"Putting Off the Old"
Colossians 3:5 - 11
(Delivered Sunday, May 20, 2001 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things, the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all (Col. 3:5-11).
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Some folks only respond to half the gospel. They may go for years and years thinking that they've been saved because they've responded to the gospel - when in reality, they've fallen short of salvation because they've only responded to a part of the gospel's call ... and have neglected to do what remained to be done.
Such people embrace the part of the gospel that says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved ..." (Acts 16:31). And, of course, they should believe that, because it's true. But if they respond to only that much of the gospel - that is, if they hear that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and even go so far as to sincerely embrace that truth as their own confession of faith; and yet do nothing more about it than that - then they've really only responded to half the gospel. And no one can be saved through only a partial response to the gospel.
When I was a boy, my dad taught me a little geometry puzzle. "Imagine", he said, "that I drew a big circle on the ground - a perfect circle; and in the exact center of the circle, I put a frog." (He had my attention immediately - mostly because of the frog.)
"Now," my dad went on to say; "suppose that I've trained that frog to jump from the exact center of the circle to the circumference; but let's suppose that I've trained him to only jump in precise halves of distance. So, on the first jump, the frog would jump from the center of the circle to the point that falls half-way along the radius. How far, then, would he be from the circumference of the circle, Greg?" "He'd be halfway there," I said.
"Good. So, on the second jump, the frog would jump half way from the halfway-point to the circumference. How much further would he need to go to get to the circumference then? He'd be a quarter of the way there, right?" "Right, Dad."
"Okay. So; on and on the frog goes; jumping in halves each time, and getting closer and closer to the circumference of the circle. Now, here's the question, Greg: how many jumps will it take him before he gets to the circumference of the circle?" I soon figured out the trick to the puzzle. I eventually realized that the frog would never reach the outside of the circle. He'd ways be jumping just half the way to the edge of the circle; but never really get all the way there.
In an imperfect way, that little puzzle illustrates what happens when people only obey half the gospel and think that it will be enough to save them. They may believe their whole lives long that Jesus is the Savior from sins. In fact, they may even preach to other people that Jesus is the Savior from sins. And yet, they themselves will go through life only part of the way toward salvation, but always falling short of being truly saved by faith; because the whole time long, they had been cutting the gospel in half, and responding to only a part of it.
So then; if you've genuinely believed that Jesus is the Savior from sins, and that His salvation is a free gift of God's grace for whoever will take it; and if you've sincerely placed your trust in Jesus as the Savior from sins, what's the other half of the gospel that you must respond to?
Well; let me read a few passages of Scripture to you, and see if you can tell. Do you remember that, before Jesus began to preach, John the Baptist went out preaching before Him, in order to prepare people for Jesus' coming? And do you remember what John preached? He preached this message, in these very words: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 3:2). The Bible tells us that he went out into the wilderness "preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4).
Later on, when John was thrown into prison, Jesus took up where he left off, continuing to preach the very same message John preached. The Bible tells us that, "after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:14-15). Along the way, the Pharisees accused Jesus of hanging around sinners too much; and He told them, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Matthew 9:13). That was Jesus' message. It was the same message as the one preached by John. "Repent and believe the gospel". Can you see the two important responses to the Gospel? Not only are people to "believe" in Jesus, but they are also to "repent" of sin.
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What does "repentance" mean? The Greek verb that the Bible uses for "repent" is one that's made out of two Greek words put together. The Greek word for "change" is combined with the word for "mind" or "attitude"; and together, they form a word that, when taken literally, means "to change one's mind" about something. "Repentance", then, involves a complete turn-around in your attitude about, and your consequent actions toward, someone or something. Jesus was coming to save people from their sins; and when He preached a message of "repentance", He was calling people to "change their minds" about the sin; to have a genuine sorrow in their hearts over the sin in their lives, and to exhibit a sincere turning away from sinful practices. He was calling them to genuinely, sincerely forsake the sin in their lives, as they walk from then on in obedience to God. He was calling them to a life-long practice of continually "putting off" sin from themselves. In fact, Jesus' and John's message can actually be translated, "Start repenting."
