Nothing weakens the church so much as the battle that Christians have with sin and guilt. Behind the outward appearances, too many in churches today are repeating sins and feel trapped by them. They live under a weight of guilt, and they feel like they have tried every avenue for victory. They keep doing right things outwardly, but inside they feel helpless and confused. They find themselves wondering, how can I do this when the Bible says that “old things have passed away, all things have become new.” If I am a new man in Christ, how can I be doing these things? While all Christians have probably faced these struggles and questions at one time or another, for some, they are a daily reality.
As we move into the application section of the letter to the Colossians, we will deal with some of the most personal and most important questions in the church today. Why do Christians sin? Can I help it? Am I an old fleshly man, or a new creature in Christ? Or both? How do I change? Even in these 7 verses this letter will deal with what are probably the most problematic issues: sexual sins, anger, and the tongue.
I probably shouldn’t open this sermon this way, because it would takes weeks or months to adequately deal with all of these issues. But Colossians 3 will give us some significant help, though of course it cannot exhaustively address these issues. This will be a great start.
READ Col. 3:1-11
··· Understanding what is past and what is present in this text:
v.9 you laid aside the old man (self) with its evil practices: this was death with Christ, which you claimed for yourself by faith at salvation
v.10 you put on the new man (self): this is resurrection with Christ, which you claimed for yourself by faith at salvation
v.5 put to death the members upon the earth to sin
v.8 throw aside your sin
vv. 10-11 your new man is being renovated in the image of Christ
This follows the pattern that we have already seen in Colossians several times: live in the reality of Christ; live in the reality of who you are. We just saw it last week: since you are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, you should be seeking and setting your mind on things above. Since you have died with Christ to the law, you shouldn’t subject yourself to the law any longer. Since you have been made complete in Christ, don’t look to man’s wisdom for ideas about how to make life work. You have everything you need in Christ. This follows that same pattern. There is heavenly reality, and we have to learn to live in light of that. The heavenly reality is that your old man was laid aside, and you put on the new man through union with Christ. Now live like it. That’s the basic message of these verses.
··· Question: if my old man died and I have a new man now, why do I struggle with sin?
*This is a very difficult question. It raises lots of issues like, does the believers have one nature or two? Is the believer a 100% new holy man? II Cor. 5:17 in the KJV says “old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.” Or is he 100% new and 100% old at the same time? Or is he somewhere in between? The NT is not that clear, and as a result the debates rage. Here’s how I understand it.
Old man: defeated, but not yet gone; the new birth doesn’t get rid of indwelling sin, the corruption of the old nature still remains in us
· Rom. 6:6 “Our old self was crucified with Him.”
· Gal. 5:17 “the flesh [sinful nature] sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”
New man: real, but not fully realized yet; we are genuinely new, but not yet fully new
· Eph. 4:24 “The new man in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
· Col. 3:10 “The new man is being renewed [renovated]”
You are positionally perfect; holy; sanctified; saved; absolutely 100% forever. That is your position, but in practice you are still being changed. And this will continue until you die or Christ returns. Then you will be fully new; indwelling sin will be gone; the corruption of your old nature will be gone. You will be 100% Christlike in practice and position.
SO, if my old man died and I have a new man now, why do I struggle with sin? Because while your old man is defeated, it is not yet gone. You are a still a sinner by nature. Though you are really new, you are not completely new. You are growing in Christlikeness, and this won’t be completed until you are glorified.
This might be a little bit disturbing to some of you, to be told that yu don’t have a perfectly holy new self in you. You are thinking: “I thought that when I got saved I became a brand new person.” But if you think about that, you know that isn’t completely true. You look generally the same as before you were saved. You have the same physical heart and the same brain. You have the same personality. Sins that you lived in before you were saved were still temptations to you after. You know that when you got saved God didn’t get rid of you and substitute a new person! Your substance didn’t actually change; you’re still you! What has changed, then?
New position: because we have the righteousness of Christ on our account, we are 100% innocent; we have been declared righteous by God. Before the court of the universe, God’s court, you are holy and sinless because of Christ. You have been born again, so you have eternal life.
