We come to chapter 3, verses 5 through 9. Actually, the whole third chapter and right into the fourth is the practical part of the book, the part that responds to the first two chapters of doctrine. And we’re going to begin to look at this section tonight, beginning with verses 5 through the first part of verse 9. Let me read it to you.
Colossians 3:5, “Kill, therefore, your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry; for which things’ sake the wrath of God comes, in which ye also once walked when you lived in them. But no you also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another” – stop right there.
Now, those are really very, very practical truths, very straightforward, very direct, and they introduce us to a concept that I mentioned to you this morning, and that is the concept of spiritual suicide. The first word is “kill.” Your Old English version may say “mortify,” put to death. It’s the same thing.
The believer is invited by the apostle Paul to commit suicide in regard to some of the things in his life. Now, the dictionary defines suicide as the act of killing oneself intentionally. And the passage here is inviting every Christian to do exactly that.
And you’ll remember last time, we looked at verses 1 to 4, and we studied the risen life, “If ye then being risen with Christ, seek the things which are above” – set your affections on things above and not on things on the earth. And we talked about living the risen life. Well, living the risen life involves the process of killing the old life in a practical way.
Now, positionally – and I want to clarify this for you – positionally that’s been done. When you came to Jesus Christ and received Him as your Savior and Lord, when you confessed your sin and were born again, God, as an act of sovereign power killed the old life and gave you new life. But that has to work itself out in you practically in an everyday kind of living. What God has done positionally, what God has done in reference to your state in Christ, you need to work out in your own practice. You have been made dead to sin. You have died to the old life. You have been crucified with Christ. All of that is dead and you live new life; you live risen life. But you need to appropriate all of that in a practical way, and that involves the practical slaying of some features of that old life that wants to hang on.
So, in a spiritual sense, in one way you’ve already committed suicide. You voluntarily came to Jesus; you voluntarily confessed your sin. You voluntarily appropriated the death of Christ, and you said death to the old man. Right? Death to the old life. Death to the old nature.
And so, positionally you’ve already committed spiritual suicide, and in a real sense, that’s what you do, isn’t it? You come and you die to self, and you die to self-will, and you die to your own ambition, and you die to your own ego, and you die to your own pride. And you say, “Christ, is all, and He is Lord, and I submit.” And you said that positionally, and you have to continue to say it practically.
Now Paul, in the letter to the Colossians, has demonstrated powerfully the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ. We saw - particularly in the first chapter and through the second chapter, verse 7 - how Paul presents the total sufficiency of Jesus Christ. And then we saw, in the second chapter, that he says believers are not to feel intimidated or threatened by those people who come along and say, “Well, you can’t just have Christ, you also have to have philosophy. You can’t just have Christ; you also have to have legalism. You can’t just have Christ; you also have to have visions and higher knowledge and so forth. You can’t just have Christ; you need to have a rigorous self-denial.”
And all the way through, Paul keeps saying, “No, Christ is all; Christ is all. You’re complete in Christ. Nothing else will lead you to salvation; nothing else will lead you to spirituality except Christ. You’ve been given new life,” he says in chapter 3. Now he says, “Get up in the heavenlies and live it. Cut the cords to the earth and live the heavenly life. Let your practice match your position.”
Now, it’s very typical of Paul, after so much theology, to move down to the practical. He likes to get up there and run around in the mountaintops of theology, but he sooner or later scurries down to the valley of living and tells us how do we apply this.
And he comes to a landing in chapter 3, verse 5. He comes off the mountain of the mysteries of God, and he makes it livable.
How do live the heavenly life, Paul? How do I really take these tremendous truths about Christ, the tremendous reality that He is all I need, that I am sufficient in Him? The exciting truth that I have a heavenly kind of life, a risen life, how do I make it work? What do I do to get it down to where I’m living?
And he says, “Commit spiritual suicide on a practical level. Start killing some things in your life. Start killing.”
It’s kind of like what Jesus said, when He said, “You need to take up your” – what? – “your cross daily.” You see “daily,” for the life of a Christian, is an exercise in dying.
The apostle Paul put it this way, “I die” – what’s the next word? – “daily.” I die daily. I’m in the business of committing spiritual suicide every day that I live, saying no to self, no to self desire, no to the things of the world. And, you know, you will never be able to ascend – and we were talking about this last Lord’s Day – but you will never be able to ascend into the heavenlies and really live the risen life until you die to the world and die to the things that are in the world.
A radical kind of thing has to take place. And you may be in the heavenlies by inheritance, and you may be in the heavenlies by right, but you’ll never really walk there until you begin to kill some things in this world.
Now, notice verse 5, and let’s see what he says. “Kill, therefore, your members which are on the earth” – now, stop there for a minute, and we’ll talk about that statement, because that’s the preliminary to getting into it. It’s an aorist active imperative. It means a point action, a once for all. Kill it! Come to the point in your life where you make a definite commitment to these things that they’re going to die. You’re going to put them out of your life.
Now, there have been many people who have misinterpreted this. They have interpreted it in a very physical way, and they have felt that Paul is saying, “Injure yourself.”
I met a man one time – in fact, I had a car accident. You know about it. And when the man was coming to settle the insurance, he was telling me – he was telling me about his experience with God. And he was telling me what a righteous man he was and what a religious man he was.
And I said, “Well, on what basis do you say that?”
And he says, “Because I wear a special belt.”
And I said, “Well, what kind of a belt do you wear?”
He said, “I wear a belt with nails in it under my clothes, and I never take it off. And it continues to cut and tear up my middle.”
