We are in the practical section of the epistle of the Colossians. Paul is calling the Colossians to deal with sin, to put it to death. This is a call for practical holiness.
Colossians 3:4-5 (NASB) When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead...
Believers, Christ has been revealed, and we have been glorified! Glorification is nothing more than dwelling in God's presence. Believers, Christ is our life. He is in the presence of God, and, therefore, we are in the presence of God - in glory. Therefore we are to put sin to death. In view of all that God has done for us in Christ, in view of our dwelling in His presence, our response is to live a holy life out of gratitude.
Ephesians 5:1 (NASB) Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
We, as God's children, are to imitate our father. When people see us, they should see a reflection of our Father. When you claim to be a Christian, people form their opinion of God from your life. To them, you represent God, or at least you should. We bear the Father's name and must be consistent to live a life that will speak well of the name we bear.
Ezekiel 36:22-23 (NASB) "Therefore, say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. 23 "And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD," declares the Lord GOD, "when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.
Our morally pure lives put God on display to the world, and when we don't live as we should, we profane God's name.
Believers, we must understand that how we live affects the world in which we live. We often fail to realize how crucial to the purpose of God is the behavior of His people.
2 Corinthians 3:2 (NASB) You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;
Your are a living epistle of God - known and read by all men. What are they learning of God from your life? As God's children, we are to live holy lives. Our God is holy and so are we to be.
Paul continues to list sins that are to be put aside:
Colossians 3:8 (NASB) But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
The ugly sins of verse 5, we are to "put to death," but the six sins of verses eight and nine, we are to "put aside." God wants us to divest ourselves of these six sins. The analogy changes from killing to disrobing.
The sins of these verses are sins of the mouth. These are sins generally acceptable in Christian circles. "These are Christian sins." That is like an "honest thief" or a "chase prostitute." There are no such animals.
Paul starts verse 8 with "But now" to give us a contrast from verse 7:
Colossians 3:6-7 (NASB) For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.
Verse seven talks about their pre-Christian life, and verse 8 says, "But now.". This tells us that belief in the cross divides the believer's life. The post cross life is different in that the believer has a new status before God (positional truth). The Christian has a new identity. It is this new identity that is the basis of living the Christian life.
Paul tells them, "...and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now...put them all aside." Now - as believers - we are to put off the following list of sins, they are no longer to be part of our life.
The words "put aside" are from the Greek word apotithemi, which means: "to put away (lit. or fig.): - cast off, lay apart (aside, down), put away (off)." It has the idea: "to take off like a suit of clothes." This word is used figuratively of works of darkness in:
Romans 13:12 (NASB) The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
"Put aside" is a lesser word than "put to death" of verse five. "Put aside" simply means to disrobe. Acts uses the verb apotithemi, at the stoning of Stephen:
Acts 7:58 (NASB) And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
The metaphor is one of taking off clothes.
God wants us to put away the sins of this verse like we would take off dirty clothes after working in the yard. The tense indicates that we are to take off the following dirty sins as a definite act. Discard these sins as we would throw dirty clothes in a hamper. Let's look at these sins.
"Anger" is the Greek word orge. It speaks of a chronic resentment, a settled state of anger. "Anger" combines both anger and revenge. It is the hostility and fermenting of the mind, the demonstration of strong passion (which may issue in anger or revenge, though it does not necessarily include it). It is the native character, disposition or temper of the mind.
This sin of anger is rampant in our society. If we delay one instant after the light changes, or cut someone off on the freeway, we can trigger vile language, a vulgar gesture, and even a gun shot. If a waitress is slow at a restaurant, a line is too long, or a checker seems too slow -- the result may be outbursts of anger. Grudges, resentments, bitterness are common companions in homes causing chronic anger, violence, or abusive talk. It seems our society has lost its civility.
Some of us may never become disposed to murder, rape, or commit adultery, but we may become tempted to express our anger. Christians get angry, but most of us have been taught to internalize our anger, rather than to express it outwardly. So, although we may not show it, we still seethe with the best of them. Can any of you truly say that you have not been angered in the past week? Of course not. Even the most dedicated of Christians still get angry, and we must learn to recognize this sin, and deal with it.
The reality is that all of us face situations and challenges that may make us angry - no one is immune. Regardless of our emotional makeup, anger affects all of us, and when we allow anger to control us, the outcome could be very costly.
