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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 26, 2010
Mortifying the Flesh, Part 3
I trust everyone had a nice Christmas Day rejoicing over God’s grace and love demonstrated in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope that last week’s message helped you in being able to separate fantasy from truth so that you could properly enjoy both the cultural celebrations and, more importantly, the reality of what God has done for us in becoming a man to redeem us from our sin.
This morning I want to continue in our study of Colossians 3. This will be the third message dealing with Paul’s instructions in the first part of this chapter on how we are to deal with our sinfulness. This morning we will be looking at prejudice and racism in particular, but I also want to stress what Paul says in verses 9 & 10. A radical change in your nature occurs when you become a Christian which should result in an equally radical change in your relationship to sin and its practices. It is understanding the nature of this radical change that God works in us that enables us to actually live a life that will be marked by increasing holiness instead of just a religious veneer placed over the same wretched sinner. We don’t want to put wings on a caterpillar, but rather we want the complete metamorphosis that transforms the caterpillar into a butterfly.
Follow along as I read Colossians 1:1-11 to set the context.
3:1 (NASB) If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, [and] abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its [evil] practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him 11 –[a renewal] in which there is no [distinction between] Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
Each of these commands Paul makes concerning turning away from sin is founded on the fact that believers have been raised up with Christ (vs. 1). We have been made alive in Jesus so that we are new creations that are to walk in newness of life. It is because of these radical changes that the Christian is “seeking the things above where Christ is seated.” We set our minds on the things above and no longer on the things of this earth because we are living for the glory of His kingdom and not our own (vs. 2).
According to Jesus’ promise we are secure in Him. Our lives are hidden in Him in God (vs. 3) and our glorification with Him when He returns is sure. God will complete the work He has begun in us in Christ so that we will be conformed to the image of His son (Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:29). (See: Consequences of Life in Christ)
Having a new purpose in life because we have been raised up with Christ, we follow Paul’s command in verse 5 which is translated by the KJV literally as “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.” We put to death these “members” of our earthly existence which is more than just your physical unredeemed body. It also includes your worldly desires and your manner of thinking – your previous worldview. We look forward to our full redemption that will occur when these earthly bodies are changed forever when we are glorified with Jesus. After that there will be no further struggle with sin, but until then we must remember what we have become in Christ and put to death our old sinful way of life.
Paul lists “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” as examples of what we have to put to death. He starts with a specific action and progresses to the motivation underlying the sin. The action of sexual sin arose out of shameful living, uncontrolled emotions, sinful desires and selfish greed. As those raised up with Christ we are to put these things to death. (See: Mortifying the Flesh, Pt. 1)
Paul points out in verses 6 & 7 that these sins have brought the wrath of God upon mankind and that prior to salvation we used to be controlled by the same kinds of sinful motivations, desires, emotions, thoughts and actions. That is what we were, but we are no longer. As those raised up with Christ all such things are to be put to death. We are to put them aside and pick them up no more. Paul gives a second list in verses 8-9 as a further example of the former way of life we are to set aside. In this list Paul goes from sinful motivations and progresses to the sinful actions they produce – “anger, wrath, malice, slander, [and] abusive speech from your mouth.” He then adds a related command in verse 9, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its [evil] practices.”
In our last sermon we covered each of these vices in detail and explained how to lay them aside. (See: Mortifying the Flesh, Pt. 2). Anger and wrath are very closely related often being used as synonyms for each others. Anger is the broader term of a more settled or abiding state of mind that is upset over a situation. Wrath is more emotional and agitated. Anger burns while wrath explodes. Both of these are set aside by dealing with them and their causes quickly and properly setting out with the goal to walk in righteousness, and remembering that acting in anger cannot achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).
Malice in this context speaks of someone who harbors evil intent for others. When such malice is expressed, it inevitably destroys the relationship between people. We put away malice when we seek God to glorify Himself in others and so seek their good.
Slander is blasphemy which is causing injury to another’s good name. It is the verbal expression of malice since has evil intent. We usually associate blasphemy just with impious or reproachful speech about God, but it is also expressed against other people. It can range from belittling, denigrating and disparaging and escalate to casting slurs, defamation and false accusations. You put aside blasphemy by humbling yourself before God and letting Him exalt you at the proper time (1 Peter 5:6), and by treating others with kindness considering them as more important than yourself (Philippians 2:3-4). Get rid of the anger and malice and you get rid of slander
Abusive speech, also translated as “filthy communication,” “vile language,” and “foul talk” is simply the next degenerate step down. Rational effort to communicate is lost leaving only the expression of the person’s uninhibited anger, wrath and malice that then flow out of their mouths. Such offensive talk is put aside by remembering who you are in Christ and seeking to live righteously and encouraging others to do the same. When the temptation comes to say something inappropriate, you simply keep your mouth shut while you deal with the situation and change your attitude.