“Why do you wear that?”
“Because I am killing the flesh. I’m suffering for my sin.”
That isn’t what Paul’s talking about, is it? He’s not talking about the voluntary castration of people like Origen and others who did that as an act of so-called self-mortification. That isn’t what he’s talking about. You know, that would be like taking the statement of Jesus – and this has been done, too, in Matthew, where He says, “If your right eye offends you, pluck it out and throw it away, for it’s better that one of your members should perish so that your whole body doesn’t get cast into hell. And if your right hand offends you, cut if off.
You know, there have been people who misconstrued that and did that. They actually did that.
You say, “Well, it’s a nice gesture.”
Yeah, it’s a nice gesture.
You say, “It’s well meaning.”
Sure it’s well meaning, but do you think it cured problem? Jesus was misunderstood there, and Paul has been misunderstood here. He is not calling for some kind of asceticism that he just got through saying isn’t the issue, at the end of chapter 2. He is calling for the elimination of everything from your life and my life that is against God.
To clarify what he’s saying, you would need to compare just one verse, and it would be clear, I think. In Romans chapter 8, verse 13, he says this, “If you live after the flesh, you’re going to die; but if you, through the Spirit, do kill the deeds of the body, you will live.” And what he means in killing is not killing the body, but killing the – what? – the deeds of the body. If you kill the deeds of the sinful nature, you kill the deeds of the fleshly nature, then you really begin to experience spiritual life, heavenly life in the way that God intended. You’ll really begin to live the risen life.
So, the Christian has to deal with self-centeredness and private desires and personal ambitions. And it must be a radical slaying of these things. And I guess all of us realize, sooner or later, when we become Christians, and maybe some of you are new Christians and you haven’t really felt the full impact of this, but you’re not a Christian very long before you realize that all of a sudden there’s a tremendous struggle. And the struggle that goes on within your new nature is the effort of your new nature to really live the heavenly life.
And then, all of a sudden, you find that there’s something holding you back, and it’s all these things that are part of the old pattern that have to be killed, and the battle is on. Although we are new creatures on the inside, we have to struggle with the old outside, and that’s the flesh, and that’s the battle.
And so that the members of our bodies can either be instruments for the new man - like in Romans 12 he says, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice so they can be instruments of the old man.”
But here Paul’s point is very clear in verse 5. He says, “Therefore, since you are possessors of risen life, since you live in the heavenlies, since you are raised from the dead, since your life is hidden with Christ in God, since Christ is your life, since Christ will come and take you to be with Him, and you will even appear with Him in His glory, since all of this is true, and the heavenlies is your home, therefore, kill the things that are left on the earth. Cut the cord. Slay those things so you can really ascend to live in the heavenlies.” That’s his point.
In chapter 2, verse 20, do you remember what he said? He said, “If you’re dead with Christ, from the basics of the world, why would you live in the world?” If you’ve died to those things in Christ, why would you desire to hang on?
Turn with me for just a brief moment to Romans chapter 6. And I want to show you the passage that most parallels this one. Romans 6:11. And Paul has just carefully discussed the fact of positional death in verses 1 to 10, and how when we came to Christ, we died to the old life. And so he says in verse 11, “Likewise, count yourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Now he says, “Look, here’s the process. You are dead positionally; count on it.” And then he makes the practical statement in verse 12, “Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies, that you should obey it in its lusts.” “You are dead,” that’s verses 1 to 10. “Realize it,” that’s verse 11. “Do something about it,” that’s verse 12. “Here’s how,” that’s verse 13: “Don’t yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but yield yourselves to God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” In other words, that’s just a preliminary to what he’s going to say five or six chapters later when he says, “Present your bodies.” You’re dead positionally; count on it, act like it. Here’s how: don’t yield your bodily members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but as instruments of righteousness unto God.
So, it boils down to this one practical thing: those parts of m body, which tend to sin, I have to prevent from doing that and direct toward the things that would be righteous. We are new creature, and we need to live it.
Now, I want you to notice, back again in Colossians, that the term he uses here is kind of interesting and might bring up a little confusion if we didn’t deal with it. But he says, “Kill your members which are upon the earth.” And I guess, you know, you get the idea, after he goes from there, he says, “Fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil desire, covetousness.” Are these our members? I mean those aren’t the members of my body. Those are the things that those members of my body do. Why does he call that the members of my body?
Well, you remember a few weeks ago that I mentioned to you a term – the term metonymy or metonym. And I said that a metonym or metonymy, as it is appears most often is substituting one thing for another because there’s such a close relationship. And I tried to illustrate that to you. Some of you still don’t get it. So, I thought of a good illustration. Tonight, at last. Remember when you said to your kid, “Don’t give me any lip”? Remember that? That’s metonymy. He didn’t give you his lip. What did he do? He gave you some backtalk. But because of the association between the talk and the lip that it came out of, you substitute lip for talk. It’s simply a figure of speech.
And because of the association that sin has with our bodily members, Paul calls the members the sinners. That’s all. It’s just a figure of speech. Because he wants us to understand that it is our bodily members that get us into trouble because they’re not in control. The members produce the effects mentioned in the five sins. And so, they are identified with the sins themselves. And the body members that he talks about there are forms of evil which the body practices.
And so, he says we’re to kill these things. That’s a simple thing, I mean in terms of command; it’s a little tougher to carry out. But we’ll talk about that in a few minutes. What is it that he’s asking us to kill? Well, just to help us, he gives us some good, healthy lists. I mean they’re good and healthy for us to hear, because these are the things that are the most troublesome sins. These are sample sins. This is a sin sampler.
