Robert Jeffress - Dealing Decisively With Sin
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Christianity isn't for the faint of heart. That's for sure. Becoming a devoted follower of Christ requires courage and tenacity. When we turn our lives over to Jesus, we enlist in an ongoing spiritual battle that demands our vigilance and our perseverance, and today, I'm going to share with you the biblical secrets for winning the war against our sin nature. My message is titled, "Dealing Decisively With Sin". On today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
"What a man sows, that shall he also reap," the apostle Paul said. You know, in our non-agricultural society, many people really don't understand what that verse means about sowing and reaping. It simply means that whatever you plant is what you're going to harvest. You don't plant an apple season and harvest a kumquat. No, what you plant is what you get, and that's certainly true for every area of our life. And somebody has said, sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action over a long period of time, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit, you reap your character. Sow your character, and reap your destiny. Our life, our destiny all began with our thoughts, and that's the message of today's passage in Colossians chapter 3.
If you have your Bibles, turn to Colossians chapter 3, and this morning, we look at dealing decisively with sin. Colossians chapter 3. Now since it's been a little while since we've been in Colossians, let me remind you of what we've seen already in Colossians chapter 3. I put the summary on your outline. Remember, in this chapter, Paul calls upon us to be heavenly minded, to have our thoughts centered on the things above. In verses 1 and 2, Paul writes, "Therefore, if you've been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on the earth". To set your mind on the things above doesn't mean walking around thinking about heaven all the time.
We've seen that to be heavenly minded means to conform your everyday attitudes, affections and actions to those of Jesus Christ. You don't have to wait until you die to become like Jesus, and to experience the benefits of living a Christ-like life. You can experience that transformation right now, and secondly, we saw the reason we can experience that transformation, that we don't have to wait. It's because of our participation in the resurrection, the death and the glorification of Jesus Christ.
Paul says, in verse 3, "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God". Just as Jesus died on the cross, in some inexplicable way, when you become a Christian, your old nature is crucified, it is put to death on the cross of Christ. Sin has no more power over your life than you choose to allow it to have. You can become like Christ now. You don't have to wait until you die to change. And then we saw, number 3, that there is a payoff for becoming like Christ. There is a payoff for transforming your attitudes, affections and attitudes toward those of Christ. What is the payoff? And that is, in verse 4, "When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory". That is, when Jesus Christ returns, we will share in his glory, his honors, his rewards, when Christ is revealed to the world. And that's the payoff that comes to us. Any loss that we experience in this life, for becoming like Christ, is going to be more than compensated for in the next life.
Now let's pick up with verse 5. Paul is going to talk about our responsibility in the process of becoming like Jesus Christ, in this transformation process. Look at verse 5. "Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed, which amounts to idolatry". Now what Paul is doing in this verse is, he's resuming his thought about our participation in the death of Jesus Christ. But in this verse, he's not so much interested in the theological explanation as he is in the practical, everyday implication for us. He is saying, because we have been crucified with Christ, we ought to consider the members of our body dead to four specific sins.
Now the question arises, if we've already been crucified, if our old nature has been put to death, why do we need to go through a second death? You know, in the NIV, if you have that translation, it says, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature". The revised standard version says, "Put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you". The King James says, "Mortify," that is, put to death, "Therefore, the members," that is, the part of your body, "Which are upon the earth". Why would we have to do something that Christ has already done for us? Why do we have to put to death certain things in our life? I like the way the New American Standard translates this. It says, "Consider the parts of your body as dead to these sins". Paul says, "Consider the members of your body as dead to," and the first sin he deals with is that sin of immorality. That's the overt expression, immorality.
Why does Paul talk so often about immorality? Was Paul hung up about sex? Is that why he talked about it so often? I think there are two reasons that Paul put immorality at the top of the list of sins that have to be dealt with. First of all, the call for sex within marriage was a radical idea in Paul's day. But Paul had a second reason for condemning sexual immorality, and it's a reason that's directly tied to this theme in Colossians 3. In Paul's mind, there is no sin that more jeopardizes our becoming like Jesus Christ than sexual immorality. It's true, all sin is displeasing to God. But there is something unique about sexual sin that disrupts that process of sanctification in our life.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul links sexual sin and sanctification. He says, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification," 1 Thessalonians 4:3. That word sanctification means to become like Jesus Christ. "For this is the will of God, your sanctification, that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each of you knows how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, and not in lustful passion". Why is it that sexual sin is unique to any other sin? Some people say, well, sex is no different than any other bodily function. It's a physiological function just like drinking and eating, so why make such a big deal about sex? But deep down, we know that's not true, don't we? We know there's something different about the sexual experience. I mean, how many people do you know who have given up their jobs, they've given up their reputation, they've given up their families, they've given up their faith in order to pursue a sexual relationship?
Now, sex is more than eating and drinking. There's something unique about sex. See, when you engage in a sexual relationship with somebody, it's not just two bodies joining with one another: it's two entire people joining together with one another. Sexual sin reaches down into our innermost being and holds us hostage, and that's why Paul says, if you are going to be like Jesus Christ, you need to deal with the sin of immorality. Secondly, he mentions, not only are we to deal with immorality, remember, this is a progression. He says, we also need to deal with impurity. That is, he's dealing with the cause of immorality, and if you look beyond the surface of immorality, you'll see all immorality begins with impurity. Nobody ever suddenly falls into homosexuality or adultery or premarital sex. No, immorality's the final plunge into sin, but where there is immorality, it always begins with impurity. That word impurity means uncleanness.
