Are You Defeating Sin?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Our subject for today has to do with how we are to achieve victory over sin. Colossians 3, and I will read verses 1-3: “If ye, then, be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth, for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Dave: The verses that you read are the key to it. Now, I don’t remember in that chapter, but I know sometimes when I speak on Colossians 3, I leave out a key word. There’s a key word in verse 5 and in verse 12 and I . . .
Tom: Well, read those for us. Let’s go page by page.
Dave: Well, I quote it without the key word. I say. “Verse 5 says, ‘Mortify your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection,” and on and on it goes with a long list. Verse 12 says, “Put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, and so forth.”
Wow! a long list of what we ought to be, but there’s a word that I left out in both verses, which is the secret to it. If you left that out, then you are on your own. You’re trying, somehow—“Well, I’m going to mortify my members upon the earth. I’m going to put my flesh to death, and I’m going to put on the good works and the Christian conduct that I ought to have,” but . . .
Tom: Yeah, you have the deist’s idea that Franklin talked about: God helps those who help themselves. You just have to lift yourself up by the bootstraps, grit your teeth, and get after it.
Dave: That’s right, you’d start working on this. But there’s a key word in there—“therefore.” “Therefore,” obviously, refers back. It says, “Mortify, therefore . . .”
Tom: Some people say, “Well, what’s it there for?”
Dave: Right, well, it’s got to be there for something, because that’s what it says. “Mortify, therefore, your members upon the earth,” and then verse 12: “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God . . . ” So this is obviously referring back to the first three verses that you read. It begins again: “If”—well, it really means “since,” “in as much as,” or, if you want to leave it at “If,” he’s writing to Christians. “Well, wait a minute! Aren’t you risen with Christ? Haven’t you been crucified with Him? Aren’t you raised again in new life? Are you not new creatures in Christ Jesus?”
Tom: It’s a reminder then.
Dave: Right, so “since you are risen with Christ, first of all seek those things which are above. Set your affection on things above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God.” Now, that is a challenge to me, Tom. I have thought of that again and again. Well, how do I seek those things that are above? What does that mean? Well we know that there are many things that we seek in this life. Some people are seeking money, some people are into the stock market, and they’re just obsessed in watching that constantly. Other people are out for academic laurels, or others for athletic honors, and so forth.
And I think we should do as we have said many times. I think we should do the best we can and when you put your hand to something, do a good job at it as a Christian. But what is my primary motive? Is it to seek the things in this life, or is it to seek an eternal reward? There’s something waiting for me up there where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. One day, we hope it will be “well done, thou good and faithful servant,” not because we want something for ourselves, but we want something for Him. We don’t want to have embarrassed our Lord.
Tom: Yeah. Dave when you talk about rewards, it just hit me—Chariots of Fire, the sort of biographical on Eric Liddell, the missionary. And the thing that hit me was: are we seeking His good pleasure? That’s why Eric said he ran. He could feel God’s pleasure when he did what God gifted him to do. But it was seeking His pleasure. Some people say “rewards”—well, okay, it’s a mansion; it’s this or whatever, but no, it’s Him and it’s to please Him! That’s the greatest reward.
Dave: Well, the next verse kind of hammers it home: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians:3:2). You remember Christ said, “Don’t lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt, (Matthew 6), and thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be.”
So what do I treasure most of all? Something for this fleeting life? My life is . . . most of it is gone now, at my age in my 70s—I guess I could still say early 70s because I haven’t hit 75 yet!
Tom: Yeah, Dave, you’re a young guy.
Dave: Right, but “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” You know, when you think that the things above are eternal; that there’s an eternal reward, there’s an eternal likeness, to be like Christ, to be with Him in His presence, to long for that, to long—it says, “For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross.” Now, we selfishly think of, well, that means the joy of having us there. I believe that’s part of it, certainly, but I think the real joy is having done His Father’s will.
So that’s what we want to set our affection on, and somebody says, “Ahh, you can be so heavenly minded you are no earthly good.” Well, there was no one who was more heavenly minded than Jesus and there was no one who was as much earthly good as He was, so they do go together.
But why should I shower all of my attention and focus my ambition and my affection on something that is going to pass away, rather than upon that which is eternal? When I begin to think about God, who always is, who existed eternally before this universe was even made, and that this universe . . . [it’s] incredible! I was looking up at the stars last night. We do get a lot of stars here in Bend.
Tom: Dave, the moon came in last night—I thought somebody had a klieg light when I got up early this morning. I mean it was just blasting right through, with the shades down and everything.