And I want you to know that the Bible gets very specific. Right from the Ten Commandments, when God talks about sin, he doesn’t talk in generalities; he talks in very clear specifics. And he gives two lists: one is in verse 5, and the other is in verse 8. And in between, there’s something else that’s very interesting we’ll mention to you. But the two lists, in verse 5 and 8, are simply lists of sins. The first list speaks about unholy kinds of love; the second list, wicked kinds of hate.
So, they’re set in contrast. The first is perverted love, the second is wicked hate. The first list begins with Acts and moves to motives. The second list begins with motives and moves to deeds or acts. The first list is personal; the second is social. The first is related to feelings; the second is related to speech.
So, there are some interesting parallels, and we’ll see these as we go. Let’s look at list number one in verse 5. These are the things that we have to kill in our lives. These are the things of the flesh that we have to deal with. They are personal; they are passion sins; they are related to feeling, and he moves from the actual sin itself backwards to the motive. Notice the sequence, “Kill these things: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil desire” - and right on back to the very heart of it all – “covetousness, which is idolatry.” Notice the sequence. First you have evil action. Fornication means sexual sin. Evil action occurs because of uncleanness. Uncleanness means an unholy affection. An unholy affection comes from a perverted, passionate heart, and that’s what inordinate affection and evil desire mean. And that all comes out of the core of a man’s being, which is covetous. That is man is ever wanting what is forbidden. And what it all really boils down to is that man is idolatrous, because whenever you say, “I want what I want, no matter what God says,” you’re worshipping yourself instead of Him. So, you go all the way back.
So, you can see he starts with the deed and goes all the way back to the heart of it. Now, I want to look at these five sins rather briefly. First of all, immorality. The word porneia, the Greek word for sexual sin. It’s where we get our word “pornography,” from the Greek word porneia and graphē, a picture or a writing about evil sin – sex sin.
Basically immorality refers to unlawful sexual relationships; that’s the basic meaning. But it goes beyond just a man and a woman in a relationship, and it would cover any kind of forbidden sexual act - any kind at all. It is evil in that realm. Now, we could spend a tremendous of time. We could spend literally weeks doing a series on that. And I can – if we ever announce a series on that, we’d probably have a fairly good attendance. Whenever you talk about that subject, you always get two reactions. You know? Some people slide up on the end of their chair and say, “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, you know. It’s my favorite subject.” And other people grab their Bible and head for the door. You know? So...
But there’s got to be a balance. No one will leave now for a few minutes, believe me. But there’s got to be a balance in understanding this. And it’s a simple thing. And I don’t want to take the time to go into it, but if you study the Scripture, you can go all the way through and just trace God’s attitude toward this. Very serious.
In the Old Testament, this kind of evil was punished with death. And God’s attitude hasn’t changed. His act toward men is a little more gracious now in this age, but His attitudes hasn’t changed. Any evil in the realm of sex is to be killed, to be put away. God forbids any sexuality activity outside of marriage. Any.
And these evil acts spring out of – look at the term “uncleanness.” That’s his second term. And that means evil thoughts. It refers to evil thoughts, filthy thoughts, filthy intentions. Essentially what Jesus said, “A man who looks on a woman and lusts after her has committed adultery in his heart.” It’s that evil thought that is behind the evil deed. It’s when it gets right up front, and it becomes a dominating thought, and that is precisely what our Lord meant in Mark 7 and verse 21, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, and then adulteries, fornications” – you see? Adultery and fornication comes from the evil thought pattern. I’ve said this so many times, “If you control your thoughts, you’ll control your body.” If you control your mind, you’ll control your emotion. Remember when we studied the heart? The Hebrew sees the heart as the mind and the bowels as the emotional responses. You control the mind, and you’ll control the body. That’s why Paul says in Romans 12 that when you present yourself to God, you present yourself to God in order that you might have your mind not conform to the world but – what? – transform by the renewing of your mind.
In other words, it’s the mind that God wants to capture. It is the mind that controls the behavior. And so, evil thoughts produce sin just as righteous thoughts produce righteous deeds. And that’s why Philippians 4:8 simply says, “If there’s virtue, if there’s any praise” – do what? – “think on these things.” What things? “Whatever things are pure, and lovely, and honest, and of good report.”
And that’s why Colossians – look at it – chapter 3, verse 16 says, “Let the Word of Christ” – do what? – “dwell in you richly.” Let the Word of Christ be the controlling influence in your mind. It’s why we emphasize he study of the Bible. You control your mind, believe me, you’ll control your sex drive. You feed your mind all kinds of elicit things, and you’re going to have a tremendous problem with your sex drive. Tremendous. You can’t help it.
Now, remember that what Paul is saying here is something new to the ancient pagan world. To them, a relationship outside of marriage was nothing at all. There was no stigma to it. They could do whatever they wanted to do; that didn’t even matter. That was like our society today. You tell somebody today that you don’t believe in sex aside from marriage at all, and they look at you like something’s wrong with you. “You got to be kidding.”
I remember when I was invited to speak at the university out here in a class on the Christian Sex Ethic, and I told you what happened. I knew if I went in there and said, “Now, here’s what God’s standard is for all of you,” they’d laugh me right out of the place. So, I went in, and I just told them – I started out by saying, “You’re not going to accept anything I say. You’re not going to want to believe it; you have absolutely no motive for believing it. It’s going to sound puritanical; it’s going to sound Victorian; it’s going to sound ridiculous. There’s no reason for you to believe it. I’m confident none of you will even be interested to trying to adapt to this.”