Lying is telling others things that are not true and can be done actively as the source of the falsehood, or passively by passing along falsehoods told by others. Lying is natural to man, but contrary to the nature of a Christian. We are to reflect the honesty of Christ speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:25). How can you refrain from lying? Paul ties it here directly to the reality of what you have become since you have been raised up with Christ. You have “laid aside the old self with its evil practices and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the one who created him.” Let’s expand on these two related concepts.
Old Man vs. New Man – Colossians 3:9-10
The concept of old man / new man is also referred to as old self / new self and old nature / new nature. I will be using the terms “old man” and “new man” simply because that is the precise definition of the terms used here in Colossians 3. In one sense the idea that we have laid aside the old man and put on the new man is a simple one, yet, it is also a confusing concept because it is hard to understand exactly that is new and what is old, what is to be put off and what is put on.
Lay aside / Put on. The simple aspects of this concept in this passage arise from the verbs used to “lay aside” and to “put on.” Lay aside, (ajpekduvomai / apekduomai) means to strip off, disarm, put off from one’s self. The same word was used earlier in Colossians 2:15 to describe Jesus disarming the “rulers and authorities” by stripping away their authority when He triumphed over them. In this verse the word is used in the sense of stripping off as in taking off a garment for it is contrasted by put on (ejnduvw / enduô) in the next verse which means to be clothed with, dressed in. The idea then is that there is something, the old man, that you are to strip off yourself like you would take off a coat, and something, the new man, you are to put on yourself like you would when you dress yourself with new clothes.
Spiritual schizophrenic? The difficulty becomes understanding exactly what the old man and new man refer to since we are still in the same physical bodies and we still struggle with sin. If the old man is gone and the new man has replaced it, then why do we still struggle with sin? If the old man is still present and the new man is too, then is the new man something that has been added? Are we spiritually schizophrenic?
Perfectionism. There is a line of theological thought that uses these passages to teach that man can reach perfection in this life and no longer sin, but that is contrary to too many other scriptures. For example, 1 John 1:8 & 10 directly states that “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” and “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” That is the reason that verse 9 is so important to us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We also find in Romans 8:23 that as believers we groan within ourselves and eagerly await our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. We will not reach perfection in this life on this world. That will not come until the Lord returns and we are glorified with Him and become as He is now (1 John 3:2).
Old Man. We already got an idea of what the old man is referring to in Colossians 3:5 when Paul commanded, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.” In Paul’s discussion of the believer’s conflict between sin and righteousness in Romans 7, he refers to this simply as “my flesh,” but these “members” are more than just the unredeemed physical flesh of this mortal body, but also include our worldly desires and old ways of thinking – our worldview. It is the unregenerate self, that immaterial part of us that makes up who we really are and which is embodied in this mortal flesh. It is spiritually dead in trespasses and sin from birth and separated from God (Ephesians 2:1-3).
New Man. The new man is what is regenerated at the new birth in becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, a Christian. It is that immaterial part of you that makes who you are that is made alive to God and will exist in relationship with Him throughout eternity (Ephesians 2:4-6). This new man is why you groan against this world and long for the full redemption of glorification and eternity. This new man is the part that Paul describes in Romans 7 that wishes to do good.
The Relationship. What is the relationship between the old man and the new man? Are we part old and part new, some sort of spiritual schizophrenics? Isn’t that how we often feel? And doesn’t Paul’s description in Romans 7 seem like a battle between the two?
The answer I am going to give may seem like semantics, but there is a very important difference between being part old man to which the new man has been added and being something different which is how the Bible describes it. 2 Corinthians 5:17 describes the change that occurs when we are saved in radical terms. “Therefore if any man is in Christ, [he is] a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” In Paul’s discussion of this same concept in Romans 6:6 he states, “our old man was crucified with Him.” Back in Colossians 3:3 Paul states, “you have died.” He describes himself in Galatians 2:20 as having “been crucified with Christ.” The old man is dead, and if he is dead, then the new man cannot be added to him.
