In the previous article, we looked at the first mark of a genuine Christian, Heavenly Mindedness. Today, we will consider the second mark, that is, a genuine Christan Fights Sin. In verse 5 of Colossians 3, Paul tells Christians to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry”.
Pondering over the first part of Colossians 3, the question that comes to my mind is ‘if the Colossians were already dead and their life is hidden with Christ in God, why is Paul asking them to put sin to death again?’ Is that not a contradiction? In one breath he says Christ has defeated Satan, death and sin. And again, he is asking them to put sin to death.
Now, we must understand that Christ’s victory was complete and final.There is no question about that. However when we become Christians, what happens to us is a transfer from the dominion of darkness into light. Sin is no more our master. We change kingdoms.
However, we still live in a fallen body in a fallen world yet to be glorified. This brings us into a conflict between our new nature and the old nature, which is the flesh. By the work of God through the Holy Spirit, we are increasingly transformed to become like Christ.
This is a very imperfect example because the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness are not equal in power, but imagine there are two camps of opposing forces. One day one camp invades the other and captures some of its inmates. What do you think will happen? Will the losing camp sit idle without doing anything? Of course not, it will try whatever means possible to recapture its people. That’s exactly what happens when we are saved.
Jesus stormed the enemy’s camp and rescued us from the chains of sin and of the devil. The enemy’s power has been broken, however he will not sit idle and look on. Obviously he will try everything possible to try and get us back into his camp. John Piper throws much light on this. He said:
When Paul says the flesh has been crucified, he means that the decisive battle has been fought and won by the Spirit. The Spirit has captured the capital and broken the back of the resistant movement. The flesh is as good as dead. Its doom is sure. But there are outlying pockets of resistance. The guerrillas of the flesh will not lay down their arms and must be fought back daily.
Paul calls on the believers in Colossae to wage war on all that is earthly in them daily. Formerly, they lived like the world but now he calls on them to put those things to death. The verse mentions the specific things to put to death: “Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry”
These are things that characterise the world system. In vv 2 & 3, Paul calls for heavenly mindedness. Then in v5, he draws a contrast mentioning the things which are earthly. In effect, these earthly things are the opposite of the things in heaven.
Paul is not asking us to suppress sin. He says “put it to death”. Some people try to negotiate with sin, but the language used here is not one of a suggestion. It is a command. Putting sin to death requires drastic measures. Jesus in one of his teachings said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
Jesus of course is not alluding to bodily mutilation. He is painting an imagery of the needed disciplines to deal with sin. The consequences of sin is such that we must use all means of grace God provides to kill it in our lives. When you look at verse 6, Paul says it is “On account of these the wrath of God is coming”. Either you fight sin or you will be faced with the wrath of God. And none of us would like to fall into the hands of God.
One of the humbling things about this battle is that, it is not a battle with an outside force. The enemy is within. Look back at verse 5, what is Paul asking to be “Put to death?”… “All that is earthly in you…” And v.8 “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth”. And v.9, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices”
These are all things that come from within, that is why the excuse “the devil made me do it” will never stand in the court of heaven. It is true Satan is our enemy and we need to continue resisting him, but he often finds a willing ally with us. Therefore in our struggle with sin, we must always recognize that the enemy is not only out there, but we are his willing accomplices. The battle we are called to fight is one of putting off the old self and putting on the new self, which is in the image of Christ. It is a battle to become like Christ (vv. 9-10).
How Do We Wage This Battle?
1) Fight with the word.
We are in a battle to kill the old self and put on the new self, the most effective way to do this is to renew our minds with the word of God. We change our affections through the renewal of our minds (v.9. see also Rom 12:2). How are you doing with your bible intake? Are you spending time reading and meditating on the word? A Christian without the word is like a soldier without his gun.
2) Starve The Old Self.
We are in the battle to kill the old man, and one of the surest way to kill someone is to starve them. When we don’t give in to the desires of the flesh, we deny the old self the food it needs to survive. We must on a daily basis make decisions that take us away from the scene of sin. So if you struggle with pornography for example, don’t watch nude movies. Don’t be sitting on the internet at midnight. Don’t engage in activities that fuels your weaknesses and sins.
3) Fight In Community.
In every battle you increase the chances of victory when you have others fighting alongside with you (vv. 12-14). One of the greatest means of grace God has given the Christian is the church, to support us in our fight against sin. The church as a covenant family becomes even more important when the enemy is within us. We point out one another’s fault, we rebuke sin, we encourage and we forgive one another.
As we intentionally love one another and admonish one another, we increase our chances of winning this battle with sin.
The last in the series, Peace With God will be treated in the next article God willing.