Text: Colossians 3:1-11
Fourth, Christ will come again (4b). Since Jesus is coming back again, it only makes sense that we should be looking up on a continuous basis. The phrase, “when” is probably better translated, “whenever Christ appears.” This emphasizes the fact that His return is certain, but the time is indefinite. Since we don’t know the when, we must keep watching.
Fifth and final, we will appear with Him in Glory (4c). The verb, “appear” means “to make visible what is invisible.” When Christ returns, the real position of the believer, which has been hidden to the world, will be made known. When Jesus is revealed in His glory, we shall be totally transformed and according to 1st John 3:2, “…But we know that when he appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
Paul is urging us to look up and to remember who we are now, who we once were, and who we will be when Christ returns.
Where are you looking today? What does your mind focus on? What gets the attention of your heart?
We must make a conscious, deliberate, and daily decision to look up and set our minds and hearts on heavenly things. Our outlook determines our outcome. Keeping our minds and hearts in the right place will often determine where we end up. This is true in our Christian walk, and it is true in our daily working lives. If you never look beyond the current circumstances of your situation, if you are mired down in and by your circumstances, and if you never prepare for a better future, how do you plan to get to that better tomorrow?
That leads us to Paul's second piece of advice. Not only must we look up, we must also look out. We see this in verses 5-9: “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 rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other…”
Colossians 3:5, in the New Living Translation reads a little differently: “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you.” Because we have died and been raised with Christ, we have the spiritual power to slay those desires that want to control us.
We have died to sin, but we must render sinful desires powerless. While we can’t totally eradicate our sinful nature all by ourselves, we can treat it as a morally impotent force. The new life calls for more than throwing out a few vices and beefing up our spiritual life by going to church once in a while. But, what gets renewed is our “new self,” not the earthly nature. Remember, we have died with Christ. Now we need to figure out how to live this practically. We must refuse to judge and be judged by externals, we must reject false authority, and we need to repudiate ridiculous religious rules. But that doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we want as believers.
Grace takes precedence over legalism. Paul makes it very plain in Romans 6(:1-2) that we are no longer to let sin rule over us: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” What Paul is saying is that just because we now call ourselves Christian, we don't get a free pass on our favorite sin. We can't act worse than we did before we claimed to be saved!
And, true to my feeling about how the Bible is one story, here’s your Old Testament story. We will look at a man named Phinehas in the book of Numbers, chapter 25. He had both moral fiber and determination. He was not afraid to deal with sin. In this story, Israel was just about to enter the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering around the desert. As you might remember, this is a journey that should have taken them 40 days, but they kept screwing up, so it took them 40 years. Anyway, you would expect them to be really pumped up and excited about finally being so close to the end of this journey. But, instead of thanking God, the men of Israel started sleeping with foreign women and worshiping false gods.
Needless to say, God’s anger burned against the Israelites and he sent a plague among the people. In the midst of God’s judgment, one guy was so arrogant that he didn’t even try to hide his sin. He marched right in front of the people with a Midianite (foreign) maiden and took her into his tent to sleep with her. Try to take in this whole scene...The people of God are weeping because of their sin and the plague that is wiping them out, and this bonehead walks right by them flaunting his sin. Doesn't it amaze you how sexual sin can make a normally sane person do some pretty stupid things?
Well, this is where Phinehas comes in. When he saw what was going on, he jumped up, grabbed his spear, ran to the man’s tent and drove the spear through both the man and the woman as they lay together. The plague stopped immediately, but not before 24,000 people had been killed by it. God says in Numbers 25:11, “Phinehas …has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor…” Because Phinehas was looking up, but he was also looking out.
Paul wants us to look out. But just in case we can't remember what they are, he lists some sensual sins for us. We must slay these with the passion of Phinehas. Anytime we see these desires begin to awaken in our lives we need to grab our spear and thrust it right through them. We need to be zealous for God’s honor by putting them to death. Notice that we’re not just to put them aside. We’re not to wound them or even ask them to leave. We’re not to experiment or play around with them, rationalize them or even try to explain them away. Instead, we are to kill them. We’re to thrust our spears right through them. Sounds dramatic...That's what I love about the Old Testament.