If we allow God by grace to live in us and through us, despite our stubbornness our lives should be transformed and set apart from the world. When God is the head, the body is a blessing that can defend and declare the faith while demonstrating what God has done, and our lives should be marked by peace, love, selflessness and patience.

Scripture References: Colossians 3:5-17

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Message Notes

Todd Wagner

About Todd Wagner

In 1999, a group of friends and I desired to be the same awe-inspiring community that we saw in the Scriptures and to connect God's people with opportunities to know... Read more

Message Transcript
Lord, I thank you for my friends and for the chance we have to gather here together this morning. By hearing about your goodness declared to us through song and in hearing, Father, what we're about to consider as we look at your Word, we pray you would take us to a place where we can say with greater integrity, "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere." We live in a world that is begging us to believe that just one minute in your presence is going to kill our joy, steal our fun. Our flesh is consistently begging us to attain to other things as a means through which our lives might be full of life, and the Enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy is always warring with our souls. So we're grateful for a chance to re-snap the plumb line of truth this morning and align our lives with it once more so we might know what is true and in finding truth find freedom. I pray, Lord, you would not allow us to miss truth as it is there for us and that you would lead us out of whatever darkness, despair, lukewarmness, or vile rebellion we are in, half-hearted surrender we are about, that we might experience what you intended us to: a life that can only be quantified as eternal in its goodness. Would you help us and accomplish that as we strive together to be more like Christ or to even _come_ to this Christ who will by his grace allow us to know him? Do your work in us. Don't let us miss what is there that is for our good and your glory, amen. We have been having some fun with a little series called _CSI: The Colossae Scene Investigated_. A group of folks about 2,000 years ago were given a letter from a guy by the name of Paul, and the letter was to encourage them in their consideration of, once again, what they had received with gladness, which is the good news that God, in his love, has broken through the veil of eternal separation and has himself come and offered himself as a source of life to those who had long ago left him. In this world that can be described as anything other than a paradise, God has come back and invited us back into a relationship with him where some of that paradise could be reclaimed in the way we have hope in a hopeless world, in the way we live in a loving way in a very self-centered world, and in the way we begin to have forgiveness where we know there has been separation and pain until such a time as his will is done on this earth as he intended from the beginning and he restores us back to a place that will make Eden pale in comparison. That's the story of the Scriptures. Paul said it's a story that the folks in the town of Colossae had embraced, and in embracing it he said, "You have found everything you need pertaining to life. You don't need philosophic speculations. You don't need to wonder if you can make yourself more holy by certain visions, by certain angelic manifestations you long for. You don't need to beat your flesh to show your disapproval to it. You don't need to go through certain food taboos and have certain festivals and feasts that are going to show how serious you are about dealing with that which is in the world that isn't right. No. None of that makes you holy. You can put paint and putty over your termite-infested, rotten wood house, but it is still a house that is doomed until the house is made new and what is there is torn out and something new is introduced." At the state fair every fall here in this area, you have all kinds of kids from the Future Farmers of America. FFA kids go down there and take their pigs. They scrub them, they mop them, they broom them, they put perfume on them, they put a bow on their tail, they comb the hair over their head, but they are still a pig. You can be a pretty pig, you can be a clean pig, but you, at the end of the day, are still a pig. Paul is saying, "Do not climb the stairway to enlightenment thinking it's going to make you a smarter pig. You'll still be a pig. Don't eat good food so you'll be a healthier pig. You're still a pig. You let somebody come and deal with your pigness and make you new." Then he goes on to say if you have done that and by grace you have experienced what no man can experience through anything other than the reworking of God in the life of those who are separate from him, you embrace him and keep seeking him and experience in your mind a willing surrender to the lusts of your flesh, the lusts of your eye, and the boastful pride of life, which has driven you. Don't listen to your enemy which seeks to steal, kill, and destroy, and don't be influenced by your world, because you are no longer of this world, because you have fallen in love with the one who created it and who will deal with the sin that is in it and make it right through his people. Now, if you are an individual who wants to know what it is God expects of you, you are in a great place today, because what you're going to find out is that Colossians, in chapters 1 and 2, says you don't tell God what he wants; God tells you what _he_ wants and you give it to him. What God wants is what every woman wants tomorrow. Public service announcement: Men, tell your wife you're going to go get some milk today, and go get your Valentine's shopping done. Tomorrow is the day. Yes, through Hallmark's great creative marketing strategy, all of us are compelled tomorrow to ante up and show that we love our wife. There will be more than one wife who will think, if she won't speak, _this_: "Hey, listen. Spare me the card. Keep your chocolates. Don't bother me with your carnations until you're really ready to love me with your heart. Don't go through some act, some tired, compulsory behavior if you're really not going to change in giving yourself to me in the way you promised me from the beginning you would." What women don't want is some man who pays a tax on anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays. What women want, because they are relational creatures created in the image of God, is the same thing God wants: not lips that honor them while hearts are far from them. What women want is men who come to them and give them everything about who they are. God says that a broken heart and a contrite spirit he has yet to deny. What Colossians 1 and 2 are saying is if you have come to the place where you realize you are broken and an offense to the holiness of God and in your contriteness are willing to let him, in his grace, live _in_ you and _through_ you, then _this_ is how you act the rest of your