Dave: Well, we’re at 3,600 feet, and there’s no smog, so the air is pretty thin and it’s clear.
Tom: It’s cold!
Dave: Cold, and you can see the stars! And you look up there, and you think, What a universe this is! It’s nothing compared with God! He spoke this universe into existence! And to know Him, and to be with Him, and to be like Jesus Christ—that really should be the longing of our hearts. “When we see Him,” John said, “we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is,” and we will have a full understanding of Christ—of who He is and what He’s done. And all misunderstandings will have been removed. “We see through a glass darkly now, but then face to face.” Tom, I could really get excited just thinking about it! Well, isn’t that where my affection ought to be? Now that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit in a cave and become a monk or something . . .
Tom: Yes, contemplate your navel . . .
Dave: Right, but actually I will be more vibrant and more alive and and more interested in this world from a proper viewpoint, from a heavenly, eternal prospective, in seeking to win others to Christ; to live for Him in this world; to help others to know Him better, and nothing could be more fulfilling than that.
So anyway, he’s saying in view of the fact that you’ve been risen with Christ—you’ve set your affection on things above, not on things on this earth—you are dead! We’ve talked about that the last couple of weeks. Your life—we’re dead, but yet we’re alive, but the life that we have is hid with Christ in God. Then, He says, “When Christ, who is your life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory.” Wow!
He says, in view of this: “Therefore, mortify your members, which are upon the earth.” If that were not true, Tom, the incredible, heavenly, eternal reward; the wonder of knowing Christ, and being with Him; and the fact that I am dead—I died in Him, and that He is my life, and that this life is hid with Christ in God and it’s something that’s heavenly, and it comes to me with the resurrection power of Christ from the heavenlies . . . ! Now, in view of that, well, you can “mortify your members which are upon the earth,” and you can “put on, as the elect of God, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness”—that which is not mine. That . . . it’s just unlike me, but it’s like Christ, and I can begin to experience His life.
Tom: Dave, just for some of our listeners out here who, maybe they’ve heard this term—this is the first time—dead, death. You just said we’re dead, yet we’re alive. Just give us a simple explanation of that.
Dave: Well, we’ve been talking about it, Tom, and I suppose we have some people who haven’t listened in the previous weeks, but that would take you to Galatians:2:20 again: “I am crucified with Christ.” Many people don’t even think of that. They think, “Well, Christ was crucified for me, and I am sure glad that He died in my place.” And that’s true, that’s wonderful. But if I really believe that when He took my place, the judgment of God was poured out upon Him that I deserve, and that death is my just reward for the wages that I’ve earned for my sin, as the scripture says, well, then, I’ve accepted His death as my death. He died for me.
We quoted it, or read it, last week or the week before: “We thus judge that if one died for all, then all have died in Him.” And when I really believe that, I don’t want the old life! And Paul said, “God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which this world has been crucified to me.”
When Christ was taken down off of that cross a dead man, His body laid in the grave, this world was crucified to Him. He had been crucified to the world—the world to Him! He had nothing to do with this world. I am speaking now from the standpoint of Him being a corpse laid in the grave, and it’s the same with us! What this world did to my Savior, and what this world still does to Him today—the cursings, taking the name of Christ in vain, using—can you believe it?—using the name of Christ as a curse word, dragging it down like this, and despising Him.
Then you have the theologians coming up with their perversions of who Jesus Christ—Was He really God? Did He really say this? And those who even sing in His name on Sunday morning and then deny Him with their lives. And when I think of all of that, I’m finished with this world! I take my place with Jesus Christ, and He died in my place. He died to sin; He died as a penalty for sin. Now I belong to Him.
Tom: Dave is it more than just identification with Him? Is it . . .?
Dave: Well I’m getting to that, but you go ahead.
Tom: No, no I’m asking the question. Go ahead, keep going.
Dave: Well I—faith is based upon facts, not fiction. It’s not just a positive thought. So when I understand this, then I have the faith to believe this can be my experience, and it’s on the basis of faith in these facts that I begin to experience . . .
Tom: Historic facts, that Christ did this.
Dave: . . . bring us back to this again: Therefore . . . Therefore, because this is true, now I can trust Him. How am I going to mortify my members? Because I’m dead; I’ve been crucified with Christ. The only real life that I now have is hid with Christ in God. Okay, then, drawing upon that resource, I can put on (it says) “holy and beloved” . . . wow! “Holy”—I’m sanctified set apart for Him, for His service. “Beloved . . .” Wow, He loves me! “Then, bowels of mercies.” I don’t know anything about Greek; I don’t know what the Greek word for “bowels” is, but we understand that when it talks about mercies—this is not a perfunctory thing. This is not something that I’m doing just because I’m supposed to. This comes from my heart—bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind.