And by that time, of course, they’re all saying, “Oh, yeah?” Because that’s the college mentality. See? So, I had them right where I wanted them. And is aid, “The reason you’re not going to want to do this is because you don’t love the Christ who gave these principles, and so you don’t understand why.” And I said, “The real issue here is that if you don’t know the Christ that tells you about this ethic, you have no reason to keep this ethic.”
And then a student said, “Well, how can we know the Christ? We got to start at the beginning, don’t we?”
And I said , you know. And about 30 minutes later, the rabbi was beating on his desk, “Let’s get back to the subject.”
There’s no way – there’s no way that the average person in the world system is going to think anything different than what the system thinks. You understand that? He has no resident truth teacher in the Holy Spirit. He has no insight into the Word of God. He has absolutely no motive to obey the Scripture. He will think exactly what the system thinks. You cannot expect anything other than that kind of behavior that issues out of that kind of thinking. Unclean deeds just come from unclean thoughts. You have to expect unclean deeds in a society that’s dominated by unclean thinking.
Now, where does this come from? Well, he takes it one step further back in verse 5. Sexual sin comes from evil thoughts. And then he uses two terms here: inordinate affection and evil desire. Those two terms simply mean passion and evil desire. Those two terms simply mean passion and evil desire. It’s very hard to distinguish those two terms. They must have meant something with a little shade of meaning to the Greek, but it’s hard, this many years later, to understand exactly what they mean.
One of the very outstanding Greek experts, Lightfoot, says that the term passion, or as it is in the King James, inordinate affection, that third term there, seems to be a more passive term referring to sexual passion in a more latent way, whereas evil desires is a fired up kind of thing. It’s just sort of two different levels of intensity and passion. And so, he’s simply saying this, that latent sexual desire becomes activated sexual desire, creates evil thoughts, creating evil deeds. It’s just a very simple sequence.
And so, we see a society of people driven by passion, driven by evil desire, epithumia, the desire for the evil fulfillment. And in 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul, in chapter 4, calls onto Christians and says, “Don’t you operate” - verse 5 – “in the lust of evil desire, as the heathen who know not God. They go beyond and defraud their brothers.” In other words, sexually they assault each other. They’re just out for what they can get. They take advantage of somebody. They’re just out to grab what they can grab what they can grab. There’s no commitment. Now, that’s typical of the world system. Down deep in the depraved heart of a man is a smoldering passion. That smoldering passion gets fanned. That evil desire becomes aroused; it creates an evil thought, which creates an evil deed. They’re really just sitting around, waiting for somebody to flip the switch that puts them out of control, because they have no way to hold it back.
And I would add that here, with these things, you can broaden this into any sin. It’s always that smoldering evil desire that generates any sin. But going back to the very bottom, look at the last of the terms he uses – covetousness – this is the bottom of it all. This is the old-timer. Covetousness.
I read an interesting statement by a Catholic priest, this week, who said he’d been a priest for many, many years, decades. He said, “In all of the years of hearing confessions, I never once heard anyone confess the sin of covetousness.” Maybe it’s because it’s the deepest, one of the most heinous, one of the most evil, one of the ones that we don’t like to admit.
But look at it here, covetousness. It’s one of the oldies. It appeared in the first list of ten, didn’t it? The Ten Commandments. Covetousness is desiring what is forbidden. Desiring what is forbidden.
Jesus considered the covetous heart to be the root from which comes the evil deed. And I think that’s what Paul is saying. Jesus said, “You look, and you desire, and that gets you into trouble.” James said the same thing. You see something; you want it; you don’t have it, so you lust, and you war to get it. And it all gets down to covetousness.
And what covetousness really is, he says, is idolatry. Now, just let me give you the simple definition of sin. In your life, as you live, you either worship God or you worship yourself. If you truly worship God as God, then you say, “God, what pleases you?”
And God says, “This pleases me.”
And you say, “Yes, God, and that’s what I’ll do.”
If you don’t, you say, “Self, what pleases you?”
And self says, “I want that.”
And you say, “But God says no, and that’s forbidden.”
But self says, “I don’t care; I want that.” And you bow at the shrine of self, and out of that, deep-seated covetousness, is generated the evil desire that flames itself into an evil thought and generates an evil deed.
And in order to get at the core of sin, I think Paul is driving us back to the fact that if you’re going to kill, don’t just whack the branches, get down to the root of this deal, which is basically setting up yourself as someone to be worshipped over God.
The Greek word for covetousness, pleonexia, is from two words: pleíōn more, and echō to have. To have more. And it means more than just to have more; it means to have what isn’t yours to have. A forbidden thing. In fact, the Greeks themselves defined pleonexia as insatiable desire. And one Greek writer said, “You might as easily satisfy it as to fill a bowl with a hole in it. It can’t be satisfied. Sinful desire. Ruthless self-seeking. It’s that deep-seated covetousness that really it’s a twin to pride isn’t it? I want what I want for me.
And, you know, every sin you ever commit comes down to that root. You either do what you know God wants, and you know what God has given, and you worship God in it, or you worship yourself, violate God, set yourself up as the one to be satisfied, yourself as the one to be worshipped, yourself as the one to be given homage, and you do that sin. And every time you sin, it goes right back to that same route. You have chosen yourself over God. That’s idolatry. And idolatry is the most heinous sin.
