St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Strive To Be Consistent

Sermon on Colossians 3:1-11

Text: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

We all like consistency. We like to know what will happen and when it will happen. People, who are looking for a place to invest their money, will study their options until they find a company that consistently makes a profit. Many sports figures are heroes, because of they consistently hit the home run or make the basket or score the touchdown. Very rarely will a person remain a professional athlete if they are inconsistent or consistently miss. We look for consistency in people, as well. We like to know whom we can trust and whom we cannot. God also looks for consistency. He is looking for lives that are consistent with the faith in the heart. This morning, as we look at this aspect of our lives, and being strengthened by God’s Word, let us STRIVE TO BE CONSISTENT. 1. You Have Been Given A New Life. 2. Don’t Hold On To The Old Lifestyle.

Paul, before he encourages us to live a godly life, begins by stating a fact. He says, “You have been raised with Christ.” (Verse 1) Paul makes reference to Christ’s resurrection from the dead and says at that time we were also raised. How can this be? We learn from the Bible that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, he took all our sins upon himself and paid the debt we owed to God. Jesus was acting as our Substitute. It was as if we were suffering the pangs of hell for our sins. God tells us in Romans 6, “The wages of sin is death.” In Christ, we all died. When Jesus rose victorious from the grave, we shared in his victory. No longer do sin, death and the devil have any power over us. When Jesus Christ rose from the dead, he again was acting as our Substitute. We also were raised from the dead.

We, also, died and rose with Christ in another sense. We all are born with a sinful nature. We naturally want to do those things that are not pleasing to God. This is very easily seen in the fact that you don’t have to teach children to sin. That is something that they naturally know how to do. We all have that sinful nature. It had complete control over us.

When we came to faith, the old sinful nature was put to death. Paul points this out to us when he wrote, “You died.” (Verse 3) We died in that our sinful nature was put to death on the cross of Christ. When Jesus Christ rose from the dead, our New Man also arose. This New Man is the one who wants to do all the things that are pleasing to God. Paul wrote in verse 1, “Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above.” In verse 2 he adds, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Paul tells us, since you have been given a new man, let your lives reflect it. Let your lives be centered around Christ and all that he has done for you. We are to set our minds on the things above, that is to say, we are to focus our attention on our spiritual lives. These take our full attention as we strive to live our new life for Christ. We live our lives in gratitude for all that Christ has done for us.

We have been given the new life, not only the New Man who strives to please God, but also a new life in heaven. We did not deserve heaven. Because of our many sins, we deserved only damnation in hell. However, because of Jesus Christ’s perfect life, innocent suffering and death and resurrection, we have eternal life in heaven to look forward to. Instead of the punishment we all deserved, God has given heaven to all who believe. It is ours already. The only thing that remains is for Christ to come and take us to himself. As St. Paul says, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Verse 4) We have a sure promise from God of eternal life.

God has been gracious to us. He sent his Son to die for our sins. He sent the Holy Spirit to create the faith in our hearts. We have new life because of him. It is ours, free of charge. In grateful response we ask God what we can do for him. He tells us to obey the commandments. Our New Man delights in doing God’s will. However, we still have our sinful nature, which wants nothing to do with God’s will. That sinful nature needs to be put to death every day. We do so, as Luther reminds us in Fourthly of Baptism, “by daily contrition and repentance.” Every day we confess our sins and ask God for forgiveness. Then we strive to do what is pleasing to him.

St. Paul, as he urges us to put an end to our sinful nature, tells us, “Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” (Verse 5) Paul uses some strong language. He doesn’t say, ‘Downplay,’ or ‘Forget about.’ He tells us to put it to death. Its existence is to come to an end.

He gives us examples of things that belong to the sinful nature: “Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Verse 5) It as if Paul were looking at our world today, isn’t it? Look at our world’s preoccupation with sex. Advertisers use it to sell everything. The movie theaters and television channels are full of it. Books and magazines become more and more explicit. Satan knows this is a great temptation. He keeps it in front of us in whatever manner he can. He tries to cater to our sinful nature. God tells us, however, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) Even the lustful thoughts are breaking God’s law. This is a very real temptation, one that is not to be taken lightly.

Paul sums it up by speaking of “greed, which is idolatry.” (Verse 5) Greed is not just for money or things. It is a desire to have something that God says we are not to have. That desire is idolatry. In essence we are worshiping ourselves. Whenever we sin, we are placing our desires and wishes above those of God. Every sin revolves around a substitution of what we want for what God wants. Every time we sin, it is a breaking of the First Commandment, as well.

Some might be tempted to say, ‘These are such little sins. A lustful thought never hurt anyone.” But, St. Paul says, “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” (Verse 6) God doesn’t play around when it comes to sin. God demands and expects perfection. Anything less than perfection is not good enough. Paul reminds us that although God’s judgement and wrath are delayed, they will come upon those who sin. That little pet sin is not a cute little thing. It is not just a character flaw. It is an offense to God. Because of these things, the wrath of God is coming.

St. Paul continues to point out some of the manifestations of the sinful nature. “You must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Verse 8) Again, note the strong language: “You must get rid of.” We are to throw it away like the garbage it is.

Let us take a little closer look at the list. Anger — This refers to a feeling that will not let go in us. It continues to hold a grudge against others. Rage — This is the uncontrolled anger which is directed toward another person, often leading to physical or emotional hurt. It is like a flash fire. Malice — This is a desire to harm someone or to see them harmed. This is the part of us that delights when someone we are angry with has a tough go of it. Slander — This is malicious talk about someone else. It can be done by telling lies about others. It can also be done when we tell the truth about others if it hurts their reputation. We don’t have to tell everything we know about others to everybody else. Paul also mentions “Filthy language from your lips.” The mouth is used in more sins, except for the mind. Mouths are use to curse, swear needlessly, tell dirty stories or jokes, hurt others’ reputations, and so forth. As James points out so well in his epistle, “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.” (James 3:5&6) The sinful use of the tongue, as well as all of the other parts of this list, are all earmarks of the sinful nature.

So, as we have studied these words of Scripture, I believe we must all admit that we aren’t doing as well as we should be. That list points out just a few of the sins we do every single day. Again and again, we find ourselves turning back to our old lifestyle, the one that is dominated by our sinful nature. And yet, we call ourselves Christians? Aren’t we being hypocritical?

We realize that we have sinned. We come to God and ask for his forgiveness. Armed with this forgiveness, we go forward in our Christian lives, eager to live the new life that God has given us. It will not always be easy. Nor can we sit back and coast through life. We daily struggle with our sinful nature. It is a fight. There is a constant war going on inside of the Christian. God wants us to follow him and do his will. He doesn’t want just lip service. He doesn’t want people who meet one hour on Sunday and the rest of their lives live contrary to it. God tells us, ‘You say that you love me. Now show it.’ How do we show it? By doing what he wants us to do. God wants our lives to be consistent with our faith. Doing what God wants us to do is not an option. It is a requirement. However, it is not a burden for the soul saved by God. That soul rejoices in all that God has given it. It wants to say, “Thank you.” That soul knows that doing God’s will pleases God, so that pleases the soul, as well. It shudders at the thought of returning to the lifestyle of sin.

Let us strive to be consistent. We find ourselves being annoyed by people who say one thing and do another. May the same not be said of us as we serve God. May our words and lives be consistent with our faith. With the help of God, we can put to death our old lifestyle. Let us strive to live lives pleasing to God. May our lives, out of love for God, reflect the words found in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” May God help us to that end. Amen.