Some habits need to die
As Paul transitions from teaching the Colossian believers about God to teaching them practical ways to live out their relationship with God, there is a very specific concept that he wishes to convey to his readers. Paul tells them that when we trust that Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins, we are identifying with His death and also identifying with His resurrected life.
Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Since we have died with Christ to the elemental forces of this world, there are some habits and ways of our previous life that need to die also.
Therefore, put to death whatever in you is worldly: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath comes on the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them.
Just as our past sins were counted against Jesus and were buried in His tomb, our sinful lifestyles and thinking habits also need to die. Paul gets real specific about what choices and behaviors will stir up God’s wrath, and his warning here makes it clear that believers can still struggle with these issues.
Don’t skip over Paul’s list just because he starts with sexual immorality. If we have never had a full-blown affair, it doesn’t mean we’re completely immune from it happening. In fact, if we continue down Paul’s list, we find a dangerously linked chain of motivations…with the root of sexual immorality being something we all struggle with.
The preceding behavior to committing sexual immorality is to tolerate a level of impurity in our lives. The Greek word for impurity relates to moral filthiness, especially in regard to sexual sin. Behind the moral filthiness is lust, which is an inordinate affection or improper passion that we cultivate in our thoughts. Lust is always born out of evil desires – when we nurture a craving and desire for what is forbidden.
Paul then relates these evil desires back to greed. We typically think of greed when it comes to money; however, at its core greed is a selfish, burning desire to acquire more of something or a coveting of what isn’t rightfully yours. The deeply buried root to all of this is idolatry. Greed starts in us whenever we trust something or someone more than we trust in God, because at that point we are giving ourselves to an idol.
From this chain of behaviors, we can clearly see how one thing leads to another…how a mistrust of God can lead us all the way down the path to sexual immorality. It doesn’t happen overnight…the process is typically subtle, until one day we wake up wondering how it all happened.
Paul’s point is that wherever you find yourself on the spectrum, at that point you need to kill it. The process cannot be allowed to continue to grow until we reach full-blown rebellion in sexual immorality. Up until this point, the sinful progression and most of the damage done is specific to our own lives. When we give into the sin of sexual immorality, there is going to be a significant amount of permanent damage done to all relationships in our own life and in the life of anyone who participates with us.
The key to aborting this cycle is in Paul’s direction to put to death whatever in you is worldly. To put to death is an active, action choice we can make. The Greek word means to cut off, starve off, and deprive of power. Whatever behavior or thought-process in our lives that is leading us down this path needs to be completely abandoned. We must make the choice to cut off and starve these feelings.
A few ways to practically do this:
· Avoid the internet when you’re bored late at night
· Avoid getting infatuated with new acquaintances of the opposite sex
· Avoid comparing your spouse to others
· Install Covenant Eyes or some other accountability software
· Relationship issues are not discussed with someone of the opposite sex
· Choose contentment with what we have – both things and relationships
There are many other ways to deprive power from this sinful cycle. There are also many ministries aimed at providing help, as we all deal these desires. We must talk to safe, Godly friends about where we’re struggling. Making a list of situations to avoid will help, but the best way to put to death whatever in you is worldly is to replace those things with setting your mind on what is above.
What we dwell on, what we think about, will ultimately direct our actions.