life as you show your love for your divine Valentine, but don't get these things backward. If Colossians 3 came before Colossians 1 and 2, it would be a very legalistic book. It would be like putting perfume on a pig. But if Colossians 3 doesn't follow Colossians 1 and 2, then folks are going to think your pigness hasn't been dealt with. God said, "May it never be." Now, some of us are working our way through the Bible. We are reading from Genesis to Revelation, and we're calling it a little journey. You can join us on the journey at any time. This is a great time to sign up if you haven't yet, because we have just made it through the laborsome weeks of Leviticus, which people read and go, "What in the world are they doing to me? Why am I reading this?" We're into Numbers, and even the first few chapters of Numbers you kind of go, "Man! Why are we talking about all of the things these folks did and how many of them there were and how they brought these sacrifices?" You're about to hit some real action today, so sign up and join us. Let me tell you, if you missed it, the main idea of Leviticus. Before we do, I'll set it up _this_ way. There are many people who can _defend_ the faith, and there are many people who _declare_ the faith (Colossians 1 and 2), but because they fail to _demonstrate_ the faith, their defense and their declaration are unimpressive and powerless to the world. You need to be an individual who not only defends and can declare your faith and not be shaken off it by the philosophies of the world and the intimidations of legalists, but somebody who then demonstrates what God has done, that your life is, in fact, transformed to something greater and a spark of the divine is being reborn in you in such a way that folks will know you are related to the God who is. Now in Leviticus something happened. Leviticus is a book that God gave his people right after he did something. Watch this. God chose a group of people who were slaves to their circumstance. They had no ability to change it. They were oppressed, they were beaten, they were worn out, and they could not change their state, but God, by himself, intervened and miraculously removed them from slavery and put them in a place of blessing and promise and life. He's saying, "I've done this so the world might know that your God is the one true God, so that all nations want to have a relationship with me, because I don't just love _you_; I love everyone, but I'm going to show myself to everyone through _you_. But if you're going to be the people I show myself through who I have done this work _for_, then you need to respond to me by being a people of my own possession. If I am your head, this is the way my body operates." Here's what I want to say to you is going to go on in Colossians, chapter 3. Don't tell me you have some knowledge of God but by your deeds you deny him. This is what Paul wrote in another book. In Titus 1:16 he says, **"They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed."** That has never been something God was pleased with, just like your wife tomorrow doesn't want you to profess your love for her but by your lack of honor and cherishing and value and prioritization and humility you're disobedient and dishonoring and worthless as a lover. In Leviticus, God is going to show you this. I want to walk you through Leviticus very quickly by showing you four or five high spots that you shouldn't miss. In Leviticus 11:44-45, this is what he says: **"For I am the** **Lord** **your God."**"I'm the one who just did this thing for you that you couldn't do for yourself." (See also Colossians 1 and 2.) **"…and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth."** In other words, "I don't want you to eat those things. Why? Because I'm going to illustrate through you the one who has brought you up from the land of Egypt, that I am your God. Thus you shall be holy, just like I am holy." In Leviticus 19:2 he says it this way: "Speak to all the congregation, Moses, and say to them, 'You have to be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.'" What happened there between Leviticus 11 and Leviticus 19 were a bunch of things God expected of them to do so the world might go, "You're a people that is set apart. You're different. Why are you different?" "I'll tell you why we're different. Because this God has done something for us that we never imagined. We were living just like _you_ are living. We didn't know any better, but he has whispered into our ears a better way to live, and he has given us all of these things we would do that sometimes seem crazy to even us, but we're doing them because God is using those as illustrations that he is not like us, so we shouldn't be like everybody else. So we do things very differently. Some of them are very symbolic. In fact, he told us not to have cotton go with wool in our shirts, not because he really cares about how it might clash but because he wants to show us that you can't take two things that are different and mix them together. He's not a God who wants to be combined with anything else. That's a reminder to us that we are to be set apart from the way the world is. In fact, we're not even supposed to plant corn in the same field we're supposed to put carrots, because he wants to remind us that we shouldn't mix different seeds, and if we are _his_ seed we should have light shining forth, and it should not mingle with darkness." That's the point. Look at Leviticus 20:7. **"You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the** **Lord** **your God."** Do you think he's trying to get a point across? In verse 26 of the same chapter: **"Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the** **Lord** **am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine."** God is very clear. He said, "I want to tell you something. I just took you out, and I have chosen you to do something unique with you that the world might know who I am, but if you don't do it, then I will… Just because I got you this far, if you really don't love me… By grace I have plucked you all out, but some of you haven't gotten the idea yet that I'm the one. Even though you're in this nation that has been brought to this place of blessing, I want you individually to love me. I want you individually to respond to me. If you don't, if as a group of people, if as the cultural mores, if the majority of you turn away from me… I'm sure there will be some individuals in you, like Moses, who will learn to love and follow me, but if you, as a people, become like those who were in Egypt or like those who are in Canaan, the land will spit _you_ out just like it spit _them_ out." This is what it says in Leviticus 18:25: "For the land you're about to go into has become defiled. I'm going to use you as a cleansing agent. I'm going to use you as a picture of ultimate judgment. Just like I used flood as a picture of judgment that will one day swallow the earth not with water but by fire, I'm going to use the nation of Israel as a cleansing agent in this one little region of the world, that the rest of the world might learn to fear me. This group of people in Canaan are wicked. They are defiled, so I'm going to bring punishment upon it, because the land has vomited out its inhabitants," is what the New Living would say. In chapter 20, verse 22, he says, **"You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out."