Key To Transformed Living | Colossians 2:20-3:4

November 20, 2012

Book: Colossians


Key to Transformed Living

Imagine a miner trapped in a deep underground, dark mine for a long time. He had strict rules and limitations on what he could do to survive in such harsh conditions.

Then, a rescue team worked tirelessly to bring him to the surface. When they finally succeeded, he emerged from the darkness into the open air, bathed in sunlight, and surrounded by the vast expanse of the world above ground. He was free from all the constraints of the underground world at that moment.

Similarly, people placing their faith in Jesus are just like that miner. They are now free from the old life’s restrictions and limitations. It is just like that miner free from the dark underground.  This freedom comes from what Jesus achieved through His death and resurrection, a victory that brings believers into a new and transformed life, just like the miner could now enjoy the open world above ground.

Paul writes in his letter to Colossians that the believers in Jesus Christ are now free from the Elemental spiritual forces and old life’s rules or regulations. Christ’s supremacy underpins this powerful truth. The profound victory through His death and resurrection leads to this liberation. It is in this victory that believers in Jesus can find the wellspring of transformative power, enabling them to embrace and experience the fullness of the resurrected life.

Let’s open our Bibles to Colossians 2:20-3:4, delving into the profound message of liberation and discovering the roadmap to a genuinely transformed life.

Colossians 2:20

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules

Colossians 3:1

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

In summary, transformation hinges on undergoing a spiritual death and resurrection alongside Christ.

We share in Christ’s death after believing and baptism. 

Colossians 2:12

having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Water baptism signifies that you died with Christ and rose to a new life as Jesus rose from the dead by the power of God.

Jesus said in

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

By Christian doctrine, our faith centers on the belief that Jesus is the Lord in human flesh. He willingly bore the weight of our sins upon the cross. The moment we embrace Jesus as our Lord, we experience salvation. Public declaration of water baptism is the faith’s next step. Baptism serves as a symbolic representation of our identification with Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection.

Result of our Faith in Jesus

  • We have redemption and forgiveness of sins; 1:14, 2:13-14.

Colossians 1:22

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation

  • Reconciliation with God takes place.
  • We are made holy. Without blemish, and free from accusation.
  • We have victory over evil spirits; 1:13, 16; 2:8, 10, 15.

Just as Christ stripped and conquered the evil powers at the cross, when we put our faith in Christ, we have the power to live victoriously in this world of temptation and doubt.

You have now victory over the elemental spiritual forces of this world. This is the world of both religious power and demonic powers (1:13, 16; 2:8, 10, 15).

How were these Spiritual Powers Operating Within the Community of Colossae?

These spiritual powers are actively influencing the followers of the deceptive philosophy and human traditions promoted by false teachers within the church.  We are one with Christ’s death. So, Paul says that the believers are now free from the spiritual forces’ sway.

How Did the Church at Colossae Get into Bondage to the World? 

Colossians 2:20-23

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.

By submitting to its Rules   

In the Colossian context, the Jewish Christians were forcing the Jewish laws on the gentile Christians. They said, “We have good rules and regulations for how to live an ordered, wise, virtuous moral life.” Of course that was very attractive in the ancient world where it was a pretty rough place to be, bad things happened and you could not normally stop them from happening. Justice was only available to those who could pay for it.

The Jewish way of life had a clear code of morality and a clear structure system in the worship of the one God, rather than all these many gods and goddesses all over the place. This was very attractive. So the Jewish believers in the church said, “Here are some disciplines which you can go through which will make you a holy person, “Follow the sabbath, circumcise your males, and follow the food laws.” Paul says, “No it is not going to work. I understand your desire for holiness, but not by fulfilling and submitting to religious rules.

Paul is appealing for moral behavior based on a life lived in obedience to Christ rather than on obeying rules.

Paul aligns with Jesus in his teachings in Mark 7 & Matthew 15.

Matthew 15:11

What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.

Jesus explains that whatever food you eat goes in one end and out of the stomach. Now with that Jesus makes all foods clean, that is revolutionary. People have died in the Jewish world because they refused to each pork.

1 Corinthians 10:25-26

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

Therefore these regulations belong to the old covenant and we are now people of the new creation.

Colossians 2:23

Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Paul lists three characteristics of the regulations that are based on this worldly wisdom, namely:

  • Self-imposed worship; 2:23
  • Humility; 2:23, 18
  • Severe treatment of the body; 2:23

Self-imposed worship is asceticism – Severe self-discipline and avoiding all forms of indulgence for religious reasons. In essence, “self-imposed worship” in Colossians 2:23 warns against relying on human traditions and ascetic practices as a means of achieving righteousness or spiritual growth. Instead, the emphasis should be on Christ and the freedom found in Him rather than on self-imposed rules and rituals.