Jesus called people to not only put their faith in Him, but also to turn away from sin in their lives. Later on, Jesus sent His twelve disciples out to preach in the places that He was going to visit. And do you remember what they did at His command? The Bible says, "So they went out and preached that people should repent" (Mark 6:12). They preached the very same message. And even after Jesus was raised from the dead, He told His apostles, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations ..." (Luke 24:46-47).
Can you see, then, that the call to "repent" is an essential part of the gospel's call to us? The message that Jesus preached, and that John preached before Him, and that His disciples preached after Him, was, "Repent and believe the gospel".
Now; someone might say, "Well sure; that was what Jesus and the disciples preached in those early days. But what about now, during the 'church age'? The Holy Spirit has come; and we all now live in the age of grace. Now, the only response that's required of us is that we simply believe, and nothing more; ... right?" Well; let's see what Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost. when the 'church age' began. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples gathered together in the upper room; and being filled with the Holy Spirit, they rushed out into the streets speaking as the Spirit gave them utterance. And when all the Jews gathered together to see what was going on, Peter preached about Jesus Christ to them. When they heard Peter's sermon about who Jesus is, and of how they crucified Him, and of how He was raised from the dead, they where 'cut to the heart' by the message, They asked the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" And do you know what Peter told them when they asked that? Peter said, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins ..." (Acts 2:38). There you see that both "repentance from sin" and "faith in the Savior" were the responses that the gospel required. Those two things are to always go together when it comes to responding to the gospel.
Later on, God healed a man in the temple through Peter and John. All the Jews heard about it and came running in amazement. And when Peter told them about how the man was healed in the name of Jesus, and how the Jews had crucified Him and that He had been raised from the dead, Peter told them, "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out ..." (Acts 3:19). In the later years of his life, Peter summed up God's attitude toward lost sinners, and the grace that God offered in the gospel, with these words; God "is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
Well; of course that was Peter. Peter preached to the Jews. But what about Paul? Paul preached the Gospel to the Gentiles. What did he preach that people should do in response to the gospel? Even when we look at the gospel message as Paul preached it, we find the same call for "repentance". When he spoke to the educated, cultured people of Athens, he told them about how God was their Creator, and how they had erred in worshiping and serving idols. And he told them - these refined and intellectually astute Athenians - "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31). Can you see? Both repentance and faith are found together in the gospel that Paul preached.
When Paul preached the gospel, he issued the call for both "repentance from sin" and "faith in the Savior". He preached both things together, as if they were two sides of the same coin. He said that "the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are His,' and 'Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity'" (2 Tim. 2:19). Whenever Paul gave an account of his preaching, he made it clear that the call to "repent" was included in his message. For example, when he spoke to a group of pastors just before he departed from them, he told them, "I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to the Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:20-21). And when he stood on trial before King Agrippa, he told the king that he had received his message from God Himself; and Paul explained his message this way: "Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God and do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:19-20).
Repentance as a response to the gospel was something very important to the apostle Paul - just as important as a profession of faith in the Savior. Paul longed for the people to whom he preached the gospel to respond to the gospel fully, and not in part - not only with genuine faith in the Savior, but also with active repentance from sin. He was very concerned, for example, about the Corinthians. It wasn't enough to him that they simply 'believed'. Paul had to write often, in strong words, to urge them to turn from their sins. Near the end of his second letter to them, he wrote; "For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backslidings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced" (2 Cor. 12:20-21).
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Now let's be clear on something, so there's no misunderstanding. The Bible doesn't teach us that we must be perfect before we can be saved; nor does it teach that we will ever be completely sinless while we live upon the earth. The Bible teaches us that, for as long as we live, we will always have to struggle with the reality of sin. I would hate for anyone become confused ant think that you must be sinless before you can be saved; or that we must earn our salvation through our own acts of righteousness. Praise God; the Bible doesn't say that!