**"When I get you in there, you'd better be holy. Not so that I'll love you. Have you gotten the idea I already love you? I've shown up for you like I've never shown up for anybody, because you are chosen, you are beloved, by my grace you are forgiven, and I'm going to set you apart." Remember those four things. "But be holy or I'll spit you out." Now look at what he says. "As you are in the world on this journey between the land of Egypt and now traveling to the place of promise, I'm going to get you ready for where you're going because of who you are, or better said, because of _whose_ you are." There's a little verse in Leviticus 18:1-5. We're about to go to the New Testament, but watch this. You're going to see this great parallel, folks. **"Then the** **Lord** **spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, "I am the** **Lord** **your God. You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived…"'"**"I don't want you to act like the folks in the land of Canaan where I'm about to bring you do. Don't walk according to their statutes, their laws, their thinking, their philosophies, their state of life." **"You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the** **Lord** **your God. So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the** **Lord."**"You want life? Then guess what I'm going to do as your Daddy. I'm going to walk you into truth." If you have a Bible, turn to Colossians, chapter 3, with me. "I have called you out of darkness into life" (Colossians 1 and 2). "I have done for you what no man can do. I have taken you out of slavery and bondage to legalism, self-abasement, asceticism, philosophy, weary and endless ritual and rites, and I have brought you to a place of perfection in Jesus Christ. He is the head of the church. If he is your head, then your body ought to live as his body lived." This week, I had a great time with a good friend of mine who's very gifted as an artist and was putting together a little video. We wrote a little script, and the script describes the point I want to make to you that's about to show up now that we're in Colossians, chapter 3, which is if you have God as your head, then if you are his body, you ought to live as his head said you should live. Listen to this. This is a little script we wrote. We're making a little video that you'll see one day in here. It's called, "What Does God Look Like?" "Ever wondered what God looks like? Sure you have. We all have. I know as far back as I can remember I've wondered, but my speculations have never gotten me very far. I'm probably not the only one who has gone down that distinguished-looking Father Time road, and surely I'm not the first to have imagined that looking at God might in the end be a lot like looking at the sun, only from very, very close. Then there have been the visions I've had of God as a doting old man, one almost resembling Santa Claus, but surely a little bit more fit. I am also sure, in my guilt, I have feared him to be a strict principal, an ever-present policeman just waiting to thumb me as the guy who 'did it.' In the end, though, all of my images of God are sorely wanting…all of them, that is, except one. The Bible tells us that God is spirit. It does not detail his physical appearance, and, in fact, it reminds us that no man has seen God at any time, but the Bible also tells us something else. It tells us that God became flesh. It tells us in the beginning the Word was _with_ God and the Word _was_ God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It tells us that Jesus makes it known what God looks like. It tells us that he is the visible image of the invisible God. It tells us that in Jesus all the fullness of deity dwelt in bodily form. We know that Jesus' body was not stately in form or in appearance that we should be attracted to his body. But his person? Wow! Talk about attractive. When you talk about the person of Jesus, you don't talk about his strong points; you marvel that he is the exact representation of the nature of God. So, do you want to know what God looks like? Look at Jesus. See how he handles the oppressed. Watch how he pursues those who are hopelessly lost. Notice how he deals tenderly with friends. Stand stunned at how he loves and offers forgiveness to his enemies. Look at how he stands strong in the face of death. Notice how he sacrifices himself for the good of others. Watch him in the temple. Watch him with prostitutes. Watch how he respected those in authority and yet how he bows to no one. Observe how he handles hypocrites, betrayal, and deceit. Look at his response to dead religion, burdensome traditions, and the arrogance of men, yet notice how children run to him. Watch him love his mother, serve his world, and lead his men. See him love. See him serve. Hear him say, 'Of what can you condemn me?' Do you want to know what God looks like? Then look at Jesus." One of my favorite little illustrations comes from a story of a teacher who told her students to draw something they loved. She was walking around the classroom, and she saw this one little student drawing a picture. She goes, "What are you drawing?" He said, "I'm drawing a picture of God." She said, "Nobody knows what God looks like." He looked up and said, "They will in a minute." Here's my question. If that young fella hung around us, would he draw a picture of you and me? God, in his incredible humility, has offered to be our head and said, "You're going to be my body, and when the world wants to know what I look like, I want them to be able to look at you. So if you've embraced me as your head, not as somebody who is going to be first among many things but somebody who is preeminent over _all_ things… If I, in my grace, have allowed you to become my boy, then let's grow to look like you're in my family. If I am your head, this is how my body lives." Colossians 3:1-5: **"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is…"** Don't get your mind anywhere else. You keep seeking the things above where he is. **"…seated at the right hand of God."** Don't work your way to heaven; you're already there. Don't try and get your way to heaven. Positionally, it has already happened. **"Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."** Don't worry about what the earth gives as the appearance of religion and piety. You embrace what real piety is. What is real righteousness? Jesus Christ. You ought to look like him if you're his body, because he's your head. **"For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."