To date we’ve talked about 1) Physical Fitness, 2) Financial Fitness, 3) Emotional Fitness, and today, concluding with 4) Spiritual Fitness. Most of us know that to have fitness in any area requires certain disciplines, which often include denying yourself certain “pleasures”- like ice cream!
But Spiritual Fitness actually requires us to not merely deny ourselves but to actually “put some things to death!”
Note Col. 3:5-11 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile,circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized,slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
WHAT WE MUST PUT TO DEATH!
Before we get into the specific commands we need to understand the seriousness of Paul’s words as it relates to what it means to have spiritual fitness.
First, the word for “put to death” is very strong. The word suggests radical action. The things on Paul’s list are like a cancer to our spiritual life. And Paul says you have to be willing and able to actually “cut these things out of your life for the greater good!”
Remember Aron Ralston? He became famous for cutting off his arm with a dull pocketknife in 2003 after getting it wedged in a rock while hiking solo in a remote canyon in Utah. Aron Ralston, after 5 days in this horrible condition, finally figured out what we all need to conclude- unless I cut this arm off I will die right here!
This is the same idea as Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:29-30… “So if your eye- even your good eye– causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand- even your stronger hand– causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
It’s with that same seriousness and intensity that we are to address the following potential “destroyers” of spiritual fitness in our lives. But that’s not all. Notice that Paul says it is on account of these things that “God’s anger is coming.” He wants us to take rigorous action because this is sin that separates us from God. These sins lead to God’s displeasure rather than blessing. These sins rob us of spiritual fitness for life.
I won’t read it, but Galatians 5:19-21 contains a similar list. But let’s look at the list Paul gave to the Colossians. The challenge we face is that the things on this list are all similar in their shades of meaning. So let’s make some distinctions.
Immorality. Specifically, the reference is to sexual misconduct. The Greek word here is the word porneia. It is the word from which we get our word pornographic. The word refers to any sexual relationship outside the context of marriage. I realize that this is a sensitive issue. I also realize that any message of sexual purity before marriage usually meets with laughs in today’s culture. However, the Bible is crystal clear. Sex is right ONLY in marriage. Society may have changed, but God hasn’t.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 we read, “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own bod and live in holiness and honor- not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. Never harm or cheat a Christian brother in this matter by violating his wife,for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives.
There are more acts of gratuitous sex in one hour of TV today than our grandparents were exposed to in a lifetime! But does that make it right? Does that mean it’s not harmful to our lives spiritually and otherwise? The Bible makes it clear that this is an area than will be destructive to your life in more ways than one!
Impurity. What causes immoral behavior? Impurity. This is wider and more subtle than physical immorality. It involves unhealthy thought, imagination, or speech. This is what immediately precedes immorality. Immorality is the act, but impurity is the thought! Impure thoughts have to be cut out of our minds and put to death!
Lust. This is a great desire or longing for that which is sinful. If you find yourself craving someone else in a sexual way that is not your spouse, this is lust. Lust is seeing people as objects for your own personal enjoyment rather than as people. It is seeing the sexual act as something isolated from relationship and commitment.
Have you heard of “Necrotizing Fasciitis?” It’s more commonly known as “flesh-eating” disease. It is a bacterial infection that gets into your body, usually through a scrape or abrasion that attacks the soft tissue or fascia that covers the muscle, and bottom line, just starts eating away at your body!
Well, that’s what Lust does spiritually– it starts eating away at your life in so many areas and it has to be cut out and put to death for you to be spiritually fit!
Evil Desires. Lust is obviously an evil desire. However, this is about those desires that lead us to look for “greater thrills”- feed the selfish want/desire of the flesh! It’s that desire to be aroused that leads to the purchase of a pornographic magazine or video. It is evil desire that leads to dangerous flirtations. It is evil desire that will push you to see how close to the “edge” you can get without falling off. But we all know what happens in that scenario- we fall big time!
Greed. It may seem strange to you that “greed” is included with all of these other things. But in reality this is the core ingredient of lust and immorality. Greed is the desire to have something that someone else possesses. In other words, it is dissatisfaction with what God has given you. In essence it is the belief that some object, experience, person, or possession will bring fullness to your life.
Do you see how this works? You are not content with your spouse so you take someone else’s. You are not content with your relationship so you seek to augment it through pornography and other lusts. And even as you get older you may not crave the sexual but you will transfer your desires to the material. Discontent leads to sin. And isn’t this the crux of so many people’s unhealthy, unfit, failing spiritual lives? Discontentment that leads to greed!
What makes the situation even worse is the amazing human capacity for self-delusion in respect to sensuality. I have known Sunday School Marriage Class teaching “Christians” who talked sensitively about biblical relationship and theology and morality and serious issues, yet were adulterous and addicted to porn. Even more tragic, is the fact the delusion can be so deep in one’s life that people see no inconsistency in their behavior!
