Defeating the Enemy Within, Part 1 (Colossians Sermon 11 of 21)
November 25, 2007 | Andrew Davis
Sanctification, War Against the Flesh, Mortification, Original Sin, Indwelling Sin
Summer of 1986, I was on a mission trip, my first time out of the country. It was the first for many things for me. But I was on a mission trip to Kenya, and we were going around, another student from one of the local universities here and I, and a Kenyan pastor, a man named Moses Chepkwony, a godly man who had six different congregations that he looked after, small congregations in that district of Kenya. And he was going on visitation, going from place to place, seeking to preach the Gospel, to minister to both Christians and non-Christians alike. We came to a house, and there on a blanket, laying out under a tree in the shade, was a 16-year-old girl who was dying of malaria. Now, I've never encountered malaria before. I didn't know that much about it. In order to go to Kenya, I had to take malaria medicine. I didn't know, really, what the disease was like, but she was suffering all the classic symptoms, cyclical fevers and anemia. Her blood was being destroyed by a parasite.
That same summer, a little bit curious about what it was, I saw an article in a National Geographic magazine about the body's immune system, and they actually showed a scanning electron microscope photo, an enhanced color picture, of the malaria parasite. It's carried by mosquitoes and it's very devious, a treacherous foe. It somehow finds a way into the liver, and it hides itself in dead liver cells, so that the body's immune system won't destroy it, and then it multiplies. And it spreads throughout the body's blood, and it destroys the blood cells, the red blood cells, popping them like balloons, resulting in all kinds of problems, and for a million people a year, resulting in death.
And as I was thinking about the sermon today, my mind went to this disgusting image of a parasite within, an enemy inside your own body. If you could see a picture of it, it would turn your stomach. The enemy I'm speaking of is not the malaria parasite, it's sin. The enemy within. Romans 7:15-17, Paul says this, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I, myself, who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Yuck! “Sin living in me.” That's disgusting. How do you picture it? Some disgusting, vile, green, tiny monster swimming in your bloodstream or something, making you do the things you don't wanna do. “Sin living in me.”
Paul went on to say in Romans 7, “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being, I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Say Amen! There is a savior, and his name is Jesus, and he's come to rescue us from this inner enemy, this sin that dwells in the members of our body.
Now, as we come to Colossians 3, we don't have that kind of graphic language, but it's the same teaching. Colossians 3 and Romans 7 just completely intersect. The enemy there is indwelling sin, sin actually residing in the members of our body. Paul is arguing here that without putting sin to death, without warfare, we cannot be happy, healthy, productive, fruitful Christians. We must go to war. And we must go to war everyday.
Now, let's get some context here. Colossians was written because of a heresy that was threatening the Colossian church. The heresy taught that the physical world, the physical creation, the universe, was evil, and that salvation came from recognizing this through some special teaching, and having some special insights, and wisdom, and knowledge, given by emanation spirit beings like angels, of which Christ was one. Christ's death on the cross was not what it appeared to be and is not sufficient for our salvation. We must have human philosophy. We must have Jewish legalism. We must have mysticism, in the form of worship of angels. And we must have asceticism, the harsh treatment of the body, and in this way, we will be saved from sin.
Well, that's all false and Paul rectifies it by pure, clean, right doctrine, right teaching. First, on the person of Christ, in Colossians 1, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him, all things were created.” So the creation is good, Jesus made it, and he himself, by his own physical body, and he is deity in bodily form, took our sins on himself, and died on the cross, that we might have eternal life.
Salvation does not come by human philosophy. It doesn't come by Jewish legalism. It doesn't come by mysticism, the worship of angels, and it doesn't come by harsh treatment of the body, apart from understanding right doctrine. It doesn't come from any of these things. But what does it come from? What is the Christian life like? Colossians 3 is describing it and it's a beautiful passage of Scripture. Colossians 3:1-17, I just think if you could just memorize 17 verses in the Bible, do these. Well, don't just memorize them, though, do these, okay? Live it, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, a heavenly mindset.
The second section of it, is the one we're looking at today, and that is warfare, putting sin to death. The third section talks about living in a new community with people who are new people. You are a new person in Christ, live like it, and that looks like a certain thing in community with one another. It has to do with love, it has to do with compassion and kindness, it has to do with forgiveness, it has to do with the community, where it doesn't matter where you came from racially, ethnically, none of that matters. Barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free, none of that matters. What matters is a new creation in Christ, and we're in a new community together, and how sweet is that?
