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Oct 29, 2017

Taking Off The Old Self

Taking Off The Old Self

Passage: Colossians 3:5-8

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Colossians

Keywords: femininity, greed, holiness, immorality, impurity, in christ, lust, masculinity, put to death, sexuality, sin

Summary:

As we are discovering that our life truly is in Christ, Paul teaches us that there are still things in our old nature/flesh that we must "put to death"...kill. He gives us 5 commands, 4 of which clearly deal with sexuality and the 5th that can as well. Sexuality has great power...for good or evil. The question is, "What does sexuality look like in Jesus and how can sexuality be used to draw us into the life of Jesus?"

Detail:

Taking Off the Old Self

Colossians 3:5-11

October 29, 2017

INTRO: 

It’s good to be back!  And it was good to be away too!  I hope you were blessed by Ron and Glendie and what they had from God for you?  Coming together in Christ is to be a Christ-encountering experience.  I trust that is why you are here today:  to enjoy Jesus afresh. 

P.S.  Wednesday night’s worship night Abide did that for my heart this week.  If you’ve missed the last 2, you’ve missed.  God clearly gave Andrew words, songs, scriptures and direction that expanded my heart’s ability to experience Christ through a very biblical and godly understanding of lament. 

Challenge:  times like this are “spiritual date nights” with God.  We don’t do them to fill your social calendar with more options. They are “optional”…just as any weekend worship is or Bible study or evening/morning prayer meeting, etc. How good the “date” is depends on where we are with our Beloved…or where we want to be.  Not every date I have with Sandy is a 10.  It may be because I’m distracted…or tired…or there is stuff between us.  But if my heart is wanting to get close to her heart, we usually figure out a way to deal with or set aside the distractions so we can bond our hearts together more.  That’s what shared worship times can be: dates with God as the Bride of Christ, the church.  It’s “first love” renewal.  It’s learning to live in wonder and awe of our heart’s First Love.  Because we’re not “going to church” this morning; we’re being the church…being the Bride of Christ. 

ILL:  A few weeks ago, Pastor Bob shared a story with us of an encounter he had at one of the Changing Lives breakout groups on Saturday evening.  (Share about the young man who was new to the group and was about to be released from transitional housing nearby who looked familiar.)  “We knew each other in Rathdrum…remember, the days… when you were my drug dealer.”   J  (Share about the radical change in Bob he saw and how that helped him trust God for his impending and anxiety-provoking transition.)

Today’s Scripture passage in Colossians 3 puts us into the very practical, application-focused section of Paul’s letter.  Though we’ve taken a couple of weeks away from this book, hopefully you remember a little from 3 weeks ago. Paul was reminding us that the Christian life is all about life in Christ.  It’s a new life, a resurrection-type life, that finds real life in experiencing Christ in every part of life right now—thoughts, ideas, conversations, looks, work, play, etc.  That was the overarching call as Paul introduced this call to making Christ our life. 

Then, beginning in vs. 5, he starts to unpack the process that making Christ our life involves.  It’s not an exhaustive description of the process.  But he’s going to hit on some of the more important pieces of that process in order to help us really make Christ our life. 

This passage contains 3 commands in 3 different verses.  Commands are a cue to what we really must focus on when God is speaking to us through His word.  Commands are the really practical stuff of the Christian life.  They alert us to the things God wants us to know are really important to experiencing Him—his blessing, his presence, his glory. 

Before we study the first command, let me ask you a somewhat strange question:  Anybody love killing…love murder?  [Nice not to see any hands on this one!] 

Q:  How many of us have been around killing (either war, a murder scene, suicide scene, even fatal accidents)?  If you enjoyed that experience, there is probably something wrong with you.  Most of us go away from violent or traumatic brushes with death traumatized, rattled, even deeply disturbed by those scenes. Even when we are close to places where we know human life has ended, there is usually a sense of sobriety and somberness about simply the location.

ILL:  Driving through parts of Montana where they have posted crosses alongside the road where people died in traffic accidents.  Sometimes there are solitary crosses…sometimes 5 or 6 together.    