Let me say that not all anger is sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, "Be angry, and do not sin...." This tells us something very important - there is an anger that is acceptable.
Because anger is frequently attributed to God in the Bible, we must agree that not all anger is evil. Pressing the matter further, if we are to imitate God, then there must be times when we should be angry.
Paul tells us in Colossians 3:8 to put away anger. But in Ephesians 4:26, he says, "Be angry". We have two seemingly conflicting statements from Paul. The solution to this apparent contradiction is found in the fact that there are two kinds of anger. The anger which is a manifestation of our flesh is to be put aside. The anger which is a manifestation of God's righteousness is to be put on. There is the "anger of man," which "does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:20), and the anger which is an expression of God's righteousness. Paul is commanding the Ephesians to be angry in a way that is righteous, that is a reflection of God.
God was angry at the unbelief of Moses, which caused him to resist obeying the command of God to go to Egypt and confront Pharaoh, insisting that he let God's people go (Exodus 4:14). God is angered by the mistreatment of those who are helpless, the strangers, the widows, and the orphans (Exodus 22:21-24). God was also angered by men turning from trusting and worshiping Him to the worship of idols (Exodus 32:10; Deuteronomy 6:14-15; Judges 2:13-14; Ezra 8:22).
All of these offenses which arouse God to anger seem reasonable enough, but there are times when men may commit offenses which seem minor to us, and yet which provoke God to anger. Do you realize that God is angered by the grumbling and complaining of His people?
Numbers 11:1 (NKJV) Now when the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.
Our Lord Jesus was also angry. True anger is that which is concerned with others' wrongs. You can see it in Jesus: He was angry at the Pharisees when they opposed His healing of men on the Sabbath day. "He looked upon them with anger" (Mark 3:5), we read, "and was grieved in his heart" over their stubborn indifference to the needs of suffering humanity. It made Him angry.
Godly men were also angered by unrighteousness. Moses became angry when he finally came down from the mountain and saw the extent of Israel's sin (Exodus 32:1-20). Earlier, Moses was angered by Pharaoh's hardened heart and his refusal to listen to God and to let the Israelites go (Exodus 11:8). While the text does not say so, it would appear that David was angered by Goliath's blasphemy (1 Samuel 17). David was later angry when Nathan told him the story of the rich man who stole a poor man's little lamb, not knowing that he was the villain (2 Samuel 13:21).
Paul was angered when he learned that false teaching had reached the saints in Galatia, and that some were embracing it. The whole epistle of Paul to the Galatians is white hot with Paul's expressed anger and outrage.
I agree with Henry Beecher who said, "A man who does not know how to be angry, does not know how to be good. A man who does not feel indignation over evil is either a fungus or a wicked man." When someone mocks God and His Word, I should be angry. When I hear a comedian on television talking about "mistakes God has made," I should feel some anger. When there are religious leaders who use Christianity as a cloak for their own greed and lust, my blood should start to boil. When atrocities are committed in Kosovo, or when Communist governments in China and North Korea murder their own people, it is a time for anger. I should be mad when I hear of pastors and teachers leading people astray by telling them there are other ways of salvation besides Jesus Christ. These are good reasons to get angry.
What's the difference between good anger and bad anger? Sinful anger, of course, is anger that is self-defensive, i.e., centered in the self. It is always wrong. Sinful anger is part of the old life, it is to be put off. If you are angry because your feelings have been hurt, or your pride has been injured, or you have been mistreated in some way, perhaps you have not been given the position of the place or the favor that you think you ought to have - this is sinful anger and is to be put off.
The Cause Of Sinful Anger
One root cause of anger is pride. When things don't go our way in life, when promotions are denied, or our kids don't do what we tell them to do, our pride is offended and we get angry. Humble people don't get angry, because they never feel they deserve better than they are getting. Nothing causes anger as quickly as thinking too highly of ourselves. The more exalted we are in our own eyes, the more justified we will feel in being angry with the person who offended us:
Proverbs 13:10 (NIV) Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
Alexander the Great was an incredible strategist and soldier. At one time, one of his boyhood friends, who had been promoted to general in his army, was drunk and began to speak disrespectfully to Alexander. In a fit of anger, Alexander grabbed his spear and threw it at his friend - his intent was simply to scare his friend, but his aim was poor, and he caught his friend in the heart, killing him instantly. This great man, who was able to conquer nations, could not conquer his own anger; as a result, he lost one of his dear friends. He was so distraught that he wept for days and even tried to kill himself.
