“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:5-11).
Yesterday, the Apostle Paul exhorted us to set our minds on things above and to remember our identity in Christ if we want to become like Christ. Today, he exhorts us to “put to death…what is earthly…” In the verses above, he goes on to give us a general (not exhaustive) list of what he is referring to as “earthly.” Paul gives the strongest warning to the Colossians (and to us) against these sins, namely, “On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” In other words, an unchecked life of sin, a habitual life of sin invites the wrath of God upon itself. As one theologian has rightly said, habitual sinning is tantamount to “spiritual suicide.”
“Be killing or it will be killing you,” John Owen writes in his book, The Mortification of Sin inspired by Romans 8:13 which reads, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Even though we have died with Christ and have been raised with Him unto newness of life, the old man still remains in us and seeks to regain control of our lives. We must constantly be on our guard and fighting against remaining sin. We are to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) and “be all the more eager to make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10) by putting to death the old man so that the life of Christ might be more clearly manifested in us. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for He has not left us to pursue Christlikeness on our own and in our strength. While verse 12 of Philippians 2 (and other passages like it) rightly urge us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling,” verse 13 of the same chapter reminds and encourages us that “it is God who is at work in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
The call to pursue a Christlike life demands that we exercise utmost care and utter dependence on the Lord who alone is able to supply us the spiritual resources that we need to battle against sin in our lives. Praise be to His Holy Name that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). We have the Holy Spirit living within us and He will fight for us even as we fight with Him against the flesh. As Paul writes in Galatians 5:16-17, we are to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
While the battle against sin still rages, we have the confidence that in Christ our victory is sure for He has conquered the power of sin through His sacrificial death on the cross for us. Therefore, when we find ourselves to have fallen into sin, we can run back to the Lord pleading for forgiveness with a repentant heart with confidence not in ourselves, but in the Lord Jesus Christ who is our “Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1). We can say with Micah in confidence:
“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication” (Micah 7:8-9)