I’m truly thankful to be here with you this morning wherever you might be on your spiritual Journey. And I do mean wherever. You might be here today and you don’t believe God exists. Maybe you’re here because you are a humanitarian and so you appreciate the work Journey is doing to help care for the poor and the hungry, but you aren’t sold on the idea that there is a God – and let me tell you, we respect you for your beliefs.
One thing we have come to learn at Journey is that people who have hang-ups with faith normally have really good, valid reasons. And so we get that. And we are going to work really hard to convince you that Jesus is who he said he is, that he really is the Son of God who came to rescue us from this Kingdom of darkness – this kingdom of the daily grind – this kingdom that chews people up and spits them out – we believe that Jesus came to make the Kingdom of Heaven available to anybody who would want in. He just busted the gates wide open – and it’s available now to any one. Regardless of our past or our condition – the Kingdom of Heaven is being filled right now with people ready to experience a led by a good shepherd – who compassionately leads us with wisdom and kindness.
This morning we are going to talk about sex. And we are going to talk about anger. Why? Well, because these are two of the most front line issues that a person has to deal with if they are going to be transformed – changed into the Kind of Person that Jesus wants to change us into.
If you can change the way you think about behave when it comes to sexuality and how you deal with anger – if you can be transformed in these areas – you will stand out as unusual and different. And that’s why Paul is going to talk about them here – and by the way – it’s also why Jesus talks about them both in his famous sermon on the mount.
If you were to study the Sermon on the Mount – you will find that Jesus begins with an announcement that the kingdom has been thrown open to everyone – and then he launches into a sermon where Jesus begins to describe the new kind of Human being that he is creating on earth.
He is creating a new kind of human. And the first subject he talks about is the idea of being the kind of person who is free from anger and rage and contempt. Jesus, the creator of all things, is making you the kind of person who doesn’t seethe with anger.
And the second subject Jesus addresses is sex and in particular – lust. The hidden part of sex. That takes and violates people in the hiddenness of a heart and thoughts. You don’t want to be that kind of person, do you? Well Jesus says that if we walk with him and allow him to, he can make us the kind of person who loves people even in the hiddenness of our hearts. You can be that kind of person.
Jesus has come to free us from our sins – free us from the religious rule book, and instead of a rule book we find Jesus who walks alongside us and says – we can change these fundamental issues.
Jesus is transforming us into a new kind of human. And in my case, a new kind of Phil Human. Isn’t that something!
Let’s read in Colossians 3 to find out the description.
And let’s remind ourselves of the run up to this passage – which says…
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.
And this is very important – because it tells us to whom this passage applies. He is assuming that the people reading this have already made the decision to become a follower of Jesus. Which simply means that these folks have decided that Jesus is who he said he was – the savior of the world.
Around here we talk about crossing the line of faith. Which simply means that I have made a decision to make Jesus my master and I have decided to follow him. Like an apprentice follows a master to learn how to live my life.
This decision is the first step towards becoming the new kind of human that Jesus creates. Have you made this decision? Well I made a decision to come to church, isn’t that enough? No. You need to make a decision to submit your will and your life and your days and hopes and dreams – your very life – given to God. That’s the starting line of faith when you cross over from darkness into the Kingdom of Jesus. That’s day one.
Have you made this decision? If not – then perhaps today will be that day. And it’s between you and God. You can pray to him even as I speak. And once you make that call – then Jesus will begin the process of changing you.
And in what areas can transformation truly take place? Let’s read about the first area.
So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world.
Let’s try to unravel this little passage here. And I’m going to lump this list into one category – and that’s the category of sexual corruption. Sexual Immorality, impurity, lust and evil desires are all different facets of sexual corruption. And though it might sound like Paul tags on an extra – when he says, “Oh yeah, and don’t be greedy.”
It sounds like that’s a separate add on pet peeve of Paul’s, but I’m going to say it falls squarely into the grouping.
And the key to understanding how lies in figuring out how a greedy person is an idolater. How is a greedy person an idolater?
Well, an idolater is someone who worships something or someone other than the one true God. And it is the first commandment- no other gods before me. It really did bring the wrath of God – who understands the futility of worshipping ourselves. And that’s exactly what we were doing before we came to faith in Jesus.
Right? Before we made the decision to allow God to run and rule our lives – someone – or something – ran it? Who told us how to live and what to do? Well, we did. We were the gods of our own lives.