And then, finally, the final step is just letting Christ richly dwell in your hearts, letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, letting a piece of Christ dominate your life, letting your heart be overflowing with thankfulness. You wanna be happy, do those 17 verses.
Heavenly Mindset (vs. 1-4)
But the core of it is this battle, this warfare. And the connection, just in context, last time I preached on Colossians, we talked about setting our hearts on things above, developing a heavenly mindset.
What is the connection then? Well, there is a connection to warfare, because there's the word ‘therefore.’ Look at verse 5, Colossians 3:5 says, “Put to death, whatever belongs to your earthly nature." Well, ‘therefore’ causes you to look backward, what we were just talking about. Let's just go back one verse. Verse 4, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, your sin.” You see the connection? Because Christ is your life, put sin to death. Because someday he's going to appear and judge the world, put sin to death. Because someday you will appear with him in glory and sin will not be there anymore. God has deemed it unworthy of his eternal state. It's evil, it's nasty, it's disgusting. He wants it out. Therefore, it is to be destroyed now, as much as you can. Therefore, because of all of these things, put sin to death, that's the connection. Now, we have a context.
Vigorous Warfare Against Sin (vs. 5-9)
Steely-Eyed Killers of Sin
What is he telling us to do? Well, he's telling us to go to war, friends. That's what he's telling us to do. Verse 5, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” You look, for the most part, like sweet people. You're gonna ask me later about the “for the most part” part, but...
I don't always look sweet, but you look sweet, nice people, church people and all that, but you know the scripture's calling on you to become a steely-eyed killer. Nothing less. Or you could picture a medieval executioner, one of these vicious looking guys with big chests, and big arms, and a black hood with narrow slits, and a curved axe. And sin's head is down on the chopping block, and no mercy is shown, none. Or a contract assassin, hunting down your prey, getting that one in the crosshairs, and pulling the trigger, until the person you're seeking is dead. You think, “That's not Christian.” Well, when it comes to another human being, no, but when it comes to sin, when it comes to sin, that's exactly what you're called to do here. Show it no mercy.
Or perhaps, you could take the role of Eisenhower, in charge of all of the Allied forces in Europe, and your job is to crush the life out of Nazi Germany, until it is done. Nazi Germany, over. And you're gonna advance on all fronts, until they surrender unconditionally, and there's no mercy gonna be shown. You're not gonna leave some Nazism there, it's going to be eradicated, nothing left. Whatever image helps you, but you're called on to be a steely-eyed killer of sin. We must put it to death, we must kill it.
John Owen, his classic “Mortification of Sin” - ‘Mortification’ is just an old word for putting it to death - Has been my guide, as I prepared this sermon. And you oughta read it, what a work. And he's gonna say far more than I can say in the short time we have together, but he said this, very simply: “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”
Richard Baxter, similarly, another Puritan, put it this way, “Deal with sin, as it would deal with you; spare it not, for it will not spare you; it is your murderer, and the murderer of the world: deal with it, therefore, as a murderer should be dealt with. Kill it before it kills you; and though it bring you to the grave, as it did Christ, your Head, it shall not be able to keep you there forever.” Amen. Grace wins, resurrection wins. We're gonna be free someday, but that someday isn't here yet. And so we are called on to fight, to put it to death.
Happiness and Fruitfulness Impossible without Warfare
And so, I say to you, that happiness and fruitfulness is impossible without warfare. “You can't make any progress in the Christian life,” John Owen said, “unless you walk across the bellies of your dead lusts.” You gotta put them to death. You will make no progress without this kind of fight. We are not living in a peaceful country, we're living in a war zone. It doesn't matter what it looks like around you. We are living in a war zone and you are living in a war zone, spiritually, wherever you live on the face of the earth, it does not matter.
And so Owen said, “When sin leaves us alone, we may leave sin alone.” Will sin ever leave us alone? Yes. When we're glorified, it will. And then we can forget it. We will move on, but that's not yet, and therefore, we may not leave sin alone. And so Owen said, “The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depend on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.” You wanna be strong, you wanna be healthy, you wanna be happy, and productive, and fruitful in the Christian life? You must go to war against sin. There's no other way, you must. You must fight.