New power: Rom. 6:14 “sin shall not be master over you” 6:18 you are “freed from sin” 6:20 “you were slaves of sin” 6:22 “but now having been freed from sin”; the Spirit in us to empower us for obedience Gal. 5:16 “walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh…. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” You have access to divine ability to obey.
New possibility: To be like your creator. You were created in God’s image to show off what God is like. But sin terribly messed that up. Now we lie about what God is like or we terribly distort it. But salvation restores to us the opportunity to be Godlike, to be Christlike. Col. 3:10-11 agrees with this when it tells us that our new man is changing. It is being renewed (remade, renovated) in the image of Christ. Christian living is all about knowing and becoming like Christ. He is all and in all. II Cor. 3:18 says that one degree at a time, from one level of glory to another, we are being shaped into the image of Christ. That happens as we have a true knowledge of Him. We love Him and rejoice in Him and meditate on Him.
New passion: new desires, new inclination, new disposition. Rom. 8:5 “those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Phil. 2:13 “it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” You now have desires you never had before. Most of all you have a desire for God. Rom. 3:11 tells us that no man really seeks after God until God does a work in their heart.
But not a new person. You’re still you. That is not bad news. It is a testimony to the power of God, that to receive glory from your life He doesn’t have to get rid of you. He saves you; He changes you. He doesn’t sneak you out and sneak a new person back in. It’s still you. You’re the same person, but you have new position, power, possibility, and passion.
We are still sinful by nature. We still have our “flesh,” our sin nature. New position, power, possibility, and passion doesn’t make you practically holy. You still must continually kill your sin. You must continually expose yourself to Christ and be renewed in His image. God is doing a work of sanctification in you to make you Christlike.
···· The argument against sin.
Because of what is past, your new position, therefore, put to death the members of your earthly body that are susceptible to sexual sin; put aside angry and selfish speaking; and don’t lie to one another. Live like who you positionally are. Because of what happened in the past, now get rid of sin in your life.
We live in Villa La Paz apartments. Nadine McNeely is our landlord. We signed a lease to live there until April 30. She has authority to demand from us that we follow the policies and procedures of Villa La Paz apartments. She has the authority to demand from us payment of our rent each month. But as of May 1, when we have paid our last rental payment, she no longer has any authority over us. Lord willing we will move into a house down here, and someone else will be our landlord. Laura Haynes will have the authority to demand payment from us each month.
Let’s stop and draw parallels: you were slaves to sin, Rom. 6 says. You were slaves to sin, and sin demanded payments. It demanded more sin. Rom. 6:19 “you were slaves to impurity and lawlessness.” You were sinner by nature and had to sin. And it also demanded the ultimate payment, death. But now, in Christ God paid all of the obligations. The wages of sin was paid. You are now no longer under that landlord, and you have a new landlord. Rom. 6:18 ‘having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” 6:22 “having been freed from sin and enslaved to God.”
Suppose that June 1 comes around, and Nadine, our old landlord, comes knocking on our door and asks us to pay her for the month of May. Can I pay her? Yes. I still have the capability of paying her. Must I pay her? No. Should I pay her? No. Am I living in the realm of reality if I continue paying her? No.
Suppose after you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, sin comes knocking at your door. You are tempted to sin. Can you obey that old master? Yes. You still have a sinful nature, your flesh. Must you obey sin? No. Should you obey sin? No. Are you living in realm of reality if you obey sin? No, because you are now a slave to God and sin is not your master.
Let’s carry that illustration into Col. 3:
v.9 you laid aside the old self, the old man: your sin-enslaved self died with Christ
v.10 you put on the new self: through the new life of Christ’s resurrection you received a new position, new power, new possibility, new passion
v.5 Therefore, slam the door shut in the face of the old landlord! Say, No! You don’t have any access here! You don’t have any authority here! You don’t have any more authority over me than you had if I was dead. Whether it is the old landlord of sexual sin (v.5) or selfish talk (vv.8-9), slam the door shut in its face. Say, No! You don’t have access to me! I died with Christ, and He’s my master. Don’t try to trick me into obeying you.