When God said, “You shall have” – what? – “no other gods before Me,” he included you as one of those no other gods. But that deep-down covetousness, when it’s directed toward money, what does it end up in? Stealing. When it’s directed toward fame, what does it end up in? Boasting. When covetousness is directed toward success, it ends up in selfish ambition and hurting other people. When covetousness is directed toward power, it ends up in tyranny. And when covetousness is directed toward a person, it ends up in sexual sin. The desire to have, self-seeking greed.
And I say it again; every sin comes from that black spring. Every one. And isn’t it interesting that the priest said, in his entire life, he never heard anybody confess covetousness. People don’t stride at the root. It’s idolatry. It is self-worship. To worship sex, to worship money, to worship power, to worship ambition, to worship anything like that is to worship what you want, to worship self. And what you covet is your idol.
Paul dealt with this earlier in Ephesians chapter 5, verse 3. And he said, “But sexual sin, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving thanks. For this you know, that no sexual sinner, nor unclean person, nor covetous man who is an idolater” – the same principle. Covetousness is idolatry. Covetousness lads to sexual evil.
Now listen, if you study the Old Testament just in a cursory fashion, you will find, very soon, as you study, that the link between sex and idolatry is clear. Thos two things go together right through the Old Testament. Have you ever noticed that?
Sex and idolatry just – Satan mixes those constantly. Why? Because that’s what it is. The people who worshipped Baal didn’t really worship Baal as much as they worshipped what they could do when they worshipped Baal. You understand what I mean? They worshipped the liberty that they had. They worshipped the liberty that they had. They worshipped the sex orgies that were a part of it. That was the real god. They were seeing the satisfaction of their lusts in that system.
I’ll show you some illustrations. Numbers chapter 25, verse 1. It says, “And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.” Why? Because their gods allowed – what? – sexual evil. And so, the marriage was easy. And Israel joined himself to Baalpeor, and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.
And here you have the harlotry as a form of idolatry, and it’s so easy. Once you’re worshipping anything other than the true God, whether it’s sex or money or anything else, you can be led right into another form of idolatry, because it’s all the same thing.
Look at 1 Kings 14 – 1 Kings 14:21, “Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put His name there. And his mother’s name was Naamah, an Ammonitess. And Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked Him to jealousy with their sins which they committed, above all that their fathers had done.” They must have been something, worse than any previous generation.
“They built high places, and images and idols, on every high hill, and under every green tree. And there were also sodomites in the land.” You know what sodomites were? Homosexuals. Here you have another connection between sexual evil and idolatry; this time homosexuality. These things passed between each other and among each other and mixed without any problem.
The fifteenth of 1 Kings tells us more about the same thing. Verse 11, “And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father. And he took away the sodomites out of the land, removed all the idols that his fathers had made. And also Maachach, his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, burned it by the brook Kidron. But the high places were not removed: nevertheless, Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days. And he brought in the things which his father had dedicated, and the things which he himself had dedicated, into the house of the Lord, silver, gold, and vessels.”
Here was a case where one king destroyed the idols. And what was beautiful about it was that the sexual evil connected with them seemed to subside along with it. Those two things go together.
There’s a statement – I think it’s 2 Kings 23:7 – that is similar. Yeah. “He broke down the houses of the sodomites that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the idol.” Here is the reign of Josiah, and where they worshipped the idol was where the homosexuality went on. Again, sexual evil connected with idolatry.
In the second chapter of Amos, and verse 6, “Thus saith the Lord, ‘For three transgressions of Israel and four, I will not turn away its punishment. They have sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes; that pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek” – and so forth. “And they” – verse 8 – “lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar; they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.” And the picture here is of sex orgies in an idolatrous temple. And again, it’s the very same thing. They just go together.
You see, they’re a tie-in. Idolatry is the worship of self in any of its lustful fulfillments. So, when they simply personalize it into the name of a deity, it just goes together beautifully. When God is ignored, and any lust runs to the gamut, it becomes idolatry in itself and is easily carried off into the worship of a false god.
So, we see then a progression here. The root sin of man is idolatry. That is he struggles to worship himself. And God just gets in the way of that. See? And because there is that tremendous desire to fulfill himself and to meet his own needs and to pander his own desires, he is covetous. And in that covetousness is a deep and latent desire for what is forbidden. And under the right circumstances of temptation, it rises to a passion; it creates an evil thought and issues in an evil deed. And here the apostle Paul is helping us in Colossians chapter 3 by saying, “You got to get down to the root of this deal. You got to kill covetousness. You’ve got to deal with the fact that you want to worship God, and you want for your life exactly what God wants and nothing else.
Sometimes a person will be in a sexual immoral situation, and they’ll come for counseling, and you’ll say to them, “Do you want what God wants in your life? Do you want for you what God wants?” They can’t answer that honestly, because if they did, they wouldn’t be doing that.
“No, I want what I want, really.”
Do you understand the consequences of that? Number one, you forfeit the best. You forfeit the good. You bring on God’s judgment. But sometimes the passion is so far gone that even that is not dissuading them from their intention. You’ve got to kill covetousness.
You know, it’s – somebody said, “How do you kill covetousness?”
I’ll tell you how. You kill it with contentedness. You kill covetousness with contentedness. You just learn to say what Paul said, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be” – what? – “content.”
Contentedness says, “God, for all that you’ve given me, thank You. I don’t want anything else. God, I don’t want any more money. I don’t want any other person for sexual fulfillment than my wife,” or, “my husband.” Or, “I don’t want any more than the singleness you’ve given me for this time in my life. And, God, about my house and my car, and whatever else, I don’t want anything more, God, than what You’ve given me. I am content.” Contentedness will kill covetousness.