Christian morality is the experience of divine power. But the experience in moment by moment living includes conscious choices. The practical, nitty gritty, day to day living of the Christian life is the experience of divine power. If it were not, then all our moral choices and all our pursuit of holiness would be done in our own strength; it would signify our own merit, and it would redound to our own glory. And the whole purpose of God to be glorified in his creatures would fall.
Admitting the control of anger is not within our power is part of the solution. We need the supernatural help of Christ, because it is not enough to refrain from expressing anger. The Christian is called to love the person with whom we are angry:
1 Corinthians 13:4 (NKJV) Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
The first thing Paul says about love is that it "suffers long." This is the Greek word makrothumeo, this word, as it is used in the New Testament, is a word that almost on every occasion conveys the idea of having an infinite capacity to be injured without paying back. It is used with regard to people, not circumstances. It's having a long fuse. The loving person is able to be inconvenienced or taken advantage of by a person and yet not be upset or angry.
Does this describe you? Please understand that to not be a loving person, to be angry at someone, is not some small character flaw; it is to break the greatest commandment, it is to not love God.
We must distinguish wrath from anger. "Anger" is the abiding, settled habit of the mind, the settled purpose of wrath. "Wrath" is the turbulent commotion of the mind, rage. The Greeks likened it to a fire in straw which flares up briefly and is gone. It is used to speak of those in the synagogue of Nazareth who exploded in anger upon hearing Jesus' teachings (Luke 4:28). It is used similarly of the Ephesian craftsmen's anger over Paul's preaching (Acts 19:28).
"Anger" is the heat of the fire, and "wrath" is the bursting forth in flame. "Anger" is less sudden in its rise, but more lasting. "Wrath" is a more agitated condition. It is more of a state of intense anger with outbursts of passionate anger coming from indignation. "Anger" is a more settled and abiding condition of the attitude - frequently with a view to taking revenge. It is less sudden in its rise, but more lasting in its nature.
"Anger" expresses more inward feeling. It's more active than "wrath." "Wrath" may produce revenge, but it does not necessarily include it. Characteristically, it blazes.
"Malice" is the desire to hurt others. This is a vicious character. It is the quality of wickedness with the implication of that which is harmful and damaging. "Malice" is a feeling of hostility and strong dislike with a possible implication of desiring to do harm - "hateful feeling."
Anger, wrath, and malice often result in slander. The Greek word translated "slander" is blasphemia, from which our English word blasphemy derives. When used in relation to God, it is translated: "blasphemy." When used in relation to people, as here, it is translated: "slander." To slander people, however, is to blaspheme God, inasmuch as He created men and women (cf. James 3:9). Such foolish talk is not to be indulged in lightly.
Slander is to speak ill of someone and hurt their name and reputation. It means to speak against someone in such a way as to harm or injure his or her reputation.
Do you pass on uninformed, second-hand, unauthorized, unproved, invalidated information about people? You do not know whether it is true or false, but you pass it along as if it were fact. Are you sure of the information you are passing on? Do you know it for a fact? Would you put it in writing?
The result of anger, wrath, and malice is abusive speech. Abusive speech is from the Greek word aischrologia, an old word meaning: "low and obscene speech" which occurs here only in the New Testament. That term refers to obscene and derogatory speech intended to hurt and wound someone. It could be translated: "foulmouthed abuse". Jesus said:
Matthew 12:35 (NASB) "The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil.
This list of sins in verse 8 ends with "...from your mouth." This phrase may not only refer to "abusive speech," but the entire list of sins in verse 8. If so, then the entire list of sins is cataloged as sins of the mouth. "Anger" and "wrath" are forms of this vice when it verbalizes their displeasure.
Jesus said that the mouth reveals what is in the heart. James said: "How can both bitter and pure waters come out of the same fountain? How can both praise to God and curse of men come out of the same mouth (James 3:10,11)?"