Why then do Christians struggle with sin and why does Paul tell us here and in Ephesians 4:22 to put off the old man? If he is already dead, why do we need to put him off? The answer is that in both of these passages the command is in the aorist tense meaning it is something we are to do once and not something that is being done continually. Lay aside the old man and leave him off. Or perhaps a bit more to the point, put off the old man and quit dragging that dead thing around with you.
Why Christians sin. Why then do Christians still struggle with sin? Because though the old man is dead and the new man is come, the new man is embodied in the same body that the old man was in. We have the same physical flesh along with its desires. We have the same physical mind and with it all the memories and lessons we have been taught that are contradictory to God’s commands. We are still in the same sin cursed world that pressures us to conform to its priorities. All these leave us with wrong ideas about what is important. All of these things must be battled by walking by the spirit so that you will not carry out the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16) and resisting conformity to this world by being transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).
What is the difference between this and if the old man was alive? Paul’s discussion of the believer’s struggle against sin in Romans 6 gives us perhaps the best understanding and illustration of the difference. Paul’s premise in Romans 6 is the same as in Colossians 3. Disciples of Jesus Christ should not sin because their old man has been crucified with Christ and they have been resurrected with Him to walk in newness of life. He makes the legal point that because we have died to sin, sin is no longer our master. He then continues starting in verse 12 using the analogy of a slave that has been freed. In position and legal standing the slave is no longer a slave, but a free man, but whether he will live according to that new position is a different question. If the slave does not recognize and live according to his new identity as a free man, he is very likely to continue to take order and obey his old master. Paul then pointedly states that the Christian is not to present his members as slaves to sin, but rather as slaves of righteousness which would result in sanctification.
Living in Righteousness. The point then is simply this. You are freed from sin, so obey your new master and stop obeying the old commands of your old master. In terms of the old man and new man, the old man is dead and is no longer your master, so walk in your identity as a new man. This will require the discipline of setting aside old habits, learning new ways of thinking and changing your priorities to match your new purposes in life. All of that is hard enough, but if the old man was still alive, then you would have two competing masters and that conflict would be truly great. That is the very important difference.
Here in Colossians 3 Paul bases his command not to lie to one another upon the reality that the Christian is a person who is made radically different because he has laid aside the old man and put on the new man. Lying is normal for the unregenerate, but the believer is being changed to live a different way so that he is marked by humility and honesty. Paul explains this change at the end of verse 10 that the Christian is “being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created Him.”
Being Renewed. The old man is dead and we are new creations as those regenerated by the Holy Spirit and raised with Christ, but it will take time for us to learn to live according to our new nature. While there is a concept of being restored in salvation since we are returned to the position before God that He had intended from the beginning, that is not the sense of being renewed in this verse. This word (ajnakainovw / anakainoô) carries more the idea of being caused to grow or being changed into something new from its previous state. In this case, being changed from living in sinfulness to living in righteousness. The means of that continuing growth and change occurs by an increasing knowledge of God and His will by which we become more like Christ. Jesus prayed for His disciples that they would know God (John 17:17), and it was Paul’s prayer back in Colossians 1:10 that they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord which would come about with an increasing knowledge of God. That knowledge comes through God’s word which is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be equipped for every good work (1 Timothy 3:16-17). We are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). The Christians’ great hope is the assurance that God will conform us to the image of His son (Romans 8:29). God will be faithful to continue His work of perfecting us so that we will become like Jesus (Philippians 1:6; 1 John 3:2).
As we are conformed into the image of Christ, our identity is increasingly found in Him so that the other associations with which we identify diminish in importance to the point of insignificance. This is the foundation that destroys prejudice and racism within the Church.
Without Prejudice or Racism – Colossians 3:11
Paul continues on in verse 11 to say, “–[a renewal] in which there is no [distinction between] Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” The love Christians demonstrate to one another without any prejudice is one of the most powerful witnesses we have to the world that we are indeed His disciples. The tragedy is that so often those professing to be believers have allowed their pride, prejudice and racism split the church into all sorts of factions.
The particular groups that Paul lists here form interesting juxtapositions as he removes all categories of identification by which people have separated themselves from other people. People were just as prejudicial then as they are now, but Christ unifies all people that belong to Him.
The first contrast is between Jew and Greek. Both groups had disdain for each other, for all groups tend to be ethnocentric thinking that those who are like themselves are the best. No group has a monopoly on prejudice for it flows back and forth freely between all groups. With my own eyes I have witnessed animosity demonstrated in every kind of direction for a wide variety of reasons – skin tone, eye color, hair texture, stature and shape of nose. People can have utter ethnic disdain for others that you and I could not discern any physical differences because they come from a different clan of the same general family.
