Reflective practice involves reflecting on one’s actions and experiences to engage in continuous learning. It is useful in the workplace and in the classroom, and it offers a tool for growth physically, mentally, relationally, and spiritually.
For Christians, reflective practice equates to renewing your mind and allowing the Holy Spirit to direct your focus.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Paul begins Colossians 3 with “therefore” or “since” (depends on the version you’re reading), and he’s essentially engaging in a reflective practice. He’s reminding the Colossians and us that since
- We’re bearing fruit and growing
- We’ve already changed how we think (i.e., salvation and repentance)
- We’re already focused on living for Christ
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
In other words, keep doing what you’re doing! Don’t get distracted!
If we don’t deliberately assess our thinking and our focus, our minds will be taken captive. Our culture is made up of captive minds, and it takes a deliberate choice to not be one of them. Paul is encouraging us to stay focused on Christ and not get distracted by the world.
“Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” (Colossians 3:2)
In the first four verses of Colossians 3, Paul encourages us to think about our thinking. He’s telling us to choose where we place our focus.
Choosing your focus requires rethinking your current focus and way of thinking, choosing to deliberately focus your mind on what Christ has done for you, and letting that truth change you. It’s honestly answering the question: Is your thinking self- and world-focused, or is it God-focused?
Not rethinking, simply not choosing to engage in reflective practice – not deciding to renew your mind – is choosing to let your thoughts be led by the world. It’s choosing conformity. In other words, not choosing is making a choice. Our minds need a regular renewal process (i.e., reflection) to prevent conformity; otherwise, conformity happens while we’re occupied elsewhere.
Colossians 3 continues with the renewal process in verses 5-9 by making us aware that we must clean out and get rid of the “sinful, earthly things lurking within.” We must make room for new ways to think and live by getting rid of the ways that keep us from focusing on Christ.
Renovating to refocus above means putting off the old self to make space for the new. It’s a progressive reality, which means you’re not fully done with the process until heaven. You’re on a progression toward perfection.
In addition to renovating by getting rid of the old habits, we also need to set our intentions toward renewal by putting on a new self, one that replaces the old self focused on the world. The harsh reality is that we’re in for a far worse experience if we skip this part of the process of reflecting to refocus.
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)
We must replace old habits with new ones if we are to defeat the old ones. When we become Christians, our minds are renewed, and we change how we think. To continue making progress toward perfection, we must participate in the process by allowing ourselves to be renewed.
“Put on your new nature and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” (Colossians 3:10)
To do nothing after getting rid of sinful habits is to leave the house (i.e., your mind) empty and ready for deception and conformity. Focusing on Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to renew you results in the creation of new habits that keep your gaze on heavenly realities.
As we participate in this process, being led by the Holy Spirit, two things start to happen. First, we begin interacting differently with others. Second, our “whatever” is transformed.
“Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17)
The goal with reflection as Paul illustrates in Colossians 3 is to get in the habit of refocusing on “things above, not things below.” It’s to make progress toward perfection. This happens as you continually remember (i.e., reflect on) Christ and keeping your focus there.