If you are diagnosed with cancer, you don’t want a doctor who recommends you be tolerant of the disease. You don’t want a doctor who tells you the cancerous cells have a right to exist. No, you want a surgeon who will cut you without shedding a tear; one who will ruthlessly eradicate the cancer in your body; one who will use surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, any and every means possible to promote good health.
In the same way, the apostle Paul instructs us to perform surgery on our souls. We are to allow the scalpel of the Word of God to cut away and remove the sin in our lives. In Colossians 3:5-11, Paul tells us to exterminate all types of sexual sin (5) and to eliminate all types of social sins (8-9a).
Like a surgeon who removes cancerous cells from a body, like a gardener who pulls weeds from a garden, we are to remove sin from our lives. In verse five, Paul does not say we are to put sin in time out and give it a stern lecture. We are not to make it sit in a corner until it learns to play well with other. He instructs us to be downright intolerant and put sin to death.
Paul progresses backward from the evil act to the underlying motive. Immorality, the evil act, takes place because of impurity. Impurity comes from perverted passion and evil desire, which in turn come from the root sin of greed. Ultimately, they all represent idolatry—a worship of ME rather than God.
Two years ago, I discovered dry rot and insect damage in the deck on the front of my house. I could have filled all the holes with wood putty, slapped on a new coat of paint, and pronounced it good. However, that would have been foolish because the deck would eventually fall down. Instead, I tore down the old deck and rebuilt it from the ground up using new, pressure treated lumber.
To remove the sexual sins from our lives, we may need to unplug our TV. We may want to ask Sports Illustrated not to send us the annual swimsuit edition. Perhaps we need to install filters on our computers to keep us from straying to pornographic websites. Whatever it takes, we are to treat sin the same way we treat a field of dandelions. Dig out the roots and utterly destroy it.
In addition to exterminating sexual sins, we are to eliminate social sins (8-9a). Like taking off a dirty garment, we are to strip off hot tempers (anger, rage), sharp tongues (malice, slander, obscene speech), and deception (lying). This is a challenge in today’s world because we are so accustomed to anger, critical attitudes, lying, and coarse humor, even among Christians. We would be shocked and heartbroken to hear of a church leader who is addicted to pornography, but if they lose their temper in a church business meeting, we call it righteous indignation.
Rather than these social sins, our speech must be kind, pure, and true. Before speaking, we should ask ourselves, “Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true?”
Paul gives three reasons why we should perform soul surgery. The first is that there are severe consequences for those who continue to practice these sins (6). While people want to believe that God is only loving and kind, Scripture is clear that God also judges sin, even in Christ followers. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul portrays God’s wrath as his turning sinners over to themselves, allowing them to receive the just consequences of their actions. As C. S. Lewis said in The Great Divorce, “There are two kinds of people in the world—those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.’”
A second reason for getting rid of sin is that we have a new identity (9b-10). Sin was a part of our old life. But now we have been renewed. We are to build a life that reflects God’s image.
The final reason for putting off the evils of the old way of living is that our renewal is so radical it transforms all human relationships (11). It breaks down racial barriers (Greek or Jew), religious barriers (circumcised or uncircumcised), cultural barriers (barbarian or Scythian), and social barriers (slave or free).
Richard J. Ferris, former chairman of Allegis Corporation, said, “Undeniably, some people in this world walk around with chalk on their toes because they stand too close to lines in life that must not be crossed.”
As Christ followers, we are not to have chalk on our toes. Because Christ changed our life, we are to change our lifestyle. We are to ruthlessly eliminate anything that does not reflect the image of Jesus Christ.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 17, 2013. It is part of a series on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.