If you have been walking with us this summer through Colossians, this will make a ton of sense. I want to recap this letter so far. Paul is writing the church in Colossae and basically says, what you are doing is hard work and it can feel very ordinary. I pray that God anoints you with His glorious power so you as a church can live out Christianity with passion and power. To keep God’s passion and power inside you, always remember how God rescued you from the kingdom of darkness and placed you in the kingdom of heaven. Always remember what Jesus did for you, your grace story.
As you do God’s work, never forget that Jesus is supreme over everything. Everything got started in Jesus. Everything finds its purpose in Jesus. Everything finds its place in Jesus. So always focus on Jesus and keep Jesus at the center of your life.
My prayer for you is that you are experiencing Jesus. If He is supreme, then it’s obvious that my hope for you is that you are experiencing Him. How? Simple. As you received Him, live in Him. It’s faith. Don’t drift away from your faith. No matter how hard life gets, always be focused on Jesus and be deeply grateful that He rescued you.
And whatever you do, don’t allow religion to ruin your joy and freedom in Jesus. Religion is a very puffed up and childish way to do Christianity. So don’t fall for people who try to build themselves up and dazzle you. Don’t engage in religious arguments that go nowhere. Don’t engage in religious rules and traditions created by people.
Then Sam last week brought out what Paul told us to do. Remember Colossians 3:3?
Your new life, which is your real life – even though invisible to spectators – is with Christ in God. He is your life. MSG Colossians 3:3
Sam asked, what is your real life? What makes following Jesus real? Your new life, your real life, is the life Jesus died to give you. Jesus rescued you. So, set your heart and mind on the things of God. That means what we prioritize, what we think about, what we focus on needs to be on the things of God. That is your new life with Jesus, your real life.
I love how the Message Version says…
Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. MSG Colossians 3:2
You have been rescued by Jesus. You have a new life. Now change what you prioritize, what you think about, what you focus on. Because if you don’t, you will probably shuffle along, completely focused on day-to-day things and feeling very defeated. No, Paul says, focus on the things of God and until heaven comes, be content with obscurity like Jesus was.
Let’s read today’s scripture. Colossians 3:5-11.
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. NLT Colossians 3:5-11
Remember, the point of Colossians is to put Jesus at the center of your life. To explain how, Paul gets practical. Painfully practical. Stay away from religion, that was chapter 2. And live out this new and real life, that was the beginning of chapter 3. Change what you prioritize, what you think about, and what you focus on.
Then in verse 5, Paul continues to keep things simple and practical. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, you’re going to need to make choices. Yes, Jesus makes you right with God. Because of what Jesus did, you are now a Christian, you have a new life – that’s true. And to live out what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, you have choices to make. This isn’t about being half-hearted, shuffling along acting like following Jesus is the hardest thing – ever. To be a disciple of Jesus means you give your life back to God and focus on the things of God. You no longer live for you, you now live for God.
Let’s talk about what Paul wrote because this is where the rubber meets the road, reality.
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires.
That means you put to death all sexual immorality, impurity, lust and evil desires. You wipe out and put to death anything that feeds into sexual immorality. What does that mean? First, marriage, as Jesus taught, is between a man and woman [Matthew 19:4-5 NLT]. Second, sexual immorality would be pursuing any sexual relationship outside of marriage as Jesus describes it [1 Corinthians 7:2-6 MSG]. Third, sexual purity is for everyone, married and unmarried.
Remember, Paul is writing to a church that is in the city of Colossae. In that city, they worshipped idols. Part of idol worship is having sex with the temple prostitutes. That means, in that culture, it was normal to assume you and your friends would have sex with temple prostitutes. You were weird if you didn’t. Paul was challenging people to go against what was normal and accepted. He would have been offending a lot of people.
And it’s no different today. Do you think sexual purity is an issue for today? Remember in the last sermon series we talked about this?
And so I insist – and God backs me up on this – that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. MSG Ephesians 4:17-19
What happens when we refuse to deal with God? Sexual obsession. Do you think that is an issue today?
This is a very big deal. There is a direct connection between my spiritual condition and sexual purity.
18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. NLT 1 Corinthians 6:18
Paul is saying, the first choice you need to make to be a disciple of Jesus, is sexual purity. For some, Jesus taught, that would be simply looking at a man or woman lustfully [Matthew 5:28 NIV]. For others, that would be the challenge of same sex relationships [Romans 1:26-27 MSG]. No matter who you are, many of us experience sexual tension. We know what God taught and we don’t want to live inside those boundaries. Please hear me. Sexual purity is for everyone, and we are all welcome to be loved and forgiven by God and walk in purity.
Quick time out here. Some Christians say, we go to a church that focuses on the red words of the Bible. In some Bibles, Jesus’ words are highlighted in red. What they are saying is a code that means, Jesus didn’t say anything about gay or lesbian or transsexual issues. As Sam pointed out, if you believe in the Trinity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the God of the Old Testament, which included Jesus, was clear about sexual purity.
The first practical choice Paul dealt with was sexual purity. Then Paul gives us the second choice to make.
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.
