Put It to Death
Topic: Expository Passage: Colossians 3:5-8
One of the television shows I enjoy watching occasionally is American Pickers. It’s about two guys named Mike and Frank who own a couple of stores where they sell collector’s items. The show is called American Pickers because on a typical episode Frank and Mike visit the home or shop of some typically strange guy, who has a barn or a yard that is filled with stuff. And Mike and Frank pick through it looking for valuable piece of American history that they can sell for a profit.
Typically, they find a bunch of worthless and strange items, but then they find something really interesting that gives a fascinating window into our history, and these items are potentially very valuable. I was watching an episode last Sunday in which they offered a guy $55,000 for a 100 year old motorcycle.
But before Mike and Frank buy an item, they always make sure it’s the genuine article. This is because sometimes an item looks like the real deal, and it even looks really old, but it’s just a good-looking fake that is essentially worthless.
Just like a collector wants to make sure he is buying the genuine article, we as Christians should be concerned that we are pursuing the genuine article of godliness. This has been Paul’s concern throughout most of Colossians. The false teachers had built an impressive looking picture of godliness, but Paul ended Colossians 2 by demonstrating that it was merely a worthless replica of genuine godliness, because it was built on human effort, worldly concerns, and manmade rules.
Therefore, the basic purpose of Colossians 3 is to describe the genuine article of godliness and how to pursue it. Two weeks ago we saw in vv. 1–4, that pursuing genuine holiness begins by keeping a clear focus on the life we have in Christ, in heaven. We’ve got to pursue heavenly purposes through divine power.
In vv. 5–11 Paul begins to apply this heavenly mindset to the nitty gritty details of true spiritual growth (read). We see in this paragraph that living for the things above means doing battle with sin down below. He shows us the genuine article of godliness, not the fake of the false teachers. And he also shows us how to pursue this godliness in the strength that only comes in Christ.
Today, we will cover vv. 5–8. You can see that vv. 5 and 8 are very similar. They both command us to eradicate a list of sinful vices. In between God gives us two reasons why we must drive these sins out. Let’s begin in v. 5, where God commands us…
I. Kill evil desire and its fruit (v. 5).
- God commands us, “Put to death your members which are on the earth.”
- The Command: The Greek verb here comes from the same root as the noun that means “dead”; therefore, “Put to death” is a great translation. God commands us to kill the sins he goes on to list. They are to have no place, no influence in our lives as Christians. We must eradicate them.
- And Paul says we are to do this in “your members which are on the earth.” The word translated “members” typically refers to body parts, especially our hands and feet. Paul doesn’t mean that we need to destroy our bodies, because in 2:23 he already condemned “neglect of the body” as a worthless measure for restraining the flesh. This is because sin ultimately springs from the heart, not the body.
- But our sin nature oftentimes expresses itself through our hands, feet, and mouths. We all get that don’t we? Anger comes out in what we say and sometimes in how we swing a fist. Lust expresses itself through our eyes, and where our hands click on the Internet. Therefore, we must eradicate both the sinful desire and the expression of the desire in our bodies.
- And notice the final phrase of the command, “which are on the earth,” because it is very important in context. Notice again 2. Godliness requires living with a heavenly focus not an earthly focus. This is because, as v. 3 states, my life “is hidden with Christ in God” and I have a glory awaiting me in Christ that is far better than anything this world can offer.
- And v. 5 follows by applying this reality. Because my life is with Christ, I must put to death the earthly, temporal priorities that drive the unbeliever. And folks, it is so crucial that we not miss the connection between vv. 1–4 and the command of v. 5 because without the hope of eternity living a holy life makes no sense and it can be sheer misery.
- This is because sin always appeals to my immediate concerns and passions. I want to feel good, I want to be liked, and I want to be happy. But God’s commands consistently kick against earthly concerns. The only way that you will stay motivated for true holiness is if you continually and forcefully “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” And when you see clearly, your life in Christ, you will then be able see clearly the vanity of this world, and you can “put to death your members which are on the earth.”
