The Supremacy Demonstrated: By having a Zero Tolerance for Sin (Col. 3:5-9)
In an insightful and thought-provoking article entitled The Paradox of our Age, Dr. Bob Moorehead, former pastor of Seattle’s Overlake Christian Church, writes:
“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, yet more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; big men and small character; steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce; fancier houses but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill….”
I thought this was a great portrayal of our society at large today. This leads me to wonder: if he sampled the church of Jesus Christ today, do you think Dr. Moorehead would say it’s much different? Would he say there is no disconnect between those who come to church on Sundays and their lifestyle the rest of the week? So often we hear that the divorce rate among Christians is about the same as the divorce rate among non-Christians. We hear also of the rising addiction of people, Christian and non-Christian, to pornography. People ridicule you now if you claim to be a virgin and want to wait until marriage and sadly, many Christian young people cannot say that anyway. Co-habitation is the norm everywhere, even among people who profess to be Christians. Also, does it not seem like every few months some Christian leader has fallen into sexual sin?
How about socially? I have seen more church divisions than I can number and have seen hurtful, hot-tempered church leaders stuck on their egos, tear churches apart, refusing to forgive or ask for forgiveness. I have experienced Christian relationships destroyed over gossip and slander. I don’t even want to get into Christians and materialism. This is what the world is seeing and no wonder they don’t want any part of it because it is hypocrisy to them. This is not what the Lord has called us to! Here at EFC, we must have zero tolerance for sin.
In our text today, Paul is calling us to rise above the norm. Dead fish swim with the stream, but living fish swim against the stream. There is nothing the Lord calls us to, for which He does not give us the needed resources and power to live up to. The power behind us is greater than all the tasks ahead of us!
Last week, we looked at our new identity in Jesus Christ. That is who we are. As a result, we are to make the priorities of Jesus Christ as our own. This is where you sit. Because of your new identity, you have a new responsibility to represent the One who has given you the new identity well. Today you are an ordinary Joe Shmo of the street, but let’s say you were hired by the President of the United States to be his personal assistant.
I bet you tomorrow you will be dressed differently, you will act differently, you might even talk differently. You will be driven by the fact that you want to represent the President well, but also you will want to represent the United States of America well.
Believer, when the Lord Jesus shed His blood to pay for your sin and mine, He was adopting us into His family and giving us the privilege to be co-heirs of His inheritance. We are a child of the King of the Kings and Lord of Lord today! You are not just hired by Him, you are His own!
The question is now that you have this new identity in Christ, how are you going to live? What difference is the new life given to you in Christ going to make for you in day to day living? How are you going to represent Him with this new identity? How are you going to demonstrate His Supremacy?
In using the clothing theme, now that you are His, there are old dirty clothes that need to be discarded and new ones to be put on. Today we are just going to look at some stuff that needs to be put away. The title of the message is “The Supremacy Demonstrated: By Zero Tolerance for Sin.” God is looking for some to rise up with a personal conviction against sexual and social sins. Zero tolerance.
Here is the first thing in verse 5. Because of our new identity in Christ:
I. Believers must ruthlessly slay all sexual sin (Col. 3:5-7).
Here is evidence that when Paul says, “set your minds on the things above” that he is not talking about some spaced out, with your head in the clouds kind of Christianity. He gets very practical as to what it means to have our identity wrapped up in Jesus Christ.
Also, God would never tell us to change our behavior, without the understanding that all transformation stems out of our position in the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit. He will never build the house until he has laid the foundation. This is why doctrine and theology is so important. It helps us to think right so that we can act right. It also gives the proper motivation as to why we must live right. We do it out of gratitude and out of love for Christ and wanting to please the One who has given us new life.
With that in mind, look at Col. 3:5. “Put to death, therefore.” It is an imperative, a command, not a suggestion or option. It could be expressed as, “Slay utterly.” Completely exterminate like a termite-infested house. If you have a termite problem, you would not try to cover it up with putty and paint, you would exterminate it.
Similarly, we are not try to control sin or try suppress it. We must wipe it out. There is a sense of urgency and a decisive action here to be taken. “Do it now! Do it resolutely!” Expositor Alexander MaClaren likens it to “a man who while working at a machine gets his fingers drawn between rollers or caught in the belting. Another minute and he will be flattened to a shapeless bloody mass. He catches up an axe lying by and with his own arm hacks off his own hand at the wrist.… It is not easy nor pleasant, but it is the only alternative to a horrible death” (p. 275).
