“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
The daily “news” is so saturated with stories of conflict, terroristic oppression, racial hatred, rapes, torture, heinous murders, constant mayhem, global nuclear threats, and epidemic destruction that if you took it all seriously as personal mortal threats to your own well-being, you would not mentally survive. You must, as you do daily, separate yourself from the nearness and reality of it all, living in false thinking, illogically insulated against every threat, hoping nothing penetrates to where you live. It is so pervasive in our world that we wonder what you or any ordinary individual among billions of human beings could possibly do to change the overall world situation into a more peaceful and livable environment.
Well, God does not intend for you alone to change the world as it is. He intends for you to change YOU in the midst of this fallen world and for you to know that your life can truly impact others in your own orbit, for good and eternity. This means you must come to the realization that you must see the necessity of personally executing yourself. Not taking your own life by suicide, but putting your own sinful character in the electric chair, putting it to death, as Paul so clearly defines in Colossians and elsewhere. We do not begin by asking, “How do I change the world?” but rather, “How do I control what I can control – namely, me?”
It is a genuinely serious plan of personal reconstruction; it is a necessary plan which takes priority over all others. And what is more important: It is doable! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” It takes faith, and faith is certainly attainable; it is a gift of God to all who are in Christ (Ephesians 2). Being in Christ gives you the gift of faith, which is all you need. But the gift of faith must be exercised to put sin in you to death. This you must do: Die to yourself! This is a one-time event when Christ comes into your life initially, AND it is as well a lifetime process. You must always be in the mode of putting your sinful nature to death. It only ends when you cross the river from this life to being glorified in heaven. Keep on keeping on until you see Him face-to-face.
When you see sin and fallenness all around, don’t look outward before looking inward. Sin still lives in you. Take care of these sins first, before being a judge of others. This is the definition of humility in your character. Humility comes from judging yourself continuously. Humility is the affirmation that you genuinely crave Christlikeness. Jesus is humble; He defines it by who He is. You can learn humility from studying His life. And you can best exercise it in the environment of a sinful world, because living in such is a constant test to whether you have humility and whether or not your humility is growing. This world along with its prince, the devil, is the only true crucible to determine whether or not humility and Christ-like character dwell in you.
Living in this world, your world, is God’s test of your sanctification, which the Westminster Shorter Catechism describes as “dying more and more unto sin, and living more and more unto righteousness.” You see, this requires you putting sin to death, a necessary execution of all the sin which dwells in you. This is a regular discipline of a humble life. There is no more discipline which is more important. Its rewards are infinite. Its results in molding you are all which will pass attached to you into eternity. Naked you were born, and naked you will leave, accompanied only with your character. Your possessions and earthly honors, which you may believe established your status in life, are all vacated at the grave. Only character passes through to eternity.
So, by your faith execute mortification; that is, putting your sinful self to death. And keep plunging the knife into its heart as a daily regimen. Sin doesn’t die easily, but it does die eventually. Faith tells me to not give up. Keep it up till you look into His eyes. As Job tells you in Job 19, that day is coming!
“When this passing world is done, when has sunk yon glaring sun, when we stand with Christ in glory, looking o’er life’s finished story, then, Lord, shall I fully know, not till then, how much I owe.”
(1st verse of Robert Murray McCheyne’s hymn, “When This Passing World Is Done,” 1837)
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