- And so v. 5 is giving an important command that summarizes the nitty gritty struggle of the Christian life. Every day I am struggling to put to death the earthly passions of my heart and instead live for the things of heaven.
- But notice also that the only reason I can obey v. 5 is because as v. 3 says, I am already dead. I must put sin to death because I am dead. You might think, “That makes no sense. If I’m already dead, then what’s left to die?” This is a tension that is very important to understanding Christian growth.
- When I got saved, sin’s power was broken through the new life I received in Christ. I am dead to sin. But I am also still a sinner, and I must put sin to death. If we miss either of these we are in big trouble.
- First, if I try to obey v. 5, but I have never been born again, I may produce a show of godliness like the false teachers, but I will not produce the genuine article. You must be born again and receive new life in Christ to have any hope of putting sin to death.
- But even as a Christian, if I view this command as MY DUTY, and I just grit my teeth and try to do it myself, I am going to get frustrated and discouraged, because I can’t obey this command by myself no matter what kind of strategy and effort I put into it. The only way I can obey this command is if I set my mind on things above and appreciate the fact that I am already dead to sin.
- This is worth emphasizing because in our struggle against sin we often become obsessed with the sin. We pull our hair out thinking, “I’ve got to stop this.” But the first step to true victory is to stop looking at the sin and start looking at Christ because only then will we see our sin for the foolishness it is, and only then will we draw on the only strength that can give victory.
- But on the hand, I can’t just sit back, stare at Jesus and wait for him to change me. God commands me to put sin to death. I must work hard to root out the kinds of deep-seated sins of the heart that this verse describes. Paul then proceeds to mention 5 particular sins that we must put to death.
- The Focus of the Command: The first 3 concern sexual purity. The word translated “fornication” is porneia. We get our word pornography from it. It’s a general term for any type of sexual perversion outside the boundaries of marriage.
- Second, we are to put to death “uncleanness.” In this context it refers to any unholy sexual desire or action. Third and fourth, we are to put to death “passion” and “evil desire.” Both of these terms are sometimes used positively in Scripture. There is a good kind of passion that is shaped by a godly desire. But in this context, they refer to sexual passions that are not within the boundaries of marriage. It’s lust that is driven by the selfish pursuit of temporal gratification.
- And so God commands us to put to death all forms of sexual perversion because God hates them. God created the sexual relationship as a beautiful gift for married couples. Therefore, it is a gross sin when anyone twists God’s design to serve his perverted purposes. Therefore, never let your sinful mind justify even the slightest detour away from God’s good design in this area.
- And based on this list, this includes our passions and imaginations. Last week we saw that Jesus said that lusting after a woman is equal to adultery. Just because you can hide perverted passions and just because they are a normal part of our society does not mean they are okay. God commands us to put sin to death even down in the deepest recesses of our hearts.
- Folks, we need to hear what God says here because our world says that there are no boundaries for sexual expression or desire as long as you don’t hurt anyone. That tug is everywhere in our society; therefore, we have got to make sure we don’t begin to drift into thinking like the world. “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
- Fifth, we must put to death, “covetousness, which is idolatry.” With this phrase, Paul references the 10 Commandments. The 10th command forbids covetousness. I am guilty of covetousness anytime I desire something that God forbids or that he has not allowed me to enjoy. I am guilty of covetousness anytime I pursue satisfaction in “the things on the earth” rather than in God or, in this context, in “the things above, where Christ is.”
- And covetousness is not a sin that we generally worry about all that much, but God says it is a serious problem because it is the equivalent to idolatry. This phrase links the 10th commandment to the 1st commandment, which forbids worshipping any god but the true God. Therefore, God says that covetousness is the equivalent of worshipping a false god.
- This is a fascinating statement because we naturally associate idolatry with worshipping some object that we believe to be a deity. But God says that anytime I desire something on earth in place of desiring God and finding my satisfaction and joy in him, I am worshipping a false god, and I have become an idolater.
- In this context, it means that pornography is not just an unfortunate habit; it is idolatry. It means that if your life revolves around pleasing people because you covet their acceptance, you are an idolater. It means that if you spend so much time chasing pleasure that you have no time or you are too tired to practice the spiritual disciplines, you are an idolater.