Sorry for the graphic picture, but it is exactly what Paul is saying here. If your appendix ruptured this very moment, a decisive action needs to be made. No time to linger on it or talk about it or explain it. Urgent attention is needed. This idea is not new with Paul. Even Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matt. 5:29-30).
So Paul is saying, “Ruthlessly slay what is earthly in you.” That term, “what is earthly in you,” is a figure of speech that means the forms of evil which our body practices.
Here you might wonder if there is a contradiction. He says “you have died” in Col 3:3 and in Col. 2:12 and Col. 2:20, but now he says there are some things to be “put to death.” This is because we have died to our old life in our position, but we are practically working that out in our practice. Just like I became a husband in 2004, I was only a husband by status or position. However, the rest of my life I have the responsibility of living out that position by my practice. Or as one commentator says, “believers are like immigrants to a new country, not yet completely habituated to its ways of life. They [have] accepted citizenship in a new world and must learn to live in it.”
Here Paul is calling us to ruthlessly slay sexual sin. Following the command is a list of sexual sin. Paul uses an “outside in” perspective. He moves from the acts to the motives behind the acts. He moves from the symptoms to the cause, the fruit to the root. Do I need to give the stats that show that sexual sin is a problem today?
Did you know that pornography is a 12 billion dollar industry? It is larger than the revenues of ABC, CBS and NBC combined (6 billion). It is larger than the combined revenues of all professional football, basketball and baseball. There are 4.2 million porn sites out there. Every 39 minutes, a new porn video is produced. We are immersed in it up to our necks with this and it is not anything new. The ancient world was filled with it as well and sexual sin was rampant. So look at what Paul says about this.
First of all, sexual immorality is mentioned first. This is referring to the actual act of illicit sexual intercourse. The actual word is “porneia,” from which we get the word pornography. This means any sexual activity outside of the marriage bond between man and woman. He moves from the act to a broader term “impurity,” which refers to unclean thoughts and words. You might not perform the acts, but you have evil thoughts and evil words that relate to sexual immorality. Evil behavior starts with evil thoughts. This is why the Word tells us to offer our bodies to God and to renew our minds (Rom. 12:2) constantly.
The next two words, “passion” and “evil desire” are similar in meaning. They both refer to “illicit, uncontrollable craving” or “lust.” Jesus said, “every man that looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Jesus went from the behavior to the heart. Likewise, Paul is digging deeper and deeper to the root of the issue. He started out with the act and now he has moved to the head and the heart of it. Evil acts come from evil thoughts which sprung out of evil desire.
He even goes deeper than that, and mentions “covetousness, which is idolatry.” At first, this looks odd to be put in the list alongside sexual sin. But it is not odd at all. Covetousness is right at the bottom of it all. It made to the 10 commandments didn’t it? Covetousness is desiring what is forbidden. James says, you see something that you don’t have and you want it. So you lust and war to have it (James 4:1-3). Paul has a parallel passage in Ephesians 5:3-4.
John Macarthur says,
“Let me give you the simple definition of sin. In your life, as you live, you either worship God or you worship yourself. If you truly worship God as God then you say, “God, what pleases you?” God says, “This pleases me.” You say, “Yes God. That’s what I’ll do.” If you don’t, you say, “Self, what pleases you?” Self says, “I want that.” You say, “But God says no, and that’s forbidden.” But self says, “I don’t care. I want that.” And you bow at the shrine of self, and out of that deep seeded covetousness is generated the evil desire that flames itself into an evil thought and generates an evil deed.”
Do you see that? When we covet, we are idol worshippers! We might look at people bowing down to an idol and pat ourselves in the back thinking we don’t do that. However, it doesn’t have to be a piece of metal we worship, it can be mental as well. When we covet, we act as if everything belongs to us, but that throne belongs to only God himself. Every sin comes down to this. You either do what God wants or you do what you want. You set yourself up as God to be satisfied and worshipped. Interestingly, idol worship is forbidden as the first commandment (when God says, “you shall have no other Gods before me” He meant ourselves as one of those Gods) and covetousness is forbidden as the 10th commandment. Paul is saying here, #10 = #1. So the root sin of man is idolatry. It is pride. The middle letter of pride and sin is both “I.” We want to worship ourselves and God gets in the way.