If you want a guideline to speech, here it is:
Ephesians 4:29 (NASB) Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Let's move on to the first part of the next verse, hang on:
Colossians 3:9 (NASB) Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,
"Lie" is the Greek word pseudomai. In this prohibition (me and the present middle imperative) it means either: "stop lying," or "do not have the habit of lying." Do Christians need to be told to stop lying? What do you think?
In the movie Liar, Liar, Jim Carrey played the role of a slick, lying attorney who suddenly could not tell a lie for 24 hours because of a magic wish his son made on his birthday. Near the end of the movie, there was a serious note when the father confessed to his son: "Max, I can't do my job, and tell the truth. Everybody lies."
Do you think that is true? Does everybody lie? Well if you did a Bible study on lying, and you began in Genesis, you might be inclined to think so. Satan lied in deceiving Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:45). Cain lied to God after murdering Abel (Gen. 4:9). Abraham lied, claiming Sarah was his sister instead of his wife (Gen. 12:1119; 20:2). Sarah lied to the three angelic visitors (Gen. 18:15) and to the king of Gerar (Gen. 20:5). Isaac lied by denying that Rebecca was his wife (Gen. 26:710). Rebecca and Issac lied in their conspiracy to defraud Esau of his birthright (Gen. 27:624). That list does not even get us out of Genesis. So it is not unnecessary for Paul to tell Christians to stop lying to one another.
Lying is part of society, and all too often we get caught up in the practice, too. Probably many of us feel pressure from time to time to distort truth in order to survive in our culture.
Though our society gives ample place to the lie, the Lord does not. The Bible teaches us that telling the truth is a necessity for survival of life as we know it. Chaos always results when lies replace truth. Can you imagine living in an environment where there is no TRUTH - no truth on labels, contracts, guarantees, promises, commitments? Relationships would dissolve, because there would be no trust holding people together.
How vital for us as, followers of Jesus, to spend a few moments thinking about why it's important for us to always be truth tellers. Do you understand that God hates lying? God hates lying and commands us to deal truthfully with each other:
Proverbs 6:16-19 (NASB) There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.
Did you notice that out of these seven abominations, two of them deal with lying? God hates lying!
Proverbs 12:19 (NASB) Truthful lips will be established forever, But a lying tongue is only for a moment.
Proverbs 12:22 (NASB) Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, But those who deal faithfully are His delight.
Psalm 15 asks the question, "Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?" and gives this answer:
Psalms 15:2 (NASB) He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart.
In a word, lying was to be rooted out of God's people Israel. God hates lying equally much today:
Revelation 21:7-8 (NASB) "He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. 8 "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Revelation 22:15 (NASB) Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
He places outside the New Jerusalem, which represents the New Covenant, "whoever loves and practices a lie." Instead of uttering a lie, or even twisting the truth, the Lord's instruction is this:
Zechariah 8:16-17 (NASB) 'These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. 17 'Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,' declares the LORD."
These Scriptures should make it clear that God hates lying and commands us to tell the truth.
Most of us would agree that lying is not a good thing. However, we have a problem. Like the character in the movie, to some degree, most of us lie! Telling the truth is difficult, particularly as we live in a society that increasingly discounts the value of telling the truth. Opinion polls indicate people accept a certain amount of "packaging the truth," cover-up, stonewalling, or "spin doctors" as inevitable realities in the world of politics, business, and, sadly, even in personal relationships.
Lying is so much part and parcel of today's society that many Christians feel they need to lie from time to time if they're going to survive, let alone function, in this society.
How do we apply the norm of Scripture in the culture of today? To answer this question, please turn with me to the book of Titus:
Titus 1:5 (NASB) For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,
We learn from this passage that the apostle Paul had left his servant, Titus, on the island of Crete to appoint church leaders and build up the local church in that place. The task wasn't easy for Titus, and so Paul wrote him a letter. In his letter, the apostle interacted with the circumstances as they were on the island. Those circumstances are described in:
Titus 1:10 (NASB) For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,
Here are people who have heard the gospel, but now talk in a way that misrepresents the gospel. As a result, verse 11 says that "whole households" are subverted. In that context, Paul says, "It's the way the Cretans are."
Titus 1:12 (NASB) One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons."
