Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Paul insists that the old nature must be put to death. Hear me? Put to death. We do not merely add an overcoat of Christian values over the old nature. No. We put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature.
Yet, we are often hesitant to do so.
I had prayed for chastity and said “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.” For I was afraid that you would answer my prayer at once and cure me too soon of the disease of lust, which I wanted satisfied, not quelled.
~ St. Augustine in Confessions
Here’s man failing to put to death his earthly nature. But he eventually got it right.
We must come to grips with the truth that sin is serious. Paul states in our passage that it is because of sin that the wrath of God is coming. Sin is serious. Don’t believe me? Don’t believe Paul? Take Jesus’ words for it:
If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. ~ Mark 9:43
Yes, God gives grace. But a part of receiving grace is recognition of sin. Yes, God is love. But a part of love is instruction to put to death destructive things. A natural byproduct of our unity with Christ is putting to death earthly things and becoming more like Christ.
Now let’s make this a bit more personal. Paul provides a sin list starting in verse 5 (he mentions sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed) and another in verse 8 (he mentions anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, lying). Yet, Paul’s list of sins is not exhaustive. I believe that’s why he gives two separates lists. He’s providing a running list of sins. You should read this list and feel convicted where conviction is needed. If your particular sins of choice are not listed … feel free to insert them.
What would your sin list include? Let’s take sin serious. What would your sin list include? Give that question some serious thought. Some serious prayer. After serious thought and prayer: put your earthly nature to death.
Is this possible? Some of you who have had prolonged struggles with sin are asking: Preacher, is it really possible? Yes. The compulsion to sin gives way to the power of God.
It is possible because Christ is all, and is in all. Jesus Christ is sufficient for everything you need. Paul gives another list. Its not a sin list but a people list. Gentile or Jew. Circumcised or uncircumcised. Barbarian, Scythian, slave or free. Paul’s point is that Christ is made available to all people. Thus, we are all able to put to death the earthly nature.
The compulsion to sin gives way to the power of God. But it doesn’t happen by accident. We all know diet and exercise is the formula for loosing weight and staying in shape. But you must actually diet and exercise. It doesn’t merely happen.
Colossians 3 gives us an understanding of how we can live like Christ right here and now. We need to listen to the instruction it provides.