This ethnic hatred was heightened to an even greater extent among the Jews against all others, which they just referred to collectively as Gentiles, because they knew they were God’s chosen people as the descendants of Abraham. Commonly included in the prayer of a devout Jew of that time was giving thanks that he was not a Gentile. They looked down on all other people as inferior. Another indicator of this disdain was the common practice of the time of a Jew when he returned to Israel after traveling abroad. When he reached the border, he would shake the dust off of his clothes and sandals so as to not bring any of it into Israel. This became one of the barriers that hindered them from fulfilling God’s role for them in being a nation of priests that would proclaim the glories of God to the world.
Acts 10 records the first breaking down of this barrier by the gospel with the rest of Acts recording the spread of the gospel by Jews to the Gentile nations. The gospel not only breaks down the barrier between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:13:16), but history since Acts and into modern times demonstrates it breaking down the barrier between all racial and ethnic groups. Time and time again the gospel has traveled directly from one group to another group that had previously been enemies.
Ethnic / racial prejudice is sinful on its face since all people eventually trace back to the same ancestors – Adam & Eve through Noah & his family. Regardless of what your physical body may look like, we all share one blood. Such behavior is even more sinful in the church since our common belief in Jesus Christ makes us into one body without regard to race or ethnicity.
The next contrast is between the circumcised and uncircumcised and this refers to religious practice. In the early church there was great conflict whether the new Gentile converts had to also follow the Mosaic law. The conclusion of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 was that they did not. Those who wanted to continue the practice of circumcision or any other aspects of Mosaic law were welcome to do so as long as their belief in performing those practices was not contrary to salvation by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Acts records that even Paul kept vows and worshiped at the Temple. At the same time, there was no longer a requirement to keep the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic law, but those not doing so were asked to be sensitive not to cause unnecessary offense on certain issues. If the foundational, fundamental doctrines are the same, there is no reason for churches to divide over secondary issues, yet personal preferences are the more common reason for church splits.
Barbarian and Sycthian are stated from the Greek point of view toward those considered uneducated and uncultured with the Scythians, who were nomadic invaders from the area of the Black and Caspian Sea, being regarded as the lowest type. Herodotus described their savage practices in The Histories. Josephus, in Against Apion said the “Scythians delight in murdering people and are little better than wild beasts.” Yet, from among the Barbarians and Scythians, God called out some to believe and become part of the church, and once part of the church they were to be treated as brothers and sisters in Christ. God would conform them as well to the image of His son.
The last contrast was between slave and freeman. They were complete social opposites, yet in the church they because social equals. Perhaps the strongest example of this is Philemon and Onesimus who were part of the Colossian church. Onesimus was Philemon’s runaway slave that Paul had sent back with instructions to Philemon that Onesimus was “no longer a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord” (Philemon 16). While there was still a master – slave relationship in terms of work, in the church they were equal with one another as fellow brothers in Christ.
The great tragedy is that there have been so many churches that have split and new groups form because of racial / ethnic prejudice and intolerance, preferences of practice, and social standing. That is a blight on our Lord and needs to change. There is no justification for churches to be divided for any of these reasons. The local church should reflect its geographical community with everyone actively welcomed and its wider associations should be based on common doctrine alone. When our identity is properly in Jesus Christ, then all other categories into which we might fit no longer have any bearing on our relationship with one another. As Paul states in many places, the church is one body made up of many different people with different gifts. He stated it this way in 1 Corinthians 12:13 – “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
I am well aware that because this church does strive to follow the Lord in these commands and treat one another without prejudice there are people that will not come here. We have lost people in the past and have had others come through our doors only once because they are prejudiced and cannot handle people who are different from themselves. I am also aware that missions theorists advocate building churches according to ethnicity, cultural lines and social class believing that homogeneous churches grow faster. Perhaps, but such is a stand on pragmatism. I prefer to stand on the Scriptures themselves believing that following God’s commands is always best since He is one that will ultimately judge what is or is not successful. I trust that since you are here, that is your commitment as well, and together we will continue to glorify our Lord with a unity founded in our common faith in Him and transcending everything else. Let us continue to show that we are brothers and sisters who have died and have been raised up in Christ to walk in newness of life being renewed to a true knowledge of God to become like our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sermon Notes – 12/26/2010