Somebody was saying to me just a couple of days ago at our little fellowship, talking about humility, and I put my hand on his shoulder—and I guess I can do that, since I am so old and he was quite a bit younger. And I said, “Humility—come on! You’ve got to be kidding! I mean, here we are, in the presence of the eternal God who created this universe out of nothing, and we are lower than worms in His sight in comparison to what we ought to be—and we talk about humility?”
But anyway it does say that. “. . . humbleness of mind.” Not to exalt ourselves and think . . . “a man is a fool who thinks himself,” Paul says, “to be something when he is nothing.” You remember the preacher was standing at the door shaking hands, and a young man came up and said, “Pastor, would you pray for me to lower—just help me to become nothing?”
And you remember he said, “You are nothing! Take it by faith.”
So, “humbleness of mind.” I don’t understand, Tom, how we can feel proud. A small fish can feel pretty big in a little puddle, but get him out in the ocean with some whales, and then he realizes he’s nothing. And so, again, the Scripture says, “Comparing ourselves with ourselves, we’re not wise.”
Tom: Dave, could this also be part of Matthew:16:24, which says “deny self?” I mean, who are we? What are we? We are nothing, but in Christ, that’s where it is.
Dave: In Christ we’re are all the same. It’s His life—in you and in me and in everyone else, so we have nothing to be proud of.
Tom: No, what I meant by that—we are enabled. Romans tells us we mortify the flesh by the Spirit. We can’t even do that!
Dave: Well, it goes on: “. . .humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering . . .” (I don’t know where you wanted to get in this, Tom), “forbearing one another, forgiving one another; if any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” I can’t imagine husbands and wives bear grudges against one another. It destroys the home. Or someone has wronged me, and so now I am going to bear a grudge against them? But wait a minute, Christ—hasn’t He forgiven me? Didn’t He die for me? Have I not accepted His forgiveness?
One of my favorite authors way, way back, 300 years ago, William Law, said, “Is there anyone who would want the whole world to know every thought that they have ever had, every ambition they’ve ever held; every sin they’ve ever committed? I cannot honestly say that anybody else is a worse sinner than I am. I don’t know their hearts.”
The main thing of sin is motivation, but I know some of the false motives in my own life, some of the pride and foolishness and so forth. Well, then, I ought to recognize that I am the worst sinner that there is. As Paul said, “I am the chief of sinners,” because I can’t look into other people’s hearts. No way that I could say somebody else . . . But Christ has forgiven me! Well, then, we are to forgive others. Do I expect His forgiveness is just for me and not for them? Well, then, if His forgiveness is for them, then should I not also forgive them with the forgiveness that Christ would give to them—the One who on the cross said, “Father, forgive them!” to those who drove the nails into His hands and feet.
So if you’ve got a quarrel against anybody—in fact, Jesus said it in Matthew 11: “When you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive.” A Christian doesn’t hold grudges, doesn’t hold resentments, and so forth.
So this is the life of Christ He’s talking about. We’re dead, we mortify our deeds, what we would be. We “put off anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth, lying not one to another, seeing you have put off the old man with his deeds and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him. There is neither Greek, nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, but Christ is all and in all.”
So Christ becomes my life, but I recognize He is the life of everyone else. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ, and this is all we have, this common life, this common bond. Wow! I mean, Tom, you go back, and . . . I am not that well educated. My wife is far beyond me. She knows all the classics and everything else—but go back and read (I’ve read some of it) the great literature. We have the Great Books of the Western World, all the classics—go back and read them. Try to find something like this. You won’t find anything like this—this is just fantastic.
Tom: Dave we’ve got about a minute left. But you asked the question: Why then doesn’t every Christian experience this power for living in their lives? We’re going to pick up—we’re going to continue on with this next week, but what would you say to that? Because I am sure there are those out there that are saying, “Oh he’s just explained it according to the Scriptures, but why isn’t it happening in my life?”
Dave: “The just live by faith.” We walk by faith, not by sight, and we’re not automatons; we are not puppets on a string. So okay, now—“I am crucified with Christ, Now He’s going to . . . I just float on a pink miracle cloud singing glory, glory all the way to heaven?” No, no. There are trials and temptations. There’s still the flesh, spirit; “The flesh lusts against the spirit, the spirit against the flesh.” We have struggles, and it is as I recognize the truth that we’ve been talking about—and I believe this—then, by faith, I can begin to experience it.
Tom: Right, and act upon these things that the Lord lays out for us.