But it does tell us that "repentance" is an essential response to the Gospel. And so; while we will always have to struggle with sin in our lives, the important point is that this struggle must be going on! Repentance and faith are, together, two sides of the same coin. Turning to Jesus to save us from our sins also means turning away from the sins that He died to save us from. You cannot cling to your sins and say that you truly love and trust the Savior at the same time. The message of the gospel is a call to turn in repentance "from" sins "to" the Savior from sin.
And so, if, as a preacher, I preach that Jesus is the Savior from sins, and that salvation is a free gift to anyone who will trust in His sacrifice on the cross; and if I urge people to receive the salvation He purchased for us by faith, I'm certainly doing what I should. That's an essential part of the gospel message. But if I preach that only, and fail to also preach that God calls believing people to actively turn away from the sins that Jesus died to save them from, and to repent, then I'm only preaching half the message. I'd be calling people to respond to only a part of the gospel.
And likewise, if you hear the gospel and believe that Jesus is the Savior of sinners; but you then respond to that message by willingly continuing to live in your sins, and don't turn from them in repentance, then you're only responding to half the gospel. If you willingly choose to respond to only a part of the gospel, how then can it save you?
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I believe that there are some here this morning who have only responded to half the gospel. I believe that there are some who have prayed, at a very important point in their history, a prayer of faith to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior; but they haven't yet truly "repented" of sin in their practical lives. Perhaps you've prayed to invite Jesus into your life; and perhaps you were expecting that praying such a prayer will make your life better; but you haven't yet turned away from the sins that put Him on the cross in the first place. You haven't "repented" from those things that the Bible calls sin; but, instead, you still keep on doing the very same things and living the same old way as you always have. Perhaps you even go so far as to justify or rationalize to yourself why it's okay that certain sins are still in your life. Perhaps you comfort and assure yourself that, though you tolerate certain sins in some areas of your life, you feel like you're doing a whole lot better than some other people in other areas of your life. Perhaps you even say think to yourself that it doesn't matter whether you sin or not, because you believe that you've prayed a prayer that makes everything okay.
If that's true of you, then in love I must tell you the truth; you've only responded to half the gospel's call. You've tried to turn to the Savior while still holding on to your sins at the same time. And a half-way response to the gospel can't save you. This morning's passage is a call to respond to the whole message of the gospel. It's message is that, having trusted Christ as our Savior, we must now also repent of the sins He died to save us from; and lay those sins aside - "putting them off" from ourselves like a set of old, dirty clothes that no longer fit us.
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What Paul has to say to us in this passage has its basis in verses 1-4. There, Paul says, <<>> If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (vv. 1-4).
We are saved by being united with Jesus in His death and resurrection. And that's why Paul begins our portion of Scripture with the word "therefore". He's pointing back to what has happened to us in Jesus as the basis for what he's about to say. Putting off sin from our life in repentance is the logical consequence of having died with Jesus, and of being raised up with Him.
Let's look briefly at what Paul says about "repentance" - the "putting off" of sin from our lives. First notice that Paul tells us ...
I. WHAT MUST BE 'PUT OFF'.
He says, "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (v. 5). And then, in verse 8, he tells us, "But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another ..." (vv. 8-9).
I don't believe that, in these two verses, Paul is meaning to give us a complete list of sins to be put off from our lives. That, of course, would involve a much longer list than can be contained in two verses! But the sins that he mentions are broad enough to include many, many things.