···· There is a very strong message here about guarding the purity of God’s plan for sexuality. When the Bible talks about sexual sin it is no crusade against sexuality. It is no crusade against desire. It is a crusade for God’s plan for sexuality. It is a defense of God’s perfect and holy plan, rather than the world’s degrading and destructive perversions and addictions. Col. 3:5 says “put your body to death to sexual sin.” Ephesians 5:3 says “But immorality or impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” It should never ever happen among those who are Christ’s. Note that after v.5 gives a list of words that all clearly refer to sexual sin, it says “and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Here is a proper perspective on any kind of sexual sin. First of all, it is greed. It is saying “God I deserve more than you have given me. You are cheating me out of what I deserve. Your plan cheats me out of what I need. And I am going to get what I deserve, no matter what you think.” It is also greed in that it says to another person “I deserve the pleasure from your body without the commitment and sacrifice of marriage.” Whether it is through an affair, or through pornography, or through premarital sex, it is ultimately selfishness saying “I deserve pleasure from you without the commitment and sacrifice of marriage.” Sexual sins are rooted in selfishness and greed. That’s the first thing. The second thing: they are idolatry. Any time you say, “God it is worth disobeying you to get this” you have made an idol. You are worshipping an idol. In the area of sexual sin, that idol is the desires of our body. And the one who commits these sins says, “God, the desires of my body are greater than you. They are more glorious than you. They are more worthy of my submission than you.” It is blasphemy, because it says that human desire is greater than the God of the universe. We must move on.
···· There is also clear condemnation of anger and verbal sins, including lying. But we just don’t have time to dwell on each of these things.
Here’s what we have seen so far from this text:
1. Your old man died with Christ; he paid the penalty for your sin. He broke the power of sin.
2. You have new position, new power, new passions, and new possibility, though you are still you. You are not actually a new person.
3. Your sinful nature, which the Bible calls your flesh, is still within you. You must kill it every day; treat it as dead; give it that much authority.
4. Your new man, needs to be renewed each day in the image of Christ.
5. Clear condemnation of sexual sins, as well as anger and verbal sins.
Now, do you actually get any help from this text about battling sin. You may agree with all of those things but still be asking what the applications are for your daily battle with sin. Let me suggest 4 that are directly from these verses.
···· The applications against sin:
1. You have to think correctly: 1) Realize that these things have absolutely no place for these things in Christian living. These are the type of things upon which the wrath of God comes; God’s wrath had to be poured out on Christ for these very sins. And these characterize the way you once walked apart from Christ. They are marks of the world. They have no place. Remember that.
2. You have to think correctly: 2) Realize that you died to these things. They have absolutely no place in the Christians life. You are positionally holy, sanctified, and pure. So live like it. Remember that.
3. Take decisive action against sin. Kill them (v.5). Throw them off (v.8). These are strong words. Slam the door in sin’s face. Too many people complain about how they can’t get over sin. They say “I read my Bible, and I pray and ask God to help me, and I depend on Him. But I still sin!” You ask them, are you fleeing? Are you removing yourself as much as possible from the places of greatest temptation? No. They haven’t gotten rid of the television. They haven’t gotten rid of the internet. They haven’t stopped hanging out with ungodly guys from work. And then they say, “God’s not helping me.” Bologna. Take decisive action against sin – flee from it. Illust: to use our previous illustration, this is like someone saying “I don’t why I keep opening the door and paying the old landlord.” But if you watched them, you would see that when the old landlord comes knocking they stand right there are the door and look through the little hole in the door, and listen to what the landlord says. They’ve got to learn to run away. When the old landlord knocks, run upstairs. Get away form the door. That would be taking decisive action against sin.
4. Actively pursue Christlikeness. Aggressively pursue living like Christ. I was counselling someone recently, and I had them make a little chart where they wrote down specific sins they were committing. And then they wrote down why that is not Christlike. And then what the Christlike thought or action or reponse or decision would be. So that they aren’t just thinking about “I’ve got to stop doing this because it is messing up my life,” but “I’ve got to stop doing this because it isn’t Christ-likeness.” They need to pursuing Christ-likeness.
There is much more to be said about sin. But those are 4 things that are clear in these verses. Think correctly about sin; think correctly about who you are; take decisive action against sin; actively pursue Christlikeness.