Paul quotes one of their own poets to confirm, "Cretans are always liars," and he adds, "This testimony is true" (vs 13). Here then, was a culture not all that different from our own. But now notice, Paul does not tell Titus to put up with it, as in: Hey, it's the way things are, it's in their nature, it's their culture, and you can't change it. Rather, Paul is emphatic:
Titus 1:13 (NASB) This testimony is true. For this cause reprove them severely that they may be sound in the faith,
Paul does not tolerate lying among God's people at Crete, even though these people have been brought up with lies as part and parcel of daily living.
Now the question for us is this: Why does Paul tell Titus so bluntly to "rebuke them sharply"? Why does Paul not tolerate any lying? Should he not recognize that in the circumstances he's asking too much with such a standard?
The apostle, himself, tells us why he does not tolerate lying. Notice how he starts his letter to Titus in verse 1, he sets truth over against lying. Look at his opening line:
Titus 1:1-2 (NASB) Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,
Paul, you see, knows himself to be a servant of the God "who cannot lie," knows himself to be charged to preach a gospel that acknowledges the truth. But if God cannot lie, then there is no room for lying among God's children.
If God, then, does not lie, but is "the God of truth" (Is 65:16), what place ought Paul to give to lying? None! Lying is to be put away. Lying simply does not belong among God's children. Society may have plenty of room for the lie, but that's because society does not know God.
Because the reputation of Jesus is at stake in our behavior, God is calling us to be pro-active in carefully scrutinizing our habits of exaggerating, telling white lies, and separating our business ethics from our personal ethics. The secular world loves nothing better than to catch a Christian in some form of dishonesty, followed by this usual litany: "And you are a Christian. If that's the impact Jesus is having upon your life, I'm not impressed."
What are white lies? They are called that, because they are considered harmless. But, when you see this in the light of the Scriptures, you see that a white lie, so-called, is still a lie.
White lies usually occur in circumstances where we are asked to give our opinion about one's dress or personality, and we feel negative about it but do not want to say anything for fear of hurting their feelings, so we lie, we say the nice thing, the pleasant thing, and their feelings are not hurt. We think, "I've saved them from hurt, therefore, no harm was done in lying to them." But what is happening here is that we are deciding what is a "good" time to lie and when is not. This boils down to situational ethics.
Taking detours from truth destroys relationships. At the national level, Gallup polls reveal that widespread public distrust of politicians and the media has resulted from so many lies being exposed. Cynicism has become a national disease. Think of how awful it is when we can't trust what we see or hear from leaders and the media!
Consequences become even more painful at the relational level. Can one articulate the pain when a person we trust lies to us? Relationships are devastated. Isolation, anger, and suspicion rush in to fill the vacuum.
Focusing on the personal consequences of habitual lying, we find increasing devastation. A liar lives under the pressure of always having to remember what was said, coupled with the fear of exposure and the necessity of telling more lies. Truth becomes relative. Truth becomes what we want it to be. Lying becomes a kind of personal prison.
A spiral of decay in personal and public lying seems to be occurring in our time. However, the good news is that change for the better can also begin with a few and accelerate. When we Christians demonstrate that following Jesus does create a person capable of being honest, no matter the cost, such behavior will have an impact. In the early Church, it was the honesty of Christians that made them appear as lights in a decadent environment, making the Christian faith attractive. I believe we have a similar potential today that will bring great honor to Jesus.
Where do we start? We can start with confession to God, confessing that we have sinned by being less than honest. In his great Psalm of repentance, David says, "Have mercy on me O God...Against you, you only, have I sinned...Surely you desire truth in the inner parts...Create in me a clean heart, O God.... (Psalm 51).
After expressing our desire to be truthful, we can seek to be honest in little things - catching
ourselves in "white lies," half truths, exaggerations, in the stories we tell for expediency.
We can be honest in our business dealings. I read of a father who was taking his two sons to play miniature golf. He inquired of the price, and the attendant told him it was $3.00 for him and $3.00 for any child over six. The father told him one boy was three and one was seven. "You could have saved $3.00 if you said the older boy was six. I wouldn't have known the difference." The father replied, "Yes, that's true, but the kids would have known the difference."
That's depravity of the human heart that makes a person save $3.00 by being a liar. How many fathers are teaching their children to be dishonest?
Believers, Christ is our life. He is in the presence of God, and therefore, we are in the presence of God - in glory. Therefore, we need to deal with our sins and seek to walk in holiness. When it comes to sin, we must "put them all aside."
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