First, you'll notice that he speaks of sins that have their primary focus on what goes on in our hearts. He speaks of sins of lust - "fornication" or "sexual immorality"; which would include sexual involvement with someone outside of marriage, and also the violation of the covenant of marriage by having an affair. He also speaks of "uncleanness" or "impurity", which focuses on sins of lust that have their center in the thought-life; such as using pornography through magazines or the internet; or in enjoying jokes and stories of a sexual nature; or fantasizing or imagining sexual sins with others. Then, he speaks of "passion" or "lust", and "evil desire"; which would involve the idea of being driven by one's emotions, or always seeking after the gratifications of the desires and cravings of our body. And finally, he speaks of "covetousness" or "greed" - the continual craving to have more and more of the things of this world. It's a craving that is driven not by "need", but by "greed"; and its true nature is shown in that Paul calls it "idolatry" - that is, seating something else in the place in our life that only God should occupy. People who live with these things in their lives - fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness - are willingly living with the sins within their hearts that caused Jesus to be nailed to the cross.
Then, notice that he speaks of sins that have their primary focus on what happens in our relationships with others. He speaks of "anger", which is a matter of being "hot-tempered" and "hair-triggered" with people - making people have to walk on egg-shells when they're with us. He speaks of "wrath" or "rage", which is a matter of becoming so red-hot in our anger at someone that we explode all over them - boiling over with an outburst of angry words, or displays of rage through throwing things and slamming doors. He speaks of "malice"; which is a matter of being so bitter toward someone, or harboring such a grudge toward them, that you want to cause them harm or 'pay them back' in revenge. He speaks of "blasphemy" or "slander"; which is the idea of back-biting someone, or spreading rumors or gossip about them, or talking them down before others - "dissing them", as we sometimes say. He speaks of "filthy language" or "abusive speech"; which is the idea of engaging in foul jokes or cutting comments with others when no one else is listening. Finally, he says, "Do not lie to one another"; which may not involve our speaking in anger, or rage, or malice, or slander, or filthiness; but involves our deceiving people with our words, and saying things to others that are untrue. To habitually treat people in these ways is to cling to the very sins Jesus died to save us from.
If you were to look all these things over carefully, and compare them with God's Ten Commandments, you can plainly see that they openly violate His specific commandments. They are actions that are in absolute defiance of God's standards of holiness. We are all very guilty of them; and we could never, in this life, be completely free of them. And we can see that it is a very wicked and sinful thing to willingly cling to them, or justify their continued existence in our lives, or to refuse to repent of them - especially wicked when, at the same time, we say we have faith in the price that Jesus paid on the cross to free us from them.
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Second, we see that Paul tells us ...
II. WHY THESE THINGS MUST BE 'PUT OFF'.
Paul says, in verse 6, "Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience ..." They should be "put off" from us because they are the cause of the outpouring of God's righteous wrath for sin.
Paul once wrote to the Roman believers and urged them to cease presenting themselves over to serve sin. He urged them to no longer present the members of their bodies over as slaves of sin, but now to present their body members as instruments of righteousness. He urged them to think back to the time when they used to turn their bodies over as slaves of sin all the time; and then asked them, "What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed?" (Rom. 6:20-21). It's as if he was saying, "What did you gain from being the slaves of sin? If you think about it, you can see that you gained nothing good! In fact, all you really gained is shame and sorrow. And why?" He answers; "For the end of those things is death." "... The wages of sin is death", he tells them (v. 23). God judges sin. He pours out His wrath upon sin. And so, we should "put off" from ourselves, as quickly as we can, those things that provoke God to pour His righteous anger and wrath on the "sons of disobedience."
And Paul also points out to the Colossian believers that these are the sorts of sins "in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them" (Col. 3:7). They used to be the manner of life we walked in when we were living apart from God's grace. Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers, and told them that they, too, used to be "dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others" (Eph. 2:2-3). What a horrible thing to be! "Children of wrath"! And what a horribly inappropriate thing it is for a professing believer to be characterized by the sort of things that characterize "sons of disobedience"! No wonder God calls us to put them off!
Now; praise God that, when we trust Jesus as our Savior, we are set free from the wrath of God. His wrath was poured out upon Jesus as He hung on the cross of Jesus for us. Jesus paid the brutal death penalty for our sins in His own body there, and took all of the wrath of God for our sins and paid for it Himself. But it's precisely because of this that, as believers, we have so much of a reason to put those sins off from ourselves.
