Taking Off the Old and Putting On the New
August 7, 2016
Have you ever seen a pile of garbage infested and teeming with maggots? It is a disgusting and repulsive sight. And yet, it is nothing compared to the list of earthly things that we are to put away and put to death. Sins such as sexual immorality and lust, covetousness and idolatry, anger and malice, slander and lying - these are all disgusting and repulsive. They are disgusting and repulsive in the presence of God. They are disgusting and repulsive to believers in Christ who have been raised with him. And we must put them away.
Do you struggle with pornography or sex outside of marriage? Do you engage in physical or emotional lust or desire or coveting after others? Do you worship idols? If so, confess them before Jesus Christ. He is your Lord. He died for these earthly things that are in you. Confess your sins before Jesus. He will forgive you. And then follow his command to put these things to death.
Do you struggle with anger and wrath toward others? Do you knowingly or unknowingly make false statements about others that may damage their reputation? Do you offend others or lie to others? If so, confess them before Jesus Christ. He is your Lord. He died for these earthly things that come out of you. Confess your sins before Jesus. He will forgive you. And then follow his command to put these things away.
Perhaps you may think that you cannot do this. Perhaps you feel powerless to overcome that particular sinful habit of yours. If that is you, then I have very good news for you. God will sanctify you. Christ will grow you. The Holy Spirit will change you and mature you. Through God and God alone, you will be able to put such earthly things to death. Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, you will be able to put such earthly things away. So put them away.
Perhaps you may think that you don’t struggle with the items on these lists. Perhaps you feel like a good Christian and that these commands apply to the shaky church member to your left or right - not to you. If that is you, then I want to encourage you to think more carefully about yourself. You don’t need a physical idol to practice idolatry. Anger can be hidden inside of you. Slander can be sanitized and watered down to seemingly harmless table talk. And it could be argued that procrastination, when properly defined, is technically a form of lying. Brothers and sisters, let us examine ourselves before thinking that we are above this list of earthly things.
It is worth nothing that the Christian life is about dying and living. It is about taking off the old self and putting on the new. It is about subtraction and addition. So, for example, it is not enough to merely stop the obscene talk. One must replace the obscene talk with good talk. It is not enough to merely stop lusting. One must replace the lusting with faith and hope in heaven and the kingdom that is to come. It is not enough to merely stop being angry and just be neutral or calm or indifferent. One must replace the anger with things such as love and forgiveness. Christian life is just about taking off the old self. It is also about putting on the new self.
And now that brings us to what we must put on.
Have you ever seen a bride in her white gown? It is a beautiful and honorable sight. And yet, it is nothing compared to the list of heavenly earthly things that we are to put on. Things such as compassion and kindness, humility and meekness, patience and forbearance, forgiveness and love - these are all beautiful and honorable. They are beautiful and honorable in the presence of God. They are beautiful and honorable for us believers in Christ who have been raised with him. And we must put them on.
Highland Church, let us have sympathetic pity and concern when other people go through suffering or misfortune. Let us be humble and submissive to one another. Let us forgive people who have done wrong to us and reconcile with them. Let us love each other. Jesus Christ is our Lord. He resurrected from the dead so that these heavenly things may be given to us and put on us. Seek the things that are above. Jesus will help you to grow and change. Follow his command to put these things on.
As I said before in last week’s sermon, there is little glamour in this. Paul’s metaphor of taking off old clothing and putting on new clothing is not very attractive or exciting in the eyes of the world. The Greeks look for wisdom. The Jews look for power. But notice how Colossians 3 is rather plain and ordinary. Do you want to change? Then put away your anger and put on patience. Do you want to be a better Christian? Then be more careful with your words. Do you want to grow in spiritual maturity? Then learn how to be content and patient and forgiving and loving.
But while there is little glamour in this, there is great glory. For the list of things here in Colossians 3 that we are to put on are nothing less than the very fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Let us aim for these glorious things.
But alas, at the end of the day, I should stop calling these things… things. For what is compassion? What is kindness? What is humility and meekness? What is patience? What is forgiveness? What is love? These are not things. These are the very characteristics of God. God was compassionate toward Israel as she lamented in ruin because of her own sin. Compassion is a characteristic of God. Compassion is what God does. Jesus Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Humility is a characteristic of God. Humility is what God does. Think about all of your sins. Have you kept count? Don’t worry, neither has God. He has countlessly forgiven your countless sins. Forgiveness is a characteristic of God. Forgiveness is what God does. Think about how much God loves you. Love is a characteristic of God. Love is what God does.
So, what shall we do? We shall also show compassion. We shall also be humble. We shall also be forgiving and loving and so much more. But why? Because it’s merely the right thing to do? No. We shall put on all of these things, these characteristics of God, because we have been raised with Christ, because we have died, and because our lives are now hidden with Christ in God.