Summary: As Christians, we need to be reminded that we have been called to be a distinct people in the world. Certain actions and certain attitudes that belong to the lifestyle of the world do not fit in the lifestyle of the Christian. In other words, while we liv
I saw a quote the other day that grabbed my attention: “The Christian is not ruined by living in the world, but by the world living in him.” At no other time in Christian history has this statement been more true, for the lines between Christian and non-Christian, between the church and the world, have become blurred in our day.
That’s why, every once in a while, we need to be reminded that we have been called to be a distinct people in the world. Certain actions and certain attitudes that belong to the lifestyle of the world do not fit in the lifestyle of the Christian. In other words, while we live in the world, we are not to allow the world to live in us.
Paul’s urgent appeal in the opening verse of our text reminds us of the seriousness of the issue. Paul said, “Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.”
Paul’s negative approach here makes some of us uncomfortable. We prefer to talk about what we need to do instead of what we need to refrain from doing, the positive instead of the negative. And yet, one cannot read the NT without recognizing that there are in fact some negatives involved in the Christian life.
Perhaps, a domestic analogy will help. What would happen if we never took out the garbage at our home, if we said something like, “Oh, we take the positive approach at our house. We just hold on to everything. We’re not against anything.” It wouldn’t take long to stink up the place!
Likewise, in our Christian lives, there are some things that, like the garbage at home,
need to be discarded so they will not stink up our lives. In our text, Paul identified the garbage that needs to be taken out of our lives.
In verse 5, Paul said we should take out the garbage of undisciplined desires, those desires that are displeasing to God. Five specific desires are noted: “sexual immorality, impurity, passion or lust, evil desires, and greed.”
The word translated sexual immorality originally meant consorting with prostitutes. But, eventually the word was used to identify habitual immorality. Impurity is a broader term that includes our thoughts and words as well as our actions. Lust passion or lust describes desires that are out of control. Evil desires present a similar picture. Greed suggests that these desires are never satisfied, that the person always wants more and more pleasure, more enjoyment. Greed suggests a total disregard for the rights of others. We are inundated today from every direction with these same five desires and the greatest damage done by this saturation of our minds with evil desires is that it plants in our minds the mistaken notion that immorality is the normal, acceptable thing to do.
In contrast, the Bible says that immorality is not the norm. These sick models of human behavior are not the pattern. They are not to be set us as our ideals, nor are they to be imitated in our lives. They belong to our earthly nature and are perversions of what God originally intended for us to do. They are garbage that needs to be put out of our lives.
In verse 8, Paul added that we should also put out of our lives the garbage of unholy temperament. “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath or rage, and malice.”
There is more to sin than just the sins of the flesh. There are also sins of the temperament, sins of the disposition.
It was a sin of the temperament that marked the prodigal’s older brother as being under the disfavor of God. It was a sin of the temperament in the proud Pharisee praying in the temple that Jesus contrasted to the saintly humility of the publican.
Many Christians who proudly put out of their lives the garbage of undisciplined desires can still stink up their lives by allowing these unholy attitudes to remain.
Paul identified these sins of the temperament – the sudden flame of anger, the settled spirit of animosity, and the smoldering hatred of our fellow man – as garbage that needs to be put out of our lives.
In verses 8 and 9 Paul identified a third piece of garbage that needs to be put out of our lives. We also need to put out of our lives the garbage of untamed speech. Paul specifically identified the problem as: slander, abusive speech or filthy speech, and lying.
Slander is insulting speech directed at other people. An example is a woman who said to her friend, “My mother taught me never to say anything about anyone unless it was good. And boy is this good!”
Filthy language can be cursing or it can be abusive speech. Perhaps the little boy had filthy language in mind when he asked his mother, “Can Billy and I go listen to Daddy fix the flat tire?”