ILL:  Being in Manila, Philippines and visiting the national penitentiary building where criminals on death row were executed by electrocution.  (Chair, electrified helmet, arm and leg restraints, etc.)  Sobering knowing that life had ended for many people in that chair. 

            Now, read the first command in 3:5 and really take note of what you are reading.  It should sound rather shocking, rather severe, rather gruesome even.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature….”  Apparently God is in favor of SOME murder?  We better qualify that, right? 

            God has always prohibited murder—the taking of life by one individual over another without sufficient or just cause (such as self-defense or protecting “innocent” lives from others seeking to murder them).  And the issue of the taking of life in war is a another matter separate from the discussion of murder as well (at least in my theology).  Suicide is also prohibited by God under the command not to murder. 

            But here God invokes the language of death/murder when he says, “Put to death…mortify” (from nekro’o) whatever belongs to your “earthly nature” (or as some versions translate it, “your old nature” or “fleshly nature”).  We’ve already studied earlier about how we “died and [our] life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3; also 2:20).  But that’s talked about in past tense and in what Christ has done for us. 

            This command is in the present tense.  This is not about what Christ has already done for us. It’s something that we are called upon to do, yes, in the life of Jesus we now have BUT nonetheless it’s our action to engage. 

            This is forceful language.  It’s graphic, even violent.  “Kill…mortify…put to death” anything that belongs to your earthly nature.  Before we look at what that is in us we are to kill, I want us to be clear about how radical this action is that Paul is saying we need to do to ourselves. 

            In 2 Corinthians 4:10, Paul uses the same basic word (nekrosis) when he says, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” It’s in the context of the various suffering Paul had endured for the sake of the Gospel and the name of Jesus.  What kind of sufferings?  He says he was “hard-pressed on every side… perplexed…persecuted…struck down…” (4:8-9).  These are the things that allowed Paul to “carry around in [his] body the death of Jesus.”

            So there is a “death” going on here within the living body, the life, of a living saint

ILL:  Many of you have faced a personal diagnosis of cancer.  A number of our body here right now are fighting cancer within their own bodies.  When you beat it, you go on living.  But if it beats you, you eventually die of cancer, usually earlier than what you would have expected to live. 

            So how do we treat cancer?  “Chemotherapy” and “radiation” are the most frequent forms of treatment.  What do both of those treatments try to do?  [Kill the cancer cells before they kill us.] 

            Have you ever met anyone who wanted to undergo chemotherapy or radiation?  Ever found a vacation club advertising a “chemo-cruise” or “radiation R&R Resort time-shares”?  NO… NEVER!  Why?  Because nobody wants to go through that kind of sever treatment if you don’t have to.  And even if you have to, it’s not an enjoyable or fun process that you are going to blow even more money on while you have to endure it.  It usually knocks the struf’en out of you!  It usually brings you closer to death before you recover and go on enjoying life. 

            This is one of the most radical commands of the entire N.T.  Killing a plant is one thing.  Killing an animal as yet a more radical thing than cutting the grass.  But putting to death something in yourself is very radical action.  Sadly, for too many Christians, it is so radical that they would rather risk, and always do experience, the deadly and debilitating effects of sin in their lives rather than the tough and sometimes painful process of “dying” to their old natures and living in Christ. 

Writer John Owen translated it this way in his discussion of temptation and Sin (The Works of John Owen: Temptation and Sin [Banner of Truth], 6:9):  “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

            This is an action that, as we will see, strikes at the very core of who we are apart from Christ.  But now look at the specific parts of our “old nature/flesh” that God is calling us to kill.  (vs. 5)—

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: [And then he gets specific] sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed.”  Let’s look at each of those 5 words.

1.)  “Sexual immorality” (24x in N.T.):  “Immorality” translates the Greek word “porneia,” a broad term for any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. This includes sex between unmarried partners, adultery, homosexuality, child molestation, bestiality and every type of sexual perversion outside of the holy sexual union and behavior of a man and a woman in marriage.

2.)  “Impurity” is similar to “porneia,” but it also includes impurity of thought as well as deed. It is anything that engages us with the pagan sexual immorality of our world, whether that might be voyeurism through watching movies that present sex and nakedness as an entertainment to be engaged in or whether it is sexualized comedy or conversation—“impurity” is the effect of “soiling spiritually” our hearts or minds or spirits/souls. 