- The fundamental priority of the Christian life is that I must worship and serve God above all else and seek my satisfaction in the things above, where Christ is. And in light of that, I must put to death every desire that conflicts with Christ and every action that violates his will.
- What does that mean for you? It might mean that you need to put to death one of the things in this list, or it might be something else that has become an idol. Whatever it is it is nothing compared to your life in Christ, so put it to death. Don’t tolerate sin. Verse 8 then follows with a second command.
II. Kill hateful attitudes and speech (v. 8).
- The Command: Verse 8 begins with a command that is very similar to the command in v. 5. We are commanded to “put off” five more sins. This verb was often used for taking off clothes, and Paul very likely has this picture in mind. Therefore, we are to strip off the kinds of sins Paul mentions.
- And it’s worth emphasizing again, that Paul is not merely calling on our self-discipline to do this. Notice that v. 9 says that we have already “put off the old man with his deeds.” And so again, Paul has built into the text this tension between what God has already done and what I am responsible to do.
- And so let me say again that we must hold tightly to both God’s prior work and my responsibility. I must lean on the fact that Christ has already put off my old man, because I can’t sanctify myself. I must pursue gospel-empowered change.
- But on the other hand, I can’t just sit back and wait for Christ to change me. I am commanded to put off these sins. I must work hard. And I’m emphasizing these things because Christians get off track far too often. I’ve known Christians who are just sitting back waiting for God to change them, and they claim that any effort toward godliness is legalism.
- And I’ve met plenty of other Christians who practically ignore the gospel in the pursuit of holiness. Like the Pharisees or false teachers at Colossae, some of them set up endless rules in an effort to create a holiness which ends up being far off the mark. And others turn to modern psychology. They’ve got their personality profile, their trendy lingo, and their steps to fix themselves. But in the end their pursuit of godliness doesn’t look any different from earthly self-help.
- And convictions and strategies all have their place, but fundamentally putting off sin requires that I set my mind on things above because I’m dead to this world. And then I must put sin to death, or as v. 8 says I must put sin off in the strength of Christ. Notice in particular, that I must put off, “….
- The Focus of the Command: All of the sins in this list have to do with our relationships to other people. The first three, “anger,” “wrath,” and “malice” describe evil, nasty attitudes toward others. The first two, anger and wrath, are basically synonymous. If there’s any difference in meaning, it would be that anger is more of a settled disposition, and wrath or rage is an impassioned angry outburst.
- The more I deal with people and especially men, the more I believe that the sin of anger gets ignored far too often. So many people constantly have anger simmering in their hearts affecting their entire mood. And occasionally it explodes and sends shrapnel everywhere hurting everyone around. But sadly, most people don’t see anger as that big of a deal as long as we don’t physically harm someone. But God says, it’s evil, and we need to put it off.
- Malice is anger that is directed toward a particular person. It’s not just that we are angry; we are angry at a person for any variety of reasons. Not only that, we wish harm or pain on that individual, and we quietly rejoice when they suffer. Again, malice is all too common, but it is a wicked spirit. And if you have malicious thoughts toward another person, no matter how they have hurt you, you need to repent and make it right before God. And if you have expressed malice, you need to humbly repent to that person.
- Fourth, we must put off “blasphemy,” which in this context having to do with human relationships is probably better translated as slander. We slander anytime we say something critical about another person for the purpose of tearing them down. Again, this is a sin that is all too common. We’ve got a little malice in our heart against a particular person, and we would like everyone else to share our feelings, and so we find ways to tear that person down. Or sometimes, we just aren’t careful with what we say. A good rule of the thumb to avoid slander is that you should never say something about someone that you couldn’t say to his face. Be very careful that your words build, not destroy.
- Fifth, we must put off filthy language. This word describes coarse or obscene speech, and since it is paired here with slander, Paul is probably thinking of using obscene language in order to tear someone down. For example, how many entertainers have gotten in big trouble over the past few months for saying filthy things about the President? They should know better, but their hearts are so full of malice, that they lose discernment. Again, this kind of speech has no place in the life of a Christian. Ephesians 4:29 states, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification.” If it doesn’t edify, don’t say it.
