Colossians 3 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence
It is often thought that when one becomes a Christian the battle is over and the war has been won, but it has only just begun. As much as we may not like it, or choose to ignore it, we are still living in a battle zone and there are casualties of war all around us every day; there are men and women who did not take this war seriously and who did not put to death what was earthly in them. John Owen said it plainly. “You must either be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” There are habitual sins that have dwelled with us for a long time, but when we realize that those sins are endangering our very lives, spiritually speaking, we must make a decision and put those pet sins to death. It is an extremely unpleasant duty, but one that must be carried out if we are to grow at all in the Christian faith. This work used to be called the mortification of sin, but overtime the word mortification became associated with extreme forms of self-punishment and self-denial ignoring the bodily appetites altogether. Christians are not called to abstain from enjoying the good gifts of God, but are called to enjoy them within the proper boundaries given according to God’s laws.
What Biblical mortification refers to is the act of putting to death the first inclinations toward sin, dealing with the desires of the heart and not just the fruit of those desires. It is the idea of taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. For, to obey is better than sacrifice. That is what the prophet Samuel was proving to King Saul when Saul did not fully obey the Lord’s command to annihilate the Amalekites. In the same sense, we are called to annihilate the sin in our lives. We cannot allow the smaller sins to remain. We cannot make peace with some sins while making war with others. That is what King Saul tried to do when he spared Agag king of the Amalekites before the prophet Samuel struck him down with the vengeance of the Lord.
If we are to serve the Lord in holiness, we must be just as ruthless in our dealing with sin. In Matthew 5, Jesus said, “if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away…and if you right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” As Jay Adams used to say, we must engage in radical amputation of sin, for it’s like a cancer that continues to spread if we don’t cut it off at its source, at its roots. We must be brutal about it, seeking to wipe it out entirely.
In this chapter, the apostle Paul gives two separate lists delineating types of sin that we are to put to death in this way. The first list in verse five deals primarily with the sinful desires of the heart, sins that are not immediately recognized by others. At the top of the list is sexual immorality. And the sins that follow usually go along with sexual immorality and usually precede the actual immoral act itself. The word Paul uses for impurity suggests a contamination of desires that is not holy, beautiful and good. The word passion refers to lusts of all kinds, strong desires that master an individual, hindering him from walking in the spirit. Evil desires refer not merely to the initial stray thoughts but the lingering thoughts in which a person gives himself over to fantasy, meditating upon that which is evil in itself. Covetousness is the cognizant desire to have something which does not belong to you. It is a wicked greediness that leads to adultery, stealing and all sorts of sins. Then, finally, idolatry is the culmination of all these sins, when a person foregoes the worship of God in pursuit of another god altogether, a god of money, a god of sex, a god of pleasure. Of course, it doesn’t have to be either/or, the person can seek to worship a multitude of gods at once all for the sake of obtaining his own wicked desires.
These are the types of sin that Paul is saying that the believer is called to put to death. But why? Paul says in v.6, that it is on account of these sins that the wrath of God is coming.
There are many Scriptural motivations for living a holy life before God. One of those motivations to live a holy life is because God himself is holy, and so we are called to be holy as He is holy. Another motivation is to consider the mercy of God in Christ. “In view of God’s mercies we are called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices unto God.” But notice in this verse, the motivation for living a holy life, is not the holiness of God or the mercy of God, but the wrath and anger of God against sins such as these. Paul says that it is on account of sins like these that a hell is being prepared. It is on account of sins like these that the Day of Judgment is coming. It is on account of sins like these that God’s hot anger was poured out upon Christ hanging on the cross. It is because he hates these sins, that he urges us to put them to death. In Proverbs 8.13 we’re told that the fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil. And in Proverbs we are given lists of things that God hates, things that are an abomination to him. Here in our text is another one of those lists. And if he hates these sins, we who fear the Lord ought to hate them as well.