Understanding the Enemy Outside the Walls
Alright, well, let's understand our enemy. Let's start without the walls. Picture your soul like a walled fortress, just like Bunyan did in “Holy War,” and he imagines the city of man's soul, like one of those medieval fortresses, and so you're standing there on the walls. Let's understand the enemy outside the walls.
First of all, there's Satan. He's clever, he's relentless, he's vicious, he's way out of your league and mine. Far more powerful than any of us can imagine. Perhaps, I guess, theoretically, we could say the most powerful created being there is. I don't know that for sure, but quite possible. He's likened to a roaring lion, prowling around, seeking someone to devour. He will show you no mercy, but he's clever. He's compared to an angel of light, masquerading as something enticing and beautiful. He's prideful, he's tricky, he crafts schemes all the time. That's what's outside the walls. That's what he's doing out there.
Also outside the wall, so to speak, is the world, the world system. It's his greatest invention. It's an alluring, enticing, entrapping thing that operates on your soul, like gravity does on your body, pulling you, all the time, away from God, constantly. Lust toward sexual pleasure, greed toward material possession, ambition toward powerful positions, and gluttony to feed your carnal appetites. I know, it just been a few days from Thanksgiving, and perhaps you didn't do that. But there's always an enticing to go beyond the boundaries that God has set, gluttony or greed, it's there.
Understanding the Body… and the Enemy Within the Walls
Well, that's the enemy outside the walls, and fearsome are those enemies, Satan and all of his demonic cohort, and the world system, so clever, so alluring, so enticing. But what I wanna talk to you about today, is the enemy within the walls, the part inside that likes what's outside the walls, would open the gate, let him in. And here we get to the doctrine of the physical body, the Christian's body. And it's confusing, it's not easy to understand what's going on with our bodies, our physical bodies. Now, originally, not like the Colossian heretics, we're gonna say that the body was, originally completely good, very good. Created in the image of God, including the body, nothing inherently evil in the body, and that includes, friends, all of the body's natural functions, whether sexual, or digestive, or any of the functions of the body that God made, they are all good, there's nothing inherently or intrinsically wrong. We know that on many levels, Genesis 1 teaches it to us, but the incarnation teaches it as well.
God took on a human body, but a Christian's body is different than Christ's body, there's a key difference, and it has to do with sin. You see, Jesus was protected from original sin, by the virgin birth, and he was protected from habits of sin, by never having sinned. And so, therefore, he didn't train his mind and his body in sin, the way all of us have. He never did. He didn't have indwelling sin. But we do, our bodies have a history of sin. Look at verse 7. After listing sexual immorality, lust, evil desires, greed, and going on to mention malice, and rage, and filthy language, and all of these nasty things, in verse 7, it says, “In these, you too once walked, when you were living in them.” None of us clean, friends. We used to walk in this. It's who we are.
You can listen to the music how you like. I don't wanna put my own convictions over any, but when Chris was singing “Lord, Have Mercy,” I hope there was something stirring inside you, that said, “Oh, I need your mercy. I need your mercy, oh, God. I'm a sinner. I need your covering grace everyday. I'm not fit for Heaven as I am. Intrinsically, I have sinned.” Oh, did you sense that need for mercy? And thanks be to God, it's available in Christ. How sweet is that? “But it's right,” says James, “To grieve, and mourn, and wail, and change your laughter to mourning, and your joy to gloom, and face your sin, and confess, and humble yourselves under God's mighty hand, and let him lift you up in due time.” In these, we once walked, when we used to live like that.
And in that, sin was at work in our bodies, it's very bodily. In Romans 7, listen, Romans 7:5, “For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.” Romans 6:19 says, “You used to offer the parts or the members of your body in slavery to impurity, and to ever-increasing wickedness.” Your body was involved. Now, sin, trained through years of habit, has taken root in your body. Again, Romans 7:23, “I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner, the law of sin at work within my members.”