Solomon spoke with great wisdom when he asked, “Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire?” (Prov. 6:27) Solomon’s point is clear: you cannot ignore God’s standards without paying a price. Think about some of the costs because we do not keep our lives spiritual fit: Broken homes, Erosion of trust in marriage, Loss of the specialness of the sexual union, Superficial relationships, Sexual disease, Violence of Rape, Increase in the rate of aborted children, Your Christian witness is destroyed!
Again Solomon’s question: “Can we really play with fire and expect that fire to not get out of control?” Example: My cousin and me playing with matches as kids…
Any time we play with fire we are risking that the fire will get out of control. Our job then is to do everything possible to maintain purity in our minds and heart. We must take action. The reason Paul makes this list and the one in Galatians is because he knows that sensuality and self-gratification is what is so destructive to our spiritual condition!
The question is, “Are we willing to do whatever it takes?” God is not requiring you to literally to gouge out your eye or cut off your arm. But the Bible is imploring you to know how serious and important it is to rid ourselves of those things that do not lead to spiritual purity and fitness in our lives!
Jack Eckerd, who owns a chain of drug stores called the Eckerd Drug chain, became a Christian. He walked into one of his stores one day and spied some soft-core porn magazines and immediately realized this was wrong. He ordered his chief of operations to remove the offensive magazines from all his stores. But the man pushed back and said that those magazines made their stores a lot of money. But Eckerd still ordered them to be taken out of his stores. He understood that when he asked Christ to take over His life he had to rid himself of those things that do not produce a Christ-like life and spiritual fitness!
The classic Biblical example is Joseph. He was serving an official named Potiphar. He was seen as a faithful servant and therefore was given great authority in Potiphar’s household. Well, Mrs. Potiphar thought Joseph was quite the “hunk”. She gave him all kinds of subtle signals that she was interested in a “relationship with Joseph. Joseph resisted. One day however, Mrs. Potiphar threw herself at Joseph. Joseph could have said, “Who would know?” But he knew that God knew. He also knew that Potiphar trusted him. So Joseph ran away to protect his virtue. The scorned Mrs. Potiphar made up some stories and Joseph was accused of something he didn’t do and was thrown into prison… but he had remained pure!
KEY: Joseph is the great example for us. When those immoral thoughts and feelings come our way… RUN! When temptations come out way… RUN! We all know running will help you be physically fit. Well, RUNNING AWAY from sinful desire, will keep you spiritually fit!
WHAT WE MUST GET RID OF!
But Paul is not finished with his list, he continues by listing other things that we must get rid if you want to be spiritually fit. I don’t have time to go through this in detail, but we do need to note them. Paul says, “Get rid of…”
Anger. Anger is something that builds within us caused by some type of frustration. It usually comes because we are frustrated that we are not getting our way about something. People didn’t respond the way we expected so we are angry. This anger begins to boil within us and like lust eat away at our defenses.
Rage is the boiling over of anger. It is seen in a quick-tempered person. Rage is when we “lose control”. We “fly off the handle”. Rage is when anger comes spewing out. And it always leaves casualties in its wake.
Malice is the bitterness that seeks to hurt another. It is malice that causes us to say hurtful things. It is malice that leads us to “go for the jugular”. It is a viciousness of mind.
Slander is hurtful speech that defames a person’s character. It is often speaking hurtful or distorted truth to make another person look bad.
Filthy Language is when anger controls a person causing them to spew hurtful and vile words. It’s not “bad words” that we associate as “cuss” words. They are words, talk, that are laced with vile, malice, and anger!
All of these things that Paul mentions emotional feelings that get out of control and if you don’t get rid of them, they’re not only sabotaging your spiritual fitness, they’re destroying your life and other people’s lives in the process! A moment of anger can destroy what it has taken a lifetime to build.
We all know that when you begin a diet it is not enough to know what foods that are healthy to eat, but maybe more importantly, what foods that are unhealthy that you need to stay away from . . .
Paul tells us to stay away from immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. He says to put them to death and to get rid of them. But how do we gain control over these things? Let me offer some suggestions that will help us develop spiritual fitness:
We need to cultivate a deeper love for the Lord. If our passion is for the right things it will not be available for wrong uses. Daily time with the Lord guards us from sin, alerts us to temptation, and continues the process of building the life of Christ in us.
We should admit the struggle. There is nothing worse than trying to fight these things alone. We need relationships where we can be honest about our struggles. We need people around us who will tell us when they see us going in the wrong direction. Life Groups, mentors, true friends should serve thst purpose!
We must understand the nature of new life in Christ. We died to these old things. We are set free from these things to something far better and fitter. We have Christ in us and anytime we engage in these activities we stain the name of Christ. We take Him with us wherever we go. We represent Jesus.
We need to be alert to the warning signs. We need to recognize when our thinking is drifting into the impure. We need to turn off the shows that pander to lust. We should put down the reading material that is filling our mind with garbage. There is too much at stake! When anger begins to well up inside of us we must stop and ask, “why am I angry?”
We all want to be spiritually healthy. It would be nice if there was a pill you could take or a book you could read that would produce spiritual vitality and fitness. But there isn’t any such things. We become healthy physically and spiritually the same way: you have to eliminate what is harmful and cultivate what is helpful. It’s not easy . . . but it is the only way.