How People Change: New Identity



Last week, we explored Paul’s foundational theological concept of Union with Christ. When someone becomes a Christian, he or she is “in Christ,” a phrase that Paul overwhelmingly employs to describe the Christian life. I suggested on Sunday that Union with Christ means at least two things: first, that you are in Christ. Your identity is now bound up in Jesus who is at the right hand of the Father, and everything that is his is now yours. You have a core to your identity that is unaffected by any circumstance or success or failure because your self is now bound up in someone external to you. You are in Christ. Second, it means that Christ is in you. The Father has filled your life with the person of Jesus through the presence of the Spirit. Jesus Christ actually indwells believers so that we have a new power to live in a way that was not possible for us before. Christ is in you.

This week we’ll get into the nitty gritty of what this means for personal change. Personal change for the Christian means beginning not with an end in mind of who you want to become but with the truth of who you already are. “Be who you are” could be Paul’s mantra of personal change. You are new, therefore live like you’re new. You’re free from sin, therefore live like you’re free from sin. You’re a child of the Father, therefore live like you’re a child of the Father. 

Becoming more and more of who you already are, like all things, takes great discipline and practice. That’s why Colossians chapter 3 is full of very practical exhortations like “Set your minds” (v.2), “Put to death” (v.5), “clothe yourselves” (v.12), “Be thankful” (v.15), etc. Paul begins this chapter telling the Colossians who they are (v.1), but the majority of the chapter he spends instructing them how to become what they are. 

In preparation for Sunday, read through chapter 3 and underline all the exhortations that Paul gives to help us become who we already are. 

Our weekly worship guide can be found here.


Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[bYou used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 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 yourselveswith 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.