Grace For The Journey
Is murder ever appropriate?! I know that is a strange question, but is gets our attention for discussing the truths of our passage today. Murder is appropriate if you take seriously what the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 3:5, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth . . .” He’s calling for killing; murdering, the old behaviors that belonged to “the old us,” the people we once were before coming to faith in Jesus Christ. This is why in our previous study of Colossians we focused on “Putting Off The Old.” We are not to “wear” those old behaviors anymore. Like dirty old clothes, we are to toss them out of our spiritual closets.
Today we look at verses 10-11 of that same passage (Colossians 3:5-11) and read where Paul now teaches the corollary truth. Having “put to death” (verse 5) the things that belong to our former lives and having “put off the old man” (verse 9), Paul tells us now what to “put on.”
Put on the New
Verse 10 says, “And have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” On the one hand, this has already happened (you have put on the new man). When you came to faith in Christ, you became a new creation with new identity. On the other hand, “who is renewed” suggests an ongoing daily process. Christians are daily to bring their behavior in line with their new identity in Christ, becoming more and more like Jesus with the passing of each day. That is the meaning of the phrase, “according to the image of Him who created him.” God means for us to look more and more like our Creator, like our Lord.
Verse 11, states, “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” There are no “status levels” among Christians with some being better than others. That is the point of verse 11.
All Christians are all
On the same level,
No matter our social
Background or situation.
We are all in Christ.
He is all and in us all.
What Paul is teaching, then, is that Christians are to look like our Lord by acting like the people they already are. Christians are daily to bring their behavior in line with their new identity in Christ. Put off the old and put on the new!
Imagine after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead that people decide to go visit him. They search all over for the place for him and eventually find him back in the old tomb from which Jesus had raised him! Imagine him sitting there with all those old grave clothes covering him as they once had when he was dead. If you found him this way, you would be amazed and would ask, “Lazarus! What’s going on?! Don’t you know you’re free?! Get those old grave clothes off yourself and get out of this tomb!” This is precisely the sort of thing Paul is calling Christians to do in this third chapter. Get rid of that old behavior and “dress ourselves” in the clothing that really “suits you.”
We will be talking more about those specific behaviors in the next post, Lord willing. For now, let’s consider no fewer than four action steps arising from Colossians 3:5-11”.
1) Treat Sin Seriously.
The phrase “put to death” in verse 5 should give us pause. “Put to death” indicates the seriousness of the matter. We are not to toy with sin. We must not merely “cut back” or just “sin less.” We must put to death the sins of the old man. Both phrases, “Put to death” in verse 5 and “Put off all these” in verse 8 are phrases that imply a deliberate and decisive action.
Paul is concerned not simply
With the resolve to mortify sin,
but the desire to
Be rid of it altogether.
It is as if he was saying: ‘Lay your hands on this sin’s throat and don’t release the pressure until it stops breathing.”
Tim Challies, in a helpful devotion about killing the sins of sexual immorality, stresses this matter of taking sin seriously by running from it. He warns: “Flee, my brother. Learn how and when to run and do not be ashamed to do so. Do not toy with sexual sin. Do not make light of sexual sin. Do not laugh or joke about the very sins Christ died for. Do not allow yourself even the smallest taste or the briefest glimpse of what God forbids. There is no shame in running, but you may well know the shame of falling.”
Never forget the sobering maxim:
Sin will . . .
Take you farther than you want to go,
Keep you longer than you want to stay,
Cost you more than you want to pay.
Take sin seriously.
2) Target The Sins You Need To Kill (Identify Yours).
We are not interested here in identifying the sins of others. We are looking at ourselves, identifying our own sins, targeting them. Do you know the sins you most need to kill? Augustine said, “The beginning of knowledge is to know thyself to be a sinner.” Do you know your top two or three sins? Can you name them? You must know them to target them.
Yours may be right here in the text: “sexual immorality; lust, sex outside of marriage in thought or deed; anger, malice, greed.” It may be something else: pride; anxiety; selfishness, lack of trust in God, alcoholism, drug abuse, overeating, living in fear. You have got to think about this and target the sins you need to kill daily.
Before we look at the next two action steps, let me ask you to take some time right now and think about this. Talk to God in prayer. Say something like, “God, please reveal to me the particular sins I need to be killing each day. What are the sinful earthly tendencies lurking within?” Then make a note of them. Tell God, “Thank You, God, for revealing these to me, amen.”