The same word is over in Colossians 3, “The members of the body.” Now, what are these? Wouldn't it be nice, in one sense, if all the sin were collected in “the right hand,” as Jesus said? If your right hand causes you to sin, we could just cut it off and throw it away. But it's not, it's primarily in the brain. Let's be honest. It's in the way we think, but it's also connected to the bodily drives, what the body wants, whether sexual desire, or desire for comfort and ease, or desire for food or drink. The things the body craves, the brain takes and sins with it, out of habit.
And thus, does Paul call this body, a “body of sin” and a “body of death.” Roman 6:6, “We know that our old self was crucified with him.” We're no longer the old person. That person died. It's better than the witness protection program. We're in a whole new identity now. God upholds you. We are a new man, a new woman. That person's dead. We don't need to crucify the old man, the old woman. That person's dead. But we take along, from the history, a body of sin that has to be progressively done away with. That's what Romans 6:6 says, “We know that the old self was crucified with Him, so that the body of sin might be done away with, rendered null over time, that we should no longer be slaves to sin,” or again, Romans 7:24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
So you have a body of sin, body of death, that's what you have. Say, “Oh, get me out of the body.” Well, if you're out of the body, you are what? Somebody tell me. You're dead, that's right. Absent from the body, present with the Lord, that means your life here is over. So while you live, you're living in a body of sin/body of death. You are. And in that body, you will serve the Lord. And therein lies the difficulty. We are Christ's hands, we are his feet, we are his mouth, we are here to serve him. We have to use the body to do it. And therefore Paul says, “I beat my body,” 1 Corinthians 9, “and make it my slave, lest after I've preached to others, I myself might not be disqualified for the prize,” 1 Corinthians 9:27.
So we have to understand the need for constant vigilance. And oh, do we have to understand our salvation. Salvation comes to us in stages, it comes to us in parts. I've said it before, I'll say it again, it starts with justification. By simple faith in Christ, you, as a sinner, look to Jesus, whose blood was shed on the cross for sinners. You look to him and you say, “He is my righteousness. I am united with him by faith. He died the death I deserved to die and his righteousness is mine.” That's justification. The judge, by simple faith, God the judge, looks on you as holy and pure as Jesus, positionally, the moment you come to Christ. He sees you as pure, positionally.
And if you die, you go to Heaven, because of Christ's perfect righteousness, but you didn't die and go to Heaven now, did you? It was years ago, when you were justified, and from that point to this, you've been in the process of sanctification, and that's a whole different thing. That was a single moment, a single instant, you received the indwelling Spirit, you received the gift of justification, a single instant. But there's been many hours and years, even, since then, progressively growing in godliness and Christ-like in sanctification.
And in the end, there is glorification, another instant, or really, two instances: An instant of death and the instant of the general resurrection. The soul perfected at the instant of death, the body perfected at the resurrection. In the end, we are as perfect as Jesus. By the power of God, made like him. And how sweet is that?
But that's in the future. Now, we are in the process of sanctification, and the essence of it is warfare, friends. It is warfare, every moment of your life here on earth. It couldn't be more serious. And that's where we are. So we understand our salvation. We understand Romans 8:1 says, “There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” and then Romans 8:13, Paul says, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” There's no condemnation for the Christian who is at war by the Spirit, against the deeds of the flesh. That's the person for whom there's no condemnation.
Understanding Our Universal Duty to Kill Sin
I say to you, every single day, if you're a Christian, the Holy Spirit gets you up out of bed, dresses you, and sends you to battle, sends you to war. That's what he's doing. And frankly, if he's not doing that, you are dead in your transgressions and sins, you are not saved. This is what it means to be a child of God. He leads you into war. He leads you into war with indwelling sin. Therefore, we have a universal duty to kill sin. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature," not 60% of what belongs to it, and not 60% of the Christians. This is a universal command from Christ, through the Apostle Paul, to all Christians. No Christian is exempt. No sin pattern is exempt.
There's no Christian who's arrived and said, “I don't need to be mortified anymore. I have arrived. I'm perfect.” No one's like that. While you live, you're at war. And there's no sin pattern, that God's ever gonna wave the white flag over, and say, “Look, I'm gonna just give you a pass on that one. You just keep doing that. I don't like it, but you just keep doing it.” He will not do that. You know why he will not do that? Because sin, first of all, is evil, and second of all, it doesn't ever stay put. It doesn't just stay there, it just keeps multiplying, and growing, and growing. He will never do that.
