Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:5-11)
Last week, I began a three-part series on Colossians 3:1-17 called The Character of Corporate Worship. We saw how the heavenward orientation of the local church is essential for faithfulness in worship. Only the glory of the ascended Christ can create a thriving worship culture. You can read more about that here. This week, we will explore the characteristics of such a culture as it pertains to necessity of holy conduct in the Body of Christ. Let’s take a look at v. 5-11.
The Thing About Orange Space Suits
The conduct of a congregation must align with its creed. After all, the power of Christianity is evidenced by transformed living. The local church should, therefore, exist distinctly in order to make our new identity undeniable to the world around us. Our worship will only be faithful to the degree that our holiness through union with Christ is obvious. In other words, as Paul puts it in his letter to the Colossians, we must put off the old self and put on the new self (v. 9-10).
When traveling to outer space, astronauts wear orange space suits. The thing about those suits is that, every time someone wears one, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that person is an astronaut. We know what they are giving their life to, where they are going, and how they’re going to get there. Simply put, people who aren’t astronauts don’t have the orange space suit as a wardrobe option.
Our union with Christ is a lot like that. We’ve taken off our old selves, and put on the new self, which is every bit as unmistakable as an orange space suit. In fact, Paul says in Galatians 3:27, that if you were baptized into Christ, you have “put on Christ.” The new self is so united to Jesus that putting it on is akin to the putting on of Christ himself. And the implications of this are crucial.
The Cost of Ambiguity
According to Colossians 3, a primary implication of this is how we deal with sin. It is so damaging when sin is permitted to fester in the Body of Christ. This is why Paul gives an explicit list of vices in v. 5-7. We must be able to name the things that threaten to defile and, therefore, undermine the church’s worship. Ambiguity concerning sin is a destructive liability. It will cost us.
Why? Because every time members of the Body coddle sin, Christ is being united to sin, causing Paul to ask in 1 Corinthians 6:15-16, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Or do you not know that he who is joined with a prostitute becomes one body with her?”
This means we take sin very seriously at LifePoint. It means that we won’t shy away from addressing sexual immorality. Sexual sin in all its forms dulls our hearts and makes us apathetic in worship. It kills our responsiveness to God.
Think of it this way: this weekend, thousands of people who are members of local churches will pay hard-earned money to watch 50 Shades of Grey. They will sit in the theatre seat on Saturday and then the pew on Sunday–unconcerned that, if they belong to the Body, they have just watched a Spirit-grieving portrayal of misogynistic erotica with the eyes of Christ and His church (cf. 1 Co. 6:20; Col. 1:18). And we wonder why so many people have stopped experiencing the joy of the Lord on Sundays? Ambiguity has compromised the new self. There’s no use wearing a tuxedo if you’re just going to roll around in dog poo.
An Obnoxious Charade
God has made it abundantly clear that He does not look favorably upon “acts of worship” that aren’t undergirded by the substance of holiness. He refuses to honor what we do on Sunday morning if our pet sins from Saturday night remain un-repented of. To be sure, he regards such profane dualism with nauseating disdain. Therefore, it is blasphemy to show up on Sunday morning, appearing pious, yet refusing to smash our darling idols at the maimed feet of Christ.
This is so crucial to our understanding of Colossians 3:1-17. Paul won’t let us start thinking about the appearance of corporate worship until he has dealt with the heart. Why? Because, if we are inwardly harboring sin, our practices won’t matter. Who cares what we sing if we haven’t put off the old self? If we are cherishing those things on account of which the wrath of God is coming (v. 6), who cares about how good the music is or how many hands are raised? To God, it’s all just an obnoxious charade. Would that the church shut its doors if we ever light a useless fire on God’s altar (Mal. 1:10)!
So let us be quick to put sin to death, every last bit of it; for good. God has graciously redeemed us from sin to accept nothing less than Christ-honoring holiness. Therefore my prayer is that the Gospel would motivate genuine worship at LifePoint. Doubtless, we believe in Good News for bad people of all stripes, for “here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free” (v. 11). Rather we are united by “one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Eph. 4:5-6).
However, our belief in the Gospel must fundamentally transform each of us to thrive in worship, bringing us into greater righteousness and purity as we are “renewed in knowledge after the image of [our] creator” (v. 10). If we will commit to that out of an unwavering love for Christ, there is no limit to what God will do among us when we gather. So let us repent and trust in Him for greater things, for a culture of worship where, truly, “Christ is all and in all” (v. 11).
Liturgy for Sunday, February 15, 2015:
Call to Worship: Psalm 113:1-3
How to Prayerfully Respond:
1. How important is holiness to you? Do you consider it an essential part of being a faithful worshiper of God? Think about some practical ways that you can grow in greater holiness. Write down some of your thoughts.
2. Ask God to help you trust Him in greater measure. Confess every sin to Him and ask Him to cleanse you of unrighteousness. Seek Him for greater favor and power among the people of LifePoint this Sunday. Pray that He would cultivate a greater fervency for holiness among our congregation.