** All this means is the world can't see our hope. It can't see where our life is. He is seated at the right hand of God until such a time as he will return, he says, and when he is revealed, then we will be revealed with him in glory. But some of our lives are so hidden in Christ that the world can't tell we are in Christ. Paul is saying it can't be that way. Albert Schweitzer, the great humanitarian, philanthropist, humanist writer basically said, "There are too many believers' lives that don't measure up to the lives of those who make no religious claims. They speak of new life, but they don't seem to have gotten as far as the best of the old." Do you know what he's saying? There are a lot of folks who say they have a relationship with God and the new life that comes with him, that his divine DNA has been injected into their being in a way that supersedes what was there, his Spirit dwells in them, something new is there, but some of these people who say they have new life with a new head aren't even as good as those who are still stuck in the old. Have you ever known that? We see it all the time. We see folks who are more moral than people who are in the church. What Paul is saying is this is a problem. Don't ever think your morality is going to get you to heaven, but if your mind and head is in heaven, if your Savior is in heaven, then you ought to start to look like you are connected to him and his Spirit is in you. The Scriptures have absolutely no program for your flesh. You are not to renew your flesh. You are not in any way to somehow suppress your flesh so you can paint it and make it nicer. You are not to curb your flesh; you are to crucify it. You are to identify with Jesus' death. Paul would say you are either dead _in_ sin or dead _to_ sin. When Jesus died, he died to sin, the Scripture says. So if you have identified yourself with him, then, as Paul would exhort someplace else, this life which you now live in the flesh you should live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and delivered himself up for you. He's saying take the new Spirit of God which is in you and be well aware that your flesh is still very much alive and you're still very much in the world and the Enemy is still very much prowling around, seeking whom he might devour, but you consider yourself dead to your flesh. You don't listen to your world. Your world did not offer up its son for you, so you owe it nothing. The promises of world government and world pleasures will never usher in the utopia you hope for and long for, so don't serve it. You love the one who _did_ give his Son to you. You owe him everything. You love the one who doesn't _promise_ one day a better place but has the ability and the power to _ensure_ it. _That's_ the one to seek. You let that new life which is in you… You tend to it and renew it in you every day. You let his Word pour over you. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind so you might prove what the will of God is: that which is good and acceptable and perfect. That's Colossians 1 and 2 and chapter 3, verses 1-4. Now he's going to tell you how to do it. Do you want to know what it looks like to be a person who's connected to God? Do you want to know what you should and shouldn't do? He's going to start by being negative. People go, "Man, why does Paul shoot right off with some negative things we have to pull?" The reason is because no amount of healthy talk will ever deal with sickness in a human body. If I went to see a doctor and I had this ache in my abdominal area and all he did was say, "Todd, we've got to be healthy. We've got to eat right. We've got to exercise. Todd, get your diet going…" I'm going, "Doc, I am sick." He goes, "I want to talk to you about health." I go, "Doc, I need you to talk to me about what is wrong with me, and I need you to get it out of me." No amount of talk about beauty will make a garden. What I'm saying here is that every now and then the gardener needs to get down on his hands and knees and pull weeds. That's where Paul is going to start. Positive and negative go together. Paul is going to start by saying, "Here are some things we need to pull from you. This is the way you used to walk. This is the way your world operates. This is the way your flesh pulls, and I'm going to tell you that you are now to consider your flesh dead." Colossians 3:5: **"Therefore consider…"** The word is the same word twice in this one sentence. You can't see it in the English, but that idea of _consider_ and a little bit later where it says _as dead_ are the same word twice. It's the word _nekroo_, the word we get _necrophiliac_ from, people who love the dead. Paul is saying, "You consider your body as dead." There's another time that the word _consider_, or _calculate_, is used in Romans. It's the same idea. The word in the Greek there is _logizomai_. We get the English word _logarithm_ from it. You calculate, you figure, you consider yourself dead. Your flesh is still very alive, but you don't listen to it. It is no longer sovereign over you. You have not given yourself to the lusts of your flesh. You are more than the sum of your desires. You are chosen by God, set apart to be holy, beloved by him, and forgiven, and his Spirit is in you as a down payment of where he's taking you. Therefore, don't listen anymore to the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the boastful pride of life. Don't let the Deceiver take you to certain places and the world's current carry you. Look at where he starts. You consider your body dead to immorality, impurity, and evil passions. Don't let that reign in you. Now why does Paul go right after sex as the first issue? There are a number of reasons. When the Bible talks about sexual things, it says that it's on account of these things that the wrath of God will come. Peter says at one point that it's because of lust that the world was corrupted. It's the first deed of the flesh that is listed in Galatians. In Revelation you will find it as the last thing that a world in rebellion will let go of. How many guys do I know who won't come to Christ because they don't want to let go of immorality and sexual perversion? It's such a powerful thing in our lives. I love the Bible. It's so relevant and real. Paul is going to say, "Do you want to know what a big ol' weed in your garden is that's really hurting you to be the kind of people God created you to be? It is that you have run amok in an area that God has given you for good: sex." He's going to say, "You have to change, because you have a different head, and you're going to think differently and live differently, and it's going to be good and acceptable and perfect and not destructive and scarring." Here's why Paul goes right after sex. Let me start by saying the church has done an awful job with this. Do you know at one point the church taught that sex was the original sin? Absolute nonsense and heresy. Do you know that the church at one point in the third to the tenth centuries would not let people have sex on Saturdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and 44 other days where there were various restrictions? You talk about being glad you were born today. Good night! Do you know that Pope Gregory at one point in the tenth century, this man who was supposed to be the Vicar of Christ and speak with the absolute authority of Christ, in his nonsense, at one point said sexual pleasure can never be without sin? How pitiful and wrong is that? Do you know that the Jews