No, Do It Yourselves Religion

Self-mutilation of the body was and continues to be common among those seeking inner knowledge and power of the spirit world. Both Jewish and pagan mystics fasted in preparation for receiving a heavenly vision. Paul’s concern was that we should honor the body as the Holy Spirit’s dwelling place (1 Cor. 6:19). Self-abuse of one’s body has no value.

Paul’s Counsel

Paul says “no” they may promote an appearance of wisdom since they promote a ‘do it yourself kind of religion.’ A kind of humility, “Oh yes I am not eating all that stuff right now and I gave severe treatment in the body.” So it may give you a good feeling, but he says they are of no use when it comes to dealing with physical self-indulgence.

You can do all those things as much as you like, but actually, the real sins are deep down inside a person which comes out in various forms. There are sins deep inside and we need to deal with them.

Paul says I am now going to tell you a very different way you can get to the true holiness which God’s word and God’s truth is all about. But you don’t do it by obeying regulations like that, you do it by having died with the Messiah, then coming alive in him and leaving that old world behind. That is the transition that takes us into Colossians 3.

None of these rules, says Paul, had any value in checking self-indulgence.

  •  Fleshly sins in 3:5 – 11 and 5: 9 -21 need more than self-discipline and rules to overcome.
  • Only through the forgiveness of sin and union with Christ will the fruit of God’s Spirit become visible (Gal. 5:22-26).
  • Genuine holiness does not come by focusing on the perishable but on the imperishable, which are Christ and His kingdom

We, in 2023 however, do not have any direct Jewish or Greco-Roman influence.

How do these Spiritual Powers work in the World Today?

Colossians 3:5-9

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. 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

Elemental powers in Colossians 2: 20 – 23 and Earthly nature in Colossians 3: 5 – 9 are the spiritual struggles of today’s believers.

  •  Moral Struggle _ Pleasure Seeking

Pursuing pleasure and instant gratification without regard for moral boundaries can lead to bondage and moral compromise.

  • Deceptive Worldly Wisdom

In today’s context, this might include secular philosophies or ideologies that challenge or undermine Christian beliefs. Believers may be tempted to conform to worldly standards rather than adhering to biblical principles. Secular Worldview Adopting a secular worldview that excludes or minimizes faith and spirituality can distance individuals from God and spiritual truth. Ex: Materialism, idolizing success, approval seeking.

  • Asceticism and Legalism

Some individuals within the Christian community may still fall into the trap of asceticism and legalism. They may believe that extreme self-discipline or adherence to rigid rules and regulations can earn them favor with God. This legalistic mindset can hinder believers from experiencing the freedom and grace found in Christ.

  • Syncretism: Cultural Conformity

The blending of the Christian faith with elements of other religions or spiritual practices can be a manifestation of contemporary elemental spiritual forces. Believers may be tempted to syncretize their faith with practices that contradict biblical teachings, leading to confusion and a diluted faith.

It’s important to note that while these manifestations of spiritual powers may exist, the overarching message of Colossians is that believers should focus on the supremacy of Christ, their identification with His death and resurrection, and the transformation that comes through Him. By relying on Christ’s power and grace, believers can overcome these challenges and live a life that reflects His character and truth.

So Paul, having argued that the Christian life is not a matter of living under rules and regulations, now presents what it ought to be.

The Key to Transformed Living

Colossians 3:1-4

1 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 life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

  • You have died.
  • Your life is hidden with Christ in God.
  • You have been raised with Christ.
  • Set your heart on the things above.
  • Set your mind on the things above.
  • We will appear with him in glory.

Paul stresses the importance of the resurrection as the basis of Christ’s victory over death and over the power of the evil spirits.

“Since you have been raised with Christ”

  • It was the resurrection and the power of the risen Christ, mediated through the fullness of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
  • It was the resurrection power that transformed a discouraged and fearful band of disciples into people of great courage and power over nature and evil spirits.
  • Peter’s early sermons recorded in Acts are testimonies to the power of the risen Christ.
  • Paul’s encounter with the same risen Christ on the Damascus Road completely transformed his life.
  • Paul’s new passion was to know Christ and the power of his resurrection (Phil. 3:10).

Resurrection is something that all the early Christians learned to celebrate. They drew this from two scriptures: Psalm 110:1 & Daniel 7:13-14

Psalm 110:1

The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

Daniel 7:13-14

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

This idea of the ascension is essential for understanding what it meant to be an early Christian, let alone a Christian in our day.

