Heavenly Multiple Personality Disorder
by Michael Green
February 10, 2016
Colossians 3:1-17 (ESV): 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. 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
If you are in Christ, you have been given a heavenly "Multiple Personality Disorder". There is the old man (or woman) that is in you. That’s the you that you were born with. Then, there is the new man that you have been given in one sense, and are being made into in another. As believers, we are called to resist the old man. We are commanded to put him to death. You see, when we came to Christ, that old self was crucified with Christ and we were given the very Spirit of God who enables us to conquer sin. But, that doesn’t mean that the old man is dead. He is still alive; but the death sentence has been passed and the heavenly executioner is just waiting for the appropriate time. When we are resurrected to be with Christ for all eternity, then the old man will finally be dead and gone.
But, in the meantime, what should we do to progress toward that end? John Owen was a 17th century theologian that wrote a great deal on the topic. His advice is that we starve him; and it’s completely biblical. When the old man rears his ugly head, you don’t give him a single morsel to munch on, not one crumb. Nothing. The Bible advises the regenerate person to flee from sin. Starve the old man to death. In the past, killing the old man was referred to as the mortification of the flesh. I like the sound of that phrase. (In my mind it should only be spoken with a heavy British accent.) Below is a quote from John Owen that captures this concept with a biblical level of seriousness.
“Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you."
― John Owen, The Mortification of Sin
Now, what about the positive side of your heavenly Multiple Personality Disorder? What do you do with the new man? You feed him! You give him anything he wants! All the DON’Ts above are followed by plenty of DOs. To just hit the broad strokes, they include, but aren’t limited to, loving one another in biblical community; worshiping the LORD; growing in knowledge of the Word of God; and walking in obedience. Those activities feed the new man. And, certainly, the goal is to bring him to life more and more. The old phrase associated with that one is vivification of the new man. Now, I really like the sound of that.