And so, therefore, John Owen put it this way, “The choicest believers, who are assuredly free from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.” So even if you're the most mature, I think the more mature you are, the more you recognize how much you need to fight this battle, that's what it is.
Naming the Battlefields
Now, let's name the battlefields. Paul gets quite specific here, doesn't he? This is where Paul, as they say, begins to meddle. He gets involved, he starts to tell us what we must not do, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”
Studying the Enemy’s Tactics and Objective
We have to study the enemy's tactics, the key elements. A key element in the American Civil War is how much one general would know the tendencies of the other general, and be able to take advantage of it. Sixth century BC, a Chinese military expert, Sun Tzu, wrote a book called “The Art of War,” and this is what he said, “If you know both yourself and your enemy, you'll come out of 100 battles with 100 victories.” That sounds good to me, doesn't it sound to you? Know yourself and your enemy, you're gonna win every time. Well, I'm not sure that's true on the battlefield, but I think it's important that we know ourselves and we know our enemy.
Now, what is Satan gonna try to do? What has he used to try to trip us up? Well, first of all, sin always aims at the utmost in any one category. It always wants to take you right to the end, that's what sin wants. It just doesn't tell you that, initially. Therefore, it's deceitful, it's tricky. It doesn't come and say, “I want to ruin your world. I wanna destroy and take away from you everything you value, that's what I wanna do.” It doesn't do that.
John Owen said, “Sin always aims at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, if allowed to have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism. ... It is like the grave, that is never satisfied. And herein lies no small share of the deceitfulness of sin.” It doesn't tell you what it's aiming at; it's aiming at your ruin. It wants to ruin your soul. It wants to discredit the gospel. It wants to make you fruitless. It wants to put you on the sideline. It wants to do all of that and more, that's what sin wants to do. Am I wrong to personify sin? No, Paul does it, “Sin living in me.” “Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me and put me to death.” It's a living active thing.
Sins of Perverted Love
And so, we listen, there are two different categories here, in Colossians: Sins of perverted love and sins of broken relationships. That's what I call it. You can give it a different title. But the first just has to do with the fact that our hearts were built to love, to yearn, to desire. And that's good, but this is perverted love, this is out of boundaries love. You're loving in ways that it's not love. And so he starts with sexual immorality. The Greek word is ‘porneia,’ ‘sexual sin,’ from which we get, of course, the word ‘pornography.’ We're specifically commanded to flee this. In 1 Corinthians 6:18, it says, “Flee from porneia, flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” This is such a weak spot for us human beings. It really is. We should not underestimate. We should notice that he begins here with sex. He starts here.
1453, the city of Constantinople fell, finally, to the Muslims. It was the last vestige holding out of the Eastern Roman Empire. It held out for centuries, almost a thousand years beyond the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the fall of Rome, almost a thousand years. And why? Well, it was strong, very strong. It had triple walls to defend it. They used Greek fire, all kinds of things. They were able to defend one attack after another, until gunpowder was invented.
And the Ottoman Turks hired a guy to make a huge cannon that fired 800 pound balls a mile in distance. It was so unwieldy, it could only fire three times a day. But there were other cannons that could fire more rapidly, and they concentrated on a section of the wall, and just beat on it, beat on it, beat on it, beat on it, until they opened up a breach. And that's where they focused their attack, on the breach in the wall. It just so happens, that as they're focusing their attack there, someone in Constantinople left open a gate over on the other side, and they come flooding in through the gate. The image is the same.
You see, sex, marital relations, as we would think about it properly, is a breach in the wall of our souls. It's a weak spot, and therefore, Satan focuses so much of his activity and his effort there. But it didn't start with the actions of porneia, that's not it. He goes back a step to impurity. It's called uncleanness, evil thoughts and intentions of a defiled mind. You get the picture of a dirty pipe, clean water running through is fouled at the end, dirty things. A step back from that is passion or lust, a sense of heat, of emotions getting stirred up. It's so tragic, when you hear the man say, after committing adultery with his secretary, “I don't know what happened. It just took over, like a freight train,” and all that. What a fool. What did you think? Can a man scoop fire into his lap and hope not to get burned? It's not possible. But that's heat, it's a sense of heat.