would not let their children read the Song of Solomon until they were 30 years old because they were scared of it? That's true. They said it's a flower out of which you might extract poison. They said, "Lest by of the abuse of his words, which are pure and sacred, the flames of lust might be conceived and heaven blamed." Do you know why they did that? Because God ain't afraid of sex. He loves it. In the Song of Solomon, when sex takes place between a man and his wife, every time it happens in that book, guess who is there singing. It ain't Wayne Newton. It is God. He is right there, and he's crooning. He's saying, "Drink deeply, O friends and lovers. Have at it. I'm for it. I created this. Aren't I good? Don't you appreciate me?" The church has done an awful job of this. We've made it so taboo. We can't even talk about it, so people have these perverted ideas of sex. Let me tell you why I believe sex is the first thing he takes on: because sex is something we all have to deal with. We are creatures that are made… We want food, we want water, we want sex, and we want to be loved. Now of those four things I just mentioned, we tell you all day long to eat, drink, and be happy. You want water and refreshment; we're going to make sure you get it or you're going to die. You want to be loved; you're called into community. What about sex? Sex is something that can easily be perverted. Sex is something that we all think, "Because I have a stomach for food… I have sexual organs. That means I have to have sex." God says, "Hang on. I want you to have sex, but I want you to have it the right way." Let me say it to you _this_ way. As a daddy of some little kiddos, I love to watch them enjoy life. I love to watch them play. I buy them things so that their play might be more fun, and I delight in their love for toys and their love for joy, but I want to see them have it in a safe place. I love to look through the glass and watch them in the backyard on the trampoline with a ball with their friends, giggling, laughing, chasing their dog. I don't want to kill their love for play, but I restrict them on where they can do it. I don't want them in the street doing those exact same things. We live about 50 yards from Central Expressway, and I've said, "You cannot play over there." It's not because I don't want them to play; it's because I don't want their naïve love of play to kill them. It's the same way God is with sex. He's saying, "I've given you a great gift." I've always thought of it as like this powerful thing we never imagined we could have, like a chain saw. If you give that chain saw to Paul Bunyan, it is a source of great glory, but you give that same chain saw to Freddy Krueger, and the problem isn't the gift; the problem is who's using it in a destructive way. Let me just say this. Sex is something we all have to deal with, and it is deceptive. You look at the list of things that are coming up here. You have immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire. The misuse of sex is what makes it a problem. It is the only issue that has a place where it is to rightly be celebrated and enjoyed. You can never find a place for greed. You can never find a place for malice. You can never find a place for anger that is misplaced and out of control, for lust that is something that has consumed your heart and driven you away or idolatry. They're never good and acceptable. Sex is deceptive. It always feels like "How could something that feels so right be so wrong?" God is going to say, "I'm going to whisper in your ear how, and I'm going to tell you how to use it correctly." Sex is the first thing Paul addressed because society has always been so consumed by it. Let me read you something I pulled from the _Dallas Morning News_ in May 2000. It's a guy who says he went to the grocery store with his wife, and after he moseyed around with her as much as he could, he went over to the magazine rack. He said, "If sex sells, these magazines ought to be flying off the shelf." He said, "I swear I went from cover to cover, and there was one sex headline after another. 'Sexy Muscle.' 'Sex and Love Horoscopes.' 'Sexy Bachelors.' 'Sexual Hotspots.' 'Explosive Orgasms.' 'Are Your Sex Secrets Safe with Him?' 'Sweet Sex.' 'Sexy Lingerie for Less.'" That one was on _People en Espanol_, he said. "'Better Sex.' '23 Erotic Ways to Make Sex with Him Sweeter.' 'Sex with Beautiful Women.' 'Sex 2000.' 'The Sexiest Women.' 'Sex on the Wild Side.'" "Are you beginning to get the picture?" he said. "But I'm not even close to done." Just this one little time, he says. "'Increase Your Sex Appeal.' 'Sex Games She'll Love.' 'Fire Up Your Sex Life Tonight.' 'Her Secret Sex Fantasy.' 'Your 39 Most Embarrassing Sex Questions Answered.' '20 Ways to Get More Action Now.'" Then he said, "Uh-oh. Wait. That's on the cover of _Crappie World_, a fishing magazine. Never mind." He said, "Fishermen don't care about sex unless it has to do with spawning." But he said, "I didn't read this at the porn shop. This is at Kroger." We live in a sex-obsessed world. Paul is going to say, "I want the world to know, because God loves the world, how to use the gifts he gives it so that chain saw can clear mighty forests to build houses, make paper, and bring warmth into your home. I don't want Freddy Krueger to get ahold of this great gift, because I won't sing about it; I'll weep over it." You are the body of Christ. Sex is an incredible gift God has given you. When it is used in a loving, committed relationship between one man and one woman in marriage, it is this great gift in a relationship. It is the whipped cream and the cherry on top of a relationship. It's a terrible foundation, but it is a wonderful crescendo. God wants you to enjoy it, and it's a great gift that should be enjoyed in the context of a relationship like that. But how many folks have been involved using those same organs in the wrong place where it hasn't brought blessing and security and pleasure that is lasting; it has brought about insecurity and scarring and self-hate and feelings of abuse? God goes, "I don't like that." It says that God is the avenger of these things, because when he gives a gift that is good and the world misuses it, it offends him. The world makes a man's sexual purity a thing to be scoffed at and mocked at. I can remember when I was at University of Missouri as a freshman there was a really cute little gal in that Delta Gamma house. I got to know her, and I took her out, and we spent a trip… We drove to St. Louis. It was during the early 80s. The Cardinals were in a National League Division Series game at the time. I was going to take her to a Cardinals game. We'd have a great time. Two hours in the car there. Then drive back together and get to know her. Well, we got there and the game was rained out. We did some other fun stuff. We didn't get home until 5:00 in the morning. I didn't know it for a long time. She never decided to go back out with me again, but one of the reasons was… I was a big source of laughter and mockery over there at that house, because not one time when I got this girl home by 5:00 in the morning did I