Friday, February 15, 2013

Breaking Bad Habits

James Todd Smith, known as LL Cool J (short for Ladies Love Cool James), is an American rapper, entrepreneur, and actor from Bay Shore, New York.1 On February 10, 2013, he hosted the 55th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. LL Cool J revealed he was in full support of CBS’ Grammys (2013) dress code, which asked stars to make sure “buttocks and female breasts” were “adequately covered.” He further stated, “I don’t think it’s unfair to remind musicians that there’s some families watching in the middle of the country and all around the world,…They don’t need any extra things happening for the families…This isn’t the Vegas version of the Grammys.”2 There were some stars that barely came within the 2013 dress code, some would say. They were blessed to have had no wardrobe malfunctions. There were professions of wisdom but foolishness in the sight of God. (Romans 1:22) Although LL Cool J did not address it as such, there are many in this nation and worldwide who have accepted Christ. True believers do not wish to see the stars parade over their television sets in garments that lead to the lust of their hearts and to dishonor their bodies. This ultimately serves the creature more than God, and for this cause God will give the disobedient over to their vile affections and reprobate minds. See Romans 1:21-32 In this week’s lesson, Paul focuses on putting off the garment of the old man and putting on the clothing of Christ. The lesson text is found at Colossians 3:5-17. The devotional reading is Psalm 107:1-9.

Just as Jesus died, was buried, and was raised to a new life by the glory of the Father, believers have died with Christ, been buried with Him, and are raised with Him through faith to a newness of life. See Rom 6:4 This does not mean the believer is completely “dead to sin”. According to his profession in Christ, he should feel no more appetite for the things of this life. He has been placed in position, by the grace and mercy of God, through His Son Jesus, to increasingly learn and conform to the life of Christ. In his epistle to the Romans the apostle Paul wrote, ‘I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bring me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.’ Rom 7:21-25 There is no one who is perfect nor will anyone ever complete the process of death to sin while they are physically living. Believers are to seek and think heavenly things even though their feet are on earth. They are to remain hidden in Christ, who is their constant treasure. In this day they are scoffed at because the world does not know who they are, understand or appreciate them. Upon His reappearance the believers shall appear with Him in glory. Col 3:1-4

‘Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:’ Col 3:5 Paul begins to explain the walk that is consistent with the believers’ newness of life. He wants them to ‘mortify’ or put to death their ‘members’. The ‘members’ are sinful habits. These are of the earthly nature, sometimes described as “the flesh”. These were the sins of the old man. He enumerates them as follows: (1) fornication – includes all forms of sexual sins outside of marriage, including adultery, sexual perversion, homosexuality, lesbianism, etc. (2) uncleanness – refers to impurity of thought, word or action. It speaks of moral filth rather than physical dirtiness. (3) inordinate affection – lust; out-of-control passion. (4) evil concupiscence – intense, evil desire and often violent craving for something forbidden. (5) covetousness – greedy desire to have more and more for self. (6 )idolatry – each of the five ‘members’ listed above is a worship replacing worship of God through Christ. This defines the sixth ‘member’ of idolatry. Therefore, believers, mortify your members. Throw out these dirty garments of the old man. Walk worthy of your new position in Him (Eph 4:1) and present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God. Rom 12:1

‘For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.’ Col 3:6-7 The apostle proceeds to tell the believers why they should mortify their members. First, they will incur the wrath of God if they should disobey Him and continue to please their earthly nature. Disobedience would never incur God’s pleasure. Secondly, the believers had at one time lived and walked in the darkness of the flesh before they came into the marvelous light of Jesus Christ. Why would they want to return to bleak darkness where there is no joy and peace?

‘But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;’ Col 3:8-9 Paul lists additional vices for the believers to put off. These vices deal with attitude and the tongue and are contrary to the Christian’s calling. They are enumerated as follows: (1) anger – a strong, spirit of dislike or animosity, a vengeful spirit. (2) wrath – intense, uncontrollable violent outburst; extended anger. (3) malice – deliberately inflicting wicked harm on another; extended wrath. The above vices deal with people’s attitudes. The following deal with the tongue. (1) blasphemy – evil speaking; slander; bad-mouthing the character, reputation, or name of a person. (2) filthy communications – shameful speaking; lewd, indecent, or corrupt; foul or abusive language. One vice deserved a verse to itself. ‘Lie not…’ Paul warned them not to lie, especially one to another (gossip, for ex) as they have put off the old way of life and its impending judgment. Since believers know that Christ is the truth and the life (John 14:6), they know the perpetrator of lies. ‘Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.’ John 8:44

