Life is experienced as an interaction between desires and satisfactions.
Understanding the relationship of desire and satisfaction is at the heart of philosophy, religion and psychology.
Very basically the biblical contention is that there are two fundamental perspectives.
Cosmos: The predominate pattern of human behavior is to notice that there are all sorts of resources in the accessible creation which can have various degrees of success in meeting desires.
Creator: The biblical exhortation is to trust that the Creator is not only the source of every good thing in creation, he is the only reliable hope of ultimate resolution of the desire/satisfaction dilemma.
Colossians makes this argument (Creator over creation) this way.
Because the people in Colossae trust in a few things (the gospel and it’s implications) they can grow to understand life better and live life better. They are told that the key is Christ. The explanation is that Christ is the Creator in creation and that he has shown that the Creator at his weakest (suffering death on the cross) is greater than the creation at it’s strongest (killing the Christ). This is demonstrated by the resurrection, which is declared ‘good news’. The ‘good news’ is that the Creator has demonstrated that trusting in the Creator over creation in this life (right here and now) is the right way to think and live, even if it seems very difficult.
The challenge is not to get distracted by the things which accompany faith in Christ (rules and experiences and such) but to constantly live in a way that is fundamentally what Jesus did: trust God to provide and to guide even when choices are very difficult.
Now, Colossians 3:1-17
1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Christ overcome the problem of death (cosmos without right relationship to God). Identification with him via trust (faith) demonstrated in baptism etc., means identification with his status. If you trust all that, then you are trusting that where he is you are. Subsequently order your thinking, your perception of reality in a way that is consistent. That way, when history concludes (your’s or the world’s, whichever comes first) you will have lived in such a way to experience that conclusion as a good and glorious things. As per the them of desire/satisfaction, your deepest desires will be gloriously satisfied when the separation from your Creator is completely removed.
So what should we do in the mean time?
5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
The dismantling of the wrong way of thinking. To use gardening imagery, putting to death is pruning. You don’t allow life to flow into branches of thought and actions which do not bear good fruit. You select the branches which drain the plant of productivity and you cut them off. What are the branches of our lives which need to be pruned? There are a couple of lists, and some explanations.
The first list of branches of thinking and living in our lives is our nature in normal action without appropriate reference to God:
πορνείαν, = Porneian = non-married sexual gratification
ἀκαθαρσίαν = akatharsian = mixed up impulsiveness for gratification regardless of … whatever
πάθος = pathos = passionate drives (doing stuff “just because I really want to and that is enough justification)
ἐπιθυμίαν κακήν = epithumian = cravings (desires running all through you)
τὴν πλεονεξίαν = tein pleonexian = greedy scheming (finding a way to get what you want… no matter what)
These are all idolatry= not acknowledging God as the source of Good, but trying to hack into pleasure without paying for it Prune off these forms of piracy. God is angry with thievery. You are tempted to be a habitual pleasure pirate but now you need to stop it.
Also you need to prune away:
ὀργήν = orgein = angry character
θυμόν = thumon = fury
Κακίαν = kakian = meanness
βλασφημίαν = blaspheimian = violent speech (fightin’ words)
αἰσχρολογίαν = aiskrologian = nasty talk
The fundamental idea is one of fending for yourself. IF God is not to be trusted, then you need to use whatever you can to get what you desire (want/need). This can be bullying, seduction, manipulation, bargaining, etc. etc. The forms vary but the idea behind them is the same: the source of satisfaction in this world is you figuring out how to get what you want/need from others in this world.
The shift from this thinking to redeemed thinking is explained:
12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And 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.
Because of a covenant with God, you no longer need to be like the prodigal son. That son used his resources (inheritance) to find his way in the world. Satisfaction was temporarily found when he had more resources than apparent needs, but when the ratio changed he found himself filthy and humiliated. When he was received back by the father, as choice, holy and dearly loved, he was provided fresh clothes to represent his fresh status. For Christians that would include:
compassion = σπλάγχνα οἰκτιρμοῦ = splayxna oiktirmou = merciful guts
kindness = χρηστότητα = Chreistoteita = usefulness / kindness (helpful vs contrary)
humility = ταπεινοφροσύνην = tapeinophrosumein = low mindedness (not full of yourself)
gentleness = πρᾳότητα = praoteita = meekness (not demanding)
patience = Μακροθυμίαν = makrothumian = great ability to undure discomfort without freaking out
How do we get to have these habits instead of the others? Essentially by calibrating our perspective relative to Christ. If we trust Christ, then we will do what he says bravely, without freaking out and grabbing (through manipulation, slander, seduction, or whatever).
A life of forgiveness, love (agape), peace (irenic character), and gratitude are fostered by collectively learning the Word, challenging one another constructively, singing about this way of thinking and living and essentially being intentional to connect God to everything you choose to think, say or do.