Our Identity for 2019

Colossians 3:1-4



Every year we come to the end of the previous year and we begin a new year with an inner yearning to do some things differently than we did last year.  It is kind of like cleaning house.  There are some old things we want to get rid of and there are some new things we want to bring in.  Many ladies are wired this way when it comes to home décor.  They want some old curtains or bedspreads gotten rid of and they want to bring in a new and fresh look.  It is not necessarily that that the old décor was bad, but there is a desire for something new.  Honestly, I think that is the way it is for many of us in our lives and for a good reason, God has put that desire in us.

I suspect most of you are familiar with Colossians 3 where the Apostle Paul instructs believers to put to death certain things in their lives and to put on certain things in their lives.  Kind of like cleaning house.  Getting rid of the things that are bad and broken, then bringing in the things that are needed to make the household thrive.

Colossians 3:5-11 focuses on putting to death habits that are evil and bad, things that not only hinder our walk with Christ but even our testimony for Him.  Then Colossians 3:12-17 tells us some things that we need to put on that will help us to thrive in our life with Christ and be a good testimony for Him.  In other words, we strive to become more like Christ.

This is really what New Year’s resolutions are about, right?  When we determine to get rid of something we know is bad for us and strive to implement something that is good for us, and we desire to become a better person in some way.  Of course, the struggle comes in making these changes to be a lasting part of your life.  New Year’s resolutions are seldom kept for very long.  86% of New Year’s resolutions are kept for less than a year and only 8% of them achieve their goal (Forbes – January 2013).

Whether or not these statistics are true for you or me, one thing is clear, genuine change is more than just a New Year’s resolution.  I like the Colossians 3 passage because it doesn’t begin with verse 5 about the things we should put to death and it does not begin with verse 12 about the things we should put on, it begins with how change is even possible in the life of a believer.  We find in the first four verses of chapter 3 that it is about realizing our identity in Christ.  I believe it is vital when we begin a little house cleaning in our lives that we have clear in our minds who we are in Jesus Christ.

Colossians 3:1–4

[1] If then you 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 you also will appear with him in glory.

Our Identity (v. 1a, 3)

So, understanding our identity in verses 1-4 is key to the change described to us in verses 5-17.  The word “if” in verse 1 would be better translated “since.”  “Since you have been raised with Christ.”  Then put that together with verse 3: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  There is a union that takes place in the believer’s life.  At the moment of our faith in Christ, we enter into a spiritual union with Jesus Christ.  In that union, it is as if we died and rose again with Him.

Jesus, the Son of God, died for our sin.  He took the penalty of death and separation from God.  Though he knew no sin, He took on the penalty for sin.  Like an innocent lamb that was sacrificed for the sins of people on an altar in the Temple, Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God died for our sin upon the cross of Calvary.  But unlike any lamb that was ever sacrificed on any altar, Jesus rose from death in victory over that sin, over its power, and from its penalty.  By faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, it is as if we died and rose in victory.  That is our identity!

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This is why change is possible.  We have a new identity in Christ.  We are no longer under the curse and penalty of sin because Jesus paid it all and our life is hid in Him.  That alone changes what we pursue in life.  Isn’t that what the second part of verse 1 says?

Our Pursuit (v. 1b)

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

That word “seek” is huge.  A person whose identity is in Jesus Christ seeks heavenly things, things that are above, not earthly things.  Seek is translated from the Greek word ζητέω zeteo {dzay-teh'-o}which means to search diligently, investigate, question, examine, and pursue with the endeavor to obtain something.  In other words, we go after the things that are above.  We pursue living in such a way that it is like we are living with Him now.

That means our goals and desires are very different from the goals and desires of most people in this world.  Our goals may be to live more like Christ, to know Him more, and live in such a way that He is put on display in our life.  Our goals would be to put to death sin and to put on Jesus Christ.  Why would we want to do that?  Because that is who we are now.  We no longer desire to sin because we are crucified with Christ and have risen in victory over that sin.

Romans 6:1-8

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.  8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

As a believer, I should pursue a life of putting sin to death and putting on Christ that others may see Him.  That means I need to think differently.  I need to set my mind on different things now.

Our Mindset (v.2)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth

The word “minds” is from the Greek φρονέω phroneo {fron-eh'-o} which means to have understanding, to be wise, to have an opinion of one's self, or to direct one's mind to a thing.  Some translations even translate this word as “affections” (KJV).  But the idea is simply that we need to take charge and direct our focus on something.  Notice again, the mental focus is to be on things that are above, not on earthly things.  This doesn’t mean we don’t think about earthly things, but our primary focus is our life in Christ.  That is our mindset.

We think about our jobs, our activities for the day, maintaining relationships with others, etc., but our primary focus is our life in Christ.  That is why we recommend starting each day with time in His Word, meditation upon it, and prayer.  It helps us have the right mindset throughout the day. Then our work, our activities, and our relationships become about our life in Christ, not what we can get from it.

When our minds are set on something, it changes what we do.  If our minds are set on our identity in Christ and our pursuit of Him, it helps us to put to death the things verses 5-11 talk about and it helps us to put on Christ like verses 12-17 talk about.

When my wife is gone to visit the children in PA, to my shame, I tend to think more about her than when she is home 24/7.  When she is gone, I will send notes and cards to her.  Because my mind is set on her absence, I do things differently.  Our mindset, our focus, or our affections change what we do.

So we remember our identity, pursue living for Jesus, and set our minds on the eternal things of heaven.  Why?

Our Reward (v. 4)

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

I really like the idea this first phrase conveys in verse 4.  “When Christ who is your life” indicates that these changes taking place is all about me making Him my life.  That is what my life is all about.  Not that I do it perfectly, but when I understand my identity in Jesus, pursue Him, and set my mind on Him, then He is my life.  I may do all kinds of things on this earth, but ultimately is about the honor and praise of His name.

I Corinthians 10:31

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

But the reward of all this is that one day, when Christ returns, when He appears, then we will appear with Him in the glories of Heaven.  Think about this for a moment.  If He is not our life right now, then why on earth would we look forward to His coming?

You know, when we were young and we did something wrong, Mom would say, wait tell your Father gets home, you will have to answer to him for what you have done.  We do not look forward to our Father coming home.  But if we have done something good and we want to show it to Him, we look forward to seeing Him come home.

If you do not look forward to the day Christ appears, then maybe you need to recognize who you are in Christ, pursue Him, focus your mind on spiritual things, and set some goals for 2019.


Do you desire a deeper relationship with Jesus?  Do you want to put some sin to death in your life?  Do you yearn to have effectual prayer?  Do you crave to be a fruitful witness?  Maybe you just want to love Jesus more than you do today.  But whatever your longing, I believe that in order to have success in achieving that in your life you need to recognize who you are in Christ, your identity as being put to death and rising again in victory.  You need to pursue diligently a life of holiness.  Finally, you need to set your focus on the things of God.  As Christ becomes your life, you will have success in achieving the goals you have for 2019.  When your focus is on spiritual and heavenly things then you will find enablement in living a heavenly, holy, God-honoring life in this world.

I like how Yohan Perera said it.

We are to allow a heavenly perspective to govern our earthly walk!  Every decision, every activity, every plan and purpose is to be considered in the light of eternity.  Everything is to be laid out before the Lord and considered not from an earthly, sensual perspective, but from the viewpoint of Heaven.

As we begin 2019, I hope that you do set spiritual goals or resolutions for this year.  But I think I can safely say that success in achieving them relates to these 4 verses in Colossians.