Mortifying the Flesh, Part 3 – Colossians 3:9-11
Introduction & Review
The Foundation – vs. 1-4: We have been raised up with Christ – seek & set your mind on ____________
We are secure in Christ and will be _____________ with Him when He returns
“______________ therefore your members which are upon the earth.” – vs. 5 Put them to death
Actions of sexual sin arise out of shameful living, uncontrolled emotions, sinful desires & selfish ______
Prior to salvation all Christians were also controlled by _______, but that is to no longer be true
Paul’s list in verses 8-9 progress from sinful motivations to the specific sinful __________ they produce
Anger & wrath are states of being _________ over circumstances – anger burns, wrath explodes
Anger & wrath are corrected by dealing with the causes __________ and walking in righteousness
Malice harbors _________________ for others – corrected by seeking good for others
Blasphemy seeks to cause injury to another’s ____________- corrected by treating others with kindness
Abusive speech is vile expression of thoughts & emotions – corrected by __________& changed attitude
Lying is telling falsehoods – corrected by being humble and speaking the __________ in love
All of these are corrected by laying __________ the old man and putting on the new man – vs. 9-10
Old Man vs. New Man – Colossians 3:9-10
Lay aside / Put on – ___________ , like a garment / put on as in getting _____________with
Spiritual schizophrenic? Is the new added to the old man or does he _______________ the old man?
Old Man – Unredeemed flesh, worldly desires, sinful thinking – the ____________________ self
New Man – the _________________ self – the immaterial aspect that is made alive to God for eternity
The new man desires ________, groans against this world & longs for final redemption (Romans 7 & 8)
The Relationship of the old man and new man
2 Corinthians 5:17 – ________________________________________________________________
Romans 6:6 – ______________________________________________________________________
Why Christians sin
The old man is dead, but the new man is embodied in the ______________ that the old man was in.
We still have the old flesh, old mind, old thoughts, old desires, old pressures, old temptations
Romans 6 – the old self was crucified with Christ, you have died to sin, it is no longer your ___________
The slave who is freed must learn to live according to his ____________position and identity
Living in Righteousness – walk in your identity as a new man to obey your __________________
If the old man were still alive, you would have __________ competing masters.
The Christian is not to _________ because the old man is laid aside and the new man is put on
Being Renewed – ajnakainovw / anakainoô – caused to grow, be ____________ into something new
Growth and change occur by an increasing ______________of God & His will – conforming us to Christ
Without Prejudice – Colossians 3:11
Christian love for one another is to be without _______________ of any kind
Jew & Greek – ___________ barriers removed.
All groups tend to be ethnocentric and prejudiced against those not like __________________
Acts 10 records the _____________ breaking of the barrier between Jew and Gentile
Circumcised and uncircumcised – barriers of non-essential ______________ practices removed
Acts 15 – the Jerusalem Council. If fundamental doctrines agree, there should be no further _______
Barbarian and Sycthian – barriers of education and ________________ removed
Slave and freeman – barriers of _______________ standing removed
_______________ & Onesiums are the example of the gospel breaking this barrier.
There is no justification for ________________ to be divided for any of these reasons
If our identity is in Jesus Christ, no other category of identification is of _________- 1 Corinthians 12:13
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how man times the word “old man” and “new man” are used. Talk with your parents about how to overcome sin in your life.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. How has being “raised up with Christ” changed your life? What is the relationship between the various sins listed in Colossians 3:5 that are to be put to death? What is the relationship between those listed in verses 8 & 9? What does it mean to “lay aside” in Colossians 3:9? What does it mean to “put on” in Colossians 3:10? Can man become sinless in this life? Why or why not? What is the “old man” (self / nature)? What is the “new man” (self / nature)? What happens to the old man when a person becomes a Christian? What remains the same even though the new man has come? Why does a Christian sin? How can the Christian overcome sin? What would be the difference if the old man were still alive alongside the new man? What is the meaning of Paul’s slavery analogy in Romans 6:12-22? How does it apply in your own life in pursuing living in righteousness? What does it mean to be renewed in Colossians 3:10? How is the Christian renewed? What is the source of prejudice and racism? Paul lists four barriers of prejudice that are broken by the gospel because of our common identity in Christ. Explain each of them: Jew & Greek; Circumcised & Uncircumcised; Barbarian & Scythian; Free & Slave. How will you break these barriers down in your own life? What negative effects might there be for churches that seek to break down walls of prejudice? Why should that price be paid?
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