Grace For The Journey
Some years ago there was a popular American TV series called “What Not To Wear.” It was about a couple fashion experts who would help common, ordinary folks figure out how to choose proper clothing styles and so forth. I never watched it, but I read about it. The way a person got on the show was by a friend or associate contacting the show and recommending that they come out and check out their friend who desperately needed their help. So these two clothing experts would come visit and go through the person’s wardrobe, throwing out all the old stuff that had long gone out of style, and give the person advice (and money!) to make better clothing choices.
One of the funnier aspects of the show was that the people who were on the receiving end of this expert advice often were totally oblivious to just how “out of style” they really were. They would sometimes even argue with the experts or insist on keeping some of the clothing items that the experts recommended they should toss.
What does that television show have to do with the third chapter of Colossians? Well, much of the chapter reads as though it were God’s episode of “What Not to Wear.” So as we study these verses, let’s have the wisdom to allow God to be the expert. Let’s Him to sort through our spiritual wardrobes and tell us what to toss.
Truth is, there are probably a few things in our spiritual closets that we have been putting on, things we shouldn’t be “wearing,” if you like. These are things that really “don’t suit us.” They don’t “look right” on us or “fit us.” And it may be that our “inappropriate attire” is more obvious to others than it is to ourselves. We just don’t “see it” anymore because we’ve been “wearing it” for so long.
Let’s look at our passage of Scripture and see what God has to say.
Put Off the Old
Verse 5 says, “Therefore (that is, in light of who you are in Christ) put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” I like the way the New Living Translation (NLT) puts this. It renders verse 5: “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you.” That best captures the phrase. Put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. What sinful, earthly things lurk within us? Verse 5 tells us – “fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” These are things that need to be “put to death!”
Warren Wiersbe writes about a couple sisters who got saved and began living for Jesus. They used to attend wild parties and dances, and had a reputation for riotous living. Sometime after they placed their faith in Christ they received a party invitation from someone who apparently didn’t know of their conversion. So the sisters thoughtfully returned the RSVP with the words: “We regret that we cannot attend because we recently died.”
That’s exactly how Christians are
To think of their old lives before Christ!
We died to that old way of living.
And since we have died to the old life,
We will go on dying regularly
To the ways that belong to the old life.
When we come to faith in Christ we are new creations.
It is precisely because we have
Died with Christ (Colossians 3:3)
That we can, in fact, eliminate
Sinful practices from our lives.
The Bible says in Romans 6:11, “Reckon ourselves to be dead indeed to sin.” As we go about our day and are faced with temptation, it is supremely helpful to say to ourselves frequently, “I’m dead to that.”
This continual reminder is
An empowering statement of fact.
Paul is not talking about mere behavior modification or self-will. People can do things to change their behavior to some degree. Unbelievers can stop drinking alcohol. A non-Christian can learn to show restraint, refusing to lust or commit adultery. No one disputes this action nor argues that such teaching is unhelpful. By God’s common grace unbelievers can do much in the way of changing old habits.
But Paul is not describing secular notions of behavior modification or self-determination. He is not writing to improve one’s choices so he or she can merely have a better life in this world.
Here’s the issue . . .
Even if a person succeeds
In changing his or her behavior
To a helpful degree,
he cannot stop sinning
To the degree God requires.
No one can stop sinning to the point that he or she pleases God. Paul is writing to Christians who have new natures with the Spirit of God living within them. He is writing to Christians who have life in Christ, identity in Christ, self-worth in Christ. He is writing to those who have died to their old lives and are finding joy and satisfaction in Christ alone.
Paul is writing to those who can
– Because they have new natures
– Live a new like of life.
For this reason, Christians must put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within them, things like . . .
Fornication – A word that refers to all forms of sexual intimacy outside of biblical marriage (a heterosexual union between a man and a woman).
It is followed by a similar word,
Uncleanness – It is staggering to think that the first thing Paul mentions is sexual immorality. The word he uses covers all forms of prostitution, every illegitimate sexual deviance, both heterosexual, homosexual, or even bestial.
He links with it the attitude of the heart:
Impurity – By this he means us to consider that what the mind will linger on in secret the body will do externally.
What the mind will linger on in secret, the body will do externally. This is why it so dangerous. If we allow sexual immorality to lurk within our minds it can lead to sinful actions of the body.
Paul adds other sinful tendencies that may be in one’s spiritual wardrobe:
Passion (This is evil passion; lustful passion),
Evil desire and Covetousness (Greed), he says, which is idolatry – Evil desires such as greed and lust can take the place of God and become idols. They replace worship of God and love for God and become the focus of the Christian’s heart and devotion.
It is a danger!
Put it off!
Get it out
Paul goes on to stress the danger of the Christian’s failure to “put to death” these tendencies. In verse 6 he says, “Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” Paul is simply reminding the Colossians that . . .
God will judge the evil actions
Of those who are consumed with evil.
He also instructs them that they should no longer live this way. In verse 7 he states, “in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” As a Christian, you don’t live that way anymore! So, don’t put on those old clothes. They no longer “suit you.” They don’t “fit you.” They look horrendous on you. Put to death the old earthly tendencies lurking within you.
Verse 8 says, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” Paul lists five more items that shouldn’t be in the Christian’s spiritual wardrobe. And these five behaviors bear directly upon relationships within the church: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy (which is better translated slander), filthy language. No Christian should be “wearing” these items. Get rid of them. They don’t suit you.
Don’t just read over behaviors like anger and wrath. Too often Christians treat these sins lightly as though they were not really that serious. But Paul lists them here as sins that are inconsistent with the Christian life. Get rid of them. Perhaps we don’t even realize we are wearing these things. Other people are more aware of what we are wearing than we ourselves.
What of malice or slander? Do you hate it when other people succeed and you cannot rejoice with them? Do you secretly despise the successes of others? Do you talk about others in ways that make them look bad and make you look good?
And what about your language? Paul says put off “filthy language.” It’s not right. Boastful CEOs or powerful politicians may use filthy language, but don’t you do it. It doesn’t suit you. It doesn’t look right on you. It doesn’t fit you.
Verse 9 adds, “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds.” Put another way it could read: “Since you have already put off the old, then don’t put back on the old clothing, old things like lying to one another.”
Put off the old!
In tomorrow’s blog, we will look at our other action: Putting On The New.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”