‘And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.’ Col 3:10-11 The believers are walking in the newness of life, having left the things behind and pressing toward the mark of their prize of the high calling of God in Christ. Phil 3:14 They are new creatures clothing themselves with a new garment, an image of Christ. Christians are to progressively grow more and more like the Creator as their knowledge of the image of Jesus grows. They know there is no difference with Christ as to race, nationality, religion, or social level. None of the discriminatory tools man uses is of any value in the sight of God or Christ. ‘…God is no respecter of persons.’ Acts 10:34b There are those in the world who insist on making it difficult. The apostle indicates, however, that all are on the same level. He enumerated the Greek (Gentiles), Jews, circumcised, uncircumcised, Barbaric (uncultured person), Scythian (lowest of the low Barbarians; lived in Scythia), bond (slave) and free. The category of which the believer falls never matters. All that matters is Christ. Bishop Ryle writes, ‘The three words – Christ is all – are the essence and substance of Christianity. If our hearts can really go along with them, it is well with our souls…Many give Christ a certain place which God intended Him to fill. Christ alone is not “all in all” to their souls. No! It is either Christ and the church – or Christ and the sacraments – or Christ and His ordained ministers – or Christ and their own repentance – or Christ and their own goodness – or Christ and their own prayers – or Christ and their own sincerity and charity, on which they practically rest their souls.’3

‘Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;’ Col 3:12 The apostle affirms who the Colossians are in Christ. Believers, as the chosen ones of God through Christ, are set apart, holy and loved in the sight of God. Further, the Bible teaches that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Acts 2:21; Rom 10:13 Paul then addresses additional Christian virtues which are to be put on as a garment. (1) bowels of mercies – compassion. (2) kindness – disposition of moral goodness that seeks to do what is always best for others. (3) humbleness of mind – never exalting one’s self above another (4) meekness – mild-mannered; strength to deny oneself and walk in grace toward others; opposite to self-interest. (5) longsuffering – patience under provocation. These Christian graces are directly opposite to the vices taken off in verse 8. The new garment is looking better so far, huh?

‘Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.’ Col 3:13 What does it mean to ‘forbear one another’? What about ‘forgiving one another’? Paul sets out to explain these Christian virtues. It is difficult living in the world, and everyone has faults including believers. Forbearance is bearing with one another. Christians must avoid all occasions of provoking or irritating each other. Their attitudes must remain Christ-like. If there should be an occasion where forgiveness may be necessary and a person has been offended, the believer must be instantly ready to forgive on the first acknowledgment of fault. A very, wise man once told this writer that forgiveness between the saints is necessary if they claimed Heaven. He stated God is no respecter of persons and expects saints to forgive just as Christ, His only Son, gave His life and asked for the forgiveness of our sins that we may have an opportunity to eternal life. Luke 23:34

‘And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.’ Col 3:14 As the outer garment of the new man, put on love to unite all of the other Christian graces into a bond of perfection. It is a love of God with all the believer’s heart, soul, mind, and being. It is the grace and Spirit of Christ through the believer. The Great Commission given by Jesus to be preached by all disciples of Christ is not possible without love. Matt 28:19-20 Who would listen to an angry soul? They must minister in love. In his first Epistle to the Corinthians Paul defined love, ‘Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.’ 1 Cor 13:4-7 The outer wrapping of a believer must show the love of Christ.

‘And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.’ Col 3:15 The believers are to submit to the government of the peace of God. This peace shall rule their hearts. ‘And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’ Phil 4:7 They are called to peace with God, the Father, as one body in Christ. ‘Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular.’ 1 Cor 12:27 The believers are to forever be thankful to God, the Author of the plan of salvation, and Christ, their Creator, Redeemer, and Head of the Church.

‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.’ Col 3:16 The Gospel is available, but it can’t sit on a shelf. It must dwell in the believers. The Gospel must breathe in the believer richly, not poorly. Christians must study (2 Tim 2:15) to grow in knowledge and obtain the wisdom of Christ. In so doing, believers will be able to teach the word. This will also increase the believers’ discernment skills when false prophets teach anything less than “Christ is Supreme - all in all”. Believers shall also warn each other gently through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. They shall make melody in their heart to the Lord, giving thanksgiving, and submit themselves in the fear of God. Ep 5:19-21

‘And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.’ Col 3:17 After the believers put on their garments, let their words and their actions reflect Christ. Let all that they do be done in the name of Jesus, beginning and ending with Him. Let all that they say and do give thanks to God, the Father, in the name of Jesus.

3 J. C. Ryle, Holiness, pp 436, 455

Written by Deborah C Davis

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