Think about it:
1. You covet money-> end up stealing.
2. You covet fame-> end up boasting.
3. You covet success-> end up in selfish ambition
4. You covet power-> tyranny
5. You covet people-> sexual sin. Ever notice couples who could not control their sexual appetites before marriage all of a sudden can after? It was covetousness that was controlling them.
If you ever look at the Old Testament, sexual sin and idolatry go together. A lot of times the people of Israel worshipped the idols like Baal because those who worshipped them could commit all kinds of sexual sin. Take note of that if you ever read the Old Testament (Num. 25:1; 1 Kings 14:21; 2 Kings 23:7). The root sin of man is idolatry. There is a tremendous desire for man to fulfill himself and to meet his own needs and that is why he is covetous. That covetousness breeds desire, which under the right circumstances of temptation, fuels into passion and lustful thoughts, which will eventually lead to immoral behavior.
What Paul is saying here, then, is don’t try to whack at the branches, take the axe to the root of the problem. Don’t look at just putting out the fire, but look to it to notice the first sparks. Don’t pray, “Lord, take away the cobwebs out of my life.” Kill the spider and you will get rid of the cobwebs! We must ruthlessly slay sexual sin, which is rooted in covetousness and worship of self.
When is the last time you confessed you were a covetous idolator? We must ruthlessly slay sexual sin!
What’s the big deal? Look at Col. 3:6 -7. Here Paul gives two reasons for his arguments. The first is that these sins will bring the wrath of God. Talk about a big deal! We, who are Christ’s, who have been made one with Him, who love Him and serve Him, should not participate in those kinds of behaviors and thoughts that are characteristic of those who will experience His divine wrath. We will not experience His wrath, but we will experience his discipline. God will react toward sin.
Secondly, this is not who we are. These sins were a part of our past, our used-to-be. If you were made rich, why would you return to the slums to live in poverty? How can new creatures act like old ones? How can a butterfly act like a caterpillar? I like Spurgeon’s thoughts here:
“Christian, what hast thou to do with sin? Hath it not cost thee enough already? Burnt child, wilt thou play with the fire? What! when thou hast already been between the jaws of the lion, wilt thou step a second time into his den? Hast thou not had enough of the old serpent? Did he not poison all thy veins once, and wilt thou play upon the hole of the asp, and put thy hand upon the cockatrice’s den a second time? Oh, be not so mad! so foolish! Did sin ever yield thee real pleasure? Didst thou find solid satisfaction in it? If so, go back to thine old drudgery, and wear the chain again, if it delight thee. But inasmuch as sin did never give thee what it promised to bestow, but deluded thee with lies, be not a second time snared by the old fowler—be free, and let the remembrance of thy ancient bondage forbid thee to enter the net again!” 
Illus: Imagine you went driving on a mountain range. Let’s say you own a coach bus and in it you took your family, your closest friends, basically everyone you love. Let’s say you also decide to drive everyone as well. Now there are guard rails all around. In fact, if you look down, it feels like a million miles down. It would be quite a ride wouldn’t it if you decide to see how close to the edge you could get without falling over? So you you start hitting the side of the guardrails and sparks are flying all over the place as everyone starts screaming. My guess is you would be really crazy to do that! My guess is you probably want to stay as close to the side of the mountain as possible right? But how many of us are driving too close to the edge? How many of us do not have any guardrails set up? How many of us are putting our loved ones at risk with the choices we make about our sexual lifestyle? Do we ruthlessly slay sexual sin or recklessly engross ourselves? Some practical thoughts:
1. Uncover the lies.
a. I can’t help it. Really? If you are on the computer clicking away and your mom walks into the room, do you think you will stop? Of course you will. It’s not that you can’t stop, it’s that you won’t.
b. No one struggles like me.
c. God will forgive me. Grace! Jude 4: do not pervert the grace of God.
d. I won’t ever break free. The Son sets us free! (John 8:36).
e. It’s not a big deal. It’s just a small problem. Do you realize that a patching a small stitch will save you from a big hole? Small sins was still a big cost to the Savior.
2. Identify trigger points. Do you fall when you are bored? Tired? Lonely? Stressed? Alone? At night? Hurt? Identify them and share that with someone so they would know to call you to encourage you during those times.
3. Remove opportunities to fail. Rom. 13:14. Put an internet filter on. I think every Christian should have one for their computer. Lots of great websites out there: covenant eyes, safe eyes, xxxchurch.com (free accountability software). When my wife goes to bed, I go with her. I have made it a point never to watch late night tv or be surfing on the web alone at night. Whenever I email a female, I always cc my wife.