ILL:  You could call it emotional/spiritual/soulish STDs/STIs.  We are left with an infection/virus of the spirit that defiles us, degrades us, harms us, makes us weak and sick and “unsafe” to others who are close to us.  It’s not a pretty imagery, is it?

ILL:  Or you could think of it as what happens to you when you have to clean up someone else’s bodily fluids—vomit, excrement, etc.  If you have ever had to do that, how do you feel about immediately proceeding to the dinner table without washing with lots of soap and hot water?

3.)  “Lust” refers to specifically sexual passions or erotic passion here.  It is the idea of letting our lives be run (and ruined) by sexual urges.  It’s responding to that part of our physical bodies and mental/emotional psyche that gets a rush, a high or a thrill from sexual desire fulfilled in ungodly ways.  Married and single people alike are subject to these strong sexual urges that draw us away from Christ.   

4.)  “Evil desires” have the clear sense of “self-seeking desires.”  Obviously the context is sexual self-seeking rather than the engaging in sex as it was designed to be—a self-giving act of love that thinks of the needs and desires of the beloved rather than one’s on desires for self-gratification.  

5.)  The final word in Paul’s list is “greed,” which he equates with idolatry. Other references mention greed in the same context as sexual sin (Rom. 1:24-32, esp. vs. 29; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Eph. 5:3), because greed is the desire for more so that I can fulfill myself without regard for God or for others. It’s idolatry because I am putting myself in the place of God. All sexual immorality has greed as its motive, because it’s based on personal gratification, not on permanent love and commitment to the other person’s good.

This passage speaks, though not comprehensively, to one of the great challenges of our day for Christ-followersThere are so many issues important to godly sexual integrity that we could talk about that it warrants a whole series of messages.  If you haven’t noticed, sex is BIG in our culture.  We cannot watch TV, go to the movies, pick up a magazine, go online, drive down the street, be in a meeting at the office, walk across a campus, and yes, even gather with God’s people (like today) but that we must make mind, eye, and soul choices about sex and sexuality.  I think it is safe to say that we are more sexualized as a culture than ever before. 

But I do NOT think that the battle for Christ followers is any harder in our generation than in other periods of human history.  Extremes and extreme beliefs about sex and sexual sin have always been a trap for God’s people.  License or legalism have always been the twin ditches on either side of the road of human sexuality that have wounded, robbed and in some cases destroyed many a child of God. 

I have to believe that something that is so consistently used to pull people away from God can also be one of the greatest things in life to draw people TO Christ and grow us up in ChristHuman sexuality is not something we should be teaching our children to suppress, avoid, deny or wall off.  It is something we must teach our children and every generation of God’s children how to appreciate, enjoy, love, respect, rejoice in and use to draw us further into the life of Jesus

Jesus was fully man.  He had hormones and sexual desires that never led him into sin either in thought, word or action.  And he was single and celibate his entire life.  So singles, never forget that Jesus was tempted in all points like you are, yet “without sin”!  A godly sexuality as a single is not only possible but desirable for every single person.  And if you believe God and his word, it involves celibacy.

In addition, Adam and Eve were sexual beings, enjoying human sexuality of and between a man and woman, a husband and wife, in the Garden of Eden before they sinned.  And the fall into sin didn’t destroy all their human sexuality or much of the blessing of sexuality and sex.  But it did, undoubtedly, complicate and even compromise many aspects of sexuality and sex. 

So one of the big application issues of this text to me seems to be, “If God calls me to kill certain ungodly and unholy aspects of sexual expression that the world revels in, what positive expressions of godly sexuality is He calling us to embrace?”  “Since sex and human sexuality were created by God as ‘very good’ in the beginning, how does God want His children today and in every generation to use sex and human sexuality to develop us in Christ?  To grow us up ‘into Christ’?” 

I have a few introductory thoughts about that I want to share and then I want you to discuss with a few people around some of your thoughts and beliefs as a child of God about that.  So here are a couple of foundational truths about sex and sexuality that will help us frame this discussion. 

