says about who we are, the foundation of who God says we are, we have this freedom that we don't earn it.

We can't perfect it. It was already perfected for us. And not only that, but not only are we not conceded about how we perform, but we are also not self condemning. So there is the freedom, there is the motivation for us that God has done this for us. There is the equipping that God has given us that we are able to do these things by the power of the Holy Spirit, that he has made us holy, even when we are not holy.

He says, “That is my child.” So, I would hope that as you memorize this verse this month, there would be freedom for you in it. And when you have a tendency to want to earn this or do it, or pull up your bootstraps and be more kind, know that that is a crushing message. And that instead of that, God has given us freedom in Christ to live this way, to put on these things, not as a burden, but as a joy.

I'm gonna go quickly through each of these words that we are called to live out. There are five virtues, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. So I think the one thing that I can [00:18:00] say about each of these things is that they are all others-centered. They're not about us. They're not about us getting accolades or being the best. It's about others. This is a completely others-focused way of living. 

When we are compassionate, we are looking at others and we are saying, “I feel that and I want to help.” When we are kind, we aren't kind because of anything that we have done, but we are kind because of what Christ has done for us. And so when we see someone who is longing for that, it is our longing too, to give that to them. We are humble because the God of the universe humbled himself to the point of being a servant and even dying on our behalf. We are gentle because Christ has been gentle with us, not punishing us like our sins deserved. And finally, we are patient. We can hold out patience, even for the people who drive us crazy and make us impatient. This is such a counter-cultural lifestyle and it is not easy. 

I definitely think that some of them will be harder for us than others. Some of them we feel more naturally inclined towards and others are just difficult for us, but I would encourage you just to take this practical advice as you are thinking through these things. One, be motivated, be equipped and be freed by the fact that God has called you his own, that he has made you holy, and that he loves you dearly. So that's my first word of practical advice.

Be motivated to do these things out of how God has treated you in Christ.

Okay. And secondly, I wanna encourage [00:20:00] you that you can incorporate these virtues in your own life that you can put these virtues on in a very practical way as you're memorizing this. First, I hope that you would start to kind of think about each of these five virtues and how Christ has been patient with you and how that can motivate, equip and free you to be patient with others or how Christ has been gentle with you, and how that can motivate, equip and free you to be patient even when people are harsh with you.

Whatever it is, would you, as you're memorizing this verse start, to really pick apart your own behaviors and your tendencies, to not put on these things and ask the Lord to reveal that to you and to show you ways that you practically can start to be more like him in these ways.

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Natalie Abbott

Natalie Abbott is the co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Dwell Differently. She lives in Missouri with her husband and 5 kids.

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