Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 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 also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 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.
After mowing the grass on a hot summer afternoon, I like to take a shower and put on fresh, clean clothes. It feels good to peel off a sweaty t-shirt and smelly socks. It’s refreshing to cool down and feel clean again. Paul says that coming to know Jesus is like taking off old, dirty clothes and putting on fresh, new ones. There’s an exchange that happens in our hearts. The old has gone, and the new has come. And yet, we know that our behaviors and attitudes don’t instantly become Christ-like, as though we could just flip a switch from old to new and from sinful to righteous. We can be sure of our salvation, knowing that in Christ we have already been forgiven and made new, but the outward change of thinking, acting and speaking more like Jesus is a process that will take our whole lifetime.
This process, known theologically as sanctification, requires listening to the Spirit, obeying God’s word, following the example Jesus set, and putting to death our “earthly nature.” The list of sins Paul gives us here isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but it certainly hits the highlights (or lowlights!) of the behaviors and attitudes we struggle with. Some sins are obvious and even public, like sexual immorality, malice and filthy language. Other sins are more subtle, like lust, idolatry and anger. Other people may not notice these sins in our lives, but they can be just as destructive as acts of violence. It’s also often true that subtle, private sins are the hardest to put to death. We may indulge in hateful or lustful thoughts that we never intend to put into action, but even the thoughts themselves are sinful and deserving of the “wrath of God.”
Overcoming sin requires us to keep taking off those old, dirty clothes, and just as importantly, it requires putting on the clean clothes of righteousness that Jesus alone can give us. As we turn away from sin and temptation, we turn toward the good things God wants us to pursue, like love and compassion, service and humility, peacemaking and truth-telling. These are the behaviors and attitudes that prove we follow Jesus and that show the world who He is.
Jesus, help me to become more like You in how I think, act and speak. Give me strength to turn away from sin and to follow You more closely. I ask this in Your wonderful name and for Your glory. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian