Jesus changes all of our relationships. He has to. He raised us to new life with him, and that new live includes every relationship that we have. So all of our friendships should look different now. They should be more beautiful because of Jesus.
That’s why Colossians 3:5 begins with the word “therefore.” That’s so important. Because what Paul does in the rest of chapter 3 is tell us how all of our relationships should be different. But that “therefore” is there because EVERYTHING he’s about to say is based on what Jesus has done for us in verses 1-4. He put our old, sinful self to death (3), raised us to new life (1), united us to God (3), and is now leading us toward glory (4). And it’s because of what he has done that we can live grace empowered lives that change all of our friendships.
Here’s how our friendships should be different in verse 5: “Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them.” So a person who believes all of these massive truths about Jesus is now gonna be involved in putting things to death in their life that don’t look like Jesus. Not giving this things a breath of life; not keeping them around as pets, but totally getting rid of them. And the first 4 in this list are really similar so I’m going to just use one word for all 4 of them:
LUST – We should put lust to death. God created sex, it’s a blessing, it’s good, but just like food, alcohol, sleep, money, and every other thing, it can be misused and turned ugly. The first thing God says to put to death is sexual immorality. The word in Greek is porneia, where we get pornographic. This is any kind of sexual intercourse outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. The next word is impurity which is sexual uncleanness. It’s a more broad term that deals with our imagination, our minds, and our speech. Lust here is sexual desire for someone who is not your spouse, and then he just hits it all with the term “evil desire.” That’s just any sexual passion that’s evil in God’s eyes. So guys God really cares about how Jesus followers handle the gift of sex that He’s given us.
When Paul wrote these things, he was writing to this culture where this would have been SO, so radical. The culture at this time was intensely sexual, filled with orgies and sexual worship. Sex wasn’t really regulated by a set of morals. So this would have sounded so radical. Jesus followers would be living in a way that looked totally different from everyone around them. And that same idea applies to us. We should be approaching sex and dating in ways that seem super radical in our culture. That would cause people to look at our decisions, scratch their head, and wonder how we could be living this way.
God really cares that His church is beautiful in how we approach sex and dating.
GREED/ENVY – This is the desire to have more and more stuff, beyond what we need. And Paul connects this to idolatry. Idolatry is the tendency of our hearts to take God off his Kingly throne and replace him with something else. It happens when we want something so much that we lose our contentment in God. And it’s super deadly for our lives. That’s why Jesus said this in Luke 12: “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.” Is there anything out there, any possession, that because you don’t have it you’re discontent? Maybe it’s a house. Maybe it’s a spouse. Maybe it’s a new car. What’s the thing you don’t have that’s messing with your contentment?
The tough thing is that some of us we want really good things, good gifts of God in this world, but we need to check if we’ve fallen in love with the gifts more than the giver. Could you be content in God if He never blessed you with the house; the spouse; the car?If not, you may be totally encompassed with greed and envy, it’s destroying your contentment in what Jesus HAS given you, and you’re not living in the beautiful new life of contentment that he purchased for you.
So we need to put greed to death as we follow Jesus.
Look at verse 8: “But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.” So we get a few more things that we need to be fighting to put to death.
ANGER – Whenever someone wrongs you, doesn’t live up to your expectations, or doesn’t treat you the way you feel you deserve, do you lash out in anger? Do you smile outwardly but there’s a storm of anger raging on the inside that no one sees?
SLANDER – Slander is talking about someone in a way where you share things that aren’t true about them. Maybe you “harmlessly” share with a friend how you need prayer because you’re struggling with how [insert antagonist’s name here] is treating you. Nothing wrong with that, right? Except that it’s probably slander. Because your friend is probably walking away thinking much less of [insert antagonist’s name here] because they only know your side of the story, and in our own side of the story, we’re always right, and always the victim. Slander is sneaky like that.
FILTHY LANGUAGE – Is the way we speak uplifting, breathing life into our friends, pointing them toward God’s goodness? Or is it filthy, pointing them toward things that Jesus died for?
LYING – Do you communicate in a way with your friends where you create a false reality about who you really are? What you’ve really done? What’s really going on in your life?
Now look at verse 11: “In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” This seems like kind of a weird thought at the end of all of this. He makes this statement about how we’re all unified because of Jesus and not because of our ethnicity, social class, education level, or religious practices. And I think this is here because Christian communities can fall into the trap of priding themselves in putting to death all the sins we just talked about, but they neglect the ugliness of the sin here in verse 11. Paul’s talking about putting to death RACISM and ELITISM. God wants us to put to death prejudices against anyone who is a different ethnicity or race, has a different social status, a different level of education.
Those divisions are ugly. But a community of people who are amazingly diverse in these ways is beautiful, because it’s clear that the only thing uniting them is Jesus. Tim Keller said it this way: “When we speak to others who know God’s grace, we see that their identity is now rooted more in who they are in Christ than in their family or class. As a result we sense a bond that overcomes those things that, outside of Christ, created insurmountable barriers to our relationships. Jesus has knocked them down.” Putting racism and elitism all of these other things in this passage to death will allow us to fully experience the removal of ugly barriers in all of our human relationships.
These are the things that Jesus died to clean us up from. Because all of these create an ugly community of people, and Jesus died to create a beautiful community.
So how? How do we put these things to death? The only way to put to death these things that give us pleasure is to find something that gives us more pleasure that these things. One pastor said it this way: “The only way to defeat the power of sin’s promise of pleasure is by faith in God’s promise of a superior pleasure.” To put it another way, CS Lewis wrote 3 of my favorite sentences about this: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” See the way to kill sin isn’t to remove pleasure from our lives, it’s actually to go after a great pleasure than we’ve ever experienced! We’ve been messing around with lesser pleasures.
It was like with me and Korean BBQ. I used to eat at places like Yummy’s or Y’kele BBQ and think I was so cultured for eating authentic Korean food. I’d order the meat jun and as sides get a double of corn and mac salad. But then I went to Heejung’s parents house for the first when we were dating, sat down for dinner, and didn’t see any meet jun, corn, or mac salad. I saw a bunch of green and spicy red. And for the first time I realized, I probably haven’t been eating authentic Korean food. And man now that I’ve had the real stuff, Yummy’s and Y’kele BBQ just don’t compare!
THAT’S how you kill sin. Find a something that’s more satisfying, more pleasurable than that sin. That’s why Psalm 16:11 has become possibly my favorite verses in the Bible: “You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.” At God’s right hand are eternal pleasures! And over and over again in the Bible, we see that that’s where Jesus is now. At God’s right hand. With Jesus, there are eternal pleasures.
So how are you going to pursue pleasure in Jesus today? That’s the battle ground of putting sin to death in your life and seeing redeemed relationships blossom.