And this is always the case. The biggest threat to us living well in the kingdom of Heaven is us. Our desire to be the tyrant of our own tiny little kingdom.
And so how is a greedy person an idolater? Well a greedy person says, I am the god of my own life. I will take what I want to take. And I’ll take as much of whatever I want to take, as I feel like taking. This world was created for me. And I deserve as much as I can gather for myself.
Before we decided that God’s will should be done, it was our will – and only our will – all the time. And my will sits back and says – I will take whatever I can muster for myself, thank you. And as much as I can my hands on.
So now we back up to the front of this section – Sexual immorality and impurity? Before we asked God to govern our lives, we were the kind of people who allowed our senses to govern our lives. We are more than a spirit. We have a body. We have feelings. And often times our body stands up and says – as god of my life I will take the gift of sexuality that was created by God and intended to be reserved for my spouse and instead I will turn that which is a sacred thing and turn sex into a playground – where I can get my thrills.
Not only will I not save my sexuality for my spouse, but I will take another person’s sexuality for myself. I will turn sex into a game itself. Sexual immorality is sexual greed. It’s idolatry – it’s a person worshiping themselves.
And what if I see someone I wish to have sexually but they dare not give into my demands? Well I will take them anyway – I will just take them mentally as I lust after them. I will defile them in my mind regardless of their desires. Who cares about them? I can have anyone I wish in my mind because I am God! I am my own god.
See before we came to faith in Jesus – we were the kind of people who took whatever we wanted. Sex? Take it. And if they won’t give you what they want, take it anyway – take it mentally – where they are powerless to fight back.
Now if you are here today and you have never given up your will to God’s will, I can imagine you’d want to make an argument that it’s just sex. And it’s consensual, so who cares. Stop being moralistic. Who cares? What’s the big deal?
Well just for the record I’m not talking from a moralistic mindset and neither is Paul. Moralism says I follow the rules and therefore I’m a good person.
I’m not throwing rules at you – I’m not being moralistic.
The point that Paul is making is that the kind of person we used to be used to treat sacred things dismissively. We took for ourselves whatever we felt like taking. And sex is an incredibly powerful emotion and feeling and it is possesses tremendous power over the body – and furthermore – sex with someone is an affirmation that we are indeed worthy of worship. This person is giving their most sacred possession to me – they are making themselves completely vulnerable to me – the god of my own universe.
So what changes? Well – that is the mindset you used to have. You used to take from others – you used to use people. But now? Jesus says – Let’s not be the kind of people who will degrade that into a plaything.
Instead – let’s be the kind of person who recognizes the special place sexual intimacy has in a marriage. Let’s be the kind of person who says I am going to choose to love my spouse right now, even the person who might be single in here – and you don’t even think you’ve met your future spouse yet.
Students? As you walk with Jesus he will transform the way you think about sex. Would you consider letting God create in you a heart so full of love for your future spouse that you would honor them right now with the way you treat your sexuality?
Would you allow Jesus to turn you into the kind of person who honors your future relationship with the decisions you make right now?
How about we be the kind of person who values another human being enough that we wouldn’t turn them into an object of sexual fantasy – even in our minds. That we become the kind of people who love others even in the hidden parts of our heart – even in our thought life.
How about we let Jesus transform us into the kind of person who will not degrade another by lusting after them and violating people in our thoughts?
Let’s be the kind of people who elevate others – even people we don’t know. Let’s not look at people on computer screens or television screens as objects worthy of lust – rather let’s look at people on our computer screens as real human beings. Created by God – people with an eternal destiny. People who could be our brothers and sisters in faith one day if not already.
Can you imagine being that kind of person who doesn’t have to take, sexually, from others – through immorality or evil desires in order to satisfy the corrupted demands of our internal tyrant that wants to run and will eventually ruin our lives?
Jesus can imagine you being that kind of person and he is with you right now – involved in the process. Changing and shaping you into a loving person – not a greedy one that must be satiated at every turn.
Can I just encourage you – regardless of what you used to be – when you walk with Jesus and allow Him to transform you – he can transform you thinking so that your mind thinks about things above – not that things everyone is chasing in vain to bring fulfillment in their life. Regardless of what you used to be – Now you are different. God is changing you, reshaping you.