4. Guard your private life. Take each thought captive. It always starts in the mind. Guard your eyes. If you know there is a billboard at the same place on the highway that always catches your eye, prepare beforehand not to look at it. It is not the glance, but the gaze that will kill you. Do not feed the flesh!
5. Use discernment in entertainment choices. Use pluggedinonline.com’s movie and music reviews. They let you know of everything in a movie to help you make a decision.
6. Avoid counterfeit oneness. If you are married, avoiding verbal intimacy with someone other than your spouse. Avoiding one on one meals and anything that “appears” like something couples do.
7. Maintain accountability. Find a friend. Preferably of the same sex. Meet to ask the hard questions. The purposes of accountability are protection, direction and correction.
8. Kill covetousness with contentedness. I don’t want any more money, I don’t need somebody else for sexual fulfillment than my husband or wife. I don’t need any more than what you have given me, God. Paul says, “In whatever state I am, I have learned to be content” (Phil. 4:11). It is something that we need to learn! Covetousness says, “God, you cheated me….there’s something so awesome over there.” God says, “No, I am good. I have given you everything that you need. “How do you be content? It comes from knowing God. The more you know Him, the more you will trust Him. This is why we always emphasize studying the Word.
9. Count the cost. Choose to sin, choose to suffer. If you decide to do nothing about your sin, beware. You are on the path of destruction. The consequences are terrible. Just ask David. Wandering on the rooftop in 2 Sam 12 led to covetousness, adultery, lying, murder, etc. He was a heart broken man for the rest of his life and though he wrote Ps 51 and God forgave him, he still had to suffer the consequences and so will you and I, like:
a. Bringing on God’s discipline (Heb 12)
b. Grieving the Lord who redeemed me
c. Dragging the name of God in the mud
d. Untold hurt, loss of trust and respect from your spouse and children
e. Plaguing memories and flashbacks, permanent images in your head
f. Damage to future generations
g. Life-long embarrassment and shame
h. Loss of credibility in ministry
i. Shame to your church family
Ruthlessly slay sexual sin! Kill it before it kills you. It will take you farther than you ever planned to go. It will keep you longer than you ever planned to stay and it will cost you more than you ever planned to pay. It is, as John Piper says, “the suicidal abandonment of joy.” If you are in it right now, rise up and say no more to this!
Go to Col. 3: 8-9. Let’s look at the second thing. Because of our new identity in Christ:
II. Believers must purposefully shed all social sin (Col. 3:8-9).
The old preacher, G. Campbell Morgan, calls this list, “the sins in good standing.” Perhaps you patted yourself on the back at the first list and lest self-righteousness sneaks in, Paul gets into some sins that are often so common, we forget those are sins sometimes.
The sexual sin list went from actions to motives. This list moves the other way, from motives to actions. The command here is to “put off” social sins. The idea is of a person changing clothes. Just like you would take off dirty, filthy clothes at the end of day, discard the rags of the old life. I have used the word “shed” because social sins are stuck to us like skin. We need to remove them from our lives.
It is like when you came to Christ, you were a beggar. You were filthy, dirty and wearing rags. Christ robed you in robes of white, robes of righteousness. Now what if you go back and put the old rags back on? It would be utter stupidity. So he is saying, throw these sins in the fire like discarded, old rags. Let’s look at these briefly.
The first word is anger. This refers to “deep down, smoldering, resenting bitterness.” It just sits under the surface. All you need to do is fan it. It is the kind of anger that when we see or think of someone, it comes up like a jack in the box. It is a strong spirit of dislike or animosity, or a settled feeling of hatred. This is more passive, but the next word, wrath is more active, reacting with violent outbursts. So while anger is the smoldering thing, when fanned, it can lead to wrath, which sets things ablaze. This leads to malice, which is the deliberate attempt to harm others.
Along with this, it all comes out in the mouth through “slander and obscene talk.” Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Slander is destroying another’s reputation by lies, gossip, spreading rumors, etc. I have noticed in my own life that I will not bad mouth a believer, but I feel justified sometimes in sharing about the sins of unbelievers. It doesn’t matter who the person is…slander is not acceptable in any circumstance.
Malice often represents itself through slander. Obscene talk refers to any crude talk, abrasive language, expletives. He then says, “Do not lie to one another.” Lying, including, half truths, white lies and exaggerations, should not be in the life of the believer. Sometimes we are quick to judge the person for sexual sin, but have no problems with gossip, backbiting and slander or even lying. Lying can be so subtle and allowed in our lives. Let me give you top ten lies people make:
1. “I can’t come in today. I feel sick.”
