Read Colossians 3:1-11
When I was a child, it seemed like every kid that went to summer camp came back different. It was a rite of passage.
It wasn’t until college that I got away for an extended amount of time with other kids my age, but I always envied the other kids who went. Summer camp seemed to do something to kids, to enliven them with a special glow that only the shared camp experience could imbue.
For just one week or one month or whatever short amount of time in the summer or fall, camp is this journey away from what is normal and gets kids into this space where there are new rules, new friendships, and new things to see and learn. You no longer have your mom and dad telling you what to do, there are different expectations, and to some degree, the world is your oyster.
I can’t help but see the connection between the freedom and excitement that both camp and Christianity provide. It’s a trip away from what was into a new experience that is life-changing. But with camp, suddenly it’s all over. You come back. You descend from the mountaintop and boom! Party’s over. “Mow the lawn, Timothy… Jennie, take out the trash… No, you can’t have ice cream before dinner.”
If you follow Jesus, however, you won’t ever return to your old life the way a kid comes back from camp. Christianity is not like a simple trip away to have a personal revelation, meet your next crush, or come away more confident because of a ropes course. “… You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator” (Col. 3:9b-10).
The change Christ brings is internal. It’s forever. It’s undoable. And it’s beautiful.
In this passage, Paul is telling the Colossians to cling to the truth that they have been raised with Christ… and not only that, but they have died, and their true life is now hidden with Christ in God. Salvation for believers is not just a summertime mountaintop experience! They have a whole new self! And because of that irrevocable reality, Paul is telling them to cling to what is real.
Put off all that old stuff. It’s not you. You’re in Christ’s camp now, not the enemy’s. Stop thinking like you live back at home in your old ways. That’s not you. Don’t look at that woman the same way you used to. Don’t use your money the same way. Don’t yell at your husband. Don’t hold grudges the same way. That’s not you! Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God! You’re NEW! Brand new!
And oh, by the way, look around you. You’re “at camp,” with other folks who’ve been changed by Jesus too. They’re brand new and looking at you with fresh eyes. They’re saying, “We are brothers and sisters now. We see you. You belong to us; we belong to you, and by the blood of Christ, we have a bond that’s greater than biological family. We have the same Spirit living within us. And we have a unified purpose — to glorify the Creator together.”
When I think about our life together on earth this way and that there’s no going back to the way we were before, I get pumped. Summer camp forever! The huge blessing that Christ bought for us is yours and mine forever in Christ. There is no republican or democrat, homeschool kid or public schooler, Black or White, Hispanic, or Asian. “Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us” (v. 11c NLT).
Why would we ever go back to the darkness we chose in our former lives? The permanent and unshakable change Christ has made in our hearts is our forever mountaintop, our eternal summer camp. There are new rules — lives governed and directed by grace! And because of that, we have new priorities and a new purpose in life!