We don’t have to be the god of our own life any longer. We used to be that person. But now we are being changed we are being renewed as we learn to know our creator.
Now Paul goes on to address the second biggie – if the goal is transformation then these two issues need to be addressed. The first is the way we treat others in areas of our sexuality.
The second area is anger.
But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.
So, if we are worshiping ourselves to one degree or another. If we are the tyrant of our own tiny little kingdom – then it will naturally show up in this second area. We used to be the kind of person who was quick to anger.
These two issues are such powerful examples of a person who knows no other God than himself or herself. It plays out in our sexuality, and it plays out in our anger.
After all, what is anger, exactly? Well, it’s an emotion. And it is like pain. When we get angry – it’s because someone is not obeying my will. Anger announces that something needs to change! And something better change or thou shalt feel my wrath!
So anger arises when our will gets crossed. Our kingdom is insulted. Even if it’s something rather trivial.
Of course, when we are angry – it never feels trivial. Anger always feels justified at the moment. Anger always feels righteous.
Now is anger itself a sin? People who get angry like to justify their anger by saying, “Well Jesus got angry – so there.” Well you ain’t Jesus, are you. You might just be getting that message. You aren’t God. And I’m pretty sure that Jesus wasn’t blowing his top because someone didn’t use a blinker. Or left their high beams on night. My eyes! You’re burning my eyeballs out! I’ll get you back Flash Flash Flash! Or because a kid got up out of bed!
I just heard a friend say this on Friday – he is a school bus driver- he said that he had to deal with this first grader that was making him angry and he said – he’s just one of those real immature first graders. What is he, six years old? That’s a pretty narrow margin between mature and immature. He acts like a five year old. He’s month’s behind other kids his age.
Anger always feels right – my kingdom has been insulted! My will has been crossed! I wouldn’t be angry if people simply did everything I wished them to do at exactly when I wished for it to be done! (Put hand in shirt like Napoleon)
The problem with feeling righteous in our anger is that if left unchecked it grows into these other things on our list here. Anger becomes rage. Rage becomes a willing malice – a wishful harm to another human being. And then eventually anger bubbles over through our mouth and we tear others down with our language. We end up cursing at them, right?
So the kind of person we once were – was given to being the kind of person that would bubble up in anger and rage and malice when our will was crossed – when our kingdom was insulted.
And then we find Jesus and we give our life to him and we ask Him to govern our lives. And He comes alongside us and says – how about you let me transform you into the kind of person who can handle life without freaking out when things don’t go your way?
Do you believe God can transform you? Yes he can. He doesn’t want you to be better at repressing anger or denying anger – he wants to actually make us into the kind of people who don’t get angry very easily if at all.
We save it for those moments that truly deserve our anger – big picture things – justice issues. Mercy issues – compassion issues. Not “Phil is ticked off because Phil’s kids didn’t change the empty toilet paper roll and now Phil’s in a predicament” anger. Rage!
Listen – anything done in anger can be done better without it. And that’s the kind of person Jesus is making us into. A new creature – a renewed kind of human.
Now here’s where it gets a little bit tougher to figure out. Because my guess is that some will say – hey I have crossed the line of faith – I have asked Jesus to govern my life in the Kingdom of heaven – and yet I still struggle with lust at times.
And another might say – I also have decided to walk with Jesus and I struggle with anger.
And others might say I struggle with all the above so what gives?
And it would be a mistake -though a common one – to secretly decide that this Jesus thing doesn’t really work – but I’ll go along with it as if I am being transformed – and I will do my best to hide these kinds of issues and try to live the rest of my life without them publicly humiliating me.
It would also be a mistake – though a common one – to say – well, that’s just my burden to bear and I will never change until the day I die. I’ll just shrug my shoulders and vaguely quote passages that say things like, Why do I do the things I don’t want to do? I who will rescue me from this kind of life? Jesus – someday when I die he will rescue me.
Mistake. The truth is that you can become the kind of person we read here. It’s in fact very important that we can envision being a person not given to lust and anger – or worry and anxiety or fill in the blank with whatever it is that you are most likely to trip over.
Can you envision being the kind of person who doesn’t have to have your way all the time? Can you envision being a person who does not have to take from others but instead can patiently love them, even in your thoughts?
Once we have that vision and once we make a decision to allow God to transform us, then we go about the hard work that it takes to become that kind of person.
