The Old Man: Dead or Dormant

Epaphras, the faithful servant of God in Colossae, senses that he needs some help with the problems that he is facing in his church. Two thousand years later, pastors haven’t lost that overwhelming sensation. Today, we deal with Critical Race Theory, Gender issues, homosexual agendas and a host of other issues.

Pastor Epaphras dealt with an early form of gnosticism, Jewish mysticism, asceticism, and just plain paganism. This attempted synthesis was creating havoc and he needed Paul’s wisdom. Though it’s just a simple 4-chapter letter, Paul’s letter to Colossians provides some much-needed advice for 21st century believers.

In chapter 3, Paul uses the word “mortify” or put to death. If we are not careful, we can be satisfied with seasons of “dormancy” rather than “death.” So, today, ponder those two words concerning that old nature: Has it been put to death, or is it just laying dormant?

An Overview of Colossians

As Paul, who is sitting in a prison, hears about the situation in Colossae from Epaphras, he begins to draft his response under the direction of the Holy Spirit. From what we can tell in the book of Acts, Paul wasn’t personally responsible for planting this church. One theory is that Epaphras was discipled by Paul during his extended stay in Ephesus and then he went back to plant this church.

As Paul considers the effects of legalism and ascetisicm, of paganism and mysticism, and of the spiritualism (the worshipping of angels), he writes a concise, yet powerful word. We could visualize Colossians as such:

1Christ is the only Preeminent One
2Christ has conquered everything and is their only true foundation
3Since believers are “in Christ,” they should manifest the Resurrected Life
4Practical Principles and Faithful Laborers
High-End View of the Book of Colossians

If you be risen with Christ…

In Colossians 3, Paul gives three practical imperatives to set these bewildered believers in the right direction:

Seek the Above-Things

This deals with your eyes (your attitude, ambitions, worldview). Set your heart in a direction, and the thoughts will follow. This is about FOCUS – your Passion, your Purpose. It deals with what we speak about the most…Is that sports…politics…relationships…money…self?

Set your Affections on the Above-Things

This deals with your mind. This is about THOUGHTS. It doesn’t mean that we withdraw from the world (ascetic), but it does mean that we are to view the world in light of and against the backdrop of eternity. Earthly things are not evil, per se – but they can occupy a place of priority that they should not.

Execute Whatever Gets in the Way

It’s time for your PRACTICE to match your POSITION. It is to be DEAD, not DORMANT. Have you ever noticed that there are words that we have watered down its original meaning? For example, we speak of an excruciating headache. We hear people say, “I was mortified…” We should consider what those words actually mean!

God doesn’t ask us to IMPROVE or DISCIPLINE or EDUCATE our flesh…He commands us to MORTIFY it… Paul provides some indicators to see whether the Flesh is dead or not (v5). He includes fornication, uncleanness, lust, concupiscence, and covetous. Later, he adds anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communications, and lying. When these indicators are present, we are not living the resurrected life.


As we consider our personal walk with Christ, and our responsibility to both the old man and the new man, we’ll have a sense of how we are doing based on how we answer these questions:

  1. Do we focus on heavenly (the “above”) things or on earthly things?
  2. Do we think about heavenly things? (Our thoughts are the result of what our eyes behold…what’s influencing us?)
  3. Do we seek to mortify the flesh, or are we content to enjoy seasons of dormancy?
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