Hosea 7, it says, verse 4 and following, “They are all adulterers, burning like an oven, whose fire the baker need not stir, from the kneading of the dough 'til it rises. Their passion smolders all night. In the morning, it blazes like a flaming fire. All of them are hot as an oven.” It's like heat, it's passion. And evil desire. God created us to yearn to want things. Well, this is perverse desire, wanting something you ought not to want. It's a good gift to want. It's bad to apply it to the evil things that evil desire applies it to.
And then, ultimately, greed/idolatry. Greed, which is idolatry, there's a root, taking the created thing and putting it above your relationship with the Creator. Saying in effect, “I wanted that more than I wanted Jesus.” How could we be idolaters? But that's what greed is, it's not just money, it's anything, even in the area of sexual immorality. Remember what Nathan said to David? “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘I gave you all of this, I gave you a Kingdom. I gave you everything. If it had been too little, I would've given you more. Why did you want more? Why did you want what wasn't given to you? She was Uriah's wife. She wasn't yours.’” It's greed, wanting something, but he put value on her more than on God. That's sins of perverted love.
Sins of Broken Relationships
And then there's sins of broken relationships. “Now, you must rid yourselves,” it says, “Of all such things as these: Anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” It's amazing how three of them just have to do with anger: Anger, rage, and malice. We're just angry. We're commanded to put them aside like a dirty shirt. Oh, wouldn't it be sweet, if it were that easy? Just take it off, and throw it away, and never see it again.
But you have to put it off constantly. How many times do you get angry a day? Think about it. How many times of the times you get angry, is your central core motive, “The glory of God! The coming Kingdom of Christ! Tears flow down my eyes, because God's law is violated.” That's not what it is. You've been violated in some way. Someone crept in your space, took your cookie. You had your designs on it. That was yours, and someone came, and took it. That's why you get angry.
And anger is to rage - I was talking to my kids about this - Anger is to rage, as a nudge is to a shove. How many people are sitting in prison, do you think, today, never having intended to kill the person they killed? They just don't know how it got out of hand. They did want to hurt; they didn't want to kill. It just went beyond what they thought.
And then there's malice, as Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural, “With malice toward none.” What that means is, “I will never forgive them for what they did, never. I cannot forgive them.” It's a settled, cold, long-term rage, because of sin that's been done to you.
And then there's filthy language, foul speech. There's lying. The Bible's just about a manual on lying. Cain was the first, “Am I my brother's keeper? I don't know where he is.” He said, “It's not my day to watch him.” He knew exactly where he was. And it goes right on through there. Abraham's lie. Sarah lied about laughing, remember? “Oh, yes, but you did laugh.” End of discussion. When the judge says you laughed, you laughed. “No, I didn't laugh.” Abraham lied about her being his sister. Isaac did the same thing. Jacob lied. “Who are you?” “I am your son, Esau.” What a lie. Joseph's brothers lied, “Check this out. Is this your son's coat? It's covered with blood. Could it be a wild animal has eaten him?” What a lie. And we're not even out of the Book of Genesis yet. There's 65 more books of human lies. God cannot lie. But we almost can't help but lie, it seems. Sins of broken relationships.
What Is at Stake
Now, what's at stake? By the way, that's not a complete list. I hope you know that. The Bible has a lot more to say about sin than just these. These are suggestive, but this is who we are, friends. But what's at stake? Well, “Because of these,” verse 6, “The wrath of God is coming.” It's a terrifying warning. Wrath is God's passionate reaction to sin. He's not like Plato's god, a dispassionate thinking machine who doesn't care. He actually cares greatly and wrath is his passionate reaction to sin. And God's wrath is reasonable. “Because of these things, the wrath of God is coming.” It's coming on those who disobey.
Now, Sodom and Gomorrah, fire and brimstone came down. There's the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, that's a picture of God's wrath. Greatest of all in the Old Testament was Noah's flood. Every living thing that breathed air in its nostrils died, except those that were on the ark, terrible picture of God's wrath.
Depicted Clearly in the Book of Revelation
But none of those compare to the wrath that is yet to come on the Earth. Read about it in the Book of Revelation, when seven seals are broken, and seven trumpets sound, and seven bowls are poured out on the earth, and the earth is left a smoldering ruin. There's nothing left, and the sea is turned to blood, and there's no drinking water, and everything, by the billions, die. But that is nothing compared to the final expression of God's wrath, which is eternity in hell.