make any move toward her sexually. I lived at a place where they stole, as they often did… There was a little place where there were pictures of all of the guys who lived there, and they put different things on everybody's picture. Four years later, one of the things that was under my name was "virgin," like it was some kind of insult. I thought, "You know what? If I have to be known over there at the Delta Gamma house for some problem, that may as well be it, because at any moment, if I want to become like the rest of these yahoos in this little picture frame, I can. There are a lot of them who have a lot of pain in their life because the grace of God hasn't been as prevalent in their life as it has been in mine. I'm not better than them, but God had spared me from some real pain." The world makes it a source of mockery. I had a buddy talk about this one time. He said he was watching _The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air_. Will (Will Smith), this hard kid from Philadelphia, had gone out to live in Bel Air, and his younger brother Carlton and he were talking, and he found out Carlton was a virgin. He starts mocking him. He said, "Carlton, what are you doing?" Carlton said, "Well, I'm going to save myself for my wife." He said, "You're going to what?" He goes, "I'm going to save my physical relationship with Mrs. Right." He said, "Brother, you've got to get rid of Mrs. Right and start finding Mrs. Right Now. You don't know what you're missing." He said, "Who do you want, Carlton?" Carlton starts to describe this girl, and as he did, the directors and producers of the show had this gal who was exactly as he was describing walk behind him. Will says, "Come over here," introduces him, sets him up. They go out on a date and have a great time. Carlton is kind of wooing this girl, really enjoying her. She's beautiful like he had dreamed and also sweet just like he had hoped. He goes to take her home at night, standing on the doorstep of her apartment, and he says, "May I kiss you good night?" She says, "No, but you can hang around and kiss me good morning." Carlton, in his little sweetness and naïveté, says, "I'm not sure I can stand here for eight hours." Everybody laughed. Then she says, "No, Carlton." She kicks the door open and says, "Come on in." You could just see Carlton… All of the hormones start firing off. The encouragement of his brother Will and the world is pushing him, and he walks through that door, and the studio audience just erupts in celebration of Carlton's conquest, that he has moved into this place of manhood. I'm telling you, if you're a young boy watching that, you don't think that's going to affect you if you don't have somebody there with maturity to say, "No, no, no. It's not what you think it is"? The movie _Grease_, sweet little Sandra Dee in her little pink purity. That whole movie is about how she and John Travolta had this little relationship, and all thing long, Sandra Dee is hanging onto her ways, but then one time she says, "Nope, goodbye, Sandra Dee." She sings this little song, and then she finds herself at the end of the movie in black leather, seducing John Travolta. There's a big celebration, and the movie ends victoriously, because Sandra Dee has been wooed out of this Puritanistic slavery to freedom. See, the world is obsessed with this. God says, "Let me tell you something about sex. The way the world views sex hinders my intent for it, and what should be a source of blessing can be a source of pain." It hinders God's intent for the body. What I mean by that is that when God wants to love somebody, to encourage them, he uses _me_. He takes my tongue and forms syllables on it to speak into your ear, that your heart might be encouraged, that you might be admonished, that you might be spurred on and edified. That's what God does with my body. When he sees somebody in need, he takes _my_ hand and sticks it into _my_ pocket and grabs _my_ wallet, opens it up, takes _my_ money, and gives it to you. He uses _my_ body as a source through which his head can be a blessing to somebody else. When there's somebody who is sick and needs comfort, he uses my arm to go around them and embrace them. Then the Scripture says, "Who are you to join the body of Christ with a harlot?" Who are you to use the body God gave you to exploit another person for your pleasure? God said, "That offends me when you join what is mine to somebody in a way that doesn't give them blessing." The Scripture says that when you live the way your head says you should live, that which is good and acceptable and perfect will take place. Is that what describes the feelings your ex-boyfriends and girlfriends have of you? Is it good and acceptable and perfect or is there shame, destruction, and scars? Sex misused, immorality, is a bad thing, so Paul goes right after it. Sex misused hinders future marriages and ruins current ones. So Paul is going to say, "We can't have this going on. Marriage is a holy institution. God has given it." There's not a guy I know who wants to meet the guy who had sex with his wife in college. There's not a girl I know who wants to know the woman who slept with her husband when they were in high school. There isn't a person I know who wants to meet the man who slept with their mama who's not their father. It brings a lot of shame. It hurts current marriages, because there are folks who are in it who when they were dating had a relationship that was based on this thing. I had a buddy who talked about this one time. He did a great job. He said when you get a relationship when it's waning and not really making it, people take this thing called _premarital sex_ and squeeze it on there, and it just ignites. This huge kerosene fire roars up, and they go, "Whoa!" But that's an illusion. It's not a real fire. What makes marriage work are these deep embers, these rich coals of love and trust and commitment, communication, and selflessness. You get into a relationship and start squeezing this on and you go, "Look at this roaring fire. How can I not commit to this?" Like I said, sex in marriage is a wonderful cherry on the top, but it is a terrible foundation. There are a lot of folks who have used this thing… It has propelled them into marriage, and I've seen it again and again and again and again. Sexual immorality will keep you in a bad relationship longer than you should be there, and it will eject you out of a good one well before its time. God hates that. There is a great call to purity if you are a person who is under the headship of Jesus Christ. It wears me out when I meet… We just met one not long ago, some little gal who said, "I'm not coming to Watermark anymore." "Why not?" "Because there is a guy there who I don't want to see." Some joker who sits here and represents himself as some guy… I hope everybody is not naïve enough to think that just because they're here their hearts are set on the things that are above. Some guy who gave the illusion he was a spiritual man took this little girl and used the body of Christ in a way that did not bring about blessing and made her scoff at the goodness of God or certainly the