When we look at the cross, we can plainly see that the wrath of God has already once been poured out terribly because of these sins. There still remains a day coming in which the wrath of God will come upon "the sons of disobedience". If we say that we have faith in Jesus' sacrifice for our sins, how then can we still keep on clinging to those things that caused God's wrath to be poured out on Him? If God poured out such terrible wrath for our sins on His own Son as our substitute, how then can anyone expect to escape that wrath if they wont quit clinging to them!! May God help us to put them off!!
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Third, we see that Paul tells us ...
III. HOW THEY'RE TO BE 'PUT OFF'.
First, you'll notice that he speaks of these sins as "your members which are on the earth". When I read that phrase, I tend to think of a big tree with long, intrusive branches. Perhaps you've seen how certain kinds of trees spread their roots all over everything, causing lots of damage. You can't remove some of those trees without taking half the neighborhood with it!
That's how sin establishes itself in our lives. It's almost as if the principle of sin within us sends out roots that interweave around the values and priorities of this world. You can't separate yourselves from the wicked infrastructure of sin in this world unless you kill those roots. You must put sin to death at its roots.
Jesus put it this way: "If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two fee, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire" (Matthew 18:8-9). I don't believe that, by saying this, Jesus is saying that we should try to solve the sin problem in our lives by whacking off our limbs or popping out our eyeballs. That won't work because it's not our eyes or our hands that cause us to sin. What He's telling us is that if even something very precious to us causes us to sin - even if it was something as precious to us as our eyes or our hands - then we should sever it from ourselves. If the television causes us to sin, then we should get rid of it. If the internet causes us to sin, then we should cancel our internet service, or get rid of our computer. If certain friendships or relationship cause us to stumble into sin, then we should separate ourselves from those people. That's what it means by "putting to death our members which are on the earth". It means killing sin at its root in our lives.
Paul also says that we're to "put off all these", as if they were an old set of grave clothes that are no longer appropriate for us to wear as saints who have been raised up with Christ. Paul says that "you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him ..." (vv. 9-10). It's as if you are to take off the old wardrobe of "sin", and put on the new "resurrection wardrobe" of a man or woman who has been transformed from within.
One of the greatest and most effective way to put sinful practices and behaviors out of your life is by replacing them with a whole new practices and behaviors - practices and behaviors that are in conformity to Jesus Christ. Paul encouraged the Ephesian believers; "that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:22-24).
So often, what people do is simply put their foot down and say, "That does it! These things are sinful; and I'm not going to do them any more!" - which is nice; but if that's all they do, it's a recipe for failure. All they've done is left a moral vacuum in their lives; and it wont take long before those same old sinful practices have come slipping right back in to fill the void. Instead, Paul urges us to not only put off those old practices; but, we're also to allow God to renew our mind - that is, transform our thinking about these things, and spiritually alter our values and priorities into those that belong to Christ; and then adopt whole new practices in their place.
And so, Paul goes on to explain how to put off old practices and put on new ones. When it comes to lying, for example, he tells them not only what to put off, but also what to put on: "Therefore, putting away lying, 'Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,' for we are members of one another" (Eph. 4:25). Or when it comes to harboring resentment and anger toward someone, he says "'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil" (v. 26-27). When it comes to stealing, there's something to be put off: "Let him who stole steal no longer;" and there's something to be put on: "but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need" (v. 28). Do you see the pattern? Put this off: "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth"; and put this on: "but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (v. 29-30). Put off: "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice" / Put on: "... And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (vv. 31-32).
Putting sin to death at its roots in our lives; and practicing the putting off of old behaviors and putting on of new ones - this is how we are to "repent" of sin in our lives.
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Now, this all seems like a super-human endeavor; and if it were up to us and our own resources to put sinful practices off from our lives, we'd never be able to do it. As a pastor, I often hear people - even believing people - tell me in frustration, "I just can't do it, Pastor! I just can't change! I just can't put those old sins off from my life!"