Revelation 20, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged, according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it. And death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them. And each person was judged, according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. And if anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” And it's described also in Revelation 14:10-11, “He, too, will drink the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur, in the presence of the holy angels and of the lamb, and the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest, day or night.”
Christ’s Death Only Shelter from the Wrath of God
It is real, friends. Jesus came to save us from it. And I fear that some people are, like during the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, going out, and digging a hole six feet into the ground, and covering it with corrugated tin, and putting some cans of food and some water in there for the coming nuclear attack. It will not survive. Everyone in there will be incinerated.
There is only one refuge from the coming wrath and that is the blood of Jesus Christ. He is our lightning rod, he drank the cup of God's wrath, and if we stand under his shadow, we will be protected from the wrath of God. Have you trusted in Him? Have you come to Christ? It says in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “Jesus rescues us from the coming wrath.” By the way, note the verb tense, you Christians, “Jesus rescues us from the coming wrath.” Do you still need to be rescued from it? Yes. You need to be rescued right now, from the coming wrath. We need to be continually saved, by Jesus, continually protected and kept in the faith from indwelling sin. “He rescues us from the coming wrath.” Thanks be to God.
Practical Guidelines for Killing Sin
Now, how do we fight sin? You have 12 steps there and I'm not gonna go through them. I don't know what to do with this list. God will speak to me over this next week. I may preach it to you next week, but I do wanna begin this way.
Come to Christ
I do wanna begin this way: You can't fight sin if you're dead already. If you are dead in your transgressions and sins, this battle is not for you, because you can't fight it. Come to Christ. Don't just come to church, come to Christ. Trust in him. You cannot survive judgment day, you cannot fight sin. If you try to fight sin without Jesus, everything you do will be repugnant to God. He will look on it as a selfish, prideful display of your own morality and it will be wretched to him. But if you humble yourself and say, “I need Jesus. I need a Savior. Lord, you came to save sinners like me. I do these things. I lust. I've committed immorality. I've looked at internet pornography. I've lied. I've been angry, selfishly angry, and more besides, I must have Jesus.” Then he'll save you. Trust in him.
Determine to Fight this Vicious Battle Every Day
Now, if you're a Christian, there's a lot of things you can do and I wanna talk about that. I'd said, “I'm gonna preach this in 30 minutes,” it's impossible. It can't be done. At least get this out of this sermon: You must fight sin. You can just read the list and say... Use your imagination... “What would the pastor have said about that cross-centered fighting and all that?”
We'll talk about that next week. I didn't wanna do it, but I'm gonna do it. You need to know how to fight sin, but get this outta this: You must get up from the Lord's table that we're about to go to and you must go off into warfare. Not against your spouse… No, on behalf of your spouse, fight your sin, so that you become the sweet, loving husband or wife they thought they were getting on that wonderful day.
Fight sin, and you will be joyful, and fruitful, and you will see what God will do through you. God willing, we'll talk about it next week. You can't fit 40 pounds of stuff in a 10-pound bag, I've learned that.
But listen, we're going to a time now of the Lord's Supper. What I want you to do is, I want you to prepare your hearts. Has the Lord spoken to you today? Are you convicted? Do you need to come to the cross again? Can you bow before Him, and like Chris was singing so powerfully, say, “Lord, have mercy on me. Because of these things that I've done, your wrath is coming. Thankfully, you've created a space for me, that I can be protected from what I've done, but God, I did it. Please forgive me.”
Can you bow before him? And don't leave anything undone. While you're waiting to receive the Lord's Supper, confess, so that you don't take the elements unworthily, and eat and drink judgment on yourself. I may say to you, if God brought you here today, and you're not a Christian, and you've never trusted in him, don't take the Lord's Supper. It's for Christians who have testified to their faith by baptism, so don't take the Lord's Supper. As I've said before, be prepared that you can take it next time. Come to faith in Christ, trust in him, be baptized, then you take the Lord's Supper. But if you are a Christian, I ask you to make use of this time, as the elements are being passed out, to confess your sin and be ready to receive.