Friday, December 4, 2009

Your will combined with the power of the Spirit can bring about change

Good morning my friends.

Yesterday we looked at the Scripture that instructed us to get our thoughts off of earthly things and to set our heart and mind on things above. Over the next couple of days we are going to look at what that may look like in the practical. We are going to start with what earthly things Paul is referring to and how we can get our thoughts off of them.

Paul was never one to pull any punches so he starts off with the biggies:

 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

Paul follows the same pattern here that he has in previous letters, starting with the sins of the body. These are the sins that are the most devastating to us, not that God sees a difference between the degree of sins. There are certain sins that have a devastating effect on us and on other people, that we can't take back, and that have a long lasting impact. Tiger Woods is discovering this truth the hard way, having cheated on his wife and is now on public display. These sins that Paul has listed are things that we can simply turn from and not give ourselves over to. It is a decision of the will, reinforced by the convictions of the Holy Spirit but they are things that we must turn our eyes away from and stop thinking about. Paul says the best way to do that is concentrate your thinking on Jesus. Because these are the first to be listed I believe we can understand that these are the first that we need to change. We all know that sexual immorality is devastating to every area of our being so we need to make that decision to turn from it.

Paul wants us to understand the importance of turning from these sins:

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: vs. 6-8

These things are the reason God's wrath will be poured out on creation, so that should be enough motivation to desire to turn away from it. Then Paul lists another group of sins that he has told us to rid ourselves of:

anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. v. 8

The first group were sins that come from the desires of our body. This second group is sin that comes from our emotions. We could say that one is the sin of the mind and the other is the sin of the heart. The first can become an addiction that we lose all power over, the second is part of our character that can get out of control. Yet, with it all, if we consciously turn our heart and mind away, the Holy Spirit will repair us, but we have to be willing to turn away.

The last thing he brings up here may not have even been something that you considered:

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. vs. 9-10

Do not lie. Its more than that though, its do not lie to each other. Maybe you think this is obvious but I don't think we understand the importance. The Church is suppose to be a place of openness, where we can work out our salvation daily, where we can fail openly, where we have the support of our fellow sojourners. Liken it to an AA meeting. We are not to lie to each other because we need to be honest with ourselves and with those who should understand us so that forgiveness is our daily reality. But the Church is not like this because we lie to each other. We don't trust each other. We are afraid of each other. We are afraid to talk about our struggles and failings because we are afraid to be judged, persecuted and rejected. But consider what Paul writes immediately after this:

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. v. 11

Do you understand what he is saying? In the Body there is no difference. It doesn't matter your level of education, your culture, your position in life or in the Church. Our common ground is that we are all sinners saved by grace and we are all working out our salvation daily and we all need to be honest about it. We need to come to understand what Paul meant when he wrote this about the Body: If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26) We need to stop lying about our situation and start recognizing what the Church is for.

It still comes down to this:

Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. vs 1-2

Things have to change after you accept Jesus as King, they cannot stay the same. Your will power will not save you but it has a part to play with the Holy Spirit and as I wrote yesterday, we change because of love not because of conformity. We change because we want to be pleasing to the most important person in our life, Jesus. We turn away from these things, these sins, because our Father can't have anything to do with us if we don't and more than anything else we want, desire and long for a rich daily fellowship with our God. So, set your minds on things above, not on earthly things and the power and forgiveness of God will do the rest. Tomorrow we will look at those things above.

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