Nobody ever lost weight by wishing they were thin. Nobody ever got out of debt by hoping they will get out of debt. It takes work and a plan.
Well, Nobody ever accidentally becomes godly. Nobody stumbles into godliness. Nobody ever became that kind of person by just wishing they became that kind of person.
It takes work! Now – this is an important thing. Just like nobody ever became thin by waking up in the morning and saying “Today I will be thin.” No one ever became less angry by waking up and saying today I will not get angry.
It just doesn’t work. You will walk out to the kitchen and your kids will have just polished off the last of the Captain crunch, and then you go all “Travesty!” Fail!
And then you feel terrible and you beat yourself up and you feel like I’m never going to change and then you spiral further away – being led by the nose by your feelings further and further from where you want to go. Does that make sense?
Instead of waking up and saying “Today I will not lust.” What can I do?
What can I do to help become the kind of person who can say “no” to my internal tyrant?
How about you try something like this. Let me give you one thing you CAN do today. One training exercise – and that’s what we need, right? We need a training ground – a place where we can learn how to deal with our feelings or our body that wants to lead us astray.
We need to find a training ground. A place where we can practice denying our internal Napoleon.
So here’s one example of a training ground – This week – will you consider trying on the spiritual discipline of fasting over lunch one day? Give yourself a goal of not eating any food – water only – for let’s say at least eight hours. 9-5.
(Phil it’s thanksgiving week you know?) Okay well tomorrow (Monday) is as good a day.
So many times we get to wrong idea about fasting. We think fasting is about showing God how serious we are about something. See God? I am willing to go on a hunger strike if you don’t answer my prayers. Don’t make me do it Jesus. Don’t make me do it. (Seriously Jesus please don’t make me do it)
Instead of looking at fasting as a way to twist the arm of God, let’s look at fasting as a training ground to help us as Jesus transforms us into the kind of person who can learn to hear the word “no” without pitching a fit.
Here’s what fasting does for us. Fasting teaches our body that it doesn’t have to have what it wants. It trains our body to be able to say – I can live without that. My face will not fall off.
See most of us live – our bodies are like big hairy cavemen. Me want! Me take! We reach for whatever we want with our big hairy knuckles gripping whatever it can get ahold of.
So fasting for one lunch or one dinner – or maybe even a lunch and a dinner? What it does is it gives you puny little will one little victory. For one meal – your will that wants to change can stand up to your hairy knuckled appetite. And at the end of the fast your will may even feel just a touch stronger. Just a touch emboldened.
And your feelings? If you practice fasting every once in a while. Your feelings will expose themselves to be the whiny crybabies they are.
I guarantee that if you begin to fast – the first time your feel hungry – your mind will start the whine – and you’ll start to think to yourself – Why are we doing this?
Keep a journey and see if I’m not right. It will probably sound like this. 9am. I’m ticked off I can’t eat lunch. 9:30am. This is stupid. What’s the point? 10am. I’m going to eat dinner at 1pm today, so there. Noon. I’m going to find a different church that will just let me be.
5pm. I made it. You like apples, body? You like apples, feelings? How you like them apples! You will start talking trash to yourself. Umm humm.
Fasting gets you in touch with your feelings pretty quick. And at the end of the day your will might teach your feelings a small but important lesson. I don’t always have to do what you want. I can actually live above my feelings for 8 whole hours.
See what’s happening? See fasting is a tool – a training ground. We get to train ourselves on how to say no to the demands of our body and our feelings. And if we train well when the heat is not on – then when things get heated up we have trained our spirit to be able to say yes to what Jesus wants without caving all the time.
And then maybe one day you will be tempted by your feelings to become angry about the most trivial thing. It’s not wrong to be tempted – all of us will be tempted – but if we have been training ourselves – in conjunction with the Spirit of God who give s us the strength and alerts us to the temptation –
Perhaps the next time we are tempted – our spirit will be trained and strengthened enough to give the thunder snap to your feelings – Every mom has a thunder snap of some kind when the kids get unruly – and you go “Knock it off.”
Let me hear your thunder snap. Your spirit can say – “Knock it off.” We aren’t going to be that kind of person. That’s how we used to be – But no more.
He is turning me into a different kind of human. One free from sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. One free from anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying.
He is changing me. And though it’s taking time, I’m committed to the process.