You way, “But, John, how do you get contentedness?”
Well, I’m trying to help you. You get contentedness by trusting God. Right? How do you trust God? Get to know Him. The more you know Him, you’ll find out He can be trusted. How do you get to know God? Study His truth because it reveals Himself.
So, Paul says, “You’re going to have to lay the ax at the root.” Concentrate on God’s Word. As He reveals Himself, you’ll trust Him. As you see who He is, what He’s done for you, you’ll begin to see that you don’t deserve any of it. And because you don’t deserve any of it, anything you have is glorious, and you’ll a contentedness that says no to covetousness. And when you say no to covetousness, it can’t rise to the rest of those steps and issue in evil deeds.
Covetous goes around saying, “God, you cheated me. There’s a goodie over there.” See? That’s what covetousness says.
And God graciously and patiently says, “No, I didn’t cheat you. No, I gave you richly all things, all that you need.”
So, that’s the first list we got to deal with. Let’s look at verse 6. Before we get to list two, he stops, in the middle, and gives reasons for spiritual suicide. Why should we kill ourselves in these areas?
“Two good reasons,” he says. Reason number one, very simple, “For which things’ sake the wrath of God comes.” The first reason not to do those things is that God is going to act in judgment. Reason number two, verse 7 – incidentally, the last part of verse 6, in some Scriptures, isn’t in the better manuscripts – verse 7 says, “In the which you also once walked, when you lived in them.” Second reason, that’s a part of your used to be, not a part of your now. Two good reasons. You’re going to get in a lot of divine trouble, and two, it’s inconsistent with your new life. That’s your used to be.
And so, let’s look at the first one. “Kill these things,” he says, “because these are the things the wrath of God comes to.” This is God’s constant, never-changing, ever-present reaction against sin. He will deal with it. For an unbeliever comes eternal wrath. For an unbeliever comes the terror of the Lord. Romans 1:18, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all of this.”
Second Thessalonians, I couldn’t help but think of that potent Scripture, “The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven, with His mighty angels, taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the Gospel. They’ll be punished with everlasting destruction.”
He wrath of God comes on these people who do these things. Why, as a Christian, do you want to do those? Those are the things for which people are damned, not blessed. I mean think about it. If you really want what you want to meet your needs, if you really want to be fulfilled, if you really want to be happy, if you really want what you ought to have, take what God wants to give.
You say, “I want to have this, God; You’re cheating me. I’m going to go get it.”
All you’re going to go get is something that people are being damned for. It’s not worth the effort. And further, I think we have to remind you that believers are being chastened for those things. If, as a Christian, you decide that your covetousness is going to give way, and you’re going to chase the thing you want in spite of God, and you’re going to be idolatrous and worship yourself and fulfill your desire, then you have to be ready for consequence, don’t you? Because, “Whom the Lord loves, He” – what? – “He chastens, and every son He scourges.” Read Hebrews 12. It’s an important passage.
Believe me; the modern attitude of condoning sin isn’t going to find any support from the apostle Paul. God reacts against sin. He always has; He always will, and He always will react the same way. And it’s only going to be wrath, wrath, wrath. And if you choose covetousness, and you follow it to its fruition in an evil deed, you bring about the judgment of God. It is inevitable. There is no other way. You’re just doing something for which God is going to destroy the world. Why would you want to do that? Do you know not that the Father wants to give you all good things? Every good and – what? – perfect gift comes down from the Father.
The second thing he says, not only should you kill these things because of what happens to the people who do them, then what’ll happen to you if you do them. And we could talk a lot about the consequence to evil. Just read the story of David and his sexual problems and the price he paid. The man had a broken heart the rest of his life. The rest of his life. Every one of his children went bad and broke his heart. His own son tried to steal his throne, tried to murder him. There’s just consequence.
But there’s a second reason. Verse 7, “In which you also once walked, when you lived in them.” Hey, you used to do these things, but that was your used to be. That’s not our now. That’s your former life. That’s the old you. I mean you been made rich, which do you want to return to poverty and wallow around in the slime? And I guess maybe that’s something we ought to think about. I’ve been delivered from sin; it’s pretty stupid to go around and fool with it, isn’t it? Pretty stupid.
I mean I was – that’s what I’ve been saved from. And when I go back and fool around with it, the consequence are tragic. But here he’s saying it’s not only going to bring discipline, it’s just – it doesn’t make sense. He says, “And you who” – in Ephesians 2 – “you who were dead in trespasses and sins, you who walked formerly in the lust of the flesh, the desires of the flesh and of the mind, you who were the sons of disobedience, you who were under the power – the prince of the power of the air, you have now been transformed. In 1 Corinthians 6, when he’s talking to the Corinthians about their morality, he says, “I mean it doesn’t make sense to do this. You used to be adulterers, and you used to be fornicators, and you used to be this. But now you’re washed, and now you’re sanctified. It doesn’t make sense.”
If you’re a new creature, how can you act like an old one? I mean if you’re now the slave of Jesus Christ, how can you yield yourself to sin? If you’ve died to the first husband, in Romans 7, and been married to the new one, Christ, how in the world could you possibly want to be obedient to the one that’s dead? It just doesn’t make sense.
So, he says it doesn’t make sense by virtue of the consequence, and it doesn’t make sense by virtue of who you are. Then Paul comes to catalog two, another list of sins in verse 8. Look at them with me. And we’re just going to look at these briefly. These are simple. And these are very common. I wish we had time to develop them all, but we don’t.