- And of course, guarding what you say begins with guarding what is in your heart. If you don’t want to slander or use filthy language, then put off anger, wrath, and slander. And so Christian put these kinds of sins out of your life. They are earthly, as we said earlier, and they are so petty. In light of the fact that my life is hidden with Christ, the things we get angry about are so trivial.
- But the effects of these sins are not trivial. These five sins destroy families. They tear at the hearts of our kids. And they also tear at the heart of a church. If you are holding onto anger toward someone in this church, you may think it doesn’t matter, but I can about guarantee that your bitterness is doing more damage to the body of Christ, then you care to admit. You need to stop making excuses and put off these sins. And so vv. 5 and 8 command us to put to death the sins of this world. And in between vv. 6–7 challenge us to…
III. Appreciate the importance of killing sin (vv. 6–7).
- Verse 6 tells us that we must be committed to killing sin because…
- Sin brings God’s wrath (v. 6). This verse looks forward to the final judgment of God that is coming one day. Verse 4 said that the day is coming when Christians will appear in glory. It will be a wonderful day for us, but it will be a day of God’s wrath and terrible judgment for the unbeliever.
- And I think it’s important that we feel the weight of what God is saying. “These things” is especially looking back at the sins listed in v. 5. Again, think about how widespread and accepted the first four sins in this list are, especially among unbelievers. If you start flipping through the channels of your TV, or turn on some secular music, or listen to the guys talk at work, it won’t take but a few minutes for you to be exposed to “fornication, uncleanness, passion, and evil desire.” They are everywhere, and they are celebrated.
- But God says that every immoral act, every perverted thought, and every coarse joke is storing up more and more of God’s wrath, which he will someday pour out. We dare not become desensitized to the wickedness of these sins. God hates them, and we better despise them to, and we better put them to death.
- But were v. 6 becomes really uncomfortable is in the fact that God’s wrath will also be poured out against covetousness. Now, I want to be clear, that if you are saved, you will never face God’s wrath. But that doesn’t take away from what this verse says regarding the evil of covetousness. Anytime we or anyone else lives for the things of this world and does not acknowledge God or his eternal realities, they are defiantly shaking their fist at God. Folks, we must be satisfied in God alone. Put sin to death, and live for things above.
- And if you have never been born again, this verse should be terribly troubling. Maybe you have always thought of yourself as a pretty good person. You’ve never done anything that bad and surely you are good enough to get to heaven. But have you ever coveted after the things on the earth? Have you ever entertained an evil passion? If you’re honest, you’d have to say yes. And God is warning you that your sin is far more severe and evil than you would like to think. But there is hope in the gospel. Jesus bore God’s wrath on the cross, so that you don’t have to endure it in hell. I’d love to talk with you afterwards about how you can know that your sins are forgiven and that you safe from the wrath of God. Don’t leave today without knowing that you are secure in God’s grace. Then v. 7 gives a second reason we must be committed to killing sin.
- These sins belong to our past, not our present (v. 7). This is such a wonderfully encouraging and challenging verse. It’s encouraging because it applies v. 6 to me. Before I got saved, I was dead in sin, and I walked in the sins of unbelievers. Now I got saved when I was six, so I didn’t have a long history in sin, but some of you can remember very well how your life was once dominated by sin.
- And it wasn’t just that you walked in sin, you walked under the wrath of God. You were headed toward the destruction v. 6 mentions. But not anymore. Christ rescued you from wrath, and he gave you a knew life.
- And the point of v. 7 is to cause us to reflect back on what we once were and to remember that that’s not what we are anymore. I am a new creature in Christ. And because of that, I can put sin to death. Christian, by the grace of God, you can do what vv. 5 and 8 command. Don’t throw in the towel. Don’t get discouraged. Christ is with you.
- And as a result, don’t live anymore like a child of wrath. Live like a child of heaven. See the eternal prize clearly, see the brokenness of this world clearly, and put sin to death in the power of God’s grace.
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