But that leads us finally to see ...
IV. WHY IT'S TRUE THAT THEY CAN BE 'PUT OFF'.
Do you remember what stood as the basis of this whole discussion? It was the truth that Paul affirmed in verse 1-4; that is, that we've been raised up with Christ, and that our life is now hidden in Him. Jesus isn't a dead Savior, who is far away and powerless to help us. Rather, He is a living, powerful Savior. We've been raised up with Him, and our life is hidden in Him. What's more, Paul says, in verse 11 that "Christ is all and in all". This all-powerful, all-mighty Savior, Jesus, has taken up residence in us. He lives in us; and is able to help us to become anything He wants us to be.
I read a story recently about the famous evangelist from the last century, R.A. Torrey. He was assisting D.L. Moody during one of his evangelistic campaigns, when a Scottish gentleman came to him to ask for council. This Scotsman said, "I want to tell you my story. When I was seven years old, I started to read the Bible; and I remember reading, somewhere in the book of Deuteronomy, that if I were to keep the law of God in all points but where to break it in just one point, I'd be guilty of all. Do you recall that verse?" Dr. Torrey said that Deuteronomy says, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them". The man went on to explain; "Well; I read that and I found that I had already broken God's law and was cursed. I was in great dispair. Night after night, I went to bed and cried myself to sleep, knowing that I was under God's curse because of my sin.
"Then," the man said, "I read another verse. It's John 3:16; 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.' Well, Mr. Torrey; when I read that, I felt as if all the burden of my sin rolled away. Was I converted?" And Dr. Torrey said, "Well, that sounds like a good, evangelical conversion to me."
The man said, "Then please let me tell you the rest of my story. When I grew up, I came to America and started working for the stockyards; and as you know, the stockyards isn't a very good place. Pretty soon, I started drinking. And I'm coming to you to ask; is there any way I can get victory over drinking?"
Dr. Torrey said; "You've come to the right place. Then, he opened up the Bible to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and read, "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you - unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures ..".
Since this man had come to believe other things that are in the Bible, Dr. Torrey asked him if he believed what that passage said. "Oh yes," the man said. "I believe everything in the Bible." "Then do you believe that Jesus rose from the dead?" "Yes I do," the man said. "And," Dr. Torrey asked, "do you believe that, having risen from the dead, Jesus has all power in heaven and on earth?" And again the man said that he whole-heartedly believed that. "Well then, do you believe He has the power to keep you from drink and to help you turn from sin?" And the man said that he believed this. Finally, Dr. Torrey then asked, "Will you now trust Him to do so?" And when the man said he would, then knelt together and prayed. The man, then and there, told the Lord that he believed that He is alive, and all-powerful, and is more than able to save him from the power of booze. He asked Jesus to deliver him from the sin of drinking; and when it was over, Dr. Torrey asked him, "Did you really trust Jesus to do this?" The man said that he did; and after talking a little more with Dr. Torrey, the man went his way.
Several weeks went by; and finally, Dr. Torrey received a letter from the man. It said, "Dear Mr. Torrey; ... it works!!"
There's no doubt about it: it's hard to put away sin from our lives. In fact, it's humanly impossible. But it's not impossible for the resurrected Lord Jesus. Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13). He said, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13). Jesus is wonderfully alive and all-powerful; and He has taken up residence in us. There is no sin that He is not able to help us leave behind.
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So; have you responded to all of the gospel? Have you not only believed on Jesus, but have you also turned away from sin? Are you trusting Him to help you to progressively "put off" the sinful deeds of the old life? This morning's passage is a call to do repent. And praise God, with Jesus' help, we can!!
Has the Spirit of God pointed out an area of sin in your life this morning that He's calling you to "put aside"? If so, will you trust Jesus to help you do so today? He will; if you'll only ask.
(copyright 2001 by Pastor Greg Allen and Bethany Bible Church. Reproduction without permission, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.)
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