Look what he says in verse 8. Now, here’s list number two. And this is a little different. He begins with a motive and moves to the act. And these sins are not so personal; they’re social, and they’re not such feeling sense, but they’re more related to speech. “But now you also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another.”
Now, he says, “These are things that have to go, so put them off.” The word “put off” there is a very interesting word in the Greek. It appears again in verse 9, “put off,” and then in verse 10, “put on,” and then in verse 12, “put on” again. But the “put off” word here is a word that is used for taking your clothes off, putting them off. And what he’s saying is, as a man would, at the end of a day take off dirty, filthy clothes, so you should discard the rags of your old life. Imagine that the unbeliever is like a beggar: filthy, clothed only in rags. He comes to Christ. He throws away the old, and he gets a robe of white righteousness. And then he goes out and finds his rags and puts them back on again.
Well, if you have trouble imagining that, you’re not examining your own life, because that’s precisely what we do, isn’t it. And so, Paul says, “Throw them off.”
You know, it’s interesting that in the early Church, when people were baptized, they would receive, after their baptism – they would come in their old clothes, put their clothes off, and be baptized in just a small amount of clothing. And afterwards, they would be given a new, pure, white robe to wear. And maybe – you know, just maybe, Paul might be thinking about that. I mean put off all that old stuff and put on the new. Throw away your old vices like you’d throw away old dirty, filthy clothes. And then he gives us another little sample list.
Look at the first one. Anger. Anger. This is the – this word means deep-down, smoldering, resenting, bitterness. Slow burning. This is the just – just the angry person. You know that? The guy that just – it’s always there; all you need to do is fan it. And this can happen to any of us. There’s just a deep anger; there’s just somebody we just – every time we see him, up it comes.
Or every time that same – every time – I’ve heard people – say it, “Every time I think of that, it makes me furious.” Why? Because up it comes. It’s been smoldering all the time. You ought to think about it more often so you can get it off your chest. It’s that - orgē is the Greek word. It just has to do with a smoldering, deep-down anger. And the Bible uses that term. There are many places you can look and find it.
And then he uses another term. And notice he’s moving from deep-down out. He starts with that smoldering anger. You know, one thing that I believe salvation ought to do for us is to get rid of that smoldering anger that pops up, that makes you fly off the handle at certain things, that provides for you a reservoir so that when somebody does what you don’t like, you can call it up.
You know, I like to meet people who don’t have that reservoir. You know that? No matter what you do to them, they never get mad. Oh, you know, they’re just sweet and loving.
And you say, “Well, maybe they’re really burning inside.”
Well, maybe they are. But there’s surely some people who aren’t, who just have gotten rid of that particular problem. And then it gives way to wrath. Now, you’ll notice the word wrath, in verse 8, that is thumos. That’s the blazing thing – the Greeks said it’s like setting a fire in straw. Thumos is when you flame. Furious.
Now, you, you’ve seen that. It quickly burns out, and it’s over with. You ever see – you know, “Well, yeah, I know he always gets mad, but he gets over it real quick.” Right? Or some of you, you go through that with your spouse. You know and you just go out and mow the lawn a little while and come back. Wonderful. Because it’s – or your kids or what – somebody at your job. Thumos.
But what Paul is talking about here is there is a smoldering anger down in the heart of men. You know that? Why? I believe in my heart that most people live with a basic resentment. I believe they live with a basic kind of chip on their shoulder, because they don’t understand why they’re here; they didn’t ask for this; there’s always trouble; they can’t answer all the questions; there are problems in their lives, and it just takes certain things to fire it up. And one of the things that Christ wants to do is to deal with that basic discontent.
And then when that sort of smoldering thing turns into a flaming thing, then it leads to another thing, and that is the word here in verse 8 “malice.” Then it comes out of the old mouth. But here is the concept that you have a smoldering, resenting anger. It flames itself into a blaze, and out of the mouth it comes. And we’re working toward the act.
And what comes out of the mouth? Verse 8, “Blasphemy.” Now, that word would be best translated here slander. In relation to God, it’s blasphemy; in relation to men, it’s often translated as slander. But in case you’ve forgotten about this, every time you slander a man, you slander God. Did you know that? Every time you’re driving down the road, and somebody pulls in front of you, and you say, “That stupid fathead idiot.” You know? Just remember this, God made that stupid fathead – now wait a minute, wait a minute – in His image. You need to understand the dignity of men.
In James 3 –is it verse 9? – “Therewith bless we God” – talking about your mouth/tongue – “There with your tongue you bless God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the similitude of God.”
On one end, “Oh, bless the Lord, praise the Lord.” You go out of the door, “That stupid klutz, if...”
Think of it this way. When you slander a human being, you blaspheme God who made that man, that woman. Or when you look at somebody disparagingly, and you think yourself so wonderful, and when you say, “Look. Uneducated. Oh, he’s stupid. Look at that person. Look at the way they look. Look, they don’t know how to dress; they don’t know how to act.”
Matthew 5:22, “I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause is in danger of judgment” - and the only cause is a righteous one – “and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be in danger of the council: but whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” It’s that serious.
God is simply saying here that you don’t go around calling people fools or using derogatory terms. Don’t teach your children to do that; don’t do that. You’re disparaging those made in the image of God, and you’re warping the picture that God wants you to have of the dignity of humanity. There’s no reason to insult anybody. And an insult leveled at a human being is a shaft aimed at the image of God.