In the Old Testament, it referred to animals that were ceremonially unclean. For a Christian, to be impure means to have a mind, thoughts that are filled with moral uncleanness. A person who is impure is somebody whose speech is filled with profanity, with crude jokes, with sexual innuendo. Do you know people like that? Everything they says, there's a double entendre to it. There's something filthy about what they say. A person who does that is probably already engaged in sexual immorality. If they're not, they're just one step away from it. What does the Bible say about impurity in a Christian's life? Listen to Ephesians 5:3-5. Paul says, "But immorality, or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints. And there must be no filthiness or silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather, the giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the Kingdom of God".
There is no place in God's kingdom for moral impurity, for moral uncleanness. And remember, we're going with a progression. We have immorality, the ultimate expression. Underneath it is impurity, but impurity, in turn, is caused by the third sins that Paul mentions here, and that is passion and evil desires. "Therefore, consider the members of our earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion and evil desires". These phrases seem to go together. They refer to God-given desires that are misdirected.
See, one of the greatest misconceptions people have, some of you watching in day 1, perhaps, you've heard this misconception before, is the idea that sex is sinful. No, sex isn't sinful. God created sex, and therefore, he gives us this passion, this desire, but those passions and desires become sinful when they are misdirected. Sin occurs when we try to fulfill God-given desires in an illegitimate way. And remember this, sexual sin never begins in the bedroom. It always begins in the mind. And that's why Jesus said, in Matthew 5:27-28, "You have heard it said, 'you shall not commit adultery,' but I say to you that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart".
What do Jesus and Paul mean by looking at somebody with lust? He's not talking about the appreciation of someone's beauty. No, lust goes a lot further than that. Lust involves a full-scaled fantasy in our mind, that begins with a mental undressing of the other person, and ends in seduction. That is what he's talking about when he talks about lust. And those fantasies of impurity always ultimate lead to overt immorality. And the final sin that Paul urges us to deal with decisively is greed. Greed, which amounts to idolatry. How is that? Why is wanting something more or different like idolatry? See, the same error that causes someone in Africa to bow down before a wooden idol, that same error causes people to chase after the idols of money or sex or power. It's that belief that there's something or someone out there who can better satisfy our needs than God can. And isn't that what idolatry is?
It doesn't matter whether it is the pursuit of money or the pursuit of sex, it's the idea that there's some experience, there's something out there that can meet my needs in a way that God cannot meet those needs. And that is the essence of idolatry. But there's another reason that covetousness is like idolatry. You know, a person who engages in immorality, sexual immorality, what they're saying is, I don't care what God says. Fulfilling my desires are more important than following God's will. My desires trump God's will in my life. I'm putting my desires, I'm putting me on the throne in my life, rather than God. That is the essence of idolatry. And that's why Paul says this root sin, that is the result, that results in immorality is that of wanting something more or different than what God has planned for us. And we've looked at the objects of our dealing decisively with sin.
How do we deal decisively with sin in our life? What do we do about immorality, impurity, passion, and greed that may have taken root in our life? Let me share with you four very simple and practical principles for how to deal decisively with sin in your life. Remember, you've got the power to do it, but you also have to have the know-how. Here's four simple suggestions.
Number one, refuse to allow immoral thoughts to take residence in your mind. Refuse to allow immoral thoughts to take residence in your mind.
Secondly, amputate any immoral activity in your life. Amputate any immoral activity in your life. What do you do if immorality and impurity have already become a part of your life? What do you do if you're a slave to pornography? What do you do if you're involved in a relationship that may or may not have manifested itself in overt immorality, but it's very close to doing so? What do you do about immoral activity in your life? If you want to know how to deal with it, hold your place here and turn over to Matthew 5:28-30, the passage we read just a few moments ago.
Matthew 5:28-30, "Jesus said, 'but I say to you, that every one who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery already in his heart'". And then, verse 29, "'if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you, for it is better that one of the parts of your body perish than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it out, throw it away, for it is better that one of the parts of your body perish than for the whole body to go into hell'". If you played with fire long enough, you're going to get burned, and that's why Jesus said, if there's any immoral activity or close to immoral activity in your life, it is time to cut it off. Better to do that than to lose your eternal soul.
Number 3, how do you deal decisively with sin in your life? Visualize the consequences of immoral behavior. Just because you haven't experienced those consequences yet doesn't mean you won't. There's some of you involved right now in secret sin in your life, you don't think anybody knows what you're doing. That may or may not be true, but God knows. The only reason he hasn't sent his discipline into your life yet is he's giving you one last chance to repent. We need to visualize, remember the consequences of disobedience.
And then, number 4, learn to be content with God's provision in every area of your life. If greed, covetousness, wanting something different or more than what God has planned for me, if that is the root of all of those sins, then it seems like the antidote to those sins is to be content with God's provision in your life. To want something different, to want something more than what you have right now, is saying, "God, I can't trust you to give me what I really need". Learn to be content with what God has provided for you. If you're a heavenly minded Christian, if you want to become like Jesus Christ, it doesn't mean you're going to be exempt from temptation. Jesus certainly wasn't, but it does mean you'll know how to deal decisively with temptation in your life, because of your participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.