The second choice is about greed. He calls it idolatry. This way of living that believes, I need money and things, not God, to be secure and happy. When we live this way, we put our trust in money and stuff, not God. It becomes our idol. We would say, ‘In money I trust.’
I need to take a time out here and make something very clear. We are not talking about Christian welfare system where you are able to work and choose to be lazy. Sometimes when we talk about greed, people wrongly conclude we are saying making money and saving is wrong. It’s not. There is a difference between working hard and being greedy.
Being a disciple of Jesus means we work hard, we make wise money decisions, we save for retirement. You should work hard and make as much money as possible, give and not apologize for doing well.
Being greedy is different. Greed means, I am comfortable hurting others so I can get more. Being greedy means, I can work but I am comfortable expecting others to take care of me. Being greedy means, I won’t give to God, it’s my money. 100% of what God allowed me to make, is mine. Being greedy means, I need more money, not God, to be secure and happy.
Do you think greed is an issue for today? Do you think people believe, ‘If I had more money and stuff, I would be more secure and happy?’
One of the best ways to defeat greed is to give. Give back to God. It’s actually what God expects. Let me ask you, how many people do you know, who give 10% back to God through their local church? Let’s forget 10%, let’s water it down to 5%? This is a huge issue, isn’t? When I talk about money, doesn’t it just rub you the wrong way? Doesn’t it kinda take the air out of this room? It’s why Jesus talked about money more than any other subject. It’s the number #1 thing that will steal our love and trust away from God.
Giving isn’t about living up to a religious requirement. It isn’t about money because honestly, God doesn’t need more money. It’s about the spiritual condition of our heart. Do we love God and trust that He will move on our behalf, or do we believe, our trust, needs to be in our money? This question is as old as Adam and Eve. God placed them in the garden and told them to trust Him. They couldn’t. God told the Children of Israel to trust Him, He was going to take then to the promised land. They couldn’t. God placed them in the promised land and said, give your best back to me, trust me. They couldn’t.
Giving is about trust. It’s about declaring, the source of security in my life, is God. Giving is about gratitude. I am thrilled to give back to God to celebrate what He has given me. Giving is about love. I love God more than money or stuff.
Quick time out here. Some Christians say, Jesus never addressed giving back to the church. Again, as Sam pointed out, if you believe in the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the God of the Old Testament, which includes Jesus, was clear about giving.
Paul tells us that these choices are a big deal. God cares how we live. He cares about the spiritual condition of our hearts. What if we struggle with these things? That means we are normal. Everyone wrestles with sexual tension and believing more money means more security and happiness.
What is a real problem is when you don’t struggle with these choices. When we blindly pursue sexual immorality. When we place our trust in money and things while ignoring God. That’s why Paul said, the anger of God is coming. Paul is saying, to keep Jesus at the center of your life, you need to make some choices. It shouldn’t be okay with you that you walk in, and are comfortable with, sin. It’s rebellion against God.
Let’s take a step back for a second. Think about what Paul wrote. He was writing to people in a city where having sex with temple prostitutes was normal. And, their way of living was greed. When they read this letter, it would have been a real challenge. His words would have been offensive to some. Paul was going against what was normal. Going against culture. I would add, just like today.
I often laugh when I hear people say the Bible isn’t relevant to today. It’s clear they didn’t read Colossians.
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.
He continues to write and throws in a few more things. Bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk and lying. All these traits show that the old sinful self is still in you, and you need to work on making choices to get rid of these things.
10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
Paul wants the church to know that everyone is welcome into God’s kingdom. What makes the church unique is that as disciples of Jesus, our identity is in Jesus. Our identity isn’t in our skin color, our social statues, bank accounts, or our sexual desires. In the local church, what matters is, we are disciples of Jesus. We have given our lives back to Jesus. We want our identity to be in Jesus. We are prioritizing, focusing, and thinking about the things of God. We are making choices to live out what it means to be called a Christian.
I want to close today and I want to make something confusing, really clear. To be right with God, all we need to do is believe in Jesus. Being right with God has nothing to do with us, our achievements, our ability to live out rules, our knowledge, it’s all about what Jesus has done. To live out what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, to put Jesus at the center of our lives, it requires us to make choices. And when we struggle and fail, and you will, we go back to Jesus and surrender. And, get this, Jesus will never get tired of loving you.
One word for you today: Choices.
Are you walking in sexual purity? If not, today, you can ask for forgiveness. What decision do you need to make from this day forward? Tik-tok. Instagram. Emails. Emotional or physical affairs. Casual sex. Same sex relationships.
Are you greedy? Remember, working hard and saving money and being greedy are different. Do you believe to be secure and happy you need more money, not more God? Do you give? Are you able to work and at the same time, do you expect others to take care of you? Does this discussion about money make you uneasy? Do you give back to God at the local church?
How about your temper? Are you irritable? Are you mean? If you don’t know, people around you do, ask them.
How about your mouth, what comes out of it? Is it dirty? Is it common to lie, even little white lies? Do you lie to keep people happy?
Being a disciple of Jesus, putting Jesus at the center of our lives, is found in our choices.
Leaving here today, if you believe in Jesus, know that you are right with God. Walk with courage.
Leaving here today, to live out being a disciple of Jesus, what choices do you need to make?