Now here is a problem because for many people today, the idea of Jesus being in heaven or ascending to be with God means He is not around anymore. He has left us by ourselves. Okay, you could come back and say well he has given us the true spirit but the idea of Jesus being absent is precisely not what the ascension is all about.


This has come into our Christian faith because of the philosophy of Epicurus (341-270 BC) [Epicurus taught that although the gods exist, they have no involvement in human affairs. He taught that people should act ethically not because the gods punish or reward them for their actions but because, due to the power of guilt, amoral behavior would inevitably lead to remorse weighing on their consciences and as a result, they would be prevented from attaining ataraxia.][1]

Epicureanism had the idea that is a heaven long way away, it does not intersect with us in any way and therefore if there are Gods up there we are detached from God.

The Jewish scripture talks against that completely and says from Genesis onwards heaven and earth are made for one another. The point about heaven is that it is the CEO’s office. Heaven is where the world is run from and when Jesus ascends to the right hand of God, the right hand is the symbol of power and it means as Jesus says at the end of Matthew, “All authority on heaven and earth has now been given to me.” All authority on heaven and earth.[2]

Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth.

How does the Authority of Jesus Work out on the Earth?

Again and again, it works out through, the church being the church, bearing witness to him not least in its own life of love and in its service to the world, especially to the utmost needy people. This is what it looks like when God’s kingdom is coming because Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above: In other words, try to look at this world from the point of view of heaven. It does not mean being so heavenly-minded that you don’t have to be of any earthly use. Rather we are to share the rule of the Messiah over the world, but this does not mean a bullying or domineering rule. That is not the key to transforming living.

Matthew 20:25-28

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. (We in the Kingdom of God do it differently) Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

That is the one whose throne we now share.

Colossians 3:3

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

This sense of the real identity that we have is secretly already there with the Messiah in God. That is hugely important both for the present and for the future. Our life is presently hidden with Christ in God and when we face death, we are hidden with the Messiah in God.

Colossians 3:4

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

When the king is revealed and he is your life remember. In other words, when God makes a whole new creation. Finally, when he completes what was begun in Jesus’ resurrection and reveals Jesus as the center or ruler of it all, you too will be revealed with him in glory.

Extraordinary Promise

That is the extraordinary promise that we have. It is not just we have our hearts in heaven now and one day we will go there forever. If we have our hearts in heaven, our minds in heaven we are more used on the earth and not less than when the Messiah is revealed at his 2nd coming that currently true identity will be revealed in glory.

At present our lives are hidden with the Messiah in God, only he knows how long you spent in prayer this morning, only he knows the agonies you have gone through as you battled with particular sufferings and temptations and depressions. Only he knows what it meant to you to live out his life, to follow him day by day.

So we must hold on to this eschatological hope as in Chapter 1:5, 23, 27.

Eschatological Hope

We will be part of it because we are in the spirit in the present and the spirit who is blissfully eternally part of the mystery of the Triune God, that spirit who dwells in us will not forget us, will not leave us. When we pass from this mortal life we will be held with Christ in God in the power of the spirit against the day when we will be raised again.

The crucial thing about chapters 3:1-4 is to get the priorities right, the mental priorities. Don’t look upward at a distant heaven and think maybe I will go there one day. Reckon that you are already there with the Messiah and you must see the world from that point of view, not to give yourself as those that say well I am above all that sort of thing, no because heaven and earth have been joined in the Messiah and if you are one of the Messiah’s people, you are one of the places where heaven and earth therefore intersect.


Colossians 2:20-3:4 reveals the transformative power of identifying with Christ’s death and resurrection. As believers, we are free from worldly rules and must focus on heavenly perspectives. Our true identity is hidden with Christ in God, and we eagerly await His glorious return. This truth reshapes our priorities and empowers us to live as Christ’s ambassadors on Earth, embodying His love and humility.


Embrace your Identity in Christ

Recognize that your life is now in Him, and let this shape your self-worth and purpose.

Prioritize Heavenly Perspectives

Shift your focus from worldly concerns to eternal values and Christ’s lordship over your life.- Key to Transformed living

Live as Kingdom Ambassador

Serve others with humility, follow Christ’s example, and share the Gospel through your actions. – Key to Transformed Living

Await Christ’s Return with Hope 

Keep maintaining for His Glorious Return. Know that He reveals your true identity fully- The key to Transformed Living

[1] ‘Epicurus’, in Wikipedia, 18 August 2023,

[2] ‘Paul and His Letter to the Colossians’, Udemy, accessed 28 July 2023,

For more Related Sermons:

Characteristics of a Transformed Life| Acts 9

A Call for Watchful Prayer | Colossians 4: 2 – 4

The Proof And Hope of Resurrection | 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 26

Knowing Christ | Christmas Sermon | Philippians 3: 7 – 11