2. “Yeah I do have that degree”
3. “I’ll pray for you.”
4. “I’ll call you later.”
5. “The check is in the mail.”
6. “You get this one. I’ll pay next time”
7. “We can still be friends.”
8. “She means nothing to me.”
9. “Trust me, I’ll take care of it.”
10. “No one understands me.”
Let’s go back to anger. To be clear here, anger in itself is not sin as God can be angry (Deut. 9:8, 20; Ps. 2:12) and Jesus demonstrated righteous anger by cleansing the temple (John 2:13-22). Paul says in Ephesians, “Be angry, but do not sin. Do not let the sun go down in your anger” (Eph. 4:26). I think anger is rooted in the fact that we desire justice. The sin comes in how we respond to anger. It is the hatred, unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness, unkind words and hurtful behavior that is not pleasing to the Lord.
Illus: In Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner writes:
Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.
Obviously we can do a whole series on anger, but let me quickly give some practical thoughts on this.
1. Beware of destructive responses to anger.
a. Explosive. These people are not hard to identify. Typically they are
screamers, they are verbally abusive and often physically abusive.
b. Implosive. These people exhibit more passive aggressive behavior. They typically deny they are angry, often withdraw and brood. They think if they do not see the person or talk to the person, the anger will just go away. They fear confrontation, though they are quick to talk about the person behind their backs. Common statements are: “I’m not angry, I’m just frustrated, disappointed.” If you see them later and noticing a change in their demeanor, you ask: “What’s wrong?” and they say, “Oh, nothing. I’m just tired…had a long day” as they walk off.
c. Both are destructive! Implosive people can harbor hatred, bitterness, resentment and it can kill you eventually, even damaging your health.
2. Learn constructive responses to anger
a. When you become angry, say it aloud. Admit it.
b. Explosive people probably need a time out. Go walk around the block and count to 1,000, pray and come back.
c. Implosive people, knowing your tendency to withdraw, deny and brood, should talk about it right away.
d. Never get historical or hysterical or use “You always” or “You never” statements.
e. Locate the focus of your anger. Is it major or minor issue? How has the person wronged you? Frustration comes becomes expectations were not met. What expectations were not met? Are they legitimate expectations?
f. Listen carefully, lovingly, gently confront and let offenses go, releasing the offense to God in prayer.
We must purposely shed social sins and ruthlessly slay sexual sins!
There is a story about a little eagle that fell out of its nest and landed in a turkey farm. The eagle grew up among the turkeys and, although he looked a bit different, he learned to waddle like a turkey, bob his head like a turkey, and act like a turkey.
One day the young eagle looked up into the sky and saw a beautiful eagle soaring above. The little eagle in the turkey yard thought, Oh, I would love to be able to do that! As the eagle soared overhead, it looked down and saw the young eagle below. Suddenly it swooped down to the ground and asked, “What are you doing here?”
The little eagle replied, “I am just here in the turkey yard where I have always been.” The great eagle looked and said, “Spread your wings, boy. You do just what I do. Follow me.” Then he flapped his wings and lifted off the ground.
The young eagle tried it, too. “Wheeee! This is all right!”
“See,” the mature eagle said, “you have been living among these turkeys so long that you were beginning to believe you were something you are not! Follow me, and you will find out what you really are.”
So the little eagle began to soar and fly. He loved it. But the turkeys down below called out to him and said, “Hey, little guy, what are you doing up there? You belong down here.”
“No, I don’t,” called the young eagle. “I used to belong there, but now I am what I was created to be. I do not belong with you anymore.”
It’s time we soar as we are created to be. We have new identities and no need to hang out with the turkeys anymore! It’s time to demonstrate His Supremacy, with zero tolerance toward sin!
 Expositor’s Bible Commentary, The, Pradis CD OM:Colossians/Exposition of Colossians/(3:1-4:6)/B. Guidelines for the Christian Life (3:5-4:6), Book Version: 4.0.2
 From the sermon, “Spiritual Suicide,” gty.org.
MacArthur, J. (1996, c1992). Colossians (141). Chicago: Moody Press.
 For a complete list, visit http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-f007.html
Larson, C. B. (2002). 750 engaging illustrations for preachers, teachers & writers.. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 1998. (16). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.