goodness of God available here. Do you think that makes him a little angry? I'm a nobody. I'm an under-under-under-under-head, and it caught _my_ attention. That's why he says, "I am the avenger of these things." There is a standard… People go, "What in the world is a standard of Scripture?" These guys who have a "Bill Clinton" idea of sex… "If I'm not having sexual intercourse with a woman, then I'm somehow pure." Are you kidding me? You weren't offended when your president looked at you and said, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," and just because a certain organ didn't go into a certain organ of hers he somehow was telling us the truth? No. You didn't think so, and neither did I, and neither did he, and neither did she. But we can play those games. Don't you tell me you're out there and just because you're not having actual sexual intercourse you're not guilty of this stuff. Do you know what? The Scripture _does_ give a standard. Here it is. First Timothy 5:2: "You younger men, treat your older sisters as mothers and younger women as sisters in the Lord." Let me just spell that out for you. Anybody here kiss their mama? I do, but when I'm kissing Mom goodbye, usually it's on the cheek. Every now and then it's on the lips. Brace yourself. I haven't ever slipped my mom the tongue. Have you? I haven't. You're up there going, "I can't believe he just said that. That is disgusting." I want to say to you I can't believe we just ignore that admonition. Do you know why? Because when a man slips a woman a tongue, it creates a physiological response, which is to prepare somebody for the next level of activity. You don't tell me that's something you're supposed to do and not finish it out. That is called _defrauding one another_. That is using the body of Christ in a way he doesn't intend. Let's go the other way. Do you have a sister? You're 35 years old. You just can't get a date. You can't get married. Guess what. Your sister isn't married either. Are you going to start to kiss her differently because you're 35, 38, 40? No. You are going to control your body because you consider your body dead, and you're going to use your head, Jesus Christ, and greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. You're going to live differently and you're going to date differently, and the people you date are not going to go into marriage with a limp, and they're not going to avoid you when you guys stop spending time together, and it's going to be good, acceptable, and perfect. That's the intention. If you want to dumb down his standard and mock it, then you're going to pay the piper. That's why right out of the gate Paul says, "Do you want to know one of the things we are? We're not going to carry on the way the world carries on, like they did in Egypt, like they do in Canaan. We are holy." When my head is in charge, the body is a blessing, and it doesn't bring scars and insecurity and shame. Was there ever a place that Jesus was there where that happened? If he is in you, it shouldn't be there anymore either. Secondly, he goes through greed. Here's the idea. First Timothy 6:8-10: **"If we have food and** [clothing] **, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."** Whenever you move away from your head, you're going to move away from what is good, acceptable, and perfect. When you have greed and covetousness and idolatry, it's going to bring about pain. God says, "I don't want to see my people suffer through that." So he says, "You put away greed and be content with what the Father gives you." If you're blessed and prosperous, great. Use that for his glory. Enjoy it. Eat, drink, and be merry, but don't make money, accomplishment, fame your god. It will never satisfy you, and you'll look just like the world. When you have come to Christ and have found the fullness of life in him, you will confuse them if you seek what they seek. So he says in all this, **"For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience…"** God is a jealous God, and he will not let somebody else reign over us. If he sees people pursuing that which is destructive, sooner or later he's going to deal with it severely, especially those who say they know him. He says, **"…and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech…"** It is not to mark you. It is to be different with you now. **"Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self…"** It is a past perfect activity, which means it's completely accomplished in the past. By faith you said, "I'm done with my flesh. I don't want to drive myself by my own thinking, by the world's philosophies, by Satan's temptations. I'm laying it aside. I have a new head, Jesus Christ, who has my best interests in mind." That's the idea here. So he says, **"…and have put on the new self who is being renewed…"** That is what is called a _passive perfect verb_, something that is happening to you continually in the present. This is so huge, folks. You consider yourself dead. Is your flesh still attracted to sexual immorality? Mine is, but since when am I consulting my flesh? I have a new head. I consider myself dead. Christ died for me. I'm going to live with him. He says he has injected his DNA in me as a daddy, and greater is he who is in me now than he who is in the world, so I don't have to go after the lusts of my flesh. I can yield myself to Christ. I consider myself dead. I've taken off the old self. I'm putting on the new self, and I'm going to let the Spirit of Christ continually renew me day by day. It's not something I do to me. I don't put putty on my termites. I don't put perfume on my pig. I let the new man live. **"…who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all."** Which is to simply say, "Listen, church. Listen, people of God. You are not a genetic people. You're not a geographic people. You are a grateful people gathered under one head. So quit looking at the outside, because Christ is all there is and he's in all, so that's all that matters." Your stupid, ignorant racism has to go, and this idea that certain people are more valuable because they look a certain way, run a certain speed, turn your head at a certain rate, is foolishness. It's all about if you are under Christ. Watch this and see if this sounds familiar. "So, as those who have been chosen of God, set apart (which is holy), beloved, and who have been forgiven by God, how should you behave?" By the way, can you think of another group of people God called, who he chose, who he set apart, who he loved, and who he forgave? I can. But we have something they don't have. Through what Christ has accomplished, God doesn't just dwell in the Tent of Meeting in a camp; he dwells in _this_ body, which is the temple, and I can yield to him in a way that I am being renewed day by day. Just like every time Moses went into the Tent of Meeting and came out there was glory on him, he's saying the Spirit of Christ lives in you, and your body is the temple of Christ, so let it renew you every day. Your flesh is still going to compete, but you die to your flesh and let the truth of God live in you and through you. This is what'll happen. He