#1.  Masculinity and femininity as well as sex between men and women were designed by God to show of the nature of God in creation.

  • It takes BOTH man and woman to express the image of God in this creation to the degree God designed. Neither men alone nor women alone can adequately portray the image of God.  The very name of God El Shaddai, alludes to God’s nature being reflected in certain physical and psycho-social feminine qualities of women…just as the name El Gibbor meaning “Mighty God,” alludes to God’s nature being reflected in certain physical or psycho-social masculine qualities of men. 
  • Men and women, in general, display both similar yet at the same time different characteristics of the nature of God. They are not interchangeable.  Two women cannot parent the same as a man and woman.  Nor can they have sex as a man and woman can.  Equally, two men cannot parent as a a mother and father do.  Neither can they have sex as a man and woman.  [That was self-evident for most of human history but has become completely confused in our culture in the last 25 years.]
  • Even the way we are clearly and most naturally are biologically designed to experience sex (face to face as men and women) is designed to both express and remind us of the intimate nature of the relationship of the Godhead to each other. (See pros ton theon in John 1:1—“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the word was God.”  Some commentators have suggested that it can also be translated “was face to face God.”) 
  • The very fact that pregnancy and children are the consistent and common outcome of sex between a man and a woman speaks of the Triune and deeply relational union of the Trinity.

 #2.  Both the inherent masculine, feminine and sexual drives of men and women are designed by God to energize Christ-likeness. 

  • Take, for instance, the deep longing that many single and married people have for children. Having children and not having children can be both some of the greatest joys and greatest sorrows of human experience.  One would think that God had designed both parenting and parent-lessness to draw us deeper into Christ and closer to God!  J  Everyone can experience the joys and sorrows of having no offspring.  And everyone can experience the joys and sorrows of having offspring.  [How can single people know the joys of parenting?  As many as a.) adopt children even though they are single, and b.) as many as choose to become spiritual parents to newborn or “orphaned” spiritual children will experience both the joys and sorrows of parenting.]
  • Sexual drives and energies can be drives that remind us that we need constant connection with and work of God the Holy Spirit to sanctify us. They can drive us to more prayer, more connection to and more dependence upon God.  But they can also grow our passion, energy and focus on how holy sexuality is to be used in this world.
    • ILL: a man’s fascination with a woman’s beauty>>remind us of God’s beauty and the reflection of that is in every person (no matter how well hidden or disguised?). 
    • ILL: A woman’s desire for security or love in a relationship to a man. Even what women desire and experience in sex is significantly different than what men often experience (I can only imagine, of course) both mentally, emotionally and physiologically.
    • ILL: Don’s idea of “sublimation” of sexual energies and drives.  

Group discussion:

  1. How does God want His children today and in every generation to use sex and human sexuality to develop us in Christ?
  2. What are some ways we can “put to death” unhealthy, sinful and ‘old nature’/fleshly sexual desires?

So here’s how I’d like to end today’s call from God through this passage.  Clearly we ALL, no matter what our sex, sexual desires, age or gender, we ALL need to “put to death” some sexual sins.  Whether that is in thoughts or attitudes, actions or reactions to sex and sexuality, we all need to be very practical when it comes to winning the battle for sacred sexuality. 

            So I’d like to “interview” one of our brothers who I deeply respect for the depth of thought and work he has done in this arena.  Hopefully his wisdom will help all of us “put to death” the cancers of sexual sins that threaten and assail all of us at different times in life. 

 

QUESTIONS:

  1. What are the most frequent things/experiences that you have seen in people’s lives that lead to deeper, more difficult battles for sexual integrity? (Understanding that there are things others can do to us [like sexual abuse] that result in greater battles as well as things we can do ourselves that do the same.)
  2. When you work with men, what are a couple of the most common pieces of advice you give to men struggling with sexual purity?
  3. This passage calls for “radical surgery”…or (as Richard Drafus says in the movie What About Bob) “death therapy” to our fleshly desires. What are a couple of things you’ve found helpful in your own life that debilitate or destroy some of the old (B.C.?) fleshly passions? 
  4. To leave this on a positive note, any thoughts or recommendations for making human sexuality a Christ-engaging experience?