The apostle Paul has begun this new section in his letter to the Colossians discussing what a true follower of Jesus looks like. If we have been raised with Christ then we will seek the things that are above and set our minds on things that are above. It is easy to think we are spiritual and godly when we are looking down at the things of this world. But it is completely different when we are looking up and focusing on the things of God. Then we are able to see our shortcomings and sins. Once we have this proper perspective of ourselves and God’s demands we can approach God’s word ready for a life change for godliness.
I want to approach this section differently than you may expect. I do not want us to come into reading these sins as just a list of rules that need to be kept. We need to understand that rule keeping does not change the heart. Strict adherence to law will not result in a life that is hidden with Christ in God. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the work of Jesus for us. I submit to you that this is the reason chapters 3-4 are not chapters 1-2. Paul does not begin with what godliness looks like. Paul begins with what Christ has done for us. The apostle Paul consistently takes this approach in his letters. Paul begins by teaching us what God has done for us which is to lead to a response in our hearts that leads to godly action. Too often we reverse this pattern. We try to keep the rules, which we hope will change our depraved hearts so that God will do good for us. The message of the gospel is that God has already done good toward us. Therefore our hearts must be motivated by that goodness which leads to the change in our actions.
Put To Death
When we see the completed work of Jesus we will desire to put to death our old lives. We are going to kill everything in our lives that is not godly. Everything that crops up in our hearts and actions as worldly will be uprooted and eliminated. As we noted in our last lesson, there are many things (sinful and not sinful) that steal our affections away from God. We will put to death anything, whether sinful or not, that takes our hearts and our focus away from the things that are above (3:1-2). To use the words of Paul in verses 3-4, we have died and our life is in Christ. Therefore any time something from our life reveals itself, we will put it to death. Rather than defining each word that Paul uses to explain what to put to death, we are going to spend our efforts in this lesson talking about how to put these things to death.
It is worth noting that Paul begins with the sins of sexual immorality, impurity, and passion. Sexual temptation was and continues to be a primary attack from Satan. It is something that we must be aware of and how great the temptation presses against. Allow me to make some general thoughts that will be useful in our efforts to fight against sexual temptation.
Single people, especially young single people, have an enormous temptation placed in front of them regularly. Single people must immerse themselves in purity to combat these temptations. It is critical for single Christians to avoid situations and places where sexual temptation will be heightened. The apostle Paul said it to Timothy like this:
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22 ESV)
Run from lusts and run to righteousness. You must immerse yourself in purity and give yourself accountability in those areas. When you live alone there is no one to know what you are doing besides the Lord. We will talk about the tools we can use to be successful against sin later in this lesson. But understand the challenge you face and your need to remain pure in the face of youthful passions and singleness.
It is often falsely presumed that it is much easier to be married. But temptations still continue even while we are married. Too often we will let down our guard against sexual temptation because we think we are married and the marriage is protected. Even among our brethren, however, adultery is certainly a continued if not growing problem. Facebook has become a tool for many to accidentally reignite old passions and desires of past relationships. Shepherds and preachers are succumbing to these temptations.
God told us how to protect our marriages and what we can do to fight against these sexual temptations. The prescription is different for men and woman which should not be surprising since men and women are different.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 ESV)
Husbands are told to give their wives attention and to listen to them. Wives need husbands to be live with them and be understanding of them. Treat them with honor. Treat them special and with great value. One of the temptations that happens for women is another man pays attention to her and the husband does not. Our movies today show this to be the very thing that happens. He is gone and disconnected and someone else listens to her and treats her special. Peter gave husbands this command with reason. God also prescribed a message for wives to understand.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, 24 to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. 25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; 26 for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life. 27 Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? 28 Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? 29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. (Proverbs 6:23–29 ESV)
Notice that the wise writer of Proverbs notes that she catches his attention with her looks. Proverbs 7:10-27 warns about the woman who is dressed seductively and to not be pulled into her because of her looks and her words. Wives must be aware that this is the temptation that Satan is throwing at men so that efforts can be made to fight these passions and desires. As I noted earlier, rather than talking about what each sin means, I believe we can understand what we are being told to avoid and put to death. With the rest of our time let’s examine the motivation for our purity and how we can attain that purity.
Motivations For Change
The first motivation is used by Paul in the first two chapters of Colossians. We need to recognize that we have been raised with Christ. We will put to death these sinful actions when our heart appreciates the love that God has shown for us. The apostle John made this motivation very clear in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” The motivation begins that simply. We act out of love and appreciation for God for loved us first. We must minute by minute keep God’s love in our hearts to help us to put to death the old self with its sinful passions.
The second motivation is presented to us in Colossians 3:6. “On account of these things the wrath of God is coming.” God wants to be very clear to us. If we practice these things the wrath of God is coming upon us. Our actions will be cleaned up as we love God. To think that we love God and continue practicing the old life is to deceive ourselves. God’s grace does not come upon those who are practicing these things. We will be judged if we are not actively putting these sins to death.
The third motivation is found in verses 10-11. We are being renewed in knowledge after the image of the Creator. We are to walk in his footsteps and mold our image after his likeness. A new creation is taking place in us. We are a whole new person and, notice verse 11, we are given a whole new identity in Christ. We are in Christ and Christ is in us. Our lives are hidden in Christ. Our life is found in him.
Weapons For War
With our final moments we will quickly look at some things that God has given us to help us fight temptation, keep our minds on God, and set our heart’s affections on him. (1) Reading God’s word. God’s word reveals to us his majesty, his glory, his love, and his mercy. To spark our affections for God we need to read about what he has done for us and what he has done for others. (2) Prayer. Talking with God helps us set our affections on God. Prayer focuses our heart and mind on him and is the avenue that we ask for God’s help during temptations and trials. (3) Fellowship. We need each other to overcome Satan and be renewed in God’s image. Our shared knowledge, teaching, and encouragement catapults us forward in our love for God. (4) Spiritual songs. There are so many songs in the world that drive us crazy because we cannot get them out of our head. Songs have an amazing way of sticking in our minds as the day goes on. Give yourself an advantage by putting spiritual songs in your head to carry you through your day. (5) Teaching. I cannot express to you what it is like to teach someone about God if you have not done it yourself. There is no way to explain the stirring of affections for God that occurs when we are teaching people about God. The apex of that joy comes in seeing others change their lives and come to love the Lord. (6) Serve. Our theme for this year has been serving one another. There is great pleasure derived from being a servant of others. Focusing on others helps us not focus on ourselves. Serving turns us from selfishness to godliness. (7) Faith. When we truly surrender our lives to God and trust him to take care of things there is an amazing relief in living life and an amazing love developed as we watch God get us through the difficulties of this world. Trusting God and watching him work things in your life all the more stirs our affections for him. It is jaw dropping to see God at work in our lives. (8) Hope. We have a purpose to living this life. We have eternal hope placed as a reward for moving toward God. Hope is a great motivation as we know that God cannot lie and his promises are firm.
Christ is all and in all (Colossians 3:11). Christ must be absolutely everything. Christ is our identity. Christ is our passion. Christ is our life purpose. Turn your affections toward him and put to death the things that are not assisting in the pursuit of Christ.