said when you do this and you learn to forgive just as he forgave you and you become a compassionate person, a kind person, what's going to happen in this moment is (verse 15) the peace of Christ will rule in your hearts, to which you were indeed called in one body, and you will be thankful. Gang, this is so awesome. We have what the world is looking for. If I did not have a Bible, if there was no such thing as a Bible, just based on my own experience in dealing with people, I would tell them there are three things that if you do them you're not going to experience peace. If you are a slave to debt, if your life is in bondage to somebody else, if you cannot pay off what you owe, you are going to be a person whose life will never be characterized by peace. I've seen it again and again and again. Secondly, I would tell you if you are a person who harbors anger and bitterness in your heart you will not be marked by peace. You will be filled with enmity and hatred and insecurity, and there will be no peace in your life if you don't forgive other folks. If you practice sexual immorality you will not have peace in your heart. It won't be there. Guess what your loving Father right off the top exhorted you. Don't let greed drive you, man. If greed is your god, you'll do anything to get more. You'll covet, covet, covet, and if that means you have to broker your tomorrow to get something today, you'll do it, and you'll lose peace. Don't use this gift. Don't use sex as a means through which you're going to be satisfied. You'll never be satisfied. In fact, you'll be distraught. Guilt and shame and hopelessness will mark you. You'll feel like a piece of meat. You'll feel like nobody really cares about you and loves you. Don't go there. If you don't learn to forgive, if you don't learn to let go and let God be the avenger of those things, peace won't rule in your heart. Here's the thing. I am so sick of folks telling me, "Well, I prayed about it and I had a peace." Did you know you can be in outright rebellion and sin against God and feel peace for a moment? Jonah is a classic example of this. Jonah did not do what God told him to do, yet he was asleep in the hull of the boat. Place of peace, right? What was going on? While Jonah was at a personal peace because he didn't do what he didn't want to do or he did what he wanted to do, however you want to look at it, there was a storm all around him. Folks' lives were being threatened and ruined. There are all kinds of guys I look at who go, "Hey, man. I'm in a place of peace. I'm okay." I go, "Well, let me just tell you something, sucker. It ain't about you. Look at the ship. Look at the ocean you sail in. Look at the tears that are around you. Look at the panic in the faces of your children. Look at the heartbreak on your wife. Look at the insecurity. Look at the shame and the trail of women behind you." I have a hunch that the King of the ocean has a problem with you disturbing it. You can have fleeting foolish peace personally in the midst of an ocean of trouble. So don't tell me just because you think you're at peace it must be okay. I'm talking about abiding peace where others around you are grateful for your leadership. This is what God says should happen. When you live the way your head wants you to live, when you let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you (verse 16), with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and you live this way, you will be singing in your heart with thankfulness toward God. Why? Because your life is marked by peace. There's love in the home. There's compassion in the community. There is a kindness in the world. The world says, "Visualize world peace," and Jesus is saying, "Accept the Prince of Peace into your heart, and then I, as your head, will have the body loving in a way where greed and hatred and sexual immorality won't mark it, and this peace you long for will be yours, but only through me." When you get it… What do people who get it do? I want to tell you. If you're here as a guest today, can I tell you why we sing every Sunday? Because we cannot believe that God has come to us. Those of us who were far from God and used to practice these things have been forgiven, chosen, beloved, set apart. We still sometimes don't consider ourselves dead and make mistakes, and we confess it and forsake it and renounce it, and we repent and receive his forgiveness. I want you to know today that you can too. The God who is in heaven who is holy whose wrath will come because of these things looks at you and says, "Oh darling, I know how you've been using my gift. I know you've been playing in the street, and I know you've gotten run over, and it kills me because I love you. I know you're a control freak because you won't trust me, so you have to order the world a certain way, so you're an angry, frustrated, malicious person. Oh, it's killing me because it's killing you. Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest, and I will give you peace. I will be your God, and I will take you out of this darkness and put you into the light." Oh beloved, if you are here today and you are far from God, will you come to the one who alone can make you new, who will bring you into his very presence, call you his child, kiss you, deal with your sin, embed his Spirit in you, and begin to renew you to where you use this precious body in a way that won't make you hate yourself but enjoy love and life the way he intended? If you know him as your head, are you renewing day by day so these ashes of destructiveness that marked you before are becoming ever more beautiful in the moment? That's Colossians. That's Leviticus. That's Jesus. That's you and me in faith. Father, I pray for my friends, that we would see that you are not trying to kill our joy; you are trying to keep our love for pleasure from killing us. You want to come alongside lives that are full of ashes and brokenness and make them beautiful. You are the one, Father, who takes sins that are as red as scarlet and makes them as white as snow. You are the Father who is at the edge of the city gate, looking for the prodigal to come back home, that you might run to him and embrace him and kiss him and say, "Come to me. Let me forgive you. Let me slay the fatted calf, and let me rejoice because my child has come back home." Father, I thank you that today we get to celebrate our head, Jesus Christ, who died for us that we might be pure, and that we get to offer to all who have wandered through life looking for peace that they can find peace with God and peace in this life through him. Lord, I pray as we sing that we would be folks whose hearts would be filled with thanksgiving at the wonder of you taking folks who were captive to slavery, in bondage to the lusts of our flesh and have made us people now whose lives are beautiful even as Christ was beautiful. The fruit that marks us now is not immorality and malice and slander and anger and hate but love, kindness, gentleness, goodness, selflessness, faithfulness, patience, and all things that are good. Father, we thank you that you take our life of ash and make it a beautiful thing.