The other day, I was at the park, and there was a – I was playing football with my little guy, Mark, and some little kids were around. There were a couple of real cute little black kids, and we were playing together. They play on Mark’s little team. And one little kid jumped up and said to one of those little black kids, “You dirty nigger.” And I’m telling you, you know, I just – I God shaky inside. I just – I couldn’t handle that. Maybe it was because I had a personal affection for those two little kids. But more than that, that just stabbed me. And I’m telling you, you know, I – I was about ready to take that little kid - and somebody intervened – or I would have given him some theology that he never would have been able to handle.
Now, if he would have said, “You dirty whitey,” it would have been the same to me. But you see, there’s a little guy, eight years old, who’s raised in a family where that’s the kind of living he’s used to. Don’t do that. Don’t make it hard – it’s hard enough, people, to get this licked, isn’t it? Don’t impose your bitterness and hatred on them as if this is right. It isn’t right. People are to be thought of with dignity because they’re made in the image of God. Don’t bless God with the your mouth and curse those people made in His image. Obviously I still haven’t gotten over that, and I’m still waiting for the moment to talk to that little guy.
And then there’s another thing that issues in an evil deed, and that is in verse 8. And it’s not only going to be slander, but what’s going to come up out of this angry, wrathful, evil speaking is not only going to be slander, but it’s going to be filthy communication, filthy talk. This, in the Greek, means obscene language. It’s the same that is talked of in Ephesians 4:29, rotten talk, sapros, rotten.
Ephesians 4:29 says if you’re going to say something, say what is edifying, say what is necessary, and say what is gracious, or keep your mouth shut. Say what is edifying, necessary, and gracious, and don’t say anything else. There’s no reason for any filthy communication. Believe me, Jesus was right when He said this, in Matthew 12, “Out of the abundance of the heart” – what? – “the mouth speaks, and a good man, out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things, and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, brings forth evil things.”
When I hear that, I say “That’s an evil man.” Why? That’s what Jesus said. Because good men don’t speak that way. Check your own talk.
And then he says – there’s a last thing that issues from this particular kind of angry, resenting thing, not only slander but that kind of filthy talk that really is deriding and derogatory and slanderous in itself. It demeans the human body; it demeans God’s beautiful and lovely design of sex. It turns it into something filthy. And he says there’s one other thing that issues out of this kind of heart, and that is lying, verse 9. He says, “Stop lying to each other.” Now, this goes way back to the Ten Commandments, too, and lying is a problem.
I’m telling you, if you want to have an interesting study sometime, start in Genesis and find every lie in the Bible and then tell me, in three years from now, how many there are. I just stared at the beginning, and I quit before I ever got out of Genesis. Satan lied in deceiving Eve; Adam and Eve lied to God, attempting to evade responsibility. Cain lied to God about his brother. Abraham lied about Sarah; Sarah lied to the angel; Sarah lied to the king of Gerar. Isaac lied, denying Rebecca was his wife. Rebecca lied in the conspiracy against Esau. And I said, “I’ve had enough.” And I’m not even through Genesis.
And Jesus said in John 8:44 that Satan is the father of – what? – of lies. Tell the truth, people. If believers can’t speak the truth, who in the world can? Paul is horrified that a Christian would speak slander, that a Christian would speak filthy talk, or that a Christian would lie. He says, “These are the things that you’ve got to kill.” There’s no place. Jesus said, “Out of the heart are the issues of life.”
James spoke of bitter and sweet words out of the same mouth. Paul says a foul mouth, a filthy speech, a slanderous speech, a lying mouth is repulsive.
You know, you’d almost think, “This is – boy, John, this is awful elementary for people whose life is hid with Christ in God.”
It is, isn’t? This is awfully elementary for those who’ve been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. Do you really have to say this to people who are complete in Christ? But let’s face it, beloved, such is the battle. Huh?
You say, “But, John, how do I handle these things? How do I kill them? How do I get rid of them?”
Well, how do you kill sin? I’ll give you two ways and I’ll be done. Number one, starve it.
“Well, what do you mean by that?”
Don’t feed it. In other words, feed your mind something else. Don’t feed it trash. Don’t feed your anger. Don’t feed your resentment. Don’t feed your sexual desire. Don’t feed your covetousness. You know, years ago, when we didn’t have so much, people on the farm would sit there and drool over the Sears catalog. And maybe it’s changed a little bit, but it isn’t much different. Now we buy magazines and we drool over all the goodies. And we go window shopping. Checking out the new models. You know? Starve it. Don’t feed it. Don’t feed any of those areas. Don’t feed your covetousness, and don’t feed that resentment. Don’t give it anything to eat. That’s the negative.
Then the positive, crowd it out with positive graces. Just pour into your mind the Word of Christ, the things that are good, the things that are right. That’ll make the difference. Well, let’s pray.
“Father, we know that all of this just really gets down to the practical area of whether we’re controlled by Your Spirit or by our own spirit, the human spirit. And, Father, we would yield to the Holy Spirit, and we would desire to dwell in the Word of God so that the Word of God crowds our mind, and there just isn’t anything else that can fit in. There’s just too much Scripture for covetousness, too much of Your Word for anger, resentment, smoldering bitterness. That’s all been pushed out, starved out for lack of fuel.
“Thank You for already winning the victory, and help us to claim it. Thank you for already killing us, as it were, on the cross, and giving us new life. And now help us to learn what it is to commit spiritual suicide in a practical way and put to death these things, that we might live, as Paul said, righteously and godly in this present day, for Your glory, in Jesus’ name, amen.
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