Now that you have targeted the sins you need to kill, you can take the next step.
3) Tend To Those Sins Daily By “Saying No” To Them.
This requires the discipline of regularly saying no to sin and saying yes to Christ.
Every time Christians give in to a particular sin,
That sin increases in power and influence.
We all know this by experience, don’t we? Every time we give in and allow a sinful tendency to have its way, we get weaker and the sin gets stronger. Anytime, for example, a man or woman allows himself or herself just one more glimpse of pornography or just one more lustful look at another, the same person gets weaker and the sin grows stronger.
So what do you do? You “put it to death” by saying no right up front, “I am dead to that old way of life” so I’m not going to look. That’s not who I am. I am ‘putting that off.’ It doesn’t suit me. It’s all wrong.”
Here’s some good news . . .
Every single time you “say no to sin”
You become stronger and
That sin becomes weaker.
Remember verse 10: “You have put on the new man who is renewed – or who is being renewed – in knowledge according to the image of the One who created us.”
This is a daily discipline.
There are no shortcuts.
It’s just like going to the gym. You can go there and work out each day and get strong and lose flab and build muscle. But you have got to do it each and every day. You can not do it for just a few days and expect huge results that last a lifetime. It takes discipline. It takes work. You have got to do it regularly. It takes time.
Here’s another truth . . .
You can’t “put on the new”
Until you “put off the old.”
Imagine a mother telling her little boy to go upstairs and put on some new clothes. He dutifully goes up the stairs and comes down five minutes later – having put on his new clothes right over his old, dirty clothes!
Many of us have formed habits so deeply and we are so accustomed to them that we do not even realize how much they are attached to us, like clothing that has become a part of us. We try to put on new behavior, but we are putting on that new right over the old and then acting surprised when there is no lasting change. We must take off those old behaviors before putting on the new.
4) Find Your Self-Worth and Satisfaction Iin Christ Alone.
Paul goes on in verses 12 and following to talk about the virtues that Christians are to “put on.” For now, let’s remember that we are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).
We find our self–worth in Christ.
We find our satisfaction in Christ.
Whenever we put on the old, rather than putting off the old, we are embracing something from our former lives. We are attempting to find life, purpose, self-worth, or satisfaction in something other than Christ.
We are drinking from the wrong well. We are drinking muddied water from a broken well. We are drinking water that seems to satisfy but does not satisfy for long. In fact, it is muddied water, so it is actually harming us over time.
Do not drink muddied water
From a broken well.
Drink from the well of Christ!
Drink from the One who said, “Whoever drinks of me will never thirst” (John 4:14). This is the greatest key to putting sin to death, saying no to sin. We say no to sin and yes to Christ. And every time we say no to sin, sin becomes weaker and we become stronger. It may not seem like much, saying no to each and every sin but, over time, the sum total of those little victories becomes like a fortress of strength and stability.
Engineers were once scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to build the first suspension bridge across Niagara Falls. Building a suspension bridge begins with stretching a line or wire across the river. At Niagara, however, turbulent waters, the 800-foot-wide gap, and the 225-foot-high cliffs of the Whirlpool Gorge made a direct crossing impossible.
How were the engineers going to get cable across the gap? It seemed impossible. But they figured out that they could tie a little cord to a kite string and fly the kite from the Canadian side across the gorge to the American side. The kite carried that little cord from one side to the other and then they tied that little cord off to a tree on the other side.
Then, they tied a heavier cord to the little cord and pulled the heavier cord over. Then, they tied a still heavier cord to that one and pulled it across. Then they tied a rope to it and pulled it across. And then, finally they tied a cable to it, a cable consisting of thirty-six strands of number 10 wire, and the pulled it across. Eventually, they pulled across 1,200 feet of cable before building the towers and completing the bridge.
Remember that when you are tempted to feel you are making little progress with each “no” that you say to sin. That first no you say may seem to you like a flimsy little string flown across a wide gorge of raging rapids. But then another no is like a heavier cord being pulled back across, and then a rope, and then a cable, and one day – by God’s grace – you have built a bridge of steel and have become victorious over that sin and temptation.
Put to death the sinful earthly things lurking within you – and find your satisfaction in Christ!
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.”